First up: go read this post about the recruit-a-friend system by Alas if you haven’t already. In it, she argues that the triple experience bonus you get when playing with your RAFbuddy is a bit too much, and contributes to the number of people bimbling around at level 80 in search of a clue (any clue) by rocketing people to 80 before they’ve had a chance to learn how to play their class and their role in groups.
“We want more people to play the game, because that earns us more money and we can buy more ponies yachts. People bringing their friends in is a good way of doing that. Problem is, a) experienced players might not feel like leveling yet another alt, and b) their friends might get a bit frustrated if the sales line is from their friend is “epic 25man battles with elder gods” but they then have to spend the next 8 weeks hunting for boar sphincters. So: we give them triple experience when they play together. The new player levels up really quickly. The recruiter can powerlevel another alt if they want, and they can explain how things work to their friend. More champagne, Jeeves.”
There is, however, only so much you can do. You can’t be there, wiping your RAFriend’s nose and shoving them out of the fire *all* the time. From their point of view, “not like that, like *this*” would probably get a bit tiresome after a while – part of the reason we play games is to discover things for ourselves, after all. So what to do?
A training raid
Consider the idea of a designated “learning” raid, which all people who wanted to raid would have to complete. This would be a relatively short encounter which featured a couple of core mechanics from raiding instances – a few trash pulls, some basic crowd control and a boss or two with relatively simple, common mechanics: “don’t stand here, don’t do <egg> while <bacon>, make sure you <currant> when the <bun> is <toasted>”. The key feature, however, would be gear normalization. No matter what gear you’re wearing (provided you meet a minimum standard), you gear is adjusted so that all raiders have roughly equivalent gear. Whether via a simple “Soldiers! Quickly now: we must remain undetected. Put on these guards’ uniforms!” mechanic where all members of a class/spec are temporarily forced into identical gear, or just by scaling stat values back to consistent levels, this would hopefully prevent people brute forcing their way through by massively overgearing the encounter. Perhaps players would be forced to learn to *play* instead?
New players could find themselves with no-one to group with (in the same way that it’s near-impossible to complete some of the Icecrown quest chains now because of the phasing). This could be alleviated by making this a selectable option for the “raid finder” interface: as a new raider, it’s your only option until you’ve completed it. Once you’ve completed it, it’s a tickbox – “include <learning raid> in your random selection?”. Rewards could also be experience dependent – one set of rewards (perhaps just a “raider” tabard) for people completing it for the first time, other rewards (gear? Badges/points/whatever they’ve renamed them?) for those choosing to help out new players. Vanity trinket for running the training dungeon 100 times once you’re qualified? [The Blackboard Eraser] On use: causes a cloud of chalk dust to appear around target. Target appears in school uniform and emotes with “child” voice for 30s. Appends “, sir!” or “, miss!” to all text chat.
It might be seen as similar to the old attunement mechanics (which don’t seem to be missed by many). I wasn’t playing when these were in place so my understanding is fuzzy (and potentially wrong), but hopefully a single “attunement” for *all* raiding wouldn’t be so terribly onerous.
Tuning the difficulty level would also be very tricky – this might be the major sticking point. It would be very easy to design the encounter to be ez-mode. It would be just as easy to make it so hard that new raiders would be completely discouraged. Possibly the new tutorial system could help out here: for those without the “Take the training wheels off my raid” achievement, it would pop up various helpful prompts.
All of these things will never “fix” the players who just don’t want to learn — but there’s no way to do that. It might be really useful for people who are inexperienced (*cough*) and keen to learn (*cough cough*), and would help us them feel more confident if they had an official “You are now raid ready” badge (*splutter*).