Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guest Post: Halion's Cutters

My guild leader (and our shadow-phase dragon tank) had a brainstorm for a post she wanted to make, so I offered up some rant space for her :) So, here I have a guest post by Alyae:

Dear Blizzard: You are making good raiders feel fail for no reason!

Why Blizzard why? Why did you make a fight like Heroic Halion, and a shadow realm full of instant death?

My case for why this mechanic sucks - Alyae: GM of Vortex of Turalyon

I’ve been doing some thinking, and I think I know the reason. It’s been really puzzling to me why I see my fellow raiders get cut up by the beam of death. These are people that have very good situational awareness, on pretty much every fight. They know how to get out of fires.... But for some reason Heroic Halion is probably harder conceptually for us then even Heroic Lich King.

Why? Because, the Halion fight expects you to do several things at once:
  • Find a purple blob of death.
  • Figure out your location corresponding to the purple glob of death.
  • Locate the purple glob of death immediately to the left
  • No blob there, check the right.
  • Put the two blobs you have now found together, one left one right.
  • Now draw out that picture in your mind, figure out the angles, how they cross in the middle to form two identical shapes, mirrored, the angles, vectors, square root of an isosce....whatever.
  • Position yourself in a space the size of a credit card on your screen, all mentally.
  • Now, move there before the cutters chop you in two.
Basically what they are asking you to do is avoid a fire you can’t see by playing a game of connect the dots with geometry... in your mind!

Clever trick isn’t it? It’s basically the equivalent of an old archaic IQ test question in a raid instance.

Ah... those old proven-to-be-bunk IQ tests. Reminisce about the time when you had to look at a multiple choice question, we’re asked to peel back a three dimensional shape into a flat representation and then try to pick the correct one... the memories....Sigh...

...So what am I getting at?

Most good raiders have good situational awareness. They know how to react quickly to threats can taunt or heal with good reaction, they generally make good decisions on the battlefield, and they can push out good numbers while doing it. These are people who see a fire and run away from it.

You see bad, you run from bad, you determine safety, you continue. Every human is good at those mechanics from birth.

The Heroic Halion cutters on the other hand, require critical thinking, the ability to create shapes in your mind, and adapting to that shape as it moves on the playing field. It also requires you to understand that shape in relation to the same shape to the left and right of you. (Avoid the head and the tail)

Some people just are not good at that kind of thinking. Not just that, but it might even be a bit sexist. Women have a harder time then men do on tasks like this. Like it or not. My brain is different from a man’s brain. Thank god. (Sorry guys!)

But putting that Woman/Man brain difference aside.... anyone who has problems with this type of mental equation will have trouble on the cutters no matter HOW good you are at the game.
I tank in the shadow realm because I’m pretty good at laser dodging, but I know when I get cut in half, it’s because I could not see the other orb behind the dragon and screwed up my mental picture. I’m convinced if I was an ace at that part of those old lame IQ tests I’d never be cut by a cutter... EVER.

You can make the argument that putting people in a clump and having people follow each other is a good way to compensate for this. I’m sorry, but if you react to other people, you might be several steps behind the group according to the server and get cut in half by the death rays before you even knew what happened. Add that to the fact that the cutters of death will kill you a few steps away from the visual of the graphic, and you have a recipe for...

Death by Grape Flavoured Light Sabre! News at 11!

I still don’t know why they just throw us a bone, and let us be immune to the death rays at least for a second after they activate. Let us run from something we see, not imagine. You feel me here?

Dear Blizzard:
You are making good raiders feel fail for no reason. As a GM and an officer, that makes me sad.

To the raiders of Vortex:
All of you rock! (Even if you are a kitty druid that feral charges into a cutter.) <3

Kae's comments:

Personally, I'm okay with playing with the cutter beams, and I *am* a girl. Maybe it's more a "geometry vs algebra brains" thing, which isn't gender-dependant. The guild has taken to marking me and following me as their safe point in P2, actually... they seem to think I'm good at this whole beams thing. I do mess up from time to time, though, when I get the timing off and expect the beams to activate a few seconds earlier or later than they do (hmmm I've noticed this especially at phase transitions into P3...).

But... I'm not the tank. Out of those triangles in heroic-mode, I don't have to dance around in the center and hope I'm not cut by the *converging* beams as they blast through the room like a pizza-cutter from the great beyond. The closer you are into the middle (where we tank the dragon), the more likely you'll hit a beam. Hanging around in the space between the center and the wall tends to provide plenty of space for a raid of DPS and healers to hang out, gives more room for error, and still provides a running space for people with debuffs to run out to the wall.

Poor tank, though. If you move too far away from the center, the dragon follows you, then spins a bit and tailwhips your fellow raiders, where they all lay stunned and then all get cut in half by a beam. And then the tank gets yelled at. >_>

Additional problems I've noticed with the beams generally include:
  • His huge effing wings blocking view
  • Lag
  • Other people freaking out when they see a Treant run into a beam and thinking it's me taking a suicidal dive
  • ...or other people blindly following the treant through the beams rather than the tree. ;)
At some point, our guild'll have some combination of laglessness, luck, and a general lack of "omg we've been doing this all night zzzzzz" and manage to get Halion hardmode down... not that the cutters are our only problem (ahem, keeping the fire-side alive in P3 and not dropping gigantic pools of fire on the fleeing shadow phase players...). But, for now, we're honestly seeing hardmode LK as easier and more doable!


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen or experienced the fight yet, but the randomness of the mechanics sound a little reminscent of Archimonde...

I certainly hope that's not the case!

Theladas said...

I still want to buy a "remove wing animation" for Halion. If he kept him in like all other dragons do when standing on the ground, we'd be fine. Gorram showoff just has to puff them out, doesn't he? I hate twilight dragons.

as for understanding the shadow realm, it's not random, per se: the orbs move a t a constant rate around the room the whole time. I can definitely foresee a strategy that says "bunk the timers, we know that after two orbs pass they'll be turning on soon, so we start moving then." The real challenge of the encounter is P3.

Don't blow up the shadow people with Combustion. Don't lose your tank while out-of-range to drop said combustion (Can't afford more healers because of Enrage Timer). Don't get caught in consumption while dropping said combustion. Don't stand in meteor fire. Heal through raid damage (combustion dot, unfortunate ticks of meteor fire), as well as tank damage.

Technically, almost nothing about the fight, from beginning to end, is random. Meteors will drop on players (though its residual fire pattern is a little random). Combustion and Consumption fields drop where you dispel them. The laser cutters pass directly between the two opposite-side orbs (with some bonus range to make sure you don't even think about licking them). Everyone simply needs to know where everything is and should go several seconds before it happens, while still maintaining amazingly good DPS and healing for nearly eight minutes.

The fight is pro-active, rather than reactive. I feel our trouble is that we're so used to (almost?) every other encounter in the game, which is mostly or completely reactive."Shadow Trap on ranged, move in the next 5s - okay good." "Swarming Shadows on Kae, go run it around the edge - okay, good." When it comes to consumption and combustion and lasers, you need to know where to go before the call is made, or else the rest of the raid (or your torso) is in jeopardy.

Vixsin said...

I have to agree with Theladas; the Halion encounter places a good deal of emphasis on spatial awareness and anticipation. To me, this is a reward for raiders, not a curse. It's moving raids away from twitch response (eg: I'm in fire, I should move) and into proactive decision-making.

BTW, I think the cognitive ability you're referencing in your multitasking beam simulation is something called spatial visualization, which is an ability with cognitive differences for men and women. It's also something you pick up after years of studying Architecture and Engineering. :-P

Alyae said...

I agree it's a reward for raiders who are good with that sort of thing.

The thing is... I only get cut if I I can't see the other ball behind the dragon. This is not a failure of my game play, but of the type of thinking involved for this encounter. A skill that can be learned, but not something everyone has!!

I only find out I failed at guessing when I have a beam in my chest.

My margin of error as the tank in the realm is pretty small. If I wasn't good at beams I wouldn't be the tank down below, but I still get frustrated when I go get hit on that rare occasion.

Why should I be punished for not having a skill called spacial visualization? (Thank you for giving me the proper term.)

Yes, I'm good at the lasers ... if I see BOTH blobs.

It's like when you were a kid and you had a loose tooth. You kept tugging on it with your tongue even though it hurt like crazy...
That's how I feel about the beams.

I keep making the right choices... I think I'm perfectly fine. I did my calculation. The blob I can't see should be somewhere around ... her... oh carps I'm dead.

Theladas said...

It's worth noting that, when tanking the dragon in the middle, the dragon's body itself can be used as the other end of the beams if you can't see through the dragon. One orb is sufficient for me to know where to stand (this may be where engineering and math really help me infer information about the environment that I can't see).

Ultimately, I think Blizzard is doing the right thing by moving into new domains for encounter tools. We can say it boils down to "don't stand there," but with all of the movement and pro-active mechanics, I feel Halion is genuinely different from other raid bosses. If it was another reactive encounter, we'd probably be done with it by now (just as we'd be done with HLK if it wasn't an RNG gib-fest every other attempt). Halion gives me hope that Blizzard is learning that RNG isn't the only way to make an encounter difficult.

Even if we aren't there yet, we can learn how to handle Halion. We can control nearly everything about the encounter, and that will let us triumph. I feel that's far more rewarding than simply overpowering RNG-style bosses with more gear or faster (or luckier) reactions. At the end of the encounter, we'll have learned a lot, and we'll be that much better at spatial inference for it.

Scythe said...

"(Even if you are a kitty druid that feral charges into a cutter.)"

Hey now. I've always said "Go big or go get chopped in half by a laser".

In that situation I was able to do both and therefore am a big intarwebz winnar! =)

Averna said...

I've found that if the tank moves her in a circle, staying just behind (or ahead, maybe?) of the cutter, it works really well. Although sometimes some of our raiders get a bit dizzy :P

Averna said...

Sorry, HIM, not her. I always mix up his gender >.<

Anonymous said...

And this is what wow is turning into. Super noob because once something gets a little hard and people cant tunnel... People complain.

Theladas said...

@Averna: we tried some movement of the downstairs boss. It confused our tanks a lot, and the rest of us were really not used to standing in the locations we needed to be in. Led to lots of tail-swiped raiders. Our approach is honestly fairly solid. But when we lose one person to it, from latency or beams outranging their animation, or simple inability to see, there's that sinking feeling in my gut of "oh, that's a wipe."

@Anonymous: I'd say that's a completely unfair comment to make. We're not at all opposed to challenge. We wouldn't be fighting for progression content if we didn't like to get destroyed over and over again. It's simply a matter of what's "hard but counter-able" versus what is "hard and out of our hands."

We don't "tunnel" on H Putricide. We don't "tunnel" on H Sindragosa. We don't "tunnel" on most encounters, to be honest, and those we do are designed to be breaks in the rotation (a full raid of strain isn't fun for anyone). If you want to talk about tunneling, go look at Vanilla and BC bosses. Tank and Spank encounters were just that: tunnel opportunities. Most bosses then had one mechanic, maybe two, that it could use to make you even think during the encounter. Those encounters were made challenging by low tank health (relative to incoming damage), limited healer mana, and DPS constraints. That doesn't make them somehow better or more justified than encounters that are challenging because of complex boss mechanics that persist throughout the encounter, nor did it somehow make you a better player. I'd honestly argue the opposite: having to deal with more complex mechanics allows you to learn a lot more about a dynamic game rather than simply focusing on a rotation/healing spam.

"What WoW has become," is a long answer, and far from any generalization you can make. I will say that it's far more varied than it once was, though. Elitist pigs are losing out on their precious encounters "designed for only 4% of the raiding population," which was poor game design to begin with. Then again, Yogg-0 and HLK10 at-gear-level are certainly of that caliber anyways. At the same time, normal LK is getting to the point of being pugged, allowing many more players to finally experience "the end" of an expansion they invested hundreds of dollars in. If you pay that much money to play a game, I have no qualms with you getting to experience the vast majority of its content.

If, along the way, we find a new breed of boss mechanic that genuinely throws us off our game, there's nothing wrong with venting about it. Heroic modes are designed to be hard; we wouldn't have them any other way. They're exciting, they're engaging, they're learning experiences, and they're frustrating all at once. If hard things don't frustrate you, then I don't think you actually consider them hard. And if HLK and HRS aren't hard in your book, then I bow to you sir: you must clearly be a member of Typhoon Struggle.

Kae said...

Mmm trolls. They say a few words and get an essay response :) Calling someone else a "super noob" and in the same sentence saying it's because they can't "tunnel" (tunnel vision = dead raiders) is like labeling yourself for forum racial bonuses.

Alyae said...

I have no problems with Hard fights. Yogg+0 and HLK are fights I enjoy.
Those fights are hard. I enjoyed them for their difficulty.

Halion is hard, but to be for the wrong reasons. In case you haven't noticed, you don't see me complaining about the most difficult part of the encounter, which is phase 3. I'm talking about a gimmicky part of a fight, and this is coming from someone who is good at it.

It's obvious you feel like you can do no wrong on this fight. Post char and server name and show yourself. Until then, I can only assume you probably have never killed the encounter on hard, and wanted to get some fun in by trolling. Without being able to back up how un-noobish you really are by showing your achievement, your opinion on others being a noob is meaningless.

desuness said...


The lasers aren't a gimmick - suggesting that is just a joke. They are a hard mechanic to grasp because of the difficulty in standing between them properly, but they aren't gimmicky like say... p2 of HLK with the valk and defile coming at basically the same time.

I also think it is ridiculous to suggest (at any level) that inclusion of the lasers as a mechanic is sexist. But that is an entirely different matter.

Alyae said...

It might not be sexist. That word may have been a bit harsh, but one can't deny the differences in woman and men when it comes to certain types of thinking. It seems to be that physiology gave each gender different skills based on natural selection. Neither wrong or right, or more valuable then the other. Of course, blog posts are not meant to be newspaper articles.

Gimmick, that seems to me more of a relative term. Not sure how you can think of it as laughable. Some people might think its a novelty while others a stand out essential piece of the fight. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion.