What is Accessibility?

| Monday, November 22, 2010
I will now describe the most accessible raid in the world.

Get 40 people, tanks, healers, and DPS, and go to Accessible Raid, a place in which the bosses do not hit hard and follow normal aggro rules with no phases, adds, or strange debuffs to worry about. The gear requirements are: the starting zone gear, so if you are wearing a single green, you are completely overgeared. There is no need for consumables. No key. No attunement. No strats to learn. Also there is a teleporter from every major city to the raid portal, which is next to a summoning stone in a sanctuary zone.

Now everyone can do this raid.

Oh. 40 people is too many? How about 10? You can't get that many healers? Fine, it's easy enough, just go solo it. But then it takes too long and you don't have time?

Okay, new Most Accessible Raid in the World: It is balanced for one player to faceroll it and takes five minutes, along with having all the previous features. And it can be accesses by a Solo Looking for Raid panel which will teleport you, just in case your computer cannot handle the lag in Darnassus.

Are you having fun yet?

Was that raid accessible or merely trivially easy? Where's the line, anyway?

Molten Core was fairly easy, but FR fights and occasional forced raid makeups meant that it wasn't accessible.
The original Naxxramas was hard and inaccessible with strange tank requirements and consumables so out of control that eventually Blizzard nerfed alchemy, seemingly just in response to Naxx.
Icecrown Citadel is harder than Molten Core and certainly more accessible. Well, that is unless you count the dozens of heroics to run to gear up for it. Suddenly it looks just as grindy as any MC FR gear run.

But what is accessibility? I'm still using this word that I haven't defined. To me, accessibility is the ability to walk into a raid and kill a boss. It's not a number and even ordinal ranking may be impossible, since what makes a raid inaccessible may vary between players. So maybe it's better to ask what makes a raid inaccessible. What makes it harder for players to walk into a raid and kill a boss?

Time, duh.
Number of players: as this goes up, so the time gets harder to manage as more and more schedules must overlap just right.
Specific player requirements such as a class, spec, or even just role, as anyone who called a raid due to lack of healers can testify to.
Gear, whether it's FR or EH.
Strategies which must be known ahead of time. By this I mean needing encounter-specific responses which must be done faster than a raid could be expected to figure them out on the fly or reasonably anticipate, such as needing a tank being something we should expect.

Reduce these and the raid is more accessible. But it will lose some fun. A very short raid will let people in, but may end up feeling insubstantial. Needing fewer players will do the same, but also constricts raid design and may hurt the enjoyment players get from working in large groups. Avoiding the need for specific classes also restricts raid design as well as risking homogenization of classes to fit raids. Reducing gear requirements may cause overgearing to happen too easily, trivializing fights and reducing the fun, while also causing players to burn through content even faster and quit that much sooner. Having strategies which can be figured out on the fly, meaning with sufficient buffers of time and health, may force encounters to be too easy, especially if players pull a second time knowing exactly what will happen.

Accessibility reduces fun, but it's also what allows us to get to that fun. Clearly this calls for quantification of both terms and the graphing of graphs with pretty lines to show optimum fun-accessibility points for criteria such as highest average fun over the population, highest fun over raiding population, and whatever will make the game designers richer, faster.


Anonymous said...

You might also add computer hardware to the list. If wow freezes or slows down during, say, Sapphiron's orb or Sindragosa's blistering cold, that reduces accessibility as defined here.

I don't know what it is in EoE phase 3 that causes so much heartache. It seems like even people that understand the fight screw up there with regularity. I don't think I've hit the enrage timer on any boss more than I have on Malygos.

Tesh said...

You're using another fuzzy term: "fun".

To some players, accessible *is* fun; they don't want to wipe every night for a month to figure out the place. They don't want to grind up an attunement, resilience gear set or whatever other stupid prequalification comes up. They just want to get in, kill an internet dragon with some friends, and go home with loot.

These players will never agree with the mosochist hardcore player's definition of fun.

Watching the industry, I'm firmly convinced that the former players are more common, much to the chagrin of the latter. Smart devs cater to both.

Klepsacovic said...

@Anonymous: Hardware, excellent point! That's one of the advantages WoW has had with its less-than-new graphics.

EoE phase 3 I think was mostly due to people being disoriented. It can be hard to tell distances and locations with no landmarks around, as when you're floating in space.

@Tesh: I am using a fuzzy definition. Maybe in that case the fun, that everyone can agree on, is killing the boss. I think many players would prefer the greater challenge/grind to get to that point, but who has time? Then of couse there are variations in patience and how much delays add to the perceived reward.

I don't think a dev can cater to both. But they can tweak things to make things bearable to one group and good for another. But I agree, the former group is definitely bigger, as seen by the huge success of WoW, and growing as it caters more and more to the former crowd.

Anonymous said...

Of course a game can cater to both. Just have one raid be "accessible" and another raid be "hard". If you're ambitious, you could even have more than 2 raids or allow scaling such that harder versions were available. I think they did this well with Ulduar hardmodes. The fallacy is in thinking that everything must be equally accessible or that that the end-boss needs to be beaten by anybody who fancies a go. I think TBC raids were on the right track in that Kara was reasonably easy to get into but BT or Sunwell wasn't.

Klepsacovic said...

I don't see how a player not seeing content counts as them being catered to.
"The fallacy is in thinking that everything must be equally accessible or that that the end-boss needs to be beaten by anybody who fancies a go."
While I don't personally think that every boss should be easy to kill or even killed by everyone, it seems obvious to me that making a boss that people can't kill is less accessible. I don't think that's a bad thing. In my imaginary accessible vs. fun graph, a boss that anyone and everyone can kill easily is a bad idea which wouldn't be much fun even for the people who do kill it.

Glyph, the Architect said...

"Okay, new Most Accessible Raid in the World: It is balanced for one player to faceroll it and takes five minutes, along with having all the previous features."

They already have this. It is called Hogger. And people still fail at it. With the exception of the portals bit.

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