GW2 Meet Your Dhuum

Arenanet raid designer Byron Miller talks about designing the Dhuum encounter.

I’m Raid Designer Byron Miller, here to talk to you about the Hall of Chains raid instance. In the raid, we meet Desmina, and we help her defeat Dhuum, the fallen god of death who was sealed away by players in the original Guild Wars®. With the gods having left Tyria, he’s making a play for power.

desmina

Building a raid boss is an exciting mix of “What does this boss do?” and “How do I make this boss do the thing that it does?” Usually this breaks down into two main phases of development: planning and implementation.

Planning Phase

The planning part of our process involves Microsoft Paint, magnetic pen-and-paper tabletop mats, and whatever figurines I can steal from Crystal’s desk on the way to the meeting room. We usually spend a few weeks in the tabletop and design-document phase while we iron out the narrative, the core gameplay aesthetics, the mechanics that will eventually make up the fights, and the rewards we hope to deliver. We pull in representatives from all disciplines to these meetings so that, from early in the process, we get people thinking about what they can add to make our boss fights a memorable cinematic experience. With bosses like Dhuum who have a large body of established lore and aesthetics, it’s an exercise in bringing the boss into the brave new world of Guild Wars 2. Other bosses, like Desmina, are more of a blank slate where the narrative and visual aesthetic can be generated fresh. Desmina and Dhuum’s (and Grenth’s) relationship was in some ways born of this difference.

A boss can change quickly and dramatically during the planning phase because we haven’t started implementing the encounter. If, for example, Ben Arnold comes in and says, “Hey folks, I just made it so you can walk on the ceiling, and it’s super easy to implement,” there’s a reasonably high chance that we’ll want to explore the possibilities of an encounter that would utilize this new tech. (Note: We cannot do this, but Ben is a wizard, and I’m fairly sure the power of the Mists flows directly through him.)

wizardben

Because we’re not actively building the encounter at this point, it’s easier to pivot and walk down a different path than the one we started on.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead

Dhuum specifically went through a ton of changes during the planning phase of development. Early paper designs had a heavy influence on actively chaining Dhuum—in part by banishing players to the corners of the room and shackling them directly to him.

raid0

As we worked through other aspects of the design, we realized that preventing nearly half of the raid from actively engaging with the boss was going lead to an encounter that disempowered some players and put a lot of undue pressure on the remaining players to make up for the missing jobs and roles. However, we loved the idea of players participating directly in the chaining of Dhuum, and we didn’t want players focused solely on Dhuum for the entirety of the fight, so we took those concepts and worked them into other parts of the encounter. To keep players engaged in the story, we designed mechanics that would put pressure on Grenth’s reapers, which in turn gave us compelling narrative and mechanical reasons to pay attention to their health. During the final phase, we wanted players to assume the roles of the slain reapers, letting them complete the ritual and activate the magical chains that make Dhuum vulnerable and subject to containment.

raid1

raid2

Spoilers Over…For Now

Implementation Phase

Once we’ve determined what a boss is going to do, we have to actually make good on our scheming and build the skills we’ve designed. But just because we’ve got a design on paper doesn’t mean that the encounter will feel right when implemented. Sometimes mechanics that seem to synergize on paper end up feeling terrible when layered on top of each other. We can look at some early skills for Dhuum that needed to be reworked after implementation.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead

Translated from paper to game, Dhuum’s Cull skill was too similar to others we’d designed, and it felt underwhelming compared to skills like Dhuum’s Harvest or Cataclysmic Cycle. In short, it lacked suitable impact. With help from Ben and an assist from the progenitors of linear algebra (thanks, J. Willard Gibbs and Oliver Heaviside!), we were able to build something new and wild.

wizards

The Cull you see in the live game is a series of skills that takes custom variable inputs and calculates a randomly growing and splitting series of malevolent fissures in the ground, out of which seep deadly magic.

With a few number changes, we go from this:

effect1

To this:

effect2

About a third of the way through building the original prototype of this skill, I was struck with an important thought: I should have paid more attention in my high school mathematics classes; the practical application of math in game design is deeper than I could have imagined at the time.

Stay in school.

Spoilers Over…For Now?

  • Madeleine Leroy

    Nobody cares…

  • Talindra

    All that work and so few people to appreciate it. Pretty lame career.

    • visher

      I didin’t play it but i appreciated watching Teapot’s guild fail for over 24 hours 😛

  • HadesClutch

    And then they butcher the story of such an iconic entity. WTH Arenanet?

    • Asda

      Who HAVEN’T they butchered the story for?

    • King Taku

      Did they really butcher it though?

      • HadesClutch

        IMHO yes, since Dhuum is banished and claimed that his return will never come to pass.

  • Horga

    F**k raids. Why must legendary armor be locked behind this content? Anyone can get a legendary weapon on their own. Anyone can get a legendary trinket on their own. Anyone can get a legendary backpack on their own. Why is it only people who submit themselves to hardcore guilds and base their playtime around strict scheduling and enduring all the shittalk or gold fees of “raid training” and begging to be given a slot only to be turned down because of your class be allowed to achieve this?

    • Ayakaru

      F*k entitled pricks.
      I got into raids, bad pc, no game intellect, slow reflex me, got into raids.
      If i can, you can too.
      Or did you think that some half class like a warrior in healing gear would be good enough for everything?
      Choose a role. Gear up to that role.
      Don’t be mad legendary armour is obtainable through raids.
      Be happy the rest isn’t. If it was up to me weapons and trinkets would be raids only as well.
      In All honesty, if you’re not willing to put in the basic effort you’re not worthy of the armour.

      “Weeeh, but groups wont have me”
      THAT’S WHY YOU JOIN A RAIDING GUILD. I WAS TERRIBLE AT RAIDS, TOO. JOIN A GUILD LIKE RTI UNTIL YOU’RE EXPERIENCED AT EVERY BOSS. STOP CRYING. START PUTTING IN SOME QUAGGAN SKRITT EFFORT!!

      rti.enjin.com
      Check it out.

      • visher

        I remember the times GW2 was about casual, play how you want whenever you want and soloable if it suits you experience…

        • Ayakaru

          But the core game still is that.
          A warrior in lousy gear and poor dodging skills can kill the god of war.. so..
          Yea, the base game is still extremely casual.
          I dont know why you want raids, a veteran side content, to be easy as well

          • Asda

            More nerd rage trying to defend this indefensible game mode. It is not “casual”, it is not “play what you want”, it is not play how you want, it is not even play WHEN you want.

            • Ayakaru

              Now i know you’re just trolling.
              No one is this stupid, you just can’t be. You managed to turn on a computer so there’s gotta be more oxygen in your brain than you’re pretending to have.
              Have a nice life, sir. (Or miss,)

      • lore

        I’m not against raids, but GW2 was supposed to be a game you could play how you wanted to play. That’s what they sold it on.

        I think they should make the armor also available through pvp and crafting for those players that don’t raid.

        It can still be equally as challenging (maybe even more so since you have to do it by yourself with no chance of a group carrying you or buying a run in the gf) – that way GW2 can keep the promises it made to players and everyone can be happy.

        It doesn’t have to be an “us or them” type thing, it can be “win-win” with the right design.

        • Ayakaru

          But you still can?
          The core game is so easy a five year old can kill a god of war.
          But that doesn’t mean there can’t be hard content on the side. And some rewards need to be tied to the hard content.
          If you play content X, you have access to all the rewards of table X

        • King Taku

          Different type of content = different type of reward. You can get legendary armor in every mode that isn’t open world pve and you could even argue that any other legendary item that isn’t armor is exclusively open world.

          Why reduce the feeling of accomplishment for people who do want to be a bit more grindy, a bit more “extreme” just because the casuals feel bad about it? That’s dumb. Let them have their special armor skins and go for wvw or pvp armor then if you want to craft it so badly, because then you can do exactly that.

          But oh, that would mean you’d have to actually play the game hm

          • lore

            I have played the raids and crafted a legendary. For me, crafting that legendary was more difficult than the raid. It took much longer and more resources.

            People can be carried through any type of group activity, so i don’t see why you would think it is any more or less difficult than some of the jumping puzzles even- you can’t be carried through those.

      • Jalen Dmello

        The nerdrage is real haha
        Raids are *not by any means “Play the way you want” mode and fun is still subjective…so it doesn’t always go hand to hand with each other

        If i were to force you do something you hate………one day you will snap and bite back

        • Ayakaru

          Of course its not “play the way you want”,
          Its play the role you want.
          In solo PvE you’re in charge of your own buffs, healing, surviving, and dealing damage.
          When you’re part of a team you take one of those roles and maximize its output.

          You’re free to play the healer, the fighter, the burner, the tank, the booner, etc.
          And you don’t even havevto play it perfectly.
          If veterans can clear raids with 3-4 people in green armor, you can in a team of idly geared up characters. As long as everyone put in half an effort into taking a role. A team of 10 warriors in nomad armor won’t kill a boss, no.

        • Admiral Turd

          Except no one forces anyone to do anything, when a person wants the things inside a raid, they’ve made a decision to want it, thus it’s their choice.

          Too many people uses the “they force me” as an excuse when it’s totally viable to just leave it alone if you don’t like the role that’s given to said you.

      • Talindra

        Jesus Christ bro take your meds.

        • Ayakaru

          No, some people need a wake up slap. Anet isn’t gonna hold your hand all the way

      • lore

        Don’t get triggered.

        They are just asking AN to stick to their original promise about being able to “play your way.”

        Nobody wants to take it away from your raids- they just want it available from different sources.

        Not everyone wants to or enjoys raids.

        This game launched with the promise to be able to play your own way and still obtain the top pieces.

        No one cares if the game changes or if they add raids- they just expect AN to keep their word.

        Also- you don’t even have to do all that. You can buy raid runs in the GF anytime you want.

        It is kind of sad that the top armor is locked out to most of the players (the ones that don’t have a desire to raid) but anyone can buy it if they want to spend…..

        Top armor in game available for sale sounds offly close to Pay 2 win, just saying.

    • King Taku

      What?
      Legendary items are still an achievement, they are a commitment and a pretty big thing to complete. Why should people that try to go a step further not be rewarded for it?`You can get legendary armor if you play wvw or pvp mainly as well now, not connected to the achievement/collection or with that particular skin, but if you care about the effects you could get it that way. You can learn raiding even if you only ever play a few hours on the weekend if you wanted to.

      • IchbinVol

        “You can learn raiding” Yeah, after being kicked out of 50 groups, because you asked a question, or didnt like your perfectly good build. Fuck raids, and fuck the cock suckers who run em.

      • jozeiax

        uuuuhh. but i do wish there was another way to acquire the same legendary armour set without raiding actually.
        Some ppl don’t like the pressure and bad moods of raid groups. and open world is a happier place to be…

        • jozeiax

          even if it took much longer or something to get…
          if its acquirable in raids/pvp/and wvw why not open world too?

    • Jalen Dmello

      You can legendary armor via wvw and pvp, its no longer exclusive to raids

      However i do not support having story elements put away from the general public. You don;t have to play the game nor support if you can just watch it from YouTube .

      • Git Gud

        Well raids have to have some story or its just a completely disconnected boss rush.. I think where they are now is nice, with secondary story arches complementary to main story threads that still feel weighty but are not critical for a player to know in order to understand the main GW2 story

      • frasen

        old item selling for new premium “legendary” price(quit fix).
        old ascended armor but the stats is upgraded to legendary. no new skin design or cool animations.
        Raid: you work/farm hard for legendary and everyone can see it.
        WvW/PvP: alot of hard/timegate work and look poor in it (nobody cant see your legendary armor….. :s)

      • Sotos

        definitely a story mode raiding needed asap…

  • HadesClutch

    Selling runs IMHO is a serious problem. Seeing as for newbies, you are of the belief that paying someone will guarantee your success. And while success rates might be high, these successes are not guaranteed.

  • york

    F**k raids. Why must legendary armor be locked behind this content? Anyone can get a legendary weapon on their own. Anyone can get a legendary trinket on their own. Anyone can get a legendary backpack on their own. Why is it only people who submit themselves to hardcore guilds and base their playtime around strict scheduling and enduring all the shittalk or gold fees of “raid training” and begging to be given a slot only to be turned down because of your class be allowed to achieve this?

    • Git Gud, Scrub

      Gold fees for raid training? What? What kind of shitty guild are you part of lol?
      FYI you can get it through wvw and pvp as well. (not the skins though, but the stat swap ability)
      https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Legendary_armor
      Scroll down to pvp and wvw section.

  • Taiwan Wolf

    I don’t have the patience for raids… Shoulda just made them dungeons.

    • The Why

      If only they listened to you (no sarcasm)… I think raids should not have had this high an importance, they should have been available to everyone from the get-go (which Anet boasts to be). I myself was able to kill the first boss with a constantly chaning pug, and it took my whole saturday (from 12:00 pm to 20:00 pm), when raids were first available. This was atrocious of course, so I decided to stay away from them.

      TL;DR: Anet needs to change the format of the raids; right now raids are unfair and atrocious.

      • The Why

        *changing

      • Git Gud, Scrub

        Well here is someone who literally doesn’t understand the meaning of “hardest content in the game”
        With a good group even the hardest content can be done easily.
        Unfair? How? The fact that you cannot do them “casually” means they’re unfair?
        They’re a lot more exciting than the dull garbage that is dungeons and actually need player coordination rather than silently doing the dungeon and then just leaving without a word said.
        Format is fine. Getting into raids is not for everyone, find a pug training guild.
        My guild killed the first boss in 2,3h and the next week we killed it again on Challange mode.

        • Dosko

          thing is, being “hard” content and being 10 man content has nothing to do with each other. they just deliberately tried to incorporate the holy trinity into a game that doesnt need it to cater the to wow-fanbois. raids are relly just 2 5-man grps being in the same instance. and as we can see with some fractals, all the raids would work just as well if not better if the were 5man content by just reducing the boss hp and dmg output. which is far more accessible than what a raids are. dont get me wrong, fracs have there own fair amount of problems, but still better than raids.

        • HadesClutch

          The problem with raids in GW2 is that they’ve become this commodity where the only guaranteed runs are those you end up paying to be dragged through. And most cater to a specific meta where if you aren’t decked out appropriately or even the right class, you might as well not even go in.

          City of Heroes did PUG raids and it worked well, the content was “artificially difficult” in that mobs had a lot of health, did a lot of damage, and required coordination. But they didn’t force a holy trinity, your real only hurdle was the time limit that you were left with to do all the things but you could have an entire team(s) of scrappers and so long as you pulled your own weight, you could do work.

          The people with GW2 just don’t know what they want. And the players that don’t have a big guild or play regularly to develop friendships, are left just watching the portal. I myself am not rich so I don’t have the luxury to deck myself out in multiple sepcs.

  • Rayan G

    IMHO yes, since Dhuum is banished and claimed that his return will never come to pass.

    • HadesClutch

      Yeah, such an enigmatic bad from Guild Wars 1 and this is what we get? Some one-off villain. The raid team responsible for the story really screwed the pooch on this one. We could have seen deeper into the world of the undead and how Dhuum felt about Joko and vice versa.

      What they did instead was got lazy, how truly unfortunate.

  • Donald

    F**k raids. Why must legendary armor be locked behind this content? Anyone can get a legendary weapon on their own. Anyone can get a legendary trinket on their own. Anyone can get a legendary backpack on their own. Why is it only people who submit themselves to hardcore guilds and base their playtime around strict scheduling and enduring all the shittalk or gold fees of “raid training” and begging to be given a slot only to be turned down because of your class be allowed to achieve this?

    • minion_condi_necro

      Why must the mistforged WvW armor be locked at WvW level 2100? Why do I have to subject myself to actually playing the game mode intensively for a year and a half straight and actually try to invest myself in the game mode in order to get the rewards? I don’t disagree that the top end of the raid community are the scourge of the universe, but the fact is that there’s nothing in PvE right now that can rival Raid’s challenge and time commitment required.

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