First up I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write up really excellent feedback here. Our team fully supports the sentiment that accessibility is not just a concern for those with disabilities, and that efforts to improve accessibility make the game better for everyone. Posts like this do a great job of helping us gain insight into ways we can level up as developers.
While I can’t provide a definitive answer to all of your points, I’d like to share some insight into how we think about and approach these problems, as well as some things we’ve either already done or are considering that may help.
This is a cool term and I like it, but I want to expand a bit and talk about even more factors that we think about when determining if a mechanic is appropriate to ask players to do at a given difficulty, such as:
- How complex is the mechanic?
- How much affordance does the mechanic have? (basically a function of how clear it is + how much time you’re given to react)
- How severe is the punishment for failure, and is it binary or granular?
To use a few Shadowlands mechanics as examples:
Smoldering Ire (Denathrius)
- Low complexity
- High affordance
- Outright ignoring it is an instant wipe, but failure is granular (if you only miss 20% the damage is likely survivable)
Spiked Floor (Painsmith)
- Low complexity
- Medium affordance
- Failure is binary (die if you get hit), but it only affects one person so a few mistakes can be OK
Loom of Fates (Fatescribe)
- High complexity
- High affordance
- Failure is binary and instantly wipes the raid.
Note that this is simplifying a bit and doesn’t account for “what else is competing for your attention while this mechanic is happening?”, but it’s still a useful model to help evaluate the impact a mechanic has on a fight.
When it comes to Loom of Fates, I wonder if you’d feel less like addons are a requirement if one or both of the following were true:
- Fewer things competing for your attention during the mechanic (avoidable elements, adds, etc)
- More granular penalty for failure (ex: a single mistake resulted in a “survivable with all your raid CDs” level of damage, as opposed to a wipe)
Ultimately what I’m getting at here is that “high complexity” is a design space that allows us to do some pretty cool and thematic stuff, and I’d like to find ways for us to continue doing things in this space while keeping them accessible. To be clear: We make “high complexity” mechanics not because we feel pressure to keep up with addons, but because doing so allows us to create more unique bosses.
Hiding of Visual Information
Spark Bots on Mekkatorque were a lesson for us on the experiences of players who don’t have the option of using voice chat. Since then any time we make a mechanic with “hidden information” or other puzzle elements that require players to communicate on the fly, one of our requirements is to confirm through playtesting that it can be reasonably completed without using addons or voice chat. In Shadowlands this requirement has been applied for fights like Mistcaller, Hylbrande, Fatescribe, and Lords of Dread.
That said we understand that even if a fight “can be done” without advanced addons or voice chat, it’s still possible for players without those tools to experience a frustratingly large disadvantage relative to a fight’s intended difficulty. We still have room to improve here, and hope to continue learning from and applying feedback like this as we make new bosses in the future.
Even if we can’t achieve complete parity, I think it’s totally fair to ask for designs to be considerate of players who can’t use voice and to provide reasonable in-game tools to bridge the gap. This of course brings us to…
User Interface Improvements
In-game communication tools are a big opportunity for improvement, and there’s been a lot of discussion on the team around the topic of how our interface can be used to enhance communication. The interface updates coming in 10.0 are largely focused on improving how the game provides information to players, but we agree that in the future something like a “ping system” would be great for enhancing communication and would be very much worth exploring.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts here, and for helping us make our game more accessible for everyone.