Are 400-pull bosses good design?

by on October 26, 2011


Just how hard is too hard?

There’s been a lot of noise in the blogosphere about how many pulls top guilds have required to down Heroic Ragnaros – over 500 for the world first, and subsequent kills confirm that number’s about the same for everyone. Most of the focus so far has been on the guilds doing that – how dedicated they are, how remarkable their teamwork must have been.

But Beruthiel of Falling Leaves And Wings, who is currently working on Heroic Ragnaros, is asking an entirely different question today. Sure, it may be super-impressive that a guild will stick together for 500 wipes to down Ragnaros HC – but is requiring that amount of patience actually good design in the first place?

For about the first 250 pulls I was energetic. Enthusiastic. Excited. But somewhere between then and now I just feel…tired. At one point, if I was asked if the fight was “fun” I would have said that yes, I was enjoying the progression. But that point has long past. Now it’s mostly just frustrating. I have little patience for my own mistakes, and less patience for others. Spending 7 minutes just to have a son hit the hammer because someone made a bad decision makes me want to put my fist through my monitor. Spending 9 minutes to get into our new “progression” phase, only to get 60 or 90 seconds of “progression” and then having to start over makes me want to kick a kitten.

Which brings me to the question: Are 400 pull fights good design?

Now, I’m sure there is going to be someone in the comments here that will invariably say “you are just a wuss, I loved every minute of our Rag work”. And I’m just going to head you off by calling “bullshit”. At some point you were also frustrated, be it at the encounter or you raid team. If you don’t want to admit to that, that’s your business. But I don’t buy it for a single second.”

Beruthiel does a really fine job with this post, going through the experience of a hugely frustrating, repetitive, and challenging raid encounter in detail. I must admit, many of the points rang true for me, even though I’m not likely to be seeing HC Rag any time soon, from the last couple of bosses in ICC – the hugely long, repetitive early section you have to play again and again, the complete lack of affordance for any mistake, from anyone, for any reason.

Some people will argue that it’s the frustration and the difficulty that makes top-end raiding impressive. I can see their point – but really, as a leisure activity, is pull #360, Phase 1, actually any fun?

What do you think? Is HC Rag a step too far?

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: World of Warcraft

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Nils October 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

The big problem are the players’ expectations here. They expect this boss to go down. They think they are supposed to eventually win. It’s like somebody playing lotto while be 100% convinced that he will win a millin within the next month. Somewhen during the second month he will conclude that “this is not fun!”.

These battles would be more fun, if the players weren’t so convinced that they were going to win. If Heroic Ragnaros was so incredibly strong and the fight so obscure that you never really figured it out and the video not available at youtube, the situation were much better. Of course, this is impossible with static, scripted boss fights that can be repeated ad nauseam.

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Nils October 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm

The big problem are the players’ expectations here. They expect this boss to go down. They think they are supposed to eventually win. It’s like somebody playing the lottery while 100% convinced that he will win a million within the next month. Somewhen during the second month he will conclude that “this is not fun!”.

These battles would be more fun, if the players weren’t so convinced that they were going to win. If Heroic Ragnaros was so incredibly obscure that you never really figured it out and the video was not available at youtube, the situation were much better. Of course, this is impossible with static, scripted boss fights that can be repeated ad nauseam.

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Pliers October 26, 2011 at 5:39 pm

The issue isn’t 400+ pulls. It’s having 300+ pulls of flawless phase 1s, 200+ pulls of flawless phase 1-2s, and a large number making it to p3, just to see p4 enough times to finally kill the boss, when traps, breaths, dreadflame RNG, and buggy mechanics don’t finish you off before you get the chance.

Back at level 60, Kel’Thuzad was the most obnoxious fight. Not because it was the hardest (it wasn’t, by a long shot), or because it was the longest, or because it was the last fight, but because you spent the first 5 minutes bored to tears, followed by 30 seconds of trying to keep things from getting out of control, followed by another 5 minutes of ease, before the fight actually got to the challenging part, where you would quickly wipe. But if someone shot the wrong mob, or was a little late on healing, or was a little out of position, you would wipe, and had to do it all over again. Seriously, F that fight.

With a long run back, and the first decent chunk of Rag being easy once you’ve done it a few dozen times, there’s excessive time between progression phases.

Not only that, but if someone screws up and dies, you’ll miss your dps checks, and either lose another 5 people to Molten Elementals, or end up with extra Meteors, or not have enough resses when you finally do reach p4. And wasted attempts just add even more time, meaning there are more chances for people to get distracted, lose focus, or make silly mistakes. It all compounds, and it sucks.

For any guild working on p4 H Rag, the fight is basically “can we reach p4 while avoiding any early mistakes so we can get in some learning on a heavily RNG-based phase that is actually challenging?”

You can’t even relax in the first part of the fight. There are enough mistakes that can me made, enough mechanics that will kill you, and some very precise timing for movement, that if you’re not paying attention, you’ll probably die, and the wasted time will push someone else over the edge. It’s a vicious cycle of frustration.

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Pliers October 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm

@Nils – “These battles would be more fun, if the players weren’t so convinced that they were going to win. If Heroic Ragnaros was so incredibly strong and the fight so obscure that you never really figured it out and the video not available at youtube, the situation were much better. Of course, this is impossible with static, scripted boss fights that can be repeated ad nauseam.”

What?

A fight without decipherable mechanics is an awful concept. How would it be better to never know why you wiped, how you wiped, how to avoid wiping, or if it’s even possible? That’s absurd.

C’thun was unkillable for a pretty long time, and it was terrible. There’s no fun in bashing your head against an unwinnable encounter, knowing that the reason you’re losing has nothing to do with your own performance. Having to see a mechanic a few times, or a few dozen times, before you understand it and can make a plan for it, is arguably fine, but to have it obscured completely is a ridiculous idea. I highly doubt anyone would enjoy such a fight, including someone suggesting it.

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Nils October 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I would agree with you in the context of World of Warcraft.

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Pliers October 26, 2011 at 6:01 pm

At 400 pulls, if you assume 10 minutes between each wipe (an under-estimation, considering the time on the average attempt + downtime between), you’re looking at close to 70 hours on 1 fight, just to do it the first time. That’s 2-3x longer than it takes to WIN most video games.

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Dan October 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Heroic Ragnaros is not a fight that’s made for mass consumption. It’s an insane challenge for the game’s most insane players. It’s an impressive design feat on Blizzard’s part to be able to build a boss that challenges the game’s most elite players while still being technically beatable.

This is an extremely hardcore challenge for extremely hardcore raiders. It’s good for things like this to be in the game. It’s good for there to be crazy, mythic stuff out there that most players don’t even want to try. There should be something that doesn’t feel like it’s within reach. There should be some goals that most people fail to reach, so accomplishments don’t feel like foregone conclusions. If everything feels attainable there is no point to attaining anything; part of being successful in an MMO is being more successful than other players.

There should be elite rewards for people who are willing to make extraordinary commitments to the game, or play at an extraordinary level. And there’s plenty of stuff in the game for people who aren’t up to the challenge of fighting heroic Ragnaros.

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Brekkie October 26, 2011 at 7:16 pm

If everyone’s a hero, no one is.

The entire point is the victory at the end is that much sweeter. Players who have never been bleeding edge would never understand. You fixate on the ride, when it’s the destination that matters. It’s worth it.

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Ahtchu October 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Where does the right amount of challenge:frustration:reward lie in the triangle? For many people, it might lie more left-center, more bottom-right etc.
One thing I think that might be universal is the design intent of the content. 400-pulls to learn and finally execute a boss sounds like twice the amount of effort Edison put into inventing his lightbulb.
If the content itself is designed to be difficult, with one, two, three oh-I-don’t-care TEN gimmicks that need to be 1. discovered and 2. dealt with then that’s FINE. Where it stops being fine is when a gimmick serves no purpose other than to frustrate. Frustration for frustration’s sake is in no way ‘fun’ and leads nothing to immersion, relaxation, challenge or anything else that people play games FOR.
Whatever happened to challenging content design in which the players themselves organized themselves and used themselves proper as the tools through which to solve the problem? Why design content that exploits raid makeup with nigh-explicit requirements in addition to making abilities or the timing thereof with the sole intent to just frustrate?
At the end of the day, when world-top guilds are [all] saying 400+ is too much, then I’m gonna go with perhaps the designers went way off the deep-end on this one. You shouldn’t be designing content solely with the intent to make the ‘hardcore’ ‘pay’. 400+ pulls is indication enough. Where there is smoke…

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Beruthiel October 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm

@Pliers

“The issue isn’t 400+ pulls. It’s having 300+ pulls of flawless phase 1s, 200+ pulls of flawless phase 1-2s, and a large number making it to p3, just to see p4 enough times to finally kill the boss, when traps, breaths, dreadflame RNG, and buggy mechanics don’t finish you off before you get the chance.”

Exactly this. I do delve into this a bit more in the actual post itself – the last 1/3 of it death specifically with the layout and length of the encounter. It’s not inherently that it takes 400 (or more) pulls to accomplish the feat, it’s that to get to that point you have to repeat mechanics that start to become mind-numbing and that are ripe for errors from even the best players. It starts to wear people down at all levels of dedication and performance.

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Beruthiel October 26, 2011 at 10:11 pm

@Dan – Being made for “Mass Consumption” has nothing to do with the inherent flaws in this particular encounter. Notice that not one time do I say “make the fight easier”, I don’t think there are any problems with the base mechanics of the encounter. Where I feel the enounter to be flawed is in it’s design.

It’s fine to want to show that you are one of the few and want to seperate yourself from the masses – but when you have the cream of the crop guilds saying that it was too much I think it’s important to step back and listen. You can still have extreme challenges that require “extrodinary commitment” without having to sacrifice sanity to get there. You shouldn’t have to take 500 pulls at one boss to prove “dedication”. And you can certainly create challenging content that isn’t as flawed in the inherent design and flows better. This has nothing to do with “it’s too hard” and everything to do with “is this fight well designed”. There is a difference.

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Beruthiel October 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm

@Brekkie – I might recommend that you click the link and read the entire post and not just reply to the small section quoted ^.^

If the destination is the only thing that matters – why would anyone ever take the ride? I respectfully have to disagree on this. The ride is equally as important as what lies at the end of the journey.

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Brekkie October 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

People play for different reasons.
But if it’s so unenjoyable to you, I have to ask, why do you do it?

Where does it say that every single raid encounter must suit the desires of everyone? Or that every encounter must be beaten to feel like you have achieved success in the game?

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