Monday, May 21, 2012

Insect Swarm and Managing Eclipse

In case you haven't seen it, Ghostcrawler came back to the forums this weekend with a few more thoughts on the state of Insect Swarm and the moonkin rotation. He did mention Insect Swarm very briefly, but a majority of his comments focused on the potential for managing Eclipse and how that has affected the Moonkin rotation. Once again, there aren't a whole lot of details at this point, but here is my take on these comments.

Insect Swarm Again:

In Ghostcrawlers second comment he was a little wishy washy (at least compared to his first post). Here is what he said exactly:
If we add Insect Swarm back, it would not be just to have another dot to manage, but to give players some way to interact with solar or lunar power more. There are other ways to do that too, so it may not ultimately be Insect Swarm. The rotation is close to where we want it, but it needs just a little more to play with.
Lets start from the back first. I completely agree that the current MoP rotation is pretty solid. Most of the major issues with the Cata Rotation have been corrected. Personally I'm perfectly fine with where the MoP rotation stands, but I can see the point that some people are making that it's a bit boring and repetitive after you trigger Eclipse and get the DoT up. So, I'm not opposed to adding something that makes the rotation a little more dynamic, but I would encourage restraint in adding anything so that things don't swing to far in the other direction.

Adding another spell like Insect Swarm, could be the solution for making the rotation more dynamic. The question is what would the new spell look like. The previous MoP version of Insect Swarm doesn't make any sense in this regard because it wouldn't add any complexity to the rotation. Therefore, I'm going to ignore that possibility for now.

Ghostcrawler's comments also seem to dismiss the possibility of Insect Swarm returning as a DoT, but I wonder if that might be taking the comment a little to literally. One of the big problems with moonkin DoTs in Cata is that Moonfire and Insect Swarm are too similar in that they have the same duration. This means that they are usually cast in tandem and therefore it doesn't make much sense to have them as separate spells. What Ghostcrawler might have been saying is that it doesn't make sense to have another DoT exactly like Moonfire. Insect Swarm could be coming back as a DoT, but something significantly different then Moonfire that would add something new to the rotation.

There is one suggestion for an Insect Swarm DoT that I think has some merit. What if Insect Swarm was added back as a DoT unaffected by Eclipse? The idea behind it is that it would be a button moonkin would hit every 12 seconds or so regardless of where you are in the Eclipse transition, and would give players more to do then spam nukes after Moonfire is up.

While this should make the rotation more dynamic, I do have some concerns about how this would affect balancing. First of all Insect Swarm would have to be stronger then your average nuke (with and without Eclipse) to make it worthwhile in a patchwerk rotation. Second, it would scale differently then our other spells since it would be unaffected by Eclipse and Mastery. This could cause concerns over the course of the expansion and might become too weak to cast by the end as it has in the past. Third, it would weaken Mastery as a stat for moonkin and could make gearing for moonkin difficult because Haste might be the only significantly attractive secondary stat.

However, All that I've said about Insect Swarm in this post could be a waste of breath if Ghostcrawler actually did mean that Insect Swarm was not coming back as a DoT. One thing is very clear to me though. At this point, nothing is set in stone. Don't be surprised if what we end up with in a month or two seems completely different then what has been talked about in the past few days.

The Problem with Managing Eclipse:

The rest of Ghostcrawler's comment about managing Eclipse has me a little concerned. After saying he wanted to "give players some way to interact with solar or lunar power more" in the comment above, he went on to say:
At the 5000 foot view, the point of the Eclipse mechanic to begin with was to cast X spells for a time, then switch to Y spells with the Druid having some control over when or why that occurred. We don't think killing critters to get the bar moving or gaming it so that you stayed at one side of the bar forever really delivered on the vision for Eclipse. However, those tactics did give players some control -- a way to game things so that more clever players could extract a bit more performance out of the mechanic.
We are concerned that we are too far to the other extreme now, where the game UI tells you whether to use your solar buttons or lunar buttons and you really aren't making any strategic decisions. We want to introduce some relatively simple, elegant mechanic to give you more control over how much lunar or solar power you have. Maybe that's Insect Swarm. Maybe it's something else. Try it out over the next few builds, keeping in mind that it may take a bit before we have something we are satisfied with.

I'm not opposed to having a way to manage Eclipse, but I think providing such an ability is a risky option that could quickly get out of control. The problem is that Eclipse is so strong that it dominates how much damage a moonkin deliver. Anything you can do that would increase Eclipse uptime and usage is probably a good idea, and that is how the moonkin rotation got to the strange situation we are in today in Cata.

As GC said in his comment we killed critters to get as close to eclipse as possible at the start of a fight. We came up with interesting strategies like Solar Cleave to stay in one Eclipse and pump out a tone of damage. We did the calculations and simulations to determine when it was a good time to clip the DoTs so that they had a higher uptime while buffed by Eclipse. GC's comments show that they didn't intend the first two to happen, and I seriously doubt they intended us to be clipping DoTs either. This just goes to show that any control we gain could end up dominating our rotation if it has a significant impact on Eclipse uptime and usage.

This actually has me rethinking my position on Celestial Alignment. I like many players thought of Celestial Alignment as an on demand Eclipse at first, but that's not correct. Because it adds to Eclipse uptime, the goal is actually to cast it as close to on cooldown as possible. The only thing holding it's usage back is that it consumes all eclipse energy when used so that you want to use it as close to zero energy as possible. Of course there are times when delaying it's usage will make sense, but the reality is that will be the exception rather then the rule.

This realization lead me to another question. How do you give players a way to manage Eclipse without it increasing Eclipse usage and therefore dominating the rotation. Then I had an epiphany.

Managing Eclipse Needs a Trade-off:

Since players will do everything they can to maximize Eclipse usage, any ability that allows players to manage Eclipse has to come with a trade-off and be close to DPS neutral on a Patchwerk type encounter. Otherwise, it will just become a part of the standard rotation and provide no real control.

In general, I'm not a big fan of Armchair Development from players, because it is very easy for us to fall in love with a suggestion, without fully understanding the realities and technical limitations of the suggestion. That side I'm going to make a couple of suggestions that I think are nice examples of ways to manage Eclipse with a trade-off.

Eclipse Storage - Have Eclipse continue to proc at 100 energy, but allow players to continue to generate energy up to 150 or 200 by casting the "wrong" nuke.

My basic thought is that if you aren't ready to use Eclipse yet or if you need to slow your DPS, Eclipse storage would allow you to cast the "wrong" nuke without reducing your Eclipse usage since every time you cast an uneclipsed Starfire, you would get an eclipsed Wrath later (I know that isn't exactly true, but close enough at this point.)

I like this idea for a couple reasons. First, it's pretty close to being DPS neutral and probably a little DPS negative if used frequently. Your basically gaining an Eclipsed Nuke for each Uneclipsed Nuke you use. Second, it's not advantageous to use this ability excessively because it limits the uptime of Nature's Grace, Starfall, and possibly DoTs. To me, it sounds like an elegant solution to me because it provides a utility without the ability for it to be abused. Third, I also think this idea could work as a standard ability that moonkin always have or as a cooldown that players only used when they needed it.

My main concern with this suggestion is that it could make energy generation too complicated. The current system is nice in that it will only go one direction. Having spells be able to move the eclipse bar backwards all of the time is not necessarily something I want, because casting the wrong spell while eclipse is down would be very punishing.

Eclipse Fast Forward - Allows the player to immediately proc the next Eclipse, but cut Eclipse energy generation outside of Eclipse in half for one minute or until Eclipse is procced again.

The idea is that if you need to be in Eclipse right now you can hit this button and get there immidiately. It wouldn't increase Eclipse uptime, because reaching the next Eclipse will take longer due to generating Eclipse energy outside of eclipse at a much slower rate. As a result this ability should also be DPS neutral on Patchwerk if not a little DPS negative. It could also limit the uptimes of other abilities depending on when it was used.

My primary concern with an ability like this is that it might be too brainy and not very intuitive for newer players to understand. Since it would kind of behave like a cooldown, I'm sure there are quite a few people who would start to use it on cooldown as much as possible. Since there is potential for this ability to negatively impact DPS it could end up being a trap. Therefore, I have a feeling this type of ability isn't all that attractive to Blizzard.


Bomchet said...

I'd LOVE this battery/charge concept IF and only IF at 100 power, we could then start to cast nukes on the run. Once we discharge the nuke, we'd be unable to do that anymore. I almost do nothing but pvp and our inability to cast on the run is just terrible. I'm still worried about our survivability, as that'll be tied to our talents which will get nerfed if ferals or resto are seen as too strong hitting us in the process.

TLDR: any eclipse change/rotation improvement should include addressing dps on the run.

hercdeisel said...

The battery charge sounds like it could be a very fun idea.

The idea of insect swarm as just a DoT that is eclipse independent sounds terrifyingly boring. Nobody just wants another button to push.

I hope, however, that the developers take the opportunity to elegantly solve two problems with one stone: movement options and decision points. Your battery charge idea is a terrific option for the latter. Coupling it in some way to make us not so dependent on hard casting extremely long cast time spells either in PvP or heavy movement raid environments would be terrific.

I would be happy with two unrelated solutions as well. Just some options or something somewhere in moonkin play would be much appreciated.

Chu said...

I think something similar to the Shadow Priest Mind Spike stacking debuff mechanic is something that's would be an elegant solution.

Insect Swarm (or whatever it becomes) could be a 1.5s (or instant) cast time nuke that applies a stacking debuff (maybe 3) on the target, or buff on the player (would prefer buff on player for PvP to reduce time to target swap). Each stack would reduce the cast time of the next Starsurge by 1/1.5/2 seconds such that a full stack would grant an instant cast Starsurge.

This way, PvE druids can make a decision to maintain the stack, make a decision when to release the instant Starsurge (while moving or if you need the boost to move the Eclipse bar), and when to just use other nukes.

PvP druids will have better control of their Eclipse, will have a debuff/buff to dispel, will improve their ability to swap targets and will have a quick nuke to add some threat without being stuck in a long animation.

Shooting Stars may have to be redesigned (or this could be the new Shooting Stars!)

Berdache said...

Personally I have always wanted to see an out of combat channeled spell that moved us into eclipse. There are critters you can pick on after some bosses but not after others.

Buboluna@darkmoon faire said...

My solution would adress both the mobility dps, as the eclipse mechanic:

Insectswarm: Summons a violent swarm of insects on YOURSELF for 9 seconds, freezing all eclipse generation but enables you to cast while moving for that duration. During the freeze of eclipse-generation, all damaging spells aren't affected by Mastery. Cooldown 1min.

The idea is to be able to either prevent the transition to a new eclipsecyle (ignoring mastery will prevent solar cleaving or similar strategy) and to improve our mobility dps.
The relative short (but fixed) duration, would be a real descisionmaker in the rotation: use it and benefit from movement enhancement or delaying the transition (anticipating a specific boss mechanic), but accept that it will prevent you from entering a new eclipse cylce.

Genaro said...

The answer is :


Now you can start every fight in Eclipse and power through to Eclipse phases (if you are willing to lose interim dps by channeling - some serious maths to be done there methinks)...

Enjoy Boomkins!

Berdache said...

... and for the first time ever I managed to predict a new spell just before Blizz introduced it :) Welcome to Astral Communion

Asrah said...

I would like to see Insect Swarm coming back as a gear shift for Eclipse. I'm a fan of Eclipse mechanic unlike many others who call it dull and boring. My only problem with it is the speed. I prefer faster switching. It makes it more dinamic.
My idea is to bring back IS as a short dot, that's unaffected by Eclipses. There is a way to make if recieve buff from mastery and keep that stat important. (Chaos Bolt - always crits, and crit increases its damage). Make IS gain dmg up anyway from mastery but not only in Eclipse so haste won't be the king of secondary stats. The other function to IS would be a double sided transmission. Maximum targets limited to one. It ticks every sec for 3 sec and deals some damage. Once you put it on an enemy it will stack a buff on you for every tick. The buff has two parts. One will increase the power generation for your next cast at your position, the other will increase the power generation when you switch Eclipse state.

1) You are at 0 power. Cast IS, it starts ticking and stacks the buff on you. (buff has no duration). The buff will increase your power generated by your next power generating spell by x%, but the other part will activate when you switch state and enter Eclipse and increase the power generated there too.
2) You are at 100 power after Eclipse proc. Cast IS to generate the buff. You will gain more energy for your next casts and leave Eclipse faster, but! after you swing out from Eclipse, the other part activates and lets you generate more energy on the non-Eclipsed side too.

The spell will give keep Eclipse balanced, since you will always gain the same amount of cuts at the Eclipsed and non-Eclipsed sides. They will keep their 50/50 uptime. The point of the spell, to make you able to manage the speed you want to switch.

Technical problems:
1) We have Nature's Grace buff that will gain uptime and thus make IS a must and not an optional. We would need a Nature's Grace change to prevent this. i.e.: make it have charges and not uptime. Instead of 15 seconds. Make it last for your next X cast time based casts. I liked the old 'your next cast is 0.5 faster anyway. I would welcome a new Grace that grants 15% haste for my next 5 casts instead of 15 sec. Its nice in PVP, because it happens all the time that I lose duration while being cc-ed.
2) Starfall activates all the time when we reach Lunar Eclipse. This will again cause dmg increase and make IS a must. We need a change with this as well, so we can really manage Eclipse without increasing damage.