I think the "stat check and nothing else" issue comes from the basics of DragonFable being about stats, and manipulating those numbers.
Of course there's going to be a point where if you have enough of a stat, you can bypass a mechanic.
I think discounting the relevance of knowledge and decision-making is selling some of DragonFable’s boss design short (see below). It’s when an entire boss is just win/lose depending on whether you have enough Bonus/MPM (or enough damage/burst to just ignore the fight) that paid classes have disproportionately higher stats and may not notice how uninteractive some aspects of a fight are.
It's not intended to be easily resolvable, or resolvable at all through simple skill stacking. If things have enough bonus to break through that, then they need adjustment. Eternal Epoch, Underworld Epoch, and Archivist for example will have their Bonus buffs reduced in the future.
This is fair, and if this was the design intention then I apologize for misinterpreting it. But, being completely unable to interact with Amaris for half of the fight didn’t seem like intended design, especially considering that 300 MPM is resolvable by numerous classes just using their normal rotations (Epoch x 3, Archivist, Kathool Adept), so I don’t think this was an entirely unreasonable conclusion to draw.
I think another issue is that many of these challenges have been Light/Dark, which naturally tends toward having to have high numbers in order to be remotely threatening.
I don’t think their damage is bad, nor do I have issue with gear-based stat checks (such as resistance). It’s not like there’s a huge (if any) power gap between the resistances of mtx and non-mtx gear, and players should be expected to adjust reasonably adjustable parameters in order to prepare for a challenge boss.
I thought I made an effort with this challenge in particular, actually. You can manipulate Safiria's -Darkness res debuff with shields and blinds to give yourself an advantage, and Amaris starts with big stats but those can be reduced to more managable levels by hitting her with Darkness, and then trying to defeat her while you can before she refreshes her buffs.
I noticed this mechanic with Safiria and thought it was very well-designed – same with the nuke mechanic only requiring some hits to miss and therefore utilizing blinds/hit rolls instead of just ‘does it miss y/n’. Same with stacking damage on the nuke so you can’t just reduce her to a stat check with Darkness resist. I thought Safiria was excellent on her own, which is why I didn’t mention her in the earlier post, but in retrospect probably should have.
Amaris’s mechanic here was a complete misfire on release. Hitting her with Darkness in order to make her hittable does absolutely nothing when you can’t hit her in the first place, and changing that is the entire reason you’d be trying to use this mechanic. Again, only paid classes would have been able to utilize this – which again makes it look like that’s how the fight was meant to be played. The mechanic and by extension Amaris are much more interactive now that she starts at 200 MPM – more skillsets can buff up and temporarily hit her through +200, therefore snowballing to a point where she can be hit normally – and this vast improvement via just stat reduction is a pretty good example of how number vomit / overturning cannibalized the fight design. (Having a strong blind with high bonus while under a strong shield during her second cycle still is a really steep MPM/Bonus check that’s still going to skew players towards paid options, but this is a nitpick and the fight is still vastly improved from its release night state.)
I'll try something then. Next time I have the urge to make a "stat fight" so to speak, I'll go with my pre-testing numbers. For example, pre-testing, Safiria stacked her darkness debuff by half as much, and Amaris started with 200 Bonus/Avd (which it has since been returned to). It is very possible that I am being influenced by QA toward overtuning, so this is a valid concern, and I appreciate it being brought up.
Please don’t take this to mean that I think any feedback should be universally rejected or accepted based on source. In this case, Safiria’s -res in its current state is a good way to keep up pressure without being either ignorable or overbearing, and I think if it were lower that would detract from the fight.
So, what kind of mechanics would you like to see? What kinds of mechanics or fights did you enjoy in the past that I should look to emulate the feeling of?
Here’s the part where I nerd out, because I really do believe DragonFable harbors some of the best boss design of any turn-based game I’ve played.
In my personal opinion, I think the two best thing DragonFable does with its bosses is encourage contextually relevant strategies that are manipulated via stats rather than directly using them, and forces splits that the player chooses between or responds to depending on context. This is kind of word salad-y so I’ll try to give examples of what I mean.
A recent example of a boss that exemplifies the former design philosophy would be Noxus. Because Noxus adjusts his own stats depending on the player’s HP in relation to his own, there are many situations in this fight where you’ll want to hurt yourself in order to prevent him from healing, or allow him to heal in order to protect yourself, and the thresholds at which you’ll want to choose between these two actions will change as the fight progresses. Because hurting yourself isn’t something you’re going to want to do in most fights, nor is refraining from piling up damage when you’re able to do so, the fight requires a unique approach – and therefore a contextually relevant strategy you’ll optimally manipulate with various combinations of gear and skill sequences. Rather than just simply checking for stats and expecting the player to directly respond, there’s a middleman mechanic that the player can manipulate in multiple ways, and the result is an extremely fun and interactive boss that’s satisfying to outsmart.
(Yes, I’m aware this particular boss has undertuned -res and can just be cheesed that way, but the actual fight design is sterling and you can just opt to not stack Darkness if you want to enjoy the fight).
Going back a little further, another more basic example of this principle is Escherion. Because of his inversion mechanic, there are many points in the fight where you’ll want to keep lowering your HP without dying to ensure optimal use of the mechanic, or just simply staying at low HP and shielding instead of healing. Again, this is a contextually relevant strategy that would be strictly harmful against most bosses or in a vacuum, but it’s an extra layer of interactivity that makes the boss more fun to fight.
Further than that, Pandora EX. You have to use the least relevant-for-her-current-phase debuffs you can on her in order to prevent her healing, which in turn buffs her and makes her more difficult to face depending on what you’ve used (ex: -Res is fine on Lust, Greed, or Wrath depending on class because nothing is going to be attacking all three of those, while -Boost is fine on Pride if cube isn't primed, because you're shielding that anyway). Again, this is a unique approach that wouldn’t be helpful against other bosses or present in a class’s default rotation – you’re manipulating a middleman mechanic between your skills and how the boss responds.
Another really good, albeit old, example is the Simulacrum of Uthuluc. Players have a lot more tools now than they did back when this challenge released, so it may seem pretty detached from the current game, but the design philosophy is still there. Because Uthuluc only becomes vulnerable to damage after being struck with a critical hit on enough successive turns, optimal strategies for many classes back when he released involved stacking +crit gear even if it wasn’t otherwise optimal (he’s not taking damage anyway) and prioritizing high hitcount skills for more crit rolls regardless of effects (again, he’s not taking damage anyway). Same principle – the boss required a unique approach that wasn’t part of the kind of rotation you’d default to, and players were rewarded for manipulating the mediating mechanic. A boss that’s invulnerable because you have to crit it first – an action you can accomplish in multiple ways – is way more fun and interactive than a boss that’s invulnerable because you have to stack 300 bonus first, IMO.
TLDR: It’s fun when you have to approach a fight in a unique way that may seem counterintuitive or sub-optimal in the context of another fight - usually accomplished by having an intermediate mechanic in between asking what your stats are and getting a successful result – especially if the condition can be satisfied in multiple ways rather than just looking at what your Bonus/MPM is on that turn. Things like this play to DragonFable’s strengths a lot, as the sheer number of different niche gear sets, weapon specials, unique class skills, etc are really satisfying to put together. Examples of this would be pulling out the Unlucky Dark Sword vs Noxus, using the Midas weapons vs Pandora EX, using Fragmented Blade vs Simulacrum of Uthuluc, etc. Having to change your approach instead of just picking a class with higher stats is much more satisfying.
(There are also some, albeit much fewer, examples of this principle that just ask you to do some arbitrary action and then you’ve just won the fight because there’s nothing else to it, such as Tibicenas or Iadoa, but I’m not really a huge fan of these.)
The latter design philosophy – choosing between splits – hasn’t been done as much as the former but it’s really cool when it does happen.
A recent example of this principle is Khasaanda, who has to be hit several times in order to prevent either a nuke or a heal, but reflects damage when hit. This leaves the player with a choice – is it better to take the reflect damage and prevent her nuke/heal, or just allow it to happen and skip the reflect damage? The correct answer depends on the context of the fight – how much resistance the player has, how much HP Khasaanda has remaining (though in this instance the nuke damage is super undertuned so the answer is usually to just take it). This is an example of a mechanic forced by the boss in which the player has to make an evaluation and choose between two outcomes – which, again, makes for very interactive gameplay.
Another example would be the several duo bosses with complimentary abilities that become powered up when the other is defeated, such as the Archdryad and Vath. Because each of the two individual enemies has distinct abilities, which version of the second phase the player chooses to fight is an informed choice specific to their strategy (ex: INT classes may want to kill Skywatcher first because in his second phase he inflicts -crit, while Archdryad only gains BPD in her second phase. More defensive classes may prefer to kill Archdryad first instead, since her bonus+damage+elements can't be stalled against while Skywatcher can). Again, this requires the player to evaluate the fight and make a decision that influences how the boss plays.
It’d be remiss to not also mention Drahr’Hatir and Drahr’Dolaas, which many players would (rightfully) consider to be the best fight in the game. These two bosses cycle between several different attack rotations, which the player has to recognize and manipulate in their favor. They aren’t quite the same as the aforementioned examples, as the player responds to ALL possible split outcomes rather than just choosing the most beneficial one – and therein lies their difficulty. Their rotation changes are clearly telegraphed and the player is given the opportunity to influence when changes occur (ex: if a player recognizes that Dolaas has entered his Null rotation, they’ll forgo healing and defensive play in order to hit his damage threshold with one fewer turn and switch him to a recovery rotation before the nuke attack – they may even reduce their resistances by swapping to the DragonKnight items. In his recovery rotation he may then use a roar attack, which will telegraph a resistance steal and a larger attack, at which point the player has to decide if Hatir’s damage is enough of an issue to either swap to lower resistance gear or use a shield – or simply prepare an attack sequence that just ends with a stun, which should be met with racking up damage). Again, the player’s ability to force changes in the boss behavior and choose a response to each change is what makes the boss fight fun.
TLDR: I think boss mechanics with split outcomes that require players to make a decision influenced by the context of the fight are a really fun design tenet that it’d be nice to see more of. Testing players’ decision-making skills in how well they understand both the boss and their own class/strategy is extremely rewarding and requires a bit more player input than just beating a stat check.
(This is NOT the same thing as RNG splits that aren’t evenly weighted, telegraphed, or cannot be influenced or responded to by the player. There are many bosses such as Uaanta, the geese, and Exalted Chickencow that attempt to do this but ascribe all outcomes to RNG, don’t make each outcome evenly weighted upon the fight, and do not give the player influence upon how and when these outcomes occur – I believe these are the worst fights in the game).
I think what these have in common is that there’s some way for the player to influence or mitigate what a boss does, usually with some sort of intermediary mechanic that encourages one strategy without forcing it to be the only option. These sort of things use stats to test the player's understanding of the fight and the game's mechanics, as well as their own strategizing skills thereof. That’s a long-winded way of saying that I think better bosses expect the player to do more than just have really high stats.
I also hope this post isn’t construed as me speaking for anyone besides myself, or asserting “this is what should happen,” as that’s definitely not the case. This is just what I personally like in bosses and what I think DragonFable has excelled at over the years.
Sorry for the textwall, hope this is constructive.
< Message edited by TFS -- 8/7/2022 22:55:49 >