Video Game Tuesday: Theorycrafting

Michael Blaker
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Michael's blog, Windborne's Story Eatery.



For this week on Video Game Tuesday I’m covering Theorycrafting!

What is Theorycrafting?: Taking raw data from a video game and using it to calculate exactly what the ideal play style is for highest efficiency. For damage dealers it’s all about tightening up their skill rotation to allow for the most damage to go out. For healers types it’s about recovering the most health for their party with the lowest usage of resources (be they mana or MP or whatever the game uses).

Why is it important: Theorycrafting leads to higher skilled play for games like World of Warcraft; if you ignore the rules of the game and just play like you want, you will not get very far.

Do you really need to use math?: Yes and no. In most cases of Theorycrafting you will want to be using math to calculate various numbers, however sometimes you can do what I call practical theorycrafting and test whether certain mechanics of boss fights are affected by specific spells. A good example of practical theorycrafting would be finding out exactly when to use the Anti-Magic Shell ability from World of Warcraft as a Death Knight in each boss fight.

Where can I theorycraft for (Insert Game Name Here)?: Honestly my best advice for looking for fellow theorycrafters is to Google it. Unless you are asking about World of Warcraft, in which case I’ll point you to Elitist Jerks or Acherus for the Death Knight class.

That’s it for this week’s Video Game Tuesday.

2 thoughts on “Video Game Tuesday: Theorycrafting”

  1. Interesting topic. I find that sometimes it seems like the whole math-centric approach ruins MMOs, at least for me. I understand of course people wanting to maximize their class. I’ve just never been a “professional” player. For example, I used to play LOTRO online all the time. I had a guardian and enjoyed my role in combat and the story presented in the game. However, I have a friend who instead ran all the math and showed me how to redo my guardian in a way that was almost twice as effective as the build I was using. The thing is, I had much less fun playing the game that way and went back to my previous build. However, some of the multiplayer instances in the game seemed to be designed to kill you if you didn’t have a full party totally maxed out like my friend had configured his character. This was true even if the instance was several levels below your characters. Basically that kind of made me lose interest in the game. The question might be if developers could design an MMO that didn’t require that kind of heavy stat min/maxing so that average players could still have a good time, though I do understand that not everyone likes to play MMOs the same way I do.

    1. There are certain games, like LOTRO or World of Warcraft, where the devs aren’t very forgiving to those who want to play with unorthodox styles like yours. Other MMO’s like A Realm Reborn are a bit more forgiving, although they make it clear what your next action in a rotation should be most of the time. Personally I don’t like the math part of Theorycrafting, I enjoy figuring out how to use abilities in odd ways to maximize my potential.

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