Tobold's Blog
Friday, November 07, 2008
The importance of being epic

Whenever a discussion about raids starts to get a bit more heated, the argument of "you just want more epics" gets tossed around. Hardcore raider leaving his old guild to join a more advanced one? "Just wants more epics". Casual raider arguing that raiding should be more accessible? "Just wants more epics". Someone in guild chat complaining he didn't get a raid spot? "Just wants more epics". This often repeated argument gives epics a bad name, and leads to even more derogatory terms like "welfare epics". So everyone claims he isn't doing whatever he is doing "for the epics". Only that isn't true. Epics are an important part of the raiding game. Not to strut around with in front of the auction house, but as entry ticket to further raids.

The larger part of most raids depends very strongly on the numerical stats of the participants, not their skill. Yes, there is skill involved in learning how to react correctly to every special ability of every boss. But the better your stats, the easier it gets to get it right, and the better are the raids chances of survival if things go wrong. The abilities of Moroes and his henchmen in Karazhan are still exactly the same as they were when TBC came out. But his health got nerfed, and many raiders visiting him now have much better epic gear than the first time they met him. So suddenly you don't have to set up crowd control for every henchman up, you just put the skull raid mark on the one who heals, and AoE the others. Moroes's Garrote still does the same damage as before, but due to epics players have a lot more stamina, and survive it a lot easier. And due to epics the damage output of the raid is generally much higher (and, as I said, the mobs health has been lowered), and the fight is over sooner.

Special abilities of bosses aside, a raid combat isn't significantly different from any other combat in WoW: The players' dps is measured against the mob's health, while at the same time the mob's dps is measured against the players' health and ability to heal. As epics increase the players' health and dps, they automatically make the fight easier for the players, and increase the chance of the raid to down the boss. A guild advancing through the raid circuit from one boss to the next, and from one raid dungeon to the next higher one, is not just due to players learning the boss encounters; it is also very much a function of the players equipping themselves better, and everyone having better epics.

So of course everyone who wants to raid will want epics. They are his ticket into the raid. Without a certain level of gear the player will not be accepted into the raid group. For the casual raider being invited into a raid means not only that he'll learn the encounters better than he possible could by reading tactics on some website or watching a YouTube video; it also means he'll end up with some better gear that will enable him to be more useful for a future raid. The hardcore raider who feels he needs to leave his guild to advance further is not just frustrated that his guild is getting past raid dungeon X, he is also stuck because he already has all the gear from dungeon X, and needs to visit dungeon X+1 if he ever wants to have a chance to see dungeon X+2. Even the best raiding guilds in TBC all had to start with Karazhan and follow the same raid circuit from there to Sunwell Plateau. Without the right epics, visiting Sunwell Plateau just won't work, even if you are a great raider.

And this is the reason for much guild drama: If you don't get invited into a raid in the first place, or you participate but don't receive the epics, it becomes even harder for you to get invited into the next raid. Every guild has different rules, and some even rather complicated DKP systems, on how to distribute raid spots and epics. But no system is perfect, and none removes the fundamental problem of whether it is better to concentrate the epics in the hands of a few, who will advance faster, or whether it is better to distribute them as widely as possible, to make raid attendance easier, and thus more widespread and stable, but slow. Giving somebody epics opens access for him to harder raid dungeons, but that access is a personal one, and there is a risk that the receiver uses that entry ticket not in the guild he is currently in, but in the next one. Concentration of epics, quite often in the hands of a main tank, can propel the whole guild forward, but also set them back significantly if the MT defects.

Badges help to spread the rewards. But Wrath of the Lich King also introduces one BoE epic on the loot table of every raid boss, which has certainly advantages, but also a huge guild drama potential. Do you give it to somebody in the raid for whom it is a minor upgrade, or to somebody who wasn't in the raid due to lack of equipment, enabling him to come next time? Some guilds might even have rules in which regular raiders not in the raid have priority on BoE epics over casual raiders in the raid.

In summary, epics are important, as they give access to more raid content. And it is often the raid access people are after, not the epic itself. What looks like a petty squabble over loot might well be a much more fundamental argument over the opportunity to participate in guild events. And what looks like a simple problem of rewarding people for their raid participation by handing out epics can well lead to problems with raid participation in the future. If you can't get a raid full, are the other players in the guild unwilling to help, or are they simply unable, having never received their entry ticket of epics?
having never received their entry ticket of epics?
That's what farming runs are for. When most of the people in the raid know the content inside out and/or outgear the content, the margin of error is large enough to allow the raid leader to invite an undergeared character without jeopardizing the success of the raid. My guild has a history of doing just that. Before I joined, they even organized tours of Molten Core for people who never even dreamed of being able to get a piece of their tier 1 set.
While I agree with the over-arching theme of this article, I do believe that you understate the importance of skill versus gear.

While there are very fear hard gear checks in the end game of WoW, there are a tonne of idiot checks, coordination checks, and "no weak link" checks. (And these only increase as you progress.)

I'm not saying that gear doesn't matter.... just that undergeared raiders can more than make up for their lack of an "entry ticket epic" by being a skilled player.
I like the idea of BoE epics.
If for example tanking gear drops, and the 2 tanks you happened to take that night already have the item, it can be sent to the guild bank, and one of the other tanks could then spend dkp to get it, rather than it being sharded.

@karthis: Skill will outweigh gear, no doubt about it, but there are deliberate Gear checks in raids, such as Najentus, Brutallus, Curator even.
Without the necessary dps/hps, you will not beat these guys in their vanilla versions.
Clearly the elite raiders will still get the bosses down with sub-par gear, but the majority of players will be stuck until they raise the avaerage level of their gear.
I dont want epics.... I want Legendaries!

Bah, if the activity isn't fun, then the epics don't matter (to me). If the activity is fun, then who cares about the epics? Again, just me.
I just had an idea - what if instead of binding to a player, raid epic items were bound to a guild? So for example as long as you a) were in the guild the day it was retrieved and b) still are in the guild then you can pass it around to other people that fit the same criteria.

That would make it possible to make guilds stronger as an entities, instead of being a loose bunch of single players.
How do you feel about max level character advancement that is not gear based?

It would seem that allowing for additional optional skills for max level characters would allow for some advancement beyond gear. Glyphs seem to be a great way for Blizz to really expand on this. PVE glyphs purchased from badges and PVP oriented glyphs purchased with honor and arena points. Perhaps link some to achievements.

If balanced correctly they would only offer tactical advantages over the base skills and not completely replace them.

I can understand why people feel the need to trade up in guilds to find one that they are able to progress in. Character transfers have really opened this up for players. Character advancement through gear is really no different than character advancement through leveling. If you were in a guild and were capped at level 60 and knew that in order to reach level 70 you had to join another guild, how many would be happy to stay at level 60? Not many I would wager.
Most people want to do the content to get the gear, not the other way around. The whole game is about gear, right? So bragging rights and accomplishments tend to focus more on gear acquisition than the content itself.

With all the recent nerfs, I can't believe how wreckless people have become in some instances. We pugged MGT on the weekend and they didn't even ask who was healing?!? They smashed through the mobs with no strategy, luckily only wiping once (after I decided to perform a proper healing role).

The BoE epic drop at the end was junked since no one could use it and no one could DE, go figure.

As for hopping guild to get epics, well some people will do anything to get ahead, and such is the social nature of an MMO. Granted there are other reasons for people switching guilds, if your guild is lame and unorganized, why should you be held back?
The better your gear the less important your skill. Obviously.
But if you have bad gear skill is extremely important.
In the beginning of BC we did Karazhan farming runs twice a week with 2-3 parallel parties.

But even then you could see healers with good equip heal 50% (1/2!!) of that of other healers who had comparable gear. You could see feral druide that did not use shred, Warriors who could kill Vashj adds and those who needed 30s for each add.

Yes. Gear makes skill unimpoartant. But if gear is bad, skill is *extremely* important in BC - perhaps less so in WotLK. We will see in a few weeks.
Oh, this is going to become another skill vs epic gear (making up for the lack of player skill) debate. :)

WoW is, unfortunately, a lot about gear. They try to improve the "skill" part, but we should not delude ourselves into thinking that gear is not important. You need it both in the end, you must have the right gear and some basic skills to succeed, and I tend to agree that gear still serves as the entry card or reason for exclusion from random raids or guild raids.

Guild Wars did much better in this regard, putting an emphasis on player skill and offered only cosmetic upgrades for player gear. But this also lead to team builds, where certain class/skill combos were just more effective than others, some classes like Assassins or Mesmers were often excluded, while a Minion Master or Spiteful Spirit Necromancer always had a spot guaranteed.
Agree 100%

Also, like long ago, I agree with your idea about binding gear to guild members. They leave, have it go back to the bank
But this also lead to team builds, where certain class/skill combos were just more effective than others, some classes like Assassins or Mesmers were often excluded, while a Minion Master or Spiteful Spirit Necromancer always had a spot guaranteed.

This seems more an issue with the skill mechanics and PvE vs. PvP balance. For a WoW equivalent, think of trying to bring a PvP specced character into PvE, they will tend to have weaknesses compared to a PvE oriented character.
Mike's idea of a "Bind to Guild" is intriguing. Gear could even be swapped around via a library "check in/out" system, outfitting whomever wanted to be in the raid that evening.

Hmm... the more I think about it, the more I like it.

Of course, you'd have to set something up to outflank abuse by those who would dissolve guilds for personal power (the Guild Gear autoshards and disperses to the guildmates, maybe?)... but overall, I really like this line of thought.

Anyone in the guild could come, and the gear could only be usable for the raid; the MT checks out the MT set, the DPS crew splits up the toys, and so on. Not only could this make raid attendance easier, but it could increase guild loyalty and group effort mentality.
Locking gear to a guild rather than player would be a bad idea for players who don't fit in with their guild, and would be happier elsewhere.

Its just gear, crap you loot from bosses. If a person knows that the guild they join will retain all the ownership of the gear, they have less incentive to play well, because ultimately, why gear yourself out with crafted gear, pvp gear, etc, if ultimately you busting your butt to help out/compensate for less-skilled players won't be all.

Instead, guild masters/officers decide who gets the gear based on DKP or even rolling, giving players incentive to be known as a good player, instead of just someone coming along for the ride.

I play PvP, so the gear I get belongs only to me and cannot be taken away. PvP, while garnering more attention lately, will ultimately be the game proper if gear was locked into guilds. Why study a fight and be the best healer if the gear that drops won't belong to your character?

Of course, when I do raid, with friends, we just roll need on items we want, since we are all friends. We even pass on items we could use, if other people could use the gear more, or if one of us have won a roll already.

The main problem in my eyes is that huge raiding guilds aren't often friends, but people coming together to raid and get loot. I think you would further alienate people if the gear would be locked into a guild, as the people who are officers are likely more often friends who will stick together regardless, meaning all the gear now belongs to the if officers in guilds don't actually get a good chunck of gear as is...
As someone else mentioned, I think you way too much emphasis on gear. In my experience through to sunwell, its never been gear checks that have held us back, its been idiot checks. Maybe I'm in the wrong guild with too many idiots :P But basing raid attendence on epics, and the number of cutting edge pieces each player has ONLY works if those players are passing the idiot checks everytime. Which is never the case. Sure there are technical "gear checks" on certain bosses but - at least in my guild - we've been massively overgeared for them all of the 20-30 times we wiped.

So theoretically interesting points, but it has nothing to do with the wow I've been playing for the last year.
You're seeing things too much as black and white, trying to classify encounters as gear check or idiot check. All encounters are both to some degree. The more overgeared you are, the more forgiving the encounter becomes to idiots. I've been to Molten Core with a level 70 group, where at Baron Geddon somebody didn't understand the bomb concept and blew up right in the middle of the clothies. Only at level 70 they didn't get hurt much from the bomb.

And of course by definition you can't be overgeared for Sunwell.
Gear requirements are just another time sink mechanic. If you have enough skill not to "need" epic levels of gear, you've probably put in quite an amount of time already.

Blizzard doesnt care what method of time sink you choose: instance runs, farming, Pvp or a combination; you have to put in the time to get the purples, you need the purples to run higher content. . .to get better purples to run even higher content. . .
Do you still keep an eye on Lotro Tobold. A big difference from Wow is that it doesn't really have end game progression even though it has quite a lot of end game content at this stage. It works great for friendly kinships because hard core and casual players can play together without being locked out by progression barriers. Anyway a recent Lotro dev post ( suggests that the game is going to introduce more progression in the future. Its too early to say what this means but I for one hope it doesn't mean an epic gear grind.
Replace the word "epic" with elite. "I have mostly elite gear", "I want elites", etc.

Sometimes I think the whole notion of epic gear belies the point of what they are. Why is it epic if anyone can get one? Why do we have a small distance between blue rares and purple epics and an almost amazingly large gap between epics and orange legendaries?

I would actually prefer to see one or two more achievable legendaries out there to re-balance things.
This is the reason that I hate WoW. Time spent > skill.
The problem shalkis is most guilds at some point hit the point where the uber geared don't want to do farming runs. Then the refrain is "no one helped me farm epics. Get your own then we'll take you"

It's only a matter of time at that point for any guild thats not on top. because the top end guilds will hit the same problem and start stealing your well geared players.
The problem shalkis is most guilds at some point hit the point where the uber geared don't want to do farming runs.
That's their loss. Unless the guild is already overflowing with raiders, having an another raider with decent gear can be very beneficial to the guild as a whole.
Regarding the tension between frequent attenders and people who don't show up very often I think it's actually pretty healthy.

End-game raids work best when people of similar drive play together. I couldn't possibly play for Nihilum, I have no wish to play WoW for long hours in a culture where it's not acceptable to say "I'm bushed, gonna bail guys nn"

But equally when I was in very laid back guilds I got extremely frustrated with people who would show up 10 minutes late, play terribly and without consumables and then whine that other people got an item they wanted. I felt that me and other core raiders were carrying them.

Players are happiest playing with other players of similar ambition and work rate. Gear squabbles are part of the social process which drives such players together.
This is the reason that I hate WoW. Time spent > skill.

Actually, time spent in WoW translates directly into skill. You can't walk into content and suddenly be skilled at it. You need to spend the time with the content, your character, your raid job, and your fellow raiders in order to become "skilled".
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