Nov 11, 2011

Posted by in Fully Operational | 4 Comments

Fully Operational: The First Steps To Max DPS

“Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” — There is no better example of damage in the Star Wars galaxy than the scene attached to that quote. Each week in Fully Operational, join Kray as he takes a look at the damage dealing role in Star Wars: The Old Republic. And yes, we’ll blow up a planet if we get the chance.

Good morning, good afternoon, and good night Ask A Jedi readers! Kray here with another episode of Fully Operational. I’ll be honest with you, there’s not a whole lot of really pertinent DPS-related information that got released this week, despite the AAJ team spending a ton of time with BioWare at the Fan Site Summit. Over the next few weeks before launch expect a lot of specifics around classes and gameplay to be revealed, but as for right now let’s take a look at things from a more general standpoint. No listening music today, but take a look at this absolutely stupid and awesome video from one of the guys at R2-DB for your entertainment needs.

The Old Republic isn’t quite out yet (less than 40 days!), and the beta is unfortunately still under NDA for most of the people who got their hands on it. What does this mean for you? Well, simply put, when you fire up the game for the first time and start playing your class of choice, it’s going to be an extremely fresh, new experience. Games like Everquest, Warhammer, World of Warcraft, Rift, etc have the advantage of millions of subscribers who have played the game for years, compiling all their experiences into guide posts on forums and theorycrafting websites. With TOR, on the other hand, it’s going to take a while for people to get to max level and start crunching numbers. So let’s take a look at what you can do to maximize your own effectiveness before the spreadsheets and simulators start popping up.

Step One: How Hard Does it Hit?

The first and probably most important step to figuring out what abilities you’ll want to prioritize is determining exactly how much damage it’s going to do. In order to calculate this relatively complex amount, there’s a few things you’ll want to consider.

1) Tooltip Damage: Most every ability is going to have a damage range on it, such as Annihilate, a Sith Marauder attack. This base range (547-633) is our basis for calculations and is what the rest of the damage is going to be based off of. Gear, coefficients, talents, etc. will all work off of this initial damage range. Though we don’t have any real confirmation yet, it’s safe to assume that tooltip damage will not be dynamically updated depending on your gear and talents, so let’s work off of the assumption that the rest of the damage will be calculated manually.

2) Stat Modification: Obviously part of any RPG, especially MMOs, is upgrading your gear and weapons so that your abilities will hit harder. What you’ll need to do is take a look at your gear, look at what stats affect what abilities and skill types, and apply things accordingly. For instance, different stats will affect weapon attacks differently than force attacks differently than tech attacks, otherwise everyone would just stack one generic “MAKE YOURSELF BETTER” stat point, which is horrendously boring. The big question mark here that will require some serious testing is ability coefficients. If you’re not familiar with the concept, not every skill benefits the same from the same amount of Willpower or what have you. This creates abilities that scale at different speeds and allows for longer cooldown or longer activation time abilities to hit proportionally harder than their instant, spammable counterparts. Trust me, as soon as this information starts becoming available you’ll hear about it here. In addition to static increases you have to look at crit chance, crit damage, etc. and things start becoming real muddy. Trust me, if you can figure it all out though you’ll be in a very good place. Again, once we have publicly available information on abilities and stats I’ll whip up an article explaining each in detail.

3) Damage Type: The third bit of math you’ll need to poke at is analyzing what type of damage an ability does. We already know that there will be a few different types in game, such as internal and kinetic. With a slew of different damage types, it makes sense that not all enemies are going to have the exact same resistance to every attack. For instance, a lightly armored caster-type mob will probably be more susceptible to strong physical attacks. This creates a bit of a dynamic choice when it comes to your attacks, as some abilities just might not be worth using against an enemy with extremely high resistance to it’s damage type. Again, this is going to require more direct testing, but it’s something to look out for.

4) Talent Modification: After all that has been figured out, take a look at your talents and see exactly where they come into play. Some may increase a particular damage type, some may buff up a specific ability or reduce its cooldown, some may add additional effects to attacks that were previously bland. Be sure to choose your talents carefully and pay attention to what you’re clicking on so you know why Generic Ability A suddenly started critting twice as hard.

Step 2: DPS vs DPCT vs DPE

Okay, that last section made me sad because there’s so little we can actually calculate without significant testing, but I promise it gets better. Once you have a general idea of how much damage something is going to do (feel free to guesstimate!), you can move on from the external effects of an ability to the internal effects, namely a skill’s DPS (damage per second) versus it’s DPE (damage per energy). Now, I know not every class uses energy in this game (in fact, no two classes per faction use the same mechanic), but I’m going to use the term “energy” as a synonym for “insert generic resource here” simply to save myself some typing and make things easier to read. Cool? Cool.

Fact of the matter is, even if we don’t have an exact damage number calculated through math from the first step above, a general estimate can be created by finding a few enemies around your same level and watching your damage numbers closer. Smack something with Annihilate a few times and take the average of all the hits… BAM! you’ve got yourself a basic idea of how much damage it will do. Now that you’ve got that figured out, let’s move on.

1) Damage per Second: The DPS of an ability is how much damage you can hypothetically do on average if all you do is hit one attack over and over again. This is going to be the easiest bit to figure out, and I honestly don’t have much to say about it. The DPS of a specific ability is calculated a by taking the average damage dealt divided by it’s cooldown. The cooldown is the part that will require a bit of thought here, unfortunately.

  • For instant attacks with a cooldown like Force Storm, just divide the damage by the listed recharge time.
  • For instant attacks with no cooldown like Flurry of Bolts, divide the damage by the global cooldown of 1.5 seconds.
  • For activated attacks with a cooldown like Flamethrower, safely ignore the cast time and divide the damage by the listed recharge time.
  • For activated attacks with no cooldown, divide the damage by the cast time.

2) Damage per Cast Time: The DPCT of an ability is similar to the DPS, but uses a slightly different metric. Instead of looking at the cooldown and how much damage you’ll do on average with an ability over time, you’ll look at how much damage you deal divided by how long it takes you to use that ability. Using the abilities above as an example, Force Storm and Flurry of Bolts are both instant attacks, meaning that the only downtime you’ll have is the 1.5 second global cooldown present on every ability, meaning you just divide their damage by 1.5 seconds. Casted or channeled attacks like Flamethrower use their cast/activation time in place of the global cooldown. Look at it this way: how long after clicking the ability before you’re able to act again? That’s your cast time.

3) Damage per Energy: The last and arguably most important measurement of an ability’s damage output is it’s DPE. This is calculated by taking the amount of damage dealt divided by the amount of resources it took to use the attack. This will change depending on your resource system, but the generic calculation is pretty obvious. If you’d like to get a bit more complex, you can work in passive resource regeneration into your calculations, but this is generally unnecessary as it’s either a static value or unpredictable due to resource regeneration procs. With systems like Rage and Focus it’s much easier to calculate, however. Keep in mind that certain abilities cost NOTHING and thus end up being resource-positive!

Step 3: Non-Damaging Aspects

Procs and stacking buffs can make completely worthless abilities become super important, just ask any Feral Druid. The thing about DPS is that if every single ability did nothing but do some damage, things could get pretty boring pretty quickly, which is why it’s just as important to look at the non-direct-damage aspects of an attack as the damaging ones. Certain abilities will have talents that allow a free usage of a different ability or regenerate some resources. Others might debuff a target, causing your next ability to do even more damage. Even others will put a buff on yourself (like that Annihilate ability) that could change your priority list drastically! Fact of the matter is, be cognizant of what your skills actually do, instead of just smacking things for numbers and jumping up and down in glee.

The Last of the Steps: Putting it All Together

With all this information gathered, you can finally sit down and figure out exactly how it is to pull off your maximum DPS. The numbers you are going to want to use are mostly DPCT and DPE. Essentially, you want your rotation to be the highest DPS and DPCT possible while ensuring that you don’t run out of resources — it’s a balancing act! Keep in mind that it’s very possible you might have two rotations (a high DPE and a high DPS rotation) for different situations, alternating between the two of them depending on your resource level. Once you figure in your procs, debuffs, and self buffs you’ve got yourself a basic plan for how to do your damage.

One thing to watch out for is getting stuck in a single rotation and not being able to break out for certain situations. Fact is, knowing all of these numbers and gobbledegook isn’t just for show, it gives you a general idea of what abilities are best for what situations. If an enemy isn’t going to live long enough for a DoT to tick, use a different attack. If you’re about to die due to standing in fire, move and hit a survivability cooldown. Here’s my quotable bit for the day: a good dps can look at their abilities and create the perfect rotation, but a great dps knows when to break off from that perfect rotation.

That’s about all I had written down for today, I hope it was informative and gets you as excited about math as I am! As soon as we have some more public information, as I said before, expect to see some demo theorycrafting and whatnot posted here at Fully Operational! Until next time, pew pew cachoo!


  1. “a good dps can look at their abilities and create the perfect rotation, but a great dps knows when to break off from that perfect rotation.” I couldnt agree more with this statement I remember back in raiding days of WOW and the amount of ppl that would relish how high there dps was as the raid wiped just cause they didnt move from fire or move with a spore on their heads but still continue to argue that there dps was super-ea to all others. I always used to reply with **** your dps you wiped the raid or whats the point in high dps if your dead ….

  2. Sadly too many people moving into TOR are current WOW players with little desire for number crunching or self thought. Sites like elitist jerks made it all to easy for people to use cookie cutter specs/rotations with little to no thought about what they are doing.

    I play a warden in LOTRO these days and to be honest the difference is chess vs checkers comparing that class to anything in WOW. You have to constantly pre empt and change rotations if you want to play the class well and that’s after remembering all the different gambit combos.

    Also hoping for only personal dps meters. It’s nice to push for every ounce of dps but never at the expense of survival/raid awareness. I find if people are constantly staring at meters it just makes them more likely to fail.

  3. Damhooligan says:

    I believe Bioware has said there will be no third party programs or combat macros in game and that would include programs like recount etc. I for one welcome this. Being a KICKAZZ DK I light up the meters and take minimal damage staying out of the fire etc., but I also see who is not performing, and that bothers me. I feel like I am carrying them. With SWTOR not having these, as long as there are no enrage timers, and force keeps replenishing for the healers and DPS, who cares. Have fun!

  4. No third party at launch but it’s a high priority after launch. They really need to be careful with it in my opinion. LOTRO has a lot more limits on what you can do with third party mods than WOW does and it’s most definitely for the better. It got to the point in WOW where designers had to design boss fights around addons like DBM which really limits what you can do and now people complain that fights lack variation. LOTRO has some amazing boss fights and really programs like DBM would take the fun out of them.

    DPS & Threat meters are my other major gripe with 3rd party addons. If a tank knows when they will loose threat then even a mediocre tank won’t loose threat. I like tanking and going on ‘feel’ as to how much threat I have. It comes from experience and makes tanking more fun. On dps/hps meters I used to love them when I played WOW but after a while expanding my horizons over the last couple of years I find the thought of people not getting a spot in a raid or being removed from guild because there dps/hps wasn’t high enough to be ludicrous. I used to be in a well ranked end game raiding guild through BC to WOTLK and I saw people removed from guild for not doing enough dps/hps even when the raid was a complete success.

    Sorry for my slightly off topic rant but in really do hope TOR doesn’t end up at that extreme.

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