Thursday, January 28, 2016

4.58. Part of a Complete Breakfast

Artwork By Wayanoru

By Fiber Be Purged!

"Out of the middle, Black."

"Can't really move if I'm not connected!"

I could hear the tension rising.

"Ok! Ok...everything's...fine. It happens. If we lose you, we lose you."

The raid's positioning for phase two was similar to that of phase one, save for a slight adjustment -- a wide gap in the middle of the platform, free of bodies. We gave Rag a clear view to the entryway, well behind us in the rear of the throne room. We did so with intent.

"We won't lose her," added Fred.

"Molten Seeds! Group!"

Twenty of us spawned glowing orbs of fire at our individual positions. These orange dots painted an outline around the edges of the platform. The tanks shifted along the edge of the platform towards the center-most position, and the rest of the raid raced forward, collapsing on the tanks. A bright yellow shell emerged from a priest, shielding the roster. Heals leapt across the group. Seconds later, the Molten Seeds burst, creating a Molten Inferno, blanketing the entire room with flames.

The key to dealing with the onslaught of Molten Inferno damage was keeping that middle area wide open, pre-seeds. Once we collapsed on the tanks, it became the only safe haven on the platform; it was the furthest point away from the Molten Seeds, presently hemorrhaging lava. The further away from the seeds, the less damage we endured. On this round, we only had to worry about the intense heat from one seed, spawned underneath a very immobile Blackangus.

"Coming back," she said, working her way through the login screen. The progress bar slowly grew across the horizontal footer of the instance art -- WoW's backdrop that divided the open world from personalized dungeon/raid instances. As the Molten Inferno subsided, the tauren regained mobility. Blackangus's life had been spared, thanks to an extra dose of protective measures from a sharp healing officer.

"You got off easy," Jungard said, as the raid spread back out, "next one won't be!"

Phase two had another new mechanic in store for us. A crescent-shaped swath of fire would rise up from the platform and stretch across its entire length. This row of flame came in three positions: inner, middle, and outer. Depending on where you stood for your role, you might have to hightail it out of there, racing forward or backward as needed. Between dodging the emerging fire from the platform, the Lava Waves spawned during each Sulfuras Smash, and ensuring players returned to their spread out locations (keep that middle open!), phase two pushed our multitasking abilities into overdrive.

We danced across the platform, chipping away at the towering inferno's health bar, until it was time for the second round of Molten Inferno. And this time, as Jungard alluded, it wouldn't be as easy. The cooldown on Sulfuras Smash was staggered such that the next one...would coincide with Molten Inferno.

The position we were to collapse to was the very location Ragnaros planned to strike.

Handling a simultaneous occurrence of both Molten Inferno and Sulfuras Smash was so simple, it felt like cheating; we grouped up in our original, central position, but scooted forward until our digital toes dangled over the precipice separating us from a lava bath. If positioned correctly, Sulfuras would smash down into the platform behind us, allowing us to avoid its deadly impact, as our collective AoE healing spammed its way through the inferno.

Of course, a disconnected Boomkin would have likely taken an orange hammer to the face -- the likes of which no healing officer could hope to keep someone alive through.

Submerged, Mature's lifeless body watches as the
 25-Man progression team pulls off a clutch defeat of Ragnaros,

Two Scoops, Executus!

Second verse, same as the first. When his health dipped below 40%, Ragnaros buried Sulfuras in the platform, dove beneath the molten surface, and the Sons of Flame greeted us again. The raid fought to slow, stun, even Death Grip them away from the orange hammer. Averting a messy death was a worthy cause.

Amatsu and Blain raced to pick up the two new spawns: Lava Scions, an elemental that looked to be a cross between earth and fire, and its armor was similarly decorated with the runes of the Spire.

The Sons took priority, given the risk they posed. Amatsu and Blain dragged the Lava Scions just right-of-center, near the inner edge of the platform. Once the last Son fell, DPS immediately shifted to the Scions.

"Mang. Watch your feet."

"AH GOD, I'M ON FIRE!", Mangetsu cried out over Vent in mock terror, scrambling to the back of the platform.

The Lava Scions had hit him with Blazing Heat. The flaming trail left behind by each victim not only inflicted serious damage to the raid, they would heal the Lava Scions if brought too closely. Amatsu and Blain had to continually shift and adjust, moving the elementals away from any fiery footsteps. The tanks didn't have much room to breathe when shifting -- they still had to stay within range of Ragnaros. Stationary bosses in World of Warcraft don't traditionally fare well when a tank isn't near. Or rather, the raid doesn't fare well.

It is at this point, dear reader, where things got...hairy.

At the start of phase three, here is a rundown of what was on our plate:
  • Ragnaros is still swinging Sulfuras, at times performing Sulfuras Smash, sending three Lava Waves out toward the raid.
  • Engulfing Flame is still igniting an entire third of the platform in flames -- that large, moon-shaped path of flame reaching to both ends of our available working space.
  • The tanks are still switching off of Ragnaros, with the hope that the Lava Scions are either dead...or close to it. Every extra second they remain alive runs the risk of forcing another player to paint a path of flames across the floor.
With wracked nerves, low mana, and a lot to be watching, the 25-man team had one final mechanic to deal with. It was a sadistic, evil sort of mechanic, one typical of those cruel designers at Blizzard. At the same time, it was a mechanic very worthy of a boss as epic as Ragnaros.

Giant meteors...and when I say "giant", I mean they reached as high as Ragnaros’ upper torso...began to appear around the platform. These meteors immediately latched onto a random player, indicated by a thin, red beam. Once locked onto a target, the meteors began to roll. Gigantic fiery bowling balls rolled across the platform, seeking their pin, a player frantically rushing to the other side of the room in a panic. You did not want a strike, unless you were purposefully looking to be catapulted over the side of the platform and down to a fiery death.

This had to be controlled.

Dragging enormous boulders of fire across the platform in a chaotic mess would only lead to other players being knocked off the platform. But, these meteors were massive; far too much health to destroy in any practical sense. The only way to deal with them was for their target to knock the boulders backwards via empowered attacks -- a special boon granted by the very meteor itself.

If you close your eyes, I'd wager you can picture, with reasonable accuracy, the sheer lunacy of what an attempt that falls apart in phase three looks like. Fire bursting out of the ground, in what appears to be from all sides. An array of elemental magic leaving your finger tips, spiraling towards Ragnaros, while an enormous rolling volcano careens through your field of vision. Players flying through the air at random, as they are struck, many times, causing them to fall to a molten death. Waves of lava bursting out of Sulfuras, a surf of fiery tide that's about to ride you. And as you rush to dodge an incoming meteor someone drags your fateful direction, you're instantly cut off by another player, who is screaming and flailing, leaving a trail of flames that boxes you in.

And are struck.

You hurdle backwards.

Next comes the splash.

Don't struggle. No need to swim up.

You incinerate long before you drown.

DoD defeats Ragnaros, completing Tier 12 in normal mode,

Taste The Flavors of Sulfuron!

Frame rates were killing us in phase three, and Blackangus wasn't the only one suffering. The visual impact of the massive meteors wreaked havoc on multiple machines, causing players to lock-up or disconnect, only to return to a view of their player, submerged and burning to death after being knocked off the platform. We weren't seeing anything official from Blizzard in the form of a "known issue" being fixed. We had to assume it was us, and adapt accordingly.

The 25-Man team ran the gamut of suggestions, working together to come up with ways to improve system performance. Crank visual fidelity down. Disable sound. Drop your screen resolution. If you're in windowed mode, switch to fullscreen. Disable any excess add-ons that you weren't directly relying on. Our veteran raiders weren't just sharing raid strategy, they were sharing technical expertise from years of troubleshooting problems like these.

Our Ragnaros work began on July 22, 2011, carrying on through July 24, and into the next raid weekend of July 29th. Then, at the end the fourth night of work, July 31st, the panic and chaos of Ragnaros finally came to an end.

At least...I think it came to an end. I can't be too sure. I was at the bottom of a sea of lava when it happened. The guild tells me we were successful. I'll take their word for it.


I sat across from my boss, pen in hand, ready to capture any bit of work-related detail I might forget later in the day.

"You're being re-assigned."

I raised an eyebrow.

"The powers that be want you in the new 'Learning and Collaboration' group..."

"...Arch's app?" It was my first thought. I felt compelled to interrupt.

She sighed in disappointment, "We'll need a new person to come in and take it on. Of course, they'll be following your spec to the T."

Well, crap. I really liked Arch. It wasn't often I was able to bond with someone far up the chain of command. But it also wasn't often I was able to find a fellow World of Warcraft player in the workplace.

Solutions, not problems. Keep your eye on the ball.

I sat up straight, "You'll want a transition plan, I'll bet."

"If you know of anyone that'll give the same degree of care to that app as you would, this is your opportunity to hire them. Then, we'll get a project manager to handle resource allocation..."

"...Let me do it."

She seemed surprised, " manage it?"

"I'll find the replacement programmer, hire him, and direct the development."

"Ok, but the other project? You'll manage both developments efforts as well as whatever they give you in L+C?"

"This is important. If the apps just keep changing hands, they're never going to get the attention they deserve." The thought of Arch having to deal with some random development contractor sickened me. I'd seen app neglect in more places than his software. It was time the development side of the fence gained an ally that shared his nerve.

"I'll do weekly stand-ups, keep them on track, and keep you apprised," I pressed my index finger down on her desk, "...this is doable."

She sat back, arms folded, giving me a look as if she was trying to figure out how to clone me.

"Ok," she said, "A full plate it is."

"Don't worry," I replied with a wave of my hand, "I'm an expert at handling a full plate."

Even if means swimming in lava.

No comments: