Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The fundamental flaw of tiered raiding

I wrote how important I find the solution to the boosting problem: finding a way to jump-start new players without letting them leeching. However I have to explain why do I care. I mean I could just grab the good players and go, screw the rest. After all no one boosted the first ones. They got everything the hard way, without nerfs, without other players to carry them, without cheap BoE, without boss videos, and made it! Why should it be any easier for the new ones?

The above thinking is common among veterans. However it is simply wrong. It wasn't harder to raid in the "golden age". It was easier. That's why it is remembered as "golden age"! Now it's much-much harder and Blizzard must nerf the game, or it would be impossible for new players to join.

To explain this, let me introduce a simple model, there are two tiers of raiding (Naxx and Ulduar, or ICC normal and ICC hard mode or whatever, but two different difficulties) and you must complete T1 to go to T2 (you need T1 gear, or key from T1 or whatever). We can surely claim that the quality of the players in T2 is better than in the whole playerbase, so as more and more people enter T2, "better than average" players are constantly removed from T1, replaced by random new players who are average by definition. Conclusion: as the game matures, the player quality gets worse and worse in T1, and besides the first month, it is worse in T1 than in the whole playerbase.

The "golden age" feeling belongs to the lost world where the random strangers we met had a significant chance to be good. It's the drooling M&S who poison our experience. Now, we are in our T2 guilds and every time we have to mix with T1 players, we find them lolling, "gogogo", "cba 2 read 4 a game rofl" trash. A genuine new player arrives into this filth. How could he achieve anything? Theoretically a bunch of fresh 80-es in their 5-man gear (ilvl 200 epics and some badge gear) could go ICC. That's what Undergeared is proving. But practically you can't find 9 other genuine newbies because at this late age of the content, about 95% of those who "start ICC" are actually M&S who are "starting ICC" for months. Creating a "genuine newbie" guild is therefore impossible or at least an organization nightmare.

The perfect solution would be some kind of "up or out" system where the player has limited amount of lockouts to complete the T1 content, like "you can only enter a fresh ICC normal 10 times". If you are still not kingslayer after 10 IDs, your character is permanently locked out of group-PvE and you must start a new char to try again. This way M&S would constantly leave T1, so the average player quality in T1 would be permanent, and only slightly worse to the quality of the whole playerbase. I would never imagine Blizzard doing it, stopping characters from "progression" as it would surely make the M&S players to terminate subscription.

There are two solutions left for Blizzard: one is to constantly making T1 easier by giving free gear, giving ICC buff or simply nerfing the bosses, so the difficulty of T1 decreases along the quality of the players in T1. The other is encouraging boosting, where higher tier players go down to lower tier to help out players there. Blizzard is doing both. They are nerfing the content and they are rewarding higher tier players to do lower tier content: ilvl 245 badge gear for doing ilvl 200 content, ilvl 264 badge gear and set items for doing ilvl251 content (you can promote your set using marks but you must buy the old version first, they don't drop).

Blizzard also decreased the number of tiers to 2 since after some 5-mans you can jump into ICC normal (T1) skipping all previous raids. The situation is bad enough with 2 tiers, imagine it with 5 like in TBC! The tiered raiding system is based on the assumption that players improve over time, so the same 10 people who enter T1 will be T2 ready in a few months, then T3 ready in the next few months and so on. The idea fits well to the ideal world where the "low" people are simply newbies. The M&S make it impossible.

Since Blizzard accepted the "boosting" policy, the playerbase as a whole must do it. Of course certain guilds can avoid boosting, but then someone else must do it. The socials claim that these are the "selfless, helpful" people, opposed to the no-life HCs. To prove that there is no need for altruism, I must turn every necessary activities, including boosting pro-business. I must prove that if The PuG would be alone in the server, it would still function properly (the naysayers claim that I just lure already good players from other guilds so any progress we make should be credited to them).

Almost forgot the moron that came from "no name", who don't seem to understand that the time of others is not free:


Xaxziminrax II said...

Quality post.

I think your explanation about the 'golden age' was spot on, taking me back to analyze memories of Naxx not even 10 days after the release of WotLK, and doing 4H with most people still in one or more green pieces.

Frostys said...

The only curernt problem I see with the limited try way is the end result wich would be pretty close to where we are now. Most good player are guilded running together and teh rest is stuck down waiting for a nerf/freebies.

New player won't come that fast to teh game/server and eventually, you will only have MS rerolling to get 10 new tries. Problem is if they are truly bad, they will still fail.

Your system still has good in to tho. It makes the late leveler/unguilded folk have a shot at joining the good pack if they have the actual; skill. Then the server will be bled-out with only M&S rerolling.

But unless you can 9 man the content, would you risk your raid ID to be burned because your current tryout from the pool of player turn out to be a M&S. Thast what most guild just don't want to risk. They recruit you if you are geard out of the ass at thier current level. Why? Well because if you don't have gear from heroic mode, they have no single way to tell if you can pull your weight in that content. Same for regular. They don't want to waste time in case you ahppen to be good.

These top guild will eventually bleed-out too and end up forced to try people from the pool or dealing with the fact they can't run anymore.

Anonymous said...

The thing is though a new char can be geared in 245/232 items by personal effort and zero raiding. Add to that 1-2 crafted 264 items, maybe a 264 BoE and he can easily get into an ICC25 and 10 pug - maybe only a 4/12 one in the first week as he has no achieves/lowish gear - but it's a start. Given 4-5 weeks of icc10/25 pugs, maybe weekly raid/daily hc, and a character can be of good enough standard to get into an ok guild (icc25 hardmode guild) or just stick with the better pugs. It is not difficult at all to gear a char up. I've geared 2 alts from fresh dinged to having cleared icc25 hardmodes (one has 9/12 other 7/12) without boe epics and purely through pugs. My main alt this week got Bane of the Fallen King in an arranged group/pug (and was in no way boosted) and has better gear than most of the applicants to my guild. 10k dps in icc is 7k outside - that's uld level dps, ilvl 226 epics - it's not hard to perform well enough to play your part, it's not hard to gear up. People who can't do this are either lazy or just can't read. Note : I play my main alt 5-6 hours per week, mostly raiding.


French Guy said...

I rarely agree with all the content of your articles. This one is near perfect.

Just yesterday I had to tank the last 25% of TOC25's yeti on a fury warrior. The official tank had no clue about demoralizing shout and died (twice).

It's a pity to see how overgeared players fail miserably on a raid that was already the easiest raid of WOTLK...

...yet, there is hope ! The 1st wipe resulted from 2 mistakes common to players who never did TOC (*) and a short bit of explanation ensured the success of the next try. So I think the biggest issue is that the elevation of gear has brought non-raiders (too lazy to read/understand the strategy) to raids. We just need to educate them about raiding and convince them to either step-up or give-up.

(*) managing frigbolds and curing the wyrms' paralyzing toxin.

Anonymous said...

The perfect solution? Hardly. Let's say you were unlucky in those tries i.e. everything actually did what they were supposed to but a tank/healer dc'ed and dropped a defile where they weren't supposed to or couldn't do what they were supposed to? What then? And why should I get locked out completely and be forced to reroll simply because I might have trouble finding 9 other competent players?

Also, when you refer to the 'Golden Age' which content are you actually referring to?

Anonymous said...

re-roll might be a bit harsh.

how about losing a random item of gear for a wipe.

bads would find it harder to maintain a good set of gear than decent players.

decent players would perform well in even non-optimal gear and so gain more from drops than they risk from losses.

Quicksilver said...

I believe you are looking for an answer that doesnt exist. Or at least has not yet been found by society in general to answer to this kind of problem.

Basically all raid leaders have went through the problems you are encountering. What makes a good raider (as well as a good team member in general) is a combination of ability (as in skill, know-how or whatever you call it) and motivation (as in willing to put in the necessary effort).

IRL what pushes the individuals to improve these two attributes to an acceptable level are usually the "drives" or "the ape-subroutines" as you call it.

At work, one will improve his ability by learning and perform that task even if he doesn't feel like it (motivation) because he has to eat, have a shelter - which link to survival, or he wants to climb up the social ladder by earning more money - basically the reproduction drive.

Inside a video-game, these dont exist, therefore they will all link to pleasure in some sort. If the said player gains pleasure from the success of a boss kill he will go that extra mile.

The reality is not all players derive the same pleasure from killing a boss. Those who do and take raiding as a second job will be your "pro" players. But then again you will have a large category who will just play the game to "relax". This gray area is very big.

The flaw in your reasoning is that you assume all players are actually striving to kill bosses although some want to do it the proper way and others just want to leech. It is more complex than that: the so called leechers you are talking about are just "playing" the game at a lower responsability level. This creates a large Gray Zone between what you call M&S and pro players.

A more interesting analogy with your dilemma is School. From the basic level to graduate we encounter exactly the same issues we see in raiding. Ability + motivation both spell the level of success of the student.

I believe the answer to your question, is equivalent to the answer to the problem of a teacher. The question is "How can the teacher make their students improve?" The answers are very different from place to place and from culture to culture but one thing is always constant: the solution does not work. At least not at 100%.

Your boost raids are like private tutoring, your fee for messing up are like bad grades and your pug philosophy is the same as public school where everyone has a chance.

It just doesnt work and we have the school system to prove it.

That's why serious schools have serious admission and serious guilds have applications. Before demanding success you must assure yourself that the player has the ability and motivation to do what it has to be done. Otherwise you are just wasting your time.

Therefore the solution I am seeing is simply introducing a filtering mechanism of your playerbase. Your raid leaders could simply rank up or down each player in their raid according to their own performance. If a player keeps performing badly we will soon reach the bottom rank and thus be kicked from the guild. Performing better and better will make the player rank up and increase his probability to get picked for raids (and maybe priority on loot or whatever)

This way newbies can screw up but if they want to learn they will get enough chances to do it, while the bads and cba-ers will simply weed away.

Gevlon said...

@Okrane S: the boss defines the effort needed to down him (like do 6K DSP or he will enrage).

Of course there is the option "I don't want to do this effort so I don't kill the boss, so I don't even go there", providing the true casual.

However everyone who goes to the boss is either doing the effort or leeching.

Quicksilver said...

Yes but between doing the 100% effort needed to get the boss kill and fully leeching there is a wide gray area.

You can have 10 players each knowing 90% of the Tactics needed for each boss and clear the whole instance in 1 run with no wipes and the same group could fail horribly the next time they are in.

Yet in both cases they are all leeching.

The issue with your Boost Raids failing horribly is that you must find a way to ensure that you are boosting the right people. That's what my ranking system is about.

Better players should boost, that's obvious right now, its just that you must make sure they are not boosting in vain for too long. Or else they will get burned out very quickly, and no amount of gold or other material rewards will be able to prevent it.

Bobbins said...

Moron post.
All costs are relative.

It was the poor goblin skills of Metamor that turned him into a moron.

PS Portal to Dalaran not TB and regent not 1s

Healer24 said...

The problem you described with tiered raiding is pretty much exactly what I've heard people complain about from the Burning Crusade. A person could progress through the tiers in a reasonable amount of time if they were a good player. All they would need to do was change guilds when they were ready for harder content.

The problem was that often the guilds themselves would be stuck in a certain tier of content with no realistic hope of further progression because all of the skilled players would eventually leave for a "better" guild before their current guild really had a chance to progress.

I would note that from the perspective of an individual player that was simply doing the right thing for yourself. However, from the perspective of a guild leader, it could be quite frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Just to correct something: In the beginning of ICC, or if someone creates a new alt right now, the ilevel 200 content (heroics) are required for gear upgrades to even the top-level guilds.
The 2-frosts per day adds up when you're waiting to get your low-end tier with the token sitting in your bags.
That basically means the guilds that cleared 4/4 the day ICC opened, than had to go into heroics to farm emblems.

Unknown said...

What about a player rating type mod or in game field. Something that would be for players to rate people at the end of an instance/Raid/PvP. Maybe a 5 star system or a 3 choice thing where you would pick one of 3 options that best fit. Something such as "Highly Recommended" "Would group with again" "Would not group with again" Now this would not affect getting in to randoms or things like that. I would like to see it as more of a tool for people who want/care about a little background on players recent activities.

I wouldn't mind adding in to the stat part of the achievement tab how many Randoms abandoned. heh

Anonymous said...

Apparently Blizzard agrees with you as my understanding of Cata raiding is they intend to obsolete raid instances as they add new ones.

Duskstorm said...

Spot on!

I personally feel like blizzard should do one of two things:

1. "Tier" instances based on the difficulty of the encounters irrespective of gear. E.g. introduce *harder* mechanics that cannot be outgeared in every tier. You can actually do this with the first boss of every instance; Marrowgar was a good example back before the ICC buff. Pugs could not handle him, since they'd inevitably wipe when he finished the bone storm phase. It was harder for the tanks back then, too. I know someone will say, "Duskstorm, Marrowgar was easy back then, too!" To which I would respond... "not for scrubs."

2. Allow players to choose 'normal' or 'heroic' difficulty realms. Individual hardmodes cannot be turned off. Also, they could potentially use the same realm for both, but just phase the capital cities for 'heroic' difficulty so that when you're in trade or lookingforgroup you only talk to heroic players.

Wilson said...

If an "up or out" system would be perfect, why not impose it on your own guild? You must kill Arthas within X weeks of joining (or reaching 80) or you get gkicked? It would clear out those you don't want (people who suck at raiding, or who joined only for the pleasure of being in your guild) and spare everyone the pain of these increasingly-baroque booster schemes.

Gevlon said...

@Wilson: because not real world weeks but raid IDs matter. And that would be incredible paperwork. Also, the point of the booster schemes is to make the boosted pay for it, making it a valid goldmaking strategy to the boosters.

Anonymous said...

Grammatical error in the first sentence - replace leeching with leech.

Currently it's "finding a way to jump-start new players without letting them leeching".

It should be "finding a way to jump-start new players without letting them leech".

Also, the first part of that sentence sounds like it could use a few more words...

"I wrote how important I find the solution to the boosting problem"


"I wrote how important it was that I find the solution to the boosting problem"

There are other phrases that could be used to bridge the gap between 'important' and 'I' but I think there needs to be a connecting verb in there.

Wilson said...

No, neither real world weeks nor raid IDs are what matter. Killing Arthas is what matters. Either you can do it or you can't, and you state that people who can't shouldn't be allowed to raid. So why would you tolerate them in your own guild, which is supposed to be a haven for capable raiders?

Andenthal said...

The main problem with having only 2 raid difficulties (tiers), is that each tier scales upward, with skills learned from the previous. Skipping the lower level tiers puts players in positions where they must deal with very harsh penalties for seemingly small mistakes.

Don't move out of "the fire" in a 5 man heroic and you come out of the fight 10k HP lower than you went in there with. The healer likely doesn't even need to bother healing you as the "penalty" for messing up is nearly nonexistant.

Don't move out of Sartharion's lava wave - the healers have to heal you more than usual - you still likely live. There's little penalty for messing up here. As it should be, as it's designed to be a "beginner" raid.

Don't move out of Razorscale's blue fire - the healers still have to heal you more, unless they're busy healing tanks, or someone else - you might live. Slightly harsher penalty here. You can still come out OK, so long as your safety net (healers) are not overburdened.

Don't move out of Icehowl's charge of doom - you get 1 shot - you die, but the rest of the raid can continue on. The penalty is now much harsher as 1 mistake will kill you.

Don't spread out enough on BQL - not only will you likely die, but you will also likely kill another member of the raid. As if dieing for 1 mistake wasn't enough, now your mistakes also kill other players, maybe to the point of wiping the raid.

By skipping previous tiers, players do not get to learn various mechanics with any leeway. They are immediately thrown into the most harsh environment where 5 secs of mistake can completly destroy a 5 min fight.

This is extremely obvious as all the time you see players ranting about how "a guy in 6k GS can't move out of fire, lol". He hasn't been taught to do that - why would you expect it of him? YOU invited him before he went through the "beginnger" raids.

That's why 6 months ago most PUGs were only doing the first wing of ICC (or maybe 6/12) becasue the rest "is just 2 hrd, lol".

The only way that having a rolling window of 2 raid tiers will work, is if each raid tier does not scale in penalties (and therefore difficulty). When raids becomes more difficult, players must be tempered to them, by way of previous raid tiers. Throwing gear at them does not adequately prepare them for the challenges they face, as most challenges are independant of gear.

I think this is a case again where the majority of the player base thinks that lack of gear (or lack of access to gear) is what kept players stuck in Karazhan for 6-8+ months, while other players where clearing TK and SSC. I submit that gear was not the major determining factor in whether a player was raiding Karazhan or SSC - it was logistics.

Anonymous said...

A skill you I do not see you discussing is "skill at finding an organization" I am not gregarious, and really don't like to guild hop. But once you are below the "raiding 4 times a week to be a realm top 5" guild, things are a lot more problematic. You are progressing along and then the guild implodes; Initially 10 man guilds with ambitious players would stagnate cause at 15 players you could not get pugs to do the 25 which was all anyone wanted due to better gear. 5 would get left out and gquit before you could get near 25. Everyone has a story about a girl/boyfriend and guild drama. Or cliques go off and form their own guild. Or RL ego wants to be GM.

For 10 mans, you need a GM who has the recruiting skills to survive a main tank/healing leader leaving. My 10 man Ulduar guild disbanded when the healer/gm friend left the game. Latest fell apart when main healer went in the hospital and the GM was in a car wreck.

You can be "successful" in raiding without being competent - leeching. But you can be competent and not be successful in a team activity due to the team. The obvious is the others are M&S. Less obvious is the rest of the team are competent players, but the GM does not have the skills or interest to do the organizational an recruiting things to be successful. E.g., I doubt something like the PUG guild could exist without a popular blog to advertise it.

Perhaps the answer is that you need a huge friends list, network frequently and be willing to drop guilds at a moments notice. But that is starting to feel a lot more like work than relaxation.

Anonymous said...

"average" means something different in a game where subscription base changes versus the human population which changes quite slowly. For example, the simplest, single thing Blizzard could do to dramatically raise the skill level of the "average" player would be to double the price. There would be many exceptions with people who are price insensitive but by selecting the more motivated subset of the population, you would raise the average. Similarly, a $100 million dollar television advertising campaign would lower the "average" even if none of the existing players skills changed.

Lowering averages is almost a requirement for increasing popularity. Back when I programmed mainframes, the technical level of the average computer user was relatively high. Today, the average skill/knowledge level of someone who buys an entry level PC for $200 at Walmart is quite low. But then there are 100,000,000 million more computer users than back then.

Even if Blizzard really wanted to, can you envision a way where they could have 20,000,000 subscribers without the "average" going down? There may be ways to allow the existing skill tiers to coexist so each gets what they want without much impact of the others. But growth means the average is doomed.

Anonymous said...

Exactly this.

Anonymous said...


You cherry picked examples that show how fight mechanics get increasingly punishing. The problem is that even in the entry tier (Naxx) there's some harsh mechanics :
- stand in a void zone on KT : death
- don't LoS Sapphiron's ice blast : death
- fail at Heigan's dance : death
- fail at charges on Thaddius : death

Furthermore, I'd argue that raid tiers AREN'T getting increasingly harder. ToC is about as easy as Naxx, while Ulduar is a lot harder. I'd even say that Ulduar in 226 gear is a lot harder than ICC with 264 gear and >10% buff.

Lower spire on 0% was a joke compared to XT / Ignis / Razorscale in their original incarnations.

Anonymous said...

"@Okrane S: the boss defines the effort needed to down him (like do 6K DSP or he will enrage).

Of course there is the option "I don't want to do this effort so I don't kill the boss, so I don't even go there", providing the true casual.

However everyone who goes to the boss is either doing the effort or leeching."

Eh, one thing I notice long time WoW players tend to forget is that the entire concept of studying a fight before attempting it for the first time is entirely alien outside of the WoW raiding game. Just about every other mainstream game doesn't require knowledge that isn't provided by the game itself and even the less hand holding ones don't require knowledge outside of the game's provided manual. It's entirely a social construct built up by players whose focus was getting gear as fast as possible. Figuring out bosses through repeated attempts and observation is a lot more challenging and cerebral than simply following another player's script. It's also fun enough that for most games, figuring out the boss's pattern IS the boss fight and something like gamefaqs is only a last resort when utterly stuck.

So someone that goes into a boss fight unprepared isn't necessarily intending to leech, they're taking the learning process of essentially every other game in existance and trying it in a foreign culture where gear is less of a means to an end and more of an end in itself. They base progression on things like realizing which lady deathwhisper add is immune to which attacks while a gear-centric culture is only interested in cranking out as many badges from boss farming as possible.

I've heard vanilla raiders lament the days when boss kill strategies were considered guarded secrets rather than a race to put out the first video guide so they had to devise their own strategies on their own. Something like that has a great appeal to me, but it simply doesn't exist outside of private test realm world first guilds with the current WoW population.

Andenthal's post feels mostly correct, though I'm not sure it was as lenient back with the gear levels when those bosses were considered new. Part of raiding is also that there isn't a way to dent a 25 man raid without making the gimmicks instant kill for a given member. 5-mans tend to be leinient enough for that type of learn as you go process, though not as much outside of that now.