Oct 15

On Nerfs and Skill, Part One: Nerfs

cata_logo (2) This post was originally written during Cataclysm. Its content may be outdated due to changes that come with expansion packs. Please consider this while reading. 

Questions? Feel free to contact me – contact@sometimesatree.com.


This is the first of two posts relating to raiding nerfs and skill.

I’ve been meaning to make a post about skill in WoW since the Firelands nerfs made it a focal point. In fact, it’s been on my agenda to write about since before this blog even existed.

Here’s a basic timeline:

September 20, Blizzard nerfs Firelands boss mechanics by approximately 15-25%* on both normal and heroic
October 13, MMO-Champion released some statistics indicating how many characters had killed bosses
October 14, Bashiok makes a blue post responding to outcry from some on the forums; indicates the figures aren’t correct (doesn’t fault MMO-Champ, acknowledges their source of data is not correct, rather than their derivation method)
*Each mechanic was nerfed by this amount… The nerfs’ interaction with one another affects the overall nerf to the boss though.

First of all, I think the nerfs were absolutely necessary due to what was happening with progression at the time. I think that nerfs will continue to be the right thing to do in such situations. There is definitely need for improvement next time around, especially concerning timing and severity.

I really loved how Firelands started out. It provided a big challenge to a lot of people. It set some really tough challenges for even the greatest of the great, and a very small number conquered said challenges. Then they nerfed a few bosses here and there, making some adjustments where they needed to.

Blizzard saw when progression was halted; when the majority had reached that wall they couldn’t break down. To their credit, Blizzard reacted fairly swiftly. But they overdid it.

Cut to today (as I write this), Bashiok’s response to someone crying over MMO-Champion’s statistics. Bashiok admitted it was too big a nerf to occur so suddenly. Content suddenly went from too hard to trivial for a significant proportion of players, with no in-between. I like that Blizzard are aware of the problem and in the future are planning to nerf content gradually. I didn’t like that he mentioned Icecrown Citadel as an example of a working gradual nerf system.

The rate of difficulty change in Icecrown was far too speedy. There is a pretty steep difficulty change in the first couple of weeks from gear alone – improving on gear makes content easier. If you add a nerf (or a buff in Icecrown’s case) to that, you end up with some weird tuning effects, where encounters tuned for players geared in Tier 9 (Trial of the Crusader) were being attempted by buffed players in mostly Icecrown gear (because by that time, everyone had plenty of chance to farm all that they needed). As I recall, it was just a week after the release of the Heroic Lich King encounter that players were given the buff to help beat him. No one had yet killed him, and many of the top world first contenders reportedly felt robbed of the chance at a true pre-nerf kill. Icecrown’s buff system is an example of a mechanical system where players got the buff whether they were in need of it or not.

The gradual bit is all that Icecrown should lend to the future nerf patterns.

I think the timing of the Firelands nerf, on the other hand, was spot on – Blizzard saw a plateau in a huge percentage of raiders’ progression, and fixed it. If we could go back, that is the timeframe I would want for the first nerf. Instead of a 15-25% nerf, I’d love a 5-10% partial nerf (i.e. not every ability). Then let it go until everyone hits their next progression barrier, at which point you bring in the next line of nerfs. They may likely begin to occur more frequently as the expansion wears on.

Content really should be accessible to everyone in some way, shape or form at some point while it’s current content. They did it with Tier 11 by nerfing it after Firelands came out, and giving people access to better gear through the Molten Front dailies, Valor Points, etc. The problem was, very few of those people who couldn’t get a kill previously didn’t want to necessarily go back and finish progression through Tier 11. If they bothered with it at all, it was all about trying to leave it behind as quickly as possible to move on to Firelands, and I don’t blame them. The LFR tool is great for this, as it will close the gap at this end of the playing spectrum. It also means that to cater to everyone, they don’t actually need to nerf the content to the ground in a single patch – they can do it gradually in phases, and nearly all regular raiders are rewarded.

If they get the timing right, all that is left is for Blizzard to be absolutely clear on who they are aiming the content at. Tomorrow’s post will discuss exactly that.

Permanent link to this article: http://sometimesatree.com/on-nerfs-and-skill-part-one-nerfs/

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