Dances with raiders

If you’ve ever used the term “dancing” pejoratively when you talk about raid gameplay, you absolutely need to read this blog post from Alexander Brazie on how he fucked up the Netherspite encounter, specifically naming how and why it ended up becoming a “dance”. I’m so convinced by his definition that I have to concede that this term can be useful for describing a specific type of raid gameplay.

But I maintain that the word has been used unfairly way more often than it has been used fairly. I’ve seen a clear pattern of mid-range guilds whose raiders lack the situational awareness to “play” encounters as intended, so the leader must resort to dictating specific instructions just to keep people from doing the wrong thing. This type of raiding group makes encounters into a dance, and to be fair it clearly works, for the simple fact that most people are better at following instructions than thinking for themselves. It’s just another example of players taking the efficient route to success rather than enjoying the game as intended.

The root issue has always been that the raiding game was too difficult for a majority of players, a criticism that Blizzard has more than owned up to, and today’s range of difficulty levels are a incredible improvement. It’s so vitally important for any game to match itself to the skill level of the players.

I’m reminded of this pervasive idea of the “Patchwerk fight”. Pervasive despite the first rule of Patchwerk fights being that you don’t talk about Patchwerk fights because they are boring and raiding is so much more than that. I don’t disagree.

But players love these fights. Players love the pure throughput environment, simply because this kind of sustained DPS/healing check gives them the (rare?) opportunity to kick into top gear, to use every cooldown, every proc, and for once not worry about distractions like target switching or ramping or delaying abilities to run away. It’s like a drag race for your WoW toon; less about finesse and more about who has the fastest engine and knows how to drive it.

Perhaps this drag race metaphor better illustrates some players’ overwhelming tendency to play chicken with deadly mechanics.

The problem with Patchwerk fights is they are only relevant at gear level; once the raid’s throughput passes a point the switch flips to trivial. I wonder if it’s at all possible to save this type of fight from sudden obsolescence by implementing mechanics that scale with your raid’s throughput. Not so far as to negate gear, but just enough to stop the encounter from becoming trivial overnight.

I suspect that there is a very large group of players who genuinely enjoy standing still and DPSing and are more than happy to ignore raid mechanics as much as possible because their combat mechanics alone are intrinsically fun and/or because competing with others in the same role is the main goal for them.

Social competition is a stronger motivator than we realise. In the end it’s the same old human story; we covet our neighbour’s ass, so we feel compelled to spend three years grinding to get the same mount to drop for us.

2 thoughts on “Dances with raiders

  1. We've ran into that to a certain effect on Norushen in Siege of Orgrimmar. In the last 50%, the faster you kill him, the faster AoE adds spawn, and the more raid damage goes out.

    Or Nefarian in BWD. Lightnings the raid every 10% of his health so it's harder on the healers if you go too quickly.

    Used sparingly, I think it's an okay mechanic so that you as a raid control how fast you take them down (as fast as you can manage, generally).

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  2. Norushen is absolutely my favourite example of a “Patchwerk” healing fight. This fight is dominated by a well-player monk simply because our aoe healing throughput is (was) that strong and this fight actually could output enough raid damage to use it all.

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