Monday, November 22, 2010

Followup To Raiding Styles

From the comments on the last post.

One issue with focus though is how new raiders will learn the ropes. It used to be that older learning instances were still in the rotation (so you'd join a guild which ran them). If people are coming straight in to the latest raid, where do the learning instances fit in?

I am beginning to wonder if new raiders actually need learning instances. I think that on the institutional, or guild level, learning instances are important. But for an individual raider, it seems like individual raiders can learn quickly when integrated into an already experienced group.

Yeah, they don't know the tricks and shortcuts. You can't go "This boss is like Chromaggus crossed with Illidari Council". But individuals not having done the learning instances doesn't seem to have significantly hurt, at least in my experience. It's actually kind of shocking to go into Ulduar with someone you think is an extremely experienced raider, and she starts picking up the basic achievements.

This is just the individual level, though, and on Normal modes. Exposure to the experienced group seems more important than exposure to previous content. However, I'm not sure throwing a group of people who have never raided before into ICC will really work.

There are middle ways like: standard progression but every month all existing raids get a 5% ICC-like buff. So imagine the old MC-BWL-AQ40-Naxx way, but one year after start MC has a +60% heal, HP, damage buff and BWL has +30%.

I think this kind of cuts against the whole progression idea. The idea is that every group encounters content in more or less the same difficulty. I really don't see any difference between getting i251 gear and going back a tier vs a 60% buff.

If there's going to be a 60% buff, why bother making them do the old content at all? May as well just point them to the current content content and tell them to have at it.

I don't understand how the WotLK raiding system helps people see more content by skipping to the last raid of the cycle.
In both styles, you are not seeing content. So I don't understand at all how that somehow becomes a part of equation.

The difference is in Wrath, you don't do earlier content by choice. Your ICC guild can always go back and run through Naxx and Ulduar for fun. Odds are you'd be able to complete it fairly easily. My own guild did Yogg+1, Yogg+0, and got someone a Valy'nar at the end of the expansion.

In Vanilla/TBC, the upstream content was pretty much blocked. Once a guild was stuck, it was stuck. There was no aspect of choice involved at all.

If MC was dropping 6 items per boss instead of 3 when AQ40 came out, new players and less progressed guilds would have been able to catch up faster without getting a free skip-all-old-content pass.

I don't think I agree with this. In my experience, by the time your guild reaches a boss, you have enough loot to beat that boss (excluding edge cases with the Royalty guilds). Loot is very rarely the true stalling factor.

Now, you can use loot to overpower fight, but that generally requires loot from higher tiers. The current tier of loot is almost never enough. If you are stuck on a boss in a progression-style, the kill usually comes through improved execution or an improved strategy.

Do Hard Modes change things?

One thing to consider is that Vanilla/TBC didn't have hard modes. It's quite possible that the guild-killer bosses we all know and love would really be a Hard Mode in the Wrath environment. Perhaps the Normal mode progression chain would be enough to keep guilds from stalling out.

Obviously a lot of the Aristocracy and Gentry guilds would leave Hard Modes unfinished when the next tier came out. And a new guild would probably ignore Hard Modes altogether until it got caught up. They would do Naxx-normal, Ulduar-normal, TotC-normal, and ICC-normal. There really isn't a Vael or a Vashj in that path to really get stuck on.

Other issues and thoughts

But that doesn't solve the recruitment issue. For a guild in the ICC tier, being able to recruit relatively new 80s is a huge boon. It makes life a lot easier than poaching from the TotC or Ulduar guilds would be. But if progression is in place, if you need to do TotC before ICC, then obviously an ICC guild must recruit someone in a TotC guild, or run old content to gear them up.

Maybe a different change would help. What if, when TotC came out, Naxx gear was automatically upgraded to Ulduar ilevel? And when ICC came out, Naxx and Ulduar gear was upgraded to TotC level? This would mean that Naxx and Ulduar are not entirely obsoleted. But perhaps Naxx would become the zone of choice, because it is easier than the other two but would provide the same reward.


  1. I think my preferred method at this point would be a hybrid system where you could unlock the next tier by completing the current tier, either as an individual or a guild. If you clear Naxxramas, you can run Ulduar. If you then get into a guild who has cleared ToC, you can run ICC. If you leave the guild, you're back to what you've achieved on your own. You could pug your way through the content, or a top guild could recruit a fresh 80 and bring them right in. Fixes the recruitment problems without completely doing away with progression.

  2. Not really, because the fresh 80 has to be reasonably geared. That's the main reason you recruit from the tier right below you. It's not just a matter of "unlocking" the instance.

    The point is that the Wrath style allows the fresh 80 to solo her way to the proper gear level for entering the current tier.

    Second, the more you divide up people, the harder it is to form groups. If you have 10 people, maybe they could all form 1 PuG. But if they're all at different stages of content, then no groups can be formed. A single large pool of players is best way for ad hoc groups to be created. Dividing that large pool into smaller pools makes forming groups harder, exponentially.

  3. @Rohan: what you write is (in my opinion) one of the main reasons why WoW is kicking the ass of many other MMOs out there. You can recruit a friend and in a short time he can play with you/your guild.
    Player stratification is bad for a multuplayer game, as grouping becomes harder. Additionally, if there's a long progression to the top, new players will be put off from joining.

  4. You could change how loot works and instead of inflating loot with every tier only add a new stat per tier which is only relevant for this tier. Imagine the following item from Naxx:

    100 Sta
    100 Str
    100 Crit

    In Ulduar the following replacement would drop:

    100 Sta
    100 Str
    100 Crit
    100 Ulduar Protection

    You would need something like 1000 Ulduar Protection to be able to beat Yogg Saron in its intended strength.


    100 Sta
    100 Str
    100 Crit
    100 Ulduar Protection
    100 TOC Protection

    You would need something like 1000 TOC Protection to be able to beat Anub'Arak in its intended strength.

    In ICC the following replacement would drop:

    100 Sta
    100 Str
    100 Crit
    100 Ulduar Protection
    100 TOC Protection
    100 ICC Protection

    You would need something like 1000 ICC Protection to be able to beat the LK in his intended strength.

    That would:
    - keep the power in check as your damage stats wouldn't inflate that much (you might pick up better itemized items)
    - keep heroics interesting as you wouldn't overpower them
    - make your power increase in your current tier which is all that really counts
    - new gear would be able to replace your old gear as the protection stat would be collected on the higher tier (you don't have to keep 4 sets per expansion)

    We had this before, it was a good idea but bad implemented. It was called (fire) resistance.

    Now mix and match your progression idea with that. Tiers could be unlocked by time or by achievement but you don't have to steal people from other guilds as heroic loot would be as good for ICC as TOC loot.

    You only have to run Vashj from time to time to get the attunement for the new players, if that's really what you consider fun. :)

  5. However, a factor you should consider is why would old raids being obsoleted be a bad thing anyway?

    A raiding guild only has 7 days in a week to raid, and more then likely, I would say that the average guild only raids 3ish hours 3~4 nights a week. Do you WANT to be spending a night or 2 rerunning the old instances? Or would you rather be working on the new one?

    People can (and do) run the old raids for fun. But if there was a required progression through the tiers, then you're basically forcing guilds to either add more nights to their raiding schedule, or take away time from the current tier.

    If they want to have people regularly run the old raids, then they should do things like they did with Sarth; have special rewards that are guaranteed drops if you do it a special way. A minimum of 25 weeks (on 25s, of course) after the instance is no longer relevant to get everyone their drake was pretty much adding half the expansion worth of use to Obsidian Sanctum. There's no need to try and shoehorn in some kind of "requirement" to progress through the tiers.

    I can't say that the current setup is bad at all. I quite prefer it, not just compared to Classic, but compared to Burning Crusade as well.

  6. I like the idea of raising the loot level of previous instances the best, but agree that a blanket leveling of ilevel would just create more "Karazhans" of maximum loot/hour. Perhaps the new justice point system will be a good compromise of raising the reward of old content just enough to get a bit more variety into raiding.

    For that matter, I wonder if it's necessary any more to have the tiers be so far separated in iLevel. What would have happened in WotLK if tiers had been separated by a mere 6-10 iLevel points instead of 18? The fact that each WotLK raid tier supported 3 different gear levels might have contributed to widening the gap between each tier. Perhaps Cata raids will also have a smaller tier gap.

  7. There already exists an incentive to run old content: achievements. I know my guild obsesses over achievements far more than we do the distribution of heroic 277/284 loot.

    As far as the whole "how will people learn?" argument - they will learn by doing. Running heroics isn't "soloing", it just feels that way when you've outgeared them by 4 tiers and don't need to think. My first raid was TOC, and by the 2nd week I was in ICC (doing terribly) - and there I got a crash course in raiding basics. If you are playing with people who have bad fundamentals, then teach them or find better people to play isn't a structural problem in the game. Stratifying the populace (and precluding potentially good players from getting to your level) is not the answer.

    @Kring - That is the worst idea I have heard since the Bush Administration.

  8. The notion that loot is "very rarely the true stalling factor" seems contradictory to the problem of farther progressed guilds needing to poach from lesser ones rather than recruiting fresh max level chars. The reason players are able to jump into ICC shortly after hitting 80 is because it's so quick and easy to get 251+ gear without doing any raids. They can't do it immediately though, so gear does matter.

    The best solution seems to be a combination of Kadaan's suggestion and what Rohan said in the section, "Do Hard Modes change things?" The ability to customize degree of difficulty does change things, or at least it can. If the ease of, and reward for completing easy modes makes them worth doing in lieu of some excessively repetitive heroic dungeon grinding, then they will be done, because it will be a more efficient path to the advanced raid instances. If the easy modes are easy enough, then even a sub-par guild won't have much chance of becoming stuck.

    I can think of two methods for changing things over time. The first is to gradually increase the amount of loot and/or justice points awarded for conquering earlier raids. The second is to gradually decrease the cost of lower tier loot from vendors. The best way might be some combination, and devs can tinker to get the ideal result, but either way, it should have the desired overall effect.

    Oh and by the way, Kring, I didn't think your idea was that bad, but it is about the most inelegant solution since Nixon's wage and price controls.

  9. "I really don't see any difference between getting i251 gear and going back a tier vs a 60% buff."

    The difference is perception. A player in 232 gear assumes they are ready for ICC level content - as that's what the content was designed for. A player in 226 gear would not assume they are ready for ICC. But - a player in 226 gear with a 30% buff in ToC, would have the same performance level of a player in 232 gear. The only difference being that the player does not FALSELY assume s/he is ready due to an arbitrary number on their character sheet.

    They can allow players to gear up quickly that have missed the main raid tide. Decrease the amount of Justice Points required to buy last month's gear, give a buff in older instances, whatever. This would provide a much smoother distribution of players in each tier of content (like the distribution of people and their ages) - as there would almost always be players running each tier of content. This also allows players to gear up quicker so they don't have to farm Ulduar for 3 months, just to get gear for ToC.

    Just straight up giving players ToC level gear, without them having done Naxx or Ulduar isn't allowing them to see MORE content, just different content. Doing this allows only 2 tiers of players - and each content release widens the gap. Like, now, there are basically 2 tiers of players. Those that can do ICC - and those that do 5 mans for JP.

    How is that a better system?

  10. I like the seed of Joscelin's idea. How about this:

    1) Create a badge for each tier of content (Badge of T7, Badge of T8...). This was already done in WotLK.
    2) Completion of the daily dungeon, weekly raid, and current raid tier bosses yield Badge of Current Tier
    3) All other badges are awarded based on your toon's progression. For killing previous tier raid bosses and dungeon bosses, you receive badges up to the tier prior to the current raid tier. Thus, if your toon has completed T8, you receive Badge of T8 for killing dungeon bosses. If you've cleared T10, you still only get T9.
    4) Advanced dungeons (ToC, FoS, PoS, HoR) have an attunement contingent on clearing the prior raid tier.

    You could tie it to either guild or individual progression, whichever is greater.

  11. The notion that loot is "very rarely the true stalling factor" seems contradictory to the problem of farther progressed guilds needing to poach from lesser ones rather than recruiting fresh max level chars.

    It isn't contradictory, because you gain loot as you move through the instance normally. It may take you a couple months to get to the end boss of an instance. Your raid essentially gets those two months worth of loot from that instance. That is enough to prepare you gear-wise for the boss you are working on.

    (Unless you are Paragon and blitzing bosses at the very edge of skill. But then you are Paragon, and we don't need to worry about you.)

    In contrast, a fresh 80 starts at zero. The loot you get from just working your way to the boss is enough, but the fresh 80 doesn't have that. That's why you poach from the lower guilds. You don't need amazing gear, but you do need someone with gear in the rough zone below the content you are targeting.

    As for the comments about the buff, why have progression if it's not close to the same experience everyone else had? To me, that's why we like progression, so that we all work our way through content, and share the same experiences.

    Giving a major buff just to speed people through content seems too close to jumping through arbitrary hoops for me. It's like saying "You have to do Ulduar before we let you into ICC, but don't worry, it's a bastardized version of Ulduar you'll blow through."

    That just seems pointless to me. May as well just let them jump straight into the current instance.

  12. I tend to agree that player stratification is a bad idea from the standpoint of the longevity of a MMORPG. Players - even incompetent bozos - need to feel they can accomplish something.

    That being said, if everyone gets a prize, then no one really gets a prize. If you can complete every bit of content in the game, then you really have no reason to continue playing the game.

    I think the real solution is to use the heroic system to create 'two-tiered' content. For most players, 'heroic' raids and dungeons will be extraordinarily difficult - and may well not be possible to complete at their skill/gear level. But sheer persistence will get them through all the 'normal' content in the game.