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Feedback on the State of Operations


Kihra's Avatar


Kihra
06.01.2012 , 03:23 PM | #1
I wanted to start a thread to provide constructive feedback regarding the state of Operations in SWTOR.

In general, I think Explosive Conflict was a giant leap forward for the SWTOR PvE endgame. I love the instance. You produced four very fun fights, and tuned them very nicely for each difficulty mode. As far as I'm concerned, you hit a home run with this Operation.

Here are my top problems with Operations right now:

(1) Stacking Buffs and Debuffs

The stacking buffs and debuffs problem needs to be addressed. The week that Kephess' Gift was bugged on 16-man, we put up multiple Gunslinger bubbles and when I reviewed logs I was shocked to discover not only that they stacked with one another but that they stacked additively. You could bring 5 Gunslingers to an Operation in 16-man and completely negate all damage done.

I'm not sure what the current state of armor debuffs is in the game, but my understanding is that unique class debuffs may actually stack right now (SimluationCraft still seems to think so at any rate)? If so, then again, 16-man gets a huge advantage over 8-man, especially on 2-boss fights like Toth/Zorn and Firebrand/Stormcaller where you could distribute your gunslingers, troopers and guardians evenly between the two bosses to ensure the maximum amount of armor is taken off each one.

I think it's very important both for balance and for Nightmare Modes that stacking buffs and debuffs get addressed across the board. Same types (gunslinger bubble, sentinel speed boost, sentinel inspiration) should never stack, so that you're not encouraged to bring a zillion of one class just to cheese something.

Also, even different debuffs and buffs that do the same thing should never stack. If two people bring an Accuracy-reducing debuff for -5%, then they should not stack.

I think this should be a top technical priority before producing really difficult content, since you're just too open to exploits and cheesing of fights if this isn't addressed across the board.

Although it's less important if you eliminate same-buff/debuff stacking completely, I think multiplicative stacking is superior to additive stacking. In general, for example, WoW stacks damage reduction cooldowns multiplicatively. This means you hit diminishing returns and can't really get to 100% DR for example. It just makes more sense to me logically.

Overall, though, I'd be content if you just prevent stacking of similar buffs/debuffs in general.

(2) Tank Threat

It has been stated that this is being looked at in 1.3. I've written other posts on this subject, so I'll just link to that instead of rehashing it all here:

http://www.swtor.com/community/showp...33&postcount=5

I suspect that this problem might be exacerbated on 16-man by the inability to guard all melee and the fact that 16-man may be benefiting from more stacking debuffs. I feel like some minor quality of life improvements in this area would go a long way.

(3) The Unreliable Narrator

We still have a problem where graphical effects simply don't show up for people. This is - to me - the single biggest problem with Operations right now. I imagine this must be a difficult problem at the engine level, but you've just got to find it and fix it. Players need to be fighting the encounter and not bugs.

For example on Firebrand/Stormcaller, more than half our raid simply can't see the red circles on the ground at the start of the fight. The game engine itself is unreliable in its communication of where bad stuff is, and this has a dramatic effect on Operations. It also enables players to use the bug as an excuse even when they did see the void zone.

Basically when you have this uncertainty regarding where the circles of death are, or where the Soa pillar is actually going to fall, or where Bonethrasher is actually facing, it makes hard content very difficult to design. A game engine just has to be rock-solid reliable as far as communicating the facing of bosses, the positions of void zones, and the placement of obstacles that could kill someone.

This also leads to players being put in less critical roles or potentially even being benched just because they are experiencing a bug, and that's no fun.

(4) The Lackluster Healer Toolbox

From an encounter design perspective, you have made healers so weak that you have severely limited what you can do with encounters. I've covered these issues before in posts on the Healing forums, but I'll recap them briefly:

(a) Emergency Single Target Burst

You need to give healers emergency single target burst tools. For example, you could give Scoundrels a 3min CD ability that makes an Underworld Medicine cast instant and incur no GCD. Consider giving a healer class a long CD for a full heal for example, e.g., like Lay on Hands in WoW.

Note I'm not just talking about a slightly more bursty rotation that drains you of resources. You need to give healers actual instants they can use if they see someone about to die. Then you can make encounters where that reactivity can shine and healers can really get that great feeling of saving someone at the last second.

(b) Tank Cooldowns

Consider giving healers actual tank survivability cooldowns that provide the tank with damage reduction. If skilled tanks can call for external CDs from their healers, that would let you up the difficulty level and put in some heavy tank damage phases that last longer than a single tank's CDs.

(c) Emergency AOE Burst and Raid Cooldowns.

Healers need long CD AOE tools like Druid Tranquility from WoW. You could produce an Aura Mastery equivalent by giving someone the ability to increase Resistances by 50% for the whole Operation for a few seconds.

Basically look into giving healers tools to catch up if they fall behind on AOE. Look at what happens sub-10% on 16-man Toth and Zorn right now when that double damage Ground Shatter starts. Healers just can't keep up.

Right now Gunslingers have the best tool for mitigating AOE damage, and healers have nothing. My opinion is that it should be healers that bring these tools. Again, I look at the bugged Kephess' Gift and ask myself why healers aren't the ones saving raid there instead of Gunslingers?

(d) Remove the cooldown from dispels/cleanses

It's harder to create interesting cleansing fights when you have a cooldown on cleansing. Consider removing this restriction. It helps greatly with healer assignments if you let one person be "in charge" of this sort of thing.

The reason I am harping on the healer toolbox is that I feel that for encounters to truly challenge healers, you've got to be able to amp up the damage output considerably, but if you do that right now, healers just won't have anything they can do. For Nightmare Mode raids, you need to be able to challenge the healers in a fair and fun way, and you can't do that if their toolboxes remain as limited as they are right now.

(5) Operations Frames and Buffs/Debuffs

The UI improvements in 1.2 were simply wonderful. There are two areas that could still use improvement however. The first is buffs/debuffs on raid frames. Give people the ability to only show debuffs on the Operations frames for example and make them big enough to be visible, and that would go a long way. Having a visible time remaining number showable on buffs and debuffs would be helpful also.

For player and target frames it would be great if you could position buffs/debuffs independently of those frames. It would be nice if you could then filter them to only show your buffs/debuffs, to only show buffs and not debuffs, etc.

With more precise control over buffs and debuffs, you could up the difficulty of encounters knowing that players have the tools to more easily spot debuffs.

(6) Percentage-Based Health Transitions

Toth and Zorn is a great fight. The biggest issue we've found with the fight has to do with the fact that phase pushes are tied to the health of bosses. As our DPS has gone up, we find ourselves facing issues that seem somewhat silly. Here are some of the problems created by having DPS that is too high:

(a) Fearful is still on the previous tank when a swap happens. You need to make all Fearfuls get wiped away before putting out the new Fearfuls. We find ourselves using 3 tanks on this fight on 16-man now, just because it ensures nobody is tanking Zorn with Fearful, and it keeps us from having to stop DPS.

(b) The Baradium Heave won't happen if Zorn is pushed out of his rock throwing phase. You need to ensure that Zorn is always willing to cast Baradium Heave no matter what the stage of the fight is. We have to stand around waiting on the Heave before continuing to DPS.

(c) Rooting problems. If you push the bosses too quickly, they will root following a leap. Once rooted you can't move them. Examples include Zorn's Sonic Paralysis and Toth's Ground Shatter. With really high DPS, they root so soon after the leap that you don't necessarily have the bosses back in position yet.

In general, I think there is an overuse of boss health percentage-based phase transitions in SWTOR. Percentage-based transitions create a lot of design problems in fights unless they happen at very clean phase breaks. For example they're fine on Kephess because you're just moving to an entirely new stage of the fight at 60%.

You should really consider using fixed timers more often. Just as an example, the rooting problems could have been avoided if you'd made only the leaps percentage based but had the rock phases, ground shatter phases, etc. happen on a fixed timer following the leaps instead of also being tied to percentages.

Going forward, I would encourage you to create a debug mode where everyone does 25% more DPS and test the fights in that mode to make sure they don't break down just because everyone is doing higher DPS.

Firebrand and Stormcaller are similar to Toth and Zorn. Percentage-based transitions make it such that slightly higher DPS dramatically reduces the difficulty level of the fight. In particular, with high enough DPS, you beat the second Double Destruction. With super high DPS, you beat the hit following Incinerate Armor.

I look at this fight and find myself scratching my head as to why it had to be tied to percentage health. I think this fight is a good example of one that should have just been on a fixed timer. I think it's actually *more interesting* as a fight if the phase was a fixed length, and you had to deal with a 2nd Double Destruction while running to the shields.

In general with these percentage health pushes, you create situations where higher DPS trivializes the encounter and where lower DPS can even be good (e.g., if you don't push to Defensive Systems until after the 2nd Double is falling off).

While I am not averse to fights that involve good DPS control, i feel in this case a fixed timing on all phases of the fight would actually make for a more interesting encounter, and it wouldn't allow people to bypass the mechanics of the fight.

That about sums it up. I know this is wall of text that is asking for a lot of improvements without providing a lot of compliments, so I'll just re-iterate that I love raiding in SWTOR, and I think you did a great job with the new Operation. I am looking forward to seeing Nightmare Mode Denova and finding out what fiendish things you've dreamed up to make these fights crazier than they already are.
A home for busy adults seeking high level PvE in a respectful, mature atmosphere.
Kihra - Kinetic Shadow

SithEater's Avatar


SithEater
06.01.2012 , 03:47 PM | #2
Well said, I don't agree with all of it (like healers getting the aoe damage mitigation instead of slingers, as long as someone has it thats all that matters), but this is one of the most thought out posts I have seen. Lets hope it goes from your keyboard to their eyes.
Grand Master of the Sword in Box Form of Lightsaber Combat.

Kihra's Avatar


Kihra
06.01.2012 , 03:56 PM | #3
Quote: Originally Posted by SithEater View Post
Well said, I don't agree with all of it (like healers getting the aoe damage mitigation instead of slingers, as long as someone has it thats all that matters), but this is one of the most thought out posts I have seen. Lets hope it goes from your keyboard to their eyes.
Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that the ability should be taken away from Gunslingers. I'm arguing for more such abilities to be added to the game and given to healers.
A home for busy adults seeking high level PvE in a respectful, mature atmosphere.
Kihra - Kinetic Shadow

Aurojiin's Avatar


Aurojiin
06.01.2012 , 04:09 PM | #4
Quote: Originally Posted by Kihra View Post
(d) Remove the cooldown from dispels/cleanses

It's harder to create interesting cleansing fights when you have a cooldown on cleansing. Consider removing this restriction.
This dammit. In fights where significantly damaging, cleansable DOTs go out, I'm basically forced to cleanse the squishiest person and heal through on everyone else. It's clumsy and not particularly satisfying.

Quote:
The reason I am harping on the healer toolbox is that I feel that for encounters to truly challenge healers, you've got to be able to amp up the damage output considerably, but if you do that right now, healers just won't have anything they can do. For Nightmare Mode raids, you need to be able to challenge the healers in a fair and fun way, and you can't do that if their toolboxes remain as limited as they are right now.
Herein lies the ultimate truth. If healers were given a better interface and a more capable, dynamic toolbox, the damage output of encounters could be significant increased, and you could challenge healers with situations that have the raid constantly teetering on the brink of a wipe. I'd like my decision-making process to be a little more involved than a simple flowchart, at any rate. The way fights are tuned at the moment; either everyone does their job properly and healing is nothing more than topping up bars, or people screw up and the healing burden quickly becomes unsustainable. There's still a difference between good and bad playing when it comes to healing, but it takes very little to cross that bridge. For the most part this game just leaves me feeling like a health dispensing med droid, so to speak.

Perversely the most fun I have is healing an undergeared group in Lost Island

alifaraaz's Avatar


alifaraaz
06.01.2012 , 04:15 PM | #5
I do quite like when dps have to control themselves managing when to burst and when to slow down, but yeah Toth and Zorn especially becomes harder when your spa don't slow down.we actually had 2 dps in our 8manhitting rapid shots for the whole fight in order to keep the damage from being too high.

Overall really good post, hope our new community teams sees this and forwards it to whichever dev it concerns.
Kazar - Powertech, [Tomb of Freedom Nadd EU]

Larry_Dallas's Avatar


Larry_Dallas
06.01.2012 , 04:15 PM | #6
Quote: Originally Posted by Kihra View Post
(3) The Unreliable Narrator

We still have a problem where graphical effects simply don't show up for people. This is - to me - the single biggest problem with Operations right now. I imagine this must be a difficult problem at the engine level, but you've just got to find it and fix it. Players need to be fighting the encounter and not bugs.

For example on Firebrand/Stormcaller, more than half our raid simply can't see the red circles on the ground at the start of the fight. The game engine itself is unreliable in its communication of where bad stuff is, and this has a dramatic effect on Operations. It also enables players to use the bug as an excuse even when they did see the void zone.

Basically when you have this uncertainty regarding where the circles of death are, or where the Soa pillar is actually going to fall, or where Bonethrasher is actually facing, it makes hard content very difficult to design. A game engine just has to be rock-solid reliable as far as communicating the facing of bosses, the positions of void zones, and the placement of obstacles that could kill someone.

This also leads to players being put in less critical roles or potentially even being benched just because they are experiencing a bug, and that's no fun.


(d) Remove the cooldown from dispels/cleanses

It's harder to create interesting cleansing fights when you have a cooldown on cleansing. Consider removing this restriction. It helps greatly with healer assignments if you let one person be "in charge" of this sort of thing.

The reason I am harping on the healer toolbox is that I feel that for encounters to truly challenge healers, you've got to be able to amp up the damage output considerably, but if you do that right now, healers just won't have anything they can do. For Nightmare Mode raids, you need to be able to challenge the healers in a fair and fun way, and you can't do that if their toolboxes remain as limited as they are right now.

(5) Operations Frames and Buffs/Debuffs

The UI improvements in 1.2 were simply wonderful. There are two areas that could still use improvement however. The first is buffs/debuffs on raid frames. Give people the ability to only show debuffs on the Operations frames for example and make them big enough to be visible, and that would go a long way. Having a visible time remaining number showable on buffs and debuffs would be helpful also.

For player and target frames it would be great if you could position buffs/debuffs independently of those frames. It would be nice if you could then filter them to only show your buffs/debuffs, to only show buffs and not debuffs, etc.

With more precise control over buffs and debuffs, you could up the difficulty of encounters knowing that players have the tools to more easily spot debuffs.
The two bolded are absolutely critical issues, imo. Especially at the beginning of boss fights for the circles not showing up (don't know if it's caching or what). Personally, I don't stay stationary for the first 20-30 seconds of any fight because I can't be certain there's not a circle under me. Sorts itself out after that, usually, but this needs to be addressed ASAP.

And when I've healed an op, it's very frustrating missing a debuff because it's lost in a sea of tiny icons, most of which mean nothing to a healer.

As for the shorter cooldowns on cleanse, that would do more harm than good. You're sort of wiping the utility of madness sorcs and annihilation marauders in pvp. It doesn't constitute a nerf, so much as a complete elimination of these two classes in warzones.

CitizenFry's Avatar


CitizenFry
06.01.2012 , 04:24 PM | #7
I have a few complaints about Explosive Conflict:
- some of the trash pulls, particularly in the trenches, are reeeeeeally boring and repetitive. Some of the trash pulls are nice changes (the ambushes at the beginning, the group at the bottom of the cliff before T+Z, the snipers in the ruins near the first chest, the first spread-out pull that has several turret emplacements near the cliff) but there are many, many fights that are carbon copies of earlier fights in the op (for example, there's a second spread-out pull near a cliff with turret emplacements, almost identical to the first). Either eliminate the duplicate encounters or do something to make them stand out a little more.
- wiping sucks, because it takes forever to get back to where you were. Add some more shortcuts, please? Also, general suggestion for all ops and flashpoints: can you add an option to respawn inside the instance, rather than getting kicked back out to fleet (or Ilum, cringe)? 99% of the time I'm going to be going right back in, so can you save me the load time of zoning out and zoning back in?

I really like the boss fights though, they're mechanically interesting and challenging.

KeyboardNinja's Avatar


KeyboardNinja
06.01.2012 , 04:56 PM | #8
I strongly echo the sentiment that Explosive Conflict was a (very welcome) home run for BioWare. I always felt that Eternity Vault had the potential to be there, but the naive fight design (requiring only one tank for everything) and unimaginably prolific bugs (Soa, 'nuf said) made it miss the mark. Explosive Conflict is unambiguously fun, challenging, tightly balanced and (for the most part) bug free. If BioWare can keep producing content like this at a reasonably steady clip, I see a long, long future for raiding in TOR.

I would also echo the fact that healers need utility diversity and burst buffs. Scoundrels can burst *crazy* high if they push the right buttons, and commandos can do the same if they tech override on Medical Probe, but sages have absolutely no options at their disposal. Overall, the healers in this game are fairly simplistic and naively designed. They have embarrassingly obvious rock-paper-scissors balance strategies, and some cripplingly unusable mechanics (e.g. Deliverance, Trauma Probe and Kolto Pack are all essentially useless, as metrics should be showing right now).

I think tanking is in a pretty good place right now. Guardians could use a buff, both in the area of mitigation and (especially) AoE threat generation, but otherwise things are solid. The only thing I feel needs to be changed is the taunt boost mechanic. This needs to DIE IN A FIRE. It trivializes tanking after the first 45 seconds. The fact that I can taunt boost my way to an average threat-per-second in excess of 10k on Karagga should be an indication of how broken this whole concept is. I have several ideas of how this could be fixed (e.g. remove the threat multiplier when taunting off of yourself). None are foolproof, but I feel that a solution *is* out there.

DPS is largely in a good place, though some of the classes have utility so dramatically in excess of the others that no self-respecting min-maxer could look anywhere else. Guardians have armor debuffs that make a *huge* difference. Sentinels have Inspiration, which makes an even *greater* difference. Gunslingers have armor debuffs *and* AoE damage mitigation (stacking, apparently). By comparison, infiltration Shadows have…an extra battle rez? Commandos are similarly gimped.

In general, I would like to see more content at the level of Explosive Conflict and Lost Island. These are two excellent pieces of work, and the teams responsible should be given bonuses (not fired). Some class redesign would be very welcome, but except for healers, the redesigns needed are marginal. We're talking about a paint brush, not a sledgehammer.
Computer Programmer. Theory Crafter. Dilettante on The Ebon Hawk.
Tam (shadow tank) Tov-ren (commando healer) Aveo (retired sentinel) Nimri (ruffian scoundrel)
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Whizzer_'s Avatar


Whizzer_
06.01.2012 , 05:40 PM | #9
If we are doing raid wishlists:
I would like to have some way to identify which debuffs are mine on a target frame. One example is the Sorc Affliction debuff, in a typical 16 man imperial ops group it can be pretty annoying to determine if my Affliction is still running or not.

pureeffinmetal's Avatar


pureeffinmetal
06.01.2012 , 09:21 PM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by Kihra View Post
(5) Operations Frames and Buffs/Debuffs

The UI improvements in 1.2 were simply wonderful. There are two areas that could still use improvement however. The first is buffs/debuffs on raid frames. Give people the ability to only show debuffs on the Operations frames for example and make them big enough to be visible, and that would go a long way. Having a visible time remaining number showable on buffs and debuffs would be helpful also.

For player and target frames it would be great if you could position buffs/debuffs independently of those frames. It would be nice if you could then filter them to only show your buffs/debuffs, to only show buffs and not debuffs, etc.

With more precise control over buffs and debuffs, you could up the difficulty of encounters knowing that players have the tools to more easily spot debuffs.
To expand on the Debuffs/Buffs. We also need more in the way of Debuffing Bosses. It is simply a pain in the butt sometimes to keep track of your Debuffs/DoTs.

We either need some type of DoT timer, or some option to only make our Debuffs/DoTs visible on the boss. Its simply annoying to try and keep track of whos' DoTs are whos'.

Overall though, another great post by a member of Methodical, and I agree with just about all of it. Its great to see the things you guys you continue to share with the community in light of all the negatively on these forums.
Fallschirmjager
Lightning Sorcerer
<Rapture>
The Shadowlands (Formerly Shadow Hand)