Thursday, March 24, 2011

Speaking of trash

Razzmatazz at Planet of hats is sick of trash in raid instances. If he could decide he’d rather trash the trash altogether, since it’s boring. He doesn’t buy the idea of it as a pacing mechanism, calling it old school he argues that we should be past this by now. And he finishes asking anyone who thinks trash is fun to speak up, since he’d like to have a word with us.

So here I am, raising my arm, trash supporter as I am.

Yes, I think trash is an essential ingredient to any raid instance, and I’d be sad if they were removed altogether.

The trash free instance
Is there anyone around who remembers when Blizzard tried out the trash free concept in an experiment called ToC? Or have you tried to just forget about it? I surely don’t blame you.

I think I understand why they tried it in the first place, the reasoning behind it. Players love boss fights. They think big bad bosses are awesome. On the other hand players show very little love for trash. If anything they complain if there’s too much of it. Also: the players seem to play WoW half of half blindfolded. They don’t pay much attention to the surroundings, the beauty of the castles and dungeons and their inhabitants. All they talk about is boss abilities, strategies and loot. So why don’t we give them just that? Concentrated coolness should make them happy, right?

It’s just that this doesn’t work in it didn’t work in practice. Listening to the players is all nice, but you have to be aware of that sometimes they’re plain wrong, not realizing what they really want, not understanding the full consequences if their wishes should be granted. This was one of those cases.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone celebrating ToC for the lack of trash. It felt hollow, thin, and completely void of the atmosphere and beauty that instances such as Ulduar, Karazhan or Black Temple held. ToC reminded a bit of the seasonal bosses you finish in 20 seconds. It was not a place where you could experience adventures. It was a loot machine.

So what’s the point of trash mobs? Well, as I see it there are several.

Atmosphere and credibility
One purpose is to set the atmosphere and make setting where the fight takes place more credible. Bad guys in the fairytales rarely fight all alone against the world. They have people around to help them.

Or to make a comparison to an amusement park such as Disneyland compared to a travelling tivoli. It isn’t enough o provide awesome rides; if you just put those rides on a big empty parking place it won’t be half as fun as they are if they’re surrounded by a lovely park, with trees and houses and dressed out people. The trash makes the instance come alive, at least in the best cases.

One of the best examples is probably Karazhan, with the dancers and the dinner guests on the bottom floor. Would Moroes have been half as enjoyable if you had fought him in the empty room of ToC? I wouldn’t think so.

Pacing and variation
Another point is the pacing, even if Razzmatazz dismisses it. Think of it as a piece of classic music or a rock concert. You want variation. The most intense, high paced phases, that makes your heart beat faster, will stand out even more if they’re contrasted against periods that are a little bit slower. It’s not only more enjoyable, I think most raids also need it to recover a little mentally. If you’ve been seriously challenged by a boss fight, you need to reset your minds and get a break with something easier, if only for 10-20 minutes, before it’s time for the next peak.

And provided that it’s not too difficult, it will give the raid leaders a little bit room for thinking and making things ready for the next boss fights. You don’t have to keep the entire raid waiting when you reach the raid boss, since the tanks and healers have been able to sort some tings out during the trash.

Training and warm-up
Thirdly I think trash gives an opportunity for the raid to train their abilities and trim their coordination in a more forgiving setting than a boss encounter. Provided that the trash is varied and well crafted, and not only mindless aoe-targets, you’ll get the chance to test your tanks on pulling and your cc:ers on doing their job, sometimes with some added move-out-of-fire element. You could see it as a bit of warm-up before it’s time to perform at top. Sportsmen do it, so why not raiders?

Bad trash
I could give Razzmatazz right in one thing though, namely that not all trash is as good as it could be. Some trash doesn’t add any flavour or challenge at all, but feel more like randomly crafted standard mobs with the only purpose to delay your progression.

In some cases there’s just too much of the same thing. Take for instance the elementals right before the Twilight council. I don’t really mind the mechanisms, but is it really necessary to fill an entire room with the same kind of mobs, forcing us to go through the same manoeuvres over and over again? They’re not even interesting to look at. All you can think of while doing them is: I wonder how many there are left now?

The good trash
So what constitutes good trash according if you ask me?
Here are a few things I like to see in trash:

  • A plausible reason for why they’re there at all.
  • Interesting mechanisms that are more than just tank and spank, but still not as challenging as raid bosses. You should be able to wipe if you’re extremely careless, but you shouldn’t have to bring you’re A-game to manage.
  • Variation. Ten pulls of the same sort of trash in a row is quite un-fun.
  • A reasonable amount, meaning that respawns not necessarily means the end of your raid.
  • Some little extra award to keep up the spirits in the raid, such as reputation gains or random epic drops. In this manner, even a newbie raid that doesn’t manage to kill the first boss can feel that they get a little something for their efforts in a wipe night.

Best and worst
Finally you may ask: which raid instance is my favourite when it comes to trash?

Well, again as in so many other aspects, I think it will be Karazhan. I remember it was heavily criticized for having too much trash and yes, it was disheartening if you found respawns after The Curator room. You knew that it meant the end of that raid night, even if an hour remained of your raid time. But this said, most of the trash felt meaningful and added a lot of flavour and atmosphere to the instance.

And the worst? Well, that’s obviously ToC. There’s no worse trash than the non-existing.


Zy said...

As soon as I read your first paragraph I thought, "This guy must not have raided ToC". Yeah, trash can be bad but trash is so important for many of the reasons you listed. Good trash >>>>>> no trash.

Mhorgrim said...

Excellent topic and umm you said everything I woulda said, but you beat me to it lol. I've played MMO's where it was a boss onyl fight and was completely bored by it. There is a certain build up to the main event. And it does give Raiders the chance to warm up thier rotations. For those of us who love not just the boss kill but the story leading up to it, trash allows that epic feeling of going against the odds that the common man cannot. It gives that heroic feeling. SOOOO---Awesome post Larisa!

Spleen said...

Trash would be alright if it dropped a little something. Maybe some 353/9 blues or something to make it worth it.

Yes, BoT has purples in trash, but we don't see them all that much.

Rades said...

I was actually just recently thinking about how the three raid instances now have differing amounts of trash. Throne of the Four Winds = zero, Blackwing Descent, some, but usually groups of 1-4, and Bastion of Twilight, an assload.

Interestingly, I don't prefer any. I like being able to step right up to the Wind bosses, I like the small "warmup" feel of the BWD trash, and I like the chance for BOEs in Bastion, since the trash there is numerous but not really that bad, if executed correctly.

If I had to pick one, I think I'd have to go with Bastion for the BOEs. BOEs are so important for a guild, both for gearing up and guild finances. If they were less common or less important, I think I'd go with BWD. I like some trash as a warmup and to make sure everyone's on their game, but I also like being able to get to bosses relatively quickly.

Kierbuu said...

Maybe trash just needs a better name? Everything that used to be labeled 'trash' now is getting labeled 'recycle', but that doesn't sound quite right... though with a rapid respawn timer,... maybe it does.

Darkbrew said...

I’m going to disagree with you about ToC. I actually liked this instance, a lot. I felt it was a very nice preamble to the assault on Icecrown Citadel.

We were gladiators in an arena vying for the right to march on Icecrown citadel and face the ultimate battle with the Lich King.

This instance didn’t need trash and the story and atmosphere was moved forward as we segued from one encounter to the next. You had trials hand-picked by Tirion. There was tension between the Horde and Alliance that not even the threat of a common enemy could keep at bay. You had an appearance by the Lich King himself. Granted, I could’ve done without all of the /farts, but it was still cool.

The way Tirion says, “The loss of Wilfred Fizzlebang, while unfortunate…” still makes me smile today.

Sure it became easy and a very quick in and out, but that’s true of most raids after you’ve done them a while.

Even if nobody praised ToC for lack of trash, they sure as heck didn’t laud ICC for having to slog their way to Marrowgar each week.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any trash at all. As you say there are good and bad ways of doing it. Looking at the current Cataclysm raids, I’d say BWD does it right and BoT does it wrong. I prefer a small set of trash that requires a bit of strategy and execution and is reflective of the encounter we’re heading to next.

Vermis said...

I've always been a fan of trash leading up to a boss in their area that has tone down versions of the boss abilities. I think it's a great way to introduce players to the ability, give the trash something unique to throw around, and it ties the boss and their area together.

Skooter said...

My vote for worst trash would be the spider/vrykul room right before Sindragosa. I could never understand the point of it. Unless the point was to be annoying :)

Cygnia said...

I'm just wondering if we'll ever see the use of Disable Traps again. Having traps in ICC pop up again (albeit briefly) was a nice little knuckle-biter at times and I'm surprised BWD at least doesn't have some sort of a nod to the traps in BWL.

Selyndia said...

While Karazhan had some great trash points with a lot of flavor to them (Opera, Maiden, Moroes, etc) it also had one of the worst stretches of raid trash ever, in the library. Tons of trash, annoying lay out, mobs that half of your raid simply cannot do anything to, and all proceeding arguably the hardest boss to learn (but also arguably the most fun) in the instance (Shade of Aran) resulting in an annoying segment of the instance.

When I think of the best trash instance, I actually consider it to be Shattered Halls. Now, a lot of people will think that there was far too much in there (This argument can definitely be made) but what it did was provided the atmosphere better than almost any 5 man in that expansion. When you went through Shattered Halls, you felt like you were attacking a fortress. The mobs acted like they should in that situation; squad leaders called for reinforcements when mobs died, some mobs were sleeping in bunks and alerted later; squads moved up to intercept you as you moved forward; packs of guards were training; stealth guards attempted to harass you as you continued forward; and the flaming arrow ambush. These all added to the experience instead of detracting from it.

That’s what trash does. It allows you to feel like you are actually interacting with the world instead of fighting a boss in a vacuum. ToC did it, and Throne of the Four Winds does it again. Vortex Pinnacle is arguably one of the most beautiful instances, full of some pretty innovative mobs/mechanics, and added to the whole feel of being in the Plane of Air. While Al’akir is a pretty impressive image by himself, as are the conclave, the lack of trash makes it feel empty and despite the pretty architecture, pretty bland.

Good trash needs to have a reason to exist. There needs to be a logical reason you are fighting them, and they should react to you as you go through their territory instead of blithely ignoring your presence. Just consider, from ICC, the difference between Blood Princes trash and Dreamwalker trash. Both were generally short, essentially 4 pulls each; but one was four packs of idiots standing around waiting for you to shoot at them, the other was groups of enemies moving up to stop your pursuit, with both allies and enemies actually interacting as you go through.

The more trash like Dreamwalker, and the less like Blood Princes the better.

Nils said...

Trash is one of those little flames that still burn in WoW. One last immersive candle in the night. The world rests on these little flames; even you don't always recognise it.

Andenthal said...

One more plus to add in favor of keeping trash: An astute raider would recognize that often, trash mimicks the boss they guard.


BH - the trash needs to be taunted off if not killed before the shock wave (or blow tank CDs) - just as you will need to do for the boss.

The big guys that spawn when a trap is activated before Marrowgar have a "Bone Slice Light", that mirrors the boss' ability.

The gauntlet before Valithria has mobs that should only be attacked by ranged players, while melee focuses on other mobs - mimicking how the boss encounter needs to be executed.

(haven't done enough Tier 11 to make any comparisions there)

All of these are "light" versions of the abilities the bosses will do. If you pay attention you can see what they are, and how to act/react to them.

Fuzzy_Magicz said...

I thought ToC sounded great in theory. But the magic just isn't there.
I think trash can be fun in it's own right, too. Trash that's set up in such a way that CC and very carefully positioned pulling is required can be challenging in its own right. Just as long as it isn't overdone, like on some BoT sections.

Shintar said...

Another vote for keeping the trash. I'm surprised that anyone who raided ToC while it was progression could possibly still be in favour of not having any. It really was a great example of us players being very wrong about what we thought we wanted.

I'm also surprised to hear complaints about BoT having too much trash, but I guess everyone has their own "sweet spot" where it feels just right. For me, 5-6 packs between bosses are hardly excessive, though I guess the general trend has been towards having fewer than that.

Charles said...

Though I disagreed somewhat with Razz's dislike of current trash mechanics, I should point out that he was arguing for a rethink of how raids are paced to make the pacing mechanism more fun, rather than for simply removing trash from raids.

That is, he wasn't saying "get rid of trash", he was saying "isn't there a better way of doing the pacing thing than trash?"

Larísa said...

@Charles: I might have overread his post, which by the way was very well written and had some really good points. However, even if I misinterprated his negativism he urged anyone who liked the trash to raise their hand and explain why. Which was the intention of this post. (I had to much on my mind to make it into a comment.)

Charles said...

Oh yes, I very much enjoyed your post, thank you! I don't know if he'll comment here but Razz is also quite pleased that he generated some healthy disagreement. Neither of us have any objection whatsoever to your post or your understanding of his, I just wanted to clarify that one point :)

Jodrath said...

Trash is more then just a way of pacing its about immersion .. as terrible as that sounds.

I wasn't a fan of ToC, the whole arena idea didn't appeal to me, but it had the amount of trash an arena would .. basically ToC was an upgraded version of Ring Of Blood.

But when you storm the inner sanctum of person like Arthas, Illidan or Medivh you expect their lairs to be filled with their armies, minions and troops.

When you hit ICC and you were basically fighting from the front door onwards it felt like you were invading the Lich Kings castle, and this is why trash is just as important as bosses.

Ratshag said...

Any general what cain't maintain a small army of minions what fer ta guard hisself with and screw up his orders and fetch them chocolate donuts with the sprinkles fer him ain't worth killing.

Azuriel said...

Everyone always uses ToC as an example of "this is the reason we have trash!!1!" but that's asinine. ToC would have been terrible with or without trash.

1) It was four bosses in one unchanging room.
2) It was ridiculously easy.
3) You basically had to raid it four separate times each week.

By the kind of logic presented here, Throne of the Four Winds must be a terrible raid instance, right? Well... is it? Does the lack of trash in there make the raid unsatisfactory?

Or to make a comparison to an amusement park such as Disneyland compared to a travelling tivoli. It isn’t enough o provide awesome rides; if you just put those rides on a big empty parking place it won’t be half as fun as they are if they’re surrounded by a lovely park, with trees and houses and dressed out people.

The "lovely park, trees, houses and dressed out people" is the environment of the raid. Trash = the line. Is Disneyland a better place with a two-hour line in-between each ride?

The only truly legitimate purpose of trash is pacing - warming up and cooling down after tough encounters does add to the experience. I actually went to an amusement park that had no lines (it was raining slightly), and it's tough getting off one roller coaster and then walking immediately onto a completely different one. So, a 10-15 min line probably adds more to the experience than it takes away. Two hours though, is too much.

Finally, what made Kara trash interesting is what you mentioned: the trash had a purpose to be there. All the groups dancing? It's a ballroom. All the groups eating? It's a dining room. Ushers, ghosts in Opera place, etc, all presented a deeply lovable haunted house experience. Once you got to the library though, the mobs stopped making sense. Mana wyrms and such just standing around?

The trash in BWD mostly makes sense. The trash in BoT makes no sense whatsoever however, and detracts more than it adds. Mobs hanging out near orb things? Why? Bunch of dragonkin and elements hanging out in sectioned-off flame areas? Why? Ascendant Council elementals just randomly walking around in big open chamber? Total cop-out.

Perdissa said...

I don't particularly love trash, but I prefer to have trash than not.

My reasoning is simple. See, there are all these bosses who are going to destroy the world unless we stop them.

They shouldn't be living in a one-room apartment or in the attic of a little house. They are stationed at the top of a high tower, or deep in the cavernous keep. Walking into a huge place builds up a sense of epicness of the boss you are going to be fighting. And it would be really weird if the huge place is empty. Hence, we need trash.

Syrien said...

I like the concept of ToC. (And I loved Ulduar, although the vehicle part at start got old quick for me). For me the problem with ToC is that the story as I understand it (a test before we march on ICC) should mean it is a shorter tier time-wise than others, that is, ICC should have come sooner than it did. And, 4 different ways to raid ToC? Crazy.

(But Tirion has been my hero ever since In Dreams, so I might have supplied story in my head that wasn't there..)

SaiyanMan said...

What about the trash free raid that came prior to TOC: Eye of Eternity. I don't remember anybody complaining about EoE's lack of trash.

Anonymous said...

We found out that the new guild perk, Have Group Will Travel, is wonderful for skipping the intro trash in BoT. Just have a rogue stealth through and summon everyone at Halfus' room. Of course if you wipe you'll have to clear the trash, unless you have a mage to invis through the trash, or a shammy to pop back up, or someone was soulstoned...

I expect a nerf is incoming, which will make me sad.

Larísa said...

@Zy: I agree. The question is if bad trash > no trash. I’m not quite as sure about that. But let’s hope for good trash in the future.

: Thanks. Well… there are a couple of stand-along bosses that worked fairly well without the trash. Malygos comes to mind, even though I had issues with him for other reasons. Vehicles… le sigh. But basically I think a few trash pulls is healthy for most encounters.

@Spleen: To us it has varied a lot. In the beginning we had some nights where trash epics were abundant, recently we’ve had other nights when we haven’t seen a single one. RNG effects I reckon.

@Rades: Yeah, now that you say so it’s varied. To be honest I think the bastion trash is a bit excessive. I like big pull and appreciate the need for cc, but there are just too many of those pulls. It becomes slightly tedious. They could easily have skipped a few. The random drops are nice as long as you have the RNG forces on your side.

@Kierbuu: hm… it’s true. Trash sounds more trashy than it is. Let’s call them “appetizers“ perhaps?

: Nice to hear someone who appreciated it! A rare spawn, I think. Nevertheless it’s good to hear it wasn’t just a waste.

@Vermis: Yeah, that’s not a bad thing actually. We’ve seen some of those examples even if my memory fails me right as I try to name one.

@Skooter: I hear you’re not playing a mage! Pretty yellow numbers for the aoe part! But basically I agree. It felt a bit too long.

@Cygnia: Yes, it was a nice little wink to the rogues. What about trash that needs lockpicking? Honestly I don’t think we’ll see it happen ever again, such as the shortcut in Shattered Halls. Bring the player not the class you know.

: That’s actually true. The lower parts of Karazhan have way better trash than the upper part that is a bit annoying sometimes.

And I too loved the trash in SH and agree completely with you concerning the Dreamwalker trash vs Blood Princes. Good trash comes with a reason to exist.

@Nils: I think you’re right.

: True. They can give valuable hints and practice.

@Fuzzy Magicz: Yeah, it’s a delicate balance between what’s a good amount of trash and what’s just too much. It can easily tip over.

Larísa said...

@Shintar: I think BoT is having a little bit too much of it. Although actually you don’t need to pull everything. Such as the packs before the twin dragons. We skip the ones on the sides nowadays.

@Jodrath: Yes, just bosses standing in empty rooms isn’t really believable. No matter how powerful they are, any boss would need a servant of some kind.

@Ratshag: The orc tells the truth.

@Azuriel: It’s true that To Chad more issues than just the trash. Charles wrote an excellent follow up post on this:

I agree that the best trash is the one that makes sense. About the other instances without trash, for some reason I can more easily accept it when there’s just one boss, such as Malygos or let’s stretch it to two, like the wind instance. But ToC was just too much. It felt weird.

: Yeah. A big setting doesn’t necessarily make a good raid instance, but it certainly helps a bit.

@Syrien: One moe ToC supporter! Cheers for you. I must say that I’d rather pick Ulduar or ANY raid instance over it, but it’s ok to disagree and in the end it’s a matter of taste.

: no, as mentioned earlier it seems to work better to run trash less if it’s a stand-alone boss. This said, I had issues with Malygos for other reasons.

: cool! You’ve already gotten that? We’re still at level 19, but hopefull we’ll get there eventually. Nerfed or not remains to see.

River said...

I think the move towards less trash like in Gruul's, Onyxia, and Mags were quite enjoyable. I really liked Gruuls.

I don't think you need an abundent amount of trash, and ToC was hella bad for alot of other reasons besides no trash.

Skarn said...

A very good post, thank you for speaking my mind. One thing I'd like to add: I like trash I can skip. Partly because it adds to the atmosphere of the instance. Lots of trash makes the place feel alive, but I don't want to have to fight it all, that's tedious. Kara, once again, did this on the lower levels. You had two routes to Moroes with different types of trash. You didn't have to kill it all, but it gave the place a great feel.

The other benefit of skipable trash is that it gives you choice. Choice is a spectacular thing to have. Being able to choose which trash to kill and how much helps you feel in control of the game, instead of just on-rails.