As posted by Brian Wheeler from Zenimax Online Studios:

Today, we’d like to present to you what the Combat team has been focused on for Update 28! As always, please be aware these are just the current proposed adjustments and are subject to change during the upcoming PTS cycle.

On top of a substantial amount of new item sets coming with this patch, the team has been focused on making the Major/Minor system more performant, as well as some adjustments to Frost staff and Critical calculations.

First off, let’s talk about the Major/Minor system. Originally, buffs and debuffs were designed as standard abilities, meaning they had to go through the same calculations as all abilities. As we have been moving towards making combat more performant, we identified this as a key area where we could get better performance due to how prevalent buffs/debuffs are in battles.

As such, we’re shifting the buffs/debuffs system so they are calculated on the server much in the same way as Sprint and Block.

With Major/Minor effects no longer being standard abilities, they will be more performant per calculation as they won’t go through the same process as other abilities do in a fight. This “hardcoding” of Majors/Minors will also make them less prone to incorrect stacking and mismatched values.

During this change, we also adjusted buffs/debuffs to bring them more in-line with our standards for item sets and abilities. This was also combined with the overall goals to increase sustain, decrease damage done, and increase damage taken. Players with builds that aren’t 100% optimized will see an increase in power, while players utilizing all Majors/Minors at once in coordinated efforts will see a decrease in power.

For Frost Staff changes, we looked at the prior goals where Magicka users could tank in PvE and PvP scenarios. We found that many of the tools provided by Frost Staff abilities either did not hold up to other tanking abilities, or directly conflicted with other Destruction Staff abilities and created some pain points in dungeons.

This, in turn, led us down the path to give the Frost Staff greater viability for doing things other than tanking. The end result was a focus on two changes: Give Frost Staff users more flexibility to fill the role of a tank, and also give Frost Staff users the opportunity to better fill the roles of support or DPS.

A good example of this is the following upcoming adjustments to Wall of Frost/Flame/Shock:

  • Lowering the damage done by Wall of Frost compared to Wall of Flame and Shock
  • Removing Snare from Wall of Frost
  • Casting Wall of Frost will create a Damage shield on you and up to 5 other nearby group members that absorbs projectiles
  • Unstable Wall of Frost will apply a weaker version of the Damage Shield when the ability ends

In terms of reducing some pain points that Frost Staff users and their groups, we’ll be removing the Auto-Taunt from Tri-focus. The taunt from Frost Staff will instead reside in Frost Clench, and will taunt the enemy for 15 seconds.

We believe these changes, along with several others in the Destruction skill line, will help bring some parity between the three damage options for staff users and give greater flexibility to that weapon choice.

When it comes to Critical Damage, Critical Chance, and Critical Resist, we’ve started to get a tighter grip on these bonuses in our efficiency standards and have begun sourcing more of them in the game to counter each other.

While this naturally balances itself in PvP scenarios, that is not the case in PvE situations; this already powerful stat is slowly creeping up in power with each update and global increase in damage.

The main cause of this imbalance is the ease of access to gain Critical Chance in our game; we have a large amount of passive Crit enabled from passive abilities (Armor, Champion Points, Base Chance). On top of this, the raw standard of Crit Chance is higher than other DPS stats which results in stacking Crit being incredibly powerful. Due to this, certain classes scale more effectively in group content, resulting in “just stack X” in our end-game meta.

While this is somewhat mitigated in PvP with Critical Resistance, we still hear a large number of complaints about the line certain classes teeter on in terms of balance in PvE as a result (either too strong, or we nerf them and they become too weak in other areas).

As such, we have created a new combined stat for Critical Chance which is a combination of Spell and Weapon Crit. This means if you see an item that grants 106 Critical Chance, it’s giving you both Spell and Weapon Crit. With this change, we are adjusting many sources of Critical Chance so they grant the new stat. This also results in fewer effects you need to track on your character.

We’re making several other adjustments to individual stat faucets, such as reducing the amount of Critical Chance you can get from Champion Points and lowering the value of the Thief Mundus and Precise trait. We know this is only a small step in the larger picture of combat regarding Criticals, which we plan to continue in U29.

We believe these changes will bring about better experiences, from the moment-to-moment combat to formulating your groups for Trials and PvP.

Lastly, as a little bonus not mentioned in the beginning of this post, let’s talk about Battleground queues. Over the past several updates, we’ve been running a test where the only available queue is the Solo queue.

While we have seen Battleground participation fluctuate from update to update, we’ve not seen a considerable change in overall population.

We also have heard you loud and clear that playing with your friends in a Battleground is sorely missed, and we are going to test re-introducing the Group queue with Update 28.

This means there will still be a Solo option, where you only fight players who queued as solo, and we will also be adding in a Group queue option! However, the Group option has a twist: you don’t have to be in a group to queue for it. You can be solo, duo, trio or have a full group of 4 and join the Group queue.

When you do, be aware that you will be at the mercy of other players joining as pre-made groups as well. Due to this change in our Battleground queue options, we will be limiting the queue choices to just these two. You will also no longer be able to choose a game type; this is to reduce the risk of further splintering the queue on top of the Group or Solo options.

We look forward to seeing you all back in groups in the Battlegrounds, and we will continue to monitor the feedback and participation after this change goes up with U28.

Thank you all for reading this preview and update! We look forward to having everyone playtest these changes and on the PTS and reading your feedback when it launches.