Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Take on the Nerfs to HFC Normal

I have not been posting much lately, as a matter of fact it has been quite some time since I did an actual post so this is surely a bit dated as the nerfs to hellfire citadel happened a week or so ago but I had strong feelings about them when I read them and it actually made me want to make a post about it.

I'll be the first to say, and have said, that normal HFC needed some nerfs.  As a raid intended for "friends and family" sort of guilds it was not a very forgiving raid for a great many "friends and family" skilled players.  Sure if you went in there with a core of solid players and 3 or 4 newbies you would have no problems.  But for a mostly "friends and family" raid group without those knowledgeable players leading the way and carrying the weight even normal could be a bit brutal.

When it first came out there were a few raiders in my guild I would politely tell, in whisper, that until we have so and so on farm I could not bring them.  Some were people with good numbers, but bad at mechanics, some were people that were okay with mechanics but could never quite pull the numbers no matter what the gear.

Those people I just mentioned are the exact people that a "friends and family" raid should be able to take even on first progression. Hey, maybe it is just that I am a jerk, which is entirely possible.  Maybe I could have downed gorefiend with 3 people that could not run out with doom and dropped it wherever they wanted all the time.  Sorry, if telling them they have to follow the simple mechanics like run out when you have a debuff makes me a jerk, perhaps I am.  But that is just one example of something I asked people to sit for early on.

So as you see, I do think that some nerfs were needed.  The problem is I think blizzard did a half ass job with the nerfs they did add.  Some where fantastic, perfect even.  Others left me scratching my head wondering what the hell were they thinking.

It all really comes down to opinion of course and as I write this it will be my opinion I speak.

Because of the way a fight like gorefiend was, with all the mechanics in it, even if I had to ask a couple of people to sit for the first couple of kills on normal, when we first got to that boss on heroic, even with 2 of those 3 people I originally asked to sit in the group, we were able to one shot it on heroic.

This one shot on heroic all happened because all the mechanics were there on normal.  It allowed people to learn the fight in a much less punishing situation.  However I do understand that my guild, while a "friends and family" guild, is a bit better than the majority of "friends and family" guilds.  But that does not change my opinion.  Perhaps it is what created my opinion about what changes I think were good and what changes I think were bad.

So being we have been talking about gorefiend lets take that fight for a further example of what I mean when talking about the changes made to it. 

I mentioned it was a fight I had to ask someone to sit that first week after not running out with doom for the 5th attempt in a row.  While they made no changes to doom they did make two (that I recall) changes to the fight.  And the gorefiend changes are the perfect example of what I mean when I say I think they did some things fantastic and some things poorly, both in this one fight, which is why I decided to use it as my focus example.

They changed it so that if the adds that fixate on someone get to the person they only damage the person instead of damaging the person and everyone around them.   Ding ding ding.  We have an absolute winner here of a nerf for normal.  A change like this is absolutely what is needed in a raid that is intended to be done by a "friends and family" guild.

Yet on the very same fight they made an additional nerf that I hate.  I think is a completely wrong way to nerf something and defeats the purpose of normal mode being for "friends and family", a raid that is easier but still something where they can learn to get better.  They removed shared fate.

For those that do not raid or might not know what shared fate is, it was a simple mechanic.  Three people are connected by a chain, the middle person becomes locked in place and can not move until the two outer people collapse on them.  Once the two free moving players are within 6 yards (I believe) of the anchored person the chains break and the anchored person can once again move.

It is a simple enough mechanic, one which I saw countless people mess up with sure, but still something easy enough to learn.  It was not difficult, it was not complex, it did not need some massive preplanning, it did not need exceptional response time, or high skill.  It was a very fair and reasonable mechanic for a "friends and family" guild.  Perhaps lowering the damage it does if screwed up would be fine I guess, but removing it outright?  It was a piss poor decision to do so.

This is the type of mechanic that needs to be in a "friends and family" sort of raid.  Why was it removed.  It did not require people to reach a certain performance level.  It was not a gear check that needed a certain level of gear to survive.  It was not a set group that needed people to remember group rotations of whos turn it was.  It was a simple "opps, this is on me and bob can't move, lets go to bob" mechanic.  One that could teach "friends and family" raiders.  It was a fantastic example of a learning mechanic and should not have been removed.

If you had to ask me, nerfing the doom damage, or making the doom wells go away after 20 seconds or something would have been a more suitable change.  It would still show people the mechanic, it would still do damage, it could still wipe a raid if mistakes were made and it would be much less punishing if mistakes were made.  That is the type of things that normal nerfs need to be.

I like, and agree, with some of the changes to nerfing HFC normal.  But some of them make no sense.

They should not "remove" from the raid for normal.  They should just nerf what it does.

I understand what they said, I understand what their intention is.  They want to have normal and heroic be different.  So when you move from normal to heroic there will be new mechanics just as moving from heroic to mythic adds new mechanics.

I just do not agree with it.  I personally believe normal and heroic should be the same.  Normal should just be more forgiving.  For example, the change they made to the fixate mobs, the one I call a great change, is how it should be done.  If you are doing heroic you would tell people, "remember those guys that blow up and kill you on normal if they reach you?  Well here on heroic they will blow up and kill you and everyone around you."

That is how you change mechanics from normal to heroic.  Not by removing them like they did with shared fate.

As usual, just my opinion.  It is nice to see blizzard making some effort to make normal more "friends and family" friendly.  Too bad they are removing mechanics they did not need to remove in the process.


  1. I find it interesting that these philosophical (as opposed to late content mechanical) nerfs coincide with what is probably going to be mid-raid life change that might have been a mid-xpac nerf as well had we had 3 full raid tiers in WoD.


    I wish we could see the data that drove this decision, because so much of their decision-making is so opaque. This feels a lot like the Cataclysm dungeon nerfs, but without an extra tier coming out.

    1. hahaha, love when formating screws me up.


    2. In my mind we had 3 tiers. One without tier gear. They should have just added tier to HM, delayed BRF 2 months, and there could have easily been 3 raid tiers. The time between HM and BRF was too far apart for them to be sister raids (not to mention the item level difference) and it was too close to be two real tiers. The raiding decisions this expansion were confusing from the get go.

    3. I'm sympathetic to the idea that they had put out 3 tiers, they certainly feel that way to some extent, but Blizzard was adamant that the first raids were not separate, and in comparison to the first 3 of MoP we are looking at almost the same number of bosses, but eh, not worth going over again and again.

      Honestly I'm more interested in how these things reflect decision-making and production, considering the aforementioned opacity and as you imply above, this isn't just "revert to flex/friends and family" so much as a new way to approach things and a stratification of difficulty; in a sense it's a doubling down on the idea of easing players into raiding that it seemed LFR>Flex>Normal>Heroic progression was intended to encourage.

      My point about something that would traditionally be instituted after problems had been seen as a means to rectify some other changes is that mostly those take place mid-expansion, while populations are reasonably high and they have time to examine the results. Instead we have a late-expansion act when populations consistently hit their lowest, and with this expansion possibly incredibly low. I don't see how this won't skew any numbers generated and I think the only hope we have is that they keep that in mind or outright ignore them.


    4. They can be as adamant as they want, facts are facts. The two raids were indeed apart.

      They did not come out around the same time. They did not have the same item level. One was clearly advanced gear over the others. The second was harder than the first, as you needed gear from the first to do the second.

      They were not sister raids. Blizzard can be as adamant about it as they want, but that will never change the fact they are two separate raids that they released to close together and screwed up with.

      You do make a very good point bringing up the idea that why do they wait until way after the damage is done to address things instead of doing it while they still have a larger player base to bounce these things off of.

      It goes back to what myself and others have been saying from the get go. Management issues. There is no one steering the ship. Or at least no one that has a clue how to do so.

      Addressing the problem after the problem scared off a bunch of people isn't really helping anyone.

  2. Great post Grumpy.

    Maybe if Blizz had scaled Normal correctly for raid size and challenge levels there'd be a lot more raiding guilds and players left in the game,

    Just give players more time to react at lower level, have high damage mechanics not insta-kills for Normal, and as they finally did on Gorefiend only kill the person who made the error, not those around them too.

    But all this takes development time, and I'd rather them spend those resources on getting Legion right than trying to sort out HFC raiding. So I guess it was easier/quicker/cheaper to simply remove stuff like Shared Fate (I think the reason was to stop people getting combo'd in small groups where they had to deal with SF and HFL simultaneously).

    1. That is another issue. Not only was normal (now) basically the same difficulty as normal (before which is now heroic) the scaling of size was brutal on small groups.

      They made normal too hard, as hard as old heroic, and then they scale them to be near impossible unless you had mythic skilled players if you had a 10 man group.

      Makes you wonder, do they even play test this stuff? Normal should have been flex difficulty and they really should have mastered the group size scaling back with SoO flex while they were learning.

      They need to fix HFC because legion is not coming any time soon. We will have this raid for well over a year. That is why they are forced to fix it, even if it is way to late.

    2. Normal isn't as hard as old heroic. Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I read what you said as "To kill normal Blackhand is as hard and takes as much time as killing old heroic Sha of Fear". Which doesn't seem exactly right.

    3. No, What I mean is new normal feels very close to old normal. New normal is supposed to be easier than old normal.

      So killing normal backhand is most definitely comparable to killing normal sha of fear, difficulty wise.

      Actually I would put normal sha of fear as easier than normal blackhand. The thing is, if normal sha of fear was released today, with today's labeling, it would be called heroic sha of fear. And yes, normal backhand would be harder than heroic sha of fear, using today's labeling. (remember, comparing normal to normal, do not let the heroic label confuse)

      Trust me, you raid in a predominately good group that is mythic capable. When you are skilled it is easy to wonder how anyone could fail something on normal. I have to bite my tongue a dozen times a night with some people while they learn what should be easy. But if you play with good groups for too long, you completely lose perspective on what others deem hard or not.

      I've raided with all types, from good to bad, I've been in many groups. I was in groups that got cutting edge last expansion and groups that took 3 hours to clear wing 1 of flex. I've a wide range of experience to draw from.

      With that said, I know how things "feel" because I have experienced all levels of game play in different groups and the new normal feels very close to the old normal when in fact it is supposed to be much much easier. That is what I am getting at.

  3. Here's my theory:

    I think blizzard, as they often do, is trying to fix a symptom of problems rather than the cause of the problem.

    What they thought they needed to fix, was that people were too bored progressing through normal and then through heroic, when they were identical raids. Even if there are larger numbers in heroic, the HP, DPS and damage done are relatively the same, so it feels exactly the same.

    So, i assume, Blizz thought that they could make it less boring to progress through three tiers of the same raid if there were a couple more mechanics in heroic, just like there were in mythic.

    But what they should have done, in my opinion, is not consider normal part of the progression process at all. There should be no reason that someone who's in a combination of heroic and mythic gear from the previous tier should need to go into normals of the next tier (if they want to get an edge by farming tier gear, that's a different case). It's just too much of the same content. Similarly, someone who's in all heroic gear from the previous tier there shouldn't be any reason they need the next tier's LFR gear to progress in normals of the new tier.

    In the WoD beta, they told us that new mythic would be old heroic, new heroic would be old normal, and new normal would be SoO flex. But that definitely wasn't how it worked out. With the exception of just a few bosses, the first few bosses of a tier in old normal were always pretty easy in the previous tiers normal gear. With the new heroic (which was supposedly equivalent), it would be very difficult to progress through even the first few bosses without first clearing new normals (unless you're wearing mostly to all mythic gear from the previous tier).

    Anyhow, I don't know if that makes sense, but it annoys me. I agree with you on all of your points, though. What they need to do in new normals, to make them friendly for friends and family guilds, is do away with their plan to make raiding all about personal responsibility. It needs to be doable with a few decent players carrying a handful of average players and a few bad players. In mythics, it is completely reasonable to expect every single player to be prepared to do every single mechanic correclty. In normals, that's ridiculous.

    My Ally guild definitely isn't a mythic ready guild, even though they were a pretty decent heroic guild back before the change to mythics. Anyhow, on Fel Lord Zakuun, we had to create dedicated soaking groups, because not everyone in the group was able to handle dodging those purple wave arrow things. I think that is a good mechanic for a normal group. If your group can handle it, you can do it randomly to and let anyone handle the mechanics. If not, however, you can have 4-6 players (depending on size) handle all the mechanics for everyone else.

    Archie and Manno are the only normal bosses I've done with the nerfs in. I think archie is fine. the last couple phases are significantly easier without those shadow things to worry about. The beam thing (don't remember what it's called) that two people had to move out of the group, it definitely wasn't hard, but I can't think of something better to remove, and there's definitely tons going on in that fight, so just having a couple less things for people to focus on is nice for normals, I guess. I didn't at all notice what was different about Manno.

    1. Blizzard needs to realize that adding an ability does not make the fight "different". It is still the same fight, just with faster taunt switches, or more mechanics, or higher numbers.

      The problem is doing the same fight 4 different times for 1 tier.

      I've the same boss on LFR, normal, heroic and mythic. Yes, they might be slightly different. Sure some are harder than others. But they are all the same fight. The fight makes the fight, not the mechanics. So adding or removing mechanics does not make it a new fight. Blizzard needs to realize that.

      My guild was in full BRF heroic gear (even if we never downed BH we were doing everything else for a long time) and even some mythic gear, and we still got wrecked when we stepped into HFC heroic. You could not move from heroic to heroic. You had to go do normal first. So that was a problem.

      I agree with you, and they originally said that normal would go from normal to normal and heroic would go from heroic to heroic, but it did not work that way. At least not for a great many guilds. While we are a casual guild we were never a "bad" guild and going from heroic to normal makes it feel like we are. Making your players feel "bad" is not a good way to keep them playing and happy.

      For archie I would have said a straight drop to add health would have been a better nerf. The end is easier now, that is for sure, but I think they might have went a little too far. The shadows being removed I can accept, but the beam should have stayed.

      I did not notice anything different on mano either, I do not think they changed anything, but it was easy on normal to begin with so not sure where they could have nerfed it to begin with unless it was lowering add health there too.

      I was talking to someone the other day saying what hurt me, as a player the most this expansion when it comes to raiding is the fact I went from being "decent" to being "bad" near instantly.

      I was a cutting edge player in SoO, I was barely ahead of the curve in HM, and I did not even kill BH in BRF.

      Cutting edge, to ahead of the curve, to not even completing the raid, is that short of time. If that does not kill someones desire to raid, I do not know what would.

    2. Siege lasted for forever. Compare Highmaul with, say, MSV and Heart of Fear.
      Heroic seemed indeed a bit harder than usual, but not by a whole lot. But there's other things to factor in - Summer, 20 players for Mythic, pugs and boosts as better alternatives. I don't know, my wish to raid almost completely died out, not even sure if it's something from the game or if it's me. Probably me. Highmaul was garbage though.