Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chain Pulling

There's a post at Kill Ten Rats that mocks the somewhat absurd nature of pulling groups of enemies in an MMO. Basically, no matter how you pull, any other enemies outside a set distance, whether they be in the same room or not, will completely ignore you, even if you pull with a honking great big flashy exploding fireball of doom.

But one of the comments (the first one, by NBarnes) puts forth an interesting idea: what if, upon pulling the first group, the entire instance was alerted to your party's presence, and began to make its way toward you?

If done right, this could make an instance really exciting, as you'd be racing against the tide, desperately trying to reach an objective before becoming overwhelmed. If there were multiple paths through an instance, you could perhaps employ some tricks to divert enemies away from you, although you'd then have them racing to catch up behind you, adding to the pressure.

This sort of mechanic is already in the game to some degree in instances like Violet Hold, or the Thorim fight in Ulduar: waves of enemies come at you and you have to fend them off. The problem here is that the location is more or less static: you basically stand in the same room and take what's thrown at you. Culling Of Stratholme and Pit Of Saron, on the other hand, have a "gauntlet" section, where enemies keep on coming at you until you get all the way through it. It's still a relatively small area of the zone, but the important difference is you have to make your way from point A to point B whilst fighting off enemies (or in the PoS case, rounding them up then fighting them all at once).

Boss fights in such a place could differ from the norm in that you'd be quite pushed for time - perhaps the party would enter the boss's room and the doors would lock for a time, keeping the approaching enemies at bay. You'd then have a clearly defined (thus controllable, from an encounter mechanics point of view) area in which to do battle. Defeating the boss could then throw up some kind of permanent obstacle to the enemies, and you'd have to leave via a newly uncovered (and also enemy-free, for now) route.

As with the boss encounters, there could be sections where you're allowed a brief reprieve, restore mana, top people off, then away you go again, into the fray!

It's obviously impossible to say how well this kind of dungeon would work in practice, and how hard it would be to balance. I also think it should be reserved for the higher levels, since by then tanks would have more experience (barring those who levelled as DPS then respecced once they reached the level cap) and would be better able to cope with the constant pressure to move forward, better able to round up enemies whilst on the move.

Really, there are many possibilities for this kind of encounter, and whether it's fun or not really depends on how well it's balanced, or the timing of enemies. Perhaps they wouldn't come in "waves" as such, but instead more randomly, with different mixtures: at one point you might encounter a large, tough monster on its own, other times weaker but more numerous ones grouped together.

The element of randomness would, I think, add to the experience, as otherwise you'd get into a situation where people could simply learn the sequence and dance their way through it, eventually narrowing it down to one optimum path. I've read in various places that at least some people would prefer more dynamic encounters (unless they're PvP-like, where the rules are completely different), and I believe this sort of idea could work well and allevieate some of the grind if it offered enough variety.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Worldview: Felwood

Felwood, the green unpleasant land bordering Darkshore, is a sickly, diseased place. The wildlife is rabid, with large gashes and weeping sores covering the bodies of the wolves and bears, and many of the trees have been altered to feature twisted "faces", complete with dripping green ooze for saliva. Even the elven lanterns that light the road are corrupt. For certain, questing in Felwood is an uncomfortable experience, with most of the objectives based on cleansing the demonic taint. It's no surprise that the questgivers here are members of the Cenarion Circle.

Unlike Feralas, the green of Felwood is far from lush – rather it is the green of poison and decay and worse. In spite of all this, however, there are a few plants still remaining free of the illness which has soaked into the land, and the owls of the region likewise seem untouched.

Approaching Felwood from Ashenvale in the south; the air is not so bad here.

Two furbolg clans in the area, the Deadwood and the Felpaw, have been corrupted and are hostile to players, and to the Timbermaw tribe in the north.

The thick forest canpopy rarely offers an unobstructed view of the sun, placing almost the entire region into a murky gloom.

Ancient elven ruins mark the entrance to the demonic enclave of Jaedenar in the west of Felwood, where the Shadow Council go about their business.

A large portion of Jaedenar is underground, accessible through this building.

A change from the rotten green outside, the demons' lair is a mixture of red and blue.

Warlocks of many races inhabit the caverns along with the demons.

The red tinge permeates the air surrounding demonic dwellings.

Dead and dead: elven ruins and rotting trees.

The lake in at the bottom of Bloodvenom Falls, which then flows into Bloodvenom River.

Bloodvenom River overflowing the cliffs that separate Felwood and Darkshore. From here the river flows down numerous waterfalls and eventually becomes Wildbend River.

Shatter Scar Vale. The burnt patches were caused by infernals and fire elementals landing here during the invasion of the Burning Legion

A diseased bear, its wounds seeping openly, heads towards the road in northern Felwood.

The northern parts of the zone aren't quite so heavily canopied, although the thick, tainted air still occludes much of the light.

Occasionally, though, the sun does manage to reach the forest floor, resulting in a few patches of light here and there.

In Irontree Woods, in the north of the zone, these three Ancients – Hastat, Stoma and Vartrus – have been permanently petrified.

Corrupt treants also wander Irontree Woods.

More open areas near Irontree Woods.

A furbolg of the Felpaw tribe stands watching his camp in northern Felwood.

Looking along the road heading south back into Felwood.

Along the eastern edge of Felwood, the massive cliffs of Mount Hyjal soar, protecting the World Tree Nordrassil.

As you can see, Felwood is by no means a pretty place, but nonetheless I feel is quite interesting, particularly in the effect is has on players questing there.