Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 24, 2008
 
Redefining Raiding

What you can do or not do in a single-player game is strictly defined by the program code. A massively multiplayer online game adds a social dimension to that, there are things that are theoretically allowed by the code, but practically not possible due to other players. The more players are involved in any given game activity, and the more they depend on each other, the more important the social rules for that activity become. In World of Warcraft raids are the activity that requires the most cooperation, and has thus been subject to the most social conventions and rules. But raiding changed from the original game to the first expansion, and it will change again in the second expansion. While the social rules aren't hard-coded into the program, they are nevertheless a logical consequence of the coded game rules. And as the code changes, so will the social rules. Whether we are considering ourselves as "raiders" or not, we will need to rethink the social rules of raiding. How do we define raiding in the new context of the Wrath of the Lich King?

The first thing to do here is to carefully separate what are actually coded rules for raiding, and what are only social conventions. For example you might be surprised to find out that many TBC raid instances can be entered at level 65. The "you need to be level 70 to raid" rule is a social convention. And did you hear the story about the druid soloing Onyxia? Well, we know for a fact that he needed *some* help, because you can't enter a raid dungeon unless you are in a raid group, for which you need at least 2 players (even if the second player stays outside). If they aren't hard-coded, why do social rules exist? Players make up criteria for inclusion or exclusion in reaction to the difficulty of the raid encounter. If 10 random players at the level cap can't beat the first raid dungeon, players have to organize a raid with a better mix of classes, talent builds, and equipment to improve their chances. That results in two lists: One list of inclusions of what you absolutely need to succeed, for example 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 1 warlock for a banish during a special encounter. The other list is a list of exclusions: You don't accept anyone who is not at the level cap, who has not a certain quality level of equipment, who does not have a certain talent build for his class, or who is not available to play at certain times for a certain amount of consecutive hours. Even if you exclude the hard-to-measure variable of player skill, there is something like a perfect raid composition for a given raid boss. The difficulty level determines how far you can stray from that perfect composition and still succeed.

In the Burning Crusade, when it came out, two factors made raiding relatively hard: The raid size was reduced to 10 players for the easiest raid, Karazhan, so after filling your list of must-haves, there wasn't much room left. And the difficulty level was high, so that as long as people were wearing blue gear, the raid composition couldn't be far off from perfect to still succeed. There were even guilds who changed raid composition for each boss, because they didn't have one composition that was able to beat them all. That strengthened the image of raiding being an elitist activity, that the average WoW player shouldn't even attempt. And raiding being only for the "elite" of most dedicated players was even supported by the developers, to the point that when other sources for epic gear were introduced, Tigole called those "welfare epics". But what is important to realize here is that raiding is *not* inherently elitist. This has been well proven by patch 3.0.2., which made raiding a lot easier by reducing all raid mobs health by 30%. Given that change, and the higher probability to nowadays find somebody who is well-geared and knows Karazhan already, the chance of success of a "pickup raid" to Karazhan is now much, much higher than last year. Guilds are taking their alts raiding, and while it isn't quite "raiding for everyone" yet, Karazhan is much more accessible to the average player now than before.

And if we believe what Blizzard tells us, raiding is supposed to remain more accessible in Wrath of the Lich King. And if they want to do it, there is nothing to suggest that it can't be done. Of course a raid dungeon which is easy enough to be completed by a pickup raid full of casual players will be way too easy for those who were into hardcore raiding before. But so what? There is more than one raid dungeon, every raid dungeon exists in two difficulty levels (easy for 10 people, hard for 25), and if the first dungeon is too easy for you, you just try the next, and the next, until you find one that is challenging enough.

This is a huge opportunity for Blizzard to redefine raiding as a possible activity for a much larger percentage of players. The difficulty of the raid dungeon determines the social rules of inclusion and exclusion that guilds and players will draw up to say who can raid and who can't. If the difficulty is low enough that most players can at least kill a couple of bosses in the first raid dungeon with minimum requirements of raid composition, gear level, and time commitment, then the image of raiding will change. The more people are participating in raid content, the better the business model of Blizzard that offers raid content as main course for the endgame holds up. Whatever else you think of WAR and its PvP endgame, at least that PvP endgame is totally accessible to anyone at the level cap, and nobody will be kicked out of a group for having the wrong class or talent build. WoW can't afford to keep their endgame exclusive for a small elite, they must open it up to a larger public to hold onto more players for longer.

If Blizzard really makes raiding a lot easier in Wrath of the Lich King, the only remaining barrier is in the heads of people. Social rules are slower to change than coded rules. Some people who didn't raid before will continue thinking that raiding isn't for them, even if they would perfectly be able to succeed in a raid. And some of the old raiders will resent not being that much of an elite any more. Which is silly, because of course the more hardcore players will always advance faster and further than the average player. It is just the entry into raiding that gets more accessible, and that can only be a good thing.
Comments:
I know this has been brought up before, but i can't help but think that adding computer controlled 'henchmen' or allies to existing raids would be the best thing to happen to WoW (for me). I sorely want to see the rain dungeons but havn't got the time or social networks. If Blizzard offered an option to go through the raids, as any class, with 24 computer contolled and scripted allies, i think it would be grand.

Imagine, you are a tank at the end game, you want to see MC because you started post-TBC and eventually you want to see all the other dungeons. Why not have soldiers of the associated faction for that dungeon fight alongside you with the right composition of classes. It be an oppurtunity for you to fight though, doing the specific thing your class needs to do.

I'd be like training, if you didnt do your job as a tank properly, you would fail. If you made it so you had a 50/75/100 whatever percent chance to get an epic at the end there would be a reward. It might take the social aspect out of it, but that isn't even there for most us as it is.
 
This, of course, assumes that raiding is the best focus for the endgame. I'd just as soon Blizzard try some new tricks.
 
When you visit the Bastion Stair in WAR you will realize that the fact that it is tuned for a 6 man group, but accessible by a whole warband (except for the endbosses), makes the whole ting very boring.

It is like scholo or stratholm have been in classic WoW. It is just a zergfest. You rush through the NPC enemies while being bored. You finish the dungeon, tell yourself that you will either not do it again, because, now you have seen it, or decide that you *need* the drops and gonna do it again, although it is very boring.

That is of course from a perspective of an active MMO player like me. There are people who played "Doom" 20x times and there wasn't even loot or a social component.

I remember when I did Shattered Halls in the very beginning of TBC. It was extremely hard and even a little harder than intended, because one of the bosses was bugged. I tried it with a group of very good players and we were brainstorming all the time to find ways to beat 7 elite mobs although I could only tank 3 without dieing from the inc. damage.
We once wiped for 8 hours on a weekend and had *a hell of a lot of fun* !

The problem with difficulty of the raid dungeons is that, if I had to work 70 hours a week and a big family and only 2x30minutes per week to spend, this kind of activity would look very stuppid to me. I would love to rock through the whole dungeon in 30min and do it in two weeks again, when I have the time. I would not even feel bored, because I would not play to achieve something, but to relax.

WoW tries to appeal to all kinds of persons. It is good that they try a new approach with WotLK. It will improve their next MMO. But I would be very sad if there was nothing to achieve in WotLK and only stuff to relax.
By the way: Did you know that the very first dungeon bosses in WoW (Level 12+) already have a lot of extra abilities? Try them with a severly underlevel group of just 3 people and you will find them extremely challening and - if you have the time - very rewarding to beat. It is somehow sad that the difficulty of the dungeon doesn't allow you to have this kind of fun, if go there with a pickup group.

Since you found out one of the most basic rules of creating any game, in the last few days (People optimize the fun out of it - and good rules make that impossible), I am sure you will allo see that making raids more accessible by reducing the difficulty also brings along al *lot* of potential problems.
 
"Whatever else you think of WAR and its PvP endgame, at least that PvP endgame is totally accessible to anyone at the level cap, and nobody will be kicked out of a group for having the wrong class or talent build."

Not yet anyway
 
"Whatever else you think of WAR and its PvP endgame, at least that PvP endgame is totally accessible to anyone at the level cap, and nobody will be kicked out of a group for having the wrong class or talent build."

Wait until the guilds decide who is allowed to kill the king and who should stay outside and keep defending the walls (and not gain any loot ...)
 
I want to have the freedom to choose when and how long i will play the game. Organized raiding makes that impossible.

Baso
 
The argument about raids being too hard and not for the casual player crops up again, and I say the same thing again - if you want easy raids, go to Zul Gurub, go to Molten Core. "No, we don't want to." Why not? "Because there is no loot." People want easier raids, but they also want loot better than they already have from questing and 5 mans. Minimum effort for maximum reward.

We already saw how Blizzard appeased the masses with their T5-T6 quality loot from Badge vendors. Now that is being acknowledged as a mistake, because it killed off the need for people to go to SSC/TK. Why bother with those two places when you can run the nerfed Karazhan and pick up 22 BoJ, and then get 'welfare epics' for little real effort?

@Baso: Not sure what point you were making. You want to play a team game, but want to join and leave when you feel like it? Could you do that with most team sports? Of course not. There is a set start and finish time, and if you can't make that time, then you don't get to play. Unfair? It is if you want to take part and can't.

For the more casual player, or those short on time or without the ability to commit to set times every week, WAR is probably a better game for you to play, or maybe Wizard101, where you can join 'parties' and leave them in a very short space of time, and no-one will begrudge you for leaving.
As for WoW, I like the raiding game as it is. Sure, keep the harder raids for 25 players, but having the same raid for 10 players is a good idea. My small Horde guild had a lot of fun in Karazhan and Zul Aman, something that would have been impossible if they had been for 25 players.
 
I have to agree, *vlad*.
Trying to design a game that is supposed to be played together with other people, will not work if you want to include people who do not want to agree on times, when to meet.

It's not like I could go to soccer training whenever I want.
Trying to design soccer in a way that this is possible would lead to a few 100 'players' that keep the game going at any time, but do not know each other, as they are constantly switching. Massive PQs - fun for the first few times .. but definitely not 'addictive'.
Actually this is like the early Alterac Valley. I miss it - as an option.

Trying to balance this 100 players team against another team that consists of 11 soccer players is 100% impossible - and that's good. The 11 players have much more serious time constraints for training and should be rewarded for that.

It is, however, possible to design a log-on/log-off game for very small teams. That way players can ask their friends 5 minutes before they log in. If their friends have time to spend, they log in as well and the problem is solved. Actually WoW offers this kind of activity. But it does not give out the best rewards for it. Actually I think that is very fair:
Why should the national trainer take me for the new goalkeeper if other people focus their whole life on being good a that? I wouldn't want such a trainer.

One reason why WoW is successful is that there is always something you could try to achieve. making raids easy would reduce WoW even more to an semi-E-sports arena. I wouldn't like that. .. I'd hate it and drop the game at ONCE.
This kind of game (CS) should cost anything per month.
 
Class stacking is what makes raiding so difficult until you overgear the encounter. Having a 10 man raid with 20 guild members saved to the raid ID (assuming you would stack the group to the optimum makeup for each encounter) killed many low end guilds at the start of TBC. Even now in Sunwell (well maybe not after the patch so much) you would have guilds sitting out many players to stack the groups with enough AOE healers to counter the boss's damage.


If they take anything from TBC it should be that players are going to min/max themeselves away from having fun. Putting mobs, who can only be crowd controled by a handful of classes, simply encourages players to stack the group with those classes.

I remember back when SSC was serious business and the guild I was in would reguarly stack the groups. As the second protection spec warrior I was subbed out for many boss fights that only required one tank in order to get more DPS in there due to strict DPS requirements (Leo).
 
I hated raiding in Vanilla WoW. 40 man raids were way to hard to get together with my casual guild. My guild would raid MC with 30-35 players on our good days. I very much looked foward to raiding BC because of 10-25 man raids. I was wrong. The BC came along and the raids were all over-the-top difficult for a group of fresh level 70's. Kara was POINTLESS because of the respawns. It wasn't fun. It was a night of total BS and gave BC raiding a bad taste, and even though Kara is EZ as pie I have no reason to return. I don't want to raid in the BC what so ever because it originally sucked so much. I hope Blizz does WotLK raiding correctly and makes a gradient for difficulties of different raid dungeons. I need atleast one raid dungeon I can start off with.
 
If Blizzard doesn't make the WoTLK 10 mans accessible for more-or-less 'casual' groups I will be done with WoTLK very quickly. I'm not putting up with another end game like the last two.
 
*vlad*, you still have exactly that old school elitist attitude I was talking about. How can you blame people for wanting a reward that is in line with their efforts? As I said, there should be easy raid dungeons and there should be hard raid dungeons, and *of course* the epics and badges in the hard dungeons should be a better reward than those in the easy dungeons. But if an easy raid dungeon is of comparable difficulty as a five-man dungeon, but somewhat harder to organize, it should *of course* give rewards that are as good or slightly better. And rewards are not the only reason few people go to MC. The other reason is how pointless it is. Even for a random pickup raid of 40 level 70 players, MC is a boring pushover.

What I can't understand is how some people want to prevent other people from playing in a large group. Imagine your state made a local law allowing you to party only with up to 4 friends. Only if you could prove that you partied at least 3 nights a week and consumed at least one barrel of beer each party would you be considered hardcore enough to be allowed to party with more people. Silly? Absolutely! But that is exactly the law that those old school elitists want to have in WoW. They want to limit the average player to 5-man groups, and only allow raids for the hardcore. I so hope that WotLK makes this sort of attitude die out. Painfully.
 
So you ask for big raids that are very easy to do, Tobold ? I fear that they will be very boring after a few times and that few people would go there for half a year if the real rewards are in the difficult raid dungeons and the easy ones can be completed within the very first try. But I might be wrong.
 
The thing is that "easy" is relative. Of course the starting raid dungeons would be boring for a hardcore raiding guild, which would be able to quickly move on. But the very same "easy" raid could be a reasonable challenge for a casual guild or a pickup raid.
 
Tobold - Right On!!!!

It's not like he is suggesting every raid is nerfed like this... just simply the starting one. The raids get harder... it's progressive.

This nerf of Kara is long overdue... and Kara should have started like this. The following raids should be a step harder.

As one poster said... the endgame so has been nothing but nonsense to the player with other commitments who only plays 5 hours a week in a loose friendly guild. I will also leave the game for good if it is anything like tBC.
 
5 hours a week is more than enough time for a Kara run. (Or Naxx in WotLK) Even at it's peak that would have allowed you to clear up at least half of the content. But really someone who only has 5 hours a week of play time just doesn't have the commitment level for end game WoW.

"The thing is that "easy" is relative. Of course the starting raid dungeons would be boring for a hardcore raiding guild, which would be able to quickly move on."

Kind of like how Kara was made "easy" a long time ago and so many casual guilds have moved on?

It's a loose loose situation when you have hamster wheel PVE like WoW does. The longer you can keep players in existing content the further you can stretch it. But at the same time many players are content to simply farm Kara week in and week out for an eventual reward (BoJ) rather than go learn new content for less reward.

Back in Vanilla WoW, 20 man content worked similarly to how people here are describing. Many of the bosses required 20 players but the rewards for much of the early fights were not that great. Bossess would have a loot table with multiple blue items and an epic or two at a low drop rate. And even then epic rewards were sometimes tokens that would require a reputation component to turn them in. I don't think that went over too well with the players seeing as how the mechanic was not repeated for TBC.
 
Centuri, five hours in a block is good for a raid, perhaps. Five hours a week in half hour increments is considerably less useful to a raiding party. Casual players don't have that sort of block of time to commit to a game. When endgame raiding is the main focus of the designers, they are leaving the casual player out of the loop. Their much-vaunted "donut hole" theory of people progressing from casual to hardcore is largely based on time in-game with these sprawling dungeons and long boss fights. If it were built on skill, where a skilled player can gain appropriate rewards from a half hour of play as easily as a five hour marathon, then there might be some merit to the focus on the hardcore.

I don't mean to get rid of existing raids, but giving skilled players content they can tackle in shorter time blocks is good design. Catering only to those with several hours per night to play is limiting their audience.

Did you mean "lose-lose"? You're right, the hamster wheel causes all sorts of problems. It can be difficult to incentivize exploration, but it's not in the company's best interests to do so when content generation is glacially slow.
 
I'm in agreement with Tesh on this. Not only do they need to redefine the difficulty curve if they want to make raiding more accessible to the masses but they really need to redefine the time commitment necessary to complete them. Lots of the more casual players don't have steady 2-4+ hour chunks of time to devote to playing the game, which raiding certain instances can require, especially when your just starting out in them for the first time.

Since all raid instances have reset timers to prevent them from being farmed too fast I don't understand why they still insist on having lots of trash mobs in most of them and having those trash mobs respawn at all. The trash just increases the time requirement of an instance without adding much real value.

The whole spend 30+ min clearing trash to get to a boss, get some attempts in, then spend 30+ min clearing again if you don't beat him mechanic stops more casual players from raiding than the difficulty curve imo.
 
The pattern seems to be in WoW that raiding/dungeon content becomes easier over time. I have no problem with that at all and I think its a good strategy. If the hardcore players want difficult new content and be the only ones with the uber loot for a while, so be it. I don't mind waiting a year or so for the new 'hard' content to become old 'easier' content. I'm never without something to do in WoW (casual player).
 
"Centuri, five hours in a block is good for a raid, perhaps. Five hours a week in half hour increments is considerably less useful to a raiding party. Casual players don't have that sort of block of time to commit to a game. When endgame raiding is the main focus of the designers, they are leaving the casual player out of the loop. Their much-vaunted "donut hole" theory of people progressing from casual to hardcore is largely based on time in-game with these sprawling dungeons and long boss fights. If it were built on skill, where a skilled player can gain appropriate rewards from a half hour of play as easily as a five hour marathon, then there might be some merit to the focus on the hardcore.

I don't mean to get rid of existing raids, but giving skilled players content they can tackle in shorter time blocks is good design. Catering only to those with several hours per night to play is limiting their audience.

Did you mean "lose-lose"? You're right, the hamster wheel causes all sorts of problems. It can be difficult to incentivize exploration, but it's not in the company's best interests to do so when content generation is glacially slow."

honestly, playing for 30 min or 40 in one session won´t get you anywhere. and no, the developers can´t design content for those people. i mean seriously, you log on check your mail, get 5 people together for an instance and fly over to the dungeon and your 30 min are gone. the other thing is, that people who play only 5 hours a week won´t ever comne close to the point where they have seen all the 5 man content and start worrying about karazhan or what ever.
lets get serious now. blizzard officially said some time ago, that the average wow player plays for about 4 hours a day! not a week. and the content is designed for exactly this average joe.
lowering the "skill requirements" for wotlk start up dungeons and taking out the timesink trash what someone mentioned are good things to do.
 
"Even for a random pickup raid of 40 level 70 players, MC is a boring pushover."

Honestly, with 40 people you just kill all Bosses simultaneously... We just did MC with 10 people (T5+ gear) in less than less than 2 hours (actually 90 minutes, but we had cooldown on the Essences :) ) and could have done it with less people easily. Even Majordomo, where we believed to get into troubles with th 8 adds, was a laugh. I am sure MC can be done with 3 people nowadays, DD, Tank, Healer (actually even 2, but you need a 3rd player for pulling away the Herold's adds so they do not heal).

The group consisted of players who started with WoW Beta, or shortly after release. So they had seen it all. We just did it for the achievement, as it wasn't recognized on the patch for everyone, and we honestly had a blast! When was the last time in a raid where you could go afk and on auto-follow on a Bossfight without causing a wipe? :) It was so relaxed, easy going, warming up the old stories, remembering all the fun we had in the old days' 40-mans ("PULLING MOLTEN GIANT" ... *boom*, wipe..; or the day where we were waiting for Geddon on the rune and our hunter somehow pulled Shazzrah first. We almost died on laughter...), and so on. We all shared the opinion that exactly this feeling is what we are missing in the TBC raids. Many quit raiding due to the high level of dedication required. We were relatively successful for a more-or-less-casual guild (except sunwell, everything clear) but before the patch, BT for example was still not too easy and demands a good level of concentration.

We are going to visit Nefarian tonight and will have a blast again.

Personally, I absolutely love challenges in raids, however, I do not have the time anymore to figure out every detail and try it a dozen of times. As people grow older, get jobs and family, the averahe player will experience the same thing. That means that Blizzard HAS to cater also that audience, if they are planning to keep the game up for 10+ years. Therefore, I am VERY sure, that the casual raiding (ez mode) dungeons that are mentioned here so often WOULD defenitely find their audience, and I would be happy to have some as an alternative to 25mans, to daily quests or standing around bored. I often think that my only alternative that I have today, is logging into LOTRO...
 
Yes Tobold I meant lose-lose. Essentially if they design content around Joe Below-Average then hardcore/skilled (whatever word you want to use) will be ready to move on very quickly. Unfortunately by game design these players will have to spend many weeks farming borring content to them in order to move on and do well in the next instance.


From a utilization stand point Kara is a home run. I know players that are knee deep in Sunwell who continue to run Kara on a weekly basis. The problem is players get stuck there with little motivation for the guild to move on.


As for the 5 hours comment I really don't see a player that only has 5 hours having a place in raids. You gear up to raid. You do not raid to gear up. A player with 5 hours a week is going to have to spend several months at the level cap running heroics and grinding out reputations. There is nothing wrong with this playstyle it just doesn't stand out as the formula for a contributing raid member.


Also 5 hour man may not be willing to spend 1-2 hours a week watching videos, reading strats, and keeping up on the latest theorycrafting for his/her class. Raiding requires all of these and more. Let's hope 5-hour-man is a healer for his sake or he will see little raid time.
 
Tobold, the boring pushover is exactly what you are describing for your 'easy' raid instance. If it is not, then define what you mean by 'easy'. As far as I'm concerned, easy means a couple of tanks, a couple of healers, random dps, and nuke your way through raids, kill every boss with a minimum of effort(just like Karazhan is at the moment).
Did I say I want to prevent people playing in large groups? No. Didn't I suggest alternative raids? Yes. Ok, they don't drop any loot any more, but the experience is still valid for those who never could do it previously.

No matter how hard or easy your raid is, you still need to get 25 people together for a fixed period of time - that is the stumbling block, not the relative ease or difficulty or a raid. Gathering 25 people takes time and effort, you can't get away from that.

Do not call me an elitist; I am not one. I play in a casual raid guild that has still not beaten Illidan even after the nerf patch, and our one attempt in Sunwell ended up on a wipe-fest at Kalecgos. Does our raid leader require min-max specs, ban certain builds and substitute in various classes when a particular boss comes up? No. No-one has to justify their build or their style of play. WWS stats are not analysed for weaknessess, people are not criticised for not performing. We play, we have fun, and we enjoy a challenge; we even go to MC and ZG sometimes, believe it or not.

Despite all this, we can still make progress, a lot slower than SK Gaming or Nihilum, but we still get the bosses down eventually.
Elitist? Hardly. Able to commit the time required? Yes, that is one thing I am guilty of.
 
Do you remember the days of pugging 10 mans like UBRS? Those were not very hard, but were a good time. a return to that style of endgame instancing [with multiple tiers and better loot] would be excellent.
 
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