Monday, May 26, 2008

Thoughts on Raid Schedules

I've noticed that there are very few 25-man raiding guilds that only raid for one or two days. There's probably a significant portion of the audience that would be happy in this type of guild, and it seems a little bit unusual that these guilds are so rare. I think that there are two reasons for the lack of 1 or 2-day raiding guilds: the nature of guild leaders; and the pressure to do more.

Guild leaders, by their very nature, tend to be a little more hardcore than normal. After all, starting and running a guild is a great deal of work and effort. As well, they tend to play a fair bit. People who are only online one or two evenings generally feel that they aren't able to devote enough time to the guild.

Because guild leaders play so much, they tend to shape the guild so that it matches their schedules. If they want to raid four days a week, that's what the guild works toward.

The other reason is that there is a constant pressure on a guild to do more. Every extra day you can add to the schedule makes you better off. An extra day of farming, or an extra day of boss attempts, sounds enormously appealing. A lot of times I've seen a guild start with small raid schedule, and then realize that, hey, if we add another raid day, we could farm Kara for badges, or have two days for boss attempts, and their raid schedule balloons.

Lately, I'm coming to the opinion that a non-hardcore raiding guild should ideally raid one less day than it is fully capable of. For example, if your guild absolutely cannot raid for five days, but you can for four, I think you should raid three days of the week. Having that extra slack can go a long ways towards combating fatigue and burnout.

I think the next major innovation in MMO game design will be an pressure or force that compels you to do less, and is one which is willing accepted by the player base. For example, you could always brute-force it, and say that you can only ever be saved to one raid instance at a time, but the player base would howl. I have no idea what this force could be, but I believe it will be key to the success of the MMO that dethrones WoW.

22 comments:

Shalkis said...

Having successfully raided BT/Hyjal with a three-day schedule, I agree. Rest is needed to combat burnout. Also, on many occassions the lack of time is not the root cause that's preventing you from killing that boss.

pugnacious priest said...

The raiding schedules seem to have been excelerated as attunements were dropped, at least for the guilds that were on the cusp of entering BT and Hyjal anyway - Normally guilds wouldn't progress that fast unless they had finished with an instance naturally.. they would have to have completed ssc to progress, I like your idea about restricting instances, but it would have to be more then one.. but I think at least on a 25 man scale the rostering would be a nightmare.

Dworz said...

Efficiency, is what that innovation in MMO design inevitably has to be about... give guilds rewards for doing more things in the same timeframe rather than just rewarding time input.

A design like that would force people to actually become better at what they do, rather than just doing it over and over again -- you'd always have to keep focusing and even farm raids would still be a challenge.

I'm not entirely sure of how to do that without adding more stress in the form of time limits and such, but it should be possible, I guess that ties into how instances are designed.

Shalkis said...

Efficiency, is what that innovation in MMO design inevitably has to be about... give guilds rewards for doing more things in the same timeframe rather than just rewarding time input.
Actually.. trash respawns were Blizzard's attempt at pacing raid encounters. If you hit trash respawns, you're doing it wrong. If you can't kill the boss in an hour or two, you probably aren't going to kill him even if you spend a few more hours at it.

But of course, players did not see that and complained loudly. Blizzard responded by ridiculing the players by introducing Molten Core 2.0 at Blizzcon. No trash, just hard bosses (like 2x C'thun) on a silver platter.

Dworz said...

Well, there's a very important difference there. Trash respawns punish you if you're taking too long, by making you take even longer... it's a way to slow the pace when learning an instance.

There's still no "reward" as such, for managing to do more content quicker, regardless of whether that content is farm or progression stuff for you.

Essentially a guild that clears SSC one boss per raid night (say 2 and a half hour raid per night) can still kill the same amount of mobs as a guild that clears SSC in 3 hours, and get exactly the same rewards.

Rohan said...

Efficiency, such as the ZA timer, is not "doing less", it's "doing more faster." It might be a good idea to promote efficiency more, but it's not the mechanic or pressure I'm looking for.

If you clear SSC in one night, that just means there's an extra night for more new boss attempts, or maybe hit up Gruul and Magtheridon to fill out the raid gear and a shot at a DST or something.

Honors Code said...

I think that timer rewards are the way to go. Then the game becomes more about what you can get done in 3 hours rather than how many days you can throw yourself at the content.

Dyermaker said...

The ideas you foster run counter to the goals of an MMO. They want you to play more, a reason to come back the next month and spend your money. If 10 million people could finish their play in three hours, how would this occupy the time of the people who want to play every day? Simply, they would be bored and find something else to do. The need to push out new content would become increasingly accelerated, a schedule Blizzard of all corporations certainly could never match.

Additionally, when you suggest that efficiency is the goal of raiding you are certainly overlooking some significant areas that are hurt by those goals. Hybrids have traditionally been squeezed from content for the sake of efficiency. Over time that squeeze has certainly frustrated many classes in turn.

People raid multiple nights because raiding is fun. People set limits to the schedule of raids because they live in a real world and need to make certain that everyone can make the same commitment to that raid. The fewer raid nights you have, the larger your pool of raiders has to be. Seriously, you might think otherwise, you are hamstrug to a greater degree if someone is missing. One day called off for a holiday is 50% of a raiding schedule for one guild, 20% to one that raids more frequently.

The key is not expecting the game to cater to one extreme or the other. Find a schedule that works for you, then find others who also share that schedule. If its two nights, 5 nights, 24x7... the only way you'll have long term success is to find people that want to move at the same pace.

As I often compare WoW raiding to softball leagues... you cannot expect to have a team when one person is going out trying to throw 100 mph fastballs and others are running the bases with a beer in their hand. Combine the two and someone is getting pissed off. Find others who want the same thing and you'll have a great time.

Ngita said...

As you get a instance on farm, you tend to spend more time on farm and get less time on bosses. We have been a 2 day a week raiding guild. Thats not counting kara-mags which are often semi-pug and self organised. But this last week we have had two add a 3rd day just because we spend so much time clearing and farming. Killing 13 bosses in 2 days doesnt leave much time to learn the 14th. But at the same time we cant drop a instance because lots of people are still wanting teir drops and non set.

Shalkis said...

There's still no "reward" as such, for managing to do more content quicker, regardless of whether that content is farm or progression stuff for you.
I agree that trash mobs are all stick and no carrot, but I'd consider "managing to do more content quicker" to be a reward in itself. It makes your goals easier to reach if you're an explorer, achiever or killer (in the Bartle archetype sense). However, efficiency is counterproductive if you are a socializer, because then you get to spend less time with your friends.

As you get a instance on farm, you tend to spend more time on farm and get less time on bosses. We have been a 2 day a week raiding guild. Thats not counting kara-mags which are often semi-pug and self organised. But this last week we have had two add a 3rd day just because we spend so much time clearing and farming. Killing 13 bosses in 2 days doesnt leave much time to learn the 14th. But at the same time we cant drop a instance because lots of people are still wanting teir drops and non set.
Yes, that kind of thinking quickly leads to the assumption that raiding BT/Hyjal requires an unmaintainable and unhealthy raiding schedule. You can alleviate the effects somewhat by increasing the efficiency of the farming runs, but there are other alternatives.

Amava said...

Right on, Brother. You've hit the nail on the head. Perfectly. I, too, have no idea what that "do less junk, do more fun" innovation will be, but the company that invents it will be the champion.

My guild raids 3 nights per week. That took major negotiations with the guild master to whittle it down to 3, as his desire was 5 nights when we first started Karazhan.

Kara is on farm, but takes us about 4.5 hours, which means we do it in 2 nights (we stick strictly to a 3 hour max limit to a single raid session). We hit Zul'Aman on the third night.

Trying to progress in ZA in just a single night per week is slow. So there's some pressure to open it up to 4 raids per week, with the stipulation that its "only until Kara is a 1-night clear"

Baloney. Once we open the door to 4 nights, there will be no going back, followed by mass burnout.

Honestly, the only other example in life that I had a recreational pursuit where a large group of other people was depending on me more than a single night per week was back in the good old days of High School Sports. Even at a "casual" three nights per week, the burden is there.

I don't think many people really put perspective on juggling any or all of: job/school, family, significant other, exercise routine, managing a household (whether single, double, or large family), parenting a child, caring for a pet, PLUS being a reliable member of a raid team 3 nights a week, PLUS all the raid prep that's required, PLUS doing any other in-game stuff that you enjoy.

There's too much peripheral activity that is needed for raiding for WoW to co-exist with a healthy, balanced life, and I fully support a MMO that provides just as much fun, with some innovative way to comfortably support balance.

Shalkis said...

Kara is on farm, but takes us about 4.5 hours, which means we do it in 2 nights (we stick strictly to a 3 hour max limit to a single raid session). We hit Zul'Aman on the third night.

Trying to progress in ZA in just a single night per week is slow. So there's some pressure to open it up to 4 raids per week, with the stipulation that its "only until Kara is a 1-night clear"

Baloney. Once we open the door to 4 nights, there will be no going back, followed by mass burnout.

You know.. it is possible to skip Karazhan and give more time to Zul'Aman without increasing the total time spent. Try temporarily scaling back Karazhan and see if you can get some new bosses in Zul'Aman down. If you can, great. More of Zul'Aman is now your farm content and people who are waiting for that one final upgrade from Karazhan can now get much better upgrades from Zul'Aman. If you happen to hit a gearcheck, you can always go back to Kara, farm it some more and later make a new push at Zul'Aman.

3x3 hours raiding can be done, but not if you keep wasting time on instances which offer only incidental upgrades. You don't regularly clear pre-70 instances either, now do you? Or Naxxramas, Blackwing Lair, Molten Core, Zul'Gurub or Ahn'Qiraj..

Anonymous said...

I don't think i could do more than 1 day a week.. i mean really a raid night is like a 4-6 hour straight gaming night.. i don't think the majority of people can invest that much time 5 nights a week...

Cynra said...

I've done the five-to-six days a week raiding thing and I'm glad to be out of it! I currently raid four days a week, though I wish my priest's raid would stop branching out to Hyjal and Black Temple when we've got two other days we're raiding Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.

My hunter's raid group is absolutely phenominal and I can never say enough good things about them. They raid a single night a week; mind you, it's for five hours, but it's wonderful to be able to get so much done in a single night. We do Serpentshrive Cavern one week and then Tempest Keep the other. Within a single month we were 3/4 and 5/6. That's a grand total of ten hours in each instance, done in four nights of raiding.

What really is awesome is that few of the people in the raid were active raiders pre-TBC. In fact, many of them didn't even join the game until the expansion came out! However, they're dedicated individuals who maximize the amount of time they spend online by planning everything outside of the game. They review specs, theorycraft, talk with fellow raiders and knowledgable class individuals, and research boss strategies. That way, we're in, we're prepared, and we've accomplished a hell of a lot in such a short time.

And concerning dedicated guild leaders and arranging around their schedule, that's not always true! When I managed my old guild, I was raiding outside of the guild because they were all casual players. When they wanted to jump into 10-man content, I had to rearrange my raiding schedule, drop out of raids that I was a long-time member of, and missed out on a raid that hit Mount Hyjal and Black Temple well before the 2.4-nerfs -- just to raid with my guild.

And I love the idea of timer rewards such as the ones used in Zul'Aman. It increases the challenges of instances after you've already downed the bosses. It's a new level of mastery.

Shalkis said...

I don't think i could do more than 1 day a week.. i mean really a raid night is like a 4-6 hour straight gaming night.. i don't think the majority of people can invest that much time 5 nights a week...
A raid doesn't have to be 4-6 hours without pauses in the middle of the night. But you're absolutely correct in that 5 nights of 4-6 hour raids would be too much for most people.

sylus said...

I totally agree to the " burn out " that guilds can go through when they take on as much as they can. It gets taxing, and real life usually suffer(if they have one anyway, that's another story!)

Great blog, very informative, and even though you are alliance, you're still tops!

Damion S said...

In my opinion, the real culprit are gated raid instances. In order to get your swings in on Vashj, you have to spend 2-4 hours killing the other 5 bosses. This definitely caps you out, and contributes mightily to burnout (since you spend a lot of time killing bosses that no longer drops meaningful loot for anyone).

Rohan said...

damion, I sort of agree and disagree with what you are saying. What you are describing is true if you go 3/4 TK before starting Vashj. For one thing, that generally means you take an extra evening to do TK bosses, and you are getting the 5/6 SSC loot while learning TK (or getting the 3/4 TK loot while learning SSC).

On the other hand, if you skipped TK and went straight to Vashj, the earlier SSC loot would have always been useful. And you would have reclaimed that extra evening for more attempts on Vashj, which would lower the number of weeks it takes to learn Vashj, and lower the number of weeks you earn early SSC loot.

All around, I think everything works a lot more smoothly if a guild skips TK until Vashj is beaten. Unfortunately, because Void Reaver was accessible and so easy, I really think it warped the T5 raiding scene.

Most guilds don't think about time as a cost when raiding, and choose targets based on fight difficulty. And that makes scheduling hard, because time costs are paramount there.

I don't think Blizzard expected everyone to jump around so much between the two instances in each tier. I think they designed each tier such that the "expected" path was to work on one instance at a time.

Kirk said...

Jumping around a bit...

One of the time costs so many multi-night guilds seem to ignore or forget is the outside time. Repairs are nothing, I'm speaking of restocking of consumables and farming gold for the next repair sequence or mats for the new recipe or, well, you get the idea. One of the not-so-hidden blessings of the wealth of dailies has been the drastic reduction in time needed outside the actual raid -- 10G per quest, 10-15 quests per hour, all means a couple of hours more than covers most repair and consumable bills.

Re the whole clearing thing, I've a bit of a wish in that regard, though the details are obviously tangled. See, I'd wish that at least the bosses, and possibly some of the trash, do no respawns till either the raid is cleared or it's reset by the raid leader. One of the things that drives the whole "push multiple nights" is just that - the fact that at a certain point it all resets regardless of where you are or what you've done. Sure, keep the minimal reset time to prevent overfarming.

And jumping sideways but related... one of the reasons for so much continued farming of lower raids, which as already mentioned is part of what keeps a raid-guild so extra busy, is the randomness and rarity of loot. As but one example, I've now seen Lurker killed close to 50 times, and still do not have a soulful earring. It's dropped twice, total, and I lost out both times. (Had the guild not collapsed I'd have gotten it not the next drop but the one after that.) My daughter - along with several other paladins, all comfortably clearing ZA and pushing into SSC, still run Kara frequently in the hopes the Triptych Shield will drop. You get the point, I think.

And I don't have a solution for that which doesn't have its own massive problems. Not, at least, in the WoW model. In non-WoW, I'd start with, "Every mob or boss carrying loot it can use will use that loot. And when you kill the mob/boss, you get the loot in damaged condition."

A member of a raiding guild HAS to spend some time outside the guild to compensate. And because of the randomness and rarity of many drops considered highly useful if not critical, raids pretty much have to spend time running in places that are at least nominally well below them in progression. And finally, raids have a "must finish" time or they have to start over. These are the things that drive most 25-man raid guilds to making WoW darn close to full-time job. Break those three problems and you've changed the model completely.

Anonymous said...

TBH, I've been looking for a new guild. The one I just quit raided 5 sometimes 6 nights a week for 5 hours a night. They weren't even that good either.

Instead I've come to find a Sunwell progressed guild that only raids 4 nighs a week and 4 hours a night.

Yane (Yet another night elf) said...

A raid leader (not actually the guild leader) pushing more and more and more is what happened to our guild.

I remember Blizzard mentioning somewhere that respawns were their way of saying time to call it a night and come back to try again. But many raid leaders just say "let's take a 5 minute break and then get ready to reclear".

Shalkis and I discussed it a bit here - http://anothernightelf.blogspot.com/2008/03/time-is-currency-of-wow.html

Ana said...

The first of many come-lately comments I'm sure...

There was a two-nights a week guild that attempted to get going on my server. The problem they ran into was that though there were an awful lot of two night per week players, finding two nights that overlapped for enough of them just became too difficult. It's easier to extrapolate from a higher number, the way most raiding guilds do - they set an official calendar and ask for a percentage attendance.

Ultimately, I know a lot of my folk are two night a week raiders. We raid three nights a week, and ask for 60% attendance (give or take). It's flubbing the boundaries a bit, but my W-Sun raider and my Fri-Sun raider would be disadvantaged if we went with an official two night schedule. This way we also keep the 80% attendance raider.

Hmm. I'd say that's ultimately what it comes down to, if I were to guess. I think generally raid schedules are less of a GL/RL push (though certainly the outline of casual or hardcore would come from that) and more of a "maximizing your options" type of situation -- widening the umbrella. It's a lot easier to get people for two nights in a three night calendar than for two nights in a two night calendar.