Today we’re previewing the upcoming balance update. We’re starting with a bit of process and general thoughts, then following up with a pile of patch notes. Note that this post is identical for the PvP and WvW subforums (minus the changes to PvP build items), but duplicated for the purpose of more easily obtaining mode-specific feedback.
This post will only be discussing the competitive splits. Check out the rest of the update at https://en-forum.guildwars2.com/discussion/96747/balance-patch-preview-global
The scope of this update ended up being slightly unreal in the raw number of changes, but there are only a handful of underlying ideas that were then considered against every skill and trait in the game. It so happens that there are a lot of those around here, and so a lot of changes ended up being made.
These changes are not final, and we’re expecting to make further adjustments based on player feedback as well as our own internal review. Some of the upcoming functional changes still need to be looked at for potential splits as well, but we feel that the overall list is in a good enough spot to gather feedback.
This patch is unusual in that it’s more about establishing a new paradigm than it is a regular balance update, and the result is a giant set of changes. Moving forward with competitive balance, we want to make smaller adjustments more often. The specific cadence for balance will always depend on our overall release schedule, but ideally it will be closer to every 4-6 weeks, while still having the opportunity to make minor tweaks outside of the regular balance update. The goal here is to have better flexibility to fix problems in a timely manner.
For this initial update, the bulk of the splits are being applied to both PvP and WvW because the underlying ideas are applicable to both modes. The end result is going to be radically different and moving forward we will be doing more separation and targeted adjustments on a per-mode basis.
Now we’re going to dive into more detail on some of the main targets of the update and our main goals moving forward. If you have no interest in power coefficients, damage calculations, or other assorted jargon you may want to scroll down until you hit the start of the patch notes.
For this update, we’re targeting a 2.0 power coefficient as the new baseline for big damage skills. These are the skills like Eviscerate; skills that exist to deal large amounts of damage and not do much else. Skills that provide more and more value in other aspects (cc, sustain, mobility, defense, etc.) will have lower power coefficients. In some cases, we’ve pared down the secondary value and in others we’ve shaved the damage. It really comes down to what the desired purpose of the skill is, and as such how much of the skill’s power budget should be spent on damage. The 2.0 is not a hard cap, just the general top-end for single hit, high damaging abilities.
One thing to keep in mind with damage calculation is the differences in weapon strength. For example, a 2.0 coefficient with an axe is approximately equivalent to a 1.82 coefficient with a hammer due to the hammer’s higher weapon strength.
With a marauder amulet and no outside modifiers, a 2.0 coefficient with a 1-handed weapon equates to about a 3.9k crit against a light-armor target. Our goal here is that players should need to invest into damage traits, slot offensive utility skills, and sequence abilities around might and vulnerability stacks in order to achieve significant damage numbers.
Condition damage reductions are a bit less math-y, but we’re continuing to push conditions toward less burst potential by reducing the number of stacks and extending durations where it makes sense. Some of this is handled on the skill level, and we’re also making heavy reductions to traits that apply conditions on hit, on crit, or on other conditions being applied.
We want cooldowns to be felt. Longer cooldowns promote more calculated usage of skills; if skills are used poorly it should create an opportunity for the enemy to push their advantage. Shorter durations of high impact buffs have a similar effect. Skillful timing is going to be rewarded, and poor usage is going to be exploitable by enemies. In some cases, it’s still going to make sense to have a longer duration attached to a longer cooldown, but most of the time we’re looking at shorter durations for things like stability, protection, quickness, high might stacks, among others.
Raw healing is always going to be closely tied to damage. As damage comes down, healing needs to be reduced as well. As mentioned above, we want to see more opportunity between cooldowns to push through damage, so we’re primarily targeting skills and traits with lower cooldowns or constantly pulsing heals.
Counterplay is important. Skills that have a major impact on an enemy player should allow that player the opportunity to react, which means that we want to avoid instant skills that do large amounts of damage or hard cc. In general, this means that instant skills are going to deal less damage or focus more on a secondary effect where applicable. Traits that fire instant skills, or that trigger an offensive effect under easy to fulfill conditions (on hit, on crit, mid-high health threshold, etc.) received similar considerations.
We’ve also done a pass on traits that provide automatic defensive triggers. Traits that negate incoming CC or grant hard damage mitigation are getting large cooldown increases. Lesser defensive procs (protection on cc, auto condition cleanse, etc.) are also receiving longer cooldowns or reduced effectiveness, though not as extreme. We want to promote more active gameplay and this update is a good opportunity to make heavier adjustments to these passive traits.
Moving on to the patch notes. Remember that these changes are not locked down and we still have some time to iterate. We look forward to seeing your feedback.
-The Systems Team
Game Designer on PvP/WvW