26

Why I Prefer Simpler Character Gameplay

I was playing around in WoW tonight trying out different specs for my Warlock. I came to the conclusion once again (which has happened numerous times over the years) that I really do prefer simpler character gameplay.

When I first picked up the Warlock, I chose that class because it seemed fairly straight forward. Compared to many of the classes available, it is straight forward. Compared to a lot of other MMORPGs, it’s like trying to play Dance Dance Revolution.

Don’t get me wrong here. I like having things to do. I don’t want combat to be boring. I liked the old days where you cast one or two spells over and over, but sure I want more. But today things are just insane.

I was trying to play around with other specs tonight and I realized I had to watch videos just to figure out how to get close to doing decent dps or “playing my class” the right way. And sure, I could just go play that myself and figure out how things work, but there’s a science to this key-mashing DDR.

Messing up even a tiny portion of your “rotation” can lead to a 20%, 30%, or even greater drop in DPS. You have to be seriously ‘on’ all the time with when’s the best time to use any number of your abilities. Some classes are dancing around 12 hotkeys or more.

UI Mods exist solely to help you manage your rotation. Weak Auras and several others are even so complex that people write massive chains of code to execute some scripts to help you manage when to use abilities.

To me, that crosses a line.

Call me old fashion, but I like looking around and experiencing the battle. I like to see the enemy fighting, watch his animations, look at my team mates, enjoy the spell effects, etc. Today, forget about it. Unless you’ve built up pristine muscle memory you’re stuck glues to your hotkeys and trying to remember the rotation. If you don’t have the weak auras pinging you when you have the right set of circumstances to use an ability, you’re probably dropping 20% in dps just from trying to figure that all out.

I like more time between using abilities too. I like to think about what abilities I should use next given the situation and circumstances of the fight. If an enemy uses an ability or someone on my team does something, I like to think a little in between.

Pros might flame that way of thinking with their “git gud” mentality and press the “learn to play and get on our level” mantra, but meh. I don’t think a character has to be so complex and their ability use so min-maxed that they separate the wheat from the chaff based on execution perfection.

  • Drathmar says:

    I personally find I enjoy it more when it’s faster paced. I love playing my demon hunter and my enhancement shaman, both of which are some of the fastest paced DPS classes there are.

    But I also use to play SC and SC II, which are so much faster paced anything slower than those seem boringly slow to me, even as I age and slow down. Enhancement shaman averages around 60 APM (actions per minutes) so about 1 every second. It’s the 5th fastest.

    As for the complexity of the rotation and not the speed, I agree they are getting way to complex. I remember it use to be you could generally figure out DPS on your own. But now, its so complicated for some classes it gets insane. Luckily, while it is fast, my shaman does have a simple rotation compared to some, which just revolved around keeping up your buffs, most of the time your DPS CD’s are used on CD and not saved, and just using stormbringer as much as possible.

    I also have a frost mage as my second most played, slightly slower, but I feel like the rotation is a lot more complex as you have to manage multiple different procs, know which ones take priority, etc. To play it correctly you don’t just have to use procs as they happen you have to know what order to use procs in, what CD’s you don’t use while you have procs up, etc. For example, you want to clear icy fingers procs before using brain freeze procs because the flurry from brain freeze gives the same effect as icy fingers even though it doesn’t give you a proc, plus you want to make sure you cast the flurry right after casting ebonbolt if up or frostbolt if not so that it benefits as well and have to make sure you aren’t to close so that it doesn’t hit before the flurry, and you end up having this convaluted priority system where you have to flurry after a frost bolt and immediately cast ice lance (possibly 2 if you have enough haste like when time warp is up) so it benefits as well, but don’t want to do it if you have finger of frost procs up.

    I tried a warlock recently as well, and they honestly seem too slow to me but the rotation (at least for affliction) seems fairly simple.

    • Yotor says:

      Just realized I’m most likely playing my mage completely wrong. /sigh

      • Drathmar says:

        Unless you are in a top-end raiding guild, it probably doesn’t matter at all. I personally follow rotations and learn them because weirdly enough I enjoy the challenge.

        I am the guy that will spend like 2 hours just hitting away at a target dummy to get a rotation/priority down because to me that is enjoyable.

        if it’s not for you or you don’t play a class optimally there, as long as you can do what you want to do there is nothing wrong with that.

    • Keen says:

      I was horrible at SC2 multiplayer when it became about APM. I’m a thinker. I don’t need to pause or anything, but I’m definitely not one of those mad spaztic clickers who gets those insane APM’s.

      I like “involved” gameplay. Maybe that’s a good word to use. It can be “involved” but I don’t like when it’s super fast or complicated.

  • Jeromai says:

    Intellectually, I understand why such complexity is designed into a game, to keep the hardcore challenge seekers engaged and to provide an aspirational goal for folks who enjoy optimizing and incremental improvement in their games.

    On a personal level, I find more and more these days that I’m not motivated enough to invest the immense amount of time and practice required to specialize in a narrow niche of a single game.

    It’s a generalist vs specialist conflict – hrm, should I spend the time memorizing all 115 Dota 2 heroes or every last nuance of every spec’s raid rotation in whatever MMO one is playing, or should I spend that time playing another game at a more shallow level or reading a book or doing something else IRL instead?

    I think it boils down to your overall objective. Aiming to top some eSports ladder or leaderboard or join an elitist organization at the top of their niche field? Better crank out those index cards and do game homework then. Want to relax with a game or flit around games like a bee flying after honey? Then learn enough to satisfactorily fulfill one’s goals and don’t bother climbing further.

    I only wish that those obsessed with climbing to the peak of every last mountain could stop pushing the thin air up there like a drug to everyone. Maybe we like it at base camp, or find the view from here just as good, but no, in their book, everyone needs to be striving to the top or they’re a slacker to be scorned.

    • Bhagpuss says:

      I agree with Keen’s take on this but I agree with Jeromai’s analysis even more. I hear about this “rotation” stuff but in twenty years of MMOs I’ve never had a “rotation” or needed one. I’m a clicker by preference and I decide between each click of the mouse what i’m going to click and why I’m going to click it. Yes, if you play the same character often enough some muscle memory kicks in and the thought process elides to something that feels like intuition or instinct, but it’s still not a “rotation”.

      I like reactive play and predictive play. I don’t like and won’t do dance routines. I don’t parse my dps. In fact I usually have all damage numbers toggled off. I literally have no idea how much damage I’m doing. The mob dies or I do – what else do I need to know? It’s not like I’m getting a bon us for killing it faster or more efficiently. just so it’s dead is all that matters.

      In group play, if I end up grouped with people who do care about that stuff I ignore them. If that annoys them I leave and find other people who don’t care. There are usually enough around to get stuff done and the company is better. As Jeromai says, the real and only problem comes when developers listen to the loud minority and tune general content for them, but I have a good solution to that too – I don’t do that content and if that content becomes the norm I don’t play that MMO.

      • Keen says:

        I think that’s perhaps the issue I have. It’s becoming harder to ignore. In WoW, I feel like I suck if I don’t play the rotation well. That’s partially a personal issue, which I realize is tied to my personality, but it’s also a gameplay issue since the classes are designed to perform when played to a min/max way.

    • Keen says:

      Nicely said. I agree.

      • Rougex says:

        Yes, I say “Amen” to Keen’s original post, and Jeromai’s analysis. I loved playing my Warlock on release, and for many years thereafter, but the last time I tried WoW about a year ago, I found the combos and cooldowns on virtually everything to be … not fun.

  • Proximo says:

    See Keen, you’re already well on your way to min/maxing and imminent burnout.
    You may have gone it with the approach that you should kick back and try to enjoy the game, but already, just a week or two in, you are worrying about maxing your DPS.
    While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to do your best you should consider that just by looking at your spells and figuring out a rotation on your own you’ll most likely do better than 90% of the players out there.
    I have no addons to tell me timings, I have not looked up my rotation online, but still I have outDPS’ed most people in dungeon groups I have run so far by a margin (until I hit 110 and got grouped with people who massively outgear me), simply by thinking through my rotation and priorities.
    Granted I play a Enh Shaman and a Demon Hunter, so as mentioned by Drathmar my rotation/priority list probably isn’t very complex, but the APM is high.

    I’m also very far away from end game, I have more or less not played since WotlK and have so much content to indulge in I’m like a kid in a candy store 😀

    TL:DR: Try to relax, do your best but don’t feel the pressure to min/max, enjoy the game, you’ll most likely outdo most other players just by turning your brain on while playing 😛

    • Proximo says:

      Oh and don’t get me wrong, I agree that some of the class rotations/priorities are insane if you want to min max, but I guess there has to be some incentive for the most die hard players to perform well.

    • Keen says:

      Nah I’m not burning out. I’m actually pleasantly surprised I was able to do and see all the content! 😀 Thankfully it’s not burn out, but rather “run out” of things to do (if I don’t alt it up).

      I think I suffer from caring too much. No matter how hard I try, I can’t be like Bhagpuss (commenter above) who can literally flip a switch and not care about performance but just sits back and has fun doing his own thing. I have this paralyzing fear of performance. “I’m one of 3 dps in this group, and they’re relying on me to play my class well!” So I research how to play my class well, and I struggle when I try to succeed. In essence, I’m NOT good.

      It really does just boil down to rotations, priorities, and min/maxing being just a bit too much. There were good and bad players in vanilla when it was literally “fireball. fireball. fireball.” Then again, communication and other skills meant something too back then.

      I guess the homogenization of gameplay has brought about character gameplay complexity.

      • Jeromai says:

        If you don’t mind, I’d like to follow up on this further because the topic (of learning/mastery seeking) interests me a great deal and I’ve been observing a lot of behavior variation in my current static raid over the past two years:

        Why is it that you care so much? What is the worst consequence of not performing well in that group?

        Is it an extrinsic fear driving you, or something intrinsic that says you gotta be the best? Is third best OK, or you must top the DPS meter?

        And if your answers really do boil down to “I must learn this” in order to further my goals in the game, then accept struggle as the cost of trying to get better.

        No one starts out a savant at anything, it takes a great deal of practice to reach “acceptable”, even more to reach “passably decent and dare I say maybe good”, still even more time to reach “yep, pretty good” and colossal amounts of time before hitting 90th, 95th, 99th percentile. I’m always fascinated by where different people choose to stop (or not stop, as the case may be) on this ladder of striving.

      • Gankatron says:

        For me it was an increasing level of getting stressed and pissed off when people would judge me for playing the way I wanted and not the way they felt I should, especially if you weren’t a cookbook description of the role by gear, spec, or play style.

        Raiding took the joy out of playing for me as people seemed more focused on maximizing their chance to get gear as fast as possible.

        Maybe there would be less stress if one was playing with actual friends, but having some socially inappropriate kid yelling at me because I wasn’t doing the rotation they thought I should wasn’t conducive to having fun or learning, …even if they might have been correct 😉

      • Keen says:

        Q. Why is it that you care so much?
        I want to do a good job, perform well, and not let anyone down. I want to feel like I’ve succeeded at something rather than fall short. I have always had this weird complex/personality issue where I feel worthless if my performance is poor. I strive for excellence, and I beat myself up when I don’t achieve it.

        Q. Is third best OK, or you must top the DPS meter?
        I’m perfectly acceptable being last, as long as it’s not last by a massive margin. If the difference between first and last is so insignificant, then cool. Someone has to be last. If I’m last because it’s clear I’m doing something wrong, then I get embarrassed and frustrated with myself. Basically, that margin can’t be significant otherwise I feel like I need to do better.

        Re: “The struggle to get better”
        I don’t know why, but I struggle really, really hard with some playstyles. I feel like I do EVERYTHING right, but can’t get better. For example, I was playing a Balance Druid when Legion first came out, and I practiced that rotation sooooooo much. I knew it. I couldn’t know the rotation any better. Yet, alas, I sucked. I also played a Hunter. Alas, same issue. I then played a Tank and I did just fine.

        I know that practice makes perfect, but I don’t think I enjoy the seemingly miniscule “use that ability at the exact precise moment and set up a perfect storm of subsequent ability uses” type of practice.

  • brian586 says:

    Have you tried Elder Scrolls Online?

    You might find the game play more interesting as it is simpler, yet there are many more unique avenues to explore (no one or two “correct” builds per class as in WoW).

    It is also more twitchy. You can dodge, block and interrupt enemies based on observation (without use of a spell).

    And dare I say the lore is as deep if not deeper than WoW lore.

    • Keen says:

      I got to level 40’ish in ESO.

      There’s merit to what you say. It’s different, twitchy, etc. Something about the game just doesn’t resonate with me. It’s just ‘okay’ to me.

  • Moongy says:

    I feel the other way, combat complexity in WoW is almost the lowest it has ever been. Look back to WotLK’s feral cat spec or stance dancing warriors, stuff like that is gone. More than that, we have literal 3 button specs like Frost DK and BM Hunter. I think the biggest problem you may experience is figuring out rotation, because there isn’t set rotation anymore with procs taking the lead and haste scaling messing timing. Just look up priorities on sites like Icy Veins and you’ll realise how easy it is to play almost any class.

    • Proximo says:

      While there are class/spec combinations that are easy to play, you can’t honestly mean that something like this is ezmode?

      1. Ability Priority List for Subtlety Rogue

      1.1. Single Target

      Maintain Nightblade Icon Nightblade.
      Activate Shadow Blades Icon Shadow Blades if available.
      Enter Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance if you have 2 charges, or there is less than 20 seconds remaining before you get your second charge (3 charges and 30 seconds for Enveloping Shadows Icon Enveloping Shadows).
      Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance should be activated as close to Energy cap as possible (80 with Master of Shadows Icon Master of Shadows).
      Use Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike as long you are Stealthed and have less than 5 combo points (7 with Anticipation Icon Anticipation).
      Activate the Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death buff in combination with at least 1 Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance charge and Death from Above Icon Death from Above when you are below 60 Energy.
      Activate Vanish Icon Vanish and then Shadowstrike Icon Shadowstrike when available if you are at or below 3 Combo Points.
      Cast Goremaw’s Bite Icon Goremaw’s Bite if you are not in Stealth Icon Stealth or Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance, at or below 3 Combo Points, and have less than 50 Energy.
      Cast Death from Above Icon Death from Above at 5+ Combo Points. Always combine with Shadow Dance Icon Shadow Dance and Symbols of Death Icon Symbols of Death.
      Cast Eviscerate Icon Eviscerate to spend Combo Points with 5+.
      Cast Backstab Icon Backstab to generate Combo Points (from behind the target whenever possible).

      • Moongy says:

        You probably don’t realize that:
        1) There are only 10 abilities you use: Nightblade, Shadow Blades, Shadow Dance, Shadowstrike, Symbols of Death, Vanish, Goremaw’s Bite, Death from Above, Eviscerate, Backstab
        2) Most of those either have long CD (Shadow Blades – 3 min, Shadow Dance – 1 min, Symbols of Death – 30s, Vanish – 2 mins, Goremaw’s Bite – 1 min) or are finishers (Nightblade, Death from Above, Eviscerate), leaving you with 2 builders as a filler: Shadowstrike from Stealth and Backstab otherwise

        Look up EQ2, SWTOR or FFXIV rotations if you really think that it’s hard.

  • Jelao says:

    already done with nasomi?

    • Keen says:

      Haven’t even begun. Literally. Last I played was when I spent the 1.5 hours setting up my UI and controls. Friend who plays with me was away over the weekend.

  • Gankatron says:

    I get what you are saying.

    Although I love complex micromanagement games, the thing I came to dislike with WoW were the mods, which made it feel like I was instead playing the mods, sequentially tapping buttons as instructed like in your DDR analogy, as opposed to relying on my own intrinsic management skills, even if imperfect.

    I suppose it is natural that when games increase in complexity in order to provide a better challenge that gamers in turn design secondary systems to make them less complex/more manageable, even if it undermines the devs intentions.

    Of course one didn’t have to run mods, but if not, they were no longer playing on a level playing field in PvP, and in raiding who likes to be criticized as a noob if you aren’t doing so.

    Raiding in general felt like the worst type of forced communal interaction, focused self-interest under a time constraint enhanced with pressure to not fail the group (at least if playing with strangers), and the expectation of secondary computer-enhanced perfection made it feel more like a chore than an accomplishment.

    My favorite times in WoW were playing PUG vanilla battlegrounds where people were running around summoning NPC’s over the course of hours, primarily for the fun of it, as opposed to woot.

    The love of loot is the root of all WoW evil, but I digress.

  • diltz says:

    did you play wow during burning crusade? personally i think that was the best time for combat in wow. you had a TON of buttons to press, but a lot of them were very situational. you had your core 3-4 spells that dealt your main damage (your “rotation”), and then a bunch of sidebar abilities that were used preemptively or in a reactionary fashion based on the situation. the GCD was also 1.5 seconds so the combat wasn’t so button mashy… i much prefer having a ton of unique skills that fit certain situations and a relatively simple “rotation”… rather than what we have now which is far fewer spells, but much more complexity in the basic rotation and fewer situational abilities (and fewer abilities overall)… now it seems like every fight is exactly the same button mash frenzy, i miss where you had to approach different fights in different ways and understanding the situation mattered more than timing your cooldowns perfectly or hitting your procs exactly right.

    • Keen says:

      Alas, Burning Crusade was the one expansion I skipped entirely. I had burned out from being one of those obnoxious “world first” raiders throughout all of vanilla. I’m becoming more and more aware that I was good at games when they were much simpler, and the competition was much worse at them. 😉

      • diltz says:

        another important part that is missing from WoW today are things like crowd control, the art of pulling, mana conservation, threat management, etc:… all these things added depth to the WoW of yesteryear but they no longer exist now… there’s such a huge market that would love a game that brought back these things… especially older gamers like you and me that just don’t have the dexterity anymore… we like complexity, just not when that complexity is in the form of mashing the same buttons over and over and trying to line up procs and cooldowns perfectly… just wish a company would realize this and make a game that fits us aging MMO players.

  • >