I want to discuss in this thread are design problems and issues involved in the final phase of the Soa encounter in Eternity Vault. After slamming our heads against phase three for a solid two hours last night with my eight-man operation team, quite a few ideas sprang to mind. The structure of this post will be to list the design problems I feel should be addressed, to offer constructive feedback, and to foster a healthy discussion about this boss fight's particular encounter design. So, in the famous words of Harry S. Plinkett, Let's begin, shall we?
There are a few threads already floating around in this forum regarding this topic, so I'll keep it short and sweet. First, the pylon mechanic is great in concept. The entire raid feels a strong sense of tension when Soa becomes vulnerable to attack, and it gives the tank a basic positioning challenge to overcome. Here's where it falls apart: the tank is not given the information to perform his job correctly. The boss model is too large for the tank to have clear knowledge that there is either a pylon in the air, or its location. In addition, the location where the pylon crashes into the ground is not clearly defined before it falls, forcing an element of guesswork to come into play.
The consequences of these stumbling blocks are numerous. Since this is the one mechanic that will allow an operations team to complete the encounter, should it fail to be performed properly all blame for the group's failure will be saddled onto one person. In addition, since the tank cannot get the information to prevent further failures from occuring, he becomes frustrated and is less likely to return for the next night of operations.
I propose the following two solutions to make this mechanic easier to understand and execute: Shrink Soa and have the pylon project an accurate texture onto the floor of the room to indicate where it's going to land. This takes a lot of the guess work and clunkiness out of the encounter, and provides a smoother experience for a role that is quite often underpopulated in this genre.
Part 2: Mind Traps! or "He's in my head, Charles!"
This fight mechanic needs to be either scrapped or reworked entirely for phase three. It presents a "time out" mechanic in an environment in which one already exists. Combined with his "whip you around the room for twenty seconds" ability, it also opens the door for a snowballing cascade failure that begins right as phase three starts. What do I mean by that? Well, in an encounter being fought by eight people, having two damage dealers sidelined by his whip and mind trap ability at or near the phase start instantly diminishes your raid DPS by 40%. With the rate mind traps spawn on normal mode you can easily extrapolate how that's going to effect how your operation group will be doing for the rest of the encounter as mind traps stack up again and again. But the problem with mind traps is far larger than it just being a hard disable.
When a player is chosen to be sucked into a mind trap he is, through no fault of his own, essentially being told by the game that he needs to sit in a room, rely on his teammates to break him free, given nothing to contribute to the fight, and blindfolded to the action outside of the mind trap. Do any of these things sound fun? They shouldn't. The mob that spawns inside the trap dies from breathing on it, and conveys to the player no information whatsoever about its purpose or what killing it contributes to the fight.
And this is to say nothing about the bugs one encounters with the mind traps themselves: an invisible mind trap with 2M HP floats around inside the chamber, traps spawn on top of each other, and are able to imprison a player during Soa's vulnerability period. All of these present less of a challenge than they do an arbitrary obstacle that coarsens the experience.
Since mechanics exist that a player can "fail" on personally in this fight e.g. to be standing in a lighting orb or a crashing pillar, an arbitrary punishment in which the player is given absolutely nothing of value to accomplish is unnessecary.
But if mind traps must remain in the game, here are my proposed changes to make them a more "fun" mechanic.
A) Allow a player to "sacrifice" him or herself to the trap, introducing an element of selection that isn't randomly based. That player is still imprisoned, requires the help of teammates to break free, and can't enter a trap again in rapid succession, but allows the raid an element of control over a relatively unfun mechanic.
B) Beef up the projection inside the Mind Trap to be more than a pinata. Reward the player by either freeing her, buffing her movement speed/damage after liberation, or even allowing her to pierce Soa's shield outside of his vulnerability phase.
These are what I think are the largest problems, although not the only problems, with the Soa encounter. What I ask you, dear reader, is what your thoughts are for these mechanics. Are they fine as they are? Do any of these changes make sense, or do you have better ideas for how to address these problems? I look forward to seeing your responses.