World of Warcraft defined a generation of games. This is something completely irrefutable. No matter how you look at it, for the past several years since WoW first came into the MMO world, every game after that point was modeled in some way to follow the success of the behemoth. Take RIFT as an example, that entire game is essentially WoW with a more diverse talent system. Even SWTOR does not shy away from the WoW model and the statements of the game being WoW in space are very founded. But without trying to force an argument over which game is better, why that game is better or how those games are not similar in any way, lets get onto topic here.
I love raiding. In all of my time playing WoW, I was a raider. In Rift, I wanted to raid, but due to lack of player numbers, that was not an option. Least to say, if I stuck around past the Beta of SWTOR, I would be raiding in that game as well. My guild leader jokes around that I am a PvP head, but in all reality, I am a raider at heart. I love the challenge of taking on giant bosses and coordinating with a group of 20 people to slay the beast and collect the delicious loot candy that pours from its highly pixilated corpse. I love the challenge of coordinating so many people to be a singular unit of sheer focus and utter destruction. Also, I like healing, but we know that isn’t in GW2 and neither is raiding.
I’ll say it again. I love raiding. My fondest gaming memories are of a raid and a particular encounter in WoW. By far, my favorite encounter I ever did was The Lurker Below in Serpent Shrine Cavern back in the Burning Crusade days. The only thing I hated about that encounter was the need for having a high enough fishing. That encounter was just completely solid. It was evenly divided into phases based on how much HP he has. He switches between a 360 cleave and has a spout that he spits out in a circular motion around the area. He has the nice little platforms and has a submerged phase that he spawns some adds. All in all, the fight worked well, the combination of simple mechanics and engaging aspects that it had made the entire encounter memorable.
My favorite raid as a whole would have to be Karazhan that was also in the Burning Crusade. It was the first raid you ever do in progression and also the first 10 man raid ever. Karazhan was also my first raid ever. I remember all the fights, Attumen, Moros, Maiden, the Opera Event, Nightbane, Curator, Illhoof, Aran, Netherspite and Prince Malchezaar. Each of the fights had vary different mechanics and each boss was memorable in their own way. The Chess Event was also a whole lot of fun and I loved trying to find ways of doing it solo. Nowadays, anyone can solo the entire instance, but going through it at 70 was some of the most fun I have ever had raiding.
While I do really enjoy raiding, I do have to admit that it is terribly flawed game design. Raid content is by far so of the least experienced content by the player base. Back before Wrath was released, the development team release information regarding how many people actually got to experience raid content and the numbers are very shocking. Some 10% of people that played World of Warcraft ever stepped foot inside of a raid instance. Shockingly, even fewer people ever got to see inside of Black Temple. Because of all that content that less than 10% of the population ever saw, Blizzard had to make some changes to how they were setting up the raids in the following expansion. The problem with raids back in Burning Crusades stemmed from many different things. One of those was the poor class design that the Burning Crusade had, some classes were only efficient as healers, the Warrior was the only tank worth anything and some classes were designed around a single encounter or a portion of an encounter. In fact, Burning Crusade was by far, the most restrictive class structure of any game I have ever seen (partly due to my never really playing during Vanilla). Essentially, if you played a class that was obsolete, you were useless and couldn’t take part in many of the raids. Because of this, not many people even bothered to raid or even wanted to because they did not want to play a class they did not find entertaining. Since Burning Crusade, Blizzard has improved class balance and made it so that any class is capable of doing any of the roles they have available. Also, because of their changes, more and more people are now experiencing raids. But raids have also lost a lot of their fun since they had loosened up the restrictions.
The other problem with current raid design is that raids have become the only interesting content in the game. Some people will disagree with me, but ever since raids in the BC, PvE players have only been interested in raid content. Because of this, most players only played through content or even leveled up a brand new character just to get that character into the raid content. After I got converted over to the raiding darkside, anything and everything in Wrath was boring outside of raiding. Not even a brand new continent could entice me, I felt like the next 10 levels from 70 to 80 were purely an obstacle to my having fun. But it is just a flaw, you have dungeons that are cool and interesting, but none of them are challenging or even interesting fights. I can’t remember a dungeon that I actually found entertaining. Even doing quests and experiencing new lore has been completely boring for me. I know this is not the case for everyone, but it is definitely how I felt and how a lot of the other people who raid feel. And if you are unfortunate to never get into a guild that does raid, than those people never find any of the content to be fulfilling. Even though I raided in Wrath, the raiding did not live up to my expectations like in Burning Crusade. I left right before Ice Crown Citadel came out.
All in all, raids are bad game design, hardly anyone experiences them and those who crave them find other content to be boring.
Other than raids, there are dungeons. Dungeons are smaller scale versions of raids that are geared towards casual players who like to defeat bosses. The problems with dungeons is that they tend to be put into auto pilot mode once you get used to them. None of the mechanics are difficult and usually you can fly blind doing them. Even with increased difficult versions like experts or heroics, they are easy enough to do so long as your team mates don’t have a death wish. Almost always, dungeons turn into repetitive tasks that you repeat over and over to gear up for the raid content further down the road. Generally speaking, most people dread doing dungeons because they are mostly just another form of grinding. So dungeons are both easy and very grindy in their nature. In fact, any content geared at casuals to some extent is grindy. But that goes back to an entirely different subject.
Only having 5 people required to do dungeons is probably why they are so appealing to casual type players over raids. Raids requiring 10/25 in WoW, 10/20 in RIFT and 16 in SWTOR means that you have to either be in a guild of people and abandon your friends, pug the remaining people and hope it works out, or have enough friends that play the game. Many people I know and have played with throughout my various years of MMOs will never step foot inside a dungeon with a pug, let alone a raid. So in all reality, raids are by far the most restrictive of content out there.
Dungeons make an appearance in Guild Wars 2. As I stated above, there are no raids in GW2. However, this means that dungeons will most likely be taking their place. Before I continue on with what I mean by that. The first bit is that like every other MMO, dungeons are divided into two groups; Story Mode and Exploration Mode. Story Mode is the initial version of the dungeon. Just like Missions in the original Guild Wars, Story Mode dungeons will be laced with story and as such, their difficulty is very scaled down. Exploration Mode is unlocked after completing the Story Mode version of the dungeon. Exploration Mode is similar to Hardcore or Expert mode in that the difficulty goes up. However, Exploration Mode is the same as the Story Mode except multiple paths unlock that you can “explore” and fight new bosses within that same dungeon. According to Arena Net, there are at least 3 separate paths that you can explore, essentially tripling dungeon content in the game.
And just like in every other game out there with dungeons, the player requirement is capped at 5. However, unlike traditional dungeons, there are no set classes required which makes any group of 5 people able to complete the dungeons. Arena Net has said that 5 people of the same class and build can do any of the dungeon content so long as the skill is there. What this means is that any casual player with 4 other friends can get together and do all the content in the game. And without raids, that means there is really no content that anyone will not be able to experience. Even if you don’t like pugging, finding 4 other people is easier compared to 15, 19 or 24 to experience raid content. But this is just evidence that Arena Net is gearing their game towards smaller populations of people rather than larger ones. The only thing that is capable of holding more than 5 people at a time is the world related content like WvWvW and the Dynamic Events.
The way I see it, these dungeons are the new raids in GW2. As there is no real raids according to the blue book standard, these will have to do as far as instanced content. The problems with having dungeons as the new raids is that people are conditioned to think a certain way when it comes to MMOs. As I said earlier, dungeons are easy content and usually geared towards casuals. I know that right now I think of MMOs a very specific way as a lot of developers have been so hell bent on copying the success of WoW. As such, we have seen games try like Age of Conan, Warhammer, Rift and even SWTOR. All of those games have the same structure but are presented in different ways. However, of all those games, RIFT and SWTOR have been the only ones that were successful, and RIFT is on a slow decline due to poor choices on the development side and SWTOR is too early in its lifespan to truly see if it will be a success or not. However, it has been 8 years since anything really new has penetrated the MMO market, and since Guild Wars was not technically an MMO, there has not really been a game that does anything unique as far as MMOs go.
Guild Wars missions are definitely difficult overall. If this is any indication on what dungeons have in store, than I feel that even though we are conditioned to view dungeons as easy content, that we will have to get used to facing hard bosses of raid caliber with only 5 people. The potential for having very interesting content is very high with only 5 people. As of now, dungeon content is very simple, few mechanics that usually come one at a time. Very rarely is there more than a single content outside of a raid and if there is more than one mechanic, the second one is almost always an aura or some other type of passive mechanic. I have a feeling that when we finally get around to fighting Zhaitan, that it will definitely be a very interesting fight with multiple mechanics.
The last thing to discuss is what this means for PvE centric guilds. As it is now, there is almost no need for PvE centric guilds. With Dynamic events being scaled based on whoever is participating in the event, in the group or not, and the maximum player amount for any instanced content. I don’t see the point in traditional PvE guilds. Maybe this is also due to my conditioned mind set, but if you are in a social guild, you should be able to complete any of the content (on at least story mode) without too much difficulty. And with only 5 people required, you no longer need to recruit large numbers of people to meet the requirements to get into a raid. I know my guild of 15ish people are probably not going to be recruiting unless they decide to release some type of raid content after launch. But as of right now, there really is not a point.I do feel that this might be the rise of social and PvP guilds. And without PvE guilds, or even the difficulty to back up the need for hardcore players, there will be a huge deficit in the player base that enjoys that type of content. I enjoy difficult content, but if all the difficulty is one or two mechanics and a very scripted battle, than I will be sorely disappointed in the PvE content of GW2 and everyone else will leave for other games because of that.
All in all, I will miss the raid. I really loved doing them during BC and I yearn for the same experiences that I had back in those days. Since Guild Wars 2 is in deed in my future, I will just have to keep those memories in the past and create a level 70 character in WoW and level lock him at 70 so he can do all the old raid content to his hearts desire. I am very excited to see where this will go. With only 5 people, you have the potential to create the most interesting of content and it definitely pushes the limit of player coordination to the max. Arena Net has the potential to raise the bar yet again with their new genre defining game, so lets see where this game takes us. I will mourn the loss of traditional raids, but I welcome this new format with open arms.
So, I leave you with this.