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I wanted to touch on a subject that is near and dear to my heart as it pertains to raiding in MMO's. I've played plenty of games over the years and if there was one thing I noticed getting more and more popular, it was the use of "instanced raiding." Why did this become so popular? The short answer is simple ... supply vs demand. When it comes to contested content that operates on a 3-5 day respawn cycle, it's accessibility is extremely limited. Generally speaking, the first couple guilds to reach max-level would be in the best position possible to learn and master the encounter mechanics of any given fight. While the majority of a server is still leveling up, there are always a select few that are already pushing the limits of end-game content. There is always a race to see who will conquer the biggest and baddest bosses in the game. What ends up happening is these select few players end up beating the content and putting it on farm status. Eventually, the rest of the server will catch up ... and when it comes time for them to attempt this "contested content" they quickly learn that their chances are slim to none. As soon as these encounters spawn, several competing guilds will attempt to down them. This isn't in an effort to "block" other guilds from experiencing the content, but rather to lay claim to the awesome rewards that are so commonly associated with high-end contested raid content. So for all the other guilds out there that would like to eventually take a crack at these encounters, the opportunities will be few and far between. Even if you are lucky enough to get a couple pulls in, the encounters are so tough that they usually require dozens of pulls to master the mechanics. So after your pull is over, the competing guilds step in and attempt to down the boss using the tactics that they came up with weeks or months ago while practicing freely against the boss. Soon enough, it's laying on the ground dead and those same players are jumping with joy as they distribute the uber loot they just obtained. So where does this leave you? You really want to attempt that same boss ... you want that same loot ... but how will you get it? Do you abandon your current guild and move on to greener pastures, increasing the likelihood of you experiencing that content? Do you hold a pep rally and tell your members you'll get it next time? Well, many will be quick to remind you that you might get it next time if only you actually had the chance to battle the encounter in the first place. This is where the Hyper/Ghost concept comes into play. I'm going to provide an explanation here to make sense of it, and then also demonstrate how it works with an info graphic that I will update the thread with later. Basically, the hyper/ghost concept is something that allows competitive guilds the opportunity to compete for contested content, but also allows others to attempt that same fight afterward. Here is how it works: "True Hyper Dragon" Respawn: 3-5 days. Lockout: None. Loot: 4-6 pieces from the "Dragon Loot Table" -- 2 to 3 of which are exclusive to the "True Hyper Loot Table" "Ghost Dragon" Respawn: 30-60 minutes after any version of the "Dragon" is killed. Lockout: 3-5 days. Loot: 2-3 pieces from the "Dragon Loot Table" and 1 "Hyper Dragon Essence" "Hyper Dragon" Respawn: Force popped by using 3 "Hyper Dragon Essences" Lockout: 3-5 days, shared with the "Ghost Dragon." Loot: 3-4 pieces from the "Dragon Loot Table" 1 to 2 of which are exclusive to the "True Hyper Loot Table." As you can see, the "True Hyper" or "THV" version is basically a bonus kill. This is the contested version that all competing guilds will be striving to conquer. After it's killed, though, it will later respawn as the "Ghost Version." This version is toned down some, both in difficulty and the quality of loot that is rewarded. Nonetheless, the ghost version is still incredibly difficult and it's loot highly desirable. Upon killing the ghost version, players involved in the raid receive a lockout that prevents them from continually farming the mob as it respawns every 30-60 minutes. This gives other guilds an opportunity to experience that same content. On the flip side, successfully killing the ghost version will also reward your raid with a "hyper essence" that can be used to force pop a "Hyper Version." Once you accumulate 3 of these essences, you can transform the ghost version into the hyper version. The hyper version is nearly identical to the "True Hyper" version except for a couple small differences. The first is that it has a lockout, and it's shared with the ghost version. The second is that the loot is slightly toned down from the true hyper version. Other than that, the encounter is the exact same. The benefits of a system like this are abundant. Competitive guilds still have a "bonus kill" that they can compete for each and every week. Those who miss out still have the opportunity to experience the encounter and obtain some loot with the ghost version. This is invaluable as the experience is necessary if they ever want to compete for the contested version, and they still get some loot to ensure that their characters are progressing enough to have a chance to beat it. After downing the ghost version a few times, guilds then have the option to force pop the hyper version. This drops better loot and allows guilds the opportunity to experience the full version of the encounter. The more guilds who are able to kill the ghost version, the more there will be who can kill the hyper version. The more who can kill the hyper version, the more that can "compete" for the true hyper version. Not only does this make the raid scene more competitive, but it also serves as a platform to keep the "gear gap" in check. It won't close the gap completely, and it shouldn't ... risk vs reward is important, and those who kill the contested version should receive their appropriate bounty. But at the end of the day, a system like this will help facilitate competitive raiding on every server while also making it more accessible to the masses. One issue I always had with competitive raiding is that these encounters have generally been the funnest encounters in the game. There are so many interesting and clever mechanics that me and my guild were able to enjoy over the years, but while we were farming these bosses, we were inadvertently preventing others from ever having a chance to compete. The gear gap continued to broaden and our "encounter mastery" continued to grow stronger. While we still had alliances on our server with other guilds, they were generally non-competitive raiding guilds. When it came to competition, heated rivalries ensued. I remember hearing and seeing plenty of unpleasant messages while participating in the hardcore raid scene and that's something I hope to avoid this go around. Rather than competitive guilds being viewed as the villain ... how about they get to play the role of hero for a change? How exactly could that work? It starts with the competitive guilds taking out the "True Hyper Version." At that point, it's a free for all. Anybody and everybody can attempt it. More likely than not, there will be a few guilds who just aren't prepared for a fight of that magnitude. After the uber guild downs the true hyper version, it opens up the ghost version to everybody else. Now the guilds who couldn't necessarily kill the true hyper version have something that they can kill. They get to learn the ropes of the fight and eventually acquire some loot that will help them grow stronger for next time. Rather than feeling "robbed" of content from another guild, they are "enabled" -- and not just for the "easy version" as some people might think. The ghost versions would still be incredibly difficult. But now they get to practice the encounter, accumulate some loot that will help them grow stronger ... and eventually have a chance to compete. I can't stress enough how important it is that guilds have the opportunity to at least experience the content. When content is purely contested, it's almost impossible for them to learn the mechanics. Beyond that, it's possible that downing the true hyper version has other perks and these would be temporarily accessible to everybody in the area. These wouldn't take shape as loot, but rather have an impact on the immediate territory and the NPC's who occupy it. Perhaps after a mighty dragon is killed, a new path to a nearby zone is opened up. With another boss, maybe it's the only path to a certain area that opens up. Another idea is that after a certain boss is killed, a nearby town temporarily decreases the "city tax" that is imposed on the sale of any goods purchased in the area. Maybe the local inn or tavern offers a small discount to everybody in the area as a gesture of appreciation for "Guild X" who killed the monster that was plaguing the neighborhood. Imagine the following: Server Impact What if killing raid bosses had an impact on the world our characters live in? Rather than being limited to shuffling more loot into the world, why couldn't downing a pesky dragon have a noticeable impact on the immediate area nearby? Loot acquisition will always be important as it plays a vital role in power progression for our characters, but wouldn't it be cool if the impact of downing these beasts could actually make a difference in how various NPC's interact with you / each other in the world? Opportunistic Tradesmen When a THV raid boss is killed, opportunistic tradesmen seek to grow their fortunes by setting up shop in an area that was otherwise too dangerous while the raid boss was roaming around. These merchants could sell unique crafting components or other desirable goodies that are only accessible while the THV bosses are dead. Other merchants such as repair vendors, ammo vendors, or food/drink vendors could also sell their wares in convenient locations now that the territory is less hostile. Kings Reach Extended What if, every time a raid boss is killed in a certain area, there is a sense of "server progression" that takes place in the background? Perhaps there are Kings or Tribal Leaders that are looking to expand their territory and with every THV boss that is vanquished, they get one step closer. Maybe this could turn into a new tavern, inn, or outpost. Perhaps a shortcut is eventually opened up (a bridge built, tunnel excavated, etc) or elements of the faction system are adjusted. After expanding their territory, Tribe X now views kobolds as a pest to their operations, and killing them now grants faction with that tribe whereas before, they didn't. Perhaps these contested raid bosses drop some sort of building material (rare ore, metal, wood) that is highly sought after by local authorities who are trying to build a teleportation spire in the area. Let's say it requires 100 of these items to build the spire -- the guild who turns in the most can have a monument built in their name, or perhaps they could name the spire itself? Intensely Social After a guild kills an obnoxious hill giant known for pillaging fields and slaughtering cattle, word starts to spread of their good deed. Local citizens in a nearby town are more amicable and promote the reputation of the guild who came to save the day. Perhaps the taverns/inns offer a temporary discount to any/all patrons in the area, but their text dialogue now includes a shout out for the guild who killed the hill giant. "Thanks to Guild X, we were able to enjoy a full harvest this month. Please enjoy a 10% discount on our wares." Likewise, perhaps the king in the area is willing to temporarily reduce certain fees. Whether it's sales tax, property tax, broker fees, passage fees, etc ... perhaps there can be a mildly noticeable decrease to various fees in an area after certain contested raid bosses are killed. The king could put up message boards to announce such an event "Due to Guild X vanquishing Big Bad Red Dragon, we've had many more visitors and our mercantile district is thriving. We are temporarily reducing taxes/fees until further notice." Coliseum Doubling down on accessibility, what if, after any guilds kills a certain THV encounter, gnome scientists are able to extract samples and reproduce mechanical versions of the same encounter and allow challengers to do battle with them in their arena, for sport? They wouldn't drop the same loot of course ... but perhaps challengers would be willing to pay a fee to test these hyper versions in a neutral, more accessible location? Killing them could perhaps reward some sort of faction or token that could be exchanged with coliseum vendors to provide some sort of reward. This could be scaled to whatever feels appropriate ... but the point is to make the encounter accessible. Allow guilds to challenge themselves by doing battle with these mechanical constructs. Perhaps there could a leader board system of sorts that track various efficiency metrics such as time, death tally, DPS measurables by archetype, etc? These are just a few ideas on how raiding can evolve in Pantheon. We can take the tried and true methods of the past, but reshape them in a way that make them more accessible and desirable. I firmly believe that there is a prime opportunity to capture the "raid audience" from the MMO genre and lure them to Pantheon. Most of the issues that have plagued the MMO genre over the years really come down to the following variables: "Hardcore vs Casual" / "Forced vs Optional" / "Fun vs Tedious" -- I think an ideal raiding system would include gameplay aspects that could include both hardcore and casual, be truly optional, and reinforce the idea of having fun with friends.