Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 24, 2009
WoW Plans: Raiding

I've seen from various comments on this blog or my guild that many people think that I'm back to World of Warcraft because of raiding. That would be rather overstating it. I might raid a bit now I'm back, but certainly much less than before my break, and it certainly wasn't the reason for me to come back. If anything, raiding was more a reason for me becoming burned out than to come back.

The principle problem of raiding, and other endgame activities as well, is that it suffers very much from diminishing returns. The further you get, the slower your rate of advancement. You're on what as scientist would call an asymptotic curve, which goes ever upward, but never actually reaches the top, because you get stuck at some point of infinitesimal rate of advancement.

In the specific case of World of Warcraft raiding there are added problems. One being a logical loop: You raid to get better epics, but the only use for these epics is to raid. My priest is wearing a nice set of Naxxramas epics, and I can't find a reason for him to want better gear from raiding, unless it is for raiding. For daily quests, 5-man dungeons, even heroics, my gear is good enough by far. For PvP, not that I'd be interested, raiding wouldn't help much, due to WoW PvP being so dependant on resilience. And even if the next expansion has only 5 new levels, I'm pretty sure that there will be some sort of gear reset again: At the latest once we start doing level 85 heroics and raids, we will have to replace our level 80 gear.

The other WoW raid specific reason is the conundrum that plagues guild raids as well as pickup groups to dungeons: The potential for reward is inversely proportional to your contribution. The more you contribute to the success of the group or raid, the lower is the chance of you receiving a reward which is still useful to you. In my current situation, with my guild having advanced through Ulduar, while I'm still wearing Naxxramas gear, I'd basically be a leech. As I know the encounters less well, and am less well geared than the others, my contribution would necessarily be below average. But as the others are already regularly disenchanting the kind of gear I'd still need, my chance to gear up would be extremely good. In the case of my guild that is something I'd feel uncomfortable with. I'd either be a leeching tourist, or I would have to decide to make up for the leeching by raiding more later, thus getting back into raids feeling like a duty, like work, with a high risk of burning out.

Without reciprocity, the sense that you owe helping the people that helped you earlier, you arrive at the situation of the pickup group, which is basically a version of the prisoner's dilemma: The overall group would profit maximally if every member was contributing the same, and the sum of contributions would be exactly good enough to beat the dungeon. But the individual would profit maximally if he found people stronger than himself to leech from. As a result you'll often get a group in which everybody, or at least too many, people "optimized" their situation by being weaker than the challenge they are attempting would require, with the inevitable result that the whole group fails.

Probably nobody noticed the irony, but what I was doing in the last paragraph was applying game theory to games. Which is funny, because game theory isn't really about games, but about social sciences, and behavioral economics. But as behavioral economics can explain a lot of things, closing the loop and applying game theory to games gives valid results if the game is a social one. Note that in this model a guild becomes a case of an iterated prisoner's dilemma, where because the same people group together repeatedly, they can arrive in the situation where they collaborate, maximizing the benefit for everybody. Behavioral economics and game theory in this case can explain perfectly well why a guild group is more likely to succeed than a pickup group, in spite of using the same pool of people.

I have noticed that Blizzard improved their looking for group tool further since I last used it, in that you can now flag yourself as tank, healer, or dps. And I hear rumors of a future patch adding cross-server instance groups, which would be great. But all of these improved tools don't address the prisoner's dilemma of leeching being the optimal strategy for the individual vis-à-vis a pickup group of complete strangers, and a group with too many leeches failing to succeed.

The result of all this, diminishing returns and game theory, is that I can't go to the kind of raid I'd love to play most. Being still a bit burned out with my priest, I'd rather go raiding to Naxx-10 with my warrior, who isn't even full epic yet. But with no Naxxramas on the guild event calendar, and me not having much confidence in PuG raids, I guess I'm forced to equip my warrior with other activities than raiding. And I'm not sure I'm willing to raid several nights a week with my priest any more. So raiding really isn't the reason why I'm back to WoW.
Are daily faction quests for the Argent Dawn and doing random instances for heroic badges so much more fun? Maybe you could collect some minipets or work off your achievements-to-do-list. But this does not sound exciting at all.

Really, I wonder why you returned. Raiding seems still to be the largest part of what WoW offers as endgame content, and I would not be lured back by that either.
Priest solution: Run Heroic TOC, and other heroics for badges, after a few weeks you should be able to buy Ulduar level gear, then you can go raid Ulduar with out feeling like a leech. I personally think if you have full naxx 25 epics then you are ready to start Ulduar, esp if you are a healer.

Warrior solution: PUGing naxx 10 is very easy considering the gear most PUGers have thanks to ToC, and heroics. Hell, regular ToC drops naxx 10 equivilant gear.

I'm personally planning on getting my tank geared up some more and being ready to hit Icecrown which should require gear that is easily obtainable form heroic badges.
Really, I wonder why you returned. Raiding seems still to be the largest part of what WoW offers as endgame content, and I would not be lured back by that either.

Not everyone is stuck in that "there is no game but the endgame" mentality. In fact, the Cataclysm is so exciting because it shows that even Blizzard can eventually break out of that sort of mindset. Which is good for them, because it turns out that the "endgame is everything" players aren't the most loyal customers anyway, tend to burn out fast, and quit.
I actually didnt find raiding to be that fun until I started to raid every week doing 10 man ulduar and having the exact same team every week. Not only does it feel good that you down a new boss, but you did it with people you know and have been working with to do the specific boss. Also for people starting to raid, dont think you need to be in a guild for a year to start doing raids. I was brought onto the guild 4 weeks ago and im on our 10 man ulduar group and we do very well.
I feel that the emblems are the answer to the conundrum. My Pally Tank is epic-ed out and needs not single piece of gear from heroics for any of her 3 sets.

Nonetheless, I run heroics. Why? Because I can use the Conquest Emblems to get upgrades to my gear.

Thus, the dilemma is less pronounced. Sure, people who need gear from the instances 'leech' off of me to get gear but not a complete waste because I get emblems which will help me in the long run.

I suppose you could then argue that optimally I would take people who all wanted nothing but badges, thus increasing the speed at which I could obtain badges.

I suppose that's true, but I find the difference to be pretty small. As a Tank, my pugs rarely fail and the increased time from undergeared people is negligible.

You may not have heard, but at Blizzcon they announced plans to add a feature whereby a group leader would gain extra rewards/achievements for successfully leading a group through an instance/raid. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
I love this article because it explains what I've always been frustrated with PUGs. Its not that I don't know these people, its that inevitably most of them are undergeared for the occasion. And if they fail, what it encourages is more people to go after easier and better equipment rather than stepping down a notch.

I'm curious if you have an idea of how to create multiple levels of content that all have the appropriate people attempting the content (or higher).

The only solution I see to this is a much more linear approach. I think linear is really sometimes viewed as a bad word in MMO's, but I think people really like them. Sure, you need to provide freedom in the line. Just look at the Northrend quests. Most of them provide a line that you have to do before you can unlock the next line. I know that this is what they were thinking with keys to heroics in TBC, and I think although it wasn't the best implementation because it forced you to do an instance over and over again, in order to play it on a level that you wanted to, but I think that that actually might've been a good thing for group dynamics.
I know this isn't related to raids, but one of the announcements at Blizzcon made me immediately think of you and I'm interested in your thoughts. They announced guild leveling, which allows guilds to spend "guild talent points" on certain perks like reduced repair bills, special crafting recipes, heirloom items, etc. Guilds earn talent points from members who do things like level up, work on reputations, PvP, and other things. Guild achievements are another related feature coming in Cataclysm.

There are mechanics in place to keep people from taking off with their guild's hard work. If you leave the guild you lose any special recipes, items, and guild bonuses that your guild earned through this leveling system.

Anyway, I know how you've been harping lately on how anti-social WoW is, especially when it comes to guild loyalty. This system will certainly be in something of an infant stage at first, but is it similar to what you've pictured?
Great post Tobold. I find myself in a similar position having returned to Lotro after a few months break. Lotro has become more progression focussed since I left and other members of my kinship are already well advanced on the progression ladder. Although it is a very friendly helpful kinship I don't want to leech off them and I don't want to feel an obligation to raid just to help others along. My solution so far has been to spend my time playing a low level alt.
It's always been my contention that iny half-decently designed game you get the gear you need to do the content you are doing by doing the content you are doing.

That's to say, a soloist only needs the gear he gets while soloing in order to carry on soloing, so the only time that you need to worry about "gearing up" is when you are moving from one style of gameplay to another.

With raiding sitting at the top of the gameplay stack, clearly raiders have no other motivation to upgrade apart from doing harder raids.
The whole strategy of making sure you're the worst geared player for the raid is an oldie but a goodie. Many, many folks in my old guild made out like bandits back in the glory days of Kara. People getting 5 or 6 pieces in one run was not unheard of. Unfortunately, guild leadership did not understand why the 5 or 6 really well geared people were banging their heads against the keyboard because each boss took 3 or 4 attempts due to really terribly geared guildmates. It was quite common for those lucky receipients of 5 or 6 pieces to /gquit at 3am after the raid disbanded.
Cross server grouping/LFG would be excellent. I really think WoW needs to improve is social and grouping system because I've found it to be the worst of any MMO I've played. Ironic consider it has the most players!
Hey Tobold,

Do heroics and get Heroism badges, so u can turn for some T8 gear and weapons.

PUGs are getting better these days, as many people now know Naxx or are Ulduar geared and make it pretty quick and easier.

ToC is another way to get good gear. I have a mage and until today almost the complete drops are plate or mail. So your warrior have a chance. I'm pretty unluck on that instance.

Glad to see you back. See you on a PvP event... hopefully (your char) saying his last words. :P
[For the Alliance]
Your logic is flawed at two points: at first you assume the "reward" of raiding is gear (usable only for further raiding). The reward of raiding is the experience itself. (learning, coordinating, e-peen, hanging out with friends or whatever OUT OF GAME thing you can get from raiding).

The question you have to ask before going to raid is "would I go if I'd surely woundn't get any gear or even emblems (what you surely get)?". If the answer is not a 100% yes, don't go!

Secondly, you assume you would be leeching on your priest in an Ulduar group. Unless you are a retard (which I'm sure you're not), or your guild wants to do hard modes (which I'm sure they don't), you are perfectly fit to the raid in Naxx gear, and I'd be surprised if you wouldn't outheal half of the healer corps.
In your situation, here is what I would recommend:

Ask around the server a bit, and watch the public channels, try to find the individuals who organise and lead regular semi-pug raid activities - every server has a few. Often they base the group around a core of similarly motivated people they know, often a few alts of hardcore raiders, and then fill out the rest.

This tends to get you a blend that is better than a full on pug, often has experience (especially with raider alts in the mix) without necessarily the equivalent level of epics.

Such leaders are always interested in competent players.
Great article.
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