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On PuGs and Progression in WoW

Word on the street has it that Blizzard is planning some big changes for the WoW raiding game come Cataclysm.  The current plan, as I understand it, is that 10 and 25 man raids will now drop the same gear. There’s a little more to it, so here’s the bullet list from MMO Champion:

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.

Keen also notes that badges will be replaced by a point system, similar to honor for PvP. More interesting, however, is that points will be interchangeable between PvP and PvE. So, you can PvP to get PvE gear and vice versa. Each of these steps is in the end of accessibility and I’m for them.

Yet, I can understand high end raiders and PvPers feeling a bit like the jilted lover here. When battlegrounds first got introduced into EQ2, we talked a bit about it on the Multiverse. Ferrel, a dedicated guild leader and raider, didn’t like the idea that players who had never entered a raid, or learned the playstyle, would be able to come in and compete with those who’d spent months, if not years, developing their skills.

Honestly, I’m feeling like it may amount to as much spilled milk. Blizzard made sure to specify that you wouldn’t be able to transfer high-tier points back and forth. Let’s not forget the diminishing returns portion of it all, too. So, it’s a foot in the door kind of allowance; jaded PvE’er, meet battleground. Arena champ, Deathwing.

All for nothing?

That is the question...

Now, all of this is well and good but it doesn’t address the single biggest issue accessibility seeks to answer: expanding the scope of the audience.

The fact of the matter is, nothing they’ve announced really opens doors anywhere, from what I can tell. I mean, players that were able to raid were already doing so. Most were running the 10-man versions already. If anything, these changes, in the course of streamlining, will make sure no one bothers running 25-man’s anymore.

Nothing in these changes makes it any easier to get into, or complete, a raid. The exchangeability of the points is nice but, since the LFD tool came around, I’ve yet to meet a single max level player who’s had trouble getting his hands on badges (basically the same thing) to buy that gear – most players have a surplus, once they’ve been capped for awhile. Do the daily, get badges, get loot. PvP’ers were already supplementing this formula with their honor/Wintergrasp/Arena gear, so they’d often have more badges than the dedicated heroic runners.

Life is no easier on PuGs. I know that a lot of players look down on people who try to raid without a dedicated team. But, the fact is, there are a lot of players who can’t dedicate themselves to set raid hours. Family people, swing shift workers, or even players on low pop servers find themselves floating in the shallow end of the raid pool, unable to swim.

When they do get groups, they often fall apart. People don’t know the fight, so they wipe. People drop. Player X doesn’t get the item he wants. So he drops. Player Y does get the item he wants. So he drops. Spinks really lays it all out nicely in an article she wrote a while back. These problems still persist and act as a barrier to non-evening raiders.

If Blizzard really wants to make raiding accessible to the average player, they need to bring in the Cross-Server Raid Finder. That’s the only answer that will meaningfully allow more people to raid. Right now, the only alternative is PuG and Fail, or pay for $25 for a server transfer with the hope of finding a guild that matches your availability and values as a player.

Granted, the issues with standard PuGs would still hold back the LFR tool. But, I firmly believe that the good people at Blizzard can incentivize out the selfishness of the standard pug. They can build it. They have the technology.

So, everything they’re doing is good. But, until they get serious about actually making the raiding game accessible, it’s shuffling cards in a set deck. Nothing new is taking place. It’s just the same ol’ reskin every expansion brings.

But, it’s a start.

PS: Since we’re talking WoW, our friends over at Kalibre Online are running a contest for you to win a month of game time. Why not check it out.

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