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WoW Spotlight - Gara'jal Announce

After our visit last week to the Terrace of Endless Spring, this week we are going to Mogu'shan Vaults! We'll be taking a look at Gara'jal Announce, by Oscarucb.

The Fight 

Gara'jal the Spiritbinder it's certainly not a simple boss to coordinate against. The boss summons spirit totems, which allow a certain number of players to travel to the spirit realm. Success on this fight revolves around quickly and correctly assigning players to these totems, and maximizing the use of the Spiritual Innervation buff. Debuffs like Voodoo Doll and Frail Soul also need to be taken into consideration.

All these factors together make the decision process a complex problem, that can put the organizer into a lot of pressure, or result in unorganized outcomes.

The Addon

Gara'jal Announce solves this issue by taking away the responsibility of making such decisions from the players.

The addon will analyze the state of the fight in regular intervals and announce who should travel where. Not only this allows your raid members to better focus on the fight, instead of strategizing, but it also guarantees an optimal solution. After all, machines are much less prone to errors than humans - especially when making choices in the matter of seconds.

Consider it your 11th or 26th raid member!... Who does 0 dps. Still an extra one, though.

Priority System

But how does Gara'jal Announce choose which players to assign to each totem? That's up for you to decide!

The addon allows you fully customize the decision process. You may change the amount of healers and dps to be sent to each totem, and the priority order of such players. You may even enable optional strategies, such as prioritizing healers by mana or allowing hybrid class dps to perform the role of "backup healers" in case of necessity. 

Independently of your choices, Gara'jal Announce will always try to rotate your dps in totem assignment, so that they might make a better use of their cooldowns.

Interview

We also had the opportunity to have a chat with the add-on's author, oscarub: 

In your opinion, which is the most challenging boss in Mogu'shan Vaults?

 As a ranged dps, each has its own challenges and wrinkles, especially on heroic. However as a raid leader, I think Gara'jal is definitely the most strategically challenging, as it requires split-second coordination of assignments that vary between pulls and are difficult to script ahead of time. The constraints on 10-heroic difficulty are especially tight; there are moments when literally every raid member has one debuff or another and they all affect the optimal strategic solution.

How did you have the idea that the assignment of players to totems could be automated?

 It's not a unique idea - the rules governing the best strategic assignment are relatively straightforward. The difficulty lies in expecting a human raid leader to compute an optimal solution within seconds, while also performing his raid duties. In our initial fights with the boss I found my personal performance suffering because so much of my attention was consumed by making and adjusting assignments. Given my programming experience, it was a natural step to encode this decision-making process into a tunable addon and let the system compute the best assignments based on current raid status and pre-pull settings.

Approximately, how long did it take to finish the first working version? Did you have to test and tune it during several raids on the boss?

The first working version evolved over several weeks, and subsequent tweaking and improvements continue even now. Undoubtedly the biggest challenge is the long dev/debug/test cycle - a boss mod like this cannot be tested solo, and since my guild has the boss on farm I basically only get to test the addon one night per week. Some features were amenable to testing in LFR, but the boss mechanics are trivialized in that difficulty so that was only of limited use.

Which was the hardest part of the selection algorithm to implement?

 The trickiest part of the design was providing tuning settings to accommodate all the different strategy approaches that users want. As far as implementation, the most difficult part was dealing with the phasing in the fight - combat log events and even some unit status queries don't cross the phase boundary, but information from both phases is required to make optimal decisions.

How hard is it to maintain 30 different World of Warcraft project simultaneously?

 I love it! I'm obviously a big addon junkie and love to customize my UI behavior in different ways. It's rewarding to share my efforts with the WoW community and hear positive feedback. Some of my addons are inherited from programmers who left the game, where I took over as a service to the community - I just hate to see great addons die due to lack of maintenance.

Being responsible for so many addons mostly just sucks on patch day :-)

Indeed, patch days can be tough for mod developers. We come to the end of the interview. Any shout-outs?

 My guild members (<Fables> on US-Antonidas) have been extraordinarily patient during the testing and debugging process. Thanks guys!

Thank you for answering our questions and developing this add-on!

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