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Is it time to kill the global cooldown?

Matthew Rossi
OK, so I was playing some Diablo III beta last night. Since this is a site that covers World of Warcraft, I'll just say that the little snippet I managed to play through before passing out was such that I could describe it in superlatives. But one of the things I noticed when playing was that the barbarian class plays absolutely perfectly to me. There are attacks that gain you the resource (fury) that you then spend on larger, more punishing attacks. You can spam those fury-gathering attacks; there's nothing limiting you from making them. You could hammer the keyboard all night if you wanted to. And it felt good.

This is when I realized that I hate the global cooldown. I guess it's double kudos to Blizzard that it got me to accept the global cooldown for seven years and then got me to despise it with another of its own games. Looking over the list of class abilities not affected by it, I find myself starting to wonder if it even serves a purpose anymore. Or is it just a holdover from the game's original design?

Where has all the hitting gone?

It's probably the bias of the classes I choose to play that causes some of this dissatisfaction. If I played a hunter, rogue, cat druid or a DK who used Unholy Presence (I freely admit I'm not up on DK mechanics, so I have no idea if many do), would I even notice the 1-second global they have? I don't know. It's clear that my reflexes aren't exactly cat-like and never were, so it's entirely possible that I wouldn't. As a warrior (and one who plays arms at the moment), I often run up against the GCD, waiting to hit an attack. The real lesson of the DIII beta was in how much more engaging it is to be doing something in order to do something than it is to do something and then wait to do something else.

Then again, part of the issue might not be the GCD at all, but rather auto-attack. Caster classes at least don't really have auto-attack; they have to use their abilities actively. When they're done casting one spell, whatever its duration, they have to move on to the next one. Instant-cast or not, casters have to juggle movement when it's necessary with their spell selection, using the optimum casts to maximize their effectiveness.

One thing they don't have to do (and which I think marks a superiority in their playstyle) is hit things with their staves in order to build a resource to actually use their abilities. (Some old boomkin players are remembering having to do just this in The Burning Crusade.) Having a melee class get so much of its damage from white hits, what we call the damage dealt by auto-attack, may be the problem -- especially when the auto-attack, a wholly passive ability, becomes the means by which a class generates the resources for its active attacks.

Auto-attack and the Barbican of Boredome

As we saw when Blizzard discussed the incoming monk class, all modern melee relies heavily on the auto-attack. It's baked into our rotations that melee get up close and starting swinging. And the problem isn't that this doesn't work, but that combined with the GCD, auto-attack creates a passive element to gameplay that keeps the player mired in a When can I act next? mentality.

Casters aren't really worried about when they can act next, because their ranged nature means that everything they do is an active choice. The point here isn't that melee doesn't work well as DPS. (You can make arguments back and forth on that one.) The point is that the ranged model is superior in terms of its ability to make everything it does feel like an active choice, with the exception of hunters. (Hunter reliance on Auto-Shot mirrors melee reliance on auto-attack.)

What would you do, then, smart guy?

It's unlikely that other melee will lose auto-attack; for one thing, it would remove uniqueness from the incoming monk class. But the GCD could be shaved down to the point where it was barely perceptible and really only served to keep players from chaining abilities in unbalancing ways. Letting people take action is always going to feel more fun. I'd also recommend that pretty much all melee switch to a system where some abilities generated the resources to use others, abandoning the GCD's attempt at balancing with that of resource gain and spend. It just feels a lot more active.

This would mean that haste would either need to be scrapped or reworked, since one of the attractions of stacking the stat is to shave down the GCD to 1 second. Since I play a class that hates haste, while classes that cast things with long cast times like it, I admit this would need some consideration. The easiest solution would be to just pare away haste's affect on the GCD, but I admit there would need to be some buff to compensate for it.

I guess what I'm saying here is, Blizzard, you've made an awesome game here and you should totally rip yourselves off. Seriously. Steal these mechanics.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.