Raiding and solo content must be separated!

Azuriel has a point in the comments of my “no catch-up post“: without catch-up, the grinding demand for raiders will be so high that they just quit, while if progression demands old raids, non-raiders will get stuck at the end of T1.

However it’s not the problem with catch-up mechanisms, it’s the problem with raiding in MMOs. The real problem is – and always was – that an MMO consists of two completely different games: the leveling and gearing needs single player or only short-time teamings, while the endgame needs stable group play. The “solo is easy and raiding is hard” is wrong, solo is easy because it’s made easy and raiding was only hard because was tuned hard, LFR shows that it can be tuned pretty easy.

The fundamental problem is that these completely different games have completely different playerbases who are pushed into the same game by inconsiderate devs. It is now customary in WoW that both groups needs to do at least some of the other activity to be able to do its own game. Solo players are expected to run at least LFR to get gear and some quests done, while raiders are expected to level up and get some gear from 5-mans.

Both groups are unhappy. Soloers hate that their gear is always sub-par to raiders and some achievements are unavailable to them. There is also very few challenging solo content. Raiders consider solo play a necessary grind forced upon them.

I agree that this model needs catch-up which is poison to MMOs, as it means that the best way of progression is logging off and waiting till the desired item becomes catch-up. Ergo, the solution is to separate raiding games from open-world MMOs. They can use similar assets and rulesets (“WoW: king of the raid” and “WoW the epic world”) but the players can’t play together.

If I’d design an MMO now, I’d go with no-catch up and no raids, making the whole game completable solo. This doesn’t rule out grouping for convenience and faster grinding, but achievement-worthy actions would be in solo instances.

How would I “fix” WoW now to get rid of catch-up poison and still not lose half of the playerbase? By completely separating the two kind of gameplay, yet allow them to support each other:

  • There would be solo, open-world content, some easy grinding and some solo-instanced challenging content. There would also be group content, some grinding and some hard challenging raids
  • There would be solo and group classes. Some classes would be great for solo (self-only heals, interrupts, CCs, limited mitigation, limited damage) while other classes would be great for groups (strong heal but no damage; strong mitigation but no heals and low damage; huge damage but no heal, no mitigation). So players would pick a class according to their playstyle.
  • Solo classes would start at lvl 1 and can only advance to certain zones by completing the solo content before it (for example you can’t go to Outland before you complete Silithus main storyline).
  • The solo content isn’t just grind, there are solo-instance bosses that are hard. If someone completes the main storyline quests (needed to advance), he will be underleveled and face these bosses at orange, needing lots of skill to win. Less skilled players need to complete side quests too to get enough XP and gear to face these bosses at equal level and better gear. Bad players have to grind to outlevel the bosses and to get superior gear from collectibles.
  • The group classes would start at max level and get instant-boost to max level when level cap is increased. They also receive starter gear that allows them to start group content.
  • Solo content (quest rewards, solo boss drops, collectible shops) only rewards gear usable by solo classes. Group content (boss drops, BoEs, badge shops) only rewards gear usable by group classes.
  • So far, the two kind of players play completely separate games on the same server, now let’s make some connection: challenging solo instances that can only be defeated by max level, geared solo classes rewards guild-only consumables. These are only good for group content and mandatory for high-level group content. These cannot be traded openly, only put to the bank by guild members whose contributions are recorded. They have limited lifespan (expire in a few days to prevent stockpiling) and are lost if someone joins a guild, so a seller can’t just jump guilds, you have to get them in a guild. A competitive raiding guild cannot function without top solo players collecting consumables for them.
  • Bosskills create a guild-wide buff that increases solo instance gear drop chance, solo XP bonus for leveling, bonus for solo grind collectibles. Buffs increase in strength by the difficulty of the bosses killed. So the better the raiders are, the better rewards the solo players get.
  • Guild sizes would be limited to prevent a famous raiding guild to have hordes of soloers. Assuming 20-men raid size, 50 raiding and 50 solo character slots would be optimal. One can also create casual leveling guild which has no raider slots, unlimited solo slots, but of course no raiding buffs.

Please note that with my plan, the solo and group players would still play separated and wouldn’t play together, yet they would play the same game and help each other with buffs.

Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

13 thoughts on “Raiding and solo content must be separated!”

  1. I translate this proposal (solo + group classes) to hardcore raider mindset: you have to maintain a group character and a solo alt, and you have to grind the solo content as now. They won’t rely on casuals exactly because they need these things and buffs, so they have to make sure they always have it. It can only be made sure if HC players does it, so the best if they do it for themselves.

    This would only make casual more angry because right now they can access group content if they want, but in this case they would be completely locked out. It would make no change to raiders.

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  2. @cathfaern: yes, they can have a solo alt. Or, they can hire hardcore soloers: people who put in serious skill and effort, but not schedule (for example a mum of 1 year old can play 14 hours a day but must jump up 50 times from the computer) or simply hate to play with people.

    Casuals would get much more solo content. Currently there is only last tier solo content giving rewards. Then a new player will have a decade of solo content ahead of him, all giving rewards.

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  3. There would be more solo content, but raids was made more accessible in WoW because people demanded it. Not the challenge but just to “see the content”. Why would be it different here?

    WoW in TBC mostly had this distinction, just was not written as a ruleset. Because of the expensive talent resets (and no “spec” change) you either made your character good for group or for solo content. Many time raider consumable was farmed by friends & family, while raiders gave dungeon runs and boe gears them. But people (M&S?) demanded change because they can’t access the “end content”. Or maybe it not was them but the developers trying to justify the making of raid content to stakeholders?

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  4. @Cathfaern: the problem was the lack of solo relevance. Nothing you did solo mattered. I suggest a full, competitive solo play with world first-able achievement solo bosses. If casuals are so insistent on seeing raid content, there could be some LFR tour for solo characters with cosmetic rewards.

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  5. @Gevlon: or maybe some kind of spectate mode for guild raids? So while the raiders raid, the solo players can join the same raid in a spectate mode. Of course for HC top-guilds this will mean that there will be a dedicated raid leader (or raid leaders), but that’s so small percent of the player base that does not really matter if they have to do some “weird” thing (they are doing these kind of things whatever is the ruleset). But for others it can enforce the community feeling in the guild.

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  6. This addresses one of the problems of WoW, but is by no means comprehensive. Let’s break it down!

    WoW is 3 games. The leveling game, the Raiding game, and the PvP game. Separating them is a good idea. But forcing you to use separate classes… Meh.

    The first problem: Classes. “Classes” are an anachronism. A result of the “Always be in a party” mindset that was set with Tolkien and went from there into so many other fantasy fiction settings. For every “Gimli” there is a “Legolas”, for every “Parn” there is a “Deedlit.” This doesn’t work in a solo environment. As such, IT DOESN’T WORK AT ALL as it’s difficult to always be in a group while leveling. So what happens? Class based games have to dumb down their leveling content to the lowest common denominator. Deedlit can’t use Parn’s strength and melee skills, and Parn can’t cast magic like Deedlit can.

    The second problem: Class Fantasy. Let’s face it, people aren’t very smart. They see their favorite fantasy story and they want to be like a character in it, and those characters pretty much always group and have specialized skill sets, with their besties helping them at every turn. Where would Parn be without Deedlit to guard his flank? Where would Deedlit be without Parn to tank the melee enemies? Dead, that’s where. Unless they were leveling in WoW, where all the solo enemies are tuned to be killable by either of them solo.

    If your biggest question now is “Who the hell are Parn and Deedlit?” They’re from “Record of Lodoss War”, a book series and animated OAV from way back in the day that was basically ripped straight from Tolkien. I’ll wait while you use “Duck Duck Go” to find out more.

    So the first two problems are classes. One fix is to homogenize the classes into into what are essentially flavors of the same combat template. Well, this doesn’t work if you “self identify” as a specific fantasy character. Woop! Major problem alert! A LOT of leveling types do this. And they complain bitterly when this is taken from them. For these people, the “solo leveling” needs to diverge as it approaches max level to allow small parties to do the final leveling and lower end game solo content. It’s the same content as the upper end game solo content, but with the assumption that you suck and have to bring friends to help you. As such, the lower end game solo content drops lesser rewards.

    The solution: Wrap all that in a classless system. You have armor, (leather, mail, plate.) and skills (weapon, magic, etc.) and you train for what you want, when you want. You need “Class templates” as helpers for people, as most would just stand there and fidget when faced with too many choices. These templates would hand hold you to the skills needed to achieve basic proficiency in that template. You can diverge from that at any time, or build your own “custom, just for you” template… because everyone know Deedlit doesn’t just use magic, she carries a thin elven sword. You can be totally unique! Just like all the other Deedlits on the server.

    During your solo journey, you will come across scenarios where your skill set isn’t enough, and you will have to go learn a new skill to overcome it. (Or barely squeak by until the late leveling curve and early solo end game where you can bring others.)

    Raiding game and PvP game: Same exact system, but on a raiding or PvP server that ou can go back and forth from at will. If you start there, you start at max level and can’t go to the leveling server, and are expected to have some knowledge of the system. A new player will want to start on the leveling server, and switch to one of the others when they hit max level. (Also, they can now switch back and forth at will.) If you just go there as a total scrub, you’ll be rejected by every raiding group, or slaughtered at PvP. A dedicated raid or PvP alt will just start there and stay there. (No need for alts on the leveling server.)

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  7. Whoop! Need to add a “Part 2” as I skipped an important detail.

    Why do you need to switch back and froth from the leveling to the raiding server? Simple. Some want to advance their character while ONLY raiding, but most want a combo of solo advancement and raiding. You can advance your character on the leveling server as the top tier gear is available in the hardest solo only content (As opposed to the lower level groupable version for the pure fantasy players.) So you jump to the raiding server for Tuesday night’s raid, then pop back and do some more leveling to better prepare for Friday.

    And by “Leveling” I mean end game leveling, where you are already at “max level” but are just improving your gear and stats.

    Finally, and Gevlon will hate this, but I don’t care because I think he’s totally wrong on this one. Every expansion, you move to a new game. You can always go back to or start the old one, but raiding is useless on any old server… all relevant raiding will ALWAYS only be on the latest expansion’s servers. So when an expansion hits, you start a NEW character on the new server to restart the leveling game (If you’re into that.) Or a new max level (But not max end game.) character. Of course, end game characters started at max level cannot go back to the leveling server.

    Of course, if you have a “name” on a previous expansion, it’s unavailable to anyone else on expansions as long as you keep that character, you just can’t use it in the expansion, you have to make a new one.

    If you WANT to chill and do the leveling server in your spare time on the expansion server after you make your raid char, you can make a char (With a new name or the same one) on the leveling server, but switching to the raiding server will only give you the character you have there.

    What does this do? It makes the expansions a part of a franchise that you can play in series (And you must do that if you started when the first came out…) or as a series of stand alone games, if you’re the leveling type, or just go right to the one with raiding if you want to raid in the end game. ALL the old content is always still available.

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  8. First, I was reading through your ‘leveling MMO’ concept and I caught myself finding it familiar: it actually sounds very close to Dark Souls.

    – All content is accessible and completable solo, with varying difficulty.
    – By default, you are alone in your own world playing the game solo.
    – The whole of the game – and if you are talking about leveling and questing in a WoW-like MMO, it is essentially the same as playing through a single-player game – is challenging, aside from a few moments here and there.
    – You can group (summon other players to your own world, both randoms and friends) for the majority of the content if you wish to.
    – You can see shades of random players doing their own thing in their own world, while being unable to interact with them unless summoned – quite similar to seeing random neutral players doing their own thing in an MMO, that you chose not to interact with for the moment.
    – There’s both consensual (hostile summons) and non-consensual (invasion system – a hostile player comes to your world whether you want it or not), and with checkpoint system for progress dying to PvP can send you quite the ways back and undo a lot of progress, so there’s more reason to actually fight back then in a game with no-loss PvP, but it’s not as punishing as in a game with huge loss penalty.
    – There’s a limited messaging system and you can almost freely trade items with players summoned to your world.
    – After completing the game once, you can start over with New Game + and do it over again with everything being stronger, but your character keeping the level and items, and you can level up almost indefinitely if you want to.

    It is still far from what I imagine a game made by your ideas would be – for example, there’s no real leaderboards or other non-rudimentary ways to compare your progress or achievements with other players, there’s very little communication options – but might be something to think about in there.

    Second, I find it a bit odd and still can’t quite understand why while you consider grouping up (not ‘putting in the same party’, but ‘putting in the same environment’ in this case) two different kind of players – levelers and raiders – on a game level to be a bad thing, you seem to think that forcing them together on a guild level would somehow be good. You’ve seen it in EVE and I can’t imagine it going differently here – one group, most likely raiders, would look down at ‘solo plebs’ and only keep them around as a form of livestock for the necessity of the value they provide – if, as someone already pointed out, having a solo alt won’t turn out to be more convenient. Considering that solo players are by their playstyle characteristic alone not the most sociable people around (and while I understand your approach to a guild as a work collective, most people would still think a guild is a ‘socially interacting group’ first), they might not want to participate in this system even if it offers substantial rewards.

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  9. Er…
    “you just can’t use it in the expansion, you have to make a new one.”
    Should be “you can just use it in the expansion, you don’t have to make a new one.”
    Doh. Yeah, you get to keep your name.

    If you have the same name on both the leveling and raid servers for an expansion, it will just use the character you loaded (Both will have the same name.)

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  10. grinding
    I’m old. people these days don’t know what grind is.

    I would like your mmo. I’m not a mom but casual-time/efficient-skill player. But how do you show that to noliver guilds?
    Maybe add some timing and grading changing the encounter how solo and group goes ham. D to S grade, gives you better chance for loot or harder endbosses. tied to a highscore system.

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  11. cathfaern:
    “There would be more solo content, but raids was made more accessible in WoW because people demanded it. Not the challenge but just to “see the content”. Why would be it different here?”

    The problem with raids in MMOs in general is they are tuned to be hard. The reason? “You’re supposed to GROUP to beat hard content! Group, witless peons! We, the omniscient developers demand it! No grouping? No best in class loot!” It’s a design dogma, and a stupid one at that.

    So what happens if you get a group of people that just aren’t that great? The deal with people that “Aren’t that great” is that they’re more social, and want to do the content together. No problem! Let the ACHIEVERS in the group do the solo content (Which the really want to do.) and have the best gear in the group, then be able to help the others, social style, (Which they ALSO really want to do.) as they work on the much easier raid for a less than top tier reward. It’s freakin’ win win for everybody.

    Here’s where I diverge from the thread: What should the reward be?

    I utterly dislike the “Some random yoo hoo in a cave that can hold off 40 players miraculously drops gear better than anything you have ever seen” deus ex machina mechanic. Utterly. It’s flippin’ stupid. What they SHOULD drop is craft materials, shards, ingots, whatever… that you take back to town and have the MASTER CRAFTSMEN of your society, who, in the service of YOUR HOME, have figured out how to do this over time, craft the gear you want. Of course, the shards, ingots, etc are soulbound (Different kinds should be tradable on a par basis.) This establishes your home kingdom as your HOME, so you’re not just some Murder Hobo jacking people for loot, then continuing on down the road.

    If you are RAIDING, you are working on content that drops shards, ingots, etc of that level, but only at the MAX raid level do the MAX shards, ingots, etc drop. But you can get ALL of them them from doing solo content.

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  12. eww that’s icky you are talking about two games sharing resources that’s just yucky and I didn’t see a good cross over “hey my group tain’t here so I will do solo stuff tonight” (the blending). What you need is a game that allows folks to group up and do group things, while still allowing them to do solo things all at the same time in an open world environment that allows people to do things when and where they want for a price of course (hmmm one wonders if such game could EVEr exist).

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