Friday, October 8, 2010

Raiding in WotLK

Just a note that I have been really busy lately so that’s why this took so long to get posted

Wrath of the Lich King raiding is too easy. It is a very common statement that you see touted by raiders on the internet. While I was never actually a part of it, I have heard stories of wiping on Neltharion for months, never even seeing the inside of Naxx and the dreaded C’Thun eyebeam. From my understanding of BC, it was much the same where a very select few people saw the very highest content and those that did were raiding 4-6 nights a week. It is usually to these raids that people refer when they talk about raiding in wrath of the lich king being too easy but I would like to deposit another take on that.

I never raided in vanilla or BC so I have a somewhat incomplete view on those raiding environments but I would like to take the stance as a purely WotLK raider and go off of some of the things I have been told about the previous raiding spheres. Blizzard has openly stated that the average raider in WotLK is better than the raiders that were pushing into Naxx and AQ40 in vanilla. Now I am not saying that these vanilla raiders were bad players, simply that the game has evolved so much since then and the average skill level of players has increased so drastically that the fights that were previously extremely difficult would not create the same difficulty among the raidership of wow as they did when they were released.

That being said I think that blizzard has also changed its view somewhat. In vanilla you would wipe simply because the game decided that you were going to and there was nothing you could do to prepare. The Insta-gibbing that happened in vanilla is not really a part of the game anymore except for a select few fights. We no longer have fights that require your entire raid to farm reputation or get absurd amounts of resistance in order to have a chance of living. Tanks are no longer killed because they got a bad string of parries from the boss only to have the boss’ hits get hasted and land a crushing blow on them. To the best of my knowledge there is only one fight in wrath where you cannot taunt the boss whereas there were numerous bosses that were untauntable in vanilla.

I think the main reason for this shift in raiding ease is the plentiful knowledge of how to do bosses. Before a patch or expansion even leaves the PTR there are numerous strat videos out that only need minor revisions. There is far greater knowledge of how the game itself works. In the recent year or two the blue posters have given out far more information as to how the game works. There are actually direct formulas that are known by people as to how to do the most possible damage without human error. Players can easily look up what is the best order for their abilities. There are countless people theorycrafting what is the best stat for you to have on your gear given your gear level and the stats that you already have. There are numerous BiS gear lists out on the internet. If you type “World of Warcraft” into Google you get 77,330,000 hits and if you simply type “raiding” in you will get 6/11 hits on the first page of Google related to WoW. The wealth of information available on the internet for this game now is just astounding. Players today ask a question and it has probably been answered numerous times before or chances are good that there is someone somewhere working on answering it. The days of wondering what to do are gone.

But knowledge alone does not make players better. World of Warcraft is coming up on its 6 year anniversary and it is not slowing down. The group of players that are moving into raiding today are the ones like myself who have grown up with a controller at an arm’s reach. We have gained the ability to raid better because we have grown up playing video games. Trying to teach my dad guitar hero was a painful experience but most people my age can just pick it up and play. And with a game like WoW with such a longstanding tradition of pushing the gaming experience there are more and more talented people drawn in daily.
I can think of one final reason that the game is evolving and causing previous content to not be as hard as the stuff that is being released later. Exceptional players make the group as whole better. Here is a basic example that illustrates my point well. When Tiger Woods started playing golf it was just reaching mainstream society and gaining popularity. However Tiger Woods started playing and he began to win more and more. As he got better people started to get interested in how he was so good and wanted to get better. There started to be a large base of players not content with being average anymore, wanting to do the things that Tiger Woods could do and the skill of the professional golfers started to increase at a much faster rate than previous. Now this is golf but I think it applies to WoW quite directly. When I started playing WoW I was content with being beginner or even average. It was a game I played to pass the time, I didn’t know anything about raiding or even care. Well then I met a guy who was into that “raiding” thing and it sparked my interest. I wanted to become more like that so I started doing my research and gearing up so that I could raid. That was my warlock. Well I got bored and left that server and made my druid and when he hit 80 my friend told me that druids couldn’t tank past Kara. I wanted to prove him wrong and so I immediately started gearing to raid but I was too late and by the time I got close to being geared enough it was too late and WotLK came out. So when I got wrath I made the mad dash for 80, I was the 6th 80 in my guild and before we had 10 people that were ready to raid I was rearing to go. I knew the fights and I was ready to go and I have been going since. Now this has been really long winded but it shows how a couple people who are better than you can cause you to improve drastically really fast. I went from not knowing what a raid was or that there was such thing as a “raid lockout” to raiding 25 mans in WotLK.

But I have getting away from my original point slightly. Is Wrath raiding really too easy? I would say no. I believe that Naxx was almost perfectly tuned for what it was. When WotLK came out Naxx was the first raid you did and it did the job it was supposed to do...Get players hooked. Then Ulduar dropped and brought with it the hardmodes that we have come to enjoy so much. I would say, and I’m sure that many would agree, that Ulduar was the bet raid we had. It felt like it was tuned just right at the beginning and then when you felt you were good enough you could take a shot at the hardmodes. The simple switch on/switch off system we have now wasn’t in the game so when you wanted to do a hardmode you had to earn the right to do it and you had to earn the right every time.

Then ToC came and the raiding difficulty fell apart. Regular ToC with its no trash and relatively easy boss fights felt the longest of all the raids. However when you moved on to ToGC you felt like they really had upped the difficulty and it was refreshing. It was a difficult fight in some cases.

ICC was harder than ToC and you were challenged more than before...but only once you got past the first couple of bosses. The first 4 bosses were considerably easier than they should have been and I think this is where the distinction lies. Many people say that pugs should not be able to do the best raids and I partially agree. I think that if you want to pug you should have to resign yourself to the fact that you will probably never finish the instance unless you pug into a guild run but I think you should still be able to raid the beginning of the instance. But the first 4 bosses are just too easy to be the last bit of content for an expansion, as it stands the first 4 bosses just kinds roll over and die with a half decent group. I think if you are going to pug you should have to work harder and be ready for a couple wipes before you get it down.

So is wrath too easy? No I think that the barrier to entry is not high enough for the last two tiers of raiding. The beginning bosses should have been made harder in order to make it harder for the average player that is not willing to dedicate to get in. Now I may sound slightly elitist but I think my point is valid. At this point in the game we have a large group of people that pug raids but don’t have any patience for wipes and leave after one or two wipes in an instance. By making the first bosses harder you would be able to limit the ability of these people to get gear and make it so they have to work to get groups making them less likely to just drop group at the first sign of trouble. And if someone is not the best player but they work on gearing up, doing a heroic every day, gemming and enchanting their gear correctly and then want into a raid I think they should have that right. but make them work for it a bit more so that they feel some dedication to it. At that point in the patch cycle, if they want to pug, it should be easier but still not a joke. They should feel that wiping numerous times is not uncommon given that they are in a pug with much less diligence and coordination.

Is this possible? I don’t know. I do feel that the later bosses are really quite challenging and that they have good tuning and you really do feel a sense of accomplishment in killing them (yay run-on sentence). I would imagine that the players who have killed HLK aren’t saying that it was too easy and I know that what I have done recently has been challenging enough to not leave me thinking underwhelmed. But we will have to see where raiding goes from here. I definitely think that we are headed in the right direction as far as having it open to everyone who is willing to do a little work.

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