Friday, March 11, 2011

Boss Mechanics - Chimaeron

WoW has it's share of gimmick fights. I'm not a huge fan of that terminology because it is used as a kind of absolute description when in reality there is a spectrum or a sliding scale. Every encounter has mechanics that force you to play differently for that boss. Sometimes, however, these mechanics so deeply change how you are playing that you feel like you are playing a little mini-game rather than playing WoW.

Obviously vehicles fights are like this because you literally are playing a mini-game, but every other fight falls somewhere on the spectrum. I would describe Chimaeron as a very gimmicky fight, at least for healers. And the mini-game that it asks healers to play? Wrath of the Lich King!

Outside of the feud phase, Chimaeron is a return to the days when people had three health states - full, almost dead and dead. Added to that is the fact that every healer can return someone from almost dead to "full" in less than 1.5 seconds. Inside the feud phase Chimaeron is a massive AoE damage fest. It's Wrath of the Lich King healing split into two parts.

Heroic Chimaeron adds a third Wrath era healing mechanic to the mix - the dire necessity of a Discipline priest. When healing is impossible and everyone is constantly taking damage, Power Word: Shield is the only thing that can save an attempt from a particular kind of relatively minor mistake.

Chimaeron is not a great fight. I think gimmick fights rarely are. The problem with them is that usually heavily favour one class or another. Bringing a Blood Death Knight to Vezax allowed our guild to get the realm first hardmode kill despite being a 10-player guild. A party of one shaman, one holy priest, one hunter and seven holy paladins could have won the heroic Valrithia encounter in under 15 seconds - before any adds could even come into play.

Similarly, because self healing isn't really "priced" for dps classes - that is, some do it for free in amounts significant to Chimaeron and others don't - some dps classes are greatly superior to other for this fight. Saving a healer nearly 6000 mana every time you get spit on is a huge asset for early kills.

But despite not liking gimmick fights, I think Chimaeron was worth making. Gimmick fights are bad because they usually don't work out well. But if the developers never tried crazy ideas just because those ideas rarely work out then the game would be a lot more boring. For that reason, I think Chimaeron deserves a pass.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Counting Patches

It seems quite a few people are upset about Firelands not being in patch 4.1. This is being seen as the insult added to the injury of Cataclysm, which is rather light on content.1.

Of course the object of criticism here may be entirely fictional. The fact that Firelands is going to be in 4.2 rather than 4.1 probably has absolutely no impact on how soon we will see Firelands live on the servers.

Suppose instead that Blizzard had announced that because 4.1 was going to take longer than they anticipated, they were going to do a patch 4.0.7 that had some of the content they originally planned for patch 4.1, such as the troll dungeons. The PTRs would be changed to say they were testing for 4.0.7, the patch notes would tell us what to expect in 4.0.7 and so on.

This would be exactly the same thing as what is going on now. Version numbers are totally arbitrary. Even if there are rigid rules that govern how they work they are still totally arbitrary. If people are upset that it isn't coming as soon as they had hoped then that's one thing, but version numbers shouldn't be part of that equation.

Of course from that perspective I think I can agree that no Firelands in 4.1 is a bad move. It's a bad public relations move, though, not a bad game design move. They should release Firelands when they release all of their content: when it's ready.

1, Cataclysm wasn't actually content light. It had tons of content, but a good amount of the content was aimed at characters under level 60. This may have been a mistake - it might have been the game design equivalent of teaching an old dog new tricks. Still, any criticism should be about poorly targeting their efforts, not phoning it in.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to earn Guild Experience by Cheating

Here's how to max out your daily guild experience: Run heroic Shadowfang Keep with a full guild group. Why Shadowfang in particular? When Baron Silverlane dies, all his living adds despawn. Then you are awarded guild experience for him and for each add. I can't claim to understand what it is in the code for awarding guild experience that would cause this. If you kill the adds before he dies they do not award guild experience, not all bosses with adds give guild experience for adds that are alive when they die.

Anyway, if you manage to not kill any of his adds at all, which is not that easy to do since the wolves that come with Nandos have very low health then you get experience for eight bosses all at once. Heroic bosses are worth 37.8k. With the 25% bonus for having five people that's 47.3k. Eight bosses makes it 378k for each person in the group for a total of 1.89M guild xp for that one kill. Since you killed Ashbury on the way for another 236k, you end up earning 2.13M guild xp in probably 15 minutes. Do this with three groups and the cap has been reached.

Similar guild experience errors exist in other places. Omnitron rewards four times the guild experience that most raid bosses do. A single Omnitron kill in a 10-player raid gives over half the daily experience cap, though obviously you can do that only once a week.

I bet Halfus could be killed with his adds for bonus xp, though killing halfus while his adds are still alive would be a bit tricky.

But it's the SFK bug that bothers me the most. Here is the question: If my guildmates and I want to run a heroic to get some guild xp - since we don't really run heroics for any other reason at this point - should we queue up for SFK or not? Obviously the extra xp is a bug, and so by using it we are exploiting a bug. But what is our responsibility to avoid exploiting this bug? Should we queue up for the next best heroic for guild xp (probably Halls of Origination) instead? Should we queue up for random and secretly hope for SFK? If we get SFK should we kill Baron Silverlane's adds before we kill him to avoid earning the xp we know we aren't supposed to get?

But maybe underneath all of this is the real problem that we don't particularly like earning guild xp. The methods of earning guild xp are remarkably narrow, and running heroics is really the only way to get to the xp cap for the day for a smaller guilds. The fact that guild xp is capped daily means that raiding will never be a good source of guild xp, no matter how much the bosses are worth. Since many guilds are formed for the purpose of raiding this seems somewhat counterintuitive.

I know that the developers said that they didn't want to give guild experience for a lot of things like making flasks for or providing enchants to guild mates because they felt these things would be gamed. The developers have to worry about systems being gamed because the large number of well known information websites about WoW means that the optimal path to guild xp will spread through the community quickly. If making flasks was how you max your daily xp, then someone would be expected to log in each day and make the flasks.

The problem is that guild xp is primarily rewarded for something that guilds don't necessarily do. If having someone log in to make flasks to max experience seems bad, I don't see how having people queue up for SFK seems that much better. At least the flasks are actually helping the guild.

In an effort to create a system we couldn't "game", the developers have created a system that is far too restrictive and doesn't represent the purpose or values of a large variety of guilds. The broad base of players may have been better off with a system that could be cheated, if it also let them earn guild experience by doing the things that their guild does.

As it is this complaint may not end of mattering, since most guilds will hit maximum level in about a year and guild experience will become a thing of the past.