Monday, September 01, 2008

The Pandemonium Saga Concluded

Alternate Title: "Excuse me, waiter... There's a challenge in my game."

So, we ended up returning the linkshell's key and letting them take on Pandemonium Warden.

They were happy.

Unfortunately, I've come to notice that happiness is often short lived.

See, a ways back we created a boss named Absolute Virtue. This guy was an epic ass kicker and player's still haven't figured out how to fight him properly.

It's all in the video, guys.

Still, as AV grew a little stale, the devs came up with a newer, more challenging boss.

Hello, Pandemonium Warden.

This guy makes Absolute Virtue look like a four year old girl.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with four year old girls. I'm sure they're very tough.

But if 18 people jumped a four year old girl with swords and magic and shit, that girl is going down.

Pandemonium Warden was designed as a real challenge. In order to defeat him, players would have to carefully devise the proper strategy and not just wail away on him like other monsters in the game.

Do you know what players hate?

A real challenge.

Now, if you ask a player if they like a challenge, they will tell you yes. They will tell you they enjoy a good challenge.

They are lying.

Players like things that are slightly harder than easy. They like being able to win.


Sure, we can make it seem difficult. We can make it take slightly longer or maybe have slightly more complex requirements.

But only slightly.

When you actually face them with a real challenge, a true challenge, they get upset.

The first time an organized group tried to really take on Pandemonium Warden, it took them over 18 hours.

No, that is not a typo.

18 hours.

And they didn't even win.

They actually had to stop trying because people were getting physically ill and passing out.

Now, that... That's a challenge.

Yeah, Battletoads was a hard freakin' game. It was really, really hard.

But it never actually kicked your ass.


That's progress, people. We actually have game bosses that beat the shit out of you for real.

Force feedback is so yesterday.

I will grant you... 18 hours is excessive for any boss battle. Expecting a group of people to coordinate and maintain a continuous play strategy and group dynamic for that long is insane.

Here's where an interesting question should be popping up.

What if they were wrong?

I'm sure they had this plan well thought out. They brought Black Mages and refreshers. They brought tanks.

They brought the guys with the pointy things.

But that shit is entirely pointless if that's not how you defeat that boss.

Imagine a level 75 casting fire on an extremely low level fire elemental.

That would be a long damned fight, wouldn't it?

Oh, yeah. He's casting magic.

Magic makes things go boom.

That'll totally work.

And yet... The damned elemental isn't going to die.

See, fire elementals aren't hurt when you cast fire.

They're made of fire.

Yes, you had a strategy.

That strategy was retarded.

You can obviously see why. You're casting fire on a fire elemental.

It's obvious that your strategy was flawed.

Here's the interesting thing, though... Just because it's not obvious, doesn't mean your plan isn't flawed.

After 18 hours, you'd assume someone would have said "You know, guys... Maybe we're doing this wrong."


Instead, this became a huge source of news because SE designed a boss that takes more than 18 hours to defeat.

And now, because of that feedback, they're going to lower the difficulty of Pandemonium Warden.

Dumb him down if you will.

But what does that really prove? Will you still be proud when you beat him?

Sure, you might get some shiny new piece of equipment.

But can you really say you met the challenge?

Remember when you were a kid and you'd play a game with your Dad? Remember how he'd let you win because he loved you or didn't want to listen to you whine or something?

Does that make you feel proud that you won?

Hey... Maybe we should invent an olympics where everybody gets a medal!

I'll give you some time to get that joke.


At 6:11 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Yay! Medals for everyone! That'd be awfully SPECIAL, wouldn't it? hee hee I love you GMDave.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger Sword said...

I started reading about this after you posted the first volume in this triology. I was like wow damn that's a long fight, but then I thought about it and something told me "You know I bet they just tried to wittle away at it like any old HNM." You would think after finding out how difficult it was they would rethink they're strategy and try different methods to hurt it. Granted, SE might have a little fine tuning to do on PW since it's difficult to predict how well a fight is going to go of this calibur, but in the end though I applaud SE for making something that is going to force people to think instead of just blowing up and hack and slashing PW.

At 6:54 PM, Blogger James said...

Forcing people to think? In MY mmorpg?

Anyways, is SE really dumbing down Pandemonium Warden? I thought they were merely enforcing some sort of time limit to prevent people from taking up so much time using the wrong strategy.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger GreatMno said...

My fears aside, I think that when I get to end-game I will want to challenge the hardest monsters. Now that I won't have my chance to prove my superiority over every one else, I feel like I've been denied something.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger TMX said...

SE never said they were going to dumb it down, they said "The aim of these changes is to create battles where a decisive outcome may be reached within a shorter period of time.".

Losing is a decisive outcome. They could just make him chainspell death everyone if they take too long 'cause they used the wrong strategy.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger David said...

Here's three possible ways to kill PW.

You could demoralize him with propaganda.
Or harsh criticism.

Maybe you could undermine his belief system.

At 1:30 AM, Blogger Tyler said...

Pandemonium Warden kicked peoples' asses in real life, so people in real life are kicking Pandemonium Warden's ass too... by getting Square to lower the difficulty.

Though you did bring-up a really good point, [GM]Dave. If it was taking that long, you'd think they would have realized they were doing something wrong. If Square said "If you guys did the right thing -hint hint-, then this fight should only take you two hours maximum."

At 4:08 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

i think its pretty retarded that SE is "dumbing down" PW for the masses. i say leave it, and after a LS loses a few ppl to illness IRL, maybe they will try something else other than hack n slash tactics. just my 2 gil

At 4:28 AM, Blogger Sorvina said...

Oh man! They shouldn't dumb him down!
Maybe give him a fail safe for retards option....You know, like after 10 hours or so (lol) you get this message....

"Pandemonium Warden tires of your pathetic attempts at defeat and leaves. Thank you, please come again."

I'm only a level 59 DNC but I know damned well that when it comes time to face Pandemonium Warden, I wouldn't feel very victorious beating a dumbed down version of the original.

At 5:38 AM, Blogger MinorAgentofChaos said...

Tyler --

*2* hours? Man, after a HALF hour, if we hadn't made serious progress on kicking the boss's ass, I'd be questioning strategy.

I was wondering when Dave was gonna take on the 18-hours-they-failed-life players...

At 6:19 AM, Blogger PwrGamerX said...

A member of the dev team stated to a respected community site that the AV fight is expected to take 18 hours, 9-10 hours if your lucky with the abilities. That's even "doing it right". You expect FFXI players to accept that there are bosses that even when following the dev team's gimmick strategy to the letter we're to still fight for 18 hours? I believe even you would find that unacceptable.

It does not help that the dev team, even though the community is certain there is a strategy, is unwilling to give us any reliable hints as to what to do. That video? people have torn that video apart attempting to find the gimmick. With that expectation of 18 hours known, all that solved was how characters were 2hr'ing often. PW we were given no hints as to what his gimmick is, so naturally players will fall back on what has worked on 99.9% of ALL mobs in the game.

You also have a fundamental flaw in your information. The players of the linkshell that attempted PW that time did not start throwing up until after they called it. Their leaders have stated this over and over in community forum threads, and even one leader's livejournal.

I feel this does not do the group that attempted this justice. Sure, they tried and failed. But i'm sure even you would give up after whacking through 20 forms, each harder than the next, only to get AoE 1-shotted at the end of it all.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger MinorAgentofChaos said...

The players of the linkshell that attempted PW that time did not start throwing up until after they called it.

What the hell does it matter whether they threw up during or after? It's the same idiocy either way: they played so frakkin' much they got SICK because they ignored their own bodies.

Like the Chinese idiot that played WoW for so long he died, it's stupid no matter what. I'm thinking the devs created PW just to weed out a certain segment of the gamer population. Darwin Awards, anyone?

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Bufuman said...

Don't assume that just because some bitches are whiny, that all players hate a challenge. You ever see low level runs in RPGs? That shit is insane. I don't care how many people have done it, beating Final Fantasy IX at level 1 is fucking impossible for me. I'm sure those crazy bastards would've loved to take a crack at full-power PW.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger thefuzzyducky said...

To be fair, the LS didn't just "hack and slash" for 18 hours mindlessly. PW kept changing forms, which seemed to suggest some sort of progress was being made, and that there was just "one more form to deal with".

Only after PW came back with full health and all those lamps did the LS realize that they weren't getting anywhere, which was when people started getting sick physically.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Thalandor46 said...

I actually disagree with a lot of this post, and I tend to agree with Dave on game related issues.

First, yes, it is a challenge to experiment with certain mobs who don't fall to typical strategies. But with all the effort put in to getting that damn key, do you really want to waste it trying to experiment on the chance you might figure it out? No! You want to kill the damn thing! And, generally speaking, there's a known way of killing things.

Second, I would agree with the "they should have noticed after so long" part if it were not for the way PW works. It's not that the damn thing doesn't die, it's that when it dies, it comes back in a new form. That implies progress. And there are at least 20 different forms. If after, say, 5 forms it started to loop through them again, then yes, I would agree, the "something is wrong here" buzzer should go off. But as it stands, there's no reason to believe that progress isn't being made with each form.

That's my 2 cents anyway...

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Sword said...

Just the same though there might be a requirement or something to handle PW that people haven't really thought about. For instance there are 20 forms (at least known), 20 jobs, 20 new relic weapons, and 20 new WS's you see a trend here. Going out on a limb the 20 new relic weapons/ws's might cancel or severly weaken or damage forms. Another thought would be PW's forms/strength might be related to the strength of the beastmen armies, or wether the forms alter ego's are up or not since some consider PW the gatekeeper of hell.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger jalte said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger jalte said...

Actually as far as Rukenshin told us, the linkshell didn't have to stop because people got shaky. In the presumably last form of PW they suffered multiple complete alliance whipes based on the lamps and PWs AoE. Rukenshin states that the adrenalin kept them fighting this long, but after they realized it was going to take 5 additional hours for them to even remotely handle the dvergr, people gave up and were exhausted. Just saying, that they really did fight to the bitter end, but quit, since they weren't physically able to deal with him...

Here's Rukenshins observation:

Rukenshin's alliance was equipped with several relics, they were experienced but were overall the third known linkshell to acquire a pandemonium key. They went into this fight without ANY information.
There efforts are admirable.

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Alvaro said...

"Force feedback is so yesterday."

Can't remember when I laughed so wholeheartedly.

I once had some bitter dealings with the linkshell that took PW on. Real group of hardasses with a screwed up seniority system.

I giggle when at the thought of them passing out the keyboard with major aneurysms and heart failure.

At 8:36 PM, Blogger jason said...

Theres a challenge then theres stupidity

At 9:06 PM, Blogger AK404 said...

Usually, Dave, I'm inclined to agree with your observations. On this front, however, I do not, mostly because you seem to be taking the stance of company man, which is ironic, given the lack of common sense behind AV and PW. A challenge is playing chess against Kasparov; bullshit is playing chess against Blue Sky: in AV's case, it seems to have no weaknesses that it cannot instantly recover from and is more than capable of wiping out the entire party in a minute; in PW's case, it's an endurance match that cannot be won.

The first reason is because your point of observation is that of someone who is looking behind the scenes, while everyone else's is of a frustrated observer. It's like when an Austin Seven ended up on the roof of Cambridge University's Senate House in June 1958: the only people who could positively say that they knew how it was done were the engineering students who pulled it off. Everyone else was simply baffled until 2008. If there is a section of the GM manual that lists how to kill AV and PW that does not involve the words "watch the video," then I'd love to hear it. Otherwise, STFU. As I've told people before, if you're as much in the dark as everyone else, then you're not adding anything to the discussion.

The second reason I strongly disagree with your observations is that you've commented that the solution to AV was simple: "It's all in the video, guys." You're either being very satrical, or you're just uninformed: the AV video has been combed over more times than the Zapruder film, and guess what? If the solution is in the video, it's extremely well-hidden in that grainy mess. AV is not a challenge: if an NM requires a video (arguably a clue from an outside source) to give some vague hints, then the challenge is not very well done. If the clues to a puzzle cannot be found within the puzzle itself, then the puzzle is poorly designed. End of argument. Again, no addition to the discussion: either point out the "a-hah!" section or clam up. This isn't so much a matter of people needing stuff pointed out to them as it is a desperate need for new data. So far, there isn't any, so the conversation, as it is, is dead in the water.

And third, you're a GM, not a developer, or even someone expected to pitch in any meaningful input into the game. Please stop referring to the relationship between yourself and SE as a collective "we"; that's like the housekeepers of the White House referring to themselves and the First Family as "we." You might be responsible for cleaning up their messes, but you're not one of them. This isn't part of the argument by any means, but I'm simply irritated that you're siding with the company in this case when it's obvious that their "challenges" are too much for the entire population of FFXI players around the world to complete within the reasonable time span of four years. I've done customer service, and even I'm willing to look at certain policies and subjects with a critical eye and think "wow, that's a total screwjob."

Lastly, as a previous poster has already noted, PW had gone through so many forms that it seemed like progress up until the point that the LS figured that this was a Sisyphean task and threw in the towel. After all, five forms would be par for course, and every time the damned NM changed forms, it was always "just one more" because that's how the rewards systems in MMOs usually go: one more challenge and it's done. Thus, progress was being made, but SE just kept redrawing the goal line every time the LS thought they were getting close. This is much different than AV because most LSes can't even get AV below 50% before the damned thing just Benedictions all its life back or pulls out Chainspell + Meteor, so they just give up. At least with AV, the players knew they were getting screwed and could tap out early; PW just strings them along.

Like I've said before about HNMs, if it takes more than four hours to kill (barring mistakes), then it's a poorly-designed NM: four hours is nearly half a shift at work, and right around the gap between breakfast and lunch.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Tyler said...

ak404 just totally said everything that could be said about the situation. And to be honest, I'd have to side with him. He also taught me that there doesn't seem to be a limit on the number of words you can throw into one comment.

One extremely valid point stuck-out. And that was the one about how if Square-Enix had to shove-out a video to show how Absolute Virtue is supposed to be defeated, he's not a very well-thought out NM. Unless there is a way to figure out how to beat him, he should be beaten like any conventional boss. The same goes for Pandemonium Warden.

I don't believe either NM should be dumbed-down for the players, but I do think it's necessary to add some way into the game where people can figure out what their weaknesses are. Perhaps an NPC can give you some vital information on the NM if you do a certain quest or something.

The Absolute Virtue video still doesn't make sense for anyone.

At 2:23 AM, Blogger jalte said...

AHHHhhh god I cannot leave this unanswered.... Listen people I believe what the linkshell did was amazing. It was simply amazing how long they fought, and it was amazing how much information they got out of the fight. But after all THAT's the f*** difference between FFXI and all the other MMOs out there, you need to exceed in everything to be successful.

If I hear one more guy saying it is a poorly designed NM I'm gonna cry!! Even if it actually was supposed to take 18+ 5 hours, SEs challenge is simple: "get enough people in your life outside your computer that play FFXI so you can change shifts every 4 hours. The beauty of FFXI is the immense depth and hardness that lies in everything, it is a concept the developers use throughout the game and it's what makes this game SPECIAL.

And come on people, it was overall the third linkshell who had a shot with this thing, it would be kinda sad if PW got beaten this fast, even IF they threw everything against it.

And finally, SE never said they would dumb PW and AV down, it's not their style ^^!
"The aim of these changes is to create battles where a decisive outcome may be reached within a shorter period of time,"
I think a guy above me already mentioned it but nobody listened:
Death is a decisive outcome.

Please oh please never ever use the phrase "too hard" or "unbeatable" when talking about FFXI, say it's not your cup of tea, say you'd rather shag with the girl next door for 18 hours, say seizures are not an adequate price for REALLY nice equippment, but please oh god please never ever let me see the phrase "too hard" again.

I know some stuff Dave said got me riled up too, but after a while you just realize...
He's f*** right about everything.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Alshandra said...

i dont really follow how everyones "oh whee finally a challenging monster in ffxi we have been waiting so long for this" hello AV? did everyone just forget that we already have one of those? just my 2 cents really.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Cravion said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Thomas Ray said...

AK got it right. Regardless of gimmick, if a mob takes 9-10 hours to kill if you get lucky with abilities (AV) and a dev confirms it, they've done something horribly *wrong* in designing the encounter.

At 1:12 AM, Blogger Tarage said...

Dave? For someone as smart as you, I don't understand why you support SE. I mean yeah, they 'hired' you, but that doesn't make them perfect. They have an incredible amount of flaws, mostly in design and public relations.

For once, I would like to hear from you what is wrong with SE, instead of what is wrong with the players. You've hit a nerve by insulting these guys, and it isn't a smart thing to do. Yeah, I know this blog is for entertainment purposes, but keep it realistic. No one in their right mind would say SE is 100% right. I could even argue 50% right is pushing it.

More realism please.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

I guess, it's funny to read people's comments about PW and AV and yet most all of you (nor I) have never even attempted to fight either one of them. I mean you've all read the accounts of PW so you know that it changes forms and since no one knows the final outcome or how many forms there really are, how can you really know if you are truly making progress or not?

But yeah...

At 4:54 AM, Blogger semele said...

Reminds me of "Special Ed" by Stephen Lynch

Okay, okay, here:

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Damn. My friends and I were really hoping that PW would stick around as a badass long enough for us to fight him. We had strategies set out and everything.

I'm not exactly happy that after outcries that a battle was TOO HARD, the fight was dumbed down.

I will not feel accomplished beating him after a water down.


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