How is DPS actually calculated? Why do meters love mages? How do you figure out how much damage you and others did to adds or shields? This post answers these and other questions in a discussion of how to read damage meters. The post only focuses on interpreting damage counts on Recount and World of Logs (WoL) and leaves the other uses for those tools for another time.
Damage Done vs DPS
Let’s begin with an example damage table like we see in WoL as a way to define terms and identify mathematical relationships. The meanings of the table’s data points are as follows. Damage Done is a player’s raw damage dealt over the course of the specified section of time; here the time frame is an entire fight. DPS, just like in Recount and WoL, is Damage Done divided by Activity. DPS(e) is a measure found in WoL but not Recount and it indicates Damage Done divided by the total fight duration in seconds. For the table, the total fight duration was 400 seconds. Activity is a measure of the time in seconds that a player spends dealing damage or healing during the fight. It cannot ever be greater than the fight duration and is almost always less. WoL identifies periods of inactivity by noting any gaps of time without healing or damaging events from the player of 10 or more seconds. I don’t know how Recount measures it. For hunters, inactivity is usually identified by our not doing damage, be it through waiting to dps at the start of the fight, stopping dps (including dots) in the middle of the fight or dying.
A casual evaluation of the DPS tab (Recount) or column (WoL) would say that the mage helped the raid more than the warrior or warlock because he did more dps. Juxtaposed with Damage Done, though, we see this isn’t true. The mage did have the highest dps, but he did 1.5 million less damage than the warrior! How is this possible? The answer lies in Activity and the way DPS is calculated with it. Maybe the mage died early. Maybe there were long breaks where he wasn’t casting. Regardless, he was only active for 75% of the fight. During the time that he was casting spells his dps was high (6.5m/300=21,667), but since he was active for a smaller portion of the fight than the warrior (300 vs 380 seconds) he did less overall damage and helped the raid less.
This discrepancy with the mage’s DPS vs Damage Done is the illusion of the DPS measure, or, put a better way, it is illustrative of how a common misunderstanding of what “DPS” means can lead us astray. The further Activity diverges from the actual duration of the fight, the more misleading DPS becomes as an account of a person’s contribution to the fight. Conversely, the closer it gets to the actual duration, the better it becomes as such a measure (note the Warlock’s DPS vs DPS(e)). This is why WoL calculates and uses DPS(e), that is, damage done divided by fight duration, as its quantity for ranking players. DPS(e) is arguably a better account of DPS because it reflects a player’s average contribution per second over the course of the whole encounter. If the player stands in fire and dies, their DPS goes down and continues going down the longer they remain inactive. If the player is dealing damage from start to finish, their DPS remains unaffected.
Despite DPS(e) being an arguably better form of DPS, it is still nothing more than a measure of damage over time. It does not reflect battle rezzes or cc, positioning or damage avoidance. It does not say whether a player is a good raider or not; it merely says how much damage they did, averaged by second. In that respect it is no better than the Damage Done count. Damage Done remains the most intuitive and accurate indication of a player’s direct contribution toward the depletion of enemy health pools. The main reason that we look at alternative measures like DPS(e) is that they are standardized by time. They provide a gauge of of a person’s damage dealt that is unaffected by how quickly the boss died and thus allow for comparison across attempts and even across raids. Were it not for want of comparability across fights, Damage Done would likely be the only damage stat we’d need for general evaluation.
Before moving on, I think I should mention that sometimes the formulae presented here do not match up with WoL results. For example, a WoL DPS(e) figure will usually be close to to Damage Done divided by the fight duration in seconds, but it isn’t always exact. I do not know why this is, and I find it odd because WoL site admins say the site uses the formulae that I employ in this post.
Beyond Overall Counts
As already suggested, there is more to dpsing than doing lots of damage. As a role, dpsers are obliged to dispel, rez, cc, kite, reposition, self-heal, avoid taking damage and any number of other things. However, even within the area of doing damage there is more to look at than overall numbers. Fights often have adds that are more important to dps than the actual boss. Damage done to such adds is a useful quantity to analyze.
Looking at Recount works fine for this purpose if you are still in the raid. If you switch to the Damage Done display and you hover your cursor over a person’s name, the top three recipients of their damage are displayed in a tooltip that pops up. The damage recipients are grouped by name and all of the damage dealt to any unit of a given name is summed together (so all Corrupting Adherents are summed together for the Cho’gall fight, for example).
If you want to see more than the top three damage recipients or just want a more detailed display, click on the person’s name. This opens a new Recount window that breaks down Damage Done in a variety of ways. Use the arrows at the top of the window to cycle through the different displays until you see ‘playername Damaged Who’ at the top of the window. In this display you see damage done broken down by target name. If you click a target name, you’ll see the spells that damaged it and how much they damaged it in the lower half of the window.
Incidentally, you can use this popup window for all of Recounts main window quantities. You can click on a person’s death to see the healing and damage taken log preceding their death. Clicking on a person’s Activity reveals a window breaking down what they actually did while they were active. CC Breakers shows you who broke your trap with what and on which mob.
World of Logs
Finding damage done to adds on World of Logs is a bit different, and because its all online I’ll be linking to WoL results from a recent vodka kill of Cho’gall Heroic to provide examples of the pages I’m describing. Once you’ve selected the fight you want to look at, go to the main menu at the top of the page and select Creatures > Creatures > addname, where addname is the name of the add you want to scrutinize. This takes you to the add’s Details page; when there, select the Damage by Actor tab. This will display counts of how much damage the adds of that name did broken down by player and, below that, how much damage the adds took, again broken down by player.
The same information can be found with more detail by mousing over the third option from the left on the main menu (the one that says Dashboard when you first look at an encounter but changes based on what data you’re looking at) and selecting Analyze. On the Analyze page look at the lefthand menu, select Damage Done, by source, and target: addname and then click Go (like so). This gives you a graph, damage done, dps, activity . . . the whole works on damage dealt to targets of the specified name, broken down by player. As you can probably guess, the other options on the Analyze page are pretty useful too.
It’s worth remembering that you can also use the Analyze page to review damage done to shields, such as Ignacious’s Aegis of Flame. I don’t have an intimate understanding of how WoL treats shields, but I believe you find damage done to them by going to the Analyze page, selecting Damage Done, by source, and target: shieldedtargetname. Before clicking Go, add the following line into the Expression widget at the bottom of the same menu: absorbed>0. The page you see should look like this.