"Dance" encounters Vs "output" encounters.
I've been thinking a lot about encounter and raid design recently, and this week's news of 4.3 really got me thinking. Due to my disappointment with the raid content in Cataclysm, particularly in 4.2, it worries me that future fights may well be more complex than they already are, excluding ever more people as a result. If you can stick a pin in the "we wunt challengezor" cry that booms from the rooftops for a moment, I'll try to explain why.
I recently got reading this entry from Greedy Goblin talking about "the dance" and how an encounter's mechanics now dictate success as opposed to how well you can play your class. Of course, that doesn't imply that there aren't rough DPS checks to be found; there absolutely are. But the point is that classes are now easy enough to play that you cannot necessarily show skill simply by being good at it. Everyone is.
Now, I should quickly point out that I don't necessarily agree or disagree with the linked post. It actually makes a muddled attempt at indicting voice communications for some reason, while also managing to subversively insult those of us who use it. But the fact remains that playing your class has gotten significantly easier over time, while playing an encounter has gotten significantly harder. Statistically, these "dance" fights see far fewer successful pulls than those where perfecting your rotation (henceforth known as output) yields best results and the reason is probably pretty obvious. Take a look at these two differing "parses", assuming a ten-man raid with two tanks and two healers:
Fury warrior: 12k.
Retribution paladin: 12k.
Survival hunter: 12k.
Frost death knight: 12k.
Affliction warlock: 12k.
Feral druid: 12k.
Fury warrior: 14k.
Survival hunter: 13k.
Feral druid: 12k.
Affliction warlock: 12k.
Frost death knight: 11k.
Retribution paladin: 10k.
The difference in raid DPS is nothing - exactly the same damage is being done. However, parse 2 is seeing two people being carried by stronger players and this is why "output" fights are always going to be more casual friendly. At the very bottom line of it, worse players can be safely carried by better ones when there is no real risk of dying to a dance. Conversely, in dance-orientated fights, should players die off then even excellent colleagues cannot make up the difference.
Plummeting raid success in Cataclysm is thanks to personal responsibility being flunked in dance-heavy content.
It's impossible to be sure, but I would imagine this isn't lost on the developers - yet 4.3 has got a lot more dance-content in the pipeline from what I've read. To counteract this, the LFR tool will be coming in to provide dumbed down versions of main raids so that the more casual or less skilled can get involved a lot more easily, and be more expectant of success. My problem with this is that it shifts emphasis further away from playing your class well (which I find unpalatable) and can potentially create other problems with progression, achievement-demands and, worst of all, gearing. Zarhym has already alluded to LFR tier being used to complete 4-pieces, so is it supposed to be used as a viable method for normal raiding guilds to fill out any slots?
As far as I see it, the distinction between output content and dance content could easily be where the casual and not-so-casual raiders differentiate. I support the introduction of the LFR tool, just not the fact it's being used to counteract a problem with a more sophisticated solution. Namely, why not make the normal raid the output raid and then introduce the dance as part of the heroic content? From what we've seen in the Firelands, very little actually changes from normal to heroic in most cases other than more damage and health to deal with. As a result, why couldn't normal raids be the more output based encounters of WotLK that encourage casual play, while heroic encounters introduce the dance that separates those more committed?In this way, we can keep the two difficulty settings while adding in the LFR tool for cross-realm raid matching. Not only does this mean less development and maintenance work, it deals with all the other logistical problems that would accompany three settings.
Moving on, though, Gevlon does make a very interesting point that should be borne in mind. Currently, the idea of personal progression is diluted because it only lasts as long as an individual boss survives. They're all sufficiently different enough to cause raids to pretty much need to start again once they've downed one encounter and moved onto the next to start the learning process. I must admit I'm totally with him here, as I'd like to see something that links the encounters in a raid zone intelligently and provides that "raid progressive" feeling that comes with killing associated bosses.
Unashamedly, I'm in love with the idea of shared mechanics where it makes sense. Something that happens across every encounter in a zone and ties them all together. This could be in the form of a bar, such as Cho'gall's corruption mechanic being applied to every fight in the Bastion of Twilight, or a buff/debuff that persists and has a similar impact depending on the mechanics of the fight. I'll try to paint an example of what I mean and I might as well use the aforementioned Bastion of Twilight and the current Firelands.
Cho'gall's corruption bar is present in all four encounters in the zone. Against Halfus Wyrmbreaker, players stack corruption when hit by Shadow Nova, meaning there ain't much that can impact them. While fighting Valiona and Theralion we could see Dazzling Destruction, Deep Breath and Fabulous Flames increasing corruption. Imagine also a heroic version where Blackout is added to the list, giving a little corruption to everyone or a lot to one person... With that person getting 100 being quite deliberate as was often seen in heroic Cho'gall strategies. We then get to the Ascendant Council where there are a myriad of avoidable sources of corruption for you to avoid. In this scenario, the mechanic is introduced slowly at first but ramps up throughout the raid and links it all together.
As another idea, take Ragnaros' Burning Wound and put it into every other fight. Replace Jagged Tear for Shannox, Widow's Kiss for Beth'tilac, replace the stacking damage from Sparks of Rhyolith, use it for Inferno Blades on Baleroc, give the ability to Voracious Hatchlings who throw a Tantrum against Alysrazor and have Staghelm applying it when scorpion cleaving or using Leaping Flames. It would replace the abilities that have similar effects while, once again, tying the whole instance together.In both cases, not only does it make the bosses in a zone "feel" more linked to one another, it also gives players a chance to learn how certain mechanics work throughout a raid and know what to look for. Heck, in the Bastion of Twilight example, it could potentially see new and compelling strategies being worked out.
All told, as a raider, the content I play in will dictate how much I enjoy playing the game. And because subscriptions are falling in Cataclysm, it's reasonable to assume that the change in standard of the largest hook for players is the cause. I'm not arguing that the new dance heavy direction is wrong, merely that it doesn't look to be popular and it's not hard to figure out why. More importantly, I think it's important that we as a player base try to highlight what we think isn't working as well as it could be, then try to suggest potential ways to improve it.
Of course... It's not as if I'm known for keeping quiet. :)
Output vs dance vs trivial content.
There has to be a way to not let everyone progress too fast or else the "accomplishment" of a kill is lost.
The problem here isn't output vs dance it's about gear.
Let's go a few years back to the burning crusade: the dungeons there (before the nerfs), mostly the T5 and T6 content required you to have T5 and T6 gear. A lot of the progression was halted because it took quite a bit of time to deck out a raid in T5 gear when you want to do T5 and deck out a raid in T6 gear when you wanted to kill Illidan. Really really good guilds with good players could defeat their gear and get earlier kills, but even those guilds couldn't.
Now go back a bit less to wotlk. The bosses in Trial of the Crusader were trivial the day the came out because they were scaled so low that the gear from the previous tier was enough to finish it. And it killed progression. If on day 1 after the weekly reset you have completed the highest tier of raiding on multiple characters something is wrong.
Dances are there to put another kind of block in progression. Not a gear block but a learning block. Whether it's a better way then farming gear to slow down progression is debatable but there's less emphasis on gear and more on player skill.