small-scale violence in the world of warcraft

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

some thoughts on the changes to hit and dodge

in pet battles, there is a baseline 5% chance that you will miss an attack against an opponent of equal or lower level. there is also a 5% chance that your opponent will dodge your attack. i grew up in a world filled with dice, spinners, rnd() functions, and, when nothing else was available, the last digit of each phone number on a page torn out of an old phone book. as an adult, a big part of my job is managing risk. also, i still play d&d, so there's still lots of dice. as a result, i've been rather baffled by all the people on the wow forums claiming that random outcomes have no business in mini-games like pet battles. there has been a deluge of complaints since day 1, some constructive but many from people with no understanding of confirmational bias, claiming to have been the victims of all sorts of statistically unlikely events (such as missing 15 times in a row). sometimes people report having thrown hellacious temper tantrums, as if this was something to be proud of.

playing zombie dice with these people would probably be a miserable experience.

in patch 5.3, blizzard is going to overhaul the entire system, much to the delight of people who are uncomfortable with probabilities. the baseline chances to miss or dodge will be reduced to 0%. there will still be a chance to miss/dodge higher level opponents, but it will be reduced from 5% each per level to 2%. all tooltips will show the chance of missing (no more "this attack has a moderate chance to miss").


a number of basic attacks will now have a small (5-15%) chance to miss, instead of using the baseline. to compensate for the reduced accuracy, the damage for these attacks will be increased 5-15%. these attacks are mainly the no-frills attacks pets typically get at level 1, such as chomp, diseased bite, and water jet. the thinking is, players will find it more fun if they can opt-in to a baseline chance to miss, rather than have it imposed on them. for the full details, go here.

so what does it mean? for starters, it's a blow to healing. healing abilities were never subject to the 5% baseline (how would you dodge your own heal), so they gain nothing while attacks are getting a 10% buff. the other effect that i can see possibly coming from this will be in pvp.

a lot of pet battle players have shown themselves to be extremely averse to the element of chance. therefore, i expect them to avoid using the attacks with a chance to miss, whenever possible. and this may be something that can be used against them. look at it this way: an attack that does 10% more damage when it hits but misses 10% of the time means that most of the time i'll be doing a little better than my opponent, and some of the time i'll do a lot worse. over the long-term it all averages out, but so what? if i can win a bunch of fights by a small margin, i won't mind getting trounced every now and then. now, there's a lot else going on, and the most effective attacks are generally the more complex ones not getting the chance to miss treatment, so the ultimate impact may be too small to notice. but i will definitely be selecting these attacks when setting up pvp teams, and i'm very curious to see how it will all work out.


  1. I play the PvE game pretty much exclusively, and I'm probably one of the players they've redesigned for as I've been frustrated when I roll low 2-3 times in a row.

    It's a visceral reaction, so it's easy to overanalyze, but the main issue is that the game is already stacked in favor of the AI. It has to be in order to make it a challenge. I've been using the Pandaria tamers to speed level my pets, so you're not only taking them on with it stacked in their favor, but you're fighting with only two good pets instead of three.

    The margin for error at that point is very low on some fights. You have to have exactly the right pets and do the right moves at the right time or you lose. So if you then you roll low and your attacks dodge or miss 2-3 times in a row, the fight is over at that point and you've wasted your time even if you're on the last pet and it's down to 5-10%. Because the next move the AI makes will kill your pet.

    The in-game analogy is something like never being able to hit cap your core abilities in high end raiding so you always have a 5-10% chance that the boss will wipe you because an important ability misses. It's not really a max DPS issue at that point, but a quality of life issue.

    What isn't frustrating for me is when:

    1) The tamer does an OP move that crits, the fight is already stacked in it's favor, crits are just an example of luck getting the best of you.

    2) You have an move that's supposed to have a high chance to miss and it does. It kind of sucks, but you expect that and it's extra nice when it does hit.

    The other issue that I welcome is more clearly spelling out the miss chance because some of the abilities seem to have a higher miss chance than others but you can't tell whether that's the way it is or if it's just confirmation bias.

  2. the thing about the margin of error when fighting npc tamers is that it is not constant. when i was sending my first 25s against them, the odds definitely were stacked against me. often times it would take several tries until lady rng finally smiled on me and the computer missed more than me and i won. but as i built up my army, i replaced my original pets in these fights with more effective ones and the margins grew. now, after months of honing my craft and building my resources, i can put three 25s against any npc and the only way i could lose would be to have luck so astronomically bad that it's unlikely to happen before the next expansion. the npcs have better stats, but with fixed teams and fixed moves they are badly gimped and it is possible with time and analysis and trial and error to reach a point where you completely own their pixelated asses. When you reach this point, whether the chance to miss/dodge is 5% or 0% really doesn't matter.

    if you look up pet attacks on or, they will tell you the accuracy of attacks. most notably, dive and its variants are only 80% accurate, even though this is not mentioned in the tooltip. i agree that correctly providing chance-to-miss on every tooltip will be a good thing.

  3. I agree it doesn't matter as much when you have 3 level 25s. For some of them, like the Farmer in Four Winds, it really doesn't matter. But two 25s and a 10 versus the Earth Spirit can be completely floored if you get 2-3 misses in a row.

    Depending on what you're using, even the Four winds farmer can be a problem if you need a root to keep them from swapping a stunned pet and that root misses. And when it does happen, it seems like it's more frustrating than if the tamer manages to get a crit or for other RNG effects.

  4. okay, but if we're talking about 2v3, that is a completely different situation than what you originally brought up. unlike raiding, you aren't bringing your "a" game. you're deliberately tying one hand behind your back (yes, today you have three hands) and making a fully informed decision to accept a higher level of risk in order to receive a larger reward if successful. if you decide that you do not want the risk, there are other ways to level your pets. this has been a part of gaming since we were little children, and it always will be.

    now, risk can and ought to be managed. i wouldn't bring a 10 to the earth spirit. i'd bring it to farmer nishi, pop it up to 15, then take it to aki and pop it up to 18, then a couple other tamers to get it to 21 or 22, and only then to the earth spirit. at this point it would be able to contribute, and possibly snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, if things go down the toilet in a big way. as such, i'm perfectly comfortable with the current miss/dodge rates. but 5% is a completely arbitrary number, probably chosen because cory stockton has five fingers on each hand. 2% or 0% are equally valid, and equally arbitrary, values. if people, well, if blizzard, prefer these than so be it. i will adjust my methods and continue to have fun, as i've done with some of the other changes i didn't ask for.

    but people who accept risks because they want the reward, only to throw temper tantrums if they lose now and then? they're even bigger idiots than the folks who think there shouldn't be any rng in a turn-based game.