Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cataclysm Heroics: Making Better Raiders?

Let me say right off the bat that I do not believe that Cataclysm Heroics are overly difficult.  I also, however, do not side with the camp that argues they are too easy.  Can they be rolled by a well geared raiding guild?  Of course they can.  Do they pose a significant challenge to a randomly assembled crew fresh out of the normal dungeons?  You better bet they do.  With that in mind, are these five player instances serving their purpose?  I think they are and find out why after the bump.

Serving Old Purposes

Since the advent of Heroic Dungeons, they have served two purposes.  First, they provide endgame content for exceptionally casual instance runners and second, they provide gear to prepare players for raiding.  For the sake of being confusing, let's look at the second purpose first.  Cataclysm's Heroics provide entry level raid gear through drops, badges, and incidentally through the faction rewards earned by wearing reputation generating tabards.  With a proper knowledge and execution of the mechanics of Cataclysm's first tier raids, players decked out in nothing but the gear available through Heroics can succeed.  It is then easy to say that Cataclysm's Heroics serve their "gear farm" purpose.

Looking next to the endgame needs of the very casual, there are some legitimate concerns.  An incredibly casual player with no knowledge of fight mechanics and little gear from normal mode dungeons will not advance through a Cataclysm Heroic on his or her own merits.  They require too much coordination and the damage output is too high for such a player to succeed.  As a result, many of these players are being exceptionally critical of the level of difficulty for Heroics.  I would argue, however, that said criticism is misplaced.

For an exceptionally casual player, Heroic Dungeons are meant to serve as an endgame endeavor just as current tier raids are meant to serve as an endgame goal for more serious raiders.  They are the end of the line in terms of not only gear available, but challenge presented as well.  A player without decent normal dungeon gear or knowledge of encounter mechanics easily clearing a Heroic is the equivalent of a raider easily clearing Bastion of Twilight without any Heroic gear.  If Heroics were already easily cleared without significant time spent in their normal counterparts, a link would be missing in the progression chain and casual players would find themselves "progression capped" less than a month after Cataclysm's release.  As a result, I believe Cataclysm's Heroics serve their causal endgame purpose because they are challenging, not in spite of it.

Serving a New Purpose

Interesting, hard hitting mechanics in Heroics are not new features that were introduced in Cataclysm.  What sets the Cataclysm Heroics apart from their predecessors is that the margin of error for said mechanics is much smaller.  Whereas a failure of execution in a Wrath of the Lich King Heroic might result in a slightly longer fight or perhaps a single player's death, many mistakes in the Cataclysm Heroics will result in an irreversible if not instant wipe.  Hence the increased challenge in Cataclysm's Heroics comes not from the complexity of the mechanics themselves, but instead from the precision with which those mechanics must be executed.

Warcraft has always expected a high level of individual awareness and execution from players when raiding.  Even back in the days of Baron Geddon in Molten Core, a single player mishandling Living Bomb could wipe a forty man raid.  Aside from the number of players involved, it has been fair to say that the major difference between raid content and dungeon content is how forgiving the encounters are.

By bringing some of the punishing, high awareness requirements of raid encounters to Cataclysm's Heroics, Blizzard has allowed them to serve a new purpose.  Whereas before, Heroics were a gear factory for raids, they are now a training camp as well.  Heroic dungeons require a level of knowledge and execution much more akin to that typically reserved for raids.

While many would complain this will drive non-raiders away, I would argue differently.  Though it is unavoidable that some players will leave Azeroth in light of these new challenges, odds are most players will adapt to them.  They will learn the mechanics and, through practice, develop the skills needed to execute them.  As a result, the technical skill of the overall player base will not only increase, but also more and more players will develop a mental approach to clearing instances that translates easily into clearing raids.

Obviously, even with the conditioning of less forgiving Heroics, players without the time to raid will not raid.  For those who do have the time, however, if they have geared themselves through Heroics, they should enter Cataclysm's raids as better prepared and more aware players.  This will result in one of two things.  Either greater success amongst average raids in clearing endgame content or an open door for Blizzard to design even more complex and challenging raid encounters.  Either way, the difficulty level of Cataclysm's Heroics should improve the quality of Cataclysm's raid groups which is a good thing any way you slice it.

Is the Cataclysm Heroic Difficulty Just Right?

I am not sure if the difficulty of each Cataclysm Heroic encounter is just right, but I think the increased difficulty level is good overall.  These instances still serve their traditional roles of supplying gear and providing an endgame goal for casual players while also challenging players to improve their quality of play.  Sure, those players who do not want to set aside time to learn encounters or farm gear will be frustrated by Cataclysm's Heroics, but they still have the normal and outdated instances available for a relatively painless clear.  Also, the Heroics will become more forgiving as average gear levels rise, so even the least competitive player should be able to roll through them well before the expansion has run its course.

Do you enjoy or appreciate the difficulty level of Cataclysm's Heroics?  What long term impact do you think they will have on raiding in Cataclysm?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

6 comments:

  1. I understand Blizz's intent on making heroics more difficult. It used to be common for groups to roll thru heroic UK in under 20 minutes. I decent group could easily 4 man any heroic.

    Cataclysm reminds me more of running instances in Burning Crusade days. You had to use CC or you just couldn't get thru them easily. I used to carry a stack of heal and mana pots along with food and flask buffs. I don't think people have adjusted to this way of thinking yet and running regular instances continue to be challenging for those that are unwilling to adjust their play style. Heroics are even more demanding if you aren't willing or able to change the way you do things. The biggest problem i have seen is the healing situation. I have a holy priest and a resto druid that used to heal in 10-man ICC. I used to blow cooldowns on boss fights only and never had mana issues. I have tried to heal normal instances and it's been almost impossible to get thru them (i usually get kicked) because i just run out of mana. I have adjusted my play style to try and conserve mana and i use all my cool downs whenever they are available but it doesn't help much. I have 60k mana and i usually start out by asking others in the group to help make healing easier by using CC and making sure you don't pull threat from the tank. So far, i guess i have just been running with stubborn people because the tanks don't mark anything and just run in and grab 4-6 guys at a time. I have to burn thru all my mana just to keep them alive and when i run out, the group wipes. It isn't like i try to keep everyone at 100% health. I concentrate on the tank and may throw a hot on a dps if he gets to 50%. It just seems like my spells heal for the same amount they used to but the tanks now take a ton more damage. My heals also take alot more mana to use so having a bigger mana pool isn't helping. I may have to lay off trying to heal until i can get my mana pool up to 100k or better.

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  2. I have had the same problem with my druid. I have approx 88k mana when buffed and drunk on pots. I have not been able to successfully run a heroic. I have had to rely heavily on priests and shammys to help off heal. Even then, I have not been able to complete one

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  3. As far as the healing situation in Cata instances, I find myself extremely thrilled! It's providing a challenge in healing that I have not experienced outside of BC Heroics, and this coming from one who successfully ran my own ICC 10 as main raid healer before the debuff was taken out.

    Granted, I believe Blizzard is still adjusting the numbers and mechanics of a lot of classes. For a Discipline Priest, the Regular Cata instances are easily do-able, if a bit hard on mana if the tank isn't geared or refuses to use CC. However, much like in BC, Cata requires CC, otherwise good healer or not, the group is likely going to wipe.

    As far as Heroics go.... Well. I very much enjoy the challenge, however, doing Heroics with a PuG is not recommended for a healer, until you have at least full Epic Rep gear. With bare minimum gear requirements to enter the Heroics, it becomes not a matter of gear, but a matter of how willing the PuG is in explaining fights, using the required amount of CC, whether THEY know the fights, and whether or not the Tank knows what 'CD's are.

    Wrath certainly created a new kind of player, that quite frankly I am not happy with. Players now have an expectancy of complacency where dungeons are concerned, and even despite the preview they received with the Regular instances, from what I have seen attempting to run Cata Heroics, that mind-set has not died down to a reliable level with pick-up groups.

    My advice would be to check in-realm for groups. Ask your guildies, your friends, or just In-realm pugs. Explain to them the issues you are having in PuG groups, and gauge their willingness to comply with the heftiness of the Cata Heroic requirements. I have found on my realm (Feathermoon), that In-realm PuGs are 110% more reliable than anyone you could meet in Dungeon Finder, despite perhaps never having run with them before.

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  4. My 2 cents ...

    the main problem with Cata heroics is not how hard they are, people can adapt to that, even though I think there will be a good chunk of people who will stop trying altogether until 4.1 comes out, but how TEDIOUS they are.

    To be honest I do not find entertaining 30 minutes queues followed by 10 minutes of play followed by more time queuing when someone has to go for a dentist appointment ... and I do not find entertaining the sheer amount of time it takes to go through the instance itself.

    I have never been a hardcore raider, work commitments simply don't allow that, but I have done some raiding clearing 10/12 ICC and missing on Cindy and LK only cause I was too busy August to November, and I can see the usefulness of the new Heroics as a training ground for raiding, but they simply take too long unless you run them with your guild.

    I also believe they require in some cases reaction times that not all the WoW crowd posses, hell I know I have to move out of the void/fire/whatever kind of nasty stuff is there, but bloody give me the time to do it, considering that except for the US/Japan many other countries have pings over 500ms (that means over 1 second to add to any action at least).

    At this stage hardcore players have heroics under farming so it could be smart to dumb them down a bit ... and let's not be elitists ... cause I know there are people there who deep down (sometimes not so deep down) would like raids to be a prerogative of a small elite.

    Fact is that WotLK made raids accessible to the vast majority of players willing to put some time in them, and now they are being taken away ... not sure this is viable on the long term.

    Cheers
    Zyzzyx

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