Razzmatazz at Planet of hats is sick of trash in raid instances. If he could decide he’d rather trash the trash altogether, since it’s boring. He doesn’t buy the idea of it as a pacing mechanism, calling it old school he argues that we should be past this by now. And he finishes asking anyone who thinks trash is fun to speak up, since he’d like to have a word with us.
So here I am, raising my arm, trash supporter as I am.
Yes, I think trash is an essential ingredient to any raid instance, and I’d be sad if they were removed altogether.
The trash free instance
Is there anyone around who remembers when Blizzard tried out the trash free concept in an experiment called ToC? Or have you tried to just forget about it? I surely don’t blame you.
I think I understand why they tried it in the first place, the reasoning behind it. Players love boss fights. They think big bad bosses are awesome. On the other hand players show very little love for trash. If anything they complain if there’s too much of it. Also: the players seem to play WoW half of half blindfolded. They don’t pay much attention to the surroundings, the beauty of the castles and dungeons and their inhabitants. All they talk about is boss abilities, strategies and loot. So why don’t we give them just that? Concentrated coolness should make them happy, right?
It’s just that this doesn’t work in it didn’t work in practice. Listening to the players is all nice, but you have to be aware of that sometimes they’re plain wrong, not realizing what they really want, not understanding the full consequences if their wishes should be granted. This was one of those cases.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone celebrating ToC for the lack of trash. It felt hollow, thin, and completely void of the atmosphere and beauty that instances such as Ulduar, Karazhan or Black Temple held. ToC reminded a bit of the seasonal bosses you finish in 20 seconds. It was not a place where you could experience adventures. It was a loot machine.
So what’s the point of trash mobs? Well, as I see it there are several.
Atmosphere and credibility
One purpose is to set the atmosphere and make setting where the fight takes place more credible. Bad guys in the fairytales rarely fight all alone against the world. They have people around to help them.
Or to make a comparison to an amusement park such as Disneyland compared to a travelling tivoli. It isn’t enough o provide awesome rides; if you just put those rides on a big empty parking place it won’t be half as fun as they are if they’re surrounded by a lovely park, with trees and houses and dressed out people. The trash makes the instance come alive, at least in the best cases.
One of the best examples is probably Karazhan, with the dancers and the dinner guests on the bottom floor. Would Moroes have been half as enjoyable if you had fought him in the empty room of ToC? I wouldn’t think so.
Pacing and variation
Another point is the pacing, even if Razzmatazz dismisses it. Think of it as a piece of classic music or a rock concert. You want variation. The most intense, high paced phases, that makes your heart beat faster, will stand out even more if they’re contrasted against periods that are a little bit slower. It’s not only more enjoyable, I think most raids also need it to recover a little mentally. If you’ve been seriously challenged by a boss fight, you need to reset your minds and get a break with something easier, if only for 10-20 minutes, before it’s time for the next peak.
And provided that it’s not too difficult, it will give the raid leaders a little bit room for thinking and making things ready for the next boss fights. You don’t have to keep the entire raid waiting when you reach the raid boss, since the tanks and healers have been able to sort some tings out during the trash.
Training and warm-up
Thirdly I think trash gives an opportunity for the raid to train their abilities and trim their coordination in a more forgiving setting than a boss encounter. Provided that the trash is varied and well crafted, and not only mindless aoe-targets, you’ll get the chance to test your tanks on pulling and your cc:ers on doing their job, sometimes with some added move-out-of-fire element. You could see it as a bit of warm-up before it’s time to perform at top. Sportsmen do it, so why not raiders?
I could give Razzmatazz right in one thing though, namely that not all trash is as good as it could be. Some trash doesn’t add any flavour or challenge at all, but feel more like randomly crafted standard mobs with the only purpose to delay your progression.
In some cases there’s just too much of the same thing. Take for instance the elementals right before the Twilight council. I don’t really mind the mechanisms, but is it really necessary to fill an entire room with the same kind of mobs, forcing us to go through the same manoeuvres over and over again? They’re not even interesting to look at. All you can think of while doing them is: I wonder how many there are left now?
The good trash
So what constitutes good trash according if you ask me?
Here are a few things I like to see in trash:
- A plausible reason for why they’re there at all.
- Interesting mechanisms that are more than just tank and spank, but still not as challenging as raid bosses. You should be able to wipe if you’re extremely careless, but you shouldn’t have to bring you’re A-game to manage.
- Variation. Ten pulls of the same sort of trash in a row is quite un-fun.
- A reasonable amount, meaning that respawns not necessarily means the end of your raid.
- Some little extra award to keep up the spirits in the raid, such as reputation gains or random epic drops. In this manner, even a newbie raid that doesn’t manage to kill the first boss can feel that they get a little something for their efforts in a wipe night.
Best and worst
Finally you may ask: which raid instance is my favourite when it comes to trash?
Well, again as in so many other aspects, I think it will be Karazhan. I remember it was heavily criticized for having too much trash and yes, it was disheartening if you found respawns after The Curator room. You knew that it meant the end of that raid night, even if an hour remained of your raid time. But this said, most of the trash felt meaningful and added a lot of flavour and atmosphere to the instance.
And the worst? Well, that’s obviously ToC. There’s no worse trash than the non-existing.