15
Jul
12

Ghostcrawler posts about rogues

There have been a couple of recent posts by Ghostcrawler on the official forums about rogues.  Here is the first, an overview of class design thoughts.

Rogue Class Design
Rogues are in a pretty good place in Cataclysm in both PvE and PvP. We don’t see a lot of huge glaring problems that need to be fixed. I realize there are several players out there asking for change just because they’re getting bored of the same class or at the very least wanting to spice it up, and that is a totally valid way to feel. But you also have to consider the risk we’d take for all of the rogues out there who are totally happy with the way their class is playing now, thank you very much.

As an example, we changed paladins in Cataclysm because we thought they needed a resource mechanic to make their gameplay more interesting. Overall we’re happy with the way that has played out, and it’s even better in Mists, but it’s also very easy to find “please remove Holy Power” posts regularly. While we disagree with those players, the fact remains that we made the class worse for them. 

To use a second example, we are changing warlocks pretty extensively for Mists because we thought they had several fundamental problems. Is every warlock going to like those changes? Of course not. Are there going to lots of players who beg us to revert the changes? Absolutely. 

(And this is all ignoring the risk that even changing a mechanic from an acknowledged bad design to a good design still risks frustrating or annoying many players just because they have to relearn something.)

We are trying to fix some of the annoying things rogues have had to deal with and we are trying to offer some options in talents and glyphs that can help spice up the gameplay for someone who has been loyally Sinister Striking for these eight years. But we also don’t want to fix what isn’t broken. We try really hard not to change classes for the sake of change. It’s hard. But we try. 

I’d go as far to say that most of the class team would probably agree (and I didn’t poll them, so I may be sticking my neck out) that the rogue is the best designed class. And much of that design was in place before virtually any of us started working on classes, so we can’t even really take credit for it. The rogue has the best resource system (energy), a strong kit, a good toolbox, and a clear role in PvP and PvE, yet it still has disadvantages to go along with the advantages and can’t just do everything flawlessly all the time. It’s a good design, again in our humble opinions, which is why you see so few changes to the class overall. But please don’t over-read that as my stating that we won’t fix bugs, add polish, balance numbers, undo bone-headed design flaws when the need arises, or yes, add a little bit of newness once in awhile just to keep things shiny.

and then Ghostcrawler’s response to player feedback

Rogue Class Design

What annoying things have we had to deal with that you’re fixing?
I’ll just use one example because in our opinion it’s the biggest. Layered ramping mechanics were the single biggest weakness rogues have in Cataclysm (and have had for some time). Some ramping is desirable, but too much can really hurt target switching, prohibit fast burst damage, etc. (Don’t take this to extremes — we don’t need posts from every class pointing out situations in which they can’t go from 0 to 60 when target switching and therefore arguing how they need to be redesigned.)

In Mists, we want combo points to be the ramping mechanic. Deadly Poison doesn’t need to be a ramping mechanic. Bandit’s Guile doesn’t need to be a ramping mechanic. We changed the way both of those work.

You may not have thought it was a problem, but we did, and we heard about it a lot from rogue players, so we fixed it. 

I sincerely want to know by what measure and according to what data you conclude rogues are “fine” in PvP right now.
What I meant was that we didn’t see any crippling design flaws in rogues that needed overhauling in Mists. Sub rogues probably are too good in Cataclysm PvP, or at least 3v3 Arenas, which many players use as synonymous with PvP. It’s hard to tell if Assassination and Combat are really weak, or if Sub is so strong that any sensible rogue just plays Sub. It’s also entirely possible that it isn’t even Sub that is too powerful but just Prep and Shadowstep. In any case, my comment was addressed towards the group of players that believe rogues have this giant list of issues that must be addressed, and at another (perhaps overlapping) group of players that just want us to change things up for the rogue because they’re getting bored. Sorry for any confusion.

The combo points issue is a symbolic one, though. This is something a large number of rogues have wanted for a very long time, and the issue gets consistently ignored. I often feel as if there’s no point in giving feedback at all when the devs can’t even see eye-to-eye with players on how our resources should work.
The feedback doesn’t get ignored. We just disagree, which we have to be allowed to do if we’re actually going to design the game rather than just letting players vote on how every mechanic should work. We like the way combo points work (meaning on the target). I also suspect you’re being a bit presumptuous assuming that all rogues want combo points on the rogue. Yes, rogues would be easier to play if you didn’t have to worry about which target your combo points were on. Do rogues need to be easier to play? If so, are combo points the right change? We could eliminate combo points and just give Eviscerate a cooldown. Would that be easier? Would it be more fun? I’m not trying to be dismissive — I think those questions are legitimately hard to answer. 

A lot of people say killing spree is poorly designed because it doesn’t work on those fights, but I firmly believe those situations are a failure of encounter design, not class design. Killing spree and backstab are fine; Blizz needs to learn to take them into account when they design bosses.
We do. But it is not our design intent that every spec can perform the exact same rotation on every fight. I’m certain that if we solved the backstab issue then the next complaint to come up (from some class) would be that every boss fight needs to have 3 targets, because multi-dotting works the best with 3 targets and their DPS will be lower when there is only one target. What do you think the DPS difference is among the 3 rogue specs on Ultraxion? (You can’t just look at posted logs to answer that question, because mostly what those logs tell you are that most rogues (and presumably many of the best ones) go Combat for that fight.) What is an acceptable difference? 5%? 1%? 0%?

Obviously I don’t have the numbers Blizzard does, but we do know that at least before the legendary daggers rogue was one of the least active classes. No matter if that remains true or not I think it says something when one of the, if not the best designed classes is also one of the least popular. It says that maybe it works great from a design standpoint, but how is that translating to the players? 
We look at those numbers of course, but it’s really hard to determine cause and effect there. Paladins are nearly always the most played class, but there are just as many paladin players demanding change as there are rogue players (actually, given the population sizes, probably more). So why are some classes more popular than others? It’s probably a mix of need, power, kit, flexibility, visuals and a host of other objective and subjective criteria. The hybrid vs. pure issue plays into that a little bit, but it’s not the whole answer by a long shot. I definitely don’t think it’s as simple as if we make a bunch of changes to rogue rotations, now more players will play rogues (consider for starters that we’d almost certainly lose some rogues as well). 

I agree that this is how the design should be, but this raises the question of whether or not our finishers are powerful enough to warrant this design decision. Compared to the power we lost by having the crit bonuses of our primary abilities taken away, they just don’t feel like they’re as strong as they should be right now. There are fewer combo points flowing in due to generating talents being taken away, so the gaps between finishers feel unrewarding because the finishers themselves feel unrewarding.
I think it’s safe to say that if we find we need to buff rogue damage for any of the specs that we’d look to finishers as a place to increase damage.

My big problem right now is that I feel very similar to feral druids and Windwalker monks, without the added benefit of being able to radically change my gameplay on a spec switch. I don’t need that radical change, I suppose, being a pure DPS. In PvP it’s not a problem as I feel very much like a rogue there, but it’s hard to translate into PvE and I end up feeling like a warrior in leather that attacks a bit faster.
I hope Windwalkers feel different. Cat druids were designed from the outset to play like rogues, the same way Bears were designed to play just like warriors. We’ve eroded that a bit over time, but the bones of it remain.

As far as the pure vs. hybrid thing goes, that is a really tricky problem to solve. We could turn all classes into hybrids of course, though I’m also not sure every player would rejoice at such a change. It has been very challenging to make pure specs play fundamentally differently. If the Mists warlocks work out well, then they may feel pretty different (of course they also run the risk I mentioned before of feeling like 3 separate classes and not like warlocks). Some players in this thread mentioned that mages play totally differently, but I think to be fair they feel more different than they really play because fire vs. frost vs. arcane is such a strong theme. It’s harder for “I’m an assassination” to have a completely different feel from “I’m a swasbuckler” or “I’m a sneaky guy.” We’ve had the same challenge with hunters. Presumably Marksman hunters are great at using ranged weapons. Okay, what does that mean for Survival? They use traps? Melee? Poison?

Also, a lot of our skills are kind of boring and could use just an aesthetic change. Edit: Oh, the actual question is: Is updating rogue animations and making them more unique especially across specs on the table?
I think that’s a totally fair criticism, especially of rogues and to a lesser extent warriors. Melee classes just have fewer opportunities for very showy visuals. We could add them anyway, but then the classes feel like they’re casting spells and aren’t doing melee attacks with weapons. That said, we have tried to give rogues a few great-looking visual effects in Mists. Longer term (meaning it’s unlikely for Mists) we’d like to do more with character animation so that all rogue attacks aren’t using the same one-handed stab motion (Mutilate at least has its own animation). Historically, player animations have taken us a very long time, and that time only gets worse as we add races. However, for Mists we have some new techniques that let the animators apply the animation from one model more easily to another. It still takes a great amount of time — just less than it did before. It is most easy to see the benefits of this advance in all of the new animations for the monk class. It’s too early to call that technique a success, but assuming it is, we could do the same thing for rogues and warriors and have a lot more variety in the attack animations. (Animation in this sense has a very specific jargony term, which is the movement of the model itself. All of the spell effects are a different system generally handled by a different team of artists.)

Then why did you make changes to rogue rotations? This is what people are complaining about. Go play Assassination on live and then go play it on beta at 85, then come back and tell us that Assassination is more fun without Puncturing Wounds and Ruthlessness.
Puncturing Wounds is just crit. We can add more crit if we need too (like we recently did for warriors), but it also risks making crit unattractive at high gear levels. “Why did those stupid designers put crit on rogue gear? Don’t they know we don’t value it?”

Puncturing Wounds (through Seal Fate) and Ruthlessness can deliver more CPs, but also contribute a lot to getting stuck at 4 CPs, which is something rogues have complained to us about, because it means you need to do a weak finisher or risk overflowing CPs on your next Mutilate. In Mists, Assassination does fewer finishers, but at the same time we introduced the Blindside proc to help the rotation from feeling too static. 

To use one of my soon to be patented bad analogies; I feel like every expansion is kind of like Winterveil (to not alienate anyone) and all the classes are opening their gifts to see what this expansion is going to bring them. Some are getting entire new mechanics, some are getting new flashy spells and skills, but rogues are getting Auntie Maven’s sweater for the 5th time. Sure it’s gonna keep you warm and get you by, but you kinda knew you were going to get it and it’s certainly not flashy or exciting. 
I honestly believe this is one of those grass is greener deals though. As someone who receives class feedback from both barrels (not that I’m complaining), nearly every class argues that they got a lump of coal and the other guy got something awesome. You’ll see a few players saying some new ability or talent is awesome, though they’ll do so quietly for fear that we think they are content. In fact, I would challenge you to name those classes and specs (not counting monk) that you think got a really good deal in Mists. They’ll be here in a second defending their argument that a new spell might appear flashy or sexy but it has Serious Issues or the Real Issues Have Not Been Addressed.

That probably sounds cynical, and I’m honestly not a cynical guy, but it’s also what we’ve come to expect.

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Armory

Dinaer - 100 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 92 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 91 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 100 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 100 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
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