Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oculus - does it really suck that much?

What generally makes an instance less fun to do than another instance is the amount of time it takes compared to how fun it is to do. A very short instance that is incredibly boring is more ok than an incredibly long instance that is mediocre. The pain is at least over fast. I think the same goes for work actually, where you'd rather have something horrible for a short amount of time than something tedious over a very long period of time. Maybe people differ there, but overall I think that's what people prefer.

Most instances in WoW that people dislike follow this formula. I personally dislike Culling of Stratholme, Oculus, Halls of Stone and Violet Hold (although Violet Hold has become slightly better after the buff). And the common reason is that they take time. They take time for different reasons though (none of which are because they are difficult however), and some of these reasons make the instance even less fun than them just being slow. I'll explain.

Culling of Stratholme is slow, but that's also all that is wrong with it (in my opinion). It has this extremely long, and meaningless once you've seen it, intro. I think it takes at least 10 minutes of just waiting for the instance to start. Fun? No, definitely not. But once you're passed that the rest of the instance is pretty ok. The whole idea of travelling back in time to experience key points of the WoW-history is also a good one which I encourage, but it could be done in a little better way. Halls of Stone has the exact same problem, with an event that feels like more about waiting around than actually having to do something.

So what's the matter with Oculus? First of all, there is no waiting around in Oculus. There is no event you have to wait on playing through before you can start playing yourself, like in CoS. In fact, Oculus doesn't have to take long at all. With the right group you can do it in 15 minutes. So there is something else the matter with Oculus.

The problem with Oculus is that it forces a game mechanic on you that isn't well thought through, or worked through, at all. Most of Oculus is about riding around on flying mounts. Mounts the great majority of the level 80's ride around on every day sure, but that is only to travel from point A to point B. Having to use the same type of mounts to actually battle something requires alot more coordination than just occassionally move from a mountain in your flight path. There are some issues with the mounts in other words, mainly the fact that it's difficult to estimate distance to different object when in the air. Also the drakes (which is what you fly in Oculus) apparently don't always stand still when I think they do as I get the error message "you can't do that while moving" way more often than I think I should. So the first problem about Oculus is that the very thing that's supposed to make it special, doesn't work well enough. That's a minor problem though, compared to issue number two.

There are other drakes in the instance, beside the ones your riding. The one your riding are friendly drakes of course, and the other ones are not so friendly. While you're mounted you use the health pool of your drake mount instead of your own. That's more than 100.000 hp instead of around 20.000 (if you're a clothie like me). The evil drakes of the instance will attack you if you come to close, and remember what I said earlier about estimating distance? Not so easy. You'll probably get too close to a couple of drakes without noticing it. Now this doesn't do much as long as you're mounted on your drake. The evil drakes hit you for about 7k dmg, and that's not much taken from 100.000+ health.

The problem is you can dismount from your drake, then notice you aggroed an evil drake, and once in combat with it, you can't remount your drake again. This means you have to battle something that is up in the air (no hitting it in other words, can only use spells/ranged against them) and shooting you for 7k dmg every other second. That is alot of dmg on something that has 20.000 hp. Better pray you have a caster/ranged in the group who can kill the drake fast enough!

Now... I've done this instance many times, and banged my head against all the achievements even (and succeeded). I think I am pretty sure how to move around without drawing the attention of too many evil drakes. Problem is, most people aren't. And that is understandable. Flying around on a drake avoiding bad guys doesn't come natural at all and needs practicing, since it doesn't really occur anywhere else in the game (except The Eye). But Oculus isn't very forgiving to people who have to practice their flying skills, and that is the very problem.

I don't know how many times I've flown from one place to another, crusing through evil drakes, making sure I didn't aggro any (you can tell simply by seeing if you're in combat or not before dismounting), and then dismount. Suddenly person X in my party dismounts next to me, training 3 evil drakes along with him. He gets blasted, I heal him and suddenly I've got all the attention. Yay. This is the most common, if not the only reason, I've died in Oculus. But Oculus is also the only instance I ever die in. For reasons I can't do anything about. And that's what annoys me the most.

Sure, I can wait until everyone has dismounted just to make perfectly sure no one pulled any evil drakes along with them. But when the tank engages mobs and goes down low on hp I either have to chose in letting him die right there, or dismount, heal him and hope no evil drakes show up.

This very thing happened to me today. The tank engages second boss, quickly goes down low on hp (he had a not so good gear) and I had to dismount to heal him. Three seconds later two evil drakes show up and start nuking me in the face. We had some ranged who tried to help but that is simply just too much dps for a poor healer to heal, especially when having aggro myself. Wipe, and people leave the group... (I left too and requeued for a random and got Oculus again (!). That run went smooth however and I even got the mount drop in the end! Yay!).

It always annoys me when one persons lack of skill can bring a whole group down. In raids this is of course one of the great obstacles, trying to collect enough skilled people to overcome something. And in a raid setting that is ok, since I can choose who to play with. In a random dungeon however, where everyone is just that - randomly picked, such a game mechanic is just too unforgiving to make it fun. And that is why Oculus sucks so much.


  1. Come on, I hate Oculus too, but to me the main problem about it is not so much the attracting of evil drakes (I must have done that dungeon more than 20 times I'd say), sure it happens, but:
    1) It does not happen to players who know their way around (and you usually know your way around after doing the dungeon 2-3 times), so it's quite rare
    2) If it happens, they're real easy to kill if you're mounted.

    So my rule 1) for Oculus would be don't dismount before making sure everyone's here and without any evil drakes following. If the tank attacks before his healer has dismounted, then the tank is an idiot and he kinda deserves to die. (I main a tank btw)

    I hate Oculus because of all the flying around mounting/dismounting (that's just dumb, either the whole instance should be done flying or just a section), but the worst of all is the last fight, where you have to fight on a completely different system that you have never been trained for. You developed a toon to 78+ and kinda know what to usually do, but there that's an end boss fight, and you have completely lost all that made you a decent player. It's not *that* hard though, but can still lead to a wipe way too often.

  2. @Florian
    Yeah maybe I was unlucky, but the main reason I died was always that someone had aggroed som extra drake somewhere. Being the healer I unfortunately didn't have the luxury of waiting, since the tank would die if I did (remember this was way before we outgeared these instances). But the main reason I disliked Oculus (as mentioned in the text - "The problem with Oculus is that it forces a game mechanic on you that isn't well thought through, or worked through, at all.") is because of the way the drakes worked, just as you say.