(image by Dan Scott can be found at Dan Scott Art)
On September 1 we took our first three pulls on Heroic Rag, to “see what he was all about”. On September 6, we started working the fight in earnest. We are now some odd 345ish pulls into the fight, and each additional night that we work on the fight a small part of my soul dies. I no longer have the energy to get angry when people make mistakes. Many times the first two phases of the fight feel mostly like just going through the motions. It’s like a dance that I’ve done 100 (well, more like 300) times.
For about the first 250 pulls I was energetic. Enthusiastic. Excited. But somewhere between then and now I just feel…tired. At one point, if I was asked if the fight was “fun” I would have said that yes, I was enjoying the progression. But that point has long past. Now it’s mostly just frustrating. I have little patience for my own mistakes, and less patience for others. Spending 7 minutes just to have a son hit the hammer because someone made a bad decision makes me want to put my fist through my monitor. Spending 9 minutes to get into our new “progression” phase, only to get 60 or 90 seconds of “progression” and then having to start over makes me want to kick a kitten.
Which brings me to the question: Are 400 pull fights good design?
Now, I’m sure there is going to be someone in the comments here that will invariably say “you are just a wuss, I loved every minute of our Rag work”. And I’m just going to head you off by calling “bullshit”. At some point you were also frustrated, be it at the encounter or you raid team. If you don’t want to admit to that, that’s your business. But I don’t buy it for a single second.
Personally, I don’t have the same level of hate for this fight that I felt with Heroic Ascendant Council, not even close. But, unlike council, this fight has just worn me down. And every night that we don’t walk out with a kill makes me feel that much more bogged down. I’m no stranger to hard work and long fights by any means. I killed the original Ragnaros when you had to spend a month farming fire resist gear, and remember when Vaelstraz was a giant cockblock for many guilds. Hell, I killed C’thun with most guilds wrote it off and saw the demise of the T5 bosses before attunements for T6 were removed and we had to back-attune people to progress. I don’t have any problem putting in the time on a tough fight, and I have done it many times in the past.
But seven weeks into heroic Rag I find myself wondering if a fight in which the kill average is somewhere in the ball park of 450 pulls is good game design. I am all for a challenge, but I question if that challenge couldn’t have been equally accomplished in a more reasonable manner. I found many of the T11 end bosses challenging – but not one of them reached this level of mind-numbing repetition to acquire a kill. Even my arch-nemesis, I hate you and still have nightmares about you, Ascendant Council was more reasonably obtainable – and you all know how much I hated that fight.
The sad part is, I don’t even really dislike the Heroic Rag fight. I’m just so tired of it.
Are 400 pull kills “fun”?
The truth of it is that I actually found many of the mechanics of the Heroic Rag fight engaging and fun…the first 100 times that I encountered them. But now? Some 340ish pulls later, they are repetitive and tedious. All of the engaging and fun has been drained out of them and now for 70% of my raid time I’m just going through the motions. Hey, magma trap – trigger nature’s grace and heal. Oh look, seed countdown, trigger trinket and hot the people who will take damage. Oh look engulfing flames – let me hot people who regularly take damage in hopes that it’s enough for them to survive. Beru…don’t you dare stop to cast a heal during that. It never ends well for you, ever.
I could probably navigate 3/4 of this fight with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back. And after 300 some odd pulls, it’s no longer engaging and fun. It’s boring. It’s tedious. It’s painful. Unfortunately, if you were that one person who stepped into the fire that one time, even if it your very first time - people are frustrated with you. And if you are that person that steps into the fire regularly, people want to punch you in the face.
Lag out at the wrong time? Game over. Space out on pull 285? Game over. Have an slightly older computer that struggles to handle heavy graphics at times? LOL SEEDS EAT YOUR FACE.
The problem is that this fight has the potential to be quite fun while remaining challenging without becoming mind-numbingly tedious. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly parts of it that are fun. But as a whole? The fight has become more tedious than fun. Every time we push phase 4, we should feel excitement. Even if we wipe, we should feel that we are almost there and we should be invigorated for the next pull. But instead, the feeling that many get is “ugh…back to phase one again to start all over again”.
To me, that isn’t good game design or fun.
Part of the Problem
To me, I think the biggest part of the problem with the encounter is how bloodly long it is. It really skews the learning curve, which is what (I think) causes the tedium. Let’s take a look at it:
- Mastering phase one is fairly easy once you figure it out.
- However, as you are learning the transition, you have to go back to phase 1 and reapeat it.
- When you move on to phase 2, as you learn it, you have to go back to phase 1 and the transition.
- When you learn the second transition, you have to go back to phase 1, the first transition and phase 2.
- When you move to phase three, you have to go back to phase 1 (again), the transition (again), Phase 2 (which if any of you saw the live raid at Blizzcon know is still difficult), the second transition and THEN can work phase 3…if you survived all of that with most of your raid team alive.
- When you start working phase 4 – you got it! You go back to phase 1 (dear god, are we there yet?), the transition (WHY IS THAT SON SO CLOSE TO THE FUCKING HAMMER), phase 2 (seriously, people, TURN ON YOUR TIMER BARS ALREADY, THEY DON’T LAG), another transition (*sobbing at this point*), phase 3 (Please, I beg of you, JUST DANCE), and oh, hey look! IT’S FINALLY TIME FOR PHASE 4.
By the time to get to see legs for the first time (which is a huge fucking deal), you have probably seen phase one 200 (or more) times. You have probably seen phase two 150 (or more) times. And you are just starting to work the final phase of the fight, which offers a whole additional set of challenges to overcome. Only if you wipe, you must start back at square one and spend an additional nine minutes getting back to the point of progression…and did we all remember what we learned the last time we were here? It was three pulls ago…because we wiped a couple of times in phase two or three before getting back here again. I’m not sure at what point the tedium sets in. I just know that it gets there.
Every pull that we don’t make it to phase four makes me want to curl up in a ball under my desk and weep. Not because it’s too hard, but because I know that we have to navigate the land mine that is the rest of the fight again. And oh god, it’s such a long way to the end of the field.
I get that I’m supposed to feel challenged, but I don’t really feel challenged anymore. I feel exhausted. At what point do we loose sight of remembering that challenge and fun can be synonymous?
What do you think? Are 400 pull fights good game design? Are they fun? Would encounters still be challenging if they took less to get to the end?