World of Warcraft, 18.07.2016

All Eyes On: Deadly Boss Mods

135,808,326 and counting. That’s how often Deadly Boss Mods was downloaded from curse.com since April 2008. We have talked to Adam “Mysticalos” Williams, the creator of the most popular mod for World of Warcraft.

From Physical Security to Full Time DBM Developer: A Quick History Lesson

Total Downloads: DBM is by far the most popular mod on curse.com

Total Downloads: DBM is by far the most popular mod on curse.com

WoW is known for it’s broad range of various addons. Mods to track certain encounter abilities are as old as the game itself. Mysticalos started contributing to DBM in the early days of Wrath of the Lich King and soon got handed over the entire project as the founders quit the game over night. Although the new commander in chief had some really fresh and unique ideas like the Rotface tank arrow, Deadly Boss Mods lost a lot of users because of poor performance and support. Mysticalos did physical security full time, only developing DBM in his spare time with limited programming skills back then.

Partnering with Elitist Jerks

Deadly Boss Mods has come a long way since then: During Cataclysm Mysticalos managed to improve his coding skills and the addon itself. At the end of WoW’s third expansion he was offered a partnership with Elitist Jerks: “It was unexpected but when given the chance to work on DBM full time and to work with an iconic site too, I took it right away. Mists was the first beta I had a full time schedule free to work on DBM in the beta instead of just winging it once it hits live. Mists was also one of the first expansions to start seeing me make changes to the mod in terms of real features and ideas. […] You can see the night and day difference that full time has enabled me to do with the mod.”

Moving On to Patreon And Into Legion

As the game and community changes, Elitist Jerks had to close it’s doors a few months ago. To continue working full time on DBM, Mysticalos decided to start a Patreon in May 2016. With a lot word of mouth promotion, he managed to reach his second goal within two weeks.


Hey Adam, 408 people are supporting you on Patreon, you reached second goal within only two weeks. Business people are always telling, a goal should be something, that can actually be reached, something realistic. But let’s be honest: this worked out better than expected, didn’t it?

I expected it to work out this well, just not this fast. I expected to reach first goal for first month and have to make up the difference by selling my blizzcon tickets to pay the bills on time. Then I expected to maybe meet 2nd Goal by end of 2nd month so I can start breaking even. The 3rd goal, I expected no earlier than legion launch (if at all). Reaching 2nd goal first month was due to such amazing support from the big fan sites out and the twitter communities getting word out so fast that DBM was able to blow through first 2 goals in 2 weeks. I don’t expect it to reach 3rd one any time soon though now that the initial press is exhausted and those who were going to throw in their support pretty much already have. This is fine though. The 2nd goal was the really important one to reach asap. This lets me basically break even every month working solely on DBM so I can commit to the full time that is promised of that 2nd goal.

That 3rd goal is just the buffer to actually be able to put money away and not have account sitting at 0 after paying bills. Extra money I can put away for taxes, or cover emergency cost such as PC or car breaking down, or invest back into DBM when I need to contract additional coding help for a specific task. This is something that will likely happen more gradually over time.

Now if I don’t make at least half way between 2nd and 3rd goal by christmas, then I’m probably in trouble come tax time, but I’m hopefully I will.

On the one hand you are supported by 408 people with money, millions more are at least very thankful you are creating this mod. On the other hand you got accused of just collecting money to simply play videogames all day long. The community has always had supporters and haters. How does it feel to be personally offended by haters this time?

It didn’t bother me at all, I know there are haters. However I wanted to address that specific issue with a post on patreon because if one person thought that, others do too and I wanted to make sure people who are pledging actual money to me know that they aren’t giving me their money for something that doesn’t take a lot of actual work too. Playing the game is but one component of the whole process and I wanted to ensure supporters I take their pledges very seriously. In my mind I see myself having to answer to 408 investors now.

That Success on Patreon is deserved, as DBM improved A LOT during Warlords. During WotLK it lost a lot of users to other mods…

Back in the day DBM lagged behind or was not that good. The reason to use another mod was because the other mod was clearly ahead most if not all of the time. Today, the only reason a user should choose between DBM and something else should be because user preference. Do they prefer the all in one of DBM or do they prefer the minimalistic of something else. That is a valid user choice. I still see people from time to time trying to make that comparison though but they compare what they are using now to what they tried years ago and I sort of facepalm and shrug it off. I know what I’ve done for DBM and I’m very proud of it and those that still use it, or have switched back to it after seeing what it could do on fights like archimonde, like it too. 🙂

Archimonde Mythic: Wrought Chaos and Shackles would be so much harder / impossible to play without mods.

Archimonde Mythic: Wrought Chaos and Shackles would be so much harder / impossible to play without mods.

Creating Boss Mods For New Encounters

 

What are the major steps of creating a new boss mod? How do you approach that and how do come up with ideas like the visualization for Archimonde for example? Is there a creative process you can channel?

I have a bit of a process for this:

  1. Once data for a new fight is added to game during the beta/ptr cycle, first step is to extract dbc files and get encounter IDs and dungeon journal data. Then I create skeliton mods for the new boss that cover the basic load/pull/wipe/kill detection but have no warnings yet.
  2. When blizzard announces testing for a boss I know it’s polished enough to start working with the dungeon journal and create a preliminary drycode. I’ll invest a lot of time researching all spells used on fight on wowhead and descriptions in journal to assess what features the mod will need. I’ll try to create as complete of a mod as possible having no actual logs of fight yet. I’ll then add one of DBMs amazing testing features, AI timers to the mod. These are auto learning timers that will show basic cooldowns during a boss even without having any data on it. This whole process can generally be a few hours (often taking short breaks), because I want to be extremely thorough.
  3. When the actual testing comes around I’ll find best group I can to test boss with and collect all data I need to finish the mod as well as test all the drycoded features and look for errors. I’ll also take notes of what features were too much or too little and assess what mod needs to be better. Testing is often 2 hours give or take a little.
  4. Post testing I go through all the data, change the AI timers to actual timers. Remove warnings that didn’t work out and add new ones that are needed. Adjust any features that need adjusting and add more features as needed. This is often a lot of work too. Depending on boss complexity it can be 1-2 hours or 4 hours if I need to write a completely new feature with out of box thinking like what Star Auger needed. For fights like archimonde or star caller auger I have a pretty good vision in my head how it needs to work but things like complex on screen visuals often require a ton of pulling testing and adjusting to make it just right.
  5. Feedback. I’ll ask people I tested with what they need. What’ll make the fight easier for them as well. I generally have a pretty good idea from my own experience but it does help to ask others from different roles for a extra details. I do all the fights from a melee or tank role generally so I sometimes miss things a ranged or healer might see.

mysticalosAbout Adam mysticalos Williams

  • Main manager of Deadly Boss Mods since Wrath of the Lichking
  • Ran Elitist Jerks for a couple of years as site-manager
  • He also develops the WoW Instant Messenger addon and various other mods

Find him on Twitter or at deadlybossmods.com.

How do you create Boss Mods for the endbosses on Mythic Difficulty? Those are not tested in beta and you do not have access to any data. Are you raiding with one of the top guilds when it comes to progress?

These mods are just not done until live, for anyone. So early in the tier it’s important to get the mods completed as soon as possible. I get as much as I can from public logs or even kill videos. Mythic archimonde I actually created all the phase 3 timers from the very first video to go public. Doing this the timer were very accurate too. I never once actually had to fix them even after having logs for fight. I get logs from some other guilds often too who use my mods and if they get to fight before I do they share logs so I can make adjustments or fixes to mod as needed. Shortly after the public videos of archimonde went out I got logs from a Russian and a Chinese guild that helped me put finishing touches on the basics of mod. Then the Russian guild Openess reached out to me and started helping test the hud that I was working on. Testing the Shackles helper and Wrought helper and Mark of Legion helpers. I’d add or change something they test it give feedback then I’d adjust it based on feedback.


The vast majority of us is very excited about the upcoming expansion Legion, we really look forward to new content. For you, this just sounds like a big pile of work. Is there a little pleasure left in new content for you?

I enjoy some of the content. I just have to rush through it like a race sometimes to ensure I can get better mods out faster. I also have to spend obscene amounts of time on beta too when in actuality I’m one of those types that’d prefer the content to be fresh when it’s launched. So I sort of have to spoil the game by playing the heck out of it during beta so when it finally launches it’s new to everyone else but to me it’s a rerun. Of course I still enjoy playing with friends and guildies when it reaches live though.

I enjoy raiding and solving puzzles on how things work. The only down side really is sometimes other great games come out and I often have to skip them entirely or don’t get back to them for months sometimes because of the amount of time WoW demands. DBM doesn’t just demand playing WoW it demands keeping up a high end raiding character and raiding several nights a week. Often demands running LFR when you can fit it in and pugging normal/heroic on alts or getting into alt runs. There are times I raided 7 days a week to cover the vast array of difficulties the game has now. As a mod that has to support everyone, I have to do everything, multiple times. That’s where it sort of wears you out. A normal raider may only be raiding normal, a mythic raider heroic then mythic. The DBM author is running everything, everywhere, over and over.

So if I give the impression I hate wow or it’s a horrible game that’s not intent. It’s a great game and I enjoy many aspects of it still. Some days it just feels like TOO much WoW though and I miss out on some of the other games. I still haven’t even started Fallout 4, Uncharted 4, Until dawn, and several other games I bought yet. I did play the heck out of Witcher 3 though. I found time for that and fortunately the final expansion is out before legion launches!

You spend a lot of time on beta, doing every raidtest possibly. Isn’t it frustrating when a new build breaks the game or the servers are simply down when you want to get work done?

Well, it can be frustrating when you set goals for the week and don’t completely meet them because of things outside your control. This goes back to what I said above about answering to investors. I want to work hard and show results. A week with some let downs you feel like you didn’t meet expectations and this is not the example I want to set. I try to improve the DBM-Core during such forced downtimes, often improving older mods. A lot of players do timewalking dungeons or mount / pet / transmog runs and they will benefit from those enhancements. So when one door closes another opens I guess? 🙂

Mods for Legion’s new Raid Bosses Looking Good Already


Is there any sort of conversation with Blizzard and the Devs? Can you call a number for questions or do they text you when they change a timer on beta?

There is 0 communication with devs. We have to get all the data ourselves and figure out how everything works ourselves. They often omit key debuffs or spells from combat log making it difficult to properly track them with addons or even log sites. We often have to use localized text or unconventional means to work around combat log shortcomings that are slightly less accurate but still work. Other times there are things blizzard just clearly doesn’t want mods to do so they break it on purpose. This is ok though it’s their game and if they don’t want a mod to do x I support that. They broke target scanning on first boss of Hall of Valor recently so it was no longer possible to warn the player early enough to dodge the blade he throws at random players. This is something mod could do in earlier alpha but I guess they didn’t want players able to avoid ALL damage on that fight and should be hit by those blades at least a little. 🙂

There are things Blizzard just clearly doesn’t want mods to do so they break it on purpose.

If I did have communication with devs I’d try reiterate just how important it is to have clear phase triggers, adds spawning triggers, TARGETING debuffs, etc so addon authors aren’t forced to use inferior localized text that requires translation in so many languages to even function properly or unit aura or target scanning which increases the overhead of mod. When the combat log presents all the information needed for fight and I don’t have to scan chat channels, or targets of targets or unit aura etc, the mods are the cleanest and most efficient. Sadly that’s rarely the case anymore.

How can people support you besides giving money?

Biggest is to just give feedback or report bugs. There are times when something has been broken for a while and 0 people reported it. They’d even go as far as to claim they switched to another mod because I wouldn’t fix it. I’d simply be like “huh?”. When people report things I fix them right away. When people make suggestions of what they need to better the mod I look into what I can do to accommodate. No shoe fits all so it’s important to know what people want to give them what they want. If they don’t want to register for forums some just @ me on twitter or PM me on curse. However you get in contact with me though, at least try to contact me if you need something.

Another way to help is to just spread the word. Tell others about DBM, the patreon, let them know the more support DBM gets the better it gets because the more it allows me to do. Just don’t violate any rules or annoy people. One thing I try to tell people not to do as well is to advertise in game or on blizzard forums. Blizzard is pretty anti advertising in places they feel disrupt their players experience. This is something I agree with. So no spamming trade chat or posting threads on blizzard forums. Basically don’t harass strangers trying to just play the game. Campaign to your friends, your social media followers, your guildies, your fansite, etc. Basically places where people are choosing to read what you are saying. Don’t be an annoying door to door salesman basically 🙂

Thank you!

 

Tired of Reading?

Mysticalos appeared on two excellent Podcasts earlier this year: he talked to LaggingBalls and Mash Those Buttons:


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