A Different Way To Scale Raids

I’d like to start off with a warning. A warning against Starcraft 2. Foolishly I thought that I’d be able to moderate my intake of this hypnotizing drug. Well 6 days my WoW life has been knocked out of balance by Medivacs, Dark Templar and Banelings. And I haven’t even been able to finish the single player campaign yet. Damn you, Blizzard, will you ever release me? That said though I’ve been able to muster enough force to create one original thought independent of Starcraft universe. I’m afraid it’s crazy idea time again.

A warning, not an advertisement

The way that current WoW endgame works is pretty straightforward – raiders clear the current tier of content every week improving their gear and waiting for the next tier to be released, to which they will immediately advance. However this creates a pattern for player activity- number of groups attending raids spikes the week new endgame content is released and after a few weeks starts to steadily decline. This is quite understandable as players either

a) are very skilled and breeze through the new content,
b) are trying to become better but hit a hard progression wall,
c) aren’t trying to improve and become bored of repeating the same bosses on same difficulty.

The only players who won’t be turned off will be those who find the difficulty just right, just enough to keep content challenging but not impossible. Sure, you could say that this is a tuning issue but the simple fact is that it’s impossible to tune a raid encounter to the needs of the majority of the playerbase. There will always be a portion that can kill every new boss in 2-3 weeks and a portion that be unable to progress past the first few bosses. Blizzard’s solution is to provide multiple difficulty settings via hard modes however 2 options is very little considering the breadth of the skill levels of the current players engaging in raids. Currently you can attempt the normal mode and receive ilvl 264 loot or you can attempt the hard mode and receive ilvl 277 loot. That’s it, those are the only options offered to raiders. If neither of them suit your raid group then you’re out of luck.

There needs to be a much more dynamic difficulty control. Lets say there was a slider that would determine how challenging the raid encounters are. Slide it all the way down to 100% and you can face the “normal version” of the fight with usual HP, damage and loot (for example, 20mil HP, 30k hits and ilvl 264 loot). Slide it to 120% and the HP and damage numbers grow exponentially and quality of loot also improves albeit at a slower pace (for example, 30mil HP, 45k hits and ilvl 284 loot). The rapid scaling of HP and damage would ensure about the same difficulty-to-reward ratio that we have in current raids. Unlike in current raids though, this manual scaling would provide for much more varied choices for each individual raid group. As guilds raiding core gear up in 264s by doing the 100% difficulty, there wouldn’t be the need for a sudden, often harsh push to 113% difficulty to start getting 277s. Instead progression can be much more gradual, consistent and rewarding at the same time.

Gratz! Now up the difficulty by 2% and do it!

With this system tiers would be determined by the lower/upper boundaries of possible ilvl dropped. For example, T9 raids would drop ilvl 232 at the minimum 100% difficulty and ilvl 257 at maximum 125% difficulty, meanwhile T10 raids would drop ilvl 264 and ilvl 289 at 100% and 125% difficulties respectively. Leaving the scaling ceiling so high that only a few guilds in the world would be able to reach them, would ensure that every guild out there would have something to work towards. This would also make each tier less static by creating gear progression within each tier of raids – getting 277s wouldn’t mean that you can relax because now you need to put that gear to good use by doing bosses on couple percent harder settings. Most importantly, it would be near-impossible for even the most hardcore of raiders to assemble a full BiS set, the race to get better gear would last much longer and motivation to attend raids even after 2 months would still be there.

Of course there are a few complications this idea would bring. With the numbers I present here each tier of raiding would encompass 25 or more item levels, creating rapid stat inflation however that is just a number problem. The slider can go from 100% to 115%, each tier would encompass about 15 item levels and the system would still be functional. The system would allow very little, if any room for special boss abilities on harder settings – introducing additional boss ability at 110%+ difficulty would create a certain progression wall and would defeat the purpose of manual scaling. Ensuring the items dropped scale properly could also become a hassle, however I think Blizzard already has decent experience in that field with scaling heirlooms. Scaling the bosses itself would be crucial as well to ensure that on the same settings they present comparable challenges.

In the end, much like the Abolishment of Server Boundaries article, this is just a theoretical wonderment whose main purpose is to explore ideas how certain aspects of WoW and MMOs in general could be improved for the benefit of tomorrows player. Would dynamic difficulty sliders be a success or is there a reason why they aren’t present? I’m sure Blizzard has thought of similar ideas and have their opinions but what do the players think?

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~ by Shale on August 9, 2010.

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