The confusing state of raid lockouts and badge loot

Icecrown Citadel.I know this is a subject that has been covered time and time again, but my friend (who you know here as Bojamba) and I have spent a lot of time talking about dynamic game environments and what it takes to keep a player interested in a game. With raiding as the end goal for many players in WoW, it seems the current raid system is a confused mix of incentives and gear, a system that tries to encourage team and solo play and really only promotes solo.

Let me start by saying this: I am painfully aware of the fact that WoW, and every other game, is a business decision at the end of the day. The game has to make money or no one publishes it, no one supports it, and so on and so forth. The more people that pay month to month, the happier Bob Kotick is. I do think, though, that higher quality design and focus on the customer (player) would yield even bigger profits than current models of business.

As it stands, raid lockouts serve a couple of purposes. For one, they limit the amount of loot you can access. This is really a dumb reason to have raid lockouts, especially in the current game system. Farming heroics, which can be done without penalty, nets you gear that is just shy of progression level raiding. In a couple days you can be ready to rock ICC if you want to be. And what of the ICC buff? So you want people to experience the content but not the gear? Artificial limitations to progression point to a flaw in design, and I think that flaw is the social aspect of the game.

A lot of people would say that WoW is the most social of games. After all, there are 11 million players. But what about the game experience is truly social? Raiding is, and it’s the reason that most guilds exist. With the new badge system, though, you don’t really need a guild to raid. The big loot pieces are achieved just by running the place (and a daily heroic), regardless of what you get from bosses. Guilds just give you the (hopeful) chance to limit the amount of mistakes made in a raid setting. There is accountability to other players. For casual players, though, guilds don’t make a lot of sense any more. If your play schedule changes week to week, it’s actually better to just PuG the content. I’ve seen most of Icecrown Citadel this way, and it’s very likely I’ll see a Lich King kill in a PuG before the expansion. That was the rarest of circumstances in BC, but it’s pretty common now. This has turned a lot of people from guild raiders into solo raiders, and some of those people are among the best geared on their given servers.

At it’s core, WoW is a solo game. Yes, groups are important, and yes, you need a group to see the highest level content. But most casual players have variable play schedules, meaning even if you start to level with a friend, within a couple weeks you’ll probably see a large level gap, or one of you will move on to a different toon. The methods Blizzard previously used to encourage team play, like raid lockouts, are largely irrelevant because of the badge system and the simplified content. In a way, it can be a good thing – guilds that exist to be social are organic social systems, not forced. On the other hand, it has killed off a lot of the social aspect of the game. Random heroics are silent affairs, unless you’re running with friends.

Blizzard needs to reconsider the social side of the game separate from the loot system in order to provide quality social experiences. If attaining loot is the only thing that encourages social play, the game will quickly turn into a solo experience, and that’s just not all that fun.

  

All Roads Return to WoW: I want to slap the guy that invented Gear Score

gear-scoreI finally got my druid to level 80 and I’ve spent the last week or so getting him geared up through heroics and the occasional PUG raid. It’s actually been a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed tanking, and despite my relatively little experience doing it, I’d say I’m starting to get fairly skilled at keeping a critter’s attention so my group can kill it.

The problem now, though, is that there isn’t a ton of loot left for me to pick up, and I’d really like to see some more content before the expansion comes out. I thought that would be fairly easy to do, but dear god was I wrong.

According to most information out there, I’m ready to start tanking the 10-man version of Trial of the Crusader. It’s a pretty straightforward zone from what I can tell, and my health pool, avoidance, and overall mitigation should be more than enough. I just have to learn the fights. Unfortunately, the people running those raids are looking for a Gear Score over 5000, and I’m somewhere around 4500. What’s worse, the items that will bump me more than 50 of these arbitrary points per slot are typically from 25-man heroic raids that are no longer being run or the normal modes of raids for which I don’t apparently qualify.

I finally got a guy to ignore the GS issue and let me into a ToC 10 and when our melee pulled the fire from the second boss straight onto me while I was tanking adds and proceeded to follow me around, guess who got kicked? Yeah, it was me.

  

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