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The QueueSep 8, 2023 12:00 pm CT

The Queue: Problem solving with dragons

You would think Azeroth’s dragon aspects, powerful and ageless, would be good problem solvers. But here we are, halfway through Dragonflight, continuing to do everything ourselves. And we don’t even have wings! Life on Azeroth is so unfair.

But let’s get on with it and answer some questions.


Q4tQ Each of the known raids in Dragonflight have had fewer than 10 bosses. Do you think double-digit boss raids are officially a thing of the past, or could they return if appropriate to the raid?

I don’t think Blizzard would completely rule anything out, and if they find a story or a setting that needs to be spread out across a longer raid with more bosses, we’ll see a longer raid with more bosses.

However, I think Blizzard has realized that there’s a time limit raids need to have. Raids that are too long or too difficult make for a hard grind for players, from the most casual to the most hardcore. We saw top-tier guild Liquid bail out of the Sepulcher of the First Ones world first race just before the finish line because it was grueling, even for a team of players who were used to grueling. After 18 days of raiding and many more days of preparation before the raid opened, the guild had hit its limit — they weren’t making progress on the Jailer, and they decided to just get some sleep. Echo snagged the world first for the Jailer, and Liquid got a much more modest fifth place after everyone in the guild flew home and had a good rest.

That problem wasn’t entirely caused by the number of bosses in the raid: Sepulcher had 11 bosses, which isn’t much bigger than Dragonflight’s eight- and nine-boss raids. However, it had a number of fights that were tough enough to be end boss encounters, including Halondrus (357 pulls) and Anduin (216 pulls) before guilds even got to the Jailer (277 pulls). On top of these tough fights, set bonuses you earned in Sepulcher were so powerful that guilds were doing hundreds of Heroic splits in order to get the right set pieces to the right players. I’m exhausted even thinking about all of that.

While the average, non-World First gamer didn’t see the same difficulty levels, they did see the same grind: it was a long raid with a high number of challenging encounters. That meant the raid took a lot of time for everyone who attempted it at any difficulty level.

I think Blizzard learned lesson about how hard raids should be — and how much players can deal with — in Sepulcher, because we’ve seen shorter raids since then. But while Blizzard has been keeping raids under 10 bosses, I don’t think it’s the number of bosses that’s the important thing: it’s the amount of time it the bosses take. Blizzard could make a 20-boss raid that was not overly challenging if each boss wasn’t difficult. Or Blizzard could make a five-boss raid where each boss was very difficult. The result is the same either way: Blizzard aims to limit the overall time a raid tier takes. It just so happens that they’re doing this with raids that are a little under ten bosses, with moderate difficulty until the final couple of bosses.

But could we see longer raids again some day? Absolutely. I don’t think there’s any hard cap on this.


…a Dragonriding raid encounter? Oh, that’s going to be hilarious.

Thanks, I hate it.

I don’t dislike Dragonriding. It doesn’t make me motion sick, and I am capable of using it to get where I want to go (mostly), so I’m better off than a lot of players. However, I am bad at it. I am terrible at racing and constantly run into trees. Walls. Ceilings. If it’s there, I’m probably going to run into it.

Put this into a raid setting and, well, I’m worried. But we still don’t know what the encounter will be like. Will it be like the Nokud Offensive, where we simply use our dragons to get from place to place? Will it be like the Eye of Eternity, where we’re fighting on dragonback, with a series of unique actions? Will it be like a dragon race or gauntlet we have to get through before or during the encounter? Is this extra flavor for the encounter or a core mechanic?

There are lots of ways this can go… and lots of people who don’t like Dragonriding. I fear if the Dragonriding part of this encounter is very challenging, it’s going to push a lot of players out.

I’ll be there, doing my best, but no promises. It may well be hilarious… to players who are watching from a safe distance.


Looking over the 10.2 stuff, I got to admit I’m a little concerned about the public events.

The big problem I’ve found with the current ones is that success or failure, or even speed of success, has little to do with your own skill or gear and everything to do with “did enough warm bodies show up”, and what information we did get indicates these will be of a similar vein.

I feel like as a concept, Public events would work if your reward was primarily tied with your own contribution rather than group progress and they were all nominally soloable. They should still be designed in a way that they’ll go faster and you’ll only benefit from more people participating, but you should be able to get the best possible rewards even if you are literally the only person who shows up and have gear no better than what can be obtained from the event itself.

I feel like the events in Dragonflight have suffered from being the same event over and over again. We have lots of events, each with their own theming, but we actually have very little variety. And that means if you have a problem with one event, you have a problem with all events.

And this isn’t even a new problem. I remember working to open the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj by collecting millions of linen and peacebloom. By helping other players on my server grind out thousands drops from the hives in Silithus. I put in many, many hours grinding to do this.

And what did I get for it? Nothing. I wasn’t the one who got to bang the gong to open the gates. I could barely even participate in the opening event because lag was so bad and I couldn’t stay connected. I did get to run Ahn’Qiraj, but so did everyone else, whether they helped with the event or not.

It was an epic world event, but part of what made it epic was the fact that it happened once and then it was over. In Dragonflight we get a new-yet-similar event every patch. And they have the same problems.

Problem 1: What you do barely seems to matter. 

You’re here to help with the latest epic threat, completing a set of objectives up through a final encounter. You can rush to work and get the job done. Or you can AFK and the job still gets done. Or if you’re like me you can spend five minutes trying to figure out where you’re supposed to be going and during that time the job gets done. Whether you’re trying to help or not, the event moves forward and everyone gets rewarded for it.

This is a universal problem with group events. Some people are going to work really hard to get it done perfectly. Some people are going to try their best, but don’t know what’s going on or how to do the event or get lost or whatever else. Some people have realized the game: that participation doesn’t matter as long as you’re there, so they don’t put in a lot of effort. And gameplay mechanics don’t discourage (or encourage) any of those types of player.

Everybody gets more or less the same rewards, and it barely seems to matter that it’s a group activity. This seems to encourage gameplay where you’ll do it once or twice because it’s fun, or because you want a few rewards, or because there’s a quest for it this week. There’s limited reason to keep coming back or to put in more than minimum effort.

Problem 2: You can’t do it alone.

I’m possibly the last person to have not maxed out Renown with the Maruuk Centaur. I don’t like the hunts very much because I can never tell where I’m supposed to be, so I tend to wander aimlessly and wind up with nothing. Or sometimes just fly overhead and wind up with the final completion chest. It’s a crapshoot.

But these days you might find a hunt and you’re the only one there. You can do parts of it alone, but the mini-boss encounters aren’t soloable (or at least aren’t soloable for the average player). Enthusiasm for these events has died down under a pile of newer, more rewarding events, but these events keep popping up with fewer and fewer people participating. And that means the times I do find myself flying by one and thinking “I could get a little more rep here” I can’t, because I need more people.

This puts events in the odd place where it doesn’t feel like it matters it’s a group activity and it’s also impossible as a solo activity.

But how do you solve these problems? That’s a tale as old as time. How do you make a repetitive activity fun, engaging, and rewarding? Something players will want to do again and again? That’s the beating heart of an MMO. What we do every day in dungeons and raids and battlegrounds.

But events don’t quite have the same energy, and I pin a lot of that on how same-y they all are. With more variety, I think there’s naturally more encouragement to participation, because you have to spend a bit of time thinking about what you’re doing rather than repeating the same dance that you’ve been doing with events all year. Adding more rewards for participation — reputation, a smattering of extra event currency, or perhaps special loot you could pick up if you’re in the right place — could give players more reasons to stay active. But it’s a model Blizzard needs to keep iterating on, and I don’t think they’ve spent quite enough time making these events feel unique.

I think there’s at least some additional differentiation in the patch 10.2 events — they’re rolling out three different events, for a start — including one that Anne Stickney described as being akin to defending the payload in Overwatch.

So we may be shaking up the world event model… but it’s not yet clear how much, or whether it will be enough to keep these events interesting through the whole patch.


I’m about to disregard years of hatred for Mages for that new hat

Welcome to the elaborate game of dressup that I’ve been playing for a decade now.

And that’s all for today, my friends. I hope you have a lovely and restful weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week.

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