Why raiders hate to see the word ‘accessible’

First I’d like to thank Ravious over at KTR for being an ass and posting a great review of The Guild Leaders Handbook. I’m also reading that book at the moment and more or less agree with what he has written, so writing my review of it is going to be very Alganon-like. Clear case of discrimination here as well, as the only reason Ravious read the book faster than me is due to my ESL disability, which he clearly exploited to further the KTR agenda and steal views and profits away from me. Damn blogger bullies picking on the weak!

But today’s main topic is actually inspired by said book, as while reading I noticed the familiar mention of why some people raid and why they get upset when those raids are made more ‘accessible’ to others. The author, and many before him, state that raiders raid in part so they can get items/power above anyone else, and this exclusivity is what drives them. As soon as the exclusivity is gone, they get upset.

I believe that’s not exactly true. While raiders certainly enjoy the spoils of raiding, and any serious guild is always striving to be at the top of a progression chart, most of them really don’t care what Joey Casual is up to, or what gear he is currently wearing. While raiding is a very social activity, that social interaction is limited to your guild, and perhaps the guilds you compete with. Everyone else is just ‘there’, and you could really care less what they are doing.

No, the reason a current raider hates to see raiding being made more ‘accessible’ is because to them, it means it’s going to be made trivial, and trivial raiding is boring. Solutions such as hard modes don’t work either, because too often hard mode is just a rehash of normal with a twist or two, and that’s a far cry from what the raiders were getting before. Same goes for a guild adding its own rules (no pots, only blue gear, turning XP off, whatever); if you are playing in a themepark and have to go that far to enjoy a ride, that’s not a well-designed themepark.

The motivation to raid is a complex formula rather than just one factor. It’s not about the epic gear, or about seeing a new boss, or about progressing a storyline, or the rush that comes with a world/server/guild first kill. It’s all of those things and more. So when you take away pieces of that formula, you weaken a raider’s motivation to progress. Without that motivation, all but the most dedicated guilds will fold or see activity decrease. And that motivation is key, because ask any raider, and they will tell you the highlight for them is always taking down that really tough boss the guild worked X weeks to get just right. Also notice that its on those type of encounters that players become very familiar with all of the bosses mechanics, and it’s only in those situations that those mechanics ‘matter’. Observe any raiding guild and you will see that pushover bosses, while nice loot piñatas, are always the most disappointing content.  Notice that even if a boss has interesting mechanics, if they can be overcome by brute force and just smashed down, no one is entertained or amazed by said mechanics. Raiding, at its core, is about overcoming those seemingly impossible odds with others, and everyone sharing in that glory. When the odds are not only in your favor, but so far in your favor that failure seems almost impossible, you lose the really heart and soul of raiding.

I really believe that the core issue with WoW raids being made more ‘accessible’ over the years is not the challenge level itself, because certainly even 2004 WoW was easier than say EQ1 raiding, but that Blizzard continues to lower the bar year after year. If you started playing in 2004, but found 40 man raiding too difficult, BC and 25 man raiding might have made raiding accessible to you. Great for you, bad for those who found pre-BC raiding a proper challenge. Problem is, if you thought BC raiding was ‘just right’, WotLK making raiding even more ‘accessible’ means you are now in the same place those pre-BC raiders found themselves in a while back; playing through trivial content. Place your bets on what Cataclysm will do for those who find WotLK a challenge.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in MMO design, Patch Notes, Random, Rant, Uncategorized, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Why raiders hate to see the word ‘accessible’

  1. sid67 says:

    While this may have once been true, I no longer believe it’s the case. The complexity of the content doesn’t matter to most players any longer. They don’t want group challenge. They just want the gear.

    Gear was always important in WoW, but over the past few years it’s become almost the only important thing.

    There are a few reasons, but the main two are that:

    1) Blizzard hands out gear like Candy. Motivation to succeed in many ways is entirely gear driven. “Success” is marked less by your Raid progression and more by your Gear Score.

    2) Blizzard’s system has devalued the “group” over the years. As such, group success is not very meaningful. It’s a means to an end and if you are more successful than your Guild (i.e. get better gear), then you are encouraged to move on to the next Guild.

    In other words, the focus is on individual success (not group success) which is measured by your Gear Score or the quality of YOUR gear. If a player’s gear outgrows a Guild (simply by virtue of lucky drops) then they move on in progression.

    • SynCaine says:

      I agree, so perhaps those who are doing raid content in WoW today are not really the type of raiders most think of when they hear the word. I don’t know, been a while since I’ve PvE raided at that level, but I guess I would not be surprised if that is indeed the mentality of the common WoW raider today. A very different crowd from those who played before, given all of the changes.

      I still think the misconception applies though, if not to current-day WoW raiders, than to everyone else raiding in other games.

  2. Amuntoth says:

    Keep in mind that these “raiders” are the hardcore raiders, not the pug/random group or half guild run raiders. That makes up less than the 5% of people who currently pay WoW’s end game, according to Blizzard. So should we cater to those elite of the elite who can, if they get bored, go elsewhere and make us lose 5% of our playerbase? or should we cater to the other 95% of players who want to experience said content?

    The choice is clear. Don’t knock WoW for appealing to the majority of it’s gamers. If thats not your style then play something else, as you obviously do. But don’t bash other people because you can’t find something fun.

    Of course, thats not how the internet works. Do I personally hope they make Cataclysm raids easier? Sure, make them as easy as 5-man heroics. I’d love to be able to pug a raid everyday and get some good gear and have fun, without committing to a second job.

    • SynCaine says:

      I don’t remember exactly when WoW hit 11m, but do keep in mind that WoW was growing rapidly when Blizzard was releasing those ‘hardcore’ raids, while WotLK did not greatly increase (if at all) WoW’s sub count. Not to say that both are directly tied to each other, but still.

      Yet even so, I’m not debating HOW Blizzard should design WoW, they have made their choice very clear. I’m simply pointing out a common misconception about WHY raiders don’t want their content becoming ‘accessible’, and that it has nothing to do with keeping people out.

      • amuntoth says:

        True. And I think the 5% number is from the middle of Burning Crusade anyway, so now it is probably higher.

        I just think the distinction needs to be made that you are referring to hardcore raiders, not your average raider.

        Great post though. As always, I love reading your stuff, even if it pisses me off half the time :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well, in The Burning Crusade Blizzard actually generally followed the pattern of : Release new raid that is tuned to be very hard, most people will wipe all the time, then after the top guilds have all beaten it, nerf the encounter so that more people can beat it (see, Gruul, Magtheridon, etc). Now in Wrath with the most recent stuff they seem to be going with this: Give a gradually increasing buff as the weeks/months go by such that more people can beat it because they are arbitrarily more powerful than normal.

    Its not a terrible compromise really, but it doesn’t change the fact that even the most difficult stuff is relatively trivial for the best of the best at this point. No one cares about world or server firsts anymore, hell I was never in a guild that was competiting for world firsts, yet it was a scene I always paid attention to just because it was neat. Nowadays, who cares. I think thats the part that is sad to lose. Granted, i’m sure 90% of the players didn’t even know anything more than that raids existed before, and now its just as if new content is available to them.

  4. valkrysa says:

    ZOMG I’m with Amuntoth! You mentioned WoW in a manner that was not of complete devotion, clearly you are “bashing” it!

  5. Bhagpuss says:

    “Everyone else is just ‘there’, and you could really care less what they are doing.”

    As I’ve mentioned a few times here and there, that sums up my view of all other players in all MMOs I’ve played except for those with whom I have or develop a personal relationship. Curious to see it used about the attitude of the elite raiding guilds when I see it as the defining belief structure of the non-aligned, self-motivated individualist (a very different animal from the “casual”).

    The vast majority of other players in MMOs serve primarily as NPCs with above-average AI. Their function is background color. They provide this much more effectively and convincingly than actual NPCs, which is why so many people find that once they have played an online RPG it’s almost impossible to enjoy an offline one.

    It’s like when you go travelling. You see thousands of people, most of whom you never speak to and have no idea what they are doing, feeling, thinking. But you observe them, are aware of them, consciously and unconsciously; they provide atmosphere, context, depthh to the experience of moving through their town or country.

    I’ve got no interest in raiding, but seeing people swanning about in their raid gear, parading their odd monts, pets and other toys adds to the gaiety of nations. Of course, it works just the same for me whether they got their stuff from six months’ intensive raiding or $50 in the cash shop. I get the benefit of their scenery either way.

    • SynCaine says:

      This is true in a PvE world like WoW, but it’s far from true in a world like DarkFall or EVE. In those, not only do I know my guild and my alliance, but I’m also very familiar with my direct enemies, along with the server’s ‘all stars’ that I know to avoid in PvP.

      I mean sure, I could attempt to ignore them like I do in a PvE world, but the consequences of such actions are very harsh in DF/EVE, while there are basically none in a PvE world.

      • Jordan says:

        Which is why I, once a die-hard PvE player with very little interest in PvP, have become a PvP player.

        PvE games really don’t foster much of a community anymore, which is very important to me because i want to feel like i’m actually playing around in another world instead of just running around in a game…and community is an important aspect, maybe the most important aspect, of getting that “real world” feel.

        EQ used to be like that for the first 5 or so years i played. Had an awesome community where you knew so many people and guilds on your server and relationships mattered etc. Very similar in that way to today’s PvP games. It made a tremendous difference in how i viewed the game and why it held my interest for so long. Almost the polar opposite of today’s PvE games sadly.

        • Sleepysam says:

          So, what do you play to get the pvp fix?

        • Jordan says:

          Darkfall, when i had time. And loved it. Unfortunately real world has intervened with a demanding job, a 16-month old demanding time at home (which happens to be the highlight of my day ;), a real estate/2nd home investment with my wife and dad that takes up a lot of weekends etc. and i just don’t have time to play at this point in my life. When i get that time back, hopefully it will be soon and hopefully Darkfall is still around for me to play.

  6. Adam says:

    In everyones rush to embrace casual gamers and ignore the “5%” of hardcore players I think much is lost.

    Those hardcores are what typically drives the game for even the casuals.

    If anyone has been in a casual guild with people that login for 1-2 hours a night sporadically you’ll know what I mean.

    The hardcore players are what keeps the guild moving along and doing things, casuals usually barely contribute enough to finish a 5 man.

    Hardcores play all the time and are really the core of the social system in the game.

    If you don’t provide a game for them I think everyone suffers.

    • sid67 says:

      Those hardcores are what typically drives the game for even the casuals.

      I’ve never agreed with that concept. Content drives the game. Not other gamers.

      A harder progression path just takes longer and may have barriers that casuals can’t overcome (like organizing 40 people on Tuesday night).

      The whole idea that gamers aspire to be other like other gamers is a bit ridiculous. I’d say it’s only those “elite” people who even believe this is true and that’s a function of their own self-inflated egos.

      No. I think the more simple answer that content is the driving force. And in turn, I think most people want things hard enough so they are challenged, but not so hard that they can’t do it.

      And it’s only the inability for developers to churn out content at a rate players can consume it that makes them want to increase difficulty beyond a “challenging enough” level.

      • Adam says:

        @sid67

        I think I’m trying to say something different than you are addressing.

        If there isn’t something for grinders to do they wont log in.

        If casuals login and never see each other because their hours are so hit and miss then guild/game seems dead.

        Grinders/hardcores are the guys that are always on in your guild and doing something. A guild without them is pretty sad.

        • sid67 says:

          Yes, that is a different point. I was thinking you were using the old argument that hardcore raiders give something for the casuals to aspire towards. As-if that’s some kind of motivation. Which is silly..

          What you are talking about is interesting because it’s more about fostering a community.

          Although, even here, such communities exist even when the gameplay doesn’t always support it.

          Take Mafia Wars, there are whole fan sites devoted to it. Which have chat rooms in which the ‘Hardcore’ sit and chat. Whole evenings are wasted by these people as they play this simple game. For such people, is it the game (achievement) or the sense of community?

          There will be hardcore players even if the game is really simple.

  7. Sean says:

    A couple points:

    – Increasing accessibility != lowering challenge.
    Go is an example. Chess is slightly more complex but still widely accessible. Accessibility has more to do with good UI design, transparent game mechanics, doing away with gratuitous barriers to entry.

    You pointed to Vanilla as a model of interesting raid content that was eroded in subsequent expansions by the demands of accessibility. However, the major changes brought in by BC and Wrath were things such as the removal of time sinks like farming mats for resistance-based gimmick fights or lining up to get world buffs. Elements like those, and even more so in EQ, add nothing in terms of content and serve only to gate content based on time invested.

    Raiding in BC and Wrath became less about the logistics of managing the guild bank and herding 40 people around, 10 of whom were being out-and-out carried, and more about developing and executing on strategies while maintaining a higher level of personal performance than before. The above average raider of today is far better at performing his role than his compatriot of four years ago. Like the introduction of speed suits in swimming, the raiding environment today has been transformed by the amount of information and tools readily accessible for every aspect of the game.

    While the raids themselves are far more accessible to step foot in in today’s WoW, the interesting content that keeps the hardcore playing still exists and it has been tuned to ever higher degrees. In an environment where the above average are really good, Blizzard has had to tune the heroic modes so harshly that only a small handful of the best guilds in the world are able to complete them while they’re still relevant. So if anything, Heroic Lich King 25 when it was released and even with the 5% ICC buff (yay for casuals!) was arguably harder than any encounter ever put into the game.

    – Lowering raid size != lowering challenge
    With Cataclysm, Blizzard will be disincentivizing 25 man raiding by making both 10 and 25 man versions of a raid drop the same loot. They will also tune the encounters to be of comparable difficulty. So, a clear case of destroying what’s left of an interesting challenge in WoW?

    I doubt it. This situation already exists in WoW’s current raiding environment under the guise of “Strict 10 man raiding.” The idea? Don’t face roll 10 man content that is tuned for 10 man gear by raiding the 25 man version and only then going back to the 10 man. Do it as intended, and only raid 10 man. Funnily enough, Blizzard’s new raids take on a different patina. They’re hard. They take time to learn and to execute. They have tight margins.

    I expect introductory raids in the new expansion to be just that, introductory. However, Blizzard’s pedigree, at least on the WoW team, is hardcore EQ raiding. The time sinks and barriers to entry have lowered substantially but not the spirit.

  8. bonedead says:

    Weird post is weird!

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