When WildStar comes out, it is going to have raiding. It’s going to have the sort of raiding and group content that is meant to be challenging. No facerolls intended here; you’d better bring your A-game on raid night, or you will be facedown in the dirt so often that people will think you’re doing a performance piece on the Kennedy family tree.
I am not a lover of raiding. This is not difficult to find evidence of on this site because I’ve talked about the issues with group-only endgame antics on more than one occasion. Heck, I wrote about how raiding turns you into a horrible person. So you would think I’d look at what we know about WildStar’s endgame and start facepalming, possibly whilst shaking my head and muttering obscenities.
But I’m not. I’m totally cool with what we’ve been told so far about the endgame because there’s much more than just the raiding aspect in the game, and I’m intrigued by how it’s working out.
Here’s the core of the issue: It’s not that raiding is inherently an evil activity. In the piece I linked above I pointed out that this starts off as being something fun, and it’s the cycle of repeated content and personal obligation that really kills that joy. But for some people these things are still fun, and the content should exist for those people.
Over the past several years we’ve seen the idea introduced that everyone should get to raid, especially in World of Warcraft. It’s a well-meaning sentiment that also completely misses the point. By making the whole endgame raid content more approachable, you make everyone less happy.
People who genuinely enjoy raiding are less happy because content gets easier and easier. The challenge of it is part of what you enjoyed. You wanted having a boss on farm status to really be an accomplishment, something you worked hard to achieve; now it’s just a rote thing. You didn’t mind complicated processes to get into raids, requirements for certain players and classes, all of the parts that non-raiders found tedious. That was stuff you enjoyed.
Meanwhile, people who don’t naturally like raiding are less happy because you’re being told to like something. The inaccessibility and all that was just a part of the puzzle; at the end of the day, you just aren’t fond of that particular style of play. Except now you’re more and more expected to raid, and not doing so means you’re stuck in the cold with nothing more to do. This is the endgame, and it’s so easy, why aren’t you doing it?
Is this functional? At times. A lot of people wind up being not entirely unhappy. But it also isn’t a good idea because it’s based on several archaic notions all rolled into one.
First of all, not wanting to take part in big group endgame content does not mean you aren’t social or engaged with other players. I joked for a long while that I’ve been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic since launch and hadn’t clocked in a single Operation achievement. This didn’t mean I wasn’t social or invested with other players; anyone who has seen me roleplay knows how much I juggle varied character relationships and find time to quest with friends or otherwise hang out. Disliking the raiding formula does not mean I’m not invested in a community.
Games also don’t need to stymie your progress to encourage you to keep playing. There’s a delicate balance, always, between making sure you can’t see all of the game in a single day and ensuring that you’re not bored, and part of that comes through slowing down progress. But slow it down enough and the game starts becoming an exercise in boring repetition. If you find fighting bosses over and over to optimize strategy fun, that’s great. If you don’t, however, the need to do so should not be the only thing keeping you in the game because otherwise you are going to leave at the first opportunity.
Perhaps most importantly, there are other ways to make an endgame. There are ways to make solo content interesting, to provide nifty new challenges to PvP and PvE players without trivializing what raiding players are doing for fun. (In fairness to Star Wars: The Old Republic, the game does a better job than many titles of giving me something to do without big group content.) If you remove the carrot of “all the stuff worth doing is locked behind a raid wall,” some people will still raid, but you can give that carrot to people who like doing other things just as easily.
These lessons are things that WildStar seems to have taken to heart. I say “seems” only because the game is still in testing, and it remains to be seen how all of the promises we’ve been given will play out in the long run. But we know what the design goals are. We know that the developers want us playing the game however we find fun, and we’ve been told that there will be an endgame there no matter what we think is fun.
Like PvP? There’s stuff in place for epic PvP of several varieties. Like to solo? There’s an ongoing story, there are path activities, and there will be new things to explore. Like to craft? I can only assume we’ll have some crafting carrots. Like raiding? Then you will be greeted by raids that are hard, and intense, and built for people who want to be there, not the people who have nothing else to do.
Now, if we can just avoid the trap of having all the gear worth having locked behind the raid wall, we’ll be golden.
Question: If raids didn’t drop gear at all, but rather offered unique vanity rewards, would people still raid?
If the answer is yes, then do that. Allow access to gear through various small group or solo content types. The best players will still progress the fastest because they probably still have the determination to be a little bit better prepared in general (whether that’s through gear, consumables, research, organization, or something else).
If the answer is no, then we have to ask ourselves — are the raids themselves really compelling content or do we just need to make great gear that’s very hard to achieve?
I’ve been avoiding this discussion to now, because I want to know what Carbine is actually planning to do with their raiding content specifically before I pass real judgement. Actual, as in more concrete, tangible ideas instead vague ideas and platitudes of what they’re been planning. As it could go two ways: A new innovated and spectacular take on this aged MMO function that would even encourage the most hardened critics such as myself to give it a try. Or a resurrection of a dinosaur in the most draconian and epeen sense that would make WoW’s original 40 mans look like costume contest from the former City of Heroes.
That being said, what I would like to see is the following:
1) The as for mentioned innovations and takes that would compel raids most hardened critics to give it a try.
2) It can’t be a function that doesn’t end up the tail wagging the entire game like raiding does with WoW.
3) There has to be vastly more equally compelling, exciting and innovated endgame content than just raiding. None of this raiding is the cream of the crop bullshit attitude I see plaguing WoW.
4) Conversely, raiding should not be the only way to obtain the best rewards ingame. Though they can be different in respect to whatever the content maybe, but none of this “some are more equal than others” crap when it comes to gear.
You see, if they are going to allow raiding, as much as I disagree with this, so be it. But it should never the be sole focus of any game. This why I like to view WildStar as a “smorgasbord”, as oppose to “theme park” of “sandbox”. That is, it should give players lots compelling and interesting things to do in the end, with all the good stuff made available in equal helpings. And no one aspect should dominate the others or the entire game.
I really hope this is what Carbine is aiming for with WildStar. Liberal options as opposed to conservative raid or die.