Exercises in Creative Design: Karazhan

After a good number of runs through the dungeon, I have come to terms with the fact that I just LOVE Kara. It’s not exactly the most complicated or challenging instance out there (at least, up until post-curator), but the place itself is just magnificent in design as well as the overall flavor of the place itself.

Wait, flavor? What do you mean by that?

Alright, a little bit of an aside here. Flavor, in the context of games, is the marriage of aesthetics and story elements with the game mechanics that dictate how the game is played. It is a term that I believe was first coined in the card game Magic: the Gathering. Magic is, at its very mechanical core, a game that involves the use of cards that have specific properties and rules of usage that are meant to reduce an opposing player’s points from twenty to zero.

But in all fairness, the game is much more than that. By adding “flavor” to the mechanics, the game makes players feel more like they’re actual wizards casting spells, summoning creatures, and wielding magical artifacts. For flavor fanatics, whenever creative mechanics found on cards or encounters can be instantly associated with an aesthetic or story element, drooling is to be had, and the game’s creative design team is at its best.

Shifting back to World of Warcraft, I find that the game is very much flavorful, but a lot of the time, many encounters and quests can be simply reduced to “tank and spank” or “collect 20 of these, and return to me,” and result in quite bland experiences and are not as enjoyable. But when Blizzard designs an encounter with a creative or challenging gimmick, it can become quite enjoyable if the flavor is right.

This is why I love Kara so much. The first time you run through the entire dungeon You feel immersed into the experience of being in a tower haunted with ghosts, and often feel the progressive experience leading up to the supposedly culminating fight against Prince. But for me, it’s not just the Prince fight that does it for me, it’s everything up to it. It’s the different bosses that represent the zones that they govern, and how their boss fight mechanics simply feel right, and simply astound me.

Case in point, the Opera event. In my opinion, the Opera is probably the most enjoyable first-time experiences that exists in the game. Right from when the announcer begins to narrate the upcoming “play” to the audience (and at this point, you turn back and see the actual audience and feel like you’re in some derranged version of a Roman colloseum), you are entranced in the moment of the encounter, and sometimes forget that you’re actually fighting a raid boss.

When the announcer begins describing the play of the night, you are immediately immersed into the story itself, but done in the form of a boss encounter. Delicious, Delicious flavor. I can still remember the first time I became Red Riding Hood, and started running away from the Wolf. The sheer excitement and adrenaline from being chased exactly the same way the girl was in the folktale was memorable beyond comprehension.

And for things like this, I can only pray that Blizzard continues to design and implement such encounters to be packed with tonnes of flavor. This leads to my little creative segment, where I want to do a little exercise in flavor and game design by creating my own Opera event. So here we go!

The Opera Event – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

“Tonight we delve into a story of jealousy and vanity. The wicked stepmother, who succombs to her own ambition to become the fairest maiden in the land, stirs a plot so foul in nature. “And our heroine, driven off into the woods to live with her newfound friends, lies unsuspecting to the dastardly deeds that await her…”

*applause, curtains up*

Standing center stage is an NPC named Snow White (72 elite Undead, humanoid-shaped).

Snow White: This apple looks delicious, I wonder how it tastes…

She takes a bit of the apple, and falls into a deep sleep.

Moments later, seven NPCs show up (72 non-elite, undead, dwarf-shaped), and examine the body of Snow White.

Happy: Look! She’s Dead!Doc: H-How could this have happened?Bashful: Gee-uh, I don’t know…

*Sleepy falls asleep

Sneezy: Over there! *points to raid party* They must have done it!

Grumpy: How could you DO this to her!? You will pay!

*Dopey nods in agreement.

The battle starts. Each Dwarf does not have a threat table, and will thus attack randomly. Here are a list of their abilities:
Sleepy – average damage melee attacks, casts Sleep on random party members.

Dopey – average damage melee attacks, will randomly charge a raid member, but often trips and falls during the charge. If he trips, he does an AoE stun as soon as he falls down.

Bashful – low damage melee attacks. If 2 or more people engage in combat targetting Bashful, he will cast a DoT fear on them.

Grumpy – high damage warrior class. Often does an enrage, which hits hard on tanks.

Happy – average damage ranged attacker, does knockback on abilities that require casting time.

Sneezy – Frost Mage class, will throw water bolts randomly at party members. Sometimes will begin casting a cone of cold attack. He will say “AAAH, AAAH, AAAH,” during the cast, which is uninterruptable, and says “CHOOOOO!!!” at the end of the cast, resulting in a massive Cone of Cold attack that does high amounts of spell damage and physical knockback.

Doc – light melee damage, heals, and throws bombs randomly that deal a small amount of AoE damage.

Again, the dwarfs are non-elite, but they cannot be crowd-controlled in any way. Regardless, they shouldn’t be too difficult to kill with focus fire. When the last dwarf dies, Snow White wakes up from her sleep.

Snow White: What…have you done with my precious friends? What have you done!?

Snow White starts attacking everyone. She hits with very strong melee attacks and can be tanked. Every 30 seconds, she rezes a random dwarf from the dead. She can only be killed when all of the dwarfs are dead, otherwise she will be resurrected to 20% health.

Snow White (when killed): Someday…My prince will come for me…

Conclusion

While the script itself could definitely use a little bit of tweaking, I certainly loved the concept of a Snow White boss encounter in the Opera event, and how it can use the available mechanics of the WoW engine to elicit the flavor of the Snow White story. I really hope that Blizzard continues to do creative encounters such as this one.

3 thoughts on “Exercises in Creative Design: Karazhan

  1. Oh, what a wonderful idea!

    Actually the little Redhood is the ONLY encounter in Kara that I hate, but it’s just because I suck at it and die. Embarrassing. I’ve written about it earlier in a post, that it’s one of the things I’ve yet to learn. I’m afraid it’s still on the list.

    But apart from that – I agree totally. People whine a lot about being sick and tired of Kara after too many badge runs. But when you think about it – the way you do – it’s actually a splendid instance which offer a lot of entertainment, variety and a beautiful setting. Thanks for the reminder!

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