I danced in the morning, when the world was begun

| Tuesday, January 24, 2012
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

In the morning...

The raid dancing is not new.

Before I get into things, I want to note that I am using the term "bad player". I mean this in a very broad sense of "players who do not contribute to the death of the boss". That could mean slow reflexes, ignorance of fight mechanics, inexperience, poor gear, etc. It's not a value judgement or a measure of intelligence. I'm not using it as such and frankly, people shouldn't. But people who extrapolate from game skill to real life qualities are a topic for another day.

Let's go with the danciest of the dances, the Heigan dance. The floor explodes in a pattern, so you move with it. Such a terrible Lich King-era fight. Except it was recycled content from vanilla. But late vanilla, let's use that excuse, and only have earlier fights count. In that case, let's try Ossirian the Unscarred in the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, where the raid was constantly moving to keep away from tornadoes and get the boss to the next available crystal, and clump up for meterors on the trash before him. Too late? Then let's go to Zul'Gurub and make sure everyone moves at the right time for bats and gets in the poison cloud just in time for Hakkar to drain them. It's still too late? Fine. We'll go to the very first raid and collapse for sons on Ragnaros, make our pretty ring of groups for Shazzrah, and get out of the fire from Gehennas. Alright fine, we'll go earlier, to Stratholme where you'd better get over here so we can AoE the skeletons and if you want something more dynamic we can go to BRD and better keep moving because these dwarves will respawn behind us in about 15 seconds, so stick to the clock and do not fall behind.

The dance has been there. But maybe the dance has changed. Maybe it's a dancier dance. A costlier dance. Ah... let's try that.

Failing to collapse for Sons of Ragnaros would likely get you killed or at least OOM and in a lot of pain, as well as putting one out of position for the AoE. Not a raid-wiper. Be out of position on Arthas and a Val'kyr will drop you off the side and a puddlefire is going to kill everyone. Dying as one of 40 makes you look like an ass, but is it the end of the attempt? No. Dying as one of 25 and killing everyone else is the end of the attempt. There's the change: the cost of failure has gone up.

Tobold had a useful classification which I can't find, but it roughly divided raids into three types: One stressed a few pre-selected players (Garr banishers, jugglers in ICC), another stresses the average (any DPS check), while the last stresses the worst players (puddlefire on Arthas). The first allows for good players to carry the raid, whether with good or bad players, meaning that if you can find a few solid players, they aren't likely to leave because the raids are succeeding. The second allows good players to carry bad players, but they must make an extra effort (or tuning must be low enough), so that they may down the boss but still feel cheated. Finally the last encourages serial dumping of the lowest players because no one can help them and even gear may not fix the problem.

I think WoW has been shifting from the second category (average) with some use of superstars (seriously, I was awesome at banishing, I even figured out how to make it something worth bragging about because I was so awesome) to ever more of the third type.

This doesn't make fights harder for people who need harder fights. It just makes failure more likely.

A good player isn't pushed any harder when the rest of the raid can screw things up for him. A bad player possibly cannot get better, being at some limit of reflexes or how much they care to learn or practice (everyone has their limit, but of course anyone lower than you is lazy). There may be some who are able to be good but have not yet been challenged, possibly quite a lot of them. In that case, the second category is a way to challenge them without making their lower performance the death of the raid. But for players who aren't very good and aren't going to be better, putting burdens on them is utterly pointless, worsening the game for both bad players (who now wipe) and good players (who wipe or have to waste time finding new players).

Ironically, as addons have gotten better at tracking DPS, DPS has become less important. Reverse that damnable trend! Have more DPS fights and yes, the much-maligned tank-and-spank. This allow the best players to prove their mastery of their classes (or badge grinds) without shoving everyone else out of the raiding scene. Have more fights where a few good players can carry the tricky parts, so they can shine without having to kick the duller players. Better and worse players can coexist, but the raid design puts them into competition rather than cooperation.

And let me put my banish key to work again, with a curse ticking on the boss and my healer bored with no damage to heal. Just don't ask me to move out of the puddles.


Syl said...

You speak the truth. and I guess to summarize we could say too that from the 'good players' perspective, the major frustration about today's raid design is the increased helplessness in making the difference and help out. I'd go out on a limb here and say the majority of good players WOULD happily carry / make up for the bad ones and want all their mates to be able to stay in the same guild. but encounter design really makes it impossible and forces many guilds into acting more l33t/selective than they truly wanna be.

which is exactly what we said already in early TBC, when raid size decreased: now we cannot bring the clowns anymore, the good peeps that maybe didn't always bring the A-game. and that is a shame from a social standpoint, creates lots of bad blood in raids and sucks for recruitment.

if you really want to roll with unforgiving encounter design to such individual level, you better make sure the selective mechanisms of ever reaching that part of the game are active very EARLY into the game. ofc WoW's the opposite there and that's the big contradiction.

Stabs said...

What an interesting analysis and I'm sure it's right.

Why do you think they decided to shift the focus on the performance of the worst players?

Syl said...

Maybe that wasn't so much the intention, as trying to equalize the share of responsibility after vanilla (for which really must be said that balance between tanks/healers vs. DPS was mostly off). it was probably meant well but overdone to the extreme.

similar to the phrase and idea behind "fairness is to treat everybody exactly the same" - no, it ain't. not in a real world social context, nor a virtual one. individual conditions & abilities must be considered, leeways must exist, the big picture evaluated. why? for one thing for the sake of the individual - but also: if not, the result is in fact detrimental to everybody. WoW is quite a remarkable example.

Klepsacovic said...

As Syl alluded to, the focus wasn't so much on the worst players as the entire raid, to say that everyone must meet X standard. It may have also been part of the endless search for more fight mechanics to keep raiding from getting too repetitive. I think it was inevitable that they would at least try out some "everyone moves with this pattern" mechanics. Maybe they didn't need to stick with them or have such harsh penalties to the entire raid.

Injera said...

Interestingly, they have reversed this quite a bit with Dragon Soul. There's still some individual effort (e.g., using your cooldown on Ultraxion or Madness, protecting the ship on Warmaster) and raid-wide dancing (Warmaster, ball guy, Spine, etc) but there's basically nothing where if you don't react within 1.5-3 seconds you can individually wipe the raid (or even die), which is a huge departure from T11 and T12. Likewise, dps/healing checks are much more evident, especially in the second half of the raid. That might change in later heroic modes, but for the fights I've seen (all of normal and 2/8 heroic) it's been the case... and it's much appreciated. :)

Klepsacovic said...

That's very good to hear. Maybe the devs will move back toward the older models in some sustained way. Now if I could convince them on a few other major design methods...

Anonymous said...

By moving to the third category everyone in the raid is accountable for the raids success and the weakest link can mean a wipe.

However, blizzard wants content to be accessible so they've made the "test" for those players to be extremely easy. The bar is so low you can trip over it in LFR. If the weakest link can wipe the raid then we better make sure that we don't do anything with mechanics that even the weakest can't get over.

Hence encounters like Ultraxion that require everyone to push a button when something happens - and yet whether you push it or not has no affect on raid success in LFR because they tuned the damage down to nothing.

croana said...

I'm not sure I agree with that analysis of Dragon Soul, at least not as far as heroic modes are concerned. Sure, LFR and normal mode are at such a nerfed level at the moment that it's pretty easy to plow through those instances. LFR is, of course, the extreme, where it isn't uncommon to see half the raid in pvp gear or heirlooms. Normal mode was also not a real challenge, as the dps and healing check is low enough that two or five deaths during an encounter make little or no difference to actually clearing the raid.

Heroic modes are a completely other story. The dps check is often so high that even one death could mean that our group won't be able to beat the enrage timer. And those deaths come easily and often. Morchock, the easiest of the bosses, is very easy to wipe on if people don't move to the crystals exactly at the correct time. Every time. Hagara, the second easiest, requires an exact "seating order" for the lightning phase. One person out of place and the raid wipes. Let alone the confusing kill and grouping order for the oozes and abilities on Yorsahj, the timing of the roll on Spine, the usage of defensive cooldowns by dps classes Ultraxion, or the cone ability from Blackhorn. It has never been so easy to wipe a raid on so many fights in one raid instance, quite honestly.

The biggest problem is that normal and LFR do very little to prepare players for the dance required in heroic mode, so many guilds on my (small) server have been stalling entirely after the initial gearup phase.

croana said...

looks like I can't edit the post, but yeah, this was @Injera.

Anonymous said...

Probably the worst thing about LFR Ultraxion is that there are players who know they have to click the button, but choose not to so they can DPS for an additional two seconds.

Then before long you have ten guys getting blasted on every HoT phase and each thinking they're super clever, the damage ramps up at the end, one of them is killed, and they start cussing out the Fail Healers.

Which is not to say that Fail Healers don't exist, but that's a story for another day.

Klepsacovic said...

That's counter-productive, teaching people that the mechanics mean nothing. Instead they should have full penalties but lower difficulty, so they learn that the mechanic is important, even if it isn't very difficult.

Anonymous said...

"Normal mode was also not a real challenge, as the dps and healing check is low enough that two or five deaths during an encounter make little or no difference to actually clearing the raid"

pray tell us on which normal fights five deaths do not cause a wipe.
(unless these 5 deaths happen on the last 15%-10% of the fight...)

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