Thursday, January 29, 2009

Product positioning

I've always felt that Blizzard made something really weird by making the raids easy, yet I couldn't tell why. Of course "raids too easy for me" is not a reason. Duplo is also easy for me, still sells.

Due to boredom, I've leveled my little arcane mage up to 80, bought a Spellshock Ring, crafted chest and gloves and gave him the leftover Darkmoon trinket, picked up two PvP items and started the "endgame" lifecycle. As you can see it's not what I got used to in TBC. I did only one HC instance but already two 25 mans raid. Why is it a problem? Because after that I have to ask: why on Earth should anyone go to 5 mans? They are considerably harder than Sarth+0, VoA, Naxx, and give much weaker gear. Why would anyone bother? And even more: why would absolutely anyone set his foot into a normal instance???

Blizzard worked hard to create 5 man content. The bosses have some good abilities and the instances are beautiful. Of course I will visit them - once. But that won't keep me subscribing WoW for years. MMORPG-s are about repetition. You farm things to get "better" gear to remain "competitive".

So I must ask why should I or anyone go there more than once in a lifetime (my lifetime, not once with each character)? Raids give much better rewards for less work.

You may assume that it's just me who can go to HC raids as fresh 80, and "more casual" (read M&S) players cannot be in top 5 DPS on their second day as 80. Well, I have a proof that it's not just me. Blizzard implemented a "stupid" feature in 3.0.8: you can buy Emblem of Heroism for Emblem of Valor. Why would anyone buy a weak badge for a strong badge? Because he farms more Valor Badge than he could spend. The implementation of this feature shows that it's a mass effect. People have lot of Valor badges and only a few Heroism badges.

So Blizzard managed to make 90% of the "endgame" content obsolete on publishing day. Why? Let's see the possibilities:
  • Simple error: they did not meant 5 mans to be harder, they just nerfed the raids too much and forgot to adjust the 5-mans
  • Skill vs gear error: Patchwerk hits much-much harder than the Harpooners and co in UP, yet a 6 lines script could tank Patchwerk perfectly and DPS-ers need only 1-2 buttons while the Harpooners need fast reaction, positioning and situational awareness. So a skilled but ungeared player can do UP and can't do Naxx, while a geared but mindless player fails in UP and do Naxx in 3 hours.
  • This event is part of an on-purpose repositioning of WoW endgame.
One way or another Blizzard must solve the situation because players who have nothing to do are players who leave the game. In TBC 5-mans kept lot of people busy. They grinded those badges for T5.5 gear from Smith Halutha. Why would anyone would do the same in WotLK? One can completely miss 5 mans if he is part of a guild that boost him once in Naxx (next week he will be geared enough). Even lone wolfs can easily gather crafted gear to be ready for Sarth+0, VoA PuGs. 5 mans became an omittable flavor like the Kaulak fishing pole.

If any of the first two is true, they are nasty errors and hard to fix. To send back the people to 5 mans they have to be more cost-effective, either by decreasing raid rewards (bosses drop less loot), nerfing 5 mans to the ground or buffing raids. All would cause outrage among the players.

However I'm thinking about the third option. What if it's working as intended? In the original WoW, the hardest endgame needed 40 men. In BC, the hardest endgame needed 25 man in the beginning but later 10 man ZA was added with sounding success, and unnerfed Magister Terrace 5 man was placed above T4.

What if Blizzard follow this line and makes the "hardest endgame" 5 man? Imagine WoW, where raids are just fun activity for 10-25 random casuals in random gear (like normal lvl70 instances were in BC), and good players would fight epic battles of 5 man bosses?

It actually make sense. Good players usually have little tolerance to fire-standing, 800DPS M&S. So forming a good raid for a challenging fight is extremely hard. You cannot build the team without skilled players but they will constantly mock the others. So your guild is either a full HC battle machine or a full friendly funguild. Finding 25 good, unguilded players is impossible. Finding 5 is not.

Of course such repositioning needs serious changes in the further patches. At first the Heroic instance rewards must be elevated above the raid rewards. These loots and badge rewards would be one tier above the top raid. When a new raid is introduced, the heroic 5 mans would be buffed and their rewards elevated.

Since WoW already have 52! 5 mans, (Heroic Maraudon? Yes please!), they could provide endless challenge to players. They could be put to 1 month reset to prevent farming only one, so players would have to take the challenge of fighting different instances. No more boring farming.

The life cycle of a competitive player would be:
  • reaching top level
  • gearing up in PuG or "ferindly social helpfull peeps" guild to Top-1 tier
  • enter heroic 5-mans
Notice the beauty of point 2. If you are a new player, you can reach full Tmax-1 in a couple of weeks, without applying to a HC guild. So there would be an easily attainable "almost as good" gear for everyone, making the challenging endgame fully skill-based. No more boring farming of gear, just run some chaotic and fun raids to be geared for 5-mans.

I'd like to believe in this scenario rather than a stupid mistake. And it made much more sense from the creators of the most successful MMORPG game.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea of a 5men end game heroic. In fact most 5 mens does requires more individual skills and environment awareness.
In a 10/25men environment the penalty of screwing up is usually cushioned by the other better players who can "carry" the weaker player through.
I like to think of 10/25men as infantry battalion, and 5 men as elite strikeforce. IMO the elite strikeforce deserves better loots.

and btw, invite for Heroic Maraudon pls.

Stoico aka Impadin said...

Very interesting approach to it. And actually after seeing it layd out like that. I could get used to it and actually like the idea... :)

I would say Heroic BRD though, now that would be one epic long journey in a night.. :)

Lance said...

Indeed, that could be a good idea but I am not so sure if the `Devs' thought of it this way. Besides, its easier to add a 25-man raid that a few 5-mans in order to progress the game.

Still 5-mans could be the ones progressing the story, thus allowing more people to participate into it as per Blizz's claim. They are indeed currently harder because the error buffer is much smaller. And from asocial point of view they are easier to assemble. No tedious guild structures, loot distributions etc. Simplet to admin, more difficult to clear/complete. But currently with lesser rewards.

I admit its a good idea, fragmenting the 'end-game' in such a way that socialy it becomes easier. However I have strong doubts that it was intended.

thedoctor said...

Wow, Gelvon. That is by far the best idea you have ever come up with since I been reading your blog.

10 out of 10

Blizzard should hire you.

and yes, Heroic BRD would be PHAT

Eishen said...

“I'd like to believe in this scenario rather than a stupid mistake. And it made much more sense from the creators of the most successful MMORPG game.”

You may want to believe in heroics as “planned endgame” but sadly this seems not to be reality.

Heroics gives Heroism badges, interchangeable for items inferior to “valor” ones , so there are not material reward to do that, and as you said “You farm things to get "better" gear to remain "competitive"”, without the carrot the mule will not pull the cart .

My hopes are in a march-april Ulduar launch recovering some of the “old standards”, accompanied by a new bunch of “heroism badge gear” (maybe this a little later)

Naxx is karazhan, sarth is grull and malygos compares well to Maghteridon. All of them are somewhat “nerfed” to allow more players not just into tham but across them, to the next level .

I hope ulduar to be a SSC/TK only with more people ready to access them.

Kring said...

I would love that. I don't like raids.

That's actually the way it was in TBC. In TBC, at the beginning, heroics were much more difficult than raids. It was nearly impossible to run a heroic without good raid gear.

Then, they killed it by adding badges to raids and dropping even more then one badge per boss. Kharazan was the way to get your M&S-badges and not running a heroic.

Magisters' Terrace heroic, the first version, was really nice because very challenging.

If you look at heroics today they are even easier than Stratholme or Dire Maul on 60. You just AE everything down. There is not a single fucking mob which could kill you. Granted, there are some nice bosses but the trash is disappointing. In TBC heroics, trash would one hit cloth wearer. CC was crucial. You need to pull the correct way.

Yes, I would love if they would remove raids (and PvP) from the game and make the real endgame based on 5 mans. But that's just not going to happen. 5 man heroics are even more dumbed down than raids in WotLK.

Carra said...

It's not like the lich king heroics are hard. Every single one of them is tank & spank all trash. And bosses have a simple gimmick like "don't stand in the fire", "run when boss does emote". There's also some nice gear to be gotten. The epic loot from the endbosses is on the same iLvl as the naxxramas bosses. Which is ok, since they both have the same, easy difficulty level.

And yes, you do need to run a couple of regular instances to do heroics (a day or two...). Then do heroics to get some decent gear to do naxx. Getting boosted by guildies, meh. I wouldn't take anyone who isn't at least in ilvl 187 blues to naxx. Your guilds stupidity :)

But as you point out, it's definately harder to get 25 skilled people then it is to get 5. So the rewards there should be a bit higher.

Is there any use in doing heroics after you got all epics? Well yes. Achievements... Go for the proto drake. Go do them again for the elders achievement. Maybe you want one of those heirloom items. If you don't like achievements, not much use to redo them of course.

pockie said...

I agree that a lot of heroics can be more challenging in a raw manner compared to raids.

However, I think it will be very difficult to design a complex fight with only 5 players. You can't have multiple bosses. You can't have random MC/incapacitate (no healer = dead tank). Maybe I am not imaginative enough...

Anonymous said...

Maintaining a decent 25man team is currently part of the challenge (and always has been). You can't get the immortal title with even 1 "M&S".

And I really wish people would stop calling all the raid content easy. Go do Malygos or Sarth with drakes up. Join the 100 club, do patch in less than 3 minutes... these are not easy challenges.

The point is, that the current content is built for everyone. If you find some of it too easy, then you're doing the wrong content. It's like farming Kara when you're in T6.

Seriously, if sarth+0 and voa are your benchmarks, then you fail. Sarth is THE easiest PVE encounter in the game. And its meant to be. You didn't seriously judge all of TBC by Attumen? And VoA is tuned for PVP players. People who don't go raiding. The idea being to get PvP people to see more pve content.

The majority of players will still need to go to normal instances at 80, then go to heroics.

fyi; Heroics are on a different scale to the raids. Some are easier than naxx, some are harder.

People have different agendas in the game, and shockingly, some people actually play for fun. Personally I'm in a 25man guild and we're clearing all raid content including Sarth+2. I enjoy it. Most of my friends are not in the guild however, so on offnights I tend to go 10mans or 5mans with them, and thats fun as well. We even do the harder heroics, because its FUN to defeat challenging content. It's irrelevant what the rewards are; there's always rewards of some type, emblams, loot, orbs, whatever.

Also, the EoV -> EoH thing; they added that so that people who only do 25mans (hardcore guild for example) can still buy Frozen orbs, Heirloom items, Mammoths, etc etc.

I enjoy the goblins view on economy; but I often wonder why he bothers playing wow, when he doesn't seem to enjoy the actual game very much.

Nuff said...

"why on Earth should anyone go to 5 mans? They are considerably harder than Sarth+0, VoA, Naxx, and give much weaker gear. Why would anyone bother?"

Because they are *not* weaker in gear. In fact much of the 5 man heroic best gear drops are better than *any* 10 man gear. Further you are limited to 1 shot a week on the 25 man gear.

In fact so much of the raid gear is just so bad (see the 25 man sapph's tanking helm...utter garbage) that you wonder if they made 5 man gear too good.

Douglas said...

I love this idea. My guild did something similar to an Original Heroic last week when we 7 manned BWL for our Achievement. It was actually very challenging & fun. I'd love to see some of the old 5-mans go 'Heroic'.

Christopher said...

In my experiences, heroic 5 mans are tougher than 10 mans, but the rewards are also better. Emblem of heroism rewards and final boss epic boss from heroics are better than the loot tables from Naxx-10, or Sarth-10. EoE-10 is the exception to the rule, but IMO, thats harder than all the heroics and 10-mans, so it should reward better gear.

If it follows what we saw from TBC, the Ulduar release will be accompanied by a lot more emblem purchaseable gear, some in the 60-75 range, and a few in the 100-150 range.

Carl said...

One caveat for having old world heroics is the need to lift the level cap for summoning stones. That means it would be much easier to powerlevel a low level player through instances. It would also mean lots and lots of ganking lowbies at stones...

Goshon said...

I think where they dropped the ball the most was that they didn't require you to run each dungeon (and do the appropriate quest(s) for it) before allowing you into the Heroic version.

If they had a soft attunement at the least, it would have made the 5-man content last a bit longer. I hit 80 on my warrior 4-days after the expansion released, and by the time I hit 80 I had already finished every dungeon in regular mode. Two days later when we were able to get 5 people set for heroics we had almost all of them completed, and finished them all by the one week mark for the expansion. We were in Naxx 10 shortly after that.

While I don't think they need the actual attunements of reputation like they did in TBC, they really should have put a requirement that made people run the content before getting into the heroic versions. No 18-part quests, or 3-raid dungeon clearing quests, just run the normal mode before you can attempt the heroic mode.

It would have gone a very long way towards slowing progression, and giving Blizzard time to get the next real content patch out. As it stands I have to deal with my raiders having motivation issues now, as many of them have their 25-man best in slot gear.

Sure there are achievements still to earn, and we are working on Sarth 3D still, beyond that its been all farm mode for over 3 weeks, which was not even 2 months of the expansion's street date. Blizzard telling us "you're not done if you have achievements to be earned yet" is a piss-poor excuse for creating an expansion that allows you to topple level 80 content with such speed.

Great post Gevlon, you have some good ideas on the subject, I'm just wondering if at this point the game is well past the point where a shake up like you suggest would do more harm then good.

Broderick said...

There was a long forum thread a while back asking for "PVE Arenas." Your concept of Heroic 5 mans sounds very similar to that. Little to no trash, hard bosses, great loot. If you threw in a competitive ranking system, you'd have a lot of folks hooked for a long time.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought it would be great to be able to pop your party into a "weakening machine" which would let you scale back your gear to a particular level and allow you to go and enjoy old dungeons again. Just for fun; I'd be happy if there was no gear in it.
So you could say "make us level 19" and then have a challenge with running deadmines.

Radamanthus of Zenedar said...

Great post! My guild has been dreaming of HC-level "old-world" instances for a long time! Shouldnt be too hard for Blizzard to implement (ofc rewards need to be fine tuned - but bosses, mobs and mechanics "only" need to be beefed up!). Oh, and as you say, it would gives us alot more to do - not to mention making the old areas bustling with life (and death ;)) again!

Skroo said...

Some people like 5 mans. Some people like raids. In BC the only entry point to heroics were horrible, boring, and utterly repetitive rep-grinds. The initial entry point to raids were heroics. If you hate 5-mans and love to raid, you were stuck with weeks of intense, awful grinding.

They fixed the rep grind by removing heroic keys. This was good. If you don't like to raid but want a bigger challenge, you can jump right into heroics.

They fixed the grind for raiding by removing attunements/keying. This was good. Short a healer this week but someone's go an alt? Sweet, go get him. In BC this never would work because you'd be up against the "holy shit, we have to go kill Kael again" brick wall of pain.

Heroic 5-mans seem pretty balanced to me. Some of the bosses are easysauce, some are hard as hell.

Naxx is retardedly easy. This is bad, but I'm not going to get hung up on it. Malygos is not Kael-hard, but it isn't easy either. 3 drake Sarth is not easy.

The biggest problem I think with Naxx is that they had to retune something for the new expansion without changing the fights too much. I actually think they did a pretty good job. It's too easy, but remember the original was designed for 40 people.

What is really unfortunate is that Blizzard didn't include an original raid at release, like they did with Kara. I'm not counting Sarth and Mally since they are basically Ony fights.

Given all the problems with 3.0.8 though, I am not holding my breath for 3.1.

Eggalicious said...

I have worked in both a very traditonal Japanese company and a very traditional American company and I can attest to the fact that they are very different. The difference is primarily in the work ethic of the Japanese and the expectations they have the people that work for them. For the Japanese, they put work above all else. It is ingrained in them from childhood. They also believe in loyalty to their company till the end. There were many days that I would work late and while working observe their behaviors. It was quite interesting. It was not uncommon to come to work the next day and find them asleep at their keyboards. I often wondered how effective they could be after working 12 hours.

In contrast, the American that I currently work for is different but in a good way. The culture is one where we believe you work hard for 8 hours (more if needed) and then you get rest so you can come back the next day and give 100% for another 8 hours. We very much have a work hard and play hard mentatilty. I believe the American way is the better way. It is healthier and more productive. Work stress is real and I have felt it. Since moving to an American company, I feel so much better and am much happier thus more productive.

I believe that WoW is similar. I have seen many people that play for hours on end. In effect, they create this type of "game stress" where they are just focused on more more more. It becomes a fixation and not fun. They become the a-holes that we all know and hate. Why pay for a game and it not be fun?

Smid said...

I always found that the progession in TBC initially was similar:

70's normals + quests + rep gear to..
Raid kara at least to Curator
Run heroics
Perhaps run kara to Prince

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