Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Transient Raids?

A number of commenters on A Transient Endgame have suggested that the Transient endgame shouldn't be the same as raiding, that it should be different content.

I don't think that is the best of ideas. First off, it's arguably the situation we have now, and that's what I'm trying to get away from.

Second, content creation, especially art and model creation, is expensive in terms of manpower. The more we can reuse art for both Transient and Extended content the more total content can be created.

Third, as I said in the post, but should have emphasized more, Transient content needs to be as close to a "First Class Citizen" as possible, without destroying the Extended endgame.  This is best accomplished if the differences between Transient and Extended content are as minimal as possible.

If it's same raid instance, it's the same art, the same bosses, the same story. I suggested using the same loot for similar reasons. Quality of loot is the key driver for PvE content. Quantity is less important. Transient raiding can be the same in all respects except difficulty, achievements, and quantity of loot.

As well, the main complaint about Transient content from Extended players is that the Extended players feel they have to run all this other stuff to keep up. Sharing raids immediately keeps the Extended player from being forced to participate in extraneous Transient content. But they can still run that content on alts if they want to.

Finally, Transient raiding is just a formalization of an existing practice. Pickup raids already exist, especially in Wrath of the Lich King.  The desire for that content is already there. We know that, if organizing a pickup raiding can be made easier and more successful, there is a ready audience for that content.

12 comments:

TyphoonAndrew said...

I agree - as making it different content will ensure that the extended players complete it. A large percentage are completion-ists by nature. If Blizzard creates new content for this they'd be mad not to participate.

Perhaps the point was to have separate content which is done by both? But then I'd say it is just cloning the current situation. better to have it the same base content.

I do still think that separate lockouts are needed though, as you may wish to practice in the easy stuff and execute the harder stuff in the same week, and the transient population needs the support from an active playerbase.

leskopet said...

My opinion is that Blizzard need to clearly separate content for Extended players (*1) from content for Transient players (*1). That doesn't mean that Transient players need to be completely excluded from Extended content or vice versa. They need their own end game, because I believe it'd be easier to tune progression and challenge that way.

I'll try to share my view on this matter.

What is the goal of the end game? To provide engaging and meaningful progression through challenging and fun content beyond the leveling minigame.

In classic WoW, Extended players had a meaningful raiding end game. Raid content was tiered and radiers couldn't skip raid tiers. Transient players had level cap dungeons, UBRS and Ony attunement chains, Dungeon Set 1 to Dungeon Set 2 upgrade quest line, Benediction/Anathema quest chains, summonable bosses in Silithus and heap of other content. Everybody was (more or less) busy and subs were going up.

In TBC, Extended players had a meaningful raiding end game. Raid content was tiered, but Badge gear enabled players to catch up with higher raid tiers easier. Transient players had a plethora of challenging heroic dungeons, daily quests, Arca nad Kara attunement quest chains, Skettis farming, raid event in Bash'ir Landing, summonable bosses in Razaan's Landing, or little things like Shartuul's Transporter event. Everybody was (more or less) busy and subs were going up.

Then WotLK came. Blizzard changed the overall difficulty of raid content, introduced hard modes, dropped tiered progression and allowed people to farm heroic dungeons to skip older raid tiers. Serious raiders blew through normal modes faster than Robert Downey Jr. through bottle of Dalaran Red. For Transient players the end game outside of daily questing and heroic dungeons was nonexistent. However, by lowering the difficulty of extended content, Blizzard allowed Transient players to enter raids, and therefore provided content for them. Everybody was (more or less) busy and subs were still going up, however synchronising progression and challenge for two distinctive group of players appeared to be a problem at times (see Naxx-80 or the ICC buff.).

Then Cata came and introduced harder normal mode raids. Extended players have a meaningful raiding end game, and heroic dungeons farming allows tiers to be skipped. For Transient players the end game outside of daily questing and heroic dungeons is nonexistent. However, by setting the difficulty bar for raids higher, Blizzard cut Transient players out and for the first time in WoW's history, these players are left without meaningful end game progression through content. They can kill a couple of easier raid bosses but when they hit the raid progression wall, they can only go back to farm two Troll heroics ad nauseam. In my opinion, majority of 900.000 lost subs (*2,*3) belong to this very group of players.

leskopet said...

(continued)

Blizzard realized that and in order to stop losing customers, they decided on short-term solution to artificially create transient content by lowering the difficulty of existing raids. They have pulled out the famous nerfbat and are swinging it left and right, alienating many Extended players in the process. Medium-term solution seems to be easy mode aka LFR raids.

In my opinion, the solution is to separate content for Extended players from content for Transient players, as it has been done before. Not only to implement easy mode raids or another bunch of achievements, daily quests and "cool pets and mounts", but either to go back to classic/TBC content model or to introduce a whole new type of end game for Transient players. Whether is this some advanced sort of Rift's zone-wide invasions, Guild Wars' 2 massive public raid bosses, The Secret World's server-wide puzzles or something different is another matter. Transient players need their end game which will provide engaging and meaningful progression through challenging and fun content.

The more Extended and Transient content are connected to each other, the more problems will be for Blizzard to synchronise overall progression and challenge.

Blizzard threw innovation out of Azeroth long ago. But now is the right time to make use of some of that 418 million dollars profit Activision Blizzard made in 2010 (*4) and put something fresh in the game.

(*1) http://blessingofkings.blogspot.com/2011/09/major-fault-line-in-mmo-audience.html
(*2) http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/2293-WoW-Loses-600k-Subscribers-Diablo-3-Beta-Q3-2011-Arena-Passe-Blue-Posts
(*3) http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/2400-WoW-Lost-300k-Subscribers-Patch-4.3-this-year-Blizzcon-2011-Tickets-Blue-Posts
(*4) http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20031311-17.html

(My apology for this wall of text.)

spinksville said...

"Second, content creation, especially art and model creation, is expensive in terms of manpower. "

I would argue rather that it's an investment, and designing raids specifically around the needs of transient raiders could pay off bigtime, because they're by far the largest group of players (potentially). Tweaking raids that were designed around the needs of a very different playstyle will never be as good a fit as a proper design.

gamingsf said...

"Transient players need their end game which will provide engaging and meaningful progression through challenging and fun content."

Had to comment on your comment Leskopet - spot on in my book. I really want Blizzard to step up to the plate now and bring out something new for transition players (i.e. me!) to do, but LFR raids is most definitely not the solution. I want interesting content that can be done with varied group size (say 2-5), preferably in the open world.

Some new variation on the elemental prequel events for Cataclysm might be a good idea - event chains that players can affect or counter.

Khrakan - Paladin, Shandris Realm said...

First off, congrats on a very engaging conversation.

I agree with a lot of what leskopet said. However, I recognize that building content or reusing content to create challanges appropriate to solo or transient play is an issue. Solo especially as you'd need to have challenges comparable to other solitare games but tailored so that ANY class could complete it...not sure that that is feasible given the variety that exists. The easy mode raid experience as a solution does seeme a poor substitute for tailored content for the transient. I am hazarding a guess, but Diablo III seems to be closer to what the Transient player wants - challenging solo or small group play that gives you a complete story line and rewards - certainly (as an ex-Diablo II player) it looks that way to me.

I am going to be interested to see if there's a large migration from WoW to Diablo for other like minded players. That presents an interesting challenge for Blizzard as they will be substituting a steady revenue stream for a big upfront pay day and whether, if such a migration occurrs, their business model can adapt and continue to support the high level of development effort required for their MMO's.

Kring said...

Very good comment, leskopet.

> Transient content needs to be as close to a
> "First Class Citizen" as possible, without destroying
> the Extended endgame. This is best accomplished if
> the differences between Transient and Extended content
> are as minimal as possible.

Actually, the question must be asked why transient players should get extended content changed to better fit their needs. Why not the other way around?

The alternative solution would be to design content for the biggest customer group and then see if they can tweak it a little bit to make it more interesting for extended players.

Redbeard said...

@leskopet-- I think you've hit the nail on the head with your analysis, although I'd go one step further and suggest that Blizz would rather have transients who aren't into the raiding scene go buy Diablo 3 instead.

In WoW, too many people think endgame = raiding when it doesn't have to be. Things like endgame attunements, class quests, and meaningful heroic instances can keep transient players busy for a long time. However, I think that the WoW devs themselves have bought into the concept of endgame = raiding, which is a shame.

Redbeard said...

@Khrakhan-- I thought the exact same thing about Diablo 3, and ended up posting an entry as such. That, I believe, is the real reason why Blizz is allowing for real money to purchase stuff in Diablo3: they recognize that they're going to have a migration of transients from WoW and they want to be able to get as much long term revenue out of them as possible.

Rohan said...

I'm not really certain I agree, Leskopet, at least with the examples you give.

5-mans exist now, just as they did in Vanilla. There's even multiple tiers of 5-mans now.

Dungeon 2 was created in response to numerous complaints that non-raiders had nothing to do. As well, I don't think it was entirely transient. From about the 45-min Baron run and up, you really had to do it in an organized guild group. It straddles the border of transient and extended content, in my opinion.

Benediction/Anathema and Rhok'delar required you to almost clear the first raid instance. It was content only available to raiders.

I'm not certain exactly how Silithus and the current Firelands dailies differ. To me, they seem rather similar and occupy the same space.

I don't think transient players were in a better situation in Vanilla/TBC at all. In fact, a great many of the issues we are facing now come out of attempts to solve the problem of non-raiders in Vanilla/TBC.

Ephemeron said...

Vanilla actually had an excellent implementation of Transient Endgame content in the form of 'raidable' 5-mans.

10-man Stratholme and Scholomance runs were fun and dynamic action-fests, yet despite the constant threat of mispulled patrols and stealthy Eyes of Naxxramas, the overall risk was to make them easily completeable by average General channel PuGs. This 'Easy' setting was further distinguished from 'Normal' mode by the inability to complete quests (which yielded very nice rewards). It was also very flexible: whether you succeeded or failed, you could join or create a new group right away without having to worry about lockouts. The loot came in form of drops rather than badges/points, so people who had no interest in doing the content (especially Extended raiders) weren't forced to participate.

The only thing missing was the automated cross-realm group finder (although many would argue that it was actually yet another advantage of the old system).

Awryt said...

One thing that extended players seem to forget about transient players is the effect they have on the economy. Crafting materials and lower level armor available on the AH largely comes from transient players. The people who pay for the BOE items that come from raids and points are largely transient players. If Blizzard can't keep those folks engaged and playing, what happens to the overall economy on servers? What happens when people who really just want to raid are forced to farm all their own materials and can't just buy them with the cash they make selling BOEs? I think that will make a lot of extended players unhappy.

The goal Blizzard has is to have options available that are interesting enough to each player type to keep them playing and engaged. The challenge to extended players is to see the advantages that a large and active transient player base offers them and stop getting upset that those folks want to see some raids or other content on a schedule and difficulty that works for them. Why do you care if others can get through content you already completed or get gear you already have? Why is there even an argument about the relative value of the "hardcore" versus "casual" player? We all contribute to the world environment and economy and to a certain extent we need each other to maintain our own play styles and kinds of fun.

Personally, I hope Blizzard is able to come up with content that keeps the casuals playing so we stop seeing our server empty as folks leave for other games based on the lack of content for them. However, I don't think a 25-man only LFR option is it. Anyone who has done BGs or randomed 5-mans knows there are plenty of folks out there you wouldn't want to have to spend 3-4 hours with in a raid. 10-man would seem to make more sense. Easier to organize and control and faster to fill rather than sitting in queue waiting for 25. The only real advantage to 25 is that it has a higher DPS to tank ratio than 10, so the tank shortage would be less of an issue.