About twenty of you have contacted asking for an overview of how to structure and flow a raid zone. Well, first off, it takes a lot of people to do it to the level of quality that WoW achieves it. However, I can give a quick high level overview.
This is very likely to be a three or four part’er – so hang on to your hats and poke me till it’s done! Alright, let’s do this.
High Level Raid Construction:
- Memorable Moments
- Shape of Raid
- Progress Tracking
- Support Work
- What went well
- What can be improved
- Take-aways for next time
Ideally, the theme should be a single cohesive concept that pulls the raid together. Molten Core, for example, is all about a lava cave and its denizens. Blackwing Lair was about dragons and experimentation. Sometimes, the core concept can be clear, but its expressions varied. (For example, Ulduar)
In general, you want to start with a tight, simple theme and expounded upon it heavily in the Structure and Execution phases. This rule applies to most things in game design and leadership – set the core heart and soul, then let the more experienced implementers figure out the details. This will lead to increased trust across the team and create opportunities for personal craftsmanship to be expressed.
Characters are the essential cast that will be used to tell the story of the raid. In a highly complex and well-produced game like WoW, this determines which voice actors will need to be called back, which new characters need to be cast and sets in motion the concept art for any unique forms or gear those character might have.
Characters are weakly broken up into two axis:
Friends / Enemies
Major / Minor
All raid zones generally serve a common purpose – create an elaborate shared experience, with trials, challenges and rewards to incentivize a raid group to assault the location. However, there’s often a deeper plot purpose as well – does the raid advance some major story or capstone some long narrative that’s been built up earlier in the game?
Other times, a raid zone might be there to serve entirely as an experiment. See Malygos (Wrath of the Lich King) and Trial of the Crusader. In these cases, there’s a hypothesis: “An entirely destructible raid zone is cool.” or “A series of challenges without a change in location is more cost-effective and interesting”.
The more experimental the hypothesis, the smaller and more focused the raid typically is – as a developer, you want to hedge your bets appropriately. If it you find a new and effective formula, you can always scale it up. By contrast, if its a bomb… it’s better to let it go.
Finally, once the theme and purpose is in place, choosing a few key moments to convey the big parts of the story and choosing what you want to showcase and which events are worth the extra investment of time and resources. In WoW terms, this is a mixture of cinematics, events and scripted camera sequences.
(Image credit: allakazham)
One the overall theme is established, the next challenge is to figure out the physical structure of the raid. Since most games (and people) think in 2 dimensions, the most common way of doing this is to sketch out a flat top-down drawing of the raid zone.
(Continued Next Time)
Blog followers, why don’t you guys give me a hand here – post some theme ideas and we’ll “build” this new raid zone together.
Core Direction Ideas:
- Near Future Cyber Tech