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On Gimmicks

Posted by Malevica on September - 7 - 2011

I’ve read a few posts recently talking about so-called “gimmick fights”, and the alleged abundance thereof in Cataclysm raiding and Firelands in particular (as a sign of the decline of design standards in WoW, the coming of the End Times, that sort of thing).

Now I’m actually enjoying most of the Firelands fights (with the previously-noted exception of Lord Rhyolith) so reading these posts got me thinking about my feelings on the fight mechanics in the Firelands.

To start with, I wanted to think about when I’d object to a gimmick fight. My personal definition of a bad gimmick fight would be one where the fight revolves around one specific mechanic that will inevitably make or break the raid and that gets handled by a small subset of the raid; the implication being that the remainder of the raid is left with a fairly mundane and ultimately unmemorable encounter. If you’re the one the gimmick is aimed at, it’s great; otherwise, well, maybe the next one will do it for you instead.

Let’s look at the fights (that I’ve done) in turn, in the light of that definition:

  • Beth’tilac – Well, you do split the raid up, and only a couple of people get to climb the web to the upper level, but once you’re up there you’re pretty much just tanking/healing/DPSing while not standing in the fire or falling down the hole. I actually think the group downstairs has a more interesting time of it. Personally I don’t mind the climbing-onto-the-web aspect because it’s essentially just two tanks dealing with multiple bosses in separate locations, and we’ve seen that in a great many encounters over the years. And if you happen to lose one of the web people, you can replace them, it’s not an inevitable wipe; I see this as analogous to a player going LD in any other fight.
  • Shannox – The trick here is getting Riplimb trapped in one of the crystal traps Shannox puts down. Or you could slow him instead, so the tank has time to lose his stacks while Riplimb is running in slow-motion back to the boss. One of the tanks does have a specific trick that can make things easier, but the whole fight doesn’t revolve around that mechanic alone, so I’m not sure I think this is a bad gimmick fight either. It’s just a mechanic like kiting or CC.
  • Rhyolith – I’ve talked about him before, I think this one is a gimmick fight that I object to. It’s a pretty pedestrian (/rimshot!) fight apart from the driving, and if your raid lacks awareness or a strong voice directing things you can easily be wiped by getting it wrong. Perhaps it’s my perspective as a healer, but if the steering goes well the encounter is really dull, while if the steering goes wrong it’s practically unhealable, so the course of the fight is more or less out of my hands.
  • Baleroc – Definitely a fight with a strong mechanic to focus on, although not in the negative sense where only a few people are participating. At least on 10-man, where almost the entire raid is involved in handling the various mechanics: tank swaps, healer stacks, DPS positioning to take the crystals. I’d class this as a legitimate mechanic, akin to passing around the plague on Putricide.
  • Alysrazor – I’d be very reluctant to write this off as a “gimmick fight” simply because of the guy in the air. Sure, it’s important that you have someone who can do a good job up there, so in that sense the fight hinges on the gimmick, but there’s a lot more going on than just that, at least for the tanks and healers. And you can easily replace the guy up there if he dies mid-fight, it’s not an insta-wipe.
  • Majordomo – Definitely not a bad gimmick fight in my book. The whole raid is involved with the positioning and debuffs, there’s no one special person with a special job.

You know when you say a word so many times that it seems to lose its meaning? Just me? OK…

Anyway, what I’d draw out from the list above is that whether a fight is hopelessly gimmicky or mechanically interesting depends very much on how you define the term, and maybe on your perspective and role. Quoting Shintar:

It’s just that it seems to me that unless you get to be the special snowflake to handle the boss’s unique mechanic, most of them aren’t really all that interesting… or maybe it’s just a healer thing.

Well, there’s a couple of things I’d say to that. Firstly, I think that a lot of this feeling comes about as a result of the evolution of encounter design and the player base to the point where “don’t stand in the bad” and “switch to adds” are neglected as mechanics, they’re just baseline aspects of a fight. So an encounter with adds, Bad Stuff on the ground and a funky mechanic is regarded as having a single point of interest for the raid rather than three. Wind back the clock to the ‘glory days’ of Vanilla or TBC and a lot more of the fights are of the simple “stay out of the bad” and “switch to adds” type.

What’s more, look at the list as a whole and you’ll see that the fun stuff is distributed across the group, with healers, tanks and DPS players all getting their share of fun mechanics to play with. As long as you’re not actually bored while waiting for ‘your fight’, then I think the balance is OK. Think about the alternatives: give everyone a special job on every fight and the learning curve could be pretty brutal; on heroic sure, go wild, but at least on normal mode I think you need to limit the novelty a bit. Or you could remove the gimmicks again, but I think there’d be even more complaints about that. At least these days you get to choose who learns to handle the gimmicks too, it’s not random.

For me, the issue of “gimmick fights” comes down to striking a balance: if everyone else is just left to tank and spank and it makes no difference at all if one person fails at their special job (Teron Gorefiend or heroic Anub’Arak, for example), I can see that there might be a problem with the design (although actually I feel that on heroic even these sorts of gimmicks are fair game); but speaking for myself I’m fine with a “gimmick fight” if the rest of the raid has a significant part to play as well (think back to Valithria Dreamwalker – sure, if your healers sucked really badly you wouldn’t win, but you could have plenty of influence on the outcome from outside too), and the spotlight gets spread around enough. None of the fights on this list are tank-and-spank-while-someone-else-does-the-killing type affairs.

Ultimately though, whether you get along with a particular encounter design paradigm is a personal thing and people have a right to prefer different types of fights; ideally there would be a good mix of encounters with new gimmicks and more traditional mechanics so that everyone can find something to love. Let’s hope the final raid in 4.3 lives up to everyone’s hopes.

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Categories: Opinion

21 Responses so far.

  1. WeWhoEat says:

    Yeah, I think the fight design in firelands is pretty spot on. I think with Lord Rhyolith they tried some out of the box thinking and it kind of back fired on them. The mechanic has a little too much RNG built into it and it was very punishing when you didn’t keep pace, and waves of nerfs later its a complete snoozefest. But kudos to bliz for trying to stretch themselves in encounter design, failures lay down the ground work for future brilliance.

    I’m not a huge fan of beth, I think its designed far too much as a DPS check. This is a fight that really comes down to, can you spare enough DPS upstairs to have her to a point where you kill her before she’s unhealable downstairs. I know a lot of fights have DPS tipping points, but it seemed to me that beth was way too binary. We spent a bunch of time wiping to her (she was really the first boss we worked on) then its been one shots ever since.

    Alysrazor is I think my favorite one as (at least in 10 man) its all about everyone staying alive. That fight is really won or lost on everyone staying alive as there’s a ton of jobs with very little room for backup and a pretty fast slide into a wipe once you lose someone for a bit. Its all about people not sucking :)

  2. Personally, I’ve liked the fights in Firelands a lot to be honest. But many in my guild find the gimmick fight’s hurt the overall “fun” and progression. Have melee on Lord Nubface who dont’ have a mic on mumble? yeah we have a bit of a problem then. Alysrazor is great fight which I love as a healer but it’s like pulling TEETH to get a dpser up in the air for the entire fight, most of them just can’t do the in-air mechanic.

    I hope Deathwing patch brings more than 7 bosses, and with the “ride/fight on his back” mechanic I fear that will be a gimmicky and less fun/cool. We’ll see!
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    • Malevica says:

      I think this is a fascinating subject, and extremely subjective.

      I recall a while back when my guild was working on Malygos and there was endless complaining about the vehicle fight in Phase 3. Drilling down, a lot of the complaints boiled down to that fact that people wanted the outcome to depend on how they played their class and they felt that the vehicle phase didn’t test their skill at their class.

      I do understand why people object to that. I mean, they pick a class and grow to love it and want to be judged on how they handle that class. I just also think it’s good to give people opportunities, on a relatively level playing field, to shine as players, as a gamers and as a team, as well as as a member of their class.

      Now, if a typical (whatever that might actually mean) raid team can’t find a single person who can handle flying through the hoops in the air on normal difficulty after an appropriate number of attempts (again, the definition of “appropriate” is up for debate), then maybe the mechanic difficulty needs to be rethought. I suppose the trick is making a mechanic non-trivial to master so it’s meaningful, while also not making the learning curve so steep that the rest of the raid gets frustrated with the learning process for the guy doing the aerobatics or whatever it might be.

      Of course if we’re talking heroics then all bets are off, I’m fine with mechanics requiring a bit above and beyond the average from players.

      Finally, on Lord Nubface (which might become his new name!), I don’t think that you’re necessarily SOL without a caller on VoIP. You could “call” left and right with a couple of macros, you could use a floating melee or a ranged /assist, or people could watch the boss’s movement and volcano placement and try to figure it out for themselves. I can see it’s more difficult though, but people can and do raid without VoIP quite successfully. Again, I’m ok with fights testing communication.

  3. Shintar says:

    Oh man, I hated Gorefiend, that was possibly the most cruel gimmick fight ever. :P

    I do know that encounters are more complex than ever now and I appreciate that it’s hard for Blizzard to come up with ways of keeping things fresh – but even going back by just one tier, the fights there felt a lot more engaging to me. It just seemed to me that there was a lot more going on in terms of movement, things to dispel, disrupting influences to pay attention to and so on and so forth, and I still wouldn’t say that they were more difficult than Firelands for having that variety. On the other hand I still can’t believe that they defined no less than the first three Firelands bosses by having them all do big AoE in their final phase, as if they couldn’t think of anything else to do for the healers. :/
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    • Malevica says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you about the AoE burn phases, I couldn’t believe so many fights ended that way! Perhaps they had a quota and needed to throw some AoE damage in at the last minute. You’re right too about the dispels, I hadn’t noticed it before, but now I think about it there’s really only dispelling needed for “avoidable” damage.

      I don’t mind the Firelands bosses overall, but I’d have liked a couple more traditional bosses as well. I wonder if, when they compressed the two instances they were planning into one Raid of Concentrated Awesomeness, it was these traditional fights that hit the cutting room floor in favour of the “cool factor”. If so, the pendulum might well swing back for 4.3.

      Personally I’d hope for another Patchwerk fight, where winning depends on playing your class better than a given standard, but the foreseeable downside is a normal mode which is a pushover and a heroic that requires a handful of taps with the nerfbat before it’s achievable by a normal raid group.

      • WeWhoEat says:

        Isn’t Baleroc essentially patchwerk with something interesting for the tanks and healers to do?

        To be honest I think patchwerk is quite passe, DPS is expected to excel with their rotations nowadays while executing movement or other mechanics (doing other things is no longer an excuse for low DPS figures). All having a patchwerk fight would do now is highlight which specs do more damage when they don’t have to move.

        • Malevica says:

          I think Baleroc is a significant step up over Patchwerk. You’ve got positioning/spatial awareness/movement (essentially irrelevant on Patchwerk except for the pull), timing (not really an issue on Patchwerk, there were no debuffs to watch), and for the healers there’s more variation in spell selection (Patchwerk was pretty much the same right through). And the first two are applicable to the DPS, it’s not a tank-and-spank for them.

          Your point about DPS and movement is another good example of what I was talking about regarding neglected mechanics. A movement component to a fight is something we’ve come to expect and just handle now, something that doesn’t faze us, so much so that in the eyes of a lot of players there is essentially no difference between a stand-still tank-and-spank and a tank-and-spank where you have to run towards or away from a purple crystal at the right point in a rotation. I wonder if we’re not being a bit too quick to dismiss the older mechanics such as movement and positioning as trivial, and that pushes the design further towards trying new, unique mechanics.

          Thinking about Patchwerk in the way you put it actually makes me a little sad about how the game has changed around me. Where I (perhaps naively) envision a team working as a group and as individuals to refine their rotations, coordinate their cooldowns, boost their survivability and tweak their stats to squeak through the collective DPS and survival checks, there’s an alternative mirror universe version where class X gets (or fears getting) benched because class Y seems to do P% more DPS on a stationary fight.

          That said, I think you’re making an assumption that every player’s DPS output is a direct result of their class, which is absolutely not true unless you’re in a high-flying guild; for the other 95% (picking a number more-or-less at random) of the raiding population, what proportion of the “potential max DPS” for their spec they achieve has a lot more to do with the player’s skill than their spec. So what a Patchwerk fight would show, for a typical raid, is which players do more damage when they don’t have to move. I’m ok with that as a test, but I can see that the value changes depending on your perspective.

          • WeWhoEat says:

            I think we share the same perspective , I’m not in an elite guild by any means and the same DPSers in my guild are on top, even if they’re playing their alts because player skill > all. Well except when I’m tanking in the alysrazor fight because my DPS is just that uber :) :)

            My point is a little similar to my feeling I wrote on the beth encounter. Simple patchwerk fights are extremely shallow in play value, you bang your raid against it tweaking things here and there to get the collective raid DPS to succeed and when you do, its a great thrill, but once you do reach it its one shot city and a very boring fight. Fights with more mechanics or splitting up of the raid can stay “treacherous” for much longer in a raid’s life cycle. They continue to test player skill as well as provide more opportunities for raid saving moments and on the fly tactical decision making which to me is the key to what makes raiding fun.

            Patchwerk is a very scientific fight, I like encounters that are a lot more of an artform.

            • Malevica says:

              I love your use of the word “treacherous” :D

              And yeah, I think we’re coming from the same place. Especially about the replayability of Patchwerk fights, which is very good point. I tend to think more about the first time you kill them, where those types of fights (as long as they’re a small component) do provide a good sense of progression because you can look at how close you are to the enrage and you can see and measure the improvement each time, whereas I don’t know how clear that sense of progression is with some of the more binary gimmick fights. But once you’ve killed it, you’re right that the more unique fights provide a continuing challenge.

              Interestingly, one of the posts I read and linked to that started me thinking was complaining about gimmick fights specifically because they couldn’t be soloed or trivialised by an overpowered group in the future. He objected strongly to encounters that stay treacherous over a longer time period.

  4. Goodmongo says:

    This is where I disagree with you. Putracide was a gimick fight. And much of what you desscribe are gimmick fights. You are confusing your definition of fun with gimmick.

    The old fights as you describe them were hard or easy based on how much damage, threat and heals the group did in relation to the boss and usually a timer. it wasn’t so much a dance step or simon says strategy as it was pushing your stat. For example bosses had a required dps throughput that was needed to beat an enrage timer or some other things that would wipe the raid. This meant the DPS had to unload but the tank had to put out high TPS and the DPS had to dump threat etc etc. If you were a noob in your class you didn’t put out the dps/threat/heals necessary. But eventually gear helped to overcome the thresholds.

    Today you can be in iLvl 900 and misplace a single step and the whole raid insta dies. If Blizz really wanted to make things harder they would have made the classes harder. Today a noob and a pro in the same gear do about 98% of each other’s dps. Where have the John F’n Madden feral kitties or the affliction locks of old gone too? Almost everything is played more like the Shadow Bolt locks of TBC or a mage.

    • Malevica says:

      That’s similar to Malchome’s definition, which was that a gimmick fight couldn’t be soloed in tiers or expansions to come. That’s one definition, but even working by that sort of definition most of the Firelands fights actually aren’t gimmick fights.

      Let’s actually consider the fights in Firelands given arbitrary gear levels (or ilvl900, which would be several expansions into the future):
      Beth – The AoE damage is healable given enough gear. You could entirely ignore the upper level eventually, but even with current gear you can afford to battle-res the upstairs tank, or have them be delayed in their climb up, etc, so a mistake isn’t game over at all.
      Shannox – The bleed damage on the tanks is healable up to fairly high stacks, so you can be pretty sloppy on the traps mechanic and still get a kill. Given enough gear, you could choose to ignore the mechanic and just heal through the bleed or kill the dogs and heal through the enrage without much trouble.
      Rhyolith – I’d accept this one as a gimmick. Don’t steer him and you wipe. However, maybe in “ilvl 900 gear” you could heal/tank through it though. There’s where the hyperbole rather spoils your point.
      Baleroc – Probably also a gimmick fight, but certainly gear helps here. You do need stacks as a tank to take the 250k hit, but maybe in the next expansion that’ll be fine, so again your “ilvl 900″ thing doesn’t hold up too well.
      Alysrazor – Not a gimmick fight. Maybe as soon as the next tier we’ll not need to bother sending someone up, it’s just a bit of bonus DPS, after all.
      Staghelm – No insta-wipe mechanic here either. You could easily out-heal the damage given enough gear, even if you never got him to switch forms.

      The point is that, given arbitrary gear, say one or two expansions down the road, all of these encounters may well be trivialised. There isn’t a single real raid-wiping mechanic in there that couldn’t theoretically be out-healed, just like we don’t need to spell-reflect Kael’thas’s fire ball any more. Plus, if we’re talking old content, try ignoring Vashj’s immunity mechanic, and percentage-base effects like Infest are harder to deal with in Cataclysm than in Wrath.

      You describe Putricide as a gimmick fight, but by a definition involving arbitrary gear levels he isn’t. Given enough HP you can ignore the plague because it won’t be able to kill you, nor will the oozes. Maybe it still kills you a tier, or maybe an expansion, after it was current, but it’s not an insta-wipe, and it’s theoretically possible to ignore it. It wasn’t even an insta-wipe at the time, my old guild got heroic kills despite having some people consistently die to plague ticks.

      I think that you’re trying to draw some sort of definitive line between a gimmick and a mechanic, when in reality it’s partly a question of definition, and partly a question of preference, which makes that line blurry at best and non-existent at worst. A mechanic that is disliked becomes pejoratively labelled as a “gimmick”, those of which you approve are ignored. I gave my definition, and assessed the fights on that basis, just as others assessed the fights based on their own definition. You appeared to set up a definition and then incorrectly applied it and ended up classifying most of the fights as gimmick fights, even when your own definition says they’re not.

      What you’re describing as, presumably, an encounter design of which you approve, is just a tank and spank with some adds to kill and some fire to stay out of. As I’ve said before, those mechanics are so routine that people would complain if that was all we were given. What’s more, they’re binary in a different way: bang your head against it for a few weeks, until your “gear x skill” product is high enough, and you get it down. Then ever after it’s easy. If you like that style, and I like the odd fight like that too as part of the mix, then hope for some more like it. But remember that other people don’t find that fulfilling week after week and like their raids not to be trivialised during the same tier at least, and their preference is just as valid as anyone else’s.

      As for the last comment, that’s simply ridiculous. Are you really saying that if you handed a Paragon healer my toon he’d do basically the same healing as me to within a percent or two? Skill is a far bigger differentiator than you’re giving it credit for, and you could demonstrate that to yourself easily enough in a few minutes with some log parses.

      • Goodmongo says:

        You miss my point. I should have never used iLvl900 as that caused you to focus on the number and not the idea behind it. After WRATH some (not all) complained that the fights were too easy. Now Blizz has two options to make things harder. One approach is from the mob or boss side and the other is from the class or player side.

        Blizz was already going down the path of homogenizing all classes and to make them easy to play. Long gone were the John F’n Madden of feral kitties or the affliction lock of old. Too often a complete noob using the same gear would generate 98% of the DPS that an expert in the class did. Rotations were eased and some became a two button mash fest.

        So that meant to hake things harder Blizz had to make the mobs harder. They decided to do this by upping the encounter awareness requirement. No longer is is a simple kill add and don’t step in stuff. In fact Blizz added even more ground effects to try and confuse people. Is that green spot on the ground friendly or hurtful? Not to mention the blue, white and other colors. All of this contributes to their decision on how they will make a fight harder.

        The reason i say Putricide is a gimmick fight is because even in iLvl100000 you can still die. See he has a timer and your miss rate goes up as you step in or run over the vials. So you never hit him and the enrage timer eventually kills you.

        But it is even more than that. I classify a gimmick fight as any fight where the mechanics of the fight determine if you win or lose. It doesn’t come down to how well or how much DPS/TPS/Heals you do.

        I would much rather have a tank/spank where you win or lose based on how well you play your class. A fight where the boss requires all DPS to push their limits while NOT taking agro and the DPS dumpin it at strategic times is much better than flying around on some platform and trying to swipe at a mob. But since the noob and pro do the same DPS this type of fight fails.

        Just going back to WRATH and looking at feral cats, raid leaders were afraid to take them. The reason was most had poor DPS. But when someone came along that knew how to play the class the spec shot up to the top or near the top.

        WOW to me is now testing a completly different skill set. It is more of the “can you run do flips and launch a fireball all at the same time” vs the other skill set of knowing when and where to use the fireball.

        As with everything in life some will like the changes and other won’t. For those liking the changes they have stuck with WOW. But topics like this are popping up to explain why over a million people have quit WOW in less than a year.

        • WeWhoEat says:

          “Too often a complete noob using the same gear would generate 98% of the DPS that an expert in the class did.”

          Please stop using this statement because its completely baseless. I consistently see player skill trumping all kinds of gear levels, where the same players regardless of which geared alt they bring are topping our DPS charts and WoL is choke full of logs that prove you wrong. Seems like you’re calling the days where complicated quirks in class mechanics which were found by players and never intended by design is the heyday of class design?

          • Goodmongo says:

            It is not baseless. The logs do not make reference or seperate the data by gear so you can’t use them as evidence. And the actiual fight usually means the noob is dead because they don’t know the fight. All of that has zero to do with DPS throughput.

            Go on the target dummies and you can pick just about any class and do just as well in 5 minutes as the expert playing the class for years.

            Exactly how hard is it to play a combat rogue or a frost mage? The differences you see in logs or firsst hand proves my point that the mechanics are now what rules encounters. In the past the skill was how well you know your class. Now it’s how well you can react to the encounter mechanics. And this is further supported by your observation that some players goin on alts survive and do better in the fight then others. It’s no longer knowing you class that matters but instead knowing the gimmick required or having zero lag to move fast enough.

            • WeWhoEat says:

              WoL shows uptimes, deaths, etc. These are not low damage figures because of death or gear, skill is the primary factor. Take this parse for instance (http://www.worldoflogs.com/reports/rt-5rnogxol209haqc6/sum/damageDone/?s=97&e=488): All similarly geared individuals, large variation in skill. The shannox fight doesn’t really favor many specs (except that shadow priest on top is obviously multi dotting well, but hey the other one isn’t… player skill) And no one here succumbed to a crystal trap except icedemon and he still out DPSed a whole bunch of people.

              And no, my observation (player regardless of toon DPS) doesn’t support your argument, it shows that a good player can pick up and play a class well even at a dramatic gear disadvantage and that bad players will continue to underperform.

              And get over your love of target dummies and patchwerk style fights, that gamplay is so passe. Players are excepted to put up high DPS while doing other things now. As Bruce Lee so eloquently put it “boards (target dummies) don’t hit back”…

              Player skill is not a rounding error, player skill trumps everything else in this game. Its just that it no longer takes months of study and combat logs analysis to uncover the priority system of max DPS for a spec, its now something that’s actually been created by a designer at blizzard. Clipping dots, swing timers, figuring out which debuffs to put up because a boss can only hold a handful, powershifting, etc are all gaming quirks of the system, they are not intended or even desired game mechanics and the game is far better today because they’ve been fixed.

              The story isn’t how blizzard’s lost a million subscriber’s in less than a year, its how blizzard hasn’t lost nearly 100% of its subscribers in around 7 years unlike pretty much every other game out there.

        • Malevica says:

          Well first of all, people can only judge your argument by what you actually say, so if you frame your argument in terms of a set of parameters, those are what it will be assessed on.
          In any case, I did try to base my response not purely on the number (which I realise was a semi-random number chosen for effect), but on the general concept of “very high gear levels”, and I took the range of permissible gear levels to include an expansion. Essentially I considered the fights of today in the same position as TBC or Wrath fights are now.

          Anyway, to your earlier stuff first.

          In Wrath there was definitely a sense that raids had been opened up to the masses a lot more, and they probably were easier than the equivalent encounters in TBC, at least Naxx and the normal modes were, and you’re right in saying that they can either make the player or boss side harder.

          I’d probably agree that classes have generally been streamlined over the years (although I understand “homogenizing” them to mean spreading buffs, “potential DPS” and utility around, which doesn’t really impact on ease of playing them). The much-touted philosophy is “easy to learn, difficult to master”, which means that, yes, most people should be able to pick up a class, do a spot of reading and a bit of testing and then perform adequately with that class, which could be translated as “made easier” and might be what’s underlying your impression that “noobs” and “pros” do similar damage. The other thing to bear in mind here is that the range and quality of resources available in terms of simulations, theorycraft and optimisers is many times greater than it was in Vanilla or TBC, so there is a greater expectation that people will be able to find out their optimum stat distribution and rotation. That inevitably acts to narrow the gap between the top and the average, effectively pulling up the average players while the very best were always min/maxed anyway. Not as close as you’re claiming, but closer than it ever has been, certainly.

          The design philosophy for raiding that was adopted for Wrath and Cata was that most raid groups made up of average players in average gear should be able to do enough damage, healing or have enough survivability to get through the normal modes of encounters, given a modicum of common sense, reading around and some attention to what works. As a result, the classes and raids have been tuned together so that the average player can probably perform well enough to beat the normal mode encounters without too much difficulty. I think this is where your view of what the design philosophy should be and Blizzard’s diverge. No one’s right or wrong here: you’re thinking about the game you like to play, they designed the game they thought more people wanted to play, that’s all.

          If you accept that that’s Blizzard’s design goal, at least for normal modes, then an average player in average gear with an average level of class knowledge can beat an encounter’s technical demands (DPS, HPS etc). So you need to add in something else as a challenge such as, as you say, upping the encounter awareness requirement. Some of that has also to be attributed to addons like DBM (I saw a Blue comment on this, but I’ve no idea where the link is any more). When everyone has a massive “get out of the fire” warning, “interrupt now” instruction and “switch to adds” command in the middle of their screen at the appropriate times, and range-finders so spreading out takes no guesswork, those mechanics are less of a challenge than they once were in the earlier days. So to make them more of a challenge they have to require quicker reactions or make getting it wrong more punishing.
          Or they can add new mechanics that require you to learn new skills (vehicle type fights, or fights where you have to work in 3D like Alys or Dreamwalker) or get you to look at your surroundings and make decisions about what’s safe to stand in, or make you pay more attention to your positioning or your debuffs. All of this is trying to provide new challenges for bored raiders who have got very good at the old mechanics and where most people can go find out what their “optimal” rotation is and perform it competently.

          You say you’d rather have “a tank/spank where you win or lose based on how well you play your class. A fight where the boss requires all DPS to push their limits while NOT taking agro and the DPS dumpin it at strategic times”. This idea has already come up in these comments. First, these fights are just not compatible with the aforementioned design philosophy, because in order to be manageable for the average raid, by definition 50% of players would find him to be no real challenge, they’d do their thing and beat him every time, while the other 50% would be stuck until they geared up (or skilled up) enough to beat him, then they’d be where the first 50% were. These fights just aren’t interesting week after week. They’re great while you’re progressing, but they lose their appeal afterwards. Think about VoA and the derision that got aimed in that direction when the mechanics were too simplistic, or how boring the Gunship Battle fight was each week.

          Now, the above refers to normal modes. Heroic modes are where the gloves come off, and the developers are free to up the skill requirement again. That’s pretty much why they’re in the game in the first place. You really do need to push your DPS harder than average and eke out a bit more healing throughput, coordinate cooldowns properly, etc. Note that, as well as adding slightly trickier mechanics, the heroic versions also buff boss damage output and HP by ~30%, so they absolutely do require better DPS/HPS and survivability – these fights do test class skill, they just add a bit on top as well. And because there’s no expectation that an average player can beat them they can require a level of refinement far higher than was ever required of you when raids were a single difficulty. The end of heroic ICC was a lot more demanding than the end of the Black Temple, and there were some similarly complicated encounters in both (according to GuildProgress 10.48% of guilds killed heroic LK on either size, 1.51% on 25-man; that compares to 18.35% that killed Illidan).

          Finally, on gimmick fights, I’m a bit confused by your Putricide example. Are you saying that if you ignored avoiding the vials that you wouldn’t be able to kill him regardless of gear so therefore he’s a gimmick fight? If so it’s a pretty extreme definition if you have to be able to ignore every mechanic and still win. Dying to Putricide is absolutely not inevitable, the mechanics aren’t deciding if you win or lose – you are; just do what every tank did in Wrath and walk him off the vials while hitting him and you’ll never get hit by one so you’ll always hit him, and in your super high gear he’ll be dead in no time. Or just heal through his berserk, it’s only 500% increased damage and people were killing him after the berserk timer in Wrath; just throw more gear at it and you’re golden.
          A counter-example: Mimiron. Those rocket strikes are an insta-kill if you stand in one. To me that’s just a simple “get out of the fire” mechanic (albeit with a fairly high penalty for failure), not a gimmick; by your Putricide logic though that might become a gimmick because even an expansion or two later the mechanics can determine if you win or lose.
          I can’t even go through the Firelands bosses again for you because the answer I’d give depends on your definition which is still not clear. If you’re allowing any gear level you like then even Rhyolith becomes a tank and spank, there’s just some heavy damage to heal through. If you mean that the encounter mechanics alone determine whether you live or die in level-appropriate gear, that’s a very different question, one I dealt with in my original post.

          As I said before I can see where you’re coming from, you’d prefer to be tested more on your class knowledge and skill than on your ability to operate within your environment or move to a precise spot at a precise time or multitask and so on. I understand that, and it’s a real disappointment when we realise the game we once loved has been shifting under our feet and isn’t pressing our buttons any more. All I’d say is that there is a logic behind the changes, and like it or not the target audience is changing too. Some people are leaving WoW, some are joining. I can understand long-time players feeling that the game has just changed too much, but I think it’s also true that we’ve changed a lot as players as well. If other games work better for who we are now, then that’s their gain and WoW’s loss.

          • Goodmongo says:

            Please don’t misunderstand me. While I have a preference for how fights should go I realize others have different thoughts. I’m not syaing mine is superior, only differenet.

            Much of what you wrote I agree with. In my noob vs pro DPS equation I used target dummies because if you use encounters you are not measuring stratight DPS but instead measuring DPS in a mechanic induced fight. Of course the pro will be better simply because if you need to run away the noob will be slower getting back or run too far or other things that impact the fight DPS. But just standing still blasing a target dummy is a better indicator of how hard the class itself is without outside influences.

            While Blizz has stated that the normal modes are supposed to let a normal player with average skill and average gear beat the encounter two recent developments indicate that even Blizz thinks they missed the mark. The first one is the recent nerfs announced. And in the blue post Blizz said that they felt not enough guilds and players have seen content and are behind where Blizz thought they should be. This is for both normal and heroic levels. This is admission that the encounters are too hard for too many people in Blizzard’s opinion.

            The other piece of news is that in 4.3 they are inplementing a looking for raid tool that uses a new thrid level of difficulty. This will be easier than normal mode to help players get used to the mechanics of the fight.

            Both of these tidbits go back to my points that Blizz has changed direction in what skills they are testing. No longer are they testing knowledge of your class but now are testing situational awareness. And you hit on a very major point. Addons. Remember the banned addons in WRATH that should you exactly where to move to on some fights? How these were first banned and then Blizz made coding changes to prevent them from working.

            So what you have here is a pro guild that goes out and has everyone install all the latest and greatest addons for the fights. But the casual guild doesn’t. Now you may argue that they should and have to. But Blizz is actually against them. So a non-pro player has one or maybe no addons. They have slower reactions to a move command to pick up add command. And THAT is a gimmick. What if I’m playing with 450ms lag? Even with the addon I’m dead if not given enough time to move. Not everyone plays with the best computer on a T1.

            Over the last 9 months Blizzard has nad a net loss over over 1.2 million subscribers. They are in the business to make money. It’s not so much that they have 10 million subscribers but that they should have 11.2 million, or whatever the numbers are. Some of those quitting have left the reason that raids are too hard or too gimicky. That is one reason this topic has come up. It’s great that some like it this way. I’m not against people enjoying themselves. But Blizz also has concrens. And to their credit they are trying to resolve that.

            Will it come back to what I like most? Probably not. But that’s OK as long as other changes are made to fix or resolve concerns I and other players have.

            I’ve gotten into tons of arguments with the pros. I used to be in a top 25 US guild. I know what it takes but my RL changed and so my gamming changed. That’s OK. But here’s a little secret that I learned. The number of pros are way way less then the number of casual and to be honest poor players. So if you were in a business would you cater to the 100 pros or the 1000 poor to average customers? yes you try to do both but nothing is ever even so you lean toward the 1000.

            • Malevica says:

              I feel like we’re meeting in the middle, which is always a good place to be. If I gave the impression I thought you were being elitist or selfish I didn’t intend to. You have your preference, I have mine, and they’re all different. And you’re quite welcome to stick up for your own preference, here or anywhere.

              I take your point that the skill set that’s being tested is now very definitely “doing your optimal rotation while moving or dealing with encounter mechanics” instead of “doing your optimal rotation”, and I agree that that’s mostly because the rotations have been changed to be more forgiving, probably to satisfy the majority who found it frustrating to have to spend so much time to do acceptable DPS. I don’t know if I think it’s quite 98% close, but certainly if you find out how to gear, gem and spec and you can repeat a set of spells over and over at a dummy a “noob” and a pro will do vaguely comparable DPS. That’s where your point about the Affliction Warlocks etc came in. I remember being that Warlock in early TBC, staring at DoTimer and trying to keep the plates spinning and it was fun, it was rewarding when I felt I was beginning to master it and could see the numbers creeping up. Looking back at that experience I agree that the learning curve probably has become a lot shallower at the average DPS end.

              I think, as I sense you do, that everything else sort of flowed from that design decision to make rotations more forgiving. I can understand why it was made, whether I agree with it or not. But because it’s easier to pick up a class and do OK with it, the way challenge has been added is by throwing more mechanics at you. I find, personally, that after 4 years of playing this class/spec it’s become fairly natural to me (although I’m by no means a pro) and I like the mechanical disruptions that make me adapt my “rotation” to perform well while dealing with them. But of course that’s not going to please everyone.

              I agree with you, I don’t think we’ll ever see a return to the days when testing player skill alone, rather than in conjunction with numerous mechanics, is the most prominent part of an encounter. The game has just moved on too far. Imagine the outcry that would ensue if they told people that their rotations would become a lot more time-critical or rely on greater decision-making or whatever. Overnight the vast majority of the player base would feel nerfed. It’s like a ratchet, it’s easy to buff, but much harder to nerf. And given that assumption, fights with simpler mechanics are, in my opinion, likely to stay as the exception.

              The LFR mode does raise interesting options for the developers though. You could set the mechanics up so that if your latency or reaction time is deemed too high or you can’t run the current shiny warnings and alerts addon you can still complete the content in LFR form, and that would allow the normal mode difficulty to be brought back up to where the above-average but not pro guilds could realistically work their way through it, and leave heroic fights for the pretty good and clearing heroic for the pros. It should also mean, as someone (whom I can’t find in my GReader at the moment) said today, that there’ll be less of a need to nerf content while we’re still working at it because it’s still possible to see everything in some form in the easier LFR mode.

              I’m OK with the idea of minimum latency, framerate or reaction time for certain modes and certain content, as long as there’s enough gradation in the difficulty scale. Make mechanics too forgiving and they’re boring for people who can handle them; make them not forgiving enough and you alienate people who can’t beat them through no fault of their own; so instead you allow players to pick the difficulty to suit their circumstances. I mean, if I went to play an FPS game and could only get 5-10 frames per second I’d expect to struggle at the harder difficulty modes and I’m OK with that. I’d just play through on the mode that gives me the appropriate amount of challenge while allowing me to feel like I’ll probably win if I play well. MMOs don’t have as many difficulty options, which hopefully Blizzard are working to improve on. Ulduar-style multi-level hard modes (e.g. FL, Freya) were a nice idea that I’d like to see make a return too.

              It might even be enough to help retain more subscribers and that can only be a good thing, barring unintended consequences of course!

              • Goodmongo says:

                I never did answer the question on why I thought Putricide was a gimick fight. So here goes. It’s been over a year so my memory might be a little off.

                But I remember that for 2 or 3 solid weeks the guild I was in kept dying on this heroic fight. The big issue was in passing the plague. Sometimes people would be out of reach, other times the next in line would be targeted by the ooze and that caused a mess up. Other times the one running from the orange ooze would move too close and take the plague. Bottom line is this plague mechanic would get us. After at least 50 (probably more like 100) wipes a solution was found.

                We would simply let the person with the plague die. This setup a timer where the plague wouldn’t come out for I think 2 more minutes. We b-rezzed him and basically ignored that mechanic for the rest of the fight as we were now in phase three.

                This solution worked like a charm and heroic Putricide went on farm. But our solution didn’t involve dps or heals or even the ‘correct’ thing to do. We came up with a gimmick to beat the fights gimmick. And that is why I felt the fight was a gimmick.

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