Thursday, May 13, 2010

Making Bosses More Heroic

Continuing the chain of thought that led from Copra to Tobold. Personally, I think Tobold misses the point. His conclusion is "You want to be a hero? How about joining the fire brigade instead of playing video games?"

I'd actually agree with that. The only problem is, we're talking about a video game here. I don't play the game to become a hero, I play the game to play a hero... and heroes do, you know, heroic stuff. Imagine that you were playing some sports title from EA where you got to be the waterboy for a major league team. It might be visually impressive, there might be a whole lot of interesting stuff going on, but you wouldn't be involved in contributing to the outcome of the games you watched, except in a very minor way. It wouldn't feel very sporty.

I think that's the sense that Copra was using when he was talking about WoW boss battles not feeling very heroic. To quote Copra:

"The more I think of it, the challenge just isn't as tangible as it should be. There is no risk involved, only severe repetition to overcome the bosses. Gear makes the effort easier, but doesn't remove any risks."
The way I see it, the main problem with bosses in WoW is that they're missing something. As Copra says, there's no risk involved... or the risks are so great that near-perfect execution is required to overcome them. There is a level of excitement and involvement that's lacking. You're just another cog in the raid machine, and if you fail to execute properly, you die, and... the raids overall dps output shrinks by a minuscule amount. Or your failure results in a raid wipe. Great - your choices are to be an unnoticed cog in the great machine, or to be the broken cog that grinds everything to a halt.

Compare that to some classic fights in Naxxramas that involved some interesting mechanics. Bosses like the Four Horsemen, Gothik, Noth, Gluth. All of these battles had a frantic, exciting, and - may I say it? - heroic feel to them. You were part of a group going up against the Big Bad Bosses, but you were never going up against just A Big Bad Boss. There were adds to pick up and kill, kite or CC. Curses and diseases to dispel. With the exception of Noth, all of the battles involves splitting up the party in some way, which had the interesting side effect of making the battle more intense. You had your part to do, but instead of being a cog in the machine, you were a part of a team that was fighting a smaller battle in support of a larger objective.

In later content, the trash (not necessarily the bosses) in the ICC 5 mans have the same feel to them. Especially running through the tunnel in the Pit of Saron, or escaping the Lich King in the Halls of Reflection. You're not in a Boss Battle, you're in a fight. Yeah, you've got a strategy to follow, but that's what it is - a strategy, a high-level plan for the battle. The actual tactics you use has to change depending on you abilities and the situation at hand. You can even screw up, sometimes more than once, but messing up doesn't always mean a wipe. It just means you need to change your tactics, blow some cooldowns, kick it up a notch and maybe try something new to kill that last stinking abomination to bring down the ice wall.

When you pull it off, you've kicked butt and taken names. When you fail... ah, well. When you fail, you went down kicking and screaming, and by the Light, you took more than a few of those scourged bastards with you.

That feels heroic.

So. More of that, please, Blizzard. Boss battles that are real fights, that feel a little bit more like PvP than a Quest for The Perfect Rotation. Fights that require you to move, to think, to react to changing situations instead of raid warnings. Fights that split you up and put you in smaller groups that have to support one another. Fights where making mistakes means you have to change tactics, instead of wiping and doing a ghost run. Fights where my contribution to the outcome is more than topping the dps meters or spamming heals.

Battles where I can play a hero for a little while.

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