Friday, March 19, 2010

Combo points and why they don't work well

First of all I must admit I actually rarely play combo point using classes. My druid is mostly resto and sometimes feral tank, and I've never given a rogue a good shot (although I am trying it again). Whenever I do come across having to use CP's however, I stop from time to time to reflect over the usage of CP, and if I really like them or not. Like mentioned I've just started playing a little rogue (again, I have a higher leveled one which currently just serves as my bank alt, poor chap), and yet again I had to take a moment to think about CP's, what Blizzard wants us to do with them and if it works as intended.

Just as with Mao China, Blizzard will say something is perfectly fine and working just as they want it until the very second they officially change their mind. I really don't blame them though, promising ponies has turned out to be a dangerous business. Any hint of anything can easily burst into nerdrage on the forums. They give the little finger, community grabs the arm. I don't actually know what Blizzard thinks of CP's, but I haven't heard much about it which indicates that they, at least officially, don't think it's much of a problem. Well, I think there is a problem, and here is why;

The original idea about CP's is that you're rewarded with the possibility to do some special attacks after using your regular ones. The more ellaborate your attack is, the more CP's you're awarded, Ambush gives 2 CP for instance since it requires using daggers, stealth and being behind your target, whereas Sinister Strike only awards 1 CP because it doesn't require anything. Furthermore there are alot of talents that help you in adding more CP's to the target, and I'll get back to those a little further down.

I actually do like the general idea of this system. By using your regular playstyle you're awarded the possibility to use some special, extra good attacks, hence the term "finishing move" I would guess. But honestly, is this really how it works today? In fact, these special attacks have turned into the necessary regular attacks. The finishing moves aren't really finishing moves anymore. What consequences does this have to the rogue/feral cat playstyle?

My main issue with this system is that it places CP's on your target. Not on yourself. What other skills works like this? Well any kind of debuff really. Bleeds, dots and everything like it. Most classes have some sort of debuff needed on their current target to max their dps. And I don't have an issue with that at all. Knowing how to use your debuffs in a proper way is part of being a good dpser. But if we look at CP's again we see that rogues and feral cats actually have to stack debuffs (CP's) to be able to stack debuffs! If we look at it from another class perspective, what if the hunter had to place 3 serpent stings before he could use Steady Shot? What if the priest had to place 4 renews to use Flash Heal? What if the mage had to place those Arcane Debuffs on his target to be able to cast Arcane Missiles on it? No other class' skills work in this way. When we do find it, as in Swiftmend and Conflagrate we see skills that are especially good, since they need one (!) debuff/hot on the target to be used. They have this debuff/buff limitation or prerequisite since they are too good to be able to use at any given moment. Imagine having half of your regular skills depending on this prerequisite? Laughable, no?

Yes, a arcane mage does have to stack debuffs to be able to use their missiles to the max, but not on the target, but on themselves. That means they can switch target whenever necessary. Having stacked debuffs on a target that dies won't have been completely wasted. And most other classes only have to stack one debuff to be able to do really good damage, and extremely rarely more than three. Any rogue/feral cat druid will have to stack at least three debuffs on any one target to be able to do some real damage to it. This is the reason rogues/cats always beg to be kept on one target, they hate target switching like cotton hates fire.

I have never raided as a cat/rogue, it might be that the current CP system works better in that kind of setting. But when leveling, and doing lowbie instances, you rarely get more than 2 CP's to any one target, which is way too little to do anything good (except use Slice and Dice perhaps). This means half my arsenal is basically useless. I have to do 5 Sinister Strikes to place a dot on the target, that takes a lock 1 gcd to do. Not many mobs, not even bosses, live through 5 Sinister Strikes, and definitely not through the entire Rupture afterwards.

You can easily tell when there's an issue with a class mechanic, if you find talents that try to "patch" things up. Prot warriors for instance have alot of talents that reduce the cost of their abilities, simply because Blizzard still haven't really figured out how to make rage work in a good way. The talents have to step in and work as a supporting leg until they solve it. I believe this is the reason there are so many talents that give rogues more CP's (druids don't have this, just as with the rage issue). Talents like Honor among Thieves wouldn't be necessary unless Blizzard agreed that rogues don't get CP's fast enough already to use them in a proper way.

Ok enough ranting, there is a problem with CP's, no doubt about it. But what to do about it?
One simple solution would be to have the CP's collect on the player, instead of on the target. Yes this would change alot of the cat/rogue playstyle, but definitely for the better. Question is, would this make them too good? Well if you want CP's to be the allround tool of a class, which is how they work today, you must make them more readily available and accessisable than they are today.

The second option would to make the "special attacks" or "finishing moves" better. As it is now, they're not worth using unless you have more than three CP's up (exception with Slice & Dice as mentioned) and you rarely get so many off before the mob is dead. And again, I don't know how this works in raids, but am talking from a general (my) perspective. Make it so these finishing moves really feel like something special, like all that time spent stacking those CP's actually feel worthwhile. Don't have them belong to the general skill arsenal, but to the "ace up my sleeve"-arsenal, sorta like Conflagrate and Swiftmend work today. They're not a cooldown like Nature's Swiftness, Recklessness, Mirror Image or whatnot, but a special set of attacks which have some prerequisite and reward you by being a little extra awesome.

Yes, rogues and cats do damage while applying CP's, but that is the fact for any dpser. Warriors gain rage and do damage by hitting their targets and casters do damage when applying their debuffs. If they want us to use Cp's they have to decide in what fashion, and make them work that way.

As it is now, CP's dwell in the limbo area between these two possibilities. I think this is because Blizzard had planned them to work like in the second option, but they ended up working like in the first option, and they just haven't figured out which path they really want rogues/cats to follow.

This will be my last post for some days since I am off on a little trip to visit my grandpa. I'll be back around wednesday next week!

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