Disclaimer: While I have basic coding knowledge, I have never coded a game or any of it's mechanics. I am however suggesting mechanics that either already exist in nin online (spider boss, snake boss) along with some others that have been implemented in similar games. It is up to the game developers whether these mechanics are efficient/plausible to implement.
While Land of iron (LOI) on release was very populated, the zone has been gradually declining to the point where, despite the high mission rewards and best in slot gear available from drops, it is rarely active. As someone who has done all the content this zone has to offer multiple times as well as killed both end game bosses (Nobu ~800 kills, Mitsuhide ~200 kills), I wanted to share my experience of the problem the zone has as well as some suggestions for improvement.
The Problem with LOI:
Some of the content is very good; some missions like fill the bucket and haiku 575 offer a good change to normal missions and reward with good XP. While the kill missions IMO are bit overkill (due to very tanky mobs with a high kill requirement to complete), it is fine if you are grinding them for the build up to farm the end game bosses that have the best drops in the game.
The main problem lies here, with the END GAME bosses (General Nobu + Admiral Mitsuhide). There are several reasons for this, listed here:
Boss design: These bosses offer little mechanics that provide a challenge to the player. They are basically just walking cannons that have so much HP (With full DPS builds, 2 full INT players would efficiently kill Nobu in ~25 minutes, Mitsuhide in ~50 minutes). They can be kited, however they both have unavoidable damage moves due to the room being so small
Cheese strats: Because there is no limit to entering and leaving the boss rooms, and the fights offer no reward for playing correctly, no one kills this boss as intended. I highlight this because there is no incentive to do so, and instead of a challenging, end-game boss, you're left with people going outside the room, waiting for CD's, going in, bursting and walking out to repeat about 60-70 times before they finally get a kill. This is because even while playing perfectly, you can easily be RNG'd with unavoidable damage, leading to death and a reset of a VERY tanky boss, with all your progress lost.
No challenge: The bosses in all honestly, are not challenging. Yes, they are extremely difficult to kill properly, but that is because you cannot avoid damage, so it's not even a challenge, it's up to RNG. The small rooms add to this problem and the points mentioned above seal the coffin. Nobu is cheesed whenever it's killed nowadays and Mitsuhide has never been killed since the changes Erox implemented with Sushi.
I could go on and list more reasons, but these 3 are the most important ones and cover the main reasons why this content is not explored by the majority of the playerbase.
My suggestions are designed with the disclaimer in mind, and to make these bosses feel like challenging, end-game content with the highest difficulty, since they offer the best rewards in the game. Endgame PVE content at the highest level should be as challenging if not more than endgame PVP.
Instance the boss room: The boss should only be able to be entered with a party of up to 4 (this is based on the mechanic that the snake boss and spider boss both have). The reasoning behind this is to keep integrity of the boss's difficulty, so that you cannot just zerg it down with many people; it is an actual difficult encounter that must be prepared for accordingly. This also addresses the cheese strats that are used by going outside of the room and re-entering for easy boss kills.
Reduce boss HP and auto-attack damage dramatically: Bosses indeed should be stronger as the difficulty gets harder, but just increasing HP and damage is not an elegant solution. Right now encounters take so long even with a full DPS team, that it is one of the reasons they are hardly killed. Boss fights should get harder due to the difficult mechanics the boss offers, which leads me to the final and most important suggestion.
Add difficult, challenging mechanics to the boss so that it is fun and rewarding to kill: This point is up to the staff to implement how they see fit, but I have some suggestions below in more detail.
Boss Mechanic Suggestions:
For these, I'm going to be using General Nobu as an example, but the same can be applied to Admiral Mitsuhide. These are just to show what kind of ideas I mean. To move between phases, if difficult to implement, can be replaced with a whole new coded boss that has the mechanics of that particular phase (with a cutscene or similar in between phase swaps).
Boss has "Phases" at different HP thresholds (These can be changed, but my recommendation is 80%, 60%, 40% and 20%).
1. 100% - 80%: No change, it's just fighting the boss normally with his current skills and movement
2. 80% - 60%: The boss spawns 4 Golden Samurai/Penguins/Snow leopards periodically in all corners of the room until the end of the phase (marked by the blue crosses).
3. 60% - 40%: The boss periodically drops fire on the ground, where you will take consistent damage if you stay on those tiles (this mechanic is not yet implemented in game as is, but I got the idea from the auto-kill rooms e.g. when you fail the slot bot challenge). An example is spikes appearing in the tiles marked in pink:
These tiles frequently change during the course of this phase
4. 40% - 20%: The boss occasionally does a charged up attack in an idle animation. The player party must do XXX amount of damage during this animation, or everyone will be killed (damage value can be modified, but I think 1000 damage in this time is reasonable). When doing this attack, he can have some sort of aura around him to signal the players, this is his DPS check.
If a DPS check is not possible with current game engine, simply mixing the mechanics mentioned in points 2. and 3. would suffice.
5. 20% - 0%: The boss goes in rage mode, flickering more often, doing much higher damage and shooting jutsu out more frequently until the end of the kill (can even toggle the run option since most recent patch notes).
IMO the boss encounter should be finished by entering a sort of chest room. In this chest room, there are always guarenteed rewards inside chests (can be implemented like mailboxes) that can be looted, to reward a player party for finishing such a difficult encounter, and encouraging them to repeat it often. The drop table should be random and large, with items being rolled randomly at the end, such as:
- 10 Blanks
- Flat Ryo (100-1000)
- Unique drops (Blood iron fan, Claymore)
- 100x of a mob drop (e.g. snake venom, cocoons, iron pieces)
As always please keep comments on point to the topic. I believe the addition of difficulty and a fun challenge using game mechanics already implemented (mostly :D) could revive this end-game content and really make it an integral, difficult challenge for PvE, with great rewards.
Editors note: One of the main reasons I'm making this post is because difficult and fun PvE content with great rewards is a repeatable activity, which does not rely on many other players for content. Land of iron has the opportunity to do that with these bosses.