Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Dungeons and Raids

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Community Manager
As a part of our post mortem series on Cataclysm, we sat down with World of Warcraft Lead Encounter Designer Scott “Daelo” Mercer to hear his thoughts on Cataclysm dungeons and raids.
90 Night Elf Druid
CFT
10670
Spine was good? What in the actual hell?

Well now that the outburst response was over.

Heroic dungeons were actually pretty par in terms of difficulty. People actually had to use CC (god forbid) and interrupts. There were abnormal problems in some cases but they ended up just turning into a giant faceroll fest just like Wrath (which I thought isn't what they wanted).

T11 was good stuff. That's right on the money.

10 v 25 was reasonable I guess. There were glaring bugs/problems that obviously weren't tuned correctly and in some cases geometry or mechanics just made it a flat out joke for one size vs the other. Al'akir was probably the biggest offender in this case.

I sure as heck hope you don't design something like Spine ever again (lol how many Mages with legendaries can you stack?).

Dragon Soul from a tanking standpoint was pretty bland. Not only that, but the serious progression from designing a majority of 2 tank encounters (T11) to 1 tank encounters (DS) is troubling.

03/05/2012 06:10 PMPosted by Styill
Hour of Twilight dungeons hit the sweet spot in terms of difficulty? May god have mercy on us all.


I was going to say that, but then I realized I was completely overgeared when I did them so I couldn't really pass judgement.
Edited by Arielle on 3/5/2012 6:15 PM PST
80 Blood Elf Rogue
15355
Hour of Twilight dungeons hit the sweet spot in terms of difficulty? May god have mercy on us all.
85 Troll Mage
15675
I'm surprised that no mention about the difference in the 10 v 25 raid formats was brought up. Will this topic be discussed in any Post-Mortem discussion. I still feel that players are migrating way too much and way too quickly to 10 man raiding that 25 man raiding feels harder and harder to find groups that you can work with. Personally, I'm currently in my third 25-man guild in 2 months mostly due to the inability to keep 25 man raiding guilds alive and running.

As for raiding/dungeons as a whole....I'm mixed as a progressive raider.

Cata Normal/346 heroic Dungeons - The original set at the start of the expansion were hard. You had to have a group willing to spend 30 minutes to an hour (Grim Batol being the obvious offender) to clear the place out. They required CC, good healing and tanking skills. knowing which mob benefited which buff and whatnot up the ante. But in response a lot of players didn't like the format, which caused massive amounts of people quitting the game. This was rectified in 4.1 when many of the hard-hitting mechanics were brought down in difficulty. I personally liked the difficulty but I could also see the reasoning for the "nerfs." Some person spending an hour or 3 (had that happen several times on several toons) wiping over and over again on a dungeon they should be out geared can get quite frustrating. No one likes to wipe on bosses they know they can clear. But within all of that there were some interesting mechanics that I liked. Such as the Armor debuff in Blackwing Caverns, or the final boss of Grim Batol. Many of those bosses were fun for their mechanics. Just some people cannot comprehend doing 2-3+ tasks for any given fight.

T11 - This tier is a mixed bag. Some fights such as Maloriak where absolutely a blast. While others such as Nefarian can be a pain. Nefarian was one of those fights where you needed a temporary third tank even on normal, and you basically have to have the right comp to get or you don't stand a chance. Even Sinestra is a real pain. You have to have the right healer (even in DS gear) to deal with the dispelling or you cannot kill her.

For heroics, at the time 10 mans where generally harder. this was rectified later through hot fixes so that they were about even. However once people got Fireland gears people found doing 10 mans to be easier than going back as a 25 man group. Ascendant Council and Al'akir were the big bosses no one liked attempting since they were a pain. Al'akir was harder in 25 man by far given the healing requirement was a LOT higher; especially in Phase 1; in 25 man than it was in 10 man.

T12 - I liked this tier. I really did. One of the big issues I kept hearing in raids and what-not was too much red. Some people could not see certain raid mechanics since it was red on maroon or something so it was extremely difficult to see. As one example, one of the mages I was raiding with while attempting Heroic Alasrazor, refused to fly due to the fact that he could not see the clouds or the rings. They just blended way too much into the sky. However I think you nerfed the raiding content too fast too much. Nerfing 15% on Heroic and 25% on Normal all at the same time, only 2 months in was too much. if you had applied the debuff, similar to what you did to Dragon Soul and ICC, then people wouldn't have complained as much, but the content became overly simplistic afterwards. I have to give props for Heroic Rag though. That was by far one of the finest piece of boss mechanics you guys ever made. Majordomo I found a bit on the boring side since it was basically "spread out" move when you see the boss jump, collapse after so many jumps. Yes the whole orb thing helped liven things up a bit but that was it.

T13 - Again I'm hit or miss on this one. The fights are defiantly varied and I LOVE the fact that you made a raid finder version. I cannot wait untill you apply the heroic version in MoP. Heroic Morchok, I wish Kochrom stomped another stomp. Having Morchok stomp; what was it ; 5 times while Kochrom only 4 favors the dps who are stationed on Kochrom. If you do something similar in the future, divide it better please; even if it means adjusting the times. Yorsahj and Zonozz are great fights, one favors 25 man; one favors 10 man in heroic but they are now duable in both. Hagara is alright though. It would have been nice to extend the Lightning phase a little longer somehow or made the Ice phase shorter. Ice Phase lasts 2-3 times longer and it would have been nice to have the Lightning phase last longer than 10 seconds or so. Ultraxion, can we do something about the extra button. This fight almost requires people to hot bar a macro or change the key binding or something. Blackhorn is a fun fight with nice mechanics (currently there is a bug where if players bring the two melee adds onto the steps inside the cabin, they will not charge; please fix). Spine should not be harder than Madness; which is considered the final fight.
Edited by Delritha on 3/5/2012 7:35 PM PST
90 Orc Warrior
19365
The only thing that needed improvement was... heroics being too hard at launch?

Oi... I know this is a fluff piece, but just ignoring all the criticisms levied at the end game this expansion isn't the way to go. I'm not saying all those criticisms are right, but just acknowledging the fact that someone is actually listening goes a long way.

Although I will agree that the launch raids were, on a whole, pretty well done and had some interesting fights. Kudos where kudos are due.

EDIT: Now that I've had a bit

I don't think the encounters themselves were poor, per say. I think my biggest issue was at how... I can't think of a word. Grindy? The heroic modes were. I feel completely burned out, and I haven't even done many of them. Dragon Soul just feels so repetitive.

I think there was a disparity between challenging and fun this expansion. If you look at Ulduar or the TBC raids or even Nefarian in BWL: you get a real sense of passion in the work. Fights were fun, just being in the raid was fun, and the challenges were fun. I didn't really feel that in the Firelands or Dragon Soul. Like we were all just going through the motions. Mechanically they were strong (save Zon'ozz, hitbox detection in a fight is never fun...). But emotionally? The way everything fit together? It was just lacking. Just hurdles thrown at us.

Maybe it wasn't that for everyone. Maybe it was more to do with the 10v25 gap. Maybe it was the bleeding edge stuff. Maybe other things entirely. But there's a lot of people, outside the vocal minority here on the forums, who are upset over something in regards to raiding or the end game in general in Cataclysm. To see that dodge in the Q&A... it kinda hits a nerve.
Edited by Odok on 3/5/2012 7:30 PM PST
I'm mostly happy with Cataclysm encounter design. My main complaints are that the dungeons tended to be too long, that they favoured ranged over melee too much, and that there were too many one-shot mechanics.

I'm all for a challenge, but pass/fail mechanics are unnecessarily frustrating for those who are still learning them, and boring once you master them. I prefer mechanics that are difficult to avoid but don't guarantee death as opposed to mechanics that are easy to avoid but will instantly kill when failed. Jin'do, while over-tuned, was a good example of what to do right mechanically; Corla was a mistake that should never be repeated.

I found T11 underwhelming as raids go. BWD and BoT had dull lore and visuals, and the mechanics tended to be more annoying than fun, with the major exception of Cho'gall, which I loved.

On the other hand, the Hour of Twilight heroics are pretty much perfect (could maybe stand a tiny bit more difficulty, especially in regards to the Hour of Twilight instance itself; I've two-manned Arcurion with a mage tanking). Murozond is probably the coolest encounter ever in WoW, and Well of Eternity is just spectacular in every way. Firelands and Dragon Soul were both spectacular and epic raids.

And, of course, the Raid Finder is the Best Thing Ever.
Edited by Maigraith on 3/5/2012 6:19 PM PST
90 Blood Elf Paladin
17265
Spine was definitely the most annoying fight in Dragon Soul, and didn't feel particularly cinematic... if anything, it broke immersion more than any other fight in Dragon Soul. If Deathwing can roll, and if he can throw us all off by doing so, why does he only do it when we ask him to?

I also saw no discussion of how many bosses are in a raid tier... because if we keep seeing raid tiers with only 7-8 bosses, that would severely impact my desire to continue playing in MoP.

The Hour of Twilight dungeons weren't terrible in terms of difficulty... but I think that in the future, you need to release new 5-mans every tier. I think the reason they seem so off in difficulty to so many people is that since they require only ilvl 353 to queue in, they have to be doable by a full pug group wearing ilvl 353 gear. Most players have far higher than that going in, and they give out far better than that. If there was another tier of 5-man between ZA/ZG and Hour of Twilight, there would have been a much smoother difficulty curve and a much more natural growth in both challenge and reward (say, fire themed dungeons that required ilvl 353 to get in and gave 365 loot... then the hour of twilight dungeons require 365 to get in, then give out 378 loot). I'm aware that the firelands daily rewards were 365, but the time requirement on those is simply not reasonable now that it's not current content, in terms of gearing up; it's now relegated to achievement hunters which, while not bad, doesn't really factor into the dungeon/raid progression.

Edit: In short, I don't think the difficulty of Hour of Twilight was off because of what they were, but because of the structure of ilvl and difficulty both going in and going out. They were too easy for what you got out of them, but couldn't really be designed any other way and still be fair to players just getting geared.

I also saw no mention of how much NPCs factored into the Dragon Soul progression. As with many of the new old world quests, seeing so much interaction from the NPCs really kills the mood... it stops feeling like we're doing something, and starts to feel like we're just there to watch the NPCs be awesome. Thrall can scream about us being the only hope all he likes, it still feels like we're little kids helping our parents in the kitchen, not really doing anything significant while our parents assure us that we're being very helpful. At best, it's patronizing and unenjoyable, and at worst it's insulting.
Edited by Dajakisubo on 3/5/2012 6:20 PM PST
90 Human Paladin
6640
03/05/2012 06:18 PMPosted by Dajakisubo
Spine was definitely the most annoying fight in Dragon Soul, and didn't feel particularly cinematic... if anything, it broke immersion more than any other fight in Dragon Soul. If Deathwing can roll, and if he can throw us all off by doing so, why does he only do it when we ask him to?


My only real problem with DS was how much spine broke, also it was not particular fun / interesting.

Edit : I would also love to see tiers with 13 to 15 raid bosses rather than 7 or 8
Edited by Hammerdude on 3/5/2012 6:24 PM PST
03/05/2012 06:18 PMPosted by Dajakisubo
The Hour of Twilight dungeons weren't terrible in terms of difficulty... but I think that in the future, you need to release new 5-mans every tier. I think the reason they seem so off in difficulty to so many people is that since they require only ilvl 353 to queue in, they have to be doable by a full pug group wearing ilvl 353 gear. Most players have far higher than that going in, and they give out far better than that. If there was another tier of 5-man between ZA/ZG and Hour of Twilight, there would have been a much smoother difficulty curve and a much more natural growth in both challenge and reward (say, fire themed dungeons that required ilvl 353 to get in and gave 365 loot... then the hour of twilight dungeons require 365 to get in, then give out 378 loot). I'm aware that the firelands daily rewards were 365, but the time requirement on those is simply not reasonable now that it's not current content, in terms of gearing up; it's now relegated to achievement hunters which, while not bad, doesn't really factor into the dungeon/raid progression.


Good point, and I agree. A steadier curve of five-man progression is good for all concerned.

03/05/2012 06:18 PMPosted by Dajakisubo
I also saw no mention of how much NPCs factored into the Dragon Soul progression. As with many of the new old world quests, seeing so much interaction from the NPCs really kills the mood... it stops feeling like we're doing something, and starts to feel like we're just there to watch the NPCs be awesome. Thrall can scream about us being the only hope all he likes, it still feels like we're little kids helping our parents in the kitchen, not really doing anything significant while our parents assure us that we're being very helpful. At best, it's patronizing and unenjoyable, and at worst it's insulting.


I vehemently disagree with this. I absolutely loved all the NPC interaction in Dragon Soul. It made it feel like a more epic experience; I felt like a true hero, fighting alongside the most important figures from lore, as opposed to just some mercenary fighting for lootz.

Besides, what's the point of having lore figures if they don't do anything?
85 Blood Elf Mage
TM
4890
uh wat lol
Edited by First on 3/5/2012 7:44 PM PST
85 Troll Druid
6980
falling through the gaps to your death on Madness is always fun. especially since you cant brez
Edited by Dudemanchu on 3/5/2012 6:25 PM PST
90 Blood Elf Mage
13285
I wish that you could sync up LFR for regular difficulty firelands.

Let people experience it, with an average gear level of 380 or something as the threshold.

Don't change the difficulty at all.
90 Human Warrior
PSY
11190
I particularly loved the complete 180 they did once people started cancelling subs because heroics were too hard at the start of the expansion (sarcasm). Way to stick by your blog GC, and way to stick with your vision of this game in general ... odd this seems a lot like politicians nowadays.

My playtime has drastically decreased this expansion going from an avid player through the first 2.5 expansions. Slippery slope feel is in effect, and I don't see myself returning for round 4. Take it as you will, but I know a lot more players feel the same way I do, and when you lower difficulty you generally remove the will to keep playing what becomes a boring, bland game after a couple weeks.

I've played different toons at casual and hardcore levels, and really, I just seem to be losing interest, mainly because of the choices being made by the development team. I'm not at all bitter though, it's been a great ride.
90 Blood Elf Priest
12240
I would prefer a return to WotLK style dungeons. Sorry, but doing Cata dungeons with PuG's was a total nightmare for a really long time.

I also agree Spine was not the best raid boss. In fact it was disgusting (visually).

I really hope the next expansion raids are more visually pleasing. The fire and lava is very tired.
90 Draenei Shaman
12940
Spine is really cool in that sense he described. We started the expansion with DWs armor being placed in and ended with the removal of said armor. The fight is very chaotic but it is epic none the less.

As for heroics, I don't think the issue was asking players to use their abilities wisely. Its not a problem of cc adds and single target the skull. The problem, in my opinion, was that it took the better part of an afternoon to finish anything.

How many times did you finish, say, Heroic Deathmines? That heroic alone could take a group of smart, experienced and coordinated players well over 1 hour. The time requirement was the issue, not the difficulty.
I wish that you could sync up LFR for regular difficulty firelands.

Let people experience it, with an average gear level of 380 or something as the threshold.

Don't change the difficulty at all.


That would be awesome.
85 Gnome Death Knight
2775
Spine was far from epic.
5 Night Elf Druid
0
I like how he said Mimiron was his favorite boss. :)
90 Draenei Shaman
13090
Sorry, but if the developers believe the following:

- 10 and 25 player raids are reasonably balanced and good for the game
- Spine of Deathwing was fun

They are utterly clueless. Now, I don't actually believe that, but I do believe this particular interview was a waste of time and these responses were the most generic answers you could give and carefully crafted to say nothing at all with as many words as possible.

03/05/2012 06:14 PMPosted by Odok
just ignoring all the criticisms levied at the end game this expansion isn't the way to go.

Couldn't agree more.

03/05/2012 06:18 PMPosted by Maigraith
And, of course, the Raid Finder is the Best Thing Ever.

That's definitely overstating it. The Raid Finder has a lot of potential that has not been realized at all. The loot system is still terrible due to the loot being tradeable, and the same people typically winning everything in any given run. The fact that Raid Finder loot is better than heroic Firelands gear is absolutely ridiculously stupid. The fact that it did not include more raids is also a show of 4.3 being rushed, like the entirety of Dragon Soul. Like seriously, why has the falling-in-the-pit bug on Madness still not been fixed?

The one thing I DO agree with from this interview was the fact that Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight were good raids. Atramedes (and many others) were cool fights. Tier 12 would've been good with more content (Abyssal Maw??) and Dragon Soul is nothing but an embarrassment. It might seem OKAY to the lore junkie crowd who have read all the books and never had the opportunity to raid before (omg I'm raiding!) but to those of us who have been raiding for years, it's utter trash, and the crowd who got to see DS as their first raid, or first raid in years, are seeing the worst raid ever developed and are more excited because they are raiding than because it's a good raid.

It isn't.

You can do a hell of a lot better... both with this interview and with WoW raid design.


The 10 vs. 25 debate is also very old, it needs to die, and only you, Blizzard, can kill it. Bringing 10 onto the "same level" despite not being actually possible has completely ruined the feel of the raiding game. It was better before, and this change has had nothing but negative impacts on many areas of the game - which I would go over at length.
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