James’ guest post started a great conversation about hunter dps balancing, and I thought it was worth continuing the conversation with some clarification about how dps is balanced across classes. A very common thread of discussion was hunters stating that they would not want increased multi-dotting capabilities at the cost of our single target dps.
But the thing is, it’s not one or the other. In point of fact, one of the things that we do know pretty clearly about how Blizzard balances dps is that the “hard” balancing is done on against single target dps. In the beta process of Mists of Pandaria Blizzard told us once that all the classes were within 5% dps of eachother, and most were within 2% (and at the time they were working on bringing them all within 2%).
Hard vs Soft Balancing
I just want to stress that it is not possible to balance dps of all classes for all encounters. You can’t have different abilities with different mechanics that work out to the same damage in single target, and aoe, and 2 targets, and 3 targets, and 3 targets when you have to move a lot, and 2 targets when you have to click on a lever 3 seconds in to get a dps boost for 8 seconds.
You can, however, balance for any one scenario, and it appears that Blizzard balances for single target. I refer to this as Hard Balancing because the theoretical optimal dps throughput is brought within just a couple percent from class to class. A robot playing each class optimally with great gear against a Patchwerk style fight will average damage within a couple percent (of course from one 5-minute fight to another, the dps will vary due to randomness, but dps averaged over a series of tests will come out within a couple percent).
Once you have that number drilled in, you then need to be somewhat balanced for all the other kinds of fights. In what I call the Soft Balancing the dps for different fight types is eyeballed. You don’t want it to be too bad, but you also know it can’t be perfectly balanced. Maybe one class isn’t great at aoe — and that’s fine as long as they’re good at something else, like cleaving.
This is where the encounter design can affect balance — if a lot of the encounters have multi-dotting fights and few have aoe fights, suddenly the balance of that aoe strong, multi-dot weak class is off. With soft balancing you’d want to then tweak the class so it’s better at something that is encountered more often, but there’s no way to make it numerically perfectly balanced.
The Types of Fights
Every boss fights has its own mechanics, but most of them fall into one of a handful of types of fights from a dps perspective:
- Single-Target: we rarely have the Patchwerk style fight, but you don’t need that extreme to fit into this category. A Single Target fight is one where we have only one boss target for most of the fight, and our movement isn’t too extreme. All classes are hard balanced around this fight.
- AoE: in these fights AoEing down large packs of adds is a key element of the fight, and it happens often enough or long enough that your position on the meters is pretty much determined by how much AoE dps you put out. SV does pretty okay in AoE: we’re not on top, but we can compete.
- Multi-Target: fights where there are one to three extra targets. Multiple boss adds or multiple bosses, but not enough to justify aoeing (or possibly they just aren’t clumped). Depending on positioning these can be cleave fights (where some of the damage dealt to the primary target affects nearby targets) or multi-dot fights (where several dots can be applied to each target, either manually or via a cleave-like mechanic). Hunters are particularly bad at these fights.
- Target-Switching Fight: fights with multiple targets, but where only one can (or should) be targeted at a time. These fights are generally bad for melee or classes with slow ramp-up dps, and good for ranged. They are a mixed bag for hunters, since our pets take time to get from target to target while we can switch at once. BM pets can target-switch nearly seamlessly if the targets are close enough together.
- Burst DPS: some fights are all about applying as much dps as possible in a short period of time, either because of a burn phase for a boss, or because there are moments of multiplied dps (during a certain period all dps is doubled, for example). These ones can be tricky, because for fights that have a burst phase, you don’t notice the difference on the damage meters — though for fights with damage multipliers it’s a big deal. In Cataclysm this was a huge weakness of the hunter class, especially SV, but MoP brought us some nice burst to improve our contribution to these kinds of fights.
Basically hunters, like all classes, are balanced for single-target dps. We have other fight types we’re pretty good at, and some that we’re bad at; however, we have none where we’re great. No fights where hunters really shine. Because of this it’s very unlikely that hunters will top the logs for just about any fight.
Note this doesn’t keep you from topping the meters — I’m just saying that the best-geared best-skilled hunters won’t beat the best-geared best-skilled other classes, in general.
Multi-dotting is brought up a lot because we seem to have more and more fights where multi-dotting is the optimal way to go, and this is part of the reason that we’re seeing warlocks and shadow priests doing so well in the overall dps analysis.
Personally, I think it’d be a good idea to give hunters some kind of multi-dotting or cleaving capabilities. Keep in mind that our single-target dps is going to be balanced against other class single-target dps no matter what, and Blizzard pretty much has to do it that way — just think of how much shit Blizzard got in beta when simcraft numbers showed a disparity. For better or worse, that’s what the majority of the playerbase focuses on and Blizzard would be lynched if single-target wasn’t mostly balanced.
The important thing to stress is that increasing our multi-dotting or cleaving ability does not mean our single-target will go down. And Blizzard will not boost our single target to better than other classes to compensate for weakness elsewhere. Single target dps is always designed for balance.
On the last Hunting Party Podcast Roger Brown from Method suggested giving hunters an aspect that allows our auto-shots to cleave. A lot of people have suggested taking SV and making Black Arrow efficient for multi-dotting (removing the CD and lowering the cost at the least). You could also make signature shots cleave, or arcane shot, or glyph cleaving in.
Personally I’m a big fan of the aspect solution — tie it to auto or arcane or whatever it takes to get decent cleaves. I like linking it to an aspect because that way we have control over whether or not our shots cleave, and it lowers our single-target dps by forcing us out of Aspect of the Hawk, turning cleaving into a decision. It also makes aspects relevant in a meaningful way again. Flavor wise cleaving seems to fit with the hunter dps model better than multi-dotting.
What do you guys think? Given that Blizz is always going to try to balance our single-target, what would you do to improve hunter dps in these other fight types?