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The Numbers Challenge on Game and Player

The Numbers Challenge

Heather Richtmyre  //  March 16, 2010

Cataclysm, character statistics, and barriers to entry.


lizzard's proposed changes for game mechanics in the upcoming Cataclysm expansion will simplify an overly complicated system, allowing players to focus more game time and energy on areas other than their precise gear setup, and may also allow for less expense in the areas of gems and enchants.

The variety of options for players when it comes to the various statistics listed on World of Warcraft's gear is, to say the least, confusing. While the core ones are Strength, Agility, Intellect, Spirit, and Stamina, numerous others are central to play: expertise, hit rating, critical strike rating, defense, parry, block rating, dodge, spellpower, spell penetration, armor penetration, resilience, mana per five seconds (Mp5), and haste. Certain effects even interact with others, such as the amount of critical strike rating given by agility.

On top of sheer variety of character stats, World of Warcraft provides limited information on the usefulness of most choices.And, on top of the sheer variety, WoW provides limited information on the usefulness of most, if not all of the different choices. Concepts such as the defense, hit, critical strike rating, and expertise caps — points before diminishing returns — go largely unexplained, and some even require spreadsheets for proper comprehension. Most understanding of such mechanics requires research on sites such as Elitist Jerks, which itself can be particularly inaccessible to new players.

One specific example of a statistics to be eliminated is defense rating. This is only a concern for tanking characters, and reduces their chance to be critically hit by an enemy. What numbers are required so that you cannot be critically hit require out-of-game research, and can be defined both in terms of defense skill, and defense rating, with rating converting to a specific quantity of skill that varies based on character level. Reaching the "defense cap," or the level where you cannot be critically hit, is one of the most important concerns for the tank who is just beginning to tank heroic instances and maximum-level raids.

While there are some concerns about this upcoming change, they mostly seem to center on the assumption that challenge should be implemented through the requirement of spreadsheets and other resources to maximize theoretical performance. However, ability to use a spreadsheet and perform research does not necessarily equate to having the situational awareness, response time, or capability for applying a complicated strategy that end-game instances can require. Would you rather crunch numbers or slay dragons?

Michael Ubaldi // March 16, 2010 // 11:11 AM

I occasionally boggle at how key gameplay concepts, such as party/raid role and the mechanics behind each, will be learned in-game only if taught by another player.

Blizzard offers neither a tutorial nor demonstration of tanking, healing, or damage-dealing. Want to learn what hit rating or critical chance are? Or finally understand exactly how a certain ability or spell works? Go to independent, player-run sites. Now, the oral tradition that makes a meta-game is impressive; but doesn't quite exempt the developers from explaining themselves.

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