Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Potential Twist to Immortal / Undying

I won't really bother with a full-blown post about last nights Immortal attempt, or the associated emotions.

But I will sum it up: I went in not really even thinking about it. The butterflies are definitely gone. Two and a half wings later with no deaths, my interest was piqued. The first false-start on Gothic in four months of raiding, causing one player to be locked on the dead side and the rest of the raid on the live side showed me just how easy it is to piss this one away. Butterflies swatted, dead, kaput. They shall not be allowed to return.

Moving beyond last night, the experience over the past few weeks had me thinking about the overall concept of the Immortal.

(A) I've read a bunch of posts and comments to posts on other blogs that people want the achievement to be for them personally and not for the team. As long as you personally survive each boss fight during one raid lockout, you ding the achieve.

(B) I've read a bunch of posts and comments to posts on other blogs that people want the achievement to count for each boss individually, similar to the 20-man achievement. This week you do a clean kill of Anubrikan and ding that one part of the overall goal. Next week you do a clean kill of Heigan and ding that part of the goal, and so on with each boss being a discrete unit, until you eventually complete them all.


The people voting for (A) are not team players. They should go play Legend of Zelda or something where your game only depends upon your own play. Raiding is a team sport, whether you choose to believe it or not.

The people voting for (B) probably don't deserve a "double bah", but I don't subscribe to that one either.

Don't Stop Believin'

Although the Butterflies are dead, I still believe in the spirit of the achievement.

As the raid progressed last night, and we killed boss after boss with no deaths, my excitement level was definitely increasing.

That's a good thing, I'm here for excitement, so even if the disappointment of that first death is a nuisance, I still value the experience of the night.

An achievement like Immortal / Undying is trying to encourage us to do what we're here to do anyway, but only do it better. Nobody enters a fight thinking "ok, i'd like to die on this one." Well, maybe there is a strat for a Warlock to commit suicide at the beginning of Malygos P3 so he can cast some curse or debuff or something before he plummets to his death, but that's a bit counter-intuitive and an exception to the rule.

Consider the RP Aspect

I'm not a role player, per se, although I do suffer from mood swings that make my Druid Moodyswinger's name an extension of my own personality.

But I can empathize with the RP aspect of a toon dying.

Picture yourself and a band of 24 comrades-in-arms venture off into a dungeon in search of treasure or thwarting evil or rescuing a princess or whatever.

One of you dies in combat. Hell, maybe one of you dies in his sleep. Doesn't really matter, does it?

You're dead.

Makes it pretty hard to enjoy the treasure that the dragon was hoarding or a passionate night with the princess who just fell in love with her heroic rescuer, yes?

Consider the Performance Aspect

Tobold recently wrote about some of his joys and griefs with raiding. One aspect I'll focus on here is the concept of exploring fights blind with no pre-knowledge of boss abilities, contrasted with the execution part of a fight where you have full knowledge of the boss abilities and also techniques used in the past to successfully defeat the boss.

Execution and performance is what I'm all about.

I recognize that not all players share that view, but for me, its all about planning our fight and then performing under the pressure of combat. Mix in just enough random effects to require some improvisation on the fly, and tune it to be very demanding on each player to deliver flawless execution.

Our strategy and approach should be robust enough to mitigate the risks of all the little things that can go wrong.

Sometimes you randomly D/C. Call verizon and have them check your line, maybe that's busted. Stop downloading nudie flicks while playing.

Sometimes the boss does random things that can get ugly. KT iceblock is one such example, the target is random. However, your strategy should plan for this by informing raiders to space out and then during the execution it is up to each player to be aware of their surroundings and find a safe spot amongst the rest of the team.

Sometimes your cat steps on the keyboard. Give him cement boots and throw him in the harbor. Dogs, FTW!

Having a reward for flawless execution is a Good Thing.

Where's the beef?

I'm fine with the fact that my Immortal achievement is dependent upon 24 other people. Success as part of my team is what keeps me logging in and not playing a single-player RTS or RP game.

I'm fine with the fact that my Immortal achievement requires intense focus and attention to detail across an extended period of time and is bound to a single raid ID.

But, here's my beef with the current way Immortal works.

Once you fail, that's it.

There is no longer any benefit for flawless performance during that raid ID. No reason to keep trying. And in fact, the de-motivation that comes with failing Immortal encourages sloppier behavior since people don't care about the run as much once Immortal is disqualified.

Sure, people who die suffer a slightly larger repair bill. Also, people who die on a boss slow us down a bit because they have to rez/run back and rebuff (but we're looting during this time anyways, so this is minor).

Recommendation to Blizzard

Immortal should remain unchanged. You got this one right, but...

Blizzard needs to add a separate, parallel, persistent reward for each flawless boss kill. "Separate" means it has nothing to do with Immortal, the two are totally independent. "Parallel" means that both achievements/rewards can be pursued at the same time. "Persistent" means that this reward is present each time you kill a boss, and not just the first time you ding the achievement.

The reward should be tied to team performance, and not individual performance. Remember, we're not out solo'ing, we all signed up for a team sport when we accepted the raid invite.

Proposal 1: Emblems - Somebody died? No Emblems off of this boss for anyone in the raid.

All bosses, all the time, not just your first clean kill.

And make the Emblem gear f'ing fantastic. Make us WANT this.

Encourage continuous drive towards flawless victory.

Proposal 2: All Loot - A harsher example would be all loot from the current boss. No loot drops if anybody dies. Perhaps too harsh, especially since your first few kills are the sloppiest and hardest, and the loot from those helps subsequent runs be flawless.

I dunno, as I re-read this one, a part of me is liking Proposal 2. No loot until the team figures it out and nails it. Once you prove that, then the loot flows, making it easier each time you come back.

Hmmm, I wonder? Probably too harsh.

Proposal 3: Selective Loot - Make a separate loot table that only drops when the kill is flawless.

In my ideal situation, it'd be the Best-in-slot gear that drops in this mode.

For each "difficulty setting" (id, 0 drakes, 1 drake, 2 drakes, or whatever the equivalent hard-mode indicator is for each boss), include some exclusive items for a clean kill.

The better the reward, the larger the motivation for teams to help eachother improve and help eachother survive. Even after a silly death due to unavoidable D/C on a boss early in the night, there is still a reason for the team to maintain focused.

Potential Pitfalls

One issue I could see with this is that people who die will be kicked out rather than coached on how to improve survival.

Sure, that's always a fear. If they nerf our class, change our utility, homogenize our spells, always fear that leaders will just kick you.

However, this fear would be mitigated by the fact that the Raid Leader would need to replace you with....a person who reliably survives. This is much harder to PuG, since you really never know what you're going to get from an unknown player. I think the challenge to replace you is greater than the effort to try to coach you for improved performance.

Another issue might be that players focus too much on survival and not enough on their responsibilities in the raid. I know I probably DPS a little bit lighter on Immortal attempts, just to be that much more certain to not pull aggro. But you know what? I'm damn well attentive to web wrapped people and I bust them out immediately instead of hesitating to get just one more shot in on the boss while my DPS trinket is up so I can boost my epeen (not that DPS players do that kind of stuff anyway, amiright?).

I doubt my proposals would cause people to stop looking at the meters as the be-all-end-all of raiding, but a boy can dream, can't he?

What do you think?

Is flawless execution worth striving for? Is it something that should just sorta make you smile when it happens but shouldn't expect it as a normal occurrence?

What other ways can Blizzard encourage the team to survive?


Brajana said...

I'm not sure where I stand on the two ideas of making it individual or not locked to a raid. I'm torn. Because if it was individual based, you're right, it wouldn't feel like a team effort as much. It wouldn't be as fair to people who get killed a lot like tanks compared to people who can avoid dying, like Night Elves or Hunters. But it's also frustrating when you've got one person who just has a hard time staying alive... and not every guild can afford or has the mentality to just refuse someone a raid spot because they have been known to die easily.

On your proposed changes about drops - Bah! I think removing things would be a horrible idea. Immortal is not meant for people who are just starting out in Naxx, just like 3D isn't for people just starting out on Sarth. The fact is that not everything is skill based - if you just don't have the gear for an encounter, you can't do it. Preventing people from getting gear at all prevents them from ever being able to progress.

Adding some sort of other achievement - maybe an individual one that doesn't reward a title, or adding an additional drop if you do manage to have everyone survive, that would work for me.

2nd Nin said...

I raid with a group that will never get the immortal / undying due to skill, lag, etc.

Simple fact is the only reason I normally die is when I do something stupid (Solo tanking patchwerk without healers), or stuff goes badly wrong (Healers forget that "overheal like crazy" when I am solo tanking patchwerk means don't stop casting to heal the melee who will die anyway). You claim that group A represents a "non-team player" attitude, but it doesn't. What it represents is the ability to handle yourself, a raid might be 25 players working as a team but I am the only tank in my role and if I fail no one in the team will pick up after I fail. In some places there is flexibility, in others there are one or two people in a role and you cannot spare more for it. They are not a "team", they aren't supported they are out there doing what is necessary (Add tank on 3D for example typically is 1 healer + 1 tank, ideally the other healers cluster nearby to provide pulling power to adds, but its 1 person doing the job and if they fail there is no backup).

Making it individual bosses is a fail plan as you note, the achievment is not to "not die on each boss" but to "not die in naxx". Making it individual is however sensible since it recognises the individual player.

In a similar way I see people talking about 3D Sarth, I was bored of this fight on the 2nd attempt (1st one the healers refused to cluster so I was running up and down the island trying to catch the adds spawning on healers at both ends... that was fun but not how the encounter should go). Realistically its a trivial fight (and I have tanked / dps'd it, but not yet killed it with my guild) with a few imporant gotchas, again my guild struggles with it when realistically we shouldn't but from a personal perspective its easy, it has no real challenge for me yet there is no reward for this.

Victory mechanics are raid based, survival and skill mechanics are individual and should be rewarded so by the achievement system (of course healers play a large role in keeping any tank alive, and more so with raid wide damage so common, so its not totally individual but thats due to the holy trinity game design). Immortal and undying are solo achivements (largely the cast of don't chain iceblocks, don't stand in void zones and don't be the one that crosses the beams), that iswhat should be rewarded.