Massively Overthinking: WildStar, Guild Wars 2, and MMO raiding in 2015

    
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Here we are in October, sandwiched between WildStar’s F2P conversion and Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns launch, and it seems as if we’re getting some very mixed messages from the MMO industry with these titles.

WildStar went F2P as a result of flagging sales and plummeting subscriptions, brought on — if you ask the commentariat — by the game’s insistent focus on hardcore, endgame raiding to the near-exclusion of other content. Today’s more well-rounded WildStar isn’t very much like what launched in 2014, presumably having learned that lesson.

Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, will introduce with its expansion tomorrow a brand-new raiding scene, and a particularly challenging one at that.

So what’s the deal here? Is ArenaNet out of touch or calculatedly gambling for a niche it doesn’t already have? Is raiding over or on the way back? Let’s talk about the state and importance of MMO raiding in 2015 for this week’s Massively Overthinking.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’ve said before that I feel as if I’ve long since done my time raiding in EverQuest and World of Warcraft, and I’m over it. I can appreciate that it exists for those people who aren’t over it, but I resent how it consumes endgames and themeparks and allows studios a cheap design element at the expense of hundreds of other gameplay types and playstyles. Obsession with raiding gameplay is one of the problems holding back our genre.

This is why I was surprised to see WildStar double-down on hardcore raiding in 2014 after initially promoting more well-rounded, even sandboxy offerings, and this is why I have been mind-boggled to see Guild Wars 2 glom onto raiding with this expansion — again at the expense of other content, in this case, dungeons. GW2 in particular provides such an innovative platform for unconventional, mass PvE that raiding scarcely seems necessary. I would like to imagine that ArenaNet is simply throwing a bone to the raid community that has until now boycotted it, but regardless, the shift in focus disturbs me and makes me suspect that Heart of Thorns will feel like a very different game, not just an extension of the GW2 from 2012 that I genuinely enjoyed.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): If I knew what ArenaNet was thinking with Guild Wars 2, I’d probably be working there – but my suspicion is that this is a move based more off of a desire for stronger player retention, seeing as how the game hasn’t done a spectacular job of fixing the fact that its dungeons are still absurdly disjointed messes of spam. (How will raiding in GW2 be like a Monty Python sketch? It’ll be spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam, and spam.) Fixing that retention problem is arguably a different discussion that’s far beyond the scope of this particular article, but suffice it to say that it’s a move based off of holdover thinking rather than the current market.

As I’ve said before, I’m fairly certain that the idea of “raids are an endgame pinnacle” will be something we look back on in several years in the same light as open PvP, a bad habit that the industry fell into that didn’t really enhance anything. Raids are fine as an endgame option, but as the endgame they fall short, as WildStar found out to its detriment. The players who wanted to join the game because of its message that you could play as you want far outstripped the number of people willing to slam their collective foreheads against crushingly difficult content, and WildStar further doubled down by making content that made even old-school World of Warcraft raiding look particularly tame. Not everyone is interested in that, and making it an expected endpoint doesn’t work out in the long run.

Will GW2’s plan work? I don’t know, but a lot will depend on whether or not the game treats raiding as “here is a thing you can do” or “here is the thing you must do.” If it’s the former, I see it working out well enough for the players interested in it. If it’s the latter… well, I don’t have high hopes.

Jef Reahard (@jefreahard): I don’t have a dog in the raiding fight. I don’t think it’s over nor is it on the way back. It’s just one endgame option that your title should offer if you dare to call it an MMORPG. It shouldn’t be the only endgame option, but it should be one of many including consequential PvP, city-building, politics, meaningful crafting and a related economy, and both group and solo PvE of the developer-directed and player-made-content variety. And hey, if your MMO doesn’t do all those things and many more, it’s not Star Wars Galaxies now is it?

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I never claim clairvoyance when it comes to ArenaNet. As I’ve said on the podcast many times, that studio’s often playing by its own rules and in its own little universe (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Did the game need raids? Nope. It already had large-scale open world boss fights and other massive group activities, but its instanced content — its group dungeons — were a hot mess of stacking and speed runs and a painful absence of the holy trinity.

Personally, I think raiding was introduced in this expansion to put another bullet point on the feature list, full stop. I actually previously admired the studio for declaring its game to be raid-free and more focused on casual gameplay, but I guess that’s not the direction it’s heading these days.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): Large-group, endgame content has almost always been a part of MMORPGs. I think the key issue with raiding is balance. The game can’t be all about raiding or you eliminate about 90% of your player base, but you can’t ignore the 10% who like it or the others that might get into raiding if it was accessible. I believe conceptually that GW2 and WildStar are on the right track, and hopefully, both games will see success in those areas.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I think there will always be a core crowd of players who want to raid, but I do not think that every game needs raiding! This goes back to the fallacy that all games need to be all things to all people. I’d much rather a game pulls in a dedicated crowd that loves what it has to offer instead of trying to offer everything just to pull in a few more numbers; you tend to lose people who loved what the game represented to start with. Yes, raiding is a thing, but it doesn’t need to be everywhere. And I personally think that raiding is one of the harder features to keep up on in development; after all, hardcore raiders consume that content voraciously and are always hungry for more.

Your turn!

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A13xand37
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A13xand37

Melusine the Enchanter Ten10K
You want to realise what you do not yet know about the condition and future of the mmo games?
Please check my post here.
http://forums.mmorpg.com/discussion/443362/open-letter-to-worlds-mmorpg-game-designers-the-future-of-mmorpg-industry?new=1

Unobodi
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Unobodi

Ten10K numbers they didn’t release

Melusine the Enchanter
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Melusine the Enchanter

Ten10K I think the point is a bit missed. One of the reasons I am an MMO’er is to be a part of a long lasting gaming community. The strongest communities are the ones where the game mechanics force you to rely on each other. Then your reputation matters. Your skill matters. Your guild matters. Without end game that requires regular coordination between players who know and rely on each other, the game is not worth playing for me. Raiding is the only way I know of to get large groups of people to stick together long term. Maybe there are other ways but I haven’t come across them yet. 

I feel we are steadily losing the “Multiplayer” in the Massively Multiplayer titles because people “ain’t got time for that sheet” these days. They want to be able to log in and get something accomplished in a small amount of time, not wait around for a group or raid. I get that. But then it’s not an MMO anymore, it’s a solo game. It’s a sandbox. It’s … something else. I understand the game market has changed. No one is making titles that require ridiculous hours of game play and force you to find a group and guild to advance anymore. But I wish someone would figure out how to build the communities that came from those types of games. Spend 12 hours in a static camp with a guy and you make a friend. You keep logging in to help that guy out. That was my first experience with MMOs and what I am always looking for when I start a new one.

Ten10K
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Ten10K

That’s all nice and great and all….
But that 10% of basement dwellers ..arnt the ones companies want to please .. It’s the casuals who are the ones with the money lol
I have been saying this for YEARS!
You self indulgent HC raiders and top PvP’ers .. All think your holyer then thou.. When its the players with jobs and money aka the casuals or the 90% of the player base who keep a game running .. Who made wow as popular as it was..
One of these days you might all wake up ..
But I doubt it lol

Ten10K
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Ten10K

Raids are all fine and good .. But you have to rememebr alot of us don’t have the time in our lives to be in a top raiding guild and push the big bolder up that hill each night .. All I have to say to you is .. Must be nice to have that kinda time lol .. Enjoy it while it lasts man …
I think raids as endgame was fine back in 1999 when MMo’s where a new thing engame raids where fine..
Now a days .. Where sandboxes are growing in popularity I think raids should be just one opion of many at endgame..
MMo’s need to adopt and change to grow .. If the genre stays at endgame raiding only .. It won’t go far.

Melusine the Enchanter
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Melusine the Enchanter

I loved Guild Wars 2. The classes were fun. The game was beautiful. The servers were lively. I had fun all the way up to the point I hit max level and then I was faced with, “Now what?”. I hadn’t made a single meaningful connection the entire time I was leveling since it was all solo. Guilds seemed entirely superfluous. I had no interest in PVP. I wanted raids! I wanted a reason to join a guild and gather in mass to kill things. I wanted the exclusivity and pride of being able to bring down targets not everyone else could. I wanted the long term connection with people that keeps you logging in long after your character is geared to the teeth and you’re out of stuff to do.

The open world raiding? All that seemed to amount to was a few hundred people running up to a mob and hitting it a couple times for loot. There was no planning, coordination, strategy and you never saw any of those people again once it was dead. Not what I had in mind.

I guess I’m living in 1999. I’m clearly one of the 10%. I quit GW2 not long after hitting max level and am now playing on an EQ progression server in a top raiding guild. No one makes games like EQ anymore. The push seems to be in the opposite direction. Less reliance on other people. Less raid focused end game. And for me at least, less of a reason for me to log in after 3 months of play.

TehAcidBaron
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TehAcidBaron

Massively crusade on raiding continues, as if the difficulty of raids were a major factor or sole cause why wildstar did badly there were plenty of issues the difficulty of raids wasn’t one.

Wildstar raiding hasn’t been altered, if you are bad you still won’t get far and that is how it should be. Hell, you won’t even get past veteran dungeons if you are bad. And guess what? The entitled crowd still cry about it being too hard and those that enjoy a challenge still try them. 

If anything, and looking at WoW it seems that easy mode versions of content have been on chopping  block in terms of rewards. I haven’t tried and won’t bother with GW2 raiding but if their dungeons are the benchmark it will never reach the difficulty level that is introduced in games with an actual solid team composition since those games put more pressure on the individual due to their specific role.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

schmidtcapela ManastuUtakata Greaterdivinity Armsbend 
I don’t blame you.

Esoteric Coyote
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Esoteric Coyote

I still think it’s a silly edition, I don’t own HoT and I have no plans to buy it, so I haven’t done any raids.  Therefore I’m not in much position to judge GW2 raiding.  I’m all for challenging content, but I really don’t think it suits GW2.  At least not as a group event.  The classes vary too much on usefulness, most of the content is super casual, and raiding currently forces people to play certain roles.  I would’ve rather seen fractals get expanded and maybe even solo challenges that challenge your class knowledge and ability.  But that’s me, and if people are having fun, then I’m happy for them. But I swear Anet likes to add things to the game and just abandon it or greatly modify it later.  If the statistics for raids are low, will they abandon them too?

Esoteric Coyote
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Esoteric Coyote

RickMills1 Honestly?  Because it always ends if fiery drama.  It’s rarely about being together to overcome a challenge and more about what shinies and how fast you can get them.  I’ve been in one too many raiding guilds in WoW and lost a dozen or more to some form of drama.  I have zero interest in raiding anymore.  Now GW2 raids might be different, it might not.  I don’t care enough to find out, but if they added squads maybe we can have battle grounds that are larger than 5 people, that be cool.  WvW is okay but most of the time unbalanced.