Archive for August 3rd, 2009

03
Aug
09

Finally – Rogue Q&A

Blizzard is getting close to the end of its Q&A series.  Rogues got their day today.  If you’ve been reading the whole series, you know that the developers are not really saying much.  The player base has a habit of taking little comments by the devs and blowing them way out of proportion.  So, in all the Q&A posts, they are very careful with their words and make few promises.

The rogue Q&A is can be summed up pretty succinctly as “Other than Vanish, we like the way rogues are playing.”  We already knew this.  Every time there is a patch, the rogue class gets few if any changes, and those are minor tweaks.  So its been obvious for a while that Blizzard is content to leave rogues as is.

I’ll go through the Q&A a bit here… I didn’t include every question.  If you want to see the whole thing go here.

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Q. Where do rogues fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?

A: They’re a premier melee dps class — the personification of skulking and swashbuckling flair. It’s their primary and only role — they’re not going to turn into tanks or healers.

Rogues were once the best dps class hands-down, and a lot of the other classes were just there to buff rogues. Rogues were supposed to be selfish and not bring many buffs or utility of their own. We’re not really happy with that design any longer, and have pushed rogues to be a little more normal — great damage in the right conditions, but also some good utility and synergy as well.

Rogues have nearly always been strong in PvP, just because their shtick of coming out of stealth to stun and then unload on an opponent translates so well to everything from Arena to random world ganking.

I think most of us would like a little more utility.  I know that I get a little envious when we start a raid and the paladins, priests, and mages are buffing the heck out of everyone while we just sit there and sheepishly ask for Blessing of Might.  We do have the best interrupt, though, for fights that require that.  And for tank-and-spank fights we do bring the best butt-kicking.  In PvP, our utility is defined by the stuns and interrupts.  I agree that we are very well-rounded, with maybe some room for more raid synergies.

Q. What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?

A: Rogues have a complex resource system with the balance between energy and combo points, and rely on active abilities to respond to situations rather than passive effects. This leads to a very interesting tension between planning out what you’re going to do ahead of time and reacting to proc-based resource gains (energy/combo points from things like Combat Potency, Relentless Strikes, and Ruthlessness), and rationing your active timers and abilities to survive.

I personally like the energy and combo point systems.  It does lead to a very thoughtful attack style, where you need to plan out not only your current attack, but also think ahead and budget your resources to make sure your SnD doesn’t drop, and try to work in other finishers.  Having played a couple of other classes, I like the rogue system the best.

Q. Do we feel the current combo point system is working out fine for rogues, not just for Subtlety, but for all three trees? Are there any plans to improve how combo points are awarded later down the road?

A: Yes, but there’s always room for improvement. Combo points are meaningful in all aspects of the game, and provide a necessary limiter on some of the rogue’s more powerful abilities. Too many combo points runs the risk of completely overwhelming your normal abilities and breaking the natural flow of the class, as Subtlety rogues who raid probably know all too well. I would expect that abilities that modify how combo points are acquired are something we’ll probably be careful with in the future.

Overall, we really like the way the combo point and finishing move system works. If anything, the risk is that we could push too many other classes towards this system, which makes it less unique for the rogue.

Summation:  Working as intended.  In fact, the last line implies that the devs might feel that this is their best system of any of the classes.  Yay for rogues!

Q. Vanish, as you know, is one of the class’s staple abilities that sets it apart from other classes. However, there are times when Vanish doesn’t execute quite as the rogue intends, especially when they vanish right in the middle of some kind of enemy channeling spell or when a class sends their pet after the rogue “mid-vanish.” Do we feel that, in its current rendition, Vanish is working properly in this respect? What variables should be considered when Rogues decide to utilize Vanish to avoid it being negated?

A: No, Vanish isn’t working properly and breaks when you breathe on the rogue funny. There are two problems with fixing it. One is that technically it’s just not easy. We would need to change the ways spells are resolved on the server side. Now that is something we can do, but the outcome would be taking a powerful ability and making it more powerful. We need to solve the frustration part of the ability, but not also greatly buff rogue survivability or damage potential when doing it. The solution we like the most is something like Vanish puts you in stealth for 1 second minimum no matter what else happens.

This has been broken for so long, I think we just need to live with it as is.  I just don’t believe that Blizzard is willing to make major adjustments to the way abilities are processed between the server and client in order to make this one spell work better.  That last line is an interesting compromise.  It doesn’t prevent us from taking damage from that last-moment attack that was targeting us when we hit Vanish.  But if we live through that, at least we won’t get knocked out of stealth from it.  Doesn’t necessarily solve the problem with hunter pets seeing through the Vanish, but its closer.

Q. There has been mention in previous developer responses on the forums about changes planned for Hunger for Blood. Players are interested to know what is in store for this ability in the foreseeable future.

A: The current design for Hunger for Blood is in place to boost rogue PvE damage without substantially boosting PvP damage. It’s not a terribly exciting talent in its current implementation, but it does the job. As such, we do have long-term plans to change it, but we think the current design works for now. Long-term we want it to be a more reactive ability — something you use depending on the situation but use often in a fight, and not just a passive damage buff that requires a lot of management. Long-term we’d also like to get it back into PvP.

Unfortunately, this was a clear dodge of the problem.  The common complaint by rogues has been that 15% damage from one talent point is simply too much, making this point absolutely mandatory for any Assassination spec.  Also, the fact that HfB is ineffective in PvP really forces raiding Assassination rogues to dual spec for PvP.  I can tell you from experience that a build with 51 points in Assassination is ineffective in PvP.  Is this true for all classes?  Are their raiding specs useless in PvP, requiring dual spec?

I actually didn’t mind the previous incarnation of HfB where you had to manage the stacks.  I know I am in the minority there, though.

Q. Rogues appreciated the original rendition of Shadow Dance and felt it to be incredibly unique. Do we have plans to implement the original functionality later down the road?

A: No. The repeated snare-breaks from chain-Vanish were way too good and basically made the rogue immune to snares and roots for the duration of Shadow Dance. It wasn’t intended to be Bladestorm.

Pie-in-the-sky hopes and dreams of rogues.  I remember when this ability was first added revealed pre-WotLK.  I think every rogue thought it sounded amazingly cool, but most of us also realized that it is simply not workable in the game, and we knew it would never stay in its original form.

Q. Players feel Subtlety captures the essence of a rogue with the majority of its abilities revolving around stealth and utility. How do we feel this specialization is performing currently and where do we see it in the future?

A: The damage is behind the other specs in PvE, and due to all the neat utility tools, Subtlety would immediately become the default spec in PvE if the damage were comparable. In the future we’d like to make it competitive, but it’s an interesting balancing act between too good and not good enough. It has a place in PvP, and should be more compelling in the post-3.2 world where survival talents will be more valuable.

Long-term, we’d love to see more of the utility talents from Subtlety core for the rogue class in general, or alternatively, we’d like to see more of the damage boosts from the other trees made passive so that rogues of all trees were choosing utility versus utility when making talent choices instead of utility versus damage.

Subtlety has always been the PvP spec.  HaT made it raid-viable, but only in a gimmicky way.  I’ve always expected that someday they would change Hemorrhage to make it a more desirable raiding attack, but it hasn’t happened.

The last paragraph is interesting, but I won’t hold my breath.  What they are saying is that most rogue damage abilities could be available to all rogues, but its the other stuff that would be found in the talent trees.  Things like stuns, and…. um…. maybe stealth?  And… ahhh… poisons maybe?  Problem is that rogues don’t have enough other stuff to do that.

Compare us to hunters.  Back in the day, their three trees defined their playstyle.  You want a pet that can be an off-tank or dps like a 6th party member?  Play BM.  You want to be able to chain-trap for CC?  Play survival.  You want to skip all that and get big damage numbers?  Play MM.  That was a fun system.  (Not as true today with the elimination of CC as a raid strategy)

Clearly, paladins, druids, shamans, and warriors have their entire playstyle defined by their talent trees.  Priests too, in large part.  The pure dps classes – mage, warlock, rogue – pretty much do the same thing regardless of their talent tree, except maybe their 1 key is frostbolt instead of fireball, or sinister strike instead of mutilate.  Yes, there are other differences, but nothing dramatic.  For Blizzard to follow through on that last paragraph would mean giving the pure dps classes a lot more functionality to fill out the talent trees.  And with that would have to come a reduction in dps so they aren’t overpowered.

And since I don’t think that will happen, basically I am ignoring any implications from that part.

Q. For both groups and raids, utility such as raid buffs and debuffs offer great benefits for improving your party-member’s effectiveness in most PvE encounters. While rogues do have abilities such as Expose Armor, Blind, and Sap, do we have plans for added utility later on?

A: Yes, the question is where we add them and how we do it without unbalancing the tightrope between the specs we walk in both PvE and PvP, and giving them too much access to their PvE damage potential in PvP. We think Tricks of the Trade is a fun utility ability that lets the rogue feel smart when it’s used most optimally. We want to make sure rogues have enough group raid buffs (currently they have Expose Armor, Mind-numbing Poison, Master Poisoner, Wound Poison, and Savage Combat), but rogue damage is sufficient now that they are pretty attractive members of the team.

Q. The majority of a rogue’s damage seems to stem mostly from white damage; we’ve seen devs in the past mention revamping this to avoid it being the main source of damage. Also, with changes made recently to abilities such as Mutilate and Slice and Dice, players would like to know how exactly we plan to change this aspect for rogues.

A: Rogue ability usage is still a very meaningful part of their damage, and rogues who use their abilities and timers skillfully perform much better than those who do not. As such, there aren’t really plans to change this significantly, as it’s an interesting distinction between the rogue and more ability-driven classes such as the death knight. Putting more damage into their abilities also increases the damage on an already bursty class.

Q. Cool-downs are another topic that has been discussed consistently within the rogue community. Rogues understand that they are strong and efficient when they have cool-downs readily available, however on the same token, they feel a bit constrained by the limitation to their class because of various cool-downs. In a dungeon/raid encounter, they feel that they are unable to provide significant damage contributions even when attempting to manage their cool-downs to the best of their ability. How do we currently feel about cool-downs for their damage-dealing abilities?

A: In dungeons they’re absolutely right — one of the disadvantages of scaling so well in a raid scenario is that you need to start at a lower baseline. They’re better than they used to be for dungeons due to a mostly reliable Sap, but they’re still not great compared to a caster or melee hybrid. In a raid they’re great, and the problem exists between the chair and the keyboard if they’re not contributing damage effectively in that scenario.

I grouped those three together because they say the same thing – working as intended, don’t expect any changes, take the ups with the downs and deal with it.

I have no problem with the fact that a lot of our damage comes from autoattacks.  Damage is damage.  When we took our first attempts at General Vezax, I was on interrupt duty.  I was so worried that I might miss an interrupt that I did essentially nothing but autoattack for most of the fight and wait for my opportunities to Kick.  I still finished 3rd on the damage meter.  :)

My one quibble is with the list of utility abilities that rogues bring to the raid… things like Expose Armor, poisons, and Savage Combat.  Yes, rogues to have those abilities.  The problem is that none of them are important enough a reason to specifically bring a rogue on a raid.  I have not seen anyone saying, “Darn, I wish we had a rogue here for their Savage Combat buff.”

When you have a raid with no paladin (if that exists), everyone notices.  Missing a priest?  We all lament for the stam buff.  No mage?  Darn – that means no biscuits!  Rogues have nothing that makes them desirable.  Its like even our utilities are in stealth, and mostly unnoticed.

Q. Rogues feel they take an extensive amount of damage against various classes and have very limited abilities with long cool-downs to help combat this, so they rely heavily on their avoidance abilities in PvP situations and have little to fall back on to survive. How do we feel rogue survivability is currently and are there any plans to supplement this?

A: Rogues are probably too survivable when they can apply all of their crowd control to a single target and much too squishy when they can’t. Moving some of the survivability from active abilities to passive ones without losing the interesting flavor of the class is an ongoing challenge, and we’d like to do it in ways like the Feint change rather than simply adding in “takes 20% less damage” to a random talent.

The current rogue design could be described as fragile, but rarely takes damage, since it’s possible to apply so much crowd control. Chaining crowd control and countering crowd control is a huge part of PvP that’s fun for a lot of players and we don’t want to remove that. On the other hand, we often run into problems with the rogue where we can’t diminish or change the DR on crowd control because then the rogue just takes damage and dies. An alternative model is a slightly more tanky rogue than can survive more damage (perhaps only when cooldowns are up or something), but can’t keep someone locked down so long. Also note that this would improve the rogue level-up experience as well. It’s effective and occasionally fun but can get pretty slow and tedious to have to approach every opponent from within stealth. Sometimes you just want to stab a relatively non-challenging mob to death and move on.

I think that the entire world of non-rogues would prefer a “more tanky rogue” that can’t keep someone locked down so long.  A lot of rogues would hate that.  Some have practiced and perfected their stunlock teechnique, and if that were removed the QQ would be heard all the way  from Azeroth to Outland.

But hunters have lost their ability to chain trap and they still get by.  Warlocks can’t take you 100%-0% while feared.   Its possible that making stuns a little less powerful but adding survivablility could be a benefit, but one that we would accept grudgingly.  (Although if they ever nerf stuns, they had better reduce the duration of fears too!  I hate fear!)

I see this is an arena-vs-battleground question.  In arenas, if a rogue gets focused there is usually a healer to help keep him alive.  Between my own defensive abilities (Cloak, Evasion) and some heals I can stay alive for a while even when I am the target of two attackers.  And most arenas are over quickly, so the long cooldowns are not an concern.  We get to use them once (twice with Prep), and that’s it.  Battlegrounds are a different story.  As soon as I draw the attention of two or more opponents, I’m basically toast, because I likely don’t have a healer.  Also, the fight goes on for a long time, to once I use my cooldowns I still have to try and survive for quite a while without them.  A little more tankiness would help there.  So where does Blizzard want rogues to play better?  Arena or BG?

Q. Lots of rogues are fans of the “Combat-Daggers” setup. Do we feel this is a viable option in PvE versus other traditional setups?

A: Not really. It was always a very simplistic spec that only used one finisher and limped along with no combo point income. The “rotation” for this spec, if you can call it that, was Backstab x 5, Slice and Dice, repeat. In sexy Naxx gear with a cool energy-boost set bonus it became Backstab x 5, Slice and Dice, Backstab x 3, Rupture, repeat. It was clunky to play, had massive ramp time (say 30 seconds) and positioning issues, and you couldn’t ever use your combo points or energy on anything but damage or it all fell apart. It might have been effective, but we didn’t think it was very fun and we don’t really want to promote it.

This made me sad.  I still prefer my daggers, and Blizzard is basically saying that I have to throw an entire talent tree out if I want my daggers.

Its odd that they lay out an attack rotation and say that its clunky, when that is almost the same rotation I use with Combat Swords, although with SS instead of BS and without the positioning issues.  Does that mean that the entire Combat tree is clunky?  (answer: yes)

I’d have preferred to hear that they could change CQC to make daggers more attractive, or make BS require less energy, or put a talent in that gives BS a chance to give an extra combat point, rather than just say that combat daggers isn’t viable.

Q. Rogues have definitely embraced the lore behind them, including the Ravenholdt quest-line. Do we plan on expanding into this anytime soon? Players feel this specific lore really defined rogues early on in the game and would like a continuation of that.

A: The problem with class-specific quests is that you’re cutting off 90% (give or take depending on class popularity) of players from seeing the content. Put another way, you can offer 100 class-specific quests per class, or 1000 quests that almost everyone can see. We don’t have any announcements of new content in that quest line at this time.

Boo!  We want Ravenholdt!  Almost every fantasy world has a Thieves Guild or a secret society of assassins or something like that.  Ravenholdt teases us with it, then doesn’t follow through.

Since the only way to get rep with Ravenholdt is with pickpocketed lockboxes, its a faction that is almost exclusive to rogues.  We don’t need a massive rogue-only questline.  Just put in one or two rep rewards for reaching Revered or Exalted with them.  Give us a cool Society of Assassins tabard or a unique dagger that wouldn’t be a raid weapon, but would just be for show when walking around town.  Give us a lore-based reason to get Ravenhold rep, and we’ll do it.

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Overall, not much there.  That’s because we’re good, and everyone knows that we’re good.  If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it (except Vanish!).




Armory

Dinaer - 90 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 90 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 90 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 90 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 90 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
August 2009
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