Friday, January 28, 2011

When the ballet boss turned into a punch-bag

Magmaw was nerfed last night. Before someone will enrage, I might add that it wasn’t Blizzard who did a hotfix in order to please entitled casuals or anything like that. We did it ourselves as we changed strategy.

No more anxious watching over the cooldown for pillar of flame, no more worries about stray parasites pestering the ranged group, spawning more of them. No more dancing, at least not for me. Our DK did it for all of us, beautifully keeping the little buggers occupied (with the help of some hunter traps) while everyone else stood in melee range, focusing on the boss and nothing else. The melee people had previously claimed that Magmaw was about as exciting as Patchwerk, and now the ranged couldn’t but agree.

From ballet to boxing
So we got our kill without a single death and we were even rewarded with an unexpected achievement for it since the pesky parasites didn’t even touch us. Needless to say this will most likely be how we fight Magmaw from now on, unless Blizzard decides that it’s not what they intended and fix it.

It’s the natural law of raiding, isn’t it? We will always find the quickest way down, like a creek of melt water will use every shortcut it can find as it flows down the mountainside. Why complicate it if you don’t have to?

And yet I couldn’t help feeling a little bit cheated on my raid experience. Just a tiny little, but still. My dance class suddenly turned into a session at the boxing club. All I was supposed to do was to stand there on the same spot and punch that bag the hardest I could, over and over again. It was like facing one of the training dummies in IF, with the difference that this one carried epic loot.

Admittedly, sometimes a tank’n’spank fight can be exactly what you need. I remember nights of slow progression, when we’ve been wiping for hours on some complicated ballet-style boss. Finishing such a raid beating up one of the dummy bosses in VoA can be a bit of a relief. Punching a boss really hard and you might get back to your senses.

I don’t say that tank’n’spank is The Evil and should be exterminated from the game. But given the choice between the two extremes, I’d vote for ballet bosses any day.

For me raiding is more about learning the dance than hitting a punch-bag.

Overcomplicated fights?
Some players think differently about this though. Keen over at Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog for instance had a wipe night in Bastion of Twilight, facing the three random dragons with intricate combinations of buffs and debuffs. Keen calls it “overcomplicated” and doesn’t hesitate on calling out Blizzard:

“When the whole raid has to orchestrate a ballet in order to not wipe in 10 seconds it crosses the line”.

According to Keen, more complex doesn’t mean more fun and he asks Blizzard to stop what he calls “the insanity”. He doesn’t make unreasonable claims, suggesting that bosses should be designed like Patchwerk. But he definitely wants them to be simpler than most encounters I’ve seen so far in Cataclysm. According to Keen, Gunship and Saurfang in ICC were examples of good fights, where there’s enough going on to make them interesting, while they’re still simple enough for you to be able to “just enjoy the content”.

I must say that I disagree with this praise, especially when it comes to Gunship. Sure, I bet Blizzard had the very best intentions as they designed that fight: they wanted to create something new and refreshing, something different from the old fire spitting dragon concept. And of course I loved the rocket jumping, is there anyone who didn’t? I hope they’ll bring them back into game and reuse it at some point, if nothing else in a quest or a five-man dungeon. Jumping makes me giddy.

But aside from that, Gunship was more than anything else annoyingly slow, something you did just to get your “free loot of the week”. The lack of challenge always left me with a hollow feeling and a bad taste in the mouth. Did I really deserve those epics? Maybe I did, but not as a reward for making an effort, but rather as a compensation for the horrendous lag we had to endure doing it. A bad night the fight could easily stretch out to 15 frustrated and painful minutes – or even more.

What about the other example, Saurfang? Well, he wasn’t bad. The mechanics were straight forward enough, but still quite challenging initially and required good execution. However, since it was very much gear depending, it became rather trivial as we geared up and the ICC buff decreased.

I wouldn’t say that Saurfang was what I consider a perfect boss fight. I want bosses to be a little more complicated than that, more steps to learn and if possible several phases. Think Yogg-Saron. Think Lich King. Were they complicated? Absolutely! It took me ages to learn them. But they were good ballets.

A nightmare dancer
This doesn't mean that I'm a perticularly good dancer myself. I won’t lie to you; if you met me in WoW you’d probably consider me a bit of a nightmare partner at first. I would step on your toes; I would mix up left and right and would bump into other couples, making you and everyone else embarrassed.

However, if you wouldn’t run away from me yelling, you’d see that I would improve over time. Eventually I would see the pattern, sense the rhythm and hear the music. My feet would move by themselves, without me having to yell commands at them “left foot, move one step forward – press button – engage”. And to me, the magic of raiding comes in those moments, when everything suddenly clicks. Ballet bosses have it. Punch-bag bosses don’t.

Magmaw turned from a ballet partner into a punch-box yesterday. But there are still many other bosses in Cataclysm who require me to learn how to dance, so I don’t think I have anything to worry about.

Enough of rambling - I think it’s about time that I wrap up this post. It’s Friday night at the inn, the dance floor will open soon and we serve some pretty good punch in the bar. There’s something for everyone, just like in the game. So go ahead and enjoy!



Anonymous said...

I have a feeling you're going to love Atramedes, Maloriak and the Omnomnom fight.

SpiritusRex said...

I think you've eloquently stated something I've felt, but never been able to voice. Raiding, also to me, is about the dance (quite literally sometimes: see Heigan dance). The guild I'm in currently has four 10's group running at various stages of content and our forums are just ALIVE with discussions about our various dances - in fact, the Magmaw DK dance was introduced by a DK guildie a few weeks ago and has been employed quite regularly and succesfully since. (As an aside for that particular fight, I've been speculating and thinking about whether the Magmaw adds could be tanked/kited solely by a "placed" tenacity pet such that no person would have to do anything other than a player running to a spot for the pillar spawn with a misdirect to the placed pet, but that's hunter talk for another occassion).
The point I guess I'm trying to make is that the first discovery and perfection of the dance is awesome, but it's also awesome to deconstruct the dance to make it into an easier or different one.

As far as people claiming the content is too hard, that's a matter of opinion; and in an effort to not offend anybody I'll just say that opinions are like asses, everyone has one and some really do stink.

Have a great weekend. On your next pass near the table by the fire would you mind bringing me some of your special reserved Elven Wine? Much thanks.

Korenwolf said...

I'm not worried that Magmaw has turned out to have a simple tactic, he's a control fight rather than a dps race or dance (I'm so glad someone else refers to it as a dance). The simple key to Magmaw is the wormies, control them and you win, as a certain meerkat would say "simples".

The om nom nom system is much more of a dance, careful positioning of the raid, remembering where to skip to when the bad is going to happen, sliding gracefully into the puddles of nice at the right time and so on.

If we're comparing fights then magmaw is rottie/deathbringer and (unsurprisingly) the omnomnom is the blood council.

Maarten said...

Personally I thought Akil'zon was a fight where you had a good balance in dancing and fighting. It might not have been perfect, but to me it was exactly right, especially if done as part of the bear runs.

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: Actually we've done tham and yes - I enjoy those dances.

@SpiritusRex: Oh, your wish will be granted sir! I hope you don't mind if I have a sip of it too?

We discuss our dances at depth between our raids as well in our forum. I think progression would be far slower without it.

Four 10 mans, heh? You don't fancy 25 mans any more I reckon?

@Korenwolf: the nomnom thing is a dance too but not that well coreograhped, is it? Lots of running about, dealing with a ton of different stuff to keep track of. But I reckon the pattern will be more and more viewable as time goes by.

@Maarten: Oh, that was a wonderful fight. The entire ZA was pretty great, with a nice balance of dancing and tank & spank.

SpiritusRex said...

@ Larisa

Regarding 25s, I believe my comment many moons ago to your original post (and follow-up post this week), unfortunately, has been prophetic.

Right now, 25s are not running. I think a lot of that has to do to the various level of gearing we've had. Basically, the first 10 people we could cobble together started progression, followed by the next 10 and so on. We are at a point now where we have 40+ raid-ready people so have been running four 10s. I think as the groups "finish" raid tiers we will schedule 25s for a guild fun night to get the guild achieves and to also gear up/show content to people that are more casual in nature.

tl/dr 25s are pretty much dead for us in the short-term. Long-term will be run on fun nights for achievements.

What are you guys mostly running? 10s or 25s?

And, of course, you can have some wine, it is YOURS of course. :)

Larísa said...

@Spiritus Rex: that sounds as a shame, at least if you're a fan of 25 mans. We run 25 mans, we're a 25 man guild. Although we're struggling to fill the raids. One raid this week had to be replaced by a 10 man. But normally it's 25 mans. And hopefully we can keep doing that, even though recruiting is a bitch atm.

sha said...

I am a big fan of fights that require the proper changes, adjusting strat and then figuring it out. Where blizz draws a line is a fight like nef where adds get random buffs from fake flames on the floor that can lead to wipes. Also trying to worry about jumping onto a ledge that determines if the fight is dead (ala phase 2) with buggy platforms is bad design. Overall i am happy with most fights, but sometimes there is bad design. Bad design is having to turn off water collision to be able to really do an encounter.

Gevlon said...

This is the way people seek the simplest route. We turned Magmaw, Valiona and Omnitron into a "go in and loot" thing by bringing 4!!! healers, as they don't enrage.

Halfus is also a pushover if you have 3 tanks.

chewy said...

Excellent post Larisa as usual you've caught the essence of the topic.

I really enjoyed Magmaw at first and then as the mechanic clicked it became a "yawn farm". I don't mind so much that it's been mastered, to me that's the reward for the initial learning wipe-a-thon. What does disappoint me is that the tactics will get out there and others won't have the challenge only the reward.

I guess that's their choice, go early and learn or follow others. I don't know how it could be changed to prevent that happening (or indeed if it should) but it somehow devalues the intial effort. My problem I guess.

Anonymous said...

Well as silly as Faar is, he IS a good player with decent experience.
Combined with the fact that we have plenty of hunters to help with traps and MD etc it's a tactic that can work for us. Though I don't know how hard it actually is to pull off the whole thing.

I'm pretty you'll get to dance once we get his heroic mode as they're dancing fire to dance with!

Ngita said...

Your healers have become better geared.

The disadvantage/advantage of ranged standing in melee is that the everybody gets hit by the fire, the advantage to counter that is aoe heals also hit everybody. The healing load is definitely harder.

We run 3 x10 mans and a 25 and some of the runs cheese it with melee strat and 4 healers.

But if you got the achievement, your dk is very skilled.

If your looking for a true dance, I think the sound boss, archimedes(sp?) is a much better fit.

Anonymous said...

My theory is there are two types of people: "gamers" and "WoW players."

The gamers (who I guess have a higher % console ownership but not given) like something new and different. I.e., in a new game environment they will outperform their peers.

We WoW players see these things as artificial affectations from Blizzard to keep people occupied until the next expansion. The question is: is this something about playing my class? Or is it a one-time thing, just to kill time for this encounter? Learning to press 1-1-2 while on this drake or Heigen dances or w/e seems to me unrelated to "WoW." Knowing how to play your class, c/ds, etc is what I see as important. "interrupt this spell" seems more like my class than "stand here until DBM says phase 2 then stand in red and avoid blue." Certainly it is more enduring. Does anyone really care whether the raider next to you has ever done Heigen or EoE? Magmaw will be the same before people get T13 gear/content. There are artificial Kabuki dances, designed by Blizzard and filmed by Tankspot. Which some people like; others no.

Anonymous said...

Larísa said...

@Sha: Bugs are never fun. I’m also not a fan of fights that are extremely twitchy, depending on fragment-of-a-section-reactions, screwing up everyone who has the slightest laggy connection.

@Gevlon: I haven’t done those bosses in 10-man mode, so I can’t tell from my own experience if it’s a pushover or not. But it sounds like one way to do it. I figure heroic mode will be different though.

@Chewy: Even if we had stayed with the original strat I guess it would become yawn-farm eventually too. It’s inevitable isn’t it? Like Saurfang: it was challenging initially but when everything was worked out and we were slightly geared, not so very much. Hard to avoid I reckon.

@Anonymous (A guildie I presume!): That’s true. I don’t think just “any” DK could do it that well.

@Ngita: I think he is! Good for us. One dances, everyone takes credit! We did the sound boss and yes, there’s quite a bit of dancing there.

@Anonymous: Judging from your characterization, I’m a WoW player. I don’t own any console game, I never ever played one at all… And I’m definitely not that good at dancing and moving around. But still I appreciate it, at a certain extent at least. I think it’s not one thing or another. They tend to give us both sorts of encounters and that’s for the good.

@Anonymous: Oh, I love home-made simple-drawing tacs!

Perdissa said...

Probably the first time I came by this phenomenon was back in Kara. After wiping on Prince for a few weeks, someone suggested that we could turn the fight into a Patchwerk-esque one by all standing at the entrance.

It worked so terribly well that I have not done the fight the correct way, ever.

While I got my fair share of loot from Prince, I always have a vague sense of loss when I think about that fight.

Anonymous said...

Hm... while I agree that I don't want an expansion full of tank'n'spanks, I am a bit concerned about how this expansion has it's raid difficulty set. Bear in mind that OmNomNom and the random five dragon band are *introductions* to raiding in this expansion. They hold the same slots as did Noth, Patchwerk, Razuvious and Anub'Rekhan did in WotLK, or Attuman in BC, or Lucifron in classic.

I put the "dance difficulty" factor of either of these Cata intro bosses as being about the same as, say, Sindragosa normal from Wrath, maybe. So, how do you break in real raid newbies? Heroics? Um... nowhere near as tough. Old content? Outleveled to heavily. And where does the difficult ramp up to?

I liked Yogg. I enjoyed beating Arthas. But I have friends to never managed to co-ordination to beat Freya. Do they just not get to play at all?

I think Bliz blew it here. Difficulty is good, yes. But this level, right out the door? Fail.