Monday, August 31, 2009

A Look at Hard Modes

I've been thinking a lot about hard modes lately. At a macro level I love the concept. I agree that all players should be able to see the content with a reasonable amount of effort. At the same time I think there needs to be very challenging encounters that keep the more "hard core" players interested in the game. So, as a concept I love it, but there are times when the implementation has been lacking. In this post I want to talk about my two key issues with hard modes, and what I think makes a good hard mode.

(Some of this post may come off as elitist, but I don't intend it to be. I have written this post from my view point of a relatively hardcore raider. I don't think anything I am going to say is offensive, but if you take offense I apologize.)

Issue #1 - Easy Normal Mode:

To say that normal mode Trial of the Crusader has been a disappointment would be an understatement. In my opinion it is the most under tuned instance I have ever played.

Some of you may be thinking: "Wait. This is normal mode. It isn't intended to be hard." I disagree. In my opinion Normal Mode should not equal Easy Mode. Just because the Hard Mode is meant to be more challenging doesn't mean that the Normal mode shouldn't present some challenge as well.

I know some of you disagree on this point, but there has been nothing challenging about ToC. Here is what my experience has been so far: Northrend Beasts = 0ne shot, Lord Jaraxxus = one shot, Faction Champions = two shot, Twin Val'kyr = one shot. When I talk to my friends in other guilds, they say they have had a similar experience and not all of them are very progressed.

I don't think any of these fights should be guild killers on normal mode, but they should take a couple of attempts to figure out. I know one guild that hasn't had any issues with ToC but can't get Yogg Normal Mode down. If this is what the Ardent Crusade is using to test players for the assault on Icecrown Citadel then Arthis is a wimp or we are in a lot of trouble.

Issue #2 - Static Hard Modes:

In my opinion, increasing the Health and Damage on a Normal Mode does not make for good Hard Mode. Hard Modes should be different, and have more going for them than just increased stats.

Hodir is the perfect example of a bad Hard Mode in my opinion. What separates Hodir Normal from Hodir Hard? Nothing! Hard Mode brings absolutely nothing to the fight. He has all the same abilities and buffs. He has the same Health. He has the same damage out put. The only thing different is that you have to DPS a lot harder.

I'm not saying Hodir Hard Mode is a cake walk, but if you know how to do normal mode you pretty much know how to Hard Mode. Doing the Hard Mode is just doing the Normal Mode better, and that is no fun.

Another Hard Mode that I find disappointing is oddly enough Yogg. I'm not saying it is a easy fight because it's not, but compare Yogg +4 to Yogg +1. They are pretty much the same fight. You have to worry about your Sanity more, and you don't' have Hodir to save your butt if you do something stupid, but Yogg doesn't gain any abilities. There is nothing extra to the fight other then you have less health, do less damage and the tentacles have shorter cast times. If you've seen Yogg on normal mode you've pretty much seen it on hard mode to. Hard Mode is just doing Normal Mode better.

Good Hard Modes:

Good Hard Modes add something to the fight that wasn't there before. Most Hard Modes have something new in some degree. Flame Leviathan has new abilities based upon which towers you leave up. XT has the life sparks and the void zones. Iron Council has new abilities with each mob you kill, but the best of the best are Mimiron and Freya.

In my opinion these hard modes are so well designed that they almost don't resemble the Normal Mode of the fight. Having to deal with Ground Tremor, Unstable Energy and Iron Roots makes Freya so much more difficult that you can't fight the add pacts the way you did in the Normal Mode. You have to worry about getting interrupted and getting rooted near the Snaplasher.

Mimiron is a whole nother story. It is regularly regarded as the best fight in Ulduar for both hard mode and normal mode and I have to agree. What is so good about the hard mode is that it completely changes the fight. When my guild does normal mode we assign different groups to different areas. There is a lot of things to worry about, but as long as you spread out and pay attention then you don't have many issues. In Hard Mode the fires completely throw that out the window. First you have to worry about the fires completely engulfing your section and not giving you a good place to stand. Then you have to worry about the fire suppressant that can silence and kill you. While Mimiron Normal Mode gives you a little preparation for the Hard Mode version, it isn't much. That is what makes it a great hard mode.


Hardy said...

Faction Champions sucks if your guild has average players who can't deal with the pvp like situation. We can kill the first two bosses in ToC without issue, but we fail at Faction Champions everytime, we haven't even been close yet. While hard mode hodir is same fight, you do need to be able to manage your buffs to get the max dps you need -- again not something average players can do.

Lissanna said...

The twin val'kyr fight really leaves something to be desired. I mean, there has been some talk going around that you would only need 3 healers for the 25-man version. I don't mean cut down to 3 healers after months of learning the fight - I don't mean 3 healers for the 10-man version. I mean that there's so little damage being done to the raid if people do it right that it just doesn't require healing.

I think they're just cutting down the number of healers required for raids, and that (in the end) makes it feel too easy because there's never really a threat of death unless you really screw up. The PvP champions fight is challenging for a lot of groups, but that's just because they get overwhelmed by numbers...

Jormundgard said...

Hard modes are a great idea. The idea of removing luxuries that you took for granted (such as standing wherever you want in Mimiron) is a great way to relive older content.

The sad side of hard modes is that they seem to be defining progression, and are driving a lot of guilds apart. Guilds that were good enough to clear Black Temple just don't seem to be capable of these achievements, and they may not even be trying. The pressure to kill Hodir in three minutes doesn't inspire people the way that killing Illidan did.

Fortitude said...

Well, Jormundgard, I would personally argue that the concept of Algalon-style bosses give that inspiration to many raiders. If your guild wants to claim 14/14 Uld, they have to be one of the great guilds on the server, capable of handling the hardest fights in the game.

If I had my way, all new content would use a similar structure. Unlocking a new boss is a great reward for completing hard modes. It may not have as much of an appeal as "Hey, I just killed an important figure from lore" but it gives people somewhere to progress after you down Yogg.

Pucc said...

Yogg less than 4 in 10man you get a 2 second silence...but thats really just a joke and i know my guild just doesnt notice it.

25man the 8 second silence does suck.

But thats the only change to yogg really

~Gargen said...

I haven't done one hard mode yet. Our guild just doesn't care.
Maybe if we had Ull 25 done and 25 ToC on farm... I just don't see the point unless you have it all done on reg. Progression should require you to work in steps not bounds. What is the point of the reg mode if you can just slam the hard mode?
I see people in Heroics who are way over geared and way under experanced. Running around pulling huge mobs and not really understanding how they should be doing it and in what order the NPSs should be taken down.
Hard modes are a great idea, for thoes who love a challange and who have completed the other versions of the fights.

Creepin said...

I really enjoy hardmodes that make you feel like you did while wearing a tier lower gear trying the normal fight for the first few times, the thrill of a good hardmode kill is just as good as the thrill of the first normal mode kill, mimi is the best example of this I can think of, it makes you feel just as on edge as the first time you saw the boss. (Pre nerf anyway)

I just really hope hard mode in ToC is actually hard, if they think the gap in difficulty in ToC and ulduar should be the same, they have set the bar wayyyyy to low and this whole tier will be a joke.

Lherin said...

I would sum it up as this:

Any fight in which you can basically ignore the mechanics and still win is a dumb fight.

So far the easy mode of ToC basically fits this category for us. It is so easy that you barely have to pay attention to the mechanics to get it done. Sure you have to do a few things, but we went in there with barely any understanding of the fights, and one shot pretty much everything. That's not right, it should never be that way. They promised they wouldn't make another Naxx, and here they are, already going back on that promise. Another bad sign is when people are pugging the instance in the FIRST WEEK. I don't mind something to be pugable. But for the love of pete, it should not be pugable on the first week!

Very disappointed.

Jormundgard said...


I agree that something like Algalon is inspiring to many of the very best players. I think this is a good thing. But it's also a huge culture shock to a lot of guilds, even historically successful top 10% guilds. They're under a lot of pressure to perform at a top 1% level that they might not be capable of reaching without mass gkicks and strict rules.

I do think it's a good design choice. But it's going to take time for people to give up crossing a finish line.

Cassandri said...

I like to think of Normal Mode as a stepping stone to understanding Hard Mode.

I know you dislike Hodir but I disagree. On normal mode you can pretty much succeed once you master 1 concept: Flash Freeze. Get out when you see big circle, then run onto them when they are snow mounds.

To beat Hodir HM you need to understand and master Storm Clouds/Power and those light beam things and the fire stuff and be strategic about npcs and who needs to break out what.

When working on HM Hodir it was a challenge to get the right people buffed ASAP but none of us were worrying about Flash Freeze. We had mastered that core element of the fight freeing up our minds to focus on other things.

It's a less punishing learning curve.

Copey said...

“I hate hate hate elitist attitudes! How does me having good gear diminish your fun!”

That was my response to the qq about heroism/valor badges being changed over to conquest badges in heroics and raids. But sadly, I agree that my small 10 man raiding guild should not have TOC on farm while we still are working on Uld. Not working on hard modes either. Farthest we have gone is Hodir last week. We are progressing slowly, very slowly…and yet we have cleared 10 man toc every week it’s been out, and have been pugging a 25 man raid that has been doing almost as well. We certainly didn’t “LOL one shot” everything like you guys did, but it was doable. Part of the reason it was doable was the badge change. I myself have made like 6 badge purchases since 3.2 came out. By the time we get to Yogg we are going to be vastly over geared for it due to farming toc and emblems of triumph.

I like how more people are getting a chance to raid, and I also dislike the fact that they made it SO easy. I honestly didn’t mind getting attuend to Kara. It was a huge epic quest line, with huge epic payoff. And you got an awesome ring that you used for quite some time out of the deal, that was upgrade the more you ran the raid.

I wish they could find a bit of middle ground, because guilds like mine end up getting the people that have never raided before and think they have the right to now that they can simply walk in.

Graylo said...


I can see how Faction Champions is a little more difficult for some. It's very different then your typical PvE fight and requires you to use abilities your not used to using.

For example, I haven't used Nature's Grasp or Cyclone in the expansion, but I've used both on this fight. This fight forces people to think about their surviveability abilities and use them. I know it is possible to get unlucky and killed really quickly and it not be your fault, but that is not as common as some people think in my opinion. All of the clothies have survival abilities. Locks have demonic circle, Priests have dispersion or guardian spirit. Mages have ice block, frost nova, and blink. These should give anyone enought time to get away if used correctly.

Another thing you guys might want to think about is target of target healing. You don't need a lot of dedicated healers in this fight. So you could have 2 or 3 of them healing the target of the melee mobs.


Hodir HM definately takes more skill and coordination then Hodir Normal, but the two versions are exactly the same. Ideally you would still try and use the various buffs to kill him on normal mode because they are helpful.

The only reason Hodir Normal is easier is because you have more time and therefore can bring more healers. This means your margin for error and RNG is a lot higher.

Basically, if we specificly say we are going for normal mode instead of hard mod, I don't do anything differently and that is a shame.

cudmaster said...

I like that I can keep my alt's gear up almost as good as my main by doing pugs.

I like that the vast sea of pants on head types that are pating for the game get to see the content.

The only thing I don't like is that they call it "normal" and "hard" mode instead of "easy" and "normal"... Honestly they should add a "Nightmare" mode as well. :)

Cassandri said...

@Gray "Basically, if we specificly say we are going for normal mode instead of hard mod, I don't do anything differently and that is a shame."

Yes but this just proves that you're a bit ahead of the learning curve.

Because all the elements of Hard Mode are there in the fight didn't it give you something else to master while you were still killing him on Normal Mode?

I don't know. I used to be really anti-hard modes but now they kinda make sense to me.

~Gargen said...

'Stop qqing and have fun already'
yes i am sick of the noobs with the crazy gear just slaming the ish and kibbible out of stuff. It makes the games less fun for me. I like the requirement of skill. I like fails and I enjoy the process from failyer to success. Call me old school but bring back the days when only the few and proud could say for example that they destryed it in the black temple.

It was once an honor to have a title now it's a choice. I choose to not have any title and I think I willn't het one till I hear about one worth having.

I am having a blast in Ull right now and Hopefull we get Yogg down this week.