Well, seems like the right time to have a good rant about something I don’t like. Today it’s going to be Raiding, that’s what most Massive Multiplayer games consider to be “end game” content. Raiding is where you take a set number of players in the game, mush them altogether, remove their individuality and reduce them down to a bunch of automated,  personality void, class symbols and numbers on a results meter. I used to raid…way back in the day, Primarily in Everquest 2 although I have also raided in World of Warcraft and a few others mmos here and there but I really try to avoid it whenever I can. To make this a bit easier to read and add some structure to it I’ll try to break it down into points I want to bitch talk about. Oh and this piece could get long…so you have been warned.

1.  Raiding Takes Skill.

No…No it really doesn’t, not anymore at least. See this is my first and primary issue with raiding in mmos now, they are all reduced down to internet strategy guides, ui mods and the biggest most ridiculous numbers you can throw out there. You don’t need to use your judgement on when to back off dealing damage because you might pull aggro from the Main Tank, the healers don’t need to watch the battle unfold and counter debuffs or dots themselves, the Tanks don’t need to keep an eye on their cooldowns or pay attention to their surroundings during a fight…..they all have a ui mod now that does it for them automatically. Gone are the days you had to have a knowledge of the games mechanics and good judgement to succeed, now you can have accurate factual information about everything that happens and manage those numbers to the point all you need to do now is shout at everyone else for not standing in the right place….the rest of the fight is already done for you.

Real Skill would be NOT using any mods, NOT using internet guides, NOT using voice coms because if your team has real skill and good teamwork they already know what to do and when to do it and their judgement is good enough to decide for themselves. If you have to tell them, remind them, make them look at an externally added mod or guide then they are not skillful. When you can take 10-20+ people into a raid with the basic UI the game was created with and achieve victory over the target, deal with any unexpected events and survive you are skillful, because you have achieved the objective using the skills you have collectively rather than the tools someone else made which removes the need for you to have any skill at all. 

2. Raiding gives the best loot.

Yes, this is usually true, but why is it true? Are the developers saying this is the hardest content in our game therefore if you can beat it you deserve the best stuff? Maybe they are….but then we already proved you don’t need to be the best players to beat raid content you just need the best ui mods and someone screaming at you on voice coms to stand in the right place. The reason raiding gives the best loot is because almost everyone wouldn’t bother doing it if it didn’t. You can go on any forum and ask this question and you’ll get bombarded with players telling you they love raiding and would do it without the best loot but that’s simply not true, the reason the content doesn’t guarantee everyone the best loot for completing it once is because the developers know it’s a good way to make one piece of content last many many weeks of repetition also known as “farming” when you repeatedly kill the same raid boss because you only have a small chance of getting loot you can use drop and then being the lucky/most deserving one out of all the classes that can use it.

It can effectively make a single raid boss that takes an hour to complete last for months for a group of players hoping to get that random loot piece from its corpse “this time” If raiding really was exciting, people wouldn’t need the promise/bribe of the best loot to keep doing it. The developers however know that once you get your best loot from that boss the incentive to go back and do it again, even if you go back for the rest of your guild is much less of an incentive. Sure, if you’re a dedicated guild member you might turn up for a few weeks redoing the raid out of that feeling of good will or guilt for finally getting that last piece of armour from the boss that completes your set bonus but sooner or later you’re going to get bored and you’ll start finding excuses to not turn up. This is because the raid content itself is not good enough to be worth repeating. Now I’m not saying people should get NO loot from doing it, they are spending their time playing through the content after all, I’m simply saying it doesn’t have to be better the loot you can get by alternative means such as crafting (NO not just crafting from raiding drops either) or single group content (whoever decided only 2 or more groups can have challenging content?).

3. But raiding is fun!

No, I already covered this above, pay attention. Getting the best loot and showing off over other players in social gatherings or in direct conflict such as dueling or pvp is fun because it makes you feel special and godlike. Raiding itself is tedious, repetitive and dull, if raiding were truly fun the rewards would not need to be better than other game content because players would willingly do it as an alternative activity. If you have never done it before it can be exciting to be swept along with a big crowd of seemingly professional people but that’s more because you’re new to it and havent yet witnessed the stupidly dull aspects such as raiding several times a week and getting nothing you want, sitting around for an extra 30 minutes or more because your key healer or tank who already has the good gear is late and is required to be able to survive the ridiculous one shot ten million damage the raid boss does….which he only does by the way because it’s the only way most developers can think of making content harder or showing you a reason to raid the previous tier raid boss to get the armour of resisting 10 million damge from raid boss tier 2.

Fun is generally achieved by doing something because you want to, not because you have to. The majority of players raid because they want to be competitive socially or in pvp and the best way to do that is to have the best equipment only achievable or achievable quickest by raiding. The content is nowhere near as addictive as that heart in your mouth feeling of hope that split second before you see the raid loot linked in the chat window and your hopes get dashed as you realise yet again you turned up and didn’t get that piece you wanted to drop.

4. Ah but these days Raids have tokens and in the past good guilds had DKP

Yes…lets address those two in reverse…DKP first. DKP or “Dragon Kill Points” is a way guilds use to record how often a player turns up to raid. The theory is you accrue DKP by frequently attending raid events. Each time a raid takes place the loot is “sold” to whoever can afford to bid the most DKP on it. Which in some ways is a decent way of encouraging your players to raid regularly and reward those that do raid regularly. What it fails to do though is encourage people who can’t raid regularly from even wanting to bother, why bother going to a raid once a week when the other guys at the raid have 100 DKP and you’re on 12, the only way you’ll get anything is if it’s so useless to everyone else they don’t want it. “So just raid more often”…..what you mean like turn it into a commitment? you know…like how you’re obligated to go to work to pay your bills, socialize with relatives you don’t like in case they remember you in their will or make that weekly trip to buy more food and fight your way through all the screaming children at the grocery store? yeah…that sounds like something worth paying for….

Token systems…I admit of all the evil that raiding has produced, token systems have some merit. The theory of a token system is that every time you raid you get a token, every token you get can be saved up and spent on rewards at a special vendor that will only sell you the best equipment if you have enough tokens to purchase it. The downside to this is that it kinda takes that one moment of hope/Joy or disappointment./Misery out of raiding…that moment after the boss dies just before the raid loot gets linked in chat. The momment when you might see your loot piece drop. Instead you get a slow, steady constant stream of relatively boring tokens which are effectively just like a different type of money that you have to grind and save up for. Now if you are a casual raider, the token system is a bad thing, because again what would happen is the price in tokens of the stuff you can buy with them would be designed for regular raiders not for casuals so you would now have to raid 20-30 times to afford one token piece of equipment as opposed to the more traditional random loot drops from the boss which although unlikely still gives you hope that you could turn up on any raid and have a small chance of getting the good stuff that very night.

5. I love the social atmosphere of raiding.

This is probably because you are one of the “popular” people, good for you. Most raiding has a few popular people who are dotted about the raid, popular because they raid a lot, because they happen to be all giggly and flirty or because they are one of the few good players that understand how the game works. Unfortunately for every popular player there is 6-8 random guys that you probably hardly know, have never raided with before or don’t like but need to make up the numbers.

 I strongly believe you get a much better social game in a smaller group playing through a single group dungeon and overcoming the challenges of that dungeon, the smaller group has opportunities for each individual to shine in their own way, a dps that spots a healer in trouble and pulls aggro from them by just beating on the aggro while the tank is busy tanking the main target. A healer that doubles as support dps when the tank makes a bad pull and needs to drop some enemies fast, a caster that can throw out an occasional crowd control spell which buys the healer and tank more time to finish off their current target or an offtank that manages to survive without hardly any support simply keeping respawns from attacking the healer….you can’t see any of this in a raid because firstly there are so many players it just becomes a big swarm of flashes and bangs and many people are too busy watching the ui meters to notice any real heroic or supportive actions by an individual, the other reason is because of Mr Boss with his 10 million damage one shot that basically doesn’t allow for players to adapt you either do the job exactly like this or your entire raid is wiped in 10 seconds flat….theres no flexibility.

In a raid scenario, a bad player gets shunned, kicked or even insulted by the crowd and lets face it when a crowd of people start collectively attacking you for doing something wrong, not meeting the gear requirements or simply not having the internet guide memorised already you can feel pretty miserable when you really just wanted to play the game and have fun. In a small group a bad player…at least some of the time (I admit people are becoming less patient these days now that solo play is so common and players have less opportunity to practice being sociable) can get some coaching from their group members, their mistakes or areas they are lacking are not always as integral to success as with raiding, for example if you have a dps player who isn’t putting out the raid minimum of 120 dps they get replaced, if you lack a bit of dps in a small group dungeon run usually the rest of the group don’t mind because dungeons are not designed to be all about the biggest numbers but more about consistent progression and flexibility of roles, the ability for the group to collectively compensate for each other is what I consider to be the very basis of teamwork.

6. Epix Make me Pwn u.

Let’s face it if we go back to why most people raid, to get the best gear then that gear has to be pretty special right? well it doesn’t have to be but it certainly is. For some reason almost every mmo has this flawed concept of balancing equipment perfectly fine through Standard, Uncommon and Rare types of loot which works really well for the majority of the game then you hit the raiding scene and come across Epic items….these items are better than all three other types usually even combined their stats are no match for Epic items. This is a major flaw in any game because what that does is raise the bar so high above what none raiders are equipped with as to completely destroy any balance in the game. You can enter a PvP game with a full set of Uncommon items and still put up a good fight against someone wearing all rares or a mix of rare and uncommon equipment but if you meet someone with a few epic items equipped you’re going to get beaten like a red headed step child.

I believe if you went back in time to the Vanilla World of Warcraft game for example, and took out all the Epic loot in the game PvP would have been about 100% more balanced than it was pre Burning Crusade (the first expansion). I can’t speak for after that because I stopped playing but the amount of times you witnessed someone in full Epic gear slaughtering several none Epic equipped players of equal level without breaking sweat was truly disheartening. If you look on youtube you can probably still find videos of players doing it. Now if your mmo doesn’t have PvP then Epic loot isn’t as big of a problem but it is still a problem because while you can’t get thrashed by players you are still fighting content designed around the highest potential available to the player base.

New content is designed to be challenging and often the best way to interpret what is challenging is to figure out what the strongest player is capable of, you don’t take average joe in his green gear and balance the content for him because people with Epic gear will trivialize it so badly it would be embarrassing. So you balance it just below Epic equipped player potential so that the content is challenging for them but then of course if you don’t have epic gear that same content can be pretty rough.

I don’t know why the balance is so broken when you introduce Raid loot, no game seems to have a problem balancing, common, uncommon and rare loot, you never feel like someone with a full set of rare loot is trashing you easily so I can’t understand what happens when developers get hold of the “Epic” loot design tools, they just seem to go crazy with it when I believe players who dedicate themselves to raiding so much to get a full set of gear really dedicate themselves to simply getting an advantage…that advantage wouldn’t need to be 100 extra strength or 1000 extra hit points I’m certain 2 extra points of strength or 100 extra hit points would still be enough to make that sort of player seek it out because it is still an advantage it just isn’t as great of an advantage as to decide the fight so convincingly. I also think developers often overlook the combinations of Epic loot you can combine evidence of which is how certain players can completely trivialize content by for example equipping an epic dagger that regenerates health with an epic cloak that reflects damage back on its attacker. If only the developer stopped a bit more often and thought whoa…hang on a minute these two items should not be used in combination because that’s just going to be silly.

7. You Are Class X, You Must Spec like this.

This one is a real nasty problem, developers spend years making their game, designing classes with multiple skill trees, equipment sets and play styles and then along comes the raid content and with it the “raiders” that won’t give you the time of day unless you spec exactly like everyone else that is your class. Want to be a dps healer? no you picked a healing class, be a healer or you won’t be raiding, your heals are too important to be nuking. So you’re a hybrid? sorry you’re not dedicated enough to be good at any one role we need more specialists. Lets take two thirds of all class specialisation trees and completely make them redundant for raid content….thats sure to improve the gameplay isn’t it!

This is one of those questions that is like the chicken or the egg problem….did the developers create the problem by giving players the option to diversify away from their intended class roles or did the raiders create the problem by believing you cannot beat a raid without specialising 100% in your archetype role? Regardless it is a major issue in games and surprisingly no developer has yet bothered to address it. They all promise their game will be different but none of them actually are. Theres no point including diversity in your classes if that diversity shuts out the player from participating in the raid content.

 

8. Dats all Folks!

Anyway, that’s pretty much why I hate raiding, Some of these issues are certainly faults of designers and some are the fault of the self imposed restrictions players put on the activity in the name of “fun” but the truth for me is raiding is just not enjoyable and by choosing to not partake of raiding for a long time now it has left me as a player lagging behind in competitiveness. It might be hard to understand for some folks but the desire to be competitive does not automatically go hand in hand with the desire to want to raid night after night for hours on end. Some games are introducing alternative ways to earn similar rewards, the first step was craftable epic loot but the people who came up with that idea did the unforgivable step of putting the materials needed to craft epic loot inside the epic raid dungeons so they amounted to the same thing….you still had to raid to be able to craft the epic loot…which is just dumb. PvP rewards are definitely getting there in some games now and I can see more of a trend towards games separating equipment so that Epic Raid loot is specialised at being good in Raids and PvP Epic loot is specialised at being good in PvP and they really don’t interchange too well. I’m not sure if I agree with specialising the loot, I’ve never been a fan of carrying around multiple sets of gear,  I still think reigning in it’s “epicness” and slapping developers that get carried away is a far better system but I suppose any change is an improvement at this point.

If you made it this far…wow thanks for reading all that drivel! and if you just skipped to see what I said at the end…LEEEEERRRROOOOY JENKINS!

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