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Starym

How Addons Affect Raid Design - A Morgan Day Interview

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The biggest ongoing discussion in a large part of the WoW raiding player base has been whether raids are harder now than they were in the past, with Vanilla and Classic especially coming under fire for seemingly "easy" bosses. Now it's obvious today's boss fights are infinitely more complex, but there's a huge mitigating factor to consider, and that's addons. If you needed more proof for just how important mods are to raiding, the recent World First race win by Complexity Limit came just as they got their own dedicated addon coder, in their partnership with Deadly Boss Mods. Regardless of where you come out on the "raids were harder in era X" discussion, it's very clear addons have completely changed the way raids work, and we now have a look inside how exactly that evolved in a PC Gamer interview with lead game designer Morgan Day.


We start in Warlords of Draenor and Hellfire Citadel, where Archimonde sat waiting. The boss had been the hardest in a long time, surviving for 16 days and was only surpassed by his fellow Burning Legion bigwig Kil'jaeden, 2 years later to the day. So why was Archimonde so important? Well, a new addon was developed by the top raiders at the time that could actually draw lines on the minimap, making the Wrought Chaos Wrought Chaos mechanic easier to deal with. As Morgan Day explains:

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I didn't even know that people could do that [at the time]. That’s so clever. It's just something that is core to WoW functionality, but they had learned how to apply it in a way that really might make their raid encounter or dungeon a little bit easier.

This particular addon was deemed too powerful and the API was changed so it didn't work anymore, and this wasn't the first time Blizzard had to step in and curb a mod's functionality, as Blackwing Lair (and Chromaggus in paticular) had shown that the Decursive addon was too powerful and needed to be toned down.

The biggest new piece of info from the interview would have to be that while Blizzard don't actually design bosses with addons in mind from the ground up, they very much do pay attention to them when it comes to implementing the boss designs. They don't always catch everything, however. Day mentions that the Prophet Skitra's main mechanic in Ny'alotha was actually completely ignored by mods - the boss would split into many mirror images and players were supposed to communicate and find out which one was real, except Blizzard didn't quite foresee a method mods could mark the real one, and so that part of the fight was completely trivialized.

And finally, Day talks about how some addons, while deemed too powerful and were shut down, lead to actual improvements in the game itself, like bosses using similar tech to telegraph their attacks better (like the Augmented Virtual Reality one from WotLK which allowed you to draw whatever you wanted on the game screen).

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Functionality that addons are adding to the game that we feel is actually just really important information, that we should be doing a better job of displaying, is a conversation we have all the time.


The interview covers a lot more ground and goes into detail on some of the above examples and is a great read if you're a raider or interested in the World First race, so definitely go check it out!

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Good read.  

I like reading about this.  It never fails when something happens, bugs or 'exploits' or whatever, the calls for the heads of blizz staff and testers go out like clockwork.

Are some of them legit, yes probably.  But many are just stasttically almost mandatory.  Even with beta and in house testing you will NEVER get the eyes on the game that literally tens of thousands of people going over and over in these raids will attempt / think of.  

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Nice read while on lunch break.  I actually only use a handful of mods like GTFO, DBM, Angry Keystone, Astral Keys, and Simcraft.  Can't really use Weak Auras due to not having a reliant source of internet 100% of the time and when I've tried loading/using that particular addon I have the worlds worst in lagged out gameplay.  But in relation to the article I will have to agree that the Raid Boss encounters over the course of several years have increased in difficulty with newer mechanics specially with the current expansion of BFA.  

I've came across a lot of gamers that refuse to use any form of addon saying it makes the game too easy but refuse to learn the skills and mechanics of a particular fight in return.  I don't necessarily view addons as a trump card to win against Boss encounters but as a learning tool to properly improve my gameplay on any character that I play on.  

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Classic raid mechanics in some ways were in fact easier, however many cases in Classic they were also less forgiving combined with getting up to 40 people correctly execute mechanics. Today's mechanics may seem harder to many, but they're also often times recoverable (with some exceptions on Mythic difficulty of course) to a degree, such as being able to survive soccer fails on Xanesh.

I think one of the best examples of this is Heigan the Unclean from Naxxramas, given the tuning differences between Classic and WotLK.

You go from 40 people, to either 25 or 10, which right off the bat makes it easier when you're reducing the size of your core raid group, you are able to have more reliability in performance. 

Splashes from the 'safety dance' were easier, for a number of reasons. By WotLK, all of the instance servers had been updated with newer blades, resulting in better processing of player coordinates vs splash timing, resulting in less deaths "after the fact" that could be seen in Classic where you saw your friend die in the safe section and his corpse blip back to the section where he actually died according to where the server believed he was at when the splash happened.

The gauntlet? Completely removed from 25/10 man content in WotLK because of issues regarding port timing vs safety dance starting, randomness in player porting combinations could result in raid death from too many healers being ported while at the same time making it impossible to clear the gauntlet after 3 teleports, etc.

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2 hours ago, SidonisAntares said:

Classic raid mechanics in some ways were in fact easier, however many cases in Classic they were also less forgiving combined with getting up to 40 people correctly execute mechanics. Today's mechanics may seem harder to many, but they're also often times recoverable (with some exceptions on Mythic difficulty of course) to a degree, such as being able to survive soccer fails on Xanesh.

I think one of the best examples of this is Heigan the Unclean from Naxxramas, given the tuning differences between Classic and WotLK.

You go from 40 people, to either 25 or 10, which right off the bat makes it easier when you're reducing the size of your core raid group, you are able to have more reliability in performance. 

Splashes from the 'safety dance' were easier, for a number of reasons. By WotLK, all of the instance servers had been updated with newer blades, resulting in better processing of player coordinates vs splash timing, resulting in less deaths "after the fact" that could be seen in Classic where you saw your friend die in the safe section and his corpse blip back to the section where he actually died according to where the server believed he was at when the splash happened.

The gauntlet? Completely removed from 25/10 man content in WotLK because of issues regarding port timing vs safety dance starting, randomness in player porting combinations could result in raid death from too many healers being ported while at the same time making it impossible to clear the gauntlet after 3 teleports, etc.

Whilst I see your point, none of that is more difficult in Vanilla, there was simply a limit to the technology of the time. Perhaps WoW was too ambitious then? Time will tell with Classic of course, but other than the fact that finding and managing a smaller group is easier, I can't see anything harder in vanilla. 

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1 hour ago, Bobbis said:

Whilst I see your point, none of that is more difficult in Vanilla, there was simply a limit to the technology of the time. Perhaps WoW was too ambitious then? Time will tell with Classic of course, but other than the fact that finding and managing a smaller group is easier, I can't see anything harder in vanilla. 

I didn't say it was more difficult, I said it was less forgiving. Mistakes often triggered a chain reaction that led to a wipe just due to sheer math, not because of difficulty.

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7 hours ago, Ragingwolf said:

I've came across a lot of gamers that refuse to use any form of addon saying it makes the game too easy but refuse to learn the skills and mechanics of a particular fight in return.  

Bit of a tangent, but this got me thinking. 

Although I use some addons I've always detested things like DBM. Although I've also heard 'it makes it too easy', I'm not sure that's the reason I dislike them myself. I don't resent Blizzard's sporadic yellow text on the screen which does exactly the same thing. 

I'll tell you something curious, though -- of the addons I use, the two which could be considered relevant to gameplay are TellMeWhen and Magnetbuttons, which I use to construct a small array of timers and buttons I find relevant to my rotation. 

And I've grown very accustomed to using those, because I don't feel I can perform my rotation suitably without them. There's always a buff I miss when it drops; a stack which I forget to take advantage of. Why should I feel fine using an addon to help me with my rotation, when I hate ones which help me with encounters?

But the reason I use TellMeWhen instead of any more complete rotational addon is that it allows me to tailor it precisely to what I need it for. On my DK I consistently forget to apply Virulent Plague, so I've got a reminder for that. But I'd hate an addon which told me when to dump RP or when to transform. I should be intelligent enough to do that on my own, I feel. 

And I think, possibly, that's the answer to dislike of DBM (my own, at least). I've never met a raid encounter which was too complex I didn't feel I could learn it naturally. DBM feels rather irritating to me for that reason. It's almost patronising me. 

Not that I'd disagree with anyone else using it, of course.

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