Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Randomness in Raiding

Tobold is calling for more randomness in raiding. I disagree with this idea. Here are my reasons:

1. Randomness has been disliked in the past.

Historically, fights featuring a high degree of randomness have been disliked by the playerbase. Prince Malchezzar and Faction Champions are the prime examples here. Both of them were fights which led to a high degree of grumbling.

I don't really see the point in adding more randomness, when the evidence shows that randomness is unpopular.

2. Randomness encourages "fishing".

Often, a fight with random elements contains one set of elements which is significantly easier or significantly harder than the others. This encourages guilds to reset the encounter until the "easy" combination shows up, or wipe it early if a hard combination appears.

My guild did this with Heroic Twin Valkyries back in Trial of the Grand Crusader. Twin Valks used one of four random abilities every minute or so. My guild used a very specific strategy that relied on rotating cooldowns to mitigate enough damage to survive.  However, there was one combination of elements which that strategy could not handle because the cooldowns didn't line up correctly. For all other combinations, the strategy was easier to heal, but that one was a guaranteed wipe. So we fished. We just trusted in the odds, and took the wipe if it came up.

Honestly, though, it was kind of silly. We should have mastered a strategy that would allow us to always beat the fight, even if it took more time.

3. Execution is not trivial.

There is an unfortunate tendency in the geek subculture to regard thinking as hard, and execution as the easy part, the part to be left as a trivial exercise for the reader. I deeply disagree with this. Many times, execution is the hard part, and mastering the execution is the challenge.

It's like writing a novel. Sure, you can tell someone how to write a novel, come up with characters and a plot. But that's easy. The hard part is actually sitting down and writing out the novel, polishing page by page.

Mastering execution simply scratches a different itch for us. It's like learning to play a new song. Sure, one could say that it should be easy, because you've already got the music in front of you. But learning to play the song is still a challenge, still worth doing.

Joel Spolsky talks about trying to hire people who are smart and who get things done. In my view, smart people are a dime a dozen in our subculture. People who get things done, on the other hand, are exceedingly rare.

That's what raiding is aimed at. It's all about execution and getting things done. And it's still difficult, and still challenging. Just because you can't show off how smart you are, doesn't mean it is automatically an inferior activity.


  1. A lot of the execution in WoW these days depends on responding to random procs and boss abilities (ie. get out of the fire). So it isn't that there's no randomness.

    I could see an argument for putting more of the randomness on the boss/environment and less on the player. That kind of raid would be all about environmental awareness, and the rotation would be very straightforwards (which I personally think would be good since I'm not excited by watching multiple buffs/debuffs/ cooldowns/ trinkets/ procs/ etc.)

  2. I understand the desire for more 'thinking' in MMOs. But I don't think randomness is the way to achieve it.

    To take the example of WoW raids, the execution phase is a high intensity, low margin of error stage, where muscle memory takes over and you hope that you can deliver the DPS/HPS to win the fight.

    Strategising happens between pulls, or after the raid. You analyse the logs, consider your line-up and the various abilities of the classes.

    This activity is rarely mentioned by bloggers such as Tobold, as few of them partake in it.

  3. Yeah, I cannot possibly imagine Tobold et tal actually enjoying a raid boss with random behavior, as he suggested. These MMOs are action-oriented; when would you have time to "think" during a fight? Random abilities/behavior would either necessitate everyone memorizing every permutation, or essentially the raid leader calling out orders on the fly as usual when things go badly.

    "Thinking" can only occur when you have time to do so, e.g. in turn-based games or between pulls. In the heat of the moment, thinking/reaction is indistinguishable from execution.

  4. I have to say I enjoyed the Faction Champions, I enjoy scenarios where there is no tank and each of us must use their wits, and my most memorable dungeon encounters have been when the tank dropped group. Those moments tingle! 'Rotation' goes out the window, and survival instincts rule.

    But in fact such encounters don't have to be random. They can simply require the mobs to take the view that if you're doing the most damage to it, it should target you. Or if you are doing the most healing to its target, it should target you. Threat mechanics that don't allow tanks to artificially increase their threat level by "taunting". What kind of stupid mobs care about taunting?

  5. Technically Faction Champs wasn't truly random. They still had a (rather convoluted) set of aggro rules that you could use to your advantage, specifically they dog piled onto whoever had the least % health, so if you left your tank at 50% health, they'd keep the champs' attention quite well.

    Some randomness exists in encounters today as well. In 10 man, only 3 of the 4 Stone Guard are up, so each week you have a different combination of abilities. And it's random who gets hit with chains, mines, void zones, and so on.

    Halfus in T11 had a different set of abilities each week. Omnotron activated in a random order.

    It seems you could try and discuss randomness at the macro level (different abilities available during the fight) and the micro level (who said abilities target and when). I'm in favour of micro randomness, because otherwise it really is a completely scripted event (ie: Heigan dance). With micro randomness, you still need to think on your feet to get out of the bad, to save your teammate, to pick up the adds while still dealing with your job (healing,tanking, DPSing). Macro randomness, which is what I think Tobold is arguing for, runs into the issue that Rohan brings up. It frustrates people, as the rules change each week or each attempt, and while that may be "realistic", if taken beyond a pretty small point can demoralize people greatly. There's a lot of pride had in raid teams downing a boss and making progression, and when that progression gets blocked because a boss they already killed is suddenly different enough to wipe them over and over again, it feels like you slid back even though its basically a new boss at that point.

  6. Also, I wanted to give props to your point about execution. I run a casual raid, we raid 3 hours a week, and the players not only don't play very much, they also aren't the best players around. We can discuss the plan, but often things fall flat over and over again once its time to put execution into practice. It takes exactly that, practice. And lots of it to make the concepts stick and build the muscle memory required to execute successfully. While a couple folks, myself included,, have a very short period between discussing e plan and executing it satisfactorily, not everyone can get there that fast.

    Understanding and executing your rotation AND dealing with new mechanics is hard, and takes a lot of mental throughput. And a lot of people forget that if you are capable of both with any sort of competence, you are in the elite of WoW players at that point, the upper echelon, the most skilled 20% of the player base, and just because its easy for YOU doesn't mean it's easy for everyone, hell, I forget that sometimes.

  7. Yes, "random" is probably not the best word for Faction Champions.

    "Chaotic", in the mathematical sense, might be a better word. A small variation in conditions early in the fight can lead to the fight moving in a significantly different direction.

    I.e. a mage moves too close to a champion, takes a bit too much damage, and suddenly several champions are chasing the mage rather than the tank.

    But Faction Champs was still much more variable than many other fights.

  8. I play in a mostly PvP environment so "randomness" is something that I'm used to, in a manner of speaking. When in a random BG I have no idea of what combo of opponents or teammates I'll get or what there specs will be, so usually I just end up responding to situations with a general purpose approach. I have to wonder though, would more variety in Bosses be more acceptable in Heroic Raiding see as how that's understood as the harder ball game?