Finally home and sitting on the sofa and starting to tackle the blog post of the day. I ended up taking the day off from work to make sure I was able to do whatever my wife needed me to do this morning. She however has been successfully ferried to the airport, and while I got turned around leaving the airport I got to flex my knowledge of the backroads of North Tulsa to get back home. I am going to have to master highway 11 this summer during the Twitter Math Camp, where I am serving as a shuttle driver. However for the time being I am nice and safe and home.
When I got here it was really nice out, so I opted to go for a little walk rather than having to do all of it this evening. The thing this highlighted however is that I apparently need to try and find some earbuds with a longer cord. If I moved my head too quickly they ripped out of my ears and went flailing to the ground. If I am going to make it through the nightly ritual of walking I am going to have to do it to music. So after while I guess I will make a trip out to target or best buy and see what I can find. Once upon a time I had a set of head phones that had little behind the ear clips, so I am thinking I need to find a pair of those.
For some time now an infographic has been circulating around the internet outlining the “12 step process” for raid attunement in Wildstar. I admit when I first saw it, I was extremely hesitant because it is quite the ordeal… however the longer I have “lived with it” the more I think it might be just want the doctor ordered. I talked about my feeling regarding attunements and skill checks this weekend on the AggroChat podcast, but this mornings post is completely devoted to two excellent posts I read yesterday from Liore and Syl about the subject. I am not going to preface or summarize the posts, because you really need to just read their own words on the subject. Instead I am going to go off in my own rambly direction to talk about skill gates and attunements in general. If you are curious about the 12 step image… it is spanning the right side of the page… for dramatic effect.
Once upon a time in another life I was a somewhat successful raid leader in World of Warcraft. I lead a few raids during the 40 man era, but got really serious about doing it during the Burning Crusade 25 man era with the non-guild based raid groups of NSR and Duranub Raiding Company. I know the pain that attunements can be all too tragically as a raid leader. In order to get fresh blood into your raid, it meant either you spent time running old content and gearing those players up… or you resorted to stealing members away from fledgling raids that were maybe not as highly progressed as your own.
The problem with the World of Warcraft attunement system, was that it required an entire raid to complete. This was a constant drag on the raid system, and meant lots of players would have to join one raid just to get keyed to be able to join a bigger one. This system invoked so much animosity, just like it did back in Everquest where the system really saw the first light of day. During the Planes of Power expansion, getting keyed for various planes became a power vacuum that only a few elite guilds allowed anyone to have. Considering the raid designers for World of Warcraft were themselves the leaders of these elite raids… it was not surprising that the keying system ended up something very similar.
The problem is that the attunements also served as a way to gate the content, and provide a level of gearing that you must be able to get past in order to proceed. To some extent they have tried to do this with item levels, but that in itself is also inefficient. Just because a player has a really high gear score, it tells you nothing about their ability. I’ve known more than a few players who have reached high gear score out of persistence, and still perform horribly in a raid environment. For ages these games have needed an objective measure for just how prepared a player is for the encounters contained within a raid. Nothing feels worse than having to be that raid leader, and tell a player that they simply do not perform well enough for the raid to carry them along.
One of the best mechanisms I have seen in a game to gate based on player skill… is the not terribly creatively named “Gatekeeper” encounter in The Secret World. In fact I have gushed about the need for this encounter on more than one occasion, but the latest is in the “WoW Needs a Gatekeeper” post. This encountered required you to complete a specific test designed to exemplify your ability to heal, tank or dps nightmare level content. Your reward for completing it, was literally the ability to get to the nightmare level gates in the game. As a DPS player at the time, I have to say that the test fully prepared me for the rigors that would be Nightmare difficulty content, and I am sure eventually raid level content.
What was so great about the encounter was that it was entirely personal. No one could carry you through it, or even assist you. You had to come to a solution to the puzzle of how to complete all of the necessary tasks to progress forward. This type of skill gate draws a clear line in the sand between the players that are ready and the players that are not, and takes a lot of the stress off the raid leader. I don’t like elitism, but raiding was never one of those things designed for the masses. It is designed to be an extremely rigorous skill based activity, much like high level PVP. The harsh reality is that not everyone should be able to raid. That is not to say that I don’t think there should be valuable high end content for everyone to complete. But I don’t necessarily think that raiding should be something that every player has the expectation of being able to do.
Why Wildstar Isn’t Evil
One of the coolest things about the Gatekeeper encounter is it gives players a shared struggle that they had to get through to be able to progress to the next level. My friends and I still to this day talk about what a colossal pain in the ass the dps version was. It took me 25 tries and I think it took my friend Warenwolf around 30… because we were both too damned stubborn to respec to the “optimal” path to complete it. We beat the damned thing on our own terms, and now carry it as a badge of honor. This is what raiding used to be, not about elitism, but about defeating something really hard together as a group and carrying with it a sense of pride in that accomplishment. I honesty feel like Wildstar is trying to return to that era when you felt like you earned every inch of space in each dungeon or raid you completed. I for one am fine with this change, even if it means I will likely never be able to raid again. I just hope that they put in content to keep me entertained in my casualness.
The main reason why I feel like the Wildstar attunement process is just is the fact that for the most part it is a personal journey. Steps 1-5 are entirely soloable, or at the very least zone events that will likely have other players completing them without the need for a premade group. Step 6 requires a group but should be able to be completed through pugging if you need to. To be honest every single achievement listed in the attunement, is either solo or something you can accomplish with either a freeform group inside of the zone, or puggable through the dungeon finder system. Sure you can get your guild to help you out significantly on several of the steps, but the length of the quest chain means that not many guilds will be dragging players through it. This means the onus of the entire event is on the player, and not on a guild or a raid to “catch them up”. So while it is not a one stop shop like the Gatekeeper, I feel it creates a sufficient skill gate to make sure that the players are prepared for raiding in Wildstar will likely mean.
I feel like Wildstar is a game with so much casual but challenging content, that there is always going to be something for the players that cannot raid to do. While World of Warcraft has made so many steps to make raiding an inclusive thing… it feels like it lost the epic quality that it used to have along the way. Some of my best moments in gaming came from Vanilla and BC era raiding, because when we FINALLY downed a boss… it felt like we had done something spectacular. When I got that tier set… it felt like it was a long fought struggle… and not something I gained by simply “putting in enough time” or “grinding enough currency”. I feel like raiding could definitely use an infusion of hardcore again, even like I said earlier… if that means I won’t be able to participate.