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Posts with tag theory

In defense of gear simulations

Josh Myers is not a scientist. The closest he's ever come to being one is winning the Science Fair in 8th grade and getting straight As in physics in high school. Despite these clear signs telling him to look for a career in science, he decided instead to go for a degree in English. His wallet hasn't forgiven him since.

"Just sim it" is a phrase almost everyone who has played World of Warcraft in the past few years is familiar with. Should my enhancement shaman use Tunic of Failed Experiments or Voltage Source Chestguard? Sim it. How much of a DPS increase is the four-piece Firelord's Vestments bonus? Spreadsheet it. How much DPS am I losing since I can't afford a Flask of the Winds on my hunter? SIM IT!

I'll be the very first to say that saying "just sim it" isn't a constructive thing to say. Beyond being slightly rude, it doesn't explain why simming is such a good idea. However, while I find "just sim it" to be in poor taste, the actual act of simming or spreadsheeting gear choices is a really good idea. This post aims to address why we encourage spreadsheeting your DPS choices.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Cataclysm

WoW Moviewatch: Theory of a Death Knight is President of Blizzard

Do you remember Theory of a Death Knight? In the original movie, a death knight is totally rocking out to some hardcore metal when a blood elf stops the performance and demands to know why they must always perform such morbid music. The death knight takes this feedback exactly how you'd expect a hardcore awesome death knight to take it, and eventually finds himself a job. Now, it seems like Myndflame is telling the next step in Theory's journey with Theory of a Death Knight is President of Blizzard.

This new installment is pretty short, and continues the tradition of Theory being a high intensity, high volume character with some strange ideas. It's a quick gag short, so don't try to read too much into it. I do find Theory becoming one of my favorite characters, though, so I hope he keeps popping up.

Interested in the wide world of machinima? We have new movies every weekday here on WoW Moviewatch! Have suggestions for machinima we ought to feature? Toss us an e-mail at machinima AT wow DOT com.

Filed under: WoW Moviewatch

TheoryCraft 101: Melee haste

TheoryCraft101 is here to introduce the more hardcore aspects of theorycrafting in a more casual approach. Have questions about attack speed? Do you know what PPM stands for? We have the answers right here.

Another week, another article dealing with the math behind the scenes of World of Warcraft. Last week, the discussion focused around caster haste; this week will be a continuation of that as we delve into the world of melee haste. Haste follows a pretty different system between spells and melee attacks. When it comes to casters, haste influences how fast a spell is cast as well as the GCD for all abilities, allowing for the standard 1.5-second GCD to be reduced to 1 second. Haste for melee attacks, however, only increases the swing timer of auto-attacks and does not reduce the GCD on physical abilities.

This has created a pretty big disparity between how melee value haste over casters, with casters generally favoring haste far more than melee classes. Blizzard has attempted to equalize this in some ways throughout Wrath of the Lich King by increasing the amount of haste that melee get per point of rating, yet that really hasn't made much of a difference. Cataclysm will attempt to address this disparity once again by increasing the resource gain of melee classes through haste. Obviously the finer points of this mechanic are not known to the community at large yet, and it is unlikely that Blizzard has the system fine tuned at this point anyway, so this article will not address that fact. It is something to remember for the future, though.

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TheoryCraft 101: Caster haste

TheoryCraft101 is here to introduce the more hardcore aspects of theorycrafting in a more casual approach. Do you need to know how quickly you can get that spell to cast? We've got your answers right here!

Welcome back once again to another installment of TheoryCraft 101. Past TheoryCraft 101 articles have already covered aspects of spellpower and melee hit; this week we are going to be discussing the ins and outs of caster haste. Haste, unlike other mechanics within the game, is a rather flat system. Haste is universal. There isn't a long list of exceptions, as you find with spellpower; every spell's cast time is changed by haste in the exact same way. Although boring, there is something beautiful in the simplicity of haste. The stat is so clean, the rules so set, that it is actually easy to predict.

For how simple the mechanic is theoretically, it is far more convoluted in practice. Haste is an odd stat in that it is the only DPS stat people stack that doesn't directly increase the damage potential of their spells. A hasted Fireball will do exactly the same amount of damage as an unhasted Fireball; it will merely do it faster. For this reason, haste is something of a fickle mistress. Haste is beautiful in that is holds no RNG variables in theory. 1% haste is always 1% haste; a spell's cast time will always be changed by the exact same amount without fail.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

TheoryCraft 101: The melee hit table

TheoryCraft101 is here to introduce the more hardcore aspects of theorycrafting in a more casual approach. Ever wondered what the deal is with hit rating? Is expertise giving you a bit of a headache? TheoryCraft 101 has all your answers and more, as we explore the depths of the melee hit table.

Back by popular demand, and loads of begging on my part, TheoryCraft 101 is here once again to teach you the ins and outs of the fickle little systems that drive World of Warcraft. Due to numerous requests, we'll be tackling one of the more complex systems within the game, the melee hit table. For all of the hate that armor penetration has taken for being "too mathy," melee hit honestly isn't any better. Caster hit is very simplistic. You have a specific chance to miss a mob, and getting more hit mitigates that amount. Melee hit holds very different values than that. Why just talk about it? Saying that it's complex is all well and good, but let's actually see it, shall we?

As a preface to every TheoryCraft 101 installment, this post is going to contain calculations, figures, theoretical values/situations and other math-related information that, at times, can get a bit confusing. I will always attempt to simplify everything to the best of my abilities and explain the information as clearly as possible. After reading, if you still have any questions about the topic, then just ask. I'll do my best to address every question that you may have.

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Theorycraft 101: Spellpower

Theorycrafting was once just a thing for the geekiest of geeks, the hardest of the hardcore, the most nerdiest, basement dwelling-est, living with mom-est gamers out there. As the World of Warcraft has grown in popularity and end-game raiding content has become more and more accessible, however, theorycrafting has become something that is relevant to the everyday casual gamer as well. Through sites such as Elitist Jerks, more and more people have become exposed to the deeper mathematical concepts that drive this game. Such sites, however, are often fraught with convoluted, difficult-to-follow information and strings of calculations that can be hard for users to understand. I will admit that there are many times when the math some of the players post in these places can go way over my head.

To that end, there have been many easy-to-use tools developed in order to simplify the aspects of theorycrafting into a practical application that players can use. Things such as Rawr or Simcraft have become a very popular source of information regarding theoretical data and how it can be used within the game, giving access to information such as talent spec choices and gearing upgrades. Even still, such programs are not without their flaws, and often the theoretical mechanics used by such programs can be rather confusing to follow. It's my wish to bring theorycrafting to the general population in a different approach. Instead of merely tossing out information at random with the hopes that someone out there will grasp the concept, I wish for people to understand the basics that fuel theorycrafting by presenting it in such a way that is easy to understand.

To that end, I wish to present the theory behind the mathematical calculations for spellpower. How does spellpower scaling function? What effect does the stat really have for increasing a player's power? Why does spellpower behave the way that it does? These are all questions that form the basic principles behind theorycrafting, and it is the allure of figuring such things out that draws people to theorycrafting. As the game becomes more accessible to more people, so too should the theory that drives it.

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More on Black Arrow and Lock and Load

The Hunter's Mark examined what's going on behind the Hunter talent Lock and Load a little while ago, and last week Atkallen did a follow up post getting down into the nitty gritty of the numbers a little further. Essentially, he charges that you're looking at an LnL proc for about 2-4% uptime during a four hour raid -- that is, for about 4% of the time, you've got Lock and Load giving you free Explosive Shots with no cooldown and no mana cost. And as he says, that's the "applied" time -- since LnL disappears as you use it, odds are that the real time you have it available will be much less.

He also tracks that time from 3.1 to 3.1.2, and says he's found data that confirms his previous theory: that it was more than the tooltip that needed changing during the last patch. Before the patch, he was looking at 11% uptime during three Ulduar fights, and after the patch, that's dropped down to 6%. Blizzard said they were only changing the tooltip, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Finally, he stands by a notion that a lot of our commenters debated last time: that LnL is proccing more after 3.1, even though the mechanics claim that it shouldn't be. I haven't had a lot of personal playtime with it post-patch, but there are two different conclusions to take away here. First: LnL, in conjunction with Black Arrow and Resourcefulness, is a definite force for DPS in the Survival spec no matter how often it's proccing. And second: there still may be something else going on here behind the scenes -- the removal of the cooldown is almost definitely a factor, and Blizzard may be playing around with the RNG more than they're letting on.

Filed under: Hunter, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Classes, Talents

Ghostcrawler on the mechanics behind Armor Penetration

There is a great thread over on the Damage Dealing Forums started by a Rogue about the mechanics of the Armor Penetration cap/observed effectiveness. Armor Pen is a statistic that will allow an attack to ignore a given amount of armor.

The thread and the contents inside it are notable in that it is, by my recollection, the first time a Blizzard employee has given out the complete rundown of an in-game formula. While there have been hints and comments about how certain statistics impact the game from patch notes and game designer posts in the past, there has never been a "step a, step b, step c" like algorithmic definition to all those stats contained within the black box of theorycrafting.

In giving out the computations behind Armor Penetration, Ghostcrawler makes note to point out that Blizzard is not, and will not, get in a habit of delivering theorycrafting to players. They like the idea that players have to test out game mechanics, and that while the starting and end results are known, what happens in the middle of combat isn't written in stone. In the case of the Armor Penetration rating, they released it due to quite a bit of (somewhat) inaccurate information out there.

The armor penetration formula, and an example, after the break.

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Filed under: Odds and ends

WoW Moviewatch: Theory of a Death Knight

Warning: Not safe for work! While it's all in a good fun, there's definitely cursing and loud, riotous music.

This is the new short video from Myndflame, titled Theory of a Death Knight. Rumor has it that the creator went to herculean effort to get the video published. While I hate to see someone go to that kind of pain, I do have to say that it was worth it. "Theory" is one of those rare unique pieces that show why Clint is a stand-apart machinimator.

The premise of the video is pretty simple. The scene opens to a Death Knight rocking out in a music studio. A Belf stops the performance, demanding to know why they always have to sing such harsh stuff. In the ensuing conflict, the Death Knight shortly finds himself fired. He then has to go out and make his own way in the big wide world.

The first thing that struck me about this video was, ironically, the colors. While I've been exposed to vibrant imagery before, this whole thing felt like someone made it out of a paint bucket. They're bright, gorgeous, and vivid. The strong colors emphasized the frenetic pace of the Death Knight's music.

The final gag in the movie had me laughing out loud. I wasn't expecting it, and it seemed like a perfect finale to the video.

If you have trouble seeing the player above, you can catch the movie here.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW Moviewatch

World of Warcraft as evolutionary model

This must be the time of year for zany social theories about videogames. First, we heard that World of Warcraft might quality as being a religion. Then we heard that it might make for better citizens. And now, in an essay over at Gamasutra on the event of Charles Darwin's birthday, Noah Falstein suggests that games like World of Warcraft are actually models for evolution -- as we level up with experience points, our characters get stronger and more evolved, and we feel comfortable with that because that's exactly what we see happening in the world around us.

Technically, of course, you can't model Darwin's theory of evolution with a single character -- evolution isn't about one individual getting better, it's about a process of natural selection in a species over a period of time. To really model evolution, you'd have to play hundreds of alts, and quit them each time you ran into a problem, leaving you with just a few characters that worked really well. Wait -- maybe some of you are already doing that.

But Falstein makes good points in saying that certain elements of what Darwin described as evolution have shown up in game design as well -- the idea of specialization for certain character classes, tribal and national allegiances, and even the idea of memes (which are certainly widespread in WoW -- anyone ever heard of Chuck Norris or Leroy Jenkins?) are all drawn from Darwin's thinking and definitely embodied in the game we play.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Breaking down Blizzard's world event so far

Blizzard, as we've said already, has really outdone themselves with this latest world event. It's been so fun and so innovative that players are wondering just why the rest of the game hasn't been this good so far (even though, of course, it's been superb anyway). The zombie invasion really gave players of MMOs everything they've wanted since this genre first came into being -- a growing, changing world populated not by mindless AI characters stuck in static patterns, but actual, creeping story and chaos. For all of the anti-zombie whining, this world event has been MMO gameplay at, I'd say, the best it's ever been.

And while I was waiting until the event completely ended to do a final analysis, Colin Brennan over at Massively isn't waiting -- he's got a good analysis up over there about the zombie event and just why it was so brilliant. He describes how the world event not only gave players a terrific reason to hate Arthas enough to go to Northrend and want to fight him, but how the gameplay design of the event (when you are killed by a zombie, you become one) was tuned towards fueling the story and the immersion. As he says, the best way to fight the plague was to embrace the fact it was in the game, whether you were a zombie or a cleansing Paladin.

There's lots more to dissect with this world event, including how Blizzard brilliantly invoked something that had happened by accident -- the Corrupted Blood plague -- and incorporated it into the game itself, and how the various zombie abilities were aimed directly at gameplay only possible in an MMO, from the AoE healing to the shrinking plague incubation time. I'll go so far as to say it expanded the boundary of what an MMO can do -- Blizzard let zombies loose on the populace not by hiring GMs to run around on every server, but by giving power to the players. But again -- there'll be time for analysis later, once we've discovered ingame just exactly what's going on here and how it all ties to Arthas. Colin's analysis is a good start, though -- Blizzard really outdid themselves with, even considering the complaints, one of the best world events ever seen in an MMO.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Quests, Lore

Solving the holiday boss summon problem

We've heard about a lot of problems with the Headless Horseman summon this year already (and Coren Direbrew had issues as well), but Kimberly over on WoW LJ has the worst story I've heard so far -- a group asked her to heal, claimed they all had summons, and then after killing the HH with her summon, ditched her, presumably to find some other sucker with a summon. That's not just scamming someone into taking you along for a round of summons (as we heard about in Guildwatch yesterday), it's actually scamming someone out of the rest of their chances, because, assuming Kimberly is honest for the rest of the day, why would another group take her?

So this is clearly a problem. Let's fix it for Blizzard: how can we make sure everyone has five chances a day at summoning the Headless Horseman (one per day per group member) without ripping off people for helping their guildies or friends? Basically, we need a clear way of seeing whether someone has a summon or not -- maybe a debuff that resets at midnight every night, or a changing number of candles on the pedestal based on how many people in the instance can still do the daily quest? Right now, there's no accountability at all, and with droprates the way they are, getting screwed out of another chance at the HH (or even four chances, in the worst cases) can make the difference between having the achievement and not.

Any other good ideas on how to solve this problem and keep players accountable? I'm sure players with less than upright morals have no problem claiming their brother used their summon or lying to steal the summons of others, but it would be a lot more fair for everyone if the possibility for scamming wasn't there at all.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Raiding, Bosses, Mounts

Bartle, gender, and the demographics of WoW's classes

A little while back the gamerDNA blog did a nice breakdown of how WAR classes correlate with how gamers do on the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology, a widely used test that can break down exactly what type of player you are (Achiever, Explorer, Socializer, or Killer). It was such an interesting writeup that I hoped they'd do it with WoW classes, and apparently I wasn't the only one -- they've got a new post up now examining which classes in Azeroth align with which types of players.

They throw gender into the mix as well -- turns out that while the classes have generally the same percentage of players (not surprising, given that gameplay dictates the classes should be fairly balanced), things start to break up when you add gender to the mix. Priests and Warriors seem to have the biggest separation: according to their data (obtained via the profiles on their site), most Priests are played by females, and most Warriors are played by men. Paladins as well tend to be male, though not as much as Warriors, and Druids tend to be female, though not as much as Priests. Women also tend to prefer the elven races (Blood and Night), while guys apparently prefer Orcs and Dwarves (which helps my -- sexist, I admit -- theory from way back on the WoW Insider Show that the Dwarven starting area appeals to guys more than women).

The Bartle breakdown is interesting, too -- Killers prefer Rogues (duh), Warriors tend to be Achievers, and Hunters have the slight Explorer edge, but in general, the classes have a fairly even distribution across the board. All of the different roles can be filled by all the classes, which speaks to the way Blizzard has built the classes -- you can really solo, PvP, or group up with any of them. WAR's differences were distinct, but in WoW, Blizzard has done their best to make it so that whatever Bartle type you are, you can log in with any class and do what you want. gamerDNA promises more research here (including a Horde and Alliance breakdown), and we can't wait to see it.

Filed under: Night Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Hunter, Paladin, Priest, Warrior, Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blood Elves, Classes

Two Bosses Enter: Rajaxx vs. Mandokir

Two bosses enter... but only one gets to leave! We've made a list of 32 of the most interesting raid bosses in World of Warcraft and are going to pit them against each other, one at a time, until there's one ultimate victor remaining. And who gets to decide who wins? You, of course! Each of our winners will be decided by your votes.

Interested yet? For this week's fight we're matching up Ahn'Qiraj's General Rajaxx (not to mention the General's many soldiers!) and Zul'Gurub's Bloodlord Mandokir. To find out a bit more about these two -- and for a chance to voice your own opinion -- keep reading!

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Filed under: Bosses, Two Bosses Enter

The Economics of Warcraft

This interesting article attempts to explain the economics of Azeroth in terms of real life economic theory. As players, I'm sure we can all poke holes in this theoretical view of our favorite game, or perhaps find the lack of game knowledge frustrating. For example... Goods rarely cost less in the neutral auction house (though sometimes lower prices will reflect lower prices on the Alliance or Horde side - but usually neutral prices are jacked up to the highest possible profit rate), due to the higher cut the Goblins take out of the transaction. Trade-skill items are of less economic importance than seems to be placed on them - very few craftable items being desirable, long-term, over bind on pickup drops found in dungeons. And it does not consider Blizzard's continued efforts to rid the game of gold farmers, which has an ongoing (though variable) impact on the available supply of gold in the economy. However, it is always interesting to see how real economic theory can apply to a virtual game world, and I would say the article is worth a read.

Update: The comments below may well shed more light on the subject than the initial article - so read on!

Filed under: Economy

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