Wednesday, July 15, 2015

More Thoughts on Casual Progression in WoD

Someday I'll be better at actually making sure I'm writing stuff on my own blog and not leaving essays on other blogs.  That day is not today.  Well, uh, it sort of is, I guess, but that wasn't the main motivation here.

I've been leaving said essays on two blogs lately:

1, The Grumpy Elf has a post about a player unexpectedly ignoring mechanics in normal raids and the potential decline of raiding skill due to age/time away from WoW/etc.  There's sort of two "conversations" I have going on with Grumpy at the same time in the comments with the first being here and the second being here.

2. Azuriel has a post questioning the amount of content in WoD.  The comment chain I've been involved in starts here and it is quite long.  So long, in fact, that since Azuriel seems to have lost interest in the subject and it's a royal pain to reply that I'm "restarting" the chain here in an effort to bring the vertical scroll down to a more manageable length.  The last several replies have been to a MattH and that's who I am quoting in this post in response.

(Note: the following quote originated from Grumpy's post (which is why I noticed said post), though if you've read some of that already you might guess that I disagreed with that player being a good example of normal being overtuned -- rather, it was a player just completely ignoring mechanics)
MattH wrote...
I can’t think of one pre-Garrosh fight in Flex SoO that relied on one player following mechanics to not wipe the raid. Closest I can think of is Sha. Normal is overtuned. It should be the equivalent of Kharazan late BC if you are looking to have a Friends and Family raid, but that’s been the complaint since day one of WoD raids. Hell, Brackenspore killed so many raids I pugged, either because I had to sacrifice my dps to do the flamethrower or because others couldn’t do them properly. Yeah gear eventually took care of that, but not pug friendly.
 First of all, let's be clear about something -- most people's memories of Flex SoO are from when they overgeared the place and were facerolling it.  That whole year of farming with having an item level significantly above what the raid dropped (plus the direct item level upgrades and legendary cloak).  You also had a lot more mains raiding Normal/Heroic going to Flex or even going on just their alts out of sheer boredom.  Which meant a lot of the later raids in particular significantly outskilled and/or outgeared the content which is NOT happening now in Hellfire Citadel (or earlier in Highmaul/BRF).

Why is this important?  Well, your mention of Sha, for example, because I'm not even sure what you're referring to in the fight.  Breaking people out of prisons?  Avoiding getting Pride (because if you got a lot of Pride you could nuke the raid through one of several abilities based on Swelling Pride)?  The tanks taunt swapping to avoid getting Pride (and thus MCed)?  Or are we excluding tanks from these mechanics?

And then we bring in that skill/gear factor I mention above -- I actually remember being able to one-tank Sha of Pride due to having some very geared players (as in a large chunk of the raid being Heroic geared players doing Flex for fun with friends).  How did we deal with the lack of a tank swap?  We pushed him to 30% before the tank hit 100% pride so it then got reset (lusted on pull).  But that was not how Flex originally was in your average Flex group.

The point I'm making is that if you look at some of the following examples and think "Well, it didn't hit THAT hard" then you were doing the content with an overgeared or overskilled group.  Because I saw PUG groups struggle with some of stuff I'm about to mention.

1, Galakras required two people to be able to fire the cannon correctly at the same time and at the right time (didn't want to do it mid add-wave, for example).  Usually when discussing this topic people are referring to randomly targeted mechanics rather than assigned mechanics but you *did* mention Flamethrowers on Brackenspore.  In the final phase you needed to have people bring the fireball through the raid -- and I saw several cases where a person got targeted and got OUT of the raid since that's usually what those mechanics do.  Queue raid wipe.

2, Iron Juggernaut had the tank debuff, of course, and in the second phase a person kiting the laser over the tar while the pulse was going off could wipe the raid.

3, Dark Shamans had several more examples where one bad tank could screw over the raid -- taunt swap, slime placement, Ashan Wall placement, etc.  Individual raid members could run Foul Stream over a large chunk of the raid -- and if people were at lower health due to the Falling Ash landing <25% it could easily kill quite a few people and lead to a wipe.

 4. Nazgrim had another tank swap and if a person or two decided to stand in Aftershocks and DPS the boss during Defensive Stance you could easily get some Ravagers flying...which that person or two would then stand in and you get more Ravagers and oh god the axes.

5. Malkorok had another tank swap and required people to soak the puddles -- in theory anyone can get in any puddle...but in practice everyone can't run across the entire room to get the puddle next to that oblivious mage.  A person or two not soaking the puddles could lead to a wipe.  Then we had the Displaced Energy debuff during Blood Rage -- I don't want to count the times I saw everyone with the debuff stay in the raid and then the raid just exploded.

6. Thok had a tank swap (technically could be solo tanked but made the fight much harder) and, of course, the Fixate in phase 2.  Raise your hand if you saw someone get chased by Thok and they just led him through the entire raid.  Yeah.

7. Paragons had the Kuchongs which people could either stand next to and get Mesmerized into or they could just flat out run into the Kuchongs.  Either way you got the Mature Kuchongs which sucked to deal with and I saw them wipe some groups.  Technically you could often handle them as long as you didn't get more than one or two but...still a major problem.

So yeah.  SoO had a lot of mechanics that relied on individuals following them to not wipe the raid (or at least cause major problems which sometimes resulted in a wipe).

Regarding Brackenspore: I don't know what class you play(ed), but Flamethrowers technically should be a DPS increase if you do them correctly as a ranged DPS, at least.  Might be a DPS loss for melee, don't remember at this point.

This next part is talking about ZA/ZG in Cataclysm -- previously I pointed out that while he said the gear was nowhere close to the raids that had come out, they were only 6 ilvls below the normal raid difficulty at the time the dungeons came out (during Blackwing Descent/Bastion of Twilight/Throne of the Four Winds).
MattH wrote...
Except for the Valor and weapons, they were terrible. Justice got you 346 blues, Valor 359 purples. The only slot you couldn’t fill with Valor gear was the main hand drops in the Zul’s. Terrible as catch-up content, especially considering they were the only weapon drops available outside a raid until patch 4.3 dungeons. Imagine how many people spent a whole year with one weapon.
I don't understand what you expected out of them.  Valor gave gear equal to normal raids (current heroic difficulty) and had a weekly limit -- you could only get one item every week or two.  Did you expect ZA/ZG to also give gear equal to normal raids despite being easier and on a daily lockout?  You might be able to *eventually* fill most slots with Valor but that would take months to do (even one item per week on average would be 14+ weeks for a full Valor set -- that's 3.5 months of capping Valor every week).

Again, normal BD/BoT/TotFW (tier 11 -- which was the *current* content, you had nothing to catch up to at the time) was tuned around 346 blues.  ZA/ZG gave 353 gear.  It was amazing catch up content in that regard -- though whether they were too difficult is another story (meaning ZA/ZG were too difficult for their intended audience -- *I* loved them personally).

Then you mention 4.3 in a manner that makes me think you're trying to talk about ZG/ZA as catch-up content for both tier 11 AND Firelands.  I don't see how that makes any sense given that ZG/ZA were released before Firelands was the current content.

So now if we're talking Firelands catch-up content, when Firelands came out there was a new selection of Valor gear while the old Valor gear became purchasable for Justice.  Meaning you could get ton of 359 items from Justice, some 365 items from the Molten Front, and 378 items from Valor.  Weapon-wise you could get a 365 weapon from Blacksmithing (BoE so could buy it on AH as I recall).  If people spent an entire year with one weapon from ZA/ZG then they weren't raiding (otherwise they'd have a tier 11 or Firelands weapon) and didn't care enough to buy a crafted weapon.

So I'm really not sure what to say here.  Cataclysm/ZA/ZG all certainly had some flaws but what you're talking about doesn't seem to have been a major issue...

Next up we have dungeon (either dropped or "Valor" type rewards) vs LFR gear!  The previous question was "Dragon Soul LFR dropped 384 with tier/trinkets/etc. The dungeons with the same patch dropped 378. Are you claiming that no one was running those 378 dungeons for catch-up/alternate progression?"
MattH wrote...
No, but I do claim people won’t now. If anything it’s the opposite of Cata LFR. LFR gear is obsolete within a few weeks because of the Tanaan gearing. Those people who are looking to get into a normal run would see more upgrades from the outdoor grind than from LFR. It’s almost a direct violation of the RNG-as-content argument that Blizzard trots out constantly. It’s certainly more likely to get you the items you need and not extend out play time for most LFR players. Except maybe hunters looking to transmog that god awful tier set. Sad that the LFR mail set actually looks better.
A major thing you're missing here is the time investment.  The vast majority of people who only run LFR/dungeons are not going to be doing all of the the dailies every single day.  Even if you did do all the dailies every day and earned, say, 6667 crystals per day (I don't know how accurate that number is, I basically just tripled the "main" quest's rewards) it would still take a minimum of 45 days to get *just* the upgrade items themselves (well, technically 42 if you also do the Garrison Campaign for Tanaan since you get a free upgrade item).  Then you also need another 5000 crystals per slot you didn't get a drop/reward of and 10000 for a weapon slot in particular.  This is also assuming a 2H or ranged weapon -- add some more time in if you use two unique weapon slots.

That is a massive amount of time invested right there whereas LFR takes significantly less time relative to the rewards given.  That's the paradigm -- LFR will gear you far more quickly with less effort but the gear is random and a lot of it is worse than the Tanaan Empowered gear.  Then you can fill any slots missing with Empowered gear and/or crafted gear if you want.

Also, LFR is not *supposed* to be extended out.  Blizzard specifically wants people who only do LFR to get through it quickly and then unsubscribe if they so wish, not drag out a gear grind in it.  They said they'd rather have a person generally enjoy their LFR (gearing) experience and be wanting to resubscribe for the next patch rather than have that person miserable and hating LFR and quitting WoW entirely.

Now we have a discussion of catching up in WoD and I pointed out that "If your goal is to raid, then in 6.0 and 6.1 catching up was never easier in the history of WoW. However, it did require doing LFR and normal and/or heroic of older raids (in addition to other things like crafting, apexis gear, and so on). And since HM/BRF was the current tier, there wasn’t really anything to catch-up TO if you weren’t raiding." 
MattH wrote...
Not a huge fan of raiding the same raid to raid. Raids should be what you strive for, not what you do to do more of what you’ve done, grinding LFR, to grind Normal, to grind Heroic. This expansion and Cataclysm are the two that essentially ask you to do that since Blizzard established catch-up mechanisms. Before that you had faction grinds and dungeons, content outside of the raids themselves.
Where did I ever say "grind LFR to grind Normal to grind Heroic?"  We were discussing someone trying to catch up as quickly as possible here to Normal/Heroic raiding.  Between 630 dungeon blues, 640 Challenge Mode epics, up to three 670 crafted items, various 655+ BoEs, 640 LFR Highmaul items, and potentially even some Apexis gear you could *easily* be ready for Normal, hell, even Heroic Highmaul within a week of hitting 100.  I trust you're not saying that potentially doing Highmaul LFR one time for an item or three due to being behind the curve is a grind?  That's not even getting into the Conquest items either which were 660 I believe.
MattH wrote...
Look, all I want is gear progression that lets me test myself, that I can do with 4 friends, without having to find 5-25 more, that is new content, not rehashed, warmed over, tired material. Now all I have is the hope that I don’t get into a group of mouthbreathers in a normal raid after spending an hour in Group Finder asking every open group if they need a dps, and no other content short of that.
I’m not trying to convince you that you aren’t having fun, that you aren’t enjoying yourself, all I am trying to get across is that this expac feels skimpy if you aren’t either a raider, or don’t care about social play outside of RP. I’d probably be fine with “Mythic” dungeons had I not exhausted my tolerance of them long ago, simply because they were the only thing to do.

I would think that you’d like to see me and others like me happy, so that we keep subbed and you keep getting the content you like. We don’t know below what threshold they won’t be able to pay the people who make your favored content, even though FFXIV can do it with less than 4 million subs, so you probably aren’t close, but I hope you never stop raiding, because there’s nothing else right now.
Have you considered using a site like OpenRaid rather than the Group Finder?  You're a lot more likely to find quality groups there that lack the "mouthbreathers" you mention.  I know you said you don't have a set schedule, but you don't have to go to the same run every week or something.

And I'm not sure why you're trying to get that across to me -- I've said multiple times through the comments I left that I agreed that if you tried to play WoD at max level "solo" and didn't want to do anything besides daily quests, normal/heroic dungeons, and LFR that there was very little to do.

Things like...

"If your goal is to do solo content, some five man normal/heroic dungeons, and then an occasional LFR…then yeah, WoD would suck for you. Very little max level solo content (mostly a weekly quest chain that took probably less than an hour per week), quickly obsoleted normal/heroic dungeons, and LFR intentionally watered down to pure tourist mode.

On the flip side, if you’re interested in Normal/Heroic/Mythic raiding then raiding has literally never been better or easier to get into, for example."

"Someone who mainly does dungeons/max level solo content would have loathed WoD (and for good reason from their perspective)."

"The problem was that if you take all of them together you wind up gutting the game for people who don’t want to engage in organized group content at ANY level of difficulty (PvP OR PvE) and their experience sucks. They basically just took away stuff from the “solo” player and added it to other sections of the game (raids are better than ever for many reasons) but didn’t replace the stuff for “solo” players with anything those players wanted."

"Where did I disagree? Pretty sure I’ve said multiple times that WoD massively lacked stuff the “solo” players were used to."


That said, what *would* make you happy?  Azuriel said he'd be happy with 2-3 new (harder) dungeons per raid with better rewards and all dungeons giving Valor -- basically the ICC patch but every patch.  But presumably mostly doing the same dungeons over and over again (with a few new ones added into the pool each raid tier) for a renewing Valor gear grind would fall into the category of "rehashed, warmed over, tired" stuff for you (I personally can't imagine doing an entire expansion of that, for the record).

So his solution wouldn't satisfy you -- what do you think is a reasonable solution?


  1. its a little hard to tell who said what.

    New normal is not even close the old flex. New normal is a slightly easier old normal and new heroic is a slightly easier old normal. Mythic is hard as can be seen by the fact it still is not fully cleared after 3 weeks. I do have to wonder what the clearance rate is going to be like on mythic if archimonde is not nerfed.

    Bu while blizzard gave contradictory information about difficulty. Ghostcrawler clearly talked about a difficulty increase. and it has happened.

    "On the flip side, if you’re interested in Normal/Heroic/Mythic raiding then raiding has literally never been better or easier to get into" Sorry no, Before cata when blizzard destroyed the pugging community you could join a ICC normal pug starting every 30 minutes.

    Raiding was significantly easier to get into in the past from Kara to ICC . Flex was intended to fix that but the difficulty gap has been opened again.

    1. Anything in the blog quotes (indented) was said by MattH, everything else is mine. I updated it slightly to hopefully make it more clear.

      "New normal is not even close the old flex."

      How many old flex groups were you in that had the equivalent of 522ish ilvl and no legendary cloak? That's what it was tuned around. It also unlocked very slowly (wing 1 first week, wing 2 second week, wing 3 fourth week, wing 4 sixth week), meaning people had more time to get gear (often from normal/heroic and then those people went into the first flex runs of a new wing for trinkets/set bonuses) and item level upgrades from Valor (which we don't have now). And then people farmed it for a year, of course it seemed faceroll.

      I literally just got out of a weekly Normal HFC run I host on OpenRaid that has a lot of casual/social members and cross-realm friends with sometimes a few main raiders. We basically "yoloed" the first four bosses, had to be slightly more careful on Kilrogg (actually screwed it up massively several times but still recovered and won, still a one-shot), and one-shot Gorefiend/Socrethar. 3 shot Tyrant I think? Lot of people new on that fight not understanding the mechanics. One-shot Iskar (I don't want to count the life grips used to save people from winds due to bad tosses) and two-shot Fel Lord. That's everything but the last three bosses in just over three hours in a raid where the very first Heartseeker on Kilrogg went through a quarter of the raid because the person with it didn't notice.

      How much easier do you think it should be, exactly? It's still progression for the intended audience and there's a blatant softening of mechanics compared to Heroic/Mythic -- Barrage has an INSANELY long cast time on Reaver, for example, or look at how little Winds from Iskar or Shadowforce from Mannoroth do on Normal.

      "Mythic is hard as can be seen by the fact it still is not fully cleared after 3 weeks"

      Mythic's only been out for like...two weeks and a day at this point.

      "Sorry no, Before cata when blizzard destroyed the pugging community you could join a ICC normal pug starting every 30 minutes."

      Yes, with the ICC 30% buff. That wasn't happening the fourth week that ICC was released. Not to mention those PUGs were limited to exactly 10 people, which meant a lot of people got left out, and often demanded higher ilvl than what ICC 10N even dropped.

      I'm sorry, but I think you have some rose-tinted glasses working overtime here. The literal year of both ICC and SoO (and their nerfs via various means) has led people to forget what they were like initially.