By now you have probably heard about and read Ghostcrawler’s blog post on raid progress. Reading through comments there is one key point that Ghostcrawler absolutely nailed: People are hitting walls and getting seriously frustrated. The same sentiment is all over the WoW community in blogs and forums so it is at least positive that Ghostcrawler identified this truth.
I understand what GC is saying and I agree with him because it is logical and there is data to prove it. He is reinforcing what has been on everyone’s tongues as it is: regular modes are easy (PUGable) and heroics are considerably hard (only a couple hundred guilds worldwide have downed more than 4/13 heroic bosses). Guilds that find regular modes too easy but heroic modes too hard will get to experience the content when it is nerfed such that average players can handle it.
He just said it the diplomatic, nice way.
Here’s a chart using data from wowprogress.com (18 March 2011) showing total kills, split to regular and heroic. This is both 10m and 25m kills as wowprogress’s ability to differentiate between the two is still experimental and measurably inaccurate.
As you can see, there a tens of thousands of regular difficulty kills and very few heroic kills. Clearly there are 10,000 guilds out there capable of clearing all current raid content on regular difficulty. Many of these guilds cleared regular content several weeks ago yet have not made any progress on heroics. Some guilds cleared all regular content more than 6 weeks ago and have yet to score a single heroic kill.
Ghostcrawler speaks of this situation, describing it as the following.
When groups stop making progress, the members get frustrated. When individuals feel like they are stuck, that’s when they start to lose interest. I don’t think it strictly has to do with the flow of loot being shut off. A big part of it is the sense that as you climb up that mountain, you are getting closer and closer to the summit instead of just sliding back down to base camp at the end of each day.
He got that description right. My own guild completed regular content 5 weeks ago. Now we’re at the state of dozens of wipes on several of the “easy” heroic bosses and still no kill. The reason we can’t get a kill is simple: only about half of the people in our 25m are playing at the heroic level. What does that mean for the dozen people that are playing at the heroic level? They are incredibly frustrated, they aren’t motivated to show up for raids, and they are considering drastic choices like finding a better guild, re-rolling on a different WoW system (US vs. EU), and quitting WoW. These are players who have been playing since vanilla and constitute a skill level that is in the highest percentiles. It would be a shame to lose them for any reason.
Is it “unfair” that Blizzard has made heroic difficult require all 25 people to play at heroic skill level? No, absolutely not. It is good that Blizzard made the content challenging. What does this mean for the 25m guild where regular difficulty is too easy because half of the raid can carry the rest but heroic difficulty is near impossible because all 25 people have to be playing exceptionally?
- Death of 25m raiding: It was predicted well in advance of Cataclysm and time has favored the argument. In looking at individual guilds on wowprogress.com, the most progressed guilds are 25m. In this sense, it makes the point that 25m raiding at the tip-top level is primarily the domain of the long established world-first chasing guilds. As described above, a 25m guild that can easily clear regular content because they have a dozen very solid players but struggles with heroics because the other dozen don’t cut it could theoretically switch to 10m and have much greater success.
- Death of guilds: Frustration leads to drastic, emotional reactions. Even the best of leadership can’t hold together people who just aren’t getting what they want out of the guild because their guild can’t provide it.
- Death of player base: Both of items above combine to discourage players from playing. One has to question how much people would enjoy the game if there was only PvP, leveling new alts, and achievement grinding. While the entire WoW population doesn’t raid, the raiding population is certainly the largest percentage of the player base. If a plethora of 25m guilds trying for heroics change down to 10m raiding to cut slack, where does that leave the people leftover? It puts them in guilds that struggle to down bosses on regular difficulty. The cycle then continues at the regular difficulty scale, except that the last step of the ladder is to stop playing altogether.
Ghostcrawler said that “Raid encounters, to some extent, nerf themselves.” His point goes on to say the more gear and more experience eventually leads to kills. This is an obvious truth, but if that eventuality takes too long, frustration takes a stronger hold than any new gear or experience being able to maintain a player’s hope for progression. GC goes on to mention “We wouldn’t be surprised to see some guilds try the first few Firelands bosses one night, while using the next night to go back to get the head and chests from Nef and Cho’gall in order to complete their set bonuses, that is until acquiring new set bonuses becomes feasible.” Seriously? Is that what people want? Do people really want to get further and further behind? I don’t and I know the members of my guild don’t either.
GC’s last point on the matter is “our tendency is to nerf content over time just to make sure a wide variety of players see it.” Like I said before, that was the nice way of saying guilds that find regular modes too easy but heroic modes too hard will get to experience the content when it is nerfed such that average players can handle it. Even more blunt, the majority of people are simply not capable of playing at the most difficult level. Of course not. This isn’t a new concept. Life as a whole is a bull curve. As difficulty increases, fewer people can succeed. As difficulty decreases, more people can succeed.
The difficulty for every individual is finding a group of players that is at the same performance level such that they all progress together at the same rate, whether that be at the absolute top of the performance scale or fairly low on the performance level. Ideally, a guild facilitates this congregation of players at similar skill levels. The reality is that this doesn’t happen easily. It happens naturally to a degree, but like a tree, the natural course takes time. My own experience with guilds shows me that it takes many months if not years for a guild to slowly build up a solid foundation of players who play at the same level. And even after years of building, it can all come tumbling down quite easily should real life circumstances change for the people in the guild.
So what do I ultimately take away from Ghostcrawler’s message?
Almost everyone will get to see content if they wait long enough for Blizzard to tune it for them. The difficulty scale starts high to appease the Paragon, Method, and Ensidia’s of the world which means the rest of the world just gets frustrated. Eventually the top guilds knock stuff out and Blizzard can make the fights easier, allowing for the larger chunk of people to experience the bosses. Like a broken heart, time heals the frustration of hitting walls. Not because people get better but because Blizzard makes things easier.