Sunday, April 23, 2017

[Alliance:HotS] Theorycrafting Critical DoTs

I've been playing a lot of Alliance: Heroes of the Spire the past couple of months. It's a nifty Summoners War clone made by a North American company, which has been pretty cool because we get to talk to the devs relatively often--as a dev myself, I'm pretty appreciative of that access.

So, you summon heroes, level them up, gear them up with up to 6 pieces of gear, and let them loose on other teams and dungeons. The thing about gear is you can wear x number of a type of gear to get a benefit. For example, Bone gear will increase your hero's Health by an extra 20% for every 2 pieces of Bone gear you have on. Some more powerful sets require 4 pieces, making them mutually exclusive with other 4 piece sets--such as Swiftsteel (25% chance of performing an extra ability 1 attack every time you attack), or Titanguard (Transfer 30% of damage done to your party to you, reduce incoming damage by 15%).

My Sunslash's Gear Screen, wear 4-Piece Witchstone and 2-Piece Sharpthorn
However, one of the more interesting mechanics I've found in the game is that using a specific item set--Witchstone--your buffs/debuffs can critical strike, making them either 40% ~ 66%ish more powerful depending on the buff/debuff, or undispellable if it's not a numeric buff.

A prime example of this are Damage Over Time debuffs, aka DoTs. The regular DoT always does 5% of the target's max health in damage each round, but a critical DoT does 7% per round (an increase of 40% total damage). DoTs are great at shredding most PvE bosses, as they tend to be a big target with lots of Armor (damage reduction), and DoTs ignore Armor.

Razormane, Flameclaw, and Icefang are plentiful and, against the right targets, powerful.
As such, lots of people like to use Razormane or Flameclaw to take out bosses. The benefit of these cats is that they're quite common--they're available from the worst pull you can make, and even drop from some dungeons, and their main attack has a 30% chance to apply a DoT (and can apply a second DoT if they were stealthed when they attacked).

Where this becomes really interesting is Swiftsteel (25% chance of an extra attack) vs. Witchstone (If your DoT crits, it'll be 7% DoT). Are the extra attacks better than the critical DoT? Let's do some math.

Making this all slightly more complex is the fact that debuffs may not always land. The to-hit of a debuff is Base Chance + (Aim - Enemy Block). Pretty close to everything has a base 15% to block (Bosses actually hit 25% at the highest floor you can fight them at).

So we have two possible stats for our DoT to scale from: Aim (Hit%), and Crit%. To make this easier, we'll ignore stealth for Flameclaw, and just assume spamming the first ability over and over.

Varying over Crit%

Let's assume we have a 100% chance to apply a DoT (125% Aim against a Floor 6 boss), and vary the critical strike percentage.

For Witchstone, we have an Crit%, aka x, chance to apply a 7% DoT, otherwise it's a 5% DoT:
For Swiftsteel, it never crits, so the amount of damage we can apply is based on the Swiftsteel proc rate:

Now, there's a small flaw in this math that I'm going to glaze over, which is that these expected health percentage damage values are an average over a lot of samples. In a single fight where you might get 5 - 10 turns, the variation is going to be much higher, so take this with a grain of salt. But over a lot of fights, we can work without dealing with that flaw.

In any case, since Witchstone's damage is varying over Crit%, but Swiftsteel doesn't, that suggests there should be a solid inflection point where Witchstone will generally outperform Swiftsteel for DoT damage:
So, assuming we'll always apply a DoT, Witchstone will usually outperform Swiftsteel once you reach 62.5% chance to critical strike your DoT.

Varying over Hit%

Let's assume we have a 100% chance to critical strike, and vary over Hit%, aka y. I'll ignore the Block/Aim/Base Chance portion, and work with the Hit% directly to make life a little easier.

For Witchstone, this is simply, since it always crits:

For Swiftsteel, this means we scaled both the regular attack and the 25% proc attack by Hit%:

Comparing the two, we actually find out that Witchstone simply scales faster than Swiftsteel with Hit%. The only value of y where an inflection point can exist is y = 0:

We'll see this fact crop up again when we try to vary over both Crit% and Hit%.

Varying over both Crit% and Hit%

Remember, x is Crit%, y is Hit%



Equating the two:
Almost immediately we notice we can divide the entire equation by y, removing the variable. Basically, Hit% is meaningless to how they scale relatively to each other. Which means that 62.5% Crit% is the magic number where the two become equivalent for a really basic scenario.

How Reality Completely Breaks My Model

Of course, Swiftsteel is more interesting than I've allowed for in my modeling. It can actually proc off any attack, meaning that if you use Prowl, you could end up making an extra attack, where the Witchstone build might not get anything except an undispellable Stealth buff. But on the other hand, if you're using Swiftsteel and it procs on a move that has no target, I believe it picks a target at random, so it might be a wash depending on who it targets (unless you only have one target).

This actually makes Swiftsteel significantly more valuable than that 62.5% Crit% inflection point would have you believe, as a fully skilled up cat on auto-battle will only use it's A1 ability every other round based on cooldown rotation, which if you squint kinda makes it like a 50%ish proc rate instead of 25% proc rate--if we count each A1 usage as a double chance to proc instead, which is a small fallacy but close enough for demonstrable purposes--which would actually make the inflection point 130% Crit%, which is absurd as anything above 100% is wasted (also, good luck hitting that much Crit%). It also doesn't take into account the extra initial damage that each Swiftsteel attack would grant as well, though in the case of the cats, it's usually small enough to be negligible.

But Witchstone has other benefits. For example, Sunslash, the Order cat, has an A3 that Marks all targets for 3 rounds, increasing the amount of damage anybody does to that target by 30%; 50% on a critical strike if you have Witchstone, which means a significant chunk of extra damage overall to potentially the entire enemy party, which makes Witchstone a better bet for Sunslash for overall DPS (assuming you can stick those debuffs). He'll likely have fewer DoTs, but critical DoTs will help make up that difference a little.

However, the 62.5% Crit% inflection is something to remember if we run into other DoT classes. Enough Crit%, and Witchstone will outstrip Swiftsteel's performance. But at the end of the day, it also comes down to what other abilities your hero is rocking, and what you need that hero for.

But if you're just using Flameclaw/Razormane for Boss Shredding DoT application, Swiftsteel is the way to go. #Theorycraft, #AllianceHotS

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

[WoW] Invading on a Schedule

7.2 (re)introduced the concept of Legion Invasions, and all-in-all the one that I did was enjoyable enough. A smattering of world quests in phased zones that gives the impression the Legion is legit invading was pretty cool, and the wrap-up scenario felt somewhat like the scenarios back in Mists of Pandaria, which is a huge plus for me.

However, said Legion Invasions appear once per day, at a pseudo-random time during the day, and only persist for 6 hours. Which for those of us who have a job and who need to sleep is a bit vexing. Ironically, I am too busy making video games to play them much these days. I get to play WoW about two times a week, and half of that is running a raid, so hoping that a Legion invasion is up on the day that I get to play and not raid is frustrating.

You will not be fighting the Legion today.

Which leads me to the question of scheduled gaming versus random limited-time events. Ostensibly, to make the world feel like a world, things should happen with or without your intervention. MMOs have been doing this to a basic degree since close to the dawn of time with rare spawns, holiday events, and launch events. Time-limited things that you have to be in the right place at the right time to experience.

World of Warcraft over the past few expansions hasn't really gone beyond the above-mentioned "scheduling", allowing players to largely set their own schedules in game. You can raid when you want to, run dungeons when you want to, run dailies when you want to, and so on. Sure, there's weekly or daily lockouts on a lot of content, but Blizzard doesn't dictate when during the day (or week) you must perform these activities.

Time-Limited Content

Last expansion, Blizzard introduced Timewalking dungeons. Unlike FFXIV's implementation, Blizzard originally only allowed you to do Timewalking over a single weekend for a given expansion. Folks complained--rightly so, too. Not everyone's "weekend" falls on Saturday/Sunday. Now Blizzard makes these events a whole week long, splitting the difference between gaming on Blizzard's schedule versus gaming on your own.

In 7.2, we have two major pieces of time-restricted content: Legion Invasions, and Broken Shore Buildings. The buildings are up for 3 days, then get blown to bits until the community rebuilds it (in the same place, no less, because we are not very bright defenders, apparently). 3 days is a bit short still for some schedules, but you're more likely to have at least a little while overlapping in that time period. Compare that to the 6 random contiguous hours every 24, which I've yet to ever have more than 1 overlap with my playtime in two weeks.

Now, the issue around invasions being "required" has largely been mitigated, thanks to the removal of that content from the requirements for flight. It's really just a matter of occasional optional content--extremely lucrative content, mind you--that you may hit or miss. Which isn't unlike many mobile games these days, except mobile games I can load up in less than 30 seconds, tap a few things, and deal with the limited-time content. WoW takes me over 5 minutes to load (including from Order Hall to Dalaran, assuming the game doesn't stall on the loading screen forcing me to restart the process all over again) before I can actually start doing anything, and I have to be at home, and on my computer. It takes significantly more effort for me to go after time-limited content in WoW than in a mobile game.

On the other hand, if they allowed the Legion invasions to stretch longer (say, 12 hours instead of 6), they'd probably need to make them less lucrative, as more people would be able to do them. Making them time-limited is a method of gating those resources for the vast majority of the population, and one that feels more natural than just saying, "You've already done this today, you are locked out."

Preferred Playstyle

I'll fully admit this is probably just me and my preferences, but when I play WoW, I expect largely to play on my schedule, and content that's billed as something you're expected to do semi-regularly but unavailable on my schedule rankles. It makes me feel like despite putting in the same time I was before the patch, I'm falling behind because my game time doesn't line up with rando-events. There's a fuzzy fidelity line somewhere in the "acceptable time limit to do this thing you're expected to do by the designers," that feels like it should be greater than 6 hours, but almost definitely okay in the 1 week time limit range.

But to be fair to me, WoW over the past 12.5 years has largely allowed us to play on our own schedules for the vast majority of content, so there is an expectation there built into the game that the WoW developers are intentionally breaking. We can't expect them to never try anything new--that would be far too stifling--but if they're going to break convention, they should ensure they're doing so for good reason. For me as a player, as far as I can see as an outsider, it doesn't feel like a good enough reason and made me annoyed (and again, that annoyance has been largely mitigated by the removal of the requirement to do that content).

I feel the buildings are in a strange place, because 3 days feels borderline too short, but at least I can say, "Oh, building is up, I can adjust my schedule to play an hour in 2 days", versus Legion Invasions which might be another 2 weeks before I can play another just because it doesn't line up with my play time. Versus other World Quests which are, as Ornyx put it, "largely interchangeable". Missing a couple World Quests is no big deal, because there's always like 30 more available at any given moment.

So overall, while I like the content well enough, I'm really not a fan of the current time gating on Legion Invasions. But I don't like it enough to go out of my way to drop other things in my life and screw up my IRL schedule to go do a Legion Invasion when it is up.
#WoW, #GameDesign