Thursday, March 19, 2015

World of Warcraft: A Brief Lecture on Resource Mechanics and the Tranquilizing Shot Nerf

When Abathur mentioned that Blizzard is notorious for reiteration on Heroes of the Storm, it was definitely no joke. Now more than ever Blizzard has implemented hotfix after hotfix for their games, particularly World of Warcraft. In fact, the hotfixes themselves almost serve as a replacement for the minor balance patches of the past. These announcements of constant changes provide opportunity for those who like to analyze, much like myself. This is why I have written several articles and released several videos of upcoming and recently implemented changes. The following video is no exception, but has been reformatted to provide what I hope is an informative lecture on a core game mechanic in World of Warcraft:
Below is the rough transcript that I used in this video

  • It's been way too long since I've done any lecture videos. The lecture on egotism is on the horizon but may still be a long time coming considering how much focus I have been putting into other content such as vlog style videos and analysis articles.
  • This lecture will start out with analyzing a recent change, the Tranquilizing Shot nerf, but then discuss the concepts of resource mechanics in World of Warcraft. It will then return to discussing the nerf by applying how resource systems works.
The Tranquilizing Shot Nerf
  • Tranquilizing Shot was recently hotfixed to cost 50 Focus, up from 20. This is said to be a test fix that Blizzard may or may not presumably revert.
  • The change resulted in a significant amount of outrage on the Hunter forums.
  • One point that was interesting about the resulting discussion was that Hunters have infinite resources since Focus can be generated and regenerates faster than Mana does, which is usually the resource used for dispelling enemy buffs. This betrays an issue of misunderstanding how resource systems in World of Warcraft work because one attempted to compare two different types.
Resource Systems
  • In general, resources are split between Mana and the other resources (Energy, Rage, Focus, and Runic Power). This is because the other resources share a common trait of having a small cap (usually 100) and generating pretty rapidly compared to Mana.
  • In the case of Mana, there's usually a large pool of resources readily available but it regenerates slower by comparison, which is why abilities don't use up a large amount of the player's Mana (excluding offensive dispels). For example, Prayer of Healing is considered a costly spell but doesn't even cost 10% maximum Mana.
    • It is worth mentioning that this is more for the case of healers, who by nature of not being allowed to endlessly heal because that could potentially be overpowered will be more limited by Mana. Damage dealers who use Mana generally regenerate faster naturally to ensure they can constantly deal damage.
  • The other resources, on the other hand, are limited by how much resource is readily available at a given time. This is why they are costed as such and usually have abilities that use a large amount of the resource, usually values in multiples of 5 or 10, depending on how the class or specialization generates and utilizes said resource. The resource cost also usually scales with the power of the ability even more so in this case than with Mana-based damage dealers.
    • For example, Aimed Shot costs 50 Focus while Explosive Shot only costs 15, but Aimed Shot criticals can refund Focus and generally deal a sizable amount of burst damage.
  • In the case of Hunters, Focus regeneration is very slow, but can be generated in larger amounts by actively attacking similar to how Death Knights generate Runic Power.
How Does the Change Fit Into This?
  • The result of the Tranquilizing Shot change is that now in order to reactively dispel, a Hunter would need to pool a rather large amount of Focus at any given time. Given that some abilities can generate as much as 50 Focus at a time, a Hunter may be in danger of overcapping on Focus if they pool around 50 to Tranquilizing Shot, which is a damage loss.
  • Other classes except Mages (and Enhance Shamans) that can spam dispel effectively use a global cooldown to dispel since the Mana cost is usually next to negligible. Hunters spend an additional 20 Focus to compensate for being able to dispel Enrage and Magic effects with a single ability, but it's still somewhat spammable.
    • This means that increasing the cost to 50 further would reduce the spam potential. 
    • Mages are another exception due to Spellsteal's high cost because the premium bonus of that effect is that it steals the buff. However, given how high the cost is, I'm not too sure if I agree with the design choice.
  • To conclude, I disagree with this change since 20 Focus plus a global cooldown was a bit of a price to pay for the premium of dispelling both types of dispellable effects on enemies. This means that Hunters, like other classes that can dispel, paid for the decision to dispel with some damage output.
    • However, if Hunters (spam) dispelling was truly a problem in what I presume is PvP since nerfing Tranquilizing Shot like this in response to a PvE situation would be strange at best (there's usually not a lot of effects to dispel in PvE compared to PvP), the cost increase could've been by to 30 or something a bit more within the realm of a reasonable increase to reduce their spam dispel potential compared to other classes. It is now far too punishing to use Tranquilizing Shot unglyphed due to the aforementioned reasons.
    • Another possible change that I saw suggested was to make Tranquilizing Shot not be affected by Bestial Wrath, which reduces the Focus cost to 10. This Focus cost reduction mechanic would trivialize the amount of resources a Hunter has to commit to (spam) dispel.
  • Hopefully this video and transcript helped to explain how resources in World of Warcraft work mechanically.
  • It is also worth mentioning that the Tranquilizing Shot nerf was probably the wrong way to go about nerfing Hunters to begin with. I would've probably looked into other PvP issues related to Hunters (though this is beyond the scope of this article).
  • Another point I didn't mention is that the problem of the cost can effectively be circumvented by glyphing Tranquilizing Shot (mostly for PvE). However, this in itself is poor design because the change effectively forces the mandatory usage of a glyph especially considering there's typically supposed to be numerous Major Glyph options that provide slight bumps of power at best compared to not glyphing at all. This is partially proven by the removal of Prime Glyphs before Mists of Pandaria, which gave a large amount of power and were essentially mandatory.

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