Greedy Goblin

Friday, September 16, 2011

How to save WoW raiding?

By mass-nerfing the current raid content before the next one would even be on the PTR, Blizzard practically accepted that their raid design has failed. Not only less players finished the normal content than ever before, but much less started it. Baleroc, who is a mid-boss is only killed by 26K guilds after 2.5 months. Also, guilds are not even trying. I often do /who Firelands when we can't fill the roster to see who can and how and find 1 or 2 10-men raids in FL. Trade chat is full of guilds recruiting with the term "gear is not important, dedication is", meaning "we recruit absolutely anyone who at least makes an effort".

One can say it's the consequence of raids are "harder", players have failed and gave up playing. However no one would claim that SWP, BT or Hyjal were easy, yet raiding was thriving, even in lesser guilds, tiers beyond the top. They were attempting on some SSC/TK bosses and the lowest raiders were running Kara. People enjoyed the game and wanted to progress in it.

A math competition with differential equations is hard. But imagine that in a math exam one of the tests would be "do 100 pushups". That would make the exam significantly harder in the meaning of "less people can do it". However people would say "It's not mathematics, what the hell pushups do here?!"

WoW is a game from the start that requires you to use class abilities. The first task is to kill 10 lvl 1 monsters. You get your first few abilities, like autoattack, fireball, shadow bolt. You use these abilities and the monster dies. Then you get another task of killing 10 lvl 2 monsters. Or a task to kill a named monster, or loot some item from killed monsters, or interact with an item guarded by monsters you must kill. In all these tasks you use class abilities. Later in the leveling you get into group content. If you queued as damage dealer, you do exactly the same: use your class abilities to deal damage. If you queued as tank or healer, you get different tasks, holding aggro and healing allies, what you must perform by using class abilities. You can also queue to battlegrounds where you encounter players you defeat using your class abilities.

Up to the endgame raiding you solve every task by using the proper class abilities. You'll get a lot by 85, their effects will be heavily enhanced by gear, talents, glyphs, enchantments, but the game will fundamentally be the same as in lvl 1: the game world throws a task at you and you solve it by using class abilities. If you are a frost mage, you will still cast lot of frost bolt, just like you did on lvl 1. "WoW-playing" is therefore defined as "solving tasks by using class abilities". Players who find it dull, boring, uninteresting, have left long before 85. Those who reached lvl 85 all find the "solving tasks by using class abilities" fun. Some players are happy with just doing it in a casual way, doing quests, leveling alts. They may use a much smaller variety of abilities than could. Others mastered the game and want more challenges. The endgame is for them. So they happily enter Firelands and...

Wipe because they did not move fast enough from various things in the ground. Wipe because they did not climb up on the rope or jumped down on the hole. Wipe because they failed to learn that the purpose of the spell they used since lvl 1 is no longer to do damage but to turn the boss to the volcano. Wipe because they can't fly in circles or run from tornadoes. They are faced with tasks that cannot be solved by using class abilities, but by movement. Wiping because of these is not "challenging", it's annoying, just like failing the math competition because you can't do a pushup. No one questions that pushups are challenging and can be fun, there is a bunch of people, the athletes who do it. But those who choose maths like maths and not pushups.

So, if Blizzard want to avoid the total failure of raiding, must design the further raid content to be a series of task solvable by class abilities. Nerfing doesn't help, just like changing the "100 pushups" to "10 pushups" wouldn't save the math test, especially if you nerf the math part to 1+1=?. People would still hate it. Also, raids should be challenging to prevent players completing it on first week and quit.

A good raid demands players to use their abilities optimally and maybe even demand them to enhance them by getting more gear, enchantments and consumables. Bosses hit hard, need lot of DPS, has various adds to be tanked and AoEd. Enemies casts spells to be interrupted or survived by cooldowns, bosses or adds could use various resistances and vulnerablities, forcing players to use different abilities and so on. Note that such scheme can naturally be outgeared, as the higher gear compensates for the worse rotation, higher HPs and healing outputs compensate for too many living adds or failed interrupts. Currently no amount of gear compensates for a dance fail. Trade randoms still wipe when Valiona takes a deep breath.

Below I outline a gearing scheme that supports all goals of an MMO design:
  • Rewards better play: a better player always get more rewards than the worse
  • The average or even bit-below-average player never hits the brick wall, neither in terms of gear, nor in bosskill progression
  • The new player or new alt can catch up.
Valor points can be maxed from heroics only and give current tier gear to half of the slots. Justice points shower from heroics and give previous tier gear to the same half of the slots. To the other half of the slots you can only get starter blues from heroics, for better gear you have to go raid. By having current tier items in half of the slots, you seriously overgear the 2-3 tiers old raid content so even below average raiders can run the first tier successfully, and gain significant gear improvements. While doing it, they also get some practice that will serve them well in higher tier (learning Vali breath doesn't help with Beth at all). With these items they are overgearing the next boss, the next tier. They may never kill the endboss of the last tier, just like most did not kill Kil'Jaden in TBC. But they will progress and that's enough for them. I killed a few bosses in BT when the top guys were in SWP, still was very happy about those kills. Raiding was fun. Now it's a stupid arcade jumper.

49 comments:

Rodos said...

You're talking a lot of sense here. Or at least a lot of things that I agree with. Even as a 10-man-only raider in BC, I had a lot of fun. The badge system allowing the slow acquisition of OP gear in a few slots was enough to keep me interested, even while faming Kara forever, or repeatedly beating heads against Jan'alai.

There's always been an aspect of dance. Some "gimmicky" elements to fights. But they do seem to have increased sharply in recent tiers. I think it's an attempt by Blizzard to dampen raid composition min-maxing, and open up raiding to those who can't master a tight rotation. I agree that it's misguided. It's easier to improve your play if you get to practice the same things, rather than a different dance on each boss.

Rohan has been making some great posts about raiding at Blessing of Kings too. I hope someone at Blizzard is reading.

Clockw0rk said...

I agree, and I feel like their general design has shifted from:

Failing at the gimmick makes the fight harder or take longer.

To

Failing at the gimmick means a wipe.

They're much more unforgiving or at least it feels that way and I think it is because Blizzard wanted to shift the "healer stress" from the tanks potentially exploding to ANYONE exploding. They got this idea in their heads that healers shouldn't "be able to save everyone" so half the time a failed gimmick means a dead raid member and with a lot of the soft-enrages being reliant on 5 surviving DPS that means a wipe. The raid-wiping gimmicks also seem to be more frequent now.

As I write this I begin to think that the new frustrating raid paradigm might all be a result of their change in healing philosophy...will have to do some more research.

Jumina said...

Solving everything with class abilities means you would be more dependent on class setup. Unless you don't want to have only tank&spank fights. Blizzard decided against this in WotLK already.

Perhaps they made some bosses to difficult in Firelands but nerfs were made in TBC more often than they are now.

But Blizzard learnt one think from WotLK. You can't have only one tier for the whole year. They are trying to releae more content now and it means the nerfs will come sooner.

lancore said...

That definitaly plays a role. But some gimmicks and "gtfootf" was always part of raiding. Not in that extreme arcade style we have now, but still.

I think another huge part is the removal of the progression. In BC you had to move through the Raids, you had to complete every tier to get a shot at the next one. There was a ladder to climb. For many people (including me) that was motivation enough, even if they never made it to SWP.
Nowadays, the only progression path is "current tier" -> "current tier again but harder". And you get the equipment from the last tier by grinding heroics, no point in even visiting the old raids.
Why would you go raiding if everything you do is obsolete in a few month? Why would you want to wipe, improve yourself or even try if you know exactly blizzard is eventually going to nerf the content anyway?

Azuriel said...

Here is my counter-argument:

Raiding was fun for you in TBC because you were less burned out on the game. Years later, your tolerance for gimmicky fights has decreased.

I agree that gimmicks shut out players, especially more casual ones. However, I think the argument is asinine that A) TBC raiding was "thriving" in comparison to today, and B) that TBC had any less quantity or magnitude of raid gimmicks. Seriously, just go down the list of bosses in Black Temple, and read/remember what was required.

Blizzard clearly wants to avoid using the same raid gimmicks more than once (the Patchwerk Effect), so as I argued once before there is a very real danger of complexity for complexity's sake, at the expense of actually fun gameplay. But I do NOT agree that Firelands is particularly more gimmicky than any other tier. More movement, perhaps, but that's about it.

After 3-4 years of gimmicks though, I have zero desire to learn more useless trivia that doesn't carry over into any other aspect of the game.

Anonymous said...

So you saying shooting alysrazor WITH your class abilities isnt using your class abilities, stearing rhyolith WITH your class abilities isnt using class abilities? climbing up and jumping down? That never happened before on any boss encounter?
What you missing is that never happened TOGETHER before.
Now i may disagree all i like with you about actual mechanics being hard, but obviously they are, because ive not seen one FL pug doing anything but trash, It is solely done by guilds, and not all guilds can even solve shanox puzzle.
Not all folks consider (and why should they) ever progressing complexity of encounters a necceesity.
Wotlk model wins , not because 5 mans could have been done in 15 mins, they are so doable now too, but because majority of people have nothing to do even remotely curent content related in cataclysm model.
We can wack whichever tag we want on them , but the majority of people is the driving force of any bussines, not the challenge provided by that bussines.

Anonymous said...

@Azuriel

What do you want to learn then? After 3-4 years you can DPS/Tank/Heal with your eyes closed on fights with no enviroment impact.

You are all just lazy and bored with the game. Most of you should cancel your subscription and uninstall WoW long ago. But no you keep on playing and whining about the content ...

Blizzard said...

Do people like raiding?

Wow is now all about the endgame where as before leveling was entertaining and a bit challenging the game has degraded into 'raiding'. Raiding in itself is not bad but when the sole discussion on how to keep players boils down to raiding something is wrong. To save Wow raiding you need to make other aspects of the game more entertaining to keep and attract new players.

PS Free server transfers how many times has someone said I would like to join your guild but I'm on another server? Server transfers are basically free for blizzard so why do they charge?

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: after playing 15!! years of first-person shooters, you can shoot with your eyes closed.

Except most FPS players are still noobs.

The same way some can master rotations/priorities, some are noobs.

Coralina said...

I do agree that the dance style raiding does not work well in this game as it makes it harder to pull bad players through it - which in turn reduces the number of potential groups on a realm that can clear it. In the past I could help players with poor DPS outputs by telling them how to spec and what gems/glyphs/enchants to use etc. I can’t help them dance. E.g. you can help them clear Patchwerk but on Heigan….forget it!

I think the other problem Blizzard have now is that they completely destroyed the raiding infrastructure in the first six months of Cataclysm. Guild perks, inaccessible & overly lengthy 5 man heroics and the difficulty level (one bad egg wipes the raid) of T11 destroyed all the smaller social raiding guilds. On my realm you now have colossal dead guilds that don’t raid (like those you highlighted on your realm) and colossal raid guilds where only a tiny percentage of the roster raid.

The number of accounts raiding must be incredibly small compared to Wrath. By making content hard they broke social groups –as per Tobolds blog post. If you want to raid you have to raid with people you most probably don’t like that much in a guild based on selection. It is hardly surprising that guilds struggle to find committed players as the majority of socials aren’t interested in committing to strangers.

Personally I prefer the Wrath raid structure of having one active raid. My guild had too much trouble in TBC with recruitment and losing players to guilds a tier above us. I do however think these raids need a “Naxx” difficulty mode at all times. I’d also like ALL the gear from the old tier fully available for JP – and I mean all slots. If the old raid is dead then it is dead period. No more running it for just a sword or shoulders when you should be doing the new tier. Make every slot from the old tier purchasable with JP once the new tier comes out. It makes gearing alts/new players easier and helps those like me who get shafted by RNG and don’t see or win an item in six months of raiding. My anti-RNG views are well known though so I suspect many will disagree with me.

Of course many players think the raid scene is fine. They were the ones that recommended this failed business strategy to Blizzard back during Wrath. They got their wish and raiding became the preserve of a tiny minority. The problem is raiding is surely struggling to justify its existence. When Blizzard create content they surely weigh up the development cost against the subscription dollars it helps retain. Currently I have my doubts as to whether the raid content can justify its existence. If Blizzard axed raiding and the raiders quit the game I suspect their business would become more profitable. Well maybe, let’s just say it would be dangerously close. There is one thing that no one can argue about – the 5 man mini-game end game is infinitely more profitable and could quite happily stand on its own. Raiding probably could not.

Sabris said...

When we learned of the Cataclysm model of raiding, I was all for that. I hated the wrath model, but this, is actually worst.

It does seem now that the TBC model was the best, as it provided a feeling of progression at all times, even though I wasn't always killing the top tier boss.

Can someone with a US account maybe post this on the official forums? Just for the slim chance that someone who makes the calls reads Gevlon's words of wisdom.
I have only a EU account, and no one reads those.

Unheilvoll said...

You are saying here that raiding should be adjusted to what you have been doing by leveling, meaning maximizing your spells or class habilities. I differ. Raiding should make you optimizing PLAYING habilities, because that's what you've been doing. That includes movement and environment awareness, like those quests in Azhara with orbs and stuff.

What Blizzard should do is starting to make playing movement a vital process in the leveling experience too, so players (who don't do much pvp) start to familiarize with this vital aspecte of the endgame and don't find themselves so lost when a patch of fire appears beneath them and glare at it with the most confused pair of eyes. It could be introduced as a talent, like "After killing a mob, you regain 5% of health/mana by 2 seconds. If you keep moving, it stacks to 3 and never falls down". Something like this: if you keep moving, you win.

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon
in CS if you had autoaim once you choose your target you could use sound only and close your eyes.

regarding the topic:
I always wandered - how can you not beat all of the raid content Blizz throws at you? I could understand it in old days of vanila. Back then you had to had enough geared people for 40 man raid and without good gear you were smashed. Also there were no addons to carry idiots (DBM) and tutorial videos for every other quest + boss.

These days people have everything and still most fail on clearing raid content!

I have been in many guilds and the problem is - most of them beat the same 2 - 3 bosses every week and get the gear. They fail on anything beyond that. Still they think they're pr0 or c00l because they 'r41d'.

Most of those guilds don't realise that they should never reset their raid ID untill they have cleared whole place. This means there are no "farm runs" until you kill everything. With that simple rule in place you clear your guild from idiots who count on the easy gear getting carried by others. This would give them motivation to progress and learn new stuff.

MoxNix said...

Great article.

I think another big factor you didn't mention is the prevalence of ezmode addons turning WoW raiding into a game of whackamole.

You get all the right addons and then raiding is mostly about watching bars and hitting the right buttons in response... Just like whackamole

It's boring, requires better hardware to run all those mods without input/graphics lag. It makes it harder to develop encounters or balance difficulty both for those who do have / can run all the right mods and those who don't/can't.

Alleji said...

I think Wrath model of raiding was the best.
- One active tier
- Easy normals
- Hard heroics
- Less gimmicks. No vehicles or anything that replaces your skill bar plx. Ever.
- Gear reset every patch, but less so than in Wrath. Current raid normals should be ok with valor + justice gear, but raiders that actually raided previous tiers have a significant advantage.
- Incentives to do previous tier. Trinkets from ToC stayed viable until well into ICC. More of that.

Anonymous said...

There is clearly the need to fire a lead developer or 2 to save World of Warcraft.
As much as I enjoyed the launch of Cataclysm, the freshness of the heroic 5 man and leveling, this is long gone and the Firelands raid is a failure of balance. Sit holy priests and resto shamans and stack druids. Awesome.
I can not wait for Star Wars The Old Republic release, not because it's a wow killer but because wow will have killed itself by then and I'll appreciate a non GC failed game. The raid finder is going to be a huge disaster.
The only way WOW could be saved is a serious firing of the architects of this design fail (lead devs) and the hiring of fresh minds. Throwing at us new contend, new bosses, mounts, pets and new tier armor designs is no enough anymore. We need fresh ideas, fresh design and fresh philosophy for this game to continue.

KhasDylar said...

http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-save-wow-raiding.html

I think, this is one of your best posts lately, very good points raised here. I posted it on my guild forum to spread the word.
Nothing is perfect, neither is this post, here are some things you might forgotten about.
If there are less gimmicks, less dances, there will be less stress on DPS. Okay, they need to put out high damage numbers, but that's only a stress on themselves, not on the group: if they fail to do high damage, someone else can compensate for it with even higher damage, but if a DD fails on some dance mechanic, he can wipe the whole raid in seconds and no healer or tank or any other DD can save him or the group (also see the anti-M&S part in this: if you are a moron or slacker, you wipe your raid, meaning they won't go with you again and that's why technically no pugs are successfull in current tier raids).
If there's only stress on healers and tanks, than they are always blamed for a wipe. Being mocked again and again for some mistakes, which happen from time to time, is annoying, even if you only make a mistake every two weeks. Also if there's a lot of stress on the tanks and basicly nothing on the DDs, people will tend to roll rather a DD class, than a tank. I know, some people like to have responsibility for their group, but I don't think they would like the Vanilla/BC modell again.

The funniest part in the current raid design: there is a part in every Firelands boss fight, where you need to use class abilities the way you used to use them earlier, the burn phases. The problem with that design is twofold imho: first, these phases are very lenient (maybe Ragnaros P3 is not, but that's because of the soft enrage), lenient so much that you can pass through them too easy, and second, these phases are not brake points of any encounter, nothing "bad" happens if you fail at them, you can compensate. This encounter design is extremly repetitive and because of that, it's boring. After you learnt the dance mechanic of a fight, you know it and can do it again the very same way, without any change - your situation is binary: either you know it and succeed or don't know it, incase you wipe, there's no other option. Imagine an olimpic runner. He tries to run 100m under 10sec (I don't know if that's much or too less). If he can't do it, he gets beaten by his trainer. There no option for him to run under 11sec or more: if the timer reaches 10sec, he must stop where he is and is beaten.
I wrote before Firelands came out on a Hungarian blog, which encounter design I would prefer: where the raid needs to balance between two or more gimmicks - for example let a buff stack which gives damage boost, but also ticks for some damage from time to time (very dumb and simple example). This way the raid could decide on who to put the stress, the fights would be a bit different every time you engage it and so they would provide always a challenge: if you killed it today, doesn't guarantee you will kill it next week with different people.

About the gearing scheme you write: they are good ideas, but good ideas aren't worth too much on their own. How would you accomplish all that?

Anonymous said...

I totally agree.

Realistically, when does "playing your class well" matter? Not when leveling so easily; maybe a few heroics to not get kicked. But then raiding is all about the dance.

I especially agree with Coralina's "I think the other problem Blizzard have now is that they completely destroyed the raiding infrastructure in the first six months of Cataclysm. Guild perks, inaccessible & overly lengthy 5 man heroics and the difficulty level (one bad egg wipes the raid) of T11 destroyed all the smaller social raiding guilds."

The "dance" mechanics are hard to pug, hard for the occasional raider to pick up; they need to learn the dance, preferably with the same group. It is probably a great time for the top 1% of guilds. Otherwise, for all the reasons stated, it is harder to keep a guild together to semi-schedule a raid so people learn they can not twitch properly.

Cataclysm, and especially Cataclysm raiding, is a failure. I hope they fix it.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be saying that raiding is only fun on Patchwerk style fights, where dps, healers and tanks just execute their rotation, oblivious to anything else going on.

Fun to have one or two of those per expansion, but 7 or 8 fights with no "gimmicks" sounds dull to me.

Your maths analogy doesn't quite hold up .. maybe drag racing would have been better. Maths keeps on getting more and more complicated, there's literally no limit to the complexity you can introduce whilst still calling it maths. DPS/Healing/Tanking has a hard cap linked to hardware/epixxx. If DPS_A sims at a maximum of 25k DPS you could have a hard enrage that requires 6 DPS'ers pulling 24700. That would be hard (HEY THERE BRUTALLUS) but where do you go from there? What happens when class B can do 28'000 dps?

Once you're already expecting people to maintain 99% of their total theorectical output for 300seconds what else do you do to make things harder or to add flavour/interest or variety?

There were overly complicated cock blocks in TBC to (HEY THERE PRE-NERF VASHJ) that required everyone in your raid to know what the hell was going on, who to throw cores to, where the strider was being kited, everyone had to stay alivce to survive final phase

Anonymous said...

Heres a pro tip:
Many just don't care for raiding.

I dont care about epeen, all i want is seeing new stuff, eploring etc. That means i visit and kill a raidboss ONCE, i won't spin in the hamster weel for gear thats just redarded, my time is spent better with new games. Way more enjoyable.

This means i sub wow at a new addon, play through, do all heroics once and then go for old raids from previous addon, this saves alot of frustration and timesink otherwise needed for gathering gear and wipes caused by incompetent players in the raid. Once done i unsub and wait for next addon

Anonymous said...

I disagree, dancing is annoying because others fail and the group wipes, but thats the old discussion of carrying fails or setting up a good group (or go play SC2). But I loved dancing, Heigan was my favorite fight, patchwerk is dumb, I don't find fun in just mastering a skill sequence (much less in anything theorycraft or min/max related), I like my game dynamic, but thats why I love pvp.

In pvp you have to be aware of the enviroment, and react. You gotta bait the enemy near the cliff on Lumber Mill and thunderstorm him down, you gotta use LOS etc.

Maybe I'm just too pvp oriented, but I've been wanting "dancing fights" since before wrath, I always found dumb that a boss will stay on the beefy tank all the game and won't make a move for squishies on the back. Always wanted the boss to act more intelligent and require some form of kiting from players, and defensive playing as in "when the boss go for squishies, slow/stun boss". Shame he ain't stunnable.

Salanna said...

I really like the problem statement; it's something that's been niggling and I think this is the best I've seen it put. I think the last paragraph doesn't address the tradeoffs that Blizzard are facing, though. The choices they made aren't arbitrary and one can try to divine a possible decision-making-process from seeing them.

Assumption: there is an inevitable force that Blizzard face in their design, and they are unable to stop, which is the ever-increasing sophistication of players. Published rotations, recount, omen, discussed strategies, DBM, youtube videos. This has the effect of stratifying the player base; the difference between top and lower skill is much wider now than it was before, and particularly it's much easier to find metrics. This genie is not going back in the bottle, so let's assume it only grows with time.

The starting state: early raids were very forgiving. When I was clueless and a level 59 warrior, I entered Zul'Gurub and tanked Mandokir for a raid, some of whom went on to become hardcore raiders in a way I never did (and I stopped tanking, I was terrible at it.) Drawbacks: Fails in the face of increased player sophistication.

TBC approach: deal with player sophistication by increasing the requirement of class skill. Drawbacks: It created walls beyond which some players could not cross due to skill; it created tough-to-catchup gear requirements alongside skill requirements; magnified the performance differences between classes; and encouraged increasing ruthlessness in poaching as you had to get better players quicker than your best players left. (Goblins might not consider all these to be drawbacks, but they go here since they are plausible factors in the subsequent decisions.)

Wrath approach: badge system to close the gear gap and avoid the Karazhan trap; LFD to encourage experienced players to group with new ones; ease off on enrages and increase dependence on dances to ease the differences between classes (and the gear gap); hard modes for the old school. Drawbacks: raids are either too easy or require pushups in a maths test; badge system from heroics and multiple raid lockouts (10/25) leads to a mandatory-feeling grindfest.

Cata approach: valor cap and shared lockouts to limit grindfest; increased complexity of raid encounters to make them more difficult without going back to tight enrages. Drawbacks: what you said above.

The central tension here is that if you remove the gimmicks you must increase the difficulty of the encounters in some other way, and relying on class skills and gear will increase the stratification of players. This is the Sunwell effect, but magnified by three further years worth of growing sophistication in players and the tools at their disposal.

If you really liked TBC, then perhaps this is the end of the decision tree for you. If it's not, then any change that removes the gimmicks must be backed up by one which decreases stratification by helping new and lower-skill players to learn. And there are two in the game - the guild system (perks for joining, then you rub shoulders with more experienced players who might help you) and LFD (experienced players encouraged to rub shoulders with newbies.) But, of course, they have their drawbacks too.

So here's another way to characterise the tradeoff: how to reduce the tension between new vs. highly skilled players, while minimising the amount of direct boosting?

Sean Sullivan said...

One thing that might play into the low boss kills this tier: school is starting up. In the US, most kids 22 and under in university or secondary school go back in August or September. I imagine that's a significant portion of Blizzard's N. America player base that isn't playing as often.

Anonymous said...

So here's another way to characterise the tradeoff: how to reduce the tension between new vs. highly skilled players, while minimising the amount of direct boosting?

- you must complete, for example, 6/7 T12 normal before you can step foot in T13

- credit for 6/7 T12 normal can be obtained through the random raid finder, in addition to traditional 10-man or 25-man raids

Enforce this for every tier going forward.

Anonymous said...

It's just like when the raid was relieved when "that guy" died during a fight because you knew they wouldn't pass the gimmick test anyway.

But there usually was only 1 or 2 fights like that in the entire dungeon.

I guess now its nothing but gimmicks?

Anonymous said...

Spot on. An overemphasis on raid-wiping gimmicks has the following problems:
(a) Removes itemization progression
(b) Removes 'class-skill' progression (ie, no longer feel like a leet hunter)
(c) Changes WOW from a progression-based MMORPG to a skill-based first person shooter.

It is lazy design that reduces class distinctiveness and fun factor.

Phelps said...

Agreed 1000% percent.

In Vanilla, we asked about a new raider: "Does he know how to play his class?" When we got quests for our class epics (hunters and priests) they tested you on your core skills.

In BC, we said, "you better know how to play your class, because everyone is going to be using all their CC." (When was the last time you saw a priest shackle, BTW?) In Wrath... we stopped asking it.

We asked how much DPS they could do, and did they know how to GTFO of fire. Now, we don't even care about DPS, just "does he know the fights?" Because 'knowing the fights' is all the matters.

And it sucks.

Anonymous said...

Some remarks/notes to some points made. A few remarks by readers are utter nonsense I must correct.

"I often do /who Firelands when we can't fill the roster to see who can and how and find 1 or 2 10-men raids in FL."

Does not mean anything. People were doing a lot of trash runs in start of 4.2.

Also, your realm is low population and low progress. On my realm people are in FL all the time, and they are PuGing FL 6/7 or 7/7 (with Shannox HC), and PuG BWD/BoT HC.

"Up to the endgame raiding you solve every task by using the proper class abilities."

No, you don't. Getting to lvl 85 is a joke, and the dungeons at lvl 85 are also a joke. You don't need to have much skill for it and you certainly don't _have_ to use your class abilities. Especially not from all your 3 specs. The curve to level by quests and dungeons isn't steep enough compared to HC dungeon to normal raid.

"Players who find it dull, boring, uninteresting, have left long before 85."

No, I realize the fun of what you described starts in raiding. Maybe BG or some HC dungeon. From 1 to 85 is a mindless, boring grind where there is not much opportunity or necessity to learn your class.

"Wipe because they did not move fast enough from various things in the ground. Wipe because they did not climb up on the rope or jumped down on the hole."

You do learn not dancing in the fire by using your eyes, from bossmod, you learn it in ZG HC, 4.0 raid, BH. You learn it also from watching videos, reading tactics, and practice. It is not hard, even in FL. The only tough fight in FL is the end boss which takes a bit more practice for most players. Every end boss in every tier worked like that.

"Trade randoms still wipe when Valiona takes a deep breath."

On your realm, yes. On my realm, no. They trade PuG BWD, BoT normal since march/april. And they also PuG the HC versions. Having participated in these on a few alts I can safely say: Yes, sometimes we get a moron. Often, you smell him from miles away from performance on trash or things like PvP gear or not even killed Halfus on normal. Easily replaced on a high population realm.

"(learning Vali breath doesn't help with Beth at all)"

Many players already knew Vali from SWP and Grim Batol.

lancore wrote: "Why would you want to wipe, improve yourself or even try if you know exactly blizzard is eventually going to nerf the content anyway?"

Because if you kill pre nerf it is a prestige for yourself, your group. The date of the achievement counts, and also the date you killed the boss counts for wowprogress.com lists.

The quicker you killed the boss, the less good your gear was which means the more skill you (as a group) had.

Allejo wrote: "I think Wrath model of raiding was the best.
[...]
- Less gimmicks. No vehicles or anything that replaces your skill bar plx. Ever."

You clearly never did Ulduar, Razuvious, Blood Queen, tanked Putricide. I doubt you will enjoy 4.3 "driving" Deathwing.

Michael said...

I would love to see fewer gimmick/dance fights. It's actually the main reason why I can't stand to play as dps, all you do is get the movement right and then maintain your rotation. You never have to work to decide which ability to use next. It's always a simple priority queue, with the same priorities.

I see a lot of potential in fights where you need to change how you dps in response to what the boss is doing. Using vulnerabilities, shield walls, damage shields, elemental specific magic shields, all that. Even something like a staggered state, like in ff13.

At the same time, I don't see how making it harder for new raiders to get gear would make raiding better for existing raiders. o.O

Anonymous said...

Sean: Unlikely, as at least 23,800 guilds (more depending on mode overlap) had cleared Trial of the Crusader -- famous and notorious for its accessibility -- after two months around the same time of the year.

Only half that number have downed Ragnaros after eighty days, much more plausible reasons being difficulty and (resulting or independent) disinterest.

Coralina said...

@Sean and Anonymous:

Funnily enough I have seen just about every explanation wheeled out for the decline that started pretty much after most people hit 85.

First it was blamed on Xmas.

Next it was blamed on Easter, then it was blamed on people being off school on their summer holidays and now Sean claims it could be because they are going back to school!!!

At school or off school - it seems that both are to blame!

I think if Blizzard want to reverse the decline they first need to scrap guild perks. Or rather completely remove those that have nothing to do with being in a guild such as earning more XP/Honor or getting more ore out of a mining node.

Guild perks should be those related strictly to group activities and should apply to all guilds - remove the guild level system completely. That at least provides some incentive to be in a guild and not just run unguilded.

If Blizzard do the above then the small social guilds will start reforming. That way you will get more potential raid teams.

Next they need content in which they can make some headway in. So that means it must be possible to make significant progress in a group where half the players are deadweight. That was how it was in my old social guild where half of us were ex hardcore raiders boosting the other half who frankly couldn't hit the floor if they fell out of bed.

The content also has to offer decent gear upgrades or people won't bother - much like how people didn't bother with T11 after 4.2 for that very reason.

The raids must drop emblems at a faster and greater rate than five mans and the random boss drop system needs to be revised so 10 man casual guilds don't just come away with a load of 50g crystals each week due to the large loot table and limited classes in the group.

Finally and perhaps most importantly the raids must be more bite sized. E.g. have raids that are the size of an ICC wing but make more of them. That way if you decide to join a raid you are only commiting 1 hour of your time at most. That is one of the biggest barriers to a large percentage of subscribers - they simply don't want to sign up to 3 hour raids and it also frustrates groups when players have to quit halfway through. You are also less likely to get saved and have the group break up just before the boss you need if the runs are shorter.

In my experience anything over an hour and people start getting sent to bed/dinner by their moms or just simply don't want to sign up in the first place.

Korba said...

I just posted a link to this article on the US main forums. If you are around leave a message so it stays up and increase the chance someone at blizz reads it...

http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/3195920445

stubborn said...

Gev,
You've really been on a roll for about a week (maybe 2) now. Your posts have had almost nothing affronting in them and have been based pretty solidly on analytical thought and personal experience. I really enjoyed this particular one because you've nailed a point that I've been feeling about end game but hadn't been able to really formulate into words.

If you take nothing else from this comment, just know that there's people out there who frequently disagree with some or all of your points who are completely in line with this one. Great post!

Anonymous said...

The main problem was summer, at least for our guild and many more I know.

We usually manage to clear the heroic encounters sometimes excluding the last boss of the patch before the nerfs start raining, but for Firelands from middle-July until the begin of September our guild stopped raiding because people went on holidays.

This means we started tackling heroic encounters seriously only 2 weeks ago, and we most likely will have a poor progression when the nerfs come compared to what would have been in a different period.

From what we experienced Firelands are around the same difficulty than the previous raids overall, but in the previous raid 25man was easier and 10man overtuned, in this tier it's the opposite, so to us (we are a 25man guild) Firelands are slighlty harder.

Campitor said...

These gimmick fights are tougher on a healer class that is staring at 10/25 health bars than it is for dps. I can't really say how it is in Cata raiding since I stopped raiding a long time ago when I realized my success or failure depended on the never-ending list of nimrods who couldn't get used to the movements/debuffs/dances. End game raiding, the entire content, should be accessible with hard modes being the delineating line between casual and hardcore guilds/players. And gimmicks shouldn't be involved unless you can exclude those who stare at 25 health bars while trying to synch our wack-a-mole procs.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gevlon on this (except for his "fix" for the issue).

Raiding is simply not fun now. I place the blame on vehicles and gimmicks (and to a lesser extent the changed in healing).

I play a tank (used to be druid but now DK), a resto druid, and occasionally a hunter. I lead raids, run a guild, and have done server first boss kills.

I play those classes and roles because they are fun for me. I did not choose to play a demolisher or motorbike (as in uldar) or a guy bonking a fire chicken on the head with 3 buttons ( Alys trash).

Those.. are not my class and not why I choose to play this game. They are tedious boring, stupid, things that I am forced into doing.

Replacing my action bar with my 20-40 abilities on it with a vehicle action bar with 3 buttons on it is bad design. It limits my choices and it forces me to play something I don't want to play.

BOT and BWD were fine. they had their gimmicks like red-blue-green maloriak and gongs on atramedes but they still let me play as my class.

plus they were tuned pretty well.

Firelands is a huge pain in the ass. It is overly tedious with far too many things to watch out for and it tuned far to difficult for people in the previous tiers regular mode gear. Reg firelands seems made for people with heroic BWD gear.

Eaten by a Grue said...

I am not a big fan of the current state of arcade jumping raiding either.

However, I am stumped for alternatives. What you propose is essentially have every fight a tank and spank, with maybe some adds thrown in. The challenge would be executing the rotations perfectly and having enough gear. The problem is that it is too easy to execute the rotations - this is not rocket science here. So then it just becomes a matter of gear.

I am not sure you have a workable solution.

Lacunata said...

What If:
Instead of dieing, you get a debuff with -5% damage/healing. The encounter are designed so you can made it with a few debuffs, to just defeat them.

But! You can archive the defeat in various ways, like the very first hardmodes where you need to do xy (killing the heart) which you only manage with enough good players, and get better loot out of it.

Another Example, your group is good enough, and can generate some extra adds in the boss fight and defeat them and get more loot, while the bad group can just defeat the boss and get only a piece of the cake.

So you can defeat a boss with 100% or only 75% success, instead of a binary down/wiped.

Gevlon said...

@Eaten by a grue: do you know the optimal rotation on 2 targets, not in cleave range?

Or on one who has 50% increased miss chance on?

Or on one who is melee, shadow and fire immune in P1, nature, holy, frost and arcane immune in P2?

Anonymous said...

It's already a struggle for blizzard to balance classes in encounters with "simple" rotations, they would never be able to balance them with more complex mechanics.

Optimal rotation on 2 targets, not in cleave range? Stack multi-dotters, just like in the Heroic Valiona encounter.

Boss with different immunities depending on phase? It would be more an headache on the RL with the problem of composing the raid correctly than having players learn a different "rotation", not to mention the huge class balance issues which I don't even want to imagine.

Azuriel said...

Or on one who is melee, shadow and fire immune in P1, nature, holy, frost and arcane immune in P2?

Yeah, the optimal rotation for that boss is "Don't bring a (non-Holy) paladin or a Frost DK."

The "solutions" I think could work are:

1) Drop the idea of binary pass/fail mechanics outside of hardmodes. I remember a Blue once talking about how instead of auto-killing you after 2 seconds in the fire, why not put up a -50% damage debuff on that player for 10-15 seconds? You still want to move out of the fire, and now you actually hit the DPS where it hurts: the meters. As a bonus, the DPS cannot ever blame the healer for "letting them die."

2) Implement a "Use" button. This is somewhat gimmicky, but think about all the Interrupt-Or-Die bosses in T11 and elsewhere. Why the sudden focus on interrupting and thus having to give every melee spec an interrupt button? The encounter designers clearly wanted a small group in the encounter to be engaged in pressing the Use button (i.e. interrupt) at a specific time. So just cut out the middle-man and make an encounter-specific Use key that everyone can use.

3) Stop caring about the veterans and simply re-use (fun) boss mechanics.

Alleji said...

"how instead of auto-killing you after 2 seconds in the fire, why not put up a -50% damage debuff on that player for 10-15 seconds?"

I really like this idea. More things like the goo on putricide and festergut. I clearly remember being extra-careful to not catch the green globs because they slowed my casting speed :P (HM putricide was probably my favourite fight in the game. It had a good balance of mechanics and pushing meters)

"Or on one who is melee, shadow and fire immune in P1, nature, holy, frost and arcane immune in P2?" Immunities and resistances are a terrible mechanic and should die in a fire, just like vehicles.

Anonymous said...

> do you know the optimal rotation on 2 targets, not in cleave range?
Yeah, it's multidotting while maintaining your standard priority on a target. Hello Valiona & Theralion, Ascenant Council and Shannox.

> Or on one who has 50% increased miss chance on?
Yeah, it's your normal priority, but you have to keep track of your dots missing and recast appropriately. Hello Chimaeron (which arguably had a better mechanic, cause many classes could pool energy while the 50% debuff was up).

> Or on one who is melee, shadow and fire immune in P1, nature, holy, frost and arcane immune in P2?
Yeah, blizz got rid of that because it didn't work in BC. Either you need a specific spec to do top dps, your class is completely unviable or the rotation during each phase becomes as simple as 'Spam wrath, keep IS up'

You know what all 3 examples have in common? They promote class stacking, which is something blizz is rightfully trying to avoid with their 'bring the class, not the player' mantra. You know why that's good? Because morons don't outdps you, just because of their class.

Unfortunately, that of course means, if you're not a good player, then yeah, you're going to be sitting out a lot or have to play with players of your own calibre.

Steel said...

(1/2)

This has been an absolutely fascinating series of articles. I have thought a lot about this and come up with this conclusion statement:

An arcade/e-sport game is primarily selling a CHALLENGE for your powers and skills. A PRG game is mainly selling you the POWER&SKILL itself.

Imagine for a second that WoW’s combat system had manual crosshair targeting, just like a FPS game. That in order to ‘hit’ a mob, you must mouse the targeting reticule over the mob (on top of dodging fires and co.). Critical strike would be dependent on the area you hit, so if you manually hit the head, +50% damage, if you only hit his heavy chestplate, -50%, just like in a FPS game. Melee classes and tanks would have to time each melee strike or block for when the mob’s swing arm is raised, in order no not be parried, or in order to parry it. Now imagine a heroic DPS-race boss 25man with these mechanics. Now we’re talking some serious skill based game right there.

Instead WoW has sticky targeting and auto-attack. I remember I was intrigued when I first played it, having played nothing but FPSs before, and thinking – ok, so I just select a monster, and then my character auto attacks it until it’s dead, shooting “self-guided” shots at it, that hit or miss depending of some random factor? Wait, what does this “game” consist of? Well, it consists of progressing, acquiring powers, levels, items, and ‘skills’. So as I play, I learn a more powerful ability, and then another more powerful ability, and then I can learn a talent to make this ability even better, and then I get a new helm with +hit on it, which increases my ‘skill’, in that I’m a ‘better shot’ with it, and no longer miss the monster. Then I can take on bigger ‘challenges’, in order to validate and demonstrate the power I have acquired. And then I guess I can sit in front of the bank, and the items and weapons I’m wearing tell the story of the powers I have acquired.

So a (mmo)rpg game is deliberately designed to limit the personal player skill factor, in order for the game to then be able to ‘sell’ skill and power (or the illusion of it) to you. Or in a better formulation, it’s not so much about your personal skill (which you either have or do not), it’s about story, immersion, imagination and fantasy, and a strong ‘SIMS’ factor. There is obviously skill involved, just like a FPS/RTS has elements of progression (find better weapons, harder levels), but the emphasis is different between them. So it makes sense then that in vanilla most rotations were cast 1-2 spells then autoattack until it’s back off CD, that grinds, logistics, and attunements and such were the main source of ‘challenge’, that PvP is always a niche (as it naturally has a much higher personal skill factor), etc.

Steel said...

(2/2)

In light of this, it seems to me that Blizz is busy shooting themselves in the foot, with dual-wielding automatic machine guns, and working hard on improving those guns in between sessions. With the main-hand they are mutating WoW by injecting more and more arcade elements into the game. With their off-hand they are busy simplifying and slashing the SIMS elements and mechanics that make up the very fabric of the RPG game, all in the name of accessibility and ‘quality of life’. What is the biggest complain on forums? The game is too “boring”, there is nothing to do but sit in Org/Sw waiting for your queue to pop, or do difficult “team arena” game where you fight a complex boss in an enclosed circular room with 10 other people, wiping 100 times until it becomes second nature and you stop making mistakes for 5 minutes straight. Taken to it’s logical conclusion, ‘in a million years’, it’ll have evolved in just another team online game, where you log in, have an interface where you select class, skills weapons, instance

Here is an example dear to my heart – Blizz’s favorite pass-time right now is to congratulate themselves about what a good job they did for hunters ‘quality of life’ by removing ammo from the game. Wrong! While ammo was indeed dull and tedious in the form it was implemented, they should have made it more interesting instead. They floated at some point the idea of making it an equipable item with infinite charges, and at that time hunters were dreaming (http://wow.joystiq.com/2010/02/25/scattered-shots-dreaming-of-awesome-ammo/) of all the possible and impossible ways to make it more fun. Such mechanics form the fabric of the game’s content, playing on instincts of acquiring, collecting, simulation, RP. Here’s just how much fun can a bunch of (the right kinds of) purple pixels be: http://www.warcrafthuntersunion.com/2009/12/violet-death/ . Instead, it was taken out of the game, and while it’s cool to not have to worry about ammo anymore, it still feels like something is missing, or that something more awesome could have been…

So these are my thoughts. Would like to point out that at this point I’m talking from a limited experience, as the only MMO I have played is WoW, and I have no experience in game design and such. I would love to hear more opinions and discussions about this.

Anonymous said...

>>>
I think the other problem Blizzard have now is that they completely destroyed the raiding infrastructure in the first six months of Cataclysm. Guild perks, inaccessible & overly lengthy 5 man heroics and the difficulty level (one bad egg wipes the raid) of T11 destroyed all the smaller social raiding guilds. On my realm you now have colossal dead guilds that don’t raid (like those you highlighted on your realm) and colossal raid guilds where only a tiny percentage of the roster raid.

The number of accounts raiding must be incredibly small compared to Wrath. By making content hard they broke social groups –as per Tobolds blog post. If you want to raid you have to raid with people you most probably don’t like that much in a guild based on selection. It is hardly surprising that guilds struggle to find committed players as the majority of socials aren’t interested in committing to strangers.
<<<

True. Blizzard have killed off the raiding infrastructure. 90K guilds raiding In ICC, 60K guilds in BoT, 30K guilds in Firelands. These figures look bad, but consider it's gone from 80% 25 man guilds to 80% 10 man guilds... Double ouch...

Personally I blame the 25/10 man split/balance issues and the GIMMICKY fights.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this sentiment. I left the game because as a healer I couldn't heal if I moved. Blizz kept making it harder to heal by removing my class skills that allowed me to mitigate some of that not healing while moving yet increasing the movement requirement in raids. It was just frustrating so I left.

Video Game Philosopher said...

I've rarely raided in WoW, but I couldn't agree more. It's gotten bad enough that some of the 80-85 instances have poor boss mechanics.

I think the reason Blizzard went to this style of mechanic is because their gear inflation is so out of whack. Let me flip your analogy on its head. It's like having a pushup competition, and WoW gives you a spring mechanism in your bracers that helps you do pushups. Every tier of boss you kill lets you do more pushups with no additional skill. Soon you're having to do ludicrous numbers of pushups to beat a boss; but you can because of your gear. Blizzard realizes something is wrong; but they can't take away your pushup-gear; because you'd get mad....

So they turn raids into math competitions; but only asking questions about specific proofs and long-dead mathematicians whose names few remember.

Runescape Gold said...

They are considerably more unforgiving or at least this feels like that but it is because Blizzard wanted to change the particular "healer stress" from your tanks potentially booming for you to Any person booming.