Impossible odds and imbalance?

I am sure most of you already know, but Method successfully downed Kil’jaeden to claim Mythic World First for Tomb of Sargeras. They did it after 653 wipes, which follows their 400+ wipefest for Fallen Avatar. I don’t know the record for these kinds of things, but I am suspecting that over a thousand wipes for the last 2 bosses is in itself a World First title. Whether you think a pursuit like this is a good use of one’s time or not, you have to be a little bit in awe of the commitment and sheer stubbornness it takes to accomplish it. I am not a big fan of Method, but there is no doubt that hearty congratulations are in order.

So the number of wipes is pretty mind-boggling and causing not a few comments in the WoW blogosphere. The other thing causing comments is the composition of the 20-man Mythic team. Among some of the noteworthy items: 5 druids, 5 rogues, 3 hunters. Classes absent were mages, monks of any flavor, death knights, and demon hunters. Two of the druids were Balance spec, and all of the hunters were MM. The melee DPS consisted entirely of rogues and two warriors.

As you might suspect, there is a river of speculation as to The Future of The Game based solely on this one event. Much of it is overblown, of course, but I do think there are a few valuable insights we can derive from it — at least from the little we know of the actual tactics so far.

For one thing, it strikes me that 653 wipes is way more than these elite players need in order to learn a fight. We are talking about people who live and breathe this game, who have genius-level reaction times, who have almost uncanny “raid sense”, who have raided together so much that they know each other’s reactions as well as their own, and who have been preparing for this fight since at least the early PTR days of 7.2.5.

For a team like this to wipe 653 times tells me that the fight is essentially unwinnable, but that there is a small random chance every mechanic will work out to the team’s benefit. If the team can put together a flawless performance when that happens, they can beat the boss. It is not about being world-class good, it is about being world-class good every single time, so that when favorable RNG finally happens, the boss goes down.

This takes nothing away from Method — it is no small feat to achieve consistent performance perfection. But I do think it takes away from Blizz’s tier design, because it renders ludicrous the baseline assumption that raids allow players to progress as a character and as a team. To beat this boss, Method on average had to outgear the loot — average gear level over 933 for a raid that awards 930 level gear. And let’s be honest, any kind of team esprit or group learning occurred long before the ultimate win.

Eventually, Mythic ToS will be nerfed, and it will be attainable by non-World First kinds of guilds, the ones that are hard-core raiding guilds (think realm-first levels) but not necessarily the ones who dedicate their entire waking existence to it for weeks at a time. It might even be nerfed enough so that a few of the early bosses become beatable by guilds such as mine — after we greatly overgear it. I don’t know what that says about raid difficulty levels, but I think it is safe to say we have gone beyond the LFR-Normal-Heroic-Mythic model. It’s almost as if we now have two levels of the four-level model — one version early in a patch and another sinmpler version later in the patch. And it definitely says that Blizz is more concerned with hyping World-First competitions than it is with setting a difficult but attainable goal for regular raiding guilds. (They’ll fix that shortfall after they have milked the hype…) Also, possibly, that they have signed on to RNG as a viable raid mechanic.

As to the other notable aspect of Method’s victory — team composition — I am not sure what to make of it. We will learn more of the reasoning behind it once we can see a video, and as Method speaks more freely about it. I do not think it should be news to anyone that Blizz has completely abandoned the “Bring the player not the class” philosophy, nor should it come as a surprise that the current state of class imbalance has given us superstars and losers in the class/spec lottery.

What gives me pause is how much of this philosophy and actual state of affairs will filter down to the majority of raid teams, and what effect it might have on player perceptions of “winner” and “loser” classes/specs. Certainly guild teams such as mine that raid for fun not profit will remain largely unchanged, especially since they rarely run Mythic level and are thus not bound into a strict 20 players. I suppose some realm-first guilds may decide to reorganize their rosters, but that will not affect a lot of players.

We have seen backlashes before, mainly in pugs, when certain classes/specs are deemed inferior, even if the perceived inferiority is only for certain fights under certain circumstances. Such backlashes can result in unhappiness among players, and unhappy players tend to switch specs to be the flavor of the month, to just quit the game, or to gripe loudly in forums and other communications venues, demanding their now-unpopular class/spec be buffed enough to be “competitive”.

I expect to see an uptick in the number of Balance druids, rogues, and MM hunters in the next few weeks, simply as a result of Method’s raid roster for the KJ kill. It is not logical, but it almost certainly will happen. I also expect there to be some amount of unfair discrimination against a few classes for pugs — possibly some against non-bear tanks, mistweaver healers and tanks, maybe BM hunters. And some of the forums will undoubtedly light up with demands for buffs — pretty much the same forums as the classes omitted from Method’s roster. (There are already buffs in the works for some of these classes, so Blizz may get off easy on them.)

But I still think it way too early to make any sweeping inferences about class balance based just on Method’s team roster for this kill. It was a special circumstance, a fact that will almost certainly elude many people. On the other hand, I do think it is appropriate to think about the stunning number of wipes involved, and what that might say about Blizz’s current approach to raid development.


Real Housewives of WoW

Rant Alert:The National Rant Warning System has issued a severe rant alert for areas of the blogosphere including the local one, for a period of as long as it takes you to read this piece. Blog rant radar has detected a line of severe indignation approaching, accompanied by cynical squalls and possibly damaging rhetoric. Readers should prepare for cranky irascibility and splenetic pique and should seek shelter immediately. 

Yesterday I wrote about how desperate WoW bloggers are to find anything newsworthy these days and that we should expect quite a lot of nothing, thinly disguised as real news, for the next few weeks. Would that I were less prophetic, because lo and behold I turn to MMO-C today and find not one, not two, but three — three! — featured items about ongoing drama in self-defined and Blizz-promoted “elite” guilds in the WoW world.

(Pause while I sputter for a few seconds.)

I really hardly know where to start on this. Up front, let me say I do not completely blame MMO-C for shameless pandering, after all they publish what they think their readers are interested in. (I do a little bit, though, there are such things as standards.) But honestly, has the game come to this? Is the player base no longer content to just play a virtual made-up game themselves, do they really enjoy watching others manipulate a mouse and keyboard? Are they so voyeuristic as to be fascinated by the ego-driven petty squabbles of these paid mouse pushers?


I am not completely naive about this. Gullible and idealistic, perhaps, but not completely naive. Method and its ilk are comprised of professional game players, promoted by Blizzard in order to squeeze even more money out of gaming groupies. And just because I personally don’t think “E-sports” should even be a concept doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate that there are others who are fascinated by it and willing to spend money to watch. When it comes right down to it, it is not all that different from watching professional football or baseball or even that icon of coma-inducing boredom, golf.

Whispering commentator: “Bruce, there’s been a lot of talk about the unconventional shot rotation employed by OverHype’s lead hunter, PuppyP. We’re almost certainly in for some surprises, and I see the pull countdown has started, so let’s watch.”

Bruce: “Well, they’re off to a good start. Interesting statistic here — their main healer leads the league in Fewest Overheals For a Resto Druid in the Third Wing of Helfire Citadel at Mythic Level on Thursday Nights. That’s impressive.”

WC: “Yes indeed it is. Back to the action. They have made it to the final phase, and it looks like — WHOA! I can’t believe what I am seeing! ”

Bruce (in most excited whisper): “Let’s look at the replay on that.” (Watches slo-mo of a keyboard closeup.) “Yes, that’s confirmed, PuppyP reverted to WASD movement and as a result missed his signature shot. That’s a rookie mistake that just shouldn’t happen at this level. That may cost them a wipe.”

WC: “Unbelievable! We’re going to take a commercial break, we’ll be back after this.”

People will apparently watch other people doing almost anything, it turns out, especially if the activity is hyped out the wazoo by manufactured drama dressed up as “human interest”. Even that supposed bastion of purity, the Olympics, does it, because let’s face it how else are you going to get someone interested in watching Curling? (“Curt, this team is emotionally and physically devastated by the tragic accident suffered by their Head Curler when a broom straw pierced his pinky toe.” *Cut to tear-laden interview with team member*)

So yeah, I kind of get it, sort of understand the interest in E-sports, even if I personally am not the least interested.

But what just boggles my mind is that anyone could have the slightest interest in the adolescent ego-hurt whining evident in the published excerpts from statements made by these professional guild members. Just for educational purposes, you should read them, even though it will be painful and will be three minutes of your life you will never get back.

Most of us who play this game in a guild spend a lot of time and effort to ensure that our guilds are drama-free. This round of published tantrums shows that the so-called “professional guilds” are anything but. Their raiders are spoiled, immature celebrity wannabes who happen to have faster than average finger synapses. And the guilds are run no better than any of ours are. Maybe that is an unfair characterization of the many based on the aggrieved whimpers of a few, but that is what is getting the publicity, so as far as I am concerned it is what the guilds want us to think.

Is this game sinking so low that it is becoming no better than the primitive “reality” shows on TV? Will we next be treated to published tell-alls from supposed “serious” players with names like Sco and Furty and Kuznam and Slootybag? I have no problem with what these people choose to do for a living, but I object when they assume the rest of the world is fascinated by every little perceived dissing of their august selves. Dudes, get some perspective. You play a game for money. Lots of money. More money than any soldier, police officer, teacher, or fire fighter will ever hope to see. So suck it up and keep your petty made-up drama to yourselves.

The National Rant Warning System has canceled the severe rant alert.