Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

On Oldschool Raiding

A week ago Rohan, from Blessing of Kings, asked whether Blackwing Lair was boring and has stirred a couple of responses about oldschool World of Warcraft raiding.  Keen claims that we should get 40 men raids back, and Spinks wants to grind for resistance gear again. Blackwing Lair was, in fact, boring compared to modern raids – but raiding wasn’t.

Blackwing Lair: Positioning is halfway to victory. (image:leftoversraiding.org)

A raid consists of scripted boss encounters, trash mobs, art assets, and story events. Where these points are concerned, modern raids in WoW are simply better than those in the original game. Boss encounters have far more going on than the simple positioning fights of BWL or the tank & spank of Molten Core. Trash mobs now have varied abilities and are no longer simply scary because of their respawn timers. Their models as well as all the instance models look far better than what we got five years ago, and story in the Molten Core consisted of some voice-over by Ragnaros and some text to read outside the instance. Nowadays we get videos, and in-game sequences and much more voice-over. Some may say too much, but that’s another topic entirely.

So saying that the raids back then were less interesting (read: boring) is very close to the truth – but what it doesn’t cover is how interesting raiding was. Raiding is the actual gameplay going on in the instance and that was quite a bit different back than than it is now. Sure, some of that may be the rose-tinted spectacles of looking favourably on my first raid experiences ever, but there are also things that simply don’t exist in modern day raids anymore. The raid encounters were less complex, which left more room for actually playing your class. Things such as healing rotation and mana conservation pretty much don’t exist anymore and it generally doesn’t seem as relevant anymore to play your class right, as opposed to being good at dodging fire. As I’ve noted before, WoW raiding has moved away from a thought based gameplay to a twitch based one. That makes a clear-cut answer as to which was the better raiding, that in classic or that in WotLK, difficult to give. I prefer the old model, but quite obviously many others find that boring and rather like the new twitch. To each his own I suppose.

So what about raid sizes? Do we really want 40 men raids back? I’d say absolutely not, unless you change the whole structure of a raid. If you want a 40 men raid as a whole to be as successful as a 25 men one you need to increase the room for individual error. Simply, if a forty men raid fights a boss that is as  tightly designed as current 25 men hard mode bosses, they will fail much more often due to individual failures. So often, in fact, that it will become absolutely frustrating and destroy the raiding experience. It already takes lots of wipes for 25 men to learn how to run from Anub’Arak in hard mode, imagine you had to wait until every last one of 40 raiders (plus replacements) had learned the fight. Horrible. If you relax the constraints on individuals though, each of the individuals feel less important – and that’s exactly what happened in oldschool raiding. In Molten Core, you needed about 20 real raiders, the rest could just be warm bodies without any skill. Clearing the instance with less than forty players wasn’t a big problem, neither were deaths in an encounter. I don’t simply want to be Hobgoblin Cleric #3 when I raid, I want to be Tanazee the shaman that saved the day.

Add to that that performing precision maneuvers with forty raiders is nigh-on impossible without a hierarchy and you get yourself a recipe for failure. That part of classic raiding surely wasn’t better than what we have today.

My, you're a tall one!

Finally, what about resistance gear and preparation? Spinks is very much correct that back then coming prepared to a raid meant something, while today it is simply what you do and doesn’t require an effort. If Blizzard would completely remove consumables from the game, it wouldn’t make much of a difference to raiding. Being flasked and food buffed has become so normal that it might as well be rolled into our stats from the beginning. If I compare that to our first ever use of flasks in Molten Core, much of the magic is lost. Back then we, the raid leaders, organized a precious few flasks that we handed out to our top DPS players to be able to finally beat Ragnaros. There was no way we would have been able to afford consistent flasking like we have today. Instead, flasking required a conscious effort outside the raid to squeeze that one little bit extra out of our raid that was needed to kill the tall one.

Spinks is also right about resistance gear and similar preparations as a guild effort.  The issue here is of course that you have to be careful not to make that experience too grindy but not too easy either. Simply buying your required gear from the auction house is boring, as is farming Molten Core trash over and over again for the items needed to make enough fire resistance gear. If crafters were actually rare and crafting would require an actual effort, this might be more interesting. Finding one of the rare blacksmiths that are able to create dragonbone plate (or what have you) and getting them to make a few pieces for you, sending out teams of adventuring parties to slay dragons for some raw materials, and organizing transport of the heavy dragon corpses back to the city might be more interesting. Spinks mentions that it is difficult to make crafters a legitimate part of raiding – as crafters and not as raid members that can craft. This can only be accomplished by making good crafters rare or very specialized (and those specializations rare). That was more the case in classic WoW than it is now and I don’t see it getting better anytime soon.

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