Initiate destruction sequence

Last night, in what is beginning to seem like a bizarre reenactment of Ground Hog Day, we doggedly wiped over and over again on the second boss in Heroic Crucible of Storms. No, we did not kill him. What with the July 4 holiday and all, we basically have one more raid night left before the next tier comes out. It is remotely possible we will eke out AotC, but it seems extremely unlikely.

I play on a rather friendly, non-competitive server. (It is technically an RP server, though almost no one treats it as such.) Anyone wanting to push world class raids or Mythic+ would never even consider my server as a home. My guild is routinely in the top 10 on the server in terms of raid progress, but we are rarely if ever in the top 5. I say this to point out that while we are not exactly World First material, we are not sloppy slouches either. In recent expansions we have pretty much confined ourselves to Heroic progression, and getting AotC has never really been an issue. In fact, we usually get it early enough that we can carry many of our non-raiding guildies through so they can get the achievement.

In Legion, our server had something on the order of 25 or more guilds completing all bosses on heroic for the last three raid tiers, and maybe half a dozen with full or partial mythic completion — and the relative unpopularity of the server resulting in scarce numbers of raiders was the main problem holding many of the heroic guilds back from completing at least early mythic bosses.

Looking only at raid progress by guild on my server, Nighthold in Legion marked the point after which raid completions began a drastic downward spiral. My guild held its own pretty well through the first tier in BFA, but the number of guilds on the server completing heroic steadily and dramatically decreased starting with Tomb of Sargeras. For my own guild, the average number of hours per boss kill has increased noticeably since Nighthold. We are at 9 weeks and counting on Crucible of Storms, and we still have not downed the second boss — in fact, we are so unsure of ourselves even on the first boss that we just keep the raid lockout going so as not to have to waste time downing the first boss again, because it is not a given. In Battle of Dazar’alor we never got to the point of farming it, the only people we got through AotC were core raiders.

And the number of guilds on the server completing heroic (not even to mention mythic) raids has gone from the Legion mark of 25 or so to 8 for Battle of Dazar’alor and a dismal 5 for Crucible of Storms. (A grand total of 0 for mythic CoS, not even one of the two bosses.)

Why am I going into all of this? Because the most recent raids in BFA seem part of an overall pattern of Blizz making the game less and less accessible, more focused on professional players, and less and less rewarding for raiders.

CoS is an exceptionally difficult raid, and even if you complete it, the gear rewards are terrible. You can get better gear running one medium-level M+ per week. You can get comparable gear by doing warfronts and maybe getting lucky once or twice on upgrades. These activities take far less time, organization, and commitment than raiding. No wonder guilds by the dozens are giving up their raid teams. It just is no longer worth the time and trouble unless you are involved in world class competition. Just as a reminder to Blizz, if they care, more than 99% of their customer base is not in that category.

I am left with no explanation other than Blizz is deliberately doing to raiding what they did to Survival hunters in WoD: Consciously destroying it by making it so unpleasant and irrelevant that people abandon it.

Take a look at raid food in BFA, something that used to be simple. (I miss noodle carts!) The pre-8.2 feasts were onerous and expensive to make, but the 8.2 feasts are simply beyond the reach of all but professional guilds who have full-time raid suppliers. The initial skill level requires multiple mats, including one bind on pickup kind of fish (!), as well as 3 of the Mechagon spare parts crates (750 spare parts) — for one lousy feast. Skill level 2 can only be obtained once one is Exalted with the Mechagon faction, and skill level 3 is — yes, you guessed it — an RNG boss loot table from the Mechagon dungeon.

Seriously, soulbound fish as a mat for food?

The raid scene is just an example of what seems to be Blizz’s deliberate road to destruction of this game. After just a couple of nights in the new patch, drawing on personal experience as well as comments from readers and my own guild members, it is clear the patch is a stinker, at least as far as the new zone structure goes. Large swaths of mob-choked Nazjatar, for example, are declared “inside” caves where you are dismounted. (In spite of the fact that nearly-identical locations with almost no mobs allow mounts. Yeah, right.) Let me be clear, once I get flying, I will never go back to these areas. Even my hunter has problems with these mobs, I shudder to think what would happen to my mage. Last night I kept track, and just to get to one world quest required me to fight more than 50 non-trivial mobs.

And let us remember that this situation will certainly become the norm in the next expansion. Now that Blizz has effectively forced every player to fight every stinking mob in the game at every turn, they will apply that principle with vengeance in 9.x. If there is a 9.x. (Not for nothin’, but whatever happened to the idea Blizz used to tout, that if you stuck to roads you were much less likely to encounter monsters? Now the whole purpose of roads seems to be to funnel you through as many as Blizz can cram into the area.)

Players who have been loyal to this game for many years are simply leaving. Even the ones that have not left have stopped logging in except maybe once a week or so. The game has just become too damn annoying, too damn overwhelming, too damn hard, too damn time consuming for lousier and lousier rewards. At every turn, Blizz seems bent on sticking it to players, whether it be through ridiculously hard raid bosses, curtailment of movement, hoops upon hoops upon hoops to jump through for one lousy player perk, effective destruction of the entire armor crafting mechanic, applying layer upon layer of RNG to every aspect of the game, massive gating of content, immeasurable complexity of gear approaching chaos theory, god-like selection of winner and loser classes each expansion — well I won’t go on. Anyone left playing the game is fully aware of what I am talking about.

This was brought home to me by recent game reactions from two of my readers, players I admire and respect. The first was a post by reader @Marathal, an excellent blogger in his own right. The post was a poignant expression of his frustration with what the game has become, and what is undoubtedly a long lingering farewell to something he has loved — it is gone, but like many of us, he is loathe to fully admit it yet, easing his way out while probably hoping against hope that things will turn around.

The second was a comment on my Wednesday post. The comment was from @Hecubus, someone I briefly raided with in a previous guild, and who I know firsthand is not only a dedicated and excellent player, but also a fine mentor, generous with both his time and his insight. I urge you to go back and read his comment, because it, too, is a kind of sad resignation in the face of the demise of the game he used to love. His words struck a chord with me:

After the first night trying the new WoW patch, I went back to playing Elder Scrolls Online. Likely I’m going to delete WoW this weekend until they get a new game director or at least lose the ESports at all cost focus.

Hey Blizz, if there is anyone left who cares about this game beyond a corporate bottom line, will you for crying out loud take a look at what you are doing? And if it is deliberate, at least have the balls to admit that publicly, to say you are winding the game down in favor of big-dollar esports and mobile apps. For once in your recent history, be honest with your players — the people who made you what you used to be, the customers who have stuck with you through all the bad times as well as good and who now have had enough.

I will be taking an extended early summer break starting Monday and returning July 16. Normally I would not take such a long break this early, but honestly my heart is not in this game lately. Maybe by then I will have determined the new raid is awesome and exciting, and Blizz has seen the light. Maybe. Equally likely, by then I will have won the lottery and have become a tall Nordic blonde supermodel…

9 thoughts on “Initiate destruction sequence

  1. I just checked mine. We are down to 6 guilds that cleared heroic CoS and only 21 total that even got 1 down. We are dead last for this mini tier. We certainly could have jumped up a few notches like we have in previous, but most just wanted a break after weeks/months of the previous raid. Looking back we have consistently been dropping the amount of guild raiding, and I suspect we may even see it go below 20 guilds in the near future.

    https://www.wowprogress.com/pve/us/connected-shadowsong

    1. I am certain Blizz monitors these kinds of statistics, so I would think they might be having some internal conversations about raid design and where they are going with it. No, scratch that — I HOPE they are having such conversations. My fear is this is exactly the kind of trend they want, because that makes the pros seem more “pro” in comparison to us Great Unwashed.

      1. I don’t have any hope for improvement any more. The past 4 days have been the least enjoyable time I have spent in the game in almost 10 years. Almost 4 hours in Naz to complete all but 2 available quest, which included a side trip to rescue Baine. The last two, to kill 10 guys, we found all the popular spawn points and they were all being camped by Alliance groups, over 3 hours we managed to find 4. The other quest involved jumping on jelly fish. That quest will be skipped over from last night on. I am doing what I am to help my wife get ready for raid, beyond that? I have no interest in seeing any instanced content any more. I won’t even bother with the new Heroic Darkshore and Arathi. They have lost me as a player, I’m just paying my $15 and will maintain a sub until I see what the next expansion will bring.

  2. I should add also that I do not even have a CoS clear in LFR. Multiple attempts on separate occasions on each boss resulting in the entire group disbanding.

  3. It is discouraging. One raid team is waiting for the patch but the other: we are on King Mekka for I don’t know how many weeks. We are so over-geared that it is a laugh but our failure rate is up in the 80s, I think. This can’t be the design intention, can it?

    1. I think “discouraging” is a very mild term. You are experiencing firsthand what I have been saying about raid design in this expansion — and to some degree in the later tiers in Legion. That is, the devs seem to be having some sort of competition to see how many mechanics they can stuff into a single phase of a single boss fight. And each is deadly enough that a momentary lapse of attention by even one player can, and usually does, wipe the raid. This may be acceptable for world class mythic level competition, but it has no place in normal or heroic mode.

      To make matters worse, Blizz refuses to balance these fights for small groups, beyond a little token reduction in boss health. Generally, raids with fewer than 20 people in them will struggle on nearly every boss, because let’s be honest, there are not many groups where, given 12-15 people, someone will not let their attention wander for a few seconds in these long intense encounters. Only the pros can command the sort of single minded focus required to not wipe. And Blizz is now apparently designing solely for the pros.

      It is undoubtedly well nigh impossible to balance a raid like Mekka for the flex numbers Blizz claims are possible (the days of 10-man raiding are over), given the sheer quantity and interconnection of all the mechanics. But the thing is, this is a complex nightmare of their own making.

      And let us not forget, Blizz seems now to also be deliberately designing to give Horde players significant advantages over Alliance. Of the top 100 guilds worldwide who have completed Mythic Crucible of Storms, exactly 10 are Alliance guilds.

      The bad news is, the fight after Mekka is probably the worst fight in the raid, in my opinion. And the Jaina fight is not a lot better. And for good measure, the two bosses in Crucible are just as complex, if not more so, than the last 3 bosses of Battle of Azshara.

      I am, as you may know, a potter. The one critical thing about throwing a pot is, the clay must be centered on the wheel. If it is not, the normal throwing process will cause it to become increasingly unbalanced, in an almost exponential progression, until the nascent pot simply destroys itself, tearing apart or even sometimes flying off the wheel. It is absolutely critical for the potter to take whatever steps are necessary early in the process to ensure the clay is centered.

      I believe BFA started out uncentered, and Blizz failed either to notice it or to admit it — they certainly did nothing to correct the imbalance — and now we are seeing the inevitable consequences.

      1. While I agree with the rest of your point, I have to slightly disagree with Blizzard designing for Horde at the expense of Alliance. The far bigger problem is, at least at the high levels as seen through the Hall of Fame, almost everyone at high level is playing Horde. I played Alliance until Antorus in Legion and switched to Horde since finding a guild that fit me on Alliance just proved impossible.

      2. @Ellen Yeah, it is something of a chicken-egg thing: Are most of the high level guilds Horde because it is advantageous, or does it become advantageous to be Horde BECAUSE most of the top guilds are?

        We see the same phenomenon with class/spec distribution, especially when there is imbalance. Do many of the top players play a certain one because it yields top stats, or does it yield top stats BECAUSE the best players are playing it?

        Usually there is a slight min-max advantage to these things in the beginning, then players/guilds follow suit when they see the top stats, setting up a kind of self-licking ice cream cone.

        I do still think, though, that Blizz — either deliberately or just by happenstance — has thus far had BFA designs and rotations that favor Horde. Some of it is chance (the random favoring of Horde in the first Warfront cycle, for instance — one side was going to get a greater initial benefit than the other, and it happened to be Horde). Where Blizz goes wrong is, when these random events precipitate a certain mindset among players, they do nothing to deliberately offset it. If anything, they seem to provoke more animosity.

        This results in the players who perceive they have been wronged just piling up grievances, even if in the normal course of things they would not have considered them to be so. For example, if you already think Blizz favors Horde, you will tend to be annoyed that every damn new mount the Alliance gets is basically the same horse with a different skin, unlike all the perceived “cool mounts” the Horde gets. If your server is greatly unbalanced in Battlegrounds or in war mode, more often than not you will take that as “proof” Blizz wants your faction to always lose.

        A responsive company would recognize the seeds of this kind of animosity and take early steps to head it off. Unless, of course, they think it is a good thing….

      3. @Fiannor From what I know, it started with the racials being heavily biased in favor of Horde a couple of expansions ago which then started the viscious cycle of top players going Horde because all the top players are Horde.

        As for the rest, I agree, Blizzard definitely should be doing more to even out the balance though I’m not sure what since at this point the community is so heavily invested in Horde that probably only either making cross-faction play possible allowing everyone to play with everyone or over-buffing Alliance racials would change the balance in any meaningful way. As for player perception, yes they probably should communicate such things better and where they make missteps they should try to overcompensate a bit in the other direction to make the game just not balanced (on average) but also make it feel balanced.

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