Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Should RPGs look at WoW for encounter/boss design?

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by sser, Mar 31, 2012.

  1. sser Arcane

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    Lemme put on my robe and retardo cap.

    I haven't played tons of WoW. I picked it up over one dreadfully boring and lonely summer like two or three years ago when I was away for university at the goading of a few friends who had played it for years. I ended up playing a warrior-tank all the way to level 80, IIRC; touching level 80 months later after a re-sub, and then never playing it again (I think I played it two days and then never came back, money well spent clearly...). Last I heard, my character was a Chinese mining bot. No joke. Anyway, I only "quested/grinded" once in a forest-area that had an interesting story -- beyond that, I exclusively did instances because almost everything else in the game was dreadfully boring.

    However, one thing I noticed about WoW is that it has some clever boss designs that I just don't really see in single-player experiences. For example, I recall a boss that would throw you and your party into a dream state where you'd fight clones of one another. Other fights had mechanics where you'd have to keep moving or else you would get frozen to the ground. One fight had orbs moving about the room and you had to maneuver the boss away from them or he would go apeshit if they were absorbed; or groups would have to splinter off to fight/kill objects that would do the same. I remember one boss had a fear mechanic where you would go insane if you stared at it too long and at one point the boss could eat you and you'd have to fight your way out of its stomach. Lots of bosses could debuff players and make them extremely dangerous to other plays (bombs, diseases, etc.). Things that make encounters interesting.

    And I just don't see much of it in single-player games. Why do single-player encounters suck so bad? It's rare to come across a legitimately interesting encounter. Take Dragon Age, for example. It had one fairly interesting encounter with a rogue-dwarf; she could go invisible about the room and gank, and the room itself was boobytrapped to high heaven -- but you could use that against her. She's the only boss I recall being fun to fight. The rest of the game? Oy... There were two horror/abomination-type bosses, but no fear mechanics. The dwarf blob was particularly disappointing. You just hack away at her fat ass until she dies. Maybe kill a tentacle or two if you're into that. The final boss you shoot ballistas at. Exciting. And all these fights last because they have high HP, and you have lots of potions. That's the kind of game design companies spend all that money for, right?

    Risen? Final boss was Zelda circa 1990s. Mass Effect? First one you killed some spider bot. I honestly don't remember. Second game's entire experience/end-boss was so bad that my little secretary babe getting turned into DNA mulch was an actual high point. Anyway, I basically can't think of many interesting boss designs in single-player RPGs. And why not? Why not have huge, elaborate fights? It's dumb to fight an end-boss and realize you're not winning because you're The Hero, you're winning because you brought the true secret weapon -- a bottomless knapsack of health potions. I think this is one of those things that just kinda irritates me about modern gaming more than anything else. Back when technology was so quickly advancing we'd talk about all the wonderful things games should be able to do in the future. But we're getting none of that. Pixels are all maxed out and whatever, but game design hasn't really changed at all. I guess I'm just disappointed that an online MMORPG full of kids has better game mechanics than the edgy drivel dripping out onto the RPG-scapes today.
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  2. Mangoose Arcane Patron

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    Good AI > Gimmicky encounters.
    Grunker and anus_pounder Brofist this.
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  3. Excidium P. banal

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    No, that kind of design isn't very interesting for a single player game.
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  4. Kaol Educated

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    Any single player game with boss fights is likely to be shit no matter what they do.
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  5. Gold Scholar Patron

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    Sadly most WoW boss encounters are either dances or gear checks. Neither are enjoyable in single RPGs. "Bosses" in single RPGs should be rare and far between, and should be significant antagonists. That the PC should be able to foresee and prepare for in the best way for their characters ability.

    WoW bosses tend to be more of a check of the skill/preparation of the group and not the creativity of the player. (Excluding the top .001% of guilds who instruct the rest of the WoW community how to approach each boss encounter.)
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  6. Infinitron RPG Codex Staff Patron

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    Da2, especially the DLC, had more interesting bosses
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  7. Suicidal Savant

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    While many of the WoW bosses are gimmicky puzzle bosses, the combat encounters with normal enemies, I agree, some rpgs could learn a thing or two from that. Many WoW dungeons were interesting to go through for the 1st time due to the huge variety of different types of enemies, enemy abilities, etc. Often while going through a dungeon the type of enemies you fight changes several times as you go deeper and half way through you are unlikely to encounter monsters that you fought when you entered. And they are not just boring reskins either, but completely different enemies that sometimes have very nasty skills you need to watch out for. Also I think some of those gimmicky bosses could work in single player games if done right.

    Actually, I'd love to play a single-player turn-based party combat WoW with all the "bring me 10 angry wolf ball sacks" quests edited out unless they are really important to the plot and a Fallout style world map for traveling between points of interest.
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  8. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    Wow boss fights are often pretty good. Most games incorporate all debilitating effects under a generic umbrella that can often all be removed with a single item or ability. Even if they require individual cures, they're still very boring binary effects. Some examples of much more interesting effects:

    A character is immobilized completely until a certain amount of damage is done to a structure that was spawned to trap her.
    A character acquires a status effect that prevents them from being healed. It can only be removed by attempting to heal them for X amount of damage (essentially it's non lethal 'damage' that only prevents healing)
    A character begins losing health rapidly. The effect is removed if they reach 100% health, but will persist until death if they are only partially healed.
    A character is cursed, turning the terrain they stand and travel across into a dangerous path of fire. The curse and flames only subside after the enemy is killed, so care must be taken to move constantly but without hemming everyone in too much.

    And those are just status effects. The more inventive things, like additional enemies that can only be killed by the boss itself, or bosses stealing abilities from the PCs, would also add a lot.

    This stuff doesn't have to be added only to boss encounters either. No reason you can't encounter multiple enemies using a neat trick, or a unique encounter that isn't really a 'boss' in the sense that it'll take far more resources than a normal fight.

    These things would go a long way towards making fairly dull so called 'tactical' combat a lot more interesting. Of course, they're harder to implement than a boring unified status effect system that just tweaks character attributes and is only cured by specific curing spells.
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  9. attackfighter Liturgist

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    BG2 had the best boss fights

    BG2:ToB had good ideas for boss fights (but horrible implementation)

    ^Same goes for VtMB

    I don't like the sounds of those WoW boss fights mentioned. They are too gimmicky. Take this one for example:

    All this freezing mechanic would do is force you to micromanage and move around a lot. Maybe it would also screw over spell casters a bit. But asides from spell casting it probably wouldn't change the fundamental strategy you'd be using, so it's nothing more than a pretty decoration on an otherwise standard fight.
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  10. Damned Registrations Prestigious Gentleman Furry Weeaboo Nazi Nihilist

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    Well duh. Thats why you don't use that mechanic in a standard fight. Use it in one where moving around is troublesome. Add enemies that try to block your movement- now you have to choose whether to kill them or try move around them, or ignore both them and the freezing effect and make due without being permitted to move around.

    Beats the fucking hell out of Attack/Attack/Fireball/Fireball/Fireball/Heal/Repeat.

    If you've finished the fight never wanting to second guess yourself, it was a shitty fight.
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  11. laclongquan Arcane

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    And to answer the question in 1st post "Why single RPGs dont have interesting boss design?" and you pointed toward the numerous designs of bosses in MMOs. I dont dispute the interesting aspect of them, but I do want to point out one factor you missed "Development Time".

    IN single RPG you made a game and you push it out the door soonest. Even in patches you dont want to replace existing bosses with more interesting designs, or add new ones, for various reasons. Bugfixes and that is. The development time for single RPGs are essentially the time before you go gold.

    In MMOs you can develop right until the moment publisher decide to stop the server. You can say for MMO the dev time is several years beyond the moment you satisfy with the game and go live.
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  12. made Arcane

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    WoW has literally hundreds of boss fights. Ofc some of them would be gimmicky. There's only so many variations of tank+heal+dps you can do before you've seen it all. So they turned to other genres for inspiration - shooters, jump&runs, you name it. They probably have a whole team doing nothing but playing games and figuring out how to translate the mechanics into boss encounters.
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  13. Mangoose Arcane Patron

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    Tank+heal+DPS is itself a gimmick.

    Ugh, facepalm at people in this thread who have never played a tactical game.
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  14. PorkaMorka Arcane

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    I haven't played WOW in a long time but I was forced to raid at the highest level for a while, up to the first expansion pack. It was one of the worst experiences of my life (I haven't had a tough life) and certainly my worst gaming experience.

    It seems to me that most gimmick bosses were only challenging because you had to coordinate a bunch of retards. The gimmicks themselves were generally pretty stupid/simple and would only have been tedious in a single player game where you got to control everyone perfectly. Hit the boss for a while then run away because he is going to do some AOE, then run back in!

    Bosses should definitely be more interesting but this isn't the way.

    I'm not convinced that puzzle like encounters where you have to resort to trial and error are a particularly satisfying way to make encounters more challenging. I prefer it when games reward sound decision making, rather than force you to figure out some arbitrary gimmick to win a fight.
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  15. Raghar Cipher

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    Or perhaps some developers know theirs games would be played 20 hours or so then they would be threw out of window. And WoW is supposed to be played for months to guarantee a long term subscription. Because they expect players to visit them at least two days a week, they must spend the effort to do it properly.
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  16. Gentle Player Educated

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    WoW boss fights are certainly interesting, but they're all based on gimmicks. Basically there's no room for creativity, you have to complete each fight exactly as the developers intend, everything being scripted to a ridiculous degree. There have been occasions where guilds have thought outside of the box and defeated a boss in a way not intended, and the devs have quickly hotfixed it, in some cases deleting all obtained loot because they "used exploits."

    Defeating the bosses the intended way basically boils down to buffing up, starting the fight, noting what the gimmicks are, then dying (there's very little chance of beating a high level raid boss on your first go without knowing the gimmick beforehand) and going at it again now you know how to counter the gimmick. Basically the equivalent of the old quicksave scumming in single player games. What that translates to in-game is 0.01% of the playerbase, the "top guilds", figure out the gimmick on the test servers, release a guide, and the rest of the playerbase follows the guide to the letter when the content is released for all. Beating most of these fights isn't about playing creatively, using brians, or coming up with tactics on the fly as you react to certain situations (if something goes wrong, like your main tank dies, in 99% of cases you're fucked no matter what), it's basically about understanding the gimmick through trial and error (or reading someone else's guide most likely) and just making sure no one screws up. Everything is just so rigid. So no, it's absolutely shit design, even if the gimmicks themselves are interesting.
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  17. Demnogonis Saastuttaja Liturgist

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    It depends on the type of game.

    If you have the most traditional turn-based game with a party and all that, the boss encounter checks if you have been stupid building your party and if you're too low level with too crap gear, with some pretty obvious tactics involved. In my mind it's more about strategy and less about tactics, or at leas the tactics tend to be such you easily understand them if you're even a bit familiar with the genre. Anyway. That's fine with me. Crap design would be something like so overpowering it's entirely luck - I.E. save scum - dependent, too easy because it was made so that even the weakest party and item combinations can beat it without tactics or one that has some really specific way to beat it that might actually be possible only with a small fraction of builds you could do. BTW I think it should be possible to fuck your game if you build a too weak party BUT only in the cases you completely fail to understand the game, not because "you should have known you actually require four wizards because halfway everything is immune to weapons" or some such specific, moronic thing.

    If you have a game like BG, well, all I can say is that the boss encounters aren't as good as people say they are, IMO. Take Rammaq. It tests if you were paying attention and if you actually think a scroll of protection from undead / magic helps against a powerful lich (which it does for whatever reason), and if you have a +4 weapon with you. That's it pretty much. Otherwise it basically hits you with stuff you probably can't react to (it doesn't help that the game isn't really turn-based), until after quickload. Or take any of the fabled wizard duels. What I really didn't like about BG2 is that the point of your own casters is mostly dispelling various shit the opposing casters do, and the game often resorts to cheating if you try to backstab them with interrupting your attack with pointless dialogue (really have them have guard dogs or something but "must have villainous speech" isn't an acceptable defense against assassins). Ah well. What I sort of like about BG is that most of the boss creatures follow the game's rules and can be killed with save-or-die spells but then again that's entirely luck dependent and thus I don't like it. Er... see the problem here is that a red dragon should react somehow when a bunch of wizards start casting shit at him, not just "I wonder what they're going to do I'm not hostile".

    An action RPG such as VTM:B usually has really crap boss design. Do you use skill or your stats to beat it? What sort of maneuvers are even possible? Is it better to have it so that with the right stats it's easy, but it's always beatable with skill? Probably. A problem is that most action RPG's are completely lackluster as action games, but as RPG's as well. See RPG's, the real ones are stat-based, strategy-based and tactics-based. Action games are execution-based and sometimes strategy and tactics based, but always primarily execution-based and usually in such a way that there is no strategy or tactics without good execution first. Skill and stats don't overlap, at all.

    Back on track... Should SP games take notes from WoW? Didn't DA already do that? It fucking sucked for that. If these RTWP games should take notes from anywhere, it should be from the next pure genre, that is RTS. Make it about micromanagement, take away the pause. RTWP is just a very weak version of turn-based, making a game RTWP instead of turn-based doesn't have any advantages. It'll still be, ideally, about strategy, about building your party well, about tactics, but there's still no skill element with RTWP, it'll just feel awkward and you wish it was properly turn-based with a good, clear grid and all that. See my point is the boss battles can only test what the game is about, the challenge comes from the style of gameplay. Action tests skill, and an RPG tests strategy. What sort of quirks, you know, attacks and abilities the boss encounters have have to fit the style of gameplay.

    WoW boss encounters work in WoW because the it's... A team strategy game? Maybe? I don't want to say much about a genre I have never played.
    Mangoose Brofists this.
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  18. Aeschylus Prestigious Gentleman Swindler Patron

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    I thought the boss fights in King's Bounty: The Legend and Armored Princess were pretty well done. They threw things at you that you'd never seen before, and forced you to adjust your tactics on the fly or be quickly crushed (sometimes literally).

    The largest parts of being able to design good boss fights are having a combat system that is deep enough and allows for tactics beyond "Run around and attack" (action RPGs), and being willing to twist your system in non-standard ways.The first boss fight in The Witcher 2 (minus the stupid QTEs) was a fairly good example of this. It made you stop and think and solve a puzzle to beat the boss rather than just running around and hacking at it. It was as easy to beat that fight without taking damage as it was to die. Of course, the rest of the boss fights in that game were pretty uncreative. In this sense I don't really view gimmicks in boss fights as a bad thing -- I've never played WoW, but bosses being more than just pumped up versions of normal enemies is a good thing.

    Oh, and though VtMB had mostly pretty weak boss encounter design, the part with the werewolf was excellent.
    Metro Brofists this.
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  19. attackfighter Liturgist

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    The Operator was also a good boss, I think.
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  20. Zed RPG Codex Staff

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    Some WoW encounter could probably be applied to party based singleplayer RPGs and be really fun. I actually remember way back sitting in the WC3 editor making my own singleplayer "raids" :D

    Not entirely true. There are bosses in vanilla WoW that could be tackled in different ways. One of the earliest I remember is Razorgore in Blackwing Lair. If you were horde (and cool), you could have shamans use their totems to kite all the adds. You could also use hunters or other guys with slow spells (but shamans were awesome because Earth Shock caused extra threat back then). You could also just have your raid split up in groups and kill (most of the) adds as they spawned. A third option would be to do a bit of both.
    Another encounter would be in AhnQuiraj (and several other encounters in other places) where you have "council fights", i.e. fighting several bosses at once, each somehow affecting the other bosses. Kill a boss and another would grow stronger, somehow. So you had to choose which order to kill them and how to handle their abilities accordingly.
    As early as in Molten Core you could also pull and kite bosses to locations where their mechanics were easier to handle.
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  21. Excidium P. banal

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    That is pretty much the experience. :lol:

    But some fights in the game are really well designed. Vashj, Kael and Illidan are some examples.
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  22. taxalot Arcane Patron

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    I like boss fights in jRPGs better. If you are not overpowered, they require more strategy than the usual hit&run of today PC RPGS in real time.
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  23. Xi Augur

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    The combat system and boss fights are second to none. Nothing else comes close in my opinion(For action combat). (Maybe Dark Souls in terms of boss encounters)
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  24. sser Arcane

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    I agree with almost everything said so far. I didn't mean for WoW to be the blue chip of design, but I do think it has some ideas -- mechanically -- that other games should look into. Some highlights of good design were mentioned, King's Bounty for example. But it's rare to get this in the 'modern', Western RPGs. I'm wondering if maybe the actual platform of modern RPGs is more fresh than we realize. In the same vein that old 2D platformers were very new and nobody quite understood the rules of good game design for many, many years. Or maybe developers are just lazy, I dunno. I do think Dark Souls is the closest thing I've seen for an ARPG having fun, satisfying encounters.

    What I think WoW does a good job of is making you forget -- if only momentarily -- that you're fighting large HP-sponges. And I think with the technology out there single-player games really need to pick it up.
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  25. Metro Arcane Beg Auditor

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    As someone mentioned when you have a game with over a hundred boss encounters (throughout eight years and numerous expansions) then you're going to have your share of stupid ones. That said, and to state the obvious, the biggest problem is coming up with interesting mechanics that can be adapted to a single player ARPG. I forget which thread it was in but I mentioned the 'arena' fight in Magister's Terrace where you fought a 'party' of monsters that had player/class like abilities. They didn't just all pile on the tank but had random aggro so everyone had to use their class abilities to snare, kite, CC, escape, etc. to win. You could possibly translated something like that in single player with various abilities to cope with numerous monsters in a given fight.

    Also, while I agree King's Bounty had some interesting boss fights, it is a lot easier to implement in a turn based strategy game (where you command units/troops and also have the ability to cast spells) than it is in an ARPG where you only control a single character in real time combat.
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