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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Rant: Gimmick Raid Bosses

Posted by Paragus1 Thursday June 21 2007 at 7:33PM
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Rant: Gimmick Raid Bosses

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a raid boss in some MMO, and you stop, and sort of have a time-slowing moment where you look around and wonder who thought this boss was a good idea as you watch your friends being slaughtered by some over-the-top gimmick?  Well as you probably guessed by now, I have, and it used to happen to me on a regular basis being a guild / raid leader.

What Went Wrong?

Now I've been trying to figure out what or where we went wrong.   I remember raiding in games a long time ago and never having to do some of the Special Olympic activities that I made to put my guild through in World of Warcraft raids.  Somewhere between the distant past and the present, something has gone horribly wrong with raid boss design. 

Now I know there are going to be a lot of people who read this who may actually like a raid boss that involved hopping on your left foot, on the third tile from the left, while spinning around in a circle, while juggling half a dozen eggs (which aren't allowed to break!!), while humming the tune of Super Mario, and DPSing with your feet to win.  If your one of those types of people more power to you!  Maybe your praying the new instance will have you playing a game of twister against the boss to win!   I'm going to blow chunks all over my monitor if I need to do something this ever again.

There is a definite difference between a gimmick and a theme though.   I don't mind a boss with a theme, it's to be expected.   Not every raid boss can be a single target tank-and-spank.   I would expect a fight like Ragnaros to be all about fire flying everywhere, after all he is the Lord of Fire.  I've decided that the test to decide if a boss is too gimmicky is if you can see Bob Barker on "The Price is Right" making one of his contestants do what you are to win a new dining room set.  Bob Barker must have been hired a long time ago as a side gig designing raid bosses for MMOs because they just keep getting dumber and dumber.   I'm waiting to walk into a boss fight and see a giant money wheel that I only get to spin 2 times and hope I get it to add up to $1 without going over.

Both EQ2 and WoW are guilty of helping to pioneer this new trend in raids.  In a PvE oriented game, it is only natural that the top of the end game will most likely consist of large groups of players raiding super raid bosses or Gods, or even small size encounters against super villains for what will be the best loot.  When we look at the MMO genre as a whole, we can see that there are definitely 2 different raid encounter designs, the old and the new.

The way it was....

When I think of the old, I think of most of the PvE oriented MMOs from Everquest 1 up to and including FFXI.   Bosses had some themes and pretty wicked moves in their arsenal of attacks, but it didn't really cross that line where it had degenerated into a 3 ring circus.  I remember fighting one of the old God's in EQ1 before the age of Ventrilo and voice chat.   The pre-fight run down went something like......first guy in gets a death touch and will be killed instantly, rest of you are going to get your salad tossed around the room with some knockbacks and damage.  He maybe 1 or 2 other moves and we went in and had a fun fight!  FFXI had some really nice small scale encounters that gave you the same epic feel as a large one.  I remember fighting the Arch Duke of Jeuno, an epic story boss encounter, and it was a blood bath but a ton of fun, and we didn't have to bust out the twister game, the money wheel, or a 30 min pre-fight explanation.

The way it is....

Somewhere along the lines, Blizzard consulted Bob Barker, and the face of raiding as we know it has changed.  I remember back in the day working through Molten Core for the first time when it was the cutting edge of the games content.  I think my head exploded for the first time, literally, when I had to train my guild to defeat Baron Geddon.  After screaming in ventrilo telling my guildmates "YOU ARE THE BOMB! RUN! OMFG, RUN YOU DUMB BASTARD! NO, NOT THIS WAY! NOOOOO!   YOU DUMB MOTHER F...!" I started to seriously wonder why I was subjecting myself to Kindercare playground activities.  As more instances opened up and more bosses got revealed, the trend was becoming more and more obvious.   BWL's first room had us kiting 40 mobs in a small room, while mind controlling, while breaking eggs, while standing in the corners, while running in circles, while dropping traps, while targeting the mages just to get past phase 1 of the first mob in the instance.

Impact on the Genre

1)  Voice chat programs like ventrilo and teamspeak have become 100% mandatory for every person in order to have a chance of success against elaborate and silly gimmicks.   Just explaining these fights in a chat box by typing before the fight would take an hour.  Then trying to explain the path to conquer them would waste even more time.

2)  The more gimmicky a fight becomes, the less the skill of the actual player comes into account.   The fight becomes far less about playing your class well, and turns more into a circus of players trying to step and jump and click the exact way a dev demands.   This leaves almost no room for strategy variations.  We see this in WoW when a new boss is killed.  Once the gimmick is explained, everyone kills him the next day because it has nothing to do with skill.

3)  Players will be forced to take matters into their own hands in the form of raid mods.   These mods often time dominate the end game raiding scene, and remove the frustration of poorly conceived boss encounters.  In WoW, I watched as CT Mod used decurssive to remove the challenge out of half of the fights, then took it even further with CT Raid mods having giant pop ups.   These mods then become mandatory for all players.  These mods will then be made shortly after every new boss is introduced and ultimately trivialize ALL encounters, not just the gimmicky ones.

The way it should be...

At the end of the day, these types of activities can turn a lot of players off to your end game as a developer.  If your end game is stupid, people will quit once they reach it.  Nobody wants to be forced to go download third party program to play your game.   As a developer you shouldn't be forced into designing encounters with these programs in mind.   There needs to be a happy medium somewhere between the raids of old, and giving the encounters a theme.   Don't overdo it.   People are getting turned off to the idea of raiding, and it can be heard in the buzz leading up to a new MMO release.   It can be fun without crossing into the boundary of silly.  If I wanted to fight silly encounters, I'd go play Zelda.

Co-Leader of Inquisition

Celer_Mortis writes: Yep, I agree. Though I think VoIp is a good thing for MMOs, I don't think it should be used to figure out the boss puzzle, but just for actual skill based strategy. Fri Jun 22 2007 1:22PM Report
BaronJuJu writes: I have watched a few videos of raid prep and end boss take downs. How the hell can that be fun? Some guy screaming because I didn't move to spot "X" on que? LOL. yeah whatever. No skill involved just a well choreographed dance routine. Hit, hit move...hit, hit move...side step heal...fireball and twirl... Fri Jun 22 2007 3:12PM Report
vajuras writes:

I'm not really a proponent of raiding at all in their current form. I'd really love for someone to explain in more depth (in a blog, etc) what they enjoy about raids from their favorite MMO besides just acquiring the uber items. Well guess I could ask our producer which is a hardcore WoW raider. Anyway sorry for the rambling this was a great article nontheless lol. It reminded of our old WoW raids where the raid lead used to yell and curse us out on vent. Was funny when our main tank fell asleep once I got us all wiped by a trash mob lol. Yeah, I hate raiding man. I'd be open to raiding in Guild Wars tho cause its more for fun and flashy looking items. doesnt impact PVP ina  bad way

Tue Jul 03 2007 2:55AM Report
Skuldin writes:

It's called the lowest common denominator. WoW is the factory job of MMOs and thus the majority of people in the world are happy to have factory (blue collar) jobs of repitition to achieve what they want in life (paying bills, buying that fancy 1988 Camaro etc).  Raiding isn't about skill it's about the most addictive form of work/reward in psychology; the random payout.  It's why slot machines and gambling have hotlines.  You keep killing the same stupid boss over and over hoping for 'X Item of the TItans' will drop. 

Fri Jul 06 2007 5:10PM Report
Sykomyke writes:

Hmm, while I agree that encounters in World of Warcraft are not exciting there's no need to scream at people regardless...

You sure you weren't he guy who screamed at some guy and made the famous "MINUS 50 DKP" video?

Sat Sep 08 2007 1:15PM Report
Kedoremos writes:

Sykomyke, after 6 hours of Karazhan it's amazing what comes out of your mouth when you're leading. When you spend 10-20 minutes every hour just replacing people. When you spend 40-50g on repairs (which you have to spend hours doing dailys just to pay for). When you week after week don't get anything, yeah, you're going to scream at little Johnny the 14 year old Shadow Priest because he's not watching his fucking threat while DPSing the Curator and causing yet another God damn wipe.

Wed Jan 16 2008 9:10AM Report
Paragus1 writes:

Exactly Kedoremos!   Unless you have had the pleasure of trying to train 40 people to jump through all the gimmicks please don't back seat raid lead.   Once my guild raids got on track and I started taking a few nights off, I let other people lead.   They quickly had a new found respect for me when they had to coordinate everything and at the same time deal with the undercurrent of nonsense that goes on while you are trying to get things done.

Wed Jan 16 2008 9:36AM Report
Thradar writes:

God.  That picture of Geddon makes me want to stab my eyes out.  I've found that there is no real inherent challenge in raid bosses.  They are all tank and spank with a twist or gimmick thrown in.  The difficult part of raiding is getting 10-40 dumbfucks to do the same simple thing.  It's usually "run away" or "get out of the fire" or "group up" or something inanely simple.  How fucking hard can that be?  VERY hard...I've witness more raids wipe by idiots than I care to count.  This is why I don't raid anymore.

Mon Jul 21 2008 11:51AM Report
Gennai writes:

Reply to Thradar:  So don't raid with idiots.

Tue Oct 20 2009 2:38PM Report
aimsux3214 writes: "The more gimmicky a fight becomes, the less the skill of the actual player comes into account. " First off this is totally untrue.  Learning how to play your character while having to think of 5 other things takes way more skill then mashing your dps/threat/healing rotation.  Also you mentioned that its ok if a fight is themed but shouldn't be gimmicky.  I know this is an old post so I think you should look up HM mimiron, Algolon, and Lich King fights.  Are these gimmicky or themed?   Anyways most people who really raid love these fights.  Noobs however will never see them because they won't even get past the tank and spank bosses like onyixia. Sun Jul 11 2010 1:10PM Report writes:
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