Theorycrafting – Do It Right
October 8, 2010 31 Comments
With the launch of both the Unholy and Frost Cataclysm threads, there’s been a burst of discussion and theorycrafting regarding the new specs and playstyles – which is absolutely great. There’s no question that the community has a ton to talk about and that several different perspectives generally lead to more accurate results than any one individual trying to figure it all out on their own for themselves. Productive conversation is always terrific and much desired, and EJ does a better job at promoting such talk than any other site of its nature.
The issue which I want to address is when people, who are almost always well intentioned, try to raise a point or argue a fact but go about it in the completely wrong manner.
Ultimately these posts have a negative impact on everyone involved. The poster in question generally ends up with an infraction or, worse yet, a ban, both of which are obviously quite undesirable. The average reader who sees such posts becomes confused or mislead with what may ultimately be false information, thus detracting from the actual purpose of the thread. The ongoing conversation will be interrupted or led astray. The more courteous, discerning posters may feel obliged to respond to said posts pointing out the errors (or, worse, ignoring the errors and addressing it anyways) which can end up with that person generally receiving a warning from the moderators.
You get the idea.
Making a claim or arguing a point is great to do, and I love to see it… but there’s right way and a wrong way to go about it. One just need to keep some basics in mind:
- You need support.
- You can’t just say “X outperforms Y” or “X should actually do this and not that”. You need to be able to back up your argument in some manner, be it with simulation support, raid parses, mathematical proof, or what have you. The vast majority of the time, all you need to do is provide a simple chain of logic going from the currently accepted base point of a subject to your conclusion! Whatever method is best appropriate or your personal preference doesn’t particularly matter so long as you use something. You can’t just make claims out of the blue, no matter who you may be – top end raider, popular poster, even myself (last thing I would wish to be is hypocritical). Think about it: you could easily make a post saying “Unholy is best off stacking agility”… and then the next person could state nothing more than “Unholy is best off stacking crit”. One line statements such as those just don’t work, as anyone can throw them around to say anything. And, no, prefacing a one liner with “My testing has shown…” or “According to the sim…” doesn’t actually make it any better unless you link to your testing, show an example of the sim results, or so on.
- You need to be understandable.
- You could stumble upon an idea which would revolutionize the way we play the class; perhaps you had an epiphany about how Frost could increase its performance by using Festering Strike or about how Unholy could gain dps by using Death and Decay on a single target. Something akin to Obliterate Unholy when it was first theorized. It wouldn’t do any good if people couldn’t understand what you were trying to get at; they might write it off as some unrealistic fantasy, stupid trolling, or who knows what. Whatever you’re trying to get at when posting, make sure other people can figure it out!
- You need to have your foundation straight.
- You need to make sure that whatever base you are using to arrive at your conclusion is factual and accurate. This is one of the biggest issues with bad posts; they lead to more bad posts if someone tries to build off of them. If you saw someone say that Blood was actually best off tanking in Unholy Presence, don’t try to theorize off of that unless you’re sure it’s true. It seems obvious, but you would be surprised.
The main thing which I can’t emphasize enough is having support; you just can’t have a productive discussion without it, as it’s impossible to disprove/prove anything without backing.
The biggest offender of this is when people think they have support, but they actually don’t.
I’m talking, of course, about dummy testing.
Don’t get me wrong, dummy testing has its uses. It is a great tool for calculating spell-coefficients or ability interaction. It’s excellent for testing mechanics or functionality. It’s just fine for personal use in regards to learning or perfecting a new rotation.
It can do a lot of things, but it cannot be used to generate dps numbers or draw any conclusions – which tree outperforms another, which presence a specific build should run in, which type of weapon a spec in question should use, etcetera – based off those dps numbers. Period. This is unarguable; different trees, presences, weapons, and essentially everything scale differently in a raid situation than they do solo on a boss dummy. This is due to the presence of the dozens of raid buffs/debuffs, as well as individual fight mechanics and the like.
I’ll be honest: nothing frustrates me, personally, more than those who post based off dummy testing! It’s not simply a matter of you not adding anything productive to the conversation – although you don’t – but more that you’re misleading yourself and, potentially, others.
If this was a bit ranty or preachy, then I do apologize. I didn’t intend to come off as such… I didn’t even intend to delve into this subject, until a string of poor posts arose! The threads are new though, and I want them to get off to the best start they can. More than that, I want people to able to contribute to the best of their ability. Even more than that, I want people to be able to think properly for themselves, even if they don’t enter the discussion or even read my guides.
Although, I don’t want to point out any specific posts (even if it is fairly obvious), the issue in question which brought about many of these posts are DW Frost running in Unholy Presence, as nearly all the posts attempting to promote it are horribly flawed in one manner or another (and will hopefully be deleted shortly so as to prevent misunderstandings). Suffice is to say it’s not optimal; although DW may be GCD capped, it’s just barely so, and can’t make enough use of the freed globals to outweigh the huge damage hit 10% attack speed and rune regeneration is compared to 10% damage and 10% runic power generation. You can test it out on Kahorie’s easily enough; I know I haven’t yet posted a BiS list, but a close example setup which has the optimal reforging and such done already can be found here for your use and proof. FP has a solid several hundred dps lead.
At any rate, whether or not you post at EJ, whether or not you comment here, and whether or not you even care about theorycrafting whatsoever, please do keep those three basics – support, understandability, and a sound foundation – in mind whenever you are trying to argue or show a point, be it in game or in life!
The world would be a better place if everyone did.