Flameseeker Chronicles: Creating a better balance in Guild Wars 2 raiding

One of the major concerns aired by the Guild Wars 2 playerbase regarding raid content is the risk of juicy raid-only story details being gated away from the bulk of players. In comments found on part one of my breakdown of Bastion of the Penitent, the most recent raid wing, many of you again discussed this problem and brought up other issues with how ArenaNet presents raiding to players in the game. Although I had planned to run my second installment in the Bastion of the Penitent series to cover the lore found in the raid, after seeing the content of your comments, I thought that I should give space to some of these complaints to see if we can perhaps come up with some suggestions for improvement in future.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll take a look at the most pressing gripes players have about how raiding has been implemented in GW2 while examining how this could be built upon to create larger appeal for the content that’s being created without alienating diverse sects of the game’s community.

Expanding the raiding pool makes financial sense

It stands to reason that improving engagement with raiding is an all-around positive for the playerbase and ArenaNet: More players raiding means more active engagement with content that requires significant time and resource investment, after all. Not only does the raid content itself become more valuable when it engages as many players as possible, but there’s a fantastic knock-on effect to be observed too in which build-up content and general activity also would see an upturn as interested parties prepare characters for raid content. Various bosses require specific raid group compositions and meta preferences change as patches affect output, so there’s a small yet steady stream of raiding players who are continually honing their builds, leveling new characters to add something different to their usual raid lineup, and working towards improving gear on several toons at once.

ArenaNet deeply understands the development purpose and financial payoff of the content far better than I ever will, of course, so why is uptake relatively low and why hasn’t ArenaNet changed more to engage a larger playerbase? The answer is complicated, but the first point to note is that Guild Wars 2 was never originally designed with raiding in mind and so the core playerbase is not necessarily looking for this type of punishing, time-intensive content in the first place. What I will say, however, is that creating raids for the minority of players who do enjoy them isn’t an inherently bad move simply because the market for raids is niche, especially in a game with a sometimes overwhelming amount of activities to engage in that appeal to larger groups of the game’s community.

Why is raiding a problematic inclusion then?

Considering the broad appeal of the large bulk of GW2‘s endgame content and ArenaNet’s flair for quaint virtual communities filled with immersive storytelling elements, one can begin to build a picture of how contrasting a raid environment must be to the daily grind. It’s not, however, as though raids are the only high-octane, challenging content presented by the game, yet it is seen as the most problematic. Raiding firstly presents a problem for those who do not wish to miss out on nuggets of lore that are contained within the content: Raid content is not at all easy for a casual player to jump into since raiders largely wish to run with other experienced raiders to decrease the likelihood of failing and wiping more times than is comfortable.

Impatience to clear content and a disdain for precious gaming time being spent dissatisfied with the outcome of all that effort makes the raiding community a competitive, sometimes exceedingly and absurdly exclusionary place to visit, so when key story content is placed within raids, it’s most certainly not as easy as simply grouping up and blasting the content to see what the fuss is all about. Even if casual players can cope with the fluctuating difficulty presented by the content, trying to convince raiders to accept non-raiders into a party can be a difficult task. Taking the first raid as an example, much of the White Mantle hype was effectively gated away behind a difficulty gate where it couldn’t be easily accessed by many players. To me, the story needs to be experienced in order to get the best from it, so watching streams and videos to find out what secrets each wing holds wouldn’t cut it for me at all.

On the flipside, difficult content must have some meaningful payoff to those who succeed to make the grueling work required of raiders feel rewarding, and lore is one of the main joys found in the game from my perspective. I can see why developers wish to throw story into each and every type of content they create: Appealing to our emotions and increasing immersion makes the content that much more gripping. Reader miol_ referenced Narrative Lead Bobby Stein in a comment on my last article, and you could see the conflict in his words and the side-stepping that happened in his addressing of how much lore would be raid-exclusive. Fractals get away with having nice lore arcs and throwbacks because of the tiered nature of the content, but while raids are simultaneously lore-rich and punishing, players will always feel shorted.

Are there any changes that could help?

ArenaNet has been attempting to find a compromise between rewarding raiders with story and not impacting those who choose not to engage in such time-intensive, high-octane content, while also trying to create an all-in-one raiding experience that also balances accessibility and challenge rating. In my last articles comments, reader sauldo touched on how the team still hasn’t hit that sweet spot while hoping that ANet either sticks to hardcore raids without including fluctuating difficulty levels for early encounters to entice players in or come up with a compromise for more casual players. I personally would love to see the latter, moreso because I feel that introductory bosses when uptake is so low isn’t a bad strategy.

While I understand that ANet doesn’t wish to undermine the impactful, hardcore nature of high-end raiding content by going down the tiered LFR route, I feel that the decision should ultimately lie in the hands of the playerbase, just as many of the WvW changes were led by players too. One logical compromise could perhaps be the inclusion of a solo mode in which the encounters are scaled down and do not grant the same rewards as usual: Rather than necessitating group finding and making a throwaway raid-lite, make each area solo-explorable, more in line with dungeons perhaps?

Players could perhaps choose a fluid number of either players or NPCs to run with, or maybe Taimi’s wonderful virtual battle machinery back in the dragon lab could be reemployed to facilitate raid testing with some work on her part. This would not only allow players to engage with the raid story and see what raiders get to see but would also present a fabulous training ground for those who wish to raid yet don’t have the experience to land a spot in many groups. Paired training or raid spot testing could happen in this environment, and even more fun dialogue could be layered with the raid-specific content as curious Taimi gives her responses to what is found. Adding such a cool but underused plot device MacGuffin in the Living World opens the door for more virtual combat systems to be put in place that would allow players to experience content that would ordinarily be gated away yet wouldn’t be outside of the realms of in-game possibility. A girl can dream, anyway! While light streaming has already happened via challenge modes, I don’t know if ArenaNet can keep resisting the call for more access.

Over to you!

The addition of raiding into the GW2 mix hasn’t been to everyone’s taste, and I appreciate that coverage of raiding won’t appeal to all readers, but that’s not to say that discussions on all aspects of the game aren’t relevant and that blocks of content could ever be ignored in my coverage or that likewise problems with the raiding will go unsaid. I agree that raiding is a controversial addition to the game and that locking lore away is problematic despite my enjoying the content personally; a lore write-up for the wing is coming for those of you who want to get to grips with anything you’ve missed.

If ArenaNet hired you tomorrow with the express purpose of smoothing out the issues with raiding, how would you tackle the problem? Let me know your thoughts on the matter in the comments.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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50 Comments on "Flameseeker Chronicles: Creating a better balance in Guild Wars 2 raiding"

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miol
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miol

Thank you very much Tina for tackling these issues head on, and I just can hope Anet will acknowledge them soon enough too! /bow

But I also hope they don’t make the same mistakes as with LS1 and dungeons, and just leave raids for dead too! Even though I would prefer to have LS1 instead of raids on any day, Anet would lose any last confidence from players and raiders are too much of a vocal minority to be ignored now (you called those demons, Anet, now we all have to deal with them)!

I think, instead of just a solo version, a 2-player-mode would be the perfect casual niche still missing in the game! It’s still casual enough, but there wouldn’t be any typical “It’s not an MMO if you can play solo”-BS to be heard from the raiders’ corner!

You would have the least amount of drama of any kind of forced group content AND the pressure to rush through it in the longterm is also at a minimum, perfect for new players coming in a later stage/time as the game ages!

Reader
Brien Gerber

Just remove all story/lore from raids and fight “Insert generic bad guy here” bosses that are actually challenging.

miol
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miol

I’d have deeply preferred, if there must be raids in GW2, they would have implemented them like the Super Adventure Box or maybe like Fractals!

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Brien Gerber

What baffles me is that people think that removing raiding resources would increase content anywhere else by a meaningful amount. It most definitely would not! The amount of resources they have on the living story content and the next expansion greatly exceeds the resources of raids. By removing raiding resources, you don’t get more content elsewhere! All that happen is you lose raiding content.

miol
Reader
miol

Strongly disagree!

Different studios, like Blizzard and Carbine, admitted in the past years, that raids are the most ressource expensive content that is made!

Aside from the the fact. that there’s not only the team coming up with mechanics deeply involved, but it also needs the most intense QA!

Reader
Justanotherguyize .

I dont think they should remove raiding resources.

Just use the resources they used on challenge motes (which were almost universally disliked) in the last raid to make a story or training version instead (while making the baseline version much harder).

Seems like a simple solution to a simple problem.

Reader
Robert Mann

I’d simply make a story mode. Think something akin to Chronicles in Rift, but with the original material for story.

Rather than gear drops, I would reward the players who pursued this avenue with ‘Loremaster’s stamps.’ This currency would be for eventually ‘purchasing’ some concept arts you can view on demand, using the in game store. Meanwhile, I would also add the currency as a reward in other places for things lore related, including clearing the raids.

Why not, after all, give everyone a little something extra in game! *I haven’t played in a long time, but why not?*

Reader
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imayb1

If ArenaNet hired you tomorrow with the express purpose of smoothing out the issues with raiding, how would you tackle the problem?

As others have said, I would create a “dungeon mode” for every raid. It would allow the greater portion of GW2’s casual player base inclusive access to the content on a low/no-stress level without the DPS meters, “mandatory” ascended gear, minimum AP nonsense, etc.

When Anet introduced raids, many players felt betrayed. Those players weren’t shy about telling them what problems would enter the game with raids– and here we are. I can’t even properly explain how I feel about the official allowance of DPS meters. That is not what the game was supposed to be about.

Slight caveat: It’s okay that Anet introduced a bunch of challenging content with HoT and raids… as long as that didn’t build giant walls for everyone else’s enjoyment, which it did.

teraphashere
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teraphashere

You don’t have to play the elitist requirements game if your don’t want to.

I have made several pug groups to try and do the content. It’s possible too. It just takes a lot of tries to get everyone working together and doing what they should when.

The elitist reqs exist because people want to do it fast and with fewest retries. They want that cookie cutter and no thought method of assembling a group that can clear.

People are just afraid to make their own groups. I started making my own because that was the last section of masteries I needed unlocked. I was upfront I had limited experience. I still assembled groups fast. And aside from a few people offering to take an alt to cover a role we ran with what we were dealt. Just read up on the encounter and utilize discord and be prepared to /gg a few times.

So the more we make our own parties the less power the demands you have such and such are. Let them be like those that speed ran dungeons for those that want it.

Just start your own group.

I just wish I could play a more reliable schedule so I could build a core party as finding 10 people that match your play times and want to raid the same times is the hardest part

Reader
Terren Bruce

I honestly don’t think there is a problem at this point. The raid stories are SIDE stories. One can make the case that the introduction of the White Mantle was main story stuff, but nothing in Bastion of the Penitent is attached to the main story. They’ve even said that if it weren’t for the raid the story there never would have been told. Like Fractals, Raids have their own separate story that briefly connected with the main story in the third raid wing but otherwise is it’s own separate thing.

The Bastion of the Penitent, as interesting as it is, really isn’t a story. You fight four bosses. That isn’t a story. There is a lot of lore stuff that gives those fights context but you can’t really say it’s a fully fledged story.

Would I love a solo or duoable easy mode for raids? Sure I would. I’m more likely to play that than a raid. But then that will slow down the release schedule of raids. And as a casual PvE open world/story player I already get content with EACH patch. What right do I have to ask that the content of raiders be slowed down when I get something every patch and they get something only every 2-3 patches?

So then the question is do I think the raiding team would be better used in another area entirely? That I don’t know, but I do know that the mechanics of fractals, open world and solo content has improved as a result of raid content. They have often brought in ideas and mechanics from the raids to make other content more interesting. So I do feel I get something from the raiding team even if I never play a raid.

Reader
McGuffn

This isn’t everyone’s problem but for GW1 players that are now GW2 players, it is particularly annoying that the parts getting shoved into exclusive content are the GW1 stories.

Compounding that is the issue that GW2 plot doesn’t hold a candle to GW1’s.

Reader
Justanotherguyize .

And the problem will only deepen as time goes on and they release more and more “side” stories in raids.

They need to address the issue now rather than later.

Reader
Brien Gerber

“Compounding that is the issue that GW2 plot doesn’t hold a candle to GW1’s.” – This is the problem, not the raid difficulty. The fact that casual players like a minuscule amount of GW1 lore in GW2 more than the entire GW2 game isn’t a raiding problem…

teraphashere
Reader
teraphashere

The best solution to me would be the adaptation of spectator mode to raids.

This let’s a group run a wing and have additional players enter via this spectator mode. This would be great for several things.
Allowing an experienced raider to act as oversight to better teach and coach newer Raiders.
Would allow new Raiders to watch and learn better than videos. Videos are restricted to what that player was looking at. A spectator mode would let you look where you want to learn the role you are interested in.
Finally groups could invite people to experience the lore thru the spectator mode and just maybe entice them into trying raiding themselves.

To my thinking a spectator mode adds the most but requires less from the devs. Once built it would function for any raid made in the future, where as any sort of solo or easy mode requires additional development time for every single raids wing going forward. Even a cinematic overview, as i have seen suggested, of each raids lore requires additional dev time and resources for every new one.

Tldr: best bang for the buck dev wise is a spectator mode

Reader
Justanotherguyize .

Unfortunately, spectator mode doesnt do anything that a youtube video wouldnt do (same as with a cleared instance).

It is about experiencing the story – being the hero of the game. The only way to achieve that is through some kind of tiered or alternate play experience.

teraphashere
Reader
teraphashere

YouTube videos let you control the camera angles and zoom and from whose perspective you are viewing and learning from? Do they get you actually talking with Raiders and others interested in running?

A experienced guild that advertises it’s doing a run could easily get enough spectators that could end up becoming a new Raid group or two. If they are spectators at the same time it means they all play similar times, finding 9 others that play around your same time that are interested in raiding is the biggest barrier. A spectator mode would help with that networking.

Compare it to a jumping puzzles. You can watch a video on them but it’s easier and more efficient learning it in game with someone running it with you jump for jump.

Reader
Justanotherguyize .

Implementing this just so people can control camera angles while watching something they would probably have to be invited to watch in the first place seems like a waste of resources.

Instead, put those resources (or the resources used to make the current challenge motes) to making a story version instead. It really is the simplest solution.

Reader
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Padre Adamo

There is no reason for me to make a big post. The classes in this game are borked and ridden with broken traits and skills that forces the raiding scene into a hodgepodge mess of elitism beyond what I saw in WoW TBC. I enjoy raiding, but when that fun is sucked away because I cant play my class, what’s the point? I can’t do 30k DPS on my ascended armor, legendary weapon engie? It’s just infuriating. The content and the population that does it does not belong in a game like GW2. The game has an identity crisis.

I have spent twenty bucks a month in the cash shop since we, my play group, started playing a year ago. I am deeply questioning the identity and longevity of this game for us.

Reader
Bryan Dixon

I will apologize upfront cause I know this question isn’t on topic and also it isn’t meant to troll the comments section either.
Can I level and play GW2 without ever having to worry about the cash shop?

Reader
Blu Jasmine

Yes! The cash shop is almost entirely cosmetic, although there ARE QOL things such as bank storage, material storage, etc. that make things easier. Also, you can save up gold and convert them to gems, (not ideal, but it is an option).

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Bryan Dixon

Appreciate the response.

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Patreon Donor
Veldan

Any reason this is tagged with “the daily grind”? It’s on top of the list when I go to OPINION – THE DAILY GRIND in the menu on top. If you fix it, feel free to delete this comment :p