This week we're trying something new! We're going to talk about Alak-Hul the Darkblade through video format! Please enjoy!
Did you enjoy this change of pace? Would you like to see more design analysis with video? Or should I go back to the text format? Please let me know!
I'll see you guys next week,
It has been quite some time since I last wrote about Destiny. Today I wanted to discuss some of its end game content. Specifically, why Trials of Osiris is brilliant and what unexpected effects it has had on the community.
A little bit of back-story:
Destiny has taken a lot of flack recently because of the few ways to gain the highest-level gear. The best way is the Raid Challenge modes, where players do a particularly difficult boss encounter a certain way to be rewarded with extra max level loot. But this doesn’t always last for players. The difficulty with having the end game content being against computers is that people can out smart them. There are endless strategy guides and how-tos, which walk the players through the entire raid. This makes it considerably easier to finish when they know exactly what is going to happen and when it is going to happen.
Then there is Trials of Osiris. Trials came about in the House of Wolves Expansion pack (the second expansion pack) in early 2015. With it came one of the most difficult challenges in Destiny; getting to the Lighthouse.
Let’s dive into Trials:
The way Trials works is the player must win nine games of Elimination against other players before losing three. If they do so, they will be rewarded with some pretty cool gear. But if the player makes it through the nine matches without losing any games, they have gone “Flawless” and get to travel to the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is a kind of social area where only the best Destiny players have access.
Side note: Elimination works via pitting two teams of three players against one another. Each player only has one life. Upon dying though, they can be revived by their teammates after a cool down timer. Every time a player dies, the cool down timer is extended. The team wins a round when all three members of the opposing team are dead simultaneously for three seconds. Teams need to win five rounds to successfully win the match. Once a team has reached three victories, the next round heavy ammo will spawn on the map in two locations, causing both teams to do a mad dash for the heavy that round.
So why is Trials of Osiris so special?
While computers act a certain way every single time, other players don’t. Trials pitting players against one another serves as an interesting experience because it is always different. There is no definitive “ This is how you do this and you will win”, because for any strategy your team might think up, the opposing team might think of a way to counter. Additionally, because this goes on for at least five rounds total, (the game can last a max of nine rounds if each team wins four) teams must change their strategy. Unlike the computer enemies in raids, humans learn and adapt.
Trials are only available Friday-Monday, and each week is a different map. Players who are really good at one map won’t necessarily always have the advantage every week. It’s impossible to get really good at Trials without knowing all the maps. But even if the player doesn’t know the map, they have time throughout the weekend to learn it.
What about the end game content?
Well, we know that games get boring when players run out of goals to achieve. Whether that goal is to complete all the levels, or get that one piece of exotic gear, they need a carrot on a stick or they typically get bored. The Lighthouse is that carrot. And there is no easy way to get there. By pitting players against one another in a weekly competition, Bungie has taken a lot of the work out of having to create new content. Did I mention you are paired up against players who typically have the same amount of wins as you? So the game automatically scales in difficulty just based on player’s survival. They have successfully created gatekeepers to this legendary area out of the community.
The other goal they have achieved with Trials is teamwork in PvP. All of the end game content in Destiny requires that players go in with teams. And players won’t be able to win without communicating. Due to the nature of elimination and the high stakes gameplay, the best teams are constantly communicating by calling out enemy locations to one another. This communication in turn brings people closer together, thus giving players more people to play with and ultimately Destiny retaining players.
And now, for the ugly.
When Trials originally came out teams would be paired up randomly against other teams as long as there was a good network connection. While this was nice because we didn’t have to worry so much about lag, players who are playing their first round could be paired against a vetted team, which has gone 7 and 0. This resulted, as you can imagine, in many unbalanced fights.
In the most recent months, Bungie has been attempting to pair players in as fair matches as often as possible. This is why the matches now are based on how many victories teams have rather than connection. This resulted in a lot of bad connections and lag, especially in later fights as there were less teams to be paired up against.
While they had the best intentions with pairing players based on wins against one another, it doesn’t help much when your team has been paired up against another team which has already gone flawless and has the ridiculously powerful Lighthouse weapons. So there is still an imbalance there. I feel as if non-flawless players shouldn’t be getting paired up in the first couple rounds against players who have already gone flawless.
Sidenote: I feel as if it is important for me to mention these weapons do not make the players invincible. It’s just that no one else has access to them until they have gone flawless and that they are incredibly powerful. (I’m looking at you Doctrine of Passing (Adept)). Players can get a version of them at 7 wins but, from what I understand, the flawless versions don’t just look different, they also pack a meatier punch.
Unfortunately, Trials of Osiris going flawless creates a bit of an Elitist mentality inside the community when discussing Destiny PvP. This mentality really hurts new players because players who have gone flawless will very rarely play with/ talk to players who have not gone flawless. Just take a look at Destiny’s LFG (Looking for Group) on the Bungie website.
“DOING FLAWLESS RUN
MUST BE 315 LIGHT
MUST HAVE YEAR 2 FLAWLESS EMBLEM
MUST HAVE A K/D OF 1.3 OR HIGHER
MESSAGE ###### FOR INVITE”
something like this:
as a result there is this guy:
I'm pretty sure this is against Bungie's terms and conditions.
This makes the barrier of entry an absolute nightmare for players who are getting into Trials.
Sidenote: Due to Trials having such a high learning curve it is very difficult for players to get started. They can do the trials bounties (6 a week) which give them a % chance to recieve Trials gear but any Destiny player will agree, the random drops are useless more often than not. When playing at that level new players wont stand a chance until they have a team which can work incredibly well together and the gear to back them up.
While this is an issue with the players playing the game (and not with the game itself), the players acting this way is a direct result of the difficulty of the game. Unfortunately, this community will turn off a considerable amount of players who will never get to experience this content because of it.
Sidenote: The raid was no better when it first came out. But over time players have become more confident in their abilities and the LFG posts aren’t as bad. Whereas Trials has never let up, from what I’ve seen it just gets worse. Even though I don't blame them for not wanting the best of the best on their team (everyone does). There is very little in place to truely prepare players or to get advanced players to help out newer players. This is problimatic because in the rest of the high level content it seems like the most popular way to get through a tough section is to have a higher level guardian help out and teach newer players.
Trials of Osiris is brilliant. Pitting players against one another for some of the best loot in the game really has made it much more difficult and rewarding when the player finally reaches the Lighthouse. This tension of the matches and how rewarding it feels to actually win is truly intoxicating. But the poor match making and the elitist community it is creating is making it difficult for a lot of players to experience this content. I hope this week I got you thinking about alternate ways to create end game content by simply changing the rules and using the community to your advantage. Also, I hope you thought at least a little bit about how difficult team events will effect the community. Thanks for sticking around.
I’ll see you next week,
In this past year, I started this blog to focus on game design and my own projects. Now that the year is coming to an end, I’d like to take look back on a few of my favorite posts.
Specifically, I want to highlight three game analysis/postmortems which I believe are my best articles of the year, plus one honorable mention that I felt should be included. I also want to highlight three posts about my personal projects and processes which I found to be enjoyable. If you have yet to check these out, I highly recommend them because I think they are excellent!
A mobile game which captured my heart. My goal for this post was to understand why it was so pleasant. What are the core mechanics? How do they use the free to play model? What makes it so charming? What can we learn from this game?
“Freeblade is a lot of things, and I could gush about so many things it does right, but today I want to stick to the controls. Controls in iOS games typically fall into one of two categories: either they are intuitive and easy to use, or an absolute mess and frustrating.” Excerpt from
Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade - Touching the Grim Dark Future
In my personal projects posts, I went for a less formal tone and more of a casual blog style than the analysis posts. I hope you enjoy them!
Here i’m going to walk you through a bit of my process. This is in no way how you should necessarily do things; this is just to show how I sometimes do things. I also discuss what I did programming-wise to bring this prototype to life.
“I like to prototype. It helps me to figure out my thoughts and test the game mechanics to see if they are actually fun. Also I don’t have beautiful colors or great looking assets to cloud my judgment. It allows me to focus solely on the mechanics.” Excerpt from Prototyping… I love it.
Last but not least I’d like to thank you. By reading and giving me feedback on my posts, whether through conversations over coffee or in the comments section, I learn more about what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. I’ve improved because of your feedback. And even if you didn’t get the chance to give me feedback directly, I’d like to thank you as well for using your time to read my ramblings. Thank you and I hope you had an excellent 2015!
I’ll see you guys next week,
Welcome to part 3 of my look into the King’s Fall Raid - normal. This is the final part in my 3-part series. Again, I have broken up this post into two parts. The first part will discuss the process of players figuring this fight out. The second part will see how all these pieces fit together and I’ll briefly explain how to defeat the boss.
**If you have yet to finish the raid and wish to go in blind, I recommend you stop reading now. Otherwise, please enjoy. **
Oryx is one of the most difficult and rewarding fights of the game. This difficulty comes mostly from the players being able to deal enough damage, and how fast they can complete each part of this encounter. Luckily, half of this fight is very similar to the daughters’ fight. If you haven’t read my analysis of that fight I recommend you check out my previous post as we will be building upon the mechanics from that fight.
Process of players figuring out each of the pieces:
Upon defeating the Daughters of Oryx the players will see a glowing orb at the edge of the map, much like the ones on the “Torn Between Dimensions” platforms. Upon approaching it, it will fly down off the cliff.
A second later, a giant version of Oryx slides up to tower over the player. This intimidating sight will cause all the players to back away from him.
He will proceed then to spawn two groups of Taken Thralls, one between him and platform three, the other between him and platform two. Immediately after he spawns these enemies, he will additionally spawn a Taken Knight on switches two and three. Players at this point are going to open fire on everything.
Maps built in Lucidchart
Upon killing both Knights, Oryx will either slide to switch two or three. For the first time he moves, it will be randomly chosen which of the two switches he will move to.
At this point players might not know what to do, but all eyes will be on Oryx.
Oryx will then slam the switch he is closest to. Upon raising his had again players will see he has left an orb behind. They will also notice that the icon for the relic is on their HUD again. If they follow that icon they will notice the relic has spawned. The relic always appears above the platform clockwise from Oryx’s location. When a player touches the ball on the switch they will be “Torn Between Dimensions”. Because of the Daughters of Oryx fight, this next part is fairly easy for them to figure out. They need to jump on the plates to get the “Torn Between Dimensions” player to the relic. The order is exactly the same as in the daughters encounter. At this point, the players will jump on their platforms in order and the player who is “Torn Between Dimensions” (We are going to call this player the “Runner” from now on for simplicity) will start their platforming. But something different happens this time.
A “Light Eater Ogre” spawns in the corner next to each switch. While it may seem like it, the ogres spawning isn’t actually attached to when the players activate the switches. Instead, they activate on a timer after Oryx slams the first platform. Their order of spawning additionally helps the players; it is the correct order the players need to activate the switches in.
Side note: Ogres are amongst some of the most feared enemies in Destiny. When one appears, all players have the gut reaction to kill it as fast as possible. This is largely due to the laser blast they produce will make short work of players.
Upon killing these Ogres, they seem to leave a mini blight ball behind.
Side note: This will become sort of a problem later. In the campaign players encounter larger versions of these blight balls. But the larger versions spawn enemies every so often and slow the player when they get near. They can be destroyed if players do enough damage to them. So it isn’t far fetched for players to expect these blight balls to spawn enemies as well.
Roughly about the time the runner collects the relic, they will notice a Tombship and a knight, named the “Vessel of Oryx”, with a shield running down the center of the map. This shield looks strikingly similar to the shield players stole from the daughters. In fact, because of the daughters fight the runner will attempt to steal the shield again.
Once the players have the shield, their gut reaction will be to huddle up inside it and shoot Oryx. This is because that’s exactly what the players did to the daughters. The shield grants them immortality just like the daughters’ shield. There is a good chance they will forget about the “Vessel of Oryx” the first time. Upon firing on Oryx though, they will notice he is not taking any damage. This confuses players because they were able to shoot the sisters immediately after they stole their shield. But it isn’t a big deal, because a few seconds later Oryx will slam his fist on the switch he is closest to and his chest will open up and glow.
In video games, there are not many things more obvious than lit up spots on bosses. It usually signifies a weak point. So the players open fire on his chest. The players will be able to stun Oryx by doing enough damage to his chest. If players don’t do enough, he will clap his hands together and kill everyone.
Upon stunning Oryx though, a fairly large problem rears its ugly head. Oryx does his stun animation, and players will think they need to just keep shooting his chest to do damage. Unfortunately, shooting him doesn’t actually do much damage at all. In order to do major damage to Oryx, players will need to run to the blight balls and detonate them.
This is a fairly large issue. Because the entire game players are taught to destroy and avoid these blight balls. So there isn’t anything in place messaging to the player that they need to stand in the blight ball’s aura.
Side note: This is a tough one. Perhaps displaying something along the lines of “Blight Balls are ready” or even “Enter the darkness…” on screen might help to better message to the players that they need to enter the blight balls. I know they are technically called “Corrupted Light” but they look exactly like miniature versions of the previously introduced blight balls.
Luckily, once a player accidentally enters one of these balls for a few seconds, the players will notice a message “[Player Name] has detonated a Corrupted Light”. In addition to the text, the Corrupted Light will turn white and have particles spinning around it. Hopefully, they activated it at the proper time while Oryx was stunned, or else it wont do any damage. If they don’t have the shield when it is activated, it will kill all the players a few seconds after the message is displayed. This creates another issue with the players learning how to use them, as it would reinforce the need to avoid these balls. If they do have the shield though, everyone inside will survive the blast, teaching the players to head back to the shield as soon as the Corrupted Lights are detonated. Through trial and error, they are able to finally figure out when exactly to detonate the Corrupted Light.
Side note: Remember the “Vessel of Oryx”? In normal mode the Vessel’s sole purpose is to transport the shield to the players. Players do not need to defeat it though it is recommended, as he will attack the players when they are detonating their corrupted light.
Now the players have figured out how to finally do some real damage to Oryx. Everyone is cheering, everyone is excited. That is, until Oryx falls away and reappears in the front of the battlefield, the same place he started the encounter at. As he pushes himself away from the battlefield, players will begin to notice green/white circles appearing around them. The first bomb (depending on the player’s light level) might not kill them, though it will come very close. This likely would panic the players, teaching them to run like mad to escape these explosions. Unfortunately, this can result in some of them getting too close to one another, causing multiple deaths. They will learn to run while staying away from one another. The bombing sequence lasts about 20 seconds in total.
Upon completion of the bombing sequence, Oryx will slide his way to another random switch. This time however, switch one and four are fair game for him to slide to as well. This whole process starts again.
New players will get comfortable with this process fairly quickly. The toughest part is killing the Ogres, but once they figure out their preferred method to defeat them, it seems easy. Then Oryx throws a wrench into the mix.
Once he is at about half health, Oryx wont bomb the players anymore. Instead he will start to remove them from the battlefield one by one. He does this by teleporting players to the “Darkness Dimension”.
The first time he does this, players may not be ready for it and may accidentally touch the giant black ball Oryx spawns on the battlefield. This will instantly kill any players who touch it. This teaches them to stay the hell away from it.
Players still stuck in the main battlefield will be confronted by a Taken Knight on switch two and three. In addition to the two Taken Knights, Thralls will begin to spawn next to switch two and three as well. Except, these Thralls wont focus on killing the players on the battlefield, instead intent upon traveling into the black ball. Players who are communicating will quickly realize that the Taken Thralls who enter the black ball appear in the “Darkness Dimension”. Players on the outside can easily figure out that they need to help their allies by killing as many Thralls as possible.
One by one, players will be teleported from the main battlefield into the “Darkness Dimension”. Once inside, they will see a “Shade of Oryx” warping around the outskirts of the “Darkness Dimension”. This is a very familiar fight to players who have played the campaign. One of the final missions of the campaign, “Regicide”, involves the players fighting Oryx (at his normal size) in the “Darkness Dimension”. Players inside the “Darkness Dimension” will have no trouble figuring out that they need to kill the shade as quickly as possible. Initially there is nothing else to shoot at or draw the player’s attention, a good thing as the shade is a little difficult to see.
Side note: This fight can be a little confusing though. Because in “Regicide” we are taught that while Oryx is on the Outskirts of the “Darkness Dimension” we cannot do damage to him. But here in the raid players can, and should, damage the shade while he is on the outskirts of the level.
Every so often the Shade will travel towards the players with it’s sword raised, ready to attack.
Because of the “Regicide” mission, players know to avoid this attack as it can be devastating. Players will continue to damage to the shade until it is dead or the final player is teleported into the “Darkness Dimension”. Upon the final player being teleported in, the players will have only a few more seconds to kill the Shade before they themselves are all killed. Upon killing the shade, the “Darkness Dimension” will dissolve, and the players who were inside it will find themselves where the black ball in front of Oryx used to be.
Upon completing the “Darkness Dimension” section of the raid, the players have experienced and figured out every different challenge Oryx has to offer. Oryx will shift to stand in front of a switch again, and the players will know what to do from there.
Once the final Corrupted Light detonates and Oryx’s health seems to be empty, players will celebrate. They will soon find out that celebration was in vain when he reappears in the front section where he initially spawned.
Hopefully at this point the players will not run away and have their special and heavy weapons reloaded. Because Oryx will rise up and attempt to do his clap attack one more time which will result in killing all the players. Thankfully, by this point all the players should be familiar with this animation and see it coming from a mile away. His chest will open up as he prepares to kill the players. If they can deal enough damage to him, they will win. If not, he will kill them all and they will have to start the encounter over again.
The final section of this post, “How to put the pieces together”, I am going to do in a brief step-by-step format. I feel as if this would be easiest for me to explain without having this post drag on for 50 pages.
How to put the pieces together:
1. Approach the floating orb near the edge of the level. Oryx will spawn at the edge.
2. Kill Taken Thralls which Oryx spawns, followed by killing two knights on platforms two and three.
3. Oryx moves to a switch.
4. Oryx slams the switch in front of him with his fist. This spawns an orb which will turn the player who touches it to “Torn Between Dimensions”
5. Player who is the chosen runner will collect the orb and begin making their way around the “Torn Between Dimensions” platforms.
6. The players who have switches assigned to them will have to jump on their switches in counterclockwise order to spawn the “Torn Between Dimensions” platforms.
7. Upon activating a switch, a “Light Eater Ogre” will spawn next to each switch in the order they were activated.
8. The players, while remaining on their switches, must kill all the Ogres as quickly as possible. The sixth player can move around the center and shoot Ogres to help kill them.
9. Where the Ogres die, a Corrupted Light will spawn. All players must avoid the Corrupted Light at this time.
10. Once the runner has collected the relic, they must travel to the edge of the map where Oryx initially spawned. Here they will see a knight named “Vessel of Oryx”. They will need to slam the relic into the knight to steal his shield. The runner will then need to kill the “Vessel of Oryx” and make their way to the center of the map between the two giant pillars which the sisters were on.
11. Upon the runner collecting the relic all players need to get off their switches, finish off any remaining ogres, make their way to the center to help kill the “Vessel of Oryx”, and enter the shield.
12. If the players did steps 2-11 fast enough, they will have time to see Oryx slam the platform he initially slammed during this cycle, and then “Call upon the darkness”. While he is calling upon the darkness, his chest will open and light up. All players will need to shoot him in the chest. If they do enough damage to him they will stun him. If not, he will kill them all when he claps.
13. Once he is stunned, the players will need to run to the blight balls closest to their switch (Where the ogre which spawned next to their platform died). They must sit in the ball until the screen says “[Player Name] has detonated corrupted light”. Once that text appears on screen they must run back into the shield held by the runner.
14. This will cause massive damage to Oryx. The more balls detonated the more damage will be done to Oryx.
15. If Oryx still has any health left, go to #16. If his health seems to be empty go to #20
16. Players need to pay attention to Oryx when he comes back up in the spot he initially spawned. If he summons a black ball in front of him skip to #18. If he pushes away from the battlefield, then he is going to bomb the players. The four players who had switches need to run in circles around their switch. The other two players need to run in circles at either side of the battlefield (One near where Oryx initially spawned, the other near the entrance)
17. Once Oryx is done bombing the battlefield, go back to step 2.
18. The black ball is summoned. Oryx is going to teleport players one by one to another dimension. Players who have yet to be teleported will need to kill the two Taken Knights which spawn on switches two and three. They will then need to kill Taken Thralls which spawn nearby switches two and three. If the thralls are not killed, they will enter the black ball and attack the players who have been teleported.
19. Once a player is teleported they must kill the “Shade of Oryx” inside the “Darkness Dimension” as quickly as possible. The Shade will warp around the outside of the “Darkness Dimension”. Every once in a while he will light up and raise his sword, slowly moving towards a player. He will then slam his sword down and attempt to kill the player. Once the last living player has been teleported to the “Darkness Dimension”, they will only have a few more seconds to finish off the “Shade of Oryx” or all players will be killed. Upon killing the Shade of Oryx, the players will be brought back to the battlefield. Go to step 2.
20. RELOAD ALL YOUR GUNS! Oryx is going to spawn in the front of the battlefield where he first spawned at the beginning of the encounter. His chest is going to open up again, so all players must unload all their best weapons on him here. If the players do not do enough damage, he will clap and kill everyone. If the players do enough damage, he will die and the players will have won.
With the right team, this is easily the most rewarding section of the raid. It forces every player to be at the top of their game, works as an excellent team building exercise, and also builds on previous encounters. While it is not perfect (The corrupted light issue being the biggest problem I see with it), I still find it to be the most rewarding experience in Destiny.
This concludes my three-part look into the King’s Fall Raid in Destiny. If you enjoyed this series, please let me know. If you didn’t, please let me know what I could do to improve. I enjoyed doing the research and analyzing this raid, and would be more than happy to go into detail about the other parts if there is a demand for it. I could probably talk about it all day and not get tired of it. I would like to thank KaliksHD for his high definition videos. I would not have been able to create this post without them. (More of his work can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLM1eE8w_DZ89n4yIxVbffA ) The images I used from his videos are the ones which have no watermark. I would also like to thank Briar Rabbit for his videos from a different angle. (More of his work can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC02QCCz8STKVGEDS4VCsL4g ) The images I used from his videos have his watermark in the bottom right corner. And finally, last but not least, I would like to thank you, the reader. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it. If you have stuck with me through this entire series, I would like to give a huge thank you for giving me your time. I really hope we can all create better games by looking at some excellent ones.
Next week we will be either looking into Angry Birds 2 or the difference between King’s Fall hard and normal mode. I haven’t quite decided yet and both ideas excite me. When we get to Angry Birds 2, we will also begin to think about how it makes the player feel in the moment to moment gameplay. And I don’t mean just making the player feel smart.
I’ll see you guys next week,