GW2: Needs of the Many, Needs of the Few

Random picnic party

I’ve had some great reactions to my recent musings on raids.

Syl posted a nice response, and one of the things she mentions is what she misses most about raids – that sense of steady group progression with a well-oiled and well-groomed team that trusts each other implicitly. I can’t help but draw some parallels to a very tight knit WvW zerg busting guild (though the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of each guild differs by individual guild culture.)

Murf shared some of the things he enjoyed about raids as well.

I’m especially amused by some of the comments over by MMO Gypsy who automatically assume that I’ve never raided, and thus my opinion is invalid or *shrug* raiding is not for him, period.

Or was somehow spurned by an elitist raider once upon a time and thus carry an awful grudge against all raiders, lumping them together as evil elitists, boo hoo. Go cry somewhere else.

Ok, I’m exaggerating for effect, I don’t actually think any of you guys meant that, but I see similar simplistic comments carrying that essence of trolling on forum message boards all the time, probably due to the subject being endlessly debated back and forth.

And there were plenty of other reasonable rational responses, which we will try to touch on later, but ask yourselves, WHY did your mind immediately flow that way?

It’s due to what we understand ‘raids’ are, especially if we come from a World of Warcraft background.

It may surprise some of you that pretty much my only activity for the past three days in Guild Wars 2 has been camping out as part of a huge group of 100+ people on a map, listening in on a Teamspeak, occasionally wandering off AFK for the 1.5 hours between exciting fights (of a world boss raid attempt) or enjoying some of the social aspects if the crazies happen to be in the same group together.

In fact, I’ve chosen to do this non-profit activity over other more lucrative options – such as running around in a mindless Frostgorge champion zerg or participating in a marionette fight that caters more to players without sufficient time or the inclination for organization on a massive scale (that rewards a regular stream of silver/crafting materials/lucky drops and a less regular stream of blues/greens/yellows respectively.)

A little background:

The Triple Trouble jungle wurm in Bloodtide Coast is a new world boss in the Origins of Madness update that has been specifically designed for hardcore groups that are all about the organization and figuring out the strategy and tactics.

At the same time, the Living World content involves the Twisted Marionette boss fight that involves -some- coordination but not as much. It’s on a scale where random overflows might conceivably achieve full success, whereas the intensity and complexity of the jungle wurm fight pretty much requires hefty leadership and organization.

It’s provoked some hefty discussion over why these bosses exist in open world zones instead of private raid instances, given the level of intended coordination involved.

One subset of players are in favor of exclusion by private raid instance, where they can invite their friends and players they trust have the level of ability required to produce serious attempts on the raid bosses. It wastes less time for the lucky collective, and makes it easier to control the group and organize specialized builds and functions, since there is always the threat of outcasting. It produces less frustration for these players as they don’t have to endure interacting with others who don’t match their unique criteria of worth, whatever it may be.

On the other hand, we have the existing case of open world bosses, where people in the same Reddit discussion thread linked above are giving examples of how they organically stumbled onto an organized group attempt, met up with nice people, joined their Teamspeak and had their eyes opened as to how rewarding such ‘hardmode’ content can feel, as many raiders already know.

We also have the rare maniacal leader-types that love the “extra work” that comes with guiding others, improving team work and progressing together. For these treasures, there is an emotion called naches, where they take pride in the achievement of those they have so patiently grown and trained from the ground up.

On the NA servers, the founder of the TTS community, Ahlou, can deservedly indulge in this as he created something that had never been seen before. A server-agnostic collection of 11 guilds, dedicated to being inclusive and take down hard mode raid bosses in GW2. It has a waiting list hundreds of people long, only stalled out by the lack of leadership types that have stepped up and volunteered their time. We’re blessed as it is that a small council of 10+ leader types stepped up to support and grow Ahlou’s vision, with a minimum of ego and drama.

(I believe an equivalent TxS community exists on the Euro servers.)

The sad truth is, there is still unavoidable exclusion.

A map is hard capped at 100+ players. (I don’t know the exact number, but it’s around there.)

Exclusion is by a sort of lottery, whoever is first able to zone in to the maps where there is sufficient leadership to attempt the bosses get to do it. Those who can’t zone in, for whatever reason, are shit outta luck. Until the next time, anyhow.

It also favors those who have oodles of time to stand around waiting for the next spawn, even if it is an hour and a half away.

It favors those who are willing to make the effort to download a voice program and join a Teamspeak, if only to listen in to leader commands, as taxis are first offered by voice to those gathered in the channels.

It favors those who are ballsy and persistent, observant and determined enough to read guild member rosters and note down the names of leaders and those who commonly taxi into instances and pretty much blindly /join and wiggle their way into the instance, as long as checking on Teamspeak reveals that an attempt is going on.

It favors those who are dedicated and driven and -crazy- enough to sit around for an hour spamming right-click on a party member’s portrait, clicking “Join party member in X zone” repeatedly, for a chance of merely participating in non-guaranteed discovery attempts at the correct tactics and strategy, leading up to a potential world first. Loot is not at all guaranteed, but potential fame and glory.

It’s produced quite a number of indignant complaints from those who feel excluded, since they don’t have sufficient time for such madness, or can’t be arsed to go through all that kind of trouble for a non-100% chance at good loot.

You may be surprised, but after some thinking it over, I am more or less okay with this particular sort of exclusion in this particular set of circumstances.

Me, the champion of being philosophically inclusive.

I think, in the end, everything seems to be about tradeoffs. We exclude one group of people, at the cost of another group that don’t meet some set of criteria.

We endure mind-numbing wait time for the potential memories and social connections we build through people being bored out of their skulls.

Deathrifyerr Cobalt team synced /rank on an unsuspecting Crimson.

Deathrifyerr’s Cobalt team synced /rank on an unsuspecting Crimson.

But maybe only a hundred people (and probably less since a good percentage may be AFK) got to enjoy such socializing, compared to how many people playing Guild Wars 2 at any one time?

Is it fair to cater to the needs of the few as compared to the needs of the many?

Should we be concerned about being fair? Or making sure that there’s something for everyone?

In this particular case anyway, it’s probably a temporary state of affairs.

The TTS leaders (and probably a decent amount of its members) share and espouse a very similar sort of inclusive philosophy as I do.

The jungle wurm is in a “discovery of strategy” phase, not an “on farm” phase. There’s insufficient leadership to spread out to create multiple overflows, as was promptly done once an effective strategy to down Tequatl was found. Then information spread out and disseminated as experienced leaders and members felt confident enough to teach the strategy to others.

It’s most likely the case that the same will happen with the jungle wurm once some optimal strategies have been found. More space will open up. Anyone who wants to attempt the bosses will be invited and taught, as long as they open their mouths and ask, and even those who randomly stumble into the boss being taken down by the group will get a chance.

The danger, of course, is when designers tweak up the challenge to a level where only certain groups have sufficient stats or builds or reactions (or whatever form of player or character ability) and other groups simply don’t, regardless of how much teaching and training and information dissemination is done.

The automatic response of players optimizing for the best solution is, naturally, exclusion of players who don’t meet those criteria.

You may ask, why do I feel that this is such “a danger” given that I have accepted that -some- kind of exclusion is likely to happen, no matter what kind of raid variant is designed?

Well, part of it is naturally self-centered. I personally have a better shot of seeing raids completed in a TTS-style organization than your typical raid organization. They match my on-again, off-again type of scheduling. I like that I can just jump in when I have the time to one of the scheduled raids, and as long as there’s space in the overflow, I get a spot.

Whereas I would simply go nuts in a dedicated raid style organization. What? Perform the same role over and over? Prepare laboriously for days before the main event? Set an alarm clock to raid at a certain hour or let down the group of people that are counting on me? When real life interrupts, I can’t just sneak out of the raid and let someone else who desperately wants in get in? Do the same thing over and over for WEEKS and MONTHS?

I’m an explorer. I like the new and shiny. I’m crazy enough to enjoy the discovery aspect of developing a strategy. That’s why I’m camped out at the jungle wurm, giving up loot and gold earning time from all the other alternatives I could be doing. I KNOW I will get bored within three months once the thing is on farm. Like how I can’t endlessly show up in WvW night after night doing the same thing over and over. Fixed schedules and me don’t really mix well. They lead to obligation and obligation leads to erosion of fun, for me.

The other revelation I’ve had is that I’d personally much rather enjoy raids as a social club, not a competitive sports club. I don’t mind having the leeway for 30 to carry 10. Because after all, we are all good at different things. And there’s no chance to learn and improve if you aren’t allowed to keep practicing something for fear of wiping or letting down the team.

The other part of it is what I think it implies for the overall health of a game.

Closed raid communities become insular, deriding PUGs as part of a very human ‘us vs them’ tribal mentality. It becomes hard to penetrate into such social environments. Sure, the community is GREAT once you get in and stay in. But can your average newbie or person with irregular time schedules get a chance at it?

A more open and inclusive raid community allows for penetration. It makes room for those who just want to or have time to show up for one kill, just to say they did it or saw it or whatever. It makes room for those with irregular schedules. It still gives the crazy dedicated a chance to shine, especially by leading and organizing or just staying longer for insane amounts of time, at the cost of them occasionally having to put up with the company of those they consider ‘lesser’ than them.

It promotes a culture of positive behavior, of friendly encouragement to each other, cheering each other on, rather than a toxic mindset of blame and shame and only interacting with a special select group, reducing the occurrence of a negative hostile atmosphere that discourages new people from participating.

I’m not going to ask which game will have a larger population over time or be more successful.

Folks can point to World of Warcraft and Eve Online and demonstrate how they are thriving and doing great, despite the reputation of a toxic, hostile culture. Hell, for that matter, look at the success of League of Legends.

But -I- know which game I’d rather be playing and supporting.

Signing off,

Your neighborhood carebear furry blogger.

P.S. The last thing I sort of wanted to say regarding the needs of the many and the needs of the few.

I think there’s room in the MMO gamespace, and indeed in each MMO as multiple activity types, for many options and alternatives to cater to all sorts on whatever spectrum you draw up. Hardcore or casual. Time-plentiful or time-starved. Competitive or cooperative. Inclusive or exclusive. Hard difficulty or easy. Majority or minority.

But we need to stop assuming that what we have is all that will ever be.

That raids are THUS, as defined by World of Warcraft, or Everquest. (And I’m sure connoisseurs will tell you the differences between both games’ raids.)

That if you don’t like it, shut up and go to your solo leveling corner of the world, you antisocial excuse who should be playing a single-player game instead of whining.

Instead, we need to break down all the aspects of raids that we like, and all those we don’t like.

So that a creative team of developers out there can start taking a little of column A and a little from column B and glomming them together to give us new raids and new challenges that we haven’t seen, that cater to different groups of players.

Only then will we see progress and innovation and novelty.

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11 thoughts on “GW2: Needs of the Many, Needs of the Few

  1. […] It’s gotten me thinking very hard about the pros and cons of wait time, and creating experiences meant for very organized groups as opposed to the general majority. I’ll try to cover that in my next post – The Needs of the Many, The Needs of the Few (coming soonTM). (Update: Post is now here.) […]

  2. bhagpuss says:

    My problem is with the amorphous pragmatism required by this brave new world; the anonymity and disposability it endorses. I really like the Marionette fight. I’ve done it plenty of times already and I’ll do it plenty more. I wish it was the one that was staying, not the Wurm (which I’ve also done and which seems perfect fine as a knockabout romp – much, MUCH better than New Teq as a casual experience).

    My main objection is that the one win I’ve had so far was on Overflow. My characters all live on Yak’s Bend. I have never approved of guesting-for-reward and I approve of Overflow servers only in their original conception as a means of allowing customers access to the game at times when otherwise they couldn’t play at all.

    I was pleased to get that win, of course, but it was the experience was significantly degraded because it took place on a generic, unnamed server alongside people I have never seen before and will probably never see again. Had it been a win for Yak’s Bend, shoulder to shoulder with the many of the names and personalities I rub along with day in, day out at The Maw and Jormag or in the Mists it would have had a much greater emotional resonance.

    Also I have a deep dislike of the increasing insistence on VOIP for playing MMOs. I have used them, in several MMOs and in a variety of circumstances. In my experience they destroy immersion utterly. Not only that, the quality and timbre of text communication is so much more nuanced and subtle it’s off the scale.

    I think that ANet are very much trying to have cake and eat cake here, as usual. They like to present their game as one that has no truck with tired, old-fashioned MMO mechanics like vertical progression, questing, gear grind and a raid-based end-game, while at the same time creating half-baked analogues of all of these things that sort of work but not really.

    Still fun, of course, but sometimes it seems like a very long jog around the park to get back to where we started.

    • Jeromai says:

      I’m hoping we do not get back to where we started, but arrive somewhere completely different. There may be a number of wrong turns along the way. :)

  3. C. T. Murphy says:

    This was a good read. Thanks for taking the extra time to explain GW2 in detail, since I am not up to speed.

    I see exactly where you are coming from. I hope my own comment didn’t offend. The notion of people being spurned by elitist assholes like myself as the root cause was less directed at you than the general population and less a root cause than a potential contributing factor.

    I think the thing I most agree with you on here is that there is a ton of space for games with different approaches to raiding to coexist. I sincerely don’t want Guild Wars 2 raiding to be exactly like World of Warcraft raiding or vice versa. MMO players have so many divergent perspectives that no single game should honestly try at getting them all in line.

    The key for me is that I like competition, generally-speaking. Fun isn’t just the thrill of a new fight, mastering its challenges, and getting sweet gear: it is also excelling personally. Successfully defeating an encounter is enough … the first time. After that, I begin wanting to find ways to quantify what I did last time and exceed that. Or ways to compare myself to me friendly peers and exceed them.

    I want like-skilled players beside me to compete with and against. I have thick-skin when it comes to dying repeatedly when learning an encounter, but I don’t want a group of people who are not trying as hard as I am to, frankly, waste my time.

    That doesn’t automatically make me a bad person. Nor does it mean I am kicking casuals on the playground when they don’t imagine as hard as I do. I love scouting talent and helping them improve, for instance. I love being bested and learning how to improve myself, as well.

    I am still very much in the game for social reasons, too. That’s my biggest complaint when someone likens what I enjoy to being a ‘sports club’. These engines are well-oiled with camaraderie and shared culture, more than anything else. In my experiences, at least. Deciding the split (which I honestly think is a false dichotomy to begin with) is between being social and being on a sports team discounts the fact that I can do both. In the most progression-centric guild I was ever in, I met some of most favorite people, including a friend I am considering moving in with in a few months.

    There are many people who take exclusivity and an ‘us versus them’ mentality too far. I hate that too. Overzealous inclusivity also happens, however. I have experienced many examples where getting everyone involved led to stagnation and nothing happening. Cases where never wanting to hurt anyones feelings led to events not even happening. Getting every cook into the kitchen isn’t a recipe for a great meal, it is a recipe for disaster.

    Too much exclusivity and you eat yourself alive. Too much inclusivity and nothing happens. Truthfully, you need a balanced bit of both which fit the culture and community you are participating in. It takes nuance, not an all-or-nothing strategy.

    More important than this debate is the simple fact that we all need to respect one another, not just as players, but as genuine people. That thankfully tends to happen in the blogosphere, but it often breaks down in-game. No matter our gear level, how we want to play the game, or how we don’t want to play the game, we are all entitled to our own dignity.

    In other words, I think we are on board, despite our differences!

    • Jeromai says:

      No worries, I’m very hard to offend. I do use intentional hyperbole now and then to get people to stop and think and analyze why precisely they game. :)

      I can’t help but grin when you raise the point of overzealous inclusivity. The first image that comes to mind are the stories of kumbaya ‘casual raiding’ guilds afraid to offend anybody who isn’t playing well, or even raise the topic in private, and thus lead a group of players to wipe over and over repeatedly for ages.

      I have an equivalent GW2 guild example where one of my guilds pretty much did the same thing in WvW, leading a no-specialized builds necessary zerg head on into serious zergbusting WvW guilds, with entirely predictable results. Over and over. I’m allergic to death, I cannot take this sort of thing after a while.

      But y’see, this has to do with how different games are designed. Some things are “realities” that have to be faced, depending on the rules the designers have set.

      In WoW, as far as I understand it, if your gearscore and stats aren’t past a certain point, you simply do not qualify for certain raids. In GW2, if your zerg has better builds and is more cohesively organized than your opponent, one has a much better chance of survival, though one has to consider the advantage of numbers, and other factors.

      What I’m keen to see is more designers setting the rules differently in different games and activities in each. On this, I believe we agree.

      For example, your favor of new challenges and personal excellence and like-skilled players are sort of being experimented with in GW2 in the form of Fractals of the Mists, where levels past 30 are given a unique mechanic that changes up the fights, and there is a stat progression which quite neatly separates those who don’t have the dedication to keep ascending the levels. The only limitation is that it is five-man, but presumably that means individual performance and build coordination becomes even more important.

      I believe they said they were going to have a leaderboard to track how high people got, and how fast, which suits your competitive nature. I haven’t a clue how it’s progressed since I don’t have much of a competitive bone and paid very little attention to it since.

      • C. T. Murphy says:

        I am not nearly as familiar with modern World of Warcraft. When I played seriously, gear-score wasn’t really used. To find new players, we made sure they had made the effort to get a proper build (most classes had a cookie-cutter obvious choice) and an attempt at proper gearing. After that, we tried them out in an actual run.

        As much as I love objectively comparing one another, I still prefer subjective limits to who can participate in content, not a hard-coded refusal designed as part of the game.

  4. Hmmm, I hope my post didn’t come across as if you never raided – to me such malaise would stem from someone who did raid and is simply tired of many downsides, technical as well as social. I did like the post because I know many of the feelings so well :) and yet, I also miss my own raid guilds (which were rather spectacular if I may say so). when you say toxic or blame&shame, the only thing that comes to my mind are PuGs because I have never been in awful guilds. toxic behavior, for me, thrives with increased anonymity. social control exists where there are close communities.

    I’ve brought up a couple of points about why I think public events in GW2 will always be lacking compared to raids (also socially) already in my replies to you over at my own blog. I like how discussing these things together brings more and more clarity to myself. I can now identify some of my biggest qualms; for me, the events you prefer, despite some clear upsides…

    – don’t bring the same opportunity for individual improvement, because they lack ways to identify player performance
    – they take away, on another level, my ability to identify individuals or even thank them. that is a huge social loss.
    – they’re not as dedicated a learning platform and there’s a different kind of stress to the teaching, once “someone” feels pigeonholed into doing it
    – they lack sense of group progression over long periods of time

    I would beg to differ that you keep doing the “same thing” for weeks and months in raid guilds. this is exactly where I think raiding is superior. even if you raid MC for 6 months, you keep changing and improving those runs. you up the stakes, you lose tanks and healers, add dps (same people playing different roles), do the same in half the time, start chain pulling. etc. it is too simplistic to call raid guild farming the same boring grind. from that PoV, raiding has a very long and steady sense of progression, the way public events with chance people never can have. yeah, you can play what you like every given day – only, you can’t sow and watch it grow over the next weeks and months, can you.

    As you say, it’s a trade-off. what draws me to public events is the quick and dirty and you do have fun encounters sometimes. but I miss the sense of progression and the learning opportunities. I also miss the social camaraderie; if you down a baddie with your guild, you will talk about it for the next week and cheer together. I’m not saying events have no potential but right now it isn’t brought to fruition in GW2. I liked outdoor camping better in FFXI.

    I’m also not sure why raiding isn’t inclusive; there’s any type of raid guild in WoW and there’s complete access to raiding. so I’m not sure how raiding only panders to a small community? that may have been true in 2004; today there’s even flex raids now to accommodate every possible player, different modes, no access hoops. or are you simply referring to your own ability to spend time on longer raids?

    It would definitely be nice to have both in a game. WoW could do with more outdoor encounters. at the end of the day, I believe we champion the same things socially….I just don’t see raid guilds in the same bad light as you do.

    • Jeromai says:

      Syl, don’t worry, it was definitely not your post, and I have -very- thick skin. I wasn’t at all annoyed by anything anyone said.

      I purposefully threw in the exaggerations to echo common sentiments you’ll often hear on forum discussions, so as to provoke further thought and responses.

      I’m extremely fond of our exchanges, and I think both of us aren’t familiar with the present state of affairs of the games we’re making assumptions about.

      I’d love to hear more about the different kinds of raids in WoW now, for example, I have no clue how a flex raid differs from LFR, or the difference between 10 and 25 man besides the required number. Does one reward statistically better loot than another? Is one particular way of raiding rewarded the most numerically for being the hardest to achieve?

      I do feel the design of WoW makes it a lot harder to be inclusive because it’s easy to partition yourself into a single guild and stop interacting with the general population. Everyone else not your guild becomes classified in one’s mind as a random PUG and a stranger, not to be trusted. My understanding was also that you could have guild drama from conflicting priorities trying to push a guild one way or another, or folks taking advantage of and using guilds as stepping stones to harder challenges.

      At the same time, the two new world boss events that have turned up in the latest GW2 patch, not to mention Tequatl, are a far cry from the dynamic events of launch and karka madness where no learning beyond avoid red circles, fail and get rezzed, target and autoattack is required.

      Specifically these two points:
      – they take away, on another level, my ability to identify individuals or even thank them. that is a huge social loss.
      – they lack sense of group progression over long periods of time

      The jungle wurm event, as done with an organized guild, seems to be attempting to address these. I suspect also that if one does the marionette or Tequatl in a regular server group, one would be able to identify recurring names and voices.

      The game and devs are facing an interesting problem right now: trying to figure out how to teach players to self-organize. You might say we’re (the general population) extremely resistant to it, being lazy or intimidated to speak up or used to self-anonymity and treating others with scorn and toxicity. There is somehow an ingrained distrust of strangers in an overflow, whereas server or guildmates are trusted more.

      • bhagpuss says:

        I would say you’ve been exceptionally lucky in your choice of guilds, Syl, if none of them have been toxic. For the last few years we’ve been making our own guilds and inviting very few people – I think a dozen or so in the largest, usually half that. Further back, between 2000 and 2007 or so, we were in many guilds, some of which were fine but several of which were home to some really horrific guild drama. We stopped playing one MMO for a couple of years as a result of one of those episodes and I think we moved server at least twice to get away from toxic guild situations.

        In my experience guilds and server communities almost exactly match the social experience of living in a village or a city neighborhood. In a guild or a village everyone both knows your business and thinks your business is their business. In both villages and guilds the “social control” you mention usually amount to naming and shaming, emotional blackmail and outright bullying.

        A server community is much more like a city. If you live there long enough you get to know plenty of people by sight, maybe even well enough to pass the time of day, but what you do with your time is your own business. You could be dead a month or even a year before anyone noticed but on the other hand no-one thinks they have the right to tell you what color to paint your front door or how often to mow your lawn.

        I grew up in a village but I’ve lived in cities from the moment I was old enough to make my own choice in the matter.

  5. […] Why I Game’s “GW2: Needs of the Many, Needs of the Few” […]

  6. […] and try to explain the difference between vertical and lateral progression options, and inclusive versus exclusive mindsets, and how clever game design can affect the way players behave […]

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