The breakfast topic today over at blizzard watch asks the question what makes a good raid. If the question was what makes a great raid I would just say Ulduar and link an old post explaining why I think it was the best raid ever.
I can't believe that almost three years have past since I wrote that and I still believe it is the best raid ever. Actually, as the years past and I think about it I could probably add a few more things to that old post explaining why I think it was the best raid ever. Things that sometimes pop up in my mind thinking, I miss this or that from Ulduar. But that is not the question they asked, they asked what makes a good raid which is definitely different from what makes a great raid and there are many more raids I would put into the good raid category.
To start my own personal adventure into figuring what makes a good raid I have to start at the bottom and think what makes a bad raid. It is actually a lot easier to pick out things you dislike than it is to put your finger on what you like sometimes. So lets start with some raids I really did not like and figure out why I disliked them.
Trial of the Crusader (Wrath)
What made this raid so horrible is that it is basically in one room for the most part. That said room is bland and boring and was also used as the same room that an entire five man dungeon takes place meaning we already spent time in that room. I did not mind the fights so much, they were not bad at all. With the exception of the PvP fight I actually enjoyed all the fights in there but the surroundings that the fights took place in makes the raid a complete loser in my eyes.
What this taught me about what makes a good raid?
You need to have some variance in the surroundings. Sure it really should not make a difference, but in my mind a good raid has to feel like you are raiding something and not standing there letting mobs come to you. Trial of the crusader should have been a brawlers guild event for groups, not a raid. As a raid it was bad.
Ruby Sanctum (Wrath)
In my second worst raid in memory comes RS and not because we only missed realm first on it because our raid night ended and we were not a progression oriented group willing to put another hour in, which by the way was about what it took us to clear fully the second time we went in. Nope, it is not those sour grapes that upset me and made me dislike it, it is the fact that the bosses, or mini bosses before the boss dropped no loot.
Fighting mobs that drop no loot feels like a waste of time. Fighting bosses that drop no loot feels like you just got kicked in the nuggets and then spit on while you were kneeling over in pain. So in a word it sucks.
What this taught me about what makes a good raid?
The reward needs to equal the effort. If you are going to put some time into something there has to be some sort of reward at the end, a carrot on the stick. Even if it is a piece of gear no one needed that just gets sharded, at least you feel like you did it for something. Killing bosses for nothing worthwhile is horrible and bad raid design.
So here we have my least two favorite raids of all time and they both give me two things to start building my what makes a good raid personal guide lines.
What makes a good raid:
1) Location Design:
One of the reasons I loved ulduar so much is that it was beautiful, so well done. It was also something we did not see often. There are many raid that I think were like that, that offered us a look into something new and nice and appealing to the eye.
While throne of the four winds would never make it into my "good raid" list for other reasons it does get some good raid points for at least being a new and interesting environment. A pleasing setting can really make a raid seem and feel better than it really is.
Everyone likes to feel like they are doing something for a reason and loot is the prefect reason. It is the main motivator for most people that play the game actually. If you put loot behind any activity people would do it as much as they hate it even if they complain about it every single step of the way. Why is that? Because they feel rewarded for going through the effort. Raid should be no different.
The dwarf packs before before Atramedes in Blackwing Decent are a perfect example of doing it wrong. I would place those packs of four as at least twice as hard as the boss itself yet they dropped normal trash loot. I don't even think we saw one BoE ever drop from them in all our time killing them. They might not be a boss but they were harder than a boss and we should have been rewarded for killing them accordingly.
The other end of the spectrum are raids like Firelands and Blackrock Foundry which offer loot being dropped from even the easy packs of trash sometimes. It makes it fun to go for trash runs and see if you can get some BoE as an upgrade or even doing it to try to get some alts gear. It made the raids feel better knowing that even if you could not down a boss going in there it might not be a complete waste of time because the trash can drop some reward for you.
Note: Blizzard has completely ruined trash runs now however being BoEs are now personal loot and can't be master looted and rolled on which means one of the fun thing in game, trash runs, are not something worth doing any more, at least not with pugs. Gee, thanks blizzard.
3) No Experimental Mechanics:
Some are better than others, kicking shells into a turtle was annoying, flying through rings required someone that was not a mouse turner and in some casual groups that was impossible to find, and any battle that involved flight as part of the battle was horrible, like eye of eternity or throne of the four winds. Never again, please.
I like new things and I like new mechanics but some of them deserve to be put on the scrap heap to never return. I dislike any fight where you need to have one or two people in the position of doing a good job or the whole group wipes. It is bad design.
Sure I can do all those things like belts or flying through rings, but why should I always have to do it. Sometimes I just want to play like everyone else and I hate mechanics like that.
Can a raid still be a good raid even with things like that in it? Absolutely. But I'd rather not see experimental mechanics that require only one person to be able to do the job. I loved kiting on Gluth in Naxx, I hated kicking turtles. Some work, some don't, and it all comes down to the individual opinion of the person doing them. So maybe they could keep the individual things in there on a really limited basis but something like the everyone flying things I mentioned, yeah, they need to go never to be seen again.
For and example of a good new mechanic, look at the trains, everyone needed to do them as a group and not just one person, they did not have anything that changed your camera angle for you, and they did not have a new action bar replacing your own. Not to mention, there was no flight involved. Well, as long as you didn't get hit.
4) Compelling Story:
I think that is one of the reasons I loved Ulduar so much. When I went in there I knew who Freya was from questing, I knew who Hodir was from questing, I knew who Thorim was from questing, you get the idea. So when I ran into one and he said, "I remember you, from the mountains" I said and I remember you too, this is do cool.
You do not need a lot of cut scenes, you do not need a lot of story, but feeling some sort of connection even with a few of the bosses in there makes a raid feel better over all for me. Whether it be saving them, catching up to them, getting revenge from a previous loss, what have you, running into people you have history with is what immersion is really about and we know how blizzard loves to throw that word around so much lately.
Some raids just don't feel like there is any reason to be there, or any reason for the bosses we fight to be together in a raid format in the same place. Seriously I completely miss the whole concept of high maul, so much so I really must be missing something, but it just seemed so out of place. Sure there might have been some loose connection that sent us there and there could even be some connections that explain the mobs we fight there being tied to basically working together to stop us, but it was not well implemented if it were and that makes the place feel like a lifeless shell we walk into to beat on things for loot and a good raid needs to have more than just that.
I love optional bosses, I really do. I love being able to advance in the direction you choose. Using the Naxx, ICC, BRF wing method, or using the Ulduar or High Maul, you can just completely skip the optional bosses are both winners if you ask me. Putting wings and skipable bosses together is the best of the best and I would love to see more raids that do such.
A linear boss progression is okay I guess but after farming things it kind of gets boring doing the same bosses in the same order week in and week out and having some options to mix things up really does make it more enjoyable in my opinion.
6) Fight Length:
Find me one person in the entire world that has ever played warcraft that said they loved doing a 15 minute fights 50 times and wiping in the 14th minute each time and I will show you someone that has some serious mental issues. Any fight that goes longer than 6 minutes loses my interest fast.
I have no issue really with long fights when I am learning them, it feels kind of epic in a way but once you have things on farm doing those long fights is nothing more than annoying at best. Based on the fact you will spend more time killing bosses over and over than you do killing them the first time the fact that it is okay to be a long fight the first time around loses any water it could hold when you are doing a 15 minute fight for the 30th time.
No fight should ever go over 6 minutes, at max, when learning it, except maybe the end boss of an expansion which could go 10 if need be. This allows for more pulls which means quicker learning which means more kills and kills are fun, 15 minute fights are not. It also makes it so that when stuff becomes farm you can farm more of it quicker which also happens to be fun.
7) Difficulty Progression:
I have one word for you, Horridon.
There is no reason on heaven or earth this boss should have been the second boss in Throne of Thunder. Not when every single boss after him, including the last boss, seemed easier. Admittedly for many groups that operate at a higher skill level than a casual guild like mine might have had less trouble with it but for mine, and if you look at the number of guilds that disbanded because of Horridon, and many many many others, this boss was a raid nightmare as scary as they get.
A good raid needs to get progressively harder as it goes on and Throne of Thunder did not do that. My casual guild one shot 5 bosses, including the second to last boss, on their first time ever seeing them, after Horridon but it took us IIRC 6 weeks to down Horridon. Thanks to a combination of being too hard to be the second boss of the raid and being one of those long bosses (see 6) many guilds fell apart during this raid tier. My guild alone absorbed three other guilds during that time, two that had been around since vanilla. So yes, bad difficulty progression makes what could have been a good raid into one I will always remember as a bad one.
A good raid would be visually appealing, rewarding, with no strange mechanics. It would also offer a compelling story tying it to the world and offer options within the raid on where to move. The fights would be shorter and the difficulty would ramp up in a linear order so each boss is harder than the previous one, but it would start off easy. That is what makes a good raid.
A good raid does not need to have all of these things, but it will have most of them.