Hi, I’m Taix. I’m an MMO elitist, I take my video games way too seriously, and in this edition of YPHM, I’ll be talking about one of the most important aspects of MMOs: raiding! Every MMO player either loves or hates raiding; some think it’s too hard, some that it’s too easy, and some just hate playing with others in general. The promise of meaningful endgame from BioWare, and how they follow through on that promise, will directly impact how many players convert from their current MMOs to SWTOR and stay for the long haul. In this article I will give a brief history of the evolution of raiding (from my WoW experience), my personal impressions from what we’ve seen of the Eternity Vault (it’s not much but it’s something), and what I hope BioWare ends up doing to make raiding draw in as many people to SWTOR as possible.
Raiding as a whole has evolved over the past decade, for better and for worse, generally growing smaller in terms of group size, and becoming more accessible to a broader player base. EQ raids (released 1999) started at 72 players, WoW (2004) started at 40, RIFT’s (2011) raids are for 20, and Eternity Vault, as far as we’ve seen, is for 8 or 16 players. As WoW’s raiding scene began to evolve, each new expansion pack and even each raid tier had an iteration on the raiding and gear distribution system.
Raiding in vanilla WoW was very hard, and required an immense weekly time commitment for a long period of time. The biggest killer was the requirement of raiding each dungeon in the series of tiers multiple times before having group coordination and gear good enough to be able to tackle the next tier. Due to this, very few people (about 5% I believe) ever set foot into the final raid of vanilla WoW, Naxx40 (40-man Naxxramus). Personally, my guild only downed 6 of the 15 boss encounters in the instance before BC (Burning Crusade) came out and made it obsolete. Blizzard took a look at this situation and deemed that Naxx40 was an immense waste of development time, and this was the reason the content was re-released for WotLK (Wrath of the Lich King) where it became the easiest PoS ever in the history of MMOs—irony stings sometimes. Thus began the inevitable spiral of raiding toward being accessibe to the masses. Smaller group size lends to greater accessibility due to the ease of putting together a raid; the badge system which was introduced in BC allowed everybody to gather a set of gear good enough to begin raiding despite never setting foot into a raid, which also increased accessibility.
WoW hit rock bottom with the re-release of Naxxramas, which was by far the easiest raid ever made, and most likely cemented the idea into the typical SWTOR forum-goer’s head that WoW raiding in general provided no challenge. Blizzard even admitted that they screwed up with Naxx. By the end of WotLK, however, they had iterated onto a system which they still keep today (for the most part) which offers a balance of easier raiding for those who simply want to see the content, and heroic raiding for the hardcore guilds seeking a real challenge. Hard mode 25-man Lich King took many top guilds months of practice to finally get down.
I think the idea of having a range of raiding content–the easier content for those looking to simply see and experience every boss without the serious time commitment, and the more difficult content for those looking for a more hardcore experience–is a terrific idea. Situations like Naxx40 which require months of gear and guild progression make the content inaccessible to almost everybody, whereas situations like the much easier Naxx10/25 leave the player unsatisfied.
So what of SWTOR? What we’ve seen so far of the Eternity Vault (the first boss) looks pretty damn easy. Tank and spank phase 1 while spreading out, hide behind the pillar in phase 2, rinse and repeat. Don’t get me wrong, the trailer looks epic and the operation may very well offer some good challenges along the way. However, if this is what BioWare considers difficult “tactics” (i.e., letting the tank take damage and healers heal), the hardcore raid crowd is in for a massive let-down. Here’s a sample strategy page from a classic difficult old school WoW boss called C’Thun (it’s a long read so be ready): http://www.wowpedia.org/C’Thun_(tactics). It’s quite a bit more complicated, to say the least, and was released almost six years ago.
I hope BioWare can step up to the plate with the raid difficulty. Having as much story and leveling content as they do will satisfy those of us who enjoy playing BioWare games and who love Star Wars, but the raider in me will not be satisfied until we see some more meaningful endgame content.
Disagree with me? Have an opinion on what BioWare has released so far for raiding? Have another perspective from somebody who’s raided hardcore in a game besides WoW? Tell me on the forums here, or leave a comment below. Comments and ratings are always appreciated.
‘Til next time.