Greedy Goblin

Friday, October 21, 2011

Do we need hard modes at all?

After addressing the dance problem, we can also ask "do we need hard modes at all?" in a good high-end "hard working" raiding? I mean can we make one difficulty that is challenging to the very best but also accessible to casuals (not morons and slackers, but people with little play time).

The answer is clearly: "no, we just need the gear upgrades be meaningful". Let me outline how gearing would look in the raiding scheme I'd design:
  • Every tier is equally stronger than the previous. So full T1 is 10% above full T0, T5 is 50% stronger than full T0. It provides a form of diminishing returns as full T1 is 10% above full T0 but full T11 is just 5% above full T10.
  • Raids drop about 1 piece/person for full clear (8 bosses, 40 people, 5 loot/boss)
  • Dungeons only give starter (T0) gear, except for one slot, for example necklace. T1 necklaces are given by the endboss of the dungeons published with the game, and with every new tier, new dungeon(s) are released too, giving current tier necklaces. New tier dungeons are "harder" in term of output demand but not harder assuming gear progress, so the T5 dungeon in T3 gear is just as hard as the T3 dungeon in T1 gear. These dungeons are doable in gear 2 tiers below them.
  • Another slot, for example back is available from badges that are rewarded by both dungeons and previous tier raid. So you can get T5 back by running T5 dungeon or the T4 raid, while T4 back is rewarded by T4 dungeon or the T3 raid. The highest tier raid provides badges that has no vendor yet, it can be used when the next tier arrives.
  • The rings (2 slots) are raiding BoE. Every tier of raid drops various rings of its own tier and you can pick them up on the AH.
  • Belts are provided at exalted at the faction that is involved in the story of the tier, and gives the daily quests. They give lower tier waists at lower rep (so T5 faction gives T5 waist on exalted, T4 on revered, T3 on honored, T2 on friendly. The daily quests are soloable in gear 3 tiers below them and reputation is rewarded by doing the dungeon or the raid itself (allowing top raiders to fully skip dailies).
  • Boots are crafted BoE, recipes are dropped in the raid and provided by the faction on exalted. Besides common materials (like leathers for leather boots), one would have to get orbs provided by the current tier raid, dungeon and badge vendor.
  • Finally one more slot, wrists are available by the seasonal boss, like Headless horseman or Coren Direbrew who aren't too challenging, you just have to wait for their holyday (simple way to reward subscribing every month)..
  • The rest of the slots (head, shoulder, chest, hands, legs, trinkets, weapon, offhand, ranged) are raid BoPs.
In this scheme, you can get 7/17 top tier gear without ever stepping into the current raid. Of course you can't be 7/17 instantly, as reputation needs time to be built up, dungeons drop only 1 necklace for 5 people, badges have to be collected and BoEs are initially very expensive. However just by playing casually, you can get 7/17 of current tier. Since these are mostly accessory slots with no weapons, they cover about 30% of the stats.

Let's see how it affects various player groups, when the current tier is 10:
  • New, alone player just reached top level: he can do the original dungeons with LFD, buy T8 BoEs which are dirt cheap, so he can bypass T0 power in a few hours. At this point he can start doing T2 dungeons. By the time T2 necklace drops, the other bosses will give him T0 in every slots, while he has T2 necklace, T3 back (from emblems), T8 rings and back, giving him T1.2 in a few days. With this he can already LFR T1 and T2 raids while running T3 dungeons for necklace and emblems. He can also start running T4 faction for rep and gold. Doing so for only 2 lockouts, would net him a revered T3 waist, T4 back, T3 neck, enough money to upgrade the BoEs to T9 which still cost 1-2K gold, 2 T1 and 2T2 raid drops, and he is already over T2 gear. The next 2 lockouts therefore he can do T4 dungeons, T5 faction, T2 - T3 raids, and on average he will encounter the seasonal holiday, so he'll finish these weeks at T3. Practically he can gain a tier every 2 weeks, while one tier last 3 months (12 weeks) for the early player, so the new one experiences the full content 6x faster.
  • New player who has T8 geared casual friends just doing T9 content or new alt of such people: He wants to play with his friends and they are ready to carry him. They give him T9 BoEs, carry him in T9 dungeons, T10 faction dailies in group, T7 - T8 raids where they pass on most loot. While playing with them for a month, he get T9 neck, T10 back, T9 BoEs, T10 waist and wrist, 4x T8 + 5xT7 raid items, pushing him to T7.5, nearly where his friends are, who can now carry him to their current content.
  • Casual player one tier behind: He is average T8 geared and the introduction of new tier pushed the prices of T9 BoEs down. He can also adventure into the current tier dungeons and do the current tier faction. Without stepping into current tier raid he can get a current tier back, neck, waist, improving his gear enough to safely be within the margin of the T9 raids (which is designed for T8), getting him some drops. Since he doesn't do anything too hard, his gearing will be slow, but by the end of T10 he can surely push his gear to T9, maybe even doing the early bosses of T10
  • Non-HC raider. He has T8.7 geared when the patch hits as he could not farm full T9 gear previous season. He instantly jumps on the current dungeons and faction, while keep running T9 raids for the remaining drops. After a month he finishes rep and the BoE prices have dropped enough to buy T10. Even without the seasonal holiday, he elevates his gear to T9.1, allowing him to finally step into T10 raid. While he will first have to leave after the first boss, the few drops allow him to slowly upgrade his gear and hit the performance demand for later bosses. After several weeks, but still before the next patch hits he will kill the endboss, finishing the content.
  • HC raider. He has full T9 at start, but his performance is still not enough for bleeding edge raiding as his performance is "just" 99% and his class/spec is "just average". While he surely do tries on the first new boss, his focus is the new dungeon and faction. He instantly goes to the back vendor with his raid badges, He also eagerly watch the AH for the first 50K BoE to arrive. After the first week he'll get the neck and back item, pushing him to T9.09 which make him good for the first boss who is tuned for 100% performance (9.09/9*0.99 > 1). He gets 1/8 drop (someone in his guild will get if not him so the raid power grows anyway). Next week, his busy dungeoning and questing gives him exalted rep to the current faction and the bleeding edge raiders finally get the recipe dropped for his boots. He has orbs from dungeon and farmed enough gold to pay the shamelessly high crafter fee. With new boots, waist and the drop from the first week, he gets to T9.18 allowing him to kill the second boss, who is tuned for 101% T9. From there they can kill a new boss every second week killing the endboss around week 7-8.
  • Bleeding edge raider. Full T9, flavor of the month spec (101%), 99.9% performance, new back at start, allowing him to kill the first boss (100% tuned) instantly, and with the 1/8 drop from the 101% tuned second. After they hit the brick wall, they jump on the dungeon to get the necklace, making the third boss just killable, assuming that everyone in the raid has flavor of the month. Next week he'll get the rep and the recipe for boots, making them ready to get 4 bosses. From there they can get a new boss every week, allowing killing the last one in a month.
The main point is that only by playing you can increase your power to go beyond the current brick wall, however most power still comes from raiding itself, rewarding it. And this would be the one thing motivating to every players. By working on their character, they will be able to defeat the same challenges as the very best players.

PS: while, for simplicity I talk about series of Patchwerks, it doesn't have to be so monotonous. Adds, duo bosses, enrage phases, various resistances, unavoidable raid damage and such could easily give unique characteristics to the bosses.


Neil said...

Hard modes aren't about gear. They're about increasing the number of people who can say "I beat Lich King / Ragnaros / Deathwing!" while still keeping challenging encounters in the game. Imagine if post-3.0 Black Temple were how it had always been, and pre-3.0 Black Temple was available as a hard mode. Many more people would have killed Illidan, the "last boss," but there would still be something very difficult for the hardcore raiders to aspire to.

Gevlon said...

@Neil: with my scheme still EVERYONE who raids could kill all bosses, just not in the same time. I mean a casual one might has his T6 endboss when T8 is current. However it wouldn't mean trivial like going to Illidan now, it would be the same as killing Yogg+0 in ICC gear.

Anonymous said...

The scheme is complicated, thus probably has bugs. I've read it twice and still am not following exactly what your plan is (too many different tiers around.)

Some possible bugs: character level also affects power, as well as gear.

Linear gear strength increase (i.e., gear power at Tn = T0 * (1 + n/10)) means that, after a while, gear becomes boring. That's why gear strength is exponential (Tn = T0 * (1.05 or some such)^n) -- every tier makes you proportionately more powerful.

How about summarizing your idea in a few sentences?

Eaten by a Grue said...

I believe there is a game which functions exactly as you describe. It is called Progress Quest (

jam said...

I think you're also missing out on just inherent variability in output. You're making it so that a 10% better than T0 is sufficient to accomplish the next tier (using your example, 5% better than Tn-1).

RNG is a pretty major factor. If your crit chance is 30%, and you cast 100 times, your expected damage would be 70+30*2 = 130.

However, the probability that you get <= 25 crits is 16%. So there is a 16% chance that your damage is only 125 (4% loss).

If you approximate the binomial distribution with a normal distribution (and n=100,p=0.3 is generally sufficient), the average is obviously 30, but the variance (o^2) is 100*.3*.7 = 21, or stddev of 4.6, or 4.6/130 = 3.5% stddev.

So with a single spell, and modest crit chance (not talking procs, or any other variables). You have a 68% chance that your results are within 1 std dev.

So you have a 16% chance that you'll do >103.5% your base damage (same for a 16% chance you'll do less than 96.5%).

If you are a progression raider, then you can just run the same boss over and over again until the stars align and you get your magic damage boost. (Running 10 times, the chance you've done more than 1stdev is 85%.)

Anyway, my point is that 5% increase of throughput due to gear is not sufficient to drown out the ~10% variance just due to RNG.

You can bias the fights, so that you are on the upper end (so you *have* to get more than the mathematical average dps of the group). Though then it means that once a fight is 'known' you still cannot one-shot it.

Anonymous said...

As long as you dont play with bots. You cant calculate the outcome of a fight only by gear...

Even at Woltk Naxx Patch times. You saw that equally geared player performed differently. I had 3 Mages:

same class!
same spec!
equal equip!
equal pc!
equal internet!

At the end of the fight. The first mage dealt 5k, second 4,2k and third 3,5k.

Surly the 1. Mage only had proc luck. Every fight for 12 weeks in a row.

For your plan, you have to make Gear such strong, that rotation, reaction, awerness, gimicks are pointless.
Or change specs: Rogue's deal 90% dmg with their autoattack (and you will still see huge differences in movement fights, add fights).
Arcan mages only have 1 Skill to press. And so on.

Even in patchwork fights playerskill is important.
For 10m you have to control buffs ...

Sorry, that i have to say. The things arnt that easy, as you imagine.

I can see your point with good preperation = boss kill. But i wouldnt play your game. It would be like every asian grinder. (look at their raidboss design ;))

Coralina said...

People don’t want to kill the T6 bosses when T8 is current. It is the same reason why most games (let’s say Gears of War 3) might cost £40 for the first month but 5 months later they are going for £20.

It is irrational but that is how consumers behave. They want to be playing “the latest big thing” whilst it is still current and there is a buzz.

Yes to the solo gamer GoW3 will offer the same game play experience/value to the guy buying it five months after launch as it does to the launch day player. Yet somehow the guy buying it 5 months post launch doesn’t believe it offers as much value for money even though it has not been superseded by a sequel as it is still the latest in the series.

With raids you are expecting players to pay the same flat rate for not only old content but superseded content. You are asking people to buy GoW2 when GoW3 is already in the stores and as we know, that goes for £7.99 in bargain basement bins.

If raiding was still my chosen end game then if you expected me to run old content I’d expect the same discount as the GoW buyer. Charge the bleeding edge raiders £15 a month by all means as they are getting extra value from the “buzz” of playing the latest hot content. I however want a discount on the “bargain basement bin” content.

It is a separate argument for another day’s blog but perhaps the single tariff pricing structure needs to be altered. A blue poster admitted that raids are expensive to develop and can't be justified if only 2% use them. If LFR fails to have the desired effect or if your system was implemented then I think multi-tier tariffs for subscriptions would be the way forward:

F2P offers you the levelling game, daily quests and AH.

£5 a month gives you the above plus the back catalogue of 5 man end game heroics e.g. HOO, Tol Vir.

£10 a month gives all of the above plus access to the back catalogue of raids and the latest 5 man heroics e.g. ZA/ZG.

£15 gives you access to the current raid tier.

That keeps everyone happy.

The casuals can no longer complain that a disproportionate amount of the dev budget is spent on the freeloading hardcore players.

The hardcore players don’t have to listen to casuals saying “I paid for the content and have a right to see it” because no one is forcing them pay for it anymore.

Bobbins said...

Does everyone really need to defeat the endgame boss? By allowing/wanting this doesn't it devalue the achievement. So not only do we not need hard modes do we actually need everyone and my granny to beat the end boss?

Samus said...

I do not understand why you would want to go back to 40 man raids. In all your previous analysis, I do not recall you giving any reason why 40 is better than 25 or 10. It just happens to have been the size in vanilla.

I would argue smaller is better. It is much less hassle to organize and run, and much easier to find enough people. Especially if you are going to continue to have players spread across all tiers of raids. I think it would be a nightmare later in the week trying to find 40 people who are on the same boss in the same tier.

Gevlon said...

@Samus: the more the better for several reasons besides the "epic feeling":
* less randomness: while 1 guy can get a lucky streak with crits, with the number of players increase the chance of the raid DPS significantly affected by luck is decreased

* more people to decide votekick. I keep LFR model as target. A bad player can be protected by friends, forcing others to carry him. In a 40-man raid, you must have 20+ "friends" to avoid being kicked for slacking/sucking

* less effect of DC/AFK. Besides the top tier raid, the rest is overgeared by most players, therefore it should be a kill with 1 DC.

* more people of the same class giving easier comparison (silence the "i just damage little cuz ima warlock and blizz h8 my class")

* more rollers for loot: less loot sharded

Please note that in a performance based system you don't need to know the players you play with. There isn't much to organize, if you bring an applicant to a lower tier raid and he does well, he can be accepted, you don't have to worry that he might fail on Rhyolith driving.

Ninahagen said...

What you want to build is a game that pleases mainly the hard-working type of gamers.

Is it interesting for Blizzard to do so ? What percent of the gamers do they represent ?

You should build an open game that also please hard-working type. Not the other way around.

Majority first, then you. It does not make the task easy if you want to build a good game, but it's not incompatible. So, think for everybody, instead of throwing an idea about a game that would please only you. Everybody can do that. Most of the time it's bullcrap.

Stat increase must be exponential, to keep a real progression feeling (as #3 Anonymous said). This is now the ONLY purpose of equipment upgrade. Why ? Because recognition of your "hard-work", of your "progress", is handled by achievements now. Your achievements speak for themselves already.

This feeling is paradoxal, see the Red Queen paradox pointed out by somebody in another comment (n another post). But that's what drive most people, it's a "The Sims" thing. That's what burn them out also.

And the downside of this system is
that it prevents people who did NOT grind old raids, for any reason (new players, players that stopped for 6 month, unskilled players, reroll, whatevs), from getting into the new ones.
Players do want to visit new raids asap. They don't want to visit the raid 2 years after. That's the whole point of valor stuff, since the end of BC. And Blizzard won't come back on that. You introduced the same kind of system to alleviate the downside, so you are aware of that already.

I suspect you are way more social than you want to seem, I suspect you just seek recognition of your "hard-work", how freaking social is that ?

Anyway, if I'm right, why seeking recognition through stats on top of achievements ?
Don't you feel satisfied with a good achievement system, or a cosmectic one (unique skin) ?

Many players, if not all, have fun from the progress feeling. It is a self-related fun. So, everybody should be able to get a significant stat upgrade at the same time. That's what you see currently : HM players go from T10HM to T11HM, NM players go from T10NM to T11NM, players who don't raid go from a mix from heroic dungeon and T10NM to a mix of zandalari + T11NM.

Stat upgrade is "automatic", and I don't personally feel most "deserve" it. It's just the new equipment, the new stats, Blizzard throws at you.
That is your point, I think, that's what makes you boil, but you shouldn't : it is unavoidable without making the game a painful grind (economically bad), and you should not seek recognition through stats.

The hard-working scheme you have, is a game where equipment is just a key. The key you need just to be allowed to attempt raids.

Think about what represents for you equipment ugrades, and why you are so forceful on it.

Anonymous said...

I raid high end, and achievments are the last thing I do care about.

I've you care for achievment, go collect stamps. Its the same reward, you will get more over time and can do nothing with them.

Crab Shooter said...

Hardmodes are Blizzards attempt to shut hardcore leet players who think that casuals are raising up to their levels.

Anyways I came to tell you guys to stop hoping for any good changes in the current expansion. If Blizzard top dogs will come to their senses and realize how horrible their current design is then the correction will only come in the next expansion.

So in the meantime leave the computer screen. Go to a warm beach and shoot crabs for fun

Anonymous said...

You forget what you are selling as a wow dev. Not gear or content. But e-peen.

The morons are kept subbed by giving them the feeling off beeing part of the top

Dangphat said...

How do you recruit new players into a top tier guild?

Andru said...

I have an axe to grind with the belief that 'resistance fights' are anything but a major PITA.

For some reason, everyone seems to be glorifying those fights, but believe me, they were Stupid. With capital S.

Why? First of all, the gear is only good for one boss. You collect dozens of crap to use on one single damned boss? If it is skippable, it will be skipped. If it's mandatory, it will breed resentment against the forced grind.

If the boss allows you to kill it without resistance gear but with better play, the standard tactic will be of killing it without resistance gear.

If it requires only a few players to get the gear (ie tanks), this will either make the raid lack those players (no one wants to work more for the same reward), or require the guild to come up with some kind of socialist scheme in which everyone works equally for that. (And then subsequently have the tanks skip guild with the gear once it's done).

Simply put, a mechanic that requires players to build a dual set is backwards and not interesting. Not even for the hard-working crowd. After all, I've yet to see any hard worker enjoy digging holes in the ground just for their own purpose.