Saturday Debate: Raiding
Staff Writers Dan Fortier and Derek Czerkaski square off on one of the hottest topics in MMORPGs... raiding.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.
Raiding; the gathering of guilds and their members en masse to fight grueling, hard-fought battles against epic monsters for 1337 lewt. That's one way to look at it. I hear "raiding" and I think of a monotonous, macro-mashing time-sink. Nothing like spamming 4-5 skills over and over, for 2-8 hours at a time, because that's what real strategy is about. While raiding can be fun initially, once a god/boss/HNM/insert-end-game-title-here has been beaten enough times to where the strategy has become standardized, all the fun is gone.
When will developers realize that not everyone has 6 hours at a time to dedicate to a game? Why should I be denied lore because of my play-style? Heck, I'm not the type to give a damn about the 1337 lewt, but I miss out on potential quests and storyline details because of my distaste for raiding. There's absolutely no fun to be had in "vanilla exp-ing", which is my definition of raiding. I say this because there really is no risk. Use the pre-set, tried-and-true method for clearing a dungeon, or fail it. There's not even any versatility presented in it. Spam DPS -> DoT -> Regular Melee -> DoT -> DPS. Perhaps if bosses were controlled by GM's, and didn't have set, static behavior patterns, it would be more interesting. Or maybe if dungeon layouts were varied EVERY time, I'd be more enthused, but running through the same damn place, 20-60 times to get my "epic set", which will just be replaced in a patch 3 weeks later, is just ridiculous.
Well it's easy to make broad statements about how raiding is boring and overused, but the simple fact is that raiding exists in games BECAUSE people do enjoy it. Call them the silent majority if you like but since DKP actually meant killing dragons in EverQuest, most of the really successful MMOs have has raiding in some form or another. I personally don't look forward to farming instances for days for drops, but a large segment of gamers apparently have no problem with it judging by the massive number of players still doing it in World of Warcraft.
While it might not seem odd that these type of repetitive ventures are popular, try looking at it from a couple of other perspectives. First, the people that I know who are into raiding the most do it to hang out with their friends in a 'challenging' co-operative environment. Secondly, I'm sure the achiever type has no problem doing whatever it takes to stay on top. In fact, the harder and more ridiculous the challenge of getting the items, the more fun they have getting them.
Where some people would say raiding unites the community, I believe raiding has a detrimental effect on the in-game world. I've seen it first hand in games such as FFXI, EQ, and WoW. There will always be that one guild that just dominates a server, and if you want to run through the endgame, you're going to be puckering up to kiss some elite guild's ass. Why? Because they're the only ones who can kill that boss, clear that dungeon, get that item, etc etc.
What's even more disappointing are the secondary effects this has on a game. In many cases, people are forced to choose between their in-game friends, or personal advancement. It's a sad thing to see social guilds/linkshells dissolve because people are in such a rush to acquire in-game items, or complete difficult raid-only quests. I for one have ALWAYS hated the end-game, as it's filled with drama and underhanded tactics, and nothing is worse than being forced to group with some pretentious asshats that you can't stand for the purpose of advancing. Not only that, but the raiding system is extremely competitive in most games. While it may be a bit of an overstatement, I believe the grind at the end-game is so monotonous and intense, many players start using alternative methods to gain an "edge" on their opposition. Bots, modded UI's, pos-warp programs, and even purchasing in-game currency from 3rd party sites, just to stay ahead of the game. Perhaps if such a large portion of the game's content wasn't so absurdly difficult to complete, players would not be as inclined to use questionable methods to help accelerate the process.
The problems you describe are always going to be present in a game based on high end items, no matter how you get them. Having to raid to be worthwhile in PvP is more of a consequence of poor game design rather than a testament to the absurdity of raiding.
There are more positive examples of raiding that can't be dismissed as well. EVE has giant complexes that are in open PvP areas, require powerful ships to attack and drop powerful modules, but since they are not insanely overpowered compared to the other high quality versions, they become more for entertainment instead of necessity. Just because no one has designed dynamic and accessible raid content, it doesn't make the current system any less worthwhile.
Raiding is a double-edged sword. It presents the opportunity to bring the community together, and drive it apart. Raiding forces players to interact with each other, whether for better or for worse. It promotes competition amongst the playerbase, yet this same loot-based competition encourages less desirable business practices and play-styles amongst its playerbase. Perhaps the problem isn't necessarily that raiding is the source of all evil, but merely the method in which raiding is executed.
I think that if developers want to make raiding more appealing to their players, they need to find ways to incorporate it as more of a bonus feature to unite all guilds, rather than a requirement for the end-game. Make it less loot based, and more challenge/fun-based. Allow players to raid at earlier levels, but don't penalize them if they choose not to participate in the system. Spruce up the challenge level; play against your players and really make them utilize all their skills and their wits to succeed. Lastly, stop making so much of your content raid-required to complete. All this does is prevent players who might have been interested in your game's lore to become discouraged and disinterested in it, as there's no sense in following something they will never complete.
It doesn't seem to me as though anyone understands this. But I think that to truly reach the next-generation of games, developers are going to have to allow simple MMORPG mechanics to evolve first. What better place to start than by creating truly unique game play experiences for everyone, by giving them truly unique races?.