Pixel Click Bosses

Lord of the Rings Online is generally a mainstay MMO with most features from the core pool of primal MMO goo.  However, it gets massive negative points for the User Interface (UI) implementation, but not for the obvious.  The issues with minimalist UI modifications are minor.  Turbine allows players to move UI elements around the screen, resize a few of them, recolor a few of them, and even gives a preschool level amount of control in the creation of new UIs.  Don’t expect anywhere near the amount of customization found in World of Warcraft of Warhammer Online.

I can live with this.  My favorite MMO, Guild Wars, has even less options (although better resizability) than Lord of the Rings Online.  The problem is when developers start creating insta-death boss puzzles that hide in the UI.

I know there was one in the Helegrod with the spider boss, but my first time I got hit with the whack-a-mole UI crap was with the Mordrambor fight in Book 15.  Basically he curses the player with a debuff, which can only be seen in a 100 pixel box below your character (or the buggy NPC text).  The player has to run in front of an NPC to get the debuff removed before insta-death occurs.  This is while adds are attacking on all sides and the main tank is trying to keep Mordrambor occupied.

I know in World of Warcraft, the UI customization is good enough that someone could create a, gosh, 1000-pixel warning symbol alerting the distressed players to improve the players’ responses.  Turbine goes the opposite wayI  when players are given the only option for the buff/debuff icon bar they have: “show only removable debuffs.”  Guess what the developers like to use in boss fights? (hint: they aren’t removable)

Yet, Turbine seems to rely on the horrible UI in regards to a lot of difficulty with poisons, wounds, diseases, and fear debuffs.  Players are watching the on-screen enemy cues, their cooldowns, their skill queue, their health, their fellowship, any monster adds, any AoE effects, and on top of that players need to watch out for pixel art notifications showing that a wound just caused the player to lose 25% armor or is taking 10% morale away each pulse.

In the only 6-man dungeon in Siege of Mirkwood, the first boss utilizes this tactic again.  The boss calls out a player, the player gets the pixel art icon of death, and Eru forbid that players miss the line of text or small unremovable debuff while watching the AoE fire of doom.  If the developers wanted to create instances where players watch a space that is less than 1% of their monitors, they’ve succeeded.

There are many that argue that the customizability of World of Warcraft goes to far.  Healing, tanking, and boss dancing all become “too easy” when an add-on plays for you.  I can see the logic in this, and I don’t think that developers like Turbine or ArenaNet are in the wrong when it comes to limiting UI customization.  However, when the developers ramp up difficulty by abusing the limited UI and guessing that a missed pixel art icon will make the encounter more difficult for many players, I feel they have also gone too far.

–Ravious
go the distance

19 thoughts on “Pixel Click Bosses”

  1. I just started playing LoTRO, so that’s not something I’m looking forward to :(

    But hey, at least it has buff/debuff icons. In FFXI, you have to rely on the combat log for everything, so you have to do all sorts of color tweaking with various message types (resists, skillchains, effects wearing off, etc) to bring out the ones your class cares about.

  2. I’ve only recently encountered some of this and it really does stink. I’m not interested in watching icons. They must make it obvious from the gameplay view. The sickened player should look really sick.

  3. I just did that Mordrambor fight last night and it wasn’t too difficult, but our entire fellowship was over-level for the instance. I completely agree that the buff/debuff icons could use some work, and not just for boss instances. Anytime I have a minstrel in my fellowship the buff/debuff section goes to three plus tiny lines of icons, and often by the time I’ve moused over one to see what it is the icons have shifted.

    For the Book 15 fight, I ended up watching the NPC “over the head” speech text to determine when to attack and when to get my debuff removed, and that worked fairly well. But being 65 in a 50 instance gives a little flexibility that someone at 50 may not have.

    Still, I’d rather see Turbine pressured by the players to improve the buff/debuff indicators in the UI than allow mods. I’m not ready to listen to Hunters, Champions, and Rune-keepers bragging about their damage meter scores in fellowship or raid chat.

    1. Indeed. As long as Turbine improves UI based on usage, I am happy…. but this debuff BS without an improvement to UI has gone on far too long.

  4. I totally agree. They can improve their UI and should allow more customization.

    But I do not want the total customizability of WoW. This creates problems of another kind, and a lot of players depended for too long on user-created mods for too many things. And they still do, even if Blizzard copied a lot of the more popular mods already as basic functions of their UI.
    Guild Wars and Aion are really good in this regard. They allow a lot of customization, I think this is the right way to go.

    My major gripe with LOTRO’s interface is that I cannot re-arrange the silver center UI graphic. I can neither turn it off nor move it around. Then there is the issue that there are too many little buff/debuff icons, even the most simple dungeon fights manage to create several rows of buff/debuff icons under the player icon.

  5. Great article. The last paragraph is spot on.

    I really wish they’d redo the UI interface entirely. I don’t mind the look, but there really needs to be more customization. I think a lot of icons could stand to be larger, while other portions of the interface could stand to be smaller. Sure you can resize a lot of it, but it looks HORRIBLE at anything but 1.0 size… worse than any MMORPG I can think of playing so far.

    I do wish they’d open up some room for players to make add-ons. There are so many adjustments I feel this game could benefit from for my personal play style. What they have in general is fine and works, but things can be refined.

    I’ve wondered why Turbine can’t open up certain things for people to play with and leave others locked for the developers only. I’d be cool with that. I’m not sure why it’s seemingly all or nothing, but I’m not a developer. I won’t pretend to know.

    1. I also want to add: I think a lot of WOW’s success has to do with add-ons. It’s not just that it makes the game “easier”, but it gives more people more things to do and new ways to interact. I imagine LOTRO could benefit from a more robust fan developer community.

  6. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with a “debuff of doom” mechanic but the devs should bend over backwards to let the player know they have it. Make the screen go red or put a big fat arrow over their toons head. Don’t just put a tiny debuff icon in a corner of he screen that nobody looks at.

    1. FWIW most of the time the “debuff of doom” is in fact indicated as a big scary eyeball floating over the player that has it.

      Just not all the time.

      Also, Rav, ur blog relies on a crappy proofreader to get ur posts out!!1!11! ;-P

      1. No it’s the fact that at work we have IE6. /sadness Also, there are so many AoE effects, personal glowies, and other icons above my head to really.. once again hide the info.

          1. The signal-to-noise ratio for buffs and debuffs is definitely a problem in LotRO. The worst part is that many buffs and debuffs are temporary so the tiny icons are continually shifting back and forth as new ones appear and old ones disappear.

            One simple option would be to rearrange the icons and sort by buffs/debuffs/critical debuffs, so a player could tell at a glance what’s going on. As it stands, everything’s mixed together to the point where the info does indeed hide other info.

  7. I haven’t had a problem with spotting them. Helegrod was where I learned about the Eye of Death debuffs, and the Eye of Death icon is pretty visible on your bar. There are a few green debuff icons that I know to watch for as a Hunter. In the new instance, the boss has an audio cue for his targeted debuff of doom, and the name appears both in chat and over his head. Again as ranged DPS, I am always on spot duty, and we call it out on voice for anyone not watching.

    A big UI “THE EYE IS ON YOU” could still be nice.

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