Raid Finder is Broken: The Solution

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I would hope this sort of thing concerns Blizzard. I am a man of limited time, and I want my time in the game to produce fruit. But wiping on a boss multiple times, even after explaining it over and over again to people with not the slightest shred of interest, in Raid Finder is not fun. I am not a hardcore raider, nor am I interested. I like tanking, but why does everyone else feel like other players should carry them to the loot? I’m not even sure they even know they’re doing something wrong! The game has not taught this new influx of players the proper skills to play at a high level of aptitude, and Blizzard’s new raid does not strike me as “noob-friendly”, that’s for sure. The Siege of Orgrimmar simply contains too much complexity, too many trash mobs with special mechanics, and far too much coordination in their current state to make things any more efficient. Add that to a decreasing tank population and things look dire.

I think Blizzard dropped the ball on this one. If anything, this new situation forces us to use Flexible Raiding, or to suffer through yet another three to four hour Raid Finder. Yes, this gets resolved over time, but the Raid Finder version of the first portion of Siege released on September 17th, and I’ve seen little improvement between then and now. It’s a shame, as Siege contains some of the most interesting fights in a long while – they’re simply too difficult for 25 strangers to conquer without massive time. More than likely they’ll just nerf the encounters into the ground until we can steamroll right over them, which also looks less than optimal. That just takes the fun out of it, and it’s a poor excuse for balancing (as is all patching, in my opinion).

A good game designer needs to know how to coordinate their audience into action, especially in an MMORPG. You can’t just simply throw in a new model in lieu of an old one that already works! The majority of the WoW population did not need Flexible Raiding, let’s be honest, and while it may encourage some guilds together, those of us who fit in a more independent mold find ourselves shafted by this new system. Perhaps that’s by design, but it certainly isn’t helping the subscription numbers go up!

The problem with designing video games comes from knowing the mind of your audience. If you design it, you must understand who will embrace this design, in terms of narrative, challenge, and mechanics, all of which produced a holistic experience. Avoiding this calling leads to the aforementioned Raid Finder problem – although they must take care of a larger audience, they don’t get to ignore any single demographic when changing the game. They must take care to satisfy, even when opposed; they know best, but they must also know what their players need. In this case, the design of the game does reflect their attitude, and that does not seem too positive.

Let us take a Biblical example to explore the issue deeper. We find in Psalm 19 the design of the world as a vehicle of praise:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.

David tells us that the heavens and the expanse, the very design, tells us a lot about how God operates. Although it does not speak in the proper human sense of the word, God speaks through more subtle cues and intonations. God does not need to use human speech to proclaim His own glory, nor should we expect human speech as His primary mode of communication to us. In effect, the whole of the created world and order reflects and communicates His glory, His ideals, His design. Not that sin and darkness haven’t crept in, but grace and light appear through the cracks regardless (otherwise, how would we know the difference between good and evil? Food for thought…). We would hope that God’s goodness comes through in the creation, and I believe it does.

The design of World of WarCraft, by contrast, tells us that they’re confused in what they want to promote. They want people to get together and raid, sure; they see that community is the primary method to maintain their subscriber numbers. On the other hand, presenting a new mode to solve a minor problem doesn’t help the situation. They tell us they don’t want people to reach the valor point cap every week, yet they make progress slower unless you do hit said cap. They say they want people to play less and more casually, yet they keep putting in systems that make us play more. Clearly, too many people are at the helm over there trying to appeal to their slowly dwindling subscriber base.

They’re not in immediate danger, of course; when eight million people play your game, you’d go for the slow, iterative approach as well. But seriously, figure out what you want World of WarCraft to be. They spent a great deal of time on lore and story this time around, as well as enhancing the overall game experience, but simple errors like these happen all the time. Even though Flexible Raiding and Raid Finder don’t share a lockout, I doubt anyone wants to do a raid multiple times per week. Once you hit a certain gear level, you’d rather not do Raid Finder at all, and that will exacerbate the problem.

So, I propose a simple solution to the problem: make Raid Finder much, much easier, and Flexible Raiding a little harder. This gives incentives in two ways. First, people who do Flexible Raiding and/or Normal will willingly go into Raid Finder, if not for actual loot then just for fun. I’ve done this myself, and I revisit old raids just to tank. I know it’ll be a quick 30-45 minutes, so why not? You know Raid Finder exists for the casual audience, so why not take that extra step? On the other hand, Flexible Raiding would become more challenging, at least funneling some groups back to Raid Finder. This isn’t as selfish as it sounds; some groups just want loot, let’s be honest, and getting them to Raid Finder would get them said loot quickly and with much fun. Tuning it to the point where it’s not just a pushover, of course, will take time, but this will satisfy the casual audience that makes up much of the player base.

Of course, designers retain authorial control. They know what experience they want to provide, what difficulties they want you to overcome, and what hurdles you must jump. This might look like a shameless appeal to the “casuals” who “ruin” the game, but they keep the game alive! Without them, Blizzard might not find it worth their while to support the game at all, given the cost of all these servers, the creation of new art and game assets, as well as the countless man hours that make the game excellent even nine years later. But divining the designers of Blizzard and their will is tough with these mixed message. So make the process simpler!

Thankfully, God remains considerate enough to make His presence plain and simple. Of course, understanding what “simple” means is half the battle. It does not mean that, in plain language, God suddenly reveals His will to you in a brilliant flash of light (though I do not preclude such a possibility). Just because His speech isn’t in our common vernacular doesn’t make it any less powerful or obvious.

4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Verse 6 hits the nail on the head: from ship to stern, nothing can avoid being a vehicle for God’s glory or sense of handiwork. The Designer knows the creation in all its aspects, and communicates something to each individual and community. While Blizzard can never hope to reach that (given that our creative spark focuses on one aspect), they can certainly take this as a helpful example to hitting that happy medium.

Fixing Raid Finder isn’t that hard; it just takes some care for your audience and how to communicate your message best in how you want them to play for the betterment of all.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.