Tobold's Blog
Friday, November 11, 2011
Occupy Azeroth - We are the 99%!

The news of the week continues to be Activision Blizzard's earnings call. An earnings call is a teleconference of a public company discussing their latest quarterly results. For most companies that is dry stuff, but for game companies this can get interesting: They tend to reveal information they otherwise don't tell players; and they are legally prevented from lying about that information, although of course they will always try to spin the info in the most favorable light.

Azuriel from I An Age bravely delved into the earnings call transcript, and found what Blizzard thinks is the cause of Cataclysm's relative lack of success: The end game is too difficult. Quote: "Once players reached max level, the end-game content in Cataclysm is more difficult. Balancing this content for our diverse player base can be very challenging." And they think they have a solution already: "The raid finder will make it easier than ever for casual players to experience end-game content, and it will open up a big part of the World of Warcraft to more of our players." I think I've even seen a reference to making raiding less "dance"-based in one of the recent Blizzard announcements, but I can't find the source right now.

I find this train of thought interesting, because it could herald MAJOR changes to how raiding works in future expansions like Mists of Pandaria. I do think that Mike Morhaime correctly identified the Cataclysm problem as being the gap between the leveling game and the raiding end game. And I believe that Blizzard is going to do everything possible to avoid the same story happening again in the next expansion. And that means finding a way for the majority of players of World of Warcraft to raid after having reached the level cap.

Blizzard might be underestimating how enormous that task is. We are *not* talking about applying a 25% nerf on some boss mob health here. What would be needed is a system in which the average player, and even the somewhat below average player, can have a meaningful experience with raid dungeons which makes him stay subscribed. That means raid encounters in which most players
  • do *not* have studied the "dance" on YouTube,
  • do *not* have spend hundreds of hours gearing up before even trying the first boss in the first raid,
  • do *not* have an uninterrupted block of 4+ hours available,
  • do *not* consider wiping 400 times before the first boss kill reasonable,
  • and finally do *not* have above average skills in moving fast or playing their character extremely well.
In short, for this plan to succeed there must be a form of easy-mode raiding which barely resembles the raids of today. That isn't to say that this can't co-exist with classic raiding. But for the average or below average player there must be a looking-for-raid functionality which allows him to jump quickly into a raid, get some success and reward in half an hour, and jump out of the raid again; without causing the raid to fail for the other participants, obviously.

I do think this is theoretically possible. How hard a raid is, how much preparation and/or skill it requires is a totally arbitrary value. You *can* make raids that aren't any more difficult than a current daily quest (although that might be overdoing it, it is probably sufficient if the raid is still challenging for a slightly below average player). It is just that these raids won't look at all like the current raids. It is safe to say that such changes would cause some veteran players to have apoplectic fits. And it is not sure that after 7 years of making raids designed for a minority of players, Blizzard developers are flexible enough to completely change their approach.

The main objection to such a system will be "but this is not what *I* want", from players who have played World of Warcraft for years, and raided for thousands of hours. But as I said, there is no necessity to remove heroic raiding from WoW just because you added easy-mode raiding. So at worst there is some loss of exclusivity. And that is probably a good thing, because "exclusivity" is exactly what killed Cataclysm. Any other solution proposed will still have to deal with the question what the 99% of players who aren't the elite are supposed to be doing after reaching the level cap. (And no, Mike, I don't agree that "the level-up content in Cataclysm is some of [y]our best works." It was too linear and didn't have good replayability.) Adding a hundred or so hours of leveling content every two years is obviously not a solution to achieving a more stable player base. If Blizzard wants to stretch out the time that average players stay subscribed after an expansion is released, they need to do something radically different.

Exclusivity is irrelevant. What counts is that there is enough interesting content for all players. If the only way to achieve this is to turn exclusive content into content for all players then so be it. It's not the perfect solution, but since Blizzard struggles to employ enough content-produces with their recent financial struggles, it may be the only way. (irony)

Otherwise, I agree. Raiding is 60% socializing, 35% wiping and 5% looting. LFR raiding will be raiding only in name, as it will be 90% looting, 9% wiping ans 1% socializing. It's an entirely different activity.
Out of your 5 points, 4 can be easily performed by Patchwerk-like fights.

* No need to watch dance at Patchwerk, just do your job
* No need for more than a few tries for Patchwerk. You either have the DPS and he drops, or you don't and no point keep trying.
* The above few tries fit into 30-40 mins
* No need to move or react in miliseconds.

The last point, "no need to gear up" can be handled by a series of Patchwerks of different DPS/HPS requirements. The first is beatable with a few blue pieces, the last need top gear, so everyone can kill some, everyone can progress, and few can be exclusive.
do *not* have studied the "dance" on YouTube,

do *not* have spend hundreds of hours gearing up before even trying the first boss in the first raid,

do *not* have an uninterrupted block of 4+ hours available,

do *not* consider wiping 400 times before the first boss kill

and finally do *not* have above average skills in moving fast or playing their character extremely well.

From what i remember from Blizzcon when they talked about the raidfinder this is more or less what they are aming for.
The raidfinder difficulty will not simply be normal with a 20-30% nerf, the goal seems to be to remove/add/change mechanics for the raidfinder diffiulty to make the encounters more suitable for a pug group without voicecom.

Personaly i however feel that the pet battles, PvE scenarios, challenge modes and possibility to gain VP from certain daily quests will be a much more sucessfull way of giving the diverse playerbase something to do in the endgame but cerantly the raidfinder will be a part of it to.
The problem I see is that the new easymode-raiding wouldn't teach anyone how to actually raid. No matter how many easymode-raids I would participate in, it would always be a mindless rush without tactic and it wouldn't help me any to progress to a point where I could join a hardcore (today) raid.
That leaves two possiblities:
1.) There is no reason why I would want to join a hardcore raid.
2.) There is some reason left to join a hardcore raid

In case of 1) I get to see all the content in easymode and also get good gear in easymode. No pull to hardmode-raiding, which means hardcore raiding will more than ever suffer from lack of new recruits.

In case of 2) Blizzard did something to make me want to do hardcore-raiding. However, easymode-raiding did nothing to really teach me what I need to know to do it. That means basically nothing changed from the cataclysm-situation, we only got a new step between heroic-dungeons and real raids.

I guess what I want to say is: Just making stuff easier is a bad idea if you want to teach people. Back at the start of Wrath I compared the first raidweeks in Naxx10 with the first weeks in old Naxx40 and it was just sad. Part of the identity was lost, whole mechanics didn't connect with each other anymore and what was once a lethal deathtrap became a mild annoyance that you could simply ignore. If you cushion every fall then people won't mind falling and won't be prepared for the point when falling really hurts suddenly.
Blizzard looked at the data superficially without thinking deeply about the real problems with Cata.

The real problem is the lack of motivation to attemp the hard stuff not the actual difficulty itself.

When I started in TBC, the game was fun and engaging. Also, the environment was that we had a really social atmosphere on the server that allowed me to make friends on the server. When I started raiding Kara, we wiped a lot on the 2nd boss (Monroes) and sometimes even on the first boss. But we were never put off by the hard difficulty. I was inspired to work on my rotations, read up strategies and farm better gear because the game was fun. Also, it was rewarding tackling a challenge with your friends. In short, we were motivated to rise to the challenge.

Unfortunately, changes started in WotLK started to damage this game. I feel that new features such as LFD, cross-realm BG and Achievements have really hurt the social scene. WotLK still went OK as the game still had fun and character but the community started to go downhill.

In Cata, things just feel bland and boring. Two words comes to mind: "grind" and "hard". The main point of playing a game is having "fun" and the main point of a MMO is "social" interactions otherwise I'll just go and play a single-player game.

Without (fun + social), a player is not motivated to face hard challenges. Why would they bother? Cata provided the "stick" but the "carrot" went missing.
The problem I see is that the new easymode-raiding wouldn't teach anyone how to actually raid.

Why would that be a problem? The purpose of the easy-mode raids is to keep players occupied, so they keep playing and paying. As this mostly applies to people who didn't *want* to do "real" raids in the past, I don't see what advantage you would gain if you would teach them how to do those.

I think it is a fallacy to think that players naturally evolve towards real raiding, or at least would do so if we taught them how to. Most players have no real interest in that kind of gameplay.

If you had kept playing TBC all those years, don't you think your description of how things got progressively worse would have looked awfully similar?

At first, I had a lot of fun in WoW and I went around talking to everyone. Then my guild broke up, my second guild broke up and I was a bit more lonely. Still, though, the game was fun and there were things to do. Finally, I grew tired of the game which led me to quit. In the meanwhile, a couple of expansions were released.
Your description of "easy-mode raiding" sounds enormously like what we've been doing every day in Rift.

Loads of big mobs arrive in a zone.
Players begin to arrive to fight them.
The game system groups those players together into a raid.
A quest tracker pops up explaining the objectives, which are also marked on the map.
Players then engage the various targets either individually, in groups or in raids as they wish.
The event is completed, win or lose and players drop out of the raid, automatically being placed back into any group they were in before they joined the raid if appropriate.

This process is only used in Rift for open-world raiding, but clearly something very similar could be used for instanced raiding through a RaidFinder interface. It would provide drop-in/drop-out raiding that would be accessible to anyone.
The problem I see is that the new easymode-raiding wouldn't teach anyone how to actually raid.

As they presented it, it should. The difference should be something like the difference between normal and heroic raids. So while the RF raids might have fewer mechanics then the normal raid the mechanics that are still there should not be possible to ignore and while you would have to learn a few more mehcanics when you try the fight on normal difficulty the RF should still have thaught you the basics of the fight.
Personally, I'd like to see a statistic on how many of those who leave the game play with max level characters.

I'm inclined to say that, without having enough data to prove the conclusion, the real issue is that Blizzard emphasizes reaching the levelcap and participating in 'endgame' activities, but doesn't really maintain enough content at the 'endgame' to make that worthwhile.

Add to that a shorter distance-to-levelcap this time (5 levels instead of 10), rapid gear inflation, and Guild Levels with the strange rep system that keep people from moving to guilds that play in the manner they would enjoy playing in order to keep those benefits... and I think what we're seeing is, quite simply, 'raid fatigue'.

I was (I think) quite a good player, but I was uninterested in raiding. It didn't suit me, I didn't suit it, and - despite trying in the past - I never broke into the raiding 'scene'. In Cata, I just didn't bother trying - what's left for me to do after getting through all of the heroic 5-mans, doing all of the zones, and maxing professions? I hit all of those milestones early. And now what?

Wrath took far longer - there were more zones, more stories to experience (I admit, I love going through the story of each expansion), less linearity, more reasons to do things other than raid content, and the timing of patches seemed to be much better.

I was /bored/. Honestly. Bored out of my skull. I did the linear stories and enjoyed them... three times and on both sides. I have three 85s with maxed professions and post-heroic gearscores in - where applicable - more than one role across all three possible roles. I even delved into PVP for a bit.

What's left? In TBC, I had /tons/ to do. Wrath? Only at the very end had I run out of interesting things to try. Cata? I've done it all - what's the point?
I agree with The Standing Dragon. In BC there was a ton of non-raiding endgame content, and there were lots of people who never raided but happily played this. WotLK wasn't too bad either. I raided, and never gor near the end of either non-raiding game.

I stopped playing during Wrath but it really sounds like they left this out of Cataclysm.

Also agree with those who said raiding was sbout socialing and wiping, and the odd bit of looting.
Well new hardcore raiders have to come from somewhere, because some old ones (like me) drop out and have to be replaced. Beginners from the ever-replenishing casual-crowd are the only sustainable source of new players. I'm not saying everyone should progress from casual to hardcore, but back then when WoW was young some (again, like me) did. That worked because raids were social and easy (talking about Molten Core) but got harder and more unforgiving gradually. Provided that the new casual-raids don't ramp up in difficulty (if they did, latecoming casuals in 6 months would face the same problem again) those aspiring hardcore-raiders wouldn't get used to the difficulty-level of hardcore raids.

I don't necessarily speak about learning mechanics. Thats important too and part of the success of oldschool raiders stems from their ability to relate parts of a new fights to mechanics they learned before. But you also have to get used to simple, raw difficulty. You have to get used to several mechanics happening at once. You have to get used to avoiding mistakes because they will instantly kill you (and no healer can help you to survive it). You have to get used to your mistakes killing the whole raid in seconds.

I have seen easier raids from Blizzard. They might be okay to learn isolated mechanics, but part of "easier" always seems to be "a mistake won't hurt you much". And in my experience most players won't notice a mistake that doesn't hurt them much. Few of us are perfectionists, most of us won't bother with stuff that isn't all that dangerous (the healers can take care of that, right?). And that means the lesson won't be learned when damage gets more and suddenly healers will run out of mana. And a little later people will just die right away.
It's not just learning how to raid. There's little content before end game that even teaches people how to do good dps.

Compare this to Rift. Rift has constantly spawning world events, with basically zero barrier to join, where you get to beat on tank-and-spank bosses. The last boss in an invasion involves a couple of minutes of dpsing, with a few players being tanks/healers. The average player is presented with multiple opportunities to ingrain the muscle memory and reactions needed for their dps rotations.

WoW doesn't really have this. Healing, you can practice to some extent in battlegrounds. But the leveling quests teach little or nothing, as do the 5 mans.

WoW should add something like these events, primarily as animated practice dummies. And they should add a built-in dps meter that tells the dps at the end how well they did -- not just absolute dps, but activity % and how well they did relative to how well they should have done, given their gear level. Meter-watching dps are annoying, but dps that has never looked at a meter is much more so.
Blizzards annual profit from WoW is multiple of the entire development cost of most other mmos. Why not invest some of those profits in a regular (say monthly) stream of updates. They could create a never ending leveling game with episodic content.

That would create an unassailable competitive advantage because no other company could afford to do that.

Unfortunately I cannot see Activision Blizzard doing anything like that. WoW has become their cash cow. A low growth high market share product that is to be milked for profit rather than invested in.
It's sad that Blizzard is so out of touch that they have completely missed the real problem. Or it could be that they are just pretending that's the problem in order to appease investors.

In reality, the jump from leveling to endgame in TBC was just as hard, if not much harder. Even regular level 70 dungeons were quite challenging back then. Yet subscriptions still grew and grew and grew.
Many 'raiders' love to bash WotLK. They say it was too easy etc etc. But from a commercial standpoint it was the MOST successful product that Blizz had.

If you carefully looked at the subscription/revuene numbers for WRATH's timeline and compared that to BC or Cata, adjusting it for new markets, you will easily see that more subscitions joined and stayed longer than TBC or Cata.

So like it or not from a business perspective WRATH was the correct path. What went wrong is that Blizz thought Cata could be harder because A) hardcore wanted it and B) they felt with lots of people killing LK they could now do harder raids.

As for the LFR tool my guess is bosses will have ONE mechanic (not a patchwork fight). This means the raid has to learn to do one major thing like avoid an AOE (ala Shade in Kara) at a time. The boss will also be tuned for 15 people to allow some deaths. This is just my opinion.
Blizzard had the solution to thatb ack in vanilla:

Scholomance/Stratholme 10man and UBRS 15man. Quests in Scholo/Strat were only doable in 5man groups but everyone and his granny were farming D1 with 10 man.

They could expand that system to raids: tune the difficulty for 10 (or 25) man but allow up to 20 (or 40) into it. Bosses would drop the same stuff, but a quest only doable with the intended raidsize awards tokens to upgrade the items.
1. Randomize the raid bosses.
2. Provide rewards in case of failure.
They have to be careful to not end up doing the reverse too.

If the raids get too simple, everyone will have finished them after two months which will lead in big gaps between raids where people have nothing to do.

It's a careful balancing act but noone really benefits from a system where only 1% of your playerbase sees the final boss of the final instance.
I'm finally doing the Cata raids now. Partly because I have more time, but also because the natural time progression of an expansion means that PuGs are now doable, and I don't have to beg to be given a chance despite my lack of any raid achievements.

All the PuGs have been successful. Perhaps I was just lucky, but I also topped meters so although the dance was a bit clumsy, I looked mahvelous.

My concern with the raid finder is that I will be able to get into the raid content earlier, skip my typical 8 month gearing up process, and have no motivation to do the regular raid since I've already seen/beat the content.

I think there is good reason to fear that easy-mode raids could actually eliminate the carrot that inspires many casuals to gear slowly via solo methods and make them leave an expansion earlier.
If its true that Blizzard thinks Raiding is to hard, and thats the primary reason players get bored of WoW, then they are wrong and forgot what got them 11 million players in the first place: bock hard end game content (initial release and burning crusade).

If they ake it easier they loose the "core" players and role models of many. They make the goals to reach too easy, so more people will quit as there is nothing more to reach
I don't think the problem is the difficulty of raiding. I think the problem is that raiding is all there is to do at the high end. They can solve the problem by implementing things to do OTHER than raiding that could satisfy the non raiders.

For example, solo-able dungeons that provide a bit of a challenge, gives some points to buy loot, maybe a rare chance for a cosmetic or useable loot drop, maybe provides some crafting materials - gems, ore, etc. Maybe tied into some quest line. They can be randomly generated a la City of Heroes. Maybe they could be the source of building materials for the player housing that many players want, and that would also provide a reasonable diversion.

The problem is the game is basically raid, or pvp, or quit. Most players are not into pvp, and most people don't want the game to be a job - which is basically what high end raiding is. They just want to play the game, but play opportunities are few at present.

Easy mode raiding may help, but I'm already reading horror stories from folk on the PTR about how awfully bad the LFR raids are. With the biggest issue being that the raids still need to be led, and random player X suck at raid leading.

Give play options OTHER than raiding that still provide a sense of accomplishment, and you will hold onto many more subscribers.
If Blizzard want to make accessible raids for the raid finder, they would do well to look at raid-sized content that is done by PuGs in both their own and other games.
RIFT's Raid Rifts are the best example I can think of. They're a step up from the straight tank-and-spank zerging of regular zone events and drop lot that's at the high end of group dungeon or low end of raiding loot for the raid that opens them. Encounters have some 'complex' features (fire to not stand in, special attacks you need to scatter for, multiple bosses with kill order for example) but these are tuned so that a few people failing them is a recoverable problem, rather than WoW's "one mistake and it's a wipe" policy. On my shard, at least, there are a number of people organising raid rift PuGs on a daily basis, on either a roll for loot or goldDKP system. I se no reason why Blizzard couldn't build similar content for their raid finder.
Isn't this another case of trying to get Explorers/Socializers to become Achievers/Killers? What's the point of getting people who don't want to raid, raiding? Wouldn't the effort be better spent on non-raid content?

If they wanted to pursue this path, I think raiding altogether would need a huge image change before anything else.
Pushing ALL players into the same end-game content will end up pleasing no one. Raiding appeals to a certain player type. Others only raid because that is the only place Blizzard puts the loot in a narrow iLvl progression game. They should design raids for raiders and design skilling/levelling/trading/social/crafting content for non-raiders. They need to give alternative paths to attain gear (or simply make gear one of many goals in the game, which would requier a complete overhaul). Blizz has lost touch.
I disagree that exclusivity was the flaw that caused wow to decline.

I can't say for sure what caused the decline for the whole game, but on a personal level it was the lost of the tight community. The actions inside the game lost their purpose since there was no community to show it to.

The community grounds the actions. It gives them impact.

My favourite moment of Cataclysm was the fishing contest my guild organised to reach the Fishing feast reward; it felt like I was really helping the group. It gave me a purpose. Raids didn't provide me with that same satisfaction. It was just so meaningless.

I actually appreciated in Vanilla when there was the impossible goal of Naxxramas looming in the background. I knew it would be difficult to reach that point, so I always felt like raiding was bringing us a step closer to that. Now though, you know that doing nothing will still bring you that step closer because of the nerf. It just doesn't feel the same. You're not accomplishing anything, you're wasting time.

I know that it's all wasting time, but the feeling is different. That feeling is important.
As someone who considers himself a casual player, here is how I translate this article and most of the comments:

"Casuals don't like getting punched in the face, and this is a problem. How can we change being punched in the face so casuals will be more willing? In the future, we should try different types of punches while we're punching casuals in the face."


Do you seriously not know this Tobold? Or is this some thought experiment on how to turn something casuals hate in every way and make them like it?



So now they will have three types of gear? The normal gear the heroic gear and the moron gear? No social player is going to want to be seen dead wearing that so they wont bother doing the raids to earn it. They dont understand their playerbase and neither do you tobold. They need to go back to burning crusade difficulty levelling, pvp, dungeons, heroics and raids and rebuild from that point. Including reverting all the stupid game mechanic nerfs like defense rating and talent points. They can keep all the casual crap like pokemon battles and pets they have added and they would get a millions players back but lsoe hardly any from this point.
It's surprising that after 7 years, Blizzard still has no clue. In BC, they made raiding harder, then in WOTLK they made it easier, then in Cata they made it harder again, and now they announce that they're going to make it easier in MoP. I guess they're going to make it harder again in 6.0.
I am amazed about the comments on this post. It's been a long time since I agreed with so many commenters about WoW. Especially on Tobold's blog ;)
Selective reading, Nils. I'd say the commenters aren't exactly agreeing with each other.

No need to shout. You don't understand. It would only have to be CALLED "raiding", while in reality it would be a very casual-friendly activity.

And anger doesn't solve the problem of WoW losing subscribers because the majority has nothing to do once they reached the level cap.
Sorry for the caps, but this is something I've said many times before, and I feel like casuals have made every effort to show it is how they feel. Yet, bloggers and Blizzard devs seem to be only dimply aware of it at best, "totally oblivious" may be more accurate for many.

For something to work for casuals, it needs the following things (some of which you touched on):

*Can be done in under 30 minutes.
*Requires no homework or other research outside of the game.
*Mistakes do not cause instant death/wipe.
*Groups no bigger than 5 players.
*Has progression (i.e., a one week lockout).

I do not know why you would bother to call such content "raiding." It seems fairly evident that making heroics with a lockout would be a great deal easier than revamping all of raiding into something in no way resembling its current form.
"So at worst there is some loss of exclusivity. And that is probably a good thing, because "exclusivity" is exactly what killed Cataclysm."

Exclusivity is what achievers want. They want to be the best on the server according to some metric. That generally means racing to max level so no one is higher level than them and then aiming to get the best gear on the server which generally means raiding.

The problem with that is hardcore achievers with enough time can do this but timepoor hardcores can't - and timepoor hardcores are the most competitive at forum pvp and hence tend to drag games their way over time.

The trouble is you can't build an mmorpg around timepoor hardcore achievers who want to be the "best" because if they can be the "best" on 30% of the average time a hardcore spends then so can everyone else.

It's logically impossible.
An Angry Stab at this one...

I don't think the real issue of people leaving is due to the end game being hard or easy.

I truly believe that players leaving Wow at max level is due to difficulty in gear advancement.

When I had two toons at 85 I basically STOPPED playing them. Why?? well the next tier of content (heroics) were too difficult for most Pugs to handle with sub 346 gear.

So... I waited until 4.1 or 4.2 would come out making the 346/359 gear more easily obtainable making heroics easier. I choose to delay my time investment to get gear to a later time in the game and spend 1 hour in 4.1 to get a 359 vs 10+ hours at launch.

Now the moral is that while Vanilla, TBC, Wrath were in similar situations there never was a viable alternative to play an MMO BESIDES WOW.

NOW, that is no longer the case. There are at least 2 viable options now besides Wow to play MMOs.

For me it made sense to play another game for a few months while Wow had it's own version content nerf.

Too bad I kind liked the new game... yeah too bad I didn't come back.
This could actually make the normal and heroic raids be better designed.

Instead of just removing mechanics entirely, one way to make a boss be nube-friendly is to make mechanics that escalate as the fight goes on. Imagine Heigan's dance, but the first wave only hurts a little bit, the second a lot, and the third is fatal.

If it worked like that, then the random raids would provide a ramp-up sequence that can be learned without doing research on YouTube. Furthermore, I dare say it would be more fun for the harder mode raids, too. I really don't find it fun to practice on a mechanic that doesn't show up until far through the fight, e.g. the third phase of Sindragosa. What happens is that you spend 90% of your raiding time mind-numbingly going through the part you already know, and then a fleeting seconds practicing the part you really need to practice.
It's funny to me all the talk about how end game difficulty is causing WoW's decline...

Cata was the 1st expansion I didn't purchase...and not because of end game. The lore became fractured and absurd. The world was replaced by a theme park. And the leveling experience was placed on rails.

Not to mention any sense of exploration of the new content was minimized by quest givers sending you to separate little zones.

WoW for me ended with Wrath, which is fine. It was an amazing experience and a wonderful conclusion to one of my favorite gaming stories ever.
@Angry Gamer

Suppose there were interesting ways OTHER than raiding that would advance your two lvl 85's? Things you could do on your own to advance your characters, perhaps slower than raiding - but on your terms, until the next tier of raiding was either available or convenient to you.

Would you have still played them?
The idea that casuals don't like groups larger than 5 is silly. I just got an achievement in Glitch for doing a 20 person conga-line through five streets - are you telling me that 20 person figure scared the casuals off and we were all hardcore? What about rifts in Rift (not that I've played)? They sound very casual friends because you can form a large group of people but you don't need to do so.

What casual players don't want to do is spend all of their limited play time waiting for something to happen rather than doing things. As long as a large person group can be formed quickly, or better yet people can come and go from groups already in progress, they can be very casual friendly.
I agree with you assessment here Tobold. And please, for the love of God, Blizzard, take a whole lot of the dancing out of raids!
They killed this game with the dungeon finder. That is when all community was utterly and irrevocably destroyed.
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