Class Q&A: Rogue

Eliah Hecht
E. Hecht|08.03.09

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Class Q&A: Rogue

The class Q&A series continues with Rogue, the stabbiest class. Look for a more complete analysis later; for now, here's a quick summary, with the full Q&A after the cut. Priest is now the only class left, but don't despair, my clerical friends – I'm sure they saved the best for last. I hope.

  • Rogues are for DPS. Historically, they have been "selfish" - little group utility. Right now they have better utility and synergy.
  • They've always been strong in PvP, because of stealth, stun, and burst.
  • The devs are happy with the way the combo point/finisher system is working right now.
  • A proposed solution for Vanish! "...Vanish puts you in stealth for 1 second minimum no matter what else happens."
  • Hunger for Blood is meant to boost PvE damage without doing much for PvP, and as such it works, but is boring. Changes are in store for the long run. They want it to be more reactive, and also put it back into PvP.
  • They would like to make Subtlety competitive in PvE, but if they make it too good players will all switch to it because of the utility. Long-term, some Sub utility might become core, or some damage from other trees might become core so the choice is utility vs utility (not utility vs damage).
  • Rogues underperform in dungeons, as a consequence of scaling so well in raids. If you're not doing good DPS in raids, "the problem exists between the chair and the keyboard."
  • Rogues are too survivable when they can use all their tricks on one target, and too squishy when they can't. Long-term, they want to move some survivability to passive abilities.
  • Combat Daggers is dead because Blizzard thinks that it was clunky and unfun.
  • Don't expect more class-specific content any time soon - they would like to do it, but it's low on the priority list.

The full Q&A from Ghostcrawler and friends is below.

Today we continue our class Q&A series with the development team, in which we're taking a look at each class and answering some of the top questions brought forward by their communities. Next up, we explore the most asked questions from the rogue class and find out more about the design philosophy and expectations for the class, as well as what may lie in store for it in the future.

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Community Team: This segment is all about the rogue; we will delve deep into this class with Greg Street and discuss the elements that make the rogue class incredibly unique.

Q. Where do rogues fit into the larger scope of things currently and where do you see them going from this point forward?

A. They're a premier melee dps class - the personification of skulking and swashbuckling flair. It's their primary and only role - they're not going to turn into tanks or healers.

Rogues were once the best dps class hands-down, and a lot of the other classes were just there to buff rogues. Rogues were supposed to be selfish and not bring many buffs or utility of their own. We're not really happy with that design any longer, and have pushed rogues to be a little more normal - great damage in the right conditions, but also some good utility and synergy as well.

Rogues have nearly always been strong in PvP, just because their shtick of coming out of stealth to stun and then unload on an opponent translates so well to everything from Arena to random world ganking.

Q. What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?

A. Rogues have a complex resource system with the balance between energy and combo points, and rely on active abilities to respond to situations rather than passive effects. This leads to a very interesting tension between planning out what you're going to do ahead of time and reacting to proc-based resource gains (energy/combo points from things like Combat Potency, Relentless Strikes, and Ruthlessness), and rationing your active timers and abilities to survive.

Community Team: Let's look at rogue abilities, the combo point system, and the feedback our rogue community has provided on some of these.

Q. Do we feel the current combo point system is working out fine for rogues, not just for Subtlety, but for all three trees? Are there any plans to improve how combo points are awarded later down the road?

A. Yes, but there's always room for improvement. Combo points are meaningful in all aspects of the game, and provide a necessary limiter on some of the rogue's more powerful abilities. Too many combo points runs the risk of completely overwhelming your normal abilities and breaking the natural flow of the class, as Subtlety rogues who raid probably know all too well. I would expect that abilities that modify how combo points are acquired are something we'll probably be careful with in the future.

Overall, we really like the way the combo point and finishing move system works. If anything, the risk is that we could push too many other classes towards this system, which makes it less unique for the rogue.

Q. Vanish, as you know, is one of the class's staple abilities that sets it apart from other classes. However, there are times when Vanish doesn't execute quite as the rogue intends, especially when they vanish right in the middle of some kind of enemy channeling spell or when a class sends their pet after the rogue "mid-vanish." Do we feel that, in its current rendition, Vanish is working properly in this respect? What variables should be considered when Rogues decide to utilize Vanish to avoid it being negated?

A. No, Vanish isn't working properly and breaks when you breathe on the rogue funny. There are two problems with fixing it. One is that technically it's just not easy. We would need to change the ways spells are resolved on the server side. Now that is something we can do, but the outcome would be taking a powerful ability and making it more powerful. We need to solve the frustration part of the ability, but not also greatly buff rogue survivability or damage potential when doing it. The solution we like the most is something like Vanish puts you in stealth for 1 second minimum no matter what else happens.

Q. We've seen some changes made to both Mutilate and Overkill; how do we feel these abilities are faring currently and do we believe they require any additional adjustments?

A. Both abilities are largely where we want them - a poisoned enemy is still meaningful to the Mutilate rogue, and the modern Overkill keeps the feeling of being awesome while in or emerging from stealth, while being relatively more balanced than the prior incarnation. The changes seem to have had their intended effect of reducing rogue burst damage.

Q. There has been mention in previous developer responses on the forums about changes planned for Hunger for Blood. Players are interested to know what is in store for this ability in the foreseeable future.

A. The current design for Hunger for Blood is in place to boost rogue PvE damage without substantially boosting PvP damage. It's not a terribly exciting talent in its current implementation, but it does the job. As such, we do have long-term plans to change it, but we think the current design works for now. Long-term we want it to be a more reactive ability - something you use depending on the situation but use often in a fight, and not just a passive damage buff that requires a lot of management. Long-term we'd also like to get it back into PvP.

Q. Rogues appreciated the original rendition of Shadow Dance and felt it to be incredibly unique. Do we have plans to implement the original functionality later down the road?

A. No. The repeated snare-breaks from chain-Vanish were way too good and basically made the rogue immune to snares and roots for the duration of Shadow Dance. It wasn't intended to be Bladestorm.

Community Team: Going into the Subtlety spec for a little bit, many rogues are huge fans of the Subtlety spec and have shared similar concerns regarding this specialization such as damage output compared to Assassination and Combat.

Q. Players feel Subtlety captures the essence of a rogue with the majority of its abilities revolving around stealth and utility. How do we feel this specialization is performing currently and where do we see it in the future?

A. The damage is behind the other specs in PvE, and due to all the neat utility tools, Subtlety would immediately become the default spec in PvE if the damage were comparable. In the future we'd like to make it competitive, but it's an interesting balancing act between too good and not good enough. It has a place in PvP, and should be more compelling in the post-3.2 world where survival talents will be more valuable.

Long-term, we'd love to see more of the utility talents from Subtlety core for the rogue class in general, or alternatively, we'd like to see more of the damage boosts from the other trees made passive so that rogues of all trees were choosing utility versus utility when making talent choices instead of utility versus damage.

Community Team: We would like to touch on various PvE aspects of the Rogue. Let's get started.

Q. For both groups and raids, utility such as raid buffs and debuffs offer great benefits for improving your party-member's effectiveness in most PvE encounters. While rogues do have abilities such as Expose Armor, Blind, and Sap, do we have plans for added utility later on?

A. Yes, the question is where we add them and how we do it without unbalancing the tightrope between the specs we walk in both PvE and PvP, and giving them too much access to their PvE damage potential in PvP. We think Tricks of the Trade is a fun utility ability that lets the rogue feel smart when it's used most optimally. We want to make sure rogues have enough group raid buffs (currently they have Expose Armor, Mind-numbing Poison, Master Poisoner, Wound Poison, and Savage Combat), but rogue damage is sufficient now that they are pretty attractive members of the team.

Q. The majority of a rogue's damage seems to stem mostly from white damage; we've seen devs in the past mention revamping this to avoid it being the main source of damage. Also, with changes made recently to abilities such as Mutilate and Slice and Dice, players would like to know how exactly we plan to change this aspect for rogues.

A. Rogue ability usage is still a very meaningful part of their damage, and rogues who use their abilities and timers skillfully perform much better than those who do not. As such, there aren't really plans to change this significantly, as it's an interesting distinction between the rogue and more ability-driven classes such as the death knight. Putting more damage into their abilities also increases the damage on an already bursty class.

Q. Cool-downs are another topic that has been discussed consistently within the rogue community. Rogues understand that they are strong and efficient when they have cool-downs readily available, however on the same token, they feel a bit constrained by the limitation to their class because of various cool-downs. In a dungeon/raid encounter, they feel that they are unable to provide significant damage contributions even when attempting to manage their cool-downs to the best of their ability. How do we currently feel about cool-downs for their damage-dealing abilities?

A. In dungeons they're absolutely right - one of the disadvantages of scaling so well in a raid scenario is that you need to start at a lower baseline. They're better than they used to be for dungeons due to a mostly reliable Sap, but they're still not great compared to a caster or melee hybrid. In a raid they're great, and the problem exists between the chair and the keyboard if they're not contributing damage effectively in that scenario.

Community Team: Jumping into some PvP action with the next set of questions from our rogue community, let's get to it!

Q. Cloak of Shadows is an incredible ability; it helps rogues avoid most incoming spell damage and effects. However, how do we feel this ability stacks up versus classes that possess both melee and spell damaging abilities? Do we still feel the 90% avoidance is sufficient to aid Rogues in PvP encounters against spell casters and hybrids?

A. It's meant as a tool that's part of a toolkit, not an I-win button. It's sufficient, and extending it to 100% would make rogues largely immune to interesting PvE effects they shouldn't be (e.g. Mimiron's Shock Blast).

Q. Rogues feel they take an extensive amount of damage against various classes and have very limited abilities with long cool-downs to help combat this, so they rely heavily on their avoidance abilities in PvP situations and have little to fall back on to survive. How do we feel rogue survivability is currently and are there any plans to supplement this?

A. Rogues are probably too survivable when they can apply all of their crowd control to a single target and much too squishy when they can't. Moving some of the survivability from active abilities to passive ones without losing the interesting flavor of the class is an ongoing challenge, and we'd like to do it in ways like the Feint change rather than simply adding in "takes 20% less damage" to a random talent.

The current rogue design could be described as fragile, but rarely takes damage, since it's possible to apply so much crowd control. Chaining crowd control and countering crowd control is a huge part of PvP that's fun for a lot of players and we don't want to remove that. On the other hand, we often run into problems with the rogue where we can't diminish or change the DR on crowd control because then the rogue just takes damage and dies. An alternative model is a slightly more tanky rogue than can survive more damage (perhaps only when cooldowns are up or something), but can't keep someone locked down so long. Also note that this would improve the rogue level-up experience as well. It's effective and occasionally fun but can get pretty slow and tedious to have to approach every opponent from within stealth. Sometimes you just want to stab a relatively non-challenging mob to death and move on.

Q. So, over the past years, rogues have utilized macros for swapping in/out weapons with different poisons to aid them in different situations, but sometimes it can become slightly cumbersome to swap between weapons to gain added utility where needed. Do we feel this is a suitable approach in aiding rogues in this respect? Are there any plans to change this later down the road to make it easier for rogues to swap poisons mid-fight?

A. We agree it's clunky to swap weapons and that's because we don't want it to be a major feature of the game. We could see making it a major feature, something much more like the weapon swapping of Diablo II. Currently you swap weapons more for macro-ing a shield for Spell Reflect. A rogue swapping poisons feels a little more interesting than that, but it's pretty much the only example we could think of. Until we can make weapon swapping feel less clunky for more classes we aren't going to push it as an important feature.

Community Team: Rogues have a passion for making the best out of most every single one-handed weapon currently available in game and have definitely provided some feedback pertaining to some of these weapons available to them and utilizing them to the best of their ability with the spec they have. Let's get into a couple of these.

Q. Lots of rogues are fans of the "Combat-Daggers" setup. Do we feel this is a viable option in PvE versus other traditional setups?

A. Not really. It was always a very simplistic spec that only used one finisher and limped along with no combo point income. The "rotation" for this spec, if you can call it that, was Backstab x 5, Slice and Dice, repeat. In sexy Naxx gear with a cool energy-boost set bonus it became Backstab x 5, Slice and Dice, Backstab x 3, Rupture, repeat. It was clunky to play, had massive ramp time (say 30 seconds) and positioning issues, and you couldn't ever use your combo points or energy on anything but damage or it all fell apart. It might have been effective, but we didn't think it was very fun and we don't really want to promote it.

To be clear, it's always a tough call when players find a creative way to use combinations of gear and talent specs like this. Sometimes we want to reward the players for being creative. Other times they are just taking the design in a direction we're not crazy about. There are no hard and fast rules to when "unintended" equals "bad" or not.

Q. With the advent of one-handed axes coming into play as another plausible choice of weapons for rogues, why did we decide to add this feature this far into the game? What are the benefits of having one-handed axes versus the traditional weaponry available to rogues?

A. We were in a world where we continued having to drop one-handed maces all the time, because swords couldn't be used by shamans, axes by rogues, or fists by death knights. We wanted to have more variety in the type of one-handers we dropped. We discussed it quite a bit, and included the world designers and keepers of the lore in those discussions. Ultimately, we settled on axes for rogues. Rogues are supposed to be the masters of melee weaponry and there's extensive support in classical literature for brigand/swashbuckler/lightly armored warrior types using axes (pen and paper RPGs, pirates, Native Americans with tomahawks, gladiators). If a rogue would pick up a broken bottle to use as a weapon (the infamous Barman Shanker) it seems likely they'd use a good axe. As a result, shamans and death knights should see more axes in the game overall. (Though remember, the 3.2 patch largely focused on the new Isle of Conquest BG, so we don't have a ton of new raid bosses to itemize. That will change in 3.3.)

Community Team: We're at the end of our Q & A, here, but we would like to finish this with a couple of unique lore-based questions.

Q. Rogues have definitely embraced the lore behind them, including the Ravenholdt quest-line. Do we plan on expanding into this anytime soon? Players feel this specific lore really defined rogues early on in the game and would like a continuation of that.

A. The problem with class-specific quests is that you're cutting off 90% (give or take depending on class popularity) of players from seeing the content. Put another way, you can offer 100 class-specific quests per class, or 1000 quests that almost everyone can see. We don't have any announcements of new content in that quest line at this time.

Q. Are there any other lore-based quests that we will be providing not just for rogues but for classes in general, later down the road? Players feel these provide their respective class with a unique touch and allows for a more immersive feel to their gameplay.

A. As I said above, class quests are expensive from a content-development standpoint. That said, we recognize why they are so popular and can be so memorable. We made a lot of death knight-specific content for Wrath of the Lich King, and it may very well be the best zone of quests in the game. With content like this we don't operate on a yes or no level, but off of a wish list. We would love to add more class-specific quests, but there's a ton of other things we want to do with World of Warcraft as well.

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