Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Flexible Concern

A commenter yesterday made reference to something that has me thinking about the bad side of flexible raiding the other day and it got me to considering about some concerns I have about flexible raiding next expansion.  In case you did not know flexible difficultly will become normal mode and normal will become heroic mode and use he same flexible technology.  The current heroic model will become mythic and be held to a strict 20 man format.

Over all this is a great change, even more so when we will be able to run the new normal and the new heroic cross server.  This is a huge boundary breaker on something that kept some people playing with friends that were on other servers or people they met in pugs or LFR that they had become friendly with.  While there are still faction boundaries there will be no server ones, at least in these raid difficulties.

When flexible raiding was added it was hailed as a huge success by most if not all people, myself included.  It was a breath of fresh air that the game really needed.  It opened to doors with an easier difficulty, something to fill the gap between LFR and old normal which was needed.  While everyone likes to say that raiding has gotten easier they seem to forget that they have gotten better with experience and it is not really that raiding has gotten easier.  Old normal is probably equal in terms of difficulty to the original hard modes if not actually harder.  That is why flexible difficulty was needed, to fill the gap of what normal was really intended to be as normal had progressed to become harder.  So flexible is the new normal and come next expansion it is labeled as such.

This is all well and good.  We have a new normal that is what normal should have been and the old normal is heroic, which is what is should have been, then we have a step up for mythic, which should be a real challenge and being it is only built for one size and one size only it can be designed tighter which should be great news for those old heroic raiders as it can really become more of the challenge of which they seek.  But that is all about difficulty levels and as I said it is all well and good but what about the flexibility, which does that mean for the future and why am I concerned about it.

One of the simple and easiest keys to labeling someone a raider was someone that was willing to commit to a schedule to raid.  One of my fears is that it will be harder to get actual raiders to raid at the new normal and new heroic level when they do not feel as if they need to commit to a schedule because the raids a "flexible".

I saw it stating to happen just a few months after 5.4 started and the new shine on the new style of raiding had started to lose its luster.  People saying, if you don't need me I will sit out.  Soon it got to the point that those better players, the ones you needed to help the newer players get through it easier and gear them up while they get a little experience so hopefully they could move up a level and become better raiders, were all choosing the sit and all you were left with was a group of people that were really not raiders.  Maybe they would some day become a raider, but they were not there yet, and suddenly the fun of flex because it was easier and quick was lost because when left with a bunch of non raiders and no one to help them along it was no longer doable and most importantly, it is no longer easy.

Then of course you have the "I have everything I need" attitude that I see popping up all the time and not just in guild but on my server, in open raid, on the forums, you name it.  It is understandable.  If you need nothing your desire to do the content is reduced.  So with a flexible format you just will not go, because you are not needed to fill the group.  But when you are one person short you had to go even if you needed nothing because you needed that 10th or 25th person.  You felt as if you were part of a team, a needed part of it.  You would raid even if there was nothing you needed so others could get through it faster so they can get what they need so then you, as a group, could move further along.  You made a commitment to raid and you raided, but now with flexibility I fear that a commitment to raid really does not mean much any more.  It is no longer I will be there it is I will be there and if we are doing something I need loot from I will raid but if I do not need loot from it I will sit out and it should not hurt the team because it is flexible anyway.

The ability of people to come and go as they please is nice.  It is cool to be able to run when start time comes and not care that one person showed up late.  Just grab another warm body and go in.  Then when that person comes you just add him without having to kick the person you dragged along as a fill in.  So it is not all bad, there are many goods to flexible raiding, but it does scare me because I fear for what it will do to the player base.

There will no longer be a situation where people feel they need to show up every week.  Without that feeling of being needed the connection to the group can dwindle.  Opening the doors to allow people to come and go as they please means they will do just that and the guild no longer becomes the "team" you play with, it becomes the people you run with to get something for yourself.

For the mythic raiders this will not be a problem. There will still be the "team" mentality because you need to show up every week to keep your raid spot, you need to run even if you do not need anything from that boss, you need to continue to do what it is raiders do.  But pre mythic, it is all come and go as you please.  At least with a group with designs on mythic quickly you can use the "if you do not show for heroic you can not come on the mythic run" as motivation, but what if you are a casual guild, one that rarely does heroics (mythic)?  Where is your ability to bait people to run, so they show up ever week, so they develop that sense of team play?

As odd as it might sound I could not get a flex going in my guild if I tried.  Sure there might be a few people who would come on alts, or help with their main so others can gear up, but otherwise, it just will not happen.  People have reached the phase where they do not want to do flex any more.  At least in guild, so in guild runs are almost completely out of the question, unless we do a flex 4, then people will come along for a chance at weapons.  But again, it is for selfish reasons, not team reasons.

Why is that?  Because flex does not matter.  When you can come and go as you please, pick up a group 24/7 and cross server, the idea that this is a group event for a guild really starts to lose something for many it seems.

I am seeing it all over already and when the new expansion comes and us normal mode raiders in a causal guild that just dabble in heroics here and there become the heroic mode raiders that can not dabble in mythic because we do not have 20 people capable of doing it will have absolutely nothing to do.

Because of the flexible format moving forward from new heroic to mythic will become an issue.  Even more so when people start saying, I don't need anything from there, when you are ready to do mythic I will raid, instead of helping the team by running each week so you could build up and train 20 solid raiders so you can attempt mythic.

See, that is my concern.

How will we end up recruiting more people to move into mythic if all the capable players will just rather sit out because they do not need anything from there.  Or they just do not feel like raiding that night.  Or what ever their reason might be.  All in the name of "flexibility" and the feeling that because the raid will scale they are not needed if they want to take the day off.  They do not understand, even more so at lower levels of raiding, better players are needed to get things down and so we can either weed out the lesser players to teach them.  When people needed to raid to keep their raiding spot they would show and they would raid but when they feel you can clear the content without them because it is flexible it takes away from the team effort.

Moving to mythic next expansion I expect to find myself in the same situation I do now when I try to get a fill in for a normal.  Some 517 item level player that stands in bad every chance they get (not kidding, we recruited a new guy like that and he swears up and down he is a raider) will want to come and I will say, do some LFR or maybe flex with the guild so we can get you some gear first and you can get some experience.  And he replies, nah, I'll wait until you have the space in normal, not worth getting 540 gear when I can wait and get 553 gear.  Guy does not grasp the idea that I am not going to let him have hand out if he is not willing to show he will try on his own, and that means, get the damn 540 gear first and learn to play a little better.

There will be people, some good and some bad, that will refuse to run new heroic in an effort to move into mythic because of the flexible ability that the new heroic mode will afford us because they are not needed but when there is a space in a limit spot raid, they will want it.

And that is what I think it comes down too.

Don't know how your raid leaders are going to handle it but I do know how this one is going to handle it, if I am still leading raids next expansion that is.  If you do not show up for heroic, if you do not raid in heroic, if you will not come along and help the team in heroic, if you do not develop with the team, be part of the team, learn to work as a team, then you are not invited to the mythic because, guess why, you are not a team player.  You can be a back up.  Just like you are making yourself a back up for heroic. 

The last thing I want to see is what I saw this expansion when 5.4 came out and seeing people say, nah, don't want to raid flex, I'll be on for normal tomorrow.  No, you are either a team player or you are a bench player.  Simple a that.  Flexible raids blurs the line and allows people to be selfish.  Selfish people are not good for group play.

In theory flexible sounds awesome, but I am worried it will destroy guilds like mine.  Casual guilds do not have a chance if you let people come and go as they please.  My guild might have never been great or even good, but we managed to get things down in a timely manner because we had people showing up each week, helping even if they needed nothing, and it moved us as high as #3 on the server at one point while raiding only one or two nights a week because we worked as a team, the same team, week in and week out.  We didn't just have people coming and going whenever they wanted to.

Yeah, this is my concern with new flexible heroics.  Moving from heroics to mythic because of the flexible nature of heroic might be really hard for the casual guild that was used to being a 10 man.

Do you think it will be harder to grow with people feeling less connected to their raid group, less needed, thanks to flexibility?


  1. Wow. Grumpy, you just perfectly described what has happened in our guild. Although we are a social guild, our raid commander had built up a 10 man normal progression team. We were not fast at downing content, but we were steady. Shortly after flex came out we moved to flex runs and abandoned the normal progression. Some of our core players stopped raiding -- citing personal reasons which may be the case but the result is the same, we suddenly had people trying to raid who probably should not have. It did not help the normal players who might have wanted to bring alts because the flex team needed the dps to carry the weak players. People usually do not even bother to sign up, leaving the Raid leader to have to scramble to even put together 10 for a flex run. The bad players do not seem to get better, even though their gear levels are going up as a result of flex. Some have not even bothered to gem and enchant their gear, they expect food and flasks to be supplied, and they openly profess to not being the least bit familiar with fights. Worse, since it is "only flex", some of our normal team seem to have stopped trying to improve their gear or role, they are pretty much going through the motions.

    And the result? After months of twice a week flex runs with a different team almost every time, we have yet to even clear Wing 3 of SoO.

    1. It is what scares me. The "its only flex" attitude, so you can bring more or do less will become "its only normal" and then maybe even "its only heroic" all thanks to the flexible technology.

      No do not get my wrong, I love what flexible raids offer, but it just makes the job of actually making a real raid team and not just "people who want to raid" a lot harder.

      Sadly you need to have a few normal raiders if you want to clear flex with flex only players. Depending on who shows in my guild I would not even attempt garrosh on flex, even if the players are mathematically geared for it. They just do not have the skill for it.

  2. You'll have to update your guide The Anxieties of a Casual Raid Leader to include this one.

    Just out of curriousity, is the problem happening on progression kills? or on farm runs?

    I can't imagine wanting to sit out a boss that I've never killed before (one whatever difficulty) just because they don't drop any loot I need. That's crazy, right?

    On farming, it's a bit more understandable. We run a 30 player roster for our 25 team. And I definitely love when I get to sit out for farm nights. But I attribute that to being on the same content for five thousand years.

    Which brings me to my actual response: do you think this will be a problem with regular tiers? or is it just a problem right now because we've been doing this content for so long?

    Maybe I'm just trying to justify my own selfishness, but I think it's really understandable that people are tired of repeating the same content over and over and over and over...

    I see how it is beneficial to the group to get new people geared up in a flex run or normal run with people who are already geared. It's faster, at least. But really that's a good argument for not adding people in the middle of a tier. We all fought hard to get through the content when it first came out. So it can be off-putting that someone wants to get carried through it. Again, I get that it has to happen if we want to keep progressing, but I'm not at all surprised when the raiders who've been reliably here for the whole tier get annoyed by it.

    When we were trying to down Heroic Malkorok, really, not too long ago, it ended up taking us over a 6 weeks, because we were so late in the tier that we just couldn't keep people around, so we couldn't save a lock out, and would have to carry people through normal clears to get them geared up every couple of weeks.

    As I write that, I'm wondering if that will be fixed in WoD. I mean, perhaps I'll be less bitter about having to do a "heroic" clear since it won't be on a shared lock-out with "mythic".

    As is, at 582 ilvl there's not much (any?) reason for me to join a flex group. Especially if it's "progression" flex. But if anyone from the guild is in a group that can't get past a certain boss, I'm always happy to jump in and get it down for them. And when I've taken alts through flex runs, it's been easy to find raiders from our heroic team and pull them in a for a tricky boss. And that's all possible because it's on a different lock out, and the comp is, well, flexible.

    So, in that convoluted way, I'm happy with the change to normal and "heroic" being flexible and having totally separate lock outs. I guess I am a little bit worried about the xrealm issue, especially for new, young players who don't have much sense of wanting to belong to a team. But over all I think it will mean that it will be even easier to find geared players to help with under-geared runs.

    1. This would most defiantly fit in that post. (which still happens to be one of my bigger hit generators each week) Perhaps I should revisit the topic at some point.

      We can not get back to progression until we recruit some tanks because we are up to heroic progression. So we try to get some people that are new, or don't have a team, or willing to try a new role, to test them, gear them, and teach them. And that is where we are stuck, because they do not understand the you need to show up every wednesday if you want to be a raider. Flex has already infected them.

      So we are stuck not being able to do heroics because we can not do tanks. I had to pug to get my heroic kills because I can not even find tanks that can manage the first boss. Good think I have multiple 570+ hunters, so I still have one for guild when I pug with another.

      Part of the issue could be because we are doing content for so long. But even flex wore out its welcome 3 months after SoO was introduced, so unless they plan on releasing new raids every 3 months, I am not sure flex can hold the interest of casual raiders.

      I see it as being a problem because you would have to do new normal and new heroic to build for mythic, and then once there, we will not be able to clear new heroic without those new mythic people.

      Lets use now as an example. 6 of my main raiders have at least 8/14 heroic. We want to be doing heroic but we need to fill those 4 slots. So we need to do normal because we can not carry them through heroic, we are just not that good and I admit that.

      So if they want the week off, that is fine, but that means we can test fewer people against fewer bosses and gear them up much slower in normal without them.

      See the catch 22 here? If they ran the normal we could get them geared, test them out, teach them, so much faster to get back to what we were doing. But until we get those people, or get lucky enough to find a few disgruntled players from other guilds with the gear and experience that want to join us and fit with us, we have no choice but to keep running normal looking for the people that can win a place in the heroic progression.

      BTW: I finally got my shaman trinket on my main. Finally in all current tier gear. I am so happy and now my main no longer needs anything from normal. Unless it is to get that in warforged now.

    2. Yeah, I definitely don't disagree. I'm not sure if I'm totally thinking clearly, if I'm just a little bitter and it's making me think things aren't the way they actually are. But do you feel like running (current) normals with 6 heroic geared people is teaching them a lot?

      Perhaps this is just an issue in 25 player where there's less personal responsibility, but I mean, we can carry at least 8 people through the first 6 bosses or so (which is good because we really only have maybe 15-18 actual heroic ready raiders). But it doesn't seem like those 8 people are really learning much, just that the real raiders are doing the mechanics for them. We still have a hunter (yes a hunter with absolutely 0 movement penalty) who can't figure out how to move into the purple puddles on Malk, so we have to put her in a quadrant with someone who can cover all of hers, just because we don't know if she'll try to get them or not. And we have several people who can't get out of the way to the brewmaster's breath of fire in spoils. it's an incredibly slow moving giant line of fire! And

      I often wonder if they would learn better if they were doing real progression, not being carried. Maybe not. It could be that these are just the players we have and we need to adjust our expectations. But I can't help but think maybe we're being a crutch, so they're not learning to walk on their own.

      ok... qq over.

    3. It is teaching them the basic mechanics because they will still see them all and it will get them gear and give them a chance to see how we work as a team on voice chat. How tanks call out switches, how people call out cooldowns, etc. Yes, it will teach them. Maybe not teach them as well as us when we had to learn it when it was new, but teach them enough that once they are geared they can come to heroic and only need to learn about the 1 or 2 new mechanics instead of having to learn about everything.

      I have had so many people like that hunter. More then I would like to admit.

      If people want to learn, they will learn, and running them through normal under those situation I can see who learned. It also shows me who can be taught. I would rather waste my time downing a normal boss and saying throwing that fish back then banging my head against the wall on heroic with someone that wasting my time. If you catch my drift.

      And yes, 25 and 10 are completely different. We were doing 25s (when we were) with 18 or 19 people sometimes and 5 of those were not very good. So you are talking 13 or 14 people in normal only gear, not even upgraded at that point in time, could carry a 25 through the first 8 in 2 hours.

      25s are way easier to carry people than 10s. We might be able to carry 1 or 2 DPS in 10s if all the mains come, but not a tank, and not a healer if we are only going to 2 heal.

    4. That's a great point. Perhaps I'm getting a bit cynical and forget that there are people who want to learn. It's easy to let the bad experiences overshadow the good ones for me. And I definitely agree that if someone really wants to learn, then they can learn while being carried (which serves to get them good gear also).

    5. It is easy to forget there are good players waiting to be born out there with the LFR world. I have one member that runs the LFRs multiple times each week. He hates them, he complains about them, but he uses them to practice and he keeps doing it over and over until he can get it.

      He recently picked up on trying to get into being a feral druid, which we both know is the most demanding rotation to do well, and ran LFR nearly every waking day in the last two weeks. He is currently 540 and can pull 220K-240K on most single target fights all thanks to learning in the LFR. If people can learn that well in the LFR they can surely learn in a normal. Just one very rare example, but an example none the less.

      You are not alone. I feel like you, like no one wants to try. But there are a few out there. Harder to find nowadays but they are there.

  3. I think we are already at that point where normals don't require a guild.

    I am in a guild that raids, they are 6/14 heroic, but even though I am not raiding with them -- thankfully, their raiding time is an hour earlier than my play time, but even if these times coincided, I wouldn't have raided, because I am way beyond fixed schedules and drama on who gets to raid and who sits, etc, I am in the guild as a social, period -- so, even though I am not raiding with them, my progress is 3/14, which isn't that far from what their most hardcore raiders have. To say nothing about normal, from which I only need 4 slots (and one is a sidegrade).

    I realize I have it way simpler than you folks, and that's solely because I don't care about raiding that much. I sympathize when you are saying that it might be hard to fill rosters for mythic or whatever. But, personally, I would be lying if I told I don't like it. I do like the current arrangement. With cross-realm, I don't need a guild to raid, I don't need schedules. It's not like I was being carried either - this was never the case, I just gradually upgraded from LFR to flex to normal, doing the mechanics and the fights, etc, it's not like some heroic raiders plowed the way for me. And this goes all the way up to current normals (and even some heroics, like I said, I am 3/14, but that's a product of SoO taking too long). I don't care about highest raiding difficulty, so... it feels good.

    Again, I sympathize when you are talking about there being downsides, but the upsides are tangible. Now, if they changed things so that the upsides for me and folks like me are no longer there, but the downsides for you are also gone, I probably wouldn't have protested, because raids aren't "my" game, but then again, they did kind of the same thing to arenas (much more casual now), which were and are "my" game, and I didn't protest either - because it turned out the changes are to the better. Maybe it's going to be not all that bad in your case either.

    1. Mythic will not be cross realm, that is where the problem comes in. I also believe that despite what you say and what you have experienced normals are not easy now.

      Are you aware of the number of people out there that call themselves raiders that still do not have a normal kill under their belt? I do not know the exact numbers, but there are more people without the title that are "raiders" than there are players with it.

      If you pick and choose and work the system the way it is designed to be worked you can pug 14/14 heroic. It will take time and effort, but that is a lot more time and effort than the vast majority of people are willing to invest.

  4. Honestly, there's always been a component of raiders who will stop raiding once they have what they need from a given raid. I've seen it since Vanilla. Flexible makes it easier for them to make their excuses, but sadly it isn't new.

    1. That is the biggest issue, it gives them a built in excuse. "It is flexible so me not being there will not hurt". Well, it does hurt when the better players are not there.

      At least the old way they felt they needed to be part of the team. Now, not so much.

  5. I don't see the flex number system having much if anything to do with any of those concerns... they exist now for the existing raids.

    As it is now, it's up to the guild/raid itself to deal with those issues. As an example, sporadic attendance can be handled by introducing a loot system more advanced than /roll, something that incents players to show up ALWAYS, not just when they want to (a heavy decay when they don't show up is a nice motivator). It'll be the exact same issue in WoD... if you want people to show up and they aren't willing to commit on their own then secondary incentives are required, same as today.

    My only real concern is regarding WoD heroic balance... right now the fights scale to be easier the more players you bring when it comes to flex. I'm not sure whether they'll continue that in WoD heroic or whether they'll tune tighter since it's a higher level of difficulty. I'm not sure I want 15-man heroic (or 20- or 25-) to be easier than 10, at least not in the overall sense. On the other hand, it might make it easier for guilds to scale to 20-25 for mythic if they are a bit easier with more players during the gearing up process.

    1. I can not, will not, and never will participle in an DKP or other roll system even if I understand what you are getting at. It is the most unfair loot system ever designed.

      Heroic (which will be mythic) is a set 20 players. It will not be flexible. So there is no reason for concern there. It also can be use the cross server technology.

    2. How is it unfair? It gives players points for killing bosses that they can spend on loot... if you show up 25% of the time you'll only be able to bid on loot that nobody else wants. If you're there 100% of the time you'll have enough points to compete with everyone else who always shows up.

      Those types of systems can be abused by those with the power, of course, but that's not the fault of the loot system... a good implementation would give benefit to players who bring requested alts, who are willing to sit on the bench and be on standby, etc.

      Yeah, that's why I mentioned WoD Heroic... current normal. Mythic won't be an issue.

    3. If I am in the group for a long time basically anything that drops is mine. If I am new to the group even if I am the best player in the group it means nothing, I will never get a piece. That is how it is unfair.

      Do you really think that the fill in that shows up every week but you always look for a reason not to take because he is that bad so he accumulates massive amounts of DKP really deserves that rare drop that someone that might be new, or even someone that has been around but doesn't have as much DKP should get?

      No, it is unfair. He should not get it just because he shows up. At least if he wins with a /roll he won it fair and square but any other way anything that drops is his.

      Or take my group, sure we are right knit so we never even really roll. We just give it to who needs to most, we work as a team. In truth that is the best loot style but it takes a long time of working together to reach that. Lets pretend we need a fill in one night.

      Which is more fair?

      The fill in gets nothing because we all are always there and he has no DKP or we allow him to roll and have an equal chance?

      I know which one is fair. Apparently you don't.

      In truth there is really no good loot system. Nothing sucks more than losing that trinket you have been trying to get for 20 weeks to someone that is just filling in for one night with the roll system but when push comes to shove, that is still the most fair system there is even if I have gotten screwed by it before.