How ‘Smart’ is Warcraft? My need to know.

We got our first computer when I was in grade 9.  The whole family was facinated with the power of our new Texas Instruments TI-99/4A.  What couldn’t be done when we had the astounding power of 16K RAM and 26K ROM at our fingertips?  Believe it or not, you could even use a colour television as a display – yes, I said colour!  It was wonderful.  In fact, my parents shelled out the big bucks (which never really appreciated as much as I should have until just recently) for the peripheral addon that included equally amazing 5-1/4 inch floppy drive.

My older brother and I had visions of playing Parsec all through the night. Our dad, having come from a trades oriented background however, was less intrigued by what he could do with it than how it actually worked.  He would ask things like “When I push the ‘F’ key, how does it know to type an ‘F’?”  “What physically is happening in there?”  I never woke up one morning to find TI bits spread out on the kitchen table but luckily he held back.  To this day, his problem solving has continued to be based on how things work.  This must be where I get my need to know from.

Blizzard isn’t as forthcoming with a lot of the inner workings of World of Warcraft’s various NPC Artificial Intelligence models (among other things, but that’s a different post altogether) as would suit me. None of the encounters invoke my need to know why as much as parts of the Prince Malchazaar encounter.  As with most boss fights, he has a few stages with which he uses various abilities to strike down unprepared groups.  One of these abilities, Summon Infernal, has me utterly baffled as to how it works the way it so often does.

Wowwiki’s writeup of the summon infernal ability:

Summon Infernal (All phases) – Malchezaar summons an Infernal which, about three seconds after landing, starts continuously casting a Hellfire AoE roughly the size of the one Baron Geddon uses. Each Infernal lives for about 180 secs, and there is no limit for how many of them can be up at the same time. There are typically four Infernals up at a time until the end of Phase Two (see below), after which they will start increasing rapidly. These Infernals are stationary, and must be avoided by the raid. They cannot be targeted or attacked. The cooldown on this ability is 45 seconds during Phases One and Two, and 15 seconds during Phase Three.  

From the writeup alone, it’s easy to pinpoint reasons why a group might wipe.  Low dps groups would take too long to kill him causing too many infernals to drop.  Groups that didn’t react quickly to infernals dropping near them would take too much damage or not be prepared to heal the tank while on the move.  Fairly straight forward actually.  My question for Blizzard, however, would be “How does the AI decide where to drop an infernal?” and while we’re on the subject of Prince Malchezaar, “What is the deal with so called ‘random’ loot tables?”

Seventy-five percent of the time we attempt the Prince, his first infernal drops right on top of the group.  Usually not a problem, we readjust the  group’s position.  Next, 45 seconds later, the next infernal drops right on top of the group.  Once again, we readjust the group’s position.  Rinse, repeat a few more times.  Sooner or later, an enfeeble will hit just as we have to run through one of the infernal’s aoe and we’ll lose a few members.  This happens a few times and there is no way to sustain enough dps to deal with him before the infernal drops become too rapid.

Let me outline this a little bit differently.  Sometimes the infernals drop away from the group, but more often than not they drop right on top of the group.  As outlined above, I have a burning need to know why he drops where he does.  Is it just an assumption that the drop location is random?  Is there some sort of weighting of a random roll that pushes an infernal closer to the group than further away?  It’s not surprising that I can’t find any information on the mechanic involved, but with a seven day reset timer, doing some research is too cumbersome.

My guild has little dificulty with the encounters in Karazhan.  Practice makes per..f…ect… well maybe not perfect, but practice makes, shall we say, better than without practice.  I don’t want the encounters to get easier, I just want to understand them better.  Random chance spices up encounters and keeps things interesting rather than becoming the chore that Molten Core and Blackwing Lair became.

We are currently on the side of the bell curve for Prince related loot drops that does not include the Nathrezim Mindblade or the Stainless Cloak of the Pure Hearted.  If loot tables are truly random, our entire guild should be outfitted in the coming months with a healer cloak and a caster dagger.

I’m sure Zul’Aman will bring a whole new pile of ‘why’s’ to my world. 

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~ by Robert Stewart on October 16, 2007.

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