Tuesday

Analyzing Raid Mechanics





Introduction

Hello there and welcome to my newest guide - Analyzing Raid Mechanics. This is in many ways a continuation of my previous guide - (Guide: Joining High-End Guilds) but, because the scope is completely different (actually talking about raid mechanics), I decided to make a new thread.

Once again I must apologize in advance for the wall-of-text. I'll try to format this in the best way I can, but this is another content-intensive guide.

The idea of this guide is to dissect the core components of raid bosses in a way that allow you to comprehend through the means of a technical method how the bosses are fundamentally designed and what, essentially, are your tasks in a fight. Ultimately because of the limitations inherent to the fact it's a game, there aren't as many components as one might be led to think.

However one must also understand that they're actually more developed than many other game genres - in fact, many games that are hard can be dissected into very few core components that exploit few skills such as strategy or bare twitch reflex. Contrary to popular say, the raid designs in WoW offer a fairly complex gameplay, which might be the reason so many people feel interest in it nowadays as the game developed and matured from an Everquest model.

As with every aspect of game design, these components can be tuned to be either hard or easy. Many classic games that are very hard follow simple components and patterns that, while easy (and in many ways easier to understand than WoW) to understand, are very complex to execute properly. A particular example would be Battletoads - Dodging the lava waves in Sartharion is not fundamentally different than dodging obstacles in Battletoads, but while the former doesn't offer nearly as many components as the Sartharion fight, the execution is considerably harder due to the speed of the game.

In WoW, however, speed and twitch reflexes are not everything. You're constantly being forced to take decisions, including how to best deal with performing your core role (DPS, Tank or Heal) with the haphazards being presented by the boss mechanics. Although you do have a Global Cooldown limiting your actions in-game, the amount of actions per second you as a person are performing can be considerably bigger, since you're also paying attention to timers, health bars, cooldowns and the environment.

Because of this, the maximum complexity of either execution or strategy of the boss mechanics in WoW is ultimately limited to an amount that is always gonna be inferior to the amount presented in other games, for example Starcraft. This is obviously to compensate for the inherent challenges the game presents, most related to your task.

While reading this guide you'll realize that these components can be reduced to simple tasks that add up to form the challenges the game present us. The goal of this thread is to assist players in understanding the raid environment and develop a more technical approach to the strategies of the bosses to come, so that you can better project in your mind the situations to be presented better either before experiencing them (but watching videos or reading about the fight), or within the first attempts.

It's also important to understand that the mechanics listed here don't represent all issues you're gonna face, rather the base blocks that are used to create these issues. Many things such as buff/debuff management and character rotation in specific events or situations are either caused by the way these blocks are arranged, or solved by the means of properly organizing them into your raid strategy.

The best players I've witnessed are capable of mastering a fight within one or two attempts, even fights as complicated as Yogg-Saron. This is because they understand (even if they don't realize they do) the core elements that compose the fight and how to predict them. By fully comprehending these patterns you'll be able to use your past experience to master almost any boss to come.


The Core Elements


Damaging


The core of most fights is that you need to damage the boss to death. This is the most absolute truth to most bosses with exception of few like, say, Valithria Dreamwalker (whom you need to heal instead of damaging). An empirical proof for this is that when outgearing or outleveling enough a content, one can abolish the use of a tank or ignore the mechanics of the fight. While there are many exceptions to it (I'm looking at you C'Thun and Twin Emperors), this holds true to one too many old content bosses.

Damaging might include add killing or pushing during certain moments, which may require you to save cooldowns and consumables. Usually these are phase changes or "berserk" modes that happen to certain bosses.

In the early days players didn't have to bother much with DPS classes because if you had enough healers, you would just never die. They added Enrage Timers to force the raid to actually care about DPS later on.


Healing

Healing is as basic as damaging and as important, if not more, on most bosses that are not yet trivialized by gear or level difference. A Healer has to keep the tank and everyone else alive, usually being tasked with one group of people (the raid, a raid group, the tanks, the main tank, etc).

Again, some fights play a bit with it, such as Dreamwalker (where you heal the boss to win) or Frostmourne's room in the Lich King's fight (where you can heal a NPC to kill entities for you), but the core seldomly changes, although a Healer may have to endure certain debuffs some bosses cast (such as Loatheb's) to silence, interrupt, slow down or just reduce the effectiveness of his healing spells.


Aggro Pull and Threat Management

In most fights, albeit not all, there's a designed tank or tanks. These are the players with the obligation of keeping their threat up.

Pulling Aggro however might not be just the initial act of pulling a boss - it may be a necessity. Some fights force a second tank to pull aggro from the boss, for example, because he applies a debuff to whoever he hits that causes an undesirable effect. Other fights need a second (or third, or even the main tank) to keep pulling aggro from adds as they spawn.

There aren't many variations of this theme, although they're present. Some bosses also split damage between the top people on the threat list, so multiple tanks need to keep their threat high.

Regardless of there being a dedicated player in tanking gear and spec, there's always a tank - someone who's taking the damage. There are also some very few gimmick fights where the game forces you to have someone of an unusual class (such as mage) to tank a boss or an add.



Fight Gimmicks


Move to



Almost every fight in this game requires you to move in one way or another. This is usually enforced in terms of instant death, extreme damage or undesirable debuffs to anyone that doesn't move to a certain position.

By far most of the relevant bosses mechanics of WoW fall within the movement category. This is extremely basic but to make life easier make sure not to be a keyboard turner - use WASD to move and remap A and D to strafe left and strafe right, and the mouse to turn.

Move tos can be presented in form of Damage Novae, where bosses will start casting a spell where everyone in proximity to him (or variants, like in proximity of another player) will take damage. They can be presented in form of AoE damage around an object or target. Some fun variants happen on the Lich King fight - at a point you need to move away from him because he'll create a massive Danger Zone and stay on the icy edges of a platform. Then these borders will break and you have to move back to the center, least you'll fall into your death.

In Professor Putricide's fight some players may have to run away from gas slimes, or they'll not only take but cause massive raid damage. In that same fight but in Heroic mode, some players will take a debuff that they'll need to spread to someone else after 10-15 ticks of it. In this case they must first move away from the raid, then move to someone else to give them the debuff (and then move away to not get the debuff back again).

Movement requirements may also abuse of proximity awareness, that is, deal with effects that depend on your proximity to other players. These usually require you to stay away from others.

Because moving is such a quintessential part of the game, many variants can be made using this theme with the widest effects, such as the portal positioning requirements and character rotations in Netherspite.


Danger Zone



Although this is a sub-product of the "Move to" category, the Danger Zones are so present in WoW that it deserves its own remark. Many players will refer to them as void zones or fire, and it's common to say that in raid all you need to do is "dodge the fire".

In fact, I don't think there's any mechanic in WoW that's more characteristic than this - it might as well be the signature of this game's bosses. The Danger Zones are usually round places on the ground that require you to move away from it so that you're not stepping within it's area of danger. Danger Zones are usually preceded by a visual aspect on the ground before they either happen or, in lieu of that, wait a few seconds before the first tick of its effect proceed, so that players may have a moment to dodge. They may also be of long duration or instant.

The most common occurrence are in the form of circles with magic symbols that deal damage to everyone standing inside them, but there are many variations. Koralon himself literally puts fire on the ground around him and players should dodge to avoid stressing the healers.

One variant are fire patches that move around. Examples are in Archimonde fight where a fire patch will spread around the room, or in Lord Marrowgar fight where multiple fire patches come away from him and spread in straight lines.

Most environment hazards may be disguised but are pretty much just Danger Zones. For example, both Putricide's gas bottles and mallible goos are danger zones - round areas you have to avoid. The first are static and take some time before the first tick, while the later is preceded by a visual aspect and causes an instant full effect.

Because Danger Zones usually give you obvious visual cues, it's imperative that you're paying attention to your character's feet at all times. Put the relevant bars and timers need the center if that will aid you, but do not let it obscure your vision of what's happening.

Learning how to dodge these zones is crucial to raid and should be fairly obvious. If you can dodge the fire, you've defeated a considerable part of every content of the game even if you don't know the specific fights.


Add Control



Add Control involves using non-damage dealing abilities in order to prevent an add from doing something undesirable. There are many examples - Moroes' adds required to be controlled so the players could focusing killing them one by one, for example. A lot of bosses cast a Heal spell that needs to be interrupted with maximum urgency. Add Control can be anything - from preventing an add to move by using a trap or shackle (or anything that stops him) to interrupting him.

Sometimes a player may need to kite an entity, which could be (Add Control + Pulling Threat + Moving To) or any combination of these.

Karazhan was filled with these, as examples can be find in Romeo and Juliet on Karazhan (interrupt Juliet's heal), Moroes' adds as mentioned, Shade of Aran's Elementals, amongst others.


Dispellable Effects



These are any kind of debuffs that are cast upon a player or players that players with respective dispelling capabilities can and should dispell. Some fights may require you to wait until a certain moment before dispelling probably because of a secondary effect (like "Move To", etc).

The best way to improve your skill on this is by playing Arena - a lot - and by keeping up every skill you have, dispells included, keybinded.


Pick-Up/Activate Item/Doodad



Some fights require you to pick-up and/or activate an item. These can be doodads or actual items looted, and can be any of combination (pick-up doodad, loot item, active item; or activate doodad; or get item from a NPC and activate it) of these.

Once you have the item, you'll have to use it at a specific time to proceed with the fight. Examples are Archimonde (where you use Elune's item to avoid falling damage that would kill you) and Vashj (where you throw an item around to other players until it reaches a specific place).

A curious item pick-up would be the Pyrites in Flame Leviathan, where you use a vehicle to pick-up objects from the ground with a hook.


Vehicle Activation

There are many fights that are dependant on vehicles, including two on Icecrown even though not many people realize it (Gunship Battle, with the Boat Guns, and Putricide with the Abominations). These usually include right-clicking on a doodad to get inside a vehicle-like object, where you'll usually get an unique task only your vehicle can perform.


Use Special Skill

Some fights will require you to use an unique, special skill at a certain moment. Such skill may or not require a target. An example is the Blood-Queen Lana'thel who gives a debuff that greatly increases your power, but forces you to choose someone to turn into a vampire after some time.


These sum up the core mechanics of the fights - pretty much every fight in the game will follow these gimmicks in one way or another. There might be some other gimmick that wildly escapes these that I'm missing since I didn't analyze every single boss fight in the game, but the main boss fights can be divided by these components or variants.


Examples:

Yogg-Saron

Not including all mechanics, just the ones I can remember. This fight is VERY complex, so I picked it up as a good example:

Phase 1:

Move To: Avoid Gas Clouds on the ground; Keep moving following their direction.
Pull Aggro [Adds]: Keep Pulling Adds; Rotate adds with other tanks
Move To: Move to the Center of the room before the adds die
Damage [Adds]: Damage adds, wait until they're at the center of the room before killing.

Phase 2:

Dispellable Effects: Curse of Doom, Apathy, Black Plague, Draining Poison
Danger Zone: The big crusher tentacles, DPS and Healers should avoid.
Damaging [Adds]: DPS should focus on killing Constrictor Tentacles, then Corruptor Tentacles if Melee, Crusher if Ranged
Move To: Move to green lights to increase your Sanity Meter.
Move To: Targets who get Brain Link need to move close to each other.
Move To: Move away from the Death Ray.
Move To: Move to position around the boss to prepare to click the portal.
Activate Doodad: Click on Portals when available.
Move To: Face the skull faces with your back.
Damaging [Adds]: Kill tentacles around the room, fast.
Damaging [Boss]: Attack Yogg-Saron's brain, use cooldowns and reagents in this moment.

Phase 3:

Pull Aggro [Adds]: Tank keep pulling aggro on the adds. Multiple adds keep coming.
Damaging [Multiple]: Certain players attack the adds, others attack Yogg-Saron.
Move To: Face Yogg-Saron with your back during certain moments.


Mimiron:

Mimiron's "Nova" is a funny example of mixing Danger Zones with Move To. The boss spreads mines around the room randomly and the player needs to get away from him before he casts a Nova, which requires him to prepare in advance by dodging the bombs.


Gunship Battle:
Fairly straightforward fight.

Pick-up Item: Get the jetpack before fight and equip it.
Activate Vehicle: Players get in the boat guns.
Damaging [Boss]: Players at the guns need to shoot and damage the enemy boat.
Danger Zone: Rockets keep falling from the sky around your boat.
Pull Aggro [Adds]: A tank picks up the adds spawning on your boat.
Damaging [Adds]: Players clear adds in their boat.
Use Item + Move To: Players use the jetpack to get to the enemy ship.
Pull Aggro [Adds]: A tank pick up the adds in the other boat.
Damaging [Single]: Players kill the sorceror on the enemy boat, use cooldowns.


Conclusion:

I hope this guide was useful to you in one way or another, even if just as a curiosity. Game Design is my field of expertise and I find studying the theory behind these mechanics relevant, so why not share?

Although I'm not sure when I'm going to write, my next guide will be about PVP, probably focused in Arena.

Thank you very much for reading.
 
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