Friday, December 2, 2016

How to Build a 20-man Raiding Team

Every Warcraft expansion we see the same complaints on the forums.
BLIZZARD Make Mythic Flex or 10-man again!
I think you really have different kinds of players. Type A and B.

  1. Type A (Tortoise) Mostly play WoW and rarely unsub and guilds active and going doing various activities. May play side games but don't leave. Tortoise.
  2. Type B (Hare) Episodic and get bored quickly/easily and come and go based on the latest new game release. Hare.
The problem guilds face is a social contract conflict between Type A and Type B players.

The Type A player wants to believe that guild or group is always there and they are a part of something.

The Type B player sees it more like a pick-up basketball game with strangers.  You play a bit and then you are gone and you may or may not see them again.

Guilds will have a mix of both A and B players.

Guild Leaders can also be of type A or type B.

Type A led guilds keep on trucking.  They may have some type B players in their guilds, but the type A's keep the lights on, create a foundation, make a home.

Type B led Guilds come alive with the expansion. A few of their Type A friends might flock to them to join in the pick-up game.   But, each expansion, less and less Type A's will be fooled by the allure of the fleeting team.

Type B Guilds will most likely struggle each expansion.   They have significant amount of flucuation of players.   They start raiding as soon as they reach the quorum minimum 10-man mark.  And even if they have a strong core and complete the heroic raids quickly, they only have their wow-progress numbers to convince others to make the move.   Many will hit a wall to reach mythic raiding.

Type A Guild never left.  When the Type B guilds hares are flitting away to Dark Soul 35 or Skyrim 13, those that remain in the Type B guild see only the type A guilds still standing.  Time to move to a stable home even if it's not as fast, light, brash and powerful.

I think, unless you are a VERY WELL led Type B guild, these guilds will compete with other Type B guilds. They consume each other as transient players "guild upgrade" based on the wow-progress until they can't any more. The lower type B guilds collapse.

Players that tire of the expand / collapse cycle either quit guild raiding or hope to find a guild that's more stable (Type A).

Some of the Type A Guild players might guild upgrade if their more tortoise-like players aren't as fast as the Type B counter parts, but many, having seen the expand/collapse before know better.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Legion Player Collapse Incoming

Now is that time in the expansion about two months in where all the race-to-raid guilds start to implode.

It isn't terribly difficult to toss together a really strong 10-15 man heroic raiding team that blasts through the content.

However, when you start to hit the Mythic level you need more than 20... you need 25-30.   Raid nights become frustrating because you are at 16 or 18 or 19 players and not enough.   They recruit like crazy but can't find the numbers.

So, better players start shopping up.  Weaker players get left behind and either quit or drop down the ranks to lower guilds.

Guilds go poof.

I've seen this so many times now.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Random Loot Frustration and Social Play Revival in WoW

The biggest complaints I have seen on the forums focus around two core areas with Legion:  

Randomness (RNG) and Prerequisite busy-work.

For RNG, everything in this expansion is random, everything.  Loot drops randomly upgrade. World Quests are randomly selected.   Legendaries are a random chance.   Itemization is so important and so hard to get.

From a frustration point, player have little to no way to focus for success because there is no consolation prize system that players can control.  Even crafting and rep grinding is behind RNG (random world quests and random stats).

For Prerequisite busy-work, it all seems to focus around the game requiring people to do something they don’t want to do (or no longer want to do) in order to get or do something they do want/want to do.

Busy work goes against a Blizzard-enabled play style.  Since mid-Wrath through Warlords, Blizzard created Alt-Play and Solo-Play through Dungeon Finders, Heirloom Gear and eventually with Raid Finder during Cataclysm.   More and more players have migrated away from organized social play into solo activities of the game such as Finders, Pets and leveling more alternative Characters as “content” for them.

The entire fabric of the player base began to wither into solo players.

Legion has pulled an about face here.  Rolling back the clock all the way to BC and Early Wrath (pre-finder).

By requiring AP gathering and ancient mana gathering and rep gathering, Blizzard is bringing back the “main game” instead of the, these-are-my-12-mains game.

There is a group of players that are happy to no longer be so bored that they are playing alts to stay entertained.  But there is another group that is so unhappy they can’t play 12 mains.

There is a group of players that are happy that guildies are grouping together instead of using the finders.  But there is another group that is so unhappy they have to actually “put themselves out there” which can be uncomfortable when a "finder" did it for you.   They have to try to get into manually created groups or join guilds.

Blizzard has done a pretty good job of giving neither positions a “win”.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Guild Cohesion

Unless your guild is excessively massive, it is impossible to really operate numerous raid teams.  

I would speculate that for each raid team you add to a guild you multiply the complexity of difficulties and coordination exponentially.    My guild runs two raids as many guilds do.  We have a primary team and a casual / alts weekend raid.

I had a long-standing player in the guild wanting to create another leader-team because the leader-team is full and he failed to sign-up and the causal team wasn't advanced enough for his wants.

While, in practice, this sounds like a quite reasonable request.   Here are the problems another leading team can cause, if you cannot coordinate properly.

  1. If the teams are on different schedules, you have doubled the competition within the guild for people wanting the schedule that is more to their liking.
  2. If the teams are on the same schedules, you have decide how important it is to the guild that both teams advance equally.  If it's important you'll have to balance participants and people want to raid with friends.   It can't be about just numbers.
  3. You have the potential that teams can compete for the "better players".
I'm not saying it can't be done.   I know there are more hard-core guilds that make this happen.  

I'm just saying that it has drawbacks, issues and more "work" to make it happen.

If your guild does this... what approach do you use?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Push to Premade Finder

As Legion is about to be released, there is a change afoot and Blizzard isn't flat-out saying it.  That is, the push toward the manual finder tool over the automated finders.

I think this is a great balance that will have a lot of automated-finder players extremely upset because they continue to feel like ALL content in the game should be accessible without ever trying to be connected to players in the game.

However, I think, this is the primary push back from what started the slide in WoW in the first place.  That is, when the automated finders came into creation there were many pros but they came with many cons.

The Pros of course, include no more screaming in trade.  No more hours and hours of waiting to form a group.

The Cons of course, no more group commitment, loss of community, loss of group accomplishment.

I think this new system of Mythics being outside the automated queue system is the perfect compromise and it fits the model they've used with LFR to Normal+ raiding.

Yea, players are going to complain.   But, it brings back some of the old WoW without eliminating the new.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Silence Penalty

Blizzard recently announced a "new" system called the Silence Penalty.

The forums seem to be up-in-arms about it, but what is entertaining to me is that nothing has changed.

The "violations" as players are the same.

The reporting system is the same.

The only thing that is changing is the type of penalty.  Instead of a verbal and then ban, players will be unable to talk in public channels or through other interfaces that might communicate to strangers.

I know the vloggers and bloggers love to hate on Blizzard, but this really is not a big deal.

No more reports are going out than before, unless more people report.

No more punishments are going out than before, unless more people report.

Blizzard's system has always been a reactive one.  If players don't report, nothing happens.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cross Realm Zones, Realm Hopping and Server Populations

If you aren't familiar with Cross Realm Zones and Realm Hopping, they probably use the same back-bone of technology which is the ability to make players move / appear / interact on different server  from their "home" server.   All of this added in the midst of server population problems and the established playerbase lacking new blood.

TLDR: Solution thoughts provided at the bottom.


Server Population

As the player population ebbs and flows it is mostly in the negative direction.  Servers have less players.  Less players mean less viable guilds.   Less viable guilds means more player migration and more subscription losses.  This is all simple stuff that Blizzard has to understand.

Their "psuedo-mergers" (a different topic) were great to help a little but it's a temporary fix and Blizzard knows this.

Without these cross-realm tools, many players wouldn't even be able to do much of the content which would result in more losses.   Yes, it encourages some to pay the fees and move characters, but I fathom a larger number just choose to quit all together.   Speculation, of course.

Blizzard has a set of tools they created so they wouldn't have to really solve the server population problem completely.

Cross-Realm Battle-Tag Grouping

Blizzard created the ability for players to group with players from other realms and play with their friends from other servers.   It required knowing their real-id to bring them in.    The technology would pull the lower level characters to the server of the high level players.

Pros: Friends could play together even if they are on different servers.  Allows players to participate in content that wouldn't be possible on lower population realms.

Cons: Players cannot trade items or gold.  Cannot join the same guilds.  Cannot participate in most current raid content (this slowly relaxed until it only excludes mythic raiding and only until it's mostly been completed).

Cross-Realm Zones

Using the Cross-Realm technologies, Blizzard decided that playing in the lower level zones of World of Warcraft was less fun because most players, after playing for any amount of time, all end up at the end zones or latest expansion.   That is 99% (made-up) are at max level expansion and 1% all played alone and might get bored and who knows, perhaps quit because there was no MM in the MMO (Massively Multi-player).

To try and improve that experience, they created Cross-realm Zones.  Any Zone below the current expansion, will coalesce players into sets of players trying to bolster the number of characters in those zones.

From a players perspective, there is no telling how many players are in that zone and what server that are from.

Pros: The zone feels alive.  The content is being used as it was designed to be used with a quantity of players.

Cons: You cannot join guilds or trade with players from off realms.  While the content is now being competed at the designed level, many players don't want competition for game rare creatures.

Pre-made Finder (Realm Hopping)

In Mists of Pandaria, the infamous TinySmasher (a player) created a game add-on called oQueue.  This add-on was highly debated, loved, reviled, and contested.  It used the battle-tag / real-id system to piggy-bag communication between realms in a mesh network of inter-server communication.  The purpose he initially created it for was for a community of PvPers to "cheese" random battleground by taking the "random" out of one of the competing sides.  That is, if you could bring 20 friends into your RBG, all on voice against just a bunch of random people, you'd win.   Well, they did.. they'd stomp them.  They did.

The add-on also allowed for people to create cross-realm raiding activities using Cross-Realm Battle-Tag groups of people on various servers all wanting to do the same content.

Essentially it was the predecessor of "Pre-made Finder", but it had no "auto-invite".

Today, we have pre-made finder, largely, I think, because of oQueue.  But the auto-invite feature allows players to quickly join pre-made groups, for whatever purpose and use them to pull their character to different servers.

Players do this for the sole purpose of hunting rare creatures that have long spawn timers, increasing their odds of finding these creatures significantly.

Pros:  Increases odds of finding these creatures significantly.  Players feel justified for doing this because Cross-Realm Zones decreased their odds.

Cons:  Can be disruptive to groups that have people join/leave without having any real intent to participate in the purpose of the group.   Defeats the purpose of Cross-Realm Zones.   Creates a whole new purpose for pre-made finder for which it was never designed.

Where from here

Much debate and argument could go here about Server Population, Pre-made finder Realm Hopping is fine or why Cross-Realm Zones is bad and I probably could agree with many of their points while at the same time disagree with others.

But, what I think, however, is that the whole system is broken because the original intents are not being accomplished and the features are being used for purposes other than intended.

All these partial solution are leading in one direction that Blizzard just doesn't appear to want to go.

Sure, I will use these systems to do similar things while they exist, but that doesn't mean I think it is the right technological answer.

Blizzard wants:
  • Competition for resources - Hopping for rares breaks this.
  • Pre-mades for playing with people - Hopping for rares breaks this.
  • Preserve the concept of realms.
Players want:
  • People they can play with.  
  • Ability to play with friends
  • Servers that are viable
Their solutions aren't working.
  • Servers are still getting lower populations and becoming non-viable as more players quit or migrate.
  • Cross-Realm zones is a partial implementation to ameliorate low population server problems. 
  • Pre-made finder is a partial implementation because it doesn't support ALL content.
  • Players can't really play / share / join the same guilds, it's just a band-aid.


Blizzard needs to fix their broke.  They are creating band-aids that just create more problems.

It is time to free players from their servers.   I have my own ideas on how it could be implemented but this is really something only Blizzard could design.

My basic concept is as thus:
  • Realm is just text appended to your toon name.   But servers are only an internal Blizzard thing.
  • As players you can join any guild.
  • Guilds are listed on a larger web site accessible in game or out.  This system would allow for a large set of search criterion that's not only complex but detailed.
  • Players appear on the same server as their guild (irregardless of their "realm" text).
  • Guilds are grouped to balance player population by a balancing system.
There are still servers, but they mean much less to the players.  What matters is what guild you join.

Pre-made Groups still can exist.  But they need to have their purpose enforced.  If you are not near the realm leader, you are not on his instanced server.   This stops hopping pre-made groups.

Cross-Realm Zones needs to exclude rares.  Then you no longer need to hop for rares anyhow. 

We could debate this and maybe my solution is the right one.  But the way we are headed isn't better as long as low population servers continue to die the game will suffer.