Friday, June 22, 2012

The Unofficial Ghostcrawler Q&A

Ghostcrawler has hit the forums recently and is answering a ton of questions about class design and mechanics in an effort to get more feedback from the theorycrafting player bases. He hasn't said a whole lot about Moonkins. In fact, two of the things he said cancelled each other out, but there was one nugget that I found very interesting.

Solar and Lunar are not Equal:

Q: Actually, is the design intention to have both Eclipses with the same damage output for single targets and AoE?
A: Actually, no. We’re currently intending for Lunar to be slightly better at single target damage and Solar to be AoE damage. When you have time between phases or situations where you can use Astral Communion to quickly switch sides, you should be able to further optimize performance by tailoring which Eclipse you line up with which boss phases. The difference should not be significant enough, however, that in a Patchwerk-style scenario, you are compelled to only DPS in one eclipse.

This explains a lot. You may remember about a month ago beta build 15726 did some fairly strange things based upon the information we had up to that point. Hurricane and Starfire were buffed while Astral Storm and Wrath were nurfed. A lot of people wondered what the hell Blizzard was doing and I speculated that it was some sort of tool tip or data mining error, but now it makes sense.

My first impression was pretty positive. A lot of players believe that the current MoP moonkin rotation is to simple and therefore boring. I don't agree with them 100%, but I can see their point. As it stands right now, when you enter eclipse you cast your dot and maybe starfall and then just cast nukes until you reach the next eclipse.

This doesn't change the rotation, but having Solar favor AoE and Lunar favor single target adds a little thought and planning back into the rotation. The better players should be able to set themselves apart by being in the right eclipse and that should make them at least a little happy. Additionally under this system mistakes aren't punished as harshly as they currently are since you will still do decent AoE damage in Lunar and decent single target damage in solar.

All that said, after a little more thought I do have a couple of concerns.

Is the Difference Too Big:

My first concern is about the size of the difference. As you may remember, Hurricane and Starfire were buffed by 10% in beta build 15726 while Astral Storm and Wrath were nurfed by 10%. This means that Hurricane and Starfire will be about 22% stronger then their counterparts and that fells a little to large for me. I would prefer to see a difference in the 10% - 15% range.

Timing Eclipse Again:

I have found timing Eclipse in Cataclysm to be extremely problematic, and in my opinion one of the best things about the new MoP rotation (prior to the specialized eclipses) was that timing Eclipse should have been a much smaller issue. While miss timing Eclipse in MoP won't completely destroy your DPS the way it does in Cataclysm, having specialized Eclipse buffs makes it a much more significant issue.

I know a lot of you see this as a good thing because it theoretically allows skilled players differentiate themselves by using the right Eclipse at the right time. Unfortunately this ignores the fact that timing Eclipse isn't entirely within the players control. Of course there are the random elements of the game like Euphoria procs and random movement that can speed up or slow down the rotation, but those are just the obvious aspects of our lack of control. A less obvious issue is how your guild performs as a whole. For example, the better guilds with higher quality players will kill mobs faster and phase a boss faster with the opposite being true for less skilled guilds. Yet, the the time it takes for a player to transition from solar eclipse to solar eclipse is fairly consistent. So, a moonkin can perform at the same level for two different guilds, but get different results because of performance differences in the rest of the guild or with improved gear and buffs.

A good example of this is Heroic Ragnaros. As we all know, being in Solar Eclipse is extremely important for phase two of heroic rag to DPS down the adds quickly. At the end of T12 raiding my Phase one DPS was timed just about perfectly. If I was a little short, when the boss phased I could push Solar Eclipse during the transition and would have it when I needed it. Everything was right with the world. However, as I started doing Heroic rag to farm mounts and get the legendary quest items during T13, my eclipse transitions stopped lining up with the bosses transitions and has reduced my overall DPS on the fight.

Making this complaint and using heroic Rag as an example might not be entirely fair because I am using a level of gear that this fight was not designed for. However, I do see the same thing happening in Dragon Soul with the ever increasing damage buff that Bizzard provides so that everyone can get the kill. Zon'ozz is a good example of this, because I want to be in solar for the black phase to dot up the tentacles, but I've seen my timing change every time the buff is increased.

Making the different Eclipse buffs specialized reintroduces the timing problem into the rotation in a significant way. Messing up the timing in MoP won't be as devastating to moonkin DPS as it is in Cataclysm, but I don't like any situation where my DPS could suffer due to things not entirely in my control.

Another Look at Astral Communion:

After that last section I know some of you are thinking "Hey, What about Astral Communion? Doesn't that fix the control issue?" To that, I say yes and no. Astral Communion is a great tool that helps in a pinch, but it is extremely limited because it is a channelled spell. For Astral Communion to be useful you have to be standing around doing nothing or being in Eclipse for the next phase has to be so important that it's worth the DPS Loss. How many situations fall into one of those two categories? How many times are you standing around in a boss fight with nothing to do? In my experience, there haven't been many of those times. Even during boss transitions there is usually a stack up point or something of that nature that I have to move towards eliminating the possibility of using Astral Communion.

This leads me to the first change I would like to see made regarding Astral Communion. I would like to be able to cast Astral Communion while moving. Not only would this help you out during transitions when you need to get into a new position, but it also acts as an indirect movement DPS option that Moonkin currently don't have.

My second issue is, what do you do when you need to do high single target DPS but you are already half way through the Lunar Eclipse bar? Astral communion isn't a good option because it will take you at least 21 seconds to get back to the top of Lunar Eclipse. Staying where you are at isn't great because you will be leaving Lunar Eclipse soon. There are other options as well, but none of them are all that good, because they require you to DPS in a less then optimal way.

To address this, I think it would be neat to have a way to move the Eclipse bar backwards. I'm not exactly sure what would be a good way to do this. Having a single button that always moved you to the closes Eclipse wouldn't work, because if you were in Solar and wanted to be in Lunar, it would move you in the wrong direction, Having two buttons that moved the bar in one direction only, would work but it feels pretty confusing.


Mike said...

I can see eclipse working like an unholy DK's runic power. Unholy runes mean huge dps, but there are frost and blood runes at your disposal for utility or to help the primary (unholy) runes work better. If you run out of unholy runes, there is the ability to convert a "utility" rune into a powerul dps rune via blood tap. So, why can't Boomkins have an ability (maybe I.S.) that gives you eclipsed damage, while you are out of the eclipse phase? Maybe I.S. allows the next cast to benefit from eclipse and is on a 10s cooldown. The way it stands now, you have your powerful dps phase, then nothing. There should be a filler during the non-eclipse phase that helps our eclipsed spells in some way.

Hercdeisel said...

"This means that Hurricane and Starfire will be about 22% stronger then their counterparts and that fells a little to large for me. I would prefer to see a difference in the 10% - 15% range."

I actually think the difference will tend to be bigger in Lunar and smaller in Solar than is betrayed by the simple Wrath:Starfire and Hurricane:Astral Storm comparisons.

Part of the issue is the strength of Starfall and its always being available in every eclipse cycle.

For example, at 15k SP, 60% Mastery, 10% haste from gear, (I think these are all fairly close to entry raiding numbers), and 10 seconds AoE Duration, over all the combinations of having Nature's Grace and Shrooms Available, Solar ends up being 13% stronger on average over a range of 7-13 targets (the most common range of target # 10man raids, I'd say), and 17% stronger on average over a range of 9-17 targets. As you scale the stats up, these start moving closer to 20%.

Of course, in the absolute best case for Solar of being able to use Shrooms and NG, the differences are even larger in favor of Solar (upwards of 30% if you have 19 targets).

I popped a google spreadsheet on the official forums in the big moonkin thread if you'd like to have a look . You can vary AoE length, mastery, haste, and spell power. The spreadsheet will do all the comparisons for you across a range of target counts. It does ignore damage cap, which hurts Solar more than Lunar since more of Lunar's damage come from Starfall, which isn't subject to that cap. It also will tell you at what target count Starfall is worth using.

As for single target, If you don't bother to save Starfall for Solar (i.e. you don't save it when you know you'll be in solar for the important burn), the total lunar cycle is worth 20% more than the total solar cycle (again, it's under the starfire:wrath ratio because the cycles share starsurge and DoT damage). If you just tie Starfall to Lunar? Well, then the single target difference in favor of Lunar jumps up to 35%!

These discrepancies may be mitigated to some degree by the frequency with which aoe/single target burns are necessary. If they're infrequent enough to tie to Celestial Alignment, then we don't have much to worry about it at all.

In the end I think they should take one of two design directions:
Either make the Eclipses more or less equivalent and have the important game play mechanic to be IN SOME eclipse, rather than in a non-eclipsed phase, and maybe have very small differences on the order of 10% or so
Make the eclipses as different as they are now and make the important game play mechanic to be in the RIGHT eclipse state. This would involve dumping the 'uneclipsed'/pre-solar/pre-lunar phases (and obviously appropriately adjusting overall numbers).

Muddling these can make for some very frustrating play of holding just short of the right eclipse doing absolutely terrible damage, just to make sure you're in the right state (of 4 eclipse states, rather than 2).

Anonymous said...

It's going to take some pretty fine balancing on Blizz's part to make this work.
Err one way, and the type of eclipse is irrelevant. Err the other, and we are back where we are at present, where you get to solar and sit there for minutes at a time (ie., Blackhorn).
I guess I'd prefer the former. I find solar camping removes all elegance from what we do.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to point out Graylo that the negative feelings towards the MoP Balance rotation aren't because it's simple, and thus boring.

Simple != Boring

MoP Arcane mages have still have relatively few buttons to press, and from that point of view simple, but still offers enough depth and are very good due to the mechanics.

MoP Balance is just borderline mind numbing in the opinion of myself and many others. We hit eclipse, hit a dot, and spend the next 20ish seconds spamming the same spell to the other side of Eclipse, rinse and repeat except we now spam a different spell which could technically be macroed onto Spell#1 and just be one button.

That's what's wrong. We have next to nothing to do. Starsurge CD is long, and procs are next to non-existent. DoTs don't need managing. I'd rather MF > SFx4 at this point and I'm quite serious in that regard.

I don't fall in the camp of players that like Cata's eclipse design, and the whole requirement to have a whole minute's worth of foresight in a fight to use Eclipse and the counter-intuitive nature of DoT refreshes, but I sure like it better than MoP's version. At first I thought MoP changes were good when Beta first launched but overtime, those feelings have turned for the worse.

Anonymous said...

GC postet more on the Balance Rotation:

Here are some more incoming changes relevant to Balance Druid theorycrafters.

We are experimenting with some changes to the rotation. No promises that these changes will stay, but we definitely look forward to your feedback (both in terms of theorycrafting and how fun it is). Shooting Stars should occur much more frequently, and Starsurge should be a more important (read: high damage) button. Additionally, we’re adding a new passive that has some interesting implications. Should you choose to ignore it, your DPS will likely be only a few percentage behind someone who uses it optimally, but it should hopefully provide some more varied gameplay. To use some game designer jargon, we’re happy with Moonkins’ macro level rotational gameplay, but think they needs some more mirco-level decisions.

•Shooting Stars chance increased from 20% to 50%.
•Starsurge damage increased by 30%.
•Fae Empowerment: New passive for Balance Druids. When you cast Faerie Fire, you gain Lunar Empowerment and Solar Empowerment.
•Lunar Empowerment: Increases the damage of your next 3 Starfires within 15 sec by 15%.
•Solar Empowerment: Increases the damage of your next 3 Wraths within 15 sec by 20%.

Please note that these changes are straight DPS buffs, and we don’t think Moonkin need a buff right now, so we need to reduce overall damage (probably across the board) so that overall DPS stays the same. These nerfs may take a few builds, because we need to evaluate if these rotation changes are worth doing. However, don't be surprised when you see them, and help spread the word when you see the inevitable "I can't believe we were nerfed!" posts.