Tuesday, June 7, 2011

There is No "Acquiring Target" in Team

Ima go all Hot Topic on you guys again since, other than what's a-brewin' in the blogosphere, I don't have a whole lot to say. (a.k.a. 4.2-be-doo, Where are you?) In this case, the topic, filched from MMO Melting Pot, happens to revolve around raiding being a "closed club."  Now, I'm not going to deal with this topic head on.  Actually, I'd rather talk about the sort of side note that was brought up.  First, though, let's establish where I stand on the overall issue.

The whole "closed club" thing is, from what I can see, basically amounts to folks claiming that raiders are raiders.  That is, you could go from WoW to Rift, and the same people will be raiding.  New folks have a hard time getting into raiding.  The claims are that this is because that is how the raiders want it to be.  It's the old "No Girls Allowed" sign on the tree house door.  The people they don't want in aren't allowed passed the threshold.  Things like checking gearscores and achievements play into it. 

I'm not sure I follow the whole argument.  I've certainly never felt barred from raiding, and my group operates under some very unique circumstances.  We're completely as casual as you can get and still say you're "raiding."  Heck, most of us probably wouldn't even call ourselves raiders.  I wouldn't say we're "in" with the "in crowd," but that's the way we wanted it.  I'm not sure if that excludes us from the discussion.  Are we just talking about being a "raider" as defined by your peers?  In that case, of course it's going to seem "closed."  It's up to your peers.  That's sort of how social characterizations work.  Some group draws lines in the sand, others follow, and then the majority rules.  The majority of that group, mind you.  If the majority of raiders want to be exclusionary, they'll certainly find ways to do it. 

If we're simply talking about being able to experience raiding content, then I have to disagree.  Your experience is only, then, as closed as you make it.  I'm not the most social guy in the world, but if you poke your head around enough and put yourself out there enough, I believe you'll find some people of similar interests.  It took us probably two years to find a solid group of friends in-game that we could count on, but we did it.  You always have the option to form your own guild.  You can always start your own raid group.  I've done it in the past.  It's pretty hard work.  So maybe from that perspective it's closed too.  However, if you start to say things in life are "closed" just because they're difficult, well, we could make a really long list of "closed clubs."  To be fair, a lot of people already do.  Maybe that's just sort of how humans work.  We like having our own protected spheres.  Let the "raiders" have their title, says I.  I don't need to be acknowledged as a "raider" to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Maybe I'm over simplifying though.  After all, I didn't really want to write about the whole closed club thing, so I was purposefully trying to be brief (and probably failing).  What I did want to touch on was in the follow up that I linked above.  This has to do with raid design and is written:
"This is my current biggest problem with raiding in WoW – it seems the only way to make it harder, in the developers’ eyes, is to demand performance that is increasingly perfect, over increasingly long periods of time. Fairly trivial mechanics (“Press an ability button NOW!”, “move out of this area NOW!”) are made harder by shorter timeframes to complete them and reduced margins for error – and that’s it. Nearly all of the current raid content that I’ve seen would be better handled by a decently programmed bot, with lightning reflexes and no concentration to worry about, than by a human with the ability to adapt, improvise, and learn on the fly."
I'm totally on board with this.  There does seem to be an overabundance of individual accountability.  I'm not saying some reliance on the individual is bad, just that I've always viewed raiding as a Team Sport.  The emphasis, therefore, should be on the team, not on a collection of individuals.  It does seem, a bit, like we're slightly skewed the wrong way in this regard.  I wouldn't go so far as to say raids are broken, but I would say that future designs should endeavor to skew this back in the "right" direction.

I suppose I just feel that there are a lot of fights (early on, because we haven't gotten very far as of yet) that are heavily reliant on one or two key people.  I really do feel like a "worthless" DPS a lot.  Our success or failure almost never hinges on what I do.  Usually I don't even have to DPS well, because "burning" actually makes the fight harder.  Sure there are some "quick, burn now" calls, but those are few and far between.  They also usually indicate that something else is going to shit. 

Maybe the crux of the problem is this.  We complained previously as a community that things were too "tank and spank."  That DPS races were boring.  That tanking and healing wasn't fun.  What we got, then, was a de-emphasis on the larger portion of the team (DPS), and more responsibility on smaller parts to make them feel special.  In any given fight, you might be "the guy," which is cool I guess, but is that good for raiding?  It's not always a tank or healer, maybe you're the key interrupt as a DPS, or the kiter, or whatever.  The point is that it's generally one person, not really a group of people.  Then that one person is forced around.  Early in the fight maybe it's this person, but then, oh, it's focused on so-and-so, and now we go into the next phase where the Warrior needs to interrupt the super end-all attack.  It's basically a rotational one person show that gives the illusion of working as a team.

Let me moderate that last sentiment.  It's not all fights that are bad here.  It's just an overriding feeling of an emphasis on the individual when I believe the emphasis should be on the team.  That is no easy design feat.  I'm sure it is far easier to design a fight where you have several key points that can be passed around, but don't always involve everyone.  It'd be a lot harder, in my mind, to design a true team experience.  Yet, is there anything more frustrating than feeling powerless in a fight?  Than feeling like your goal is to be as unnoticeable as possible so as to not distract the rest of your team from what's important?  Than wiping repeatedly because the one person who has a really hard job is struggling and there's nothing really you can do to help him?

Maybe the answer, too, is that we suffer from a lack of inventiveness.  I'm sure if I pointed out specific times when I felt like this, people could counter with "but you could have used such-and-such ability."  That's probably true.  I don't claim to be "in the club," so obviously there are people with loads more experience out there than me.  Still, I can't help but agree with the expressed opinion that we're a bit too focused on the individual right now.  That individual abilities are a bit too unforgiving.  I don't want things dumbed down, but I would like to see more of an emphasis on the team.  Maybe I'm just too casual though.

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