CoH: WTB Clarity

Let’s play a game of compare and contrast!

Behavior Adjustment Facility (BAF) Trial – Some Praetorian Clockwork Elite-ish bosses with an air to ground rocket attack

Can anyone tell me where the AoE damage will be coming down in 2-3 seconds from now?

Rhetorical question, I suspect.

This picture is a little messier. Can you tell me where one should be wary of standing, in case some kind of cage forms?

Behavior Adjustment Facility (BAF) Trial – Nightstar’s sequestration warnings

In the above case, the mechanic gives you two chances and a long interval to react as well. The player’s name appears in a pop up “Player Name: First Sequestration Warning!”

Then “Second Sequestration Warning!” And if you haven’t moved out of range by then, then this happens:

You’re held. It says so in bright red. You can’t move. There’s awful red fencing everywhere on your screen, and it’s a really clear indication that you don’t want to have this keep happening, and you’ll do better next time when you see the warning circles come up. That’s a fair gimmick.

Now, how about this picture?

Magisterium (MAG) Trial – Tyrant’s Fist

I’m going to have to break this down for you. And probably this image is best expanded to digest properly…

From the Paragon Wiki’s still incomplete breakdown of the trial:

Hammer of Justice is another attack to watch out for due to the 60ft range PBAoE which does not display any warning and deals severe Smashing/Energy damage. Unlike Statesman’s version, Tyrant is able to use his in midair.

I’m going to guess this fist attack is what they’re referring to. I’m not entirely sure, it’s not as if he says “EAT MY HAMMER OF JUSTICE” before he does it.

What Tyrant does do, is raise his fist in the air. This fist raise appears to be mildly more vertical than his other fist raise which just does a normal attack on the tank. About 0.5 seconds later, his fist comes down, and that cracked ground effect shows up. At the same time, no delay, no nothing, everyone near him (apparently a 60ft range if we trust the wiki) eats an attack which does 1000-4000 hp damage, presumably depending on your resistances and your current level shift at the time.

That’s likely to one-shot anyone not a brute or a tank with high hp. So what cue are we supposed to look out for here? The damage extends beyond the cracked ground effect, so you can’t even use that as a judgement of where not to stand. I’m directly behind him and I still got demolished.

I guess everyone just needs to read the wiki and know exactly how large 60ft is in their heads.

And when do we back away from him anyhow? If we spend the whole trial 60ft away to avoid this attack, all melee is screwed. 0.5 seconds is not enough time to move when you see his fist raise – assuming that you aren’t locked in an attack animation to begin with.

I suppose we just need to count to 30 in our heads per fist attack and hope that’s the interval at which he attacks – assuming it’s not random.

Conclusion: Bad bad design

(I will get around to explaining why I have UI splashed across my entire screen when dealing with this trial, so hang tight.)

I will grant that Tyrant has two other gimmicks which skirt the edge of clarity fairness into ‘acceptable’ territory.

Tyrant, as an incarnation of Marcus Cole/Statesman, has a signature Zeus lightning style kind of attack. This is cued by a red letter splash warning: “The air around Tyrant crackles!”

1-2 seconds later, if you are within a radius of Tyrant approximately the size of the crater he spawns in, a lightning patch will be summoned at your feet – which steadily trickles in 100-200 hp damage per tick for a period of time. Paragon Wiki says 12 ticks, I’ve never bothered to stand in one long enough to count, cos I’ll be dead before all the ticks hit.

This applies to all players, so your screen sort of looks like this every 35 odd seconds. Don’t stand in any of the bright patches, kthxbai.

It’s moderately fair. 1-2 seconds is a pretty short time interval to react, given the preponderance of long rooting animations in CoH, but it is doable. And even if you don’t have time to completely dodge all the way, you can survive one or two ticks of the lightning patch with not too much harm, as long as you don’t get trapped in overlapping patches.

On the other paw, they -are- awfully bright and it’s not like the exact radius of the patch is demarcated clearly. People have crashed out when their graphics cards can no longer manage to draw the intense lightning strikes (or a memory leak of some kind, most often seen when playing for too long in big groups with too much particle effects.)

His other gimmick can be seen cued in the trial UI, and the bright yellowish-white cylindrical pillars of light (as contrasted with the bright purple-white jaggly pillars of light). Those are his Lights of the Well, and they can be taken down with a temporary power all players get when doing the trial, called the Quills of Jocas.

The trial UI indicates the Time until Light of the Well. When it ticks down to 0, all the Lights respawn. It’s about 38 seconds or thereabouts per interval. At least it is cued in the UI. This is fair.

In this way, the people assigned to managing the Lights can anticipate roughly when they will spawn, backing away from Tyrant maybe 3-5 seconds before they spawn, hit their Quills temp power and destroy the Lights quickly. Never mind that the players had to figure out how to use the Quills – it’s an AoE attack, standing near or in the pillar of light works, no need to target the Lights like previous temp powers used in another trial. The animation is a quill burst – players can figure it out from there.

Again, the number of Lights (Connections to the Well – why the different terminology, eh?) existing at any time are cued in the UI. This is fair. Bad design would be not indicating the number of Lights in the UI and forcing people to rotate their screens to keep track and count manually. This is a key gimmick, a key mechanic, it -should- be cued.

But guess what, it’s not ENTIRELY cued. The result of taking down all the lights is NOT indicated to everyone. It is supposed to level shift everyone in the league upwards 1 level per light destroyed. Level shifts are usually only indicated in one place in the normal CoH UI – by highlighting another player and checking their levels in the target window.

How do you see if you yourself are level shifted? You don’t glow or anything. You’d think someone might have thought about adding that as a visual indicator.

Or even, write BRIGHT BLUE LETTERS across players’ screens going “YOU HAVE SEVERED TYRANT’S CONNECTIONS TO THE WELL AND STOLEN HIS POWER” (it’s not like there isn’t prior use of this) or have Tyrant curse out loud, “How dare you take my power from me? You will still die!”

No, what you have to do, assuming you read forum boards and pay attention to this sort of thing, is click on your Powers button, then enable Combat Attributes. This brings up the advanced Combat Attributes in the middle of your window. Click on the +Base to expand and scroll down the long list:

Right at the bottom, you see those tiny words “Level Shift?”

Right-click on that. Select “Monitor Level Shift”. And your level shift will finally appear in smaller form in your Attribute Monitor window. Which for me, I smashed to the right of my screen real estate to keep an eye on.

With that up, one can -finally- keep track of one’s level shifting while in the Magisterium Trial fighting Tyrant.

That’s where you find out that the level shifting only appears to happen:

a) in between the short interval that the lights are taken down and the lights come up again

b) possibly when Tyrant’s favor of the well is 50% or less (that’s just my personal guess from observations made – it’s not like the UI explains what the favor of the well is for, besides the cryptic message “The Well will favor the stronger combatant” nor does it explain how exactly to affect Tyrant’s favor anywhere)

c) and only to maybe 16 people out of a 24 member max trial, possibly within a certain radius of Tyrant or Tyrant and/or the players may have to remain in the vicinity of an invisible mob that does the level shifting, no one really knows for effing sure

Should players really have to guess at why or why not this key mechanic is or isn’t working?

In one of my above screenshots, a leaguemate asks, “What does it mean your soul will be trapped if you die?”

That’s the message the cryptic UI reports. I have no clue what it means. Neither does anyone else, if the lack of explanation is any indicator. Does that mean if you die, you won’t be able to level shift for a while? Does that mean your avatar is thrown into some secret dungeon to fight their way out if you die? (Apparently not, though I’ve never hit the hospital button – willpower comes with a handy self-recharging rez. I could not have cherry picked a better self-sufficient class on these irritating trials.) Does that mean Tyrant regains health or gets better regen if people die near him? (Some people say yea, some say nay.)

We’re also supposed to “Keep Olympian Guards away from Tyrant.” I suppose that’s clear enough. But how near is near? And what does he do in conjunction with the Olympian Guards that we should be keeping him away from them? (My current theory is that he kills them to heal himself, but I don’t actually -know-. It’s not like you can see him do any animation with regards to them, nor is there any message. O_o)

Here’s a minor nitpick with the phase 2 Magisterium fight. We’re supposed to fight three Arch-Villains, Shadowhunter, Chimera, and Nega-Pendragon. All of them have a gimmick of some sort. One gets stronger if not fighting. One gets stronger and shields up as he continues fighting. One teleports all over the place, and also does a variant of “Marks For Death” that he uses to target a rain of arrows.

“Marks for Death” is a gimmick originally used by the Arch-Villain Maelstrom in the TPN Campus Trial.

As you fight him, a red target may appear above your head.

In case you are blinded by everything happening in your vicinity, because oh…I don’t know, particle effects, melee combat?

Helpfully, “Marked For Death” letters also appear on your buff/debuff status bar indicator, so you don’t have to squint at the sea of red targets to see if maybe one of those is above your head.

You have about 3-5 seconds to hop out of range, or get out of line of sight. Then this announcement happens:

Shortly after that, anyone still within range or LOS bites the dust. Note the many cues and set time interval to get away.

Now in the Magisterium trial, Chimera does this:

See the red targets? Ok. I’m targeted. I think. Note the lack of “Marked for Death” red letters in the status bar? What gives? You can do it in one trial, why not do it for the other?

So anyway, I know I am targeted because I can see the red target above my head, because I am not dumb. So I intuitively move away because the trial UI says “Chimera will rain arrows down upon marked targets!”

About 5-6 seconds later of cooling my heels, feeling uncomfortable because when I’m not in melee range, I’m not contributing, and feeling extremely dumb because no one else has moved away and nothing has happened, I realize that the trial UI is missing one very important cue. Just WHEN is this rain of arrows supposed to take place? You have timers for all sorts of things happening in trials, why did you forget this one?

So anyhow, feeling sheepish for trying to avoid a stacked rain of arrows, I move back in to join the others. THEN Chimera decides to shower down his rain of arrows, presumably one centered around each targeted player, and 7 out of 8 members of the team (including myself) fall over dead.

Right.

So much for partial cues.

You know, what really upsets me about this is the lack of consistency. It’s not like they don’t know how to do it. Look at the same trial UI for Shadow Hunter and Nega-Pendragon. Their gimmick is explained crystal clearly in words. “Shadow Hunter’s strength grows if out of combat!”- Translation: Keep him in combat. Ok, I understand that, let’s do it, done.

“Nega-Pendragon’s strength grows with each attack!” And they even bothered to show us his shielding come up, and his rage. (Though what use it serves, I’m not sure. It’s not like we can do very much about it besides pile on and kill as fast as possible, which we were already doing.)

For the record, I’ve managed the Magisterium trial successfully once. There were about 4 kinetics on the team, and everyone’s damage was buffed to gills. I was hovering at 200-400% damage bonus the entire trial. The lights came down very quickly, and we consistently level shifted for about 15-20 seconds. The length of time level shifted is critical to being able to do enough damage to Tyrant to defeat him, as his favor with the well appears to jump up as he loses health for whatever reason.

At all other times, and I think I’ve got 5 other attempts under my belt by now, the level shifts have not been consistently applied, due to some unknown reason. Lights either didn’t come down fast due to players not reacting fast enough – or there was some badly timed lowering of the lights (level shifts reset when the light timer ticks down to respawn) – or the level shifts are buggy and not working properly – I don’t know the actual reason, but there have been trials where my level shifts jump from 3 to 9 for 2 seconds, and then flicker back to 3, over and over. Two seconds is not a long enough interval to do any damage to Tyrant. And others where a level shift simply doesn’t happen at all.

This sort of guesswork can actually be mitigated with clear UI and in-trial explanations. We should not have to rely on wikis, and player spading, and player gossip/rumor/lectures in order to successfully understand what to do.

These two concepts are not the same thing: a fair and challenging trial, and one that is unfair in order to be challenging.

I think it’s pretty clear where my opinion stands on the current Magisterium trial.

CoH: Temporarily Bad Design

Like a bad traffic wreck, I am drawn to lurking on the City of Heroes boards reading the usual I HATE ITRIALS/I ❤ ITRIALS LRN 2 PLAY NOOB thread that pops up per Incarnate trial launched.

By now, the only people still with the willpower to protest are the biggest alarmists, which unfortunately, do not help the case of the sad minority that isn’t terribly fond of the trials. Especially with the forum stalwarts shouting them down. I lost the determination to protest there long ago, it’s fairly pointless, only the wallet vote seems to work.

I did find this exchange amusing, and telling…

Alarmist Protesting the Mag Trial Stridently: “The problem is its the ONLY trial that unlocks hybrid, so your forced to do it. So no matter how muich you dislike it, you have to do it. That is BAD game design.” (sic)

Rational Guy Replying: “This one, however, I’ll give you. Encouraging us to run the new content is one thing, but to a point, it just being new content is enough to encourage us to run it. I’m sure this approach makes sense when viewed from the other end of some grand two-year plan with five separate AIXP-granting trials in the rotation, and maybe a few solo arcs that let players earn it too (HINT HINT, devs), but right now, with just the one? It’s temporary bad design, but still bad design.”

I concur.

I quit City of Heroes when the devs decided to release just the BAF and LAM trials with no solo or small group option for Incarnate progress. Mostly because I didn’t want to feel obligated to -have- to repeatedly grind the BAF and LAM in order to unlock Incarnate power.

When I came back with Dark Astoria, there was a variety of trials – about 6-7 of them – AND a solo/small group option. Presumably, somewhere in the grand plan, this was the foreseen result. It was fairly painless to finally get one character Incarnated because of:

a) variety – there wasn’t a need to repeatedly grind the same damn trial over and over

b) ease – practically everyone else was level shifted to a power level that could breeze past the trials

c) the alternate option – any time I got pissed off about the trials, I could retreat into soloing Dark Astoria, and still feel like I was getting somewhere

With the Magisterium trial, I’m missing a, b and c. No other trial unlocks the hybrid slot. Fail on variety. There surely isn’t a solo/small team option yet (it is terribly flawed design to have to *cough* “encourage” your players to raid because there’s no other alternative.) And as for ease, definitely not there yet either.

I got on two attempts of the trial today. Most of it was breezed past. Phase 1: kill 250 IDF went fine. Phase 2: Kill 3 AVs in some order went by more or less fine. I was somewhat concerned that no one bothered to explain the mechanics of the AVs. There seemed to have been some kind of “Marked for Death” targeting that no one bothered to dodge, and either healed or rezzed through it. It seemed sad that someone just memorized “Okay, kill S, P and C in this order.” Phase 3 went fine, Black Swan’s portals were easy to target and taken down quite quickly with not too much need for coordination.

And then phase 4 went to hell as Tyrant stubbornly refused to die. The real reason remains unknown. All manner of theories from “the light wells need to go down faster” “people need to stop dying, it’s healing him the most” “we don’t have enough DPS” “not enough debuffs” were tossed about the league. Probably all of them.

In fact, I felt really sorry for anything squishy. My IO’ed willpower stalker had a very fast recharging heal, and I was popping it every “air crackles” because I still got hit for 1/3 of my hp even as I jumped out the instant I saw the red letters. I found it quite survivable as I didn’t stay in the ground targeted effect after that, but I’m going to guess someone with less hp and less resistance and no self-heal might not find it so easy.

What I didn’t find so easy was staying out of the way of Tyrant slamming his fist on the ground for an AoE. He kept wiggling about, not respecting any taunting tank positioning, so I was constantly trying to reposition to his back or his flank. My stalker has pretty high AoE defense, so I doubt I got hit that often on the whole. When I did get hit, about half the time I ate ~1000 damage and survived and backed away to self-heal, and half the time I fell over as 2000 damage just wiped my health bar with no chance to react. Some blasters were complaining about the fist AoE, I have no idea how horrible it must have been on a blaster.

I was on a dual blades stalker though, so for all I know I was gimping the league by toting around a highly resistable damage type, on an AV that is effectively +6 to everyone. My assassin’s strike was hitting for about 143 damage. No idea how that compares to the damage others put out.

And really, I don’t see how a league who started off with a not-so-ideal team composition have any chance of rectifying this with good strategy. There are no inspiration vendors within the trial. The thing is timed. I don’t think any temp powers work besides the Quills power. It just strikes me as rather unfair and badly designed, to the point that you’ll be encouraging the players to do one of two things.

1) Sit around for a long time cherry picking the league’s composition (including lots of debuffs) or… and people are already doing this…

2) Farm the MAG trial by just doing the easy parts and then quitting rather than waste time attempting to defeat Tyrant.

I suppose that is -the- alternate option?

To let players pick the difficulty of the “ultimate” trial by giving them a way out to farm hybrid xp, and then keeping Tyrant difficult for those who want a difficult challenge? (Plus extra badges for even more insane difficulty challenges.)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I might just settle for rolling my eyes.

Presumably in another six months, all this will be a moot point as players move past the current level of power, develop an effective strategy that is slowly taught to pretty much everyone doing the trials on a server, a variety of trials and possibly even a solo/small group option will arise for this Hybrid slot. Same as before.

But come on, is that really a valid defense for temporarily bad game design? Just keep waiting?