Monday, September 24, 2007

Raids and Trash Respawns

Questionc, in a comment to a previous post, writes:

The way you describe the trash spawn, it doesn't really sound any different from respawns used in any other part of the game... as an instance time limit. A good example of this is Scarlet Monastery, where failure is taking so long that you have to fight to get out of the instance.

And honestly, it's a good gentle mechanic. It's fair for them to put a time limit, and much nicer than just kicking you out of the dungeon if you take too long.

The problem with this is that there is a fundamental difference in expectations between raid instances and 5-man instances.

When you go into a 5-man instance, you expect to clear it, even if it is your first time going to that instance. You may wipe once or twice, but the general expectation is that you will finish that instance. In this case, an instance time limit is a good idea. If you hit the trash respawn, it's a sign that something is wrong, and perhaps it might be a better idea to try again later, maybe with a different group or after gearing up a bit more. If you wipe enough that trash respawns, it is unlikely that your group will successfully complete the instance.

In contrast, in a raid boss fight, you expect to wipe a lot. That the fight is intricate enough that learning and mastering it will take multiple hours. It took us two or three evenings to refine our strategy and master The Lurker Below, and he's generally considered an easy boss in SSC.

Respawns, rather than being a time limit, are interruptions in the learning process. As well, they are interruptions which eat up a lot of valuable time. If you raid from 6-9pm, and you get respawns at 8:30, you may as well call the raid. That means you lost half an hour of learning time, which is a lot for a casual guild.

Respawns are annoying because they make you waste time. Time is the one thing that casuals do not have a lot of. It takes a lot of coordination and administration to gather the people necessary for a raid, and some of that work gets tossed away because Blizzard decided to have respawns.

If we didn't have respawns, we could make better use of the time we have available, we could accomplish more. Probably not a whole lot more, but still. Trash respawns are obvious busy-work. We've already proven that we can defeat them once, why do we have to go through it again? We want to focus on the boss, why not let us focus on the boss?

The point is that respawns are unnecessary. Different guilds have different time constraints. Given that learning bosses is an activity which requires multiple hours, it would be best if guilds could raid to match their own constraints, rather than having to deal with frustrating, artificial constraints as well.

As for the idea that respawns are needed to slow guilds down, I don't think that is true. Respawns don't stop the elite guilds. Multiple guilds have already completed the raid content in WoW. Why slow down the non-elite guilds to an extra degree? Solid and demanding boss fights will keep a damper on progress.

I guess it boils down to the fact that I really don't like "artificial" barriers to content. The content itself should provide the challenge. The challenge in raiding is mastering the boss fights, not clearing the respawned trash that you've already beaten once that evening.

(Which is not to say that there should be no trash. Trash provides little "mini-challenges" and makes the instance feel alive. But once the challenge has been met, that's the end of it, and the trash should stay dead.)

11 comments:

*vlad* said...

I agree with this. Even in 5 mans, when you die and have to corpse-run from the start of the instance (never really understood that, either; why can't I run as a ghost to my body like I do outside?), why should you then have to try and dodge trash that has respawned?

I remember pre-BC the number of times we had to quit UBRS because someone died and couldn't get back to the rest of the group, because trash had respawned in the meantime.
No respawns, please.

Anonymous said...

I think the fallacy in this line of thinking is that the bosses in the instance are the intended challenge and that the additional mobs are simply there to get in the way. The oft-cited counterexample to this line of thinking is Attumen the Huntsman in Karazhan whose speedy reset timer is a limitation unto itself and, for many, a more trying test than the actual conquering of Attumen.

Attumen yields a certain insight into the designers' way of thinking: not only are raids expected to be able to defeat challenging content, but they are expected to do it within the additional challenging parameter of a time constraint. Other bosses are nowhere near as time-centric, but there is a certain underlying notion that part of the challenge with almost all raid bosses in WoW is that one doesn't get an infinite amount of time at this and so quality attempts must be made.

Do I agree that the respawn timers are an annoying way to end the evening? Certainly. But at the same time, the argument that elite guilds aren't slowed down by trash is spurious. Any guild who has already downed a given boss will no longer be slowed down by that boss's attendant trash, whereas any guild still trying to learn that boss will be forced to contend with the trash. The only difference is that the elite guilds were wrangling your trash months ago, whereas the Karazhan trash that you never see respawn now is still giving some guilds fits.

Samownall said...

Well trash idd should not be frequent enough that it becomes a real issue but I believe it should be relevant enough to put pressure on the raid to perform well.

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GSH said...

If the trash is part of the challenge of the boss fight, it should respawn when the boss respawns.

For example, if the challenge of Attumen is to clear his trash and kill him in 30 min, why doesn't the trash respawn if you wipe?

The classic example of a trash + boss fight is the Suppression Room in Blackwing Lair. Fights like that are clearly linked.

The fact that the trash doesn't respawn with the boss is why I believe that they are separate challenges.

For example, maybe there's a weak link between Attumen and his trash. But what about Moroes? The trash has nothing to do with the skills required to beat the Moroes fight. It's just an extra unnecessary constraint.

Other bosses are nowhere near as time-centric, but there is a certain underlying notion that part of the challenge with almost all raid bosses in WoW is that one doesn't get an infinite amount of time at this and so quality attempts must be made.

But it's generally accepted that it takes a much longer time than the respawn timer to learn the fight. Guilds spend weeks on certain fights. If a guild has to put in the time, why not let the guild put in the time uninterrupted?

The best dungeons of WoW 1.0 were Blackwing Lair and Naxx. Trash did not respawn in those dungeons.

GSH said...

Also, I'd like to add that more casual guilds don't have an infinite amount of time. They have the amount of time left in the raid that evening.

It's the hardcore raid guilds which have infinite time, and they've already shown that artificial time limits do not hamper them.

There is already a de facto time limit on attempts for more casual guilds. Why add in an artificial time limit which interferes with that?

Glacy said...

I kind of like the trash respawns.
I've seen some of the best boss tries right after a trash respawn. Especially when trying a new boss having a break every once in a while can help you clear your mind, you can afford to not focus 100% for a bit (I know, I know, but...), you can have a laugh and a chat on vent instead of the only thing being said "moving in 3..2..1..", "x down" or the like. Also being able to actually kill anything every once in a while is fun :D.
I've seen some of the best boss tries right after a trash respawn.

When we were learning Vashj (which has no trash) by the end of the evening it felt like mashing your head into a solid concrete wall. Over and over and over again.
Yey we had 16 tries on Vashj tonight. Hurray! (that's in a four hour raid btw).

Yes trash respawns can be annoying if you have to break up a raid early because of it (noone in their right mind is gonna start reclearing half an hour of trash if that means *one* extra try on the boss); but I think I still prefer it over the alternative.

barium56 said...

I have a possible, but different, solution. Coriel, you mentioned:

The best dungeons of WoW 1.0 were Blackwing Lair and Naxx. Trash did not respawn in those dungeons.

And though I did not get all the way through Naxx (cleared the Spider wing, Noth, Razuvious, and got to 7% on Thaddius *le sigh*) I did notice some things about the way some trash worked there.

What comes to mind right now is the trash to Grand Widow Faerlina. You kill all of the trash in the first square room, and it won't respawn. That's all fine and dandy. And then you're faced with a trash-based challenge. You have 30 minutes to clear through all of the spiders leading into Faerlina's room as well as clear enough of the trash within the room so as to have enough space to effectively employ wipe protection. Thirty minutes after the moment you kill the first spider in that "gauntlet," all of the spiders will respawn. None of the humanoid trash in Faerlina's room will respawn however (if I'm not mistaken), which means that you've at least made some progress if you've gotten that far. So, once you've managed to get situated into her room, and cleared through the humanoid trash, as long as you use wipe protection on each attempt you don't need to worry about the 30 minute spider respawns. Engaging Faerlina doesn't aggro the spiders.

Now, I think this is an imperfect (but effective enough) example of separating the challenges between the trash and the boss encounter. You have that trash timer (or trash challenge) to beat before you can start your attempts on the boss, but once it's beaten, you're capable of working on the challenge of the boss encounter with relative impunity. The trash is no longer an issue, as you've already "beaten" the challenge (who likes repetition? I sure do!). Now, this example is imperfect as I said before because there were some implementation issues, some of the spider patrols would aggro if you got to close to a certain area in the room, there were major raid delay issues when people needed to sub in/out or get something/get repaired etc, but I really think when the trash and the boss are not directly linked like Broodlord and the Suppression room, or Heigan and that god-forsaken plaguish hallway thing (we only tried it once, ugh) this type of separate trash challenge/boss challenge implementation is what Blizzard should strive for, not just tacking on ridiculous uninspired trash respawns that must be recleared before the next attempt.

barium56 said...

Oh, I totally missed this:

(Which is not to say that there should be no trash. Trash provides little "mini-challenges" and makes the instance feel alive. But once the challenge has been met, that's the end of it, and the trash should stay dead.)

That is kind of what I was saying in my long, drawn out post. But I don't think necessarily that trash should just die altogether once it's been beaten. Let me think of a suitable analogy for my example, the Faerlina trash. This isn't perfect, but it'll suffice. Learning the boss should be something to the effect of learning to ride a bike. If you fall down, it'll hurt a bit (game equivalent: your raid takes a durability/morale hit), but you'll be able get back up pretty quickly and try it again with your new experience. But if you really screw up badly (game equivalent: forget wipe protection or something equally bad), you're gonna break something, and it's gonna hurt (game equivalent: you're gonna have to reclear that trash).

Clearing through trash once shouldn't necessarily absolve a raid from that responsibility in all cases. In some cases it should (i.e. Twin Emps trash and *ugh* C'thun trash), but I think there are a lot of opportunities for creative uses of trash to provide an interesting, unique, challenging, and most importantly fun complement to bosses.

GSH said...

You make an interesting argument. Imposing a minor penalty for not using wipe recovery tools is not that bad an idea. It would add a small dimension to some bosses.

I think it would be a little contrived if it existed for every boss, though. I think the default should still be that trash stays dead once killed.

Imo, Broodlord and the Suppression Room weren't seperate challenges, they were the same challenge. Broodlord on his own was a fairly easy boss, but you had to fight your way to him.

It would have been a little more obvious if you couldn't stop and regroup in that little cubby just before you engaged him.

barium56 said...

I agree in that one style of trash shouldn't be imposed for all bosses. This style should be one of many different mechanics that Blizzard should start figuring out to make trash more creative.

For example, the trash before the Twin Emps was 5 giant Anubisaths. They had three different "pools" with two abilities in each "pool." The first pool contained an AoE shadowbolt for about 3k (if memory serves) with about (approximating) a 15yd minimum range and a thunderclap for 1.5-2k nature damage with (approximating again) a 15 yd range. The second pool had a plague ability, which gave a player a plague debuff for 60 seconds that inflicted 1k nature damage to the player and all allies in about 5-8 yards every three seconds and a meteor which dealt 16k fire damage divided amongst however many people it hit. The third pool had a spell to summon a large Quiraji Warrior that hit medium-hard and would cleave and (I think) knock people in the air and a spell to summon mini Sarturas who hit hard (for summoned mobs) and cleaved. All of these abilities weren't spammed per se, but they were used quite often. The Anubisaths would randomly get one ability from each pool upon aggroing, so wiping and reseting one wouldn't give you an advantage in terms of preparation on the next attempt. There were toned down versions of these in AQ20 before Ossirian, and the abilities have been recycled for other mobs (Highlord Mograine, anyone?). Sorry for the long explanation, but I think it's good to get a feel of these mobs.

These mobs didn't respawn until the next day, so once they were dead you got a full night of Twin Emps attempts, and once the Twin Emps were down they wouldn't respawn at all. This is an example of the "one time clear" mobs done right, in my opinion. They're sufficiently different, sufficiently unpredictable, and sufficiently engaging (Thunderclap/Meteor was the worst, you needed melee dps/tanks with your MT so that he wouldn't get one shot by a meteor, but they would all take lots of Thunderclap damage, and the meteors would do more damage to your ranged/healer group and then the summoned adds would aggro your healers...but it was fun!). The C'thun trash was "one time clear" trash done wrong. It was just frustratingly difficult and annoying, but it did stay dead until the instance reset, and raiders did approve of that. But I don't think that that's what Blizzard should aim for.

But these are simply examples of some trash ideas. I think there should be some challenging (but not painstakingly difficult) "one time clear" trash. I think there should be some trash that's less difficult but timed in such a way that you need to beat the timer to get to the boss and then you need to stay there to continue your attempts. But there should also be more! Blizzard has a lot of developers! They can come up with so much more than "the trash respawns in two hours, clear it before you try again on the boss" and so much more than I've proposed. Trash should be diverse and interesting just like the bosses. I mean, why not?

barium56 said...

Sorry for double-posting again, I know it's not proper posting etiquette but I completely forgot that it's not Highlord Mograine that recycles the meteor, it's Thane Korth'azz (Mograine does the chance-on-hit Ragnaros-Elemental-Fire-asplodey thing). Stupid mistakes I make like this that compromise the integrity of my comments always frustrate me.