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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: The endless rage treadmill

The Care and Feeding of Warriors The Endless Rage Treadmill
Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Care and Feeding of Warriors, the column dedicated to arms, fury and protection warriors. Despite repeated blows to the head from dragons, demons, Old Gods and whatever that thing over there was, Matthew Rossi will be your host.

You knew we were going to talk about this again, partially because rage and rage income is, by far, the most important aspect of the warrior class. The majority of warrior balance issues in the past have come from rage income. Whether it be too little rage (as it was in the first few months of The Burning Crusade) or too much rage (as was the argument for fury DPS in ICC at the end of Wrath of the Lich King), we always end up back at the same dance.

Since the post earlier this week announcing that enrage would be changed, we've seen a new beta build where exactly that happened, and Ghostcrawler responded to a post on the forums in greater detail for how the rage design in Mists of Pandaria is intended to go. We're going to talk about both of those things this week in some detail, which is code for "Matt gets all long-winded." Luckily, in this online format, I don't actually have to say all of this stuff -- I just type it out.

So let's look at the changes to Mists's beta build 15882 first. Many of these changes are merely tooltip changes, but a few definitely are more than that. They're the first stages in the change to enrage promised in that earlier post.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors The Endless Rage Treadmill
  • Berserker Rage You become Enraged, generating 5 rage and increasing physical damage done by 100% for 6 seconds. Also removes and grants immunity to Fear, Sap and Incapacitate effects for the duration of Berserker Rage.
  • Enrage Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst and Colossus Smash critical strikes and critical blocks Enrage you, generating 5 rage and increasing physical damage done by 100% for 6 seconds.
These are the big changes. I've linked to the database entries for the spells, which you'll note says 10% increased physical damage, while the notes themselves say 100%. I extremely doubt the 100% is accurate. For one thing, it would absolutely necessitate the removal or extreme nerfing of Unshackled Fury, which also boosts physical damage done when enraged. For another, it's just far too massive a buff to Enrage. I'm probably the most warrior-loving guy in existence, and even I would balk at a 100% damage increase from Berserker Rage.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors The Endless Rage Treadmill
These changes are intended to increase rage generation in a more linear and thus more easily controlled manner, rather than having entering an Enrage as necessary and thus stacking crit and haste more rewarding (because that would increase you chance to enter an Enrage) than strictly necessary. Scaling issues like these aren't surprising. One hopes the increased rage from white damage was also implemented. As soon as I can get the beta to let me on, I'll let you know.

The rest of the patch notes appear to be tooltip corrections, not particularly meaningful. Shield Barrier looks like it got nerfed, which isn't really surprising to me. Hopefully it will work out to still be a useful button to hit.

The response to a response

OK, I've dilly-dallied long enough. It's time to suck it up and talk about the Ghostcrawler post in a forum thread inspired by one of my posts here and try not to look like a gibbering idiot in the process. I'm not just being egocentric here, as the original poster (hello, Shamtilly) specifically mentioned this post to open the discussion.

Ghostcrawler - Warriors and a Barbarian's Fury
So less like energy or mana and more like... combo points? :)

I'm not just being snarky. I think it's a legitimate point. If you have yellow attacks that produce X rage and then a finisher that consumes Y rage, then you have a system that works fundamentally a lot like combo points or Holy Power. Ultimately we know that system works, but I'm not sure that means that every class should use it. It's a little deflating when you switch characters only to discover that the resource mechanic feels almost the same.

I actually think we're pretty close on the rage design for Mists and that what some of you are reacting to isn't the mechanic as a whole but the current numbers on beta. By moving some rage generation to yellow attacks we have given warriors and bears more control over building up their resource rather than it being totally passive. By reducing some of the exponential scaling of the resource model with gear, we think we have broken the cycle of warriors who are weak at launch and overpowered by an expansion's end. Recently, we felt like rage generation was too high in starting gear, which wasn't giving warriors too much room to grow. We lowered it, but that ended up feeling too punishing at low level, so we're trying to strike a balance.

These aren't the kinds of decisions that can easily be mathed out, because so much of it comes down to the *feel* of combat, which we can only get a handle on by trying different designs and playing them ourselves, and asking other players (like you guys) to try them as well. Blizzard is famous, perhaps infamous, for design iteration. You sort of have to stand back and let us do our jobs here. We need to be able to adjust things in beta without the community freaking out every time a number goes down (and I'm not just talking to warriors here). I totally understand that beta design can feel like a roller coaster, which is one of the reasons we try to limit design churn after launch. It's totally fine -- and in fact we welcome it -- to provide feedback along the way. Helpful feedback is the sort of thing several warriors did when they said they felt like rage generation from white attacks was too low and rage generation during Enrage was too high. It's a little disappointing to read "rage generation feels low now, therefore the entire system must be scrapped." :(

I could wax philosophical about the similarities and differences between warrior rage and barbarian fury; indeed the strengths and weaknesses of various resource systems is something the WoW designers discuss frequently with the Diablo designers. Just remember that the combat situations are very different. D3 is about very short fights against huge groups of enemies when you are often alone or in a small group. Even if you have a tank, you don't really have a healer. Except for the boss fights, the fights are unscripted and unpredictable. I'm jealous of the combat situations the D3 designers can put you in, because there is room for a lot of different AE attacks and survival buttons and movement abilities. On the other hand, because the fights are short, there isn't a lot of opportunity for the rotations and situational abilities that the WoW classes have and I've always enjoyed the emphasis on the synergy of large groups of players in WoW (whether it's a raid or a BG or just a guild hanging out in chat). It's actually a little refreshing both as a player and a designer that they do feel so different (to me anyway).



First up, if there's any way that we could get a Design Blog where you do wax philosophical about those differences, sign me up to read it. Moreover, sir, I'd love you to sit down and wax philosophical about the warrior class as a whole and hear where your design philosophy was going into Mists and what you were thinking for each spec. I've always remembered the discussion of arms vs. fury back in Wrath, and I want more of that kind of thing.

Do we want the best resource system in the game?

Now, as to the idea of being too much like combo points, the problem here is that you yourself have described energy and combo points as the best resource system in the game. I understand your desire to keep from using the same design for all resource systems. To a degree, I even applaud it.

But I care more about being effective and actually having ways to manage my resources that aren't essentially standing there and auto-attacking and hitting an attack like a metronome. As Siguror mentioned in his response, a DPS warrior is going to hit his bread-and-butter strike on cooldown.

As for tanking, because you don't generate rage from auto-attacks in Defensive Stance, right now tanking design is having a choice of active strikes (Shield Slam, Revenge, and Devastate with the chance to proc Sword and Board), and I have to admit I think it's as close to perfect as I can possibly ask. The numbers may need tweaking, but the system of rage generation as a protection warrior feels viscerally right.

It is that visceral rightness that I want for all rage generation.

The Care and Feeding of Warriors The Endless Rage Treadmill
Now I have to admit, as I said this week, I also believe they are very close on rage design. And I accept that WoW and Diablo III are different animals with different design needs. But I still feel that we have two separate problems with the current iteration of the rage design, and I strongly believe that this design team is capable of overcoming those design problems (which I'll outline below) and that they can do so without scrapping the work they've already done.

Activity and scaling

The first is, we need an active rage generation system that gives us choice as to how we generate rage. It doesn't have to be a system like combo points or holy power or Maelstrom Weapon, per se. The current form of Deadly Calm (which is going away in Mists) did a very good job of letting arms warriors control their rage generation by simply giving them a few attacks for free. You wouldn't hit Deadly Calm if you had rage to spend or if you wanted to use a DPS cooldown. But when you were really low on rage and you wanted to keep your rotation going -- possibly even set yourself up with a full rage bar to bleed off via Inner Rage -- it worked really well.

This is but one possible way to give players control of their rage that doesn't feel at all like other resource systems. It's in the game right now. Giving us a button like this on a reasonable cooldown would go a very long way toward addressing the idea that rage feels too passive.

The second problem is scaling. Now, I'm willing to wait and see if these Enrage changes work and we can get a system that allows your leveling 86 warrior and your raid-geared 90 next year to both feel like they have buttons to push without the 86 feeling insanely week or the 90 looking like a freaking demigod.

What I absolutely do not want (and what I will complain absolutely bitterly about if it happens) is a patch 5.1 nerf to warriors, after we went through all of this tinkering with rage. If I hear that warriors are stacking crit and haste and trivializing rage generation when the game goes live, I'm not going to be angry at the warriors for doing something that makes their gameplay easier. I'm going to be angry at the design that went live allowing them to do so after we saw this beta build implemented for that very reason.

That guy who stands up and starts with the slow clap that gets the crowd cheering

One of the reasons people like myself keep pushing for Diablo III-style fury is that it doesn't scale at all with gear. Your damage does, absolutely. But your resource generation is the same from 1 to 60, and while I'm sure there are dozens of good reasons why you don't want to just copy and paste the one resource into the other game, I can't stress enough how fatiguing it is to constantly get on the leveling treadmill.
I actually think we're pretty close on the rage design for Mists and that what some of you are reacting to isn't the mechanic as a whole but the current numbers on beta. By moving some rage generation to yellow attacks we have given warriors and bears more control over building up their resource rather than it being totally passive. By reducing some of the exponential scaling of the resource model with gear, we think we have broken the cycle of warriors who are weak at launch and overpowered by an expansion's end.
I cannot tell you how much I want this to be true. I wrote the column in question because I saw the D3 system as a means to that end. I freely accept it is not the only means to that end. If you've achieved it, then I salute you and I will be pleased beyond words to admit that you have done so, praising you to the rooftops and beyond.

And please, in all sincerety, write that philosophical comparison between WoW warriors and Diablo III barbarians. You have no idea how much I would love to read that. I still go back and read the posts about warrior design from four years ago.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, from hot issues for today's warriors to Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors and our guide to reputation gear for warriors.

Filed under: Warrior, (Warrior) The Care and Feeding of Warriors

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