Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Bring the player, not the class

Imagine that after a lot of wipes you finally managed to down raid boss A with your mage. Which of the following ventures is more likely to succeed: Switching to your equally well geared hunter and downing raid boss A again, or staying on your mage and trying raid boss B, which you never tried before?
B of course, whats the interest of killing the same boss over and over again?
@Cigaras, But if you stick to B, you'll soon be killing the same bosses over and over again anyway.

I prefer alternating between a tank, healer and dps each week. That way even though i've done the boss multiple times, it still feels fresh to me.
The question was not what you would LIKE more, but which of the two is more likely to succeed. Or in other words, which of the two would lead to less wipes before the boss is dead?
Uhh, isn't A the old boss, and B the new boss?

I would say that killing the old boss A with a new character is more likely to succeed. But it's also going to be a lot less interesting than going after boss B (with either character).

Assuming that the rest of the raid stays the same in either case, of course.
I don't have a hunter - can I take my tank instead? :)

Using your proposed situation, I'm more inclined to stay on my Mage(pally in my case) and move on to the new boss. I'm all about progression, and I'm a completionist in that regard as I tend to want to get my character completely equipped in the current tier of gear, so along with that comes the challenge of learning the next encounter, and it's what keeps things "fresh" for me. It's able to keep me interested longer and paying my subscription longer as well.
The question itself is pretty bad. What was the A's learning curve, what is the difficulty of the B encounter compared to the difficulty of A? Is the A kill easily repeatable?

In most cases, you are most likely to succeed in A, regardless of what class you play, since you have already "mastered" the encounter, but if we are talking about WoW, then you'll repeat A regardless in the next reset before moving on to B.

I more interested in the actual purpose of this question, though.
B, because A is dead until next week, and at what point does replaying A with alts allow you to kill B without fighting it?
That's a good question with a rather interesting answer.

1) Let's start with a twist: what happens if EVERY player in the raid gets to make this choice?

Obviously, that way lies failure. A raid composed entirely of alts will wipe a lot on the nominally familiar Boss A, a raid composed of mains will wipe just as much on the new and mysterious Boss B. The same disastrous thing will happen if we mix or combine the choices (i.e., form a raid composed of alts and people who have never seen this particular boss before).

2) Now let's roll back to our initial setup (a raid full of mains who have killed a given boss at least once). What happens if we replace one of them with an alt or a player who has never seen this boss before?

In both cases, the raid may succeed or fail (with our character most likely being the weakest link). The exact chances depend on the particulars of each encounter, the importance of our character's role, and other external parameters.



- The venture with the highest chance of success is the one where we choose neither of the proposed options (i.e., we keep raiding Boss A with the same static raid)

- Any changes (whether in regards to raid composition or to knowledge of the tactics) reduces the raid's chances of success, up to the point where failure becomes inevitable.

- The nature of the change (replace a main with an alt, or an experienced player with a newcomer) is not as important as its magnitude. That is why many raiding guilds impose a cap on the number of alts/newbies who can be present during farm-status but-not-fully-facerollable boss fights.
If switching from mage to hunter, boss A is obviously more like to be defeated. But if you switch from hunter to a healer, the same old Chimaeron or Neafarian will be as hard as the totally unknown boss.
I more interested in the actual purpose of this question, though.

The purpose of the question is exploring what we learn from a successful boss encounter. Did we learn to play our class better, or did we just learn a very specific and unique set of moves for one boss which won't help us for the next one?
What's wrong with a "very specific set of moves"? Each encounter is different, that's partially what gives the flavor and uniqueness.

You don't "learn" your class in certain encounters, that's something you should have done already before you stepped into raiding. That knowledge you apply it to the various challenges the new bosses present.

There's a huge misconception in the so called "blogosphere" (which is understandable, since there is no single non-mediocre blogger around) about what raiding actually means. Most people simply focus on their character, the development and the individual "lessons" learned, when in reality, raiding is all about applying what you know already in coordination with other people.

Try it sometimes, the fruits of success can prove to be delicious.
which is understandable, since there is no single non-mediocre blogger around

That must be because the excellent hardcore raid players are unfortunately unable to read or write. That only leaves the mediocre players to write about the game.
Yeah, that must be the reason.
When one says they know how do drive a certain race car, they imply that they know how to control it optimally through a wide range of conditions. A truly seasoned driver can do this quickly with new vehicles or rare driving conditions.

In order to get to that point, one must drive on wet tracks, oval tracks, hills, hairpins, chicanes, sweepers and all manner of different track elements and conditions.

In short: learning to play your class against a target dummy is like claiming to be great with a car when you've only tried drag racing.

It's in applying your class's strengths to various gimmicks and learning how to make up for its weaknesses that one really learns a class, and really, the game. Some gimmicks are obscure, one offs, like say polarity charges on Thaddius were, but even that teaches a skill that comes up on later bosses.
Stay on your mage.

I have no evidence to suggest you know how to play your hunter.
I think the answer is that is depends. There are some bosses where your class isn't that relevant and mastering the mechanics is the key. In particular you have chosen two ranged dps classes so for some fights they are going to be almost entirely interchangeable. Take Atramedes for example - although classes will play slightly differently the largest part of the fight is being good at reacting to his abilities. In his case you would find him much easier to defeat on a new toon than a new boss on your old toon. This is not true in all cases however. My guild just finished a wipe night on Nefarian (3%... argh) and the difference in roles is very substantial from previous nights. I was retribution the first night and protection the second and the abilities I have to use and the things I have to do are radically different. In that case the fight is so different that it is easily as hard as learning most new fights.

So I think the answer is that once you have mastered a particular fight in a particular role (healer, tank, melee, ranged) you will find doing that fight in the same role much easier but changing roles is often just as challenging as changing fights. It is absolutely not the case that you can just learn a fight as a tank and then play flawlessly as a dps or healer.
I think the clear answer is that, all other things being equal, fighting bosses that the player is familiar with is easier than fighting new bosses.

To a certain extent, Tobold has a point. Each encounter has its own dance moves that you have to learn, and those dance moves are unique. But I disagree with Rigor when he says that everyone learns their class ahead of time, and I disagree with Tobold's unspoken premise that what is learned in one encounter can't be transferred to the next.

First, people get better at their class during raids. There is a significant minority of raiders in accomplished raiding guilds who perfect their class before zoning in, but I have raided with many casual raiders, first-time raiders, and pug raiders, and it is clear that they are improving their skills as the raid progresses. Unfortunately, Blizzard has very few raid-like atmospheres outside of raids, so it makes sense that many raiders have little to no experience with some of their class skills.

For example, how often do Shadow Priests and Warlocks multidot outside of raids? Very rarely, and when they do, mobs die quickly, so there's even less practice with reapplying a multidot pattern. Hunters and kiting is another good example - leveling hunters need to kite very rarely. Blizzard has done away with class quests that teach these sorts of things. Instead, if a hunter kites in the open world, it's only because they actively chose to do so.

Thus, I see raiding encounters as having both unique components and nonunique components. For example, success in the most challenging encounters requires near-perfect class play while on the move. Raiders learn how to DPS and heal and tank while moving in earlier encounters. Many boss abilities are somewhat standardized. "Don't stand in the bad," "burn the adds," "switch targets when X happens," and "collapse/spread out" are all common strategies that are applied repeatedly through each tier of raiding content.

To be fair, a lot of that learning still isn't specific to one's class. However, I think there is more class learning than a simple description may acknowledge. For example, what are the specific tools that a Resto Shaman can use to keep a tank healed while moving for a long distance? When can a Shadow Priest's mana sustain dotting a secondary target while still focusing a burn-down target (and when can the raid afford it such that the burn-down happens before everyone dies)? How long can a mage afford to stand in the bad to power their Incanter's Absorption? The list of class-specific challenges faced during dance lessons and never before faced in the open world is larger than Tobold seems to give it credit.
If I understand correctly, this boils down to:

"Which will give players the higher likelihood to succeed in WoW: learning the dance, or mastering your class?"

And to that question, I think learning the dance would be best.
Tobold, you keep ranting about how raiding in WoW is just learning the moves of a boss then moving to the next, without having anything specific to your class to learn.

First, requiring to use class specific abilities was what we had in BC, and it sucked. Mage spell-steal, warrior spell-reflect, priest CoH... Maybe fun for those classes, but boring for the rest of the raid who could do nothing.
(if that's not what you have in mind, then what ? doing your rotation correctly ? we already do that)

Second, how would you keep raiding interesting in the long run while not making boss-specific dances ? What is there left to learn once you know how to play ? Just execute perfectly over and over ?

In Super Mario you learn to play better along the course of the game. Jumping at the right time, perfecting air control. But discovering the specific challenges of a new stage is just as much fun. (and that's why we keep buying new ones after decades of near identical gameplay)
Why do some of the posters not get the question: Not what you would prefer to fight, but what choice is better to succeed in downing the boss...c'mon people.

Tobold, another great question. Of course, boss A. You are replacing a RDPS with another RDPS. The boss mechanics stay pretty much the same. You "know" that boss fight. The specific class you are playing has a theoretical maximum DPS that you are attempting to achieve while doing the "dance." But the "dance" doesn't change much based on which RDPS class you choose.

I would submit that the answer *could* change if you swap out a RDPS for a MDPS. Or RDPS for a tank. Or RDPS for a healer. In those situations, it depends on what "dance" you have to perform to beat the boss. For example, sometimes it is extremely difficult for MDPS; sometimes it is not. Sometimes the tank must know what and when to taunt, and work with another tank to trade taunts. You must know this mechanic to succeed. In other words, if you are changing from one of the roles (tank, healer, mdps, rdps) to another one of those roles, it might be equally difficult to choose Boss A or Boss B.
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You don't progress for gear. You gear for progression. Switching character, assuming both fill the same role, completely defeats the point. Also, the more you play your character, the better you should get at it . The gap between good and exceptional is huge, but of course, dps is only one part of the fight.

Did we learn to play our class better, or did we just learn a very specific and unique set of moves for one boss which won't help us for the next one?

There's only two skill sets, pushing buttons properly (DPS) and raid awareness. You can be amazing at pushing buttons and still die every fight, if anything each fight teaches you to pay attention, to be aware of your surrounding, to know what's going on and to know how to react accordingly.

Case in point, we've had a hunter that did amazing DPS, but couldn't dodge Shadowcrashes on Vezax to save his life (well that and he rezed his pet, in fire, on Firefighter). Your DPS is always much better overall when you don't spend half of the fight dead.
Rigor, there are plenty of hardcore raiders who blog. Check out Blacksen's End for example.

As for this question, once you have learned to play your class, is there is any MMO where you'd really expect to learn more about your class on a new encounter than about the encounter itself?

The thing with WoW, Tobold, is that you've probably seen and played through enough iconic raid encounters that you've learned all there is to learn. After that, it's about the encounter mechanics (and whether the rest of the raid can make up for your mistakes)
So many have missed the point of "which would likely be more successful", that it may be better to ask the question this way:

If you had to quckly fill a raid spot for a difficult encounter, would you rather bring a player who has downed the particular boss on a different character, or a particularly needed CLASS with a competent player who has never seen the boss?

I think most of us would want to know more about how good the PLAYER is in order to choose. The better player, regardless of class or knowledge of a particular fight would nearly always be preferable and more successful IMO.

How we measure who is a better player now becomes the debate.

If I downed boss A and you haven't, assuming equal gear and equal number of tries, am I a better player than you?
If Boss A and Boss B are carbon copies of each other aka tank/spank fights like you seem to want, where there is nothing new to learn, then what is the point of raiding? Once you've learned all there is to learn about your class (which may take a few weeks at most), the majority of people will simply get bored of doing the same thing every time and quit after a few months and never raid again. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
A's going to go down easier.

You're always better at a fight when you've seen exactly what happens and how the mechanics work together.

Think of Sindi and frost tombs. It doesn't matter whether you were tanking for it, healing through it or DPSing, if you've done the fight successfully, you know how tombs work and how your other equally-well-geared (this is important, above posters have ignored it with their 'alt' argument) character will fit into that scheme. (Especially if both are ranged DPS as per the example.)

The title of the post's a little misleading, though.

Try doing LK without one of the healer classes which can dispell disease. (Actually a BIG problem with 10-mans if you have l33t druids and shamen to fill your slots.)
"But we brought plenty of healers!"
"Ahh, little player... you didn't bring the right CLASS of healers."
"Doesn't that go against 'bring the player, not the class'?"
"...Shut up, that's what."
"But that doesn't make any sense!"
"So's your face."
This was a clever way to explore the question.

My straw man question for the "l2p" crowd, is when do we learn to play our class?

1-84 my healers are DPS. I don't do instances because they seem a bit slower and much higher risk to have an unpleasant time than questing. Even for DPS, I do not see how trying to optimize the questing/hour and miniming downtime, etc. prepares you that much for raiding.

Once you get to raids, I think the overwhelming predictor of success is how well you "do the dance" - perform the artificial raid-specfic mechanics.

I clearly think in your example the hunter would have a much easier time. Very little if anything that was learned while playing the mage was about being a mage.
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