Designing Raid Encounters

There’s always a lot of talk in XIV Endgame twitter about raid encounters, naturally. What could be improved? Why are they so same-y? Let’s dig in a bit.

Six Months of Experience

I’d like to start by pointing out that, in most cases, people are just tired of raid after roughly six months of a single tier. With virtually no diversity in content on pattern based fights, you’re going to hit burnout fast. That’s expected and totally understood. And, honestly, it isn’t right from a development standpoint. I’m sure there’s only so much they can do, but the current method just isn’t working.

Someone on Twitter managed to narrow down the entirety of raid tiers to a set pattern. The first savage encounter is the normal fight without kiddie bumpers. The second involves using a Duty Action as the core mechanic. The third involves RNG based on an earlier sequence in the fight. And the final encounter shifts into a new fight and a “final form” at 59% HP. This has been literally the pattern for all of Omega Savage raiding so far, which means we’ve had over a year of it.

You’ve really got to wonder why this is going on. Do they not have enough money? Time? Staff? Or is this a pattern they feel works for the majority of their players. To be fair, the majority of the playerbase isn’t even going to touch Savage raiding. So… maybe there’s not quite as much care that goes into it? And then there’s now apparently only two Ultimate fights per expansion which is incredibly disheartening. I’m definitely not an Ultimate tier player, but it was really fun watching prog teams delve into it! That heated race kicked FFXIV activity up significantly and it’s a shame they won’t push for more.

Expectations of Players

Rather than what the players expect, I’d like to note what the developers feel they can expect of their players. What technology is available to them to conquer an encounter, so forth. When you look at World of Warcraft for example, it’s absolutely understood that almost everyone is going to have Deadly Boss Mods installed. With that in mind, the developers are able to shape their way of handling encounters to also consider it. If they know the players will know how to safely handle mechanics, they can put more of the difficulty into the boss rather than onto the randomness given by each individual raider.

We’ve seen what happens to FFXIV raiding when you run ACT triggers for callouts. Almost every fight is pitifully trivialized in some shape or form. These fights are tuned in such a way to give players only a certain window to react. And if you expand upon that even slightly, it has a chance of drastically increasing your survival during the encounter. A11S was a huge example with the orb patterns… the visual was quick and hard to read for many. But ACT could pick up which attack pattern was next and tell you where to move to handle it, if you set the proper triggers.

The difficulty of FFXIV fights relies mostly on the players themselves. If you’re in a group that’s having issues because a few people don’t pick up mechanics as quickly, you’ll see this a lot. The moment you join a team that has more experience, or players who learn a bit faster, you might get that clear in time. Even better, if you join a group that’s nearly clearing or farming–it’ll quickly become oldhat because you’re able to catch up with people who don’t also need to learn. I’ve had that happen on O7S. “How do you even…?” becomes “Oh, that’s not so bad” and eventually “why aren’t we doing this in better ways?”

Pattern Based Raids

One thing I’ve noticed and commended the XIV team on is their method of cumulative learning. That mechanic you see in a dungeon will always do what the indicator says, even when you see it later on in raids. That’s a tremendous boon for getting newer, less experienced, and less confident players into considering raiding. If they’ve seen the thing before, they’ll know what to do about it. Not only does this make watching the raid more interesting, as you understand what’s happening, but it gives you something to consider. “Hey… I could do that. Maybe.”

Every raid encounter so far has some sort of pattern to follow. Do x mechanic in y way, follow up by doing b mechanic in c way. It makes raiding a lot more accessible to many players, but I can definitely see how this bores any veteran raider. There’s very little unexpected that happens from the encounter, because the developers are expecting that the unexpected will be from the players. Think about how much harder encounters you have on farm are when you join a PUG. Oh sure, this is a Tsuyukomi farm… yeah, okay. Why can’t we get past the first moon shift thing?

Pattern based raiding is accessible for many, and enough to throw off PUGs and unknowns. And certainly will give you a heck of a time when you join those groups. But for teams of players who work together well and consistently, especially for any prolonged period of time? They’re not going to be enough of a challenge eventually, if they ever even were. So I can definitely see how XIV’s current methodology of raid development just isn’t suitable for the future of quite a lot of the endgame community.

More Raids

What I think would help a lot, and have marked on before a bit on my blog, is having just flat out more raids. I don’t mean more tiers of existing raids, but more raids per tier. Or do that whole thing before about keeping iLvl set throughout an expansion and all raids share that but have different set bonuses and such.

Let’s face it, even lore wise it makes little to no sense that there’d only be one big thing happening at a time in the world. We’re dealing with Omega right now, sure. But why can’t other Warriors of Light be dealing with some big situation in routing out Garlean strongholds? Or keeping some of the more daring Beastmen at bay before they’re able to summon a Primal again? There’s so many different routes they can take to provide us with more raids per tier.

At least with more raids we’ll have more to chew on per content cycle. No doubt there’ll always be groups to clear everything and get bored, but that’s no excuse to limit the content provided either. And if they’re so worried that people will gear out too quickly and be done with the game until the next tier, isn’t that what’s happening already in a way? Players finish the raid tier, then unsub until the next one.

Why bother farming when you’ll get crafted gear to replace everything you took time to earn right away? The longevity of equipment is another consideration, though I already spoke about that before. Basically: more raids means more equipment diversity. Equalized iLvl in an expansion means gear isn’t as quickly replaced. When things hold more value, people will be more willing to acquire them. Which means more time raiding, and more players logged in to bother to run maps with you.

Happy adventuring!

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