Quantitative and Qualitative?

World of Warcraft Warlock

Takeda, Warlock.

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft a lot lately. I spent a great deal of time leveling Takeda, my warlock, and trying to get him into Raid Finder so he can obtain all the goodies. It’s been a fun experience, even though Warlocks are really, really, really complicated to play well and optimize in a raid environment or in player versus player combat. I noted the problems with accessibility a few weeks ago, but perhaps I was being a bit overly dramatic. Even if something isn’t accessible at first, enough practice and muscle memory puts you in a position to perform well regardless, especially with DPS classes.

A bunch of numbers from World of Warcraft

Don’t you just love numbers?

What’s weird about World of Warcraft, though, is that for all its popularity, it boils down to a game of statistics and optimization at higher levels. Take the emergence of the site Elitist Jerks – their sole purpose remains the complete optimization of every class and spec in high-level PvE content. That’s a pretty tall order, considering the way Blizzard designed the game.

A quick summary: every class revolves around 5 basic statistic: Stamina (more health), Strength (better melee attacks – for certain classes), Agility (ditto, plus critical strike, a chance to get double damage on hit), Intellect (more mana, used for spellcasting, as well as adding power to spells) and Spirit (mana regeneration – useful for some casters, not others). Each of the ten basic classes gets certain stat bonuses as they level – A Priest, for example, has the highest base Spirit and gains 3 points per level, while a Mage has the highest base Intellect and gets 3 points as well, Both classes actually benefit from both stats, but each one desires a higher amount of the stat most beneficial to them. Thus, a Priest wants any caster gear with Spirit (Intellect usually comes along as a bonus), while a Mage wants Intellect primarily.

Now, this isn’t the end of the story. Once you’ve figured out what class you’re playing, what stats you need, and have leveled it to cap, you’ve got a whole new problem on your hands. Warlocks, for example, don’t need Spirit; their two primary resources are Stamina and Intellect, the former because they can Life Tap to convert health to mana, and Intellect for more mana and increased spell damage. After you’ve gotten the gear according to that priority, now comes the fun part: reforging. Reforging was a new mechanic for Cataclysm, the newest WoW expansion. Reforging allows you to exchange 40% of a combat rating already on an item and converts it into a combat rating not already on an item. Example: If an item has Critical Strike rating, you cannot add more Crit (shorthand). If it has no Crit then you could reforge 40% of another rating (Haste, Hit, or Mastery) into Crit. An item with 100 Hit and no Crit could be reforged to 60 Hit and 40 Crit.

For every class, this is a essential part of the game. If a caster doesn’t get to the hit rating cap, for example, he/she has a chance to miss spells. In a game where optimizing becomes paramount, a missed spell is missed damage and a lost opportunity. To ensure damage on every cast, not wasting time on recasting spells, you must reforge lesser stats to reach the hit cap. For a spell-caster like Takeda, that means he needs enough hit rating (usually shown in number form; these numbers convert to a particular percentage of hit which scales based on level) to reach 17% hit, which means he will never miss a spell that could miss (every spell has an innate miss chance, I’m pretty sure). Of course, in such min/maxing, there’s an additional problem: any hit over that cap becomes useless the instant you reach that cap. Reforging becomes a game in itself, trying repeatedly to waste the least amount of a reforged stat as possible.

After that hit cap is reached with the least waste, then the secondary stat priorites begin. For casters, haste (increasing cast speed is next) which has its own cap (not useless after, just not optimal), followed by one or another stat depending on your particular talent specialization. Talent specializations come in three flavors – tank, damage, and healer. These all have optimal builds as well, basically making the player take the universally “required” talents, with a fe miscellaneous ones thrown in for personal flavor. There’s other factors, such as gems (adding specific stat bonuses to “gem” slots in gear, most high level gear having 3 slots) and enchants (putting a stat boost on an item), but that’s the basic gist of it.

I used online tools, developed by people with real jobs and real lives, to get to the optimal level. My profile on WoWReforge shows that, mathematically, I have the optimal stat distribution given my current gear. There’s a number of solutions to it, naturally, but you get the picture. I’ve got a 17.02% hit percentage, which is as low as I could get it. I was at 17% exactly, but upgrades happen to us all.

Now that’s you’re bored to tears or death, you ask “why are you telling me this?” I’m just amazed I like math, regardless of the fact that it’s in a video game. Let’s say my skills in Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre-calculus weren’t things of beauty or admiration. I don’t like that sort of “impractical” skill. But there’s lot of impractical and downright boring (by perspective, anyway) stat crunching in World of Warcraft, which I’ve been playing for nearly 6 years continuously. My God, that’s a long time to play one game.

Still, it’s part of Blizzard’s genius that they can make a game like this appeal to nearly 10.2 million people. And you might think “well, they got tricked into it”, but all the stats exist in the meta-game, and if you can’t actually play your class, learn their abilities, and stand OUT OF THE FIRE, you’ll still be terrible even with all of the above statistical mumbo-jumbo.

As in good game design, so in religion! I’ve always found that, as well, religions work in a way that is easily digestible by just about any human being on the planet. How does Christianity work? There’s really not much to it – God set a plan in motion to save the world from sin, sent His son to die, rose again, now Jesus Christ absolves all of their sins (and open themselves to believe in Him as Lord and Savior). However, there’s obviously much depth to be gleaned even in this simple explanation.  What is sin? Who is God? Why did God have to take the form of a man in order to save humanity? What’s the Trinity? What does it mean that he is homo-ousios (one substance) as well as three persons? What does it mean to “believe” in Jesus? What constiutes salvation? And how come there are billions of people who disagree on just about everything regarding all these issues?

However, the technicalities of these various elements, while extremely important to clarify and note, don’t take away from the essential message: God loves you. I suppose the best things in life come in simple packages with INCREDIBLY LARGE, possibly OVERWHELMING AMOUNTS OF DEPTH just waiting for the nearest passerby to become swallowed in its intracacies – as I did, in fact! It’s fascinating that even the simplest things really contain more than the human brain could ever conceive. That’s part of the fun, though: the journey of discovery, finding out how to do things the right way, the best way, all done within the passage of time.

It’s not like anybody in the Bible wasn’t like this. Take Abram/Abraham, for example; his wife had to spend YEARS without children (Not a good omen in his day; tantamount to a curse), waiting on God to deliver what He had promised. In his good time, of course. God works in a process, so do we. My Warcraft knowledge is exponential only because I played for so long; my knowledge of the Bible is exhaustive, but no where near complete. You don’t become a disciple in a day. Nor do you become a fantastic Warlock (also, not true for me).

So don’t worry about it, work hard at it even if it’s insurmountable, and things will fall into place. Or maybe not, but something else unexpected will happen instead. That’s just how it is; you can’t worry about tomorrow when you have today. Don’t let the sun go down when you’re angry at somebody. A macrocostic perspective benefits more than a microcosm of our silly struggles. Or, as the author of Ecclesiastes 3 would say:

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.