Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Case Against Cross-Server Raiding

Big Bear Butt had a post last week decrying Blizzard's stance against cross-realm raiding in the current tier. Ghostcrawler tweeted that Blizzard was worried "about what it would do to guilds".  BBB generally disagreed with Ghostcrawler, and felt that cross-realm raiding would generally be good for the game.

Well, I'm here to outline the future where cross-realm raiding goes badly.

If you look at BBB's post, there's an underlying, unstated assumption. He assumes that if you need a raider for that last spot, you would pull from your guild, then pull from your cross-realm friends list, and lastly pull from trade chat on your server. That there is a priority list that goes:
  1. Guild
  2. Friends
  3. Strangers
Now suppose that assumption doesn't hold. Suppose with the advent of cross-realm raiding, the priority list becomes:
  1. Friends
  2. Guild
  3. Strangers
I.e. you pull from your friends list before you pull from your guild.

This would do immeasurable damage to WoW in the long run. If you're someone new to end game, how would you break into raiding? Right now, the path is you apply to a guild, and the guild takes you on runs. The application and acceptance does not require an existing friendship. Both sides understand that they are taking a chance on strangers.  

A lot of people don't like guild apps because they are impersonal, but that distance sometimes makes things easier. The guild app process provides a path where strangers can become friends through raiding together. Every new app is a stranger to the guild as a whole, not yet a friend.

In contrast, breaking into someone's circle of friends will be very hard. They'll be raiding with their friends, so you can't play with them. The barrier to entry for raiding could become much larger, and the barrier between strata of raiders could become even higher. If you're a Royalty raider, is it better to raid with another Royalty raider from a different server, or take an effective stranger from your current server?

Now, you could say that this future isn't likely, that no one will prioritize Friends over Guild. (Though, wouldn't many people say you should prioritize Friends over Guildies?) But one never knows how people will react. I would have never predicted everyone rolling Need in LFR, and subgroups funneling loot to their own members. And obviously, neither did Blizzard. But that happened.

As well, prioritizing Friends over Guild does provide two distinct advantages. First, you get to play with friends, as opposed to people who are still strangers. Second, your pool of friends is often higher quality (and a known quality) than new guildies.  If you're friends with someone in Paragon, bringing her alt is more likely to lead to success than taking your latest guild recruit. And as we've seen time and again, WoW players always take the short-term success, even if that leads to issues in the long run.

So that's the case against cross-realm raiding in the current tier.  If it goes badly, it has the potential to seriously damage the method through which people get introduced to serious raiding, as well as one of the major methods by which strangers become friends in the game. It has the potential to see the raiding stratas become very tight cliques, which become harder and harder to break into.

Raiding needs new blood to keep going, and anything that has the potential to damage or block that intake should be looked at with great trepidation.


  1. First, both you and bear make good points for and against. Cross realm raids could cause harm to guilds as you and GC posit. However, I feel like most of what you bring up already keeps players out of raiding. Requirements for gear, on performance and attendance all work to limit who can and can't raid. Those things are all likely contributors to the success of LFR.

    So in that light I don't feel that CRR will damage guilds unless they're already struggling for whatever reason. Speaking generally there are three types of raiders; folks who do heroics and are serious, folks who do normals, and the folks who only run LFR.

    Of these three groups, the hardcore will not likely be affected by CRR; those individuals are willing to transfer for a guild. Those in the second group may be negatively affected as they lose individuals to the third group who stand to benefit by having access to friends from other realms who may be guilded, but lack players to regularly raid normal modes, settling for LFR instead.

    So from that perspective, with the desire to promote guild health, there needs to be a better way to bring together those in the second two groups for the benefit of keeping new blood in the pool of raiders. Bear postulated cross realm guilds as an answer, but I feel that blizzard would view it like CRR. Another option would be judicious use of transfers, but blizzard is also unlikely to give up that cash cow. So, even though there is a tangible benefit of more people running normal and possibly heroic raids, blizzard and their current views on maintaining guild health as well as maintaining revenue will maintain the status quo for the foreseeable future.

  2. If there was cross-real raiding I think that matchmaking services like http://openraid.us/ and the oQueue add-on would simply become more prominent.

  3. The problem with all complaints about anything Cross-Realm is that they entirely ignore the fact that there are plenty of successful MMOs in the industry at the moment that do not follow a server structure. The idea that "community" requires you to be locked to individual islands is ridiculous. The old concept of servers had a place when software design was simple, and needed entirely different systems to hold different copies of the same area. The ability for modern games to be able to instead network all the different servers to "instance" each zone, and make for a single unified game world has obliterated the idea that you have to have separate "islands" in order to have a community. CRZ is an amazing step in this direction, as it made WoW the first game to be able to do this on a sub-map basis. Every other game that handles "single-server" makes each zone a distinct map that is loaded into and out of (though some of them have maps that are larger then one of WoW's zones).

    Beyond that, though, your argument here is based on a pure assumption with little basis. While for the sake of argument one can say that maybe people will just look at their friend list first, you make another inherent assumption as well: This person is not friends with their own guild. I won't begin to speak for the typical player, but even if I scraped together all my friends who played WoW outside of my guild, I wouldn't even begin to approach the number of people I could get from my guild. A good number of those friends are in the same boat, as well. And after joining my guild, I became friends with those within it. This is let alone knowing people from another server; having these people on your friend list INHERENTLY means that you know them IRL (though that is not necessarily always the case).

    And all that is just going with the argument for the sake of argument. I do not believe there is any evidence in any system to suggest that players are or would be doing this. Are players looking to their cross-realm friend list first for challenge modes? I would imagine that if there was any real concern about guilds suddenly imploding, you would see the evidence here first.

    As such, I believe that to suggest that Cross-Realm would encourage players to look at friends outside their server FIRST is kind of silly.

    If you're someone new to end game, how would you break into raiding? Right now, the path is you apply to a guild, and the guild takes you on runs.
    Also, the current answer is LFR, and then if you like it to look into applying to a guild. But the application process is not difficult because it's impersonal (though that can be a factor); there's very few ways for someone who is in a situation like you are inferring to even know WHO to apply for and WHERE. Someone who reaches end-game and is on top of raiding already knows who the big names are and how to apply, but there is no in-game support for players to help get themselves into guilds, unlike some other MMOs. If you don't follow the forums because it's a cesspool, you have far more problems getting into a guild then worrying about how the application process works.

    Another option would be judicious use of transfers, but blizzard is also unlikely to give up that cash cow.
    Realm transfers do not cost as much as they do because Blizzard is trying to gouge people. It costs as much as it does as a deterrent; they don't want people transferring servers on a whim. They want it to be a real decision. And making it expensive to do so encourages that.

  4. I love your post, Rohan. Great points to make and talk about!

    You are right, I do make the assumption that people within a guild would look to other people within their guild first to create a raid, and if there were not enough guildies, look to fill their raid out with friends (or even friends of friends), working the network of people they know.

    My basis for that is another assumption - that most people in a guild consider thier friends and like playing with them.

    So to my mind, the friends that the guiold structure makes it easy to chat with and schedule things with would come first, and the friends that you have to talk to when they happen to be on because you can't send calendar invites or in game mails to would come second.

    But that ties in to my other thought on this... if your guild consists of people you consider your friends, and guilds themselves are vehicles to aid on coordination and communication, then if we make guilds cross-server, we could aid in bringing in friends from across the servers into one group, one guild... and then you're back to your guildies being your first choice to run with.

    I think, from the sound of things, your main concern is how to help players new to the game or new to raiding who are alone break into an existing closed community.

    And THAT concern, my friend, is a huge topic that is probably the single most important thing I can think of to talk about.

    Blizzard has their welcome program, where guilds that are willing to can apply, and the one approved changes their guild tag and actively seeks out new players to help.

    Is that program working? Do we know anyone helped by it? Are there other things we can do? Are there things that can be done to make it easy for people to make friends, and hard to be excluded?

    Are there incentives that could be added, carrots to dangle before guilds to seek out and recruit new players, and RETAIN THEM over time (meaning, not just seek out bodies, but new members engaged in the guild) without either the existing guild members OR the new members feeling either holds a stick over the other?

    Yeah, love your post. Great points to think about, and thank you very much for thinking enough of my post to write such a great counter!

  5. Agreed. I broke into the raiding community BECAUSE of my friends, who eventually invited me into the guild they were a part of, and eventually allowed me the opportunity to join the raiding teams.

    While it's unsustainable on a grand scale, this is the best way to get into the scene. It builds a more enjoyable experience from the start, which encourages people to continue participating.

    That's another reason why I wouldn't say that inviting friends will lead to guild downfalls. My friends strengthened the guild as a whole by going to their friends, and when there was drama, that friendship was what kept things going.

  6. Do you honestly consider that new guild recruit which you've never played with a 'friend'? I don't. They may become a friend later, after I've played with them for a bit, but they're not a friend just because they are in my guild.

    The thing is that shared experiences are what turns strangers into friends, and raiding is an excellent shared experience. But you have to start by raiding with strangers.

    My experience has always been applying blind to guilds, and coming into the guilds as a stranger to everyone. So that colours my view, and I want to make sure that path always exists.

  7. I wonder how many WoW players have lists of friends that span across many servers. That has to be pretty common for the problems that you suggest.

    I can only speak for myself, but I have played on the same server for 7 years, and every one of my WoW friends is on that server. I don't think that I am too atypical, and I expect that a large number of casual players are in a similar situation. I could be wrong.

    Who would have a lot of friends spanning many servers? People who have moved from one server to another. People who guild-hop a lot. People who apply to a broad range of guilds to get into a hardcore raiding guild. There are many reasons. How many players does that represent? (I'm asking honestly - I really don't know because I'm not in that group)

    If the realm-spanning friends list is not that common, then the problems with cross-realm raiding would not arise.

    I think the biggest impact might be among the more hardcore guilds. If you can raid across realms, then the realm transfer fee is no longer a barrier. You can apply to top guilds across your region and raid with whoever will take you (unless they insist on guild membership as part of raiding with them).

  8. But by that basis, then it literally doesn't matter. If you're coming from the start point that you are a stranger to your guild, then it literally makes no difference if you go to your guild or you go to a random stranger; they're both equally questionable. By that stance, then Friend > Guild | Stranger is perfectly logical, and why bother having guilds in the game at all? So sure, if that's the way you look at things, then I can see where your argument is coming from.

    I inherently disagree, not least of which because the underlying assumptions being made in this discussion just can't work under this basis. If you're working from the base point of "I need extra people for this raid. I will go ask [Blah] first.", then you, by default, must be familiar enough with your guild to be "friends" with your members. You are not a new entry if you're leading a group of guildies already.

    To look at it from the viewpoint of a player who is not in a guild/newly added to a guild is, from my understanding, not a part of the discussion at hand.

  9. Very interesting post, Rohan!

    Tying into what JThelen mentioned about guild health ... I can't help but think that the introduction of CRR would serve to further destabilize guild structures and the formal raiding scene.

    The one thing that realm transfers do is assign a value/penalty to your commitment to a guild or a server. It's the same sort of value that's assigned with a deserter debuff for BG's, LFR, and dungeons. It's there to encourage players to stick with it, despite our natural inclination to bail at the slightest offense. In the absence of the deserter debuff, imagine what filling those groups would be like--you'd be going through a constant cycle of players. (I certainly remember trying to find replacements for dungeon runs before LFD--spamming trade, whispering each max level toon on server, etc.)

    So while some may argue that CRR would open up a whole world of recruits, just think about how hard it would be if, instead of just competing with the other guilds on your realm for recruits to fill your raid, your guild was competing with 12,321 guilds that have killed NM Stone Guard. Imagine if players could leave your guild more easily than they can leave LFR or a "dungeon group full of bads". How would you distinguish yourself? How would you convince someone to raid with you over his buddy that he goes to the pub with?

    Sure, with CRR, you could raid with friends occasionally. But I think the larger guilds, and especially those trying to hang on in 25s and who are already fighting an uphill battle of recruitment, would crumble. And what we'd be left with would be lots of little groupings of players, trying to piece together a 10-man raid.

  10. I definitely feel that this is a real possibility if CRZ became available for current-tier content. If I've learned anything, it's that raiders tend to take the path of least resistance when it comes to most things. Occam's razor and all that.

    The guild I'm currently in is full of people who have been raiding since vanilla or early BC, and almost all of them have had stints on multiple servers throughout their WoW careers, whether it was to try playing with RL friends for a while, or transferring for guild merger at some point, or whatever else. Almost everyone on my raid team has at least one level 90 alt that they play on another server, and I'm sure that they have lots of realid friends they've played with over the years that they would be more than glad to bring in on days we needed an extra if they could. I know I have a handful of good, off-server friends I wouldn't mind bringing in myself.

    And if some of our raiders decided to go casual, or take a break from the game, etc, I could easily see pulling one of those known friends in instead of going through the normal hassle of bumping recruitment threads, posting messages in trade, going through applications, vent-interviewing likely applicants, giving them trials, and such.

    A friend I leveled with got me into my first raiding guild, but every raiding guild I have been part of since then has been me applying to a guild of strangers and eventually becoming friends with my raidmates. I know at the very least I probably wouldn't have been able to join my current guild if CRZ was available for current content, so it happening on a larger scale wouldn't surprise me at all.

  11. IT would be good and bad. It would mostly be all the best player from each round. But i don't think epople would pick it friend>guild>stanger. i think it would be guild tream>friend>other guilds>strangers. But the stanger would be more gear. Also it would help lower populated severs who want to do a 25 man. My sever is dieing now, and i love to heal for raids. but all teh raid leader i talked to say they are full. so i can't so a pug run. Yes im i na guild, but we don't allways runs bc of lack of players.

  12. I think too that Guilds would do better if there were no cross "playing"... but whom am I lol, just a gal love playing. =) merry xmas.