Tobold's Blog
Monday, May 23, 2011
 
Removing the cap

Sven from Fail Pug has an interesting idea: What if World of Warcraft would remove the cap of how many people could enter a raid instance? Basically this solution would make the difficulty level of raids adjustable. Can't beat the dungeon with 10 people? Well, bring 20! And as Sven mentioned, you could even use very different tactics, for example zerging a boss without using a tank.

I'm very much a fan of variable difficulty levels, because it allows everybody access to the same content, instead of having a shard division between the leet and the noobs. Everybody could organize a "tourist raid", if he just got enough players together. Best of all, the risk-reward-ratio is self-adjusting: If the amount of epics that drop is constant, bringing more players diminishes the rewards per player. What do you think?
Comments:
I am rather surprised games haven't taken to the more 'open' raid setup with adjustable rewards/difficulty. it is something that is always talked about, but hardly ever seen.

I think it was UX:O where they actually spoke about doing something along those lines during development, only to scrap the game before it went into beta. Can't really think of any other games that made use of the mechanic.

Think it's mostly the curse of lazy developers in this era of MMOs. Everyone is waiting to see what WoW does first, rather then actually try and truly innovate the genre.
 
While I see that working as gold/items drop at constant rate regardless of people involved, I think the issue would become reputation gains as people join just to gain rep for no risk.
 
Stabbs had already expressed his relief on how the Raid Rifts essentially have no cap and you don't have to exclude anyone for the sake of a perfect raid makeup.

Indeed this is the way to go, it encourages people to be social in an MMO (who knew!)
 
If Blizzard is going to be too lazy to design encounters with multiple i.e. 3-5 levels of difficulty then I fully support the model of open cap encounters.
 
If they wanted to provide adjustable difficulty levels, why not just provide an adjustable difficulty slider and scaling mob health/damage?

The move from WoTLK>Cataclysm suggests that Blizzard doesn’t want there to be entry-level/tourist raid at the current raid tier. Even heroics have been maintained at roughly the current level of difficulty for the average PUG, in spite of mass complaints on the forums. By stratifying the player base into those who can and those who can’t, you maintain subscribers for a longer period.

However I would propose that part of Rift’s success has been from the fact that you CAN just turn up to a rift and start zerging a raid boss.
 
I kinda like that idea, I think it has some serious teeth. Of course Blizzard will hate it. It flies in the very face of what they are offering this expansion... exclusionary content.
 
It took me a long time, but by now I have accepted that there is not really any skill necessary to beat a raid. There is no raid without a few people (taling 25s here) who can't even be expected to properly do their shoelaces. No exceptions, I have even seen them in Naxx40 and Sunwell (thats of course only possible because of other, extremely able players).

Since being able to say "I beat Instance XY, so I must be real good" isn't possible, why not remove the hardcoded difficulty alltogether? Achievement-Statistics could track with how many people you did it, providing a quality measurment for those who care.
 
It would make everything trivial and therefore unimportant. And players would make sure to bring exactly how many people it would take to make it trivial.

Go back and do a Wrath raid with Cata level raiders and equipment. It will be like that.

That's not to say that a zerg based game can't work. I'd put City of Heroes into that category. But it's designed that way. Battles are large, chaotic, and a lot of fun to play. Classes are less pigeonholed because there's less expectation of the kind of "holy trinity" synergy.

But it's not particularly challenging. Nobody is going into the same place for weeks or months trying to beat it.

It's a different kind of game.
 
I truly innovative idea *ironic grin*.

For a good analysis, you would need to list why fixed-size groups have been added in the first place, I think.
Then we could go on and try to figure out why the 'natural', credible and more immersive way would actually offer better gameplay, too.
 
This is exactly how we used to raid years ago in Anarchy Online (and damn, I miss that game). Some of the bigger, stronger guilds raided within guild, many of the others did sided raids (as they weren't instanced) with Clan one day, Omni the next - no cap on people, as long as you showed up and did your job. An early version of DKP sorted loot fine.
 
@Numtini

"It would make everything trivial and therefore unimportant."

Agreed - there is a risk here. Why gem and enchant your gear if you will get more benefit from a +1 player?
Why get good gear at all?
 
"Why gem and enchant your gear if you will get more benefit from a +1 player?"

If you did this, I think you'd have to redesign the loot drops. Do something like tune the content for 10 man, 25 man, and unlimited raids. 10-man and 25-man would include additional loot, as a bonus for doing the raid on "hard mode". Crafting supplies (orbs, shards), mounts, pets, achievements, and the current normal set of ilvl epics and such would all remain the province of "hard mode" raids.

Unlimited raids would start at the 25-man level with regard to health, damage, etc. but scale enemy abilities in a way such that bringing 2 more people resulted in a slightly tougher set of trash and bosses. Loot would be (slightly) more plentiful, but of a tier one level lower than that granted to 10-man and 25-man raids, and without the bonuses (crafting materials, pets, mounts, other quest items, etc.)

Finally, for unlimited raids, disable or greatly diminish reputation gains.

In other words... let unlimited raids exist, but be primarily geared towards letting people see content. Make the rewards on par with running a heroic 5-man dungeon, and reserve the ultimate goodies for those who explicitly choose to do a more difficult version of the raid.
 
WoW was like this at the beginning. There was no cap for dungeons at the beginning, aside for the hard 40-man raid limit. It was quickly lowered to 10 for dungeons, then to 5 after around a year or so.

I reached the level cap during the 10-man era, and remember doing lots of 10-man runs of Strath, Scholo, LBRS, and even BRD. It was nigh impossible to find 5-man pugs for these places, even though the rewards were greater. (Besids the same drops for less people, quests could only be done in a 5-man party and often gave good stuff.)

The current setup is not an accident. For whatever reason, Blizzard made a deliberate choice to disallow zerging content with more people than it is designed for. It is unlikely that they will change this.
 
What Nils just said!

One of my current huge pet-peeves with World of Warcraft is the fixed group sizes. Sometimes my WoW guild only has 4 people looking to do a 5-man heroic. No-can-do unless we look for a random 5th. Worse, sometimes we have 6-7 people looking to do a 5-man . . . and someone has to sit out.

I would love a game where you could bring as many, or as few, friends along as wanted to go, without these artificial group size restrictions.
 
I'd go along with Numtini and Bernard to a degree, but on balance I feel the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages.

Isn't this how raiding began, anyway? Some MMOs had very tough monsters that couldn't possibly be defeated by a single group of players so the players just called in more and more friends and acquaintances and passers-by until eventually there were enough of them to win. The games didn't have any kind of cap to prevent this (other than the server crashing under the strain).

Everquest, DAOC, Anarchy Online, probably all the first wave of 3D MMOs had raiding of this type, but as Nils alludes there were various reasons why developers chose to impose more control and remove flexibility from players. Generally games developers seemed increasingly to frown on player-created solutions back in those days although the wheel seems to be turning again.

As someone who's never really enjoyed raiding, I find the ad-hoc rift raids in Rift a real breath of fresh air. All the things that put me off raiding in other games - long set up times, fixed rules of behavior, inflexible schedules, arguments over loot - seem to have been designed out of Rift entirely. No doubt some persist in the instanced raiding there, but the open-world raid game is fast, fun and very flexible.

If other MMOs follow this model I can see myself raiding much more than ever before.
 
What about bosses that gain abilities when toons die? Yes you can bring the zerg but on certain bosses they get more powerful as poor players die.


Actually we have a RIGHT NOW in the wild sociological experiment in seeing if the don't bring the player not the class ---> Just bring everyone who can press buttons!

EVE with the rise of the Goonswarm has basically turned the old guard (Band of Brothers) on it's ear. Goonswarm just sends tons of cannon fodder at big capital ship players and takes em out.

Essentially the logical end point of this thinking... Bring tons and loot.

The real test of seeing if this works is if Eve sub numbers increase with this new play style becoming prevalent. Will Eve adjust ship tech to reward elder players? Will the players adapt to mob player tactics?

Will elder players with capital ships that are no longer god like still play? Do these God like players multibox? So if the elders get mad and quit do I lose 5 accounts?

Will goonswarms lead to higher player populations?

So many questions but if the play in Eve is any indication... there may be fewer god players in the future.
 
You mean like what EQ had... for years... a decade ago?

WoW went with a set group because it was easier to create the instanced content we have today.

Raids still optimized in EQ. We only brought "enough" of each class to beat the encounter, and sometimes you still didn't have enough. I will admit though that EQ encounters were designed with 40-80 raiders in mind.

If content is beatable with 20 people, serious raiding guilds will still only bring 20. More mouths to feed means that progressing will take longer.
 
It is an interesting concept, especially as other commenters have mentioned, this is how raiding truly began. Instanced raids with a population cap came afterward. How did they become the accepted model and "open raiding" died off? That is a question I'd like to see explored. Even WoW maintained some form of open raiding up until Wrath. World bosses were present in both vanilla and BC and could be raided by as many people as you could bring (although no one outside the 40-man group could loot, I suppose.)
 
Nothing is an achievement any longer, because you can't actually compare difficulty. If you can just trivialize encounters by bringing along a bunch of extra discipline priests (for example), then people will just find the easiest combination and number of players. It opens up a HUGE number of different ways to cheese things.
 
I believe that there needs to be more than one level of difficulty. ( Perhaps Five: from -2 to +2 standard deviations; a difficulty 95%,68%,50%,32%,5% can beat)

But I see getting rid of the fixed-# raids as being more important than just difficulty slider.

I feel very strongly about the fixed 10 player size being very tough on small groups. If you have 300 raiders filling 20 10-raids per week, you have considerable flexibility.

But I saw a guild with 150 people, 25 casual (can not overly rearrange their RL to make raid schedule) fail. They could get 8-12 to show up but if a tank or healer was missing, it would fall apart even with 10+. The "Thou Shall Not PUG in Cata" mantra did not help ofc.

In LK with the "real men do 25s." my ten man guild could never grow. If you recruit up to 15-17 people who want to raid, then enough people can't join the 10-man that some quit and your back to pushing the rock up the hill.

Maybe Bliz is pushing for anonymous megaguilds. "Server-first"/hc guilds have the attendance to make scheduling much easier. But guilds under the Dunbar number have a hard time with the exactly 2 tanks and 2-3 healers and not too many melee and one shot per week. The lockout exacerbates the problem. "let's see who's on" raids would be possible if you weren't committing people's lockout as well as leaving out the other players who will be on in an hour or tomorrow. I believe a guild with good game skills and great organizational skills is more likely to still be raiding at the end of an expansion than a guild with great game skills but casual organizational skills.
 
I'm rather wary of the argument that removing the cap will trivialise instances. Not because it's fundamentally false, but because they're only trivialised if you want them to be.

As Epiny said, the hard core will still do the runs with the minimum numbers, because that's the way to gear up fastest. Sure, others may get (less of) the same gear easily by taking more people, but that doesn't harm the hardcore in any way. This is where WOW differs significantly from a competitive game like EVE. WOW simply isn't a zero sum game: if one group wins, it doesn't mean that another loses.

If you raid for the challenge, such a change shouldn't bother you - just carry on as before. I can see why people who raid for status might dislike it, but I can live with that.
 
I agree with Sven on this.

What does it matter if bringing 100 people trivializes the raid. Your chance to get gear is extremely small compared if you did it with say... 10.

The only way this would affect you is if you consider gear to be a status symbol. There could still be achievements for beating encounters with X number of people, thus allowing you to be cool on the interwebs.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
FFXI does the endgame content in the following way (which could work for wow)


9 zones (not instanced) that contain dungeon like content (bosses & minions) of varying difficulties, people are free to group in different numbers but obviously more ppl = more competition on drops.

completing the zone, involves fighting a tree of sub bosses that eventually ends up with the zone-boss who is very hard.

because it's not instanced you can go in an do little bits of things with less people. My guild will usually run a couple of bosses in a run for items. At the moment we're doing ones that require 2 or 3 sub-bosses to be defeated first (every time you go for the main one), and that's just for the chance of lotting on certain drops ppl need.

because it's not instanced also you can create a tonne of different content that can done by varying numbers of people, some even solo.
 
You all need to prepare for the prevailing player mentality:

"Everyone knows you can't really do 10 mans with 10 players!"

The entire point of raids is the coordination of a large group of players. This idea eliminates that. You do not need to coordinate 20 players in a 10 man raid. Just zerg the boss, it will work out somehow. Half of them can die like noobs, and you'll still do fine.

As a few commenters have mentioned, if you wanted an easier mode, why not just have an easier mode?
 
@Samus

What does that matter though? How does other people zerging content effect your gameplay or experience?
 
To answer an asked question why did raiding go to instanced content was because of large raiding guilds. In games like EQ and FFXI, some of the large bosses had week long or more respawn timers. So members of a raiding guild would have to spawn watch and the "bigger, better" guilds could get that kill in, or organize the raid for it. I've even heard of guilds having a call list at the time.

The thought was that if everything was instanced guilds could create their own schedule instead of waiting for a spawn timer. Everything that resulted from that was a result of being able to have instanced combat. Think back on the mechanics of those old fights in instances for WoW (think pre- ZG). How complicated were they compared to the new Deadmines they rolled out? They were pretty simple, with most being "adds come in P2".
 
@Epiny: What does that matter though? How does other people zerging content effect your gameplay or experience?

It directly diminishes the impact of any accomplishments that one might experience from doing things the hard way. By allowing people to zerg bosses, that becomes the de facto standard of difficulty; people then doing the bosses as they were intended to be downed (i.e. the harder way) are just idiot masochists and their accomplishments are diminished.

Yes, it is about the epeen, but playing for epeen is fun for them. If there isn't any such hard mode to play for where their efforts can be acknowledged, there's little to play for. And again, difficulty is players vs. developers. Not players handicapping themselves to give the developers a better shot.
 
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@Chris
Yeah I was on a calling tree in EQ. Raiding in EverQuest required a level of commitment that was simply unhealthy. EQ raids had to come first. In EQ we had a set number of classes we would allow in our guild at any one time. The idea was we had discovered the optimum number to complete all raid content with an extremely small amount of wiggle room for people being off line. In EQ it wasn’t unheard of to go 3-4 months without ever getting an upgrade and raiding nearly every day. This was the result of having a large guild, which was required to take down most content. I believe the guild I was in averaged 50 people at raids.

@ Pzychotix
Wouldn't getting gear faster because less people are competing for loot be a reward for bringing less people?

Wouldn't achievements for beating encounters with fewer people allow for the epeen to be flaunted? In WoW achievements seem to hold more weight than epics anymore.

Remember raids USE to be like this. This isn't some untested game mechanic we are discussing here, it has been done successfully before.
 
Agree 100% w/ psychotix.

You know, if you got enough people, you could easily beat a professional football/baseball/soccer team (baseball questionable, which is why it is the perfect game).

That way, nearly everyone who wanted to could experience the professional level of sports. Why shoudn't I be able to access that content?

I think that you vastly underestimate the value of the little point at the top of the pyramid.

Turn the pyramid upside down, it falls. But continually LOWER the pyramid, and we will build higher to yet another point. And marvel at it.

If that goal up there is suddenly available just by "getting enough warm bodies", would there be a reason to play, or keep building?

That which I cannot reach keeps my imagination active. Reading about those that reach it and how they did it, allows me to plan and dream.

And planning and dreaming is why I play, and do a lot of leisure activities in my life.

I firmly believe that the relatively unattainable content is what drives the majority to play.
 
No, it drives the majority to quit. You hit the content-wall, there is nothing left to do, and thus you quit. What you seem to problems understanding is that the majority is only interested in their *own* game experience, not in that of others. Whether somebody else progresses in raiding is of zero consequence to me, so it doesn't drive me to play at all.

How pathetic does somebody have to be to not want somebody else to see content, so he can feel superior?
 
Here's my own suggestion:

1) Remove caps on grouping. Zerg it if you want
2) You can do quests and get achievements in dungeons only if you do them how they were intended (5/10/25-man groups).

People get to see the content and the hardcore get to flex their e-muscles with all those titles and mounts.
 
@Bristal
But WoW isn’t baseball, it isn’t football, soccer, or any other sport. I say this all the time, don’t use analogies because the vast majority of the time they miss the point.

In EQ you could bring 1000 people to a raid if you really wanted to, did people? No. They only brought what they needed to beat the encounter. We didn’t even over power most content, a lot of times it was still a challenge. Gear was scarce because of the size of the guild.

If unattainable content drives people to keep playing why is Blizzard making the content more accessible? If being able to zerg content with unlimited raid sizes will cause raids to be to easier why is it that a much smaller percentage of people raided in EQ than they do in any other MMO.
 
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@ Epiny:
Wouldn't getting gear faster because less people are competing for loot be a reward for bringing less people?

Because raiding has long been past getting loot. Loot in of itself isn't that much of a reward to hardcore raiders.

Wouldn't achievements for beating encounters with fewer people allow for the epeen to be flaunted? In WoW achievements seem to hold more weight than epics anymore.

Sure. But then, again, like Samus and probably others have pointed out, why not just delegate such zerg modes to an "easy mode", where it's actually clearly labelled as such? I pointed it out before that player labelled achievements (e.g. everyone in the raid plays without addons) don't hold as much enjoyment as developer labelled achievements (e.g. hardmodes as currently in game).
 
@Epiny

I would say the bigger impact is for developers. It does matter quite a bit if they release new raid content every six months, only to have all the players pass it in the first week.

For the players, I don't feel like this would equate to "selectable" difficulty in practice. It's raid time, and 16 people are on. How many are you bringing? Are you really going to exclude 6 people just to see if you can do it? Obviously you are bringing all 16 people.
 
@Tobold:
No, it drives the majority to quit. You hit the content-wall, there is nothing left to do, and thus you quit.

But he's not talking about a content-wall. He's talking about a skill-wall. A skill-wall can inspire players to increase their own skill to overcome it and see new content (e.g. amateur sports players bettering their own skill to enter the big leagues).

A content-wall will flat out kill off players and make them seek new endeavors to do (e.g. a sports team is so undisputedly good that no one will ever be able to give them a challenge. These people will then eventually lose interest because they've solved the sport and no one can give them the intellectual stimulation they need to continue their interest in the sport.).

What you seem to problems understanding is that the majority is only interested in their *own* game experience, not in that of others. Whether somebody else progresses in raiding is of zero consequence to me, so it doesn't drive me to play at all.

How pathetic does somebody have to be to not want somebody else to see content, so he can feel superior?


That's a loaded question you've got there. Raiding in its current state is a competition for many. Is it pathetic for competitors to want to be better than their rivals?

And like has been said in the past (and similarly suggested by yourself), why not just have an easy mode, so people who are lesser skilled can still see the content, while hardcore raiders can compete and test their skills against the hardest stuff? No one's arguing against easy modes. The only thing is to make it clear that easy zerg modes should not in any shape or form be muddled up with different forms of difficulty.
 
"How pathetic does somebody have to be to not want somebody else to see content, so he can feel superior?"

Remind me again what your objection to solo instances is.
 
Very much a fan of this.

As Chris K mentioned we've already encountered it to some extent in Rift where we can simply add people to our raid rift teams.

As a raid leader:

- I don't want to exclude people. Sucks having people come to raid with us and having to tell them to sit on the bench or to log off and watch TV.

- I don't want to improve people. "Come to Sanctum so I can inspect your enchants. Go read theory on your rotation." I'm delighted to help people if they want help but I don't like being in the position of having to work on people who'd rather stay at their plateau than take it to the next level.

- I don't want my friends and guildies to avoid my raids if they feel they can't bear the scrutiny. I try to minimise this but in a capped raid if we wipe because dps or hps is low people feel exposed.
 
Once again, Champions Online allows you to scale instances up and also has a difficulty slider. Though there is an upper limit to how many can join, you can do most Adventures with 1+ players.
 
Is it pathetic for competitors to want to be better than their rivals?

It is pathetic for them to insist that because they are better, the other players should be excluded from certain content, because if somebody else had access to that content, it would "cheapen their achievement". "Cheapen their achievement"? Ridiculous! That achievement wasn't worth anything to start with!
 
Remind me again what your objection to solo instances is.

Huh? I'd love to have solo instances with NPC henchmen. I'd love to have as many options as possible to see a place, whether I am alone, have 7 friends, 17, or 77 online.

The only thing I object against here is people who insist on rules which exclude others from content, just because reaching "exclusive" content makes them feel better about themselves.
 
Well, there is very serious reason for not allowing zerging/having very low difficulty.

The lower difficulty, the more PvE content is needed to keep players.

If you ding level 85 and then kill Sinestra in your quest greens (in the raid with 1500 other quest-green players) on the same day, you now have nothing to do for months before Firelands come out (and Firelands are one-shotted on release day, too). You stop paying your $15 and go for other games.

I suspect that this model is not financially viable.
 
@Souldrinker

Seemed to work well enough for EQ for many years.
 
"Huh? I'd love to have solo instances with NPC henchmen. I'd love to have as many options as possible to see a place, whether I am alone, have 7 friends, 17, or 77 online."

Ah, my apologies. I only remember the majority of commenters here being vehemently against the idea, despite the fact that they could simply not do it and it would have no effect on them. I am sure you can relate.
 
Im surprised no one has pointed out the obvious.

If a group of 50 noobs who would never reach a particular boss zerg and defeat him, and one of them gets the epic lootz....

How does anyone lose anything?

These 50 players would never even have experienced the content otherwise...so is it being possible for them to beat it really that bad?

The hardcore players still get their loot...and way faster...

The only problem is if those hardcore players get all hissy that other players get to experience "their" content.

And since when do we listen to the Vocal Minority?

p.s.

Yes, the sports analogies ALWAYS fail here on this blog. Even the ones that make sense (this one doesn't at all)*

*Football, soccer, etc are all played (just like baseball) with set number of players. If you allow that baseball couldnt be played with more than that number then why not the other sports?

If you change the # of players it ceases to be that sport. Baseball wouldnt work with two batters right? Well neither would football with 2 quarterbacks or 10 recievers.
 
Don't normally do this but I pulled a Nil's and wrote an essay.

http://spritesarefun.blogspot.com/2011/05/removing-cap-long-reply.html
 
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