Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Dancier Dance

I've been following Klepsacovic at Troll Racials are Overpowered for some time now. To some extent, I consider him my reader's personal Howard Stern. That is to say, he can be a bit of a shock jock, but probably less focus on nudity (this being a text-based media, though Howard did it on the radio so maybe he just hasn't gotten that big yet). I'll admit it, I hang around for the lulz. And I inwardly cringe for some of the hate mail he must get when he takes "the line" and leaps across it with wild abandon.

Color me surprised, then, to read his article today. I suppose I was anticipating extreme hyperbole at some point, but instead got a really well-reasoned article. Instead of exercising (or is that exorcizing?) my best warlock cackle in anticipation of the flames to come, I found myself nodding vigorously along with his points.

I encourage you to click through, but I'll summarize what I took from the article. Basically, Klep is establishing that you could basically design a raid fight in several ways. Let's assume all players could be thrown into one of three bins, labelled: Bad, Average, and Superstar. The fight can then "test" one of those levels. Superstar tests require extreme multitasking, and are generally shouldered by one talented member of the raid. An average test clocks in as "DPS" race, where generally the whole raid is involved but to clear it without extra gear, you need to demonstrate a passable mastery of your class. Bad tests then would be best exemplified by "Defile" on the Lich King fight. A mechanic that, should one "bad" person stand in it, will wipe the raid.

Since most things are better viewed on a sliding scale, we could say that we have individual responsibility at both ends of our "test" slider, with "involving everyone" in the middle. The problem with simply shooting for the middle is that there are a limited number of mechanics you could employ without being completely bland. Also, it can be a bit rewarding when one person is allowed to shine. The flip side is that it can be utterly frustrating when one person causes a fail (both for the group and that one person).

Klep says that he feels WoW's raid design has slowly been moving that slider downward, toward the "bad" tests. I have to say, I tend to agree. It does seem to me that raid mechanics of late either involve DPS races where most of the raid is involved, or have a mechanic where derping it up wipes the raid. There seem to be fewer and fewer "superstar" type tests.

It's a shame because where "bad" tests are firmly seated in negative reinforcement, I think "superstar" tests have the potential to seem more positive. The problem being, of course, that it flies in the face of the "bring the player not the class" mantra. That is, often "superstar" tests involve a specific combination of abilities, limiting the possible classes needed. This realization serves to reinforce the feeling of that slider sliding lower, and it seems in line with what we've heard from the Devs.

Yet, is it a good thing? Having been a 10-man raider longer than other types of raiding, I suppose I'm more used to enhanced individual responsibility than, say, a 25-man raider. Even so, I find myself wishing often that losing just one person wasn't so dire. In 25's, I feel like: "Fel! We can lose half the raid and we're still fine." Now that's not completely true, but the wiggle room is there.

I don't really have a good solution or anything. We could probably discuss the trade-offs at length, and I'm sure Blizz has. I've said in the past that I'd like to see more tank-and-spanks randomly thrown in (especially early in a raid instance). That is, I think we could do with more "average" tests sprinkled in. They may not be as exciting mechanically, but I think they help keep a raid group together with positive vibes.

I suppose instead of coming to some grand conclusion that I don't really have, I'll instead close with a mostly unrelated public service announcement. I'm sure y'all know this already, but if you bail on a LFR group, you get a 30 minute deserter debuff. Apparently, everyone in our raid group had missed this. And the debuff umbrellas out to include the dungeon finder as well (which is dumb, IMO).

We queued up, but were placed in a group that was a revolving door on the last boss. We'd wanted to do all of the first four, so we dropped right away. There was no warnings about 3/4 cleared, no chance to decline a show already in progress. But they were on the platform, so they'd obviously cleared the first part (we were queuing for the first half of DS, fwiw). Maybe the warning just malfunctioned, I don't know. In any case, it was not what we wanted, and we only need a few seconds to see that they group wasn't going anywhere fast.. The finder, for whatever reason, was throwing people in and no one wanted to do just one boss... people were popping in and out like crazy.

Imagine our surprise when we dropped and got that 30 minute debuff. No big deal, thought we, we'll just do some 5-mans. Oh, wait. Can't do those either. Welp, I guess Ima go play Star Wars then. Boo hiss. (In all fairness, this is my first negative experience with the LFR, though I'm not a heavy user.)

I guess we should have just stayed and tried to do that one boss and been grateful for the opportunity. Still, it seemed like a confluence of odd design choices conspired to end our raid night early. I mean, we didn't even get to the mechanics! We danced with the "organization" raid boss, and wiped. Sometimes, it's just not your night.


  1. Assuming everything's tuned right, I've found the bane of 10mans is throughput fights (raids get stacked for composition or utility), and the bane of 25mans is execution/coordination fights (25 reactions take longer / require faster & more frequent individual reactions than 10, it almost seems).

    I remember we tried Beth'tilac in 10man for the first time and it was cake, and then we went to go try it in 25man thinking it would be faceroll and it was actually a giant wall of Not Fun for a while. That could have been the wonky tuning between raid sizes of Firelands, but our 25man problems were in teaching the other 15 people what to do with the adds, mostly.

  2. Our 10-man had a helluva time with Beth. It's true that coordination is easier, but the margin of error also seems similarly diminished. For instance, on Beth, if you lost one person from pretty much any role, you were going to wipe. Everyone had a job, and there were no backups.

    We seem to be okay when it's just throughput... but if it's throughput while doing other things...