Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nihilum realizes that raiding sucks

Rawrasaur alerted me to another interesting article on the Nihilum website: "Does Blizzard hate raiders?" The author claims that giving out epics for PvP points and badges destroys the World of Warcraft raiding scene, because many people rather get their epics by other ways than raiding if they can. Quote: "Guilds that are on TK/SSC atm are already obsolete, with patch 2.4 anyone raiding TK/SSC is out of their mind, and that is the majority of the (25man) raiding guilds out there, according to wowjutsu. 48%" You must excuse his erratic punctuation, that is just one of the mad skillz you don't really need as a top dog raider.

What surprises me most in this article is that I, as a casual raider, have a more positive attitude towards raiding than this member of one of the world's top raiding guilds. He thinks that people only raid for the epics, and as soon as you offer a different way to epics, raiding becomes pointless. Me, I see PvP, soloing, small groups, and raiding as equal opportunities for having fun. The more variety I get access to, the better. And even if PvP epics were better than raiding epics, I'd probably end up raiding more than PvPing, just because I personally like cooperative gameplay more than competitive one.

Far, far from making TK/SSC obsolete, patch 2.4 is making these places, and Gruul and Karazhan, more relevant. The patch even makes 5-man groups more relevant, as long as they are for heroics. Patch 2.4 introduces much better badge loot, and it introduces gaining of badges to TK/SSC and Gruul. The 48% of raiding guilds that are at the TK/SSC stage will advance faster due to patch 2.4, because they can complement whatever gear they find with gear they buy with badges. The Nihilum guy has a rather limited opinion of gear: "Players that really want to kill a boss usually have already done so, those that haven’t killed it so far are lacking something, usually the problem is a lack of dedication amongst it’s raiders and not the gear they have, gear is too easy to be the problem and bosses aren’t tuned that well in TBC." But while I'm sure we could argue for hours whether it is skill or gear that is more important, I don't see how you could ever argue that gear isn't helping. It is the sum of skill and gear that makes raid progress, to some extent you can compensate for lack of skill by getting more gear.

Are PvP epics too easy to get? Look at my warrior: He has the kind of decent blue gear you get when you did all the TBC dungeons in non-heroic mode. Now how many hours do I need to spend doing PvP to get one single epic which is a real upgrade, and not a sidegrade? I'd say several weeks of doing the daily PvP quest and a few battlegrounds every evening. Compare that to my priest: Last Saturday in one afternoon cleared out Karazhan in less than 6 hours, thus getting over 20 epics for the raid group, or 2 epics per raider. Even if I got just one upgrade, the T4 gloves, it would have taken me more than 6 hours of PvP to get an epic that good. And besides that epic I got 22 badges, which I can spend towards another epic.

What makes raiding less attractive than PvP is not the epics you can get once you master a dungeon. It is the barriers of entry, the hurdles you have to overcome to get to that point. The many wipes for learning an encounter. The difficult organization, juggling with raid IDs, raid class and spec composition, getting 25 people together for several hours. The thousands of gold you are expected to spend on having the very best enchantments on your gear (I recently realized that those enchants cost far more than even raid consumables and repair costs). The guild drama when not everybody in the guild advances at the same speed and the top raiders leave for a better guild.

The Nihilum guy, being on the top of the food chain, sees that eternal guild drama as a plus, and moans it passing: "I would say that this is the main reason why so many guilds are struggling or disbanding, they simply do not have a reason to exist anymore, and without that, guilds are doomed. An other problem is that every guild that disbands hurts the whole PvE scene, as all PvE guilds are connected. Or did you really think all the raiders that play in Nihilum started playing here? Of course not, most of us started in other guilds, normal casual guilds usually, but they did exist because they had something to offer to their members, gear and companionship. From there we all slowly moved up, joining better guilds till we ended up in Nihilum. Now what if our first, or 2nd guild had disbanded 'cause they lacked players that wanted to raid? I doubt we would be here today." Well, what if most players had stayed in the guild they were with from the start, and not ditched them for better raid gear? Apart from a break due to guild drama not related to raid gear, I'm still in the guild I signed the guild charter for 3 years ago, and I'm not the only one. So our guild doesn't feel there is a risk that we disband because everyone is suddenly doing PvP.

The one thing I agree with the author from Nihilum is that World of Warcraft is currently moving away from group play and towards pseudo-solo PvP play. But I don't agree that taking away epics rewards from PvP would be the good solution to that. The good solution would be removing some of the barriers of entry into cooperative gameplay. PvP has organized arenas and come-who-may battlegrounds. PvE groups only have the organized variety. Why isn't there some large group PvE event, lets call it "public quest" *cough* *cough*, where you can log on, jump in, stay for an hour or so, and get some reward based on how long you stayed and how well you performed? The equivalent of a battleground for PvE, with you accumulating some sort of points and badges over time, and being able to buy gear with those. I bet that would make WoW swing back towards cooperative gameplay.

Well, I'm afraid that such innovation will be for new games, and we can't expect Blizzard to change WoW that way. But actually the badges added to 25-man raids in patch 2.4 are a step in the right direction. There are a lot of minor improvements possible, like changes to the raid ID system. And the frequently discussed here option of "easy mode" and heroic raids to the same raid dungeon would also make cooperative gameplay more attractive. And again I agree with Nihilum and say that cooperative gameplay is the strength of a MMORPG, and should be fostered. Only that Nihilum only wants cooperation rewarded for the top players, and I think that cooperation should be better rewarded for everyone.

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