Tuesday, 27 August 2013

SWTOR: Just heal to full

By Melyn from the Bastion

So the new sorcerer representative went to the devs and got three answers to his questions. Yay! ...right?

Here's a quick recap:

1. Defensive Cooldowns (PvP/PvE)

"The biggest problem the sorcerer faces is one of survivability. Currently the sorcerer takes the most damage by a sizable margin, one that is noticeable in raids and PvP (our guess is around 20%). While we have some tools that assist in keeping us alive, they are insufficient and inferior when compared to other classes. (...) So with all this in mind, do you think that this very obvious disparity between sorcerers/sages and every other class’ defensive cooldowns are fair?"

"There may be a little room for improvement here, though comparing a Sorcerer to a Marauder or Sniper is not exactly a fair comparison. The fact is, Marauders and Snipers cannot heal themselves to full. Sure, you cannot deal damage while you are healing, but knowing when to heal or when to deal damage is part of playing a Sorcerer. (...) As a Sorcerer, you must play defensively and make them pay for trying to kill you."

TL;DR: Sorcerers should heal themselves in between the DPSing to make up for taking more damage.

It is interesting how the devs don't think having to stop DPSing to heal yourself doesn't give your class a disadvantage over others such as snipers/slingers and marauders/sentinels in a raid, who can just keep DPSing with their defensive cooldowns up. Especially considering that these other classes already generally score higher on DPS without either healing themselves in raids (cause yeah, nobody actually does that). Why would you then bring a sorc to your raid?

It is also interesting how the devs only seem to have considered DPS sorcs in their answer, while this problem is even more apparent for healing sorcs, in PvP specifically. Healing sorcerers/sages are too squishy to survive arenas, but more about that in this post.

2. Spec Shutdown (PvP)

"A big problem we face as sorcerer/sage is that our specs (all of them) are very easily shut down. For example; madness and its dots are too easily cleansed, corruption has far too many casted abilities and is extremely prone to interrupts, and lightning falls victim to severe LoS. Thundering blast and AoE heals being the biggest offenders. The other classes/specs we compete with on the battlefield have some sort of protection against a lot of what might be detrimental to their jobs. (...) Given the current state of PvP, is it intended for our class to be so easy to shut down?"

"It is not intended for Sorcerers to be easier to stop because they can heal while specialized to DPS or vice versa; however, the ability to heal is considered to be part of a Sorcerer’s overall survivability. (...) Sorcerer’s are an “easy to play, hard to master” class, in that most of their abilities are rather straight-forward and easily understood, but getting the most out of those abilities may require a higher skill level than many players are comfortable with."

TL;DR: Learn to play. Also, something unrelated about being able to heal.

While I think sorcs aren't in a terrible spot in PvP DPS wise, the representative does make valid points regarding the ability to cleanse DoTs and interrupt channels (also for healing!) in PvP. It's mind-boggling how the dev just ignores the whole point about DPS and heals being shut down and instead babbles something about survivability and learn to play.

3. Force Management (PvP/PvE) 

"In the current state of PvP and soon to be 4v4s it is going to become a challenge for Corruption and Madness sorcerers to maintain force. In long, drawn out fights which we can expect to see in 4v4, madness and corruption will likely run into force issues. As corruption and it’s fairly easy spec to shut down, it will become increasingly difficult as the fights drag on to keep yourself alive and your teammates (most likely the tank). As you start to fall behind in force trying to keep some of your cast’s instant, it will not be optimal to start sacrificing your health. (...) Is there any plan to add some force management abilities/talents/mechanics to our corruption and madness trees? (...)"

"We currently have no plans to add any extra Force management abilities, skills, or mechanics to Corruption or Madness. (...) In PvP, healers should not be able to keep everyone alive either because too much damage is being done (...) within a short timeframe – not because they are running out of resources. If this is not the case for a well-played Corruption Sorcerer, then we will make necessary adjustments when it becomes more apparent."

"The Critical Rating stat is currently adjusted to a level that grants a critical chance with which we are not completely satisfied, and this means that some specializations lacking a built-in auto-crit are at a disadvantage (...). We will be working to rectify this issue with the Critical Rating stat in the future, and that should alleviate some issues (...)."

This reply is actually answering the question, makes sense and even gives the impression the devs understood what was asked. An unicum!

I'm happy to hear that something will be done about the crit stat being broken at level cap, even though it doesn't sound like it's going to be anywhere near in the future. As a healing (corruption) sorcerer force management in PvP is indeed challenging and I believe arenas won't prove survivable (but again, more about that in this post). In PvE my highest annoyance is that consumption (skill to get force back) costs a global cooldown, in PvP it is that it is dangerous to use. Try gaining some force back while there are two marauders jumping on you in an arena... you'll just run out of health.

Heal to full

Save the last one, the devs weren't exactly taking any of the questions seriously. In fact, it seemed as if they didn't understand them at all and answered with different topics. The hard-to-master comment is especially cynical since the devs have recently shown they could do with some learn-to-play themselves (they got annihilated by players over and over in arenas on the public test server).

So over the past weekend, the dev's ignorance rapidly developed into a micro-meme, complete with guild and numerous character renames (of which one in my guild). The devs have reacted that players should "deal with it" and respect them. Seems to me like that didn't work the other way around in the first place.

But hey, what do I know, I should probably first L2H2F*...

* Learn to Heal to Full


  1. Lol, I hadn't seen that third video yet. :D

    To be honest, while I do agree that these answers weren't great, I felt like this was at least in part due to the questions not being worded very well either. For example I thought that the first one basically read like a whine about marauders and snipers being OP. Newsflash: sorcs are not the only ones getting annihilated by them. ;)

    I'm hoping that both sides will learn from this, that the next class rep will try to formulate better questions and that Bioware will try to give better answers next time. Then again, I can't really complain about anything that inspires the community to produce lots of hilarious parodies and memes. :P

    1. Hmm, I thought the questions were clear enough, but then again, I play a sorc as main myself and am already familiar with the weaknesses of the class. The first question is about sorcs having heals function as their 'defensive skills' while other DPS classes have skills that actually increases their defense. However, as in every MMO, mitigating damage is better than first taking the damage and then having to heal up, because there's no guarantee that you'll actually be able to do so. But wait, there's Force Barrier right? Sadly enough, you can't do anything else while barriered apart from hope for outside help. So in reality, in PvP a sorc will always get focused after having used his barrier, because they know they are helpless. Burst dmg + interrupt heals/stun combined with their light armour and they're down in seconds. We once ended up with 2 sorc DPS in our ranked PvP team and it really was a nightmare: the sorcs were always focused first and died quickly, without Tiger and me being able to do anything about it. It was absolutely not viable and it wasn't the fault of the players themselves.

      I'm not sure if my explanation makes more sense to you, but if it does you're right in that the representative should be more specific with his questions. After all, the devs don't have as much time to play as we do and they apparently suck at it as well (shhh). ;)

    2. Oh, I actually don't disagree that those are weaknesses at all. I just felt that there isn't much point in rambling on about these things in too much detail in a Q&A like that because it comes across as kind of whiny and immediately puts the devs on the defensive.

      Also, I thought that the Marauder/Sniper comparison was simply woefully misplaced in this context because 1) to compare apples to apples your first point of reference should be dps Commandos and Scoundrels - how do their cooldowns measure up to a Sorc's, seeing how they can also heal? And 2) if there is indeed a problem with all dps hybrids not having enough defensives, it's an issue that doesn't really belong into a class Q&A but rather into a more general balance discussion. IMO anyway.

    3. Hmm, I guess we just have a different opinion then. In my opinion these are exactly the kind of questions that should be asked, because they are the problems bothering players of the class the most. These issues are already posted on the forum but get ignored. As there's only one chance of Q&A's for a class in every so many months, I can't complain about seizing that opportunity to address the most important issues. What else should they ask about? The fact that these questions have to do with class balance does not mean they are not allowed to be asked, it just means class balance is apparently a hard think to make work.

    4. Considering how rare it is to get a developer response about class/balance issues, I too would want to be elaborate in my questions to solicit an elaborate answer. As someone who plays Sage/Sorc (and all other ACs for that matter), what Psi posted is completely true and I wouldn't describe it as "whiny" - it is simply truthful.

      My own experience with the survivability of the class ranges from HM/NiM Ops experience as both a DPS and healing Sage, to playing Rated Warzones as a healer with a DPS and a healing Sorc on my team. In all of these situations, it's painfully obvious that the class is at the bottom of the barrel in this regard.

      In PvE, many Operation bosses have mechanics/abilities that deal a large amount of unavoidable damage to a random group member. Every class but the Sage/Sorc has at least one ability to help survive that:
      *Marauders have Saber Ward, Cloak of Pain, Force Camouflage and Undying Rage
      *Juggernauts have Saber Ward, Endure Pain, Enraged Defense and Saber Reflect
      *Powertechs and Mercenaries have Energy Shield, Kolto Overload and Chaff Flare
      *Operatives and Snipers have Evasion and Shield Probe, with Snipers having the additional utility of Ballistic Shield and Covered Escape which can be used to bypass predictable damage spikes if timed correctly
      *Assassins have Deflection and Force Shroud
      *Sorcerers only have Force Barrier, which with its 3/2.5 minute cooldown time is generally just used for cheesing certain mechanics (and sometimes you can't even do that since it drops aggro the same way vanish does on stealth classes).

      (Cutting the comment off here due to blogger's character cap. To be continued below)

    5. (Continuation of the above)

      As you can see, Sorcs have both the worst passive mitigation and the worst defensive cooldowns. This is without even considering things like passive AoE damage reduction skills, which are available to Marauders, Deception Assassins and Advanced Prototype Powertechs.

      Looking at this, I think it's pretty clear that Sorcs are lacking even compared to Mercs and Operatives. Force Barrier may give them a slight advantage in very specific situations, but overall they're much weaker defensively. Besides, while I get that self-healing must be considered into the overall survivability of a class to some degree, it's being grossly overvalued in the eyes of the developers.
      Self-healing does not help one bit if a boss mechanics results in a one-hit-KO, something every other class can avoid by using a damage mitigation/avoidance ability or, in the case of Operatives, at least add enough of a health cushion to survive a big damage spike. Damage *prevention* is far more valuable than self-healing, and I really doubt the devs are dense enough to not understand that, even ignoring the fact that healing has an opportunity cost where hitting a defensive cooldown does not.

      Now, before you say "but Sorcs can bubble themselves", that's not unique to the Sorc's own survivability at all, since a healing Sorc can cast them on anyone, and certain damage mechanics even seem balanced around their presence (my Operative needs both the Sorc bubble and Shield probe to reliably survive Heirad's Lightning Field in TFB NiM).

      So with all this in mind, why take a DPS Sorc to a Nightmare mode Operation? They take more damage than any other class in the game, thus stressing healers and potentially jeopardizing a fight if the smallest mistake is made. So what do you get in return for taking such a squishy class? Superior damage? Superior utility? Superior mobility? The answer to all of these is no. Snipers have longer range, higher DPS, better target switching, far better utility and survivability. You'd be crazy to take a Sorc over a Sniper if the class was the only thing to consider. I get that there needs to be *some* trade-off for having the ability to heal, but I'd argue that the versatility of having 3 diverse DPS specs is already a pretty big benefit of its own, and when coupled with how the Sniper outclasses the Sorc in every other aspect as well, it's simply too much. At the very least, the DPS potential should be on par, and there really is no reason for such a large discrepancy in survivability when Snipers have so much better group utility.

      In short, I really disagree that comparing a DPS Sorc to a Sniper is akin to comparing apples and oranges. Comparative Disadvantage applies to any and all classes that fill the same role, in this case Ranged DPS. They compete for the same role in an Operation, and anyone who believes that off-healing is a real reason to bring a Sorc (or Merc for that matter) in a DPS slot is likely a Sorc player desperately trying to justify their own presence. The same can be said for Marauders and the other Melee DPS classes (although Operatives do at least have incredibly good sustained damage when played well).

      (Again, to be continued below...)


    6. Now, this is getting fairly lengthy and I haven't even gotten started about PvP, so I'll try to keep it brief. In essence, a Sorc in either Lightning or Corruption spec is a class that needs constant babysitting and team support to be viable against a competent team. Now, I don't really disagree with this concept, and both Lightning and Arsenal have their advantages in PvP with good team support. However, the reward is mostly not as great as the additional effort required to make these classes work, because Sorcs are both very squishy and easy to shut down. If one of these disadvantages was less harsh, most would not have a problem with the class in an 8 vs 8 setting.

      However, that brings us to the upcoming Arenas...
      With a smaller team dynamic, a class' individual performance not only has a bigger impact, but weaknesses are much more pronounced. it's not feasible to babysit a Sorc the same way it is in a Rated Warzone, and as a result, Sorcs are not viable as Arena healers in a competitive setting. Lightning is workable, but essentially consists of a waiting game until you get fully Resolved, and which point you must make the most out of that tiny window of opportunity and hopefully blow someone up. Many players will find this frustrating however, and I have a feeling that it will only be really effective against specific comps.

      Finally, the biggest reason for the public outcry surrounding the Sorcerer representative's Q&A isn't the answers themselves, but the way they were presented. The developers basically told the Sorcerer community that their biggest problems are non-issues, and that they should all just L2P. I touched on the relative usefulness of proactive and reactive survivability earlier (damage mitigation vs healing), but the devs *completely* failed to acknowledge that and came off as condescending and insulting to the community.

      Then there's the fact that the classes referred to as "simple" by the developers themselves are consistently outperforming the "complex" classes, even when the latter are played to their utmost potential, but that's a whole other can of worms that I'd rather not open up right now.

    7. (In case anyone's wondering what the deleted comment is about, I simply corrected the language in a few places and re-posted it. You're not missing anything!)

  2. Hey, Ravalation, just curious, what country are you from? I ask because of the sg in the URL and thought that you might be in the same country as me, SG. Are you on the Red Eclipse? I am as well.

    1. Hey Anonymous. I'm not from Singapore, but apparently Blogspot blogs give a local URL to the reader. It's a bit strange, but I haven't been able to find an option to turn it off. However, we do both reside on the Red Eclipse. :)

    2. Yes, I have seen my own blog read through several countries' Blogger/Google URLs.

      I seem to recall that sorcs were considered OP at launch. I take it that they were over-balanced at some point.

      The proper answer to all those questions—if the devs didn't have a solution—was, "We'll look into it." Instead what the Sorc community got was, "You don't don't know how to play. Respect our wisdom in this matter."

      I hate to turn this into a general criticism, but the answers given are simply symptoms of the larger tone-deafness of BioWare, going all the way back to the "most valued players" debacle of February/March 2012. THey have repeatedly demonstrated that they do not know how to manage an MMO and its community.

    3. Oops it was April, not February.

    4. I agree, that would've been the correct answer. I'm still not sure if they really don't understood the problems described or if they were just being rude and tried to get rid of the problems with a cheap way. Whichever option it is, it isn't very pretty.


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