Monday, September 16, 2013

Dissecting The Q&A || How It Affects Us & Our Questions

You're gonna want to take a seat for this.
As previously posted, the Snipers and Scoundrels had their Q&A recently. Though very informative, some of the answers were clearly not what we wanted to hear. But, on a positive note, we can still pull lots of useful information that should affect Operative questions that will be coming up in the end of October.

Why is this a good thing? Well, because we won't have to waste our time asking similar questions that will end up getting similar answers of course! We only get 3 questions so we need to make them count! As a Concealment Operative player, I am quite concerned about the class and really hope one of our questions is good enough to receive an answer that will shed some light in our future as potential viable DPS.

Thankfully, the Sniper/Scoundrel Q&A can serve as a guide to what we should and should not ask. Let's take a look. (For those who missed it, click HERE for the Q&A)

Note: For your convenience, the answers were edited to focus on the Operative terminology.

Dissecting The Sniper Q&A 

From the answers, we can pick out a few things that may as well affect us Operatives; specifically, Questions 2 and 3. Both of these questions mention Orbital Strike and Explosive Probe (which are parts of Concealment Rotation) and the Dev's awareness of their issues. Answer Number 2 mentions the following:
We specifically don’t like that using Orbital Strike and Explosive Probe rotationally as a Lethality Sniper increases your single target damage, but that’s more of a problem with Orbital Strike and Explosive Probe than Lethality."
While all of this is less than ideal, making changes to Explosive Probe and Orbital Strike could have negative effects on the other Sniper specializations, so it isn’t likely that you will see changes for this anytime soon. But we will certainly be addressing these issues at some point in the future.
From this we can gather two things:
  • OS and EP damage is too high (in comparison to Series of Shots and Snipe)
  • OS and EP will be looked at in the future
The way this affects us Operatives is that they mention that Orbital Strike and Explosive Probe are the issues here, not the Lethality Sniper tree. They mention that they will address such issues "at some point in the future." Noting that one of our main concerns as Operatives concerns Orbital Strike, this bit of information from the Devs should make us aware that OS is already an issue they are aware of and will work on.

Answer No. 3 gives us this:
...the weaknesses are mostly quality of life issues like energy management, Interrogation Probe’s single target limit, Plasma Probe’s cooldown, and lack of a well-flowing rotation – thanks to the extremely long cooldowns on Explosive Probe and Orbital Strike, along with the unfriendly requirement of using EMP Discharge with Adrenaline Probe to maximize sustained damage.
Key Issues Devs Pointed Out:
  • Energy Management
  • Long CDs on Orbital Strike and Explosive Probe
  • Requirement of Adrenaline Probe to maximize sustained DPS
As Concealment Operatives, we share the exact same issues mentioned above. In fact, these three things ARE the reasons why we aren't considered viable. What's my point? The Devs are aware of these issues for the Engineering tree. I'd have my money on the fact that they are aware that this is an issue for us as well. So, as we ask our questions, we can POINT THIS OUT (kind of like assuming that they know the obvious) and work off a different question to get more out of them. For example, we can ask:

"Your team previously answered the Sniper Class questions, and in your answers you mentioned that you are aware of the issues of Orbital Strike and Explosive Probe. You also acknowledged Quality of Life issues like Energy Management, OS and EP Cooldowns, and the unfriendliness of requiring Adrenaline Probe. Noting that these issues are identical to that of Operatives (Concealment in specific), are there any plans of possibly adjusting the Concealment Tree to relieve the impact of such issues? Or are you just going to end up waiting on how Concealment does in Arena's and adjust accordingly? Keeping note that PVP and PVE Operatives have completely different rotation priorities of course."

So, this may not the best question but it's a start. It's fully loaded and states information that Dev's can't just throw back at you and consider it an answer since you JUST mentioned it. Unless it's to either confirm or deny our insinuations.

Dissecting The Scoundrel Q&A

As expected, The Scrapper Q&A hit closer to home. It should, since it's our Republic counterpart! And the outcome of it, may not be what you want to hear.
The Q&A was long and informative read, which I appreciate. Many points were made that left a sour taste in my mouth, though. Let's take a look.

Regarding the "Lone Wolf" feeling:
There may be more we can do to alleviate these concerns, so please feel free to point us at specific skills or abilities that you feel take away from your ability to play as part of a team. We will not be removing stealth itself, but we are open to making stealthers as “team friendly” as possible (within reason, of course).
I understand the concern for players when it comes to the "Lone Wolf" feeling of playing an Operative, but I do not think it's really that much of an issue. At least, not an issue that would be considered primary in regards to all other issues. In my opinion, the way stealthers can be more team friendly in game is by outputting more damage. We can already CC humanoids and droids, and we have Infiltrate.

The only other thing we can possibly have is some sort of unique raid buff. Other than that, I can see us being more "team friendly" through PVE mechanics. For example, the ability to bypass and entire group by having the ability to stealth for a prolonged period of time and opening a locked door from the other side, providing a safe detour for the raid team.

Hidden Strike:
Hidden Strike does great damage because it requires you to be stealthed behind your target. If it did not require stealth, it would do considerably less damage. Our metrics assume that Hidden Strike is only used once per encounter, so if you are using Cloaking Screen to perform additional Hidden Strike attacks in a single encounter, then you are probably performing above our expectations. We understand the difficulties in using a positional attack from stealth, and we do not wish to require players to use an escape mechanic to produce competitive, sustained damage. That said, we have to be careful to keep the burst damage at a reasonable level when the mechanic is used. We might consider giving Concealment Operatives a way to use Hidden Strike outside of stealth, since they already have many skills that improve it, but such a drastic change to gameplay would be more likely to come along in an expansion pack than a balance update.
This paragraph alone makes me uncomfortable for the following reasons:
  • "Hidden Strike does great damage... Our metrics assume that Hidden Strike is only used once per encounter, so if you are using Cloaking Screen to perform additional Hidden Strike attacks in a single encounter, then you are probably performing above our expectations."
  • "We might consider giving Concealment Operatives a way to use Hidden Strike outside of stealth... but such a drastic change to gameplay would be more likely to come along in an expansion pack than a balance update."
Great damage? Yeah, it may be our hardest hitting melee ability, but it sure isn't great; considering that it's expectation is to be used but ONCE per encounter. That's another thing. Really? Expected to be used once per encounter? What's even the purpose of an ability that is meant to be used just once And using Cloaking Screen to use it twice EXCEEDS your expectation? What does that even mean? Does the team expect us to not take "advantage" of such an obvious mechanic? Regardless, it looks like Hidden Strike will remain as is until SSSP comes out (assuming that's the new expansion).

Overload Shot:
Overload Shot is admittedly a poor filler ability. A scoring check reveals that, for its energy cost, it should deal more damage than it does, and we can fix that in a patch by properly rebalancing the ability. Hopefully, rebalancing Overload Shot will make it into the competent filler attack that it was meant to be.
Good. They are aware that Overload Shot is completely useless. Revamping is imminent, which can only be a positive. Especially since they believe our rotation is completely out of whack. They want us to have it in the rotation. Make it happen.

Cloaking Screen:
...we are planning to make a change to Cloaking Screen so that it no longer decreases all healing received by 100%...
Survivability enhancement. Good for PVE. Great for PVP.

PVE 4-Piece Set Bonus:
...the intent behind the 4-piece Operative PvE set bonus is to provide a small boost to sustained damage. It could very well be the case that the sustained damage gained by adding five energy to the Operative’s resource pool is too small. We will look into this further, and we may at some point make a change to this particular set bonus if we find that we are not completely satisfied with its performance.
Our 4-Piece set bonus is a joke. We all know it, and they know it. This is why we roll with our 2-piece and the Sniper PVP 2-Piece. Unfortunately, this might change, as mentioned below.

Orbital Strike:

...Agents have taken such a liking to the 2-piece Sniper PvP set bonus. Due to the DPS gain, it is understandable why this is the case, but the results of this design are unintentional.

...While we do intend for Orbital Strike to be an excellent choice against three or more enemy targets in an area, the single-target effectiveness of the ability is not intended to be so good...

...Imperial Agent specializations are not meant to be using the ability against a single target. To address this issue, we plan to make a few changes.

First, we will be lowering the effectiveness of Orbital Strike by reducing some combination of its cooldown, activation time, and energy cost. Then we will rescore the damage it does. This will allow it to be used more easily and more often, but it will deal less damage per use. We will also be swapping the 2-piece and 4-piece Sniper PvP set bonuses, so that the extra tick of Orbital Strike damage will be tied to four pieces...

These changes should combine to bring Orbital Strike closer to its intended purpose: being a marvelous multi-target ability and a less than optimal single-target ability.

What. The. F@&#. 

Goodbye, Orbital Strike. It was a pleasure knowing you. You were more than a friend. You were a weapon of mass destruction that I could call brother.

On a serious note, this is REALLY BAD news for us. One of our main contributing abilities to our damage is going to be nerfed to the point where we won't be using it in our rotation anymore. At least, that seems to be their goal. Making the extra OS tick a 4-Piece bonus to the Sniper PVP gear leaves us with having to go another tier back and pick up the 2-Piece Campaign (+15% Crit to Backstab) instead or hope that they make the 4-Piece Enforcer good enough to use.

What worries me here is that even with the "Great damage" that Hidden Strike yields and the "too good" single-target damage of Orbital Strike, we are STILL the weakest DPS class. And they plan to leave HS as is and are going to nerf OS? How much LESS appealing are they trying to make us Operatives? THIS is what we need to focus on when we ask our questions come October. They mentioned making Overload Shot viable but that sure isn't going to make up for taking OS away from us. My belief is that Operative abilities need a complete overhaul. But, as they mentioned, anything drastic will have to wait for an Expansion. So, in the stead, we'll have to settle for minor tweaks.

With that said, if we can no longer rely on Orbital Strike, then we're going to require a bit of buffing. A few quick tweaks that come to mind are:
  • Elongating Acid Blade Poison
  • Make Hidden Strike auto-crit
  • Increase Backstab damage % in Waylay (Concealment Tree; Tier 5)
  • Increase damage % boost of Meticulously Kept Blades (Concealment Tree; Tier 6)
  • Make Energy Regen through alacrity viable.   

These are but a few suggestions that come to mind. These aren't complicated fixes so their implication is more than doable. The question now is, do they believe such fixes would be justified?

Thankfully, all is not set in stone. After the Top 3 Answers, Musco shared a few words of wisdom. Essentially, he mentions that he is passing to the Devs our opinions on the answers and how they may or may not resolve the pinpointed issues.

Scoundrel Top 3 Answers | 09.11.2013, 03:59 PM
One of the other things I have seen discussed a bit in this thread and other Class Rep Top 3's is our dialog about class changes. One thing that can be a bit tricky is our exchange tends to be - players state their stance in a question, we state our position in an answer, players discuss. In some cases we will have a situation where the community disagrees with the answers provided by the dev team, and that's ok! In fact, what I wanted to let you know is how the dialog sort of works after you have your top 3. I know sometimes it can seem like a bit of a mic drop, but the fact is I am combing through these threads and passing back to the Combat team your disagreements. Especially when that disagreement comes in a way that is constructive and offers points on how these things can be addressed. Let me give you some examples from this very thread:
  • While Shoot First/Hidden Strike does better damage than most Scoundrel/Operative attacks, it could probably do more.
  • The Scrapper/Concealment skill tree probably needs more survivability to make them less of a “Lone Wolf.”
  • Set bonuses need to be better (as indicated in my post above this is something we are aware of and are working on across the board).
Keep posting your feedback. Try to be as concise and constructive as possible. I am always taking what is said in these threads back to the team. In fact the examples above are direct pieces of feedback that the Combat team called out as being constructive things they have seen from this thread. Keep it coming and I will keep passing it on!
So, Will Sniper/Scoundrel Answers Affect Our 3 Class Questions? They better! Hopefully, our class Rep will take a close look at the answers before we end up wasting our questions by receiving similar answers as to those above.

Question Suggestion

The following is a question I've constructed that strays away from potential answers that may be similar to ones provided to previous questions from the Scoundrel class.  

In comparison to all other DPS classes, Operatives are at the bottom of the DPS charts. Especially the Concealment Tree. And as you are aware, these Operatives rely on Orbital Strikes and Explosive Probe in their single-target rotation to optimize their DPS. Now, in the Sniper answers, you claimed your dislike of having OS and EP used in their rotation to increase their single-target DPS. You also came across their weaknesses, that being "quality of life issues like energy management, lack of a well-flowing rotation – thanks to the extremely long cooldowns on Explosive Probe and Orbital Strike, along with the unfriendly requirement of using Adrenaline Probe to maximize sustained damage," which just so happen to be the EXACT same issues we have. 
And During the Scoundrel session, you essentially disapproved of OS being such an appealing ability to us. On top of all that, the hardest hitting melee ability (Hidden Strike), according to your metrics, is only used once per encounter, and only hits for a significant amount IF it crits.
So, noting our energy management issues, essentially taking away OS from us, potentially changing EP to make it unappealing in our rotation, and leaving HS as is, what ideas do the team have, other than attempting to make Overload Shot a practical filler, which will clearly not compensate for our massive DPS loss, to make Operative DPS viable in a PVE and PVP setting?