The success of a raid instance (part II)
7 September 2009 § 1 Comment
The last post left my conclusions implicit, so let me spell them out here. I believe there are three reasons why players criticise Coliseum: it’s too easy, it lacks lore and background, and it feels a lot less epic than previous raid instances. I believe the first reason is a consequence of the gating decision, forcing the skilled players to confront the same encounters everyone has, with no option to start the hard modes. The second criticism is just unfounded: I may not like NPC chatter as a storytelling device, but the story is there. The third complaint is, imho, a lot more valid. Note however that many people enjoy Coliseum: no trash, good loot, some pretty fun fights (I love both the Faction Champions and the Ikaruga encounters), good loot, no trash… Did I mention there is no trash?
So let’s say that at the very least the reviews on this instance are fairly mixed. Does this mean Blizzard should consider Coliseum a failure? Well, this is a question we cannot answer: for all its improved communication with the players, we still don’t know much about Blizz’s evaluation of its instances. So here I’m just going to make some educated guesses.
The first possibility is that Blizzard just pushed its accessibility policy to the extreme. There is no doubt that Coliseum is more accessible than Ulduar. Also, empowering more people to play and participate in more aspects of the game has been the basis of WoW’s success, and a well-publicised deisgn goal of the raiding team for Wrath. So it is certainly plausible that Blizzard just wanted to enlarge the population of raiders. Indeed, I’m already hearing the local apocalyptic prophets who forecast that Icecrown Citadel will be “as easy as Ragefire Chasm” (quoted from Icecrown general chat, a few days ago). While this is certainly a possibillity, I think it may be too soon to dismiss the efforts of the raid design team, and accuse them of “selling out to the casuals”.
One other possibility is that Coliseum was simply meant to reduce the gear gap between harcore raiders and the general population. Though I don’t have numbers, I think a big part of the player population has raided Naxxramas/Obsidian Sanctum/Malygos. I suspect that a lot less has managed to go very far in Ulduar, let alone through the hard modes. Blizzard is well aware of the consequences of having gaping gear gaps within the player population: at the end of vanilla WoW, you had people in Naxx gear facing people in Stratholme gear in various Battlegrounds, and the sight was anything but pretty. Badge gear helped to close that gap in BC, and the recent overhaul of emblems went in the same direction. So, introducing a dungeon that drops ilvl 219 loot (same as Ulduar 10 normal), and a very easy, very accessible raid dungeon dropping ilvl 232 gear will certainly close the gap between the people sporting full Ulduar 25/Ulduar 10 Hard gear, and the rest of the world. I certainly managed to gear up my paladin, who dinged 80 at the end of June, now has 2 acceptable gear sets (Prot and Holy), which allow her to raid as much as she wants, in any of the instances (I would probably struggle in Trial of the Grand Crusader, but that’s still pretty impressive).
A third possibility is that game designers were otherwise occupied, and thus devoted less time to this raid instance than to other, previous attempts. Possible distractions could be Isle of Conquest (which is a really fun BG) or Icecrown Citadel (I hope…). This would certainly explain the sloppy item design: the same items, with the same name and same graphic, dropping in normal and heroic; tier sets looking the same regardless of the item levels, etc. It would also be compatible with the lack of any serious art for the actual dungeon itself – no new model, one room to design only…
So, which one is it? From a personal point of view, I hope it’s not the first one. While I cheered Blizzard on during the previous waves of increased accessibility (and indeed, I probably wouldn’t be playing this game if it was all that hard), I think Ulduar hit the sweet spot for me: normal modes being challenging enough but not too much; hard modes being quite challenging. It would disappoint me if it was just lack of attention – how did Blizzard think we wouldn’t notice? However, this would also be the easiest issue to deal with. If it was a matter of loot parity, then the emblem overhaul was a much better means to the same end, imho – if anything else, adding some more loot on to the emblem vendors, to fill in more gaps.
I doubt, however, that we will ever find out definitely why Blizzard released Coliseum, and whether they consider it a success or not – maybe in the future, looking back, some of the designers will make a comment about it. For now, I guess we’ll just slog through the Grand Crusader and start working towards our wolves.