Muckbeast on Raiding Design

Cambios is a game dev who may just have started his blog recently, yet posts interesting stuff from day one. Taking on some of the more visible flaws in raiding in current MMOs, he writes:

So 10, 25, 40, 50, or 100 people work together to mindlessly clear trash, follow their little script of brain disconnected button pushes to beat the boss, and now he drops 2 or 3 pieces of loot. This loot will often be useful/needed by multiple players present, so someone loses out. The same item might drop many times in a row, resulting in certain classes feasting while others enjoy famine. Or sometimes loot will drop that nobody can use, and it just gets blown up or sold to an NPC Vendor. NEVER is the entire group happy with the loot that drops or the way the loot gets distributed.

Indeed. One of the major issues at heart of the old Welfare Epics feud of 2007 lies with the difference in loot distribution between PvE and PvP. I think Blizzard recognized the issue when they started expanding the badge system, but I also think they need to make it really pervasive. All instance drops should be token-based in some form, and there has to be in-game rewards for participation for every raid member (as opposed to out-of-game only systems like DKP).

So may elements of boss encounter design are absurdly arbitrary. I have fought bosses who did incredibly ridiculous things that were clearly designed solely with the idea of nullifying a specific class, tactic, or ability for no logical reason other than the devs thought it would be funny. I have fought raid bosses that were immune to all sorts of standard abilities for no apparent reason other than to make you feel impotent. I have participated in raid encounters where mages had to tank a boss… just because. People don’t make mages because they like tanking, folks. They make mages because they like to make things go boom. I have fought bosses where they you have to interrupt some of their spells, but not all of them, because being too good at interrupting their spells triggers some kind of Uber Spell. If the boss possessed the ability to perform this Uber Spell, why isn’t he just doing it all the time? Why punish people for being GOOD at a core mechanic (interrupting spell casting) with this arbitrary result?

In their currently stated best intentions, Blizzard claims to be trying to design designing new encounters more for roles and less for specific classes:

We are adding a new class to Lich King, as well as improving the raid viability of specs such as Arcane mage, Survival hunter and Balance druid. That means you have 30 available specs for 25 slots. There are two ways to design around this problem. One is that there are 25 mandatory specs and 5 that shouldn’t be raiding. Boo. A more fun, interesting and ultimately fair direction is that you actually have some choices in who to bring. Imagine running a raid with no warrior tanks at all. :)

These are good intentions, though. Designing encounters in a way that any combination of these 30 specs can successfully fill the roster in broad categories like tanking, healing, dps, CC and decursing will probably require quite a lot more overlap between classes than we see in TBC. And the first raid to put that theory to the test will be the new Naxxramas. Because unless memory fails me, frost and shadow-heavy builds for mages and warlocks respectively didn’t exactly fare well in there.

This entry was posted in blogosphere, PvE and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Muckbeast on Raiding Design

  1. Green Armadillo (15 comments) says:

    Interestingly, the most recent Blizzcast suggests that they’re moving further from random loot towards token loot. Instead of having a daily quest that has a minuscule chance of awarding rare recipes, the designer suggests a token system with a vendor. He also mentions a diminished role for the alchemy discovery system, at least for the more high profile recipes. Whether this carries over into raiding remains to be seen, but Blizzard seems to be aware that, at least in principle, players aren’t huge fans of random loot.

  2. Muckbeast (9 comments) says:

    Wow. I hop over to your blog today to read it and you have a link to mine. Thanks. :)

    That last comment from Blizzard is interesting, but after 3-4 years I’m not buying. I just don’t see them delivering on the promise.

    And the problem is, what happens to someone who has been playing a prot warrior for 3 years and now he isn’t even needed? Being a prot warrior sucks… all the time, except when tanking a raid boss. You give up an enormous amount of fun for that one little shining moment of glory. I personally think this is horrible design, but that’s what we have. So if you take away this one thing, then what?

    They have already gotten themselves in this situation by forcing people to be so heavily specialized. Prot warriors can’t do damage. Healing druids can’t DPS or tank. Healing priests are super squishy. Etc. They would have to fundamentally change their viewpoint on that to actually fix this situation.

    By the way, I have a new blog post about another part of raiding I think is a problem. You might enjoy it:

    Raiding Provides a False, Deceptive Sense of Real Accomplishment
    http://tinyurl.com/6nw8a7

    -Cambios
    Blogging about Online Gaming and Virtual Worlds:
    http://www.muckbeast.com

  3. Solidstate (15 comments) says:

    I can’t decide if Muckbeast is a troll or an idiot.

    Do loot problems happen in MMOs? Yes. Are developers doing something about it? Yes. Does Muckbeast have a better option? Apparently not…

    “So may elements of boss encounter design are absurdly arbitrary.”

    So is life.

    “for no logical reason other than the devs thought it would be funny” – obvious trolling.

    “People don’t make mages because they like tanking, folks” – hey, look at me, I can speak for every mage in the world! … NOT! I’ve been playing a WoW mage for 3 years and I LOVE being the mage tank in HKM, it’s a fun fight and a great change of pace from the usual DPS role. I know many other mages who enjoy that fight.

    “If the boss possessed the ability to perform this Uber Spell, why isn’t he just doing it all the time?” – because that would make the fight impossible. Idiot.

    “Why punish people for being GOOD at a core mechanic (interrupting spell casting) with this arbitrary result?” – If you interrupt Aran on all 3 of his spell classes, he will run around melee-ing people, causing interrupts to nearby casters and lowering melee DPS on him. On most other bosses (and trash), if you’re TOO GOOD at throwing out DPS, you’ll over-agro and perhaps cause a wipe. Guess what, interesting fights call for just a little bit of using your BRAIN, this is what makes the encounter INTERESTING… something Muckbeast seems to have completely missed.

    I take it back, this guy is so obviously a troll, not a random idiot. He’s flaming and writing annoying posts with the sole purpose of annoying and drawing attention to himself and his new blog. TROLL.

  4. Gwaendar (217 comments) says:

    @Cambios:
    That last comment from Blizzard is interesting, but after 3-4 years I’m not buying. I just don’t see them delivering on the promise.

    Well, I wouldn’t dare comparing my own experience with yours, but if 2+ years of MUD coding have ever taught me anything at all, it’s that balancing is the holy grail of multiclass games. Mind you, I was coding for a text-only environment who had something like 100ish players in its glory days, and free 2 play (translation, all the staff was doing it as a hobby). I’m actually willing to cut WoW an enormous amount of slack on failing to deliver on such intentions, as long as they feed me with some signs that they recognize major issues and try to address them.
    I’m just a sucker for PR, really. Then again, I’ve been shilling for Blizzard forever anyway :)

    And the problem is, what happens to someone who has been playing a prot warrior for 3 years and now he isn’t even needed? Being a prot warrior sucks… all the time, except when tanking a raid boss. You give up an enormous amount of fun for that one little shining moment of glory. I personally think this is horrible design, but that’s what we have. So if you take away this one thing, then what?

    See, I fully agree with your premises, but I don’t follow your train of thoughts. Yes, tanking builds and healing builds are pretty much useless anywhere but in group play nowadays. It is horrible design, indeed. But leaving deep specialization and giving these players a bone in salvaging one single, narrow and exclusive niche (“at least you have this one thing, you can tank / heal raids well”) isn’t doing a damn thing to improve matters. And healers have it a tad better since a raid healer can re-gear and be worth something in PvP, whereas a prot tank has to regear and respec before doing anything else. Well, that’s what WoW 1.0 was, and what TBC is (though at least a modicum of effort was made for healers in patch 2.3). That’s 4 years of immobilism in this regard.
    The appropriate balancing move is to finally address the lack of viability of these builds outside of their narrow niche, IMO. And while I’m not overly optimistic that in practice they will deliver on that, I’m betting my monthly subscription, month after month, that they will eventually improve things.

    @Solidstate:
    I can’t decide if Muckbeast is a troll or an idiot.

    Harsh. I think you’re misreading Cambios in the exact same way the player bloggers, Tobold first and a whole cohort after him, tend to misread Bartle (remember the recent spat over a Massively interview where one single line was singled out and misinterpreted all over the blogosphere?).
    Cambios is a designer. He posts from a designer point of view, and probably looks at games in the same way. It’s not the same point of view than we players have, and if he’s using WoW as a prime illustration, it’s not the only game he’s thinking of (but can you validly discuss design shortcomings in MMOs today without mentionning the 10M subscriber gorilla in the room?).

    There’s a lot of things in WoW which isn’t exactly great design – and it’s also very easy to say so with hindsight. I’ve spent most of 2007 and a good portion of 2008 ranting about the Tigole Grind design, and I’m actually talking as a player. It doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the game, but neither does it prevent me from reading Cambios’ own framing of a couple of comments and committing them to virtual paper and thinking he has a point. Does he have to propose solutions? Why would he be bound to a higher standard than any other blogging pundit?

    And let’s not lose sight that the best and most coherent design of the world cannot do one thing: to guarantee that a game following these recommendations will actually be fun to play.

    To cut short, Cambios provides a different perspective. It does interest me, and some of the things he writes resonate with my own thoughts. Plus, face it, since the Welfare debate of 2007, the wow blogosphere lacks controversy :)

  5. Tesh (8 comments) says:

    Controversy? You mean, something that might generate thought, and expose people to different points of view? How quaint. Step in line, Brother! The thought police are coming!

    :P

    Aye, I don’t agree with Cam all the time, but he’s definitely got a good bead on some of the things that could be improved in the MMO design world. Wolfshead is similarly contrarian, but incisive and worth reading, if only to take a critical look at why you might stand in opposition to their view.

    And, y’know, those contrarians (like Peter Schiff, Ron Paul and David Walker, former GAO chief) often have valid points. One may not agree with them all the time, but mocking them as idiots only reveals prejudice and ignorance.

    I’m something of a contrarian myself, always swimming against the mainstream because I don’t like being a sheep. Sure, sometimes the mainstream has some merit, but it’s nice to do some independent thinking.

    Specifically with WoW, I’ve never subscribed, and I’m not likely to, for various reasons. Still, I like the game, and I’m digging into the design of it, in hopes of finding why it works, and how to take that lesson to any future design I might work on.

    Thanks for stopping by my little blog, Gwaendar, and I look forward to seeing what else you come up with.

  6. Muckbeast (9 comments) says:

    Gwaendar wrote:

    Cambios is a designer. He posts from a designer point of view, and probably looks at games in the same way. It’s not the same point of view than we players have, and if he’s using WoW as a prime illustration, it’s not the only game he’s thinking of (but can you validly discuss design shortcomings in MMOs today without mentionning the 10M subscriber gorilla in the room?).

    You are exactly correct. I try to play almost every MMO that comes out, and I base my experiences and analysis of the genre on all of those games. WoW is obviously a big one, since its the giant of the industry. But they are not the only player out there, and there are a lot of developers doing things better and more interesting than Blizzard. Some of them are even comparably successful (if you keep in mind initial investment – not everyone has $100+ million to make a game).

    Gwaendar wrote:

    Does he have to propose solutions? Why would he be bound to a higher standard than any other blogging pundit?

    The good news is if you read my blog, you will indeed get to read a lot of real suggestions. Also, I still make games. I put my bloviating into practice and let people judge for themselves if my views translate into fun. :)

    I’ve been doing this professionally for 12 years. Yes, I make niche games (RP required or IC required). But I have customers that have played for 10+ years. I think that says a lot.

    -Cambios
    Blogging about Online Gaming and Virtual Worlds:
    http://www.muckbeast.com