Friday, September 14, 2012

Can Challenge Modes Replace Heroic Raids?

An interesting idea just came to mind as far as competitive gaming goes.  While I know I will never be part of the top on any charts for them, challenge modes seem to make for a more compelling contest than the race to world first in a heroic raid, in my opinion.  And if it was extended to all 5 mans and all raids it could make for many races.

Here are my reasons for believing that.

1) Gear does not matter:
The group that had better luck in the previous tier will not have that tiny advantage that gear might provide.  With normalized gear everyone, no matter what they are wearing, competes on the exact same level.

2) No time issues:
Say your server had an issue on release day while your closest competitors server was up and running just fine, you lose out on valuable time in the race for worlds first.  How about some time zones getting the raid before others thus giving them an advantage.  Being the challenge modes are based on time to complete it, even if you started after someone else you can still do it better at it.

3) The contest never ends:
Kin raiders gets world first and the other top guilds finish off the content as well shortly after and they are all basically done with the game.  They might still play some or they might not.  They might bring in alts or new players but the contest is over.  First has been decided and that is all that matters.  Not so with challenge modes.  Perhaps Kin Raiders did get world best time when they did it first but then the world fifth might have beaten it.  This means that there is no slacking off for Kin Raiders if they want to keep that number 1 spot, they need to get back in there and try to get their world best time back.  It makes the heroic tier last a hell of a lot longer.

4) No loot drama:
So and so's guild had two lock outs in firelands and was able to get an extra legendary.  So and so's guild abused the looking for raid to get T13 first.  Who cares, all gear is normalized, even if someone had more lockouts in the previous raid or someone gamed the system getting free LFR loot for everyone they are still in the same boat at the same gear level.  Skill matters here, not what you wear.

5) Class stacking is a non issue:
They had more raid ready feral druids, they dragged along an under geared shaman just for the spirit link totem, they had more mages on their team.  Being there is no real gearing issues, there is an extremely low item level requirement, all you need is to get your character to max level and you can stack just as easily as anyone else.  Being you are not constrained by a world first title and it is time based, you can get those mages later and beat the timer.

6) The competition never ends:
You could go get first place in BWD now if you wanted too even if it now old content.  If they did it to all raids could you imagine the fun of running an AQ40 with normalized gear for a timed run? I would actually beg blizzard for something like that.

7) Old content can be returned:
Old naxx, old ZA, old ZG, old ony are now all relevant content once again.  There is no reason to remove them and the content will last forever for those that want to challenge the timer.

8) Casual guilds can compete:
Just because you downed madness with the 30% buff doesn't mean you can not get a great timer run going.  So even the guilds that had no prayer in the world of competing on a world or server first level can now actually compete.  Not saying they would, they most likely won't, but it is possible.

9) It adds to the game instead of subtracting:
Without challenge mode any dungeon or raid is useless once you pass the level of doing it and sometimes that stuff gets removed and forgotten about but with challenge mode once you finish a raid you can keep finishing it to get better times.  It makes all raiding content stay around longer, as in forever.  Nothing become obsolete.  All that time wasted making this expansions content was not wasted once the next one comes because it can still be done and it is not useless now.

10) It makes people better:
No looking for raid or looking for dungeon version of challenge modes means you have to assemble the groups yourself.  While this could lock out a fair deal of players from ever doing it, it will also be a way for players to get better because they will have to if they want to do it.  They would have to perform well to do well and no longer let gear carry them.  People not doing what is expected will easily stand out and it will be easier to help them in a controlled setting where everyone has the same gear.

11) It builds community:
Something that has been dwindling for a while now is community but being you need to assemble your groups yourself you will get to know the people around you again.  Not to mention, word of mouth, about those that are skilled will get out just like the good old days when even I, as a damage dealer, would get whispers as soon as I logged on because they knew I was a decent player.

12) More playing, less waiting:
You can run 5 mans, 10 mans, 25 mans, 40 mans, you name it.  They can even do them over and over. Challenge modes are not subject to a lock out.  So no more waiting a week to run something you like again, just reset it.

So like I said, while I would never be someone ranking in them, it sure seems like it would be awesome to have content that is always relevant.  Content where the best teams with the best execution is the one that gets praised as the best group.

A runner praised for being the fastest runner is not the person that finished the first race ever, it is given to the person that finished it fastest.  Now that is what real competition is all about.

Do you think we will ever see challenge mode raids?
Do you think we will ever see old dungeons with a challenge mode for their level?
Do you think we will ever see old raids with a challenge mode for their level?

I don't think we will ever see the old stuff, but we might see raids in the future.  Either way, that sure as hell sounds like a fantastic idea to me.  I would love to do all the old stuff in challenge mode because it would be a lot more fun, again, in my opinion at least.

If they ever made a challenge mode raid do you think it would replace heroic raid world first as the new focal point of competition?  I think it could, and I think that competition would be a better one to see.


  1. 100% yes. I absolutely love everything written here. I want everything you said but I'll answer your questions.

    1) Challenge raids. Yes I actually suggested this myself as a potential 6.0 feature. Each new xpac has had a new feature and challenge mode raids fits with the model that they're following. They were mentioned on twitter the other day and GC said possibly in the future. So it's not been ruled out.

    2) Old Dungeons? This will be dependant on how they handle the challenge modes for Pandaria. Will we be locked out of them when we level past 90? Or will they delevel us back to level 90 power somehow? If they can remove extra stats, that levels provide, to keep the Pandaria challenge modes then possibly. I did read I think on the reddit q&a about them adding scenarios etc. at lower level. The answer was that they weren't ruling it out, that it was something that they'd like to do, but that they'd get accused of rehashing content. I took it to be more of a polite no than a yes. So I'm saying likely no for this.

    3) Old challenge mode raids would be easier than old dungeons. All raids are accessible only at level cap. Whereas apart from the expansions with heroic versions the others were meant for level ranges. So all of vanilla dungeons would be out. Raids though would be capped at 60, 70, 80, 85 etc. This has the same rehashed argument as dungeons. I think because of the level thing it might be easier logistically. I'm going to say likely no here too though. Maybe retooling one or two fan favourites like Karazhan but not the whole lot. In truth I wouldn't want them to spend that much development time on old stuff, interesting challenge mode version or not.

    I love the idea of challenge modes. I simultaneously hope that they will be really hard, but not so hard that I won't be able to complete them after a lot of practice. I'd like old content to not become old content, and to stay relevant. So it would be nice to see challenge versions for everything. However, if the trade off was little new content then I wouldn't pay that price. I think that it would hopefully give the heroic raiders the competition that they want, along with the recognition that they want. So yes I could see challenge mode becoming like rated arena, if you're not there you're not anywhere.

    1. I would think lower levels they could just make us that level for the dungeon, or would hope so. Same for when we are 95, I would like to still do the 90s. That would be nice and a great addition to the game.

      I read that too about low level scenarios but I would not hold my breath on that. They are all but making leveling a non factor. I would think we will see instant cap characters before they waste any more time developing stuff for low levels. Which in my opinion is sad, I loved leveling and now I hate it. Used to be a good way to waste some time and have some fun, now I have another 85 in 1 day 12 hours played. It just seems wrong.

      Raids would be easier as you said, because they are for a specific level. I do not think it would take a great deal to remake them man hours wise. Everything is there, just deciding what gear stats to give people would be all that would be required and even if that does take some time, and it surely will, it can be done a little here and a little there. No rush as it is old content.

      I hope they are hard enough that I will not get more than a bronze the first time or three in there but not so hard that even after 100 runs I am always missing gold my 10 seconds. That would get annoying.

    2. For older content, the challenge to Blizz would be figuring out what a lvl X Hunter should have as stats, etc. Considering the non-linearity of stats, blizz has created their own problems with doing that. It's still doable and it would open up challenge modes for all lvl X content. Blizz could come up with an algorithm based on Lvl and iLvL scaling and then just assign an iLvL for each challenge mode instance. The strategies would change for the older content whenever Blizz changes the abilities available at lvl X, etc. But that just keeps things interesting.

      It's definitely doable and not as much work as we might think. They'll see how popular they are in 5.x and it may come in 6.0 or it might be good to introduce after the last 5.x raid tier to keep people busy til the new expansion.

    3. Being the stats would be a set number it would be easier to balance. If they want a hunter to have 30 agility, he has 30 agility. If that is too powerful, they lower it to 25 and if too weak they up it to 35. It would be easier to balance that way, not harder, at least as I see it. Because they would not have to code not knowing what people would have. They would all have what they give them only.

      I am sure I will do them, but I am also sure I will only do them until I get gold and never do them again unless helping someone else get gold.

      As I said, I am not a competitive person, so being best mean nothing. As long as I finish it, I am happy.

  2. I, frankly, fail to see what's so attractive in challenge modes. They add to the game without taking anything away, sure, but what they add just seems very dubious to me. Beating the same scripted fights in the same gear, competing against others in a rat race for time??? ...Why would I do this? In terms of a rat race challenge modes seem to be similar to farming for vanilla PVP titles, which was horrible, and on top of that we have the dullness of always fighting the same scripted mobs...

    I am trying to avoid the "others are just like me" fallacy, but I simply can't see challenge modes becoming anything but a niche activity. Nothing wrong with being a niche activity, of course.

    1. They would be a niche activity. Some people love to face off against others. That is what PvP is all about and world and server firsts are all about. The challenge of you or you and your team against another is what drives a great deal of people to play games, the competition.

      Admittedly I am not a competitive person by nature which is why I do not care about ever trying to get a world or server first and why I don't particularly like PvP outside of the occasional thing to do to pass the time but for some people that is the sole reason for playing any game, to try and be the best.

      So while I would not fit that mold I can certainly see where this could server that population greatly.

      If you look at the game from the outside looking in you will notice that the most wildly performed activity in game is PvP. With that said, it goes to show that more people like competition then anything else in the game and challenge modes add that to the game. It is as if there is now a PvE version of PvP, where you can challenge others. Again, while that is not my style I can surely appreciate how huge this could become if handled correctly.

    2. The most entertaining aspect of WoW for me has always been 5 man dungeons. I would run one toon through all the leveling dungeons and gear them through herocs, then switch to an alt an do it all over again.

      Challenge Mode dungeons very well has the potential to completely revive WoW for me if it is executed correctly.

    3. You fit the gamer mode I call the builder.

      Some people enjoy the process of building up a character but not actually of the rat race.

      It is actually a very enjoyable way to play, always feel like you are advancing, which makes it more fun.

      You are lucky to have found your grove in the game, some people never do.

  3. I don't know, tbh.

    While from a purely competitive PoV it would be so, I think a sizeable part of Raiders is in there for the Gear (hence also all the drama etc.).

    Personally I'd rather see Challenge Mode Arena, that way a lot of discussions would be put to rest (eg Legendaries, but also class-imbalances would become clearer etc.) and as an added bonus the concept of 'Conquest' Gear could possibly be done without (they could always just smack up the PvP resilience and Power on the Honor Gear to make Raid Geared people less of an issue; luckily they already seem to be make the PvP Trinkets less horrible compared to the PvE ones).

    (btw: finally got round to read your T12/13 experiences; enlightening).

    1. I don't PvP so I may be wrong but I wouldn't think there would be a lot of disparity in gear lvls for Rated PvP content. That may be why Blizz hasn't mentioned the possibility of Challenge Mode Arenas. PvP naturally scales as players gear up with eachother but PvE content doesn't scale up/down naturally, so that's why they introduced Challenge Mode dungeons to prevent them from being outgeared. You can outgear another player temporarily but they catch up pretty quickly. PvP has more "staying" power than PvE for this very reason.

      I'd be more interested in Blizz trying to separate and balance PvP and PvE independently to better address the class imbalances.

    2. @Jaeger

      Being PvP is skill based and the gear helps the skill it becomes its own filter. If I entered the arena, no matter how hard I tried, unless I got better I would not be able to break 1800 at the absolute best, even if I had the best gear ever.

      So challenge mode is built in there by skill being the deciding factor between top level and people like me.


      As I said above, the filter to keep people like me out is already there as a skill buffer. Arena is a challenge mode already. I fail that challenge. I would get a bronze for trying, but that is all I will ever be. Nothing more. Unless I get more skilled. So I do not agree that PvP needs them, it already had them by being purely skill based.

      In PvE it is not purely skill based. Sure, skill plays a huge part but it is all about who is first, not who is best. Whereas PvP is about who is best. Challenge mode in PvE would be like arena in PvP, about who is best. And if you only get bronze, you need to work to get better, just like in PvP were if I only get 1800 I need to work to get better. Arena is challenge mode for PvP.

      Glad you liked them.

  4. One thing that would likely unbalance challenge modes are patch changes in mechanics (which is obvious).

    However, another one that is likely to also occur is differing utility in set bonuses. For instance, if a set bonus somehow increases your run speed, that could make challenge modes easier!

    1. Yeah, mechanic changes will break it, or could. The set bonus thing has already been addressed. No tier set bonus will work in challenge modes, as GC himself said on twitter the other day.

  5. I must admit I am massively looking forward to challenge modes as a heroic raider it will be great to have content for me outside of raids. I would also love to see them introduce challenge raids although I suspect they may not as they would only be relevant to such a small proportion of the population.

    Having said this in terms of replacing the raiding PvE race. I think there is one major issue connected with point number 5 in your list. Time will tell but personally I think balance between the classes in challenge modes will be an issue. Currently classes are balanced for PvE around output on raid bosses in current tier gear. It has already been seen in heroic DS how messed up balance can be by introducing a massively different benchmark (burst window on heroic spine). I am also concerned that over the course of the expansion different classes will scale differently with gear. What happens when they nerf a class because it scales too well and then normalise it's gear down to normal levels in challenge modes.

    Of course maybe I'm just being negative and these potential balance issues will be dealt with by Blizzard. Whatever happens I will certainly be having some fun in challenge modes in MoP I just don't think they will really replace the raid race as the primary PvE competition, although I fully expect whoever is number one in the ladder to claim that it should ;)

    1. That is the one big problem with the whole system. They have to redesign the challenge modes when they make class changes.

      Already it can be an issue. While deciding on my team to take into challenge modes. For a guild like mine, a casual guild, getting golds will be a real serious challenge, you might have an easier time. But I have been thinking of what they bring to the table and quite honestly there are a few classes I would never want on my team. I would not want a DPS warrior or any lock. I would not want a druid healer and tanks I am kind of up in the air on at the moment. As I see it, just based on the classes as they are, I would want power and utility around me, a hunter, so I would want a DK tank, a shaman healer and probably a feral DPS for battle rez and a mage. Now I could be completely wrong and I am only thinking about if from the people I have available to me and their relative skill levels but it still begs to wonder if others would be thinking the same way. Some classes do not bring enough to the table when it comes to things like this.