Grade the Raid: Encounter Reporting

Come with me on this journey.

Crow says: Man, it’s so cool that Molten Core is going to come back as a limited-time LFR event for the Warcraft 10th Anniversary.

Crow says: It would be kinda neat to have old-school raids get brought back periodically as a kind of Raid Challenge for competitive PVE.

Crow says: Hmm… you wouldn’t be able to do Raid Challenges the same way as Challenge Mode dungeons, though, because long-format raids aren’t conducive to a time attack.

Crow says: But what if you were graded on your performance in the raid, and your leaderboard ranking was based on peak performance?

Crow says: … wait… grading the raid?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through my thought process. ^_^

Essentially, this is how it would work:

  • Players are graded based off their performance against the mechanics of a boss fight.
    • We know that Blizzard designs the encounters in such a way that some damage is unavoidable (Chimaeron’s Massacre is an extreme example) but some damage is avoidable (telegraphed ground AoE effects, like Lightning Pools on Jin’rohk). Hence, players would get points deducted for taking avoidable damage, but would get points awarded for using damage-mitigation abilities against unavoidable damage.
    • Healers would get a deduction if a player dies to unavoidable damage. Healers would also get a bonus for healing done, which would account for absorbs but would not count overhealing. The idea is to reinforce that the healers have a job to do regarding keeping the raid alive, but because there are two types of damage, the healers should really only take the blame if the dead player really didn’t have any way to avoid the damage.
    • The Dungeon Journal shows us that some mechanics are flagged as challenges targeted at tanks, healers, and damage-dealers. Successfully meeting those challenges would award points, but failing to do so would warrant a deduction. For example, Dungeon Journal entries flagged for the tank typically mean “you should use a cooldown in response to this ability.” Failing to use the cooldown would constitute a deduction.
    • Completing the requirements for an achievement may alter how the encounter is scored.

Now that’s not a complete picture; there’d be a lot of intricacies to this, and it’s obviously something that would add an additional layer of work to the encounter team’s efforts. But these grading tools can be used in a variety of ways:

  • During encounter testing, it can be used as a yardstick of how all of the mechanics gel together to create the overall difficulty of the encounter.
  • It provides raid leaders with a report that shows exactly where in an encounter specific players need to improve their performance.
  • It’s a more concrete teaching tool on how to execute an encounter without relying on out-of-game resources like bosskill videos.
  • Blizzard can designate specific encounters as an occasional challenge for competition, allowing raid teams to queue for that specific encounter and try to clear it with the highest grade in the lowest time. Rewards would likely be along the same lines as Challenge Mode seasons.

RISKY BUSINESS

The clear risk is that you’ve got raid leaders who get draconic about the report and bully players for failing at mechanics. However, those guys already exist, and they either brutalize the entire raid because they don’t know who actually caused the wipe (and hope the culprit wises up out of guilt) or they brutalize someone else (usually the healers) for not being able to cover for other people unadmitted mistakes. I don’t personally like leaders who think abuse is the best way to improve team performance, but it’s a formula that’s worked for certain groups of people (sports teams, military units, etc) aside from being a not-uncommon occurrence in MMO groups, so I feel like the rewards outweigh this risk.

Another risk is that providing the reporting tools shortens the engagement period for raiders. If raiders are improving their performance faster because they’re becoming more skilled (as opposed to improving their performance by getting raid drops and thus being able to survive the encounter by paying progressively less attention to mechanics) then they consume the content more quickly. Once all of the content is gone, players either disengage with the game because they’ve run out of content or they agitate at Blizzard for not producing content fast enough and THEN disengage from the game.

My response to that concern is this: demonstrate that players can improve their skills by being more attentive to mechanics by providing an inarguable measure of standards for them to compare against, and more players might be willing to experiment in higher difficulties like Mythic. Even with graded performance, even with transparent encounter design, it still takes exceptional skill and dedication to clear the highest difficulties, and the more players get a sense of overcoming challenges at lower difficulties, the more likely they are to want new challenges to overcome.

THE ALL-CALL

I know this concept is really raw, but I wanted to put the concept out there to try and start a conversation about it. So tell me what you think, whether it’s here or via the Tweetbox.

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2 thoughts on “Grade the Raid: Encounter Reporting

  1. Took me a while today to get around to this article but I did give the idea of “Grading the Raid” some thought in the space between. I think it is a cool idea and think some sort of measurement would be useful. What would concern me is by Blizzard setting up the grading system, would they potentially tell us too much in terms of “how” to beat the encounter? I haven’t worked that all out, but what I had in mind prior to reading your take on it would be a grading system that was based on the average of one’s peers.

    Take Garrosh N and look at all the data from successful kills, then place characters in percentiles. Haven’t thought that one out either, but I the base idea of rating performance is a good one.

    Full disclosure: I’m a raid leader.

    • I get the concern that Blizzard might telegraph the strategy for the encounter, but I’m not sure if that’s really as much of a valid concern any longer. With the Raid/Dungeon Journal in the past, they said that they didn’t want to eliminate the sense of discovery and progression that players experience when facing a new encounter, but there are still a lot of players who are end up watching the bosskill videos as a matter of course before making the first attempt. So players are already largely shortchanging themselves out of that experience of discovery.

      I think the real mark against this, though, is that Blizzard implementing a grading system would imply that there’s only one way to clear the encounter. If players get a poor grade but still clear the encounter (either through a really odd strat or just through blind luck) then there’s an element of negative reinforcement when the grade shows up telling you that you did it wrong.

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