Now here’s something I don’t recall ever seeing before – a behind-the-scenes look at how a World of Warcraft raid boss was designed, right from the ground up.
Alexander Brazie is an ex-Blizzard designer, responsible for parts of some of WoW’s most iconic raids. This week he gave us a rare insight into how those raids came to be, as he took us through the design process of his first raid encounter at Blizzard – the first encounter of TBC-era raid Karazhan, Attumen The Huntsman:
“It was a warm day in May when I walked in the doors of the unlabeled entrance to Blizzard HQ, hidden deep in the heart of a school campus. After the usual couple hours of HR paperwork and contract signing, I was brought upstairs to the WoW team floor and deposited in the middle of the hallway/meeting room where the other game designers were sitting.
They were excitedly discussing the plans they had in store for the final boss of Karazhan, a 10-man raid instance – the first of its kind for the team. ”
Read the rest here
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We’re moving to doing game-specific roundup posts here at the Pot for a while – let me know what you think, or if you prefer the old grab-bag style.
Today’s game is WoW – from Reasons To Love The Tillers, to some seriously hardcore graphing of healer performance so far this expansion, it’s all interesting stuff for those of us in the Land of Pandas:
- Erinys writes a quick post crowing about three little fluff items that make her love the Tillers farming faction – “This wonderful set makes your character don a chefs hat and start chopping as if you’re in the final minutes of a closely fought Iron Chef battle. You swiftly reduce your kill to a pile of blood red guts such is your enthusiasm”
- Beruthiel is back on the case with some serious graphs, as she looks at the state of the various healing classes one month into the expansion – “Monks are undeniably the strongest healers at this juncture in the game with none of the other healing classes coming close to them in performance. They are followed by Shaman and Paladins, with Druids and Priests bringing up the rear.”
- The Ancient Gaming Noob writes about his experience completing his last-ever WoW achievement as he leaves the game behind – ” The account was cancelled and would no longer be a worry. Around 5am today it was closed. But last night, when there were still a few more hours left to go, I decided to log in one more time and bang out one last achievement.”
- And Lono is embarking on an ambitious-sounding research project to figure out just why and how raids work – and he needs your help to do it. – “To put it simply, people are keen to say that they loved some raids but not why.”
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And rounding off today, something for everyone, from guides, to humour, to thinking!
- Stubborn at Sheep The Diamond writes his “must have in an MMO” list, and it’s an unusually detailed, well-considered and interesting bit of thinking – “Exploration has been vastly underprivileged in the Bartle archetypes. Sure, people who like to explore can just go do it on their own, by why not reward them for what they do? Why not have Mount Stubborn for a few hours until the node spawns and someone else gets it?”
- Zellviren at Unwavering Sentinel offers some thoughts on how to make a guild site a useful part of your guild’s life – “The best websites, of any type, are almost entirely user-driven. You could create and administrate the greatest and most interactive site the universe has ever had the pleasure of clapping eyes on, but a community that doesn’t care about it will see it fail and devolve into a tumbleweed soundfile.”
- Melmoth at Killed In A Smiling Accident offers 16 unwavering rules of altaholism / altitis – “2. If at any point you consider yourself satisfied with both your character’s appearance and class, it is guaranteed that in the next five minutes you will see another player whose appearance or class appeals to you more than your current one.”
- And Clockwork at Out Of Beta considers WoW’s frequent NPC-led raid endings, and asks if it’s possible to do them differently – “I feel a bit like we’re dealing with the fictional Baron Munchhausen; the NPC’s are more or less helpless (have you seen how long it takes Tyrael to kill a Fallen?) and we’re actually the only reason they survive….and yet they act like they did all the work all along.”
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And as your Unicorn Chaser for today – we’ve got a great site which seems to have just started.
I’ve always been a fan of under-manned gameplay in WoW – 3-manning TBC Heroics, 6-manning Naxx, the whole nine yards. And now, Durendil’s started a blog solely focussing on the ultimate in Undermanning.
One character. 40-man raid. GO!
The safest way to do it is to kill a pack or two for the hourglass sand and use drums of forgotten kings to build up resistance. Then, prepot restorative potion (http://www.wowhead.com/item=9030) and pull. Whatever your spec, you will want to have both cobra and steady shot in your action bars, since 4 of 5 types of magical damage are reduced at set time.
Dispel brood affliction: Bronze with the hourglass sand, and use a restorative potion if you have 3 or 4 others debuffs.Use his weakness! Spam arcane shot if he’s vulnerable to arcane, explosive shot of it’s fire, and cobra shot (with rapid fire) if it’s nature, Chimaera/steady/Aimed shot if it’s frost or shadow. You should dish out massive damage: misdirect, feign death and misdirect as much as you can!
You should be able to kill him before you transform, if not, you will be MCed for five minutes. If you feel you are about to transform, you can unequip your weapons and hope your pet will be able to finish him.”
The blog’s focussed on Hunters, but the info should be good for most classes to a certain extent.
I’m really impressed with this project, which as Durendil says was borne out of the realisation that the only way for Hunters to get this information was to dig through a massive, hard-to-read thread on the Elitist Jerks forums. I’m impressed with his willingness to put what must be quite a lot of work in to help others.
And I’ve always rather fancied trying to solo raids myself…
Do you underman, in any game? Or don’t you see the point?
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I love deep, insightful think pieces – as you may have noticed – and today, Tree Heals Go Whoosh has something of a doozy for us.
See, Tzufit has been watching the discussion in the blogosphere about Firelands, previous raids, and what’s gone right and wrong, and today, she’s coming out with her thoughts on raids as a whole – what makes them work, and what makes them fail. It’s a pretty epic post, clearly born from a lot of thinking and expertise, and talks less about numbers, stats, and strategy than about mood, feel, and expectations –
“Whether a designer is tasked with creating a raid instance that’s a haunted castle, an elemental plane, a horrifying zombie factory, or the seat of the world’s creators, the raid must feel like it could really be that place. Karazhan is an oft-cited example of this, and one that would have been difficult for its designers to screw up. The idea of a haunted castle isn’t exactly a new concept in fantasy, and so Kara’s designers had plenty of common mythology to use in its creation. A terrifying dungeon complete with a dead horseman, followed by hallways full of the ghosts of former guests, a dinner party gone wrong, a haunted opera, a living chess set, and a castle whose foothold in reality and our dimension slowly slips away as we rise higher and higher – while these are all things that may have been done before, they are perfectly executed in Karazhan.
Ulduar, for me, is the ultimate example of Blizzard’s design team being given a concept that could be extremely daunting and just hitting it completely out of the park. Imagine, at the beginning of Wrath, if you were one of the designers assigned to help figure out what the Titan architecture in the Storm Peaks would look like. The Titans were known of prior to Wrath, but we had seen only minimal examples of their structures in the form of the ruins of Uldaman. Instead of going in a predictable route and referencing Greek or Norse ideas of what the temple of the gods would look like, the Ulduar designers created something extremely unique. Ulduar blends “Titan technology” with classical columns, delicate stained glass, and the unique realms of each of the Keepers.”
It’s really nice to see a piece talking more about the game as an experience than as a collection of numbers. Tzufit’s right on the money here, certainly for me, when she’s talking about what makes these raid instances work and not work, and her decision to include a lot of quotes not just from her but also the rest of her guild make the piece feel well-researched and weighty.
And some of her points are decidedly non-obvious. I’d not really considered that the reason the Firelands doesn’t work for me, or a lot of people, is that it matches our expectations but nothing more. As a storyteller I know it’s important to surprise and delight as well as fit into expectations – but applying that rule to the raid instances of WoW suddenly makes sense of why the continual crazed inventiveness of Kharazan or Ulduar are firm favourites, whilst the ongoing red of The Firelands, just doesn’t do it. And no matter how much we may talk of WoW, or any other MMO, as a game, the fact is the most magical moments and the greatest memories come from when we’re immersed and forget that fact.
Great piece, and I heartily recommend reading right the way through!
Do you agree with Tzufit’s analysis? Or do you think there’s more to it? Let’s discuss!
Quote taken directly from Tzufit’s magnum opus .
Find Tree Heals Go Whoosh at http://treehealsgowoosh.wordpress.com/ .
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In a short and perceptive post Tobold has stated what he thinks of Blizzard’s apparent design concept and goals for raiding in Cataclysm. He talks about what he’d prefer as a player, and the problems with the design that Blizzard, so far in Cataclysm, seems to have chosen.
For me an ideal raid endgame would start with a dungeon that is relatively easy, and then get progressively harder with each following dungeon. As a consequence, players and guilds would spread out, with the best players advancing fastest, and the least good progressing very slowly, and that mostly through the inevitable gear accumulation. And all these raid dungeons would remain as they are throughout the expansion.
If you follow the Pot you probably know about the storm we kicked up last week with our editorial. Sure, we’re a little biased on this one – not because we like Tobold and think he’s generally fabulous but because as gamers we agree wholeheartedly with Tobold’s idea of WoW heaven.
Even so, our preferences aside, go have a read of his post. And while you do, bear in mind that it’s gamers like Tobold and Larisa who are feeling a disconnection from WoW or have simply quit already, and ask yourself if there’s a correlation between that and Blizzard’s design philosophy in Cataclysm.
What do you think – and how do you want your progression content to be designed?
_Quote taken directly from Tobold’s post
You can find Tobold’s MMORPG Blog homepage here_
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Every so often when browsing for the Pot, we’ll come across a little gem of a post – not long, not a huge Righteous Orbs (RIP)-esque rant, but just a little piece that perfectly nails a point.
Fail PUG has done that with a quick look at why, exactly, raids are number-capped:
(Talking about RIFT) Twenty DPS, one healer (me) and no tanks? No problemo! Just add more DPS and zerg that bad-boy down! The thing is, it’s all rather fun. Keeping a rampaging mob of half-wits alive is way more challenging than healing that I-have-a-horrible-feeling-you-could-solo-this-place-and-are-just-bringing-us-along-to-be-kind tank you’ve played with for years. Which made me wonder … would it be so bad if raids were like this?
It’s a great poke at one of MMOs’ sacred cows – the idea that you have to have exactly 10, or 25, or 40 people, no more and no less (unless you out-gear the place) to go kill a big bad scary dude. Why, exactly? And isn’t that kind of a pain?
What do you think? Are raid caps vital or could we do without that particular piece of headwear?
_Quote taken directly from Sven’s post on Fail PUG.
Find Fail PUG’s homepage at http://failpug.blogspot.com/_
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Trash. How did the non-boss monsters in dungeons and raids get to be called that? Anyhow, there’s a discussion about whether trash monsters in raids are a good thing or a concept that should be a thing of the past, and Larisa’s pitched in saying trash should stick around.
One of Larisa’s points is particularly strong and she’s quick to bring it up: Trial of the Crusader. The only trash-free raid. The one that nobdy enjoyed and is usually dubbed “worst raid evarrr”. You could say Larisa needs to say no more, but she goes on to give three excellent reasons why trash is a good thing in a raid instance. I particularly agree with her that trash gives the place you’re raiding some credibility and atmosphere: what big bad doesn’t have lackeys sitting around?
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.
To round off a very persuasive post, Larisa goes on to talk about what constitutes bad or rubbish (hah!) trash, giving a few examples from the current raid content. Then she goes on to have a think about what makes trash good or effective, and comes up with a lot of pointers. The biggest factor for me personally is the trash that respawns too nitwibbling quickly!
What about you – do you like trash, or do you hate it? What’s the best raid trash-wise for you?
_Quote taken directly from Larisa’s post
You can find Larisa’s Pink Pigtail Inn homepage here_
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So I’m guessing there’s a decent chance you’re getting your dungeon or heroic hat on at the moment. Given Cataclysm’s a brave new world of adventures, or at least of shiny lootses, a fair few of us are feeling a tad awkward about the whole dungeoneering thing. Well, Vixsin’s come to our rescue with a post on getting into dungeons and heroics.
Vixsin’s picked up that a lot of people are pondering what equipment they need in order to be ready for various types of group content. As a healer herself, Vixsin’s post is aimed mostly at healers but I’m guessing that everyone can get something out of it.
The good news is that a starter gear set is well within your reach, provided that you quested your way through the various Cataclysm zones. In fact, I was able to step into heroics immediately after hitting 85, with just a minor amount of work, no BOEs, and a couple very solid quest items.
She opens up with a list of her heroic-ready gear, showing how little of it she had to do anything but quest for. She also talks about which are the easiest heroics – a useful reference for everyone including healers wanting to test eeking out their mana bar.
A great post timed just right to help us not run around like headless chickens panicking about bridging the gap to heroics.
What about you – do you need any other information or opinions on heroics before you set foot in them?
_Quote taken directly from Vixsin’s post
You can find LifeInGroup5’s homepage here_
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