For many of our serious readers, this is going to be something they already understand and are aware of. But scattered comments, both on the WHU and elsewhere, lead me to believe that not everyone understands exactly what we mean when we talk about ability homogenization (it goes by other names…that’s just what I’m calling it), and how this affects our play. So I wanted to spell it out, because in 5.4, the understanding of this principle is more important than ever.
More Is Less
Your rotation consists of 4 buttons, and your dps is at 1000 (we’re ignoring things like auto-shot here for ease of the example). And let’s say the signature shot does 400 damage and the focus dump does 100.
Your rotation consists of 10 buttons, for 1000 dps. Your most powerful signature shot is at 200, and the lowest is 50.
Now you’re in a fight and focused on fight mechanics. You’re doing your rotation pretty well, but not perfectly. Your best signature shot comes off cooldown, and you should cast it. But you miss out on it right away, and cast a focus dump shot before casting it. This happens several times in the fight and, along with some other errors, causes you to lose out on 4 signature shots because you were casting your focus dump. In scenario A, the theoretical gap for your error is 1200 damage for that time span. In scenario B, it’s 600 (technically, not exactly, even in this dumbed-down scenario, but it’s close). The point is, the penalty for screwing up your rotation is significantly smaller, as is the penalty for delaying a shot by, say, tenths of a second.
Now make the gap even smaller. Let’s say signature is at 110 and the focus dump is 90. Now there’s barely any difference at all. And for many, it’s going to be roughly equivalent dps for them to spam a particular shot than it would be to try to do the proper rotation but screw it up occasionally.
Now add in passive dps (procs, auto-shot, pet damage, etc.). Let’s say passive dps makes up 50% of our total dps (that may actually be low, especially in BM). At this point, any mistakes in Scenario B are likely to be within RNG (Random Number Generator) ranges, and accounting for a very small swing in dps percentage lost. So it’s hard to even see the difference in many rotations.
“…I found this GREAT new rotation…”
Frostheim routinely gets emails concerning rotation (or priorities) in our abilities. And more than once, he’s received a super-excited email claiming that casting nothing but an initial Serpent Sting followed by ONLY Arcane Shot and Steady/Cobra Shot is actually better than the accepted “correct” rotation.
What these people are seeing is what I described above. For them, they’re missing enough casts in fights that it actually helps them to focus only on 2-3 abilities. Or the difference in rotation is so small that a few nights with good RNG numbers, and they think they’re seeing an increase when they really just have a small sample size and some lucky rolls.
Recent or upcoming changes have brought this into the limelight. Stampede, once a beastly (pun intended) cooldown, is now testing at only about a 1% increase to overall dps in fights, sometimes less.
Arcane Shot, already not too far off our signature shot damage, has been buffed significantly recently. And in 5.4, the 2-piece tier bonus will make it even more important.
I’m not saying that Arcane spam is the way to go. I’m not saying you should ignore Stampede. What I AM saying is that, if you ignore Stampede and spam Arcane, you’re not going to be that far off hunters who are doing things “right.” Contrary to the belief that more buttons means more skill is needed, it actually means that, in most cases, it will lower the skill gap between the excellent, good, mediocre, and bad hunters out there. As long as you’re casting something, what particular ability you’re casting almost doesn’t matter.
Perspective and “Bring the Player…”
I’m the last to start yelling that the sky is falling. It’s not here either. If enough rotations change to ignore major abilities, Blizzard will no doubt tweak things to bring us back to normal.If you’re upset, take a deep breath and relax. If you truly enjoy the hunter class, abilities tweaks aren’t going to ruin it.
Second, in all cases, even when button homogenization is particularly bad, the more skilled hunter will always do more dps. There are still little things that make the difference, and that’s what we’re all about.
Perhaps the most troubling thing I see with this trend, though, is that it reduces the emphasis on player skill and increases the emphasis on Blizzard’s balancing of classes. In the past, it barely mattered where your class was (in PvE at least) compared to other classes. If you were skilled, you could beat nearly anyone with equivalent gear. This is still true, though to a far lesser extent, but it also means we’re more at the whims of class balance. If Demo Locks (or any class, really) are crushing it, there’s less we can do to close the gap. And less we can do to distinguish ourselves from the overzealous hunters who spam Arcane. Blizzard’s tagline for a time has been “Bring the Player, not the Class.” I still think that’s true in many cases – especially where fight mechanics trump your individual contribution to dps or heals – but for many top-level groups it’s probably less true than it was in prior expansions.
The other thing that it does relates to the feel of the class. How many remember Kill Command hitting like a Howitzer? The special feeling as the thunk of Chimera or Explosive ticks wrecked opponents? There’s a subjective satisfaction there. And I think it goes away when we’re managing 10+ abilities and cooldowns, that begins to feel much more like the timing simulation that dps is, and less like an active RPG experience.