Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Failure Tuning

Spinks wrote a very thought-provoking article today.  She's discussing gimmicky raids, old content, and learning.  The comments continue the discussion and are definitely worth reading, as some very good points are raised and elaborated on.

I'm not sure there is any one "right" opinion here.  I think I've touched on this issue in various ways before, but the crux of things revolves around what combination, exactly, of boss mechanics make encounters fun.  There are a ton of ways to slice this.  We could look at individual encounters, or take a raid instance as a whole.  We could look at each tier, or each patch, or each expansion.  We could talk in terms of progression raiders, or casual guildies, or true PuGs.  Heck, we don't even have a solid definition of what "gimmicky" means.

The problem is: it's all opinion.  What's fun for one person, may not be fun for another.  The nature of the beast is that in pleasing some people, you're going to lose others.  Yet, there has to be a maximized middle ground.  Hasn't there?

Perhaps the most interesting thought I gleaned from the discussion was that maybe in despairing of simpler encounters, we've mired ourselves in less forgiving bosses that make us even more unhappy.  To some extent, it's the age-old case of "the grass is always greener," but is there a such thing as a healthy mix? 

If I were to complain (and I try to keep that at a minimum), it would be along the lines of what one of the commenters pointed out about "failure tolerance."  It may be that the simple answer is that things have become too finely tuned on the individual.  I would wonder if this doesn't reflect a bunch of 25-man design ideas ported to 10-man groups.  Blizz says they've kept both in mind, but that's an inherently difficult task to begin with.  When things are simply scaled down, you go from a 3 person responsibility, to just one.  You lose forgiveness at the small end of raiding.  Do 25-man groups feel the same pressure to preform?

Maybe instead of simply scaling an encounter and preserving most of the mechanics, some need to simply be lost.  Still, I think this has been done too, and how has it helped?  Is there even a good solution here?  It seems like Blizz has tried a lot of different things.  Perhaps they're just as frustrated as we are, trying to walk the finest line ever drawn in MMO design.

I don't have a good answer here.  I simply agree that I feel frustrated when I can't fill a difficult role though I may have learned the fight, and we're forced to put someone there who is simply trying to learn the basics of it.  I also still feel like raid gearing is too slow, especially given the somewhat overused options (Z's, heroics to some extent).  I don't have a solution there either, though.

Learning, explaining, remembering... they've become the true gimmicks of current encounters.  And I'm not sure there is any digital fix for the human element.  Is it simply that we'd rather be failing to non-human elements than human ones?


  1. IMHO, I think 10's should be almost identical to 25s except for maybe the numbers of them. That way players given the opportunity to flip between two different raid groups are not totally surprised by new or changing mechanics. I tend to think of the Altairus fight in dungeon Vortex Pinnacle. In heroic mode, he has tornadoes which throw you in the air, screaming like you just don't care. This mechanic is a total surprise for people coming from the normal version, where the wind direction is the only mechanic.

  2. Incidentally, that is not really a "single point failure" mechanic. That is to say, if it were a raid and you had multiples of every role, losing one of any given role does not mean immediate death. You could still salvage the run.

    Thus, it would be one I would say could translate between the two.

    It is, perhaps, the splitting of the group in Beth'tilac that I question (for instance). What if, instead, you got rid of the spitting atop folks and P1 simply became an add control phase, with the P2 enrage being slowed so that a healthy burn is still needed, but you don't need three folks up top the whole time. Would that make the fight more or less fun?

    IMO, I'm not sure that going up top is "added fun" or something that, if someone were to flip between multiple raid groups, is a big deal (they would just be in the down group until the learn otherwise).

    That's just one example, though.

  3. I sort of hate all fights that are not dependent on mitigation, heals and dps. All of these preprogrammed dance steps are a gimick. I know some will complain that they end up being tank and spank.

    What they really end up being is a dps, mitigation and heals check for the group. The problem WOW has is classes are too easy for a noob to get high dps for example. Remember the John F'n Madden for feral kitties or afflication locks back in the day? Anyone could be that class but it took knowledge of your class to get top dps scores.

    That is what Blizz needs in my opinion. Make it so people have to know their class inside out. then make the fights a check on this capability. This way a group of good players joining a pug can go kill a boss. Today, a great player still needs to learn the cha-cha or wipe the whole raid.

  4. That's not a bad point at all. I did feel like that was the case in TBC when I first started raiding.

    Maybe there can be a middle ground too where some of those fights are sprinkled in and we get some dance/gimmick fights, but they're not all one or the other.