Friday, May 18, 2012

Insect Swarm and the Interesting Rotation

The early days of a World of Warcraft Beta is a dreamer's paradise. Players have the sense that everything that is wrong with there class can get fixed, and they scream their desires from the highest mountain tops. One of the more consistent and vocal groups are the players saying their rotation is to boring and want something more interesting. The Mists of Pandaria beta has followed this pattern completely. Early on some players were calling for "more interesting" usages of Insect Swarm and for an improved moonkin form that changed our abilities much like Tree of Life and Metamorphosis do.

To be entirely honest, these discussions annoy me. Most of the time they are overly simplified and overly optimistic diatribes about what is possible, but generally lack any creativity or analysis of what the real impact of their idea would be. I had thought about making a post on this a couple of months ago when the beta was newer and some players were in a frenzy about wanting an interesting rotation. Unfortunately, time got way from me and by the time I was ready to write it, the conversation had died down. Then Ghostcrawler brought the conversation roaring back by saying:

We are in fact experimenting with adding Insect Swarm back to the rotation.

Insect Swarm: The Possibilities

Ghostcrawler didn't provide any details on what they are thinking, but a couple of the options are obvious.

  1. The MoP Buff: The newest version of Insect Swarm was a single target spell that did no damage on it's own, but buffed all of the Balance DPS spells. The player reaction to this version was mostly negative, since it significantly diminished moonkin multi-target DPS and created additional ramp up time for target switches. Ultimately this idea was quietly scrapped and never made it into the beta.

  2. The DoT: In Cataclysm, Insect Swarm finally became a strong spell that remained significant for an entire expansion, but that improvement caused new issues. First, since it's currently only buffed by solar eclipse it contributed to the Soul Cleave issues that we have experienced through out Cataclysm. Reintroducing IS as a solar only spell would undermine the effort Blizzard has made to balance the eclipse transition in MoP. The other issue that I've had with IS is that it is too similar to Moonfire. Since the two spells have the same duration they are currently cast in tandem. To make matters worse, if they try to fix the solar cleave issues by buffing IS with lunar they make it even more similar to Moonfire. At some point, they might as well just have to turn them into one spell that you have to hit twice.

All that said, neither of these possibilities are very likely. Blizzard cut these designs for a reason, so it's unlikely that they would bring either of them back without some significant modifications. My guess is that IS will remain a DoT, but it will be interesting to see how they modify it so that Solar Cleave doesn't become an issue but still differentiate it from Moonfire.

Do Moonkin Need an Additional Button?

While the design of Insect Swarm is important, the bigger question in my mind is do moonkin even need another button to push? I know there are a lot of you out there that immediately answer yes, but I'm not convinced. To be fair, I've never been a big fan of complex rotations. I think if you look though my blog history you could find a post from TBC where I defended the MF, SFx4 rotation even though it is clearly very boring by most standards. That said, I do think the critics of the current MoP rotation are being a little harsh.

The standard complaint is that most of the MoP rotation happens around the eclipse transition and then you spam Wrath or Starfire until you get to the next eclipse. There is some truth to that, but I think it over simplifies the situation. First of all, many people seem to forget about Starsurge and Shooting Stars when discussing the MoP rotation. Starsurge is an additional button to push and Shooting Stars makes it unpredictable. The other thing to remember is that some of the nuance of our Cata DoT casting strategy is still there in MoP. While we won't be refreshing MF when we leave eclipse there is a question of if we want to refresh it before we enter a new eclipse. What I'm trying to say is that while the MoP rotation is simplier then the Cata rotation, it's not entirely brainless.

I'm also concerned that many of the critics are basing their dissatisfaction on incomplete information. Testing a rotation against quest mobs, target dummies and even in 5-mans doesn't provide the whole picture since Raids are the primary source of challenging content were a rotation is truly tested. We don't have a complete idea of what the rotation will look like when used in competitive content. For example, if you think back to the Cataclysm beta you might remember that that there were some people saying that the Cataclysm rotation was boring because it would two predictable and formulaic. Little did they know it would be one most complicated and convoluted rotations ever seen in the game.

None of this is to say that the MoP rotation can't be improved. I completely agree that after you trigger eclipse and cast whatever DoTs and cooldowns you need to cast, casting 10 to 15 nukes in a row doesn't sound like an awesome experience. However, I would much prefer a rotation that is a little two simple to something complex and subjective like the current Cataclysm rotation.

Should Rotations be a Source of Fun?

I do find it a little odd that some people treat the rotation as one of their primary sources of fun in this game. I see how having a more interesting rotation could make the game more fun in the short term, but I don't see how it can last. As a raider the rotation is something we we use 3 or 4 nights a week for several hours each night for close to 2 years. We use the rotation so frequently for so long that I don't see how any rotation can stay interesting over the long term.

I'm not suggesting that we should be fine with just any mind numbing, one button rotation, but I do think the critics of the MoP rotation are expecting a little much from a rotation. In my opinion the primary source of enjoyment could come from the raiding content. The fun should come from figuring out how to put out maximum DPS while not dying in a fire or how to modify the rotation to take a particular situation into account.


Erdluf said...

I'd like to have IS, even if it weak enough to exclude on a Patchwerk rotation.

I want something to cast while moving out of the fire, and Lunar Shower does not meet that need.

Ambermist said...

I haven't said anything on the topic because I felt like I was in the minority for being uncertain about making our rotation "more interesting."

There might be a great way to re-implement IS (I'd love to see it as a boost to movement dps, like Erdluf said). But in the end, it's as you said: my fun comes from figuring out fights and how to maximize my dps in each fight, not the actual rotation itself.

Berdache said...

I image that people actually want a complex rotation so that you can tell the difference between a good and a bad boomkin rather than it being fun or boring.

But yes a lot of my fun is working out the best way of killing the boss.

Thelothian said...

Absolutely agree, Graylo.
I'm not a fan of complex rotations.
I prefer a simpler rotation, so that we can focus more on what 's happening around us. Better to have more complicated combat mechanics rather than articulated rotations. The game doesn't become tedious if you have to press a few buttons, but becomes so when events and missions are all too trivial and simple.

Hercdeisel said...

Having to make some decision at some point regarding how to do damage is what makes an encounter interesting.

There just weren't interesting choices to make in the MoP moonkin rotation as things stand. DoTs are fully fire and forget. Nature's grace is fully automated. Starfall is fire and forget. You don't need to worry about where you are on the Eclipse Bar for AoE since the Eclipses are basically equivalent. If you messed up, and AoE is needed NOW (rather than in a cast or two) just press CA, and you're g2g.

Some of those changes are great as they are tied to nice QoL changes. But the result of the total package of changes is that we have no Debuffs, no Buffs, no cooldowns, and no resource to make decisions about. What other DPS spec is like that?

On top of that, our non-Lunar Shower movement options have been severely reduced (we'll have far fewer SS procs to utilize, and I believe shrooms have seen a serious coefficient nerf). That leaves us with LS for movement options. It would be nice to be able to have some movement options, especially ones that could in some way interact with Eclipse. That would give us a choice to make, at least, about whether to move the eclipse bar or not during movement and not doubly penalize us during movement by not limiting us to LS-only damage but also preventing us from moving the eclipse bar.

Encounters are engaging when it's challenging to navigate their obstacles and mechanics. If we had just one button to push to do DPS during an encounter, the encounter itself would hardly be interesting. It's the combination of maximizing your performance while navigating the encounter that makes for fun.

Hercdeisel said...

In the end it isn't just about having MORE buttons to push but having interesting decisions to make about when or whether to push what buttons.

Our current implementation of that (whether to clip DoTs that have 8-10 seconds remaining on them; whether to Starfall in Lunar or on CD) is problematic because it's so ridiculously unintuitive and requires very fine, on the fly calculations.

MoP addressed those issues but left us with no decisions to make. At all.

No one is just interested in more buttons. We just want to make an interesting decision at some point. About our resource, a debuff, a buff, just something.

Anonymous said...

Complex rotations turn the game to Dance Dance Revolution, not an RPG.

If you want to play numbers, heal, don't DPS. I enjoy healing, but there's nothing that takes me out of the "game" quicker than eying health bars. Staring at Eclipse counters, etc etc is just as fun.

Unknown said...

Blizzard isn't shy about making changes quickly with hotfixes if one class turns out to be way overpowered or another proves to be significantly behind

LOL, all I will say is Resto Druid PVP