Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Mana Master (new class brainstorming)

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So there I was, spamming Cirle of Light during Decon's Tantrums a few nights back, really getting in the zone of CoH, instant Flash Heal, Prayer of Healing, pick my nose for one GCD, CoH again when I kinda drifted, and realized I was getting around the halfway mark mana-wise. I don't really have issues with mana, and I'm a Alchemist, which means unlimited (albeit weak) pots, plus I have a shadow fiend. I can't remember the last time I bothered to tell anyone to innervate me, and I began thinking about my Warlock, and specifically Life Tap.

My Warlock never needs an innervate, because she (literally) has mana on tap. She converts health into mana at will. It's the perfect spell to cast anytime you need to be moving at all, since it's instant cast, and if I'm moving, I can't cast Incinerates or whatever. I actually get to the point sometimes where I forget it costs health, and tap at pretty bad times, like during AoE, or when I'm moving out of a flame patch that ticked on me once. My healers probably just think I'm taking two ticks and are annoyed, but I play a healer myself and am pretty liberal with renews on my Warlock raidmates, so screw it.

Anyway, staring at Grid, and watching the little bars go down and have me replenish them is kind of a zen playmode that I enjoy. Some people consider it Whack a Mole, and think it must be horribly boring, just those people just don't get it. You feel important. Any healer out there that enjoys healing knows what I'm talking about. Rarely while DPSing do you ever make split second decisions that will instantly impact whether or not the raid wipes or lives. Tanking gets it from time to time, but healing gets it, like, all the time. Especially with abilities like Guardian Spirit, Pain Suppression, or a well timed Swiftmend or Lay on Hands, knowing when (or not) to pop those can save an attempt.

ANYWAY. Looking at all the little bars going down made me wonder how a mana healer class could work. Like I said, I don't really have mana issues, and there are a few mana rejuv spells in the game already, but what if mana WAS an issue, enough to the the point that you needed a whole new class to handle that particular issue, creating a new Holy Quadrinity (and eliminating Replenishment as a means of regen)?

And so... The Mana Master. Let's see how it could work...

Obviously, for one, we couldn't use mana to grant mana (or we could, but it would be pretty lame), and creating a new regenning mechanic (energy, rage, focus, runic whatever) isn't really necessary. Actually, thinking about it, it might be necessary, but we'll get to that in a sec. The life tap mechanic is actually pretty well suited to this task, so let's tweak it a bit. There are a few ways we could tap:

1) Self tap - exactly the same as the warlock skill, but with varying 'sizes' to tap. Actually, Life Tap is the one skill left in the game that actually works with varying ranks still. Downranking heals is a waste of mana, but downranking a lifetap actually works. On glyphs or set bonuses that trigger on life taps, a rank one life tap that only consumes about 70 health works just as good as the full rank one that consumes several hundred. This is useful for beginning a fight. You rank one life tap, and then start chucking up your first round of DoTs. Anyway, converting your own life into mana is pretty straightforward.

2) Self Donor tap - converting our own health into mana for someone else. Pretty self explanatory.

3) Remote Life tap - converting someone else's life into mana for them. Again pretty straightforward, and makes sense. You cast life tap across the room, and convert some of Mage Billy's healthpool into more mana for him. This is where it begins to get dangerous, as you need to make sure you aren't killing anyone, or putting them in a situation where they can easily kill themselves. If you remote life tapped someone right before a fire patch or cleave was coming their way, it would piss them off, regardless of the fact that you were trying to help them because they were running out of mana.

4) Remote Donor tapping - Life tapping Billy the Mage to give mana to Freddy the Shaman (select donor, cast the spell, select the recipient). This is where is gets REALLY dangerous. Not only are you putting Billy at a health risk, but you're doing it in a way that doesn't even benefit him. You need to actively choose targets that are out of harm's way, and will remain out of harm's way long enough to remain safe until healed. If Billy died in this situation, I could imagine a lot of bitching and moaning.

(this obviously applies to energy and rage as well as mana, and would need to be tweaked to find a happy medium, but for simplicity I'm going to just keep saying mana)

When you think about it, this is a role that carries a lot of responsibility, as it's the only class that has the ability to negatively impact other's resources. A hunter can always MD a boss to a healer if he's pissed off, but he can't ACTIVELY HURT another player. He can only train aggro onto it, and have the mob dish damage out. A few classes have this indirect ability... rogues can Tricks a raidmember, hell... I can pull with my priest and fade and watch as an unprepared group eats a pull to the face.

Similar to how a warlock can't kill himself using lifetap (it will fizzle if it would kill them), all of these moves would need to be made to fizzle if it would kill a raid member. This would ensure Angry PUGmember Sally couldn't just kill the whole raid in a fit of rage.

So now that we have our four distinct mana regen abilities, let's think about the class itself. Healers have their hands full, since there's always damage incoming. But not everyone needs mana all the time. We would be much more active during endurance fights, but there would be a lot of standing around during the beginning of the pull. This is where a slippery slope rears its head. Do we make this a DPS class? DPS classes have real issues with doing anything that will make their place drop on the charts. No one is going to stop their rotation to help someone gain some mana back. So we could make it a healer class, but that seems silly, since our mana regen depends on hurting people. So we hurt them, then turn around and heal them? Hm, that could work I guess. I think making it a tank class is just silly, and we don't suffer a shortage of tanks anyway, so let's explore the other two options.

If they were DPS:

If they were a DPS class, there would need to be a way to continue doing damage while providing the benefit to the raid. Think of how a Shadow Priest works. The damage they deal directly converts to mana for the raid, but it's a passive thing that just happens. That's boring. It would be more exciting, and engaging, to have to select who gains the benefit, while also deciding who can afford to pay the cost (not just the Bosses HP converting to raid benefit).

For example: The Mana Master's damage could either be based on the raidwide mana pools, or damage taken. If the entire raid was at full capacity, the Mana Master deals maximum damage. Then, it's in the MM's best interest to keep everyone topped off. They start the fight at max power, and begin to wane as the fight goes on. They need to maintain pools in order to stay at peak performance. Alternatively, if they dealt more damage the less health everyone had, then it would be in their interest to tap certain individuals to keep them low, thus bumping his own damage. I'm just throwing that last sentence out there, although I fully realize it's a horrible idea. The MM would hate healers, as they directly counter his ability to maintain maximum DPS. I think a good middle ground would be to have the taps be CoTs (convert over times), up to a maximum number castable at a time.

Say each of the four above listed spells are unique spells, and have their own duration and cooldown. He can tap himself and donate to someone on instant cast cycles, and then have the two donor taps rolling on separate raid members, which in turn bumps his damage up. This creates an issue with soloing, as there's less to pull from, but is pretty similar to how healers feel every time they need to grind mobs. In a raid, though, they shine.

If they were a healer:

If the Mana Master was a lower level healer, there would need to be a different set of spells available. I suppose it could be talent tree based. The healing MM, the DPS MM, and the ... well, pvp one I guess : /

Hots and CoTs seem to be the best way to go about this. With a healing talent set, we could have talents like 'when you cast a remote Life Tap on someone, it also invigorates them, placing a HoT on them as well'. Basically the healer would focus on healing (DUH), with the mana regen taking a backseat, but still being there. So perhaps the base set of spells we get (the four listed above) also have HP 'sides' to them as well. We convert mana into health (Mana Tap), we convert someone else's mana into health (Remote Mana Tap), we convert our own health to health for someone else (Life Grant), we convert someone else's mana (Donor Mana Tap) or health (Donor Life Grant) into health for someone else.

The main thing that's happening here is that the healer version is just shifting resources around. It creates buffers for the pure healers in the raid to refill. The tank always needs health, and we have instant ZAPs that will give them health, but leaves someone else (someone out of harm's way) hurting for a sec.

The pvp version of the class would work like a beefed up disc priest, creating shields out of excess resources, or draining life or mana to teammates thru fire and forget CoTs.

There are a few issues with this all, though. The dps class needs group mates to pull from to boost damage to reasonable levels. The healer also is mostly just shuffling resources around. He can create health from mana, but you end up with a group full of health with no mana left to cast heals. The healer would need to keep mana CoTs rolling in order to have something to convert to health. It just seems like it would be hard to heal a five man without having so many resources to draw on.

THIS is where my previously mentioned regen mechanic like energy or rage comes into play. Parhaps the MM doesn't use conventional mana, but instead has energy like a rogue, that constantly ticks over time. Rage wouldn't work, it would need to be a constantly filling bar. This would also make a healer with a never ending supply of heals (similar to how a rogue has a never ending supply of 'mana'), which would fill a niche nicely.

Depending on how the MM is talented, these CoTs can be amplified to lean one way or another. The DPS version has spells and talents that amplify how much damage he generates based on how many CoTs are rolling in a raid, or how much health he has (less health = more damage). He can directly convert health of his own into instant cast nukes, which leave him very vulnerable, but also crank his damage up for the next cast. He can also HoT himself (from his focus pool), but they're pretty weak and take time to ramp up.

The healer, in turn, generates much more HP per focus point burnt in direct heals. He can operate just like a rogue, only converting his own focus into heals, or in a pinch can 'borrow' life (at no --or very little-- focus cost) from a teammate to help heal the tank.

The PvPer can convert focus into shields, health into shields, or mana into shields... all while still having a chunk of CoTs rolling, and having longish cooldown direct 'takes' that are instantaneous.

Once the general mechanic is in place, filling out the class with slows, snares, CC, or whatever is just a matter of playtesting, and seeing if they need to have the ability to kite, or whether they're chasing after people that are instead running from them. I thought about having a sort of pet, but it felt too warlock-y, and not really necessary (although it would give a built in buddy to suck from when soloing).

Also, I've been trying to think of an interesting way to create a regening bar that isn't "and it just ticks". Something like pulling the energy out of the earth by dropping void zones that bump up your focus regen, but create hassles for the group to work around. It could scorch the ground, and stepping in a scorch would hurt, and you'd have to lay another scorch down in a bit, while being careful to not drop them in the way of the group. Another interesting mechanic to the dropping of void zones thing would be dropping good ones that allow the tank to stand in one for increased healing. A tiny tranquility zone that gets refreshed.

Again, that's just kicking around interesting 'twists' to the class, and not really focusing on the main mechanic.

Is there anything I haven't thought of? Anything else that would make it better?

(ah, also, those ear rings are from a picture I found at etsy.com, if i was a chick, I'd totally rock crap like that <3)


Tesh said...

What if you could set your own "fizzle" ratios? Say, for a dangerous fight, you'd clamp down your remote taps so that they would fizzle on anyone who is at 50% HP or less. For a more forgiving fight, or one where you trust your raidmates better, you could lower that to 30% or the baseline "if it would kill them".

Also, how would this class level? Would they play like a regular old ranged mage DPS, or something else? It sounds like a fun raid/group class, but there's a wee bit more to the game than that.

Hatch said...

It's an interesting idea, and might work well in a new environment, but I don't think it would fit well with WoW, and especially the current "bring the player not the class" design philosophy (whether or not they are succeeding in adhering to that philosophy is another conversation entirely). It sounds like, if you added the Mana Master to the current WoW, you'd get one of two scenarios:

1) They are absolutely required for any group content. It's pointless to form a 10-man (or more) raid without them because you'd run out of mana, and 5-mans would require a lot more drinking.

2) If they are not *required*, then that means that the other classes have sufficient mana regeneration without the Mana Master. Meaning that now there's no reason to bring one.

It's a creative idea, but I think his niche might just be too small. Are you imagining a scenario I've missed where the MM fits in WoW, or would you like to put him in a slightly different game?

Geoffrey said...

In a raid, what would happen is the MM would tap people, causing them to lose life, and healers would heal them back up. So it is going to be a mana for life for mana kind of loop. I am not sure if this is what you intended. Gameplay-wise, should still work and provide challenge, as in a fight, healthpools are a limited resource.

I guess it makes health and mana more interchangeable. Not sure if this is good or bad.

Fourth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fourth said...

I agree with Hatch's comments - if anything, WoW is attempting to reduce the perceived barrier to entry to group content. This is one of the main reasons they've spread around the Replenishment buff to more classes than just Shadow Priest, which used to be fulfill the sole "Mana Battery" role.

However, I think one of the big reasons why your proposed class' play pattern may not be viable is because of the potential for griefing. You point to the closest ability in terms of griefing potential as Hunter's Misdirect, and I think there's good reason for that. Responsibility for another player's livelihood (in the case of healers) is much different than the ability to active kill your teammates. The only thing I could imagine worse than playing with a Battleground full of afk PvPers is one full of Battleground Mana Masters toasting their allies left and right just for kicks.

JediOfTheShire said...

With all this talk about the Holy Trinity being unfortunate because of the occasional (okay the frequent) lack of healers/tanks for groups, could you imagine the havoc that would come from another class that would be a necessity- not to mention that would reduce the number of dps per group to 2.

The reason it would be a necessity is because why would you even bother bringing a mana-regen class along if the content is achievable without one. The content would HAVE to be designed with the mana-regen class as a necessity in the equation, and the more roles you require for content the less people will be able to experience that content.

In EQ the crowd control/puller/debuffer roles worked because each role would help a group, but none were necessary.

As far as I can see, a class that regenerates mana could never be in this position because if content were achievable without one then adding that class to the group wouldn't be of any benefit since it doesn't do anything except perpetuate everyone's ability to participate in combat and that usually isn't an issue. (And if it was an issue then look up to my first two paragraphs)

Oh, I agree with Hatch too- I didn't say that already, did I?

Rich said...

I see what you guys are saying... it would create the new (not necessarily good) holy quadrinity.

I figured it would make a more 'hands on' approach to replenishment, wiht someone actively filling the role instead of it being a passive buff... but it would create a ruthless demand for the class.

I guess the Mana Master aspect of it could be a background aspect. Make it more of a MANA MANIPULATOR... where it uses other people's mana to benefit them, but it would probably just piss people off... "i'm not a healer! quit using *my* mana to heal people, FFS!"

I really like two aspects, though... having an energy based healing class, and being able to use the lifetap mechanic on other people to convert resource A into B (be it health -> mana or vice versa).


Tesh said...

Make it optional? The MM grants a "life tap shield" that the other player would have to activate to get the conversion function to trigger?

Of course, at that point, you may as well make a Life Tap trinket.

oshin said...

I was thinking the bring the player not the class too when i first read this. But now I`m thinking that it could possibly work with the path of titans / heroclass idea they have for pure dps classes. It would give those unwanted dpsers such as rogues a useful role that cant be filled by tanks/healers.

The biggest problem though, is difficulty, I think it would add another level of required coordination and skill, that could basicly kill the game for casuals/puggers/what have you.

I think mana in wow is still quite akward, it just doesnt feel as good as rage/energy/runes. Warlocks definitely have the best mechanic with life tap. Healers arent too bad, but ultimately they dont do anything too exciting with mana either, just use the right spells and wait for ticks. Hunters are horrific it seems, having to cut there own damage when they are short on mana (at least while leveling). Mages feel like one big band aid, with mana gems and evocation filling the regen gap

Krunchy said...

I dunno, Iso. It sounds like anyone who plays this class will pretty much get pigeonholed into a mana battery role. Remember how nobody used to take shadow priests into raids, like ever, until they got vampiric touch? Also, as was already mentioned, this feels like a class that can only really do things in groups. Solo content is out the door. I like the idea as a mechanic, but I don't think it's enough to carry an entire class.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for Blizz to give us Bards.

Isn't it fun playing a healer Iso?

Tristan Francis said...

Looking at a solo/small group perspective, I think Priests would need to lose Mana Burn. Some of the offensive arsenal for the Mana Whore should be damage based on mana/energy/rage of yourself/enemy.

I don't know how familiar you are with DOTA, but there is an anti-mage character who's spell does damage based on missing mana points of the enemy. In order to support this ability he passively burns mana from the enemy with every physical strike.

Obviously passive mana burn on every strike would be pretty hard to balance, but damage based on lack of mana would be a pretty cool idea.

Ex. A warrior has nearly full rage. Might be a good idea to keep rage higher to prevent damage than spam whirlwind or w/e the fuck warriors are using these days. I'm out of the WoW loop and haven't played a warrior since vanilla.

Another idea might be cooldowns affected by your own mana? Perhaps lower cooldown with higher mana? Then you could be like "Would I rather have an extra .75 seconds on these casts or steal mana from xxxfrostypewpew the mage hoping that he doesn't go OOM at 15%"

Just throwing those out there but I don't think a Mana Whore class would be impossible to balance across pvp/raiding/jacking off while killing boars.