Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Nature of Raiding in Wrath: Easy Mode

Well, I'm currently blogging from a freezing motel room as I fritter away the time between drill days. This means that there's no new news from the progression front, and I really don't need another drama post right now, so I'll talk about an issue that I've been planning on talking about for a while now. The nature of raiding in Wrath of the Lich King.

As a true Child of Wrath, I didn't experience the endgame of Vanilla, or BC, but I've done my homework on how it was brought down. In a way, this gives me a unique perspective on raiding in the age of Wrath. I'm going to start with the implementation of Normal/Hard modes of fights.

In Pre Wrath raiding, aside from a few examples, such as Hakkar, and most notably the Three Bugs in AQ40, there were no hard modes for bosses. You either killed the boss, or you got nothing. If you couldn't kill the boss, then your only recourse was to wait until Blizzard nerfed the boss down to the level where you could defeat it.

This changed with the widespread use of hard modes in Wrath. The hardcore raiding guilds that ran Sunwell had extremely difficult fights they could brag about dropping, and the casual raiders had the ability to see the content, without being confined to the Zul'Aman style kid's table raids.

However, Blizzard's gotten a lot of flak for this move. Flak which I think is due entirely to perception, rather than reality. People now complain that raid content is too easy. Yet the overwhelming majority of those people haven't actually defeated all of the hardest fights in the game. People now believe that because they can clear the instance on "Normal" mode, that there is nothing more for them to do. This is where the fallacy lies.

Consider for a moment, what the default setting of most encounters is? What happens if you walk into the Obsidian Sanctum, clear trash, and pull Sartharion? What happens if you talk to the Lore Keeper of Norgannon and proceed directly to the Flame Leviathan? What happens if you clear to Yogg and pull? The answers are, respectively, The Twilight Zone, Orbituary, and Alone in the Darkness. Those are the default settings of the encounter. That is normal mode. Less than 1% of guilds in the world have actually downed Alone in the Darkness on 25 man. How is that easy?

The answer is, it isn't. However, because of the a choice made by Blizzard to avoid alienating the casual raider, it is perceived as superfluous content. It is, after all, "Hard Mode", why bother with it if you can just do "Normal Mode?" But what if it wasn't Normal Mode and Hard Mode? What if they called Hard Mode normal mode, and Normal Mode was called easy mode? By clearing the content on easy mode, you were essentially a tourist to raiding, enjoying a watered down, safer version of what the Naxx40/Sunwell Raiders of the previous expansions were struggling through? Instead of thinking that Blizzard was nerfing the content, you would be made painfully aware of the fact that Blizzard nerfed nothing, they're simply carrying you. They're giving you the choice to nerf the encounter into oblivion yourself, rather than wait for Blizzard to do it.

People need to realize their place. A guild that can clear Ulduar on easy mode is not the same as a guild that cleared TK before 2.1. A guild that downed Yogg+1 is more like it. What this does, is that both guilds get to see the content that Blizzard put so much effort into creating, while one guild gets better loot. It grants the power of choice to the masses.

If you're one of those people who feel that raiding is too easy, and you're not currently 5/5 ToGC 25, rocking out on your Iron-Bound Proto Drake, then you should consider ignoring normal mode raiding altogether. Get kills on Heroic, or go home with nothing. That should bring you closer to the flavor of BC era raiding, if that's what you truly desire. Granted, the setup for Icecrown won't lend itself to this philosophy quite as well as Ulduar did, but it should still provide you and your guild with a challenge superior to simply farming easy mode content.


  1. You know it's not that simple.

    First, it's not possible to ignore the easy modes, since the easy modes of ToC and ICC actually unlock the hard modes.

    Second of all, the hard modes are tuned for easy mode gear -- and while world-first guilds can and obviously do defeat hard modes with a minimal number of easy mode upgrades, the rest of us need that intermediate level gear to make significant progress (and are intended to need them).

    Third of all ... well, seldom are the members of a guild in perfect lockstep when it comes to their individual and shared priorities. As guild leaders, we do our best to ensure that those we recruit share our overarching vision -- but the reality is that different players are motivated by different things. I have some members who would /cheer to see ToC25 removed from the raiding schedule, and others who would view it as a waste of a raid lockout to let even ilevel 245 trophies, rings and trinkets rot. :p

    You made the point about a guild that can clear Ulduar in easy mode, etc., in comments on my blog too ... and I still don't get it. I don't think any of us who have cleared Ulduar or ToC on easy mode equate it to killing Kael'thas pre-nerf. That's the heart of the problem.

    I find it ironic that you build your entire argument on the premise that "perception matters," but still conclude that those of us who percieve WotLK as "too easy" are wrong. Maybe there is no right or wrong. Maybe there are just different scales of measurement, and therefore different ways of viewing (and enjoying, or not) the current raid content.

    On a side note, is there any way you can change your comment settings to allow a name/url combination instead of forcing a WordPress/LiveJournal/OpenID/etc. log in? Blogspot makes it stupidly hard to comment. :(

  2. 1: Think of it as an attunement. Do it once, then never look back. Onve you've downed Arthas easy, then you fight on heroic from then on out.

    2: There are a few hard modes that are tuned with full current tier in mind. Yogg+0 was the biggest canidate, but outside of that, Firefighter, and Algalon, pretty much everything was doable in the previous tier's BiS. Firefighter found itself struck down by rather massive nerfs, Yogg+0 wasn't part of the meta, and Algalon required the keepers on hard mode down, so it assumed you had hard mode loot. But aside from that, the hard modes were tuned to be hard for people in previous tier's BiS.

    3: Is a problem that I'm all to familiar with, and is a flaw in guild members, not game design.

    Those comments weren't aimed at you, it was aimed at a lot of vocal posters on the forums who complain about the relative ease of T8 when compared to T5, without actually understanding the actual progression path.

    And the perception issue is rooted in the fact that we now have a choice. The people who take the easy path, and then complain about how easy it was irritate me more than any of the nerf criers.

    Now, this is not to say that Wrath's raiding system is flawless, it has many flaws, which I'll cover in later posts, but I firmly believe that the accusations that the encounters are too easy are baseless because there are difficult encounters out there. It's almost as if they're upset that they can actually see content now.

    I'm reminded of a passage from Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy, describing how it's so much more life affirming to believe that you missed the greatest moment of your life than it is to actually live it.

    As for the comment system, I'll take a look, I've never really tinkered with it before.

  3. I think what spawns all of the controversy, or sharpening of the pitch forks is the fact that the difference between Normal and Heroic modes is so vast. And, as being someone who has gone through most of the pre nerf fights that you mentioned, I can say that we did it in the "previous tier" of gear (read every encounter was HARD and you didnt farm the instance every week for gear). Hard modes are hard, but they by no means require full 245 on every member of the raid to complete.

    I am definitely in line with you on that one Dam. Anyone that thinks that hard modes in the game right now require 245 loot is part of the group who doesn't really try the heroics, and just complains about the normal mode.

    And I can now offically vouch that hard modes are still hard. They may get "easier" because you become used to the mechanics, but I know I am still going to sweat it out for all of P3 Anub tonight worrying one of my HW's wont stun all four adds.

    I think a lot of the comments that you refer to on the forums are from two demographics. First, the Elite who miss the days in the sunlight where you could count the number of people on the server with full T2, T3, T6, Sunwell gear, etc. The second source are more than likely people that can complete Instances in pugs on off days, but when it comes down to their guild going into ToTGC, they just cant deal (and not by lack of skill, but lack of will).