Difficult vs Simple & Degrees In-Between
by, 26-07-2012 at 03:52 AM (4024 Views)
One of the things I like about games is that they are challenging, neither simple nor frustrating. The enjoyment of steamrolling through an easy game quickly fades, while the frustration of a difficult gameís near insurmountable challenge makes me stop playing it and regret buying it. One of the reasons why I enjoy playing World of Warcraft is that itís managed to walk that challenging line between simple and frustrating for quite a while, but Iím not sure how long this will last.
Specifically, with Elemental mechanics, Iím a bit perplexed at the juxtaposition of complex and simple. On the one hand, we have the trio of shocks, Earth, Flame and Frost, who share a cooldown and can be considered an important part of the PvE and PvP arsenal, while on the other thereís what appears to be a distinct lack of anything resembling resource management. Somewhere in the middle is what everyone else calls ďThe easiest rotation there isĒ.
Whatís so hard about shocks you say? On the PvE side you generally just have Earth vs Flame, where you have to watch your Lightning Shield charges as they approach your maximum stack (9 in Cataclysm, but it will be 7 in Mists) as well as your Flame Shock dot, making sure it stays on your target at all times. The trick is to maximise the dot uptime while minimising the time spent at maximum charges, which is actually fairly difficult when youíve got to deal with a max stack & dot refresh at the same time. This leads to some counter-intuitive behaviour, which in Cataclysm involves using Earth Shock early with a lower shield count of 7 or clipping Flame Shock slightly early. In Mists, this behaviour will get a bit more extreme, where Flame Shock can potentially be clipped up to 7 seconds early in order to avoid wasting a single Lightning Shield charge. As yet, weíve yet to satisfactorily come up with a way to handle this interaction in SimulationCraft.
If you throw Frost Shock into the mix, as you would for PvP or any PvE situation with single target kiting (especially with the talent Frozen Power) and you have three abilities all competing for the same six second cooldown: a slow, a weak DoT and a weak direct damage ability that can deal extra damage if charged up. In fact, Frozen Power will (should) never be taken as a talent by Elemental Shaman because of this shared shock cooldown, as itís very unlikely that youíll have the spare time to use Frost Shock in PvP or PvE. Any PvE kiting will have to be done via Earthgrab or assistance from other classes, or by other players who can kite with much more effectiveness.
At the other end of the scale, Elemental Shaman have virtually no resource management concerns at all. Thanks to a combination of Elemental Focus reducing the mana costs of spells and Rolling Thunder regenerating mana at a fairly decent clip (about 20% total mana regenerated every 30 seconds vs 27% spent in the same time period) meaning it takes about 14 minutes to run out of mana. When the gap between regen and use is wider (19% vs 29% for example) swapping in Glyph of Telluric Currents for a 2% mana restore per Lightning Bolt hit or using Thunderstorm every 200 seconds for 15% of your total mana is enough to see you right.
Whatís the difference between shocks and mana? Shocks are that overly complicated frustrating bit which make me want to throw my hands up in the air and quit the game. Itís one of those things that requires too much of your concentration in order to manage perfectly during encounters, and itís slightly worrying when the guide information on shock selection is longer than the rest of the rotation instructions. Inversely, mana requires no attention at all. Itís basically a blue bar under your health bar that you donít really have to pay attention to at all.
Shocks need to be cool again, not the chore they are at the moment. I want to be able to Frost Shock an add in PvE and kite it while doing reasonable mobile DPS. I want to be able to devote more attention to the fight, and not have to stare at counters & bars on my screen to make sure I manage the shock cooldown perfectly. Sure, Frost Shock may need itís own cooldown, but Earth & Flame Shocks are fairly weak on their own so anyone spamming them would be putting themselves at a disadvantage more than anything.
Mana needs to be more interesting too. I want to have a resource that matters, where resource management is important, where my choices about regeneration will impact how I perform.
The rest of the rotation is about right, not that thereís much to it. Most look at it and go ďLightning Bolt & Lava Burst? Thatís easy!Ē, but itís a good highly repetitive component in the rotation which requires good reactions due to the variability of Lava Surge procs. Itís the lack of predictability thatís the difficulty factor in this part, but itís also not too frequent either so itís not a high difficulty factor. Itís ďjust rightĒ, to borrow a phrase.
If shocks were made easier and mana management made something we at least had to pay attention to, then I think weíd have more fun. Weíd still have shield charges, a dot, mana and a short variably resetting cooldown to manage in addition to our collection of totems, but I think levelling out the difficulty on each component to Elemental will make things better.
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