Blizzard Explains Spell-Casting Damage


In what’s certainly the longest and most informative forum post ever made by a Diablo III developer, Bashiok quotes “skill guy” Wyatt Cheng’s extensive explanation about how weapon damage translates into character damage for spells. Wyatt’s explanation covers 1H vs. 2H, off-hand bonuses, attack speed, casting speed, and much more. Here’s an excerpt:

First, straight up. all things being equal, 2-handers do more damage than 1-handers. This is pretty obvious, but I want to confirm and validate this. The reason it’s important to call this out is that all the calculations assume “for any 2 items of the same DPS”. But that’s not a great starting point, because for any two comparable items at any given level, 2-handers do at least 15% more damage than 1-handers, and in many cases 20-25% more.

…However, what you choose to put in your off-hand, should you choose to wield one, matters.

First, no matter WHAT you use, you are getting a bunch of extra stats. In addition to DPS from Attack and Precision, you’re getting whatever other item stats are on your offhand. So you’re trading off a theoretical Arcane power efficiency boost for the stats of an offhand.

Furthermore, if you use a shield, you’re getting a big armor boost. If you haven’t played Diablo in a while, people easily forget, but a lot of Sorceress players used a shield in Diablo II. For some players there is a “fantasy” of “I don’t need a shield ’cause I don’t plan on getting hit”. The reality is that we don’t let you get away with that in Diablo. You get hit. We don’t have heal, tank and DPS roles in Diablo, so everybody in Diablo eventually takes damage.

Additionally, if you choose to use an orb, every wizard Orb (and witchdoctor Mojo) comes with +dmg on it. So if your mainhand does 8-10 damage at 1.4 speed, and your orb adds 3-4 damage, then that means you’re doing 11-14 damage at 1.4 speed. In many cases the orb + the stats on the orb completely closes the 15-25% DPS gap between 2-handers and 1-handers.

Click through for the whole thing; it’s a must-read.

Bashiok: One of the guys who got up and asked a question at BlizzCon managed to get his question jumbled and sort of half-answered, so we’ve followed up directly with him. But we know it’s a big topic throughout the community, and so we decided to share a response Wyatt wrote up. This is pretty raw internal dialogue, so please be keep in mind that it’s rather mathy, assumes you know a lot about internal mechanics of the game, and of course… nothing is set in stone.

For any Wizard (that doesn’t use Golden runes and/or the passive that makes academic/signature skills add arcane power) the only regeneration you have is passive. Of two weapons with equal DPS, but one with a slower attack speed, you overall better damage for the skills that actually spend arcane power, while your academic/signature skills are no different in damage done for the same time spent.

What I mean is that if you are casting meteor and magic missile, the meteor does more damage on a slower weapon but your signature spells don’t do ANY additional damage at all for faster casting speeds. They do the exact same damage with slow and fast weapons given that the DPS is the same. The time between 2 casts of meteor is exactly the same regardless of weapon speed: 4.8 seconds. The DPS of signature/academic skills is the exactly the same regardless of weapon speed assuming same DPS. 2 casts at 100 damage each is the same as 4 casts at 50 damage each, because it’s taking the same percentage damage from the weapon. This means for any two items of the same DPS, you get a boost in overall damage done for any period of time, and no additional cost by going with the slower weapon because it makes meteor do more damage, for free.

Side note: There actually can be a small, but not significant enough difference if the casting time between casts of meteor can actually inch out an extra signature/academic spell between it, based off the item. The difference between the damage the extra cast gets in and the extra power of the meteor is always in the meteor (or otherwise high AP spending) skill.

The only two “offensive” skills that the wizard has that don’t drain AP significantly fast are like you said Disintigrate, and additionally Arcane Torrent. Everything else does drain it quickly as to where resource manangement does matter more. Which means anyone who uses any of the other 8 “offensive skills” WILL care about doing more damage.

So the question was, given the math and change to weapon speeds affecting cast speed, is there anything you were doing to make faster weapons have more incentive to using them (like changing the arcane power cost based on weapon speed, change the regeneration rate of AP based on weapon speed, making signature spells without runes and passives give AP back like other classes resource generators) or if this was an intentional design, and slower weapons of equal DPS just are, always better (until using golden runes/passives finally hurdles over the breaking point late in inferno) or is this still something that you’re looking into and need to work on?

I’d invite you to look more deeply into the math regarding why slower weapons are better, someone started a thread in the Diablo 3 Wizard forums:

–BlizzCon Question Asker Guy

Wyatt Cheng: Okay so first I’ll start by saying that all of your math is correct, (except for the one exception case that I’ll mention later). The conclusions are all based on information you have available, so mostly I’m going to mention a few things to consider, and then I’ll fill in with additional information to complete the picture.

First, a few qualitative comments:

Yes, your build absolutely matters. Some builds may be well designed to favor 2-Handers, and some may favor 1-handers. So the general statement of “The correct weapon depends on your build” overrides everything else I write.

Additionally though, two general rules of Diablo weapon speeds still applies – spilled damage matters, and speed matters for combat effectiveness. In WoW, you might use a 1.5 second cast spell over a 2.5 second cast spell because you simply can’t afford to stand still that extra 1 second. How many spells in WoW do you cast purely by virtue of them being instant cast or castable while moving? In Diablo, virtually every spell is working off of your weapon speed, and the need to be able to quickly move 1/10th of a second sooner sometimes matters. Spilled damage matters too. Many aspects of Diablo involve fighting hordes of small monsters. When a monster has only 150 health, who really cares that you hit it for 300 damage instead of 200 damage? Either way it’s dead. And if it’s dead with a faster weapon, that means you can get to the next monster faster. This means that a weapon with a 1.3 speed that can 1-shot enemies actually has a 30% killing throughput increase over a weapon with a 1.0 speed.

“But I don’t care about these edge cases”.

Well first, I would argue that in Diablo, these aren’t edge cases, they are a core part of the gameplay that come up all of the time.

HOWEVER, for those who are insistent on maximizing theoretical DPS and AP usage, we’ve decided to cover you anyways.

First, straight up. all things being equal, 2-handers do more damage than 1-handers. This is pretty obvious, but I want to confirm and validate this. The reason it’s important to call this out is that all the calculations assume “for any 2 items of the same DPS”. But that’s not a great starting point, because for any two comparable items at any given level, 2-handers do at least 15% more damage than 1-handers, and in many cases 20-25% more.

To put it another way, many of the posts in the linked thread make an assumption that two weapons are equal DPS. This assumption is flawed – what you really want to ask is “For the theoretically best 2-hander in the entire world (even though I’ll never get one)” vs. “the theoretically best 1-hander in the entire world (even though I’ll never get one)”.

However, what you choose to put in your off-hand, should you choose to wield one, matters.

First, no matter WHAT you use, you are getting a bunch of extra stats. In addition to DPS from Attack and Precision, you’re getting whatever other item stats are on your offhand. So you’re trading off a theoretical Arcane power efficiency boost for the stats of an offhand.

Furthermore, if you use a shield, you’re getting a big armor boost. If you haven’t played Diablo in a while, people easily forget, but a lot of Sorceress players used a shield in Diablo II. For some players there is a “fantasy” of “I don’t need a shield ’cause I don’t plan on getting hit”. The reality is that we don’t let you get away with that in Diablo. You get hit. We don’t have heal, tank and DPS roles in Diablo, so everybody in Diablo eventually takes damage.

Additionally, if you choose to use an orb, every wizard Orb (and witchdoctor Mojo) comes with +dmg on it. So if your mainhand does 8-10 damage at 1.4 speed, and your orb adds 3-4 damage, then that means you’re doing 11-14 damage at 1.4 speed. In many cases the orb + the stats on the orb completely closes the 15-25% DPS gap between 2-handers and 1-handers.

Add on top of that +dmg from your rings and amulets, and currently with internal tuning numbers (this may not be how we ship), but 1-handers + offhand out-DPS 2-handers almost all of the time. It takes a luckily rolled 2-hander to out-DPS most 1-hand + offhand setups if you can also spare some +dmg on your rings and amulets.

Finally, fast weapons are better at fishing for procs. Diablo has lots of very cool proc effects. Chance to gain Arcane power on critical hit. Chance to summon a fetish on spell cast passive on the Witchdoctor. Faster and more frequent casts means more opportunities to fish for procs.

Where does that leave us? Well currently for internal testing of Inferno mode, 1H+Orb is overwhelmingly better. You get more damage, better mobility, more stats, and more proc fishing. 2H gets you better Arcane Power efficiency. If anything I’m currently worried that 2H is too weak. The most likely solution on this front will be to reduce the amount of +dmg found on rings and amulets to reel in the damage advantage of 1H+Orb. However, the value of Arcane Power efficiency varies the more you have to run and move. If you’re running and moving constantly, then AP efficiency lets you drop big bombs like meteor and Hydra when you finally get to stand still. Since the amount of running and moving varies from situation to situation, I’m actually fairly happy with where things are.

On the topic of Disintegrate and Arcane Torrent, we’re actually currently considering a change to make them drain AP faster, to match the drain rate on all other skills. I haven’t decided yet whether it’s better for the game for the philosophy on AP to remain consistent across all skills, or if it’s cool that 2 skills break the rule. (Ray of Frost breaks it too BTW). I am currently leaning towards having it drain AP faster because although I absolutely LOVE having different skills for different builds, I also think that when it comes to your resource system, having some standardized themes is what makes it possible to design all the OTHER skills/systems that break those rules. For example, standardized “fast weapons drain AP faster” is also what let’s us do “Arcane power on Crit” that let’s you feel like you’re cheating with all the skills.

On a side note, I don’t think you actually get any potential DPS increase by being able to squeeze in an extra cast in between casts of meteor because the time of 4.8 seconds is the amount of time it takes to regenerate back the AP cost of Meteor, but it’s not like any additional AP just ‘disappeared”, you still have it. A 65 AP cost spell gives you a 35 AP buffer to pool over multiple casts. So let’s say that you figure out your theoretical breakpoint is “6.9 electrocutes in between every meteor” and you think you’re going to get an extra cast if you can get that to “7 electrocutes between every meteor”. That’s not really correct because 6.9 actually plays out as “Meteor // 6 Electrocutes”…. repeated 9 times followed by “Meteor-7 electrocutes”.

To be even more pedantic, (but I know you theorycrafting folks geek out on this stuff anyways), this has never actually come up as a balancing issue in any of our internal tests because a Wizard never stands still shooting long enough for this to ever actually matter. The truth is that you’re going to weave in other skills, or have to spend time moving, or whatever else long before anything in the previous paragraph matters.

-Wyatt

That certainly puts a stake into any number of “Wizards/WDs will use 2H weapons because damage” debates, eh? Hopefully we’ll get a beta patch with the new “spell damage from weapon damage” mechanic working so testers can get some hands on experience with this, to put some actual experimentation into this so far entirely-theoretical debate.

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Diablo 3

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  1. That was a really informative reply from Wyatt and it confirmed a lot of my assumptions about their itemization goals.

  2. So, you have damage increase through the attack stat, which basically increases your weapon damage. Then you have +damage% modifiers on rings/amulets which scale multiplicatively with the attack modifier (which makes sense). And then in addition you have the WD/Wizard exclusive +damage% bonus which scale multiplicatively with both attack and the rings/amulets?
     
    I guess we have to follow his conclusions because he simply knows stuff that we don’t, but yeah.. hopefully we get to see it ourselves soon.

    • Jewelry can’t spawn with +x% damage bonuses, but they can grant you a flat min and/or max damage boost, which benefits fast weapons more than slow ones.

      Class specific damage bonuses will probably be removed from items.

    • While class specific +damage% modifiers will probably be removed, the class specific Orbs and Mojos will always have +damage on them:
       
      “Additionally, if you choose to use an orb, every wizard Orb (and witchdoctor Mojo) comes with +dmg on it.”
       
      It looks like they will always have a flat damage modifier so it will scale better with faster weapons.

  3. Wow, good stuff! I’m really surprised they bothered to write up such an extensive response. Lately it seems like the devs have been focusing on making the game “so your grandma can play it” and less on making us long time diablo fans happy. It would be awesome if detailed posts about mechanics like this keep coming up.
     
    That being said, I was really worried about how this weapon damage and speed affecting casting thing would work out, but I have a little more faith now. It seems like this system is really going to add a lot to caster itemization and also build diversity considering your weapon choice is going to have a huge effect on what spells/runes are optimal.

  4. Interesting. So this is how they are basically going to make Staves competitive to regular facebashy items despite lower DPS – they will just end up carrying Wizard/Witch Doctor damage bonuses.

    Now, if we could only get a similar reply on question of the DH dual weild vs. two hander stuff.

  5. does it matter when the game is made for babies and you can finish it off clicking like a retard?

  6. This is getting really disgusting for me becoz i see where it’s going: They will glorify 1h+off-hand over 2handers and guess what, that off-hand will turn into ‘shield’. He also gives excessive shield usage in Diablo II as an excuse but it was a poor design then why he backs up this bad design idea? We didn’t use shield in D2 becoz we liked it but becoz we didn’t have other option. We had to use shields in most of our builds otherwise they wouldn’t have been viable at all. And there were too few shields that were worth to use and we didn’t like that situation. We thought in D3 they could change this situation but now i see that it will be the same case and even Barbs will prefer shield usage over 2handers or dual-wields. What a shame!

    • I’ll dictate how I’ll be playing my characters, not letting the game do it for me – just because people tell you Tri-Sorcs are dead in Diablo 2 doesn’t mean you can’t play one and make it work. I do.
      If you want to min-max a char and select the equipment that’s best on paper and not enjoy playing it, by all means, be my guest – I’d rather just have fun 🙂

    • I must have read a different text than you. I really cannot follow your conclusion that off-hand will turn into shield. The way I see it is either +damage and stats with an orb or +armor and stats with a shield. So whatever suits you more you will take that option.

    • This argument doesn’t make sense.
      More to the point, shields in D2 were very OP, with their 75% damage absorption. They were very commonly used since they were so OP. In D3 shields have lower % blocking, and they only absorb some range of damage, much below the 100% they did in D2. This change in of itself makes 2H and 1H+offhand much more viable, just by making shields less of an OP solution. How it’s balanced beyond that remains to be seen.

  7. So everyone was afraid they were stuck using two-handers, so now we’re stuck using one-hand/off-hand? That’s, um, better? But I do like his big blazing caveat at the top; the skills/build will tell you what kind of weapon you would want. That’s a good road to take, as long as it isn’t a determining factor. I want to be able to use any skill w/ my weapon set up, and not feel like I’m giving up “excessive” amounts of power or efficiency b/c I didn’t choose the other weapon set up.

    • What does that even mean? You want to be able to use items that aren’t the best for a build and still do well with it? And you think that will lead to a good system for gearing your character?
      How could it be a bad thing that not all weapons / pieces of armor aren’t good for all builds? Do you want to be able to use your armor that has a ton of attack and no precision with any build without losing power or efficiency too?
      Any stat, whether on a weapon or a piece of armor should have distinct pluses/negatives for certain builds. It would be completely stupid if you could gear pretty much any way and not lose “excessive ammounts of power”

      • No, I don’t want pure cookie cutter “two hand” skills and “one hand” skills. Yes, some spells (Meteor, Hydra, Blizzard) will favor two hand weapons and other spells (Signature) will favor one hand weapons. But if you decide to make a build that has both types of skills, the trade off/penalty shouldn’t be so severe that you can’t try and use all of your skills w/ your current weapon. Remember the weapon switch fiasco? I don’t want weapon switch back, so they need to balance the gains/penalties for various skill/weapon combos appropriately.
         
        As to your last paragraph, there’s a continuum between “optimal stats” and “junk stats.” You can’t have build/gear synergy so out of whack that it becomes profitable to ignore any and all damage stats except for one. Sure, each build will favor attack, precision, crit damage, attack speed, etc more or less relative to the others. But if certain skills/builds “break” the paradigm, then too many stats become “junk” stats and gearing up your character becomes a no-brainer. The optimal ratio should be somewhat fuzzy. And that goes for weapons, too.

  8. So, the summation of this would be, 2H have 15% – 25% higher damage, however by equipping them you are forfeting the off hand. One handers have lower dmg, but higher speed and because you have two weapons instead of one, you get all the extra mods from the second one, or all the extra protection if you choose to equip shield in you off hand.

    However this still doesn´t answer the crucial question, is casting speed tied to weapon speed? If I am playing a wizard (which I will, btw) and have one weapon with 2 attack/sec and another one with 1 attack/sec, will my casting speed be twice as high with the first weapon, or it just won´t matter and it will be the same regardless of the weapon speed.

    • Casting speed is tied to weapon speed, which I think is clearly explained in the post, as he compares the slower cast from 2-handers to the faster, but lower damage, from 1 handers.
      Potential cooldowns aside, I think it’s going to be directly related to the speed, meaning a weapon that would have 1.4 attack per second would allow 1.4 spell to be cast per second. Seems the most logical, anyway.

      • Cast speed definitely isn’t tied directly to weapon speed. Teleport for example can be cast much faster than anything else in your arsenal. Most likely every spell has its own base casting speed, which will be modified by your weapon’s speed.

        • Even the monk doesn’t use pure weapon speed for his skills. Fists of Thunder is faster than Crippling Wave for the exact same weapon.

  9. Please people, calm down. The post could be misread by anyone and could be misleading a lot of people… THE BEST solution to all your questions is to wait till the game comes out, because only then will we be able to see what the hell is really going on. Don’t worry, Be happy >)

  10. This does make it sound like 2H-ers won’t generally be able to compete with1H-ers for anyone (with the possible exception of the Barb’s Mighty Weapons) much like D2…

  11. Perhaps I missed it or had a reading comprehension fail, but what does this all mean for channeled abilities, where damage is calculated on a per second basis? Is it static or will both the damage output and resource cost change based on weapon speed? Or maybe, for example, Disintegrate would do 1.4x its damage per second if the Wizard’s equipped weapon has a 1.4 APS modifier…?

    • I would think that they would do something like WoW where faster casting would cause the “ticks” of damage to come quicker in channeled spells, but where does that leave things with a certain duration of damage over time? Will it be like WoW where the faster casting makes the ticks come faster and the duration to shorten up until the threshold that adds an extra tick of damage or will dots not be affected at all?

  12. “However this still doesn´t answer the crucial question, is casting speed tied to weapon speed?”

    The post assumes you know everything prior to it.  At Blizzcon during the Gameplay & Auction House Panel, they confirmed that Wizard and Witch Doctor Spell casting speed would be tied to weapon speed, and spell damage was confirmed from the website to be weapon based.  They mentioned that % witch doctor and % wizard damage mods would most likely be removed.
     
    Since they were NOT changing the rate at which arcane power regenerates, and they were NOT changing any signature spells to by default generate arcane power, the math seems to imply that slower weapon speeds were free damage boosts at no cost.
     
    This incited me to ask during the Blizzcon Open Q&A session, what then, is there in terms of an incentive to actually use a faster weapon?  Jay Wilson answered the question by saying “some builds would use big slow weapons and some like disintegrate would use fast.”  But it didn’t quite answer my question… Disintegrate on a slow weapon or fast weapon would be the same assuming same DPS, just the ticks would be different (with exception to more ticks is actually better assuming you never run out, because it gives less overkill damage).  Not his fault, he said “I hope this answers your question.”  But it really didn’t and I didn’t tell him that even though I had the opportunity to.  I was too nervous to stay in the spot light ( 🙁 you can even see me on youtube now, i was text messaged immediately after by people I knew, watching on a virtual ticket saying “I saw you on TV!”)
     
    So I sent Blizzard a follow-up email on the off-chance they were willing to clarify.  What I got back blew my mind.  I was not expecting such a juicy wall of sexy text thoroughly answering the question of “what incentive is there to faster weapons?”  I actually FELT BAD that Wyatt took all that time to respond to me so thoroughly.  Bashiok sent me the reply and then posted it in the forums for everyone to enjoy the information with the disclaimer that it was in respect to those who understand the mechanics of the game already.  It’s not very newbie friendly.  It assumes you understand the mechanics of the game.  It assumes you already know that casting speed is now based on weapon speed.  It assumes you know everything up to the point that that the conversation transpired.
     
    So if you’re missing any information and don’t understand anything, I’d be happy to clear it up, as I understood all of what Wyatt said, as it was written directly to address the conversation that had transpired between me and Blizzard.

  13. This discussion was awesome I’m glad you sent that e-mail so don’t feel bad, you helped out many diablo 3 fans!

    That said, there is one thing I’d like to have clarified. Disintegrate, Arcane Torrent, and Ray of Frost cost less arcane power per second than passive regeneration? I’m assuming this because it was implied that those skills would not benefit from the “equal DPS, slower weapon” so they must have no need of increased arcane power efficiency. Yet Wyatt Cheng said they would likely increase the AP of those skills to bring them into line with the other offensive skills, but that could possibly be overcome by golden-runed signature skills, or other arcane power regeneration buffs.

    So it seems like 2-handed weapons will be more efficient with arcane power, however this can be overcome with runes/passives/gear, and 2handed weapons’ increased DPS will almost certainly be overcome by +damage gear from offhands, rings, and amulets.

    Thus the balance does seem to favour 1-handed weapons, unless you’re using really high AP-cost skills, in which case it’s a trade-off between increased AP efficiency and the benefits of using a 1-handed weapon + offhand (more modifiers from the offhand, less overkill, more mobility, more procs). That sounds good to me. Thanks for the info!

  14. “That said, there is one thing I’d like to have clarified. Disintegrate, Arcane Torrent, and Ray of Frost cost less arcane power per second than passive regeneration?”
     
    If I’m reading your request for clarification correctly it’s this? “How are Disintegrate, Arcane Torrent and Ray of Frost’s AP cost more suited to being fast weapon friendly?”
     
    Disintegrate and Arcane Torrent both have an arcane power cost of 20 AP per second (or actually, it most likely will be 20 AP per tick, or in other words, 20 AP every time it does damage)  The base arcane power regeneration rate is 12.5 AP/Second.  So assuming a 1 second attack time, These two spells only drain 7.5 AP/second (or per tick)  With the base Arcane power pool of 100, It takes 13.3 seconds to deplete your pool, and that’s assuming you just sit there, without moving, to cast it.  Basically, it drains so slowly that for most intents and purposes, while it drains your AP, you should have enough to cast everything you want without needing to switch to signature spells while you regenerate or to increase your regeneration with golden runes.
     
    Ray of frost is a little different, with the golden rune actually making it cost less than the base arcane regeneration rate so you actually regenerate arcane power while casting this spell.  But only if you use a golden rune. I want to see how well a crimson rune does with it 😀
     
    Ultimately if you can kill a monster off before you run out of AP, the faster weapon speed will almost always (there’s some less common cases of when it isn’t) be better because you’re not doing as much overkill damage.  If you do 100 damage every 1 second, and everything has 100 health, then you can kill 10 things in 10 seconds.  But if you do 200 every 2 seconds, and everything has 100 health, you take 20 seconds to kill all 10 things because even though you’re doing more damage, it’s not making a difference because it’s being wasted.  Although, on the contrary, if you start running out of Arcane power, then your efficiency of arcane power is a factor as well.
     
    I believe when Wyatt Cheng said that he was thinking about bringing those skills AP costs higher, he was also intended on rebalancing their damage with that as well.  If that’s the case, they would be less of a “very spammable, mid range damage skill” into the “high damage, high cost, need to use signature spells because you can’t maintain as long” skills.

  15. That was a truly awesome response from Blizzard. Especially if you compare it to the less-than-eight-weeks-away SWTOR–which STILL has its NDA in place.

  16. Ok thanks for clearing that up defenestrate. I feel like Disintegrate, Arcane Torrent, and Ray of Frost don’t need to be changed because they do still drain arcane power, so if you wanted to just sit there using disintegrate you would gain at least some arcane power efficiency benefit from 2-handed weapon (although lose out on other things, like overkill). But I wouldn’t mind if they made them cost more and increased the damage either.

    These skills are some of my favorites for the wizard and I may end up using a 2-handed weapon from time to time, so it’s nice to know the pros and cons.

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