This is part 2 in a series where I’m posting drafts of the dissertation chapter I’m currently working on. Much of this is wordy and stream-of-consciousness, but I figure putting it out there and soliciting feedback can only be a good thing.
The chapter is on how the introduction of a threat meter addon changed my raid group’s practice over time.
[Need an illustrative, hypothetical table here?]
Looking at Rogues in particular, since I know the game best from their point of view, having played a Rogue during my time with the raid group, I can say that we did not know exactly how much threat each of our abilities generated, but the Rogues did know that certain abilities generated much more threat than others. These were roughly correlated to the damage output of the various abilities. For example, we knew that our main attack, Sinister Strike (SS), generated a consistent, predictable amount of threat that was safe to use, whereas, Eviscerate generated much more threat since generally its damage output was much higher. Yet, the use of Eviscerate was balanced with the fact that we could not use it as often as SS.
<more after break>
Rogues operate on a mechanic of building up or chaining “main” attacks that enable the activation of what are known as “finishing” moves. Sinister Strike is one of these main attacks that can be activated in a sort of rhythmic fashion every three seconds or so [double-check timing of abilities], building up a “combo point” with each successful hit. Rogues can build up to five combo points with these main attacks. Eviscerate is a finishing move that spends or uses up the built-up combo points, and it does more damage with more combo points, giving Rogues an incentive to build up five combo points before using Eviscerate. Thus, Eviscerate is generally used less often than SS, in a more syncopated rhythm, but when it is does get activated, it does more damage.
If we were to graph the damage output of a Rogue using SS and Eviscerate over time, we’d see a baseline level of damage from SS and spikes in the graph every twenty seconds or so from Eviscerate. Since we’ve correlated damage output to threat generation, our threat graph follows a similar pattern with a baseline, consistent threat level that includes spikes in the threat generation activity every twenty seconds or so.
[Insert hypothetical graph here]
These spikes in threat generation were known as danger zones where we needed to be cautious and alert in case the mob aggroed on us. Well, we would have, except for the fact that it was general consensus that for certain fights, especially with boss mobs, we shouldn’t use Eviscerate at all. Instead we used Slice and Dice (SnD), a different finishing move that did not output damage in spike form. Rather, SnD made our non-activated attacks faster.
Every character has a default attack that doesn’t require any input from the player. The level of damage from this default or “white damage” (so called because it is displayed in white in the in-game combat logs) attack from Rogues is determined by the speed of how often a Rogue swings his or her weapons, which is determined by the speed factor or attribute of each weapon [are Rogue’s default speed faster? double-check this], multiplied by how much damage the particular weapons could do with each hit. The resulting number is known as the weapons’ damage per second or DPS, a term that has been, as has been mentioned above, co-opted as the name of the role Rogues and other damage dealing classes assume. So, the baseline in the graph above is actually a combination of the white damage plus the consistent damage from SS (a form of “yellow damage,” the color of damage coming from activated abilities in the combat logs).
Slice and Dice temporarily speeds up a Rogue’s default attack frequency, thereby raising the baseline damage by increasing white damage without adding spike yellow damage to the graph.
So, for many boss fights, the Rogues would generally stay away from using Eviscerate and instead use Slice and Dice because we did not want to have spikey damage graphs for fear of having spikey threat graphs, assuming that spikes in threat generation were more likely to pull aggro away from our tanks due to their less predictable nature.
But, again, all this was sort of kept in our heads, and, as a rule, using SnD was not strictly adhered to by all Rogue players. This is especially true while we were learning new boss fights. Often, in order to succeed, we had to push the limits and continuously ride on the edge of too much damage / threat. If we weren’t on the edge of our ability, like an Olympic skier, then we were under performing, which lead to a possible raid wipe if the raid healers were going to run out of mana trying to maintain our current practice. Yet, like all the Olympic skiers who wipe out, which happens quite frequently, we were always in danger of going over the edge or pushing too hard.
The first few times we encountered a new fight, raid wipes were expected. This was to allow for us to learn what mechanics were involved with the new monsters but also to allow for us to test the limits how much damage or threat we could generate. In danger of using a racing reference too heavily, it’s like we’re learning the course or track for the first time and need to adjust our speed if we discover that our first attempts were too fast or too slow.
This is not to say that failure was always welcome, though. Even though early wipes were seen as learning opportunities, it was frustrating to wipe over and over again in the same game session.
Anyway, all this leads up to our fight with the last boss in Molten Core, Ragnaros. When we first encountered him, it was generally agreed upon by the Rogues in the raid that we should stick with using Slice and Dice to maintain a consistent, predictable level of threat.
[quote from Roger here?]
But as we were learning the fight, something completely new changed raiding in World of Warcraft forever.