Tag Archives: Raiding

Who matters most?

So apparently it’s a thing right now, where because a Mythic World First Guild decided to stop being a Mythic World First Guild that people are clamoring that Blizzard do something, because won’t you think of the poor Mythic World First Guilds?

As usual, I have some strong feelings about Mythic Raiders, raiding in general, and Blizzard’s “catering” to players.

When things come up about Group X vs Group Y in WoW, it always boils down to one thing – Whoever is talking thinks they deserve something, and the other side thinks they don’t deserve that thing.

So. Who deserves a thing in WoW?

Who deserves the gold? Who deserves the gear? Who deserves the mounts? The pets? The Titles? The Legendaries?

Does anyone disagree the answer is – People who spend time and money?

Those are literally the two most important things in most people’s lives after all. Time and Money. They are a weird balance board. It fluctuates at high and low ends of the spectrum obviously, and has weird connections to seemingly unrelated things. But despite how much I hate goblins – they aren’t wrong. Time IS money.

We can’t say “Well anyone who pays for WoW deserves all the things.” (Though I do actually think that SHOULD be true.) Because… well, we all pay for WoW right. If I have to run Stratholme 166 times to get my Baron Rivendare’s Charger, I don’t want someone else getting it just for logging in. (Honestly, I really don’t care, as long as *I* have the mount.)

So for WoW, the real thing isn’t money. Because we can’t BUY a thing straight up. And it’s actually not “fair” to gate things behind money like that. See, WoW is based on the precursor to Mobile Games Monetization. (It really is, even if they don’t have a direct route to a la carte purchasing – which they should if they wanted to make bank, but again I digress – the ability to buy with Dollars things that can be traded or sold in game for everything means that it’s doable.) Mobile Games are based on two ideas – more players is always better, even if 90% of the players pay nothing. And two (this is the important one for this conversation) Players are either going to give us time or money. That’s why all the “currencies” in mobile games are used to speed things up.

Do you want to spend a month farming a thing – or pay $10? As someone who earns more than $10 an hour – it’s TOTALLY worth it for me to throw $10 at a game (especially if I like it, support your game devs) over waiting a month. (Also I am wildly impatient.) There are people like me who don’t mind the money. There are other people who are super proud of reaching the same achievement without spending a dime.

But in WoW, this transaction – money to thing I want in game – is not direct. It’s very roundabout. I have to buy tokens, wait for tokens to sell, then trade gold for carries. For the sake of this discussion though, let’s assume this is not REALLY doable (since it’s cost prohibitive, and limited by Blizz since you can only buy so many tokens.) (Also, it’s how it was BEFORE the tokens, and I feel it still holds true.)

So then, if we all pay the same amount of money into Blizzard, shouldn’t we all get the same amount of stuff? All the mounts? All the pets? All the gear?

Hurm. That’s not very fun though is it? We enjoy the seeking, the striving to get a thing we want. So the currency Blizzard is asking for isn’t money, it’s time. They want us to spend TIME getting an item. Here’s where the breakdown happens though: Elitism – and players who think they deserve something because they “worked harder” for it.

If we go back to the mount example. An Elitist would say “Because I ran the dungeon when it was current, because I got the mount when it was a 1 in 1000 drop, I deserve it more than someone who farmed it at level 80.”

But they didn’t earn it the same way I did. They were just LUCKY. At 15 minutes a run, times a 166, it took me 2490 minutes to get my mount. That’s 41.5 HOURS. At minimum wage (in California), that’s over $400! FOR PIXELS! Someone who ran it at level, could have gotten it on their first run (okay probably not but rng is rng).

So which one of us DESERVES it more? Hint – both of us – we both worked for it, just in different ways.

Ah. That’s the key right there. We got the same result – we just got it in different ways. Also he got his like 6 years earlier than I did.

People talk about Mythic Raiding like it’s the people Blizzard is making the game for. It’s not. They make the game for all of us. If it was just for Mythic Raiders, do you REALLY think Pet Battles would be a thing? At all?

People talk about Mythic Raiding and say “Well if you were willing to devote the time to it, you could do it too!” Actually, it’s not about time. It’s about skill, what we find fun, and willingness to be unhappy while working towards a goal. How much time does a Mythic Raider spend playing WoW? 40 hours a week? Like a job?

My slash played, since 2005 when I started playing, averages out to 5 hours a day. That means in a week – I spend 35 hours playing – on average. Obviously some weeks are more (Legion launch!). Some are less (Person 5 get here faster!). But in the end, I spend almost as much time playing WoW as I do working.

The real question is – why is their 40 hours of play being valued at a higher rate than mine? Why is my 40 hours leveling and capturing pets not a valid path to a best in slot piece of gear? (Since that is ARGUABLY the goal of a game like WoW, a loot treadmill.) Why isn’t it valid that someone who PVPs 40 hours a week earn gear on par with Mythic Raiding? It is just a loot treadmill right? Aren’t we on the treadmill? Why don’t we get the loot?

Less than 1% of players saw Naxx. So they remade it for Wrath. And nerfed it. People were pissed. Why? Blizz was “catering to casuals”. No – Blizzard was catering to PLAYERS. People who paid money for their game, paid the sub, and likely spent just as much time as everyone else in game – but maybe weren’t driven to focus on raiding as the end all be all of the game.

Do I think people running a raid 40 hours a week deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Oh yes. Do I think people running dungeons 40 hours a week deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Yep, them too. Do I think people leveling pets 40 hours a week and beating the Celestial Tournament deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Hell yes, that shit is hard.

“But Joyia, if you make it so that people can get the best gear from running dungeons – people won’t run raids!”

Ahhh, that’s where the Mobile Game Monetization comes back in.

Mythic Raiders == the Whales. They put up with all the “pain and suffering and omg why would you do this this isn’t fun at all” and get the loot fastest. Us “filthy casuals” who spend just as much time in game if not more – we get it too. Just slower. And over a greater length of time. The currency here is just pain and suffering.

That’s why the progressive buff in ICC was such a great thing. (The Mythic raiders don’t need it or care, my little casual guild can progress to the end!) That’s why Badges of Valor were such a great thing. (You got it in a drop, that’s cool, but if I keep killing bosses I will get it in 3 weeks!) That’s why NOT REMOVING CONTENT LIKE THE GROVE WARDEN AND ICC MOUNTS IS SUCH A GREAT THING. (Seriously Blizz, put that shit back.)

We ALL pay to play the game. We ALL pay in time – casual and hardcore is NOT determined based on time spent – but rather the bullshit required to defeat a SINGLE aspect of an impossibly large game.

We ALL deserve the rewards and cool things that comes with it.

Waiting to be a Hero

I didn’t get the chance to raid in Vanilla WoW. I wish I had. 40 man raids seemed like an insane and exciting thing to participate in. Pandemonium. That’s what I would expect. I did raid in a 25 man guild in Burning Crusade though, so I can imagine the headache of trying to get 25 people logged in, geared, and ready to go, scaled up to 40. OW.

In the 25 man guild I was in, we had about 30 raiders. (Or up to 35 at various other times.) There were 3 guild ranks, just for raiders. They were ranked, the highest being called Thunderfury. If you successfully posted above a certain amount of DPS or HPS you would earn that rank. When forming the raid, Thunderfuries were accepted first, then the middle rank (Sulfuras something) and Warglaive as the bottom rank. Anyone who had all blue/purple gear of the appropriate level could be a Warglaive. The problem was, once you were a Warglaive, the only way to advance your character was through raiding… so you had to wait for a night when not too many Thunderfuries showed up to raid to hopefully get in. If there were 6 spots, and 7 raiders waiting, then you had to roll against each other and hope you weren’t the lowest roll. The system mostly worked, except it was very hard to ensure you were always getting to raid unless you were very lucky or very dedicated.

When I left that guild and converted to Alliance, it was a bit different. I joined a guild as a tank, and eventually switched to healing. But we were a 10 man guild. This changed everything in that we had a fairly solid core of 9 raiders who were always present. Generally we could fill that final slot with any pug and do fairly well. However, over time we gained a few lost a few raiders, as always happens and started having issues with having 11-12 people showing up. When you can only take 10 raiders, this leads to the guildleader having to make very painful choices.

Do you take your friend? Do you take the high powered, but also very annoying person? Do you take the sweet, but oblivious person? Do you take the undergeared so they have a chance to get loot and improve or the overgeared so the raid has the easiest time of it? And oh goodness don’t take them, we already have four people fighting over cloth and no one to take the leather drops…

When I left that guild, I ended up in OLN, a 25 man guild that had about 35 raiders. So each night they would draw lots and split into 25/10 raid teams. That worked for Wrath, but Cataclysm was a different story. We lost some big players, had other players drift away, but couldn’t find *anyone* to recruit. I even talked about our insane solution to this event before. It was absurd. 16 raiders squished into a 10 man hole. By the time we hit Dragon Soul we were firmly down to 10 raiders. It was the end of that guild. We couldn’t recruit, we couldn’t bulk back up, we couldn’t get people who were willing to be on a waitlist just in case.

And that’s the problem with tightly tuned raids. When you can’t just carry one or two people, you have to have a finely tuned team to consistently show up to raid. When life happens, you lose a raider and it could be the beginning of the end for your team.

When I formed a guild with Misstorgo, recruiting was our first and main issue. We had to recruit people who wanted a casual experience, were willing to raid only 2 nights a week, and not cause drama. Through a series of lucky events, we ended up with several of my co-workers forming a core raid team. However, as we progressed through MoP we had several events that lead to losing a FEW raiders and not being able to replace them.

I think over the course of the expansion we changed more than half our raid team three times. More often than not, we would find interested people – but oh they couldn’t play without their two friends… Do you have any idea how awful it is being the 11th member of a 10 man raid team? You feel selfish if you say “No, I want to raid.” knowing it means someone else will have to sit out. You feel terrible not showing up because of course, that’s the one night that someone else can’t be there and then no one gets to raid.

But then, the Third Great Change came from Blizzard. Flex – the ability for the raid to scale based on the number of players – was implemented to all difficulty levels (except Mythic, which is fine because we aren’t hardcore like that) of raiding. 11 raiders? You’re good to go with all 11. 14? Yep. 19? YEP.

This literally changes the most painful and difficult part of running a guild into a non-issue. If we get down to around 12 players, easy, we just recruit a few more. No one has to sit, so there is no danger of them getting bored and finding another guild. The fights seem to actually be a bit easier with a few extra bodies. Missing a person? It’s fine, we have more. Your buddy who only plays a month or two then takes a 3 month break? We can bring him, when he decides to show up, and not worry about having to replace him.

WoW is most fun when playing with friends and now it doesn’t ask you to rank your friends and boot the ones who don’t fit into a 10 man hole.

How WoD Raid Lockouts Work

If you are the raid leader, the raid will despawn bosses until it reaches the first boss you HAVEN’T killed.

So if you joined a raid at Paragons, killed it, then go back later, it will start you at Immerseus. Every boss will be present, the only difference is you will not get loot/be eligible for loot from Paragons.

If you want to create a “Garrosh Lockout” you must have someone who has killed ALL the bosses – without skipping ANY – up to Garrosh. This character now has a Garrosh Lockout. If that character wants to HOLD ONTO that lockout, they need to invite their raid, zone in, then transfer leadership and leave.

They will then continue to hold a lockout.

PSA – If you have a lockout like we did, where a toon had killed ALL of the raid except Paragons, we zoned in, at Paragons. That toon did not leave, but stayed for Paragons, she now has a lockout (despite extending the other one) that has her ONLY saved to Paragons. So if she tried to raid lead again, it would start at Immerseus.

Starting at

What are Raid Lockouts, why do they matter, and how do they work?

Whew, what a loaded series of questions!

Raid lockouts were originally a Raid ID that said “This raid is this much completed, and can be completed later.” The problem was, people would raid on Tuesday, get X# of bosses in, then plan on coming back the next day, or later in the week. Then some a-hole in that raid would come back early, with different people, and clear to the end. Blizzard fixed this by effectively giving each person on the raid team a unique lockout. So when you can back, the raid leader would zone in, and that was the same raid they had worked on before.

Players could run raids that had downed bosses they hadn’t, but not raids that went earlier than their own lockout. Yes it’s confusing, so here’s an example:

Trial of the Champions – 10 man:

There are 10 raiders and they raid on Tuesday and killed the first 2 bosses (Beasts and Champions) on Tuesday. Wednesday, they come back, but two of their raiders are out. They grab a guildie and a pug. The guildie hasn’t cleared ANY bosses, but because the raid leader is one of the original 8, he zones in to see the Valkyr up and is asked if he wants to be saved to 2/4. The Pug has cleared Beasts, but not Champions, so he also zones in to see the Valkyr up and is asked if he wants to be saved to 2/4.

This gives the players a clear picture of what is going on, where they are starting, and what they are potentially skipping. So the guildie in this example is passing up the chance of loot from the first two bosses. Once he kills the valkyr, he would not be able to go back and do them later. The two members who DIDN’T make the raid could zone in with an entirely new group and would also be 2/4.

Raid lockouts matter to players because it allows us to take the raid in a series of chunks that are better for our specific playstyle. So like Weeping Angels, we raid 2 nights a week, 2 hours apiece. If we don’t clear the raid in that time, we don’t clear the raid. No running over, no extra nights. We all have kids, and spouses we want to see. WoW is a big deal, but not the highest priority. When we got to Garrosh, we held the lockout even when we would have reset because we wanted to kill him without starting all the way at the beginning of the raid.

So how did this change in WoD?

Well, it got a lot more complicated for one. (Bad designer, no twinkie! Simplicity is a goal over complexity.) Now, the lockout is per BOSS per character. So to reuse the above example, I decide to go into a raid that is 2 of 4. We kill the 3rd boss. I am now “saved” to the third boss. But I have to go, so I leave. I am saved to JUST the Valkyr though. So if I try to start a raid later, it puts me at the FIRST BOSS I haven’t defeated. Which is Beasts, the first boss. When I get to the Valkyr again, I just don’t get loot, but I still have to kill them again.

This is a TERRIBLE design.

Players use raid lockouts to skip bosses they need nothing from. So a guild will run SoO, get to the final “wing” and switch an alt out. This allows that character to “hold” the lockout. So the next week, they can start at Blackfuse and finish the raid faster. Get to the meat and potatoes faster. Get to the new loot – FASTER.

The only reason for changing this would be if Blizzard didn’t WANT players skipping bosses like this. But the problem is, their “fix” for that didn’t change that. it just made it clunkier! Now if we want to save a lockout, we have to bring an alt for the first 11 bosses, then switch that alt out, and have them be raid leader the next week, instead of just switching an alt out for a single boss.

I don’t understand the logic behind this. It doesn’t make sense in the scheme of raid lockouts and progression. Following the “new” method, it should just put the players at the boss directly AFTER the last boss the raid leader defeated. If we really wanted a fresh raid, we wouldn’t be extending the lockout! If we wanted a fresh raid later in the week, just have the raid leader be someone who hasn’t run!

I would even like to see the ability to “jump to wing” for raiding. As long as everyone in the raid has previously cleared all of those bosses, when we get ready to go in, the raid leader can choose to start at a specific boss or wing.

The Price of Progress

When writing for a site that earns money based on hits, the best thing you can do is write a controversial and slightly inflammatory post you KNOW is going to get commenters riled up over.

Bravo Holisky, you did it perfectly!

200 comments and still growing. *slow clap*

That being said. I totally agree with you. More than that, I honestly believe it is PAST time for World of Warcraft to implement a buy a character store.

So let’s review the arguments people have for why there SHOULDN’T be a character store then review the arguments for why there SHOULD.

This is a terrible idea!

1. You need the 90 levels to learn how to play your character correctly!

There are more ways to level than ever before. You can level through PVP, Pet Battles, being power leveled, etc. Even so, playing at 90 is very different from leveling. It’s two different games. People who come for the leveling will still level. People who come for raiding will get to jump right to the meat. Pve is not the same as Pvp, so why would someone assume leveling is the same as raiding?

Two stories – The first is about me. I leveled a hunter to 60 in vanilla, then leveled a mage to 60, then a priest, then a warlock. What can I say, I like ranged DPS. When Burning Crusade hit, I leveled the hunter to 70, then the Warlock. Once my warlock hit 70, I was a part of a raiding guild, and one night they drug me along to Karazhan. We were fighting the trash before Moroes, and one of the healers asked, “Joyia, why aren’t you Life Tapping?” I responded, “Why would I do that? It just leads to me dying.” I had never used Life Tap. I didn’t even have it on my bars. I had leveled that character, but had no idea how to raid with her. Fortunately, our other warlock took me under his wing and taught me how to play as a raiding lock.

Second, in Wrath, I was running random heroic dungeons on my priest. I got into a dungeon with a level 80 DK. He started pulling and I had the hardest time keeping him alive. I was an ICC geared healer, and this was one of the starter dungeons. It should have been cake. I looked at the tank’s gear. He was wearing a mix of spirit plate and other plate (maybe dps or tank, I don’t know). He had not spent a single talent point. I asked, “Dude, what’s up with your talents?” His response – “What are talents?”

Leveling teaches a player virtually nothing about playing well at level cap. Especially since some of the most important spells players only get at level cap, or the rotation relies on secondary stats being at a certain level.

2. You will miss all of the STORY!

Way back in vanilla, there was a mod *everyone* had. Everyone. I played for 20 minutes, before my friend helped me download and install it. It did several things, but mostly it made the quest text instantly appear instead of slowly appearing. That way I could just click okay and follow him to the locations. Even now, I rarely if ever read quest text on my first run through. I am blitzing my warlock to level cap as quickly as possible. Especially with all the new map and tool tip stuff.

People don’t read quests. They don’t watch cutscenes. I know people who didn’t know who Tirion or Bolvar were in ICC.

Not everyone cares about the story.

3. Professions/Gold/Gear

For about 30 seconds I thought this was a good argument. Then I remembered… It’s not. I have power leveled professions on multiple toons. It’s *always* easier at level cap. Also, dailies make earning gold a snap. As do scenarios, dungeons, and LFR. All of which give gear too. They will likely start the players with a set that is equal to the lowest dungeon blues, but that’s fine. It will get replaced rather quickly anyway.

Even better, this would help server economies, as there would be tons of people buying up all those low level mats. OR even better than that, Blizzard would implement a catch up systems like Thanksgiving for all the professions. (Actually they kind of did with Ghost Iron recently, remember?)

4. Everyone starts near the top, there is no one to help. (Really? What game are YOU playing?)

Wow… so someone tried to say that players like helping new players and that if this is implemented there won’t be anyone to help or the only people to help will be mouth-breathers. UM. First off, what game are you playing? Because as far as I can tell WoW is definitely NOT a game where people like to help strangers. Guildies, of course. RL friends, always. Strangers? GTFO NOOB. Also, they make it sound like those level 85 players won’t know anything and that’s a bad thing. How exactly is it different from a level 10 asking where the auction house is compared to a level 85? Level is just a number at that point. Will it be rough for the first 3-4 months? YEP. But then the good people will come out of the woodwork and the newbs will help other newbs…

5. Guilds will suffer from bad players!

They already do. Even worse, they have to keep the bad players because that’s the ONLY option they have. The influx of new accounts to WoW following a character buying system would lead to hordes of players, including many who would learn quickly and potentially become excellent raiders.

Let’s say 1 million people join the game just because they can skip leveling. If only 10% of them are decent THAT’S 100,000 NEW RAIDERS. That’s 10,000 NEW RAID TEAMS. As a guild officer, that idea positively makes me want to shiver in excitement.

6. It’s pay to win!

You can already do it. It’s just difficult. You can already pay for power leveling. This just streamlines the process. This takes it from being illegal and makes it legal. This protects the players by making it a Blizzard offered service.

Also, if you agree that the “winning” of WoW is downing the last raid boss, then actually it’s not. It’s pay to skip the grindy bits to get to the real part of the game. Everyone says the “real” game begins at level cap. Well, let’s get to the real game then.

7. It doesn’t take any time to grind to 90 ANYWAY! Just do it!

Well, if it only takes 2 days, then why gripe if someone skips that? Also people love to bring up heirlooms, forgetting that totally new players wouldn’t have those. Nor are they likely to be in a guild with the leveling buff.

Real arguments against it:

Button overload! – This may even be worse than starting fresh and facing x amount of hours to 90. There are a ton of buttons in WoW at level cap. It would be very daunting.

Solution – Perhaps a scenario like the DK one, that teaches and adds abilities as you go. Honestly WoW could use a “solo scenario” set that is directly targeted at teaching players to play their class and spec well. Match the player with an NPC of the same class and spec who leads them through a dozen or so scenarios to teach them skills, talents, glyphs, etc. I would like this EVEN NOW, so I could really learn to play a melee class well.

No additional leveling content or updates.

Oh this is actually a good one. If everyone can skip the old content, there is no reason for Blizzard to update or add to it. But then… have they really done that much anyway? Other than Cataclysm, have they *ever* added mid level content since Vanilla? And even with Cataclysm, how many people replayed all of that content? Blizzard has the stats. Clearly it wasn’t *that* great or they would have updated more or updated Outland. (Now what, Friday they are going to announced updated Outland.)

So why should they do it?

1. They sort of already do allow it with Scroll of Resurrection.

2. They have exp gear and potions in China. Precedent has been set.

3. Sudden influx of *tons* of players BOTH OLD AND NEW.

I sit next to a guy at work, who would love to play WoW. He doesn’t though because he doesn’t have TIME to level a character. He would raid with us, two nights a week for 4 hours total, but he can’t play anymore than that. He’s a smart guy. He would learn fast.

I am an officer in a casual guild. We have existed as a raid team since May of 2013. Now, 5 months later, we are 2/14N and 10/14 Flex. Why are we not further along on Normal modes? Because we only have 11 players. 2 tanks, 3 heals, and 6 dps. If ONE of our tank/heals is out, we *have* to flex. And life gets in the way all the time! We recruit nearly constantly and yet our gains are almost always met by losses. New babies, new jobs, new school schedules… there is always something. WE NEED MORE PLAYERS. That is the truth. I can’t wait for our realm to be coalesced with another one.

4. The average age of WoW players is increasing. These people have lives, jobs, kids. They don’t have time to play a game for a month just to get to the real game, and gear for a month, then to be able to play with their friends. It’s too much of a time sink. To hook new players, you have to lower the barrier to entry. Lower barriers equals more players. Which would you rather have – a game bleeding subs year over year, or a game with tons of new players every month?

I also don’t think there should be “requirements” like having a max level character. Maybe limiting it to the “previous expansion cap”. I could get behind that one, but really this service needs to be more for new players than for old. Old players are hooked. They have the heirlooms. They have the experience of knowing leveling zones, dungeons, friends, etc. This service should be targeted at new players to draw them in, get them into the game, and then they will stay here. WoW is at heart a peer-pressure driven addiction. Why does it continue to be the 800 pound gorilla? Because even if there are better games, WoW is where your friends are. Your friends pull you back. Now let us pull in new players and get them to the cool stuff asap.

To Nerf or Not to Nerf?

When Blizzard announced their intention to nerf t12 in preparation for t13, I immediately though, “Oh thank god.” No anger, no rants, no sadness, merely a soothing sense of relaxation and peace.

What the hell?

Peace?!? Soothing relaxation? A tension I didn’t even KNOW was there was pushing on me. The tension of progression. Snapping at my husband. Ignoring chores I needed to do. Being unhappy and frustrated with my hobby. I didn’t notice that it was there until it was suddenly gone. Why do I care if we wipe on Aly for two nights this week, we have downed her once pre-nerf so post nerf, we got it in the bag.

I think the most indicative thing of what this raiding tier had become for me was the replacement of a glyph. Seems like such a small thing right? I replaced the Glyph of Fear with the Glyph of Shadow Bolt. Such a tiny thing. But I had been looking for ways to push my dps just a bit farther… Just a bit… Enough to nerf my cc and utility to eek out 200 more dps. The thing is, I *hate* those DPS. I hate them. I love utility. And I really loved my utility when I had more of it. Why was I pushing my dps? Because my raid wasn’t progressing.

Casual doesn’t mean what it used to. It used to be that casual meant just a few hours a week. Now casual means medium levels of gear and people who barely know how to stay out of the fire. When Blizzard made raids more accessible, they had people who didn’t know how to raid, raiding and loving it. But now those same people expect to raid, and they can’t. In Cataclysm a raid can’t carry 2-5 people and be fine. Everyone needs to carry their own weight.

Instead of running with whoever you wanted to, now you have to run with people who know how to raid, and possibly hurt the feelings of those who are less good. For those who would jump in and say, “L2P NOOB!” Remember, WoW has always worked to cater to the path of least resistance. What is the path of least resistance when it comes to learning new, painful boss fights, to not keyboard turn, and how to play their class to the fullest to overcome the challenge or just saying “Bah, this is too hard. I liked Wrath better” and canceling their account? The 1 million subscriber dip points to the truth.

Some people are saying “OMG this is unprecedented!!!” Hello, I would like to introduce you to the ICC Buff. Remember the one that started at 5% and grew to 30% over the course of a few months? Instead of a slowly growing buff to the players to make the fights easier, they are just nerfing the bosses across the board.

This brings me to my point. Blizzard knows. This is a company who has built their entire business on balance and stats. They *know* how to balance. They do it more than any other company. I would bet every piece of gold I have that they have massive amounts of data flowing in on everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have huge files where they can look at every single classes’ dps on every boss in t11 and t12. We use WoWLogs, which is close, but flawed. We run sims that are best estimations. They have the real deal.

They know exactly how many players have been in Rag’s room. They know how many guilds have downed him. They know the percentages. They know what people are dying to. They know what fight people are by passing. They know everything.

People on these blogs and forums talk about the difficulty being fine, talk about how the nerf is too much, too soon, they talk about how well their casual guild is doing on heroics… Wait, what? I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but if your guild is on heroic modes, you are NOT CASUAL. My guild is casual. No attendance requirements, no spec requirements, no “stacking” to get the best buffs and we are 6/7. But even without my guild, only 6 guilds on my entire server have downed Rags. Only 6. And only 2 of them are 25 man guilds.

Wait, before you say, “Oh well your server just sucks.” I agree, it does. We are ranked 164 in the US servers. I thought, well that makes sense… OH BUT WAIT. THERE ARE 241 SERVERS. That means almost 80 servers are below us. 80 servers with HOW MANY PLAYERS? Including my old server. Including the other server I used to play on. I always thought we were the far end of the universe, apparently we aren’t! We are on the low end, but not near as bad as I thought.

Blizzard knows. They have the numbers to back up their decision. It may be different on your server or in your guild, but the WoW world at large is struggling and not seeing progression. If the end game is where the game really begins, shouldn’t more people see it?

They tried a valiant effort with Cataclysm to return to the harder style of Burning Crusade, but you can’t put spilled milk back in the jug. Players got used to raiding in Wrath. Players enjoyed raiding in Wrath. Players are leaving in droves because raiding in Cata isn’t nearly as fun. And Blizzard surely has the numbers to prove it and back it up.

LfNm for PST

Raiding is in a hard way right now. And everyone is speculating as to why. Then recommending answers. For what must be the 3rd or 4th time today I saw a blog post on “how to fix raiding” that immediately bounded off into rather large changes.

I shook my head, as this person clearly had only a passing grasp with game design. One of the big rules of game design is meeting player expectation. Players come to the game expecting something. As a designer, you have to meet their expectations. You can’t just start one way and shift 90ft to the right whenever you want. The player may not follow you.

So, as a game designer, how does one identify what is “wrong” with raiding and then how do we speculate how to fix it?

First, identify “good” raiding.

This is a bit difficult, as everyone has a different opinion of “good”. So let’s look at what we have. I will list the raids I have experience with.

Burning Crusade: Everything but Sunwell. From Kara 10 mans to Black Temple Warlock tanking on Illiadan.

Wrath: ICC, Ulduar, and Naxx. 10 and 25, for all 3.

Cataclysm: 25 for BoT, TotFW, and BWD, and 10 for Firelands.

Okay, so now that we have that, I will say that I liked ICC/Naxx/Kara best of all of those raids. Everything else aside, those are simply the ones I enjoyed most.

Step One:

What went right in the old raids?

1. Running Old Raids – Blizzard has shown they would like us to run old raids. Weekly quests, not allowing tokens to be purchased, etc etc. They want this to be our “play” night raid. Burning Crusade did this better than Wrath though, because there were no 5 mans to gear up in. Every week, raiders were back in Kara. Regardless what people say about running the old stuff, it made it easier to go back and farm that item that might have been missed, or to train new raiders while running mildly older stuff with overgeared people.

2. Achievements – Okay, so BC didn’t have achievements, but there were so many weeks I remember raiding just for the achievements. Also it is worth noting this is not a good reason for everyone. In Wrath though, it was possible, and in fact happened often where you would get an achievement without actually *trying*. Not all achievements should be like that, but having some would remind people they are there.

3. Balance of progression – In BC I remember when I realized our 25 man guild took about 2 nights to get a boss down for the first time. But once we had it down, it stayed down. In Wrath, some of the more complex bosses took multiple nights, but as always, once it went down, it stayed down. In FL it seems like having a boss down doesn’t mean we are more likely to have it on “farm” later. In fact weeks can pass between the first down and the second down.

4. Overgearing the encounter – Some might consider this “cheating” the fight, but really what it is, is playing an RPG. This is a core game design truth in RPGs. The player can put sufficient effort into one thing and do that one thing well enough, that it allows them to over power the enemy. In both BC and Wrath there was a way to generally get gear over what your guild’s current progression was. This allowed you to be more useful when running that progression. This really worked best in the Wrath 10 vs. 25 model.

5. Split gear between 10 and 25. Everyone hated it. The fact that gear was so much better in 25 vs 10 mans made 10 man guilds feel like second class citizens. Also things like the legendary was limited to 25. Making it seem like Blizzard was saying “only people who raid 25 are real raiders.” BUT this also allowed Over gearing. It also really only worked when considering that 10 and 25 were separate lockouts. All those itemization issues we have in Cataclysm would be much less painful.

6. The ability to carry – Not the idea that a raid can have 2-5 dead weights and still pull of heroic modes, but rather that a raid can have 2-5 deadweights and do most of the normal mode. In ICC it was arguable that until Sindragosa, a raid of 20 could pretty easily knock it out. In Burning Crusade it was really only Illidan, Archimonde, and Vashji that gave guilds with “not great” players trouble. (At least on my servers.) Why is this important? Because we want to raid with our friends, NOT with elitist jerks who min-max and do everything perfectly. I would rather raid with people I know irl than with people I have never met.  The ability to carry less awesome players meant we could play with who we wanted and still do the things we wanted.

Step 2:

What went wrong?

1. Not enough bosses. I know guilds who could get all of the t11 down in a single night of 4 hour raiding… then they were left with sitting about for a week. The raids were smaller, and more manageable, but overall there have been fewer bosses. At this point we have 21 bosses. At this point in Wrath we had 33 bosses, PLUS an extra tier before we hit the final raid. Now if one thinks about 10 v 25 mans, we actually have 21 bosses versus 66. That’s a THIRD of the content.

2. Holy paladins is this tier hard. No wait, not hard, FRUSTRATING. We know we wiped on Atramedes because the person hitting the gong in searing flame was a bit too slow and the tank had too much sound. One person stand too far out on Magmaw? Gonna wipe. One person miss the jump on Conclave, start running back. The fights have too many instant kill mechanics and too many if one person isn’t paying complete attention the raid will wipe. Worst of all is that if someone disconnects, you might as well just wipe it right then.

3. Itemization – Hey casters, where can I get a 346+ wand without spirit? Seems like a rather complex question. Non-casters or those who don’t use wands would assume there are probably a large number of answers. There aren’t. There is exactly TWO epic level wands for mages and warlocks. TWO. Oh and did I mention NEITHER are boss drops? One is a boe random trash drop and the other is just recently added for valor points. There are FIVE belts though, one of which is easily crafted. Three of which are boss drops. And it’s not just us, how many people do you hear griping about shoulders and bracers? Shaman apparently have the same thing with Weapons in FL. It’s just sad how many people in my guild run with Trollroic gear because they *still* haven’t seen the drop they needed. (I have never seen the Booklight, and I have been running BWD since week 3 of Cata and clearing it since April, just fyi…)

4. It’s always been harder to wrangle 25 people into a raid. But now it’s not just 25 people… It’s 25 well geared, alert, non-drunk, non-distracted, correctly specced, and damn near perfect players. After two weeks of wiping on Shannox because if we lost even 1 person we wouldn’t beat the enrage, we had lost 5 of our long term raiders. The game wasn’t fun for them anymore. It’s no wonder people are breaking down into 10 mans.

So now what?

Well some bloggers say things like “get rid of 10s and 25s, make everything 15s!” or “more content!” or “more difficulty modes” or even god help them “make epics truly epic and have loot drop less”. It’s all I can do not the nerd rage all over their blog. Cutting raids down to 15 doesn’t support the “large scale” raiding paradigm. 10s and 25s is a nice split. The reason 25s are dying isn’t that they don’t want to, it’s that they don’t have the people. People are leaving because the content is too frustrating and they have nothing to do. More difficulty modes is too complex for the style of game. In fact, the current two are more than enough, if people are willing to accept that the variation between the two needs to be greater. And anyone who says anything about LESS loot is just insane. I hit level 85 on Thursday after Cataclysm came out. I was in BWD downing bosses within two weeks. I didn’t get Cataclysmically epic until APRIL. FIVE MONTHS OF RAIDING THREE NIGHTS A WEEK… Even counting for bad rng, that is still ridiculous. And considering the number of people I know who raid ONLY for the loot, I am not surprised subs are dropping like flies.


Band-aids and Long Term

1. Immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200, revert back to the previous 10 and 25 unshared lockouts. This doubles the available content. This addresses the ATROCIOUS itemization issues. This speeds gear acquisition for newer raiders.

2. Achievements that are designed to be achieved in both regular and heroic modes. It seems like all the achievements for BoT, BWD, and TotFW are all designed for “perfect” raids. Giving people goofy and absurd things to do is fun too.

3. Re-tune raids on normal difficulty to allow for “carrying”. This allows normal modes to be for “casuals” and makes them newbie/pug friendly. No instant wipes from one mistake here. But keep heroic modes on the same level as they are now. Precision, perfection, and min-maxing all required to down the boss. The heroic modes scratch the hard core itch, the normal modes cater to people who remember they are here to have fun, not be frustrated to the point of snapping their keyboard in half because one healer accidentally walked into a crystal trap.

3.5 Accept that 10 mans and 25 mans are never going to be perfectly balanced. In Wrath 25s seemed to be easier. In Cata 10s are much easier. Determine why this was (Wrath – not tuned correctly/buffs, Cata – tuned too tightly) and then determine which is the one as a design there is the desire to support. Players will take the path of least resistance. If 10 mans are easier, like now, players will break 25 mans down to 10s. If 25 mans are easier, and there is a good reason to raid them (slightly better gear) players will run them.

4. Fix the itemization. Having a flood of belts, when there are easy and readily available ones just makes it that much more painful when those are getting sharded but that boss still didn’t drop that one upgrade you need to replace a blue. Also while they are at it, they should make it where no more the 2 of the same item can be dropped off a single boss kill. Three pairs of plate tanking boots when we only have one druid tank? Yeah that’s helpful.

5. Accept that casual players make up a large majority of your player base. These people don’t want to be frustrated. They don’t want long boring grinds. They want to have fun, with their friends, and they want pretty epics. At the end of the day it’s still a game, and shouldn’t feel like a job. People already have sucky jobs, and WoW shouldn’t be treating them like a horrid boss.

These are all “small move” changes. They don’t radically change the game at it’s core, but rather are minor tweaks on current design systems. It’s making the game better within the current game. It also compromises and attempts to balance between the two factions of the game, hard and casual.

Mechanics vs. Play style

As a game designer, it is generally accepted that at least 30% of my job is getting the player to do what I want. (Some would say even 90%.) Want the player to slow down and be cautious, make the area dark and play some kind of sound off to his side. If I want the player to move, I drop something nasty where his feet are. So on and so forth.

Blizzard generally does this very well. They want people questing instead of just grinding on kills. So they make it more worthwhile to do a large number of close quests instead of just killing mobs. They want the player to limit their playtime, so they add in the rest bonus to “reward” the player for switching to an alt, or not playing for a while.

Mechanics are used to alter  play style. If a player is rewarded for doing something, they are going to continue to do it. This is especially true when the rewarded play style is the path of least resistance. Players will always find the path of least resistance. Period.

So what this brings me to is raid boss design in World of Warcraft.

Blizzard seems to have forgotten that their game is about playing with your friends. And sadly, not everyone is friends with players who are awesome at WoW. In previous raid expansions there was the “dead weight” slots. These were raid slots that needed nothing more than a warm body in it. A decent raid team could “carry” several players without too much problem. This number changed based on the size and skill of the rest of the raid. It was generally accepted to be 2 slots for 10 man and 4-5 for 25 man. There were even achievements to support this “play style.”

Why was this so important?

Because it meant that even if you were friends with a really nice, but completely brain dead guy, you could still raid with him and do well. No, you wouldn’t be bleeding progression. No you wouldn’t be getting every achievement or even hard modes. But you could fight and see the raid.

But someone at Blizzard decided he was sick and tired of carrying his brain dead buddies. So the raid boss design stopped being about play style and started being about mechanics. (Either that or was just really annoyed at Sarth 3D zergs.)

Sartharion with 3 Drakes:

This fight perfectly explains the mechanics vs. play style debate I feel is very important to WoW raid boss design.

Mechanics: The players clear out the trash, then pull the main boss, with all 3 mini bosses still alive. As the fight progresses, the three mini bosses join the fight and the players have to deal with added fire, void zones, damage, etc etc.

Sarth 3D as it was dubbed was very difficult for 10 mans. It required 3 tanks, which is too much for a 10 man raid. It caused a great deal of raid damage, which required 3 healers. Now, more than half the raid is just there keeping the raid alive, meaning that without 4 amazing dps, the fight would be un-winable for most 10 man guilds. (To be fair it was done, just by a bleeding edge guilds.

Then some enterprising raiders discovered something very interesting.

Play Style: If instead of focusing down each of the mini-bosses as they joined the fight, the players could just focus Sarth and as long as they could burn him in the 90 seconds before the second mini-boss spawned, they would kill him before he became invulnerable.

So they ignored the mechanic of the fight and brute forced it. They made the game about they way they like to play. Burn hard and fast and win, or not quite hard enough and die to purple fire. Even with a decent group, this strat was not easy. My guild at the time would always wipe 4 or 5 times before pulling it off. But we could do it. And it was fun for us. It was still a challenge because pulling that much dps that quickly was not easy.

Of course, once this strat hit the internet, everyone did it this way. It was much easier, if less consistent than the normal strat. Does that make it inherently bad? I say no.

As a game designer it is my job to get the player to kill the boss. Not to jump through hoops until the boss dies. It is supposed to be fun and challenging. Sarth Zerg was still challenging, it just stripped away all the excess “fluff” of the fight and made it what it should have been. A toe to toe battle to the death between us and this huge dragon. It also made us feel like we were playing the game on our own terms. We were playing the game the way we wanted to.

Now, in Firelands the fights are tightly tuned. No more “dead weight” spots. Not only that, if even one person fails, the entire attempt fails. Brain deads need not apply.

Even more so, the fights are very very mechanics based. There is no edge for play style changes to strats. Trying to alter the strat even the smallest bit leads to an insta wipe.

The correct answer is somewhere in between the two ideas. Where people can try to do things their way or strictly stick to the intended way. It makes it feel more like a conversation between the designer and the player.

Blizzard says “Bring the Player, not the Class” but what if the player I want to bring is not awesome? What if the player I want to bring is a good friend but only a mediocre dps? Should I replace my friend with some douche bag who can pull 20k?

The big thing to be worried about when trying to force a mechanic instead of play style is that the path of least resistance might be right out of the door and never playing your game. A bad thing for any social game.