The Daily Grind: How do you feel about solo boss fights in MMOs?

    
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I’ve been having a blast going through Star Wars: The Old Republic’s new expansion, soaking in all of the great story beats and locales. However, it was Knights of the Fallen Empire’s occasional (and easy) solo boss battles that got me thinking whether or not these encounters were really as engaging as group boss fights.

I would imagine that it’s more difficult for developers to design boss encounters around a single opponent, especially if that person was too specialized to pull off the damage or survivability needed. Thus, so many of these solo fights are rather tame, except for The Secret World, which has no mercy on anyone caught alone.

How do you feel about solo boss fights in MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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mysecretid
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mysecretid

PurpleCopper When you’re developing a single-player game, you have a lot more knowledge concerning what the player character can and cannot do in your game. 
You know their likely gear range — because you gave them that gear earlier in the story — and you know their power level and abilities because, again, you designed the game to give them those things.

With an online game, it’s really hard to predict what gear and power levels a specific player might have because they have so many gear and power and optimization options open to them before they even see the boss fight.

You can’t predict what a specific MMO player’s character might be like, so it’s really hard to know will might make a good battle for them.

Cheers,

Radfist
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Radfist

thatchefdude Radfist PurpleCopper Obviously… go back and read PurpleCopper’s OP that I was responding to…

Dobablo
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Dobablo

Elikal Ialborcales Such is the will of the force /shrugs

Dobablo
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Dobablo

Solo fights are only worth attempting if they are displaying narrative and less so at providing a challenge. To be challenging the fight either needs to be tuned into your character’s role and abilities or he game needs to give you some NPCs to fill the gaps.
Having said that, solo doesn’t work so well when you have an NPC pet-tank the boss. Either you have to micro-manage their positioning via a poor UI and circles on the floor or you completely mitigate the positioning aspect of the fight.

Spaceboytg
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Spaceboytg

PurpleCopper I’d say that it’s because in single player games you buy the box and if you can’t get past a boss then that’s your problem. But in a subscription MMO they want you to keep paying them every month so they have to ensure that every boss that stands in the way of basic story is eventually conquerable by even the player with the most meager of ability.

mysecretid
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mysecretid

Since this topic seems to be inspired by a specific solo boss fight in Fallen Empire, I’ll speak to my experience there.
Warning! Potential Spoilers Ahead! Turn Back Now, Or Be Forever Accursed With Fun-Lessening Foreknowledge Of These Events!!!
The battle in question worked very, very well for me, personally, as a compelling story piece, the first time I played through it.
Walking in alone, not even a companion with me, knowing that the villain was in here, somewhere, hunting me even as I was hunting him — the sense of tension literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Personally, I love it when a game can “pull me in” like that, and make me feel the drama, instead of just witnessing it.

The faint echoes of Luke Skywalker hunting Darth Vader in Cloud City during The Empire Strikes Back were not lost on me. The Fallen Empire devs seem pretty adept at nodding to their inspirations without sledgehammering the references home. The balancing act there can’t be easy; I appreciate the effort.
So, this solo boss battle worked very well for me as a dramatic story event …

… but as a conventional MMORPG boss battle (i.e. from a “mechanical” perspective) it did have problems.

Depending on your class and your gearing, the battle was either pretty easy (author waves to Troopers and Marauders) or it could be problematic if your gear wasn’t quite serving you, or if (as in the case of my Gunslinger) your class seemed more vulnerable to the specific kinds of attacks the Big Bad was using.

In any event, you can effectively “win” the fight, even before a cutscene resolves the battle through story, and if you’re a solid player of a solid class, you might even feel a bit cheated when the story takes that “victory” somewhere else.

BUT

… as a coder friend of mine pointed out … it is really, really hard to predict and put together a solo boss fight like this which feels sufficiently challenging to every single class and character configuration which might encounter it.

Finding that “one size fits all” sweet spot, where every player feels sufficiently challenged, without instantly and repeatedly killing any players who aren’t pointedly, intentionally “uber” — to the point where they can’t even find a way to progress — is a lot harder to code, and to test for, and to iterate than it sounds.

“Harden the fuck up” may sound all 1337 (and puerile), but it doesn’t keep interested, paying customers happy. SWTOR has never sold itself as a game only for the elite and the competitive; to go that way suddenly now would seem … unexpected, at best.

I’m sure SWTOR’s recent introduction of scaling difficulty is part of a larger attempt to find that  “one size fits all” range, going forward — but I don’t think it’s quite there yet

So, for me, the solo boss battle in question wins on story points, and I’m willing to forgive the battle’s mechanical failings because no one has consistently mastered that sort of balancing sweet spot in solo online gaming battles yet — at least not that I’ve seen.

Thanks to those who were kind enough to read this far. I apologize for the unintentional, obscene length of this post.

Cheers,

ntellect
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ntellect

The problem with group content is always going to be coordination.  If I’m playing a game (at my own pace) and I get to a point where a group is required (re: forced) this sucks for me.  Especially if I join the game late (as I often do) and there is rarely anyone who wants to be in the group. And the ones who do, want to race through it to get the rewards at the end ruining the fun for me as a first timer.

I dont know how to solve this, but the idea of having the option to solo group content makes a lot of sense to me and would allow me to enjoy more MMOs.

Do it :)

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

It might sound somewhat contradictory, but I want at the same time for most, if not all, content in MMOs to be doable both solo and in a group, while simultaneously desiring the game to have great tools to assemble groups and meet other players. Basically, I only get to truly enjoy group content if I feel like joining the group was optional, not mandatory; so, between solo or optional grouping I go with grouping, but between solo or forced grouping I go with solo.

Gangrel
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Gangrel

Cyclone Jack I should like to point out that I remember some content in CoX that players complained about because they couldn’t complete it solo (either due to build setup / lack of skill doing it). The incarnate story arc (the one that introduced you to incarnate stuff) springs to mind here.
I found one part a real struggle to do solo (as in impossible), and when I brought it up on the forums the general response was “Get a friend to help out”. And yet, those same players complained when they had issues with an *earlier* mission in that same arc.

Gangrel
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Gangrel

Cyclone Jack Correct/Not correct. This article was about Solo Boss killing, and not all sizes of team increased the level of the boss mob in City of Heroes.
So for a 2 or 3 man team, you could well be fighting the *same* boss mob as a single player could face. Exact same mechanics, exact same stats.
So there were differences in it.
So having said that, I do like how Wildstar deals with some of its “boss mobs”. The more players involved, the less damage *overall* the mob will take (or the more interrupt armour it has), so the overall time to kill is *about* the same (if not a little bit longer), but it actually allows the mob to start using some of its attacks instead of disappearing in a pool of DPS hitting it in the first 3 seconds.