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: The people are still the important part

Keep your people close.

I know a lot of you don’t enjoy WoW, or at the very least you’ve burnt out, but I’m still having a lot of fun playing, and I can only see that going up. The main reason: people.

I got back into WoW basically because I knew that a buddy who plays League of Legends was around. I didn’t think – not in a million years – that I would be back with my old raiding guild just a month after I started playing again. It’s actually pretty exciting and has turned out to be the thing I missed most from the game experience on the whole. It’s really nice to have a group of people consistently around for a game. I have that to a smaller extent currently in LoL, but I spent hours with these guys (and gals – hi Ishi!), for good or ill, and it’s been fun to reconnect.

If you find yourself bored or disinterested in any game, I’d recommend one of two things – get to know some people in game, or get to know some people in real life. Either way, you win and win big.


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