Sunday, 11 April 2010

EVALUATING LOTRO'S RAIDS

A week or so ago, I posted a poll on the Codemasters forum asking people to say which of ten raids (including a raid-like instance) their current kinship had completed, the requirements being that all the bosses had been killed at least once, and that at least 80% of the participants belonged to the kinship. The raids included Ferndúr the Virulent, Master of Imlad Balchorth; Helegrod; Udunion the Rogmul; Bogbereth; The Rift of Nurz-Gashu; The Watcher in the Vile Maw; Nornúan the Turtle; Dar Narbugud; and Barad Gularan in both Easy and Hard modes. Despite the obvious methodological flaws (survey limited to forum readers, inadmissibility of PUGs, etc.), I was hoping to get some sense of both the difficulty and popularity of the LOTRO raids to date.

In practice, the biggest problem was that the relative inflexibility of the CM poll mechanics made it impossible to avoid multiple postings by different members of the same kinship; this means that absolute numbers cannot be trusted - for example, 34 people claimed that their kinship has completed Barad Guldur in easy mode, but does this mean that 34 separate European kinships have done so? It's obviously impossible to say. On the other hand, there should be little or no distortion due to boasting, since kinship names were not posted. It was also questioned whether the survey ought not to distinguish between raids completed on level, and those completed later (i.e., was a raid completed with l.50 or l.65 players?). My gut feeling here is that in general, even semi-serious raiding kinships would be most likely to complete a raid on or near level. In any case, over a period of about a week, 103 people took part in the poll. What follow are the results in some detail, running from the highest to the lowest completion rate.

1. Nornúan the Turtle: 96.12 %
With the highest success rate (only four kinships did not list him), Nornúan is also the easiest and quickest raid in the game, with an average completion time of under 5 minutes. Though technically a raid, in some ways it's a bit silly to compare Nornúan to, say, a raid like the Rift which, when done at level, can take a competent kinship two evenings to complete.

2. The Rift of Nurz-Gashu: 92.23 %
Everybody's favourite: difficult, demanding, well-designed, with good rewards. Not surprisingly, the second-highest completion rate, despite being vastly more demanding than the nominal first.

3. Bogbereth: 86.41 %
Another quick and simple raid, easily accessed, it was in fact designed as a "learner" raid and could be farmed by a much smaller group even at l.50.

4. The Watcher in the Vile Maw: 79.61 %
The first radiance-gated raid. Despite being quite easy of access and containing a single boss with no trash mobs, the exact tactics required are tricky, and many kinships struggled to learn the fight, particularly as the designers made several changes to the combat mechanics over time. The fact that even at this relatively late date, 20% of the kinships represented in the poll have not completed this raid is indicative of the problems raised by radiance gating.

5. Helegrod: 78.64 %
I was surprised to see Helegrod achieve this percentage, since almost every kinship would struggle to field a 24-man force over the two evenings necessary to complete this very, very long raid. My guess is that there has been some gentle cheating here, and that some of the raids were perhaps nowhere near 80% single-kinship participation.

6. Udunion the Rogmul: 78.64 %
Technically not a raid, but a very hard fight which required a fellowship to defeat several bosses before reaching Uduniuon. The relatively lower completion rate is almost certainly due to the difficulty of access; at level, reaching Barad Gularan was a feat in itself, and a wipe meant that the entire journey had to be repeated again.

7. Dar Narbugud: 73.79 %
The second radiance-gated raid, with the success rate dropping to just under three-quarters of the kinships polling. Most people dislike DN, with its heavy trash mob population and unimaginative graphic design.

8. Ferndúr the Virulent: 70.87 %
It's not surprising that Ferndur has the lowest completion rate of all the early raids, as many people don't even know of his existence; you only find out about him after competing a long string of quests. The raid is non-instanced, however, so you might just stumble across him if you travel far enough into Imlad Balchorth.

9. Barad Guldur (Easy Mode): 33.01 %
Barad Guldur is the third and most heavily gated raid; you cannot realistically even attempt it without +120 radiance, and the deeper into it you go, the more radiance you will need. There are only three bosses, but each needs to be defeated in both easy and hard modes, making it in effect two raids. The biggest obstacles to success in Barad Guldur are the nightmarish so-called trash mobs fights which precede each boss; not only are they difficult and time-consuming, but unless the boss is defeated, they reset in under an hour. This last and utterly inane detail makes learning a boss fight almost impossible, since you normally get no more than two chances before the lead-in fight resets and you have to spend anything up to another hour fighting your way back in order to try again. Frankly, very few kins other than hard-core raiding kinships can devote the enthusiasm and time necessary to overcome such handicaps, so it comes as no surprise to find the success rate crashing to 33%.

10. Barad Guldur (Hard Mode): 12.62 %
For hard mode, the completion rate drops again by two thirds from the easy mode rate. And remember, that's 12.62 % of what we can assume to be the moderately serious to hard-core group of raiding kinships, not of all the kinships on the server. Overall, I am prepared to guess that less than 2% of all kinships, and maybe 1% of all players, will ever complete Barad Guldur in hard mode. While that might be acceptable if it were due to a fiendishly designed and tricky raid, it is unacceptable as the result of a) the radiance gating system, and b) the glaring chicanery of trash mob fights which reset after almost every wipe.

Conclusion: While this admittedly rather superficial survey probably tells us nothing we didn't already suspect, it's still good to get confirmation. Using the information gathered, I plan to look into ways of hopefully performing a more elaborate and accurate survey, perhaps by means of questionaires addressed to kinship leaders or kinship raid officers.

4 comments:

chadmango said...

On the whole these results don't come as too much of a surprise. The Turtle at number one makes perfect sense, the 'lair' nature and no need for prior organisation makes it a very accessible, and worthwhile (loot wise, and at level) raid.

SeaEagle1 said...

As for Helegrod, I suspect you're not so much seeing cheating with the numbers, but more the effect of outlevelled explorers. Ourselves being a nice example: We never got an all-kinship Helegrod raid at level 50, but did complete it with a 10 to 15-man all-kin expedition at level 60.

belechael said...

I was really surprised from the responses on the latest Tell the Community Team thread that clearly show that the priorities of the player base are NOT the raids at the moment. Check the very nice work that Ohora did in the PvP subforum.

We can't be sure if this is because there are other more important problems with the game or simply because only a small portion of the player base raids, but my gut feeling tells me it's a combination of the two.

Personally I stopped raiding due to radiance, very hard and luck based encounters and totally uninteresting rewards.

Bart said...

I don't think that the low success rate of The Watcher has been due to radiance gating. In the Rift, you could only attempt it once a week or so, or you were locked out. You had to roll against 12 other people for each piece of armor and after that roll you couldn't try again for that piece for a week. It took two whole evenings to beat and if you didn't get the last fight down you could look forward to almost 15 minutes of just running back through the Rift until you could try it again (and you couldn't /follow someone, because of all the doors).

The new Moria instances can all be completed in under an hour and nowdays you don't even need to do them all. In the time it used to take to run the whole Rift (averaging 1/2 armor piece per entire Rift run), you can now go smack some instances out and get enough medallions for two armor pieces.

Once you get to the "final boss" (Balrog/Watcher), if you fail then you're right outside his room (although you might want to wait 10 minutes for the death penalty to go away). You can even all drop group to avoid a tpk if some important members are died and you won't even have lost anything.

Mechanically, I don't see anything but an improvement in instances from the Rift-style to radiance gating.

Now, Barad Guldur... trash mobs my left foot, that instance is just darn annoying. However, take a look at the Barad Guldur Lorebook article for some tips and pointers in what to do, where to go, and how to do it.