Trash fights in MMOs

Over the weekend we had two very different experiences of trash fights in MMOs. These packs of weaker opponents are usually placed through a dungeon or other instanced zone to slow progress to the various bosses (the big fights). They sometimes drop the odd item of value or some coins but otherwise are more of a background to the set-piece challenge that each boss presents.

Many, many droids

Many, many droids

In SWTOR we did some heroics on Taris and attempted the Foundry flashpoint (a k a dungeon) and found by the end of the second session that we were getting tired of the very dense, and not inconsiderable ‘trash packs’ in both types of instance. I really like droids in this game but by the second boss of the Foundry we were getting bored – when you have a zone task of killing 50 droids just as the first stage that’s a lot of to get past!

In Neverwinter we have been questing through the Pirate’s Skyhold zone. The open zones in the game have plenty of trash packs to cope with, and patrolling groups and more elite monsters as well. But the story instances, not the full group dungeons, but rather the shorter story instances (like Skull Fortress in this zone) are tuned for a much quicker play-through. There are a few trash packs, then a mini-boss, then some more trash and the end boss. Some instances might have two mini-bosses before the end fight but they’re never that long.

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So two, not directly comparable, examples of dungeon design. One with dense packs of weak opponents, another with much shorter gaps between the real challenges. My thoughts after the weekend is that I generally prefer the latter model. I’ve never been a great fan of spending hours and hours in a dungeon slogging through trash. My days of clearing Blackrock Depths are behind me I fear.

Do you think trash mobs still have a valuable role to play in instanced content (i.e. dungeons), are they ok in moderation or are they simply an artifact of an older MMO design model?

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5 Responses to Trash fights in MMOs

  1. Nezy says:

    It all depends on the frequency and size of trash for me. In WoW, my friends and I honed our skills doing heroics in Burning Crusade instances. These mainly had packs of trash mobs of 3-6 enemies at a time depending on what kind of mobs they were. To me, this is the ideal size of group to face providing they’re not packed too tightly together. Sure, there needs to be a variety, you wouldn’t want every instance to be the same, but you don’t want to be slogging through wave after wave of minor trash either. The Burning Crusade instances seemed to have the balance perfect. We ran some of them literally dozens of times to get geared up for raids like Kara and Zul Aman. Sometimes it felt like a grind but most of the time we had a laugh trying out different tactics with different trash groups.

  2. Shintar says:

    After experiencing the “joy” that was Trial of the Crusader in WoW, I would never ask for less trash in instanced content again. It can become too much of course, but I think more important than the exact number of trash mobs is whether they are in any way interesting to fight. Burning Crusade dungeons for example had quite a lot of trash, but every pull required you to apply skill and knowledge, so I never perceived that as boring. The trash in some of SWTOR’s instances can indeed get quite tedious, but personally I still manage to find some enjoyment in things like planning where to lay down my AoE, where to knock mobs off bridges and small things like that.

  3. Sylow says:

    Since playing TSW (The Secret World) i have to ask: what again are thrash mobs? I forgot what that means…

    Now, truth to be told this is a tiny overstatement, in some dungeons there are a few mobs (the highest count i could remember is 7) between the bosses sometimes. They serve well for the style and atmosphere of the dungeon, while not having any real impact on gameplay. Dungeons boild down to the bosses and you basically move from one challenging fight to another, without those boring timesink mobs all the outdated WoW-descendants use in masses.

  4. Jonny 5iVe says:

    Burning crusade had the balance just right I think (as people have already mentioned).

    They were usually challenging for a start, and presented a real danger… Nowadays I watch people pull 10+ elites at a time, and just burn them down with AoE.

    I was always more of a fan of raids anyway, especially the old school “Two bosses, five members of trash”, like Gruul or Onyxia.

    20 minutes of intense boss fights, and a couple of trash for your group to get into sync with. Perfect really.

    • Telwyn says:

      I’d agree with all the comments so far. Less is more, although I guess most MMO developers want instances in their game to last a certain amount of time on average and that dictates the amount of trash we face. I certainly prefer the Burning Crusade challenge level compared to the AoE craziness of the late Wrath era – intelligent encounter design is much better than placing groups for the sake of ‘decoration’. Using trash as a warm-up is a good point too – especially if you’re not playing with the usual group, or haven’t played in a while, it’s nice to have something to practice on before the first boss fight!

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