Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 04, 2008
Who is supposed to train them?

Doing a level 70 quest solo is trivially easy for a level 70 character in World of Warcraft. Visiting a level 70 dungeon with a pickup group of level 70 characters in comparison has a much higher probability of failure. Group play is a lot harder, because besides taking care of your own situation, you need to watch for something called "aggro": a parameter, by default invisible, which determines which group member is being attacked. The perfect group is all about aggro management, having the monster hit the group member who is best equipped to withstand its blows (the tank), having a healer keep the tank alive, and having the remaining three group members deal damage to the monster. That is already hard enough against one monster, but gets much more complicated against multiple enemies, where the group needs to remove some of them from the combat temporarily by various abilities summarized as "crowd control". And what really complicates the matter is that nobody ever teaches you how to do it!

In principle you are supposed to be learning by doing. Unfortunately World of Warcraft doesn't offer much help in that respect. If something goes wrong, there is usually such a chaos that it becomes very hard to determine who made a mistake. The combat log, even the "improved" 2.4 version is such a mess that doing a post mortem of a wipe is impossible. So everybody just blames the healer, who is actually least likely to have caused the wipe, based on the flawed logic that if the healer would just have healed everybody, nobody would have died. It is rare that a wipe leads to the real culpable realizing his mistake and learning from it, which would be the basic requirement of self-training. If you don't understand aggro management, failing with a couple of PuGs isn't likely to teach you.

While players frequently complain about other players being bad at group play, they aren't doing anything to improve the situation either. Because even those who understand aggro management often do so on an instinctive level, and are either unwilling or unable to teach that knowledge to others. As there are a lot of other players, it becomes easier to select the people you play with than to try to teach others how to play well. Even guilds, who are supposedly about long-term relationships between players, and often measure their success by the hardest group content they are able to beat, curiously fail to offer any sort of training. Thus the recently discussed guild recruitment ad asking for applicants who already know everything about various raid encounters. Of course the epidemic guild hopping in WoW doesn't encourage guilds to make the effort to train people.

But while the first generation of WoW players leveled up at a time when the lower level dungeons were still populated by players, and thus at least got some training by trial and error, most people reaching level 70 now have a lot less group experience. With veterans burning out and quitting, and new players soloing all the way up to the end-game, the average group skills of players is actually dropping. Many people already refuse to group with anyone except guild mates and people known to be competent. The training gap between old and new players becomes larger and larger.

The one thing Blizzard promised to do against that is to make aggro visible. Many players already use addons like Omen to measure aggro, and Omen having some problems with the recent patch caused quite some problems for some guilds. And it isn't much help in a pickup group, because it only works if all group members have the same addon. So introducing an official threat meter will be helpful, and it will be easier to point out to new players that they should watch their aggro. I can only hope that this sort of information will also be recorded in the combat log, so people can scroll up after a wipe and really see what went wrong.

But that won't solve all problems of players not being sufficiently trained for group play. One good suggestion that was recently discussed by readers on this blog was that Blizzard shouldn't make only quests that require dealing maximum damage. If there were quests where you went out with a group of NPCs and had to tank, or heal, or deal damage while keeping strictly under the aggro of the NPC tank, solo play would already teach players a lot of important group skills.

If Blizzard isn't doing something to improve training, players will have to step up. One day guilds will run out of recruits who know how to play, and will have to accept less skilled players and teach them how to behave in a group. Already now most mid-level raiding guilds would be well advised to spend more time analyzing what went wrong after a wipe, and try to correct those mistakes instead of blindly going into the next attempt and next wipe. I've been in various raid guilds and was always surprised of how little communication is going on. And the most successful raids were those where somebody took on the job of "drill sergeant" and via voice chat gave simple orders like "stop dps now". In many other cases all participants kept silent and pretended to know what to do, when in reality quite many of them just didn't have a clue. So many raiders talk about skill, and nobody talks about how people are supposed to acquire those skills.
I,m not sure that training quests would solve the problem.

You just learn so much running in groups that you can't learn anywhere else. I generally learn more about my limitations and strengths in a wipe than i do in 5 successful runs with no wipe.

And sadly the expectation for most is a run with no wipes. they seem to view anything else as unnacceptable.
Good post - I totally agree.

Without feedback, there can be no learning from mistakes, and the feedback mechanism for grouping in WoW is pretty bad.

Assuming some basic knowledge of the game, it's alright qualitatively: if DPS pulls aggro from the tank, they need to take it down a notch, and if the healer pulls aggro from the tank, the tank is not using his (multi)-tanking abilities well. However, how much DPS would have to take it down, and how much extra aggro a tank would have to output to keep the mobs on him and not go for the healer is not visible in the game at all. So quantitative feedback is completely absent until you download a threat meter.

I very much like the suggestion of max-aggro, max-healing and DPS-under-tank-aggro quests.
Long response on my site. Short one here.

You can't expect players to suddenly play at max level when 1-70 you encourage sloppy and lazy play. The major downside of creating such an easy and accessible path to the endgame is that everyone, regardless of skill or effort, gets to that endgame.
I learned about aggro with my hunter. Maybe having some type of "pet" quest where you can use the pet to tank, and are given an item to keep the pet healed would be useful.
Well I thought I would comment, I am a new recruit to your blog, and now an avid reader.

It is a guilds job to train the members. This is what Kara is turning into, at least in my guild a place to gear up people that just hit 70, and get them some gear.

That is if you have a guild that cares. Most hard core raiding guilds don't want to make that kind of investment in the player.

Oh and please don't remind me of Omen, and Deadly boss mods problems, we had an epic fail in tempest keep the other night cause of that poop.

It's not the guild's job to train unless the guild chooses to make it so.

It's my responsibility to be as good of a player as I can. It is totally selfish and "american" of us to assume it's someone else's job to hone our skills.

We hone our own skills. If you wanted to excel in school, did you assume someone else was going to read your textbooks aloud to you at night? No. You read that book yourself, you asked questions, and you went to find people who knew more than you did.

Here's where you can find those people now:

For every 10 "but I solo'd to 70 and now you have to train me" recruits, I can easily find one really excellent player that already knows how to handle herself/himself. I'd train a friend, sure, but I'm not training total strangers over and over again; that'd be more of a grind than anything Blizzard could've created.
It is a guilds job to train the members. This is what Kara is turning into, at least in my guild a place to gear up people that just hit 70, and get them some gear.

If they have a long term interest in doing anything beyond 5 mans reliably yes. This is something in a good guild that should work itself out because if interests are similar then you;ll be working towards the same goal.

I'd train a friend, sure, but I'm not training total strangers over and over again; that'd be more of a grind than anything Blizzard could've created.

this has a lot of truth to it. With higher ranked guilds and the complete lack of anything to make a guild beneficial to you other than other people to help you get your gear this can become a problem.

I helped run a small guild and everytime we'd get around 20 or so people and be ready to start some harder content we'd lose 3 to a well progressed guild. They all stayed in contact and occasionally ran with us etc but in the end it just became too much of a grind doing the same content over and over to get enough people up to the same level. Its a twisted problem because it takes time to get that many people up to snuff and in a game where every expansion invalidated everything that has gone before there is a great pressure to keep moving.

But again it all falls back to no real system to reward team players. In WOW Selfish Asshats are rewarded far more.
In-Game systems should be taught by the system itself.

I shouldn't have to go to GameFAQs to learn to play a game. I might go to figure out where the extra bonus items are, but I shouldn't have to in order to take part of a large portion of the game at all.

Forcing players to teach each other is the equivalent of forcing them to go to some online knowledge base repository, and smacks of bad design. Blizzard has tutorials on how to solo; they need tutorials and quests to teach how group play works.

The solution is social, not in-game. There are low-level instances to run, there are group quests (now only L60-70) like the Ring of Blood in Nagrand which are good training grounds. People skip them on the way to L70.

Adding group-training quests won't solve the problem, unless you make them mandatory--say, every 10 levels. Meaning that you simply cannot ding L20 until you've completed the L19 group quest. I'm guessing they're not going to do that.

As long as there is a way around group quests and the group dynamic, people are going to take the path of least resistance: solo quest/grind to max level, then crash upon the endgame rocks of teamplay.

Or Blizzard could allow people to nerf their own characters to run lower-level instances. If you have a friend who is L45 and wants to run Underbog, let four L70 people nerf their existing toons to L45-equivalent for that run. Then at least you could point at the people who say "run me through VC with your L70" and say "well, that person just isn't interested in grouping".
In-Game systems should be taught by the system itself.

Agreed. I’m reminded of the Rogue poison quests that require you to quite a few of your skills in order to complete the quest. I know other classes have done the same thing at times (the Druid flyer quest), but what about taking this up a notch. I’m thinking “group” quests that are like escort quests but you need to the talents of your class in a order complete it.
My g/f and I (tank/healer) have more than once really tried to train PUGs and Kara-Groups alike. It nearly never works. When something goes wrong we usually know perfectly what went wrong, but you can't simply tell people it was their fault. Even if you do it gently and without finger pointing, most of them will flatout deny they could have made any mistake and start randomly accusing other people to cover themselves.
The nicer ones say sorry and then usually drop dead-silent as if you told them they'd receive a beating if they do that again.

But never in all that time I heart the words "Sorry, please tell me how to do it better".

The best results we received is being silent, simply leading by example and only say something if someone is really acting weird as hell. It takes about 3 month (3 days a week), then about 60% of the guys is able to do a good job in Karazhan. The other 40% leave before the time is over because they can't understand why they are not the first getting every loot they could possibly want. Or because they no longer want to hear that they wiped the raid *again* when they moved in the flames at shade.

Summarizing.. Training someone takes a hell of a time, not many people are able to do it and most beginners don't even want to learn.
hmmm kiseran. I think most of the time I point out to someone that they've made a mistake or could do something better I usually get a pretty reasonable response. Of course I usually whisper them and keep it private. I have had a few people ignore me, leave the party etc. But thats been the rarity not the norm.
If Blizzard built in-game training, then more people would be better at grouping and raiding. Then more people would finish the end-game raid content faster and be "done" with the game between patches and expansions. Does Blizzard want this? Absolutely not -- they want 1% of the players to be working on the hardest raid, while the other 99% are in various stages of learning the game. If too many people saw all of the content, they'd be quitting in droves in between patches / expansions. It's the eternal carrot of the next harder instance that keeps most of us in the game.

But actually the type of training you describe (aggro management) wouldn't cause that, because that basic level of training doesn't even get people through Karazhan. Players need to know how to react to changing conditions and semi-random special attacks, not just watch their aggro.
Hmm... A tricky and thorny topic.

In-training is definitely not the responsibility of other players. Guilds can help out slightly by offering to take players to instances and to "show" them how aggro works, etc., but the underlying issue with all those guilds trying to help their players is that they will always have the knowledge that those players being trained up will just leave and look for a guild a bit further down the raid chain.

So why bother. Honestly.

Players don't give a crap about guilds. Why should guilds give a crap about players?

There's simply no mechanism to ensure players remain loyal to guilds. If there were a system in which guilds were ranked and players earned guild points that offered access to guild equipment...

My guild is a casual raid guild. We don't train all our players up but we do take them to instances and raids they wouldn't be able to get to on their own. That's dependant on their ability to try and learn new skills and to be patient. Some players are great and pick things up quickly, others are slow and apologise all the way through. Most just assume they are raid-material.

A learning curve, patience and the ability to listen and to absorb feedback is all you need to train up. Pandering to players that can't be bothered and just want to instantly be raid-material is not going to help.
I'm thinking along similar lines, and think that having more more quests for healers would also provide the obvious benefit of making it easier to level healers, leading to more healers being available.

This would require expansion beyond the usual WoW paradigm of "kill stuff to get ahead", which would also make the game richer.
Another way they fail to teach players is how to gear up. Its not intuitive to anyone that tanks need 490 defence or that +spell hit is more useful to mages than +spell crit until they reach the hit cap.

But even if you are grouped with a player who knows what to do, the difference between someone who has geared 'optimally' and someone who hasn't is huge.
how to get skill in wow

dont pvp

do all quest related to these instances, in their level range

Ragefire Chasm (RFC) Horde Crest 8 (13-16)

Wailing Caverns (WC) 10 (17-21)

Shadowfang Keep (SFK) 10 (18-21)

The Deadmines (VC) Alliance Crest 10 (18-22)

Blackfathom Deeps (BFD) 19 (22-24)

Stormwind Stockade (Stocks) Alliance Crest15 (23-29)

Razorfen Kraul (RFK) 17 (24-27)

Gnomeregan (Gnomer) 15 (25-28)

The Scarlet Monastery:Graveyard (SM) 20 (30-32)

The Scarlet Monastery:Library (SM) 20 (33-35)

Razorfen Downs (RFD) 25 (34-37)

The Scarlet Monastery:Armory (SM) 20 (35-37)

The Scarlet Monastery:Cathedral (SM) 20 (36-40)

Uldaman (Ulda) 30 (36-40)

Zul'Farrak (ZF) 35 (42-46)

Maraudon (Mara) 35 (43-48)
Temple of Atal'Hakkar (Sunken Temple) (ST) 35 (47-50)


Blackrock Depths (BRD) 40 (48-56)


Dire Maul:East (DM) 45 (55-58)


Lower Blackrock Spire (LBRS) 45 (54-60)

5 (10)

Dire Maul:West (DM) 45 (57-60)


Dire Maul:North (DM) 45 (57-60)


Stratholme (Strat) 45 (58-60)


Scholomance (Scholo) 45 (58-60)


Upper Blackrock Spire (UBRS) 45 (58-60)

10 (10)

Zul'Gurub (ZG) 50 (60+)


Onyxia's Lair (Ony or OL) 50 (60+)


Molten Core (MC) 50 (60+)


Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj (RAQ or AQ20) 50 (60++)


well anonymous thank you for a completly pointless post. Try to level an alt and do all those quests by pugging as you average newbie would have too.

NO do it with a hunter or a rogue.

Yeah that worked 3 years ago even 2 years ago then BC borked it all.
Great post. This problem compared with what Sam stated about the anonymous posting summarises the overall problem -and probable downfall- of WoW: solo to the cap without having to know how to play the class.

It's next to impossible to find groups for the instances anonymous listed. Granted, there is the training Blizzard has provided for the raiding, CC, aggro management and tanking/healing, but if it is more efficient and rewarding to solo, why bother?

And when it's time to master the group dymanics, it's too late to realize that something was missed.

In this sense a sort of mentoring system would prove interesting: you could lower your level to enter a certain instance, receive specific rewards (badges?) and experience the content. And probably learn without losing your face while wiping the pug because now knowing some critical issue.

For Kiseran I would say this: when I have asked in a PUG from those who have stated being so well informed and experienced to tell me how to perform better (as prot-warrior tank or feral drood tank) I have been mocked, laughed at, kicked out of the party and -in the most rediculous case- the ones I asked from have left themself. The few like you are as rare as us who would love to learn to play their toon and class better.

Which has resulted that I have almost quit the game. I cannot learn the grouping by soloing, and grouping by PUGs isn't available except to few instances. As long as the Old World is as void as it is, the situation won't change except for worse, as the Outlands will fall void as soon as WotLK hits the shelves.

So we are back again on the search of a better way to group for low level instances.

It is right that doing low level instances is good for learning how to group.

I have stoped raiding and just leveling alts now. It is easy to pug the deadmines, after that....

I was happy this weekend to find an amory group with my prot war, until one of the guy said : "cool, i have a 70 to rush it !". I had my helm and ... no fun at all.

I want to wype in the armory to claim that i deserve my helm, not just get it from a rush.

Everquest 2 (i played that a lot) have an interresting chat channel. We have one per 10 level (0 -9, 10 - 19, 20 -29, ....). You can subscribe or no to these depending on what you are looking for. It could be usefull to have better channels to search people. Even the 70 people can subscribe to a lower level chanel to see if a group is constructing on an instance they want to do.

Perhaps we should try to create these type of channels on our own...
It makes no sense why there isn't an official threat meter. There is really no excuse for it.

Espcially when some encounters are designed for some tanks to somehow be 2nd in threat.

How in the world does one determine they are second in threat without a meter?

Blizzard is relying on people who make mods in order to make some encounters work.
Well, the reality is that there is no feedback mechanism in WoW for groups (other than the binary 'success' or 'wipe').
So to effectively work in a group, you need add-ons. And you need Internet help sites, hint sites, guide sites, and theorycrafting sites.
IMO - bluntly, this is very bad design.

In WoW, you have to group in order to practice group skills. Preferably you have to be in a good group that knows what they're doing and can provide good feedback. Unfortunately it can be difficult to define 'good group'...

I would not understate the usefulness of PvP in developing play skills. Most people seem to learn better character control and responsiveness. (Or they die a bunch of times and quit.)
no I hate instancing with pvp players. In general they suck. They have no idea of how the mobs work. Yes a well geared DPS class that has pvp gear can put out damage but they usually can't control thier threat.(damage) They do dumb things like run out of range of the healer bouncing around like a rabbit trying to make it harder for the computer controlled mobs to hit them.
Honestly I die a little inside everytime someone tells me I never lose in PVP this run will be easy.
You'll see the number of functional guilds decreasing long before noticing a lower availability of competent recruits for each guild.

The damage is already done, a raiding guild can in no way recruit a non-raider into the raiding unit. Only non-raiding guilds can recruit these players and that spirals downwards into guild collapses.
The problem is, people will not do those low level instances at the levels they are supposed to be done.
Once again, you can blame it on the solo game. Imagine you are lv12, and you have a quest to do. You try it and fail; the mobs are too tough. So what do you do? You wait until you have levelled up a bit, and then come back when you have more dps, more hp, more mitigation and so on, and wipe the floor with the mobs.
Hand on heart how many of you playing an alt or even your first character, signed up for an instance, and then decided your team mates (or even your own character) were too high a level for it, and decided to drop out?

How many times do you see in LFG, someone saying 'Need one more for Ramparts, have a lv 70 tank' or something similar?
People don't want to do instances at the proper level. They want to do them asap, and with as little effort as possible; more loot less time, less grief.
Using the instance to learn how to play is not high on most people's list.
I am always pugging instances on my alt; and when I see people doing things wrong, and try and tell them, they take it as personal criticism.

I was playing with some friends in a pug, and I kept telling them that they had to Line of Sight pull the mob casters, and yet time and again they simply stood out in the open getting shadowbolted/fireballed, and every time I mentioned it they got more and more annoyed.
People have to want to learn; it seems to me a large number of them don't;
"just make it easier, it's too hard, we aren't hard-core raiders, we are casuals, we don't have time for this, just nerf these instances Blizzard, it's not fair!" and Blizzard seem only too happy to do it.
Yes vlad that is a problem. But as I level my new priest in a leveling guild where our highest toon is 60 I see the other darker side of that coin you are talking about.

People who are new to the game get on and start out excited. They hear stories of all the fun times us oldtimers had in those old instances. Then they go "Hey lets do BRD?......" and the response almost universally is. "Why waste your time there. Just get to 58 and do BC"
Nowadays the newbies are trained from day one to skip the instances, let higher levels run them through to progress the guild faster and to believe that anything on Azeroth is pointless.

And to argue that you have to say that the devs themselves who have stated many many times that the old content just isn't relavant or worth tweaking, are wrong. Go try to win that fight....

Its LAZY GAME DESIGN 101. Which is pretty damned sad considering the resources they should be able to throw at keeping this thing up. But its been obvious since launch of BC that Blizzard is expecting the whole thing to fall apart soon so they are milking it instead of supporting it.
Lots of good comments here. But to answer the question from a guild perspective. WE are supposed to train them. "We" meaning the guild members and officers. We can say that a game that forces ppl to download a mod or research the FAQs of the site is poorly designed and then just stand there with our arms crossed justified in our smug observation of the obvious. However, we still are no closer to answering the original question when we take that stance.

I say that knowing that this particular issue exists, it becomes something that each guild must take on as a calculated risk when we accept new members. We must be willing to say upfront to the new member. "hey [insert gaudy name of choice here], u may not advance as fast as u like in this guild but we're gonna do some instances appropriate for your level and teach you how we operate. Were not gonna run u through BRD until ur at a level appropriate to do so. If that's not ok...plz leave now." Give them the understanding and option upfront.

Don't be afraid to have ppl that the guild leans on for training or even to establish a training officer for that matter. If I hear one more time "well, I came from a guild and this is how we did it.." ugggggg! u know where i'm going with that.

And, u know what? It's ok to take a high level player into an instance from a teaching standpoint...why do we always feel like we have to get to the end of an instance as quickly as possible? Why not just establish the run rules as something like: "Ok...we're gonna do this a couple of times or until 60 miniutes has passed...The plan is I'll (the person doing the training) show the group how to get to the first boss and then, after showing, reset the instance and allow those being trained the opportunity to "practice." Then set up for a future 60 minute run where the high level blasts past the first part and then trains the group on the second part...blah blah blah. It sounds a bit goofy but It can work with a few adjustments for guild values and objectives. You can work on issues such as aggro management and how to take the time to spend a few mintues positioning player and talking about stategy cause what worked for the last boss might cause a wipe with the next one.

All this is just my way of saying that each guild can set up their training however they want but please undestand that it is something that needs to be done if the guild is to have a future.

On a social note, I think one of the worst things we do to ourselves psychologically as Americans is establish the belief that achievement of individual excellence somehow trumps goup dynamics and accomplishments. I think both are necessary to get the most out of the game and the people at blizzard are borderline genius for developing a game where u can do either or none of the above and still get rewarded. In short, there is no reason that we, the players shouldn't be responsible for training our own.

I think Blizz is telling us..."our job was to develop a game where we could make lots of money and that the average person could enjoy." They have succeeded. They also have left enough room for us to develop our own teams our own way. We have to realize that development and training of the team is OUR responsibility.

One thing that I do agree with and would like to see is what everyone else says about a way to make aggro visible ingame from a group standpoint.
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