So how is ‘bring the player, not the class’ working out for you?

One of Blizzard’s mottoes for raiding in Wrath was, “Bring the player, not the class.” Previously, Blizzard had attempted (with varying success) to encourage raid leaders to bring a variety of classes  — which mostly worked until one ability was so suited to a raid that experienced players were ditched so that alts or inexperienced characters of the optimal class/ spec could be fitted in.

The new strategy involved duplicating buffs and abilities more between classes. Raid leaders now had more options for assembling the optimal set of raid buffs, hopefully being now able to include the players they wanted to bring.

But how is this really working out in practice? Here’s some bullet points, based on what I have noticed:

  • Individual players don’t feel as meaningful. If there are seven different people in your raid who can provide a desirable buff or debuff, it doesn’t really matter that you’re there too. In fact, you may even end up arguing about who should provide which buff or debuff.
  • Non-optimal compositions have been really successful in normal mode raiding. (Whether this is because the buffs are spread out or because the raids are easier, I couldn’t say.)
  • Hard raids do seem to have more options than previously but some classes are still better than others. Shamans and Paladins would need to be nerfed to the ground not to be optimal in 10 man raids – they simply provide that many more buffs than anyone else.
  • If people aren’t being brought purely for one desirable buff or ability, then their base tank/dps/heal capability is the only way to stand out. I think this has tended to blur roles and make the tank/dps classes feel more similar. Healers are due to be more homogenized next expansion.
  • I still struggle to get raid spots on my dps DK alt. Maybe if it was an enhancement shaman or retridin …

Blizzard are evidently happy with the results of this policy because they’re extending it into Cataclysm. Shamans will be sharing bloodlust with mages. Death Knight and Warrior tanks will be sharing more buffs and debuffs. And there are rumours of yet more buff homogenization to come.

When it doesn’t matter what you play, does it actually MATTER what you play?

Sharing information in fights: Everyone’s a critic

I think we can agree that yelling at people in frustration is not the best way to pass on information. (See yesterday’s post and comments.)

But when we’re playing in a group in a MMO, a lot of information needs to be communicated quickly. Are we trying to focus fire and if so, does everyone know what they are supposed to be hitting at any time? Do you need to ask another player to remove a debuff from you? Have you just used a cooldown that your tank or healer or dps needs to know about? Are you going to assume someone else’s role because they just died in combat?

A lot of our abilities are designed to interlock with each other. A buff from one player might significantly affect the abilities or optimal ability use of another. If you have debuffs, you need to know when to use them. When you think about it, that’s a crazy amount of information that needs to be assimilated quickly.

So how do we do it?

  • Pre Pre-planning. This is where you discuss the fight and tactics in detail on a bboard before you even step into the instance.
  • Pre-planning. If you know what will happen in a fight, you can pre-arrange the kill order, any crowd control, any other tactics, and roughly when significant buffs will be used.
  • UI. We rely heavily on the user interface for information about when players have buffs or debuffs active on them. This is automatic information provided by the game (and the UI addons, if you use them) and doesn’t require anyone to actually say ‘I’m poisoned!’
  • Flashy graphics. Some spells just come with very unmistakeable graphical effects that no one can miss if they’re paying attention.
  • Boss cues. Some bosses will cue before they make a special attack with either a graphic or some kind of yell. Games don’t tend to use pure audio cues; I’d like to think this was in respect of deaf gamers but it’s probably just because they know a lot of people play with the sound off.
  • Text and macros. Sometimes the easiest way to inform your group or raid when you’ve used a cooldown or buff is to macro in an automatic comment on group or raid chat when you activate it. eg. ** Just used Bloodlust ** The only problem is … not everyone reads text chat in the middle of a fight.
  • Shout on voice chat. Best saved for if something really unexpected happens and pre-arranged plans have to change on the fly. Also probably best left for the raid leader.
  • We don’t. No one says or types a word. We just assume we roughly know what they’ll be doing and go with it. (Really common in 5 man instances in WoW these days, or any content where it isn’t critical to micro-manage.)

Either way, it is a huge amount of information to process and I think regular raiders often forget how enormously overwhelming it may have felt when you first tried a raid, particularly as a healer or debuffer.

Broadcasting Taunts

Given the sheer amount of information flying around, I’ve always tended to the cautious side when I’m deciding which of my abilities and cooldowns to publicise. I was thinking about this lately because with the heroic beasts fight, we do a lot of tank switching in the first part. So I picked up an addon which would automatically tell people on the raid channel when I’d used various different abilities. What I really wanted was to let people know if a taunt had failed, but I figured I might as well add an inform about Shield Wall also (it’s a tanking cooldown).

You know the worst part? Not people complaining about spam because actually no-one complained. I got the impression it was felt to be generally useful. Nope, the most difficult part about automatically informing your group when you use an ability is that … they automatically also get informed when you press the button by mistake.

You don’t realise how naked this makes you feel until you try it. I mean, OF COURSE I press taunt at the wrong time sometimes. So does every tank who ever lived, unless they have it bound somewhere really inaccessible. If it’s not being broadcast, you just whisper to the other tank afterwards and apologise. They’ll shrug it off, we all do it. If using taunt by mistake means it wasn’t up when you really needed it then you can always fake that it missed or failed. But if you broadcast your abilities, then suddenly your entire raid becomes a backseat driver. Or at least it can feel that way.

So one positive side to broadcasting my taunts and cooldowns? You can bet I’m way more careful with them now. There’s no doubt that it’s made me a better player, in that sense at least.