Monday, February 23, 2009

A New Visit to the Performance Improvement Plan

When my WotLK raiding began, it became clear very quickly that I had some work to do to extract more performance out of my toon. So I started my formalized improvement plan, with just about weekly updates tracking the progress and revising the plan as changes occurred.

The plan was most helpful in the beginning because a fresh level 80 toon has such an immense breadth of options to go after. Prioritizing the top 5 items allowed for constructive progress, without the overwelming feeling that comes with excessive options.

Over time, the very concrete items like specific gear items or faction reps began getting replaced with softer skills like working on the shot rotation, more detailed reviews of the talent trees, different timings of special abilities during boss fights, and so on.

Then some insane nerfs came in and flipped the performance plan inside out, mostly centering on learning how to work with a totally different set of special shots, pet capabilities, and the always-wonderful-but-strange-to-a-new-comer Lock and Load.

After the BM nerf came the stealth Explosive Shot nerf, leaving any baseline comparisons from week to week in total confusion.

But we've been stable for a couple of weeks, and an old friend threatened to have his alt hunter surpass my DPS on Patchwerk, so it was back to the drawing board.

Three key adjustments on my part for this week's : Anticipating Lag, Timing Special Abilities, and Being A Tard

The Real Kicker: LAG

I've had a sneaking suspicion that Lag is causing me some DPS issues

Comparing my numbers to brass (a hunter I raid with), when we were BM, our DPS numbers were much closer to one another. Since the switch to SV, we both took a decrease, but my numbers dropped disproportionately. We talk about shot rotations, gear items, stats, you name it, all the time, but nothing was coming out as a clear reason for us to have such different numbers.

My first theory was "he's just better at huntering than me". Likely true, but I'm not one to just sorta sit there and write things off.

So I developed an updated theory..."BM gets lots of damage from the pet that is doing automated attacking which has much less dependence upon client lag than human-activated key presses, therefore my higher Lag is hurting my SV output more than it was hurting my BM output. and brass is also just better at huntering than me."

Lag is unique to each player and a few in-game comparisons show mine to be about 100-200ms higher than what the other hunter has.

So this week, I decided to try to push those GDC's a little bit.

Hammering my shots just a fraction of a second before the GCD appeared to be up.

And lo and behold, the shots were firing without any issue, and clearly firing in a much tighter rotation than was previously achieved if I let the GCD fully expire before trying to fire.

Pain in my ass from a "repeatable scientific" perspective, because lag is variable week to week as network conditions vary. But interesting to note.

Timing Special Abilities

Timing is everything, and not just for GCD's and keypresses.

In the past, when BM was king, timing things to ensure I had Bestial Wrath ready when Heroism was called was a massive DPS increase. Likewise for other On-Use performance enhancing abilities.

On the plus side, proper timing allows for a very low cost way to improve your DPS, and is available to all players without any gold or grind. On the down side, optimal timing requires good knowledge of the encounter, your team's performance and time-to-kill, when your raid leader will call for Heroism, and so on.

But my benchmark is Patch-25, which is a very well known fight, with a very confident estimated duration, and a predictable Heroism invocation.

SV has no BW and both of my trinkets are on-equip rather than on-use, so I took a look at what cooldowns I have to play with: Rapid Fire (haste boost) and Call of the Wild (attack power boost)

I used to be a CotW auto-caster. 5 minute cooldown. So in a Patch-25 three minute kill, this would autocast right at the beginning. The new routine is to manually casting it during Heroism, which I know for my raid to be somewhere in the 2:00 or 2:15 point of the fight. Curse the pet special action bar and its 4 available slots.

Rapid Fire, since special shots dont clip auto-shots anymore, I don't think there's any such thing as too much haste. Why not lump that one in there with Heroism and CotW? Only going to get one shot at RF in a 3 minute fight, so lets make it count.

And Haste Potion.

I really wish I had opened up the character screen to see my shot speed, but it was just a machine gun. RF, Haste Pot, Heroism. Gattling would have been proud.

Who brought the Huntard?

Yeah, this one just sucks. You know 5 of those points you invested in Tier 1 of the Survival tree? The ones in Improved Tracking? Yeah, those!


Improved Tracking adds between 2-5% to your DPS, so lets just call it 3.5% that I shoved up my tail pipe. I thought I was sitting a little funny during that fight.


I wish I could separate out the improvement via my lag adjustment from the improvement via my special ability timing, but whatcha gonna do?

Last week: 4.4K DPS

This week: 5.0K DPS

If we account for the Improved Tracking Brainfart: 5.2K DPS

Not quite a "Daddy's Back" kind of moment, but I'm definitely happy with the changes, and very happy to be back above the 5K arbitrary line of joy.

These techniques were used during all boss fights (although none are quite as 100% predictable/comparable week-on-week as Patch), and I noticed improvement across the board.

F#ing Lag!!


Anonymous said...

Amava, don't you use the Quartz addon? That addon is specifically designed to help get you past lag issues, and is a serious requirement for hunters (especially SV hunters) where you need to time shots specifically to avoid clipping. Get it today.


Anonymous said...

Mithiah beat me to it - Quartz is the single best add-on I have bar none.

Since I raid from Australia my usual latency is between 450 and 700. Quartz basically takes that away (or minimises it massively) because it builds your lag into your cast bar showing you the actual time the server recognises your abilities come off cooldowm, the expiration of the GCD etc. Also, its a dynamic measure so it changes if you hit a lag spike.

The most fun part of quartz? Summon a mount and start running when the cast bar hits red - you run really fast for a moment or two until your client catches on that your mounted.


Amava said...

Quartz? I've never used Quartz. I might give it a whirl based on your suggestions here. I was of the impression that it really only helped with auto-clipping, which is no longer an issue since autos are unlinked from specials.

Sounds like it might be a winner.

Durgan said...

Check out the elitist jerk forums, they have a thing they use with the quartz addon that tracks the GCD. Its called a GCD spark that they position wherever. I've been using it as well and I find that addon really handy. You'll love it once you start using it.

Tholar said...

Well, you are still ahead of me, buddy. I put out 4580 on patchy last week. If I could bribe the RNG and get rid of my blues....oh boy! But I like your idea of not auto casting CotW. Going to try that out tomorrow night and see what I get.