Regional FlagAnalysis of Hunter DPS mechanicsSource
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#0 - 2007/12/18 03:25:56 PM
This post is meant to shed light on the current Hunter shot mechanics, more specifically on its problems, which will be detailed further on.
This post is written by Lactose (<Cráb People>, Talnivarr, EU), with feedback from Cheeky (<Havoc>, Khadgar, US).

As is, the Hunter shot mechanics are flawed, favoring certain weapon speeds more than others. This leads to the intended upgrade path in terms of weapons, as derived from item level and stat allocation (i.e. excluding ranged weapons designed for tanks, etc, not being the actual upgrade path.

Weapon speed is of higher importance than Weapon DPS.
This is similar to how Hunter shot mechanics were pre-2.0, with Aimed Shot greatly favoring slower weapons.

With the current system, Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle from Karazhan is one of the best ranged weapons in-game (at least for Beastmastery Hunters), outweighing most weapons up until Illidan Stormrage.

First, let us identify and outline the problems inherit in the system, allowing us to have an understanding of what and why this is the case, before detailing them further.
1. It's possible to delay Auto Shots while using other abilities.
2. Steady Shot has constant cast time regardless of weapon, while Auto Shot has a variable cast time.
3. Highly susceptible to latency/frame rate issues.
4. Haste greatly enhances other problems.

1. It's possible to delay Auto Shots while using other abilities.
For an Auto Shot to fire, the Hunter has to stand still for at least 0.5 seconds prior to when the shot actually fires. In other words, Auto Shot has a 0.5 second cast time. Moving or using abilities resets this cast.
Using an ability right before Auto Shot should fire pushes the Auto Shot back. This is easily seen by casting Steady Shot right before Auto Shot should fire.

On its own, this isn't so bad. However, coupled with the fact that the optimal way of doing DPS involves weaving abilities (most notably Steady Shot) inbetween Auto Shots, this becomes an issue.

In a test showcasing how severe this can be, a pure Auto Shot test was made against a target (only Auto Shots). This was compared to another test, using Steady Shot sub-optimally, delaying Auto Shots intentionally (mimicking bad timing/latency). The result was fully exhausting all mana after 2 minutes, and doing roughly 20% more damage than with the pure Auto Shot test.
Another test, with more optimal timing, showed an increase of almost 100% of pure Auto Shot damage.
Note: All tests had procs and crits taken into account, as to not have e.g. crit streaks skew the results.

While this isn't a true showcasing of how bad it is under normal conditions in-game, it shows the following: Based solely on timing, the DPS gain from using specials can vary from ~20% to ~100%.

With such a wide spread in possible DPS gain, players who aren't able to perform optimally are greatly penalized, to a greater extent than most other DPS classes.

In addition to all this, the delaying of Auto Shots is not something that is easily apparent to the player. To accurately gauge how much you delay your shots, an external casting bar AddOn is essentially required.

2. Steady Shot has constant cast time regardless of weapon, while Auto Shot has a variable cast time.
As we can see from the above, in order to not have a drop in Auto Shot DPS, we need to place our specials inbetween our Auto Shots (keeping in mind the 0.5 cast time of Auto Shot while doing so). In most cases, not hampering your Auto Shot DPS while doing as much DPS from abilities is the way to go. Note that this is written mostly with a 1:1 ratio of Auto Shots and specials. While other ratios exist, these have the same problems, with certain speeds being more favorable than others.

The time frame we have to place our specials is not constant, and depends on the current weapon. Steady Shot requires a fixed amount of time to cast (actual time depending on active hastes), regardless of weapon.

These two facts combined, in addition to the global cooldown being constant makes us realize the following: Certain weapon speeds are better suited for weaving Steady Shots. There is no scenario where fitting multiple Steady Shots between an Auto Shot is ideal.

The 'optimal' weapon speed varies a bit, due to latency and other issues (described in the next sections), but tends to be around 1.8 - 1.9 weapon speed after hastes.
Weapons faster than this have issues with delayed Auto Shots, weapons slower than this have issues with periods of dead time (increasing time without increasing damage dealt results in a decrease in DPS).

3. Highly susceptible to latency/frame rate issues.
Taking another step based on the above, we can see the following: When having a weapon with a weapon speed fitting inbetween Auto Shots with minimal delays and minimal dead time, latency and/or frame rate issues have a great effect on DPS.

There's not a whole lot to say about this, although the Hunter class is one of the DPS classes most affected by these issues, due to the above points.

4. Haste greatly enhances other problems.
Haste is supposed to be a beneficial stat. As it is, it often is not. It can even be a detriment, due to user error.

A good example showcasing this is with multiple hastes in effect, for example having Rapid Fire (40% haste) active, when suddenly Improved Aspect of the Hawk procs (15% haste) and Bloodlust/Heroism (30% haste) is activated by your friendly neighborhood shaman.

Under such extreme hastes, things become very chaotic, and it's much harder to successfully weave special abilities inbetween Auto Shots, while trying to minimize delaying Auto Shots. A lot of the time, user error here actually causes a DPS loss, due to difficulties with changing (on the fly) to a different rotation, then back again a bit later.

While this is extreme, and not too frequent, there are still issues with haste seen more commonly, most notably when Improved Aspect of the Hawk or other haste effects proc.

Another concern in relation to haste is haste on gear. Taking up a fair portion of the itemization budget, this can again cause items to be worse than intended.
If the haste does not allow for a greater frequency of shots (due to the issues mentioned above), the item can be worse than lower tiered items.

Models have shown that if Auto Shot were to be unlinked from Steady Shot, most of the issues mentioned above would be rectified. For the currently best speeds, the DPS increase would be marginal, but with 'inferior' weapon speeds, one would see a DPS increase putting them more in line with other weapons of the same weapon DPS.

This would make upgrade paths much clearer (drop from Karazhan no longer preferred when you have access to supposedly better weapons from higher tier instances).
Additionally, this would negate the issues caused by haste, and help alleviate issues caused by latency and frame rate.

Another point is that since this would be easier to model, it's also easier to properly balance both items and abilities from the start.

I would like to thank Cheeky for giving feedback while I was writing this, as well as for posting a mirror of this post on the US forums.
Cheeky's mirror post can be found here:

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#116 - 2008/01/08 04:46:24 PM
Just blue-tagging this to let you know we have read this very nice thread.

Very insightful and thorough post Lactose :-)