Guild raids

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ArenaNet Studio Design Director, Chris Whiteside, announced on the official forums that there will be a CDI on the subject of guild raiding, backing up assumptions that were already being made in the community based on a new Game Designer: Raid Content job posting that appeared on their site this week. This, of course, has everybody scrambling to discuss how they think that they should be implemented, if at all.

Raiding isn’t something that I necessarily expected to eventually come to Guild Wars 2, but I’m definitely in the camp that feel that it could be a very positive move. My MMO history includes a lot of raiding in World of Warcraft, from release through to Wrath of the Lich King, and some of my very best memories (and friends) come from those experiences. Sure, there are a lot of not so good memories, mostly on kill–less ‘progress’ nights, but that was seen as a necessary evil for the eventual pay–off that was killing bosses and (hopefully) getting some fat loot.

Tequatl the Sunless
Tequatl the Sunless, the first world boss to get the ‘actually quite difficult’ treatment

We already have large–scale bosses by way of the revamped Tequatl and the Great Jungle Wurms, and while these are more–or–less enjoyable, the fact that they exist in the open world does inevitably introduce difficulties. The design decision has always been that these events should be visible to everyone not only so that anyone can join in, but so that less experienced players could stumble upon a group of players trying to take down some enormous beast, which makes Tyria look totally badass. Before megaservers were introduced organised guilds worked hard to manipulate the overflow system in order to create a ‘clean’ overflow with only guild members in it. This became more difficult to achieve with the megaserver system implementation and world bosses being put on a set timetable, but there were some concessions made by allowing guilds to trigger a boss encounter at a time of their choosing.

Do we need raiding?

If, as we’re currently lead to suspect, there is to be a shift in design principles on the cards by allowing guilds to tackle boss encounters behind closed doors, it could be an indication that ArenaNet is trying to draw in new or returning players; those who may have avoided Guild Wars 2 because of the lack of strong PvE end–game, or those who have left the game due to the same perceived shortcomings.

In most games, the classic reason for completing raid content is to progress to the next step on the gear treadmill (a phrase commonly used to denote armor and weapons becoming obsolete with each major release, to be replaced with newly added items with higher stats). The highest level of gear in Guild Wars 2 is ascended, which only offers around a 5% improvement over readily available exotic items. I would be surprised to see ascended displaced any time soon, which suggests that the main reasons for confronting guild raids would be similar to those for taking on Tequatl or the Jungle Wurms:

How would they work?

Guilds come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s likely that any new guild raiding system would have to be one–size–fits–all, potentially scaling from 10 players up to 50, or even more. It was always painful being left on the bench for raid night because I was number 41 for a 40–man group, but it’s likely that ArenaNet would want to implement some kind of capping (as opposed to open world bosses that often involve all 150 players in a single overflow instance). This would be done in order to allow the encounters and mechanics to be more tightly designed: something which works well and is fun for 20 people might suck if you try to scale it up to work for 120 people. That said, the idea of having to potentially exclude some members of the guild from joining in doesn’t really sit well with what I interpret to be ArenaNet’s design philosophy, so this is likely to be a subject which is hotly discussed when the topic opens for discussion on the forums.

Ragnaros the Firelord
Ragnaros the Firelord, from World of Warcraft. You have awakened him too soon!

With regards to the in–game technicalities of how raids might fit in, I imagine that we’ll be looking at fully instanced raids, potentially activated in the same way as existing guild missions (as possibly linked to some form of guild housing system). Whether these raids will tie in with in–game canon, or whether they’ll be incorporated as some kind of ‘challenge’ arena is yet to be seen. Will they be long explorable dungeons in the vein of Molten Core with multiple bosses, or ‘straight to the point’ single boss kills like Onyxia? No idea, but in an ideal world (for me) I think we’d have access to both.

Is this the right move for Guild Wars 2?

In short: I think so, yes. With the lack of a gear treadmill, players won’t feel compelled to seek out raid content in order to keep up with the best gear on offer, and as such won’t fall behind if they choose not to participate. Those of us with raiding backgrounds should relish the idea of ArenaNet creating engaging and challenging large–scale PvE content, something which has definitely been lacking since release, despite the addition of Fractals. There are definitely a lot of undesirable aspects that can creep into the community when hardcore raiding is a focus, but I believe that the fact that they would likely be pitched as an optional side–attraction and not the only end–game option available to players would go some way to prevent that from developing.