Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Downranking and you: get over it


I know that Grimm promised no WotLK talk, but you may have noticed that I made no such promises (But I do promise not to make a habit of it. I have a life.) . I'm not really into the whole beta discussion thing, but one thing that has caught my eye is the massive QQing over the elimination of downranking for spells.


For those not aware of it, here's how it works: as a caster, you are given a certain number of spells to use. Some of these have multiple levels of usage, each granted at higher level than before, and more powerful than its lesser siblings. For example, you start in the teens with a spell to drain soul shards that just happens to also afflict damage. Later, you get the same spell, only now it generates more damage - but the soul shard is the same either way.

Since the amount of damage isn't really that big in either case, all we care about is the soul shard. And that will be the same no matter what level of the spell you use. So, given that any other effects are not important, how much mana would you prefer to spend in order to drain a soul? (These numbers are complete fabrications. See your tooltips for real numbers.)
  1. 10
  2. 50
  3. 100
  4. 200
  5. 400

The choice is obvious - 10 beats 400 any day.

That is, in effect, what downranking is all about. Spending less mana to achieve similar results.

Enter teh Blizzard

For the next expansion, Blizzard is, well, not removing downranking, but it is removing most advantages that it presents.

Instead of a fixed amount of mana, a spell will cost a percentage of your base mana (not adjusted mana). Essentially, each spell rank is set up so no matter which rank you use, you will always use the same amount of mana. The base percent may be 5%, so if you have a mana pool of 100, you spend 5 mana, for 1000, 50 mana, and so forth.

So goodbye, downranking.

Why it is a bad thing.

There are - very - limited reasons to expect downranking to be legitimate. A mage might wish to use a smaller frost bolt, for example, to carry out a small task. It makes sense that any caster should be allowed to apply a throttle, and that the logical extension of this is that throttled spells would cost less to cast. Within the logic of any role playing game, this is sensible, in much the same way as using a smaller laser in a sci-fi movie would drain the power cells more slowly.

Why it is a good thing

Downranking was not used in such a way as to make sense in the fantasy world. It was used for purely technical and exploitative reasons. People didn't downrank frost bolt to appear more realistic, they downranked it so they could killsteal without working for it, and so forth.

So now, rank 1 frost bolt costs the same as rank 7, but still (maybe?) casts faster than rank 7 (No, I honestly don't know if Frost Bolt Rank 1 casts faster than Rank 7. I don't care. This is a tool to illustrate the concept, not the user's manual.) . Now you get to make a choice: is the killsteal worth the expenditure of assets? It's still a lowlife thing to do, but at least now it's a lowlife thing to do that has an actual cost to it.

With very few exceptions, downranking has been a way to game the system. It goes counter to the spirit of the game, in my opinion. Sure, I'll miss making a soul shard for almost nothing. But overall I think it is a positive thing.

The Big Picture

As with the attempted nerf to Life Tap that caused all the crybabies to come out of the woodwork (We actually had someone leave the guild because the sympathy wasn't flowing over that issue. True story.) (OK, because I was making fun of the QQ. Almost the same thing.), this change to the game system is simply a puzzle to be sussed out (Had the Life Tap changes remained, it would have forced an adjustment, but that's all. Good players adjust. That's why they're good players.) .

Before, certain options were available for working the system. Now they are gone; you have the choice to be pwned on the damage meters and in PvP, or you can raise your head, wipe off those make-up smears off your cheeks, and start developing a new strategy. Adapt and overcome.

A lot of stuff is changing in-game. You're going to have to come up with a strategy to deal with pet Devilsaurs and Rhinos in PvP, too. I'm amazed that clothies worldwide haven't turned on the QQ pumps over that.