The Wrath of the Raid Nerd?

20 November 2009 § 7 Comments

I bet Blizzard didn’t foresee this. It seems the whole raiding community is up in arms, ever since Blizz announced their plans for gating Icecrown Citadel. It seems most people are taking offence at Blizzard patronizingly telling us the pace at which we can discover the new instance, and the limited attempts being VERY limited, which makes wasting attempts due to connection issues a bit of a nightmare. Here’s my (very personal) on the issue and the controversy.

The Issue

Blizz is combining the gating we’ve seen in Sunwell and Trial of the Crusader, with the limited attempts we’ve seen for Algalon and Trial of the Grand Crusader. To cap things off, we will have a buff of increasing strength as weeks go by, increasing our health/damage/healing.

Gating is, in my ever-so-humble opinion, a very bad idea – at least, in the implementation we’ve seen in ToC, which is the same as they plan for ICC, apparently. I already said that gating is one of the reason most everyone started hating ToC early on: the problem is the combination of gating bosses in normal with gating ALL heroic bosses until Arthas is down. In essence, we get a double gating mechanism: I need to get to Arthas to enable Heroics, but I cannot get to Arthas until a set number of weeks. There’s a third gating mechanism, preventing the engagement of Arthas until the final boss of the previous wings are down, similar to the original design of Naxxramas – this however is a minor concern, and only becomes relevant in the context of limited attempts, which we will discuss below.

Gating worked relatively well in Sunwell, because:

  1. very few guilds were in Sunwell, anyway – and the ones that were, were pretty hardcore and thus didn’t give up (well, some of them did at M’uru, but that’s not because of the gates)
  2. the bosses were hard enough that even amongst the guilds in Sunwell, a lot of them were not downing the available bosses before the next gate would open.

Blizzard clearly doesn’t want to make bosses as hard as Kalecgos, Brutallus, Eredar Twins or M’uru – and (although I had a lot of fun fighting them), I cannot blame them. Gates are their way to make sure Arthas is not as hard as Kil’Jaeden was (or C’thun, or Nefarian, or Kael’Thas, or Vashj), but at the same time doesn’t die the day the patch is released. And to this I say – why is it a bad thing that Arthas dies the day of the patch? (Let’s assume he dies – I should say “the Arthas encounter is defeated, given we really don’t know yet if Arthas will die or merely have a setback, but that’s too unwieldy. So just assume that he dies for the rest of this rant).

Blizzard’s response to such questions is never clear. They may be worried about people spending too much time in the game (and the ensuing bad press), but I find it hard to believe that’s the case. Most importantly, while I’m certainly not a Libertarian, I really don’t think Blizzard should be worried about that. More likely, they are worried about raiders being frustrated and leaving the game because after you kill Arthas, and maybe farm him for a while, there will be nothing left to do. The sad thing, though, is that gates are more likely to frustrate raiders – and have them leave the game, either just after killing Arthas, or, even worse for Blizz, before even getting there. Everyone knows loot is not a big deal with the last instance of the expansion, anyway, as the lvl 85 Heroic loot is quite likely to be better in all ways, so there’s really no incentive in farming ICC either way.

Now if only we had an instance where the final boss didn’t die on the day of release – oh wait! We do! Algalon died quite a few weeks after Ulduar was released, and even quite a few weeks after he was unlocked. I’m not saying Ulduar was perfect – but it seemed to satisfy the “regular” raids (who could chug along and progress towards Yogg-Saron at their own pace), and the “hardcore” ones (who WTFPWNED Yoggie, and starting working on Firefighter and Algalon). Some of the hard modes were tweaked and hotfixed after release, as the hardcore guild proved once again to be masters at finding any way they could get the kill (the Holy paladin healing inside the brain for Yogg-Saron no keeper was particularly fun). Still, Algalon was defeated on 3rd June by Ensidia – Ulduar was released on 14th April. Is a six weeks cycle acceptable to Blizzard?

The other mechanism Blizz is using is limited attempts. I have mixed feelings about that. I am VERY happy that there won’t be a “no wipe” extra loot (the frustration of missing out on cloaks because of one stupid mistake is reducing my already-limited enjoyment of ToGC). I wouldn’t have minded some extra loot for good performance (comparable to the Skills and Mad Skills tributes) – but that’s not fundamental. Larisa has a good point – it’s not clear why Blizzard is penalising the people who prefer to learn their encounters while playing, instead of spending time “offline” looking at strats and videos. All in all, I think I am mildly negative about limited attempts, but not to any important degree. It’s also probably better to do limited attempts rather than limited time: not being the fastest kid in the west, I need 5 mins after each pull to figure out what happened, why we wiped, etc, and I admit in Algalon there was a strong trade-off between doing that or getting more practice in. I also appreciate that some bosses won’t be included in the attempt counter, which means you won’t get penalised for stupid wipes on early bosses.

The third and final mechanism of ICC is the Ashen Verdict buff, which will increase the raiders’ power as time goes by and the good guys increase the pressure on the Scourge. I unabashedly love this. I think it’s a nice, elegant solution to allowing more people the chance to experience the raid, while allowing the top guild to try their hand at harder encounter. The fact they provide an in-game explanation is, to me, even better.

The controversy

Apparently, I am more or less in the mainstream with my analysis. Most people seem to like the buff mechanism: it’s certainly a lot nicer than having to nerf encounters after a while, and it probably saves development time too. The opinions on limited attempts are equally lukewarm, while the gating idea is not well liked at all. What struck me is the rabidness of some of the posts I’ve seen: even bloggers who’re normally fairly well balanced are predicting the end of the world, cats sleeping with dogs, fiery apocalypses and similar disasters.

Seri over at World of Snarkcraft appears particularly aggravated, “bashing [her] head repeatedly against [her] desk”, and forewarning of a Big Blizzard Brother deciding how long we can play the game. I’ve appreciated Seri’s posts before, so her tone is very surprising to me – I can only assume she was having a bad day or something, or maybe I’m just too naive to realise that, indeed, this is the beginning of the end for raiding and World of Warcraft. Quite possibly, from the point of view of a raid leader of a 25 man, anything that may cause even a few people to become frustrated and leave does become a big issue.

Similarly cataclysmatic comments (no pun intended) from StratFu – but that’s a bit more understandable, as that’s a hardcore strategy website of the type that is most likely to feel the pain of the gating. Accusing Blizz of being like the Chinese government is probably not going to make them listen to any suggestion, though.

The Mediocre Perspective

So my personal take? Yeah gating is gonna suck a bit – but mostly, that’s gonna go away in a relatively short time: the ToC gates lasted five weeks, the Sunwell ones about four if memory serves. Honestly, I would think that Blizzard will pace the gates every 2 weeks at most – and that means that, assuming the patch is released on the 1st December (which honestly looks increasingly likely) that would mean seeing Arthas around mid-January. Given the Christmas break in the middle, I really don’t think that’s too big of a deal. It would be nice if Blizz gave us an idea of how often they will release the new gate, but I doubt they will (they didn’t for Sunwell, and all indications are that they want to play it by ear this time too).

Critical QQ suggests that this model will mean less raiding time, and more time devoted to other aspects of the game. That certainly seems to be a goal for Blizzard, to have players try out different things to do in the game. I do have some alts that still need attention: my warlock is almost 80, my DK is still stuck at 70 (cannot really bring myself to like the DK mechanics), and my hunter on Gurubashi is just so much fun to play…  I’m pretty sure I’ll find things to do – if nothing else, it will be the time I finally get some more PvP achievements on Tsark!

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§ 7 Responses to The Wrath of the Raid Nerd?

  • Jov says:

    In general, Seri’s perspective isn’t so much the perspective of someone who’s “just a raider” but someone who’s been fighting tooth and claw with a raid team in flux since the release of ToC.

    It’s always much easier to see the beginning of the end when you’re already raiding with a group that’s made up 80% of people who weren’t in the guild 3 months ago, and that 80% of the people 3 months ago didn’t know the former GM who left 3 months before that.

    Raider burnout and frustration is very high in general right now; if you happen to be in one of the less-fortunate groups (like we are) where we’re constantly trying to stem the flow while still getting stuff done, the fact that this is potentially a *small* problem only means it’s soon to be a very big headache.

  • Tsark says:

    I didn’t mean to belittle Seri’s point of view – it was just a surprise on my part on a post with little snark and a lot of frustration. I do empathise with the 25man raid leader position though – and I know how infuriating it is to fight every moment to make sure 25 people will be at the instance come raid time.
    I have edited the post to include this info.

    • Jov says:

      I wasn’t honestly meaning to come down hard on you. I apologise if it seems I did.

      You just expressed some surprise that Seri was taking the change as hard as she was, so I was trying to explain the situation behind it.

      When recruiting new raiders is like pulling teeth, and keeping your current raiders present, active, and actually making an effort, it’s kinda overwhelming when you see this 5 attempts + gate thing. It seems like Blizz is going out of their way to make an already difficult job worse. :\

      But, again, I’m sorry if I seemed harsh. As Seri’s healing lead who has to go shadow to at least 50% of raids because our tanks and healers are the only stable part of the roster, I’m also pretty personally invested in, and disappointed with, this change.

  • Seri says:

    I don’t consider your comments belittling, though I just now read them so I didn’t see them in the original form. I knew when I put it out there that my post was controversial, but at the same time I feel like I said what a lot of GMs are thinking right about now. Alarmist? Absolutely, but if it sparks more people to think about it and talk about it (as you’ve so eloquently done here) I consider my work done. 🙂

  • […] post in reaction to another blogger, because their virulence surprised me (the first time was a reaction to Seri’s post about ICC gating). So, am I too much of a brown-noser, Panglossian type, always […]

  • […] has been a study in contradictions. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you may recall I was in favour of the buff. When I read the announcement on various news sites, though, I felt like Ragnaros: TOO SOON, […]

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