20.8.11

Previewing Patch 4.3: The Make-or-Break Patch

Well, Blizzard has begun releasing new information on Patch 4.3 - the upcoming final major content patch of the Cataclysm expansion  - stoking the fire of the hot-air fuelled Rumour Juggernaut and setting it off to steam-roll all over the realm of common sense.

Confirmed are such new features as Void Storage and the Transmogrifier, as well as three brand new Heroic 5-man dungeons - one of which is a Caverns of Time instance in a "known location". A new raid tier is planned as well, culminating in an epic encounter with the Aspect of Death himself. Blizzard promises that this fight will be "unlike anything you've yet encountered in World of Warcraft".

Reactions seem to be ranging from swaying in rapturous joy to threatening to quit the game. According to the doomsayer-types, these changes are unconscionable and herald the end of WoW - but they say that every Tuesday, so let's just ignore them for now.


INSPIRED BY CALVIN AND HOBBES

Definitely the most talked about feature of 4.3 is the Transmogrifier. Transmogrification will work similarly to reforging and will allow a player to make any current piece of gear cosmetically look like another, similar piece while still retaining the original stats. This means that it will now be possible to defeat Ragnaros in Firelands while wearing armour that looks exactly like the Tier 1 armour that he was killed with back in Molten Core.

It seems that, for the most part, Transmogrification has been greeted with an almost hysterical excitement. It has also been suggested that this pretty much removes all pretence that we, as players, are not doing anything other than playing dress-up with dolls; only with Internet Dragons and Sparkle Ponies.

I finally get to Raid
wearing my favourite shield
I am intrigued by this feature, but not jumping for joy about it. I haven't ever been one to save gear for sentimental reasons, so I don't have an entire wardrobe of old Tier sets to choose from. But then, I'm not the target audience for this particular feature. This is aimed at the long-time players who look back fondly on their favourite gear and wish they could wear it again.

I'm in the minority opinion, I think; a lot of bloggers and long-time players are already planning farming trips to old raids and scouring the old tier armours for the look that they want to rock when this goes live.

This feature, along with it's companion feature Void Storage - which gives players a place to store all the sentimental stuff they want to keep but have no real use for - are very nice nods to the long term players. It isn't going to fundamentally change the game in any way, but it will certainly make Stormwind a more colourful place to hang out.


NO IDLE THREAT


One change that is definitely going to happen, if it hasn't already been hotfixed in, is a change to the way Tank Threat works and have a Tank able to generate Threat much faster than before. Ghostcrawler wrote a thoughtful post on Tank threat on the Official WoW Blog, but the basic idea is that it isn't fun for a DPS to intentionally do less damage (and therefore less threat) simply to compensate for a lesser geared tank, nor is it fun for someone who is just learning how to tank to worry about raid-geared threat-monsters pulling mobs off just by sneezing at them. As a Damage Dealer, who wants to just stand there and merely do White attacks because you're sitting at 105% Threat?

This change is made necessary because the reality is we live in a world ruled by the Dungeon Finder, and the fact that, for the most part, you don't get to choose who is in your group. The Dungeon Finder does a decent job at ensuring that most of the people are at the same gear level, but when there is a shortage of tanks, which is most of the time, then the group is stuck with what's available. And sometimes that means running through Zul'Aman with a new tank in a whole lot of Blues; forcing the DPS to either do less damage and therefore less threat, or making the Healer go out of his mind healing the group when the DPS inevitably pulls aggro.

Wrath-Style

In effect, by ramping up Tank threat much quicker to compete with amphetamine-fuelled Burst DPS, Blizzard is taking us back to a more Wrath of the Lich King style of Tanking where, as long as the Tank doesn't do anything stupid, it's very difficult to pull aggro of him.

I think this is a great idea.

Making Threat generation, and therefore Tanking in general, easier is really the only way to finally solve the LFD Tank shortage problem. Actually, it's not even about making it easier; it's about making it more fun and less frustrating. Doing everything right and yet still failing because your group simply outgears you is not fun, and I think causes a lot of people to give up on the idea of Tanking before they have the gear or experience to make it actually enjoyable and not comparable to painful dental procedures.

Of course, as Ghostcrawler mentioned, it is still possible to get undesired attention of a mob by attacking the wrong target or using an Area-of-Effect ability too soon, so the DPS aren't going to have free reign to do whatever they please. Damage classes simply shouldn't be able to pull off a Tank once he's established his initial Threat, as long as the Tank plays correctly.


HEROIC VARIETY

The biggest mistake that Blizzard has made during the Cataclysm expansion (at least, so far) was releasing only two Heroics with Patch 4.1. The Zandalari Trollroics are good dungeons, both challenging and varied in the encounter design. But after running them non-stop for what seems like an eternity, I am sick to death of them and never want to see another Troll as long as I live. I would like to see Blizzard not make the same mistake with the three new heroics they are talking about for 4.3.

According to the Preview, 4.3 is going to be the final major content patch for the Cataclysm expansion - barring a Sunwell-esque surprise Raid Tier. This means that whatever content is included in 4.3 is going to have to last us until the next expansion is released (rumoured to be tantalizingly named Mists of Pandara). We're going to be running this content for a long time and that means that if Blizzard wants to keep our attention and its subscriber numbers up, these dungeons better be compelling and varied.

If Blizzard goes the route of the Zul'Roics and places these new dungeons in a separate tier, with an increased level of difficulty and better gear, they run the risk of the same level of burnout happening as we're experiencing now. Running the same two dungeons over and over again is an excellent way to remind your subscriber base that it's summer and there are other things to do.

At least with WotLK Heroics there was a much greater variety of dungeons to choose from, ranging from the very difficult Halls of Reflection, the dreaded Oculus or to the simplicy of running Utgarde Keep for the four hundredth time. Could you imagine the backlash from the playerbase if we would have been forced to run nothing but the three ICC heroics for the last 8 months of the expansion?

With things as they are now, I am forced to run Hero-dalari Dungeons in order to cap out my Valor Points every week. There is no respite from these two dungeons unless I want to run twice as many regular heroics - which is impractical to say the least. Give us more variety, Blizzard! Either give us the ability to queue for all the Cataclysm heroics at the same time for the same VP rewards, or give us more dungeons per new Tier. I'm begging you!

On the other hand: THREE NEW HEROICS THAT AREN'T TROLL DUNGEONS! HOORAY!


DEATH TO DEATHWING, ASPECT OF DEATH!



The Big Bad. The Final Fight. The Alliterative Aspect of Annihilation.

When 4.3 lands we will finally get our revenge for constantly being murdered randomly as we're trying to level up fishing or grab a screenshot: Deathwing will be the final raid of 4.3 and likely the wrap-up for the Cataclysm storyline.

No details have been released yet, and speculation is running rampant as to what kind of fight this will be, what other bosses we'll fight and where on Azeroth we'll be fighting Deathwing. Nothing about the fight has been hinted at yet, but this blue post claims it will be like nothing we've ever seen before. Exciting stuff!

Entering completely into the realm of wild-eyed speculation for a moment, I envision three different, gated raids for the final raiding tier. The first two would need to be cleared before the third Deathwing-only raid would be unlocked. I think a small, 3 boss Raid set in Deepholm and a larger 8 boss raid in a new location that would, lore-wise, clear the way to the final, epic confrontation with Deathwing.

To date, there has been no mention of a lair or other place that Deathwing hangs out when he's not frying lowbies in the Western Plaguelands, so really, we could be fighting him anywhere. This image implies that we'll be fighting him on top of a mountain somewhere, but I had my way I'd want to fight Deathwing right here:

Varian's front porch would make for a great raid room. Although
Deathwing would need to knock down a bit of stuff first.
Why does Deathwing need to have a lair, anyway? Isn't he randomly flying around the world torching everything? The first step in any Deathwing encounter, in my opinion, should be to find him out in the world and attack him there, rather than doing the same ol' thing of assembling a raid at the entrance to a cave where [Insert Loot PiƱata Name Here] is conveniently waiting to be killed and give up his stuff.

In the encounter that I would design, each week a Raid Instance portal would appear in a random zone throughout Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, forcing people out of the capital cities on Tuesday morning to look for the thing. Once found, the standard Meeting Stone would be there to help summon the rest of your raid. The coolest thing about doing this is that the actual terrain that the Raid would fight Deathwing on (at least for Phase One & Two - keep reading) would change every time. But from a lore perspective, it would tie everything together: Varian or Garrosh have had enough of this dragon destroying everything and devise a cunning plan to stop him.

Here's how I would design an epic fight to take out Deathwing:

Phase One: Capturing Deathwing
After finding the portal and zoning into an instanced version of whatever zone the portal happens to be in, the Raid comes across Varian or Garrosh and a small group of Battle Mages who have devised a way to knock Deathwing out of the air and hold him. This will require the raid to defend the Battle Mages against waves of summoned Fire Elementals (or something similar) while dodging Deathwing's fire breath from above. The mechanics of this fight could work similarly to Magmaw in the actual chaining. Regardless, this phase is fairly short.

Phase Two: On the Ground.
The Battle Mages manage to ground him, but as he's just too powerful they cannot hold him for long. The Raid would fight a partially subdued Deathwing on the ground and have to deal with all the tricks that a very pissed off dragon in command of the element of Earth can possibly think up. Giant Earth Elemental adds that need to be tanked, insta-kill pits opening up beneath people's feet and giant impaling spikes are some of the possibilities, in addition to having to deal with random, devastating flame breath attacks, claws and tail swipes.

Phase Three: In the Air

At some point, either at a certain percentage of health or after a certain amount of time, Deathwing breaks his bonds and begins to take flight. The raid have to use a mechanic (ropes, magic catapults, jetpacks - really endless possibilities here) to climb on his back before he takes off. While he's flying, he'll call a couple of Black Dragonflight lieutenants to kill the pests on his back and periodically try to knock the raid off by yawing either left or right. When he does this, the Raid will need to grab on to pieces of Deathwing's armour to avoid falling off and plummeting to a very sticky death.

At the same time the raid is dealing with the two dragon lieutenants, they will also need to do damage and destroy Deathwing's armour plates so that he will be vulnerable when he lands. The most interesting aspect of this idea is that the Raid will be destroying the very thing that they need to grab on to so as not to fall off, making management of how much armour to destroy critical - especially because each plate that is destroyed will expose Deathwing's molten insides which, of course, would not be wise to stand in.

Phase Four: Home to Roost
Once the Dragons are killed, Deathwing will reach his destination: Stormwind or Orgrimmar, depending on faction. There would be a short cinematic showing Deathwing landing and destroying the Stormwind Citadel courtyard. A whole legion of Dragonkin will teleport in and keep Varian Wrynn and the Stormwind Guards occupied while the raid has to deal with the boss.

This would be an all-out fight to the death. The Raid would first need to finish whatever armour is left over from Phase 3. Once that is completely gone, Deathwing becomes a dragon of pure flame and the fight really begins.

I'd like to think that Blizzard would pull out all the stops with this fight and include new, never-been-done-before mechanics that are too awesome to imagine or speculate on. I think that as far as previous Raid encounters go, doing something like this would be incredibly epic and tie together all the different ideas that Blizzard introduced in Cataclysm nicely. I am very excited about fighting and killing Deathwing, and I really hope that the fight lives up to the sheer epic potential of fighting a foe of this magnitude.


CONCLUSION

There is a lot riding on Patch 4.3. For whatever reason, the entire Cataclysm expansion has been met with an overwhelming wave of indifference and at times outright hostility from the player base - particularly the long-term players. It seems clear that the final patch of this expansion will make or break Cataclysm's legacy.

There is a feeling among a lot of players, although I personally am not one of them, that World of Warcraft has lost its way. And with new and exciting competition either upcoming or already on the market, Blizzard needs to end this expansion with something fresh and exciting to recapture the faith of the masses and remind everyone why World of Warcraft is still worth caring about.
 
 

15 comments:

  1. That Deathwing fight that you proposed not only sounds like a complete pain in the rear, but has the makings of a truly epic fight. While chances are that I won't get to get into any hand to hand combat with Mr. Plate-Face in this expansion, I absolutely cannot wait to see what Blizz brews up for that fight. I definitely will be watching on the sidelines cheering on those battle-minded souls who have the opportunity to finally take this bad boy down.

    While I have my reservations yet, 4.3 is looking decently promising. It has a lot of shiny new toys it seems, but my only worry is that future patches won't be able to match or surpass it. Whatever comes of it though, I do hope that it manages to recapture some of the magic that seems to have been lost with Cataclysm.

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  2. You'd need bait.

    Dragon bait.

    BRING IN THE COW LEVEL!

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  3. Deathwing will have 24 phases and a Carl Sagan Billion health. He will take a raid team 4 hours to kill in t13 tier gear and if you do not complete it within 4 hours, he escapes into Outland to hide until next reset. You will fight him as he flies around Azeroth. He will be the only boss. ( ^_^ What can I say, I have a lawful good heart and a chaotic evil mind.)

    But you missed the BEST PART of patch 4.3! Darkmoon Island! Home to the Darkmoon Faire! Play games like Whack-A-Gnoll for big prizes! Win a stuffed animal for your significant other that costs less than you paid to win it! It will be aaaaawweeesome...

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  4. I'm thinking that picture could actually be from your Phase 3. Since the word is that phase was mentioned at Gamescom, I'm thinking Deathwing's back would kind of look like standing on the side of a volcano.

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  5. "Make-or-Break Patch"

    (For the above quote) A part of me doesn't want to agree with this, but in my mind I do, to quite an extent, see it as true. Especially with what's happening in/outside WoW. With players becoming jaded and fresh new MMO's on the horizon.

    Also, your comment about the "doom-slayer types" just made my day!

    I hadn't up until your post read anything on threat, other than Ghostcrawlers small statement. So thanks for the insight! Everything other than Transmogrification has been drowned out. I like the idea of this change. Especially if it means tanks will have more responsibilities other than constant threat attention.

    I would see it as great if you had to progress through one dungeon to unlock the next (for the 3 new ones incoming). Like a progress chain.

    Deathwing - World Boss (but phased) ?!


    Anyway, great post,

    - Jamin

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  6. The part I like in the Tank change is that CC is still needed, and Dps still need to pay attention. It is not quite back to Wrath, but it is a major improvement - imho.

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  7. I do not think 4.3 is make or break personally. I think cataclysm as an imprint on WoW is way to tainted now and nothing can save it.

    We, the ones that stuck around, might really get to enjoy something great out of an otherwise lackluster expansion but all my guild mates that had been playing since vanilla but quit in the past months will not be coming back because of a patch.

    They might, just might, come back once the cataclysm is over and a new expansion comes out.

    To the ones that quit cataclysm equals everything that is wrong with wow. Make or break for the game will be the next expansion. Not a patch that people are expecting to be a failure the way most of this expansion has been. Same two dungeons over and over anyone?

    4.3 will just be another patch. It will come with people that hail it. It will come with people calling it the final nail. In the end, it will not matter, the expansion will be over. All anyone will care about is if they can fix the mistakes they made when the next expansion comes out.

    The next expansion is the make or break for the game. 4.3 is just filler while we wait for it. Nothing more.

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  8. @Saz: I think the Deathwing fight needs to be a "Go Big or Go Home" type of fight, with elements that have never been done before. I don't know what they're planning, but I hope that they make it great.

    @Gazimoff: LOL!

    @Vrykerion: You, sir, are evil.

    And yes, there are several things that I didn't talk about, such as the Raid Finder, that were mentioned as coming with 4.3. I did not really intend this to be a complete resource for the entire patch, I just wanted to offer some comments on the aspects that interest me. I've never really spent much time at the Darkmoon Faire, so Darkmoon Island didn't make much of an impact. Could be fun, though.

    @Glorwynn:

    @Jamin1993: I plan to expand on the "Make-or-Break" idea in one of my next posts, so keep an eye out for that.

    Thanks for the comment!

    @TyphoonAndrew: I agree, I just hope that it works out that way. Even now, a well geared group can pretty much completely eschew Crowd Control if they so choose and just barrel through heroics. My hope is that this change will make Tanking easier and therefore more accessible without encouraging poor play habits, particularly from the DPS.

    @TheGrumpyElf: That's a rather bleak outlook: "Cataclysm sucks and there ain't anything that can save it".

    First off, I plan to expand on this idea in a future post, but I am not one of the "Doom and Gloom" types that think that WoW is fundamentally broken. However, there can be no question that many people have responded to this expansion with apathy.

    I think that the problem isn't fundamental to the game itself or to the expansion, but rather a lack of content variety. I myself am disappointed that 4.2 brought us only 7 raid bosses, marking the smallest Raid Tier ever (that I am aware of, I may be mistaken). And introducing a tiered Heroic system with only two dungeons and then making it the most efficient way to get gear was a huge mistake that only accellerated the feeling of burnout, especially with the long-term players.

    None of these are problems that can't be fixed with the addition of new and, more importantly, excellent, exciting and different content. Give them cool raids that keep their interest and they will come back.

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  9. @Glorwynn: I think a lot of people have come up with the idea of fighting on Deathwing's back - and I think that is something we're quite likely to see.

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  10. Very cool ideas for this ending fight. If it happens in the capitals (instanced) it would be epic to (phase out/instanced out) the first guilds downing him. Making everyone here temporarily see the first guilds and the corpse of the fallen dragon.

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  11. I just want to know the name of that shield and where I can get it. Smexy

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  12. @Anonymous: It is the Grand Marshal's Aegis, an Alliance-only level 60 Epic PVP shield available from the Legacy Armor Quartermaster in Stormwind.

    I have had a long-running love affair with this particular shield, which I wrote about here.

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  13. Phase One:

    We begin the fight with Thrall in the Maelstrom fighting off wave after wave of elements waiting for Thrall to finally finish saving the world. As he is about to finish, deathwhing shows up.

    Phase Two:

    Deathwing is too powerful to handle; your raid, aided by Go'el and Aggra, begin weakening his defenses but quickly become overwhelmed. The important part of this phase is too stay alive as much as possible, if you survive for around 1 minutes the next phase can commence. Phase Two is when you pop lust, he will be on the ground acting like a normal dragon but with a stacking damage buff of some sort.

    Phase Three:

    The Lifebinder joins the fight, too, attacking death wing and the battle takes to the skies. A group of dps and healers jump onto Deathwing's back while the rest of the raid has to try to damage him and his loyal minions from a top Red Drakes (they will be vehicles but you will be able to use your own abilities). The group on top of him will have to do as you said in the post but the fun part is the drakes. The drakes you are on are constantly being jolted so while you are dpsing Deathwing and his adds you are also constantly running back and forth on a rotating dragonkin.

    As players fall from deathwing's back, you must try to catch them too.

    Phase Four:

    You destroy all of his minions and the whole raid joins the group of healers and dps on his back. Here you have to deal with damage from plates beneath him, constant movement from a flying dragon. Periodically, he will falter and hit the ground. Healers will have to prevent the raid from getting hurt for too long because every time damage isn't healed up in 10 seconds or so the Aspect of Death will gain power. This will put the power in the hands of the dps and healers will have to be quick to heal everyone up as time spent at under 100% hp can mean a lot more damage later on. (see Vashjr phase 2)

    (The mechanic will be like this; dps takes 15k damage and healer heals 5k quickly, the 10k deficit will continue to increase damage done by Deathwing until it is healed. The larger the deficit of health, the larger the increase to his damage is. This will make healing quickly extremely important and hopefully undervalue druid healers a little.)

    Finally, Phase 5 begins when deathwing falls to the ground permanently. General tank and spank dragon fight but with cool abilities, general awareness will see you through this phase but if you executed phase 4 wrong the stacking debuff will get back to bite you and kill you if he doesn't die before he deals too much damage.

    Again, if people take too much avoidable damage than the healers can get behind on healing leading to more damage from The Aspect leading to a wipe.

    (Damage that isn't healed quickly causes him to do more damage as stated above.)

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  14. That's an amazing sounding fight you've dreamed up. But now I'm afraid I'll be disappointed if it's not like that :P

    I hope the next tier of raid content is big. I hope there are at least 2 different raids with at least a dozen bosses between them.

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  15. I have been playing WOW since its beginning and I agree. Blizzard needs to do something very different and radical to keep me from going to SWTOR from Bioware. I am bored with WOW and they need to "WOW" me again. There is no reason for me to level another char or go to more dungeons or raids unless its different and brings back the "new" feeling.

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