Wednesday, January 28, 2009
After overloading your mind's eye with awesomeness yesterday, it's time to take a step back and largely ignore the wrappings for a moment. Instead, I want to design an encounter that only serves one master: game mechanics. I want to make something fun and innovative that covers all of the bases that make a fight interesting.
Phase 2: Dale the Game Mechanic
To start with, the wrappings have to serve my game design. To give myself as many options as possible, I've decided to make Dale a gnome, who works as a mechanic (get it!?!?) fixing various robots and machines. This way, I can invent any gnomish machine I might need to accomplish any design goal. If I want a robot made out of reflective diamonds that breaths fire and can jump across the room at will, then nothing about the lore or ambiance prevents me from doing that.
So, what are the core things I want this fight to have:
1) Something to prevent "tunnel vision". Ixo observed that this function is important. We don't want the player to be able to zone out the entire time.
2) Accountability. You should NOT be able to beat this encounter, no matter what your gear, while carrying 30% or more of your raid. But I want you to be able to bring along one friend who isn't very good without it screwing you over completely, so this aspect will need to be carefully balanced.
3) Your mistakes reduce your effectiveness, but don't kill you outright. Void zones that instantly kill you are just too punishing of minor mistakes. Instead, have them take you out of the fight temporarily. Having them do raid damage can be OK, but only if you aren't already taxing the healers. Many current encounters in WoW are only difficult because they are brutal to your healers, but not anything special to the dps.
4) Avoid dependence on luck. It's frustrating when you fail because the boss randomly summoned 8 adds when it's possible he could only summon 2. You do not want a situation where people just purposely wipe on the boss over and over until they get the "lucky" combination of abilities.
5) Phases should be dictated by the mechanics of the fight. Sometimes 1 is ok, but usually you want 2-3 so it doesn't get boring. More than 3 would be too confusing.
6) Don't require resist gear or any other unusual preparation. I think this type of barrier to entry is unnecessary, and lazy game design. Make the encounter itself a challenge, not farming the mats to be able to face him.
7) Include a dps "burn" phase. Because these are always fun. It's always disappointing if you never get a chance to really attack a boss. People have a lot invested in their characters - let them play their characters. In fact...
8) Let people play their characters. Don't put them in vehicles the entire time, and also don't make them spend the whole fight running somewhere or clicking something so that they rarely get to use their abilities.
9) No decursing. This is a pet peeve of mine. Decursing is never fun. It also makes your encounter favor some classes over others, which I want to avoid.
10) Don't favor any classes over others. Players cannot switch class at will, and you can't really choose the class of your friends or of the good players you know. Don't make my guild bring a crappy player or annoying person because that person happens to be a shadow priest or a shaman or whatever.
11) Give tanks something to do besides stare at the boss's crotch and spam threat abilities.
12) Deal with the fact that your raid is going to have more than one tank in it, because most encounters require more than 1. Give that offtank something to do besides terrible dps.
13) Stop punishing melee dps! You make them avoid all kinds of crap the ranged don't have to worry about, but you don't give them extra dps to compensate or anything. So just stop with the abilities that only effect the melee.
14) Variable difficulty with commensurate rewards. This is a hard one. I probably will leave this out at first, because it deserves its own separate examination. But my ideal encounter would allow it to be done on a "hard mode" that requires more skill and coordination (NOT MORE GEAR!) and offers much better rewards for completing it that way. I think I will design the encounter without this first, and then either find a way to build it in, or design a new encounter around the idea.
Well, this post turned into my list of guidelines for designing a fun raid encounter. Instead of getting into the specifics of Dale today (I'll save him for tomorrow), I'd like to open the floor to commenters: what would you add/subtract from these guidelines? How would you change them? Hopefully you can help me improve my guidelines before I present an encounter based on them.
[note: image is some fan art submitted to blizzard. I couldn't find the right person to credit for it.]