Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 28, 2010
 
Raid gap analysis

World of Warcraft has its ups and downs, which are to some extent reflected in activity numbers, but are mostly visible to people playing the game and noticing servers being full, "additional instances cannot be launched" messages, and activity on the auction house. By this anecdotal evidence I'd say that WoW is in one of its "ups", easily explained by the extreme popularity of the Dungeon Finder. Now that heroics are chock-full every evening, and people collect tons of emblems, a lot more characters are running around in T9 gear or equivalent. Not just the characters that raid, but also players who never raided, and non-raiding alts.

It is easy to see that this situation isn't stable in the long term. Sooner or later two things will happen: People got all the gear they can buy with emblems of triumph (and while they theoretically could go for full sets of T10 gear from emblems of frost, collecting 400 emblems of frost at 2 emblems per day is a lot less attractive); and people will get bored of running the same Northrend heroics over and over. Inevitably people will start to ask themselves what is next, after heroics. And the current answer is that there is a gap, because the transition from running heroics to doing raids is not an obvious one.

Now some raiders will tell you that this is because "raids are hard". That is a somewhat outdated myth, fueled by the need of some raiders to feel "special". In reality the hardest current 5-man dungeons, the three Icecrown dungeons on heroic, are actually harder than several of the fights in Naxxramas. So, given how people in T9 gear are certainly well equipped enough to run Naxxramas, and that doing raids like Naxxramas and Ulduar not only give emblems too, but also drop epics for slots that aren't that easy to fill with emblem gear, why aren't more people doing the transition from heroics to raids now?

I think that the main obstacle is one of organization. Traditionally raids are being organized by guilds. Now I'm in a really good guild, which does a tremendous job of spanning the bridge from running heroics with everyone to raiding Icecrown, but even our organizational energies are limited. The raid calendar is used mostly for "progression raids", and if you are trying to progress with the guild as a whole through the raid circuit, it is obvious that you'll want to do it with everybody's "main" character. Setting up for example a raid for alts to Naxxramas isn't that easy, because you don't want to do it on the 5 progression raid nights, leaving not many time slots for alt raids. And with the administrative charge of the raid leaders and officers already high, setting up a second, parallel raid organization for alts and raid newbies isn't really all that realistic.

Now what could Blizzard do to solve this, and help people over this gap from heroics to raiding? As the problem is one of organization, the solution has to be one that makes organization easier. I can think of several possibilities:Unfortunately the more probable outcome is that Blizzard will simply not do anything, being fully busy with patch 4.0 and Cataclysm for many months to come. In that case it is extremely likely that we'll see a decline in activity over the next 6 months. You can only run heroics so often before becoming bored, and I don't think that the currently available 5-man content will last that long. It would be in Blizzard's own interest to bridge the gap to raiding, to keep people playing. And just handing out better gear so nobody is "undergeared for Naxxramas" apparently didn't do the trick.
Comments:
I am not 100% sure why you keep mentioning Naxx as the ideal raid. I like the mini-raid example, but why Naxx? Of all the WotLK raids, it's by far the most boring, least entertaining raid. Ulduar is vastly superior, e.g.

Bridging the gap is one of the trickier parts in guild management as well. You do want to bring in newer raiders to fill holes in the roster, but at the same time you cannot continue running old content over and over to not bore the progressed raiders.

This T9 gear overkill accomplishes one thing, meaning that any character who properly gears up now can go to ToC and Onyxia, earn their raiding dues there and be ready for ICC-10, IMHO. We had a few new raiders recently who did just that, and they're doing fine.

It just requires the effort of your guild to actually organize a raid for newer people to play catchup. ToC is ideal in that regard, because it can be completed in an hour if the raid has some experience.
 
he only reason to do naxx is to see it once or for achievements. Gear is better in ICC 5 mans. I really haven't seen a lack of people raiding, even the first bosses in ICC 10 are being PUGged regularly.

I read your other posts about not being able to raid anything but naxx because you lacked the achievements and experience to lead. What you really need to do is spend some time reading tactics and watching videos of TOC fights and start your own PUGs, making sure you invite a healthy amount or mostly people who know the fights or who you know are skilled and well geared. TOC10 isnt hard these days and as you should be fine. Don't be afraid to jump in to get the achievements you need for easier PUGs, there is detailed boss fight info out there that should be plenty enough for you.
 
"... because "raids are hard". That is a somewhat outdated myth, ... In reality the hardest current 5-man dungeons, the three Icecrown dungeons on heroic, are actually harder than several of the fights in Naxxramas ..."

You are kidding, right?
This is like saying that violet hold is harder than Molten Core ... why are you comparing end of game content to old raids?

Most raiding guilds dont raid in Naxxramas anymore, or probably ever, Naxxramas is not what people mean when they say they "raid" in wow.

It is unfortunate that the only raid you ever been to is Naxxramas, and you did not experience on your own the end-of-game raids during the time they were end-of-game, because raids ARE HARD.

They are hard for a plenthora of reasons, one of them being you need a group of great players to successfully progress in a raid. Fail pugs go raiding all the time, but the ones that actually finish a raid are those experienced with raiding in general and that raid in particular. And the experienced people will generally not want to join a pug, since it falls apart too fast after a couple of wipes and its harder to get experience that way.
 
Raiding is "harder" than heroics in a sense that one useless moron can wipe the raid. Doing 800 DPS on Patchwerk can be solved by the LFR intelligently matching "more experienced" players to "beginners".

But it can't handle the guy who runs into the opposing charged group to Thaddeus, put a slime in the midroom at Grobbulus or AoE down Faerlina's adds.

While raiding is not hard in a sense that it is available to the top 5%, but it still separates the top 50% from the bottom 50%. And Blizzard doesn't want that bottom 50% being excluded.

Don't forget, if you could get badges in Naxx, why would you go and boost them in 5-mans?
 
Actually handing out the gear in 5-mans was very counterproductive. Tell me again, why should I raid? I am already overpowered as hell for every content other than raiding, so basically I just could raid to get gear that I need to raid. The reward structure is just fucked, just by saying "I don't raid" I created a situation for myself where I can safely say that I already have everything I could ever need. Sure, I could raid just for fun but the time my real life demands isn't too easy predicted and about 50% of the time raiding would cause me too much stress.
To me it looks like Blizzard is sitting on three different and completely separate progression paths: 5-mans, raids and PvP. Of those only PvP is already at a point where you can (in theory) walk that path from level 1 to maxlevel and iLevel 261. Now I'm waiting for Blizzard to fix the other two paths.
 
Random raids is a bad idea, because if it's challenging enough to give you loot, you HAVE to spend efforts to understand the tactics, which defines a raider in the first place. People wanting to raid but not wanting to invest time in raiding will brutally fail in any raid requiring tactics to be used
 
On my server, there are so called "rep runs" in ICC where you pug any 10 people, and kill a few trash in ICC. Depending on luck, they might wipe on the first skeleton or make it to morrowgar, but i never heard one who managed to kill the first boss. (i mean, as a really randon pug)

This is the raid gap :-)
 
It is unfortunate that the only raid you ever been to is Naxxramas, and you did not experience on your own the end-of-game raids during the time they were end-of-game, because raids ARE HARD.

Please refrain from such personal remarks, especially the untrue ones. I did raid Naxxramas, Ulduar (not complete), Sartharion, Malygos, and VoA.

But what I am talking about in this post is how to get a character from heroics into his FIRST raid. It appears rather obvious to me that this first raid should be something easier, like Naxxramas. You do NOT want people going directly from heroics to ICC, do you?

I never said that raiding ICC is not hard. But that is something inherent to ICC, not to raiding in general. Raiding isn't hard, ICC is. My argument is that somebody who can do the harder heroics and got a lot of emblem / harder heroics gear should from both a skill and a gear point of view be able to beat Naxxramas. Once he did that, he can go on from there, do Ulduar, do ToC, and maybe arrive at ICC one day. But you need to start somewhere.

I am not 100% sure why you keep mentioning Naxx as the ideal raid. I like the mini-raid example, but why Naxx? Of all the WotLK raids, it's by far the most boring, least entertaining raid. Ulduar is vastly superior, e.g.

Same reason as above, PLUS dividing up Naxxramas into several parts would be a lot easier, as it is already pre-cut into separate pieces.

Tell me again, why should I raid?

Because raiding is fun, and is different from the fun you can have in 5-man groups or in PvP. The more parallel activities there are on offer, the more the players can do different things instead of repeating the same content over and over, the longer they will play.

Just because YOU burned out of Naxxramas having done it a hundred times doesn't mean that nobody else should go there any more.
 
So finnaly you get to this point. The gap. Bliz seems to not be able to fill this gap. Liche King beeing downed by most serous guild in february and Cataclysm comming maby in august. 6 months of farming ICC is way to long. And for those without rading guild accsess - omg, 6 more months of doing hc. I smell a serious burnout comming up. One thought iv been tinkering about is the idea of making a serous hardcore encounter. A power behind the throne encounter. LK dropping a fragment og a key. Assemble 7 fragments and put the key toghether. Key unlocks the new encounter. Encounter dropping a few incredible items that shines in a fashion that spikes envy all around. This encounter beeing so hard the only hardcore raiders could possibly make it might bring a pool of hardcore raiders back to the game. Its ofc unlikely for Bliz to create this encounter cuz of investment/payback ratio is low but Im wondering if it could somewhat revitalize the game abit.
 
Perhaps a compromise can be struck.

In future raid development, raids like Naxx, Ulduar and ICC would be sub-instanced by wing. Each would have independent lockouts but each sub-instance would have an attumnent system which would work like a logical progression if the instance was one whole instance. Once the first sub-instance is cleared, the second is unlocked, so on and so forth. This could be controlled like the progression tiers of TOC and ICC, but have independent lockouts.
This could be significantly beneficial for PUGs as well as progression raiders as a smaller number of bosses and trash must be cleared to reach progression bosses, thus allowing a guild to schedule the last sub-instance for progression and allowing the first one or two sub-instances to be run on off-nights or even PUG.

Sub-instancing large raids could dramatically assist with the organizational aspect of PUGs as well as assisting progression guilds in not needing to clear the instance to reach the progression boss. Yes extending raid lockouts help bypass this limitation, but you still have to clear to the progression boss, which could be every boss in the instance.
 
It's indeed an organizational problem.

If you raid you're forced to do it between x and y. Usually that ends up being at around 8 pm > 11 à 12 pm for 2 à 5 days a week. A heavy time investment.

Want to do a heroic? You can run one every time of the week. Want to run one heroic at 4 am? No problem, queue 10 minutes and play 30 minutes.

Splitting up the raids in small chuncks is a great idea. Give us small raids which takes about 30 to 60 minutes. Allowing us to queue for just the x wing in Naxxramas would solve that.

It would also give the possibility to just run two one hour raids instead of forcing people to play ten hours a week.
 
I agree, there does need to be better raid management tools in game, both for guilds and for random groups. Both would work.

Raids are not that much harder than a dungeon. They just take co-ordination and people doing their job, and no standing in shit. It's not really all that hard. I've done many over the years.

There is a gap between dungeons and raids, and with raids being THE end game content, it really makes me wonder why I bother to even play WoW. One other good MMO will have me jumping ship for good. Raiding isn't friendly in WoW, and it's too much still of an e-penis thing. (see some of these comments)
 
but i never heard one who managed to kill the first boss. (i mean, as a really randon pug)
This is the raid gap :-)


No, this is the gap between the average player and the TOP content of the game. I don't mind there being top content in the game, hard enough for the average player to be unattainable. I do however believe that not ALL raiding should be unreachable for the average player. Thus something has to be done to close the gap between heroics and the EASIEST raid, not the hardest one.
 
tbh, i have trouble understanding the point. Why would a better tool helping casuals to get into naxx achieve something?

They would maybe run it once and stop using it, same with ulduar, once they realize that it gives no rewards.

Finally, there's no gap tbh. After heroics you can pug VoA , Ony, or any future raid instance that doesnt require any particular raiding skill. Then it's an increase in time spent. No tool will play instead of you.
 
A number of issues here. The main one being for Blizzard to detract from the guilding process and the necessity of being in a guild is generally (from many research studies) an bad thing for your revenue stream. People in guilds (on average) play for longer, over longer time periods and are more likely to re-subscribe.

As such, anything that strongly detracts from the need or necessity to guild is a no-no, and currently one of the only real reasons you *need* to be in a guild is to raid. For friends I have a friends list (and a number of social add-ons which keep track of my friends in different guilds etc).

Witness the changes already scheduled for Cataclysm with guild leveling etc and the new looking for guild system to make getting into a guild much, much easier. The focus on the guild and getting players into guilds is not a random design decision for Cataclysm, it's something that will statistically, on average, lead to players being more satisfied with the game and will have them playing longer.

A looking for raid function could, maybe even would, detract from the current incarnation of the WOTLK game. Without guild levels the other stuff in the next incarnation, the primary reason to guild at the moment, the primary bonus, is a group of people who you can raid with (I say in a hypocritical way as I'm in a social guild, but you know what I mean, on average)

Thats not to say LFR would destroy good guilds by a country mile! :-) I'm sure good guilds with trust and commitment would be completely unaffected by this, but probably a number of people in smaller guilds (I believe the overall statistical average size of a guild across all realms is around 14 people, though that number is a few years old and anyone who has a better statistic please tell) would start asking seroius questions as to why they need a guild at all.

You might ask: why should that be an issue? player choice, right? well players in MMO's and video games in general are notorious for being able to destroy their own fun of the game. Making raids simpler and easier and detracting from guilds in the process might seem like a nice indivualistic ideal, but Blizzard need to look at the well being of the game overall for all players. And like I've said, statistically, players in guilds play the game for longer and thus pay Blizzard more money for longer.

It's a solid business decision to promote guild's to players, not to detract from the need to actually be in one (which IMHO a LFR system would)
 
"Just because YOU burned out of Naxxramas having done it a hundred times doesn't mean that nobody else should go there any more."

Actually I'm not at all burned out of Naxxramas. My personal repetition tolerance seems to be much higher than most others. I played this game for about six years now and have long lost count on how many characters I have created. Nonetheless I still have fun doing starter areas, Wailing Caverns and Deadmines. Those rare times when I stick my nose into Naxxramas again have the added benefit that I can feel like a grizzled old veteran showing the youngsters that experience trumps youth anytime of the day. What I really burned out on is those "fastfood-relations" that exist in most raids. Everyone acts like they are friends with everyone, but if you stop raiding, change raids or do anything else that relieves them from the pressure of having to act like they care about you that friendship is instantly wiped out and you are strangers again who won't speak to each other and ignore each other if they meet each other incidentally in Dalaran.

After six years most of the novelty of World of Warcraft is gone. What keeps me in the game is friendship, but not the weak stuff they hand out in raids. I need something stronger today ;)
 
tbh, i have trouble understanding the point. Why would a better tool helping casuals to get into naxx achieve something? They would maybe run it once and stop using it, same with ulduar, once they realize that it gives no rewards.

That is not true, on two counts. First, Naxxramas and Ulduar DO give rewards: The same emblems that heroics give, plus BETTER epics than drop from the final boss in the average heroic dungeon. As you can't fill EVERY slot with emblem gear (e.g. no shields available), and filling all slots takes a while, getting an epic from Naxx or Ulduar can often replace an inferior iLevel 200 item from heroics.

The second reason why your argument is wrong is that you assume that peoply ONLY raid for gear. That simply isn't true. Rewards are certainly a strong motivator, but going on a raid is also a fun experience by itself. And by going on a raid you'll learn how to handle your character in that sort of environment, which is fun and a goal by itself.

You can NOT go directly from AoE-speedrun heroics to ToC and ICC without ever having learned the basics of raiding in an easier raid dungeon like Naxxramas or Ulduar. And right now there simply isn't much opportunity for the average player to go there, as "the raiders" long ago lost interest in those places, and the "non raiders" have problems organizing a raid.
 
One thing I would love to see is Blizzard butchering Icecrown citadel into several instances, so that each wing has a separate lockout timer (to access Plagueworks/Crimson Halls, you need to have cleared the Lower Spire that week). This would make ICC much more pug-friendly, as you could assemble a group for one night, clear the Lower Spire, then disband, at which point everyone could proceed into the plagueworks in their own time, in new, different groups.
 
I think Blizzard's current vision is that you ding 80, grind heroics, and then do TOC as your intro raid instance.

ToC is likely to have more than enough IIC raiders in it trying to round out the odd drop and I don't think that any of the fights in there are beyond a first time raider.

Face it, nearly all raid boss mechanics are easy, and have to be easy, because you have to have 10 or 25 people pass the challenge of the mechanic repeatedly.

And Gelvon, I am running a Naxx 25 right now, as I do think it is a gentle introduction to raiding, but there are always enough over geared players that without any real effort we get Arachnophobia and Momma Said Knock You Out.

My "briefing" for Grand Widow is "We do this with brute force and ignorance--AE down the adds, and when they are all down, single target the boss."
 
I also wonder if it is healthier for a game to go in cycles. I know it is better for the players do say do WoW for a while and then loose interest and do something else. Raid due to it's organization has an inherent risk of converting the game into a job. Blizzard has done a lot to remove the parts of an MMORPG that are not fun.

Plus heroic's are quick fun and relaxing.
 
"You can NOT go directly from AoE-speedrun heroics to ToC and ICC without ever having learned the basics of raiding in an easier raid dungeon like Naxxramas or Ulduar. And right now there simply isn't much opportunity for the average player to go there, as "the raiders" long ago lost interest in those places, and the "non raiders" have problems organizing a raid."

That is true, Tobold. And I think it would be in the interest of everyone, including raiders, to increase the available raiding pool. So, as the average "non raider" clearly cannot organize a raid or lead it, the solution rests within making the "raiders" mingle and guide them.

This has clearly worked with 5 mans, I am fairly certain Blizzard's group finding mechanism is weighted towards building a group that has players with experience and players without too much of it. So the only thing they would need to do is to extend the same "mingle" principle to beginner raids as well.

How to do that? Simple. Raiders are known to respond to carrots best, even if it means repeating content over and over again. So I would change the weekly raid quest from killing an easy to reach boss (Anub'Rekhan/XT) for 5+5 badges, into a quest that rewards say 2+2 badges for killing the end boss of every Naxx/Ulduar wing. I bet you that would lead to a LOT of pug raids clearing Naxx/Ulduar, and a lot of those pugs would be fresh dungeon graduates.
 
There is no gap if you join a raiding guild. I remember at the end of TBC when we were having to scrape the bottom of the barrel for raiders to try and push through Sunwell; we would take just about anyone willing to put in the time, run them through Black Temple/Hyjal, and get them geared up so they could help us progress. I'm sure it's gotten even easier now with the increased availability of decent ilvl epics outside raiding. I know in times of plenty guilds can be picky about who they bring into raids but just wait for the lean times and they'll grab just about anyone, experienced or not and teach them the ropes. Mechanics and difficulty wise I'd say there's a bigger gap between solo content and 5 mans than 5 mans and raids. If you take a player that has only solo'd and drop them in the middle of a 5 man group they'd probably have more trouble adapting than if you dropped a player that has just run 5 mans into a raid. I guess this also goes back to your blog posts about changing solo content to prepare players more for 5 man content and beyond.
 
"So finnaly you get to this point. The gap. Bliz seems to not be able to fill this gap. Liche King beeing downed by most serous guild in february and Cataclysm comming maby in august. 6 months of farming ICC is way to long. And for those without rading guild accsess - omg, 6 more months of doing hc. I smell a serious ..."

DUDE Please, that is painful to read.
 
"Don't forget, if you could get badges in Naxx, why would you go and boost them in 5-mans?"

Easy, first random LFR gets frost badges and the first random LFD _also_ gets frost badges. So a "raider daily" changes from one random LFD to one random LFD plus a random LFR.
 
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