24/06/2014

Nightmare Mode Light?

2.8 saw the release of nightmare mode Dread Palace and the removal of the Nightmare Power buff in Dread Fortress. The way I see it, the whole point of the latter has been to re-purpose nightmare mode as content for "hardmode guilds", who can mostly clear hardmode (and have therefore probably run out of content by now) but generally find nightmare mode too challenging. The underlying assumption is that the "real" nightmare mode guilds are done with the content by now anyway.

I was very curious about how that would work out in practice. My previous experience with raid nerfs (in MMOs in general) was that they made fights we'd been working on until then seem way too easy all of a sudden, making the final kill a rather disappointing one in the process.

In SWTOR, we were still working on Draxus when 2.8 came out. We had made some progress, but it was usually around the phase where dps have to first go under a shield where they can't be healed that things fell apart. I was curious to see how much of a difference the nerf would make.

Our first ops night after the patch came around, and we threw ourselves against Draxus as before. As a healer I thought the reduction in damage was very noticeable and definitely made it easier to keep everyone alive. What I didn't notice as someone who never pays much attention to boss health was that Bioware had actually left the bosses' health values untouched after all. One member of my group joked that we must have suffered from some sort of placebo effect, because even though dps had been an issue before and the dps requirements of the fight hadn't actually been changed, we finally got the boss down that night. It still felt far from easy however, and we were quite proud.


So my first instinct was to say: great job, Bioware, this nerf is right on target.

However, when we went back in this week, we just couldn't repeat the previous week's feat. It was just wipe after wipe after wipe once again. We were back to making the same mistakes as before, as well as struggling with dps on some occasions. The boss's reduced damage output was certainly still helpful, and even while messing up we generally made it through more phases than we usually survived pre-nerf. Yet at the same time... it didn't feel that much different from before, spending all evening wiping on the same boss, and I couldn't help but wonder if we would still be having these issues if Bioware had stuck with their original plan of reducing the bosses' health as well.

As it stands, I'm still undecided as for what to think of these nerfs. It must be hard to find the right balance between making the fights completely trivial for the target audience and changing them so little that it doesn't really make a difference to people. I'm hoping that this week was just "one of those nights" and that we'll be back to actually making some progress next time. Because otherwise Bioware might as well not have bothered with the whole Nightmare Power mechanic from my point of view.

I wonder how other guilds of a similar progression level are experiencing this.

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