Vague Patch Notes: If people aren’t raiding in an MMO, it’s not because it’s too hard

Things you don't want.

The start of the year, at least from my perspective, was dominated by Blizzard doing lots of dumb things. So it’s kind of nice, in an even-handed sense, that ArenaNet decided to take over the situation with its own… well, not dumb decisions yet, but at least a preview of dumb attractions. Specifically, it involves talking a whole heck of a lot about raiding and the overall plans to make raiding much more of a going concern for the game by ensuring that people have an easier difficulty ramp into raids.

I honestly believe this is born out of good intentions. Alas, I think it’s also missing a really crucial element of the discussion by neglecting the real reason why people aren’t already raiding. People with more knowledge about Guild Wars 2 specifically can (and likely will) pick apart the more direct reasons why raiding in that game is such a troubled prospect, but the fundamental philosophy of getting people into raids by making them easier is misreading why people aren’t getting in there in the first place. And it has nothing to do with, as ArenaNet suggested, the idea that raids are just too hard.

Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone in existence. I am sure there are probably at least a few people out there who do avoid raiding because it’s just too hard. I’ve never encountered these people when asking the question, but it’d be wrong of me to assume they don’t exist just for that reason. Heck, maybe there’s a great silent majority out there that’s just bad at games and really does desperately want easier raids.

However, in my own experience? I don’t avoid endgame raiding because it’s too hard; I avoid it because I don’t feel like trying to wrangle a weekly raid group together. Period end. That’s not fun for me and I don’t want to do it.

It has absolutely nothing to do with challenge; in fact, I can’t think of a single video game I’ve played ever that I’ve stopped playing because it was too hard. There are games I’ve stopped playing because the difficulty made them no longer fun, but even that wasn’t a case of being too difficult, just not worth the effort of getting good at it. And I do see that sentiment echoed a fair bit – not that the game is too hard, but that it’s too hard to be fun to play.

Everyone is going to have different opinions, of course. Some people don’t mind wrangling  raid groups or even outright like it. Some people are happy to do the content but don’t want to deal with the toxicity that can come along with it. Some people don’t have the time. None of that ultimately matters all that much; the point is that most people who hit a wall with progress aren’t going to just stare at the wall and sulk about how it’s too hard. If you want to do it enough, you will find your way in.

The problem comes with assuming that players can be convinced to like these things, or that the reason players aren’t interested isn’t due to just not being interested.

Oh dip.

An obvious point of comparison that I see a lot, for example, is people stressing that base Mythic runs in World of Warcraft aren’t actually all that hard. This is true. The problem with Mythic as it has been set up is not that it’s too hard; it’s that my patience for getting locked behind a wall of progress that can be passed only when I spend my time setting up a group is nonexistent. Once you present that as the gate, I am already writing that content off. I’ve done shouting for groups before; I’ve already done enough of it that I am full up until the heat death of the universe, so placing your content behind that barrier kills my interest immediately.

Nothing is going to change that I do not want to do this. If your game is unplayable without doing that, then your game is unplayable for me. And it really doesn’t matter how easy you make the content at that point because the challenge isn’t the issue. It’s the patience for the associated timesink that’s just not there.

Where this gets truly insidious is in the fact that the people who do like this particular timesink and challenge don’t want that to change (this is why ArenaNet specifically addressed those fears in its dev blog too). By making raiding easier to force more people into doing it, you make the people who enjoy raiding less happy while not actually enticing new people into the raids. And the more you try to force people into raids by removing other means of upgrading or locking story or whatever, the more people are going to resent the content altogether.

Or, you know, they’re just going to leave because the game has demonstrated it doesn’t want them around. One or the other.

At the end of the day, what draws people into content is much simpler, and it’s a combination of accessibility and options. If players feel they can get into the content pretty easily if they want to but they’re never forced into it, the idle curiosity is a lot more likely to strike and might lead to a newfound source of joy. But some people will still never get into it, and that’s for much the same reason that some people are never going to love pecan pie no matter how furiously you make pecan pie not like pecan pie.

The people who do enjoy pecan pie, meanwhile, are going to mostly be annoyed that your pecan pie is no longer sufficiently like pecan pie.

oh no

Do people need an on-ramp to challenging content? Of course they do. It’s just that the on-ramp should be the game itself, the learning that you’re doing whilst leveling and exploring. I’ve talked before about the failure in designing games where the entire experience changes at the level cap, which is going to leave you with a lot of people who like the game until the level cap and some people who just want the level cap. But if you’ve suddenly got raiding at the level cap, you can’t fix the problem with an easier version of raiding to get people used to raiding.

A lot of the people who are there didn’t want any raiding. They leveled because they didn’t have to raid to do so, full stop. The sudden swerve is doing no one any favors, least of all the people who actually want challenging stuff at the level cap requiring large groups.

Making raiding into an easier form is not actually solving the problem when raiding is the only thing for players to do. The problem in that scenario isn’t that no one wants to raid; it’s that you’ve failed to provide other options for your players. And if raids take so many resources that they’re basically the only thing you can do for a given update, it doesn’t make much sense to create them if – as ArenaNet admitted – very few people actually play them.

You cannot draw people into something by lowering the challenge when the challenge was never the barrier in the first place. By trying to make raids something everyone must do instead of something a few people want to do, you are functionally setting yourself up for failure; making them easier isn’t the axis that needs adjustment in the first place.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.

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Aiun Tanks

“I avoid it because I don’t feel like trying to wrangle a weekly raid group together. Period end. That’s not fun for me and I don’t want to do it. It has absolutely nothing to do with challenge…”


I am so fucking sick of hearing the ‘top rewards for top challenge’ horse shit argument rolled out when I complain about endgame character progression always being locked behind a ‘social’ (HAH) exercise in herding cats, instead of a player skill challenge.

I’m not in my 20s any more. It’s more like double that. I have a family. I’m not looking to build new relationships, I’m trying to maintain the ones I have. I don’t have infinite energy to stay up to 1am three nights a work week until the weakest links in the group get it together. Time no longer seems infinite, a vast pool for me to waste – I have a significantly more focused perception of the time left in front of me and I don’t want to waste it doing that bullshit.

Life is far, far too fucking short to raid anymore.


The idea of being “bad at games” because you cant, or dont, raid is very condescending imo. People enjoy these games for different reasons. Maybe being intolerant or short-sighted is considered being a “bad player” to someone else.


The problem with raids is that GW2 is about player choice, while in raids it’s “play meta or gtfo”. This is both community and a-net problem.

On community side – we need to break the belief that meta is the only way to go. Raids offer enough wiggle room damage-wise to play a lot of professions with offmeta builds (as long as they make sense) and still pull through.

On a-net’s side – they need to make some professions less op and provide more alternatives. Like for years the chrono was the only acceptable tank. Among 9 professions. With 3 sub-classes each…

Now it’s better but there are still some that are “must haves” (Firebrand + Renegade or Chronomancer, Banner Warrior), while others are “hopefuls” hoping they can squeeze themselves into a run (Thieves, Necros, Engies, non-renegade Revs)..

Fix those issues and the raid scene might get some new life.

Kickstarter Donor

Absolutely on-target with this one, Eliot!

I can think of a few game-development crews who could benefit from having your article read to them until finally they get it.

Here’s hoping!


Actually what you’re missing is the very large group of people that would just like to be able to PUG the raids without having to use specific builds, and that’s the group I think ArenaNet is trying to reach, but even they miss the point, though they are trying with the Strike missions, much shorter and with difficulty ramped up as you progress through them. Though for someone like me and countless others, it’s still not going to get me interested, I MIGHT do the Strike mission once or twice for Achievements, might being the imperative wording there, but most likely not I won’t because it’s still forcing me to use a Meta build vs using what I like to play, and that’s the biggest problem.

Sam Kash
Sam Kash

I say they should have a story mode for the actual raids. It isn’t that I need an intermediate level raid (strike missions) to learn how to play more difficult content; it’s that I’d like to learn that raid by playing that raid. And no, I don’t count wiping over and over and struggling to rebuild the party (when players leave) until I learn it a better experience.

Bree Royce
Bree Royce

ArenaNet didn’t explain how it acquired or evaluated its data. People have no reason to take something so contrary to logic on faith.

Blazing Coconut
Kickstarter Donor
Blazing Coconut

I very much agree with this article. Raids are a culmination of the worst practices in MMOs. They require usually a very specific method to overcome obstacles “Everyone stack here. When the mob does [some indicator] use [X skill].” They aren’t really challenging beyond seeing enough iterations to know which indicators you need to do something at.

For me, it’s like playing Dragon’s Lair.

Dragon’s Lair wasn’t a terribly hard game, but it required you to die a lot to memorize which places to go at what times. Now… if Dirk had to also grind some other game for hours to be able to play Dragon’s Lair it’d be even a better analogy.

I have no issue that Raids are in games, just I won’t play one that requires you to do them. GW2 when it was released was cool in that you could play all the open world content and advance your character. Even dungeons were doable with PUGs and you could just play what you wanted when you wanted it.

I know there are people that like to Raid, and for them I hope they continue to exist. I want nothing to do with content that requires me to block out multiple hours several times a week to run it with a specific group of people. No thank you. That’s not fun. Nor is it fun for me to be told to walk to X, cast Y. Wait. Repeat. I prefer content that lets me use all the skills and abilities that I have to solve it in different orders or with different skill sets. Sitting in a blob of color with 20 people DPSing does not strike me as evocative or enjoyable in any way shape or form. It’s not hard content if you can follow directions and have put in the time before hand to insure you have appropriate gear.

Great article.

Sam Kash
Sam Kash

Very well said!

Chestnut Bowl
Chestnut Bowl

I avoid raiding because the scene is filled with elitists. This is not an inherent negative (aiming for your best is great), but there’s more than a few elitists who tend to make the experience unfun and demotivating.

Kickstarter Donor
Emmanuel Carabott

I think this analysis doesnt really consider Gw2’s unique circumstances. Open world content has always been designed to be accessible, worst yet any difficulty in the open world is completely wiped away through strength in numbers or as its commonly refereed to the zerg.

Compounding all that is the fact that the horizontal progression we got over the years wasnt entirely 100% horizontal. I cant really say how much of it is experience and how much of it is power creep but dungeons used to be hard at launch, now they’re a breeze. Fractals are not that different. If a player decides to limit themselves to early level fractal and doesnt PvP they really have no challenging content to incentive them to improve their build and their skill. The jump from that to Raids is huge!

Arenanet themselves said that the average DPS between the low and high skilled players is 10 times! That means your average player is likely to do 5 times less damage then the hardcore players that raids are tuned for! This is just part of the problem. What happens when 2 or 3 average players try to join a raid group? Unless they’re lucky and find a group thats on a training run or dont really mind wiping over and over they’re going to be kicked out and that is if they can actually get through the wall one often finds before joining a random raid group and that is proving you’ve successful completed raids a bunch of times in the past.

I think strike missions are actually exactly whats needed to solve this issue. So far there are no barriers or people kicked out. The ramp up is gradual so it incentives players to try harder… improve their build, perhaps even learn a more effective rotation. and all that in a much “safer” environment.

Now is this going to solve the issue?, I dont know, the “toxicity” or well toxicity is a big word, lets just say the hostility one sometimes finds with hard content isnt going away and I think thats primarily what likely keeps people away the most. No one likes having to pass a test to join a group, or joining a group knowing you might be shouted at or kicked if you dont perform to whats expected. That fear will still be there after the ramp up sure but having content that “forces” people to improve so to speak can only help lessen the issue in my opinion!

In anycase whats the alternative? Ramp up the difficulty of the open world by 10x ? doing that gradually would take years and Anet would risk alienating their core player base. Surely their gradual ramp up strategy through strike missions is the better option! For sure its the less damaging one!

Edward Rice

The problem with GW2 raiding is that they allow 3rd party programs like Arcdps that alow players to keep track of others damage, This in turn makes it so that instead of getting good, groups just kick players till they find better making the Raid community more toxic then any PvP community I’ve ever seen, thats why most players say F@*! Raiding, If Anet wants to help they would ban the use of other software in there game.