Friday, February 20, 2009

Raid Encounter: The... Uhh...Tree Guy

I drive a different way home than I used to. It favors following the water from Yorishima back to Tamashima, instead of cutting through town on main roads like I used to do. It's a more winding path, and there's no other cars or any stoplights. It's not some huge commute, and only takes about 20 minutes. I used to work for some private company in Japan that had me driving 2 hours in each direction to teach a 30 minute class on Monday evenings. I love driving, but ugh. The current commute is a good little drive for just thinking about random crap on the way to or from school, and I'm trying to force myself to come up with encounters and stuff on the drive home each day. For the last week or so, I've been stuck on some tree type boss, so here's me typing it up, in an effort to get it out, and hope my brain can move on to something else.

The Setting:

A lush, enclosed, garden area. My castle layout has one such area off to the side of the final bosses tower, but I kinda already have a Green Dragonflight encounter for that zone, but this one may be better or not... I'll type up the dragon one later, and see which one sounds better in the end. Oooh! Maybe the garden area will have a random boss found there like the Opera event in Kara? I like that idea way better. Hmm...

Anyway. It's a garden area, and the center is dominated by a huge oak-type tree. It's big, in full bloom, and has long branches reaching high up. The floor of the garden is also very grassy, lots of little flower doodads etc.

At this point, there needs to be some lore mechanic, or some *reason* why we're going in there to fuck the place up. I imagine an altar of some sort that the raid channels, or some well we throw poison into... something of that sort that taints the garden and begins the encounter. Perhaps it's a quest item dropped from the Alchemist boss or something. There's a hook here to fill a bit of story out is the main point, though.

The area is tainted however, and death spreads out from the point of taint. The grass dies, and the earth left behind becomes some sort of blighted area. Eventually this blight reaches the tree itself, and it shudders as it drops all of its leaves on the ground. Where once the tree was in 'springtime' mode, it's now very 'wintery' and twisted. There's some more rumbling, and a voice calls out, condemning the raid for their foolishness and wanton disregard for the balance of nature, yadda yadda yadda.

The Encounter:

A face appears on the tree, and it begins to uproot itself. Immediately several things happen. The dropped leaves from the tree sprout forth into lasher mobs, one for every member of the raid (10 or 25). Each of these lashers has a unique raid member aggro; one lasher per raider. Obviously, it's in the raid's best interest to start the event clumped up so that consecrates, thunderclaps, demo shouts, or death and decay can grab aggro. Once each mob has taken at least one point of damage (i.e. has trained on to a tank), the boss activates.

His first ability is to shoot seeds in the air (5 for 25 man, 2 for 10), which twirl around and land in the ground. At first I thought it would be interesting to have them give no indication of where they landed, and you would have to mentally remember their locations, but perhaps that's not a good idea. Instead, their 'landing spot' could be designated by some grassy growth or a tiny sprout sticking out of the ground. He then engages the tank, and casts basic 'naturey' spells around ont he raid. Insect swarm, kickable regrowths, and has buffs like thorns or nature's grasp. Tree stuff, right?

After a while, he casts barkskin, and sinks his roots back into the earth. This is the phase shift. His roots travel through the ground (out of site), and whovever is standing closest to each of the sprouts gets hit with an entangling root that isn't dispellable. This is where I thought it would be interesting to be forced to remember the sprout locations manually. Having a grassy area on the floor kind of trivializes this part of the encounter. Anyway, the root ticks with bramble damage, but the big issue is that the sprouts pop up and begin wailing on whoever is rooted. They are untauntable, and have a good chunk of threat to overcome before they'll pay attention to anyone other than the rooted individual closest to them. So it's in the raid's best interest to have tanks run to the sprouts as soon as the barkskin goes up on the boss. Also, what sprouts out of the ground is a toss up between a large, heavy hitting single 'ent' type unit, or a swarm of smaller treants. Perhaps there could be some indication which will sprout based on what the sprout itself looks like, but I like the idea that you don't know until it happens. Not like it makes a huge difference; it's either a lot of little rapid hits to whoever is there, or a few big hits spread out over time. It would make a difference if the tank wan't there to pick them up (big mobs one shotting clothies, or little ones interrupting casts), but the way Blizz has homogenized tanks won't make or break the encounter is the DK gets one or the other, etc.

Once you've killed a certain sprout's ... uhh... sprout... then the roots holding that player in place wither, and the player is free to lend a hand with the rest. After a set amount of time, the boss reactivates regardless of wether or not the raid is ready. Him standing back up removes the roots, but the adds still need to be dealt with. He stands up, shoots more seeds around the area, and the fight progresses.

He has another skill that has branches reaching down and plucking up raid members to be held aloft, out of the fight. The tree branch holding a raid member is attackable, but the member falls back to the ground when freed in this fashion. Slowfall or well timed levitates (or paly bubbles) can counter this fall damage. It won't kill you outright, unless you're at low health to begin with.

At 15% health, he does a special emote, and blows his bark outward. This is unavoidable, and hits for a flat percentage of health. After this, he enrages, and hits much faster, but is much more vulnerable to damage with his armor gone.

That's the basic gist of the fight, and I actually really like the idea that the garden spawns different bosses each time you enter. I'll get that green dragonflight one typed up soon, but I can't feel my fingers right now. It's too cold in my house today. :(


Vads said...

Pretty cool boss you got sketched up, and reading the other ideas here I'd love to play this raid instance you're putting together. Blizz, hire this guy!

Anonymous said...

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David said...

Some constructive criticism:

I didn't read your description closely, but I got lost quickly. Well, read it closer, you might say, but from the perspective of someone at Blizzard that is flipping through your folders of ideas, I wouldn't come away with a clear idea of the encounter. You need to describe the phases and cycles a boss has individually, and how they work together. Are there poisons/curses/magic debuffs? 10man/25man differences? "Hard Mode" options? Are there any mechanics/programming/assets not used before which will require additional programming and development? I know its just a blog post and not the final submission, but I'm working with what I got ;)

You need sketches and diagrams, and names for all the elements of the raid (not "roots" and "sprouts", but something like "Creeping Tendrils" and "Budding Beasts" or something colorful like that). I've seen you've had diagrams before so you probably just haven't gotten around to making em, but I can't 'see' the encounter yet, I just think of the one in Botanica. Or the one in Nexus. Or the latter half of Mauradon.

To really sell it to Blizzard, you have to tie it into the lore. Make up some bullshit story about something if you have to, but involve the forces of good and evil, etc etc. I'm not a big lore nerd, but here's my shot at it:
The ghost of Illidan corrupts a forest to drain the power of the green dragonflight to get back at [someone] because [he loved him/her]. You can also build lore from scratch, but keep it Blizzard-y.

I guess my point is the more details the better, but it crucial that it is easy to take it in. Clear organization and accessible layout. That is equally or more important than the actual encounter.

As a suggestion, have you considered laying out encounters somewhat like Wowwiki does? A lore intro to the boss, a description of the encounter and each ability, and diagrams and pictures of the encounter? I always find Wowwiki's articles easy to glean information from when I pull them up right before an encounter.

Rich said...

David: Thanks for the feedback. I haven't made it really clear but these are mostly in the brainstorming phase still. I have so many random ideas and crap that I usually just crap them into a blank document here on the blog, and have a bunch of 'drafts' that aren't pushed out yet. I push one out on a slow news day, or when it just 'feels right'. Some of these I polish up, but I admit this one was pretty rushed. I do want to get in the habit of being more (than less) thorough, but I'm not going to just send an email to blizz one day and say "hay check out mai blog yo". When it comes time to talk to someone there, I'll have everything as close to final presentation quality as I can muster, with charts and models, and videos of me moving action figures around on my kitchen table if I think it will help.

I've actually toyed around with the idea of having another full domain/blog that's where the final type-ups go, with links back to these at the end if they're curious of the process it went through (or how it began differently).

One thing that occurs to me is that I don't really have a sense of actual spell mechanics, and I guess I should take a harder look at these? Many of my spell descriptions are "basic cleave" or "short silence" or "AoE of a flat percentage of hitpoints". I do this intentionally... the fight will change based on when it would be released, and there may be a new hero class with new skills by then, or whatever. Rather than hammer it down to "frontal 20% cone dealing 14,500 on plate" I'm mostly trying to think of unique fight mechanics, and the fluff can be nailed down and filled in later.

But! Point taken, and I do welcome feedback. That's one of the main reasons I'm so public about all of this, rather than hoarding a bunch of crap in a cave. ;) I'll try and flesh them out a bit more, and maybe do another pass on this one itself.

David said...

I don't think you need to make exact numbers, because in a year we'll all have 100k HP and do 25k crits on bosses, so putting numbers down now is not a priority.

Now you got me all thinking about encounter planning :)

I was thinking about the key elements of a boss encounter, and I was able to come up with this list:

1.Tank damage pressure (Massive damage spikes)
2.Tank threat pressure (grabbing multiple adds, holding threat on one target, tank rotations)
3.Non-tank damage pressure (aoe damage or adds damage)
4.DPS output pressure (changing targets quickly, focus on burst or sustained dps)
5.Healer pressure (single or group healing requirements, mana management)
6.Boss positioning requirements (also means tank positioning)
7.Player positioning requirements (dont stand in shit)
8.Environmental interaction (i.e. clicking on something at the right time-portals, cubes, encounter specific item use, etc)
9.gimmicks (including but not limited to: encounter specific debuffs and buffs, friendly NPCs, ultimate weapons in TK, etc)

I think that about covers it. Any encounter should feature one or more of 1-7. 8 and 9 are what makes encounters stand out from each other. The more you have of 1-9 the more complex, and thus harder the encounter is.

Of course, any encounter has tank, dps, and healer roles. The gist is these are what are challenged in the encounter. For example, any tank and spank encounter has none of 1-9. They are easy and not too memorable.

I would say Patchwerk has 1,4 and 5. Tank mitigation, DPS output, and Healing are challenged. But, if you have the gear its very straightforward.

If you want to go old-school, Ragnaros is 3,4,7. Onyxia is 2,3,6,7. C'Thun is 2,3,4,7,8,9. (of course these are all for appropriate leveled and geared players)

Sarth with no drakes is 1,6,7
Sarth 3D is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9.

So when planning an encounter, it should challenge 3 or 4 of 1-7, and at least one 8 or 9 to make it a unique encounter. The tricky part is 8 or 9 shouldn't be like anything else already in the game.

This, for what it worth, would be my approach to encounter design.

Anonymous said...

Remember "resistances and weaknesses", things blizzard USED to use? Onyxia, Vael, Rag = lol fire spells. Make the tree immune to nature damage (LOL shams/laser turkeys) and weak to fire (Holy shit mages / destro). Seems logical, right?

Also, make a useable, non-consumable item (Like tears for Arch, etc) that players can grab throughout the encounter or prior to that does a frontal cone AE similar to dragon's breath that forces the small plants to let go of the person and tosses/dazes the plant. Just let the item deal a small amount of damage to the person and all friendlies within say 5 yards of him when used. You can even scrap some lore in if able.

When the little plants get tossed, make them tumble in mid air as they head to the ground, like those little helicopter leaves you play with as a kid. It'd be totally awesome.

Rich said...

david: spot on. I personally like trying to figure out the 8 and 9s. not having them feels boring, but not EVERY boss needs to be some intricate fiasco. I need to remind myself of that, and try and trim down on the fancy mechanics. fights like patchwerk are prime examples... a super 'easy' fight to learn, but execution is another story. the hardmodes are interesting (sarth, ulduar), I'm curious to see where this goes.

trag: the helicopter leaves are exactly how i already envisioned the seeds falling to the earth ;)

the original idea was that he threw them in the air, and they lazily twirled down, but gave no indication of their'final resting spot', which forced someone in the raid to either stand there or remember the spots (pinging on map etc), when the barkskin went up, anone who WASN'T paying attention had the opportunity to pay for it by becoming a rooted punching bag.

I really actually like that mechanic, but figured people would cry if there wasn't a big neon arrow saying 'WATCH OUT HERE'.

Anonymous said...

Big neon arrows sometimes make gameplay too point/click/spam 1-2-3-4, etc. I like surprise. The encounters itself isn't too intricate and doesn't seem that difficult, so the surprise of the little trees would be awesome.


He tosses the seeds out, they spiral and stuff. Since he's all nature like, summons a storm after X amount of time. Lightning hits people, does damage, chains to nearby friendlies. Make movement slowed during this due to "Muddy Ground" debuff or something. (Maybe also add like a flashbang-type effect for a few seconds when characters get struck. Thing of the drunk effect or the snake effect from ZG) Anyways, the sun comes out, the plants start to grow (Giving maybe a second to move) then snatch, you're getting beat on.

It's a thought anyways, and it's cool.

Rich said...

ooh, i really do like that storm idea! It reminds me of that one boss in ZA (eagle?), where you would crank up the ambient sounds to hear it coming, then collapse on the boss... but instead of collapsing it forces everyone to spread out to avoid chains, and *in the process*, try to be aware of where the seeds were planted.

awesome idea, I'll work it into the final.

Anonymous said...

Make the lightning damage chain and disorient. It forces the raid to move away from the people that get hit with lightning and forces you to stay still if you do. Also, make the plants initially spawn and seem happy (for humor and a delay), then turn hostile and chase nearby targets. If caught, they root and pummel you senseless. Gives tanks aggro time and casters a short notice of where they're gonna pop. Also, if you just got lightning-hit and a plant spawns on you, it adds that little bit of random chaos.

Cap'n John said...

Sort of, but not quite off-topic...

I'd heard that very few Japanese owned cars, or like London and New York, is that only in the larger Japanese cities where a car is less a necessity and more a luxury?