Patch Notes, amirite?

Holy damn it feels good to be back and talking about something again. What shall we discuss? I can think of nothing better to start the year off than ~~DRAMA~~! [1] Well, not really. Mostly, this post is about Healing Stream Totem and patch notes/tooltips.


[1] – In my mind, the ~~ ~~ bit makes a kind of “spang” noise. Picture me making a weird overly enthusiastic face and doing Jazz Hands. You’re welcome.

So we recently saw a series of patch notes on MMO Champion that said Healing Stream Totem is getting a buff – by 100%. That’s a big buff for something which does such a large chunk of my healing done for 5% of my casting time [about 1 in 20 GCDs or fewer].

Not actually representative of all fights.

Spell selection not actually representative of all fights. Not worth reading into this log, seriously don’t bother. It’s just to show how strong Healing Stream Totem is. STOP JUDGING ME  Q-Q

So you can see with the image above why I thought that this was a big deal. HST is not only one of our biggest healers, but it’s efficient and has a low upkeep requirement. From a design standpoint, there is no sensible reason to double the healing of that spell. It seems exceptionally contradictory, though, when you consider the hype in the run up to Warlords of Draenor which specifically discussed a disarmament in the Smart Heals arms race (which arguably HST was the start of back in MoP). So I was baffled.

Now here is where it gets really interesting, because after I tweeted that it was strange I got a reminder that most of those things were tooltip updates. OK, that would make sense. So, to check, I turned to my most trusted source on spell coefficients – Wowhead. Wowhead told me that it was not a tooltip change, so I ended up having to go in game and test both the tooltip and the spell healing myself to be sure. It was definitely just a tooltip change spoiler alert.

Now, I usually trust Wowhead to give me accurate information on how spells work – until now I’ve had nil reason to suspect a problem. It occurred to me that some of the data I’ve used for theorycraft is in fact not how things actually work, and I felt a little annoyed at that. I wanted to alert people to be a little careful in their interpretation of Wowhead’s spell data, so I made a little humorous post on Twitter.

Of course wowhead didn't actually *lie*, I'm not that bloody thick. This has been "sub-tweet subtweet"

Of course Wowhead didn’t actually *lie*, I’m not that bloody thick. This has been “sub-tweet subtweet”

A post whose latter component I thought was quite obviously meant in jest. Nevertheless this is Twitter, Land Of Those Impervious To Subtlety, and I got quite an unfriendly response from a person who’s quite friendly with the people who run Wowhead. Supposedly, I should have a clue.

But look, there are two interesting components to the “argument” that followed and neither of them are the person involved or my personal feeling on the matter. Firstly, let’s look at the contents of the followup tweet involved so I can make my main point.

When a tool does exactly what it promises–shows you the client data–don’t go publicly blaming them for your own confusion.

So. Wowhead does exactly what it promises, does it? I’m even told that there are “disclaimers in several places” from a different source.

I looked quite carefully that morning to check whether this is correct, and while I now know much more about Wowhead’s Grand Plan and the people who develop it and all their affiliate sites, I did not find any discussion on Wowhead’s site on the difference between their database and the actual game. So here’s the thing; Wowhead presents its database as actually true things. Implicitly, that is.

Actually, It’s About…

What bothers me about this is that there’s no effort made on the part of the site to make it clear what they do present and how it is different from the actual game mechanics. Do you remember a movement beginning with G whose main contention was about disclosure from publicly relied upon sources? Yes, I’m saying that actually it’s about ethics in videogame database presentation. If the source data is presented as if there were no chance it were false, as it is implicitly presented on Wowhead, then I don’t think it’s the user’s fault if they are confused once or twice. Caveat emptor can eat soil in this case – it’s the responsibility of the purveyor of information to at least discuss important differences like those shown above somewhere.


Like it or not, people like me rely on sites like Wowhead for accurate data. I can deal with it when I know that the data might not be accurate, but only when that’s raised to me as a possibility before I publish results. One does not often have the chance to personally test all of the spellpower coefficients in the game.

Believe it or not, there is precedent for this. I’m a scientist, and there are whole fields of research which rely hugely on databases which give coefficients in a similar way to Wowhead – as a standard reference value. These databases are often maintained for profit or as a charity, and it is considered essential that the source of the information and its potential errors are discussed and displayed. Not doing so is literally unethical conduct and could ruin your career. Now, I’m not levelling that accusation at Wowhead, but you can see why I feel strongly that I deserve to be informed.

Ultimately, though, I like Wowhead. It’s a useful source of information and now that I know its data has flaws I can be more careful in my use of it. Wowhead isn’t some demon that I’m campaigning against, and I’m not a disclosure obsessed weirdo arguing for the sake of it. Of course I’ll continue to use Wowhead, since I have little other choice, but I do think it could improve significantly by including that discussion.

Old Wisdom – Don’t Trust Datamining Sites

Old wisdom is not always the best, but it’s worth discussing why we have to rely on datamining sites. I did mention previously that theorycrafters do rely on Wowhead and similar sites – we do this because it’s the only source of information out there. A year or two ago, I would have just tweeted to @Ghostcrawler to find out whether it was just a tooltip change. Alas, with the departure of Greg Street and the arrival of @WarcraftDevs, getting the information I want in that way feels like getting wine from a bucket of water.

So where have all the devs gone? They’ve been conspicuously quiet, even considering that it’s the start of the new year. I’ve run out of time and space, though, so you should read my friend The Godmother’s ultimately superior thoughts on the matter.


I’ve run out of spacetime – someone call me a Doctor!


I’d like to issue a small apology to all my friends who are closely associated with Wowhead. My own affiliation with Icy Veins and (by politics) MMO Champion sometimes feels like it gets read into my actions. I have no personal interest in attacking Wowhead, despite my affiliations. I hope people don’t interpret my actions with a motivation to destroy Wowhead (or affiliates) which has never been there. Frankly, that would be both petty and absurd on every level.

About stoove

A physicist, researcher, and gamesman. Likes to think about the mathematics and mechanics behind all sorts of different things, and writing up the thoughts for you to read. A competent programmer, enjoys public speaking and mechanical keyboards. Has opinions which might even change from time to time.
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4 Responses to Patch Notes, amirite?

  1. Dedralie says:

    I just ought to note that the very same criticism could be applied to the game client itself, because that’s where the data comes from. In-game tooltips reflect the client data – data you store on your computer when you download the game or a patch – and that’s the same data that all data-mining sites have to offer. This is why tooltip updates are so slow even after hotfixed buffs go in – the devs are reluctant to release a whole patch solely to update the numbers on some tooltips. In their own game.

    While it is technically possible for someone to go through and manually change all of the data entries to reflect the game’s own slow response to tooltip changes, I don’t think it’s feasible considering that there are thousands of tooltips in the game that are inaccurate (some of which have been broken for multiple expansions, like PW:S). I don’t think it’s particularly fair to hold any fan site to a higher standard than the game itself. 🙂

    • stoove says:

      While that’s true, I think it misses the point. I (now) understand the limitations of Wowhead’s data, and I don’t expect it to get better data. My point was more that it should perhaps make more of an effort to make clear the fact that there is a systematic difference between what’s presented and the real actual workings of WoW. I think that’s responsible, which is where my analogy to science and ethics came into it.

      WoW’s client should, of course, be up to date. Misinforming the player is rather silly. In the absence of that, I think an easily spotted acknowledgement of the discrepancy from the fansites is important.

      • Dedralie says:

        I guess I think that … a simple catch-all disclaimer still wouldn’t be enough. Because that would leave open the question of, /which/ tooltips are inaccurate? Anyone would still have to check coefficients in-game to be absolutely certain of the info, so I don’t see a general disclaimer doing anything other than partially mitigating my own feeling of silliness when I flubbed my Revival coefficient XD

      • stoove says:

        Well, it wouldn’t be enough to make Wowhead an ideal resource, which obviously would be nice. That’s true. I personally don’t have a problem with that though, because Wowhead’s data is as good as it can really get. It’s annoying that the coefficients aren’t “true” sometimes, but it’s the closest resource we have.

        I think what matters most is making it clear *to the user at the point of use* what the potential difference between the data presented and the actual game is. That way the reader can make an informed choice on how much skepticism they apply to the data presented.

        That, I think, is the really important thing here. One cannot make that decision without being informed and it’s therefore ethical to have that discussion (disclaimer is maybe not the thing I’m looking for?) in a prominent place.

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