No Easymode Raids!

| Friday, November 11, 2011
Raiding isn't a nice activity. It demands time, lots in the game, lots outside. It demands difficult-to-form groups, whether by size or by rigid class makeup, or both. It is an exclusive activity. It excludes people. It can, of course, be tweaked to excluded fewer people. Consumable timesinks can be reduced. Gear timesinks can be reduced. Saving IDs week to week can reduce the per-week time needed to advance.

But raiding is not an inclusive activity. Raiding is not something that should reach out and embrace you and invite you in. Nor should it demand that you do it. It should just be there, silently waiting, possibly giving you a hostile glare until you meet its standards.

All this "PUG-friendly" or "easymode" raid stuff is nonsense. It's just redefining raiding. I know there aren't distinct lines, but if raids get smaller, easier, and shorter, why are we calling them raids? Why would we make something like that? It's redundant! There is already a 5-man content type: regular dungeons and heroics. These fit the model of "PUG-friendly" raiding Tobold pushes
  • do *not* have studied the "dance" on YouTube,
  • do *not* have spend hundreds of hours gearing up before even trying the first boss in the first raid,
  • do *not* have an uninterrupted block of 4+ hours available,
  • do *not* consider wiping 400 times before the first boss kill reasonable,
  • and finally do *not* have above average skills in moving fast or playing their character extremely well.


Except perhaps the last one, 5-mans and heroics are all of those. So why make easymode raids too? What are they adding? Is it the size of the random crowd? I'm just trying to imagine the conversation here.

"Hey boss, we have some new dungeons for you to look over." "Great, let's see them." "Check it out, anyone can get in, it's not too hard, not too many out-of-game requirements." "Yea, it's great, but could you figure out a way to have a lot more people?" "Why?" "I don't know. It's a great dungeon and all, but maybe it just needs five or twenty more people."

There's the problem, right there. Somehow this absurd idea got out that everyone wants to raid because somehow being in a huge group makes everything better. It doesn't. When I think back to the typical random, the last thought on my mind was "You know what this group needs? Even more of these people." It wasn't that they were bad, since for the most part they did well enough. It was that they were not people. It's an asocial experience to run with randoms. Adding even more random people does not make that any better. If anything it would make it much worse. Have you ever been in a big group but felt left out or generally just not part of it? That is random raiding.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a player never seeing anyone a second time, ever.

Facerolling through heroics wasn't much fun. Making that bigger isn't going to fix it.

5-man content has been long-neglected, with Blizzard papering over the flaws of it with game mechanics rather than content fixes. Random heroics were their attempt at filling heroics that no one wanted to run and to get people who didn't want to run heroics to keep running them. LFD was their way to fill up heroics that people were done with. These did not fix heroics. Nor will random raiding fix raiding, if it is even broken. I don't believe it is. Instead I believe that LK pushed a bad philosophy that everyone should raid and everyone should raid one tier of content.

Raiding isn't for everyone. So don't make it for everyone. To do so would be as ridiculous as trying to design a Hummer to appeal to Prius owners. They are different markets and no amount of hybrid fuel-cell solar-powered hemp-tailored-seating will change the basic fact that a Hummer is a really big vehicle for people who need or want a really big vehicle and a Prius is a small car with fancy stuff to make it fuel-efficient for people who like to be fuel-efficient. Different markets.

If we imagine and accept that only a fraction of players want to raid, then what about the remaining fraction? Note that this remaining fraction might be a bigger fraction. Also note that non-raid content can still be fun for raiders without being raid content and without being a gateway to raid content. There you go: don't waste time turning raiding into not-raiding, which raiders won't want to do because it's a crappy version of raiding and non-raiders won't want to do because it's a crappy version of raiding. Instead, make non-raid content! That isn't a daily!

-Add more outdoor content, that isn't in the form of dailies.
-Add more 5-man content, some of which is not done in half an hour.
-Add sets to non-raid content.

Coming next week: I find the exceptions that make the ideas in the post sound stupid.

24 comments:

masterlooter said...

You're the only one making any sense on this subject. There are players that like to raid (read: defeat difficult encounters with many other players), and there are players that want purple pixels.

So many players "raided" in WotLK because it was a relatively way to get epic gear, not because they liked the activity of raiding. They aren't angry about lack of content, they're angry that other players have gear with purple text, while theirs only has blue text.

How many groups killed all 4 bosses in VoA toward the end of WotLK? How many do you think will kill all bosses in BH, as opposed to just the latest one (or maybe the latest two)? Hardly any, they don't do these because they like doing encounters with a large group of others, they are there for epics. Once the epics become outdated, they stop doing them.

(Argueing that "those bosses are older and they've probably killed them a dozen times, that's why they skip them" has no weight when you consider that players will run the same heroic 5 man instances over and over again for a handul of Justice/Valor points.)

The Renaissance Man said...

I don't think that LFR is really aimed at the chronic LFD runner. It is my belief that LFR is aimed at the people who think that they became raiders during the ICC 30% phase. Most of the outcry for a "third difficulty" began at the beginning of T12, where it became apparent to them that the difficulty of T11 content was not an outlier.

Kring said...

UBRS was not "raiding" but you run it in a raid. UBRS was fun and had a different target audience then raider. It targeted the "dungeon runners". Don't look at those LFR raids as "easymode raids", see them as "large group heroics".

The rest of your post could also be applied against the LFD and yes, I agree, the LFD should get removed as soon as possible.

Klepsacovic said...

@masterlooter: I have a post written up to respond to this more fully, but in the meantime, I'd be wary of the "blame the player" response with regard to loot and players skipping content.

@The Rennaissance Man: I've been hearing of the need for a third difficulty ever since Blizzard added a second. Or even before that, when some people somehow wanted even harder raids and others wanted story-modes. Maybe the contrast between LK and Cata raiding increased the outcry, and perhaps justifiably so. To a player who started in LK, Cata would be a switcheroo.

masterlooter said...

Looking back, I suppose I worded my first comment poorly. It wasn't meant to be a "blame the stupid players" comment, it was meant to be a "Blizz is misinterpreting what the players want" comment.

They need to come up with another method of giving epics (because that's what players want) besides PvE raid content - regardless of how nerfed it is (that's not what players want).

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: Dammit, Kring, I'm saving UBRS for my Monday "What I said on Friday is wrong" post. But I agree that "dungeon runners" are ill-served by easymode raids. But what is the line between an easymode, small-size raid and a large group dungeon?

@masterlooter: I seem to have completely misinterpreted your comment.

"They need to come up with another method of giving epics (because that's what players want) besides PvE raid content - regardless of how nerfed it is (that's not what players want)."
But I still disagree. Players don't want epics, they want content, experiences, and in some cases, status. Epics, and loot in general, are symbolic of those and are meaningless without them.

Gnomes Smell Funny said...

Best blog I've seen in a long time. I fully agree that Blizz misinterprets what players want to see in the game. How they do that, I do not know. It is not as if they do not receive feedback. It's said in many different ways, but what I distill it down to is two things: put the social element back in the game, and ditch pursuing the 'Infant Mode'.

Unfortunately, I believe there is a bit of denial on their part that mixes together with the design aims that, IMO, are corporate-mandated. And they don't support either of those previously stated player base desires.

Gnomes Are Beer Stands said...

Had to write again since you've reposted since I read last.

"Players don't want epics, they want content, experiences, and in some cases, status. Epics, and loot in general, are symbolic of those and are meaningless without them. "

Ka-freakin-CHING! It's why I can enjoy lvl 16 in RFC if the group goes nuts. Ok, well that's a stretch. But you just nailed it.

Kring said...

> But what is the line between an easymode, small-size
> raid and a large group dungeon?

I would say that an "easymode raid" contains raid mechanics but the difficulty is very forgiving which means you can ignore this mechanic and "stand in the fire" without causing a problem.

An example would be nerfed Emalon the Storm Watcher. It was no longer required to kill all spawned elementals because their explosion didn't wipe the raid anymore. Which turned an "interesting mechanic" into an "annoying interruption of tank and spank". That just didn't work out.

On the other side "large group dungeon" don't have the dance. They would be more like pre-Cata heroics. They don't have ANY mechanic that requires preparation.

An example would be General Drakkisath. Only the raid leader and the hunter had to know what to do. The leader quickly assigned easy tasks (hunter pulls drakki, one add is hibernated and the other is focussed down.) There is no dance involved, the mechanic of the fight is designed around the boss and not around some artificial circle-drawing abilities of said boss.

Success dependeds on everyones performance and ability to play his class, not on experience over the circle-spawning algorithm obtained over the last 50 wipes.

---

> "They need to come up with another method of
> giving epics (because that's what players want)
> besides PvE raid content - regardless of how
> nerfed it is (that's not what players want)."

Basically this.

> But I still disagree. Players don't want epics,
> they want content, experiences, and in some
> cases, status. Epics, and loot in general, are
> symbolic of those and are meaningless without them.

And I agree, too.

Let's reword it:

"They need to come up with another type of content which will reward equally powerful/meaningful/beautiful epics (because that's what players want) besides PvE raid content - regardless of how nerfed it is (that's not what players want)."

Klepsacovic said...

@GnomesSmellFunnyandAreBeerStands: The problem is that players will say that they want epics. I know I've said it before. It's a hard thing to ignore, because it's so easy to go along with. Players want content, but if they ask for epics, those are so much easier to deliver.

@Kring: "Only the raid leader and the hunter had to know what to do." The irony is that I give that an offhand rereference in my upcoming post as a raid like mechanic where one person can wipe the group. On the other hand, kiting is, or was, what hunters do. They kite there, they kite for their class quests, they kite in BWL: was UBRS designed as practice for the raid that comes next in the Black Dragonflight story? That would be pretty damn smart.

I'm trying to think of "artificial circle-drawing" mechanics in vanilla dungeons, with no success. There were a few "move out of fire" mechanics, but a slight reposition based on paying attention to surroundings is hardly a dance.

Kring said...

It's a bad idea to force a specific player (by being of the required class) to do a difficult task at the last boss. I've seen hunters that did not succeed and got replaced, after hours in UBRS. Or groups that disbandened after trash respawn after a wipe because the hunter failed again and again. That concept was bad in UBRS, because there were hunters who didn't go to UBRS because they didn't like the pressure. Something like that wouldn't work in LFR.

Vanilla was superstar driven (dungeons and raids), Cata is weakest link driven (heroics and raids). They absolutely need to go back to superstar driven content(, for everything but hardmodes). And the encounter should not require a superstar of one specific class.

masterlooter said...

@Kring
What's the difference between a mechanic you can totally ignore, and one that isn't there at all?

Isn't the whole point of a mechanic to have players react to it? Aside from adding to my GPU's wordload, what does adding non-harmful fire on the ground do for the encounter?


"was UBRS designed as practice for the raid that comes next in the Black Dragonflight story?"
I'll be patient and wait til Monday to respond to that.

Kring said...

> What's the difference between a mechanic you can totally
> ignore, and one that isn't there at all?

The mechanic that you can ignore shouldn't be there. You should never be able to igore a mechanic.

And that's a problem for something like the omnitron defense system. There is no way in hell you can dumb it down to LFR skill level and keep it meaningful and interesting. The fight would be pretty boring if you can ignore all mechanics. And if you can't ignore them you have to spend preparation time to read up on them which won't work in LFR.

They can't make "easy mode raids" because that would still be "raiding content" which people (who currently don't raid) don't want. Omnitron defense system is not hard but watching a 20 minute youtube video if you would rather play a game is boring for many people, me included.

They must create "large group dungeons" to reach an additional group of player. And "large group dungeons", like UBRS, must be designed from the ground up to not contain a dance and only contain few mechanics but those must be meaningful. And success must depend on how well you play your class and not how well you know the encounter.

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: Wouldn't the hunter in UBRS be a weakest link? Certainly a great hunter could buy a ton of time; I remember we once had to tell the hunter to come back because both adds were dead and we wanted to get to Drak, but a bad hunter could mean only a few seconds before we had the boss back on top of us.

@masterlooter: I've found a few other fights that seem to do that, at least a few "artificial circle mechanics" appeared in LK heroics before the raids. Sadly, I'm having a Rick Perry moment on them, except without the first two.

@Kring: What about 'obvious' dances, such as if we all need to run somewhere, but it is obvious because something in the fight indicates it, without outright saying "stand here." For example, if a bunch of mechanics run in during Steamvaults, we know that it makes sense to kill them so they don't repair the mechanical boss too much. Or if the boss is "overcharging" we probably want to move away. Contrast these with something like Heigan in which there is no indication that we'd want to stand in a certain spot, until everywhere else has already gotten hit by slime.

Injera said...

@The Renaissance Man
"LFR is aimed at the people who think that they became raiders during the ICC 30% phase"

They didn't "think" they became raiders, they actually did become raiders. I mean, they took the time to form organized groups and tackled the relevant raid content that game offered. What else are you going to call that other than raiding? Where do you draw the line?

Or look at it this way- I think Civ 5 is a woeful successor to Civ 4, but it wouldn't make any sense for me to say that Klepsacovic only "thinks" he's playing Civ. ;)

I'm not sure how much of a response LFR is to the 30% buff players. I get the sense that Blizzard didn't really start worrying about difficulty until they saw huge drop in participation in Firelands (and presumably loss of subscriptions along with it.) There's a blue post somewhere where they acknowledged they were only starting to notice the widening gap in player skill mid 4.2, and that they wouldn't have time to address it for the 4.3 raids. LFR was just conveniently in the pipeline at that point. MoP will probably show us what they really have in mind to handle the problem- and they've been pretty vocal about it lately that they consider it a pretty significant problem.

Kring said...

> @Kring: Wouldn't the hunter in UBRS be a weakest link?
> Certainly a great hunter could buy a ton of time

Exactly. The concept that you need one superstar to succeed is very good. The concept that the superstar had to be the hunter was not so good. At least it was something that most hunters can do.

A very very very bad example would be to design a fight where priests have to mind control adds because:
a) it forces the priest to be the "superstar"
b) and it requires them to do something which they can't because they've never done it before.

A good alternative to this fight would be to add two artifacts which can be clicked on to control those adds. Now every raid requires two "superstars" and the fight challenges those superstars and not the weakest link. But the superstars can be volunteers.

> I remember we once had to tell the hunter to come
> back because both adds were dead and we wanted to
> get to Drak, but a bad hunter could mean only a few
> seconds before we had the boss back on top of us.

The fight should challenge some player. But it must be the player that can take the heat.

The fight where you had to ask the hunter to bring back Drakki, didn't the fight feel especially good? Didn't you feel that the group had especially good dps and healing because you had everything under control before the hunter feigened? That's the advantage of superstar driven design, everyone feels like he added to a glorious victory. With weakest link design you only feel like: "At least I didn't fuck up here."

> What about 'obvious' dances, such as if we all need
> to run somewhere, but it is obvious because something
> in the fight indicates it, without outright saying
> "stand here." For example, if a bunch of mechanics
> run in during Steamvaults, we know that it makes
> sense to kill them so they don't repair the mechanical
> boss too much. Or if the boss is "overcharging" we
> probably want to move away. Contrast these with
> something like Heigan in which there is no indication
> that we'd want to stand in a certain spot, until
> everywhere else has already gotten hit by slime.

I would be inclined to say that if a fight requires common sense, it's ok. Then again my trust in mankinds common sense gets shattered every day. So I might be wrong. :)

The mechanics were fine. Failing to kill one didn't lead to an instant wipe. They were part of an easy, obvious and forgiving fight mechanic. You couldn't ignore all of them, but you didn't have to kill them all. Very good design.

And with an overcharge I think timing is what's the deciding factor.

A bad design, and what Blizzard uses these days, would be to give the overcharge a 2.0 second cast time. And require a melee player to move a distance that requires 1.9 seconds. If he doesn't start to run away before the emote is visible, he will get killed and wipe the raid.

A good design would be to make the overcharge a 10 second cast. And the overcharge would also increase the damage taken of the boss by 20%. A good DD would still stay 8 second on the boss and then move away. A person who is learning the fight would move away after 6 second and not wipe the raid, just prolong the fight a little bit.

The difference is that you don't have to react in a split second and everyone can deside for himself how long he is comfortable to stay on the boss.

Yes, bad player will still get themself killed. But it's a difference between a bad player and someone who isn't able to react within split seconds under pressure. (Bad player probably don't even exist, they just have different priorities then you.)

Paul said...

Maybe LFR raids should have all the same mechanics, but instead of wiping the raid, they give the player who failed a debuff that reduces their loot roll at the end of the fight.

Shintar said...

Great post, looking forward to the follow-up!

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with a few of your points. I do not consider myself a "raider" by any stretch of the imagination. I did some Naxx and ICC in WOTLK with friends. I found it frustrating and unfulfilling. Heigan always killed me, I desperately despise those types of mechanics. I agree with the comment that there should be some sort of intuitive grasp to it. "Don't stand in the fire" I get. "move from here to here to here or you die", I don't.

I ran black temple last night and I had a pretty good time. A bunch of 85's nuking lvl 70 content was pretty fun. I'd like to kill the lich king, just to see it. I think this should be incorporated into LFR, the content is out there, why waste it? I want the T4 shoulders for transmog on my paladin but can't quite solo Gruul's lair.

I am one of those players who finds cata too "hard". Its not that I don't like effort or want purple pixels. I think transmog is a great idea because I want my guy to look cool but still be "functional". I have a pretty stressful job and I just like to run through and mindlessly beatdown mobs. Dying isn't fun. CC isn't fun. Killing stuff and getting rewarded is fun.

I fully intend to buy MoP unless it takes too long. Lets be honest, star wars is coming out soon, and if blizz takes too long, unless it turns out to be a steaming pile, I think those players who leave won't come back.

Klepsacovic said...

@Injera: Where to draw the line is tricky, but it's clear that there is a line. Imagine taking 40 level 85s back to Molten Core. Sure, they are in a raid and have a lot of people, but would it evoke the sense of raiding?

@Kring: "A good design would be to make the overcharge a 10 second cast" Effectively building in to the fight the expected raid warning of "overcharge in five seconds" which is what we'd use if it was a 2 second cast. Clever.

@Paul: Given variance in strats, it might be hard for the server to figure out exactly who failed.

@Shintar: Thanks. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

@Anonymous: Why make 'raid' content for a non-raider? It seems more economical to make small group content which can be enjoyed by non-raiders and raiders as well. Trivialized raids won't appeal to raiders. For non-raiders, they might be for to go in and kill once, but why ever go back? That seems like an equal waste of content.

Injera said...

I agree there's a line - if Civ 6 consisted of, say, running a petting zoo from 4000 BC to 2100 AD I think you could make a point that it was "no longer Civ." But at some point, if they keep going the petting zoo route until Civ 11 and then bring back the empires, you're going to have a second set of people saying, "this isn't Civ anymore" as well.

"Trivialized raids won't appeal to raiders. For non-raiders, they might be for to go in and kill once, but why ever go back? That seems like an equal waste of content."

If you define "raider" up and "trivial" down, sure, but there have been WoW raids that "non-raiders" have loved and enjoyed. Look back at Tobold's criteria. How many fights in Kara violated any of those points? Was Kara a waste of content?

Klepsacovic said...

Karazhan was not a waste because it brought people back over and over. It was certainly a raid, due to needing coordination and planning to overcome significant challenges. This may merely be a semantic argument, but I don't think it brought in many "non-raiders", but rather it brought it new raiders. I mean sure, it had plenty of raid-hating badge-wanters, but I think for many people Karazhan was a small first raid that got them hooked on raiding. It certainly was not equivalent to an easymode, randomly formed raid.

Injera said...

Yeah, it was a bit of a rhetorical question; the "non-raiders" of Kara were raiders just like the "non-raiders" of ICC+30%. Both raids were definitely "easymode" relative to other raiding challenges, but they were still raids. That's why I disagree with what you said at the top:

"But raiding is not an inclusive activity. Raiding is not something that should reach out and embrace you and invite you in. Nor should it demand that you do it. It should just be there, silently waiting, possibly giving you a hostile glare until you meet its standards."

Great prose, but as the popularity of Kara/Wrath raids showed, there is a huge demand for raids that are inclusive, and invite some inexperience, imperfection and chaos. To continue the analogy, raids with beer goggles.

The issue, as I see it, is the randomly-formed part: they drop a barrier to entry, but are likely to replace it with callousness. The only constant demand of raiding has been that you need to find a stable group of like-minded individuals to participate. Remove that, and I can see how "raiding" might cease to be raiding.

Klepsacovic said...

You're probably right, that it is the LFR component that is the problem, not the raid difficulty. But I guess I've grown tired of complaining about the randomly anonymous group formation. I just take for granted that by now, people either think it is bad or isn't.

But I still want to push the "easymode" aspect. Was Karazhan easier than later raids? If we could somehow factor out raid size*, I think Karazhan would be a pretty strong challenge relative to other raids. It's also worth considering that Karazhan was the first raid of the expansion; just by that we can expect it to be easier. Compare it with MC or Naxx and then those with the later content. ICC was the final raid of the expansion and if it followed the pattern of previous raids would have been even harder than it was (I found it pretty challenging before the 30% buff).

* The smaller a group, the greater the ability to asses individual accountability, making it easier and faster to fix mistakes. In the simplest form, imagine that each person makes one wipe-causing mistake. A 10-man will have 10 wipes while a 25 will have 25 wipes, even if both groups have the same error rate per player.

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