Monday, October 25, 2010

Knowing is only half the battle

A lot of interesting stuff from BlizzCon this weekend, don't you think? I know it's hard to put out a lot of exciting WoW info when the Cata beta's been long opened and the full retail release is just over 6 weeks away. But there was still good stuff in there.

The Worgen cinematic they released is the first little bit of anything regarding the starting zone/questing that I've allowed myself to see. It has me salivating. I got those chills again that I missed from the opening cinematic.

While not WoW related, I also really, really liked the Demon Hunter cinematic for Diablo III. Excellent writing on that one. I've watched it several times now.

Anyway, they still managed to pump out a lot of info that I could talk about, but the one thing that really stood out for me is this:
Enhanced Maps
  • Detailed boss info will be added to the map, including loot, lore, and abilities! (Yep, in-game AtlasLoot)
  • You won't have to pull a boss and die anymore to find out what he does.
  • "We're not going to tell you how the boss works, but we want you to have an idea of what you're getting into."
As a raid leader, this information further enforces ideas that we've been hearing about ever since the first design goals of Cataclysm started being discussed openly. But before I delve into that, I want to share a little anecdote about one of my raiders.

For the sake of argument, we'll call her Tammy. Tammy, overall, is a pretty good raider. She knows her class well. She has good gear, good gemming/enchanting, and good rotation management. More often than not, she's a real asset in our runs. There's just one problem: Tammy won't install DBM. She considers it "cheating" and refuses to use it.

Okay, I can see where she's coming from. At the time of its creation, DBM probably was right on that borderline of "cheating." But here's the thing: DBM's been around for a long time now. I've been using it for 3 years and I'm sure it's been around longer than that, even. For at least that long it's been pretty much a required addon for any serious raider.

Blizz knows this. They knew this when they started raid development for Wrath and on all the way through. And if you don't think they've been programming their encounters around the knowledge that any serious raider is going to be running this addon, you're crazy.

Raid encounters have steadily moved away from testing people's ability to recognize an impending danger and react to it and towards the ability to be preemptive. Take LK. If you're not in proper position when a Val'kyr shows up or when a Defile is dropped, it's already too late.

But DBM only did so much for us. It would tell us what was coming, but we'd either have to run the encounter or go to a site like WowWiki, Wowhead, or Bosskillers to tell us what those abilities actually did. It still required leaving the game and doing some research.

Now Blizz is taking the absolute need to hit those sites out of the equation. Right there, in the game, we're going to be able to see all of a boss' abilities. And who can blame them? Every serious raider is already going to the sites mentioned to read up on abilities and plan strats around them. It's in Blizz's best interest to fully embrace this practice and design encounters around the knowledge that people are going to be checking this stuff out, anyway.

And anyone that's spent any amount of time on LK will tell you that all of this still does not equate to cheating. No amount of "knowing" what's going to happen during the LK encounter really prepares you for it. You have to be in there, experiencing it. Repetition. Practice. You still have to develop the skills required to get through it, and that's not easy.

It sounds to me like encounters in Cataclysm are going to continue to move in this direction. We have DBM. We have in-game descriptions of boss abilities. All this information is handed to us, and Blizz knows it. So they're going to be designing their encounters assuming that you're using this information to its fullest. Waltzing into a raid and face-rolling is not going to be an option. You have to be an educated, skillful player to succeed. Ignorance is no longer a viable excuse.

Be smart and be prepared.
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