Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is the Firelands to Easy?

If you take a quick look at WoWProgress.com you will see that 18 guilds went 6/7 in the first week that Hard Modes were available. Predictablely this has some players saying that Firelands is too easy, and we already have a blue response to this claim.

I am endlessly intrigued to find players judging the difficulty of the encounters and how long lived the content is by how pro players, some of the most skilled and focused players in the world, engage the content. It's a little like judging the difficulty of juggling eight chainsaws by what the best jugglers in the world can accomplish. Sure, it might be easy for them, but when was the last time you tried it?

The content wasn't designed to be 'quick'. It was designed to be epic, engaging, challenging and fun. It can accomplish those goals without being punishing.(src)
Call me a homer if you want, but I agree with Blizzard's take on this situation. I find it difficult to judge an entire tier on the progression of a few elite guilds. Here are my reasons why.

Elite Players vs. The Rest of Us:

Let me ask you this. What if a new golf course was opened in your area and as a promotion they had Tiger Woods come and play an early round to generate publicity. Would you say that the course was too easy if Tiger Woods hit 15 under par in that round? If the course was designed to be a championship level course then probably, but if it's intended to service the local population then maybe not.

If the WoW endgame was intended to test the most elite players then I would agree that Firelands is too easy, but that isn't the case. The raid encounters are designed with a broader population in mind.

The funnier part of this argument in my opinion is that as far as I know, the members of Paragon and the other 17 guilds that are 6/7 aren't the ones making this argument as of yet. If they want to say that Firelands is too easy, just as Ensidia did after Tier 7 content WotLK, then they may have a point since they've seen most of the content. However, many of the players I see complaining aren't even close to the 6/7 standard. I always think it's funny when players complain that they are bored or that content is to easy, when they haven't completed the content that is available to them. It's little like when my children tell me they don't like a food when they haven't even tasted it yet.

How Did They Get to 6/7 HM?

It’s also important to ask is how those guilds got to 6/7 in one week. We should remember that the Elite Guilds like Paragon approach new content much differently than a vast majority of guilds do.

PTR Experience: First and foremost, the Elite Guilds were on the PTR when most of the guilds are not. Tuesday July 5th wasn't the first time those guilds had seen these fights. So the first question is did they really get 6/7 after just one week of trying or do you have to consider the time they spent on the PTR. It's true that the PTR versions of these fights are not exactly the same as the Live versions, but the basic mechanics are the same. Adjusting to these modifications shouldn't be as difficult as learning the fight from scratch like a majority of guilds. I think it's very telling that the one fight that wasn't tested on the PTR is the only fight that wasn't killed last week.

Raiding Schedule: It's also very important to consider the elite guilds raid schedule. Blood Legion was already 2/7 Hard Modes before I left work last Tuesday. The elite guilds take extraordinary measures to get World Firsts at the start of a new raiding tier. They take of work and raid very long hours to try and get to kills first. I guarantee you that all 18 of those guilds at 6/7 raided at least 30 or 4o hours last week, and I would be willing to bet that many of them raided more than 60 hours last week. At the same time, most "Hardcore" guilds raid less then 20 hours a week now. Since the elite guilds put in significantly more hours you can't really compare the progression of more normal guilds to the elite guild, because their first week of raiding was equivalent to three weeks of raiding for the other guilds

Exploiting Staghelm: Being at the bleeding edge of content means that you encounter bugs and such before anyone else. Most of the time this isn't a good thing, every so often a guild comes up with a strategy that Blizzard hasn't thought of that significantly reduces the fight's difficulty. And in Firelands we have that situation with Majordomo Staghelm.

In case you hadn't heard there is a new Strategy that basically turns Majordomo Staghelm in to Patchwerk. If you've done the fight you know that it's a big dance switching him between forms with lots of stacking and spreading out. The longer he says in one form the more damage he deals and the more you switch him the more damage he deals. So the basic strat is to keep him in one form as long as you can take it and then switch.

In the new strat, guilds have used a Beast Master Hunter to tank the boss in Scorpion form with his pet. The Scorpion form's Flame Scythe is considered AoE damage and therefore didn't hit the pet. Every one else stands behind the boss doing as much DPS as possible without pulling threat off the pet. This basically takes every single one of the bosses abilities off the table. You don't have Cat form, Human form, or Flame Scythe. Since the raid is stacked behind the boss and not taking damage they also get full stacks of Concentration without any difficulty and can do 100% more damage. Literally, the fight is all about not pulling threat at this point.

Obviously this is a VERY clever strategy, but it's also clearly an exploit (though I doubt anyone will get banned for it). I guarantee you Blizzard won't be happy that someone discovered a way to completely avoid all of the bosses abilities and turn the fight into a tank and spank. I guarantee you that in the next few days you will see a hotfix that allows pets to get hit by Flame Scythe or something to that effect. So it's important to remember that some of the guilds that got to 6/7 this week got there because they used a strategy that most likely won't be available to the rest of us this week.

What Haven't We Seen?

WoW is six and a half years old, and in that time Blizzard has created hundreds of raid bosses. If you consider 5-mans that number goes even higher. At this point it's got to be difficult for Blizzard to come up with new abilities and fight mechanics that we haven't seen before or can't immediately throw into a bucket on how to deal with it. We have addons like Deadly Boss Mods and Power Auras that help us to know when we are standing in something bad or if there is an ability coming up that we need to avoid. If a mob needs to be kited or interrupted we have our go-to classes and players who we know can handle the job.

This isn't to say that Blizzard can't or won't come up with new and unique mechanics that will throw us for a loop. However, we as a player base are more educated about fight mechanics than we ever were in the past. When Blizzard throws a new ability at us most of the time it fits one of the standard buckets that informs us on how to deal with it. As a result high progression raiders are able to adapt to these new abilities more quickly than people who have not played as long or raided as much.

More 4.2 First Impressions:

I wanted this to be longer and its own post last week, but due to work issues that ship sailed. Anyway here are some quick thoughts on the other bosses in Firelands.

Alysrazor: I've done both aspects of this fight. I've been in the air and on the ground. From the ground it's a fairly standard fight. From the air, it's something completely new. To be honest I've found managing an Eclipse rotation while in the air to be quite difficult. Moving and casting the normal rotation at the same time is strange enough, but having to focusing on where the next Ring of Fire is took some of my attention away from making sure I was casting the correct spell.

Overall, I think it's a good fight, and I find the air phase very challenging. My main complaint would be that the Rings of Fire are a little difficult to see given that the entire zone is pretty much orange and they blend in pretty well to the scenery. I would like Blizzard to make them a little more visible.

Baleroc: It's probably different from the point of view of a tank or healer, but as a DPS I found this tank to be very disappointing. There's absolutely nothing to it as a DPSer. If your soaking a crystal all you have to do is make sure you keep the rotation straight. Other then that all you have to so is make sure your not near one of the spawn points and to make sure your not spread out to much to make the soaker's job difficult. Very simple in my opinion, and the heroic version doesn't sound all that impressive either.

Majordomo Staghelm: I've said in the past that my favorite fight of all time is Shade of Aran in Karazhan, and the dance of the Staghelm encounter reminds me of the dance of the Aran encounter. I like having the stack phase and then the spread phase. I like having to manage Searing Seeds and the Burning Orbs. All in all I like this fight.

Ragnaros: I have to say that this is a classic final boss encounter. It has multiple phases that build on each other. Lots of abilities to deal with. I think it has a good balance of complexity and difficulty and is a good fight. I'm not at all disappointed that my guild cleared it in the first week (without any PTR testing experience). As a guild who went 13/13 in tier 11 I think we should be able to pick up the normal modes quickly.

Heroic Shannox: Heroic Shannox was a little disappointing for me. I expected us to get him quicker. We spent about two hours using the wrong strat because we thought it was more like the normal version. Once we figured that out the fight went more smoothly. In generally I think it's a good fight for moonkin because it doesn't require a ton of movement, and our high amounts of damage reduction allow us to eat the immolation traps.

Heroic Rhyolith: We didn't kill this boss this week, but I think I've gotten a good impression of the fight. The heroic version is more complicated than I expected it to be. It's another good fight for moonkin if you can multi-dot and uses your utility well. Fungal Growth and Typhoon are great for dealing with the Obsidians. Our main issue was figuring out the steering and I think we figured that out and the end of our attempts this week. Hopefully he will go down quickly this week.

16 comments:

jam said...

I agree. Also note that in the past, the #1 reason for lack of progression was bugs. And Firelands has been in progress for polish for longer than most raids. Certainly that's what I remember reading about progression kills on Sinestra.

So considering PTR practise, non-buggy encounters, and tons of push time, you get quick wins. Though Heroic Halfus @ Dec 15 and Sinestra @ Jan 20th does hint that getting to the last boss was harder in T11 than in T12.

Graylo said...

@Jam

I don't agree with the comparisons of T11 to T12. Yes, the first Sinestra kill did come a little more then a month after the first Heroic Halfus kill, but it's important to remember that T11 was the first tier of the expansion and it occured over the holidays.

I bet if T11 was the second tier in an expanion the time between the first and last kill would be a bit shorter.

Take a look at ICC for example. The first Heroic kill happened on 2/10 and Sindragosa was killed just two weeks later. Granted H LK wasn't killed until a month after that, but everyone agrees that it was way overtuned and that the percentage buffs were needed to get it.

Anonymous said...

In you post you sound like every single guild has killed heroic Staghelm with pet exploit, which is not true. Though I think you already know.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIcUhZ4nvUs

Graylo said...

@Anon

Of course not every guild that got the kill used the pet exploit. I wasn't trying to imply that, but I know quite a few of them did. As I said in the post, with out that exploit quite a few of the 6/7 guilds would be just 5/7.

Gevlon said...

I noticed something very interesting about Firelands progression:

Your guild is now #239 on wowprogress. On T11 it was #522. My guild is #8200 and was #17000 in T11. The server first of our server is #543, was #1091. On the other hand many guilds killed nothing or little.

Many other guilds did such jump. I'd guess WoW became "smarter" instead of grindy. It also explains how can it be called "easy" when most guilds are struggling with 1,2 bosses:

solving dsin(x)/dx takes 1 seconds to someone who learned maths and impossible to those who didn't. So if you set this task to people, 5% of them will say "bleh too easy", 95% will never ever solve it.

Cobane said...

I'd like to take issue with the notion that there's anything "elite" about many of these top guilds. I raided all last tier with Exodus-Ysondre as their main moonkin and finished US 5th/World 17th. Blizzard used the "Will Hunting" analogy and you've used the Tiger Woods analogy to describe these people. They understand game mechanics, don't get me wrong, but better than those who choose to play 20 hours or less a week during progression they are not necessarily. Saying fast progressing guilds are full of Will Huntings is saying they're geniuses at the game just like Hunting was at math. But these people do in fact take sometimes 60 hours a week to do these mechanics. Basically it's like taking a math test with no time limit while the rest of us have 3 hours. Generally we call people with extended time on a test "special needs" not genius. From experience I know that people in more casual guilds are just as good at the game as some of these "elite" but don't have the time to spend on it as they do. So when gauging these people to yourselves, remember to factor in time spent by hours and not by weeks taken. You may be surprised with how many of you fit the "we are leet" group. Essentially, there's not much elite about finishing progression in a week or two. It's more that they're gifted with the amount of time they can put into the game all at once.

Also, from what I understand, hard modes are indeed intended to test the most skilled players. And since we are talking about clearing 6/7 hard modes in 1 week, then by that metric you should agree that the content is too easy. The encounters on normal are designed for the average player. We won't hear from Paragon or Method or the rest about their opinion of the difficulty until they defeat heroic Ragnaros. They historically do not give such opinions until the tier is finished and justifiably so. The people complaining about difficulty should follow that lead and wait until they've experienced the whole tier to comment.

On an off note, I have a new podcast I've just started about the server I play on. It includes relevant news, palyer interviews, and a commentary section. Please check it out: intheshade.podomatic.com

Syl said...

A nice writeup. I really never believed it to be a good idea to take the upper 0.1% of worldwide raidguilds as a good example to judge the diffoculty level of instances in WoW. these guilds have an entirely different aim and approach and just because somebody clears the instance in the first 2 weeks, means nothing to the average raider. there have always been superfast guilds like that (way back it was D&T or Nihilum).

It's not the primary target audience of Blizzard either. hardcore raiding is a dying breed in WoW, imo does not exist for a good while to be entirely honest. and that's what many players surely wanted ever since vanilla; more accessible raids, lower requirements.

Oddly enough though, there is this a bit of a paradox here: I only just wrote an article on the "preparation panic" for Firelands which seems to be spreading a little since 4.2. - so at least a few players are actually worried that it's too hard / they won't be prepared well enough, while at the same time others worry things are too easy? beats me.

Graylo said...

@Cobane

There's a lot to address in your comment, so I'm going to brake it down into a list.

1. Due to schedule constraints I've never had the opportunity to even try for a guild like Exodus, but I have played with players who were long time members of guilds like Fusion, Premonition, Blood Legion, and Exodus. I've been in very casual guilds, progression focused but incompetant guilds, and some extremely skilled guilds with limited schedules.

In short, while I could be wrong, I think I have a pretty good idea of the difference between the Elite guilds , the good guilds, and the crappy ones.

2. I'm not sure if you read my entire post, but acknowledge in the post that the elite guilds spend significantly more time learning the fights in early weeks then other guilds do.

3. I completely agree that there are a lot of excellent players out there that play for mediocre guilds, but could survive in the elite guilds if they were willing to make the time or the switch, but my post was talking about guilds not players.

4. Your statements aren't backed up by the facts. If the only difference between the elite guilds and the rest is time, you would expect to see less consistancy at the top, but some how Paragon keeps getting all of the major world firsts and the other guilds that fill out the top 10 are extremely consistant. Plus they do it with fewer system advantages like gear and nerfs.

At the same time you have plenty of guilds who claim to be progression focused and raided 15 hours a week for six months and still somehow didn't get 13/13 Hard mode in tier 11.

5. The guilds at the top are there for a reason, and it's more then just time spent. I agree that if a guild like mine who raides 12 hours a week started raiding 60 hours a week we would be close to 6/7 as well, but there are a lot fo guilds who raid raid a lot of hours who don't match the progression of the elite guilds when even when you take time out of the equation.

Cobane said...

@Graylo

Indeed, I did read the entire post. My comments were not to point out how you missed the time component or to somehow say that you don't know what a quality player/guild is. I'm just taking issue with the aggrandizing terminology used to describe these guilds' players. 'Elite' implies being better in all ways. Many players feel inferior skill-wise when the term elite is used, but skill isn't the whole reason these guilds are so quick to advance. If people want to progress faster, they shouldn't get discouraged because they think they've reached thier skill cap. Try and improve your guild's logistics first. With that said, two primary factors differentiate these players from the casual; They spend an enormously large portion of time per week doing these raids and preparing for them and they are all driven to not be held back by playing with friends, family or other typical attachments many players hold on to in guilds not full of similarly skilled players.

I, too, think Paragon and Method are head and shoulders above the rest of the guilds and do consist of extremely quick studies. Paragon is an exceptional guild, but they do have some external advantages to playing the game that keep them on top that many do not (granted, this particular guild earned all these advantages back in Ulduar): Top of the line hardware from sponsors, payment for playing with sponsor titles (DREAM) so they can take more time off work, and are gifted with members able to do a lot of software programming to dissect logs. They're also gifted with amazing organization. They use instant fraps and guild video reviews of previous pulls, and level and gear many alts simultaneously for players to bring into raids as needed.

Basically, this all ties back into my original analogy of having more time on a test than the rest of us do and are more 'special needs' than 'genius.' Tell a guy to study for a math test over a few months and he'll be prepared and definitely pass. Give that same guy a few months to study, pay for his time off work, buy him all the top review guides, tutors, and hardware and he'd finish in the 99% percentile every time. So, is there something 'Will Hunting' about these people? No. Hunting could walk in with no training and rock a professor's world. Instead of elite, I'd probably call them 'privileged'. Case in point is you, Graylo. I think you're an amazingly intelligent Moonkin player who knows and can play this class sleeping, sideways, and 2 different ways on Sundays. But you admittedly don't have the time to play with these fast progressing guilds. If anything, I'd call you 'elite.'

P.S.- Your post is, in fact,talking about elite players and not guilds. One of your section titles is "Elite Players vs. The Rest of Us:." You also can't separate a guild from it's inherent components.

Cobane said...

One last thing to mention. I've also got a lot of friends in top guilds and have had experience with them personally in one way or another. There is a clear gradient in speed of progression relative to time spent per week. Guilds in the US like, Midwinter, Vigil, Eternal Reign, and Gentlemen's Club all raid 4-5 days a week for between 25-35 hours roughly depending on the occasional overtime. All these guilds are between the top 5-20 US. The guilds in the top 1-4 US all raid 7 days a week for 40-60 hours a week with the occasional overtime. The farther down the rank list you go the more overwhelmingly common it is for those guilds to raid 3-4 days a week for 9-20 hours. That's the bulk of the raid guilds. So, I would counter argue that my statement is based in fact quite a bit. Confirm the generalities of my gradient by looking at each guild's Wowprogress recruitment ads.

Waylay said...

Slight aside, but high fives for Shade of Aran. I was resto back then, and that was my favourite fight also. I genuinely got excited every time we approached his study.

neowolf2 said...

The easiest boss in FL has been done by just 20K guilds.

What you are seeing is that raiding in FL is the domain of only the best guilds, those that were doing hard modes in WotLK. The typical WotLK guild? Stuck in T11, no longer raiding, or defunct.

I suspect most of the guilds that at least tried T11 in 4.0 and 4.1 are no longer raiding.

It will be interesting to see if these numbers continue to decline in future tiers as the difficulty drives more people out.

Anonymous said...

I'd also say that the Dungeon Journal had something to do with it. I mean, tons of people now have basically strategies straight from Blizzard, and the Dungeon Journal's info was released even before 4.2 was actually released.

Anonymous said...

@ Gevlon

While i may be wrong given the way it appears on your comment but i believe your asking for the derivative of the function (sin(x)) In which case it would be cos x.

Just thought id throw that out there for any one who wanted the answer

Tom said...

I'm sorry. . I can't help it. It should be "Is Firelands too easy?" I love your blog but that one has been bugging me for a few weeks.

luis said...

i might just have arrived a bit too late to this post (which i found very interesting) but still would like to leave a comment...

when cobane said refer to the players as "special needs" when compared to all the other that can achieve the same with just a few hours of play (quoting: "(...) these people do in fact take sometimes 60 hours a week to do these mechanics. Basically it's like taking a math test with no time limit while the rest of us have 3 hours(...))" i would like like to know something:

where do the "3 hour genius" get their ideas / strategy from ?

exactly: from the "special needs'" videos