Cool-Down Timers

From Echoes of Angmar

When people talk about "skill cool-downs" or "the global cool-down", they're sometimes conflating several different mechanics, so reading any forum discussion on the subject of cool-downs can be confusing.[1]

  • Some people use the word "cool-down" to mean the animation speed of a skill or weapon auto-attack
  • Others use "cool-down" to mean the listed Recovery Time of an active skill
  • Others use the term to mean the apparent delay or "dead time" between two queued events.
  • Some people think "global cool-down" means a standard single cool-down length that is globally applied all skills. Or their understanding of the term comes from other MMOs in which the global cool-down inhibits not only skill execution, but also auto-attack execution.

What's really going on in all these cases is the interplay of many factors, only one of which is actually a "cool-down" timer.

Breakdown of the segments of a queued skill chain

To understand the factors that affect the timing of your queued skills, we must first define the basic segments of skill chain execution:

Induction segment

All interruptible skills have an induction segment, which is represented by a blue "casting bar" that appears just above your quickslot bars by default. While this casting bar is filling up, you can be interrupted. Note that some type of animation usually plays during the induction segment. After you see the Success! message in the casting bar, you can no longer be interrupted. Skills that have induction segments are typically ranged skills (bow shots or magic attacks), pet summons, and teleportation skills such as when you map to your milestone location or a Hunter uses a Guide to... skill. Melee skills typically have no induction segment, nor do instant skills of any sort.

Animation segment

All skills have an animation segment, which is represented by a green rotating border around the quickslot icon and of course the full character animation associated with the skill while it is executing. (Note that the green rotating timer lasts longer than the actual character animation in some cases.) This occurs after the induction segment for interruptable skills. Even instant skills have an animation segment. The actual triggering of the skill effects happens somewhere during the animation segment. The effects of an instant skill happen during the early part of the animation, but the effects of non-instant skills tend to happen during the later part of the animation. In the case of ranged skills of any sort (bow shots or magic attacks), the arrow/particle effect will "fire" during the later part of the animation, but the actual damage will not occur until after the arrow/particle effect has visually hit the foe. Finally, it's important to note that auto-attacks also have an animation segment.

Cool-down segment

All skills have a cool-down segment, which is a short delay during which all other queued skills remain on hold. This segment is commonly referred to as the global cool-down but be aware that unlike in some other MMOs, the cool-down segment does not inhibit the auto-attack "tick" cycle in any way. (More on that thought in a following section.) This segment occurs after the animation segment has completed. If you have enabled the display of your skill queue (Options > UI Settings > Panels > Show Skill Queue), the length of the skill cool-down segment is represented by the hour-glass in the Skill Queue panel. Skill cool-down segments vary from skill to skill. Most skill cool-downs seem to last roughly 1 second or 1.5 seconds (the exact time is difficult to measure). Some skills have noticably faster cool-downs that seem to last roughly 0.5 seconds. An easy low-level example of the differing skill cool-down times can be seen on a Champion. Enable the display of your skill queue and watch the hour-glass while executing a simple skill chain like Wild Attack > Exchange of Blows > Swift Strike. You will notice that the hour-glass empties much faster after Exchange of Blows.

Recovery segment

All skills have a recovery segment, which is specifically listed in the tool-tip for a skill and is also visually represented by a grayed-out "clock face" superimposed over the quickslot icon of a skill after it has finished its animation segment. If the currently-executing skill in your queue is still in its recovery segment, it will not begin its induction segment (or animation segment) until the recovery segment has ended.

Execution time

The total execution time of a skill is the sum of its induction + animation + cool-down segments. The total execution time of an auto-attack comprises only its animation segment (because auto-attacks have no induction, cool-down, or recovery segments).

Timing of queued skills when NOT auto-attacking

When you queue multiple skills, the basic timing is straightforward. There are two possible situations: one in which all skills in the queue are ready, and one in which some of the skills are still in their recovery segment when they become the current skill in the queue. For example, assume skills A, B, and C are queued up, but skill B is still in its recovery segment when it becomes the current skill in the queue:

SkillA_execution > SkillB_recovery > SkillB_execution > SkillC_execution

Timing of queued skills when combined with auto-attacking

The timing of queued skills becomes more complex when you are also in auto-attack mode:

  • Each "tick" of the auto-attack cycle consists of its own animation segment. This segment is generally shorter for "fast" weapons and longer for "slow" weapons.
  • The queued skill chain is overlaid on top of the auto-attack tick cycle.
  • Auto-attack ticks are ignored if they occur during a queued skill's induction segment or animation segment. (Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the auto-attack tick cycle is suspended during induction and animation segments, it's nearly impossible to tell whether the true mechanic is suspension or over-writing of the tick cycle.)
  • Auto-attacks ticks are executed if they occur during a queued skill's cool-down segment if the cool-down is long enough.
  • Auto-attack ticks are executed if the skill queue is currently hung up waiting on the recovery segment of the next skill in the queue.

The net result is that auto-attack ticks "slip through the cracks" of a queued skill chain during any cool-down segment that is long enough, or when a cool-down segment is followed immediately by the recovery segment for the next skill in the queue. And the animation segment of an auto-attack takes up its own chunk of time, effectively delaying the execution of the current skill in the queue.

You can easily see this mechanic in action on a low-level hunter with only Quick Shot and Barbed Arrow. Enable your Skill Queue panel so you can see the cool-down timer in action.

  • Spam Quick Shot followed immediately by Barbed Arrow, so that Barbed Arrow is queued while Quick Shot is still in its induction segment. You'll see that no auto-attack tick occurs in between the two skills, and you'll see how quickly the hourglass graphic for Quick Shot's cool-down timer runs out. The "gap" provided by the cool-down of Quick Shot is simply too small for an auto-attack tick to fit through.
  • Now spam Barbed Arrow followed immediately by Quick Shot. This time, you'll see that an auto-attack tick occurs between the two skills, and that the hourglass runs out much more slowly after Barbed Arrow. In this case the "gap" provided by the cool-down of Barbed Arrow is large enough for an auto-attack tick to fit through.

(As an aside, extended testing of hunter skills, executed at different times during the auto-attack cycle, seem to support the theory that the auto-attack cycle is suspended rather than overwritten. Regardless, the net effect is the same--you need a large enough gap between 2 queued skills to enable an auto-attack tick to "slip through".)

Now that the basic interaction has been explained, let's look at two examples using fast and slow weapons along with same skills A, B, and C from the previous section. In the first example, we are overlaying the queued skill chain on top of a relatively fast auto-attack cycle, such as a 1.7 speed dagger attack. Note that 4 auto-attack ticks are added to the damage output of the three skills:

SkillA_execution > 3x AA_execution (during SkillA_cooldown and SkillB_recovery) > SkillB_execution > 1x AA_execution (during SkillB_cooldown) > SkillC_execution

In the second example, let's see what happens when we overlay the same skills on top of a relatively slow auto-attack cycle, such as with a 2H weapon. Because the auto-attack ticks occur much less frequently, there's a good possibility that no tick will actually occur during the relatively short "window" of any of the skills' cooldown segments. In this example, note that only 1 auto-attack tick is added to the same exact three skills:

SkillA_execution > 1x AA_execution (during SkillB_recovery) > SkillB_execution > SkillC_execution

There are three important conclusions to draw from these examples. Keep in mind as you read these conclusions that faster weapons typically also have faster animation segments and therefore can fit into smaller "gaps" in the skill queue:

  • If you have a slower weapon (such as a bow or 2H weapon), and depending on how powerful the skills in your queue are, you might achieve a much higher damage output by waiting just long enough after each skill execution to enable an auto-attack tick to occur before you start the induction segment of the next skill. This can easily be seen on a low-level hunter using the skills Quick Shot, Swift Bow, and Barbed Arrow.
    • Both Quick Shot and Barbed Arrow are relatively low-damage skills that don't do that much more damage than your basic auto-attack tick.
    • Quick Shot and Swift Bow have very short cool-down segments, so if the next skill is immediately queued up, you'll almost never see an auto-attack slip through the "gap" of their cool-down segment.
    • Therefore, if the hunter queues up Quick Shot > Swift Bow > Barbed Attack with no extra "wait time" in-between each skill, the relatively short cool-down segments for Quick Shot and Swift Bow totally suppress any chance for auto-attack ticks to occur. Your first auto-attack tick will occur only after Barbed Arrow.
    • If, by contrast, you wait just a moment after Quick Shot (for your auto-attack tick to occur) and then just a moment after Swift Bow (for another auto-attack tick to occur), you are adding 2 auto-attacks to your total damage output without increasing the total time much at all. As a result, you will do significantly more total damage in roughly the same span of time.
  • Faster weapons can mean that more auto-attack ticks get through the gaps of your skill queue, thereby increasing your total damage output, but your overall time to execute the entire skill chain is slowed down by the additional delays incurred by the animation segment of each auto-attack.
  • Slower weapons can mean fewer auto-attack ticks get through the gaps of your skill queue, which means that the entire skill chain executes faster because it's not delayed by the inserted animation segments of your auto-attack ticks (which themselves can be very long for a slow weapon). Therefore, If your queued skills are all high-damage, multi-attack skills, this can mean that your total front-loaded damage "burst" output is much higher! Because you haven't slowed down the burst by the insertion of relatively weak auto-attacks, you've piled up the skill-based damage faster.

Common misconceptions

Certain misconceptions are still held by the LOTRO community and propagated on the forums. All of the following statements/assertions are false:

The global cool-down timer inhibits auto-attacks or imposes a single, standard cool-down duration (False)

There is only a per-skill cool-down segment, and the length of each skill cool-down can vary. The cool-down segment is "global" only with regard to queued skills; it does not affect the auto-attack tick cycle in any way.

Auto-attack ticks are "pushed" to the next gap in the skill queue (Partially False)

It is not exactly known whether the skill queue simply over-writes the auto-attack tick cycle, or whether it suspends the auto-attack tick cycle while a skill is in its induction and animation segments. What is conclusively known through testing, however, is that auto-attack ticks will not usually appear during the shorter cool-down segments of certain skills, as demonstrated in preceding sections. Regardless of what is really happening under the covers (which will be impossible to know for sure without a conclusive statement from a Turbine developer), the net result is that you need a long enough "gap" in your skill queue to enable an auto-attack tick to occur before the next skill in the queue. One way to ensure this is to simply wait for a subsequent auto-attack tick to occur before executing each skill in your chain.

Weapon-based skills occur "on the next tick" of the auto-attack cycle (False)

All skill execution, even for weapon-based skills, occurs independently of the auto-attack tick cycle (except of course for the fact that the animation segment of an auto-attack tick will accordingly delay the currently queued skill as described in the preceding sections.

Why have such a complex system for executing attacks?

  • Some people wonder why skill execution timing must be so complex. A likely theory can be explained by way of analogy from the music world. Those nifty synthesizer sounds you've heard in music since the early 70s are at their heart a complex curve of 4 different segments: the Attack, the Sustain, the Decay, and the Release. By varying any of these 4 segments just a little bit, you can completely tweak the exact same sample loop or oscillator waveform to sound like many different things.
  • Similarly, a modern MMO-based skill execution tends to comprise a similar "curve" of 4 segments (using LOTRO terminology): Induction, Animation, Cool-down, and Recovery.
  • By tweaking any of these four segments, you can completely change the overall "balance" and "feel" of that skill. For example, you can make the skill effect hit faster by shortening the induction or animation segments, but delay the re-use of the skill much longer by lengthening the recovery segment. Or you do exactly the opposite to delay the initial "hit" of the spell effect but make it reusable much faster.
  • Or you could leave the speed at which the effect "hits" and how often you can re-use it unchanged, but you could add a certain timespan during which the skill can be interrupted, giving your opponent another tactical option other than just soaking up the damage. Or you could simply offset a skill that seems too powerful if front-loaded with other powerful skills by increasing the length of the cool-down segment so that you must wait longer before executing any other skills. And so on.
  • If you oversimplify the skill-execution "curve" to only two or three segments, you don't have nearly as wide an array of balancing options, so all skills become more alike and undifferentiated, and combat skill chains become a simple exercise in button mashing as opposed to actually thinking about the best skills to queue up next, whether to soak up the damage or try to interrupt, etc.