With BlizzCon coming later this week, we’ll soon be inundated with information about the next expansion. Or at least, I think most of us assume that Friday’s “World of Warcraft: What’s Next?” presentation will reveal the next expansion. I guess it’s possible that they’ll do something completely different, like announce that the entire WoW dev team is being transferred to project Titan and that WoW will go free-to-play with user-generated raid content. But that seems pretty unlikely.
So in the spirit of being able to look back at old posts and say “told you so,” it seemed like an appropriate time to make some predictions about what we’ll be seeing on Friday. I’m not going to speculate on the name or theme of the expansion, because frankly, lore isn’t exactly my wheelhouse. Instead, I want to focus on mechanics.
I’ve split each main idea up into two sections: a Prediction and a Wish List. The prediction is the general thing I think we’ll see, whereas the wish list is more of a “this is what I’d do if I were trying to address the issue.”
Hit & Expertise Changes
Prediction – I think we’ll see a change to either hit or expertise to alleviate the awkwardness of reaching both caps, and especially to try and minimize the need to use an optimizer like AskMrRobot to reconfigure your entire gear set every time you get an upgrade. It’s also just sort of weird from a systems point of view. The best description of the problem I’ve seen can be attributed to Hamlet of EJ/Druid fame. To summarize his point: there are two systems in the game (gemming and reforging) whose primary job is to ensure that players always hit their target. In other words, these two mechanics are both trying to subvert/fix a third mechanic, which is the hit cap.
Blizzard sources have been offering up comments about this problem all expansion, so we know it’s on their minds. It’s not a huge stretch in logic to guess that they’ll try to fix it in 6.0.
I don’t think it’s likely that both hit and expertise will go away, though. There’s something to be said for the planning/preparation aspect of having to dance around hit and expertise cap. But it’s far more painful than it has to be due to the way itemization is allocated. Each item can have an essentially random amount of hit or expertise rating. Sure, it’s constrained by a formula, but only mildly, and you can have almost any amount of hit on an item by adjusting the other stats to compensate. That’s the reason it’s a problem – it’s not a trivial problem to figure out exactly what needs to change on other gear when you replace an upgrade. As anyone who’s worked on optimization problems in the past will tell you, once you have multiple parameters and several caps to consider, the math gets really ugly.
Wish List - My solution to this problem would be to make two significant changes. The first is to remove the expertise-capping problem. Rather than requiring 7.5% hit and 7.5% expertise, I would just require 15% hit for melee. The first 7.5% removes misses, the second 7.5% removes dodges, just like expertise works currently with dodges and parries. This removes the “two-cap” part of the problem and vastly simplifies the solution space.
I wouldn’t remove expertise as a stat, though. I would convert it into another combat benefit. Potentially something like The Secret World’s ‘Crit Power,’ which increases the damage you do with a critical strike. Instead of crits automatically doing double damage, they could do 150% damage baseline, and each point of expertise increases that by 1% (i.e. to 151%). They’ve already laid the groundwork for this sort of effect with the crit amplification trinkets in Siege of Orgrimmar, which might be an indication that they’re testing the waters for this idea.
Finally, I’d make one slightly more radical change to the way hit is itemized – I would quantize it. In other words, let’s say that we need 10,000 hit rating to cap (choosing a nice round number). Items would never contain a random amount of hit rating. There would be nothing in the game that gives 2751 hit rating, like there could be currently. Instead, hit rating only ever shows up in multiples of 1000. A piece of armor could have 1000 hit rating, 2000 hit rating, 3000 hit rating, and so on. The stats on the piece would still be bound by the itemization formula, so the second stat would just soak up the rest of the item budget. In other words, a pair of hit/crit legs with 3000 hit would have more crit than a pair that had 4000 hit.
Similarly, gems would have even multiples, maybe 1000 each. Getting a new upgrade would then generally mean you need to swap a few hit gems around, but the math would be very easy – just replace N gems, where N*1000 is the amount of hit you need. Reforging could work as-is, though it would probably be easier if the amount of reforge could be increased to 50% just so that you could reforge hit to other things without getting odd amounts of hit. While you could reforge a non-hit piece (i.e. crit/mastery) into hit and get an odd number, in practice this shouldn’t be terribly necessary since you could just gem for it. There could always be edge cases where it’s slightly more optimal to do so, but for the most part they’ll be insignificant enough that all but the very hardcore could ignore them.
Prediction – I think that we’ll see Warriors and Death Knights get the full “DPS tank” treatment that Monks and Druids, and to a lesser extent Paladins, have gotten. It’s clear from Mists that tanks love this new model, especially when paired with active mitigation. They opened a Pandora’s Box when they gave Paladins Sanctity of Battle, and rather than close the box they decided to embrace the new paradigm, even putting haste on our gear. The success they’ve had with Paladins, Monks, and Druids will lead them to drive the remaining two “old-school” tanking classes in the same direction, fully embracing DPS stats like crit and haste as true tanking stats.
Wish List – There are lots of ways they can pull this off, so it’s not worth trying to go into too much detail. But it’s clear that Riposte is just a band-aid for tank DPS, not a true active mitigation tie-in. I would probably do something like tie critical strike rating into crit block chance, which indirectly ties it into rage generation, and a similar crit->resource conversion for Death Knights (maybe triggering Death Runes?). But the sky’s the limit here, just because the problem is so open-ended. The end goal is clear though – make all tanks value crit/haste/mastery gear so that DPS fluctuations over a tier or expansion are less significant.
As for Paladins, I think we’re pretty well-off already. At most I might give us a more direct tie-in with crit. Right now, it has some value via Eternal Flame, but it’s not a large amount. If Seal of Insight and Sacred Shield could also crit, then it might have a reasonable (if not substantial) value to a tankadin.
Which leads us into our next section….
Dodge & Parry Changes
Prediction – I think we’ll see Dodge and Parry reduced in significance for tanks. Passive mitigation and avoidance have never been all that interesting or dynamic for the tank, and that’s no better exemplified by the envy our Warrior and Death Knight brethren have been communicating to us with dagger stares all expansion. I think that next expansion will have a stronger emphasis on “active” avoidance triggers like Grand Crusader while also reducing the amount of Dodge and Parry showing up on gear.
Wish List – Those last two thoughts may seem inconsistent, but they’re really not. To explain: I think that avoidance should show up less on gear than it does now (and more haste, mastery, and crit in its place), but the avoidance that does show up should also be more powerful. One of the big problems with avoidance is that we have so much of it on gear that we’re already feeling stung by the diminishing returns curves. If we had far less of it itemized on gear, each of those rating points could be more powerful, and thus make it a competitive stat.
How would I go about doing this? Well, for starters, I would nerf the Strength-to-Parry conversion rate (and similarly the Agility-to-Dodge rate for Druids and Monks). Free avoidance from gear is what we’re trying to mitigate, so having that giant source of it is detrimental to our goal.
The other thing I’d do is make sure that dodge and parry were mutually exclusive on gear. In other words, you would never get a dodge/parry combination item. Parry and dodge would always be paired with something else – hit, expertise, crit, haste, or mastery. This effectively halves the possible amount of avoidance on gear, which means each point can be almost twice as effective. Thus, the rating conversion could be brought back down on-par with the other secondary stats. That would let dodge and parry feel like important stats again, because you’d really feel the difference between a low-avoidance build and a high-avoidance build.
Prediction – It’s not really a huge surprise, since we know this is coming. Hopefully we’ll learn more about the actual details at BlizzCon. But in any event, I predict we’ll get that information on Friday.
Wish List – There’s a huge parameter space here, so it’s not really worth speculating on exact mathematical details. For example, they could just slash the item level increases for everything pre-MoP so that we’re back to something in the 200 range. Or they could just completely re-tune the formula used for itemization (though that has its own side-effects). Or they could do some sort of time-warp-esque trick where stepping into a new expansion automatically reduced the ilvl of previous-expansion gear, such that next expansion starts at ilvl 100 again. Or a million other possible solutions.
My guess, though, is that it’ll be something permanent rather than a phased effect. In other words, each item will get a new item level that’s significantly lower than the current value, and the tuning of all content in the game will be squished according to the same formula so that DPS and healing expectations are more or less unaffected.
I have lots of other expectations too, but most of them are pretty banal. For example, I don’t expect an overhaul of our basic mechanics (holy power, active mitigation, etc.) or talents. We’ve gone through a lot of iteration over the past two expansions, but the last few patches have seen very minor adjustments in terms of core class mechanics, so I expect we’re pretty much where the devs want us by now. I expect we’ll get some new glyphs, possibly a new spell at 95/100 (or whatever the new cap will be), but that’s pretty bog-standard by this point.
I suspect we’ll finally see new character models, which is interesting, but not really a mechanics thing. I don’t really have any idea if we’ll get a new class or new races, but my guess would be that new races are more likely than a new class since Blizz seems to alternate. If they do add new races, I hope they take that opportunity to re-balance racial bonuses to be less significant in combat. And I’d guess that we’ll see some new feature that utilizes the level-scaling tech that’s been observed in bugged instances over the past month or so.
That’s all I have time for now, gotta pack for BlizzCon. If you’re going, be sure to plan to attend Palapalooza! on Saturday at 4PM at the Meeting Stone, where you’ll be able to meet myself, Anafielle, and Meloree, our friends Rhidach and Antigen (from the Righteous Defense blog), and a host of paladins that are a lot more famous than we are (Treck, Slootbag, Absallom, and Towelliee, and Kerriodos have all said they’d be there)!