DPS Calculation Explained: Active Time vs. Elapsed Time

October 24th, 2018

Two players can do the same total damage during a fight yet have significantly different DPS numbers. You may be wondering how this is possible.

In most cases DPS is calculated by dividing the total damage by the total elapsed time. “Elapsed time” is just the length of the fight. Most DPS calculators will subtract time you spent dead, and some will start the clock from when you entered the fight instead of when your group entered the fight. But if you stay alive and pull with the group, DPS calculation is done by using the duration of the fight, which I call elapsed time.

WoW, however, has a metric known as “active time“. For DPS this is essentially the amount of time you’re attacking the target. It includes time spent doing the following:

  • Channeling/performing a TYPE_DAMAGE ability
  • Waiting for the global cooldown to finish

Some DPS calculators in WoW, and most prominently the Recount addon, default to using active time instead of elapsed time when calculating DPS, thus changing it from “damage over time” to “damage over time for those times you were attacking the target”. When defined this way, DPS becomes an indicator of how effectively you can damage, but it’s not as good for judging how well you do in a fight overall.

This was quite confusing to me at first. Many people in WoW are adamant about how it’s better to look at total damage than DPS. Normally there’s no difference between the two—DPS is simply the total damage with a common scale factor applied and the two can be used interchangeably. But if you’re used to the numbers given by Recount, that is not the case.

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