Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is raiding easier or just more accessible?

Now I remember the first time I got to a boss that everyone had been talking about and how awesome it was to see it for the first time and feel like I had accomplished something by getting there. This is almost gone from the game which is sad but that yielded the advent of great tools like the raid finder. The vocal "majority" of the community laments the loss of "hard" and inaccessible content because of the loss of this feeling of accomplishment. While most of this comes from purely nostalgia some of their worries and complaints are valid. Dragon Soul was the first raid wherein you could see the entire raid in an easier version easily accessible to everyone with an hour to play. Combine this with the dungeon finder and basically a huge majority of the player base can finally see all of the content. But sadly this does lead to a loss of wonderment when you do actually do the raid because you have already seen all there is to see without any real feeling of accomplishment. Before the raid finder it felt really cool to see a new boss and even if you knew what he did already, you still had that feeling that you can only see him because you killed everyone else.
Ragnaros in Molten Core
 This leads to one of Blizzard's largest problems at the moment... How to balance accessibility with difficulty? Right now Blizzard uses heroic modes to up the difficulty of encounters for the hardcore players and the raid finder to cater to players with less time. While some people say that all raids should be difficult on their own that is just not true. Back in Vanilla less than 1% of players killed a boss in Naxxramas and below 5% killed anything in Molten Core, this is because of restrictive raid sizing and gearing. Even in BC most players never killed Illidan before he was relevant or even Magetheridon. When people pay for the game they should be able to see most of it's content so Blizzard's steps towards accessibility is extremely nice. You can show me graphs of player growth and say that in Vanilla and BC player growth was higher because the content is better but that is just not true. Common sense would say that the growth was higher because that was the time period where the game was starting to become more publicized. The most noticeable growth would actually be during WoTLK when player activity increased because more players could finally see content. Now this leads me to the actual point of this post causes and solutions.
The Raid Finder is a large reason for the lack of wonder when doing new content. Does that mean we should scrap it? of course not it is an amazing tool and lets people see content on multiple characters and I know from my experience it is extremely nice to have when you need to take a break from the game or your unable to raid because of RL issues. Other causes are raid accessibility (such as the lack of attunements) and encounter mechanics in general. My solution will seem kind of crazy but I do believe there is merit to it. I read a post a long while ago on WoWinsider about how the actual size of a raid can effect it's "epicness" and feel. Some raids feel right in larger sizes and some feel better in smaller sizes. Raids like Ulduar in my opinion feel good in both sizes but Naxxramas and Firelands felt better in a 25 man setting, whereas raids like The Bastion of Twilight and The Ruby Sanctum felt better in a 10 man setting. But since all content is balanced around both difficulties now it's impossible to make a raid that truly feels good in both 10 and 25 man settings. This can lead to a feeling that a raid doesn't quite "fit".  Another issue is that 25 man  raids are hard for some guilds to field and the two raid sizes don't exactly scale at a 1:1 ratio. Bear with me there is a point to all of this. I believe that the solution to all of this at least to some degree is to in every tier release more raids with less bosses. That way tiers can be set up thusly.... have one raid with say 5 bosses that has a slightly lower ilvl gear drops than the other raids. This provides your stepping stone raid which is a good thing because it gives players direction. Also have this raid accessible through the raid finder so that players can still see content in that more relaxed setting without a large time commitment. Then have two other raids with say 4 bosses that have a higher ilvl than the other raid and require the first raid as a prerequisite. These raids should not be accessible through the Raid Finder that way players in these raids are seeing them for the first time in the setting they should been seen as where getting past bosses means you have never seen the next boss before. Now you have content more easily accessible to casual players and raiders also get their gated content. Then hard modes would only be in the latter 2 raids and should be modeled after Ulduar which I strongly believed was an excellent model for hard modes that was too short-lived. It always feels better when you feel like you made a boss harder by doing something other than toggling a switch in your UI. Blizzard's challenge should be to get people to the level where they can raid then let them go their own way. Have heroics still be challenging but reward a purple at the end for everyone's efforts like the Wrath and BC dungeons did (but just make sure the epic is a lower ilvl than raiding epics because that was just frustrating).
 This leads to my final point about raid sizes. Instead of balancing around 10 and 25 man sizes make each raid 1 size. But change the raid sizes to 10 and 20 man sizes and make them scale at a 1:1 ratio or close to it. If a raid has 10 people today it has 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 5 dps. Then why do we have to settle with the awkward 25 man when we can change the raid to 20 people and have 4 tanks (one with a dps OS), 6 healers, and 10 dps. It would be much easier to scale raids that way and can keep the feel of larger and smaller raids unique. In fact it would also make the downsizing easier, because of your in a 20 man guild you can easily split to run the 10 man instance one night then form back up to do the 20 man the other. It even leads to the possibility of smaller guilds working together because they can just put their groups together and bam you have a 20 man ready to go. Overall this is how I would like to see raiding....... -1 instance 6 bosses (Raid Finder Accessible) (No hardmodes) -leads to...... -2 instances either 10 or 20 man or some combination of the two (higher ilvl than the previous)(use the previous as a prerequisite)(hard modes) I believe this would solve a lot of the problems on both sides because raiders could have their gated content and feeling of wonderment and the more casual players will still have their raiding content that is easily accessible.
 I would also like to refer to the post on WoWinsider which is also about this topic.