Friday, August 13, 2010

The "Fun" of Rotations and Synergy

In case you've missed it there has been a bit of a debate raging over the future of the Moonkin rotation among Moonkin Beta testers and other, not so lucky, moonkin like myself who are not in the beta. We've been talking about the current state of the moonkin rotation, where we think it should go and how we think it should be fixed. If you would like to read it you can find parts of it in several places (1, 2, 3), but I would like to take this opportunity and try and consolidate my thoughts. Due to the length of this post I am breaking it up into two parts. Part 1 will take a look at the real impact of synergy. Part 2 will come out Monday and take a look at Complexity and Unpredictability.


I think the debate started with Relevart and I discussing Genesis and the purpose of DoTs on our respective blogs (1, 2). The next day Relevart made a big post on the Cata Beta forms (linked above) regarding the current state of moonkin. It covered a lot of topics, but I was noticing a common theme between his original post and many of the responses he got on the thread. Several of the posts indicated that moonkin DoTs are "boring" and are not as interesting as the DoTs of other classes. Relevart concluded that our DoTs need more synergy with our other spells. Either by having nukes extend our DoTs, having the dots provide straight buffs to the nukes, or some other set up that allowed for more spell interaction in the moonkin rotation.

The problem is I think Relevart and several other people don't really understand what they are asking for, and may be disappointed if they get it. In this post I am going to try and outline my point of view.

What is Synergy?
Synergy - n. - The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
I apologize if you think this is unnecessary but I want to make sure we are all on the same page. A really good example of synergy is the combination of Glyph of Starfire and Glyph of Moonfire, and you can easily see it using WrathCalcs. I entered my own info into the spreadsheet with only the Glyph of Starfall selected. This gave me a base DPS of 12,152 DPS with neither glyph. When I added just the Glyph of Moonfire the DPS went to 12,193 for an increase of 41 DPS. When I added just the Glyph of Starfire the DPS went to 12,250 for an increase of 98 DPS. However, when I added both glyphs the DPS went to 12,352 for an increase of 200 DPS. Individually, the DPS gain from these glyphs was a total of 139 DPS, but the synergy between the glyphs increased the DPS gain by another 61 DPS. Going just by the example above, synergy sounds pretty sweet, and I'll admit I don't have a big issue with synergy as long as it's done right. However, when I read the posts supporting synergy I get the feeling that it's supporters are expecting a lot more then synergy is likely to deliver.

Synergy from the Damage Point of View:

I think the important thing to remember here is that synergy is a path, not a destination. Synergy doesn't determine how much damage a moonkin should do. That's Blizzard's job and synergy is just one of the tools in their belt to help them us reach it.

Think of it this way. I bet Blizzard has DPS targets that they would like all the classes to meet in various styles of fight, and Blizzard has several ways in which they can meet those targets. If Blizzard chooses to hit those targets with synergy, that is fine, but it's important to remember that Blizzard's target is the reason we hit the target not the tool they used to hit it.

That's not to say that Synergy is completely neutral in terms of damage. Synergy can have a big impact on your damage relative to other moonkin and other classes. Unfortunately that impact is a negative one.

The difference between a good player and a bad player is the additional mistakes that the bad player will make and lower his DPS. This is true with or without synergy. The problem is that synergy will amplify those mistakes.

Take for example the problem of low DoT uptime. Without synergy your damage would just be lowered by the missing DoT ticks, but what if you also have Improved Insect Swarm? If you are relying on Imp IS to meet your target DPS having a low DoT uptime not only lowers your damage by the missing DoT ticks, but also costs you the 3% buffs your nukes loose when they land without a DoT their to buff them. At 3% that probably isn't a huge deal, but if Blizzard relies to heavily on synergy to buff classes then you can see how "have" and "have-not" classes quickly form.

Therefore, from a damage point of view synergy is unlikely to do anything for the best players. They will hit the target DPS numbers that Blizzard set for them. However, for the rest of us synergy can be very harmful. It will widen the gap between the good players and the best players making the good players look like bad players.

Synergy from the "Fun" Point of View:

Here is a quote from Murmurs that I think clearly states "pro-fun" point of view for synergy.
Synergy isn't about the level of damage that a particular spec nor a particular ability is capable of dealing; the concept is purely a matter of rotational complexity, one of substance, one of depth, reaction and playstyle.(src)
Can synergy provide complexity, substance, and depth? Yes, it can.

Does synergy traditionally provide complexity, substance, and depth? Traditionally it has not.

I have looked at several classes and I have yet to find an example of a rotation that is heavily influenced by synergy. Take the destruction warlock rotation as an example. It primarily consists of 4 spells: Immolate, Conflagrate, Chaos Bolt, & Incinerate. There is lots of synergy between these 4 spells. Conflagrate can't be case unless Immolate is on the boss. Chaos Bolt and Incinerate receive significant buffs if Immolate on the boss. Therefore, according to Murmur's perspective, the destro lock rotation should be complex and have substance due to all this synergy right?

I'm not going to argue how fun the destro lock rotation is or is not, but what I can show you is that synergy has very little influence on what spell is going to be cast when in the destro lock rotation.

I won't go into the math, but if you rank the destro spells by their DPET (damage per execution time) with synergy then the ranking goes like this:

  1. Conflagrate
  2. Immolate
  3. Chaos Bolt
  4. Incinerate
If you rank the destro spells by DPET without synergy then the ranking goes like this:

  1. Conflagrate
  2. Immolate
  3. Chaos Bolt
  4. Incinerate
Notice that the two rankings are exactly the same. In the actual rotation is Immolate is cast first since Conflagrate is a direct derivative of Immolate, but I think that is a minor difference. The more important thing to notice is that Immolate would be cast first even if it didn't buff Chaos Bolt and Incinerate. The only reason Incinerate is cast at all is because Conflagrate and Chaos Bolt have cooldowns.


From a damage point of view synergy has litte impact on how much you can do, because Blizzard will ultimately balance the game in a way that prevents us from being over powered. So, synergy is just a tool they can use to get us to the desired target DPS. However, It does have a negative impact in that it amplifies mistakes. If used excessively it could even hurt "good" moonkin when they are compared to the best.

As for the"fun" point of view, I won't deny that synergy could make a rotation "fun". However, there is very little evidence in recent WoW history to show that synergy has a significant impact on spell priority. Therefore, while synergy could make a spec fun, there is little reason for players to expect it to unless Blizzard has a big change in design philosophy.


Duskstorm said...

More fun than synergy is situational decision making. "I need to move, time to change my spell prioritization to support mobility." "Running low on mana, need to use my max mana efficiency rotation."

As it stands, there's already a huge difference between a bad Moonkin's damage and a good Moonkin's damage.

I stepped into a Voa25 run a few weeks ago. My "gearscore" was 5600, another Moonkin's gearscore was 6100. I put out 10k dps, he put out 6k. It's dramatic.

The problem is that, except for some hardmodes, most encounters don't require the extra 4-5k dps the skilled player brings. Fights don't present mana problems anymore; and if they did, while it would be fun and interesting to have to switch to a lower dps, higher mana efficiency rotation, it wouldn't be fun if other DPS classes didn't.

I think perhaps the biggest changes to help make our play style more fun lie in the boss encounters, not the class mechanics.

Relevart said...

First, I know exactly what I am asking for. And to be honest, I don't feel concerned about designing a class to separate good from bad. I think you are drastically overstating the impact that synergy will have on the DPS. If you recall, the entire start of the issue was not damage, but playstyle. It has always been playstyle. Damage is something we really can't even talk about much because with the exception of Wrath feeling slightly underpowered compared to Starfire, we are not at a place in beta to talk about raw damage.

Most of your argument hinges around the fact that synergy as a system is unforgiving. This is simply not true. It's important to acknowledge that in a complex rotation, mistakes can be just as detrimental. You act as if missing a single tick of a DoT will result in a massive loss in DPS and that's simply not true. With the new DoT system, you will have a much greater window to refresh your DoTs in so frankly, I find this example of IIS dated.

Using a historical argument here doesn't hold water with me either. If Blizzard is historically going to do what they are going to do, why do we have beta? It's clear that things are not entirely in the testing phase for tweaking. Development is still ongoing. If Blizzard did not want our input on the development side of things, then why would they open Beta so soon?

Showing an example of synergy done wrong doesn't really justify not attempting synergy again. The warlock example shows synergy around one spell. This spell was already required for one spell to be cast. This is a forced synergy. To use your highest DPET spell, you have to cast a lower one. This is not the synergy I'm looking for because there is no choice here. The other two spells interact with a spell that you already have to cast. Too much on one spell that you don't have a choice about casting.

Graylo said...


The comment that you and other people keep making is that you want Synergy so that the moonkin rotation will be fun and interesting.

My warlock example shows that dispite having a lot of Synergy absolutely nothing changes and the rotation isn't any more or less interesting with or without Synergy.

I have never said that Synergy can't make a rotation interesting, fun, complex, or unpredictable. All I've said, is that in WoWs history synergy has never had a big impact on a classes rotation and neither you, Murmurs, or anyone else have provided a good example to show me different.

I've already said that this doesn't mean Blizzard won't change their philosophy, but I think it makes it less likely that Blizzard will use Synergies to dictate a rotation.

Now, if that does happen, the synergies would have to be VERY powerful (ex nuke buffed by 100% if DoT up), and this would lead to heavy penalties for making mistakes. I'm not against separating the good from the bad, but heavy synergies would also show big differences between the good and the great.

I don't want to make it easy on noobs, but I don't want to make it impossible for good (but not elite) players either.

Relevart said...

I've got a post coming up on my blog that outlines a synergistic rotation that does not provide significant buffs to damage and is fairly forgiving. I tracked back to you, but I'm not sure what that will actually do so let me just link it here.

I understand that you feel that synergy in the past hasn't led to rotational changes. It was more like icing on the cake. But I still stand by the fact that using the past to dictate the future is erroneous. I talk a little about this on my post.

As far as your warlock example, the synergy was tied to one particular spell that you would want to cast anyway. That's not the type of synergy I'm looking for, although it does speak to exactly the point you are making (which is why I assume you chose it).

Seleria said...

Coming from somebody who doesn't play her boomkin 30 hours a week... I find synergy kind of daunting in the boomkin rotation.

I've been trying to make my dps better by working on when I cast dots. The problem I have is that one source tells me to maintain as high of uptime on my dots as possible. Another tells me to ONLY cast a dot at the end of an eclipse cycle. Another tells me something completely different. ALL sources cite Imp IS as the purpose.

The problem I see with synergy is that it can make you stress things that really aren't the end of the world. When they've been implemented, synergy situations seem to feel clunky to me. They feel like a feeble carrot to get me to cast a spell I didn't really wanna cast.

But what do I know ;) I don't raid with my druid.

Fantasma said...

I don't know if synergy is the answer or not.

I do know that something needs to be done to improve the Boomkin Fun Factor. I'm bored to death with my Boomkin. Maybe it's the result of having played her every day for almost 4 years. Maybe it's something else. I don't know.

I can't help but wonder how Blizzard defines "fun". For me, fun is topping the DPS meters and telling the cocky mages to stuff it. Utility is not fun. I'm sick of being a utility class. It's BORING.

"Hey Fan. Innervate me."
"Hey Fan. Run over there and battle rez the mage."
"Hey Fan. Stand on the stage and shoot orbs while we tank the Princes out of your range."
"Hey Fan. Hey Fan. Hey Fan."

And introducing the newest annoyance brought to you by Cataclysm...

"Hey Fan. Soothe that."

I'll freely admit that I'm not a great Boomkin. I make mistakes. It’s easy to screw up your rotation when you have to keep interrupting it to “utili-tize” something or someone. And nothing is more frustrating than being harassed for being at the bottom of the DPS meter and being compared to the top-ranked WoL Boomkins. You know...the ones that don’t have to do anything but DPS and get everything from Focus Magic to Tricks of the Trade to a perfectly timed Power Infusion. I’m still waiting on the day when I get a pat on the back for a sweet battle rez or an awesome innervate.

In the end, I would argue that the difference between a good Boomkin and a great one is more likely to revolve around how they are regarded in their raids than by their DoT uptime.

boozychef said...

ditto Fantasma.
A lot of time i think that Blizz actually hate boomkins. We seem to be the bastard child that is always hanging around, but no-one really knows what to do with. our history seems to be one long saga of minimum-effort-only.

boomkin dps at the moment always feels like a struggle to achieve smooth rotation in any given boss fight.
well designed synergy should be able to smooth some of the bumps, allowing us to focus more on the encounter and not on our rotation or cast bar.