Feedback Part 3: Mobile DPS

In this edition of the Feedback Post I’m going to talk about Mobile DPS for Elemental Shaman, and how this ties back into ongoing problems with the spec. Some things briefly mentioned here will be elaborated in other posts, as both the Rotation & Talent posts I plan on making later on are heavily interconnected with this post.

Molten Earth: Doing the job for us

As I mentioned in my initial post on Mastery, Molten Earth deals a large part of our mobile damage. Combine that with Searing Totem and over 50% is passive damage, which means that a) we can’t do much to improve mobile DPS, and b) not much can be changed while both of these still exist.

100% Player Input

If we’re to return to a state where what we do matters both Searing Totem & Molten Earth need to be removed, so if you’re running and not doing anything you have zero DPS output. On the flip side of that is that you can also have more impact on the results. Having a slider of 0-100% vs 50-100% may seem a bit of a backward step but it means more control for the player.

Dual Functions

There’s also the problem of odd ability interaction & behaviour. The biggest two of these are Primal Storm Elemental & Unleash Flame.

Primal Storm Elemental has a small movement speed aura, which normally would be fairly useful except for one small fact: the elemental guardian doesn’t move with you, it just stands in one place. Having a movement buff that doesn’t move is odd, and most likely the unintended result of the fact that the Storm Elemental is tied to its totem rather than the player, as you would see with Water Elementals for Frost or other player pets.

Unleash Flame, on the other hand, is primarily a movement ability for Elemental, a “something extra” to do while waiting for procs or shock cooldowns. It even has a perk to give you a speed boost for 4 seconds. The only catch is that it effectively prevents you from taking the Unleashed Fury talent if there is any movement, or you sacrifice a movement ability in the name of more DPS. Normally for a mostly stationary fight it’s not an issue, but you only need to make up a few hundred DPS via better movement to offset that difference.

For some actual numbers on that Unleashed Fury has a gain of less than 1% of overall DPS over Primal Elementalist. Adding one extra Lightning Bolt per minute, or buffing 1 Lava Burst cast with Unleash Flame results in ~1% more DPS each. That’s a fairly fine line to run, and assumes that your Unleashed Fury uptime is nearly 66%.

Moving Forward

As I mentioned, removing both Searing Totem & Molten Earth should happen so that more of a players damage is a direct result of them pressing buttons, not something that just happens automatically. To fill the gap two things could happen:

Either add a new low damage spam-able spell or change Earth Shock to not trigger its own cooldown
Remove Lava Surge, so that it’s not possible to throw out a hard hitting spell while moving (more on this in the Rotation post)

#1 is very important, so that there’s no time where a player can say “I have nothing to cast”, or at least can say that without going through a complicated decision tree of minimal impacts (Do I use Thunderstorm? Drop Healing Stream Totem? Recast Searing Totem that I dropped 20 seconds ago?). Everything needs to feel important, relatively clear, and not overly taxing (executing a complicated rotation while moving generally means you either mess up the rotation or take extra damage).

There’s also the elephant in the corner with Spiritwalker’s Grace. This is a useful cooldown, but is a crutch for Elemental Mobile DPS. This will probably need to be removed for Elemental as well, in order to properly balance DPS both with & without it. Another alternative here is to make it into a “stance” type ability, with some sort of DPS cost to have it up. One option could be that it only works with Lightning Bolt & has a -50% cast speed penalty, making movement an active choice while bringing back some of the mobile LB that many people enjoyed in Mists of Pandaria.

In the end it doesn’t really matter how the mobile rotation is changed, as long as players aren’t faced with gaps where they can’t use any DPS abilities, and that all of the damage is a direct result of actions they take rather than being hooked in via secondary functions.

Feedback Part 2: Themes

In Part 1: Molten Earth I wrote about how Molten Earth works mechanically, and the flaws with how it was designed. In this post I’ll look at the idea behind why it was added, and how that can be effective while also making for good gameplay.

Needs More Earth

“Another reason is that we feel like we’ve failed on fulfilling one aspect of the Elemental fantasy: the elements. Fire (check). Air (check, lightning falls under this). Water (that’s more of Resto’s thing). And Earth. Where was the Earth? Ele shamans were feeling too much like the “Fire+Lightning Wizard”, and not enough of the “Master of the Elements”. That led us to including Earthquake, and adding Molten Earth.” – Celestalon

This quote on the Warlords of Draenor Beta Class forum (via Wowhead’s Blue Tracker as the Beta forums were removed) explains why Earthquake was kept, and why Molten Earth was created.

The first question to ask here is whether Elemental needs to use all the elements all the time. Looking at each element on a theme basis we have the following:

  • Air: agility, lightning, speed
  • Earth: strength, toughness
  • Fire: burning, heat
  • Water: cold, healing

It’s pretty obvious that Water doesn’t really lend itself much to the Elemental damage playstyle, although we do have a few healing spells so that’s somewhat covered. Similarly, Air & Fire are covered nicely by all the Fire & Lightning based spells.

Earth is a little harder to fit in. It’s possible to argue that Earth is already represented well enough in the rotation without needing extra stuff like Molten Earth, as you can’t really have Lightning without somewhere to ground it, so it’s really a combination of Air + Earth (and Lightning is all Nature damage too). The same thing can be said about Lava, being a combination of Earth + Fire, as Lava is really just molten rock. In fact, the only spell in the Elemental rotation that doesn’t have some connection to Earth is Flame Shock, as everything else is Lava, Lightning, or actually Earth related.

Design Around The Theme

If we want additional Earth related spells, we’d first need to consider a few problems, the first being the same issue that resulted in Earthquake getting a new animation: spell effect clutter. Usually earth based attacks happen via the ground, be they spike projection or wave type attacks (for the latter, think the Sundering ultimate for Thrall in Heroes of the Storm). Adding something like these in could increase ground effect clutter, making it hard for people to see bad stuff on the ground.

However, if we look for spell ideas from other sources, it’s possible that Earth could fill more of a utility role rather than being direct damage. Using the strength & toughness traits of the element could result in defensive abilities similar to Ice Block (but stone instead of ice, obviously). Other options would be looking at abilities that Thrall has, like the molten hand used during the Nagrand cinematic. Many people have commented previously about how various spells used by Thrall should make their way into the Shaman spell book, and it’s not a bad idea.

Theme vs Gameplay

One important thing to remember when talking about themes and spell ideas is to remember that they have to be usable, not overpowered, and most importantly: fun. This was why the 6.1 change for Enhanced Chain Lightning was so important. Interrupting multiple casts & multistrikes of Chain Lightning to spend the ~2.5 seconds to cast Earthquake felt off, as CL was fun whereas EQ wasn’t, especially if you had to micromanage the eCL charges. Now, with a fixed buff & instant cast mechanic, using Earthquake is more engaging to use as it’s an easier decision to make and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the multi-target rotation.

Making sure that abilities are both fun and also fit into the theme can be a hard task at times. There should be a time when if something is fun but doesn’t fit the theme completely, or where a themed ability isn’t fun, that the theme should be revisited. In that original quote from Celestalon, they envision that Elemental is a “Master of the Elements”, and thus why more Earth based abilities should be included. To me, Shaman are masters of the elements in general, so each specialization should have a more specific area. Restoration is primarily water based, while Enhancement seems to be more of the Air (speed) & Earth type, leaving Elemental to be Air (lightning) & Fire.

The design process should never be Theme leads to Design leads to Gameplay, but an iterative feedback loop where the gameplay results feed back into the overall theme design.

PS: General reminder again that I created a Patreon campaign last week. Getting some more people on that would be helpful & appreciated.

Feedback Part 1: Molten Earth

This is going to be the first of a series of “big feedback posts” for this expansion, looking at what works, what doesn’t, and what this means for the next expansion.

Part 1: Molten Earth

While thematic and looking cool, Molten Earth has the problem of being a passive effect (mostly) with no direct relationship to player actions. It’s a binary “did the player do something recently” activation, which means that it’s not possible to try to improve its damage output by improving rotation skills & spell use, as would be possible with Lava Burst, Earth Shock, etc.

Another problem with Molten Earth is that its coefficient is controlled by Mastery. This means Mastery is worth a lot less than other stats. Compared to Haste, for example, an extra 1% to Molten Earth should be equal to an extra 1% Haste for Molten Earth, but Haste affects everything while Mastery only affects Molten Earth. This is why the value of 1 “unit” of Mastery is a 4.5% increase to Molten Earths damage, but even with that it is still the weakest stat.

This is further compounded by the fact that Molten Earth contributes a large portion of mobile damage (~35%), which means having some Mastery is necessary to deal with the frequent movement that occurs in current raids. Side note: in order for Mastery to be equal to Haste, the second most valuable secondary stat, the fight would require moving 56% of the time.

The other effect of Molten Earth is that it increases the damage of Earthquake by 2% per “unit” of Mastery. This was added in so Mastery would have an effect on AoE, but unfortunately doesn’t do much to increase the overall value of the stat. At most, with 20 targets, Mastery is worth ~75% of Haste

The Developers did get a couple of things right with Molten Earth though. The effect looks fairly cool, and it has no 100% maximum, which was a problem with Overload from Cataclysm & Mists of Pandaria.

Moving Forward

Molten Earth, or a replacement Mastery effect, needs to do four things:

  1. Either enhance or directly proc off player generated spells
  2. Affect single target, movement and multi target rotations
  3. Not affect any of the rotation segments disproportionately
  4. Not have a cap

During the Beta for Warlords there was temporarily a different Mastery effect called Elemental Discharge. Each case had a mastery affected % chance to generate a lightning or fire “charge”, and gaining 3 would result in a proc attacking the target for a fixed damage amount. This would be a good replacement, but the charge generation would instead need to be 100% with the proc damage being affected by Mastery. The damage procs would also need to deal AoE damage, possibly in a “damage split over targets within 8 yards” type effect to make the same mechanic apply in both single target & multi-target situations. Making both of these changes would mean this Mastery bonus would tick off all four points outlined above, rather than just two of them. This is just an example, using something that the Devs previously tried out as a basis.

More Posts?

Over the next few weeks, in addition to getting more Foundry boss notes into the guide, is to make a few more posts covering some of the issues/areas with Elemental, like themes, talents & rotations.

Also, in case you missed it I started a Patreon campaign yesterday, more details on that here

That Social Funding Thing

One of the things that I’ve been wondering for a while, in part thanks to the fairly successful BlizzWatch Patreon Campaign is how far funding models like this can extend to other content creators like myself. Obviously I’m not someone who writes frequently (or amazingly, to be honest), nor do I publish content via sites like YouTube or Twitch which allow you to potentially earn a living through.

To be honest, video content or streaming would be somewhat boring if I were to do it. So in lieu of ads, subscribers & all that I thought I’d create an experiment with Patreon and see if it’s something that can be applied to more intangible content creation. If people want to participate, that would be awesome & appreciated (especially given the ongoing medical costs from this post last year) but if not then that’s also OK too.

I’m not placing any funding requirement on doing the same stuff I’m doing now, although I’ll look into doing a little more depending on how successful this is. If you don’t want to do Patreon stuff but still want to throw a few dollars my way, there’s a donate button in the sidebar somewhere. I’m also doing this as a test-run for others out there who do some “community” based work essentially free of charge as a way of saying “thanks for the hard work”, or for helping out those who have actual ongoing costs related to what they do.

That’s it, really. I’m horrible at writing lots of words on subjects like this. The link is below, sign up if you want. Lets see where this takes us.

Bink’s Weak Auras (repost from TotemSpot)

These weak auras have been replaced. A full post will be coming eventually, but in the meantime see this tweet: