Last night we made 25 attempts to kill heroic Uu’nat in Crucible of Storms. Notice the term “attempts” — no, we did not kill him. We managed to scrape up 15 raiders, and Blizz had even made a few minor nerfs to the fight aimed at smaller raid groups. But still we were unsuccessful. We now get to the final phase regularly, but it is such total chaos that we tend to fall apart. The fight is a long one, too, so that the most intense damage comes after everyone has been laser-focused for 6-7 minutes. One momentary lapse of strict attention by one or two players will nearly always result in a wipe.
And it was not really fun. Our raid team is always quiet, understated, no drama or yelling. But last night people were yelling, mostly out of frustration. Part of it, I suspect, is that this is our last week of raiding until the next tier, and if we do not down Uu’nat, well we just probably won’t — a serious blow to our self-respect as a guild. So there is a lot of pressure.
The reason this is our last week is that several members of the team are letting their subs expire, combination of RL complications, disinterest in BFA, and what has been an increasingly challenging raid environment. If we lose even 2 people, we are generally unable to raid. And there is no realistic chance of recruiting new raiders — the people looking to join a new guild for raiding are decidedly not interested in some little backwater server’s heroic-level raid team.
Prior to BFA, the team almost always achieved tier AotC fairly early and was able to put it on farm, even carry a few non-raiders so they could get the achieve. Not the case in BFA. We have struggled with every raid, and frustration has been building.
Part of the problem is that some of our better raiders quit the game or decided they wanted to join a mythic guild. As this left us with a numbers problem, we are forced to deal with — how shall I put this — “less than committed” raiders. That is, people who think nothing of deciding an hour before raid that there is a television program they would rather watch, or they suddenly need to go to the store and they will be an hour or two late, or during raid they frequently absent themselves for minutes at a time, forcing the entire raid to wait on them. In normal times, we would politely ask these people to leave the team and they would be welcome back when their real lives got a little less complicated. But as we are desperate for people, it is a question of putting up with selfish behavior or not raiding at all. (I think I am starting to come down on the side of the latter choice…)
Anyway, another part of the problem is that both Battle of Dazar’alor and Crucible of Storms are exceedingly difficult, and on top of that many of the harder bosses are just not tuned for raid sizes below 20. Oh sure, expert raiders can do them with 12-15 players, but that size for a casual raid team — even a semi-casual one — greatly increases the challenge.
There was a comment in some Classic forum a few weeks ago (can’t find it now), along the lines of the raids and dungeons in Classic seem too easy, there must be some tuning problem. And the answer was no, they are tuned correctly, but the average player has gotten way better at the game than the average player back when Classic was current. The mechanics of boss fights have gotten much more sophisticated and complex as the game has matured.
I would argue we are close to the point where they are beyond sophisticated and at ridiculous. The number of mechanics involved in Uu’nat, for example, are ludicrous. Every player must keep track of 5 different and mostly simultaneous “stay out of fire” mechanics just in Phase 1, then each successive phase adds more to the mix. This is in addition to a requirement to move as a ranged team or melee team. Players must pick up and use special items, but only if: multiple adds are below a certain health and also above a certain health, friendly players are all mostly topped off on health, the boss is not close to casting a certain spell, and you have warned the healers you are about to use the item. The adds basically do not stop appearing in Phase 2 for several minutes, precluding a huge amount of damage to the boss because the adds must be killed in a certain order and three of them at a time must be more or less continuously interrupted. Then in Phase 3, pretty much every mechanic continues (including the numerous adds), along with a weird health debuff that requires you to leech health from a teammate. Oh, and did I mention the boss has a berserk timer? And that the runback after a wipe is tedious and unnecessarily slow and long?
This is not Naxxramus.
Piling mechanic upon mechanic has become its own mechanic, quantity has become — in Blizz’s eyes — quality. It is this kind of environment that causes normally placid people to start screaming out of frustration if they are given even one more thing to keep track of or one more extra duty, or if someone loses their intense focus for a second and dies, because with a small team that is almost certainly a wipe.
It is not fun. Yes, getting the achievement is satisfying and for a moment fun, but getting there is just crappy. And Blizz has seen to it that even the paltry amount of gear that drops in Crucible is barely above that in BoD.
At the risk of getting told that I want the game “dumbed down”, it is time for Blizz to reassess their raid mechanics and tuning process. It seems like they are designing solely for the pros, that they have totally abandoned the majority of their customer base. Maybe they want people to stop raiding, I don’t know. I do know that whatever they want, they are indeed forcing many guilds to give it up.