Friday, January 13, 2012

Hunter Log Evaluation

Log evaluation is probably one of the least-practiced branches of WoW nerdery. This is a shame, because it's a really powerful tool both for individual improvement, fixing problems that are stopping progression, and figuring out if that new applicant to your guild is going to be a help or a hindrance. It's also not actually that difficult! World of Logs has some really great summaries and analysis screens that make it easy to find what you're looking for, so long as you know what what is.

We'll start by taking a look at my most recent Ultraxion parse. I won't link to the report itself because it's going to get deleted in a month or so, but I'll have screenshots of the relevant stuff. One thing I won't screenshot, though, is the one screen that everyone always checks out: the summary of damage done, with its pretty bars and its ranking. There are two things that this screen is good for: making fun of your healers for their low DPS, and getting a very rough sense of how you're doing as long as you already know what decent damage output for that encounter looks like. Seeing that you're doing the most damage in your guild really does not mean anything, for a whole variety of reasons.

The trick with log evaluation is to find objective measures of performance. Or at least as close to objective as we can get.

So what's the most important thing for pretty much every spec of hunter? Keeping their signature ability on cooldown. Chimera Shot for Marks, Explosive Shot for Survival, and Kill Command for Beast hunters. This is handy because it's a truly objective measure of an incredibly important part of how hunters DPS. It's also pretty easy, if laborious, to check. The first step is to go to the log browser within WoL:

It's going to have a default query already in there. Go ahead and remove that, then click "Add Query" and fill it out like this:
Click for full size.
Once you've added your query, click "Run." You'll get a list like this:

Next is the annoying, laborious part. You can do this however you want, but for me it's easiest to copy the whole thing into notepad. Then you go down the list and find out how long it took in between signature shots. I'm still playing MM until 4.3.2, so for me that's Chimera Shot. I also have CS glyphed, which means it has a 9 second cooldown. Accounting for latency and similar factors, I'd be pretty happy to have about 9.2 seconds in between my CS casts. The interval between the first two CS is 9.3 seconds (57.882 - 48.559), not bad! The one after that is longer (11.5 seconds), but if you add a second query to see Hour of Twilight casts, you'd see this:

I think it's reasonable to cut someone a little slack for missing the CS cooldown when they're not-dying to encounter mechanics. And then between the 3rd and 4th CS casts, we once again see 9.3 seconds. This isn't the 9.2 seconds I would ideally like to see, but especially as a casual raider I can feel pretty happy with it. Then you just go down the list and see how the signature ability timing looks. You can even divide the total number of seconds by the number of times the ability was used to get an average. Heck, you could even throw out some of the intervals for things like "dealing with Hour" if you want!

Keep in mind that what you're evaluating here is not overall skill with or knowledge of the class. You're just looking at the most basic DPS fundamental. This is the platform upon which the house of good gameplay is built. In order to make further evaluation, you'll have to know some things about the class and about the various specs. For example, you need to know that Deterrence can be used to ignore Hour of Twilight, so you'll want to run a third query, for spell casts of Deterrence and to see when Deterrence fades.

What you're checking for here is to see that not only does the hunter use it, they don't just let it go for the full five seconds of its duration. Ultraxion begins to cast Hour at 7.3 seconds. It's a 5 second cast, so it will have finished casting at around 12 seconds. Deterrence fades at 13 seconds, only 3 seconds after I cast it. So that means I popped it, then canceled it right after Hour hit. These are all good signs. These are the sorts of things you're looking for in your own huntering, and in the logs of any hunter applicants you're evaluating.

You can also see why I like using Ultraxion for this level of log analysis. It's a very basic encounter, with a couple "push a button or die" mechanics, no weird DPS gimmicks, and no role requirements like you'd see with a hunter tasked with kiting Rageface on heroic Shannox. Just good, fundamental class knowledge stuff.

Now, could I have planned out my focus income around that Hour better and put CS on cooldown faster? Sure! But in the case of my guild, a casually-raiding team, that's not something I'd really consider a negative in an applicant. It may be something I work on for myself, but I'm not going to be demanding flawless perfection from applicants to my guild, right? We have some objective measures of skill available to us with World of Logs, but we have to be rational in how we think about them.

Another thing we want to take a look at is the uptime for various buffs. If you go to the damage done summary and then click on someone's name, you'll get this screen:

Click for full size.
If you click on the "Buffs Gained" tab, you'll get a long list of buffs and debuffs. Evaluation here does require some class knowledge. To begin with, for all specs, you want to find the line that says "Tol'vir Agility" and you want to make sure the person has just under 50 seconds of time with that buff on them. The potion lasts for 25 seconds, so if you see 47-49 seconds of the buff, that means your applicant is properly pre-potting and then remembering to use a second potion later on.

For Marks hunters, you'll be looking for a couple specific things. First, you should see the uptime percentage for "Improved Steady Shot" at 90% or better for most encounters, even for things like Yor'sahj. The first encounter I've run into that's really messed with my ISS uptime has been heroic Mor'chok, due to the combination of constant movement and having to move in to melee range to raptor strike for damage reduction. Low ISS uptime isn't necessarily automatically bad, but it's something you can ask someone about. "I noticed your ISS uptime on heroic Mor'chok is lower than it is anywhere else, why is that?"

The second thing you want to see is about a minute's worth of time spent under the effect of Rapid Fire. Marks' reduced RF cooldown plus the addition of Readiness means that an MM hunter should be able to get 4 RFs (or about a minute) into pretty much every encounter. SV and BM hunters should have a second use of Rapid Fire in any encounter that goes longer than about 5:30.

Is this hunter in a raid with a Holy priest that specs into Lightwell? Check the buffs gained for Lightwell Renew.

And that's my rough outline for the things you want to look for, whether you're evaluating yourself or someone else. Start by verifying the fundamentals, then add in checks for things like "are they pre-potting?" "are they clicking the lightwell?" "do they know what encounter mechanics they can negate with deterrence?" "are they using Disengage to move around the encounter space?"

And that's about it! This is a rough sketch, but it gives you a really solid starting point to do some of your own log evaluation. I think that the trick is to keep in mind that you want to look for specific things. Ability use timing, using Deterrence at the right time, etc. Don't just try to stare at a log for a whole night and holistically extract useful information. It won't work.

And for those of you for whom this is all old hat, what do you look for in a hunter's logs?

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