Community manager Jackie Ko announced that SWTOR 7.1.1 release date is set for Tuesday, October 18th with associated downtime and patch notes available Monday as per usual.

In addition, Shabir Dhillon, a gameplay designer for SWTOR, took to the forums to explain some of the balance changes coming with 7.1.1 including those for Lightning / Telekinetics, Madness / Balance, and Advanced Prototype / Tactics.

Shabir has the same position at BioWare as Chris Durel, who you may recognize as the author of many other balance-related forum posts. We’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing Chris twice this year about SWTOR’s game design, balance, and gameplay. (Interview 1, Interview 2)

Buckle up, because you’re probably not gonna be too happy about what Shabir had to say. I think I gave BioWare a bit too much credit in my prior analyses about the upcoming balance changes because their explanations and motives seem to be a bit more arbitrary.

Lightning Sorcerer and Telekinetics Sage

Note: I have done some significant reformatting and cleanup in order to improve readability, but no information has been lost. You can check out Shabir’s original forum post here.

Announced Lightning and Telekinetics Changes with Dev Explanation

  • Halted Offensive / Power of the Force cast time increased to 3.0 seconds (up from 2.5 seconds). Alacrity still affects cast time. 
    • Dev Explanation: Increasing the cast time reduces the incentive to hard-cast this ability, especially in situations that require mobility. 
  • In addition, Halted Offensive’s / Power of the Force’s damage decreased by 15%.
    • Dev Explanation: This change is being made to bring the ability’s damage into line with its intended damage value and bring the ranged burst spec’s damage in line with our DPS targets. 
  • Convection / Clamoring Force now also makes Thundering Blast / Turbulence grant Reserved Darkness / Reserved Light which makes your next Dark Heal / Benevolence activate instantly heal for 30% more. Stacks up to 2 times.
    • Dev Explanation: Reserved Darkness / Reserved Light is being added to the Convection / Clamoring Force discipline passive. This new buff is not replacing the old version of Convection / Clamoring Force. In the future, we will make changes like these much clearer. 
  • Convection / Clamoring Force – Critical hit damage bonus previously provided by Reverberating Force has been reduced to 12% (down from 15%).
  • Thundering Blast / Turbulence – The second hit previously from Forked Darkness / Mental Momentum now deals 20% of Turbulence’s damage (down from 25%).  
  • The Stormwatch tactical’s damage has been decreased by 4%.
    • Dev Explanation: Lightning / Telekinetics is exceeding our DPS targets as a ranged burst spec. (Original formatting indicates this explanation applies to all of the nerfs to this discipline’s DPS).
  • Thunder and Lightning / Incoming Turbulence ability tree buff now increases the damage dealt by your next Chain Lightning / Telekinetic Wave or Halted Offensive / Power of the Force by 10% (up from 5%).
    • Dev Explanation: This change is being made to make the burst option more appealing compared to the sustained and utility-based options. 

Analysis of Lightning and Telekinetics Changes Dev Explanation

It seems that the nerfs are fully intentional. As I mentioned in the previous article, these changes will result in a DPS loss of about 2.2k (in 330 gear), so the maximum DPS will be close to ~26.3k DPS compared to ~27.5k without hard-casting right now and ~28.5k with the existing optimal rotation that includes hard-casting. These changes will bring Lightning / Telekinetic’s DPS in line with that of other burst rDPS specs.

It is unfortunate that the hard-casting rotation is almost completely going away, it will only be viable to hard-cast as a pre-cast. That said, many players didn’t like that and it did hurt mobility.

This set of changes will also mean that players won’t feel as forced to use Halted Offensive / Power of the Force anymore at all since it won’t be as superior to the other options.

I wish BioWare explained why they introduced Reserved Darkness / Reserved Light since that was the real head-scratcher. Dark Heal / Benevolence will still cost a GCD, so it’s only really gonna be usable during downtime in PvE meaning its effects are gonna get the most benefit in PvP where Lightning / Telekinetics has not been competitive in terms of survivability compared to Madness / Balance.

My guess is that they want Lightning / Telekinetics’ survivability to be more in-line with what is offered by Madness / Balance, but it’s not even close to being enough. Both specs get 15% DR now with the Madness / Balance version being far easier to maintain while also having access to a boatload of rotational self-healing.

The Class Guides will updated as soon as possible after 7.1.1 goes live:

Madness Sorcerer and Balance Sage

Note: I have done some significant reformatting and cleanup in order to improve readability, but no information has been lost. You can check out Shabir’s original forum post here.

Announced Changes for Madness and Balance with Dev Explanation

  • The Tempest of Rho tactical now correctly gives a 50% chance for Force Lightning/Telekinetic Throw to tick Creeping Terror / Sever Force instead of 75%. 
    • Dev Explanation: The change to the Tempest of Rho Tactical was designed to first bring it in line with its original power level.
  • Force Horrors/Drain Thoughts – Increase periodic damage to 20% (up from 15%). 
    • Dev Explanation: Changes were made to distribute that DPS back into the class itself. 
  • Lightning Barrage/Telekinetic balance – Force Lightning/Telekinetic Throw reduced damage changed to -20% from -25%.
    • Dev Explanation: We also wanted to discourage players from prioritizing Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw over Lightning Strike/ Disturbance when procced in order to get the best DPS output
  • Disintegration / Critical Kinesis – Death Field / Force in Balance and Death Brand / Shifted Balance grant Vitiate’s Malice / Warden’s Vigor, giving Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw 20% lifesteal for 12 seconds. 

Analysis of Madness and Balance Changes Dev Explanation

Shabir neglected to explain the rationale behind the most confusing of these changes, the introduction of the 20% lifesteal on Force Lighting / Telekinetic Throw.

As I mentioned in the prior analysis article, the self-healing could be thought of as negative enemy DPS in a PvP setting, since self-healing negates enemy damage, thereby having the same effect as a flat DPS increase, but enrage timers don’t care about self-healing.

The buff to Force Horrors / Drain Thoughts will somewhat compensate for the fix to Tempest of Rho, but Vitiate’s Malice / Warden’s Vigor’s “negative enemy DPS” is required to make Madness / Balance surpass its existing capabilities.

The addition of Vitiate’s Malice / Warden’s Vigor also goes against BioWare’s stated intention that they want Lightning Strike / Disturbance to be prioritized over Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw with the Wrath / Presence of Mind proc because 20% lifesteal is way more than the DPS difference between Lightning Strike / Disturbance and Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw even after the nerfs to the latter.

YES PLEASE

The bare minimum requirement to avoid this is to just make Vitiate’s Malice / Warden’s Vigor also apply to Lightning Strike / Disturbance (and Overloaded Strike / Destructive Wave) or even exclusively apply to that ability with a higher healing amount.

That said, people are already (rightly) complaining that Madness / Balance survivability is too strong, so while Vitiate’s Malice / Warden’s Vigor is a really neat idea, maybe it should replace the existing (boring) passive DoT healing provided by Parasitism / Focused Insight and BioWare should provide an actual extra DPS buff to fully compensate for Tempest of Rho instead.

Watch for the soon-to-be updated Class Guides:

Advanced Prototype Powertech and Tactics Vanguard

Note: I have done some significant reformatting and cleanup in order to improve readability, but no information has been lost. You can check out Shabir’s original forum post here.

Announced Changes for AP and Tactics with Dev Explanation

  • Magnetic Blast / Tactical Surge damage has been reduced by 14%. 
    • Dev Explanation: Magnetic Blast / Tactical Surge damage was reduced to lower sustained DPS and reduce the amount of DPS this ability contributed to an overall parse. Magnetic Blast / Tactical Surge is intended to be a filler ability and not make up a majority of the DPS output for a burst melee discipline.
  • Blood Tracker / Triumph – The damage increase to bleeding targets has been reduced to 3% (down from 5%). 
    • Dev Explanation: The change to Blood Tracker / Triumph was also made to reduce the sustain of the class. 
  • Prototype Rail / High Friction Bolts – The damage increase to Retractable Blade / Gut that was previously provided by Serrated Blades has been reduced to 5% (down from 15%).
    • Dev Explanation: Much like the Magnetic Blast/Tactical Surge changes this change was made to reduce the sustained damage output of the spec.
  • The Power Burst / High Yield Explosives ability tree buff stacks damage bonus reduced to 4% per stack (down from 5% per stack, so +16% damage max to Thermal Detonator / Assault Plastique down from +20%). 
    • Dev Explanation: The change to Power Burst / High Yield Explosives ability tree buff was made to bring it more in line with the intended DPS increase a player should receive from a burst DPS ability tree buff. 
  • The damage dealt by the DoT from the Lingering Heat / Superheated Cells ability tree buff has been reduced by 50%.
    • Dev Explanation: The change to the Lingering Heat / Superheated Cells ability tree buff was made to bring it further in line with what a sustained DPS ability tree buff should give within a burst melee spec.

Analysis of AP and Tactics Changes Dev Explanation

Magnetic Blast / Tactical Surge is intended to be a filler ability and not make up a majority of the DPS output on a burst melee class” This is just nonsensical.

Not only is it deliberately the strong filler next to Rapid Shots / Hammer Shot, but it’s also meant to be an upgrade over the base PT / VG filler Flame Burst / Ion Burst.

More importantly, it’s literally not even overpowered compared to other burst melee fillers:

Filler Ability Average Damage Per Activation Proportion of DPS
Magnetic Blast / Tactical Surge 23.7k 17.2%
Voltaic Slash / Clairvoyant Strike 23.5k 6.9% (nice)
Massacre / Blade Rush (without Ataru) 34.8k 34.8%
Laceration / Sucker Punch 40.5k 37.9%
Lightning Bolt / Telekinetic Burst 17.6k 8.0%
Tracer Missile / Grav Round 26.9k 24.4%
Yeah okay, Magnetic Blast / Tactical Surge is the problem ability here

Literally, the only other burst spec that deals any real amount of less damage as a filler is Lightning Bolt / Telekinetic Burst, and that’s not technically even part of the melee burst category.

The only thing of note here is that Magnetic Blast / Tactical Surge makes up a greater proportion of DPS compared to Voltaic Slash / Clairvoyant Strike. The reason has to do with the structure of the rotation and the fact that the main AP / Tactics burst ability, Energy Burst / Cell Burst, has the longest effective cooldown of basically any ability in the game at 24s.

Most burst attacks have cooldowns that max out at about 15s, and even that’s pretty long. Meanwhile, Energy Burst / Cell Burst’s damage output (and animation) are not commensurate with such a long effective cooldown and high resource cost.

This is supposed to be one of the most powerful abilities in the game, folks!

I don’t know why BioWare is even bothering to worry about the filler side anyway. The only thing they really need to care about on that front is making sure that sustained DPS while exclusively using fillers isn’t too strong so they can avoid the problem that Carnage Marauders / Combat Sentinels had with the Fanged God Form tactical in 6.0.

In my previous article, I had assumed these nerfs were there to help make room for a potentially more interesting tactical item, but it seems BioWare just wanted to nerf the discipline because they think it’s overperforming.

This really doesn’t make sense when so many other melee burst specs remain and were recently buffed to being so much stronger, like Carnage Marauder / Combat Sentinel and others will remain (or have remained) much stronger even after their associated nerfs.

Advanced Prototype / Tactics is already one of the lowest-parsing mDPS specs. They can’t deal very much AoE damage as a burst spec at all (which is fine), but they’re slightly worse than Pyrotech / Plasmatech in almost every regard now and these nerfs will only widen the divide.

I also want to draw attention to BioWare’s mention of balance targets that apparently exist for different types of ability tree buffs for different types of disciplines based on how they talked about the Lingering Heat / Superheated Cells and Power Burst / High Yield Explosives ability tree buffs.

Ability tree buff choice balance is definitely still a work in progress, but it’s impossible to balance universally since some disciplines have the level 43 build capstone that significantly increases DPS while others don’t.

Obviously, there need to be some rough constraints, but thus far, I got the impression that the only thing BioWare was somewhat trying to do is make sure to make the sum total DPS boost provided by ability tree buffs more consistent.

In other words, if one of the choices is a bit stronger than average, then the other should be a bit weaker, but more importantly, each option for a given choice should be equally powerful. It didn’t seem like BioWare was trying to also unify the damage output provided by all ability tree buffs, which isn’t even a great idea in the first place because it restricts creativity.

It’s not like Lingering Heat / Superheated Cells and Power Burst / High Yield Explosives were particularly strong as ability tree buffs either. I’d even go so far as to say AP / Tactics-specific ability tree buffs are on the weaker end, even compared to other melee burst DPS specs.

The Advanced Powertech and Tactics Vanguard PvE guides will hopefully be ready and published soon. Keep an eye on the SWTOR 7.0 Class Guides catalog for new additions.

Why do mDPS and DoT specs need to deal more damage than rDPS and burst

BioWare’s comments tell me that they need to explain why they feel rDPS and burst specs need to deal less single-target sustained damage than mDPS and DoT specs.

Melee vs Ranged DPS Capabilities

Maybe it’s true in other games, but in SWTOR in 2022, mDPS aren’t really at a disadvantage compared to rDPS and BioWare has actively removed these barriers over the years in the name of balance and QoL.

All mDPS have access to at least 1 frequently-available gap closer that either deals half a filler GCD’s worth of damage or doesn’t cost a GCD at all. They also have at least 1 attack with 30m range that matches or surpasses the damage dealt by a filler.

That’s not all, outside of a couple of exceptions, mDPS exclusively have instant abilities, so they are not vulnerable to being interrupted and can activate all of their attacks while moving, so range is the only thing they have to worry about, but it’s not like rDPS don’t also have to worry about range if they’re actually making use of the extra 26m they get.

Furthermore, when they need to move, rDPS sometimes need to interrupt casts or use GCDs that are weaker than fillers (Shock / Project, Missile Blast / Explosive Round, Rifle Shot / Flurry of Bolts, etc.), if anything is available at all.

They also typically have access to superior survivability compared to rDPS which enables them to compensate for fights where there’s extra damage. In PvP, range can have a little more of an impact, but it still mostly comes down to who attacks whom first and the extra survivability helps there as well.

The bottom line is that mDPS capabilities and rDPS weaknesses completely cancel each other out. The evidence comes from the fact that mDPS typically perform better compared to rDPS because BioWare has (wrongly) decided to balance mDPS to deal higher damage than rDPS. In other words, we’re seeing mDPS perform better because they are given additional damage. If BioWare needed to compensate for disadvantages, mDPS would be performing about as well as rDPS right now.

The solution is to buff rDPS to offer the same amount of DPS compared to mDPS, and if BioWare isn’t willing to do that, they owe the community answers for why their vision is so disconnected from reality.

DoT vs Burst DPS Capabilities

Thanks to changes made as part of the 7.0 update, DoT specs now have a completely valid and separate use case from burst specs since their AoE potential is considerably higher than what burst can do. There there are easily just as many fights where adds are present (where rotational AoE is required) as there are fights with burst checks, if not more. DoT specs are also almost always vastly superior for trash mobs since AoE is almost universally beneficial.

In PvP, DoT specs are certainly less capable of nuking a singular player, but they can apply a ton more additional pressure to healers thanks to DoT spread and have a much easier time bypassing tank mitigation since almost all DoTs deal internal / elemental damage.

The solution here is to buff burst specs to offer the same amount of single-target sustained DPS as DoT specs so players have the freedom to pick which spec they find more fun or choose based on specific utility in fights that lack both AoE and burst requirements. If BioWare isn’t willing to do that, they owe us an explanation for the disconnect from reality for this as well.

You can check out my extensive coverage of the upcoming changes in each of these articles:

Author Lokzmir
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