Tuesday, 31 January 2012

How to fix Scoundrels / Ops – The one trick pony doesn’t belong here

The nerf to Scoundrels (Operatives) caused a lot of discussions at the official forums. Not only was it a heavy blow against an already underplayed class, but it was the first real PVP nerf since launch. The truth is people really have it hard dealing with frontloaded burst classes in PVP situations when they are the target. It is not fun getting knocked out relative fast while feeling completely out of control. What people fails to notice is the fact that these bursts classes often gets killed just as fast if things goes wrong for them. So we get to a situation where the outcome of the fight is decided before it begins. And each time a scoundrel/operative/rogue/thief/whatever successfully executes one of these stealth attack, there’s a high chance of spawning another forum warrior. Which results in a nerf and often the burst class gets left behind the rest.

The game designers have to make an important choice. Either accept that such class doesn’t belong to the game or step up and tell the community that that’s the terms for that class. If they choose the former option they have to give their stealthy class some other tools so they are still viable without the burst and if they choose the latter it requires some delicate balancing and create a pvp environment that allows such a strong 1v1 class. The problem is, however, that most game designers get stuck between those 2 options and it’s easy to see the results. The 2nd option is rarely the solution for an MMO game. It’s only in EVE online where I have seen it viable. However in SWTOR, and WOW and RIFT for that matter, we have to face it that a stealthclass with frontloaded burst doesn’t belong to these games, which means that the Scoundrel/Operative class and especially the Scrapper(Concealment) tree have to find a new role. This doesn’t mean that our class shouldn’t be able to pop out of stealth and take out a vulnerable target. It just means that we should do it in a slightly longer fight rather than a few seconds of burst.

The first step is to make the class less reliant on the opener. It is not our role anymore so it shouldn’t be such a powerful toolI made a post at the official forum about a week ago. (http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=224672) suggesting that our opener should be split into different abilities so we had one for burst dmg, one for CC and one for sustained DPS. Pretty much like the wow approach, and for that reason I’m starting to dislike my own suggestion. Remember that the rogues in wow are still very dependent on getting the opener. Instead we should keep Shoot First(Hidden Strike) as the only opener, but give the class a passive ability that makes any attacks from stealth proc UH( TA) and give it a 2nd effect as well. It could be a reduced cost, increased effect or something like that. This changes 2 things. First of all there are suddenly several options and which for example allows Dirty Fighting (Lethality) specs use one of their dots as opener and still get the UH(TA) proc to get their dps going. It also makes stealth more useful in FP where you otherwise have to waste time sneaking behind the mobs while the rest of the melee classes just rush in. And second it does also allow low lvl scoundrels (operatives) to get their rotations going since they don’t have Shoot First (Hidden Strike) for the initial extra UH (TA) proc. Shoot First (Hidden Strike) will still be a good burst ability and it should still be the preferred way to start the fight as Scrapper (Concealment) The 20% nerf seems fair since it shouldn’t be the sole thing deciding the outcome of the fight, but still give the Scoundrel (Operative) an edge when allowed to get the opener.

So now we have stripped the trademark from the class and it’s time to recreate one. That means we should get a small boost to sustained dps (atleast for Scrapper(Concealment)) and extra utility, both offensive and defensive. There are several ways to buff the sustained dps so that’s not what I am going to cover. However for the utility our cooldowns should be powerful and we should be granted some neat tricks to gain control in the fight. We aren’t gonna win in a pure dps race. To gain this extra utility many of our abilities should get an overhaul. Got a few suggestions and might add some more later.

Flying Fists (Collateral Strike)
This isn’t one of my own suggestions though I can’t remember the user’s name. However I find his suggestion very good.
Lacerate: The Collateral Strike triggered ability stuns weak/standard enemies, but doesn't stun strong enemies (or players). Have it do a 0-second stun (i.e., an interrupt) against any enemy too strong to be stunned for the normal duration, even if the CS damage needs to be reduced slightly to compensate. Since you'll only have these on 50% of your Lacerates, and you won't be delaying Lacerates just to interrupt the right things, it won't be the sort of thing you can depend on to shut down a caster, but it'll make our intended victims a bit more vulnerable to our opening burst.
So it basically makes Scrapper (Concealment) a pain in the ass for casters and healers. Instead of killing them within a few seconds we just make life harder for them.

Dodge (Evasion)
Currently this ability is very weak in a pvp environment. Most abilities simply ignore it making it useless and the short duration isn’t making it any better. The first step is to increase the duration. 5 seconds seems to be more reasonable. It should also protect against more abilities rather than the basic attack + a handful of often weak abilities. The improved version, which Scoundrels (Operatives) get should also grant immunity for slows and snares giving us something to compensate for the lack of gabclosers. Knockbacks are a huge counter to Scoundrels (Operatives) so the CD on dodge (Evasion) should probably also be reset each time we are knocked back. It makes other classes think twice before they knock us back.

[New Ability] Nullifier
The name is just a suggestion. The concept is simple. Casting this ability gives the caster a short buff, 3-4 seconds, which absorbs the next force or tech ability (maybe limit it to direct ability). So basically it covers a hole in our defense. It should have a relative short CD and a low cost. Is the big bad Sith sorcerer about to cast a deadly lightning ability? No worries just pop Nullifier and laugh at his face. A nice little ability that buys us some time and improves our defense :)

Dispel protection for DF (Lethality)
One of the biggest issues this spec struggles with is how easily a competent healer can counter their dots. Some sort of protection against dispel could be useful or even better have some consequences if they get dispelled. My suggestion is to make Vital Shot (Corrosive Dart) instantly tick for 70% of the remaining damage if it’s dispelled. The number should probably be adjusted. This should only be achieved by DF (Lethality) specs so a relative high placement in the tree is needed.

Well that’s a few suggestions I got. Any other suggestions are welcome but the developers should be creative as well.

What this means for PVE players
We have to remember one thing. This game has a big PVE part as well and we can’t ignore that when making changes. However these changes will make the class, especially the Scrapper (Concealment) specs, more viable in PVE. It will be a helping hand to our former burst class which rarely got a role in raiding. None of these changes will make the class OP in PVE either.

What this means for healer Scoundrels (Operatives)
These changes will give the class a higher survivability which is needed in pvp. Especially low lvl Sawbones (Medicine) find themselves as vulnerable as wet paper bags.

Final thoughts
By sacrificing some of the high burst we will gain extra dps and utility for the longer fights making us less reliant on the burst. It will make the game more enjoyable for everyone and it will prevent us from being viewed as the OP noskill class. It’s hard to argument against the videos with people getting killed in few seconds by a scoundrel (operative) and they would rarely accept it if they were told that that’s how the terms are. Let’s face it: The one trick pony doesn’t belong to this game. 

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