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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.

 

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This is the first new take on boss instancing I have seen in a long time. The idea I like a lot; but I think that instancing had one more clutch idea that made it so viable: player control of the start time.  

If the server is highly competetive, then even a "top guild" may find themselves in a rut when the spawn timers have been dislodged and are now popping +/- 12 hours from their game time.  This inevetivably leads to drama, pressure to "drop everything and raid" on-call (I had a cell phone like a dope dealer for EQ devs/my guild to call me on demand).  Some people can do this but most can't.

 

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Instancing started the BiS craze. Prior to instanced content, there were just too many rare items in the world to compare.  I like this concept and I believe in Pantheon they are going to do something they refer to as ghost lockouts. It sounded to me like the boss would respawn in 24 hours but if you killed it you would only see an untargetable ghost of the mob for your 7 day lockout duration. This allows 7 raids to kill the mob per week instead of 1. I personally do not want to see raid level loot flooded into the market. Rare is better for the health of the game.

The original concept posted here could definitely work, however, it sounds like a lot of programming though for every raid mob in the game to actually be 3 fights.

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Just saying, I played with the owner of Allakhazam's back then (before instances) and we definitely kept track of every rare item in the game and compared them.

I don't recall BiS becoming a thing until the raidsize:drops ratio went through the roof. Which to me always seemed to be more about dropping to 20-ish players and giving out 5+ items per boss (killed in 15 minutes trash included) than when it was 72 players and 3-5 items after a 2+ hour effort.

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I don't feel it was instancing that brought about BiS, it was really the theorycrafters more than anything. I remember way back in Vanilla EQ knowing what the best item for me to have per slot was, but it was hard to obtain, or extremely rare. So there were lists of them on fan sites. I think because of the success of WoW, and its reliance on gear that we saw a boom in the requirements of BiS items. In Everquest, you could have the BiS, or you could have a Fine Steel weapon, if you had the skill you could still do well. In fact, I've been involved with a plethora of raids in EQ where we had to out-skill the boss because of our raid makeup. It was something that was still possible if everyone worked together and came up with a good strategy for the boss. In WoW, if you had some common drop, you weren't viable and in some cases wouldn't even be allowed to raid. You needed enough skill to not get hit by the AoEs, but if you also had to have the "iLvl" to be able to take on the encounter as well, or in some cases you couldn't even damage the boss or heal the other raid members effectively. 

With that said, I MUCH prefer the EQ version over the WoW when it comes to gearing. 

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23 hours ago, Maximis said:

Instancing started the BiS craze. Prior to instanced content, there were just too many rare items in the world to compare.  I like this concept and I believe in Pantheon they are going to do something they refer to as ghost lockouts. It sounded to me like the boss would respawn in 24 hours but if you killed it you would only see an untargetable ghost of the mob for your 7 day lockout duration. This allows 7 raids to kill the mob per week instead of 1. I personally do not want to see raid level loot flooded into the market. Rare is better for the health of the game.

The original concept posted here could definitely work, however, it sounds like a lot of programming though for every raid mob in the game to actually be 3 fights.

While there are technically 3 versions (4-5 if you add Hyper/Ghost to Coliseum) there are really only 2 difficulty settings.  First things first ... I want people to think Behemoth/King Behemoth, Fafnir/Nidhogg, and Adamantoise/Aspidochelone from FFXI ... never anything from WoW.  I really didn't like the PVE in WoW and wouldn't recommend a single feature from their PVE world for Pantheon.  They ruined it for me.  As far as the "true hyper" versions go ... it doesn't have to be major changes to the fights ... just bump up a combination of their HP, damage, resistance, AoE radius, amount of adds, etc.  I absolutely loved hunting down the HNM's in FFXI ... especially the rare ones that would only spawn once every 3-4 pops.

As far as the lockouts go ... I would be fine with once per day lockout rules on the ghost version.  I just figured they would do it similar to how it was done in Vanguard and from what I have heard, it wasn't more than a couple hours between spawns.  I do agree with you though ... rare is better.  Instances are responsible for flooding the game with loot and it caused the watering down of the inherent value of said loot.  Open-world games have always offered far better itemization and that's because it's much easier to control the flow of it entering the game world.  You create a limited supply and that's that.  With instances ... anybody and everybody gets a turn.  It causes you to rely more on RNG than being in the right place at the right time with the right group of friends and knowledge.

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What might a "mixed bag" look like?

 

Lottery Spawns:   This kind of mob would have a new chance to spawn every time someone kills one of it's placeholders.  Imagine a raid zone where there are 10 different kinds of NPC's and each mob has a 20-30 minute respawn timer.  At the point of respawn, there is a low chance (let's use 1% as an example) that the mob can respawn as a lottery boss.  There can only be one lottery boss up (maximum) for each NPC type at any given point in time, and it's spawn point would be random.

 

Timed Spawns:  This kind of mob would be contested.  You can create several respawn windows for these to offer a variety of risk/reward.

Common:  30-60 minute respawn.  High chance to drop some sort of merchant fodder or currency.  Medium chance to drop a tier-appropriate crafting component, low chance to drop tier appropriate gear.

Uncommon:  2-3 hour respawn.  High chance to drop a tier appropriate crafting component.  Medium chance to drop 1 piece of tier appropriate gear.  Small chance to drop 1 piece of specialized or "situational" gear.

Rare:  4-6 hour respawn.  High chance to drop both a tier appropriate crafting component and 1 piece of tier appropriate gear.  Medium chance to drop 1 piece of specialized or "situational" gear.  Small chance to drop all 3.

Very Rare:  8-12 hour respawn.  High chance to drop 1 piece of situational gear.  Medium chance to drop 1 piece of situational gear, 1 tier appropriate crafting component, and 1 piece of tier appropriate gear.  Small chance to drop 1 piece of next-tier situational gear, 1 next tier crafting component, and 1 piece of next tier gear.  Very small chance to drop something "very shiny."

Uber Rare:  18-24 hour respawn.  High chance to drop 1 piece of situational gear, 2 tier appropriate crafting components, and 2 tier appropriate pieces of gear.  Medium chance to drop 1 piece of next-tier situational gear, 1 next tier crafting component, and 1 piece of next tier gear.  Small chance to drop something "very shiny."

Legendary:  36-72 hour respawn.  Medium chance to drop 2 pieces of next tier situational gear, 2 next tier crafting components, and 2 pieces of next-tier gear.  Medium chance to drop all of that plus something "very shiny."

 

Forced Spawns:  These mobs can be force spawned by a player.  Some triggers could be quest related, some could be based on turning in items/keys.  Lockout restrictions can be imposed on some forced spawns whereas others could be unlimited, provided the player(s) have the required items/keys to trigger them.  If you mix this with Lottery Spawns, (each lottery spawn in a zone drops a key, when all keys are collected you can turn in to spawn a mega boss) really cool things can start to happen.


Beyond all that, you can also add in a blend of hyper, ghost, or "shared spawns" that contain the elements of both hyper and ghost on the same mob.  You can add "ultra rare" loot to the world loot table based on location, mob type, or other factors.  Another thing to consider ... this "mixed bag" wouldn't be exclusive to just raiding.  These same guidelines could also be applied to group content.  We havent even touched on faction yet which has deep potential for progression and risk vs reward itself.  You can create "situational criteria" such as increasing the spawn% of lottery mobs when certain criteria is present.  For example, lightning elemental bosses have a higher chance to spawn during a storm.  Wicked underlords can be "force popped" by cleansing a gloomy obelisk of it's undead presence.  Some mobs might spawn exclusively in the day, or at night.  Certain events might only trigger after various "situational criteria" are met and then a player rings a bell on the other side of the world.  There is a ton of potential to create meaningful "opportunities" where the world feels more alive based on your knowledge of how/why certain things work the way they do.

It's been said many times that VR is looking to evolve the genre ... and one key takeaway I have observed is that "raiding won't be the end-all-be-all."  So create a game that is truly rich with content.  Use all of the elements outlined above but mix it up between group content and raid content, and do it for every tier.  If group content is supposed to be just as meaningful as raid content, how does it make sense to impose restrictions on one but not the other?  Doing so, in my opinion, would automatically imply that raid content is higher on the progression food chain.  If you are going to create balance across the board then there should be consistency with named farming and loot acquisition regardless of which adventure sphere you are playing in.

For players who want to schedule their raids, they can coordinate around forced spawns, ghost spawns, and lottery spawn farming.  For those who want to be opportunistic and enjoy the thrill of "monster hunting" ... you get timed spawns and hyper spawns.  There is something there for everybody ... but the most important thing of all is that there is something there for the world, as well.  It gets to exist ... it isn't chopped up into instances that segregate it's population.  The "freedom to explore or adventure" isn't taken away by turning everything into something that can be scheduled.  Terminus gets to keep it's integrity instead of being butchered into oblivion for the sake of player convenience.

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I have some issues with the original proposal for a number of reasons:

 

I'm not a fan of lockout timers.  They put a portion of your guild on a different timer than the rest.  It wouldn't be as much of an issue if we had uncapped raids...but that is the way they are going.  If you end up being forced to ask guild members to sit out because the raid number is capped...and then those members are on a different timer so they end up missing out in the future...that is a horrible design.

I'm fine with multiple guilds competing for the only spawn.  2 guilds buffing up and preping as fast as they can for the pull makes it exciting.  Having one guild waiting to step over the corpses of the other if they fail brings an added sense of excitement/urgency that wouldn't be present otherwise. I see that as a positive.

Having a guild that is efficient at mobilizing everyone from anywhere in the world to the location of a raid boss in a matter of minutes is a valuable skill that should be rewarded.

I think it would be better to have minibosses or simply other, easier raid mobs that prepare a guild for the more difficult raid encounter.  Your standard stepping stone encounters.  I'm not as much of a fan of the idea of having an easier/dumbed down version of raid boss.  You are getting into a similar scenario as having a normal and hard mode/elite version of a boss which I believe VR has made statements about not wanting to have in game. 

Forced spawns seem to be getting into an area similar to instancing where guilds get their own raid boss with no competition.  The competition is good.  Normally, it drives the game...but I'm guessing things might pan out differently in PRotF.

  I'm guessing that for the first year or so the cutting edge guilds will just be leveling to gain progeny rewards.  Raids will be something done while leveling (mid level raids)...or very briefly at max level before restarting.  Because you will have some people who choose not to partake in the progeny system, the high end raiding content will open up to players who normally wouldn't have access to it....because those players who would be running it normally will be in a leveling loop. (that is assuming the progeny rewards are worth it...if they aren't then the whole system will be a waste.). 

I think the progeny system is really going to "shake up" the standard end game that we are used to from games like EQ.

Edited by Philo
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To be honest I'm not really a fan of lockout timers either due to the same issues that you pointed out.  They feel extremely fake and add another "system" for players to manage ... and it's never fun managing it.  I prefer more of a "FFA" world where the existence of each mob at any point in time is truly meaningful and considered a very important resource.  Instances/Lockouts just flood resources into the game and in the process devalues the overall bond between all special NPC targets and their loot.  I would prefer to see a game that was built fully contested from the ground up ... wild wild west ... training and all.  If mods needs to step in so be it but a game without rails is what delivers that freedom to adventure/explore that so many miss.

I'm probably more excited about Progeny than any other feature in the game.  It's one of the features that I think the game should be built around, rather than building it into the game.  The biggest advantage of a heavily emphasized progeny system is replay value.  A good way to be successful in this genre is to get people to continue paying their subs ... you build loyalty by creating fun/engaging progression that players can continue to hack away at for years and years.  Most MMO's have chased the mighty dollar and implemented strategies used in mobile games such as dailies or other rip-off crap that try to hook you, suck your attention span dry with monotonous tasks ... and then repeatedly tell you to keep coming back for more.

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I'm excited about progeny too.  The other thing that will happen is that it makes "no drop" loot have little value.

Only gear that you can take with you from one play through to another has value.  If it is lost at the end of your run it barely matters.  (That is how we have to assume it will work at this point).  That is going to bring a whole new mindset to how players feel about loot.

At the same point it inflates the value of exp.  It changes the way many people will play on a daily basis.  Gearing up your character only matters if it helps you gain exp faster...or doesn't come at the expense of exp.  Loot camps for no drop items are a waste of time.  You are just going to lose those items anyway.

Edited by Philo

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