Raids Are a Nightmare

Sensational title for the win!

WildStar, if you didn’t already know, is pushing for a fairly difficult raid environment.  Compared to other games that have a variable player count per raid (or only 1 size), WS is taking a slightly different step.  There will be 20 man raids and 40 man raids, completely separate from each other.  I know that the resources required to develop either size raid are equal but it seems to be a waste somewhat, and that’s what I’ll be discussing.

I played Vanilla WoW.  I did Molten Core and Blackwing Lair.  AQ & Naxx were off my list because of the first two.  I won’t argue balance on these raids, they were relatively new takes on EQ’s zerg-fest, and had their share of bugs and issues.  What was challenging was the logistics.

Today’s raiders have it easy.  You need enchants, potions, buffs and whatnot.  They are easy enough to find and the challenge is getting the gold to buy them.  Let’s say a raid session sets you back 500g, at top tier.  In Vanilla this was a bit harder.  Tubers were BOP, gear needed resistance on it, enchants were rare (diamonds anyone?), repair bots and money was scarce.  It honestly took me longer to get ready for a raid than it did to be in one.  It just was not fun to slog through prep work to raid.

Then you get into the whole herding chickens aspect.  I was a role leader, DPS.  That’s 30+ people you need to corral together on a  set target list.  The difference between top DPS and bottom was massive.  Losing a single top DPS player could break a raid.  How does 1 person make or break a raid?  We had penalties for not showing up on time, in a day when summons were rare and travel was hard.  Sign-up sheets and a bench.

It is logistically impossible to consistently raid with the same people every time.  People have things to do and you can lose 2-3 per raid – most times in the middle of a raid.  Having a bench means people are on a waiting list to have fun.  What?  Math and people do not mix.  If I need a bench for a 10 person raid, then I need 1-2 people, max.  If I need a bench for a 40 person raid, I’m looking at 5+.  That’s 5 people, heartbeats, that are on a waiting list.  Maybe they just go to another place where there is no list and then you have to backfill that slot.  Managing people like this isn’t fun for the raid leader, guild leader or the people being managed.

Now we get into fairness, specifically around loot.  Enter the DKP systems.  Enter the master looter role.  Enter tribunals.  You have 40 people.  You have 5 pieces of gear (at best).  You have 35 people who are not getting anything for the effort.  You have a ton of gear wasted if they are class specific (shaman/pally gear….) and no one to collect.  As fair as you want it to be, people will be upset for many reasons, most stupid and selfish.  But you don’t have a choice, you need those people to actually raid.

Finally we get into simple usage metrics.  Raids are vastly underused compared to the effort developers put into them.  Until WoW put in LFR, the top tier raiders, 40 man raid target audience, accounted for less than 1% of the entire population.  LFR currently sits around 60% of all players having consumed raid content and 10% at top tier.  If the most accessible raiding system can’t get higher than 10%, and this is with recycled content (LFR, 10 man, flex, 25 man, heroics), how can other games expect more?

Perhaps this 40 man raid idea is an experiment.  Maybe there are a ton of tools surrounding this structure to help move it along.  Strong class balance, LFG tools, partial lockouts, tokens, flexible sizing to cap among others come to mind.  I am waiting with fingers crossed that there’s more coming on this topic.

A Turtle, a Hydra and a Bird Walk Into a Bar

I think I might have found the most unique post heading ever.

The thought process behind raid bosses intrigues me. Do you design the encounter around the boss or the boss around the encounter? Is it “hey, let’s make them dance! Maybe the boss will be a transforming radio!” (p.s. Please do this).

Maybe it’s more like a D&D game where a dice is rolled and they look up their ability table. This one gets an AE cleave, a shield, a chain attack, and what the heck, random invulnerable minions.

How do you make memorable bosses with recycles mechanics? SWTOR’s recent raid has a boss that has a future/past mode which sounds cool. It’s better than the previous round’s mash of DPS races. I like bosses and challenges. Ninja Gaiden and Dark Souls are solid examples of tough yet rewarding experiences. I can do 6-10 of those bosses. Wow, if my math is right, has about 400 bosses. I’m talking Stockade, C’thun, Lurker, Mimiron and the like. Just the variables to make that seem somewhat unique are impressive.

I do like Neverwinter (and apparently Wildstar) approach to bosses, what with a more action-oriented approach. There are still bosses in Wow today where you never have to move an inch. I think the concept of “more than just numbers” is going to be the way forward. Think the challenge through. Brute force can work too but the smarter move should be the better one.