Tobold's Blog
Friday, May 21, 2010
 
Perfect MMORPG: Raiding

When I mentioned that I’m looking at various MMORPGs with the idea to assemble the perfect MMORPG from the various ideas and features of various games, several people asked me to describe that perfect MMORPG. I’m afraid I can’t give you a full description, because that would be a hundred-page design document. But I can describe parts of it. In this post I want to describe how I think a perfect raiding end game would look like. The thoughts on that are based on the one side on the recent discussions we had here about raiding in World of Warcraft, and on the other side on a recent post by Keen, and a follow-up by Muckbeast on how guilds have become too important in MMORPGs.

So before describing my proposal for a solution, I am going to analyze the problem: I believe that the root of the problem is the fundamental structure of raids, with their lockouts, multiple bosses separated by trash, and what one of my readers called “generic environment-related tasks like moving out of the fire instead of class-related skills”, which require each and every encounter to be trained several times before a raid group succeeds in downing a boss. What follows from that is the huge amount of organization it takes for a guild to set up a good raid, and in consequence the much lower quality of a badly set-up pickup raid. When Keen and Muckbeast complain about guilds being too important, they are talking about guilds being too important as gatekeepers to access raid content. Not in the right guild means you are not getting into the good raids, and then you are missing the achievements that you’d need to get into a PUG raid. And that is just the tip of the iceberg: There are also a lot of players who will never be able to raid simply because they don’t have multi-hour blocks of time available during typical guild raid times.

Trying to design the perfect raid brings us to a deceptively simple question with a lot of hidden depth: What exactly *is* raiding? I would define raiding as a large group of players fighting against a boss mob with unusual abilities. Everything else, lockouts, epic drops, trash mobs, and so on, is not essential to raiding, and is just a specific part of the implementation of raiding by Blizzard in World of Warcraft. And there lies the trap in discussing raiding in a perfect MMORPG: Whatever I describe, somebody will think I’m talking about changing how raids work in World of Warcraft, and will come up with a counter-argument which is specific to WoW, but doesn’t apply at all to the perfect MMORPG I’m talking about.

In a recent reply to a comment I stated a brief outline of what I would want from a raid encounter: What I want is raid encounters in which A) I need to think which button to press. B) My decision which button I press matters. And C) what the best button to press is depends on what class I play. To this I now add point D) which is that I would like raid encounters to *not* require a huge amount of encounter-specific practice, which is basically a consequence of points A to C. If a raid encounter follows a totally predictable script, the best way to beat the raid encounter is to follow a totally predictable anti-script, and training that script into muscle memory, which reduces the need to think, and thus eliminates the possibility to make a wrong decision. If we eliminate the predictable script, we eliminate the possibility of training specific encounters, and thus we eliminate the necessity of complicated organization in which guilds strive to learn an encounter before being able to beat it. Instead of all that we get the requirement for raiders to be able to think quickly, react to unforeseen events, and play their class so well that they are able to choose the right ability for every given situation.

Thus raiding in my perfect MMORPG would basically work via an interface not unlike the Dungeon Finder in World of Warcraft: You could sign up alone or in a group, everybody needs to say which role he is going to perform, and the computer matches your group randomly with a challenge which is appropriate to the power level of the group, taking gear into account. But that challenge would not be a dungeon with trash and several raid bosses, it would be just a single raid boss encounter. And that single raid boss encounter would be random, that is to say based on a random selection of different possible boss abilities, of which there would be enough to make it extremely unlikely to meet the exactly same mix twice.

At this point I probably need to calm down the screaming WoW players suffering from a lack of imagination, who are right now thinking that bosses with random abilities you can’t train the steps for can’t be beat. Of course you can: It is just a question of tuning the power of those abilities, and of giving enough pointers to players. That starts with how the raid boss looks: There will by technical necessity only be a limited number of boss models, let’s say 50. And the shape of the boss will be linked to some basic abilities: You can count on a dragon having a breath weapon and a tail spike, a huge giant is going to hit hard and cleave, while a lich is certainly casting spells, etc. Beyond the abilities given by the basic shape, there would be a random selection of additional special abilities. Of course the developers would need to balance these somehow, for example by attaching point values to them, so you don’t get one boss with a few harmless abilities and another with several total killer abilities. And every special ability launched by a boss would have visible and audible warnings: Think Ick & Krick in the Pits of Saron, with their shouts of “Quickly! Poison them all while they're still close!” telling you that it would probably be a good idea to run away now to avoid a poison nova.

A raid group that wipes on such a random boss would find themselves respawning at the entrance of the instance, with the same boss still around and fully healed. Thus if some combination of abilities took them by surprise, they will be better prepared for the next fight. But as soon as either they give up, or the boss is dead, there would be no way to get the same boss again. Even if they signed up for the next raid encounter directly afterwards and by chance got a boss with the same shape again, he would most probably have a different set of random abilities, thus the fight would be different. And as the raid bosses are each in their own instance, with no trash, groups can change in composition between doing different bosses, and there is no requirement for anyone to stay with the raid groups for a consecutive block of hours.

Rewards for such raid encounters would work along similar lines as rewards for heroics work now: There is some random loot, which is distributed by some need/greed roll system (and if you are in a guild group you can still design loot rules on who is allowed to press the need button). But more importantly every participant gets tokens, which can be saved up to buy gear, making loot distribution less of an all or nothing affair. And where is raid progression in all that? Simple, as a difficulty selection slider on the random raid finder interface. With possibly some requirements like gear level or a number of raids of the easier levels done before being able to select the higher difficulties. The easiest difficulty could be easy enough so that people who frankly don't play very well can still "raid", while the higher difficulty levels are for increasingly more skilled players, and give out better rewards to encourage people to go for that higher challenge.

Note that while such a random raid boss system could theoretically be implemented in World of Warcraft, that is not only unlikely to happen, but also sub-optimal due to the design of how combat works in World of Warcraft. The perfect raid encounter I am describing here is based on players making meaningful decisions based on being able to play their class well, and reacting to the unforeseeable events of a boss with a mix of random abilities. That works a lot better if your spells and abilities are more different from each other in different situations. Imagine your spells would do different amounts of damage depending on how far you are from the target, and also depending on whether you hit the target from the front or the back. Now add a boss who isn’t standing still in front of the tank, but is circle-strafing him, add a couple of boss abilities that force players to move, and suddenly you are forced to constantly decide which spell is the best based on where you are standing in relation to the position of the boss, instead of just using the same spell rotation all the time. In addition to that, the combat system could have multi-player combos, similar to those of LotRO, where your spells could have extra effects if you coordinate them right with your fellow players.

The overall goal of raiding in the perfect MMORPG should be to have a fun challenge for a larger group of players. Much of what went wrong with raiding in other games is due to the unfortunate tendency of players to optimize the fun out of games. Thus I believe that randomized single boss encounters, combined with challenges that are based on class-related skills, come closer to a perfect raid experience than multi-hour predictable sequences for which everybody has to learn the specific moves for. And a random raid finder interface would relieve guilds from their role as gate-keepers to raid content, thus decreasing the organizational burden and potential for unnecessary drama. Raiding with your guild should be possible, but not be the major function of a guild. A random raid finder with random raid bosses provides a better challenge, and a better measure of “skill”, than learning a tactic from a YouTube video and then practicing the steps until the boss goes down. With different difficulty levels tuned right, there could be an appropriate challenge with an appropriate reward for everybody who wants to raid.
Comments:
The topic of the perfect MMORPG interests me very much! I do have a suggestion: I think it's better to approach this question first on a higher level. This post describes your vision of a perfect PvE encounter. However, does a perfect MMORPG even need PvE encounters? After the identification of the elements of a perfect MMORPG, then discussions can commence on the implementation of each of these elements (e.g. your current post).

For me, my vision is a big themepark (WoW-like) combined with a smaller sandbox area. The risk/rewards of either approach should be balanced.

Player advancement in the game can be accomplished through various means (PvP, sandbox domination, PvE, etc) but take equal effort and yield equivalent rewards. Thus, a solo player can advance to the top but the amount of effort will be the same if done in a group.

In the end, the game should cater for a variety of playstyles, with players allowed to interchange between areas according to their current preferences.
 
Tobold,

I think you would be able to "broaden your horizons" if you had some experience out of WoW-style endgame. For example, endgame is basically = raid and most of the things you say only look at the situation from the perspective of that playstyle.

For example, there is the question of vertical vs. horizontal progression (where WoW sports the former) and how that would affect the structure of endgame.

"Raid" is (from my perspective) 'assembly line' style content, much because of the way the WoW infrastructure is handled. That's what the endgame consists of for the most part. There are several ways to make things different (and maybe better?) there.

What I'd also like to take a look at, is the 'event' structure. There are meaningless 'trash mobs' (I really hate that word) and the good stuff comes from the bosses. It doesn't have to be that way. The 'event'/raid itself can be made more important than the bosses within. There are tons of options to choose from, and no 'raid' has to be the same way, or have the same structure (with only bosses and environments changing).

However, there is one thing I feel you got absolutely right; there should be a random element to these encounters. From playing a game that introduced such events long ago, I always felt that the random element added freshness each time I did the dungeon, and it didn't get boring as fast and also had more variety. Much more than scripted events where everything always acted the same way.

Just giving you food for thought. I know it might be hard to grasp what I mean since you haven't experienced it yourself, but try to broaden your views on the subject. Perfect MMO endgame can be a lot more than what you think!
 
I think you would be able to "broaden your horizons" if you had some experience out of WoW-style endgame. For example, endgame is basically = raid and most of the things you say only look at the situation from the perspective of that playstyle.

It is not that I don't have experience of other forms of endgame. It is that other forms of endgame, e.g. RvR in WAR, or other forms of conquest PvP like in PotBS, have never been as good, nor as popular, as a PvE raid endgame. While I totally agree that raiding shouldn't be the end all and only thing to do at the level cap, I would insist that a perfect MMORPG *has to* offer raiding at least as one option.

I think it's better to approach this question first on a higher level. This post describes your vision of a perfect PvE encounter. However, does a perfect MMORPG even need PvE encounters?

Yes, a perfect MMORPG needs PvE encounters. Again, after playing games with PvP, PvE, both, or neither (ATitD), I found that PvE is a rather essential and popular part of MMORPGs. Take it out, and you automatically end up with a niche game.

As I said before, I'm talking about "perfect for me" here, and I would want to play a popular game, so that there are lots of other players. That isn't to say that there might not be a "perfect for you" MMORPG with only 20k subscribers and only PvP. But that isn't the game I am blogging about.

There certainly is no "perfect for everybody" MMORPG.
 
There certainly is no "perfect for everybody" MMORPG.

Do you think that this is an impossibility? What if all the aspects what makes an MMORPG "perfect" for an individual is combined?

i.e. Imagine if WoW and EVE were combined together. But first, is this even possible? I contend that it is - by separating out the areas, and to balance risk/reward so that they are equivalent.

The best evidence I can show that this approach can work is Arenas and PvE raiding.
 
"It is not that I don't have experience of other forms of endgame. It is that other forms of endgame, e.g. RvR in WAR, or other forms of conquest PvP like in PotBS, have never been as good, nor as popular, as a PvE raid endgame. While I totally agree that raiding shouldn't be the end all and only thing to do at the level cap, I would insist that a perfect MMORPG *has to* offer raiding at least as one option."


Oh, I do not mean it like that. What I mean, is that raid is only one form of PvE endgame, and vertical progression is only one way to approach the situation.

And now, that you'd like to theorize what is in your opinion a perfect MMO endgame, I think it'd be useful if you'd take a look at other, maybe inferior endgames which have the potential to be better than the raid PvE found in WoW. I agree that WoW's endgame overall is as good as it gets in the MMO scene currently, but at least I do not think that's because it *is* the best way to do things, but no other company has been able to create other forms of endgame in an equal or better way than how Blizzard created raids.

"Raiding" is also a very broad term, even if it's not that in WoW. There are multiple ways to approach "raid" and make it more interesting, while giving some other form of PvE endgame at the same time. Things like you proposed, such as straight boss encounter without anything else.
 
"Do you think that this is an impossibility? What if all the aspects what makes an MMORPG "perfect" for an individual is combined?"

At least with the way endgame works right now, it is pretty much impossible.

For it to work, something very revolutionary must be developed. Nothing like what we have today. I don't see it happening.
 
I find it really interesting that you seem to refer to guilds only as a source of drama that we are "forced" to endure to access content, to the extent that pugging becomes your ideal form of grouping.

I'm not the most social player in the world and about as prejudiced and jaded as anyone when it comes to other WoW players, so I'm not sure whether that makes my opinion less valid; but I've never had anywhere near as fun an experience with pugs as I do with the people I know to be both good players and nice people and struggle to understand why an intelligent person would want to play as part of a group that wasn't.
 
I definitely agree about randomizing a boss’ abilities; I’ve never really cared about story or lore continuity in and MMORPG (as compared to a single player game where story is almost always essential). Imagine taking all the special abilities from all the current bosses in WoW, assigning them values, and distributing them to a boss. You may understand the ability when isolated but if it’s chained together with other attacks and circumstances like positioning, multiple targets, allies, etc, it’s something you can’t perfect with practice alone. It’d make for an exciting boss fight that you could still try to figure out with your guild or group. I just reiterated what you posted... and it would be awesome!

I think one thing that would really help MMORPG boss fights is the inclusion of a better physics engine. Obviously nothing too demanding, but enough so that being knocked into something could be dangerous, or you could grab onto/climb something, or even the battlefield could become altered somehow (spawning a physical object isn’t that intensive). Right now the biggest reason I like WoW over the other MMORPGs is because of its solid and responsive controls. Even if the physics are considered ancient by today’s standards, they still feel miles ahead of other MMOs (minus some niche titles built on twitch). One of the biggest aspects that separate an MMORPG from a pen and paper game is that MMORPGs have some semblance of physics in their world that can be used by the players in ways that feel dynamic. Better physics means wider parameters, which means more options, which means more player driven input, which means more creativity, which generally means more fun.
 
I find it really interesting that you seem to refer to guilds only as a source of drama that we are "forced" to endure to access content, to the extent that pugging becomes your ideal form of grouping.

That is not what I mean. I think that guilds *should* be social spaces, for playing and hanging out with your mates and other people you share common interests and beliefs with. And in the current WoW model the guild function of being a gatekeeper to raid content gets in the way of the social functions of the guild. There is guild drama over loot and raid spots, and people quit guilds to join another guild only because that other guild is more advanced in the raid circuit.

I believe that if raiding can viably be done by *either* guilds or PUGs, there is less organizational pressure on guilds, and they would be able to perform their social functions better.
 
I like the sound of this game so far. What else besides arena-style random raid encounters might I see in this game?

What kind of progression (if any) would my character experience?

How about "fluff" in the form of achievements (and would they matter) and professions?

Basically, I would love a more detailed breakdown of your perfect game.
 
So how much would a 100 page ideal Tobold MMO Design cost me? ;)
 
So how much would a 100 page ideal Tobold MMO Design cost me? ;)

$20,000 or €16,000, if I take my best estimate of the time it would take me to compile this and my current hourly salary. Which is probably why there aren't all that many middle-aged Ph.D.s in game design, they are simply too expensive.
 
For once i'm not agreeing much ;)

"think quickly, react to unforeseen events, and play their class" refers to an arcade game. I think the "quickly" part is a bad design.

Instanced and random bosses would mean no lore at all. Basically, you'd be playing a fight generator. You usually play a MMO because you like the virtual world you're put in.

All together, i think those concepts are already implemented in games like lineage, which is perhaps perfect for the asian market, but which personally, i don't like one bit. Give me a turn based MMO instead! :D
 
I've been thinking about ways to improve raiding lately and haven't really come up with many solutions.

I like all of the ideas you presented in this post. If it were implemented correctly, I would play the game that you described.

I think new ideas need a chance to thrive. So many genre conventions have grown stale.
 
$20,000 or €16,000, if I take my best estimate of the time it would take me to compile this and my current hourly salary. Which is probably why there aren't all that many middle-aged Ph.D.s in game design, they are simply too expensive.

I support that. Even baring all iteration a well thought out MMO game design is a daunting enterprise. Most people only realize this when they actually try it. I have.

And even once you finished you still need to iterate endlessly to get it right.

About the topic:
Obviously, nobody can disgaree with your 'opinion' of a perfect MMO. However, you need to realize that this is just your best educated current guess. It might very well turn out that this guess is inaccurate and would need to be perfected. This, however, needed many more hours, much more text and as already pointed out: Many iterations. Probably also a team, so that you can discuss things from different perspectives before you write it down.

I wonder that you think that the perfect 'raid' in an MMO requires the now common boss/trash mob dualism.

What about exploration in dungeons? What about no giant 100 feet high bosses? (Even if they are 'just human' they somehow always are extra large in WoW). What about avoidable encounters and an 'explore and steal' approach in dungeons?
 
Let me point out that your ideal game (as well as ANY game in which a players reward/cost comes from their own success/failure) will be a niche game, on par with darkfall of EVE.

Second, Ick and Krick? Amazing fight, and pro reference to it.
 
Oh- and what about an "get out alive" approach ?

Different approaches, different kinds of dungeons can - and must be part of a AAA-MMO in my opinion.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Let me point out that your ideal game (as well as ANY game in which a players reward/cost comes from their own success/failure) will be a niche game

That is only a question of tuning it right. Imagine the Lich King only had 1 health. Obviously that encounter would be ultra-easy and would not frustrate anyone. Make the Lich King have 1 billion health, and even Ensidia would give up the fight in frustration.

And boss encounter with random abilities for which players can not prepare would by necessity have to be easier (at least on the easier difficulty levels I said can be chosen with a slider at the start) than the current boss encounters. Anyone playing WoW has *some* skill in defeating a mob, you just need to tune the stuff right so that even bad players get some minimal raiding and rewards at the lowest difficulty level that can be selected, average players get to average difficulty level, and the most hardcore players are challenged by the hardest difficulty.

I think you are overly cynical and underestimate the desire of the average player to get at least *some* challenge out of a MMORPG.
 
>I think you are overly cynical and underestimate the desire of the average player to get at least *some* challenge out of a MMORPG.

I agree; I believe the 'average' mmo player wants only to FEEL like they've contributed, not to have actually contributed. IE boss takes 2k dps from each dpser to down, yet the 2.4k dps and the 1.6k dps gets same prize, and with no dps meter can't point out that 1.6k guy is worse. He does not receive less reward, he does not receive in game mail from npc saying "do better next time!" he does not lose anything; despite 10 or 25 of him could not down the boss, he values himself as high as the 2.4k guy, thereby feels good and continues raiding. I believe that if he KNOWS he is not good enough and they could down the boss without him, he will not keep going (except outside factors like fun chatting on vent or manipulative people saying "We need you, man!" or raid is already on farm status)

Having a well implemented slider-tier system (as you mentioned) could alleviate some of this emotion, as the lower levels could have the boss give warnings earlier (so people who ordinarily stand in the fire have 3 more seconds to move) or have longer cast bars (so interrupters have longer to go "oh yeah, that's my job") and adds could hit less hard on cloth/leather/mail (so low skill offtank would have leeway in generating aggro).

I would also suggest (if I were on the dev team of your perfect mmo) that the 'average' difficulty that most people will reach would be ABOVE the middle difficulty, so that they can think they're above average, while being higher on slider actually means nothing. This will keep emotion-driven people subscribing longer, because they FEEL above average.

Will your difficulty-slider have the top setting be 0% error tolerance, so that it's entirely possible for EJ+ quality players to always have a new challenge, up to the point of impossible, or will you clip it short, so if they defeat it at 20% error tolerance they have they get to sit around til next patch?
 
Interestingly, the game that sounds most similar to your idea, from my POV, is Left 4 Dead. Randomised but similar encounters, dependent on how you play your class rather than memorisation...
 
@Xaxziminrax.

I disagree with that entire idea of 'justice' in MMOs. Not because I consider justice bad, but because of the consequences in an MMO.

I want to go slay a dragon in a big raid and, yes, i assume that i am above average, but I really don't want to know numbers. Yes, the dragon drops some loot, but that wasn't the main reason for me to go there; shouldn't have been.

WoW puts too much focus on hard numbers, comparability, rivalry, competition, individual performance and not nearly enough focus on the actual event of killing the dragon.

I touched that subject in my latest blog post, where I argue that this mindset not only is inferior, but also necessarily leads to cookie cutter specs and Gear Score mentality etc..
 
Personally, I would put in a small amount of trash mobs before the big boss which were themed based on the form of the boss. Basically, some creatures who guard the door to the throne room, gate to the arena, portal to the summoning chamber, or what have you.

This trash would provide several benefits:

1) It would provide a feeling that the boss was more than just a monster as jack-in-the-box waiting for you to turn the crank and have it pop up.

2) It would give you a chance to be prepared for the form of the boss, since the trash would follow the same theme.

3) Most importantly, it would give a PUG a fight or three to see how the others in the group are doing and spot any serious problems. (Like wielding a lance instead of a weapon or not having your spells trained up.)
 

1) It would provide a feeling that the boss was more than just a monster as jack-in-the-box waiting for you to turn the crank and have it pop up.


I am not stupid enough to fall for that. What about just not putting big stupid bosses in individual rooms?
 
A raid finder would indeed be great. If the raids could be finished in about one hour that would be perfect. Instances like Onyxia are fine of this. Or let us queue for one of the Naxxramas wings.

As for randomness. If they implement your random boss creator then they're done and don't need more expansions. Creating a random boss also means that they can't quite design bosses anymore. No more cool bosses with a background history (Ilidan, Arthas...) nor "fun" bosses like Heigan.

I'd be happy if they just let me use a Raid finder and let me raid for an hour. And there is already some randomness in the bosses. In Karazhan or Violet Hold you can't be sure which boss you'll fight.
 
this post was an interesting read and you may write off this comment as being from one of the wow players who doesn't have the imagination to go with you here but it just doesn't sound very much fun to me.

i think you're probably underestimating the hard work that goes into encounter design in the current game and i also think you're underestimating the enjoyment people get from learning the encounters.

i run a raid group that recently took down the lich king and it's a complicated choreography of timing and positioning with personal responsibility put on each raid member at some point in the encounter.
planning, practising and perfecting are processes that i actually derive a huge amount of enjoyment from.

another important part of that particular fight is the story elements and this is another thing which, while i'm not really one for lore myself, i would find lacking in your model. how could you feel connected to the world you're playing in if everything is so random?

i think i also reject the idea that guilds are the gate-keepers to raid content that they once were but i also reject the idea that it is a major problem if they are.
in the current game un-guilded players can PuG their way into a group taking 11/12 bosses in ICC. you could even PuG some hard modes. i think blizzard have probably taken things too far in the other direction in terms of gear progression but it has allowed a situation where there really is no gated content.

at the end of the day, though, MMOs are social games. it is the thing that makes them unique. providing content that is tailored to those unique properties is very important. the game you're describing sounds more like a diablo model or a game with a lobby and randomised instanced dungeons for pick up groups.

i don't want to play that game... or at least i'm really not being sold on the concepts.
 
As for randomness. If they implement your random boss creator then they're done and don't need more expansions. Creating a random boss also means that they can't quite design bosses anymore. No more cool bosses with a background history (Ilidan, Arthas...) nor "fun" bosses like Heigan.


I really don't think you can discuss such things having WoW in mind. A lot of things that could perfectly well just don't work within WoW and, more importantly, not within the mindset of the current WoW-generation.

Also, i generally believe that triple AAA MMOs should always offer everything. You can have predictable bosses and unpredictable bosses in one game. Even in one dungeon if you want.
 
planning, practising and perfecting are processes that i actually derive a huge amount of enjoyment from.


Which is exactly why you play WoW. There are a lot of people, however, who don't play WoW or don't raid or are unhappy with raiding the way it is.

It may require a different mindset, but going through a dungeon without being able to repeat every encounter that goes wrong can be a lot of fun.
 
"in the current game un-guilded players can PuG their way into a group taking 11/12 bosses in ICC. you could even PuG some hard modes."

That may be true on your server, but I'm pretty sure it isn't typical. I'd say 7/8 bosses would be more likely, and that would be a good PUG.
 
That may be true on your server, but I'm pretty sure it isn't typical. I'd say 7/8 bosses would be more likely, and that would be a good PUG.

And that PUG won't invite you because you don't have the achievement to have done ICC already, and the good PUG raid leader can spot a fake achievement from miles away.
 
Perfect raiding.. I like these musings quite a bit. Allow me to place to random thoughts.

The days of EQ-like 'hardcore', that WoW still adhered to in Vanilla and TBC, is definitely dying out. World-first kills are no longer news unless they are insane hard-modes. However, between guilds on the same realm there still is competition to beat bosses first.

Which, really, is rather strange, because the bosses don't get harder at all. Is Sindragosa really any harder than Thorim was at the time? The only thing guild progression seems to measure is time involvement and successful recruiting, not actual gameplay ability.

Which brings me to my main issue with raiding as it is in WoW now: time involvement. I'd vastly prefer a game in which raids would take an hour max, and in which you could go raid at any time of day. Why have we come to this system where we need to devote whole nights to a single raid instance?

We've already seen them limit repeatable quests by making them daily or weekly.. perhaps you could apply this to raiding.

Taking ICC as an example.. you can only kill the first 4 bosses on day 1, and then Muradin and his men need a day to break open the door into Upper Spire. The next 2 days, you're able to kill all the normal wing bosses. The Lich King reacts to this by sending the end bosses to fight you the following days and until the next reset.

This plays into the weekly raid activity of a guild, and is in the spirit of the instance gating mechanism. It levels out guilds that are willing to spend whole nights in ICC with guilds that can't.
 
I would add

E) that pressing the correct button a 250ms or even a second sooner should not be a huge advantage. Twitch skills might add 5-15% but not be an absolute requirement

F) The game is sophisticated enough so that out of game resources and learning are very helpful. You just play simple Flash games ; rich sophisticated MMOs should greatly benefit from analysis. Not "here video of Heigen dance" but more theorycrafting; when you would press this button and why

G) A very good MMO might not have to have it but the perfect MMO would have a crafting and marketplace for economic PvP.

***

I guess I was also struck with "end game" I do not think it is a given that you have to grind for a while to get to the good stuff. Is it absolutely required that the raid that you and 9 others do in your first week be so much less relevant than what you do in week 50?

***

I bet the paradigms are set by now, but I am not sure that everything has to be a "raid" - a few people join for a few minutes/hours to defeat a few NPCs. What about campaigns? What if the traditional "clear the forest of wolves" was a month long task? There were say a few hundred spots that needed to be cleared and you could spend 20 minutes today slowly soloing one and tomorrow get 10 friends and blitz 50 for an hour. But the wolves/environment are changing growing (doing 2 a day is better than 1 a day) There may be others capturing resources for their own reasons.
 
11/12 is undoubtedly a VERY good pug. pugging 4 bosses is considered typical with 7 or 8 being a good, competent group.
my point is that those pugs do occur with unguilded characters in them (often leading them).

achievements seem like a big hurdle but they're a hurdle you only have to cross once.

my main point was that fully designed encounters are something i find hugely enjoyable. blizzard clearly puts a lot of work into creating varied encounters (suarfang > putricide > valithria!) and i just don't see how the randomised abilities system wouldn't get very old very quick. it might be nice for an equivalent of current wow heroics but for raids? i just can't see that being very rewarding.

it just seems like you're undervaluing all that encounter design which i'm sure is considered a very important team at blizzard.
 
I would prefer random event open world raids that require players to mobilize on the spot and react to a crises. Spares us the mechanics-monitoring of leets with gear-checks, etc.
 
it just seems like you're undervaluing all that encounter design which i'm sure is considered a very important team at blizzard.

I agree. Unpredictable encounters shouldn't be 'big (uncredible) boss encounters'. Instead, 'normal' mobs should be used: No extra size, no imba special ability usded in a regular pattern so you can avoid it.

Put 10 mobs with different abilities in front of the raid and even a slightly different combination of these 10 mobs requires a completely different strategy.

This, however, doesn't work with current WoW. The pacing of WoW is too fast to allow for decision making during an encounter. DPS is too important to have even room for anything else than the optimal rotation.

In fact, Blizzard needs the dance moves, because the abilities of the characters themselves are very badly designed for a raid encounter. Therefore you only use a fraction of them during raids and replace the rest with the dance moves.
 
I prefer events that have a cap of 20~30 or so players but bringing less than that would be preferable.

For example the "golden" number would be somewhere at 6~10. You can take in more than that, but it won't help you and might even hinder your progress.

Smaller teams = more efficiency.

This is what I liked about the endgame in the game I played. You don't have to bring the maximum number of players to the event, and it might even be better to not to. But you could still do that if you wanted.

I haven't seen any other MMO do this, but I enjoyed it a lot.
 
I've actually come to the conclusion that the perfect MMO wouldn't be an MMORPG. I think its much closer to something like Planetside or World War 2 Online than it is to something like WoW.
 
"For example the "golden" number would be somewhere at 6~10. You can take in more than that, but it won't help you and might even hinder your progress. "

this is an interesting point.
i raid in a 10man team. it's the same group of friends that have been playing together since the burning crusade (with a couple of differences obviously) and the changes that have been made to raiding in wow have allowed us to take part in all the content they make without having to play with people we wouldn't ordinarily choose to (ie. expanding 10 friends to 25 acquaintances).

the boys at vanhemlock.com often talk about (on their podcast and blogs) their ideal MMO not having so many limitations on numbers in a group or level. the aim being that people should just be able to play with their friends without having to worry so much about numbers or whether they're all within the same level bracket.

it seems that blizzard is moving toward this aim a little at a time but these are big changes for an established game. if we're talking about creating a new game to fit our personal ideal this would be very high on my list.
 
I'd really like to see PUG-friendly raids that are essentially instanced WAR-style Public Quests.

Since PQ's are part cooperation, part competition, they are better suited to the wide skill and gear gaps you see in PUGs. And PQ's are still a lot of fun -- way more fun than traditional WoW raiding.
 
"$20,000 or €16,000, if I take my best estimate of the time it would take me to compile this and my current hourly salary. Which is probably why there aren't all that many middle-aged Ph.D.s in game design, they are simply too expensive."

Unfortunately most companies don't pay people based on qualifications in a different field. And having a Ph.D. in anything but Game & Theory or something is useless when it comes to game design. ;)

Anyways there is one thing I would ask, is this model designed to away with the last vestiges of story-telling? For example would players never follow a quest-chain leading up to a raid-boss, or in fact never even know who the boss is or why they are fighting them?

Most likely this was implied, but is random-boss raid system mutually exclusive with lore and context?
 
"I would prefer random event open world raids that require players to mobilize on the spot and react to a crises. Spares us the mechanics-monitoring of leets with gear-checks, etc."

http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2010/05/ogres-picking-daisies.html
 
The boss system you're describing kind of sounds like Diablo 2, just skipping all the trash.

Since WoW is basically Diablo 3, I don't think it'd be that tough to implement. Blizzard should at least tip you for this :P
 
"Anyways there is one thing I would ask, is this model designed to away with the last vestiges of story-telling? For example would players never follow a quest-chain leading up to a raid-boss, or in fact never even know who the boss is or why they are fighting them?"

The whole endgame scene does not have to be based on this kind of content. WoW focuses on only few types of content in their endgame but it does not have to be this way. Story based missions can be made in a different fashion. Randomized bosses do not have have to anything to do with lore at all. With enough creativity they can be applied there though.

For example there's this ancient technology that has broken recently. Because of that, it teleports random monsters to guard the top of a legendary tower even though there is nothing to protect there anymore. When players kill one guardian, another one is summoned from the distant lands. There's a proper explanation for ya.
 
I think City of Heroes basically does what you're talking about, but people complain that it has no real end game because random encounters don't provide the same level of challenge.

I think to make it challenging, you really have to script it with a level of hand made design that gets past just random abilities.
 
If you'll excuse the self-promotion, I touched on the randomness a bit earlier, in response to you doing the same.
http://trollshaman.blogspot.com/2010/05/youre-so-predictable-bad-guy.html

I prefer bosses which feel as if they are doing something other than waiting around to be attacked. When we ask "why is this guy here?" we should get an answer other than "to drop loot".
 
The only thing I have to say about this (beyond the fact that I think it's harder to tune a random ability boss than you are thinking it is, though still within the realm of possibility) is the complete and utter lack of story/lore that should a model would require.

Now, of course, there isn't necessarily a great deal of story or lore in current raid bosses, but I think your model precludes the possibility of a story or the reasoning behind going dungeon-crawling that we are usually given.

Without that minimal story framework, actually, it strikes me that this model is precisely that of a PvE version of a PvP endgame: a series of encounters that are random and thus interesting in the short-term playing but boring in the long-term memory.
 
I really like this idea of random bosses with random abilities. It seem like this could really eliminate a lot of the grind and boredom involved in current MMO endgame play.
 
the problem with this proposal is twofold

1) If the random abilities are "too hard" to survive (and let's not underestimate what "hard" is for the majority of PVEers) then the boss will wipe the floor with everyone 2-3 times before the group breaks up

2) If the random abilities are too easy then everyone will just ignore them and brute-force the boss down.

Neither option is very much "fun". On top of that, there will be a finite version of "random abilities," and people will just wipe on the boss on purpose just to learn the moves, and then structure the raid from there; eliminating the point of the exercise in the first place. As you yourself say, everyone optimizes the fun out of it.

On a broader level, this is a very disappointing subject to me based on the anti-guild stance taken in this subject. I think, more than anything, MMOs are about playing WITH other people; and getting to know them. If someone doesn't have the time, patience, or communication skills to be able to raid in a coordinated group environment (i.e., guild), then maybe MMOs aren't the genre for them. There are excellent single-player RPGs and other such games available.

A game where all raids were PuGed would be extremely disappointing.
 
About the lore and random bosses:

1) Random doesn't necessarily mean arbitrary.

2) If the lore in your game requires specific heroes, they shouldn't be a random boss. Agreed.
However, not every lore needs to sacrifice all heroes and gods to the players, like WoW does.
 
So what exactly is the lore reason for all those existing bosses in WoW and EQ and other games with raiding to be stationary in their rooms, waiting all day for heroes to come by and slay them? In most cases the different bosses of the same raid dungeon are a rather curious mix, and don't fit together at all.

For example in Ulduar you first ride a bunch of armored vehicles to fight a tank, then get the option between a dragon, a whiny robot, and a fiery giant. Why? What is the lore behind that? Why would those bosses be there? And why wouldn't you want to use your big tanks to fight the dragon, robot, and giant, instead of jumping out after the Flame Leviathan dies? The path sure is big enough to reach them in a vehicle.
 
@Ben: What's wrong with bosses being PUGed? Tobold isn't saying every idiot and noob should be able to kill every boss.
 
It's stupid, Tobold, it's just stupid :)

Me, and others are repeating the same thing for quite some years by now:

WoW increases the fun of gameplay by selling its soul: The credibility, consistency and immersion of the game-world.
 
"Not in the right guild means you are not getting into the good raids, and then you are missing the achievements that you’d need to get into a PUG raid.

I don't think guilds being the gatekeepers of content is a function of the game itself, and therefore not solvable in game terms. The "Link Achieve/GS" for pugs phenomenon is more because pug raid leaders either don't want to waste their time wiping because of bad players (and aren't willing to kick them for some reason) or because they themselves want to be carried through raid content (I'm looking at you, guy who sets minimum gearscore at exactly your own gearscore).

If raids were set up so that anyone could go in and pug them in any combination of good or bad players to the point where achievements didn't matter, then raid leaders would just find some other metric to measure potential raid members. Either that or the raid encounter would not be fun or interesting enough for most to even bother with it. Marrowgar is one of my favorite fights in ICC and one main reason people want a minimum of skill or gear is because there are a lot of retards who can't stay out of the fire/dps the bonespikes/not stand in front of the boss and get cleaved in the face. They would have to either tone down the dangerousness of these abilities (to the point where you could take a bath in the fire and come out squeaky clean!) or just remove these abilities altogether and make the fight much less interesting and fun.

This may just be a lack of imagination on my part. If the game had randomized fights where people had to think and pay attention, do you think most raid leaders would want to take unproven and untested pug member with them? They don't even want to take players now when the fights are highly scripted and learnable because many of those players don't think or react at all. The guild would still be the gatekeeper to raid content.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg: There are also a lot of players who will never be able to raid simply because they don’t have multi-hour blocks of time available during typical guild raid times."

I know this may sound elitist, but who are these people who say "I only have a half an hour or an hour, and I want to play something which I know takes several hours to do."? Do these people also say "I want to go to a movie, but I only have an hour before I go to work so I should send a letter to Hollywood telling them to make shorter 45 minute movies."?

We already have a lot of forms of entertainment catered to those with limited time. Tv shows, shorter games like flash games or just a quick match or two of Team Fortress, etc. Even in WoW and other games, there are BGs, heroics, or just regular quests. There are even shorter raids like OS10.

My point here is that some of us like having raids that are longer and take time to complete, and that's what I think is at the heart of the issue. It's not the fact that they have limited time. It's the fact that there is content they cannot do because of it. You could put as many short 30 minute raids in the game as possible, but as long as there is that one long raid that can't be done in an hour, there will be cries about exclusion.
 
Nice points, one of the reasons I've never been interested in WoW raids is the fact that it's more like choreography than combat. No thanks.
 
For example in Ulduar you first ride a bunch of armored vehicles to fight a tank, then get the option between a dragon, a whiny robot, and a fiery giant. Why? What is the lore behind that? Why would those bosses be there? And why wouldn't you want to use your big tanks to fight the dragon, robot, and giant, instead of jumping out after the Flame Leviathan dies? The path sure is big enough to reach them in a vehicle.

Well, I can't speak for why your vehicles break down after downing Flame Leviathan, but the reasoning behind all of the bosses is fairly solid. Flame Leviathan, built by Mimiron, prevents entry in Ulduar, so you have to destroy it to get in. Razorscale, who we know is Thorim's old mount, is just chilling in her aerie. Ignis, who is Loken's smith, is hanging out in his forge, and XT-002 Deconstructor seems to be playing around in his Scrapyard when you come in and murder them all.

Honestly, though, Ulduar is probably one of the worst examples you could have chosen (though, perhaps ironically, the worst would probably be ToC). A lot of bosses in Naxx, for example, are just kinda chilling around, and that's only taking into account Wrath raids.

It's not that there is super awesome lore behind every raid boss, but if you think that WoW is "selling its soul" due to its higher emphasis on gameplay over story (which I personally don't agree with), then your raiding model is the very definition of soulless, with no story or lore, just "here is something for you to kill."
 
I, also, don't buy that there are people who don't have enough time.

We do not live in the third world where you need to work 16/7 to make a living.

If people say they don't have enough time they usully mean that they don't want to spend as much time in the game.

Now, if you don't want to spend as much time as I do, you shouldn't get as a good reward. You wouldn't play soccer 30minutes a day an bemoan that profesional players are better.

That's not unjust! In fact, it is just!
 
then your raiding model is the very definition of soulless, with no story or lore, just "here is something for you to kill."

You need to differentiate here.
It is Tobold who proposes big bosses with randomly mixed abilities. I do not support that. At least not if more than a minority of encounters are designed this way.

What I do support are unpredictable encounters, preferably not consisting of one big boss, but a credible combination of a bandid leader / followers.

It is very hard to make big bosses unpredictable. Randomly choosing abilities from a list while still maintaining balance is a developers nightmare.

Infact, I prefer the word 'unpredictable' over 'random' here, as 'random' usually implies some sort of 'arbitrariness' and also doesn't necessarily follow from unpredictable.

I actually did write about advantages/disadvantages of big bosses in MMOs also considering unpredictablelity as an ultimate goal before on my blog.
 
Personally I wouldn't be too keen on Tobold's 'random boss' concept. I like raids to be a bit more 'epic' with trash and several bosses. But the trash should be hard. I'd like to see more raid instances like Zul'Aman, with hard trash and challenges (hard modes are a good idea too).

Add a bit of randomness to bosses by all means - though I think Blizzard have come to realise that the majority of their players don't really want a game of skill. Look at all the complaints when WotLK came out and players found that there was (horror!) a skill based phase on Malygos... it was the supposedly hard-core players who whined about that and insisted that the difficulty should depend on gear!

The other thing I'd like to see is loot being rarer and people having to make do with a mixture of whatever stuff actually drops instead of expecting to look an optimal set.

It will never happen again, not in WoW anyway. I don't suppose there's any chance of Dungeon Crawl turning into an MMORPG, but I can dream ;-)
 
"I, also, don't buy that there are people who don't have enough time.

We do not live in the third world where you need to work 16/7 to make a living.

If people say they don't have enough time they usully mean that they don't want to spend as much time in the game"

What you will realize once this happens to you, is that once you do things like get married, have kids, or even owning a house your disposable time is greatly reduced.

There are in fact many activities and responsibilities that take will always take precedence over gaming for most people. Work shouldn't be the only one, that's for sure.

The point is that even if you don't many other people do have very busy lives. I know I barely find time to game more than an hour or two at a time right now in my life.

However, personally I have no problem with being excluded from a *portion* of content reserved for those who are willing and able to put in the extra dedication and effort necessary. By all means most of it should be available to everyone in some form, but there should be rewards for putting more into the game.
 
My raid model (using WoW as a base with Tobold's idea as well):

As the raid progression for an expansion continues, slowly the beginning raids are re-introduced in a different form. The same dungeon but with either new content, or the same content(ie bosses) but re-worked. This could entail making the "remade" version semi-random as in Tobold's concept.

BUT instead of a random set of abilities shared between ALL bosses, each boss has an individual set of abilites. Each fight a random combination of abilites (and order of usage) is selected. So each individual fight will be variable, but within a logical framework practically and lore-wise.

Of course rather then even have the current raid progression this idea could be implemented right off the bat. However I feel it makes sense to reward the frontrunning guilds for their effort by having the normal pre-planned encounters to begin with.
 
You made a comment on my blog to highlight that you mentioneded a post by me. So I suppose I'll return the service (sorry for not knowing how to code a link into the comment section.)

http://www.pinkpigtailinn.com/2010/05/gearscore-is-price-you-pay-for-swinging.html
 
@ J. DangerouS:

To spend time with children and your wife is your decision. It is not a necessity of life to be married to a time-requesting wife or have children or to buy a house and constantly modify it.

I accept that you want to spend more time with your family and less with your hobby, but you should accept that this has consequences.

Like every decision in life has consequences. Children, by the way, usually consume no more than 15 years of your life.
 
@Klepsacovic

Because MMOs are about social cohesion, not solo heroes rampaging about the countryside. If you turn raiding into a PuG, then not only do you fail to get the "benefits" of social gaming, but you also many of the negative aspects of PuGs.

- There is no incentive for someone to stay if there is momentary difficulty/failure
- No one knows each other, so leadership/strategy turns into a shouting match akin to the chat channel of a PuG Arathi Basin run.
- There's no "skill filter" like you can get in an organized/guild group (and I don't mean gear score)

The bottom line is if you don't have 2-3 consecutive hours in your week to attend a raid with a group, it's time to play a different genre. Are subscription-based single player games really what we want our genre to turn into?
 
@ Ben:

Because MMOs are about social cohesion, not solo heroes rampaging about the countryside. If you turn raiding into a PuG, then not only do you fail to get the "benefits" of social gaming, but you also many of the negative aspects of PuGs.

The indirect social interaction is arguably much more important than the direct interaction.

A good game supports PUGs and organized groups. I'd prefer different content for these activities, though.
 
Ben, there was once a time when PUGs weren't just random jackasses. People knew people on the server. We played in guilds and outside guilds. In a sense the server was the guild. I'd like to see that again. The problem is that people seem to assume PUG means cross-server randoms. I hate the cross-server randoms, because they do exactly what you describe.

I don't see what time has to do with PUG vs. guild.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
@Klepsacovic:

Very true. I also would like to dismiss the (possible) counterargument that a server needs to be small for the reputation-effect to set in.

Some one-server games have a reputation effect for example although there are more active players on this one server than in a WoW realmpool.

The WoW server architecture of different realms combined with a completely automatic dungeon finder somehow removed the entire reputation effect.

There are more than enough psychological studies which prove that this effect is powerful and necessary for a nice comunity. I know that I have occasionally quit dungeons like Occulus or just quit a random dungeon, because something in RL came up.

Anonymity is the enemy of any society.
 
Your exceptions are simply proving the rule guys.
 
@ Ben:
Could you elaborate on that ?
 
There is a big difference between being able to play 5, 10, 15 hours a week and having even a single three hour block of time when you are quite confident you won't be interrupted.
 
Tobold, I'm just curious if you've tried some of the other AAA PvE+focused MMORPGs on the market -- yoi talked about your experience in EVE, but I'm wondering if a system like Turbine's DDO might match more of what you're looking for in terms of a PvE endgame, even if they take a slightly different approach. This forum post about the differences might be of interest:

http://forums.ddo.com/showthread.php?t=197117
 
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