Friday, June 20, 2014

A Few Words About Accessibility

After reading a post by Matthew Rossi over at WoW Insider titled The Difficulty Trap it got me thinking about raiding and difficulty.  Even more so being I am going through what I am currently going through trying to find replacements for people taking vacations, quitting or just taking a break from raiding.

From what he wrote, what I have read from many others and what I have heard from people I know that raided and did not raid in vanilla, it has got me thinking about accessibility a lot.  People say that raiding is more accessible now than it has ever been before and they might have a point but only in one way. 

Raiding is more complex now than it has ever been.  When your average 5 man heroic boss is more complex than anything you would have met in a raid back in vanilla and surely anything from cataclysm the week of release was more complex than anything a vanilla raid could ever through at you, is raiding really more accessible?  Just because you can walk through the door doesn't mean it is accessible.

It is easier to get into raiding now than it was in vanilla, but back in vanilla anyone could raid.  By anyone I mean anyone.  That is not the case with raiding as it is now.  Not even close.  If you could muscle your way into a raid in vanilla that means you worked to be there and being you put in the work to be there you deserve to be there.  With today's raid scene anyone can hit max level and even get the gear level required in a short time so they could walk through the door of a raid, they can even argue they deserve to be there, but they are not raiders.

It occurred to me really what we are talking about here is not so much the difficulty trap but the accessibility trap.  Raiding has always been accessible.  If you want to put in the work needed to be a raider that is.  However in vanilla it was a lot more black and white than it is in today's game where the waters are more than a bit muddy.

Each week I am bringing new people into a raid and each week it is becoming more and more frustrating because how do I deal with all these people who think they are raiders when they are not.  People that can not move from bad, people that do not listen to instruction, people that do not follow mechanics, people who can not perform even at 50% of their potential, people that are quite frankly not raiders.

In vanilla this would have never been the case.  If they worked their way through all the loops, put in the time, farmed the materials and paid their dues so to speak they were raiders.  The fact they could not perform at 50% of their potential meant nothing.  They would still be fine for a vanilla raid because mechanically speaking vanilla raids were so much easier.  The difficulty was in the grind and assembly, not in the content itself.

That was the accessibility of vanilla, the raids were not taxing, the road to get into them was.  Once you worked your way through everything you needed to do to get into them you were indeed a raider.  Not like all those people trying out for spots on my raid team who are not raiders.

Fast forward 10 years and here we are now where anyone can just walk into a raid.  With the addition of the raid finder they do not even need to deal with the largest hassle of vanilla raiding, making a group.  And even at that, raid finder raid will still be leaps and bounds more difficult than anything vanilla could throw at them.  But not everyone is a raider if they raid now, not like in vanilla.  Just because raids have become more accessible to enter does not mean everyone should.  Don't get me wrong, there were still many people that worked their way into vanilla raids that did not deserve to be there either, there will always be someone that does, but now the door is wide open and anyone can walk in and if you have ever done an LFR you know that just about anyone does.

In vanilla the accessibility was front ended.  You needed to work your ass off to get into the raid but once you were their the raid was more about working your ass off to get the gear to get the job done.  Either way, anyone, as long as they worked for it, could get in and once they were in doing it was easier than anything you will ever see in today's game.

In current the accessibility is back ended.  Anyone can walk into a raid, but not everyone can be a raider.  Sure they can manage to get by in an LFR where 10 people are doing the work of 25 and they can slide by.  They might even get a little further if they can find a group to carry them, but they can only get carried for so long before the door becomes closed for them.  The door could be flex for them, or maybe normal and if not there then heroic will surely be the door.

The pendulum has swung on both the accessibility and difficulty scale.  From vanilla having their difficulty being at the entry level (with a grind and assembly) and current raids having it at their tail end (with many mechanics) and vanilla having their accessibility being easy once you made it in because anyone that worked their ass off could likely raid effectively and current having it easy to enter but not everyone that enters can actually raid.

The question is, which is the better method?

Should raids be hard to get into and easy to do like vanilla or easy to get into but harder to do like now?

There needs to be some level of difficulty and there needs to be some level of accessibility.  You can not have the end game being as easy to enter as it is now and LFR be the hardest version of it because that would mean it was easy to enter and easy to do.  And you can not have the end game being harder to enter requiring grind after grind just to get in and be as tightly tuned as heroic currently is once you get there because that would mean it was harder to enter and harder to do.

I am not saying one way is better than the other because I can fight for either side on this one.  I believe both have their strengths and their weakness. The key is there always needs to be some level of accessibility and there always needs to be some level of difficulty.  The problem is finding that right balance.

In the end, like Matthew concludes about difficulty in his post that you really can not compare the two because there was so much more involved and both vanilla and current were difficult in their own way I can conclude that you can not compare the two in terms of accessibility either because they were both very accessible in their own way.

Which was better in your opinion, which way do you prefer?

Or would you have it somewhere in the middle, like wrath was.  Accessible if you put in some effort, but some challenge once you are there.   Which meant it was moderately accessible and moderately difficult.  If I had to choose, wrath design would be my choice.  No raid finder, but valor loot to help get you in if you were willing to work for the loot and then find yourself a group.  Wrath design with a raid making program like OQ or the current in game finder with some added support.  Now that would be the best balance in my opinion.  To pick vanilla style or today's style however, could I not choose.  How about you?


  1. In Vanilla, the barriers were gear, access (having a group willing to bring you &/or having the appropriate attunements) and time.

    Today, the barrier is, basically, just skill. Gear is a barrier but one that's trivial in comparison to Vanilla so I'm ignoring it.

    The interesting thing about the game today is that it's a lot more democratic than it used to be. In Vanilla, if you didn't have buddies who raided who'd be willing to catch you up, you were most likely screwed. Carrying was often, due to attunements, impossible.

    Today, anyone, even solo players, are capable of gearing themselves up to raid. Through proving grounds and actually learning the fights in LFR, they're also able to skill themselves up to a good enough (IMO) degree. If it's determined that someone isn't good enough there are tools available where they themselves, without inconveniencing 39 other people, can in large part deal with it.

    The other democratic element is that there are now actual difficulty tiers, something that didn't really exist in Vanilla. Inferior raids would simply be stuck on older content and never get to the better stuff, a far worse solution.

    Today, poor players who don't care about performance can run LFR with relative success.

    Those somewhat better can run Flex and even be carried.

    Those who are capable raiders can run Normal with an increase in accountability.

    Those who are good can run Heroics.

    The only real issue is when someone of LFR or Flex calibre thinks they're better than they are... in Vanilla, that person simply wouldn't have the opportunity to raid, the raids willing to take them on simply wouldn't be good enough to down the required content in order to progress. Today, it's a social issue... there's nothing stopping you from carrying someone so it's basically up to you to provide them with the necessary feedback that they aren't good enough. It's a new skillset required by RLs, to be sure, but I think it's a solid improvement over having to constantly take 35-39 people back to old content to run attunements for folks coming in after the fact, or having to deal with guild feeder systems where the quality raiders are constantly bouncing to other, better raids after inferior ones have helped attune them. Even in the mid-high range these days I don't see much of that type of system but I understand it was common in Vanilla.

    Personally, I like today's system and am hoping the revamped proving grounds in WoD are able to provide players with that feedback somewhat directly ("Your performance indicates that Flex would be an appropriate difficulty for your skill level") vs putting 100% of the burden on the RL.

    1. That part is the key (different levels) that makes determining which was the better way harder for me.

      It was so simple in vanilla, you were either a raider, or you where not. And people had no problems with that. Now everyone thinks they are a raider and that is just not true in any sense of the word.

      I am about as tired as any one person could be of having people tell me they are experienced raiders and they can not even move from a puddle on the first boss because they only ever raided in LFR. Yes, you can learn from there, but most people don't.

      I do not have faith in them to make a usable proving grounds for actually judging peoples ability. Heck, they can not even make an item level for LFR that is reasonable. (Lets get real for a second, what do you think the odds are that the average LFR only player in 496 gear would be able to do any SoO wing if all 25 people where that type of people?) They are not in touch with their own game and its players.