When raiding dies

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.

13 thoughts on “When raiding dies

  1. I don’t think my raiders have even tried the new raid on Normal, let alone Heroic. The talk is about whether someone on the low side should be asked to sit out on Heroic Jania, unless they need them for the 10 people. Gone are the 23 consistent people there every week, gone is the Raid leader that got us AoTC through much of WoD, and all of Legion, also was a Co-GM, it’s bad. I mean really bad, and I don’t think those that have left will ever come back. I’d say at least 1/3 of those still playing are just biding time until Classic. I try not to dwell on it because no tilting at the Blizz HQ windmill will change anything. But I don’t know how much longer the game can take the losses it’s incurring.

    1. Yes, one of the things I have noticed is that when we have people leave the game now, they do not come back, at least not so far. In the past, we could expect a lot to take a break for the last half of an expansion or upon completion of a raid tier, then come back for the new one, but honestly I doubt if we will get many back at this point. Our GM/RL has been loathe to stop our regular raid schedule for fear that once we do, we will not get even our 15 or so core raiders back again. Sadly, I think she is right.

      When we did our first raid back in Legion, we actually had to sit people, we had so many. Now we are lucky if we can scrape up 15, and usually it is more like 12-13.

      I still wonder if Blizz is putting most of its WoW eggs in the Classic basket. That is, if they are considering Classic to become the main game, and therefore they really do not care that the current live game is bleeding players. (I keep thinking of the way they seemed to callously ignore the horrible things that were happening to SV hunters in WoD, then suddenly they just abandoned the entire spec for the last half of the expansion, only to have it re-emerge as a hunter spec in name only in Legion. They had pretty much planned the spec’s destruction along, but they did not let players in on the plan until it was competed. This is a pattern.)

      1. I guess we will see. I’m sure they will be focusing on 4th quarter. 3rd is going to be a lot coming for Classic, but what will the fallout be. Will more than expected drop live for Classic? Are they hoping Classic takes off and they can reformat current WoW to be a highly competitive eSports oriented game with only the hard core playing? Classic is Classic, they can’t fiddle with things beyond maybe making the graphics look a little better and repair broken quests that caused problems. October will see the participation level, if they are adding servers then it’s doing well, if not? Someone is gonna lose a job. I’m going to give it a go, set up the guild, and see if it’s fun. If not? It’s free so no loss.

      2. I think the direction they want to go is competitive. We have what, the Spring finals if the Mythic Dungeon Invitational? They put a lot of marketing and promotion behind the World first races. We are not their target player, anymore than a fan that buys a football jersey and plays catch with their kid in the back yard. I can’t really blame Ion anymore, he comes from the player base that loves this type of play, it’s what he was hired for. He’s designing the game the way he enjoys, that’s his job. I’m sure if you or I had the job and we designed based on how we enjoyed things there would be people calling for our heads. Upper management has an idea where they see gaming heading, Games will be competitive, we are just the fans that are allowed on the field to watch from the sidelines.

  2. I am sorry to hear your raid is struggling with heroic CoS. This write-up is a refreshing and honest look at the difficulty of BfA raids, especially when juxtaposed against the “lul WoW raiding is EZ” meme that seems to be everywhere. I haven’t raided seriously since Cata and I teeter back and forth on this subject, as my favorite raid squad ever was literally destroyed by Ruby Sanctum. Reading this reminded me of how I felt at that time.

    If we’re being fair of obejctive, I think you already pointed out where the real issue is though. You lost several of your better raiders forcing you to take on lesser-skilled/lesser-dedicated people, and it sounds like at least a few of them don’t want to be there if they’re letting their subs run out. I mean no offense by asking this question, but I do think it’s relevant to the topic… should a group like the one you described be able to beat an on tier heroic level raid encounter? Isn’t Normal difficulty meant to be tuned for the majority, or average killed raider? For me the idea that a handful of people with one foot out of the pool beating a high-level encounter would cheapen the win for those of you, like yourself, who are giving 100%.

    This leads to a whole other thing because some of those people are close friends and guildies. I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it. Best of luck to you!

    1. Well, I don’t think of raiding as a zero sum activity — just because someone can do something does not mean the achievement of someone else who did it before them is cheapened.

      What I remember very clearly is what Blizz said when they began in Mists to introduce flex raiding. The team I was on then was a Normal level progression team. When flex came along, along with the then-new LFR, Blizz told us that LFR was designed to be “tourist mode”, Flex Normal was designed to be “friends and family”, Heroic was to be what Normal had been, and Mythic equated to what Heroic had been. Which would mean that a semi-casual progression team — that had been doing Normal — should be doing the new Heroic.

      Sadly, Blizz has discarded the entire concept of “friends and family” raiding. With BoD, for example, almost no loose group of casual players — unless they are all fantastically overgeared — has much hope of downing the last 3-4 bosses.

      Basically, Blizz has surrendered to the elitists. Or maybe they have sympathized with them all along. Whatever, their current design philosophy continues along the path of closing off raiding to more and more players.

      It is similar to what they have done with M+ dungeons — in Legion, when they were introduced, they were fun, fast challenges for small teams composed of casual or semi-casual players. Really high keys were difficult for even elite players, but even slugs like me could reasonably crank out a 10-12 and the very occasional 15 with a little effort. Fast forward to BFA, and what do we see? Level 10s are massively challenging unless you have a pretty dedicated group, and lower keys are simply not much fun because of the complications of the new affixes combined with the trash-stuffed dungeon designs. M+ is pretty much a professional player activity now, which Blizz rather begrudgingly makes somewhat available to the Great Unwashed. If it is not reserved strictly for the pros, it definitely is reserved for highly dedicated, elite players. You need only take a look at how many guilds no longer run organized M+ nights, and at how many casual players have given up the activity.

      I am not arguing for “lulz” level end game activities, but I am saying that Blizz has abandoned the majority of what used to be their player base, in favor of the streamers and the elite guilds and the esports pros. Like it or not, WoW succeeded because it really was accessible to a very wide range of players, from the weekend warriors all the way to the 8-hour a day players. Somewhere along the line, though, Blizz decided they did not need the “lesser” players and moved the game beyond the reach of many.

      Some of this, actually, may be due to the game no longer attracting the number of new players it once did. There is not nearly the player turnover there used to be, with hundreds of thousands of new players each year. As the remaining player base not only shrinks but becomes more proficient at the game, there is a constant demand for both new content and “harder” challenges, at least from the vocal players. That Blizz responds to this should not be surprising, but to me it is disappointing that in the process they have ditched many of their most loyal non-elite players. (I put myself in that category.)

      So, in answer to your question: Yes, a group like ours SHOULD be able to beat an on-tier Heroic level raid encounter. We are not a “friends and family” type team, we are a group of proficient, organized raiders accustomed to doing progression raiding. That we are currently undergoing some attendance problems should not hinder our ability to down Heroic bosses, since we do not “sub in” non-core-raiders or pugs to fill spots.

      I appreciate your thoughtful comments, they clearly made me think! Thanks for contributing!

      1. Flex came during Warlords iirc 😉

        But yeah, I think the raids in BFA suffer a lot from inconsistency in difficulty, arising from specific boss tuning, the faction switching mechanic robbing players of racials, and also the boss order and fight areas being different between factions.

        And we got Curve in CoS and never set foot in it again, it really is a shit “raid” :/

      2. Patch 5.4
        And congrats on CoS AotC! Sadly, it seems that achievement may now elude us, since we did not down Uu’nat on our last regular raid night Thursday. We now go to one-a-weeks until the next tier, and frankly given the apathy about BFA I am not hopeful about that either.

      3. Ahh, it’s maybe been the 6.0.2 change I was thinking of, as I remembered making a video about it at the time lol

  3. The guild I’m in has lost its Mythic raid team sadly. After a month on Jaina with a revolving door on raiders they’ve given up. Most have left to join other guilds (mainly on Horde side I understand), some have stopped raiding to concentrate on pushing M+ keys, a few have quit until Classic arrives, and a few have joined the Heroic raid team.

    A poor expansion and a tough raid have conspired to defeat them; sad times.

    I sympathise with your Uu’nat issues: we only got the Curve because we used Vantus runes. It has been tuned a little, but it’s still a tough fight.

    BoD is a decent raid but I’m thoroughly sick of it now. I wish I had an alt to take through it for some variety, but I’m not levelling any more toons up to 120 until I get flying. It’s too tedious.

    1. In a normal expansion, I would say we will certainly get the CoS AotC, just a matter of buckling down and sticking with it. (Although in normal times we would not be having this much trouble with it, either…) But this time I am not sure, as tonight will effectively be our last raid night until the new tier. And I am hoping we will have enough returning raiders to even attempt the new one. We’ll see. (And in the grand scheme of things, I hope failing to get a computer game achievement is the worst thing that happens to me this summer! 😉)

      Like you, I think BoD is a very decent raid, but I am sick of it also. And while we tend to breeze through the early parts of Heroic now, we still cannot reasonably say we have either Blockade or Jaina on farm. When we can manage to down them, they are still hair-of-our-chinny-chin-chins kills.

      These days the most raiding fun I am having is our Friday night alt/fun runs of normal BoD. We run them with a sister guild and people can pretty much invite whomever else they want. We only run for 3 hours, and usually we don’t get much past Mekka, but nobody cares. Lately I have been healing on my MW monk, although sometimes I switch to windwalker if we are overstocked on healers. Completely different perspective than I get on my hunter!

      I am sorry to hear your Mythic team disbanded, but sadly it is a common story with a lot of guilds in BFA. I wish I knew if Blizz understands this is what is going on, and if they even care. Their actions would point to them not caring, as they continue to design in such a way as to all but guarantee the demise of a lot of non-pro raid teams.

  4. I’ve read 4 of your posts (this was the first one) and asked myself “hmmm . . . did I write this?? But I don’t REMEMBER writing this, and also, I don’t play a hunter . . . ”

    Many of the points you’ve made recently, about overly complex, casual-unfriendly raiding, Blizz’s bizarre justification for making the game more tedious (such as the dragged-out Pathfinder), to the horrors of the BfA gear professions, are spot on. I too, miss the days of meanigful gear currency (as you said, last seen in MoP). Not only that, I’ve been ranting about a lot of this stuff (not so much the raiding as I just don’t anymore) to friends and guildies during this expansion.

    It’s unfortunate but I too have felt that the average player (customer) is no longer of much consideration. Streamers, Whales, etc., are.

    I’m glad to have found your posts. (I found it linked from Blizzard Watch).

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