Monday, May 17, 2010

The Hybrid Question

In WoW, the characters take on one of three classic roles: the Tank, the Healer, and the Damage Dealer. There are 4 Pure classes: The Hunter, The Warlock, The Rogue, and The Mage. They have one and only one option open to them, Damage Dealer. 4 other classes ( Priest, Shaman, Warrior, and Death Knight) are all Hybrids because they can spec into 2 different roles: Damage Dealer and either Tank or Healer. 2 Classes are 3 role hybrids which can spec into all 3 roles.
The game has been built on the basic idea that the Pures should have some compensation because they don't have the option to respec or dual spec to a support role like Tank or Healer. For the Pures, damage is all they can bring. The thinking of the Developers is that if they allowed Hybrids to be as good as Pures, few people would make the choice to play a Pure class. Thus was invented the so called Hybrid Tax.
We can see that through Vanilla and even into Burning Crusade, Hybrids were balanced against Pures by being much worse than a pure in their given role. At that point in the game, Warriors were consider the Pure Tank. Healers were given niches, but the Priest was the Pure Healer. Shadow was merely a leveling spec.
The Hybrid Tax was severe. Hybrids made up for some of their deficiencies by bringing unique and powerful buffs to help justify their raid spots. You can get away with someone being 30% less powerful in a healing or Damage Dealing role, but making up for it with a buff. Tanking just won’t work under that model, so you had Warriors as the one and only Tank class in Vanilla. It is interesting to note that during this time Warriors were exempt from the Hybrid Tax. I believe the cause for this is that even in the 40 man raids of the day, there were few Tank spots. In order to allow Warriors to have shots at raid spots, they need to not tax their DPS. Then they made sure that Warriors were the best Tank class in Burning Crusade while making the Hybrids (Paladins and Druids) offtanks.
Wrath changed the rules. Tank and Healing hybrids were brought on par. Dual spec was introduced and raid buffs were spread out amongst the classes. As a consequence of Dual Spec every Tank capable class and every Healer capable class was turned into a true hybrid. The Hybrid Tax still existed for DPS but at a much lower penalty. Balance was a funny thing and at points the 4 Pures saw Hybrids out DPS them.
I’ve nearly always played Hybrids. But now I’ve played extensively on my Hunter and I’ve seen how a Pure works. I have 2 role hybrids like my Warrior and 3 role hybrids like my Paladin. The Hybrid question has come into sharp focus for me as I decided between playing a Pure class, versus playing a Hybrid in Cataclysm. Therefore, I feel like I’ve got a good basis of experience to draw on for looking at these questions.
The core question is what price, if any, should the hybrid player pay for his ability to quickly switch roles. The second question is should 3 role hybrids pay a higher price than 2 role hybrids.
Before we can even ask what price should be paid, we must first ask, if it is justifiable for Hybrids to pay any price. Does playing a Pure class bring with it benefits that offset in someway the flexibility of the hybrid.
Spending Resources for Gear
In the context of game where gear is purchased (with Emblems in Wrath of the Lich King and various types of Hero Points in Cataclysm), the Pure has the benefit of knowing exactly what gear to purchase. The hybrid must make a decision about whether she wants to build her DPS first, or build her Support (Tank/Healer) set first. The gear the hybrid needs to actually perform at her second role is slow in coming. It requires the hybrid to continue doing content like dailies long after they would have preferred to stop them because the hybrid needs double or triple the amount of badges/points that a Pure does. The hybrid also suffers under player made point systems like DKP. The hybrid may spend her DKP on an item, but even paying half price for offspec items, she will then have less DKP to bid on items like Trophies, Tier Tokens or jewelry against Pures. This line of thinking can also be applied to spending rare crafting reagents like Primordial Saronite or even gold itself.
Uncertainty of Role
That decision can be further complicated by the uncertainty of role. A Pure always know his role. On any given fight, they know they will bringing the pain. They won’t be asked to tank or heal. (Although the return of non traditional Tanks like the Mage Tank in Gruul’s Lair, or the Warlock Tank in Leotheras, would be welcomed by this writer.) Hybrids have to wonder what they will be doing on a night by night or fight by fight basis. Let’s use a thought experiment to demonstrate what I mean. The Enhancement Shaman who loves melee DPS watched anxiously as the raid formed. He wondered if the raid will have enough healers, or would he have to go as his ‘offspec’ and heal. Most players, when faced with the choice of either allowing their guild to raid that night by going support spec, or sticking to their guns and playing their preferred DPS spec but watching the raid get called off, will choose to go offspec. Let’s leave the abstract and look at a real world example. I’ll use my raid group since I know them best. Our Boomkin is just that, a Boomkin. That’s his favorite spec, yet for each of our Lich King kills he’s been a tree. Now he doesn’t mind being a tree, he enjoys it, but I bet he would have rather have been a Boomkin. A Mage would never have had to make that choice.
Freedom of Spec
Thirdly, the Pures have much greater freedom in what to do with their Dual Spec. Most Pures will go the route of having a PVE and PVP talent spec, although some may have a Replenishment/No Replenishment dual spec. This allows the Pure to do both PVE and PVP effortlessly on one toon. In addition, because they are done spending badges on PVE gear long before their Hybrid counterparts, they can more quickly begin spending badges on PVP gear. For a Hybrid to enjoy their flexibility, they must devote both of their dual specs to their PVE roles. They would need to manually respec in order to have a PVP spec.
Developer Resources
When the developers go to work on the Pure, they have one goal in mind, Damage. When they work on the Hybrid they have to consider all the roles. Hybrids watch the new spells each expansion hoping they will be useful for their spec, but often the baseline abilities are nigh useless. One example of this would be Shield of Righteousness. Ret Paladins might as well have not trained it. So if each class gets 3 new spells in an expansion, the Hybrid class might see one or even zero like our Resto Druid friends will see for Cataclysm.
Hybrid Tax Enforced
Not only do Pures have advantages that hybrids lack, I firmly believe that the Developers will be able to much better implement the Hybrid Tax on Hybrid DPSers in Cataclysm. I readily acknowledge that at points during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, balance among the DPS classes have not been well established and at points certain Hybrid DPSers have been ahead of their Pure counterparts. But as we look at the design intent for Cataclysm, the Developers have given themselves a powerful tool for balancing PVE DPS specs in the new Mastery mechanic. For instance, the Survival Hunter receives a 10.05% increase to Ranged Damage for spending 51 points in the Survival Tree. Now let’s imaging that after release Survival Hunters are falling behind other damage specs, analogous to the situation Beast Mastery faced in Wrath. The Developers look at their parses and determine that Survival is about 4% low. They simply change the Mastery bonus from 10.05% to 14.05% and voila, the Survival spec is up to par. You can already see this at work. While Survival as a 10.05% damage increase as their Mastery bonus, Beast Mastery has a 13.31% increase. Beast Mastery would otherwise be low, but now it would be more on par with the other Hunter specs.
Conclusion
I feel that Hybrids do in fact pay a price for their flexibility. They don’t need any additional burden put upon them to pay for their flexibility. It may not the be price some players want them to pay, or even that apparent a price to the player of a Pure class, but the price is being paid. It begs the question if Hybrids are paying too large  a price for their flexibility given the advantages a Pure class has over them.
When we consider the question of whether the 3 role Hybrids (Paladin, Druid) should pay an additional price for their additional flexibility, we must consider these the same issues. 3 role Hybrids need even more Emblems or points to build their sets to actually exercise this additional flexibility. Developer Resources are spread even thinner for a 3 role hybrid than a 2 role hybrid.
The uncertainty of role, combined with having only 2 available specs could lead to 3 role Hybrids needing to spend gold to respec more than any other class. Until WoW allows us to have 3 specs, 3 role Hybrids should be treated the same as 2 role Hybrids, so the only distinction that makes sense is Hybrid versus Pure, not Pure versus 2 role Hybrids versus 3 role Hybrids.

9 comments:

Rhabella said...

The hybrid tax is a myth, at least it is now. Let me point to a post by GC...

"There is not a “5% rule” that says pures should be 5% higher than hybrids in every circumstance. Again, most of the time other factors such as the encounter specifics will have a greater effect. The “5% rule” was either something a player suggested that stuck or something we threw out at some point as an example. It isn’t a hard and fast rule. We aren’t going to provide a hard and fast rule because players would then attempt to invoke that rule every time they thought their damage was too low instead of exploring other ways to improve their character’s performance."

The GC Comments

I will contend if the numbers are not significant enough for a noticeable disparity, then the hybrid tax doesn’t really exist. If a rogue can put out more damage than a shaman only half the time, the tax isn’t enough to even talk about. If the number is a miniscule percent where movement, skill, or server communication can contribute to overcoming the hybrid tax, it doesn’t really exist. If there is no hard and fast rule with which to compare because the answer will always be L2P Noob, it doesn’t really exist. Make no mistake, GC’s comment of “It isn’t a hard and fast rule. We aren’t going to provide a hard and fast rule because players would then attempt to invoke that rule every time they thought their damage was too low instead of exploring other ways to improve their character’s performance” is the politically correct way of saying L2P. The hybrid tax, though historically brutal, doesn't exist anymore, and it shouldn't because we a hybrid pays enough in taxes already. Both in the ones you alluded to, and even a few extras.

On Behalf of All Hybrids; How many taxes do we have to pay?

Anonymous said...

Let me layout a hypothetical "hybrid advantage":

You are a ret pally right when tier 10 is released. You raid with a 10 man guild and you have a tank set in the bank. So even though you have to switch up your second spec based on whether you want to pvp, heal, etc etc, it's in there. Now you know that you don't need a BiS tank set to do the new 25 man voa boss, so you pug it. Do you really expect to get anything from this boss from a pug other then badges, not really, especially knowing that your playing ret. So you go in as a tank.

Long story short, the way I see it is that with the shift in focus to 10 man raiding in cataclysm, and with the gated collection of points per week. Being a hybrid will be a bonus so if you miss out on something, you can more easily pug a 10 or 25 as a support role. Same ilvl gear drops from regular mode, limited point collection, and 10 and 25 sharing lockout's. If anything raid leaders will be looking to bring a bloodlust, a brez, and whatever special mechanic makes the fights easier, everything after that is just gravy.


Wankster of Magtheridon

Honors Code said...

@Wank,

You have assumed the Ret Paladin in your example has a full set of T9 tanking gear, and while that is technically possible its not likely. During the time frame of your example, heroic dropped Conquest badges which would have only purchased T8 level gear. A pug would be very leary of taking an undergeared tank in those early days. Now maybe you could say your Ret got his gear running 10s and 25s for badges. A pure could have used those badges to build a set of pvp gear or buy gems to sell for gold. Or the pure could have chosen to not run content four times and not affected his character as much. I know, it was offspec gear from raids. Unless your guild just does /roll for loot, those offspec pieces cost the Ret something, perhaps DKP.

Hybrids DO have an advantage in being able to fulfill more than one roll. What I wanted to point out was that Pures also have advantages. It just the advantages of Pures are different. So the choice between pure and hybrid is a choice of which set if advantages the player wants, and not a choice between advantages versus no advantages.

Blue said...

Should "just" being able to respec to a different role from fight to fight justify doing less damage in a hybrid dps role? I do not think it should. There really is no hybrid that could perform well in a different role within the encounter. (Aside from my heroic shield wall/insta death to save the raid and get a brez off on you or boston to get our first Marrowgar kill, of course.)

I suppose the age old "hybrid bringing buffs" stuff is still valid in a few select cases, but since so many pures bring similar buffs it really is not as important as it once was. Basically does flexability = justified hybrid tax?

Anonymous said...

Honors,

You have been beating the "End the hybrid tax" drum forever.

The problem is that, lets say at the end of the day you have a rogue and a pally in your guild. Equally geared, equally skilled. They output the same DPS.

Something happens in your raid and you need more healers or tanks over the course of the night. The Pally can also fill one of those roles. The rogue cannot.

As a raid leader (over time), I then choose to stack my raids with pallys. Just for the flexability.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFuMpYTyRjw

Did you ever play Ultima online?

The game quickly devolved into essentially a one class one spec max talent game.


-Agg, Formerly Agama, Formerly Agamemgnome.

Thorned said...

You only have to stack Pallys that much if you have a raid with a extreme onesided amount of dps. If you, for example, have only 6-7 healers and 3 Tanks and always fear that 1-2 of them have no time, stacking pallys would be a way out although even than, stacking pallys would mean like 3-4 of them and not whatever you possibly had in mind - not that I would know what you had in mind ^^

*cough*

long story somehow shorter:
I always read of this harsh decision there you have to decide between a hybrid and a pure and ofc always a tank or healer is needed. What we had waaaaaay often in our 25 was the other case - we had 1-2 healers to much or a third, fourth tank where we did not need them and the choice was:
who is the better damage dealer?

How is that fair now? ;)
I hope it is somehow possible to see where i am going with this -.-

Blue said...

Aga,

Your conclusions are based on external factors of the raid needing to change compositions consistently, all the time. If your a good rogue, the raid leader brings the good rogue to fill a melee dps spot. If the raid leader needs a good healer, get one. But basing the need for a dps hybrid to do less dps because in two hours down the road they can respec and heal a different encounter just does not add up. If the raid constantly needs a normal hybrid dps player to always respec out of need from others dropping then I would say they need to replace a full time raider, not stack a raid with hybrids who "might" need to heal at some unknown point.

Anonymous said...

So Honor's the real question is do you want to be a pure and have lots of assets/gold, a mage with lolust, a hybrid with brez, or a hybrid with lust? because everything after that is semantics and can either be broken into close quarters or ranged.


Wankster of Mag

Forreststump said...

Three roles? Might I suggest that the number of roles is actually FOUR: tank, healer, melee DPS, ranged DPS. Paladins are still a three-role hybrid, but druids are the only universal class covering all four.

Really, I don't mind the burden of building extra PvE sets, because it allows me to shift from role to role as needed in a way that a "pure" class cannot.

In the end, more flexibility = more time in raid, and less occurrences of being swapped to the bench.