I Hope These Don’t Suck

Big, epic, ginormous boss battles in Guild Wars 2, that is. By now, you’ve probably all seen the Shatterer video from a couple years back. Several dozen players beating on an uber-boss out in the world, the culmination of a dynamic quest chain. You might have also seen the battle with Tequatl from last year’s convention season. Both look amazingly cool and sufficiently epic, but I wonder: Will they actually be fun?

The closest comparison I have to a battle on this scale is with the bosses that spawn after a zone invasion in Rift. The first few times I fought these, together with the help of several dozen players from throughout the zone, both Guardian and Defiant, I thought it was really cool. Then, as my analytical nature broke down each fight, I realized that they pretty much boiled down to two things:

This was fun, the first few times...

1) DPS hits as hard as it can; and
2) Healers rattle off group heals when the boss uses an AOE

And that’s pretty much it. Tank and spank, but on a larger scale, with a lot of sound and fury meant to distract us from the mundane nature of the battle.

When you have dozens of players converging from all points to take on a world boss, there will naturally be very little in the way of organization, so it’s hard to see how such a fight could be scripted like the typical raid boss fight that we’re all a little more used to. You can’t have cases where you have to hit an interrupt at a certain time, make sure to re-apply debuffs, “everyone get out of melee range for the big attack,” and so on… or can you?

Judging by this Tequatl video, I’d say the answer is “yes,” but I’m a little concerned about how players will know what to do without a developer explaining every aspect of the battle to them. I think better visual cues, or even “billboards” describing the action (or actions players might be able to take) would be helpful. I only have the vaguest memories of what it was like to play an MMO before the days of voice chat, but I imagine groups managed to coordinate their activities enough in EverQuest or Asheron’s Call through chat boxes and the games probably tailored their battles to accommodate that slower mode of communication.

For Guild Wars 2 world boss encounters, and the Tequatl battle specifically, maybe NPCs in the areas of the cannons could describe what they need done in chat bubbles: “Defend us while we load the cannons!” “Take down that bone wall!” “He’s stunned, attack!” More visual cues, such as a dragon coating himself in ice (“Use fire spells!”) or marching toward a specific location or person (“Defend me!”) could also be nice. I know that after a while, we’ll all have the battle figured out, but it can be frustrating when you first show up for a huge battle and don’t know what to do. Of course, the old standby of “hit anything that moves” has some merit, but then the battle is just a chaotic mess — which can be fun in its own right, granted, but gets old pretty quick.

I’m fairly certain that ArenaNet will institute better feedback into its epic encounters, because they’ve already shown that they’re receptive to incorporating player feedback to make the game a more “understandable” experience. In one panel at a convention last summer, they talked about a playtester who simply walked past dynamic events “because I didn’t have a quest for them,” so they added a few verbal cues from NPCs to guide players to the action. Similar directives could serve players very well in fights like the ones with Tequatl and the Shatterer.

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4 Responses to I Hope These Don’t Suck

  1. dndhatcher says:

    There are a few things GW2 has going for it that should help keep the big world fights fights from being zergs.
    1> No healers. Everyone is going to be used to keeping themselves alive. Even small world mobs like drakes have fire breath to teach you to not stand in the fire.
    2> Everyone can rez. For those people that loose track of everything and get themselves killed, anyone nearby can res them.
    3> NPC assistance. There are NPCs telling players what to do (guard the turrets, take down the walls, attack). These battles can take place NPC vs NPC without any players at all, they just end up with the friendly NPCs getting overrun. Players can also rez dead friendly NPCs and should be accustomed to doing so by the time they get in these big fights.
    4> Multiple Objectives. All of these fights we have seen include some kind of turret, mortar, etc enviromental weapon for players to use. They have friendly NPCs forces to interact with. They include hostile NPC reinforcements to defend against in addition to the big boss. There is more to do than just spam your skill rotation on the big boss.
    5> Intersecting events. Some of these big fights will have other events that can effect them. For example you might be able to help a nearby frogman village clear out giant mosquitos intruding in their ponds which would then let them send a party of NPC frogman warriors to help defend the turrets during the big fight.
    Hopefully that will keep these big fights more interesting that the repetitive fights against those giants in the Rift invasion forces.

    • jasonwinter says:

      #3 is the one I’m looking at. I guess I didn’t see “NPC hints” in the Tequatl video… either they weren’t there, being that it wasn’t complete, or I just didn’t know when/where to expect them.

      • dndhatcher says:

        I am pretty sure I saw some text bubbles over some of the catapult and cannon crew’s heads. Calling for help when attacked, maybe even something about taking the walls down when the laser was re-charged. I’ll go back and check some videos and post a link if I can find any.

  2. They could take some cues from how Blizzard set up the new Raid Finder feature. There are lots of big, text raid warnings alerting players to the more crucial aspects of the fights. If you die to something stupid, it will also usually tell you what killed you and how to avoid it next time. Something like that should be easy to implement and would likely give all but the most noobish and ignorant a pretty good idea of what they’re supposed to be doing.

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