Sunday, 29 March 2009

Raiding, hard modes and achievements

A lot has been said recently about hard modes and how unsatisfying some raiders find them. Axiom talks about them as a victory for casuals. Vads is frustrated that progression means more gameplay in the same damned instance.

I won't rehearse the pros of hard modes, just let's say it's a model that very much suits Blizzard and it's unlikely they will relent.

To enjoy the game you need to move on I think from boss kill-centred raiding to hard mode focussed raiding. If you're in a very strong raid guild then boss kills will be interesting only for about 3 weeks after each patch, you will then have them on farm.

Hard modes are interesting because they add complexity. Sarth 3D is every bit as absorbing and taxing as Vashj was. In fact in some ways it's more demanding because you have to multi-task a lot of different things all the way through as opposed to Vashj where for each person your job was simple at each phase (eg phase 5: heal tank, don't stand in green crap).

In terms of the actual gameplay there is nothing worse about hardmodes. Here is my to do list on our Sarth 3d kill as a Holy Paladin:
- heal drake tank. My healing is a blend of Flash of Light and Holy Light, while keeping Sacred Shield up all the time and using Divine Plea whenever it feels safe to do so.
- don't stand in front of drake and get breathed on
- beacon adds tank
- off-heal second drake tank
- dodge lava walls
- move out of void zones
- get beat up by adds a little
- keep Sarth in a focus window and track his flame breath casts so I can identify the third cast after Vesperon lands.
- HoSac the main tank in time for that 3rd breath

That's a very very complex raid encounter. By contrast Vashj, which is cited by Vads as a complex fight had 5 distinct phases which almost all broke down to
- stand in the right place (ie by the post during the volleyball phase, not in the green shit during the dont die in green shit phase)
- heal

There were raid encounters as constantly demanding as Sarth 3D before Lich King of course, Kil Jaeden is a good example. But most weren't.

What I'm saying, and this is part of the reason why this particular Pandora's Box will never get closed again is that you can't point to gameplay reasons why doing a hardmode is a worse playing experience than doing a harder instance. You can say you don't like being in the same instance which is a cosmetic objection, you can complain that everyone else has purples which is a status reason but I don't think you can say your gameplay is worse simply because of hard modes.

I'm looking forward to Ulduar hard modes. I think this concept is still a work in progress and will get a lot better quite quickly. The hard modes of 3.3 will be a lot more interesting and sophisticated than Sarth 3 D no doubt.

Achievements however I'm less sold on.

Most raid achievements involve doing a raid fight in some kind of sub-optimal way. Undermanning, not bothering with your Frost Resist gear, missing out key tricks that are supposed to be part of the fight (eg dispelling enrages at Faerlina). The raid leader in me says "argggh, I spent 4 years teaching people to raid and now they get encouraged to screw up fights on purpose????? arggggh!"

The only raid achievements I like are the Do The Fight Better achievements like You Don't Have an Eternity which requires you to kill Malygos in under 6 minutes. Being rewarded for doing the fight better is great. But there are far too many reward people for Doing the Fight Badly or perhaps worse of all the Bench Some of Your Friends for the Night, Sorry! achievements which are extremely badly thought out.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with this post. :) I have really enjoyed some of the achievements in raids (killing the 4 horsemen at the same time, 18 aboms during KT, etc) and hated some of them that tell you to "play badly" or do something silly, like die early on Sarth for "got to go when the volcano blows" or find a way to give a healer a killing blow on a Scion.

    It looks like they are wising up a bit with the Ulduar achievements at least. The glory of the raider only requires hard modes, not the goofy achievements, and I haven't yet seen one that encourages you to die at the beginning of the pull.