Friday, September 18, 2009

September Blues

Without fail, August/September always seems to be a bad time for raiding guilds. My first raiding guild, Full of Crit, broke up in August. I then joined Wandering Alliance who was also having issues, but we worked them out. I ended up leaving them in August of last year in part do to attendance issues. I then joined Lastt Standd and it survived little more then a month. I can't really fault the timing for that one because Lastt Standd was full of fail in the leadership department, but I'm sure it didn't help. Then I joined Lords of Eternity almost exactly a year ago.

Once again, a key factor in me joining LoE was the September Blues. I originally applied in August, but was turned down due them already having a moonkin and not needing a lot of people. Less then a month later they lost a few people including a GM and another officer and drama ensues. So, in September they had a spot for me.

What I find most spectacular about the situation is that LoE has been a very stable guild for the year that I've played with them. Much more stable then my other guilds. We lost people here and there but the core remained strong and we never needed to recruit more then a couple of people at a time. However, in the last 2 months we've lost 9 core raiders for various reasons. The September Blues strike again and our progression slows.

The Systemic Problems:

September is like the Monday of the year. We are just coming out of the Summer (the weekend) and it is time to buckle down and do the normal things in life. Kids have to go back to school. Work generally slows down a little in the Summer, and now it is picking back up. Not to mention all of the other distractions that come back into play, like new TV shows and sporting events.

This is a time of year when people reevaluate there lives and reset their priorities. Therefore, I think it is somewhat unavoidable that guilds go through a rough patch at this time of year. You can't fault someone for rededicating themselves to the things I think we all feel are more important then WoW: Family, School, Work.

However, is it all Systemic?

Blizzard's Part:

Last night our raid was very frustrating, at least for me. Due to a series of player and technical issues we had a little more down time then usual. During one of those down times our Raid Leader decided to make a mini State of the Guild Address. He talked about a couple of different things but I thought one of them was very insightful.

Most of our recent losses aren't people leaving the guild, but people leaving the game. A couple have expressed their dissatisfaction with the game in general, but most of them have sited personal reasons for the departure like work and family. Once again, I won't fault them for those reasons, but I think most of us have personal reasons why we could leave the game. The point was that some of those personal reasons while important and real, are to some extent being used to cover up some level of dissatisfaction with the game, and that if the game was more compelling that some of those people may not be stepping away.

Let's look at the current state of raiding. Honestly, Tier 7 was a joke when it was released. Ulduar was fun and exciting when released, but it has lost its luster like all instance due after repeated clears. The Ulduar Hard Modes still hold some interest for me due to the Achievements, but the once uber gear is now just so so, compared to the better gear you can get from the Loot Pinata that is ToC normal. I don't think Loot is the main reason any of us play, but it is extremely dissatisfying to know that Firefighter is one of the hardest achievements in game, but has lesser rewards then a boss like Northrend Beasts that we could one shot without ever seeing before and reading half formulated strats.

The Quality of ToC:

ToC is the most bipolar instance ever created. First look at ToC normal mode. My guild one shot or two shot every boss in there the first time we saw it. In the 6 or 7 weeks that it has been available 10,055 guilds have cleared it according to WoWProgress.com. By comparison, in the 5 MONTHS Ulduar has been available 8,017 guilds have cleared it on normal after several nerfs. Sorry, but numbers don't lie. Either ToC normal is to easy or Ulduar normal is to hard. I think ToC is to easy, and the fact that you can get 245 ilevel gear for basically just showing up makes it really hard to get motivated for wiping in Ulduar on hard modes.

Heroic, ToC on the other hand is very tough. Only 13 guilds have cleared the instance which is to be expected only a couple of weeks after the instance is available. About 1500 guilds have killed Heroic Beasts. That doesn't seem that out of wack (though I would have thought it would be higher) for what I think hard modes should be, but I have other issues with the instance.

My guilds experience may be exceptional, but judging from the forums and such it isn't that unusual. One of the main problems we've had with Northrend Beasts heroic has been technical issues. Last night, one of our Tanks would DC every time the Snobolds would spawn, making the tank transitions impossible. Other guildies had similar DC issues, and just for the record, there were no commonalities between them. They had different ISPs, lived in different parts of the country, there hardware was different, and none of them have severe DC issues in other instances. I hate to blame the DCs on the instance, but at some point it becomes to much to be a coincidence.

The most frustrating aspect of the Northrend Beasts encounter is despawns. You don't know how many times we've started to make a good transition from Gormok to the Wyrms with everyone alive to have the wyrms freaken despawn. It makes me want to punch babies.

Again, I hate to blame our lack of progress on ToC heroic on technical issues, but how can we work the kinks out of our strategy if technical issues prevent us from playing normally?

My Thoughts:

I think several of Blizzard experiments have failed miserably.

  1. Having 4 versions of the same instance is way to much. I sometimes forget which version I'm in. When we did Beasts on Wednesday I started to get excited by how well it was going after wiping on it all Monday and the previous Thursday, then I remembered "oh yea, this is the normal version." On top of that I have been running both the 10man versions as well.


  2. Emblems for Tier Loot: I liked how I could complete my tier set with badges in Naxx and Ulduar if I got unlucky with drops, but the new system in ToC completely sucks. If your looking to build a set of T9.245 it will take you a minimum of 5 raid lockouts to complete it, and that assumes that your clearing all 4 versions of ToC every week and doing the Heroic daily every day.

    Lets look at it from a more realistic point of view. Currently I'm clearing both versions of normal ToC each week, and kill 3 bosses in the heroic version of the 10man. I also do the daily about 3 times a week for 45 Emblems a week. At this pace it will take me 7 raid lockouts to complete my Tier set. That may not sound that bad, but remember that requires me to run the same instance at least 3 times a week and to do 3 5mans that aren't a challenge either.

    What if I can't or don't want to run 10mans? All of a sudden I'm down to 20 or 30 Emblems per week and it takes me 10-12 weeks to complete a set, and this is without picking up any of the other Emblem loot you might want like the Idols.

    The new Tier loot system encourages you to do busy work and instance below your level that have no value to you other then the emblems. Blizzard has sold the concepts of 10man vs 25man and normal vs heroic by saying it gives players options to play the way they want to play and see content. Well this system takes those options away by rewarding Quantity of play rather then quality of play.


  3. I think Blizzard has put together a strong system for inducing burnout. ToC was released to quick before most players were ready to leave Ulduar. The normal version is to easy, devalues the Ulduar experience, and makes guild management more challenging. Heroic ToC seems to have several technical issues and is probably a little hard for being the first boss in an instance.

    So players are now put in a strange situation. We have Ulduar which is well designed and balanced, but the rewards for your accomplishments are minimal now. We then have Normal ToC which is a cake walk with great rewards but can be cleared in under an hour easy. Finally we have Heroic ToC which is a little buggy and a little hard, but has great rewards. Basically we are being encouraged to clear a set of bosses in under an hour and then wipe on the same set of bosses for the next 8 hours, while ignoring a good instance because of its lesser rewards.


Recruitment:

I don't really want to use my blog for guild recruitment, but a small blurb won't hurt. We run highly focused raids 3 times a week for a total of 9 hours, but have success similar to guilds that raid twice as much as we do. We are currently looking for Ranged DPS and Healers but will consider applicants in other rolls as well. If you want more info you can find our recruitment forum here. Our application is here.

19 comments:

Theta said...

Great post. Really spot on with the problem of having 4 versions of one instance. Folks are going to be bored to tears with it in weeks, well before Icecrown comes out. It'll be the opposite of the problem this time around where there was still some life left in Ulduar before they dropped an instance that made it obsolete.

On an unrelated note, is this some sort of test for prospective copy editors?

Lherin said...

We always have a bit of trouble in september. Though this year it does seem a bit worse. I think we've had 5 people leave the game in the last 3 weeks.

Broken196 said...

Are you looking for another moonkin? lol

Kiiba - Arygos

Chris said...

I look at the loot token equation differently:

Every time a Trophy of the Crusade drops, an additional 3*25=75 Emblem of Triumph also drop. This means that every Trophy of the Crusade that drops comes with all of the tokens needed to buy a piece of 245 gear... it's just that *you* don't get them all.

By the time your guild has earned enough trophies for 4 pieces of tier for everyone, chances are everyone who has showed up to the raids will have the emblems. Therein lies the true secret: Blizzard have [re-]invented DKP. There was a bit of a grey area when ToC was new, but if you've cleared just 25-man every week, you've got the emblems right now to cash in.

The short version of the story is that I am perfectly happy with my 2t9 and am spending every emblem I have in excess of 50 in order to get some off-spec feral gear.

I do wish they'd let us trade in 232 + trophy + emblems for 245.

Jonny said...

nice post Gray. i agree with you in every single point, but would like to add something. Actually, I think, you forgot about another issue! Maybe, it is not the fact you have experienced. but at least in my environment, there were last year lots of peeplez that were unsatisfied with WoW an decided to try something new. Last years September and this years have a similarity. A Mmorpg is/was released. Warhammer and (maybe) Aion just tend to draw off the attention from Wow, what causes Raid guild to have issues to arrange there Raids.

Some of them come back in one or two months.. only a few will be gone forever ...

This year my guild managed it quite well though, but its still
a loss for the guild if members are gone, that were a part of that guild for ages now! At least for. Probably its also because I dont play this game anymore, because of its exciting content, but, as i have to admit, because of the people i play with...

Cheers Jon

Laura said...

Captured my sentiments exactly.

Graylo said...

@Chris

I hadn't thought about the Tier 9 system that way, and you make a good point. However, it doesn't really work out that way. You have a handful of raiders who raid everything they can and as many emblems as possible. Then you have another group of raiders with time issues that can't to 10mans or 5mans. Then you have the people that get board and quit taking their emblems and a couple of trophies with them.

I just think the old token system was better.

@Jonny

You know, other MMO's may pull wow players away but I don't think it is that big of a deal. If you like WoW your not going to leave WoW. So while a new MMO might be a catalist its not the root cause.

Cazenovia said...

A quick comment that your RSS feed somehow isn't working for me anymore -- none of the September posts have made it through! Catching up now, though ^__^ (I'm not sure if it's just me or if the problem's widespread, either, so no help with troubleshooting unfortunately)

Shobi said...

I totally agree with everything you said. I was my guild's only boomkin and my guild raided three nights a week like yours. Because I spent a good chunk of my time three nights a week raiding, I didn't spend a lot of other time playing the game outside of my guilds raiding slots, so I wasn't getting the daily heroic emblems or the 10-man emblems.

Last week I deactivated my account and quit my guild because I hated patch 3.2 so much, for all the reasons you have mentioned. I didn't mind that T7 was a cake walk (it's good to have a low level raid that people can pug), and I thought that Ulduar was the perfect step up in difficulty. I honestly thought that 3.2 would be another step up, rather than the joke it was. I am so disappointed with Blizzard; I doubt I will ever come back to the game. If they keep this up, we'll have people pugging 25 man Icecrown and downing Arthas after 4-5 weeks, because Blizzard wants to "make sure content is accessible to everyone".

Thanks for all your work on your blog, I have used it immensely over the past year! Maybe Blizzard will wake up and realize that they are losing players over this shift in philosophy, but I really doubt it. There are too many players out there who love to just run heroics and get T9.0 while pugging 25 man ToC for free loot.

Kai said...

I have to say I agree as well. The trend that Blizz has been going in doesn't only say 'lazy' to me but they seem to be focusing more and more on 'time sinking' the player (ei. ur math on T9). and then what do they do to reward us for all the time wasted?? Nerf instances, open higher end badges to everyone, and promo an X-pac that rehashes old content... sigh...

And the x-pac is the most glaring example. No new classes, no new hero classes, no new talents, "path of the titans" = time sink
"archeology" which is needed to accelerate PotT = time sink, reusing old content. Even if they are reworking it, that's like taking day old bread and adding butter...it's still old!!

My guild has lost over 1/2 of its core raiders this summer. Mostly due to bordum with wow which is sometimes coupled with a RL "reason" other times not.

Catering to the "casual" player is no better than nerfing classes to balance PVP. It only makes those of us that play the core part of WoW, the PVE and raids, feel like we've gotten sucker punched.

Give me a game that plays as good as WoW, but the company backing it still cares what they put out there, and I'll be canceling WoW.
O what's this...Aion..hmmm

~Gargen said...

On my Realm, Vek’nilash, we have lost our top five or six Guilds or so to other servers. The lack of quality players is the most common response when asked why but I think it has to due with people dropping off the game like flies which is creating the lack of raiders. I think the fall of Vek’nilash began when all the accounts that had a toon that raided with Marvel Family’s guild were banned, some 55 plus people. Just Google the “Martin Fury,” for info about it.
The majority of people on our server don’t know how to play. By this I mean that they don’t understand how to run groups/raids and they expect things to be easy. Sure they might have 5 toons at 80 with all skills to 450 but they cannot even finish 10 man Naxx. I have said it before and I will say it again, I am seeing a boom in over geared and seemingly under educated players. I have been thinking of leaving WoW because it is loosing it’s fun factor. The fun for me is progression and when they started handing out loot like it was [Shinny Bubbles] I was pissed. The Conquer gear I had worked so hard to get became common place. Ull itself became Naxx and Naxx became a joke to lvl alts but not to most. Most are still having problems clearing Naxx in our realm due to their lack of understanding. But these same /fail players and guilds expect to be in ToC and Ull clearing content and they just can’t figure it out… Maybe I am getting a fat head or a 1337 attitude… Maybe I have the September blues as well…

@ Kai
We are loosing four guild members to Aion. They have reserved names and seem pumped for it.

Fowltempered said...

Great post Gray. While we've lost fewer people, this is a common occurrence and even those who have "stuck it out" are extremely dissatisfied with the game.

I've maintained the stance that Icecrown better be freaking awesome for me to keep raiding at the level that we are now (4 nights / week). Even at that light schedule, it's tough to stay motivated in order to clear an instance 4 times a week. It's also boring =P

Aion is less than stellar, and Blizzard is lucky that the game won't really siphon away its playerbase. While I always thought it would take another MMO to get me to stop playing WoW, if Icecrown is mediocre, I'm not so sure any more.

Megami said...

Like clockwork, fall is the death knell for raiding guilds. Every guild I've been in has trouble with attendance during this time.

My guild I've been with for 2 years decided to go casual so people didn't waste evenings waiting for others to log on, but pretty much everyone ended up quitting, transferring or joining other guilds.

There was talk of reforming during our own "State of the Guild Address" after awhile, and I dare to hope it happens. Having a break from the raiding grind is nice but now I really don't have much of a reason to play since my friends have left.

Solon said...

I have a couple of suggestions for your technical issues.

(a) Don't raid on Tuesdays. There are too many people in there.
(b) Not using wireless helps. Still, my guild hasn't fixed the DC issues.
(c) The worms despawn if everyone on their threat list dies. This usually happens because someone is standing right on top of their spawn, they get one-shot during the spawn, and they disappear. Back away during their spawn, and this shouldn't be an issue.

Boldboblet said...

I have to agree with what is being said here, we are having similar problems on bdf. I am also getting very fed up with players who say they are good geared (mainly with welfare epics) but have absolutely no idea on how to play their character. We had to work hard to get our gear back in tbc, but now it has gone downhill since Ulduar, if Icecrown is not awesome then I'm out of the game.

Lilly said...

Really great post. I mean it was like reading my own thoughts.

I am an officer of a young guild which really would like to achive something and ToC is screwing us big time.

Just before heroic ToC we did Firefighter and were really thrilled that we are finally going somewhere. Then ToC hm totally killed the spirit ... especially the technical issues. We did a little bit of tactical mistake on the Anub reset. Since 4 ToC bosses are like walk thru the park, we decided to make 2 mixed groups of mains and alts ... and Anub killed us there. Eventually we did clear normal with 2 groups but for undergeared tunes it was really a progress. Not to mention the fact that most people aren't brilliant with their alts ... I mean every class and spec needs some practice to be good. And the with only 3 days of our raiding week left for the ToC hm we hit the Beasts' chain dc wall. That was soooo frustrating. We even forsed everyone to go read some EJ topic about "how to make your game not crash" :P

Next reset, the moment noone had a single DC, we finally scored a kill ... and it was a clear one.

Today we killed Factions Champions and it seems the rest of reset is set for Twins. But I do feel the deep inside frustration within guild ... and I gues myself too. Firefighter was the last thing we killed in Ulduar :( I would love to finish at least the mount achivement and kill Algalon 25 but there isn't just enough time. Plus, as a young guild we don't have really that stable core yet but to recruit people you need to shine at progress and it feels stupid to say "we could be learning Anub hm already if not for the DCes".

I was never a type of whiner really but seriously, now I would give anything to get back the quality of raiding that Ulduar offered.

Lilija@Burning Legion - EU

P.S. I hope my comment is somehow readable since I'm sick and I don't know why I'm writting this instead of sleeping :P

rinku said...

25man hardmode gormok, twins and especially anub are for some reason completely fucked up and cause huge DC problems.
this thread helped me to stay online during anub. (part2 and part5 of the guide)

http://elitistjerks.com/blogs/cadfael/302-fixing_chain_disconnecting.html

try it out.

sonak said...

Perfect post again, same feeling, same frustration.

Blizzard killed PVE players with this patch.

3 of the biggest raiding guild on my server has disbanded since the end of summer.

I fear blizzard has really messed up with the core players.

chicogrande said...

Great post. Finally got around to reading it. Excellent observations on ToC. ToC is uninspired and boring. The fight mechanics are simplistic. The scenery...well, it's the same room over and over again. The monsters? Recycled models.

This is busy-work designed to elongate the current game content, extending it's "value" as Blizzard completes whatever next big raid thing (Icecrown).

Bring on Arthas already. I'm tired of running around on a horse mashing buttons.

Laedora of Kilrogg