Monthly Archives: April 2013

A quick note

Hi all,

A quick update about me: I have been traveling the last week for work. I attended a work-related conference for the Society for Research in Child Development this last week in Seattle, Washington. At the conference, I presented some preliminary results from the Autism face processing study that was included as part of the research I described in my crowdfunding campaign last fall. The data I presented was some of the functional MRI brain data from the baseline (before the intervention) time point of the intervention study, since we are still working on completing the follow-up assessments from the intervention this month, with lots of other exciting research things happening this Summer/Fall. However, this means I may be a little slow in posting blog content until the semester ends in a few weeks. Sorry for falling behind in my blog posting! I will try to get a post up actually related to druids “soon”.

Looking for guest bloggers! Are you a druid that enjoys writing about WOW? Well, I’m opening back up my “voices from the community” series to guest bloggers this summer. If you have an idea for a World of Warcraft Druid-related post that you would like to write and have posted on Restokin, feel free to send me an e-mail: lissanna70 at Please tell me about yourself (info such as how long you have been playing, an armory link, links to any previous blogs/youtube/etc if you have them), and what druid-related post ideas you are interested in possibly writing.

Resto Roundtable at the Team Waffle Podcast: The Team Waffle Podcast recently had a resto druid roundtable. The lineup included Jarre, Hamlet, Sodah, Jasyla, and of course Arielle as the host/moderator.

Posted in Research on video games, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Memory strategies for learning WOW boss mechanics

Some of the replies to my last post had a point about how you don’t necessarily have to remember every single boss mechanic. Instead, they suggested things like relying on DBM to remember things for you, only needing to remember the mechanics relevant to your role, ignoring mechanics that can be ignored (especially on LFR), and even just remembering one phase at a time. While these are all really great advice for people, they are all things that you largely have to figure out outside the game when you are reviewing strategies, before you step your foot in the door.

They are all at their core essentially suggestions for committing the boss mechanics to long term memory as quickly as possible. While my first post was really about the amount of information if you don’t study in advance or use addons, I think it is worth talking about what a time-effective way is for using these tools. In my definition of long term memory, I suggested that you could remember a likely seemingly infinite number of boss mechanics when storing that information in your long term memory. So, today I’m going to highlight more about how to maximize boss learning time in a shorter period of time.

Memory Aids: Using addons to your benefit

As I’m sure everyone is aware, there are addons such as Deadly Boss Mods and Bigwigs. These display visual alerts on your screen with timers for boss abilities letting you know when something is likely to occur. They will also sometimes put markers on people’s heads and put up visual alerts on boss effects that are targeting specific players (e.g., as an indication that you need to run out if you are the bomb, etc).

An important point here is that you need to memorize what the appropriate action is when the visual alerts come on the screen – does the alert on your screen require you to stack up on a marker your raid put out, spread out, run away from the boss, run towards the boss,  dispel, tank swap, or something else? The addons don’t eliminate the need to study in advance, but should make the fight easier once you have memorized what the visual cues mean. The best way to utilize these addons is to spend time studying the fight before you enter the raid dungeon (to know what alerts you need to attend to), and even to turn off alerts for the boss that aren’t relevant to you. You should look into ways to reduce the amount of spam on your screen if the addon starts to be too distracting, and make sure that it’s a help rather than a hindrance to your performance.

Another helpful tool is “GTFO” which blares loud alarms at you when you are standing in something that is doing damage to you. The minor problem with this is that some fight strategies will require you to stand in bad stuff on the ground and that can get annoying really fast. This means that you do need to know some in advance about the mechanics so you know how to properly respond to GTFO, and possibly disabling the addon on fights where the alert isn’t helpful. However, in general, the overwhelming likelihood is that if this is going off, you are standing in something that might kill you if you stay in it for too long.

In general, you should set up your interface using other helpful addons in the way that reduces how much spam you have on your screen, to make it easier to focus on things that really matter. You want to reduce the amount of irrelevant information on your screen in general when you are raiding, and instead make sure you can focus on watching the important things happening around you.

Should you study just for your role?

So, while the addons described above are really helpful for refreshing your long term memory, and reducing working memory burdens during the raid, they don’t replace actual time studying the boss mechanics before the raid. With the increasing number of things to learn and remember, one strategy is to find ways of identifying the mechanics most relevant to you and working specifically at remembering them. For example, Coveroth’s post about Dragonsoul vs Firelands emphasized the fact that people can spend time doing isolated roles, and thus only need to study for the things they’re required to do (so, only tanks and healers need to remember tank swap mechanics, for example).

One of the great things that Ponerya does for our guild’s boss strategies is to make role-specific TLDR lists at the bottom of the posts.  While it is really helpful that we know everyone’s role, especially in really complicated fights, it may help to focus attention first on making sure you can do your job correctly. For example, when the raid leader assigns groups to different tasks, it is important to know that you are killing orb #1 and not the rest of the orbs, but you don’t necessarily need to remember who is doing tasks you aren’t assigned to.

Similar to the point above, if you have a limited amount of time for studying bosses, it is helpful for you to figure out which mechanics are likely to kill you or what you can safely ignore. In this way, when you are watching a boss guide video, you can perhaps make a list along the way of things relevant to you and things not relevant to you (also, in this case, note taking is a potential helpful strategy for you to refresh your memory shortly before your “test”, I mean raid), and focus on making sure you know the things relevant to you for the first time you step into the raid/dungeon.

However, it is likely that healers, tanks, and raid leaders in particular will need to know everything. Thus, in some cases, everything is relevant to you. If pretty much all the fight mechanics are important for you, the next suggestion is much more helpful.

“Chunking”: Learn one phase of the encounter or one related set of abilities at a time.

In psychology studies, they found that one way of dealing with memorizing lists of information was grouping relevant things together in a strategy called “chunking”. For casual guilds, especially, it may be that you will spend several hours on one phase, then several hours on the next, etc. For bosses with more than one phase, when you review the boss mechanics at the start of the pull, it is in your best interest to only talk about one phase at a time on vent, rather than to laundry-list all the mechanics for the whole fight. No one is going to remember what

This applies to studying for bosses like Durumu when you are watching video guides or reading guides online. The easiest way to deal with the sea of information is to study small pieces of each fight at a time. If you start to feel overloaded with information, then figure out what smaller set of boss abilities you can focus on. This is true even for fights that are really single-phase fights. You can find ways of breaking things into groups of abilities that are related to each other (so, chunk add mechanics together, chunking ground effect mechanics together, learning the abilities of one of the two dragons in the fight before the other, etc). Master one phase or group of abilities, then move onto the next.

Conclusions: Do your homework!

While conquering new content may be challenging for most casual guilds, the current fights really require people to study fights in advance. If you spend enough time preparing in advance, you can really maximize your time spent practicing and killing bosses. Getting actual practice on the bosses is obviously important, but if your guild is really struggling and doesn’t require either addons or studying boss mechanics prior to the raid, then instituting more serious addon/studying guidelines may be to your advantage. FOR running LFR, one helpful thing is the “Bosses in 5 seconds” explanations, that can be used to copy/paste the most essential LFR strategy info into your instance chat. If all you have is 5 seconds, you should try to find and use those guides.

If the only raiding you do is LFR, it is still helpful to install an addon to help you track boss mechanics, and it is still helpful to read strategies that are designed for normal-modes, so that you have some idea of major mechanics. Going into a raid unprepared is just as bad as showing up at an exam without having studied or attended class at all. You may be able to guess your way through some of it, but you won’t be able to excel without doing your homework!

Posted in Mists of Pandaria, Written By Lissanna

The psychology of boss design part 1: Information overload

The design of PvE raid bosses in World of Warcraft is a complicated process. Each person on the boss design team gets to create their own encounter(s) in a raid dungeon, sometimes with collaboration on some of the trickier bosses. Over the course of the game’s development, the fights have become more and more complicated. The bosses have more abilities, requiring more movement, and more coordination as a group. These bosses are requiring greater memory demands, greater multi-tasking, and faster reactions to things happening in the environment. These actions all happen while we also complete a complicated series of button presses or mouse-clicks related to filling a specific role in the raid (tanking, healing, or damage dealing).

Over this series of posts, I will talk about how the Mists of Pandaria raid encounters are pushing the limits of human memory, reaction speed limitations, and visual perception abilities (for good or bad!). In this blog series, I’m going to talk about several problems that plague boss encounters, where the fight mechanics are breaking several core psychology principles (related to memory, reaction speed, and visual perception abilities). I will also explain how these principles matter for being able to learn boss encounters in WOW, especially  as it impacts LFR versions of these encounters (where we can expect players to have spent less time researching the encounters in advance).

Can you remember all the mechanics?

First, we are going to talk about Memory abilities and how it impacts our ability to learn how to kill bosses in WOW.

  • Short-term Memory: Your ability to remember items over a short period of time (Wikipedia definition). Science cites 5 to 9 items (7 + 2) as the range for the maximum numbers of unrelated words or digits you can hold in mind. In the cases of WOW, you could think of this as the maximum number of unrelated boss mechanics that a player in the raid could remember if your raid leader listed off boss mechanics and you didn’t spend time to memorize them before the fight. Once we pass around 7 boss mechanics, you probably couldn’t actually recite all the mechanics back to your raid leader (and most people wouldn’t even get all 7 right). In addition, you naturally tend to remember the first and last numbers from the list better than ones in the middle. Basically, your ability to remember new information is limited.
  • Working Memory: Your ability to both briefly store information and use that information to achieve a goal (Wikipedia definition). In this case, not only remembering those boss mechanics, but responding to them appropriately during the fight (actually flying to nests, 1, 2, and 5 while also healing your party members, rather than just remembering that you need to fly to nests 1, 2, and 5). The ability to both remember the mechanics and use that information to perform the fight correctly is using a system with very constrained and limited resources.
  • Long-term Memory: Your long-term memory ability is much less limited than short-term or working memory abilities. You can remember thousands of vocabulary words, math, physics, what to do at your job, etc. If the boss strategy requires too many elements, your goal prior to arriving in the boss room is to study and memorize all the boss mechanics and strategies. Also, with practice (many, many wipes on the boss), you can learn to remember an almost unlimited number of boss mechanics, ability lists, or whatever.

The problem of increasingly more complex fights in WOW:

  • It has become apparent quickly to me in Mists of Pandaria that the boss encounters in raids are quickly passing the “sweet spot” in our short-term and working memory capacity. Thus, most boss fights, especially for normal and heroic modes, involves simply memorizing a choreographed “dance” for each fight (committing the boss strategy details to long-term memory in advance by reading boss strategy guides and videos), and then practicing that “dance” with other people in the encounter until you have fully learned the fight “dance”.
  • Many people doing fights in LFR don’t spend the time outside of the game learning the “dance,” and the fight mechanics can’t be done with only using short-term memory and working memory abilities when you first encounter the fights. This is why Blizzard has to either totally trivialize the encounters (so you don’t have to remember any of the strategy involved at all), or players generally have a miserable LFR experience. This also applies to more “casual” guilds that may not have the time to commit to serious advanced studying of fights ahead of time. My own guild makes people read and sign threads before arriving, and several of the TOT raid encounters have exceeded our own memory capacities based on the need to really spend an hour or more memorizing the boss details to understand the fight in advance.

Average number of boss mechanics by raid dungeon

I pulled up the Wowpedia boss mechanic page for each boss of each raid dungeon described below. I counted the number of boss abilities and computed an average “memory score” per dungeon. I have also included the minimum and maximum memory score. In the case of Patchwerk from the original Naxxramas being the lowest memory score, he ranked as a 3: Hateful Strike threat/health requirements, range requirements to prevent kiting, and the frenzy/enrage mechanic that caused most of the wipes.

Table of average, minimum, and maximum memory scores by raid dungeon (in previous tiers, some were combined, such as BOT and BWD into one mean for the two major dungeons in that tier. I left individual scores for MV/HOF/TOES):

Molten Core5.547
Original Naxx6.333333333310
SSC and TK7.9317
Mount Hyjal4.846
Black Temple8.666666667314
BWD and BOT11.4717
Throne of Thunder12.91666667919

and as a graph for easy viewing:

Conclusions and recommendations:

There is a fairly consistent trend for increases in memory demands over time since Molten Core. In addition, the type of overly complicated fight, which used to be the “end” boss of each tier, is now being placed early in the raid dungeon, causing roadblocks for new guilds trying to get some early progress through normal modes.

Throne of Thunder is really an outlier in terms of the memory demands placed upon average raiders. What is actually more concerning, however, is the huge jump in memory requirements between the previous raid tier (MV, HOF, and TOES) having fairly straightforward mechanics, and Throne of Thunder’s huge list of conditional requirements that need to be remembered. Even the first TOT boss, Jin’rokh, which is the least memory intensive has huge conditional requirements on every mechanic: run out when you get the ball, but not over another spark or you will wipe the raid, and not through the water or you will wipe the raid, and also not where the water will later spawn or you may cause deaths later in the fight. Even for average raiders, this starts to be information overload when the raid leader tries to explain the fight.

Suggestions for LFR design and the Dungeon Journal: For the LFR version of Jin’rokh, you still have 14 bullet points in the dungeon journal (though under my memory scoring strategy, this fight had a memory score of 9 – since earlier raid tiers didn’t have a dungeon journal). The LFR journal just makes it possible to ignore some of those mechanics and still live (though there is absolutely no clear indication of which points will still kill your raid members or not). If someone read you all the names of all the points and asked you to repeat just the names of them back to you, you couldn’t actually do it after only hearing the list once.

For LFR versions of fights, rather than keeping approximately the same number of mechanics to remember and just making mistakes less deadly, it may be necessary to remove a greater number of mechanics from the LFR versions of fights. In general, I’d recommend to keep the number of points on the dungeon journal for LFR fights below 10. Then, the people without raiding addons or watching fights in advance would have an easier time learning the scaled down version of the fights. The raid designers do this some, but as the number of boss mechanics increases, the memory demands for LFR versions of fights needs to stay in a range that people can handle. However, if you look at the dungeon journal, it is pretty much uninterpretable for people running LFR OR normal-mode encouters, and this is not really either a helpful or informative tool. In the case of Durumu, I gave him a memory score around 17, but realistically, his raid finder page has 28 different key terms with descriptions.

Posted in Mists of Pandaria, Research on video games, Written By Lissanna

Raiding Interface: Vanilla versus MOP

So, I have been super busy lately with work and keeping up with our new 3 day a week raid schedule.

So, for today, I thought I’d put up a retro post showing what my raiding UI looked like in Molten core back in 2005 (I blacked out the text box because apparently I was taking a picture of us saying inappropriate things, lol). As you can see, my raid frames and party frames took up most of my screen. Also, back then, I had so few spells that I still have my basic attack spell (e.g., hitting things with my staff as a resto druid) as a button on my action bars.


Now, in my current raiding, my monitor size is much larger (along with having a second monitor I added). There is a lot more open space on my screen, as well, so that my focus is on watching stuff on the floor around me, rather than watching health bars. I also have a considerably number of addons now that I didn’t have before.

Posted in Uncategorized, Written By Lissanna