The Long Promised Practice Mode
Back in April during the NicoNico live letter, BG translation posted below, Yoshida stated that a "Practice Mode" was in the works.
"The specifications are already planned for the 'practice mode' for raid dungeons. However, the implementation won't be simultaneous with the release of the raid dungeon itself, it will be a little behind. (Yoshida)"
It has been 7 months since then, could we have an update on this?
The reason I ask is that as raids, and raid-like (TEX) content begins converting to a complex multi-phase mechanics-heavy semi-dps-check structure, the amount of "effort" required to make progress starts to become overwhelming.
Allow me to use TEX as an example. TEX is a 10 phase fight that can be broken down into 2 major sections, pre and post Ultimate. The first section takes about 5:30 with fairly good dps. This section is not terribly punishing and the attempt can be salvaged should a player, even a tank or healer, go down. The second section is significantly harder, where the boss does more damage, multiple mechanics are thrown at the party at once, and aoe healing goes up by a ton as the fight progresses.
This kind of escalation in and of itself is mostly fine. The issue is that the learning curve for the final sections + the enrage dps check, is much steeper than the initial sections. By the time you can consistently reach the final few phase of TEX, you (and your group) are literally bored out of their minds for the first 5 minutes.
This issue becomes more evident when you look at the time spend on each phase during progression in the latter parts. Due to the steeper learning curve, the farther you are, the more attempts it will take to make real progress.
To illustrate this, let us consider a group that is working on the last mechanics heavy part of TEX, the chains + circles + Might part.
Before a group get to that specific point, they go through the pre-ultimate section, which take 5.5 minutes, then Spear, Towers, Lance-Bisector, and finally Triple-Aoe-Fest. Say each of the post-Ultimate parts take 1 minute each, and that it will take them 10 more attempts to "master" this phase.
That is 10 * (5.5 minute pre-Ult, and 3 minutes on post-Ult) = 1.4 hours spent on everything BEFORE the part they are working on, which they will work on for at most 10 minutes, a old/new ratio of 8.5!
10 attempts later they mastered the Triple-AoE-Fest phase, next is massive tank and raid damage for a while, then Sacred Cross guy + massive raid damage, and finally the hard enrage. Not much in terms of mechanics, but its a good 2 minutes of top notch performance to get to enrage.
Lets say it takes 15 runs to consistently get to enrage, and another 20 to actually polish everything in order to win.
15 runs: 15 * (5.5 pre-Ult + 5 min post-Ult mechanics) to master getting to enrage, this is now 2.65 hours to get to enrage, of which again only about 9% is working on a "new" section.
20 runs to win: 20 * (5.5 + 5) = 3.5 hours.
So our running total is 1.4+2.65+3.5 = 7.55 hours of optimal performance to get from learning the Triple-Aoe-Fest phase to "beating" TEX. The problem is that about (and I mean this literally) 93% of the time spent is being spent on old sections, things that people have seen and done countless times, but still require perfect execution. This also assumes that you are in a static and all players are decently skilled, and learn fairly quickly. For those that are pugging, expect this to take a lot longer.
The core issue is that when you subject a group of people to an 8 hour long situation where if 1-2 people make a mistake you must restart, these people will get burned out. Raid attendance and performance suffers, Statics fall apart, and people who do not have the time to invest 8-10 hours of pure combat (this becomes more like 14 hours including prep, wiping, strat discussions, pre-pull CD's, etc) will leave the raiding scene or the game entirely.
This is where "Practice Mode" would come in.
Set up the fight into explicit phases which are keyed. Once you reach a phase, you unlock it in practice mode.
Practice mode itself can start at any unlocked phase, and end at any unlocked phase, but does not contain any more phases that what you unlocked in the Real fight.
Again turning to our TEX example: A group that is working on the Lance-Bisector phase could choose to start 1 phase before it, the Towers. The fight itself would just be a sort of "basic boss attacks" setup phase for 30 seconds, you know, pull, boss swings at you for a bit, get heals and dps going. Then the selected phases happen, and if the group did not wipe, another 30 seconds of "basic boss attacks", then fade to black and reset.
Our hypothetical group could then practice JUST the phase(s) they want, going from ~7% progression time to 50-75% progression time! The catch is that even if they utterly master these phases in practice mode, they cannot unlock the next phase until they get to it in the complete fight.
This way practice mode will not allow a group to completely ignore the previous sections of the fight, but will serve to allow them to well... PRACTICE the part they are currently progressing on. Such that they can go into the raid again the following day (or whatnot) and actually make REAL progress in the REAL fight.
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