Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 14, 2011
My Cataclysm raid plans

I don't have any.

Let me explain my view of how raiding has changed with an analogy: As a healer, raiding in Vanilla was like solving a Rubik's Cube. You had to *think* to succeed, and you had to think fast.

Raiding got faster in Burning Crusade. By the time Wrath of the Lich King arrived, the Rubik's Cube had become much simpler.Only now you had to solve that 2x2 Rubik's Cube while racing downhill on a skateboard through a complicated obstacle course. Thus the actual healing was extremely easy, and all the problem was to do it while constantly having to move and to react, jump through hoops, keep a distance of exactly 8.7 yards to all your neighbors, while keeping hopping on one leg.

Cataclysm promised to bring the 3x3 Rubik's Cube back for healing, and to a certain extent they did. I am having fun in dungeons because I have a meaningful choice what spells to cast, how to preserve mana, and when to blow my emergency healing. Unfortunately they didn't remove the skateboard downhill obstacle course. I am still supposed to be constantly moving in many heroics encounters and all raid encounters, and keeping prescribed scripted distances not just from various bad stuff but also from everybody else in the raid. Raiding still is mainly Super Mario Simon Says. It is now "harder", but only because you need to keep up the movement and simultaneously make meaningful choices about what spells to cast. The main difficulty is still the jumping around, and not the tactical choices. The main raid gameplay is still wiping with the same group of people until everybody knows all the scripted moves of that specific encounter; and then move to the next encounter where you wipe again until you have all the moves for that encounter in your muscle memory.

Sorry, but that isn't my sort of game. I don't disrespect the kind of people who like highspeed skateboard obstacle courses, but I just want to solve complicated Rubik's Cubes. I have nothing against having to react a few times during a fight to some boss special ability, at a Molten Core kind of level for example, but once the reacting and moving becomes practically the whole game, I'm simply not interested any more. I am looking for a tactical dungeon strategy game, not an action arcade dungeon jump-and-run.
By all means then, please do tell how exactly you'd expect raiding to be. How would your "tactical dungeon strategy game" take shape in WoW and what would it consist in, I'm rather curious.

As a background, I'm raiding hardcore (top 50~ world) since spring 2005 and this is pretty much the best tier implemented so far, rivaling TBC. The sheer complexity and difficulty factor of the encounters is amazing and I have problems understanding how you consider all this any different than what we were given in the past.
There ya go, Tobold:

Oskar has a bunch of crazy puzzles on Shapeways, too:

...on topic, I agree with you, though I'll note that I have little interest in raiding itself. I'm just more interested in slower pace tactical gaming. Must be why I still love Final Fantasy Tactics.
Tobold, that's exactly it. WotLK was an endurance SPRINT the whole time. By the time I finished certain boss fights, I felt as though I had melted my brain. It got easier over time, but it was ingrained in my muscle memory so it wasn't *hard* anymore.

I like the Cataclysm return to puzzle solving, but when you make the DPS jump through a bunch of hoops just to survive based on their muscle memory -- much less do any DPS -- they tend to need more healing, thereby passing the buck to the healer....once again.

It doesn't make healing fun, that's for sure. I tend to be a really good healer, so I haven't had a problem with heroic healing (too much), but it still depends on the group. DPS who are lazy, stupid, or just don't know the fights make it impossible to heal sometimes.

I don't have any raiding plans either. I wonder why...
Have you actually tried any raid instances yet?

Magmaw requires the healers to run from left to right a couple of times during the fight, and halfus you just dodge fireballs when you get a circle underneath you (again, couple of steps to the side). Both aren't all that frequent, is that seriously too much movement for you?

These are both difficult to heal but not because of movement it's because they do craptons of front-loaded damage, and from everything you have said in the past it's what I thought you would have wanted
I never liked raiding much anyway, but when it was "We're going to need a bigger boat" I was mildly interested. When it began to move into Simon Says Match My Dance Move I lost what little interest I had.

Big creatures, lots of henchmen, a range of abilities and some half-decent AI is all it needs. Give the critters loot worth having. They try and keep it while we try and take it from them. Let us do it however we damn well can. That's the kind of raiding I might develop some interest in.
I'm with Tobold on this one.

Not only are all you "raiders" waiting until 10 people can memorize the movement, you're all bots... Going to elitist jerks for your canned spec (which Blizzard dumbed down more for Cata.) How unfulfilling.

Combine that with the inattention to bots in battlegrounds, there is no end game in WoW for me.

I unsubscribed after completing heroics. I've had my fill of Activision/Blizzard. It was a good run, thanks.
I've been healing since launch with a holy priest. I'm with you Tobold. I also echo mellamaj's comments. A couple weeks ago, after an absurdly brutal night of running heroics, I hit my breaking point. Maybe it was when I got instantly fried by a flame jet in HOO bcs of a few ms of lag. I said, "F-this." I told my wife, "If it ain't fun, I'm done." And I haven't played since. I'm 45. Maybe I'm just too old for this sh-.
I like it so far.

I can see how others wouldn't like it though.
Here here. I completely agree with you, Tobold.

I am much more interested in solving the meta-game of getting the "required" gear to solve a gear check than I am of learning a dance maneuver. Just the type of person I am, I'm afraid.

Being required to wipe to learn an encounter is so immersion breaking as to be absolutely ridiculous. It should be possible to learn on the fly without death, but also balancing it so that a boss encounter is not trivial the first time through. (Having said that, I'm not a game designer)
Vanilla WoW raiding went the way of Rubik's Cube and similar puzzles and other game genres like turn based strategy: they got phased out to something more people were willing to pay for.

Overtime, things have gotten faster paced and flashier. Unlike MMOs however, most things don't evolve. That Rubik's Cube sitting at the bottom of some box is the same puzzle. Master of Magic and the original Civilization look the same (albeit outdated).

But WoW has evolved. Its become faster paced with improved story and quest mechanics.
I have been raiding and raid healing since Molten Core, although my guild is casual and certainly not cutting edge. I am very surprised that you don't feel raid healing is tactical anymore.

Six years down the road, we have more tools at our disposal. As a priest I have lightwell, chakra states, little bubbles, big bubbles, reactive heals, little heals, big heals, targeting group heals, aoe group heals, etc etc etc.

There are also many states that someone in my raid group could be in. Maybe they're standing in bad. Maybe they're the tank, or they have a healing debuff, or they've been shot in the air, or a blind dragon is chasing them with fire, or they've been turned into an aoe bomb and haven't moved out of the melee yet. (Grr!)

My job is to know what is going on with the raid, what my fellow healers are up to, and choose the best tool for the job. Back in WotLK that tool was pretty much flash heal... but not anymore.

You comment on having to think quickly to succeed as a healer, and I really don't see how that's changed in the current tier of raids.
I've always hated the "learn the dance" type raids. When you think of all the boss encounters in the game (not just raids) there is just too much to remember. It works well for people who raid every week and do little else. It can get complicated when you play multiple alts at different levels and need to recall a fight you did once.. a month ago.

On the other hand I'm not sure how developers can continue to make fights interesting for people. It would be cool if they could develop an AI for bosses that would change the fight depending on what people are doing. This way it would be impossible to "learn" a fight, you would have to roll with what happens.
I feel like the boss encounters have become overly complex as well. I started raiding in TBC and had a lot of fun with Karazhan and Zul'Aman (wasn't a big fan of the boss with the dragonhawks though). I also had a lot of fun with Ulduar but I feel like T10 was and T11 is just way to complex and it's not the game I want to play anymore. So after downing Magmaw and almost Halfus, I think i'm finally done with this game. Hopefully Rift or SWTOR will fill the void.
It would be interesting to hear the informed opinion of those who have healed multiple raids, not just from those who have only sampled a few, or those who are making blanket assumptions out all Cata raids based on their experiences doing Heroics. Watching a movie trailer is not the same as staying until the movie actually starts.
@Tobold: just a question: how would you design a raid encounter which feels like a Rubik's cube, but remains interesting after a bazillion websites explain all the steps one by one?

@Dink: same question: can you give an example of a combat system which remains "complex to study" after you have a bazillion websites explaining all the details?
@Helistar: You correctly identified the problem. The player doesn't get surprised anymore, because he can (and will) spoiler himself to death on websites beforehand. The solution would be adding random elements to bosses like a common pool of skills that any boss can and will perform at random. If no two tries are the same the basic gameplay gets a lot more difficult and you can tone down the Simon says.
I think the regular version of these new raids are too hard for the average person. They are going to discourage a LOT of players, just like Tobold - and probably have already.

When game starts to become work, it stops being a game.

Uber raiders want a super-hard challenge? That is what Heroic mode is for. Everyone else just wants to kill some time having fun.

It's unfortunate that raiding is pretty much all there is to do at the PvE end game, and Blizzard then designs the raids to be more frustrating than fun.
I've tried healing every normal difficulty raid encounter, and downed all but one, plus healed enough of heroic Halfus to hit the berserk timer.

I really don't agree with the characterization that raiding is about memorizing dance steps. Yes, it is about reacting quickly to situations, but reacting to those situations is more of an exercise in judgement than in memorization.

I'm sure it's way faster paced than Vanilla, but I don't see how they could avoid that. People inevitably get better at games over time. They have to keep up the difficulty to keep it interesting.

It wouldn't hurt if they made normal raiding a little bit easier without changing heroic raiding, and if they made normal dungeons more compelling. I agree that its a shame that it seems like there is nothing to end game other than raiding. But I think this may have always been the case.
I very, very much agree.

I also don't see "learning the dance" as actually being learning to play my character. Or learning to play a game I want to play.

@max - no but a bad first two chapters/episodes make it much less likely the customer will finish the book/series. There is no way the penultimate boss fight can every really overcome a bad introduction.

@Helistar - a simplistic idea for example only: change the current system to reduce all healing throughput by 15% and reduce all incoming AoE damage by 99%. (adjust numbers to taste.) The right heals matter more; movement matters a lot less. I have always thought this should be a talent point/glyph.

There are game designs where someone who has never been to EJ, has both less knowledge and intelligence, but who has faster reaction time can do better. Neither game design is "better"; but they will tend to appeal to different people.

Here is a way to think of the games: what if the designers, your ISP, or your >40 yo brain added 400 milliseconds to your response: how would it effect your game? The spectrum goes from chess/poker to Halo and FPS twitchers. I feel WoW is increasingly evolving towards the twitch end of the scale. Perhaps because console ownership among WoW developers, but not customers, is nearly universal.
@Hagu: The only thing that changes with your lowered healing throughput and AoE damage is the thing you're focusing on. Instead of rushing to get out of the fire, you're rushing to get that heal off before so-and-so dies. Instead of physically (in a sense) moving out of the fire, you're clicking a heal to put that fire out. Realistically speaking they're the same thing. Your reaction to heal incoming damage to save that person is tested in the same way that you need to react to get out of the fire.

In that sense, WoW's been like this for a while.
The only raid I've done so far apart from BH is the 5 dragons with the ettin.

That was strategically fascinating as we had to work it out from. Not quite from basic principles, we checked Yogscast and Tankspot, but we had a different mesh of dragons and it was extremely interesting to figure out how to do it.

The interesting decisions were how to manage the mobs, how to manage spike damage and how to tank a frenzied mortal striking ettin. It was actually too much for us but I really enjoyed the attempts we had on it.

It was very like later Vanilla fights like Twin Emps where there's a lot going on at once.

It sounds, Tobold, as if you've dismissed it without giving it a decent go. I really do suggest you play a few raids because it seems to me that these fights are pretty tactical, and quite interesting.

I'm no expert and like I said I haven't got very far yet.
With my guild I'm starting to heal - so far done Halfus, Magmaw, Maloriak and Omnitron.

Halfus is very fun and challenging to heal fight, that changes pretty much every week. Omnitron as well - you have to adapt to what bosses you have, but its easier.

We tried Chimaeron as well and that's a very fun fight for a healer. Not much dancing as well.

From Tobold's post it looks like he'd like if every raid boss would be a tank and spank, very hard hitting boss, so he doesn't have to "learn the dance". That'd be awesomely boring.
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I think most raid encounters, as well as most 5-mans, can be best described as "don't screw up." Don't stand in the fire, don't miss the adds, don't screw up your rotation/spell priority. Nothing you do will make you perform significantly better than another player who also doesn't screw up in any substantial way.

I simply cannot imagine someone saying "your awesome playing brought that boss down." I can only imagine "your screw-up caused a wipe." The "skill" of raiding is simply pass/fail, you cannot really "be good" at it.
Yep, Tobold is correct in that Cata brings back the 3x3 Rubik's Cube for healing because healers do have choices to make. However, fast reaction times (e.g. skateboard park) is also remained.

Last night, my guild killed Atramedes for the first time and it requires split second reaction times or you'll die. However, the healing part of it was fun since I had to conserve mana a few times and make meaningful decisions.
I have to throw my support to Tobold where "reaction time" based decision making is concerned. It's a horribly bad mechanic in raid settings.

I've been healing since Vanilla, and I'm having a hard time believing that the old timers commenting in this thread dont remember the lag issues on friday nights in Molten Core when instance servers were heavily populated. The instance server network structure is MUCH better now than it was back in the day, but I still find that members of our raids are dying waaay too much to lag spikes, packet loss, or the now widely reported disconnect bug associated with certain instances.

Reaction-time based mechanics are just a bad idea, and I do not support them as a valid gameplay/raid mechanic when a few simple milli-seconds of lag can spell disaster for the entire raid group.

Having said that, I am enjoying Cata raiding immensely, albeit in a limited capacity as my work schedule prevents me from attending all but weekend raids.

I feel safe in saying that if someone can learn the mechanics of the Cata Heroic dungeons, and in the process learn the finer points of their class where gemming/enchants/glyphing/rotations/reforging are concerned, then Baradin Hold and/or Bastion of Twilight will be a cake walk in very short order.

I mean, it's either about skill, or some mechanic(s) that we can conveniently label as the scapegoat. Right, Tobold?
If you call reaction time a "skill", then yes.

I'm totally okay with the explanation that I'm getting too old for this. But as Hagu said, it doesn't matter whether it is your brain or your ISP that lags by 400 milliseconds. A game where milliseconds matter is by definition a twitch arcade game, and not a strategy or tactics game.

I also don't see "learning the dance" as actually being learning to play my character. Or learning to play a game I want to play.

That is my main problem: Every dance just teaches you that particular dance, and you'll be starting over from scratch at the next boss, learning the next dance. You don't learn any new "skills" on how to play the game or your character better, you only learn specific encounters.
The difference between Cataclysm raiding and all else is that a strong raid (25 or 10) will not have much problems at all with Normal-mode as once the basics of a fight are layed out the only thing that is a problem is being undergeared. Mostly this is a problem for healers until regen is in a good state. A good raid where people adept to their mistakes and work for the raid will enjoy raiding because it's an extremely good learning curve for everyone.

As someone who has done all raid encounters in vanilla, tbc and WotlK (including 10% LK HC25)there is no tier that comes even close to relying on each individual to perform as best as they can.

And this is showing,regardless of what you are saying and what you prefer, ultimately it comes down to player skill. This is the reason why PuGs just cannot succeed. If you think WotlK was a better model where every raid tier including ICC was puggable from their introduction I have serious doubt in your skill in this game.

Bad players who have problems with game mechanics and boss mechanics simply won't cut it as mistakes are so easy to see now that they actually affect the raid, this is especially true in 10 mans as any kind of mistake is visible.

That's not to say people can't do mistakes, cause you are simply wrong in saying that the raid mechanics require milisecond reaction times, they simply don't. What they do require is a solid raid working for a kill, not half the DPS trying to push top on meters etc
Wait for a few months, it'll be easier and less frustrating.
Wait for a few months, it'll be easier and less frustrating.

Of course raids will get easier, but how "easy" or "hard" raids are is not really my problem here. My problem is which "skill" is the limiting factor: A reaction time skill, or a tactical thinking skill?

Add a couple of nerfs and a few months worth of gear upgrades to a raid encounter, and it will get easier. But that won't change the basic nature of that encounter from "twitch based" to "tactical". It only widens your margin of error.

My problem is not that I'm unable to do this, my problem is that even if I succeed, I am not having fun, because the encounter only challenges skills that I don't consider to be all that interesting.
I'm totally okay with the explanation that I'm getting too old for this.

I'll be 47 in a few months, so I know where you're coming from. I started playing WoW shortly after launch. I came from the FPS community, of which I was very active and competitive, but at 41 I just didnt have the reflexes to keep me in the "league" I preferred to play in, so I bowed out gracefully, found solice in WoW, and havent looked back.

But as Hagu said, it doesn't matter whether it is your brain or your ISP that lags by 400 milliseconds. A game where milliseconds matter is by definition a twitch arcade game, and not a strategy or tactics game.

We agree on that. The last sentence of my last comment wasnt meant as a snipe, but moreso as the same sort of epiphany that I had when I called the FPS scene quits due to a single element of gameplay that turned me off to an entire genre of games.

You touched on this last may when you posted about the Heigan "dance" and whether or not one became a better raider by learning(repeated wiping) the "dance". I've seen numerous forum posts and blog discussions about this type of raid "mechanic" to indicate that it went beyond the anecdotal stage in terms of how NOT to design a raid encounter, and it is a PRIME example of how a few milli-seconds of lag can affect the success rate of that particular encounter.
It's true that some of current tier fights like Valiona and Atramedes are nightmares for DPS and healers alike, but there is a fight designed to be tactical and challenge healers specifically - Chimaeron. Very simple fight concept, very challenging to heal properly.

I do not understand however what exactly was "tactical" about healing Molten Core. Organizing 2 groups of healers, one of which heals and other wands boss waiting for mana? Dispelling all curses so that raid does not wipe? Grinding fire resistance?
And what about running out with Geddon's Living Bomb and keeping safe distance from other ranged on Ragnaros? Sounds too twitchy-arcady to me.
The tactical game does exist in WoW. But you have to take a step back from the role of healing and look at raiding in general.
As the raid leader, you have the opportunity to see each encounter as your ‘Rubix Cube’. You have 9/24 other players of different classes and differing levels of skill and you have to guide them through a series of increasingly challenging encounters.

Who will tank? Who will off-tank? Who will tank heal? Who will raid heal? Who will dispel? Who will cast life-savers and when should they use them? Who will CC? Who will kite? Who will do the gimmick mechanics? Who will mark up? Who will call things out on Vent?

The optimal path is well documented online, but how you get your people through it requires a tactical, analytical mind. For every 5 minutes of twitch-based mayhem, you’ll have another 5 minutes of respite to evaluate logs and make some smart decisions before trying again.

I personally hope they don’t get rid of dynamic, movement based encounters. It stops me fixating on healing bars and makes the dungeon environments come to life.
“Super Mario” gameplay is probably a fair comparison – arguably the most loved, openly accessible series of games of all time.
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To repeat my earlier question; Have you tried any raid instances?

If so which ones and what was the problem?
Some of the twitchiest raid bosses in the WHOLE game were from Vanilla. Ever heard of the Heigen Dance or Thaddius? If any fight in the game is close to Super Mario Bros, those are it.

Tobold, you are not asking for bosses to be more "tactical". Really, you are just asking them to be easier, mechanically. A tank/spank boss is not at all tactical, since once you've figured out the proper strat and know how to play your class optimally from reading guides online, it becomes just a chore.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of raiders would stop raiding immediately if this was the case.
Never thought I'd say this, but I am afraid you are nostalgic, Tobold.

Of course raids will get easier, but how "easy" or "hard" raids are is not really my problem here. My problem is which "skill" is the limiting factor: A reaction time skill, or a tactical thinking skill?

WoW never was much about tactical thinking. You have been in Molten Core. What was the tactical challenge for you?

I absolutely agree that reaction time makes a terrible challenge - at least for the two of us.

I guess for you (as well as for me9 the flavour is gone. You never raided for the abstract things, like challenge or achievement. You raided for the flavour of it. You raided to be part of something 'epic'.

Blizzard hasn't exactly tried to preserve these things in recent years and in addition to that they are actually hard to preserve, even if Blizzard had tried it.

When you read why people nowadays stop raiding you often don't even get hard feelings. People just don't see the point anymore. Now, often these people are celebrated as 'better' than those who rage-quit. But let me tell you this:

For a developer, much worse than 'hate' or 'love' towards his MMORPG, is indifference!
The hardest part of Vanilla was getting 40 people together. There really wasn't a ton of skill or decision-making involved once Decursive came out.
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