Wednesday, 4 May 2011

On end game design

On Sunday we went rifting, doing Expert Rifts and for once I had the rather delightful experience of being able to simply add anyone who logged on to the raid. As a raid leader it was wonderfully liberating.

Recent posts from Nils, Tobold, Green Armadillo about efficiency and leveling have got me thinking about the structure of end game raiding. (Most of the thoughts in this post were originally posted as comments on those blogs).

Raids originally were aimed at the hardest of the hardcore but supported large numbers. If your dragon spawned at midday on a Wednesday it was a matter of grabbing everyone you could to go kill it.

I think this is an area of game design where the cart has led the horse.

No one sat down and designed a two tier leveling then end game system deliberately. Raids were tacked on the end of Everquest to occupy the astonishingly hardcore few who cleared that game but the game wasn't designed for raiding, it was designed for leveling. It was an accident that they underestimated and people finished.

Once raids were in and became established in the culture as the thing the Awesome Players do then more and more people wanted to be an Awesome Player. So raiding got progressively more accessible.

Now this gimmick busywork tacked on the end of the game has become the game. Without anyone at any stage sitting down and deciding this would be a good idea, then implementing that decision.

This incidentally is why a separate raid-only game with no leveling would not work. People who raid believe they are Awesome Players and enjoy feeling accomplished. You need the lowbies in there for them to have someone they feel better than even if the only requirement to be an Awesome Player is that you show up often and press your one button rotation.

Even in WoW Vanilla the struggle to find 40 people made raid leaders broad-minded. Your best player was probably leagues ahead of your 40th best player, especially if you weren't a server first type guild. The stereotype of the afk autoshotting hunter arose because we knew those guys were in our raids not pulling their weight but it was hard to replace them and we still got the job done.

A 10 man raid is the antithesis of this and, with Cata, is where WoW has gone. 25 mans are dying out because of the phobia of inefficiency. Raid leaders know they can find 5 good dps, but finding 15? That's a big ask.

I'd like to see raiding that isn't number capped. So we can solve the problem of low dps by adding players not improving players.

It's very fun for the raid leader, and might encourage more people to raid lead if they get to enable fun rather than being fun's gatekeepers.


  1. This topic has spawned a lot of good blog posts lately. This is clearly one of them.

  2. Another related thing that irks me about raids is gear checks. Regardless of your skill level, if you haven't spent a certain amount of time grinding out gear in content X, you will never get ti see content Y. I want to see X and Y, but I sure as hell don't want to spend weeks of my spare time in them just to see Z.

    Raids of unlimited size would solve this. Making the disparity between raid gear and gear you can get doing other stuff smaller would also help (but would kill the illusion of raiders being "more awesome" than other players I suppose).

  3. Yeah absolutely.

    I guess the closest things we have had in the genre are RvR fights. The awesome street fighting in Coruscant in SWG, the Tarren Mill-Southshore zerg, the open world content in Warhammer, DAOC, all were gameplay where if 10 people suddenly turned up while you were fighting you'd be DELIGHTED.

    We need to make that happen.

    Not in an existing game but in a new one.

    I want PVE Rift where the monsters can win. Where they can kill your town burn the bank down, permanently destroying your stuff, where if they grow powerful enough to sack your capital it's Game Over and you lost.

    Not a pvp game, a pve game. Although possibly a three sided game with two player factions and a monster faction that threatens to conquer the world - can see that being fun too.

  4. I agreed on Green Armadillo (I still call him like that, even if the blog is now Player vs Developer) and I can only agree here again.

    I hope we find an awesome alternative to endgame raiding. I would like that, raiding has become too much "the game" and perverted (yeah, strong word - but that's my opinion) the core of MMO gameplay. The world and levelling game is nowadays rather weak and short lived in most MMOs.

  5. I tend to use the words 'inclusive' and 'exclusive' to describe content. Open world content is 'inclusive' - all comers welcome, feel free to join in, even a guy who's not a GREAT help is still SOME help. Instances with a hard cap on players participating are 'exclusive' - if you can only bring ten people to fight the Epic Overlord Of Doom, better bring the best ten you can find. Rift offers a mix of inclusive and exclusive content... and post-launch has added to both of them. I'm interested to see how this develops over time. Hmmm - I've probably got more to say on this topic. To the blogmobile! :)

  6. I've never gotten high enough to be in raid content, being pretty new to the MMO scene. The introduction of f2p brought me into it, as I have not had the spare cash to consider spending subscription money.

    However, in reading this about the shrink of raid counts and how it's led to taking only the best, it did make me wonder where LOTRO is heading with its talk of a new larger raid upcoming.

    I like Tremayne's comment about inclusive fights. Because I have a tendency to focus on crafting in LOTRO, combined with a kin that stockpiled materials in kinchests and encouraged using them for leveling, I've managed to achieve a couple of supreme level crafters without either of them even reaching level 30. Until Update 2 got rid of the rare drop crafting quests, this meant having to go out and kill something much higher level than me to complete the crafting tier quest. Naturally, I recruited higher level kinmates to go along and kill it for me rather than having to level up enough to kill it myself before advancing. The thing that I found cool is that more than once I was able to do something *useful* in these combats despite being lower level. My Captain in particular was able to offer useful buffs and debuffs that resulted in the higher level asking me to stick around for him to wrap up a quest before I went back to craft.

    I like it when a game gives you a way to feel useful even when you're not optimum.

  7. Tremayne, either they try to offer something for every kind of gameplay and/or they are experimenting. In general through size variable skirmishes and many 3 man instances rather than 6 LOTRO in general also joined the "shrinking dungeon/raid size" trend. The 24 man dragon fight is really an exception. Maybe they want to bring back that "Thorogh feeling" of the first dragon raid that is fairly abandoned nowadays except for daily badges farming, despite "skirmishization".