Thursday, February 11, 2016

Implementing Timewalking Raids Into World of Warcraft

Timewalking was a feature introduced in patch 6.2 that, amid some criticism, turned out to be a feature that is well-liked. It is a feature that I extensively praised in my previous WoW-related article because it utilizes a framework that probably took some time to build to invest into reducing the effects of MMORPG-related power creep. Since there's clearly an interest in expanding upon the feature given the more recent Cataclysm Timewalking Dungeons added in patch 6.2.3, there's been quite a few suggestions. One that I find frequently mentioned is a suggestion to add Timewalking Raids.

I would count myself among the voices that would want this feature. However, many of these posts tend to lack much detail in terms of the logistics of how Timewalking Raids could work. Given the possible issues that could arise if implemented incorrectly, such as an oversaturation of content leading to players getting burned out and bored of the content much like a raid tier lasting for over a year, the details of the feature itself are important. Since I have a tendency to be verbose in pursuit of being detailed in addition to frequently making suggestions regarding and analyzing WoW-related things, I thought it might be worth taking a crack at the concept of the Timewalking Raids feature. Thus, in this article I will do exactly that with potential issues in mind.

Disclaimer: As of this writing there are no known plans as far as I know to add Timewalking Raids into World of Warcraft. This is a suggestion to implement them, not a news article about Blizzard adding them.

The Suggestion Itself

To address the possibility of players burning out on Timewalking, events for them are held roughly once a month. With Timewalking Raids, however, there's the additional problem of raids generally being so lengthy they need to be split into wings, meaning a few raids is the equivalent of many dungeons in terms of weekly content. In addition, there's a pretty large number of raids to work with, meaning if only a few raids are rotated in on a monthly basis, specific raid availability intervals could end up becoming an annual event. With these points in mind, my idea of Timewalking Raids goes as follows:
Timewalking Raids could be available on a weekly basis, with two raids available each week. Vanilla to Mists of Pandaria raids at the very least would all be added to the pool. The pool could start out smaller with longer intervals if needed.
This will serve as the framework for the entire suggestion. The general idea is that with a couple of raids available each week, players will feel like they have something to do but not feel overwhelmed. Furthermore, since there's currently 32 raids in the pool, a 4 month rotation will ensure the raids are somewhat fresh content-wise.
To add some flair to the rotations, they could be themed. For example, one week could feature a black dragon theme with Blackwing Lair and Blackwing Descent.
This addition of thematic is definitely more substantial than just using raids from a specific expansion as part of the weekly rotation like with Timewalking Dungeons. It's also fairly immersive since it might allow players to experience much of a character's story arc within the period of a week.
Regardless of the raid's original size, accommodate it to 25 players if LFR is being used for Timewalking Raids (which it almost certainly would).
This is something I forgot to mention when publishing the article, but to allow for some consistency when doing Timewalking Raids on a weekly basis, each raid should cap at a uniform amount of players. There may be some issues, especially with 10-man raids, in terms of scaling both in terms of encounters and environment, but it's better than having to rework LFR and screw up queue times.
Try to split raids into as few wings as possible and be generous with the number of bosses each wing has. For example Black Temple can have two wings.
The general idea of this suggestion is to prevent Timewalking Raids from becoming a fragmented experience. This comes at the expense of faster clears and fewer fresh groups but at the same time a slower experience where players can still join or drop out at will without obligations may result in a healthier group environment.
The loot from Timewalking Raids should be equal in power to gear obtained from Timewalking Dungeons. They should also award Timewarped Badges.
While normally, raid gear is typically better than dungeon gear (though Mythic Dungeons have changed this paradigm a bit), Timewalking difficulty will probably end up being somewhat consistent between dungeons and raids due to the scaling mechanics, meaning the rewards should also be roughly equal. The advantage of Timewalking Raids is that there is more chance of earning gear, which will be explained further in the next part of the suggestion. Furthermore, bosses of Timewalking Raids, much like with Timewalking Dungeons, can drop their rare drops such as mounts that could otherwise be easily farmed through soloing anyways. Thus, at best Timewalking Raids give an extra chance for rare drops every once in awhile.

On a side note, in terms of relevance related to endgame content, Timewalking in general should serve as a stepping stone for various facets of gear progression, but not be so high up that it renders other endgame content irrelevant. For example, Timewalking gear should generally not be strictly superior or equal to gear from endgame raids or (heroic) dungeons were it to be released alongside Legion. To ensure that there is at least some relevance over the course of an expansion, the bar for Timewalking rewards should be raised when new tiers release.
Add bonus roll currency to complement Timewalking Raids. Players can buy 5 of this currency each week for various currencies, including some older ones. The maximum cap for this bonus roll currency would be at least 15 since stockpiling it would be less beneficial compared to typical bonus roll currency.
Aside from giving players more chances at earning some loot from Timewalking raids, being able to buy the bonus roll currency for many various currencies provides additional use for them. This especially applies to currencies that don't have a lot of methods for sinking, such as Lesser Charms. The fact these currencies will always have a relevant use may slightly revitalize older content.
Do not use Timewalking (Raids) as a replacement addition for new content. It should be introduced alongside other major content or, better yet, between major content patches.
I've spoken a lot about what what to do for Timewalking Raids and not a lot regarding what not to do. If remarks like this are anything to judge, there are some individuals who aren't a big fan of recycling content. However, what they may specifically be frustrated about is a repeat of patch 4.1, where the major content largely consisted of two redesigned older instances. While I'm personally a proponent of concepts that help to curb the negative effects of power creep on content, there is merit to adding something new (and...original?). The last thing World of Warcraft needs is another reputation hit for producing subpar content in terms of quality or quantity, even if such claims are misdirected and/or outright incorrect.

Final Statements

Timewalking is a great feature and I expect it'll stay around. By expounding upon the concept through raids, there will be even more content that a player can do when they're bored or interested in gearing up a character. Timewalking also provides the benefit of being relevant during both leveling and endgame, and through raids a newer, leveling player has access to raid content that has some semblance of relevance, allowing players to have many opportunities to experience them with a full group before reaching level cap. Therefore, I'm hoping that Timewalking Raids see the light of day, even if it's not necessarily in the form I suggested it.

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