(Non) fatal flaw

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.

Please welcome to the stage

Stranglethorn ValeI guess it’s worth introducing my WoW characters, to give a feel for who and what I’ll be talking about.

You’ll note that they’re all melee or ranged DPS. I’ve never managed to successfully play a magic based class, be it in D&D or a long history of PC based RPGs. Something felt right about standing back, waving my hands about, and hoping something would happen. I wanted to be in there, doing something physical. In the immortal words of Michael Moorcock, “Treasures are not won by care and forethought but by swift slaying and reckless attack.”

My (currently idle) main is Banehammer, a Tauren Warrior. The reason he’s idle is complicated, but mainly due to a great sundering in Real Life, which meant a large group of us parked our mains and rerolled. But Bane is my main guy, I love him, so he currently noodles about completing the seasonal achivements, doing his Fishing dailies, and I’m considering getting him a Netherwing Drake, easily the most beautiful mount in the game.

The toon seeing the most action is Archammer, Bane’s younger brother, this time a Tauren Druid. He’s the Guild Leader of the Kezan Cartel, which is populated by the rerollers mentioned above. Inspired by the coming Cataclysm, we’re rolling through the old content dungeon by dungeon, and Arc is one of two tanks in the group.

Also spending her time idly in Silverpine Forest farming Black Tabby’s is Stroeb, Undead Rogue and the first toon I levelled to 70. She’s a Kara vet, I loved playing her too, and only switched away once it became clear our guild needed a tank. She’s more honourary than anything at this stage, but I still admire her backstabbing skills.

Rounding out the semi-active list is Auarra, Tauren Hunter. The first thing I ever rolled was actually a Dwarven Hunter, which I loved (largely due to the epic WoW cinematic and a history of Dwarven DnD characters) until I realised that The Alliance were a bunch of flag waving bores. So a Tauren Hunter was the natural replacement, though I’m struggling to get motivated to move her through Outland. And when I’m feeling nostalgic, I have been known to roll up a Dwarf and enjoy that snowy start for a few hours…

So there you have the toons, and a small history, so you’ll know who I’m talking about.


Duty Now for the FutureA blog. About Warcraft, mostly, and other gaming. Somewhere to capture my thoughts.

As this blog begins, I’m in the thick of Warcraft, having been there for a good 18 months now. In other words, a late starter, but fascinated by it. I’ve always gamed, but until Warcraft it was limited to single player with the occasional “drag a PC to a friends house” LAN day – huge fun but a logistical nightmare.

The social gaming I did revolved around Dungeons & Dragons, which didn’t seem possible to recreate in PC gaming. We played fast and loose with the DnD ruleset, playing the game in a very ad-lib way, making it more about the interaction than the system. We were blessed with a fantastic GM who could create entire worlds, political systems, religions, and brilliant NPCs, and our monthly sessions were a highlight.

Then a couple of us started to dive into WoW, having heard so much and yet steadfastly ignored it. And we, of course, were instantly hooked & utterly staggered.

Which is where we begin.