So I was thinking (always a bad plan) that Icecrown Citadel feels a little small to realistically represent the citadel of the Lich King himself. So using some photoshop (Gimp) magic I present a rashly thought out larger Icecrown Citadel.

Citadel Layout

In this expansion we see the citadel holding 25 bosses and subdivided into five sub-instances gated such that the completion route is the outer ramparts, the four inner sections of the Necropolis, then the upper fortress leading to the frozen throne.

Lets take a look at the overall concepts:

The Outer Ramparts

This consists of the current four bosses. Our heroes enter from a back route from the Pit of Saron encountering Lord Marrowgar and his minions, eventually breaking into the lower sanctum of the Death Knights and Lady Deathwhisper.

These two sections should feel a lot like a break into sections of the citadel we don't normally see, the resurrection chamber and the Death Knight barracks leading into Lady Deathwhisper acting as a priest to the newly risen Knights. This lets us break through from the rear into the ramparts where we destroy the anti-air defences (think 3 mini-bosses guarding anti-air guns), and mount our capital ship rising up towards the main citadel body.

The Inner Necropolis

This section (vaguely reminiscent of Naxxramas... well they had to get the architecture somewhere!) houses four independent wings unlocked by the death of Deathbring Saurfang (Killing 4 bosses opens your raid-lockout to these 4 instances, clearing all 4 of these opens the upper citadel). Each wing is themed as with Naxxramas hosting Plague, Construct, Death Knight, and Risen. Each wing can approach any boss in any order however like a giant version of the Assembly of Iron doing them in different orders results in different power levels and the true hardmode of each boss being doing them last (or activating the alarm on the section to activate all hardmodes).

As each section is independent it allows guilds suffering on a single boss to attempt progress on the four different wings, while allowing pugs to complete the first four then join upto four different pugs that week (or a single really successful pug).

This large section gives us a really strong way to gate the instance as a whole, 18 bosses spread over effectively 5 instances means we can produce a very difficult first area with this area serving to make unlocking the upper fortress difficult.

The Upper Fortress

The upper fortress is exactly what we have already, the commanders and research arms of the Lich King's forces. This section should ideally be ungated however with the bosses being harder.

I would like to really see the hardmodes of these bosses being tied together, Rotface and Festergut must be engaged on hardmode to trigger that of Putricide etc. Each of these fights should have a much stricter DPS, Healing and Tanking requirement than the lower citadel. This area is designed to force the players to really focus and test the players even on normal modes with the hardmodes being equivalent in difficulty to the Lich King at least.

The Frozen Throne

Not much more to do there, the Lich King alone on his throne. I would have preferred to see this fight being much more epic with waves of adds eventually thinning to be the raid against the Lich King while our NPCs engage and distract the adds and lieutenants to give us our single shot at ending the menace.

Gating the Instance

Simply gating based on a strict timetable is a little dull and limits the playability of the game. I would like to see this instance treated more as an event rather than a raid. The two weeks prior to the unlock of the outer ramparts begins with a series of 5 man and daily quests relating to Pit of Saron and the breakthrough into the under citadel.

Once the instance opens we have two active bosses, Lord Marrowgar and Lady Deathwhisper representing the reclaimation and newly risen Death Knight areas of the citadel. This section is not linked into the main body of the citadel so we instead break onto the ramparts starting the second set of events limiting the ammunition and downing the mini-bosses on the ramparts to enable our capital ships to fly into the airspace. This runs concurrently with Deathbringer Saurfang's mini-event to gather explosives and munitions to break through the citadel's armour.

Once we are inside the citadel itself we have four wings of the citadel. This section is cut off from the upper citadel due to a lack of power caused by our penetration efforts. Each end zone boss downed combined with a series of daily quests allows us to gather power cores to charge up the internal supplies of the citadel gaining access to the upper citadel.

The upper citadel is gated by progress, overall boss kills within the citadel and daily quests on each of the three zones (plague, blood and frost) result in forcing the lieutenants back into the fortress to defend their zones. The death of all bosses unlocks the Lich King himself.

The Bosses

I think I should leave this to a different post, trying to cover 25 bosses in a single post will likely be hard. Overall the idea is to make each boss more involved and the hardmodes especially punishing rather than the walkovers that many were.


Larísa said...

I don't quite follow the idea about making it so incredibly huge. Apart from feeling "epic". What people were pretty annoyed at in Wrath as far as I know of is that we got stuck doing ONE instance all the time. Rather than having instances with 12-15 bosses people would prefer having two different isntances with half each. More like SSC and TK in TBC. Something to wary between for guilds. And that's what they say they plan to do for Cata, which I'm cool with. But you want to go the opposite way. Why?

Chris said...

I don't think the problem is the one huge instance syndrome, but rather one huge linear instance syndrome.

With SSC, TK, Karazhan we had a lot of freedom as to which order we approached the bosses in (in the T5 ones practically any boss bar the two attunement ones could be worked on at anytime). Moving into WotLK we instead got large instances (similar size to Karazhan) but instead of being easily completable or sectioned we got instances we got saved to easily.

My first thought is that raids should be sectioned into groups of about 4-5 bosses, with progression controlled by previous raids in that dungeon. So to access ICC's inner bosses you must have completed either the ramparts approach (first 4 bosses) or the Nerubian tunnels (a different instance). This lets pugs approach the instance in a manageable way (4/12, 3/12, 2/12, 2/12, 1/12) without losing your lockout to all 12 bosses for a bad pug. At the same time it helps to resolve the "raid id" vs "boss id" dilemma. If you haven't cleared a previous section you have 3 options:

1: Cannot enter the future sections
2: Become locked to the older sections
3: Only locked to sections you have done

Until you actually complete the instance I would say 1/2 are fair (sort a kingslayer lock, if no one has gone further than this section, then you cannot be advanced to a new section, if someone has you can advance but become locked, and if you have then you can remain unlocked to previous sections).

Large instances are thus approachable and let us maintain a theme and epic nature of an instance - Icecrown citadel should be massive, complex, and yet approachable from several angles (Frostmourne room / Pit of Saron, Nerubian Tunnels, Ramparts approach).

Different instances are good, but they use up design time (new skins for walls etc), single large instances get repetitive with a single scheme but are interesting. What we lack with current large instances is the ability to flow through them in different ways.

Taking Ulduar:

The first time we assault it, we need to go through the siege section. Once we down the keepers however and do some daily / associated quests our raid team gets the option to enter via air-drop into the prison (letting us start on the keepers as the first four bosses). Eventually reaching into directly penetrating to Yogg Saron's Prison in one attempt, but doing these insertion methods alters the fights (Yogg would always be +0 if you entered directly, and have additional defences).

This also lets you link instances together to reflect their geography within the world. The Nerubian tunnels run under the whole of Icecrown... make a 2nd instance which once you progress far enough into it allows you to enter the inner parts of ICC without doing the outer.

I suppose its a thematic thing really. SSC and TK were small installations, a pumping facility and and a crashed spacecraft. Black temple, Icecrown Citadel etc are all massive edifices with huge volume and scope for large interesting interactions.

If you think of them as an actual citadel, then your approach matters, while the first sections you clear will be surprised (normal mode) the later ones will be more prepared (more trash, more bosses, more abilities) because you gave them the time to do so. Of course you don't want to push that aspect too far thus sub-instances within the instance itself and approaches. It allows the developers more freedom to link things together in interesting ways.

Chris said...

Lets say ICC had an armoury consisting of three bosses:

Armoury Guard Room: A fight a bit like Akama, continual add spawns with large must be tanked mini-bosses while you defend explosives that will demolish the armoury.

Armoury Lieutenant: Large Undead boss with sub-adds like Sartharion however they must be engaged at the same time. If the armoury is destroyed all three adds will spawn at the start, otherwise they will slowly appear over the course of the fight.

Armoury Captain: Death Knight Boss with a single focus type mechanic (a cross between Zul'jin and Blood boil). If the Armoury is destroyed he has reduced capability (3 instead of 5 phases) however is far tougher (dps fight instead of healer), and if the lieutenant is dead he is automatically enraged.

Of course the layout of the armoury is such that the approach you should take is Armoury -> Lieutenant -> Captain however if you complete the "storage yards" area first you can assault from the rear, thus killing Captain -> Lieutenant -> Armoury making the fights easier and more interesting.

Each sub-area is a separate raid lockout with required pre-cursors for the raid leader.

I still like the idea of multiple instances, but it only makes sense in certain areas. Having tier 9 be a troll raid + ToC would have been sensible, having Tier 10 be ICC + Troll raid makes little sense. If however we had seen a progression along the lines of:

Tier 7:
Naxxramas - Foothold in Northrend
Malygos' Sanctum - Magic War
Sartharion - The Wyrmrest Saga

Tier 8:
Ulduar - The Corruption of Northrend
Zul'Drak - Preparing supply lines
Amber Sanctum - The wyrmrest saga

Tier 9:
ToC - Preparing the champions
Nerubian Tunnels - Preparing for ICC
Blue Sanctum - The Wyrmrest Saga

Tier 10:
Icecrown Citadel
Nerubian Sanctum
Ruby Sanctum

We would have seen a better flow through the expansion. Small instances will often feel disjoint from the main story arc, why are we suddenly purging these trolls when Illidan is over there killing folks we actually like? Linked small raids make a lot more sense to me especially if they are approaching something like ICC which should be a huge fortress.

Chris said...

I suppose the questions are:

1) Would you feel better with small discrete instances or with a larger instance that could be approached from multiple angles and styles.

2) Is it the linearity of the current instance design that makes it bad or the lack of variation in scenery.

3) How tied into the main story arc should each tier's major dungeon be.

4) Should each tier have a major dungeon?

5) Do you prefer multiple smaller instances for raid lockouts, or single monolithic ones.

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