Archive for July, 2009

29
Jul
09

Theorycrafting – Warrior spreadsheet vs Maxdps

Who doesn’t like theorycrafting? Well, honestly, there are quite a few people who don’t enjoy spending hours crunching numbers and formulae. For the majority of the population, these pursuits take a backseat to actually playing the game. Even so, when in an instance or raid, most people like to know what a particular drop will do to their DPS. This is where the DPS calculator comes in, so that us mere mortals can take advantage of the numbercrunching efforts of others.

Enter our contestants of today. In the red corner, Landsouls spreadsheet from the Elitist Jerks forums. In the blue corner, MaxDPS.com.

Landsoul bases his sheet on the discussions and findings of the EJ hive mind; in other words a solid empirical database of knowledge, coupled with a lot of maths and numbercrunching. The result is quite possibly the best model of fury DPS outside Blizzard HQ. The downside is that the sheet isn’t exactly quick or easy to use for a first timer, especially not during a raid.

MaxDPS is the brainchild of Nuuga who has worked on it since 2006. It’s ever evolving and is continuously updated whenever classes are changed or new gear released. When you put in your stats it’ll give you a ranked list of gear based on your choice of instances. In other words, a very quick and easy way to check gear, even during raids. The downside…well, how well does it really model DPS? Is it accurate?

Which naturally enough leads to a comparison test between the two. Now, some people will say “but you’re only comparing two arbitrary computations!”, and yes I am. However, for now I will work on the assumption that Landsouls spreadsheet offers the most accurate modelling of fury DPS and mechanics, even if the numbers are off. For any simulation, there are assumptions and tradeoffs and we will in fact look at those at a later date.

For now, we’ll stick to comparisons between simulations. As a base for the following, I’ve put in the numbers and stats for my own current gear, including the most common buffs we have in my guild. We are currently working our way through Ulduar 10, so the gear is a mixed bunch of Naxx 10, Naxx 25, and Ulduar 10.

Landsouls sheet returns the following:

  • Overall DPS: 2752
  • White damage: 758
  • Heroic Strike: 302
  • Bloodthirst: 646
  • Whirlwind: 473
  • Bloodsurge: 231
  • Deep Wounds: 340

So far so good. Let’s see what MaxDPS gives us:

  • Overall DPS: 2619 (-133)
  • White damage: 535 (-223)
  • Heroic Strike: 443 (141)
  • Bloodthirst: 551 (-95)
  • Whirlwind: 459 (-14)
  • Bloodsurge: 435 (204)
  • Deep Wounds: 195 (-145)

The numbers in parentheses are the differences between the two. It’s pretty clear that the two do not really agree on anything. MaxDPS has significantly higher values for both Heroic Strike and Bloodsurge, but also very much lower values for the white damage and Deep Wounds.

There are several factors that can explain the discrepancies between the results. MaxDPS only takes raw stats for example, so weapon and item procs aren’t likely to be taken into account. Things like the Berserking proc, or the Loatheb’s Shadow on-use, or the Mirror of Truth proc (I could go on and on), will not be modelled by MaxDPS.

This is unfortunately not all. For one thing, we don’t know the exact rotation used by MaxDPS which is really the big unknown. The rotation description is woefully lacking on MaxDPS (it still says “Bloodsurge on BT proc” for example), so there is no joy there. What we’re left with is a largely unknown model which outputs numbers significantly different than a model widely accepted to be as accurate as we can get.

Let’s take an example from real life. I still offhand with the Claymore of Ancient Power. Now, suppose that I replaced that with a second Ironsoul

According to Landsouls spreadsheet, the breakdown would look like this:

  • Overall DPS: 2834
  • White damage: 780
  • Heroic Strike: 325
  • Bloodthirst: 665
  • Whirlwind: 492
  • Bloodsurge: 239
  • Deep Wounds: 332

To put the new data into MaxDPS we need to take the raw stats for the new gear configuration and put them into it. Essentially, we trade Crit Rating for Armor Penetration and Attack Power. And hey presto, MaxDPS spits out the following for us:

  • Overall DPS: 2751
  • White damage:539
  • Heroic Strike: 494
  • Bloodthirst: 569
  • Whirlwind: 481
  • Bloodsurge: 473
  • Deep Wounds: 194

We’re not as interested in the raw numbers as we are in the differences between before and after, so let’s take a look at the differences between the Claymore offhand and the Ironsoul offhand. I’ve denoted gains with a “+” and losses with a “-“. Landsouls spreadsheet is listed to the left of the slash, MaxDPS to the right.

  • Overall DPS: +82 / +132
  • White Damage: +22 / +4
  • Heroic Strike: +23 / +51
  • Bloodthirst: +19 / +18
  • Whirlwind: +19 / +22
  • Bloodsurge: +8 / +38
  • Deep Wounds: -8 / -1

As we would expect, our Deep Wounds damage goes down due to the loss of Crit Rating. And then it starts getting interesting. We see huge boosts in Bloodsurge and Heroic Strike for MaxDPS, but not a very big increase in white damage. Since Bloodsurge is an instant Slam, any increase in damage from it will either come from a)more frequent use or b)an increase in Attack Power. An increase in Attack Power would show a limited DPS gain, and it would also show up on Bloodthirst damage, so we’d expect to see a slight boost to Bloodsurge and a larger boost to Bloodthirst.

One example maketh not the theoretical DPS however. For the second example, let’s take the default set from the spreadsheet (as of 29.07.2009). It’s not entirely the BiS posted in the EJ forums, but it’ss close enough for jazz. To remove any “noise” from the calculations, we’ll furthermore remove everything but Battle Shout (vanilla version) and Rampage. We then get the spreadsheets results:

  • Overall DPS: 3556
  • White damage: 872
  • Heroic Strike: 493
  • Bloodthirst: 866
  • Whirlwind: 588
  • Bloodsurge: 282
  • Deep Wounds: 452

MaxDPS gives us:

  • Overall DPS: 3523 (-23)
  • White damage: 521 (-351)
  • Heroic Strike: 745 (252)
  • Bloodthirst: 714 (-152)
  • Whirlwind: 582 (-6)
  • Bloodsurge: 700 (418)
  • Deep Wounds: 260 (-192)

Again the parentheses show the difference between the two results. While MaxDPS nearly agrees with the sheet on overall DPS, the ability breakdown is quite different. The one exception is Whirlwind, where MaxDPS nearly agrees with the sheet. Of special note is the white damage contribution, which has gone down (!)

So, MaxDPS doesn’t in general agree with Landsoul’s spreadsheet. It still provides a gear list based on slots, with quick overviews of stats and drop place. Is it as updated as the sheet though with regards to gear? And the answer is: pretty much, but not quite. It doesn’t get updated quite as frequently as the spreadsheet, and so it might take a while for very new items to show up.

After all of the above, it’s fair to ask: “Aren’t we comparing apples and oranges here?” And the answer depends wholly on your viewpoint. These are two very different animals. On one hand we have a spreadsheet made to be as accurate as possible, and to include as many of the mechanics as possible, and on the other hand we have a simple-to-use gear interface for showing gear in a ranked fashion. On one hand we have a tool for the numbercrunchers and on the other we have a tool for the person who needs to see whether Gear Piece X is an upgrade, before the Need/Greed timer runs out thankyouverymuch.

If you’re looking to tweak your gear, spec or to see what a bit of kit will do to your DPS, then Landsouls spreadsheet is the better of the two. Likewise, if you’re in a raid/instance and a piece of gear drops that might just be an upgrade, although possibly not, then Landsoul is again the better. MaxDPS most likely cuts some corners with the calculations and ends up some numbers that are…well, let’s call them puzzling. On the other hand, if you look at MaxDPS as a quick and dirty guide to gear, for the raider or dungeoneer who has been caught unawares or unprepared, then it does come into its own. It’s as simple as clicking an icon and looking at the list. The ranking system may be off, but the list is still there.

Verdict: Landsouls spreadsheet snatches this one with its more accurate and believable model of warrior DPS.

23
Jul
09

Furious addons – Omen and Recount

Right, so I set out to present the addons I use for playing fury. Now, the two addons I’ll talk about today are so integrated into raiding that everybody should know about them. And moreover, everybody should be familiar with them. So arguably, I’m wasting my time…and yours too, by telling you about them.

Instead of talking about what Omen and Recount do for a living, I’ll discuss their value in a raiding situation. More precisely, I’ll ask the question: “Do these venerable veterans, these old faithfuls amongst addons, do they even have a place in your addon suite at all?”

Eh wot? How can I say that they’re not worthwhile to use? The answer is, I havent really said that…not directly anyway. So let’s get on with it shall we.

The basic premise of Omen is to show you how close you are to grabbing aggro. In the old days Omen could show you your threat level on all mobs in the surrounding area. Blizzard rather neatly cut that out from under Omens legs when they introduced their own ingame threat meter.

So essentially, Omen displays the raw data from the Blizzard API while the Blizzard threatmeter shows you the polished data. Aside from a few scaling factors, we get exactly the same data. Roughly speaking, Omen is now more about presentation and less about distinct functionality. If you’re the person who prefers bars and numbers, then Omen is for you, but if you prefer the green/yellow/red dot system of Blizzards UI, then there isn’t a distinct need in my mind. Alternatively, there is the Simple Threat Meter which shows you a single vertical aggro bar. Essentially its the bar version of Blizzards threat indicator.

The advantage of Omen is that the extra numbers gives you extra details. You can see what everybody else is doing, something that can be valuable in some fights. As a part time tank, I can furthermore add that the TPS readout of Omen is a nice indicator of who is going to overtake you soon, in situations where you’re only marginally ahead for some reason.

Onwards to Recount. Recount is a damage meter, but it isn’t limited to that. In fact, I’d say that damage meter is a misleading thing to call it, since it’s more of an analysis tool a la WWS. Does everybody need this feature? Whether you need it or not, is a matter of some debate, but most people can certainly benefit from the post combat analysis options it offers.

As a DPS’er, I can say that “heck yeah, DPS measurements are worth it!”, but I’m not going to, mostly since I like being obnoxious. On a more serious note, a damage/DPS meter is not intended to be a competition tool (even though it always ends up being one). Rather it’s intended to be just that, a yardstick for measuring your performance. “Booohoo, U say that becuz U suXX0rz”. To that I say: “No U”, and go wash my mouth out with soap.

Now, if Recount simply showed DPS or damage bars, I’d say “no, don’t get this”, but seeing as Recount does provide a detailed breakdown of which abilities you’ve used, it helps in more ways than one. It does have a bit of a memory footprint, but then, it does pull a lot of data every second while in use. This data includes hits, glancing blows, crits, misses, all that good stuff that actually tells you (rather than your stats) how you are performing.

So what is the gist of my ramble?

Omen:

  • Yes if: You like lots of numbers next to your aggro bar (i.e. a detailed readout)
  • No if: You want something as simple as a traffic light

Recount:

  • Yes if: You care to analyse your performance after combat
  • No if: You just want to go “Is my DPS higher than that other guys?”

Now, if I had just posted that, without the previous nonsense I would’ve saved the internet from yet more junk. Oh well, can’t win them all.

22
Jul
09

7 principles of UI design

A bit of pointless surfing the other day led me onto a page outlining the “13 principles for display design“. Since addons essentially are software specifically designed for human-computer interaction, I came to think how these 13 principles could be given a UI-addonesque tone.

Now, bringing “real” interface and display design into a game might not be your cup of tea, but if there are a few pointers to keep in mind when laying out your UI, why not use them? After all, it might help. Anyway, my version of the 13 principles of display design, which we can call “the 7 principles of UI design”:

  1. Legibility
  2. Redundancy and multiplication
  3. Proximity
  4. Multiple resources
  5. Similarity avoidance
  6. Simplicity
  7. Predictable/logical movement

1) Your UI should be legible and easily so. If you have to squint to read your ridiculously cool font, or if you have to shine a torch onto your screen to read the leet shade of green text…then your UI is not legible. If you are going to follow only one of the principles, this is the one.

Example:

  • Tolkiens elven font is probably very cool. But try to imagine a scrolling combat text in it? Not really.

2) This is the “if one is good, two is better” principle. The most clear information systems often use two or more forms of communication, often redundant forms. The classic example is the traffic light which uses two redundant forms of communication; colour and position of its lights. Either, on its own, is perfectly sufficient, but by using them both it becomes so much clearer. The key concept here is to have several indicators for critical bits of information.

Examples:

  • Cooldown bars that change colour as the time runs out (DBM does this for example).
  • OmniCC counts down with numbers that start out white, then turn yellow and red.

3) Proximity; the close grouping of related pieces of information. Basically, if a task requires two or more different sources of information to be successful, these should be grouped together, so you avoid having to look at the top right, bottom left and on the floor between your feet to make sense of the in-combat messages. For a warrior this could mean having the rage indicator close to the ability cooldowns. Note that it’s very possible to cram too much information into an area, causing it to become cluttered and unreadable.

Example:

  • Party/Raid frames that group people together as well as show mana, to allow the healer to see his/her mana whilst keeping an eye on the health of the party.

4) This is related to the redundancy point above. The human minds ability to process information increases if the sources of information touch upon different senses instead of all using the same one. Too much of one thing will lead to information overflow. In plainer terms, instead of having all your addons only display visual information, use audible cues too, especially if the audible signals are distinct and clear.

Examples:

  • Omens aggro alert.
  • MSBT dings when my health drops below a certain percentage.
  • DBM plays the “Run away little girl! Run away” sound bit from Karazhan when walls of flame appear in the Obsidian Sanctum.

5) If something is vital to know, or to be warned about, do not make it look like anything else, especially not something humdrum that you use all the time. It needs to be distinct enough that it doesn’t get drowned in the general cacophony that is a raid UI. Is everything shades of red in your UI? Make your death warning blue. Things that are visually distinct stand out just by being there. Again though, moderation is key. Keep the very distinct warnings and items to a minimum, so that your eyes don’t become “immune”.

Example:

  • Blizzard changing the colour of the Sartharion Shadow Fissures from red to blue. Too many player AOE effects were already red, making them hard to spot.

6) Simplicity…don’t we all know the acronym “keep it simple, s…..”? There’s a reason for it, actually there are several reasons. The first and foremost is, the simpler you keep things, the less likely they are to break. But, in terms of user interfaces, it is an advantage to present the relevant information as simply as possible, thereby using as little of the users brainpower as possible. I know it sounds a bit daft, but the less mental processing is used dealing with the information, the more is free to be proactive, to think ahead. And being able to think ahead makes the user a lot more efficient in general.

Example:

  • Grid shows you how much a players health deficit is, rather than show you their total health. The deficit is more useful to healers than the total health since they are concerned with bringing them back to full health.

7) The final principle says that if something moves in your addon, it should be in a predictable and logical manner. The traditional example here is a thermometer where the indicator rises as the temperature goes up. Since a UI is a personal thing, there is no hard and fast rule about how things have to move. However, if something moves, it should move in a fashion that’s logical to the user.

Example:

  • A threat bar in a threat meter than grows as threat increases.

There we are. 7 principles (not rules of course) to keep in mind when setting up your UI (or making your addon). They’re not a checklist, rather they’re a pointer as to how to improve the smooth runnings of your addons. The most important thing to keep in mind, is that the UI is a tool rather than a work of art. While some people might dispute this, the basic reason for using addons is to improve information flow and accessibility of the vanilla UI, especially in a raiding situation.

As with most things, the central thing is this: do what works for you, not what you think would work for others. If the above can help, so much the better.

20
Jul
09

Furious addons – Bartender4

So Bartender…what to write about it that hasn’t been written before. It is, alongside with a few others, basically a staple of the addon cloud these days. Of course, there are alternatives to it, as there always has been, but Bartender is probably one of the best known action bar addons there is. It’s simple to use, and it functions mostly without fail, most of the time.

Setting up Bartender is nearly self explanatory, so a “how to” post or a review style post will mostly just rehash the same thing that has been repeated over and over. Instead of doing that, it could be worthwhile to examine something related to the concept of action bars; how many buttons do you actually need as a warrior? And how many functions need be visible?

The answer is that there is no definite answer. It depends so hugely on your playstyle (are you a clicker or keybinder), preferred UI layout (are you a minimalist or do you need absolutely every button visible), and of course…personal taste. So why even discuss it. Well, partially, it fills out the page, and partially because its an interesting study in ergonomics to see how people lay out their UI. It’s interesting since Bartender essentially is an addon that allows you to manage your UI real estate, so as to make your UI efficient.

Originally, when I installed Bartender, it placed my action bars down in the left corner. I was used to having two bars in the bottom left corner (from the standard UI) so it didnt feel out of place at all. It was only later that I moved the bars to the middle of the screen. And why? Mostly because of looks to be honest, but part of it was to cut down on mouse travel time between the buttons and target selection. Some take this concept to extraordinary heights by placing their main action bar just below their character on the screen.

Wait woah woah. Buttons slap bang in the middle of the screen? Atrocious looking! ‘Tis true…buttons in the middle of the game world don’t look awe inspiring, do thy? “I’m sorry mister Varian Wrynn, but your face seems to be a big clickable button with a fireball on it.” But they don’t take your eyes off the action, so you could argue that they’re in the most convenient place. Thankfully Bartender has a setting to show bars in combat only, so you can have the best of both worlds.

Most of the visibility and paging options in Bartender are for people who like to click. In fact, it’s very much a clickers addon, however keybinders can find a use for seeing their action bars even so. Bartender comes with handy indicators for when you’re out of power for an ability as well as out of range of your intended target. If you furthermore use OmniCC or another countdown addon, you will have an at-a-glance overview of your current combat situation.

bartenderThis is my Bartender configuration. I have a sidebar along the bottom right for mounts, but this is essentially it. The bottom bar pages with stance, although it is very rarely used these days. OmniCC figures prominently (the white and yellow numbers on the bars). The Shoot button, Intervene and Intercept buttons show the “not usable” red colouring.

Roughly, its divided into three categories. 1)Commonly used abilities (bottom bar), 2)Stances, shouts and CD abilities (top bar), 3)The rest (middle bar). The middle bar is where most of the clicking goes on since it isn’t keybound to anything. It consists of semi frequently used abilities, things that do have CD’s but are still used nearly every time they come off CD.

Close observation reveals quite a number of abilities that aren’t on the bars. More buttons take more space however, and increase the clutter level in the UI, especially when buttons are arranged in a grid. While a grid saves space, it is easier to lose sight of a particular button somewhere in the middle. One solution is to subdivide a larger grid into smaller sections, so that instead of say an 8×16 button grid, you would have a small separator along the middle to create two distinct 8×8 grids. This is probably a subject all of its own, so I’ll refrain from further discussion and instead just say that based on my experience in WoW, a 3 row grid gives the right balance of easy overview and number of buttons.

More close observation will reveal that instead of Bartenders limit of 12 buttons per row, I only use 10. Although I’m a clicker, I still use the number keys on my keyboard for hitting abilities on the lower bar. And I’ve found that hitting keys to the right of the 0-key takes my attention away from the onscreen action for too long. For the same reason, the mostly used abilities are placed on the 2-5 keys as they are the keys closest to the WASD keys. At this stage, it should be said that my setup may not work for you. It touches upon ergonomics, where the external factors are as important as the game-factors. How big is your hand, how is the keyboard shaped, which keys do you use, etc etc. There’s no right and wrong here, only what works for the individual. It’ll take a bit of fiddling with, but in the end, getting the right setup will make playing easier and quickers, as well as reduce the risk of straining your hands and wrists unnecessarily. It may not seem important at first, but with a bad setup your hands may well start hurting after 4 hours of raiding.

Bartender is a workhorse of an addon. Rather like Lego, it’s a set of building blocks that you can push around your virtual real estate until you find a setup you like. While there are limits to what it’ll allow you to do, the possible number of combinations that can be achieved is near endless.

17
Jul
09

Warrior Q&A answer time! Or possibly not

The wait is at an end! Blizzard have posted the warrior Q&A, hot on the heels of the druid one. I was actually a tad surprised that they posted it so quickly after the druid one, but ours is not to reason why.

So, where to start? Despite the naysayers and doom-hollerers, there is information stashed away in the Q&A (on occasion very well hidden). While it’s true that our favourite crab monster does a brilliant job of being evasive about certain issues (which, honestly, is no new thing), it’s also true that he gives some nice general view on where Blizz see warriors going. The key word here is: general. People looking for detailed answers about issue X, Y, or Z…well, did you seriously expect to get those answers? I didn’t.

Anyway, let’s get on with it then. In the following I’ll be quoting quite a bit from the original post, but if you want to read it yourself, hop over to the forums. As said, the Q&A covers a lot of ground, and quite a bit of it more than once.

First of all, I’d like to point everybody to the relatively innocuous paragraph:

One of the things we want to do in the future is take a hard look at the Arms and Fury trees. There are several talents which just haven’t weathered the course of time well and pale in comparison to some of the newer Wrath of the Lich King talents.

Can it be? Are they going to finally give us an overhaul, what nearly every fury has been silently praying for? It appears so, although not likely before the next expansion. No guarantee of changes for the better mind you, but its still better than nothing.

The glorious past

The Q&A starts off with a quick look at the past of the warrior. While it might not seem very relevant now, it’s still worth remembering the origins of the class, or as the crab monster puts it:

Arms is supposed to be about weapons and martial training and feel “soldierly.” Fury is supposed to be about screaming barbarians in woad.

This was the reason I rolled a fury warrior rather than an arms warrior. I wanted a savage, rage filled character. With the massive changes to the trees since then, starting with the swapping of Death Wish and Sweeping Strikes, Blizzard slowly diluted that distinction. You can of course argue that it’s still there to a large extent, but with TG, the playstyle of fury has slowed perceptibly down. We are no longer the viciously and violently hacking and slashing barbarians we once were. If we compare with Age of Conan, the Barbarian and the Conqueror have distinctly different feels. I’m not saying WoW needs such a distinct split, but it would be nice if it were more tangible.

Also a thing of the past: the notion of arms being PVP and fury being PVE. It still spooks around from time to time, but it’s very much less visible these days. Ghostcrawler comments on it:

We understand some players prefer that model, but we don’t like the way it cuts off such a big chunk of the class from players who might not have much interest in the PvP or PvE parts of the game.

We have lost our PVP tree. And we’re not getting it back. Is that a good or bad thing? While I don’t PVP much, and generally couldn’t care less whether arms was the PVP tree (sorry, but there you go, honesty for you), I think it’s a good thing. If you like the way a tree plays out, you shouldn’t be forced to do bugger all damage just because your favoured tree is “the PVP tree”. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to see 3 tank-viable warrior trees, or 3 equally PVP viable trees, just to preserve the choice. If Blizzard want to integrated PVP into all the trees, they need to do it in a way that doesn’t make PVE suffer. This could possibly be by having distinct PVP and PVE talents. If done properly, it would address many of the problems that arise from talents being nerfed to the ground in one, because they’re otherwise overpowered in the other department. Let’s have trees that are viable for both, but talents that aren’t.

Rage

Rage is what makes our class unique. Period. That and stances. To quote Ghostcrawler:

Other than warriors, only bear druids use the rage mechanic, and that is pretty much just because that form is intended to mimic warriors. Rage is an unusual resource because it is infinite over the course of minutes, but can be very limiting over the course of seconds. While the basic mechanic of rage is interesting, it has caused us lots of balance problems over the course of World of Warcraft — sometimes in the favor of the warrior and sometimes not. It’s probably time to give the mechanic another look.

Did you hear that? Rage might change! Boohoo, more nerfs! Or perhaps not. Let’s hold judgement and look a bit further down the Q&A:

It could be in the future that we shift most of rage generation to damage done and have little or none in damage taken (and we would have to change a lot of other mechanics to make this work obviously).

Now, long-term we need a better solution to rage generation. Tying it to damage done is logical in the theoretical world of game design, but has problems in reality. When your gear sucks, you have rage problems. When you have great gear, you are no longer limited by rage. That’s just not a great model, and one of the reasons warriors are overly gear dependent.

So what is the future for rage? It’ll continue to be a pain in the behind for both Blizzard and us for quite a while. Ghostcrawler says it quite plainly: it’s a quite huge change. If they change it too much, it’ll become another word for Energy or Runic Power and they don’t want that. In the past they have changed the normalizations on Rage, and I could well imagine that they will do that as a last resort if all else fails. Now, some people seem to be terrified that Blizzard will ruin rage generation like they have in earlier times by rushing out a new rage normalization. All good and well, but if Blizz wanted to rush out changes, they would’ve done so already. Ghostcrawler himself comments that warriors are in a good spot just now, and whether we agree with him or not, that doesn’t really hint at Blizzard feeling any urgency about changing rage generation.

In the longer term, it seems most likely that they’ll adopt some variant of “rage only from damage dealt” mechanic. It will need a lot of tweaking and jiggling the wires to be made to work of course, so let’s not expect any miracles. And most importantly, let’s keep an open mind when it happens.

Stances

Naturally enough, some people asked “can’t you get rid of stances?” Predictably enough, the answer was no:

We get a fair number of suggestions from players trying to basically slip the stance concept out of the warrior class: make it not take rage, or let them do more abilities per stance so they don’t need to switch stances so often. That’s not really what the warrior is all about though. You should care what stance you’re in and it should be a decision to change stance. Note that if you pay too high a price to change stances, that counts as there not being a decision though.

So it’s all about the tradeoff. It’s about the conscious decision to value a certain ability enough to spend the rage on it. While its a good idea on paper, I think it doesn’t quite work out that way in practice. Very few warriors are going to give up 2 GCD’s and rage enough for a couple of abilities, unless there’s a clear and present advantage in doing so. Even more so when you’re in a fight with a short enrage timer or simply if you want to maximise your DPS (shocking). Isn’t that a little selfish and metre-related? Quite possibly. However, these days even Blizzard speak nearly openly about DPS, and if you as a warrior do bugger all DPS, just so you can stance dance and fire off that semi handy ability, you’re going to say “screw that semi handy thing”…or you’re going to go “why is my DPS always so low”.

As an example I can mention the changes to stance dancing that were proposed a while back, then pulled again rather quickly. The idea was to introduce a fixed cost to a stance chance, rather than the current system where you are guaranteed to keep X rage on a shift. Raiding furies started working on new rotations with stance dancing because, hurrah, Rend would suddenly be a viable ability. The PVP’ers went up in arms however, since their abilities to stancedance in low rage situations would be killed off. It was an interesting idea, but it didn’t work out in practice. Until they do find a model that works though, warriors will probably not stance dance as much as Blizzard would like them to.

The design intent of warrior stances is that you change your toolbar when you go from one stance to another and that that decision isn’t a trivial one. Now, the third part aside from the rage cost and ability limitations is the penalties (such as 5% damage taken in Berserker). We cut those in half recently, and we’d eventually like to get rid of them altogether.

Stance penalties to go the way of the dodo? Good news in my book! Again though, it is not likely to happen before the major overhaul of the fury and arms trees.

Tanking

The majority of the tanking related answers focus on (you guessed it) Block and Strength. Ghostcrawler hints at the future for Block (and avoidance in general):

We think block needs to be a percentage of damage blocked in order for the stat to do what we want. But the trade-off would mean that warriors (and paladins) couldn’t block every incoming hit, especially from large groups. Avoidance might also need to come down across the board, and many talents and abilities would need to be redesigned. This is a major change that isn’t the kind of thing we can crowbar into 3.2 with a clean conscience. It is almost certainly the future for the block stat.

This may initially seem like a pretty heavyhanded nerf to tanks, but it’s actually something that is similar to the SWP situation in ages past. Back then it was the druids who had to be nerfed because nothing could hit them. In the future it’s likely to be all the tanks collectively. It’s nothing but a natural evolution really. If Block is horrible, warriors tanks are going to stack dodge and parry and consequently become harder to hit. That again requires bosses to hit even harder. I’m sure that the vicious circle is obvious here, and it’s not a sustainable one for very long. It’ll likely be fine up until Icecrown Citadel, but after that it’ll need a complete redesign.

It’s yet another change for an expansion so…dare I say it: we need to show patience.

Another point that is touched upon is the fact that warriors possibly might be a little behind other tanks currently. Despite Ghostcrawlers comments that “many good guilds are still using warrior tanks”, he doesn’t say whether they do that because they’ve always done it. Tanks are usually in guilds for the long run. If you know your tank well, that just helps enormously. So well established and capable tanks are not as likely to be swapped, even if they might be slightly behind another tank.

DPS

Let’s start off with:

We’re happy with warrior dps in Ulduar.

And let’s also have this one:

Part of the concern here is we used to exempt warriors from the design philosophy that pure dps classes should do more damage than hybrid dps classes. We try to no longer play favorites here. Warrior damage should look like that of Feral druids, Enhancement shamans, Retribution paladins, and death knights.

Now, my question is…are we really on par with those classes? It’s not something I can judge objectively from my experience, and since it also depends on skill and gear (and the fights), its easier to say than prove. Not that Blizzard have to prove anything really, nor should they have to. My personal stance is still that this damage differentiation is a bit of a silly notion, especially with dual specs, and its more of a headache in terms of design than anything, but it seems to be staying. Furthermore, there is a very appreciable difference between the 10-man and 25-man gear, and I wonder if Blizzard are always testing both extensively or whether they test one, and then “transpose” to the other. The issue is: where is the point they balance around?

A further danger here is that Blizzard only look at the hard numbers, not so much at the types of mobs or the situations. DPS is highly situational as we know. If Blizzard balance us around a stationary fight with 3 adds and then make a dungeon full of bosses without adds, where we also constantly are on the move, we will get some, shall we say, mild discrepancies. Do we trust Blizzard not to fall into that pit? I certainly hope so. The good news in this department is, of course, that they admit that they’re not infallible, so if people publish numbers that contradict their initial number crunching, they have on occasion looked into them again. All in all, theorycrafters and datacrunchers will in all likelihood have plenty to do in future.

Rotations rotations rotations!

Rotations are a thing of the past! Well, not quite. But we should not expect to return to the 1, 2, 3, cha cha cha, 1, 2, 3, cha cha cha style combat sequences again.

I think if anything, abilities like this need to be more prominent. You should be less effective at your job if you ignore them, and ideally you’d also be less effective if you just macro’d them in.

I can only applaud this really. Arms already have it, so why not fury as well? It’ll take some work of course, so that we don’t end up with two trees that are carbon copies of eachother, merely with different names, but it would make furying a lot more interesting in the long run. There’s a limit to how much of that you can introduce of course, especially when your staple abilities are on short cooldowns. But then, it’s not unthinkable that Blizzard would consider revamping the fury “rotation” entirely.

Conclusion time?

The above points are, as I see it, some of the main ones touched upon by the Q&A. You’ll note that I haven’t touched upon the PvP bits, however small in number they were. I will leave that to the people more experienced in this area to comment on.

So the main question is: Did the Q&A address the most pressing concerns of the warrior community? Well, it addressed some things in a very general way, but without really giving us any hard information on anything. Basically, they have given us glimpses of their views of the warrior class, but in such a fashion that they really can’t be pinned up on anything. Partially, we can put the blame for that behaviour on the past, where cries of  “but a blue poster recently said that X and Y were being changed to Z and P, and that we’d be boosted” was a common occurrence on the forums in the wake of blue post. So naturally, Blizzard aren’t going to say anything that could get them into sticky places. Of course, that also removes any trace of usable or specific information that the community might want.

Despite the lack of hard info, Blizzard gave us a lot of glimpses at the future of the warrior, and I for one liked bits of what I heard. The rage mechanic is dated and does need its engine checked. It’s not broken, but it could need a good upgrading. The arms and fury trees will get an overhaul, which is long overdue by now. They didn’t promise when, and I for one don’t think it’ll be before the next expansion, but it’s coming.

Where will we be in a year? Who knows. All I can say is: the warriors will endure as they always have…there will still be a place for the unyielding tank, the cool master of arms and the raging berserker.



14
Jul
09

How to set up SBF the warrior way

Saying that “you can do X and Y” is all very good, but saying “here is how you do X and Y” is a lot better. So, to deviate from my addon presentation momentarily, I’ll go into more detail about my SBF setup. SBF has a few things that aren’t immediately intuitively logical to the first time user, so I’ll try to remove a bit of the mystique, as well as show what it can do.

Let’s take a look at the options frame then.

SBFconfig1

First off, there is the whitelist and blacklist concept. The tooltips for both these (and in general in the options screen) are very clear and helpful. The whitelist shows what you tell it to, nothing else. The blacklist is the exact reverse; it shows you everything except what you tell it not to. The “frame unit” frame indicates the origin of the buff. It is rather a long list, but it is luckily intuitive. It’s especially interesting to note that there’s a “mouseover” option, which could be helpful to healers or tanks. “Player” here naturally refers to…the player character. The “Show buffs” and “Show debuffs” can both be ticked off, or you can choose which you want to see. In this case, only buffs are ticked, since SBF1 is a buffs frame.

The keys to making SBF dance are the “spells” and “filters” tabs. They both do the same general thing in each their own way, namely to filter buffs and debuffs to various frames, which is ultimately why you want to use SBF.

At this stage, a quick rundown of my frames is in order:

  • SBF1: Buffs
  • SBF2: Personal/short duration buffs
  • SBF3: Debuffs
  • SBF4: Slam!
  • SBF5: Targets target debuffs

SBF2 is really the most interesting frame since it’s where I put the buffs that are important to me, i.e. warrior shouts and the cooldown abilities.

SBFconfig2

This is a screenshot of my filters tab. As you can see, it contains the warrior shouts, the warrior self buffs, Loatheb’s Shadow, Heroism, and Fungal Creep. These are the essential buffs I need to watch in combat, and they’re all (partially at least) controlled by me. The “n=” denotes that its the name of the buff/debuff and the statements that involve the “&” are conditions I set. For example, the “&my” means a buff that I have cast, while “&c” refers to a buff cast only by my class. Note that the latter one is a remnant from earlier versions of SBF and as such its actually redundant.

For those of you that don’t understand the filtering language, fear not, because I used the spells window to set up the filters without ever having to type a single bit of gobbledegook. Let’s take a look:

SBFconfig3

Provided you’ve encountered the buff before, select it in the list on the left. In the middle you then have a few options. If your frame is a whitelist frame, merely click on the “show this buff” tick box and it should start appearing in the designated frame. As an example, I’ve ticked off my Battle Shout. Since I want it to show up regardless of who cast it, I haven’t ticked the “cast by me” box. You select whther you want a list of buffs or debuffs with the tickbox on the right. Note that only spells you have actually encountered in combat will show in the list since SBF is not psychic. It takes its information from the game itself, so if you haven’t encountered it, it wont show. However, you can, provided you know the name of the spell, type it in manually in the filters tab.

SBF2 is a whitelist frame as said. In a blacklist frame, the “Show this buff” box becomes “don’t show this buff”, since it will by default show everything unless told not to. As such, I’ve set my SBF1 frame up to be a blacklist frame. I don’t need the shouts showing up in that frame, so I’ve set it to exclude those.

The final frame I have is the “debuffs on the tank” frame. Why is that useful? To be honest, for a DPS’er it’s ever so slightly irrelevant. But being a warrior I sometimes need to tank, and having to switch profiles in addons midgame is something I detest loudly. So, I have a frame to show what debuffs are on the current tank. It is only relevant in fights like Gluth and Razorscale, but since its a vital bit of information for the tank, I like to have it plainly visible.

SBFconfig4

The frame is set to whitelist and the frame unit to targets target, which ensures that I always see the status of the current tank (which includes myself when I’m tanking). I have deliberately kept the number of buffs low in it, since there a) tends to be only one buff of interest per fight and b) I want it to be visible(!) For the same reason, I’ve made it rather big in my UI, so that when it does pop up, it isn’t missed. It isn’t a frame that sees much use, but on fights like Gluth it comes in very handy.

“But…you haven’t mentioned anything about feature X!” Too true, I haven’t. SBF has many more features than I have described in the above, most notably the Buff Flowing feature. It’s a whole topic in itself, and if you’re interested in it hop over here. However, the above setup should see you well on the way to discovering the true power of SBF. For the people thinking “that’s only for warriors though” I have only to say that, with slight variations on buffs shown in frames 2, 4, and 5, I use essentially the same setup across my range of characters.

A final word should be said on the display options in SBF. Each frame can be set to display times, icons and/or bars. So whether you prefer the Blizz style rows of buffs or the Elkano style stacks of bars, SBF caters for your needs. It’s even possible to have the buff bar in a different location than the icon itself, so if you have a fancy UI that needs buff bars to be detached from their icons, you can do that too.

As always, feedback is more than welcome, whether good or bad. Have an inventive use for SBF that you want to share? Or ideas for how better to use it? Shout out. Addons are a work in progress (isn’t everything), so there is always room for improvement.

06
Jul
09

Furious addons – Satrina Buff Frames

The first addon I’ll go over is quite possibly the most important one I use during combat. I’m not speaking of Bartender or Omen, but Satrina Buff Frames. Like the name suggests, it displays buffs and debuffs. Since nearly everything in combat has a buff of some sort attached to it, tracking these can mean the difference between a wipe and a win.

SBF works with entities called buff frames. Each frame shows a number of buffs, arranged in columns and rows. They can be set to grow left, right, up or down according to your wishes and needs. The standard setup features a frame for buffs and a frame for debuffs, just like the normal UI does. But that’s just the beginning really.

To make an example of my own frame setup. I use five different frames, placed in various corners of my UI. One for buffs, one for debuffs, one for warrior buffs, one for Bloodsurge procs, and one to check for debuffs on the tank (useful for tanking Gluth for example).The buff and debuff frames are placed next to the minimap. While nice to have, they’re not central to combat, so I’ve moved them away into a corner. The warrior buffs frame contains short duration buffs, either cast by me or related directly to my combat. So, things like Battle Shout, Recklessness, Heroism, Death Wish, and Loatheb’s Shadow go in here. Its situated close where I’m constantly looking so I can always see what’s happening to me and my DPS. The Bloodsurge proc frame contains only a single entity: the Bloodsurge proc. It pops up right below my character so that I can’t miss it.

The final frame is, as mentioned, for debuffs applied to the current tank. So in fights where debuffs to the tank matter, I can see when to aggro (if I’m tanking). You aren’t limited to buffs on yourself or the targets target however. You can show the buffs and/or debuffs of any of your party/raid members, party pets, focus, focus’s target, or even the vehicle you’re in. Essentially, you can track any buff on any person in your group, for whatever reason you might care to have.

Furthermore, you can route things into different frames, depending on their remaining time, i.e. you can create emergency or “act now” frames. You can also sort buffs, so that ones cast by yourelf get shown whilst identical buffs by others don’t (this can be useful for tracking Bleeds or even Battle/Comm Shout). This leads me into the filter/spell system, which is one of SBF’s strengths (and weaknesses too, see below). The filter system is essentially the nuts and bolts of SBF. It is a tiny scripting language and it can do a lot of things, but unless you want to get into it, you don’t have to. It is possible to configure SBF entirely without writing code.

The major downside to SBF is its daunting configuration screen. Like other highly configurable addons (Pitbull and Grid for example), it can be a daunting job to set up. And unlike Grid or Pitbull, if you don’t take the time to set it up, you’ll have something that performs just like the standard buff UI. A big part of this complexity arises from the filter system. If you don’t know code, it will look like gobbledegook, and this can be offputting to many. A further small kink is the fact that, at first, you wont have any spells in the spell list. SBF adds spells it encounters to this list, but before you encounter it, you cant set up a filter for it. Essentially it means that you can’t preprogram anything before having actually been in the fight. However, in the grand scale of things, this is a very minor point. Any new buff or debuff will merely show up in your “standard” frame when you first encounter it.

If you’re currently using Elkano’s Buff Bars and Power Auras (or any other buff addon of choice), should you change to SBF? While I’d like to say yes, I’ll also say “if it works, don’t fix it”. Changing what doesn’t need to be changed is not necessarily a good thing. That said, if you’re like me, having one addon that can do the work of two (or more) is a good thing, if the addon is good at what it does, and can display what I need it to.

And this is where SBF shines. It does its thing extremely well. It may be a bit of work to set up, but when it is, you’ll have access to all the buffs you could ever want. Want to see whether the sunder count in the middle of the screen? Done. Want to see Mortal Strike on targets target? Done. Want to see bleed effects on the healer? Done. If its a buff or debuff, you can track it.

Pros:

  • One single addon for all types of buffs, debuffs and procs
  • Highly customisable

Cons:

  • Can be daunting to configure at first
  • Filters can’t be done ahead of time

Without doubt, SBF is a staple addon in my addons list. While no addon is indispensable or irreplacable, SBF sets a high bar for others to jump over.