Players delight in messing with developers’ carefully laid plans. It doesn’t matter how unusual or cool an encounter might be, if it can be turned into a simple tank and spank, they’ll do it.
And developers have only themselves to blame. By making these games so gear dependent and then handing out gear like it was going out of fashion, it becomes possible to ignore those carefully put together healing or execution checks. Everything instead turns into a dps race. Kill the boss before it kills anyone else.
A couple of examples of this:
- Heroic Loken. This is a chap who farts a badass lightning nova every 30s or so. The group is intended to all run out of the lightning nova when he starts to cast it, and then run in again (or let him run to them). The extra trick is that they also need to stay bunched up while they do this. It’s tricky because you don’t have much time to react. But now as people get better gear, the standard method is, ‘take a good healer and just stay in the nova so you can keep bashing him.’ It’s turned an interesting fight into a boring one with extra group damage.
- Anub’Rekhan. First boss of the Spider Wing in Naxxramas. Every 45s or so, he rears up on his back legs and casts an insect swarm. This is an AE which does stacking damage to anyone in range and also pacifies/ silences them. So when he starts to cast, everyone gets at least 30′ away from him. The trick is that the tank has to do this too, so the traditional method is that when he rears up, the tank starts running and kites him halfway across the room (by which time the swarm wears off). But no more. These days, it’s just as likely that I’ll be asked to tank him by the door and just not move, they’ll heal me through the swarm instead. But dammit, ‘Rekhan was one of the iconic tanking encounters in the game. You had to kite. That was the whole point.
I don’t really like brute forcing encounters. I don’t care that it makes things easier, I want to see the content the way it was designed to be seen. It’s certainly not an exploit to kill things in a simpler way but it isn’t really very fun for me.
But what can you do? Get everyone to take half their gear off? And if I’m leading the raid, of course I want to go for the guaranteed kill rather than the trickier execution option.
Would it be better if getting better gear never made encounters easier?
I’m guessing not. It might be more fun for people who wanted to experience the fight ‘as intended’ but part of the incentive for levelling up and getting better equipment is exactly this: to make the game easier.
In any case, encounters are designed to challenge a specific gear level. If you have less gear, they’ll be harder. If you have more gear, they’ll be easier. And this is true even for the pure execution fights. Everything gets easier with more dps, more healing, and tougher tanks.
So games with a heavy ‘advancement via gear’ mechanism will find players blowing through the content more and more quickly. And those fun, intricate movement fights will be relegated to history, and a few thousand youtube videos.