Thursday, September 20, 2012

Catch Up Mechanics

Matticus proposes that Blizzard remove in-combat resurrection spells. His rational is that "Individual player accountability would have no choice but to go up. Can’t really be as reckless anymore."

That's probably true. But it would also result in a lot of unfun gameplay. "Someone died, wipe it up." Again and again.

Combat resses are a "catch-up mechanic". These mechanics allow players to recover from a mistake and keep going. Without these mechanics, game outcomes have the potential to be unchangeable. As soon as one side gets an advantage, they ride that advantage all the way to the end. If you fall behind early, you can never catch up and win.

Think of chess. You can often predict who's going to win right from the first exchange which results in a loss of piece advantage. Someone nets an extra pawn, the odds in their favor skyrocket. Sometimes the losing player can mount a comeback, especially if she is more skilled, but it is rare.

In my opinion, having good catch-up mechanics is an important element in making games more interesting and the outcome more uncertain. A lot of the problem with MMOs is that catch-up mechanics are hard to create, because invariably they get woven into regular play, rather than being reserved for times when one falls behind.

Think of most damage reduction cooldowns. Or feral/moonkin druid Tranquility. Tranquility used to be a great catch-up mechanic. If things went south, your feral druid could shift out of cat form and Tranq, stabilizing the raid. But now many raid teams incorporate non-healer Tranquilities into the healing strategy, and use them to buttress the regular healers at specific times.

Other catch-up mechanics in WoW include Lay On Hands or a rogue's Evasion. In an ideal world, you don't need these abilities. But when things start going bad, they're golden. I'm sure we've all seen a rogue Evasion-tank a boss for a few vital seconds.

Without catch-up mechanics, every mistake means that you have to restart.  This doesn't result in a raid which doesn't make mistakes. It results in an increasingly short-tempered raid.


  1. I start to believe, that more reckless play is something which happens in a 25 raid. In 10 man there is only one Battlerez, so everybody knows, this rez is when something bad happens and not something you can count on as an DD.

  2. I find I am more on the side of "keep the catch-up"...I mainly play in 10 man where we only get 1 rez...and even on our best nights "shit happens". Maybe the tank will not mitigate right as a boss does a mechanic...someone might misjudge a distance or get flat out unlucky and down they go. Maybe you can argue it is their fault but I find that plenty of good players die to crappy situations. The battle rez compensates for that. Some think of it as a crutch, I think of it as a time saver...just like you said, it means we don't have to wipe and start over.

  3. Perhaps if Blizz did away with some of the 'move now or die in 2 seconds' mechanics there would be no need for combat resses.

  4. Not sure about the in-combat res, but
    I really miss every class having an out of combat res when I go back to WoW, it's just irritating that only healers can do it.

  5. I think there are two reasons for failure: bad play or bad luck. Either the raiders are making a mistake or they are just unlucky to RNG. It is difficult to separate the two causes, so it appears that Blizz just gives a blanket catch-up. Matticus seems to be against catch-ups because they help bad players do better. Not sure how I feel.

  6. Before the cap on the number of Battle Rezzes you could have in an encounter, the system was basically "Whoever has the most druids wins"

    Which wasn't really that good. I recall some players being sat out because a raid leader felt we needed another druid for a B-Rez.

    As it stands now, with the limit in place, I think it's okay. I can see both sides of the argument now. Allowing one rez during an encounter gives you a little room for things like latency spikes or bad connections without allowing for everyone to be a total dumbass.

  7. I have to admit that despite agreeing with Matticus about wanting individual accountability to go up, it was certainly a frustrating experience in T11/T12, when one mistake would often wipe a raid. Someone screwed up riding Magmaw? Wipe. Someone interrupted the wrong cast on Maloriak? Wipe. Wrong person stood too close to a hatchling on Alysrazor? Wipe. And so on. Granted, I do 10 man, so losing a single person can be devastating. So while I'd love for a super challenging experience, I have to admit that at least the way my raiders play, that's not going to work. and so even a single BRez makes the difference between a wipe and a kill.

    The one thing I disagree with is RNG. Yeah, a DC or lag spike? Those suck, and are usually impossible to account for. RNG in encounters? Deal with it. Your job as a raider (and my job as a raid leader) is to play and strategize in a way that reduces the impact of RNG. For a long time a bunch of folks though the Gunship 2.0 in DS was RNG, and it really isn't. There's a rhythm there because everything is on timers. Another example of people blaming RNG is Shannox and his traps. People would get hit by traps all the time. Heck, when we first started that fiht our tank would get hit by fire traps and get killed all the time. Rather than let him blame RNG ( because if he were observant, he wouldn't stand in them in the first place), I had him move Shannox a few yards every minute or so to give him more room to maneuver.

    So yeah, while I agree at I'd like personal accountability to go up, I'm realistic enough to know that it won't happen, so a single BRez for 10 man? Sufficiently awesome as a catch-up mechanic when people screw up, but without it I agree with Rohan. Raids would end up being super frustrating if there's someone who just doesn't quite get it.

  8. I would suggest that 'catch-up' mechanics like the battle rez be optionally restricted as a feature of hard mode or challenge mode runs.
    "finish this run without being able to battle rez and you get X reward"

    Just an idea.

  9. I think people are being a bit unfair towards Matt. It's not as if he's advocating it, just throwing the idea out there and showing the bad side of it.

    I think as one of a suite of catch up mechanics it is fine, I just wish you'd see the other ones used more. I think the ability is overrated in fact. Most of the time it is a "win more" ability, it certainly seems in the majority of instances when it is used either it fails to make a difference or it just gets something down that would have come down anyway. As a healer, if you go downit is often a wipe anyway, as you will come back with not enough mana to do anything.

    In the end, I couldn't care less if it goes or stays in WoW. Staying will be easier on the eyes, as I can only imagine what the forums and blogsphere would be like. It is, as people say, a good mechanism for recovering from one bad lag spike, or one bad player decision. It is good for prolonging a fight to help learn it. It may be interesting if it was disabled for heroic raids and challenge dungeons.

    Where it is not OK is some other games. In Rift (when I played it) you can see that the designers were counting on battle res being available (indeed, some healers were compelled to make sure they had two) and death was at times out of a player's control and way too easy. That is battle res enabling bad design, which is (in my opinion anyway) a bad thing. The same thing can be seen in some SWTOR encounters. In Nightmare Pilgrim if two of your three tanks get the debuff given to a third of your raid, the only thing to do is have one die and battle res them. In WoW in their encounters they would have designed the same thing to only affect one tank.

  10. I agree.

    I've always believed that an exceptional player isn't necessarily a flawless player, but a player who can react and recover seamlessly from adversity.

    A good battle res is actually pretty complicated: coordinating who rezzes, who gets rezzed (in the case of multiple deaths), when the rez is done, when the rez is taken and how to fill in for the death player while they're dead and/or being rezzed.

    Removing the battle rezzes would take a very interesting and fun element out of raiding teamwork.

  11. A lot of the problem with MMOs is that catch-up mechanics are hard to create, because invariably they get woven into regular play, rather than being reserved for times when one falls behind.

    It's only a problem if this strategy becomes dominating or trivializes encounters. Otherwise, it's good for the game. Emergent gameplay is the best gameplay. :)

  12. @Ephemeron, it's a problem because the catch-up mechanic is no longer available for use as a catch-up mechanic.

    The game moves more toward the "make a mistake, wipe it up" side of things.

    For example, if the non-healers are expected to Tranq at Time A, then they can no longer use Tranq to help out in an emergency.