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Chapter 443 - Assassin’s Sangfroid

 Level 60 was already the highest level that a wild BOSS could reach. BOSSES that were even stronger than this level could only be encountered during quests or could only appear as a result of plot-related interactions. It was rumored that this sort of BOSSES were far cleverer, stronger, and more likely to have better loot. However, their whereabouts were like legends that would require players to meet certain criteria just to meet them, so it was far more infrequent to bump into them than wild BOSSES.

Wild BOSSES in Parallel World had been specifically programed to be mobile. This was done to prevent situations like players forming a team daily to do BOSS grinding in a set spot from cropping up. This also meant that BOSSES from all the various levels were unlike the usual monsters that would remain in their respective grinding maps and could, instead, be found roaming about.

As a result, there were players who questioned just what the low-level players should do if this sort of high-level BOSSES ended up wandering into a lower-level grinding map. The response from the game officials was like an heartless derision: "What else can players do but avoid it as best as they can. After all, it will always be roaming, so it will definitely leave after a short while."

There was even a legend in the game; during the open beta days, when the levels of players were still rather low, a roaming high-level BOSS actually ended up wandering somewhere near one of the city gates. Countless players had no idea what to make of it and died by its hands. They realized what was going on thereafter, and each of them tried to escape, but the BOSS actually ambled right toward the city. But just as the players panicked and thought that a massacre was about to unfold, two very nondescript NPC guards by the gate were mobilized and easily wiped out this BOSS in two or three hits.

Players learned two things from this anecdote.

The first was that the NPC guards were very strong. A conservative estimate would be that these guards were at the same tier as a BOSS; thus, nobody dared to offend them afterward.

The second was that a BOSS killed by NPC guards would still drop loot, and it was a rather amazing drop to boot. It attracted plenty of players around to snatch it for themselves. No one had any idea who was the person that ended up with the dropped item, but any peak expert that appeared from that city in question ended up being suspected by the entire city. After that, there were always players that would have ill designs for it. Assassinating and backstabbing, the subsequent bloodshed from the countless PvP and PK activities ended up cultivating a violent impulse and domineering custom among the city's denizens.

The name of the city that was at the center of this legend was called Yueye.

It was only when some unknown brat formed a group and quickly developed it into the strongest guild in Yueye City, before proceeding to bully all the players until they did not dare to speak or even rage against them.That was when everybody realized that this person, who had been hiding and had never shown the depths of his strength before suddenly making a break for dominance over the entire city, was the real lucky recipient of the loot from that incident between the guards and the BOSS. The name of this man who hit the jackpot was none other than Silver Moon.

Just a high-level BOSS accidentally wandering into a city gate had caused so much complications for an entire city. The jury was still out on whether the introduction of this 'roaming feature' was a boon or a bane. Nevertheless, there were no other incidents where high-level BOSSES wandered into a city gate, and the officials subsequently accepted the players' suggestion to limit the BOSSES' movement, such that they would not move too frequently and would occasionally stopping so it would at least be able to spend time to linger about.

Afterward, players would often praise the BOSSES in this game as lone wolves, forever wandering the endless expanse of the grinding maps in this VR world.

The BOSSES in Parallel World were elusive to players, but the Shadowmist Assassin was an exception. This was because its backstory was someone who had lost its way. The most common phenomenon for someone who had lost their way was to find their way back to where they had come from no matter how much time had passed or how long they had walked, and this was exactly what the Shadowmist Assassin was doing. Even though it was not so bad as if it was walking in circles in one spot, its speed of advancement was very slow at the very least. Thus, after Limp Hands located it, they were still able to come back to the same spot and bump into this wild BOSS.

"Hey, make way; let me take a look!" Quite a lot of employees were watching these players take on the BOSS, so Ye Xiaowu had to jostle and squeeze his way to the front. The fog around Xiawu City was not present on their monitoring screen, and they were able to zoom in and out the scene at will. At the moment, the display was zoomed out so as to take in the entire spectacle. Ye Xiaowu could clearly make out the Shadowmist Assassin sneaking around in the fog, while the players not too far away were on full alert.

"Who's got the aggro?" Ye Xiaowu asked this question. As a game designer, he knew the most unique characteristic of the Shadowmist Assassin. Aside from being a lost soul, the other unique characteristic it had was how it handled threat. The range of its aggro was huge, but what was more important was the fact that the aggro formula would stop calculating threat after it locked on to the first player it caught sight of. This meant that until the target it had set eyes on was killed, the Shadowmist Assassin's aggro would not change. This also meant that there was no way in which this aggro could be reset or be removed.

"So, there's no way to remove its aggro?" The colleagues from the monitoring team were also aware of the Shadowmist Assassin's unique characteristic, so they immediately posited this question to confirm this fact when they saw the senior designer Ye Xiaowu.

"There are two ways: kill the Shadowmist Assassin or log out," Ye Xiaowu answered.

Everybody was quiet. Those options were no different from saying that there there was no way to remove the aggro.

They had intentionally formulated such a unique aggro coding precisely to counter the current MMO style of pulling BOSSES and monsters with meatshields while the damage dealers safely dumped their damage.

You wish to draw the BOSS's aggro? Fine, we shall save you the trouble by setting our Shadowmist Assassin to do the targeting for you; there's no way for you to change it even if you want to, anyway.

You wish to concentrate all the threat on to your best tanker? Once said player can no longer hold on, our Shadowmist Assassin will decide on its own its next target and attack accordingly. Any skill that was able to generate threat will be rendered useless by it.

This was an extremely contemptible design, and this was why Ye Xiaowu and his fellow designers had dubbed this aggro formula, which was unique to the Shadowmist Assassin, as 'Assassin's Sangfroid'. How should players deal with this sort of design? Even the designers themselves had not thought of it. Giving this sort of problem for the players to solve seemed to be where these people find the joy in their work.

This was what made Ye Xiaowu feel extremely excited the moment he heard that some people were attempting to take on the Shadowmist Assassin. However, he was beyond astonished once he learned that none had died despite this going on for quite a while.

That was when somebody pointed toward the monitor and indicated the player who was holding the BOSS's aggro. "That's the guy."

The display on the monitor was reduced in size, so Ye Xiaowu could only make the person out to be a Mage decked in black robe. The person's face may be blurry, but a thought crossed his mind for a fleeting moment: Could it be that guy?

Ye Xiaowu zoomed in as he thought of this to himself.

"Oi, oi, oi!" Everybody was dissatisfied. They should be looking at the full picture when watching such BOSS battles; there was no point zooming in just to check a particular character.

Ye Xiaowu could already identify the man without having to go in too close, though.

"It's him, alright..." Ye Xiaowu almost felt like crying.

"That Mage is so skilled; he's capable of blocking the BOSS's attack every time," one of his colleagues from the monitoring team commented. This person was evidently someone who had just been transferred recently, since he was unaware of the story behind Ye Xiaowu and this Mage. This was a story where plenty of the members from the monitoring team were aware of; this was the Mage that had agitated the game designer, Ye Xiaowu, many times.

"It's attacking!" that new colleague suddenly exclaimed. The Shadowmist Assassin on the screen that had been circling outside those players' field of vision abruptly dashed toward the group. Everybody was well aware that its target was the Mage, so they were all looking forward to seeing how the player would resolve this attack.

In the end, nothing much was needed to be said on how it had gone down, though that new colleague still appeared to be very excited. "Ha ha, look! He blocked it yet again!"

The gathered crowd was silent, with some even sneaking glances at Ye Xiaowu's current expression. Someone even wished that this was happening in-game, so he could quickly fire off a private message to this new colleague of theirs to stop acting like such a huge fan of the Mage and consider the feelings of their fellow colleague Ye Xiaowu, instead!

"Still, blocking the attacks all this while, it seems that this guy has run out of moves. There's nothing refreshing about it anymore," this new colleague quipped. He had been watching this battle with the Shadowmist Assassin from the very start and had been instantly drawn by Gu Fei's endless methods of dealing with the BOSS, always looking forward to see a fresh new move from him, but it had been a long time since the man showed anything new in how he faced these attacks.

"I don't think that that man has run out of moves. Rather, it is the BOSS that keeps using the same few attack patterns, so he naturally will use the same few methods to deal with it accordingly," another colleague remarked. He was clearly also a newcomer as he did not even know who Ye Xiaowu was and even greeted the stranger who had squeezed his way to the front row. "Don't you agree? By the way, my name's XXXX. I just arrived here three days ago. Why haven't I seen you before?"

All the other colleagues quietly thought of the famous line from the Fist of the North Star: 'You're already dead (Omae wa mou shindeiru)1.'

Sure enough, Ye Xiaowu quickly sported an unhappy expression. The leader of the monitoring team hurriedly made arrangements. "Xiaoliu, head over there and help open a computer for Chief Ye. Save this footage so that he can closely observe how these people take on the BOSS while under-leveled. This way, he can better improve on his design!" This was the excuse that Ye Xiaowu often gave for his frequent visits to the monitoring team.

Ye Xiaowu headed over to the seat by himself even as he heard that new guy asked behind him, "Chief Ye? Which Chief Ye?"

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Back in the game, the Shadowmist Assassin just completed another assault, and only Eternal Dominion managed to accurately strike the BOSS this time around. However, now that Sword Demon and the others had more experience directly fighting with BOSS, they too were starting to become accustomed to it and were improving quite a lot.

However, more importantly, Young Master Han and Brother Assist were muttering between themselves at the side, nodding their heads incessantly. Gu Fei did not receive any damage from this round of exchange, but Young Master Han still bestowed Heal on him, even going as far as to toss one Heal each to everybody present, which really left them confused as to what he was doing.

This was when Young Master Han explained himself. "It seems that I've guessed correctly; there's no way to draw the aggro from this BOSS."

"What do you mean?"

"Miles has only attacked this BOSS once. Logically speaking, even though they've been entangling for so long, the threat he could generate from the BOSS shouldn't be too high. Meanwhile, I've been using Heal plenty of times in front of the BOSS, so if it's like any other normal BOSSES, it would've transferred its aggro to me by now. That's why I believe that this BOSS is following a unique aggro formula, such that it will only target one player, and in this case, it is Miles," Young Master Han explained at length.

"Is there such a thing? Is it possible that the threat you generate from Healing isn't enough?" War Without Wounds asked.

"Take a look for yourself," This time, it was Brother Assist who spoke. Raising his booklet, he pointed to what was written in it. "A Priest's Heal generates about this much threat each application, and Young Master has already healed this number of times. I've taken note of the approximate distance between him and the BOSS each time, so using this formula right here, the amount of threat he has generated thus far should be around this much, while Miles, on the other hand..."

"Do you guys understand?" During the process of Brother Assist's explanation, the Shadowmist Assassin had visited them twice. "So, if we were to include those two times as well-"

"Alright..." War Without Wounds extended his hand out to stop him from continuing. "We don't get it, but we believe you. Anyway, I'll beat you up if you explain this to us again."

"And I'll help!" Royal God Call added.

[1] To understand how impressive this line is, readers must be aware that this novel was first published in 2008, and this is around mid-2009, way before the use of this meme took off.