When discussing how to approach new bosses in WotLK, one of my Guildmates proposed that we run them unresearched. In other words, no pre knowledge of the instance, mobs, or bosses: “I like puzzle solving in games – so ultimately for me, our instance attempts would be true explorations without fore knowledge of the map/bosses/phases etc”.

Now this sounds great - in theory. I’ve had similar discussions with others - let’s go into Icecrown with just our skills and experience, and see how we go. After all that’s how we play every other computer game, right? You don’t research the bosses in HL2, Gears, Ico, or Advance Wars. In fact going to a resource like gamefaqs is somewhat frowned upon - it’s a last resort for when you are just plain stuck. (Though having said that, these days I find it hard not to meta game everything. Warcraft has driven the “research first” mentality into me so hard, that I had to fight hard to resist the urge to min-max when first starting Dragon Age or even when revisiting KoTOR. Spinks has a great article about the MMO influence on solo gaming.)

WoW is a different kettle of fish. It’s expected that you will do your research before you zone in. You, or someone in the party, needs to know that Netherspite’s red beam is for agro and the green beam heals, or that Prince will enfeeble you. Or that dropping Herod will spawn 20 take-you-by-surprise revenge-seeking trash mobs.

But is this a good thing? I’m starting to think it’s a flaw, though obviously not a fatal one. Due to the way the game is designed, it’s often unrealistic to spend the time trying to solve a boss puzzle. This is often due to respawns - if you haven’t downed the boss within 10-15 minutes, you’re faced with grinding your way all the way through it’s minions again. And for some instances, like Kara, it’s a 5 minute run back to the boss to even try a 2nd time. This is a bit of a bummer really, because it really would be fun to try and unravel boss encounters on the fly.

I am in awe of the guys who do world firsts. Working out a fight like Netherspite must have taken hours and hours and hours of wiping and mob clearing and wiping etc. But that kind of research is beyond mere mortal players, even on small things like the Scarlet Monastery. Which is kind of a shame, and something that maybe future MMO’s could address through less punishment for wipes, and certainly no respawn timers to slow things down.

In game tools to analyse what just happened might be a good idea - something to let you replay the encounter as a group, and plan how to tackle it next time. Add-ons like BigWigs obviously help enormously, and could potentially allow you to give it a crack sight-unseen. But maybe the game itself needs to start providing enough feedback to allow and encourage reaction based fights, rather than researched.