Friday, January 14, 2011

My take on the puzzling dungeon nerf

Rohan of Blessing of Kings welcomes the incoming nerf to the heroic 5 man dungeons.

Well, I don’t.

While I could see it happen in the course of time, possibly in a few months, I can’t see the reasons for doing just over a month into the new expansion.

For God’s sake, we just dinged 85 a couple of weeks a go! Could you please give us a chance to try out the new content for ourselves before you decide that we’re probably not good enough for the challenge? Just askin'.

As if the rush to catch up with gear to get raid ready after the holidays wasn’t enough, I also have to rush now to see the instances before they’ll take the edge out of them. I hear about three hour long wipe feasts in heroic Deadmines. Well, I tell you: I would have loved to experience one of them, but unfortunately I have yet to see it. The question is if I’ll be able to get in there before 4.06 hits.

I’m disappointed and above anything: confused. Ghostcrawler only recently wrote a brilliant post where he explained the reasons for why they’ve put the instances at the current difficulty level. For instance:

“The bottom line is that we want Heroics and raids to be challenging, and that is particularly true now while the content is new and characters are still collecting gear. They’re only going to get easier from here on out. We want players to approach an encounter, especially a Heroic encounter, as a puzzle to be solved. We want groups to communicate and strategize. And by extension, we want you to celebrate when you win instead of it being a foregone conclusion.”
Did you notice the sentence: “They’re only going to get easier from here”? Exactly. And do you know why? It’s because it happens naturally as we gear up. Blizzard doesn’t need to lift a finger for it to happen. The gearing up is a nerf in itself, even if it seems to slip their minds sometimes.

The timing of Ghostcrawler’s post and the announcement about the nerfs (yes, I know a few bosses were buffed as well, but the total of it was a nerf) is unfortunate.

It’s never a good idea to try to convey two ideas at the same time.

I wish they had stuck to their guns.

Edit: After posting this I read Tam's take on this topic at Righteous Orbs and I have to admit that he has some good points. It's possible that my negative reaction to the changes is somewhat hasty and knee-jerkish. However, I still can't help feeling cheated for never getting the chance to do DM when it was at its hardest. It's not about that I want other players to have an equally hard experience as I had. It's about my own challenge.

And I still think that the timing between this and GC's post was bad. He could easily have avoided the double messages by mentioning some of the changes in his post, as examples of how they want to tweak things.


Tzufit said...

Couldn't agree with you more. Heroics are very difficult, but doable, in the gear we have access to now - including pre-raid gear. I really liked that heroics were forcing us to relearn how to CC, single target, triage heal, not stand in the bad stuff, and so on. Those lessons are going to be essential as people slowly make their way into the raiding scene again, where boss mechanics are generally much more complicated than anything we saw in ICC (and let's face it, a lot of the playerbase hasn't done much raiding besides ICC). Heroic dungeons are supposed to be the 101 class that you take before you step into raiding, and I think that nerfing them is going to cheat people out of some good, though difficult, learning opportunities.

Rebecca said...

Hear hear. I've yet to see the extent of the nerfs myself but I'm hoping it's not too drastic... and that they don't follow it up with more.

In his latest post Rohan mentions that had raids not also been released at Cataclysm launch, Heroics would have been the perfect pitch as endgame for a couple of months. But he says that as a stepping stone they're too much - or were, pre-nerf.

Interesting opinions. I wonder if he's right, or if it's more that Heroics took too long for those rushing to get to raids, but meanwhile were a perfectly good option for players not rushing to raid but wanting some challenge.

Syl said...

I welcome the fact that unnecessarily long parts or boring trash packs are beign cut down; they're not challenging, they're mind-numbing and nobody wants to run them after the 10th time latest.

what I don't welcome is nerfs to the difficulty, like nerfing boss abilities for example. sure, some of them are a challenge, for any group and certainly for PuGs - but over time this would have adjusted itself; people gear up and get more experienced.
but it probably only shows us once more that blizzard's focus is the casual, non-raider, player, with limited gametime and no dedicated guild. if these players are indeed the majority of blizzard's paying customers, you can understand why they nerf the instances so soon.

Edawan said...

I welcome the nerfs when it makes the encounters less comp dependent.
Sorry we can't do Beauty, we don't have two controls.
Sorry we can't do SFK, we don't have the interrupts for the first boss.

Overall, it feels more like smoothing the bumps than real nerfs.

Hugmenot said...

An instance is only as difficult as its most difficult encounter. Regardless of how Blizzard choose to spin it, when they nerf the hardest encounter, they nerf the instance.

Some encounters will now be made a little tougher. Big deal ... very easy encounters will now become easy/normal encounters.

Was the difficulty level of heroics a gross miscalculation on the part of Blizzard? Such a wide-ranging nerf so early after release could be interpreted as a design philosophy failure.

Anonymous said...

I like a number of the specific nerfs.

Cutting down the trash in Deadmines, wonderful idea. Removing some of the interrupts needed in SFK-Ashbury, high time. Try that with a group without good interrupts and watch it fall apart repeatedly. Clarifying the unsafe place to stand in Stonecore-Ozruk and Stonecore-Coroborus, hear hear. And though Vortex Pinnacle is the easiest heroic, I've been in too many groups that fall apart on Altairus because someone's graphics settings aren't good enough to see the stupid cyclones and so they get blasted all over the platform.

These are nerfs, yes, but they reduce the annoyance factor. The heroics will still be difficult.

Analogue said...

The changes all strike me as being adjustments to make sure you don't have to have some optimal party mix to get through a dungeon. The first boss in SFK would be nearly impossible without two people with interrupts - and honestly, mage style counterspell on a 24 second cooldown did not cut it. The worm boss in Stonecore? He is incredibly hard to see. I don't stand in fire and I couldn't tell where he'd come up. He came close to making me cry.

People complaining about the nerfs aren't saying anything about the buffs. Two of the Vortex Pinnacle bosses are getting HARDER, not easier. Some of the other changes will make things harder too. I don't think these are nerfs; I think they are mechanic changes designed to make encounters a little less frustrating for people with poor graphics or running with friends and not a perfectly composed group.

There are no global "nerfs" like "We're making all bosses have less health". These are all tweaks and I like that Blizzard pays enough attention to tweak on the fly

Oestrus said...

There are a couple of ways that you could look at this. I will begin by saying that I do agree with you, in that I feel the dungeons may be becoming a bit too easy and I liked them the way they were before.

First off, I think you can make something challenging without making it seem like you're trying to set an example or you're trying to prove a point. I felt as if some of the Heroics were used to browbeat us into learning our lessons and forcefully steering us into a different direction. Some people learn really well that way and others don't. I didn't like feeling like I was being used to set an example and I can't imagine that others did, either.

The second point is that you're assuming these nerfs are still going to be enough for the average or casual player to get through the instances. Bad is bad. There are still basic concepts to trash pulls and bosses (i.e. CC, don't stand in stuff) that certain players just can't overcome. No amount of reducing trash pulls or taking away special abilities is going to change that. Players have a certain amount of responsibility to clear a dungeon successfully and no amount of nerfing can change bad playing.

Which brings me to my last point, which I feel makes the nerfs more sad for me. I'm not opposed to them fine tuning certain encounters, but when it takes away the very mechanic of the fight and strips it down to a basic tank and spank, I have an issue. For example. we did Heroic Deadmines last night and I could heal through the Cookie fight without having to bring the food mechanic into play. How does that work? Why is that OK? How is that fun? It wasn't. They're also nerfing the boss who mends in Heroic SFK (forgot his name). What else does he do? I don't understand that and those are the kind of nerfs that personally depress me and I feel they take away from the overall experience that Heroics should be.

Sean said...

I've never had a problem with the difficulty of the heroics per-se, but the fact it takes 2-3 hours for 5man content just isn't right, and I honestly don't believe Bliz intended for things to be that way.

I don't think Bliz believe's we can't handle the content as it is (pre-4.0.6) but did you see the epic-long thread the other day on the forums about the subject? A vast majority of the playerbase who posts on the forums wasn't happy about the state of things. I don't think the thread even exists anymore, though you can now see the thousands upon thousands of comments to Ghost's blog entry as evidence- this is something people felt really strongly about.

I think we may see some of the "nerfs" to heroics make it Live but so far it's just PTR stuff, right? As with the nerf to SV Hunters (like me!) I'm going to wait until 4.0.6 is Live to make a final judgement. Let's all get on the PTR and try this stuff out!

Everblue said...

Having read through the nerf list, the cuts are not as deep as I first thought. They seem to me to be "balancing" adjustments, to allow dungeons to be completed with a more diverse mix of classes and roles, rather than a nerf to make heroics as a class easier.

For example, the nerf to the first boss of SFK is clearly designed so that the encounter can be run with only 1 interrupter. Previously you needed at least 2 - one for the heal he channels after Asphyxiate, and second for Mend Rotten Flesh (which could previously have been cast straight afterwards). If you didn't have those 2 interrupts then the fight was almost literally impossible. Ideally you'd have 3 interrupts, for pain and suffering. That to me is mainly what they've done - remove unfair mechanics, or mechanics that make the fight harder for particular group compositions. Yes, there are some straight dps nerfs, but those are the minority I think.

Note also that some fights have been made harder - the last boss in SFK now will shoot his pistol barrage at a random party member rather than just the tank.

enlynn said...

It IS puzzling. From a healing perspective, every gear upgrade nerfs the content two or three times. When a DPS gets an upgrade, he does more damage which makes the encounter shorter, so my mana pool has less to stretch. He also gets more stamina, so the DPS can go longer without a heal, so I can perform triage and use more efficient heals.

When a tank gets an upgrade, he takes less damage and can take more hits. In turn, I have to heal less AND I get to use more efficient heals.

When I get an upgrade, I get more stamina so I can go longer without a heal, I get stronger/faster heals, AND I can cast a whole lot more before I run out of mana.

Not to mention, every time we do a heroic, we do it a little bit better than we did the time before. If half the party has done the fight before, it's significantly easier to succeed than if none have done it. Experience nerfs the encounter.

Janyaa said...

Wow, you and I must be sharing the same brain wavelength. I posted a very similar post just yesterday!

I don't think heroics should be nerfed. They are difficult and challenging, but they should be with our lack of gear and experience. I agree with Rohan that they are a stepping stones towards raiding, but disagree with his conclusion that is justification for making them easier. If the heroics are difficult, then it means these lessons need to be learned in order to succeed at the next level of play.

Yes, heroics are challenging, but they aren't impossible. Nerfing them a mere month into the expansion feels like a lack of faith in their playerbase and incredibly disrespectful to their own content. I can only imagine the time and effort it took for them to develop these encounters. It's a shame we won't be able to enjoy them fully.

Dwism said...

There was a huge huge discrepancy between the various HC dungeons, as far as ive seen the "nerfs" have just help put the dungeons on par.

If you ask me, they are not conveying two ideas at once. They are just getting the dungeons on par with eachother... again imo

Larísa said...

@Tzufit: And another perspective is also that to quie a few players who aren’t raiding and aren’t interesting in doing this, heroics are their ENDGAME experience. Something they’re going to keep doing for a long time, something that should provide entertainment and true challenge. I feel sorry for them. As a raider I can still get the challenge I’m looking for elsewhere.

@Rebecca: To be fair, they’re not super drastic and there are some buffs to bosses as well. But they still seem too early and the timing with the message from Ghostcrawler is unfortunate.

Instances don’t necessarily take super long if you’re doing them guilded. Which I think was one of the things they wanted to accomplish. Too bad they’re backing off.

@Syl: I’m probably a little weird but I don’t think trash necessarily is evil. On the contrary, TOC felt incredibly hollow due to the lack of it. And yes, they show their true focus by action, rather than by the philosophical ponderings by GC, that’s for sure.

@Edawan: Hm… I’m not sure that requirement of composition is that horrible. As GC said: it’s like a puzzle to solve. Best example of that was the priestess something (the “PvP boss) encounter back in MgT. Oh, that was wonderful! You had to be creative and think how you could beat it, depending on your own as well as the bosses composition. I don’t think that necessarily any boss should be beatable by any kind of party.

@Hugmenot: or at least it’s a bit of a fail in communications. If those changes were incoming, GC should have addressed them as examples in his post to make it logic.

@Anonymous: since I haven’t done DM I can’t judge on that. I’m just sorry that people who have done it seem to think that it’s nerfed. I wanted to get the same challenge as they did.

I keep failing at Altarius because I can’t figure out the wind thing. But this doesn’t mean that I want them to adjust the encounter to my level. A better solution is that I improve and lift myself to the level of the encounter.

@Analogue: There are buffs, but I think the majority are nerfs if you count it. However, you’re right, it could have been worse. But seeing this coming so quickly I’m inclined to believe that they won’t hesitate to nerf it more.

@Oestrus: My first experience of heroics was: “woot, these are like raids!”. And I was very happy about that. I’m not sure how long that feeling will remain.

@Sean: I haven’t checked the response to be honest, but I’m a little surprised. I would have thought far more players would agree with him than complain. That’s just sad.

@Everblue: I hope you’re right. I can’t tell really, since I haven’t done all instances on heroic yet. :(

@Enlynn: The upgrading is going very quickly. During the first heroics I did with the guild it happened that we had to give up, not being able to pass a certain boss. Now we complete them and the tanks don’t ask us for quite as much CC as in the beginning, easily picking up a bunch of mobs at a time. I figure it’s a combination of gear and experience that makes it.
@Jayaa: Wow, that’s a coincidence! I swear I hadn’t seen your post. But yes, basically we agree.

@Dwism: There has always been a discrepancy between various HC dungeons. As far as I’m concerned this is good and give you variation and choices. Back in TBC I would happily jump into Mechanar (where we skipped the rather tough optional fire boss, but I wouldn’t go into a heroic Shattered Halls or Shadow labs without having a lot of time available. What’s the point of having all dungeons at the same challenge level? I figure there might be a point when it comes to picking daily random LFGs, but come on! Must everything be designed with that in mind? And if you really hate a certain dungeon and like another, there’s nothing that stops you from queuing from specific dungeons rather than random.

Centuri said...

Maybe the reasoning is because of internal data that Blizz would never share. How many players reached 85 and spent a few weeks loitering about w/o running any heroics/raids and then canceled their subscriptions until the next patch?

Now how many of those players were chain queuing for heroics a year ago in WoTLK and happily paying $15 a month to do so? I bet Blizz knows the answer to that question.

Redbeard said...

I guess I want to understand the historical context before saying anything. (Well, that and actually getting to run them, too.)

Did Blizz go back and nerf a lot of the older instances (BC and Vanilla) frequently? From what I saw in the notes, these don't qualify so much as nerfs, which I'd say as a reduction in damage potential. It's not the equivalent or nearly as drastic as the ICC buff, for example.

Ratshag said...

Let's speculatify a hypnotheticalization.

Suppose is a boss fight where, somewheres between the start and the end the boss flips a coin. Heads, nuthin' happens. Tails, tank dies instantly. Is a good, fun challenge, or is needing some tunings?

Now, fer reals, we has Ozruk in heroic Stonecore. His Shatter spell will done one-shot a properly geared tank what don't make it far enoughs away in time. Now, I's a moderately skilled tank - I got me situational awareness, I got meself positioned propers, I's spottin' the clues is comin' even before I get the "Run Away Little Girl" warning. But it done do take some time fer the instructions ta haul arse ta get from me brain ta me feet, and 5-10% of the time I don't make it, and is a wipe. Don't sound like too much, but when ya figgers how many times he casts it during the fight, is onlies about fifty-fifty ta make it ta the end, mebbe less. Ain't about skill, or not knowin' the fight, is about reflexes - the timing is just too damn tight fer a bugger like me on that one single fight.

Now, in 4.06 they's adding a half second ta the shatter cast time (is still onlies 60% of Murmur's Sonic Boom cast), they's marking on the ground where ya needs ta get to, and they's making armor mitigate the damage but increasing it by a thirds ta compensate. Means a skilled tank what knows his job ain't relyin' on winning a coin flip or rabbit reflexes fer ta do his job. Means an incompetent tank, or an undergeared one, or one what ain't learned the fight yet will still die a lot. Me, I thinks this be a proper tuningization.

Chris said...

The issue I think we have to remember is that most people are seeing these dungeons through the lens of the LFD tool. When you're runing with a guild, the challenge level is just right. Wiping isn't a huge deal because you know that no one will be dropping if you don't "gogogo" or need time to learn. Random groups aren't like this, especially for DPS. I'm a tank, so I haven't experienced this first hand, but I have to think that it must be pretty annoying to wait for half an hour only to have the group fall apart because of the inherent lack of patience.

That being said, I never thought the dungeons were too hard. They made people talk again and that's worth a lot coming out of WoW. My issue was always that, wipes included, an average dungeon was a 2-3 hour investment -- and that's with a majority guild run. The way things are now, everything is so dependent on each person to be at the top of their game, one player's mistake can mean a wipe for everyone.

So while I don't think the challenge needed to be toned back, I can see why they're doing this. Even with the changes, they'll still be harding than any one Wrath 5-man.

Nikodhemus said...

Honestly, I'm saddened to hear about Nerfs, and I haven't even hit 85 yet (83!). On the other hand, it doesn't sound like its a sissy-fied thing like they have done in Outlands/Northrend where its some 'blessing' or other that gives you a 10% boost to stats or something. That's the stuff I hate to see, just a slap in the face. "You are in no way ready to fight this with your lousy gear... here's an unearned buff, you loser!" This sounds more like a tuning of the encounters, attempting to take the irritation out of it, yet still make it challenging... I dunno, I guess I'll never know, i'm still at least 2 weeks out from my first heroic...

Saithir said...

Larisa, I can't agree with you on this one (how surprising, here comes the disagreeing dwarf again ;] ). I see most of the nerfs as fixes really.

Take Ozruk's shatter. I can run away as far as I like and as a warrior, I can charge back right after to keep him where he is. Easy peasy, it's one of my favourite fights, I get to show off my awesome Warbringer skills on it.

Now, I've done this with my friend's paladin tanking - now that's suddenly a completely different fight, he just can't keep the boss in one place like I do. Now he will be able to see where he can run away and not pull the boss so far that he aggroes a new pack of mobs - which we were pretty close to a few times.

Same with half of them where the fix is mostly "you can actually see bad stuff now". These are good and welcomed.

The other ones, like removing one puppy from the Beast or removing Ashbury's heal... It sucks when you can't do Ashbury because you don't have any interrupts. Imagine - a paladin tank (they will get one but currently don't), boomkin, a mage, holy paladin and a hunter. It's a proper group right?

So why shouldn't they be able to continue the instance? But they can't - there's currently no way that they're gonna be able to kill the first boss that unlocks everything else. That's not a puzzle like Priestess Delrissa in MgT (and oh how I'd like another fight like that), that's just very stupid design.

Anonymous said...

These changes are too little, too late. I think most players have given up on heroic 5 mans, never mind raids, and are just kind of milling around waiting for the boredom to get strong enough to allow them to penetrate their WoW addictions and cancel.

Bronte said...

I for one agree with you completely. I even wrote on Rohan's post about how I don't entirely agree with his glee over the changes. One of the things that I find most exciting about this new expansion is the "Vanilla WoW Vibe".

The leveling 1-60 experience is new. Mana matters and dungeons at the endgame are hard as hell. I don't know how long you've played WoW, but I have raided UBRS with a crew of over 20, and even then it was hell. This expansion is testing the true potential in us, and I am frankly a little ticked that we didn't even get to try the whole think before Blizzard broke out the nerfbat, and that too just a month into the expansion.

Come on blue, what gives?

Rem said...

However, I still can't help feeling cheated for never getting the chance to do DM when it was at its hardest.

In that case, you might want to also have a look at my take on it as well as my own follow-up on my take. DM in particular is basically unchanged.

Utakata said...

I guess I came here too late. Larísa-san is already on a new topic of the punting pygmies dailey.

But I was going rant the dicourse of hardcore nuttery and admonish the pig-tail'd one that we pink Gnome Magi should aviod the hardcore mantra because that's what we're not about. We're about having fun; the Titans made us funky...

...but than I realised that Heroics aren't really that difficult to begin with. And take a step back and see what is really going on.

Granted there are some sticky bosses...but there was sticky bosses in Wrath. And like those, will be eventually overcome. So nothing really is new accept for the approach. Single target pulling instead of AoE hearding. And the targets having bigger health pools and curve ball tricks up their sleeves...which both can be worked around for the patient. But overall, they're really not that difficult.

And incase anyone is wondering...I'm a below average player to begin with who despises raid guilds. And yet I seem to enjoy the Heroics of Cataclysm. Because I find them interesting more than challenging. Yet because they are also challenging there's the added benefit of not having to stoke Recount rather thean focus on the target. Thus, the Heroics seem to be more skill based with less epeen. That is very beneficial for us n00b casuals.

More ontopic, what does that mean for me with the current planned changes? I don't know. I have to wait and see to play them when 4.0.6 is dropped. I just hope we don't go back to the Recount rat race that was most of Wrath. That became just souless and meaningless, IMO.

And GhostCrawler better know what his hands are dong next time he posts something. The timing of his last blog was a bit embarrasing. Just saying.

Onike said...

Although I have no yet had the *ahem* priveledge of taking part in a heroic, my understanding of them is that they're hard, but not in an un-enjoyable way. They're hard, but still fun and challenging. I totally agree with you... there's no reason Blizzard should already be nerfing heroics. There are soo many other problems with the game right now that they should be focusing on... and not that the game is actually a challenge for a change.

Larísa said...

@Centuri: I bet they have a lot of data that they never share. And that design decisions ultimately also must take influence from business aspects.

@Redbeard: I can’t speak for vanilla, but yes, I think the instances previously were nerfed. I’m not entirely sure of how much was actual nerfs and how much was the effect of better gear. But towards the end of TBC Shadowlabs was a shadow of its former shape and in Wrath, as we all know, aoe was king in instances. And we don’t really want that back. So no wonder we’re on our toes about this.

@Ratshag: Well I guess so. Never having played a tank myself I can’t really tell.

@Chris: I think the problem is that a guild group always can accomplish more in a dungeon than a pug. And this means that what is exactly right difficulty level for a pug will feel “too easy” for a guild run. Or what’s perfect for a guild run is too hard for a pug. It’s definitely hard to find the sweet spot of balance – if it exists at all.

@Nikodhemus: It’s kind of hard to tell *how* difficult the instances are. Nowadays we clear most of it smoothly as long as we’re in a guild group. But on the other hand I tried a pug the other night and ended up in a nightmare I DM where we wiped on trash and didn’t make it further than the first boss….

@Saithir: well as I said: after reading Tam’s take on this I might want to modify my views. Still I think we have quite good reasons to fear too early and to heavy nerfs after the aoe-free-epics-feast that Wrath was for a good while.

@Anonymous: Eh? I don’t agree with that. I get the feeling that you’re speaking more about yourself than about the playerbase as a whole.

@Bronte: I never played in vanlilla, but I remember the challenges of SL and SH heroic and I think the current difficulty reminds of that. Which is a good thing indeed. Mind you, I’m NOT an exceptional player. I just like to be spanked by hard mobs. ;)

@Rem: I had a look at your posts and as I said I’ve taken influence of Tam and maybe I was too quick to complain. However I disagree with you about that it isn’t bad timing between GCs message and those changes. He could have been way clearer if he had referred to exactly those changes and explained why they’re done and how it fits into his reasoning.

@Utaka: You’re not too late! I hadn’t planned this post really, it just happened and then the pygmy post came… oh well. Anyway: I basically agree with what you say. The funny thing about recount is that it has a lot of other stuff to measure than pure raw dps. But some people seem to never find any of the other tabs or reflect over them. What if someone linked “most broken cc”?

@Onike: I hope that those who have looked closer into this than I did are right and that I was wrong, that it’s tweaks rather than raw nerfs. But we’ll have to wait and see I guess.

Bryght said...

I am not very happy about these nerfs either. And you are right Larisa, the timing was way off, especially after G.C. post. I have yet to experience most of the heroics. I was really hoping that Blizz would stick to their guns and not nerf these instances. They are actually not as bad as some people cry about. Sure it takes some getting used too. I have wiped a bunch being a Resto Druid, trying to kick bad habits I got from WotLK. I was lucky to have been playing since vanilla WoW,so the change was not so dramatic. Mana conversation is a HUGE issue, but with gear and running normals, heroics got easier and my confidence grew! I am really sad that Blizz either caved into the whining, or mis-judged the difficulty. =(

Matthew said...

Lets all take a step back and follow these simple steps:

1)Hear about something alarming.
2)Investigate fully the alarming thing.

With the nerfs, all nerfs really, people skip step 2. If you actually read through the “nerfs” you’ll probably realize that they could be called nerfs but are more accurately seen as balance changes.