Segregation is Good

| Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I can see the marketing now: "A world rich with interaction between new players and veterans sharing their knowledge!" This sounds great, of course. Up to a point.

Have you ever noticed how high school physics classes rarely take place at Fermilab? Or how rarely you see brilliant physicists sitting in high schools listening to the teacher stumble his way through the concept of an equal and opposite force? This is segregation. Self-segregation. There are distinct areas and groups and people separate themselves among them. Veterans go here, students go here.

At this time I think that's the greatest weakness of WoW. It mixes the players too much. We cannot easily self-segregate into appropriate groups. This leads to problems. What problems?

The noob in your heroic. Or, the eltist jackass in your heroic.

People in groups should be of about the same experience level, of about the same skill, with about the same gear, and about the same goals. In this situation no one is being carried and everyone is inclined to work together because they have shared goals, or at least compatible goals. Anyone still learning is not wasting time because they're all still learning, and can learn from the mistakes of the others.

Leveling instances do a decent job of this. While they do mix veteran alts and new players, they are at least of similar gear and level. At lower levels veteran players may be more inclined to be patient, being able to believe that they are playing with new players who are 'allowed' to be still learning, rather than noobs who have been 85 for who knows how long and are still awful so let's call them noobs and call it day. You won't see many level 85 characters in your Stockades run berating you for being carried.

How would we get this player segregation? Well, let's look at what leveling is: linear. Linear content naturally separates players. A level 10 has played less than a level 20, unless the level 20 is a speed-leveled alt, in which case he's probably still played more, just not on that character, so it still works.

Get rid of all this "we want players to see content" crap. It's not working out so well. It's fundamentally incompatible with challenging content and good community. If player misses raid Z, but they are able to actually enjoy raids X and Y, I think that's better than stumbling through raids X, Y, and Z half-seeing the content and getting blamed for everything.

Bring back linear raiding.

While we're at it, bring back linear heroics. Linear heroics? Well sure. Let's not pretend that Mechanar and Arcatraz were of the same difficulty. Were they perfectly linear? Not at all. But there was some known gradient of difficulty. There is in Cataclysm, and there was in LK heroics as well, but those have the random dungeon problem. If people are not picking their instance, they're also not picking their difficulty level. Someone who queues for Mechanar is there for easy quick badges while someone who queues for Arcatraz is there for harder badges and maybe a raid attunement.

Linear content naturally separates players. This isn't a bad thing. It puts players with their peers. When people know they are more or less equal, they're not such dicks about everything. Contrast that with the current system which vaguely pretend we're all equal, when we're clearly not, so conflict arises.

This also means that heroics cannot be the elevator that they are now. That use of them pushes players who have long outgeared them back in, and int conflict with the newer players, or players who aren't good enough to play past heroics.

I expect that merely by putting players with others of the same experience and power level, many of the LFD problems could be reduced. I see the ideal tool as a mix of the BC system, pick a few and people can see you, and the LK system, randomly random with randoms. We'd pick the heroics that we think are suitable for us and then be put in a random one of those. But no random dungeon bonus reward. I think a system where people are doing appropriate level content, in terms of challenge and reward, could lead to a better community, even with cross-server. In fact, since this is likely to reduce the pool slightly, by removing the more advanced players and slightly separating the rest, the cross-server function may be necessary.

To clarify, I don't think we should return to the almost perfectly linear raid structure of vanilla. That was a problem. For starters, I'd have two raids per tier, at least, so that there are no gatekeeper, guild-killer bosses. Major challenges are great, but when a guild is stuck one one single boss for months, with no real alternative content, that's a great way to make people not want to play. Even if the alternative content won't help get past the gatekeeper, it can at least offer an alternative activity to break up the potential monotony.

I'm sure this won't be a popular idea. And I'm sure "come back and do it in a higher level group next expansion" isn't much consolation, since it won't be the same. But consider this: if you're playing trivialized content endlessly with players who are sick of being there, it also won't be the same. Or, perhaps it will be the same. Even worse, while the progressive badge/point structure gets people into the last raids, it also means newcomers miss the first raids, since everyone has moved past them. Wouldn't it make more sense to have veterans in the latest raids with other veterans, new players in the older raids with other new players, and not have the constant conflict between skill and dedication levels?

There will, of course, still be the alts and rerolls going through, veterans in with new players, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.

So if you're sick of playing with noobs, give this idea try. And if you're sick of playing with elitists, give it a try as well.

P.S. Do not relate this to real-life segregation, beyond the example I used.


Nils said...

Although I have had a different opinion in the past, I agree with your core point. I think I'll write a post, too.

Hyperian said...

Raid attunements rocked. They were annoying as hell to get, and sometimes I had to barter parts of my soul away to get into groups to get them done, but hot damn it was worth it. Being "one of those guys who run Hyjal/BC" was a good feeling, almost like I was some mystical hero who'd "done his time" in the trenches and rewarded with wiping for weeks due to wave after wave of undead haha. The progression leapfrog by twos was a good method, and it tied into the lore aspect very well. More people per capita id say understood the worldly politics better in BC than any other Xpacs. Simply because you were forced to unmask Kael for the douche bag he was in Tempest, and you got to lop Vashjj's whorish head off in SSC. The raid/gear progression was well tailored for the situation. Wrath was a tougher sell because it was the Arthas show…… he was the big kahuna, anyone else was just fodder slowing our progression to knife that mofo.

Klepsacovic said...

@Nils: Get your own idea! And then let me uh, borrow it.

@Hyperian: I like attunements, but attunements for raids that require raids can be a bit of a logistical problem and overall, probably not worth it. Unless the raid is something everyone is doing anyway, like Karazhan.

Justisraiser said...

I've been thinking about this a lot with the release of ZA/ZG. I queued in LFD to run them several times a day. They were a lot of fun the first handful of times but then I got totally burned out on them given how long they took and how difficult they could be if you queued in LFD by yourself.

A lot of people look back fondly on BC heroics, but in my opinion that's probably because we didn't need to grind them to death. You ran them to get the loot/badges/attunements you needed, and sure, that was very time-consuming. But it's a lot less time-consuming than to run the same heroics over and over and over again during the course of an expansion just to get some Valor Points. In BC I felt I generally logged in to a run a dungeon because I wanted to do run a dungeon, not because I wanted to 'get it out of the way.' In LK I did dungeons purely for emblems, but at least it took an easy 12 minutes and then I could go back to playing whatever I wanted to play. Cataclysm basically just has a bad mix of the two, as I think Shintar described in her recent blog post.

However, I disagree about the linear progression of raids. Going back to the BC model just meant gearing up the same recruits and then seeing them guild hop to the next more progressed guild. And what if your guild needed you to bring your alt? The model of "Tier X is current and everything else is Tier X - 1" isn't ideal but it works a lot better for guild stability and progression.

TL;DR: I like whatever model that doesn't make me do content for reasons other than wanting to do the content.

Klepsacovic said...

"that's probably because we didn't need to grind them to death"
Exactly. I'm trying to work on this concept for a later post, about how the badge and heroic systems are linked and how we need to recognize that.

The guild-hopping thing to me is a non-issue. If the players can go on to more advanced content, so can the guild. I don't want to see players getting carried by more advanced guilds, but instead play with similarly experienced players. As for alts, why not invite another player if you frequently need other classes?

I think a more linear system would work better for you, based on your TL;DR. People would do the content that fits them.

Straw Fellow said...

Pardon me for picking out a sentence here, but...

"Contrast that with the current system which vaguely pretend we're all equal, when we're clearly not, so conflict arises."

I've found a good portion of WoW players with the mindset of "I pay $15 a month, therefore I'm entitled to everything in the game." I feel like this is a good portion of the problem, at least within this community. The self-segregation doesn't happen because the precedent was established that everyone deserves to raid and see the Lich King in WOTLK. The problem being, the proponents of that mantra forgot the most important part of that: Everyone who puts in the work deserves to see the Lich King.

MMORPG's require an investment of work to achieve goals, normally either time or cooperation, sometimes both. And because there is an expectation that everyone should see end-game content, for some reason that throws cooperation and time out the window as well.

Klepsacovic said...

Slight tangent here: I don't like how people use the word "deserve" these days. Someone gets hacked and the response is "they deserved it for having bad security." Someone pays their sub and now they "deserve to see content."

I don't think the highly exclusive model of vanilla is the way to go, with barely any raiders seeing Naxx, or even much into BWL, and supposedly not many people even raiding, though that part I cannot believe. But at the same time, "everyone sees everything" cheapens it. There must be some happy middle somewhere. In fact, if we assume these to be real numbers, there is even a proof that there must be a happy medium, though the actual proof doesn't relate to the happy part.

Masterlooter said...

I agree 100%.

The vanilla structure of linear raiding was only bad in about half of the instances. The other half were good as you could skip bosses if you needed to - to alleviate the "guild killer" type scenarios.

Ulduar I think has a good mix of required and optional bosses.

Attunements done right are a good thing. Karazhan was an example of a good attunement process (except the first couple parts of the chain). The SSC attunement was an example of a bad one. Plus - IMO - you should only need to get attuned to the first tier raid, not sucessive ones.

I would hope veteran players understand that having players "go through the ranks" of raiding benefits everyone in the long term.

The "guild hopping" issue that Justisraiser brings up is more an issue of bad instance design and horrible attunement processes, rather than an issue of linear progression.

Straw Fellow said...

I'm inclined to think Cataclysm is at that happy medium right now. You can freely pick between 10 and 25 man, content is challenging and require more than just a PuG to take it down, but not too much that we see only a small minority in those brackets.

I think the issue of why this isn't a "happy" medium is because of the precedent set by WOTLK that everyone should see it. Goes right to your deserve tangent. People believe they deserve to see it based only on their $15, not due to any work organizing and pulling their weight in a raid group.

Klepsacovic said...

@Masterlooter: Vanilla did have ZG and AQ20 as side paths, and AQ40 was sort of co-progressive with Naxx, but the 20-40 split didn't make them quite as alternative as they could have been.

@Straw Fellow: I can't say too much about cata raiding, having not next to none. I was already sick from the heroic system and maybe just playing too long. That's something I should have made more clear, my complaints are not aimed much at cata raiding, more at cata heroics and LK raiding/heroics and how the flaws have been carried over.

Aracos said...

This post is spot on. I'm not sure I could have put it any better. There were a lot of things to like about raiding and dungeons in vanilla and BC, but there were problems too. Klep does a great job of highlighting the things they did well as well as their flaws. All too often people either have "rose colored glasses" for the good old days and forget the parts that were bad. Or they simply trash them and forget that there were things that worked pretty darn well back then.

Masterlooter said...

w should have specified, I was more refering to an instance being linear within itself. Like BWL, you have to kill the bosses in a very set order, you can't skip any, or do them in a different order. But in ZG and AQ20, you can pick the order in which you attempt some - or skip some altogether. This helps alleviate a guild being "stuck one one single boss for months, with no real alternative content" as you said in the post.

Of course having multiple instances in a tier also helps, but I don't think it's mandatory if a raid is setup such as Ulduar was - killing 3 mandatory bosses, gave access to 7 of the remaining 9 bosses, needing to kill 4 +1 more to have access to the last boss. You could in theory, kill the last boss without killing 3 of the other encounters. It's not necessary to kill those 3 ever - you could have moved on to the next tier when it was available (or the group is ready to move on).

Klepsacovic said...

@Aracos: Thanks a lot. Though I know I definitely have worn those glasses in the past.

@Masterlooter: I see what you mean now. I'd say it's best to both both alternative raids and bosses. Having alternatives within a raid offers ease of transition: just walk over to try something else. But it's not really a change of scenery. Even within Ulduar, one of the most varied raids, there is a noticeable consistent theme.

Hyperian said...

Straw definatly makes some good points. In Vanilla i was new, even though i was a lvl 60 i had no idea what the raids were and frankly sucked and didnt have the skill to see it. In BC i busted my ass and got raid worthly. The "entitlement" mindset is a weird but very prevalent thing in Wrath, and was an obvious change especially making it friendly to brand new players. 15 bucks a month gives you the right to waste as much time as humanly possible in this pixalated world... Just as we have the right to purse happiness, nowhere in the "terms of agreement" does Blizzard state that "YOU WILL be handed a handed happiness in the form of a Lich King heroic kill" But that will never stop people from expecting it.
Im liking Cata raiding as it is. The content is hard enough to make you work for it, but nowhere near the roflstomp ICC became after its the buff hit. Hard modes offer some tricky changes and they seem to be focusing on making the raid content make sense with the flowing politics/world events.

Sthenno said...

I think raid attunements caused some big problems in BC because you had to kill KT and Vashj to get into Black Temple, but KT and Vashj were *much* harder than quite a few Black Temple bosses, so when a person left a BT guild, it was almost impossible to find a replacement. But raid attunements overall were a good idea - just don't make them require beating the end boss of the previous raid.

One of the worst mistakes made along the lines of forcing desegregation of players was giving out top tier badges for daily heroic runs. Making the best players who were pretty much done with heroics a few weeks after release feel like they have to keep running them every day to stay competitive really made the atmosphere of heroics much worse. The worst part is that going back wouldn't fix it now. The problem with heroics isn't that there are a bunch of very good players who just want to quickly and silently do their job and get out. The problem is that other people have gotten used to being in groups with strong players who smash the content, come to assume that they are responsible for the success of their group, and come to expect that every group they are in should be fast and easy. If you get rid of the top tier rewards, the heroic raiders will go away, but the people who have had the expectations artificially inflated by them won't.

Phelps said...

Part of the problem is that blizzard seems to have the opposite goal for the LFG tool. It seems apparent that blizz wants a half geared half non group as much as possible. Frankly, blizz wants the haves to boost the nots. It's one of the philosophies contributing greatly to my burnout right now. (world of tanks is fun though.)

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest issue that Blizzard has with linear Raiding is that guilds are not static. Most of them are always loosing members and taking new ones on. This combined with linear raiding forced guilds to run through content they were entirely sick of running through because they needed to gear up new members.

Any suggestion as to how to restructure raiding needs to address this issue.

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