Interview with Ensidia on PvE Raiding
Those familiar with high end World of Warcraft raiding will recognize the guild name Ensidia. As a result of a 2008 merger of two raiding powerhouse guilds, SK-Gaming and Nihilum, the majority of Ensidia's raid team holds claim to almost every major world first boss kill since the 2005 European release of the game. Their website, which features a community of forums and strategic player guides, sometimes gets overwhelmed by high traffic when players hear the news of Ensidia's latest kill.
And now they have their eyes on Star Wars: The Old Republic.
We spoke with Ensidia guild members Mek and Buzzkill for over an hour, and we discussed a broad range of topics including their thoughts on PvE raiding, and how it might be implemented in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Last week, Ensidia made MMO news headlines with their world first kill of Arthas in Icecrown Citadel on Normal 25-man mode. Because one of their rogues used Saronite Bombs in his rotation, it caused the encounter to "bug out" during a few of their Arthas attempts, but Ensidia maintains this was not known at the time. Blizzard assumed the guild deliberately exploited to get the kill, so they removed loot and the achievement from their character sheets, plus issued a 72 hour suspension to the entire Ensidia raid force. After their suspension was over, they promptly went back in and killed him again.
As you read this interview, we ask you to please keep in mind that this in depth conversation took place mid-January -- at least two weeks prior to this incident.
Let's start off with introductions of who you are, and what you do in Ensidia.
Mek: I am one of three guild masters for Ensidia. I play a restoration shaman... well, an elemental shaman nowadays. Anyway, been playing the game for a really long time. I am the guild master of Ensidia, and before that, SK Gaming and Curse for about four years.
Buzzkill: I am a warlock class leader in Ensidia since the conception of the guild and was the class leader of warlocks in Nihilum previously. I have been playing World of Warcraft for five years.
For those who may not know, can you guys tell us who Ensidia is and how you formed?
Mek: Essentially, you had two top guilds in World of Warcraft at the end of the last expansion. And we basically decided that we would merge into one guild for various reasons. Essentially, it was quite hard to recruit top players, and it just made a lot of sense for us to centralize. So we decided to combine the guilds for this expansion. We have been playing together for eighteen months as a single guild, and it is working out really well for us. We had a lot of good success, so we are really happy about it.
So, I am sure that you guys have tested and played various MMOs in the past, right?
Mek: Yep, lots of MMOs.
Buzzkill: Indeed. I basically played every single triple A MMO title for the past seven years. We basically played beta in every game, bought plenty of them, but never stick to them.
Mek: Except Star Wars: The Old Republic. We haven't played any of that yet, hint hint. (laughs) Actually, I didn't play as many MMOs as Buzz. I started out with Quake which I played for many years before I switched to my first MMO. But since WoW came out, I played various betas and whatnot. I tried all the latest ones at least.
Well, since you guys have such extensive experience, what criteria do you think that Star Wars: The Old Republic needs to have in order for you to consider making it the guild's core focus?
Buzzkill: Well, for me, I would say it would have to have big exposure, competitiveness, and a challenge in the PvE aspect of the game.
Mek: And that's really it. We are a really focused group of people. It has to have a really strong PvE side. I think if you look at other MMOs, they haven't really gotten to the same level of World of Warcraft PvE in terms of depth and quantity of content. Everything has to be challenging. Public exposure is a big part of what we do and we don't want to play a game that no one has heard of or follows. We have a big website that is built around the guild now and a big part of the guild is supporting that as well. It is really a lot of different factors, but ultimately it has to be fun as well. We tried a bunch of different MMOs and after about a couple of weeks, you get really bored. I don't know how World of Warcraft keeps drawing people back, but you don't get bored quite as easily.
Buzzkill: Yeah, plus we are all avid gamers, so if a game is good, then we're going to stick to it. If it fits all of the criteria, then we are going to start playing it hardcore.
Mek: We just want the whole package if possible. It isn't like anything Star Wars is in danger of not being in the public eye -- we're not just going to go start playing some MUD that nobody has heard of. But to expand on the whole competitive edge: it is going to take a lot of players to switch for one of these to take off. You can't really do it with just a few hundred thousand players. It is going to take a few million players to really make one of these games compete with World of Warcraft, because it needs to have that strong competitive community to be on the same level.
You raided for a very long time in World of Warcraft, so you definitely saw the ins and outs of PvE raiding. What things would you like to see in Star Wars: The Old Republic in regards to raiding? Do you need the single boss, or are you okay with other things?
Mek: I would say variation. Fighting big bosses is cool for most people who have played World of Warcraft. For me, it was fighting one of those earlier bosses, like Ragnaros, who is a huge, epic boss who gives you that epic feel. I saw a lot of stuff about Star Wars: The Old Republic that says they are going for that heroic feel. You can achieve that in two ways: a really big boss that is intimidating and gives you that feeling of being overwhelmed, and you can do it with a sort of a zergy style encounter where you are getting swarmed by a lot of enemies. I think anything that promotes good team play or has a competitive edge that is based on skill can be successful. If skill has no meaning, then I think that is the worst thing that you can have in a game. I know that a lot of people complain about that sort of thing in World of Warcraft, but there is always going to be some element of movement. The more skill that is required, the more we want to play it. So, I would have to say that is more important than how big the boss is or how many mobs you are fighting.
Buzzkill: For me, there was always something appealing about a boss that you would never have the distinct chance of beating it by yourself. But in a team, it is a bit different.
Mek: Balancing is one of the most difficult things. I think that is one of the strengths that Blizzard has with World of Warcraft. They've been around for so long, they had so much time to get things right, and still people are constantly complaining about this or about that. When you start with a new game, everything is fresh. You don't have any of testing or experience of balancing. That is actually one of the things that games fall down on when they first start out. People are just like "this is horribly balanced and I'm not prepared to give this several years to get it right, like World of Warcraft does. I will just go back to playing my old game."
Buzzkill: Also, Star Wars: The Old Republic is implementing a lot of new concepts in the whole class system. So we'll see. Bottom line: it is up to them. Game testing brings it so far, but the concepts that that they are talking about implementing are going to make or break the PvE aspects of the game for the hardcore. The casual player doesn't really care about balance; he just doesn't want his character to be completely useless, but that is about it. Hardcore players go for min-maxing and want that level of game play, and balance is definitely going to make or break it.
Mek: Look at the impact of balance on top guilds and how it has affected World of Warcraft and raiding. When you have a situation where good players are having to sit out just because of their class, that is the really the kind of thing that you really don't want going on in your game. Blizzard tries to deal with that, but it never really goes away.
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