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drew
Automatic
Premium
join:2002-07-10
Port Orchard, WA
kudos:6

[Cataclysm] Post Mortem on Dungeons/Raids

quote:
As a part of our post mortem series on Cataclysm, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Encounter Designer Scott “Daelo” Mercer to hear his thoughts on Cataclysm dungeons and raids.

Q. What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?
We really wanted to make sure we were creating new challenges, strong mechanics, and cool creatures while staying true to the expansion and the themes we wanted to carry out. The three raid dungeons came out well and we had a lot of fun bringing the story of Nefarian and the Twilight’s Hammer to life. We were also able to add some dynamic mechanics in Throne of the Four Winds, which featured players moving across multiple platforms.

Q. How did this evolve over the various content patches?
Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman were entertaining raids with diverse mechanics, and they translated well when we converted them into Heroic dungeons for patch 4.1. Interesting mechanics and features that once were restricted to raids are now finding their way into our five-player dungeons.

Adding the Dungeon Journal in patch 4.2 was also a major step forward. We wanted to be able to share more information in the game so that players wouldn’t feel the need to go look everything up on external websites. While those sites are great at what they do, we felt like we needed to try to alleviate the need to go out of the game to find the information players wanted to see.

The addition of Raid Finder in patch 4.3 also opened up more opportunities for players to be able to experience our raid content. The feature has proven to be extremely popular, and not just with people who had given up on raiding. Many players use Raid Finder to gear up their secondary characters, gain Valor for the week, or just because it’s fun.

Q. What do you think worked best?
We’ve been reasonably successful with our tuning across all four raid difficulty modes. There were a few warts here and there, but we delivered on the idea that 10-player and 25-player raids could exist at a similar difficulty. We also had some memorable dungeons and cinematic moments in Cataclysm. I’m particularly fond of the interactive bombing run in Grim Batol involving the red drakes. Players really got a sense of the epic scale of Grim Batol, and how well they performed in the event could make clearing the rest of the dungeon much easier.

With our improved tools and the experience we’ve gained over the years, we’ve become better at finding ways to explain the mechanics of our encounters. Our bosses do a better job of warning players of incoming threats. In Dragon Soul we also began to better inform players of mechanics that caused them to die. Providing a better understanding of the encounters to players is an important goal. We feel that losing to a boss and not understanding why is frustrating, just as beating a boss and not understanding why you won is not as satisfying.

Q. What didn’t work out as planned or expected?
Initially, we started off the Heroic dungeons at too high of a difficulty. The difficulty level rather abruptly changed when compared to the Heroics players experienced at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. This major change caught many players off guard, and frustrated some of them. The difficulty also increased the effective amount of time required to complete a dungeon to a longer experience than we wanted. With the release of patch 4.3 we’re now in a much better place. We’ve always talked about being able to complete a dungeon over lunch, and the Hour of Twilight dungeons get us back to that goal. End Time, Well of Eternity, and Hour of Twilight all provide epic play experiences to our players, but at the real sweet spot of difficulty, complexity, and time commitment.

Q. Was there anything that surprised you about how players reacted to a particular encounter?
Not particularly. Something we’ve learned over the years is to expect the unexpected. The community is very creative and intelligent. The most important thing for us is that players are having fun. They often find interesting ways of approaching things that maybe we didn’t expect, but as long the creative solution is still fun for everyone, we usually don’t have a problem with it.

Q. What have you learned from Cataclysm and what are some of your top goals for Mists of Pandaria?
We learned we could create a crazy encounter like the Spine of Deathwing. It took a lot of hard work from the whole team and it was a difficult design challenge to tackle. How do you orchestrate a fight on the back of a gigantic flying dragon without inducing nausea? How do we make sure you feel like you’re on Deathwing? Delivering that experience was really important and everyone wanted the opportunity to work on it. What was really great was that we launched the story of Cataclysm with the cinematic that showed Deathwing having his elementium plates being put on, then we end the expansion with those very same plates being torn off. It gives some real closure to storyline.

For Mists of Pandaria, we will continue to provide new dungeons and raids while also presenting interesting new types of content in the form of challenge modes and scenarios. Players will also be introduced to new enemies in the Sha, Mogu, and Mantids. Making those creatures come to life will be a lot of fun.

Q. Do you have a favorite dungeon or encounter from Cataclysm?
There are so many. The Conclave of Wind was a great one. Working out interesting mechanics that allowed players to go from platform to platform was a lot of fun and the environment felt really epic. A fight like that was a goal of the encounter team for a very long time.

Blackwing Descent was another favorite and working out the mechanics for the Atramedes fight gave us a lot to think about. How do you create an encounter with a blind dragon that fights? So we gave him sonar and showed the interaction with a sound meter on the player’s UI.

In Bastion of Twilight, we really got to sell the corruption angle on Cho’gall which made for another really interesting fight.

Q. Is there a certain mechanic that you always wanted to do but couldn’t do prior to Cataclysm?
Not really. There are so many cool ideas to work with that I never feel held back. It’s easy to be creatively inspired by the people around you and their energy. It’s never a problem of coming up with ideas. It’s usually deciding which ones we want to go with next, but the possibilities are endless.

Q. Do you have a “dream” dungeon or encounter that you’d like to create if you had the opportunity?
I’ve never felt that I haven’t been able to do the things I want to do. Everyone on the team is completely dedicated to giving us unlimited opportunities to make epic and awesome experiences. But, if I have to mention something, it would be huge giant death robots. We had Mimiron in Ulduar, but you just can’t have too many death robots.

Thank you for your time, Scott.
You’re welcome.

Discuss the latest Cataclysm Post Mortem here.

--
flickr | Of faith, power and glory


Skittles
Premium
join:2011-03-31

said by drew:

Q. What didn’t work out as planned or expected?
Initially, we started off the Heroic dungeons at too high of a difficulty. The difficulty level rather abruptly changed when compared to the Heroics players experienced at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. This major change caught many players off guard, and frustrated some of them. The difficulty also increased the effective amount of time required to complete a dungeon to a longer experience than we wanted.

Mirrors what a lot of folks said about this when this xpac came out, this coupled with the healing changes turned the stomachs of a lot of subscribers....with the end result being a loss of subs as has been thoroughly beaten to death in these forums...

At least Blizzard is being honest about it...now.


JB
Stay Gold
Premium
join:2009-05-14
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Cogeco Cable

It's only a *please* come back wrath babies, we can make more 'heroic' dungeons face roll, please come back!

Freshly dinging 85 and starting heroics was the most fun I ever had in dungeons. It was a bit excessive, but it wouldn't have been that bad if they said 'healing was too easy'. IMO that was really the only thing that was wrong.
--
Here's the final bullet,
to put our love to death.



Skittles
Premium
join:2011-03-31

Cant say I completely agree JB. On its face the Heroics were of good design, as in was Grim Batol fun? yes. Is Grim Batol a heroic I want to do nearly everyday for the forseeable future in order to get badges taking in consideration 40-50 min dps que times with a dungeon that was taking 1+ hours to complete if the PUG wasnt a fail? No, no not at all.
I see where their intent is. They have to make a good heroic, but it has to be repeatable for the massess. I get that you are a progressive raider and Heroics dont mean much to you now and are trivial now because you out gear them, but for most folks those heroics were hard in their original implementation.

The game has changed in so many ways, most of the folks playing now were not around for vanilla, so they are not used to looking for folks for a hour to do a dungeon, 15-20 minutes riding to the dungeon and being in said dungeon for 2 hours or more. The subs now are paying for quick playtime, get in and get out, give me my loot (and that shit better be purple) and my JP/VPs so I can get offline to RL. The game has changed, social and immersive aspect is dying....funny how gaming has revolved back into people wanting to play in brief spurts and move on....Pac-man anyone?


Pali

join:2009-09-02
reply to drew

A. When I run a HC dungeon I'm usually in a guild/competant group. Please make HCs harder because they are faceroll, I want a challenge.

B. When I run a HC dungeon I use the dungeon finder and my group sucks. Please make them easier so I don't waste my time.

Most comments about the dungeon difficulty usually tick either box A or B.



Skittles
Premium
join:2011-03-31

agreed Pali, but as the design is shifting I believe most are checking the B box or the C box which would be:

C. When I run a HC dungeon I'm usually in a guild/competant group. Please make HCs faceroll, I want to get my points and move on since I've already done the heroic 80 times.



JB
Stay Gold
Premium
join:2009-05-14
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Cogeco Cable
reply to Skittles

There's nothing you can do to make dungeons not the 'same ol heroic' except for new content.

I was just saying I really enjoyed the inital challenge of the heroics, and yes, the initial T11 heroics we're a bit overtuned.
--
Here's the final bullet,
to put our love to death.



Treebark
Premium
join:2010-03-04
Havelock, NC
kudos:1

Agreed, My first heroic was Grim Batol with 4 other guildies with cheated gear to get into them. It took a couple of hours, but was a lot of fun.



saillaw
Premium
join:2007-05-08
Dismay
kudos:2

The Cata heroics when they first came out were challenging, but just too damn long. I'd rather have harder, shorter instances. I don't like spending hours to clear a heroic. I do like having to think about CC and strategy.
--
Immergruen to DeathPaladin -- "you still need to change your signature... it's ridiculous."



Skittles
Premium
join:2011-03-31
reply to JB

said by JB:

There's nothing you can do to make dungeons not the 'same ol heroic' except for new content.

I was just saying I really enjoyed the inital challenge of the heroics, and yes, the initial T11 heroics we're a bit overtuned.

I hear you JB. I dont know what can be done to make heroics not the "same ol' thing", maybe random encounters inside the instance...kinda diabloesque randomization of instances.

I did like the initial challenge of the heroics but queue times were killing my rogue and my Holy Priest would literally cry when I pressed the I key to queue...


s1deout
Geek4Life
Premium
join:2003-12-10
Troy, OH
kudos:2

Definately agreed with Random bosses and fights pulled from a queue for the instance. Shouldn't be too hard to code for that.

Granted after x number of times it would get stale but it would last alot longer.

Maybe even have it where if you get an achievement for that boss you get better loot? That would be something I would be interested in doing .



Immer
Gentleman
Premium
join:2010-01-07
Evans, GA
kudos:8
Reviews:
·Comcast

1 edit
reply to Skittles

I think the heroic version of every raid should have at least one boss that was unavailable in normal. Maybe not always of the Sinestra variety, but an extra boss fight somewhere that would fit the storyline of the instance.

edit: i also particularly like the line, "We had Mimiron in Ulduar, but you just can’t have too many death robots."



Nick D
Premium
join:2010-02-04
Orange, CA
reply to s1deout

"random bosses from a queue" sounds like Violet Hold. Though I suppose they could make that model work a lot better (e.g. not timed trash ... who likes that model anyways? Was Hyjal trash fun for anyone?)

Hard Mode Heroic Bosses would be a pretty cool idea, I'd say. But I suspect that there would be far too much griping in RDF. Might be a good idea to disable in RDF. Would encourage at least some in-realm grouping, more so that drake achievements do.



McBrain
BRB Face Melting

join:2010-05-06
Kalimdor
kudos:2
reply to Immer

said by Immer:

edit: i also particularly like the line, "We had Mimiron in Ulduar, but you just can’t have too many death robots."

Omnitron Defense Counsel was a cool fight too...I loved standing in the swirlies on my sPriest.
--
Mcbrain, Goblin Shadow Priest, [Collapse], Kil'Jaeden