A proposition for dungeon and raid progression
Put PVP aside for a moment. Focusing purely on PVE, we have two conflicting groups within WoW: raiders and five-manners. Both groups want more content, both groups want viable progression. The raiders are of the opinion that, since organising 25 people is hard, their content should provide better mechanical rewards, and for the most part the five-manners are happy for this to be the case. The conflict arises when one or other group is of the opinion that while Blizzard are developing content for one group, they are not also developing content for the other.
(Note that not only the existence of content, but also the quality of that content is relevant. Would any raider claim that Ogri'la was interesting, challenging or rewarding content on a par with Black Temple? I hope not.)
This is a difficult problem to solve; Blizzard have only finite development resources and we have to trust them that developing more, and more exclusive at each tier, 25 man raid dungeons is good use of their time. However, of all things the Arena system suggests a solution. Each new season in the Arena, new gear becomes available at the same price as last season. It's harder to get to the top spot now, because your competition are wearing last season's gear rather than janky blues, but losing ten games per week earns you just as many points now as it did then. For a brand new PVPer, either more gear (in the form of old gear which has a reduced cost) or better gear (in the form of new season's gear at the same price) is available for the same or only slightly more effort.
Arena thus has a relatively static barrier to entry over time. This is absolutely necessary; if the cost of gear grew over time (for example, if season 2 gear cost twice what season 1 gear cost) new PVPers would find it impossible to ever progress toward the top end of the table, no matter how skilled they were. You have to spend a season playing catch-up, but you only have to spend one season (as a highly skilled player) acquiring gear which allows you to then compete on a roughly even footing with people who've been around since day 1.
By comparison, new PVE content has a dramatically higher barrier to entry over time. One cannot simply walk into the Black Temple in 115 blues on patch day. Even if there weren't an attunment process involving The Eye, Serpentshrine Cavern and Mount Hyjal, the bosses are intended to require a lot of game knowledge that can only come through long experience, or other people telling you how to do it, and a relatively good level of gear. Unlike PVP, the release of new top-end content for PVE does not affect the old content - whereas in the Arena, the release of Season 3 means that Season 3-geared warriors are going to come and kick your head in, the release of Black Temple (or any of the Burning Crusade zones) makes very little different to your progress in the Scarlet Monastery.
Of course, the barriers to entry are lowered over time. Both raid and five-man dungeons are nerfed (slightly or hugely), attunments are dropped, existing gear is buffed and new, available gear (such as the engineering hats, or badge gear) is added, all of which provide a boost to people who haven't made the leap to the next tier of raid content yet. However this process is gradual, informal, and may or may not make a practical difference over time. Magtheridon is undoubtedly "easier" now than he was at release, but not to the extent that season 3 gear is better than season 1 gear. His complexity is still infinitely beyond the reach of those unable or unwilling to coordinate in 25-man groups. In PVE it is now *slightly easier* to obtain items of the same quality as a year ago. In PVP it is now *slightly harder* to obtain items of hugely superior quality to a year ago.
One might reasonably say, how is this a problem? The person in the Scarlet Monastery doesn't care about Black Temple, and nor does the person keying and gearing themself for Karazhan. Static content which they haven't enjoyed yet still exists for them to experience, so why don't they go and experience it? The answer lies in the player's behaviour. Rational or not, people want gear and they want good gear. They look at available gearing routes and say "well, I could spend this week running Heroic Shattered Halls... which is stupidly hard (in blues, with a warrior tank) and provides 115 blue gear, or I could spend the week playing my ten Arena games and doing PVP and have a lot of gear to show for it". This is even more skewed on PVP servers where your survival walking around the world is substantially better enhanced by PVP gear which is not only higher iLevel, but more appropriately itemised for being ambushed while standing outside Karazhan. It becomes harder and harder to find level 70 players willing to *start* the chain of PVE content that leads to the top of the raid tier, and finding people willing to finish it has always been difficult.
What I propose is not to nerf Arena rewards, buff PVE rewards, nerd PVE content or anything like that. It's to apply a similar philosophy to PVE as is currently being applied to PVP. The following assumptions are made:
a) Five man content is always easier than twenty-five man content given similar encounter complexity and gear requirements.
b) There exist a significant number of players who demand top-end content which is exclusive and provides superior rewards as a reward for being in an elite, cutting-edge group.
c) The current model of PVE content while perfectly good on paper, loses out in practice against a competing system (PVP) which offers a reduced barrier to entry for superior quality gear, drawing players away from PVE.
The proposed system works like this:
Significant endgame content is divided explicitly into seasons, each one coming with a major content patch. To fit with the entertainingly overblown style of WoW, we'll call them Ages. Each new Age brings with it new content for the available play styles - explicitly bringing content for all of them so that there can be no accusations of favouritism. Let's start with an illustration of the hypothetical Age 1, the release of Burning Crusade.
Age 1 includes the following endgame content:
Age 2 is expected to appear as development time allow, some time after the most advanced groups have cleared the available content, but before the majority have done so. Age 2 includes the following new and changed content:
Age 3 follows on in a similar vein:
And so on. As the new expansion approaches and development resources sufficient for new 25-man dungeons become scarce, retooling old instances can still continue.
iLevels given may seem over-specific, but are included simply to indicate the comparitive intended level of gear progression at that point. 125 might be 123, all the numbers might be reduced by 5, etc.
Notable advantages of this system
1) At every major content release (Age), each group of players receives content which is at least as notable as the content they're getting under the current system. (That is to say, there aren't necessarily new Arenas, or Battlegrounds, but that's no worse than the situation we have at the moment, and they could always add those too if fairness is an important consideration.)
2) Much of this content is recycled, at least as far as artwork goes. This either makes the content cheaper to develop, or faster to develop, or allows the art team to do more work on the leading-edge (25-man) content.
3) Each player group (PVP, 5-man, 10-man, 25-man) receives new challenges, rewards and mostly importantly, options for progression at every new Age. I've ignored the question of soloable content, which would have to be added on an ad-hoc basis at the same time.
4) Players who wish to join the bleeding edge no longer have to spent months grinding up through the lower tiers to join the highest tiers. This is good for the players, and good for the raid guilds that want to recruit them. They will of course not have the practice at 25-man raiding, but they weren't given their gear for free (they still had to earn it, just on a shorter timer and in a smaller group) and if they're good players worth recruiting, the guild can train them up without having to worry about running old instances for gear.
5) The elite are still the elite. Not every could, or would want to, participate in the 25-man bleeding edge of the game. For those that do, there are unique rewards to recognise their commitment.
6) People who want to experience the content "as-is" and progress at their own pace can still do so. Slow raiding guilds can still grind away at the 25-man versions of the dungeon for the challenge and satisfaction of it. In fact, they have it better than they have it under the current system, as there is no need to nerf the existing 25-man content. Bleeding edge raiders currently scorn slow raiders for not being there "when it was hard". As the encounters can remain unchanged, this disparity is for the most part removed.
Q) Won't retuning or redesigning the instances for a smaller number of players use a lot of development time?
A) Yes it will, but it will use a lot less than the development of an entire new dungeon for a particular group size (for example, Zul'Aman which is restricted only to 10-man will have been a lot more expensive than retuning Tempest Keep for 10-man would have been).
Q) Why rehash old content when you could design new content?
A) Because for the people who didn't have access to it before, it *is* new content. Not only that, but it's new content with no art requirements at all... making it win/win.
Q) Why should 5-man have the same rewards as 25-man?
A) Because by the time those rewards have been made available, the 25-manners have access to much better gear. The 5-manners *will* have put less work in than the 25-manners (due to simplified organisation, etc) but it will be impossible for them to reach the level of 25-man gear without joining a 25-man raid. The elite remain the elite, and the non-elite have a path of progression which is cheaper for Blizzard to develop and no less satisfying.
Q) But this makes it easier for people who aren't in large raid guilds to get gear!
A) Yes, that's the idea. People who don't want to raid win. People who want to raid but aren't in a raid guild yet win (because they can get the gear they need to be able to join in with 25-man raiding), and even people who are in a raid guild win by having access to a pool of much better-geared recruits.
Q) An entirely new 10-man dungeon provides content for 10-man groups and 25-man groups, but a rehashed 25-man-into-10-man only provides content for 10-man groups. What's up with that?
A) On the release of a new Age, the 10-man group gets new content from the retuned old dungeon, whereas the 25-man group gets new content from the newly released 25-man dungeon. Every group gets new content in every Age.
Q) WoW needs an elite core of players to inspire others.
A) It would still have one. Killing (say) Illidan soon after Black Temple went live would be as impressive a feat here as it would under the old system. The 25-man raiders are going to have no respect for people who killed 5-man Illidan, and the 5-man people either don't care or are happy to accept their "lowly" role. The only people that lose out are the raid scrubs who are two tiers behind in progression and like to lord it over the five-manners. The Arena has already pretty much killed this group anyway.
Q) Won't people stop raiding 25-man entirely with this system?
A) There's no reason to believe that. It may be that with equivalent gear available (eventually) through 5-man and PVP systems, only those who genuinely want to raid end up raiding. Their dedication is rewarded by being the first to see new content and get the new gear, access to special titles and the chance at "world firsts" and "server firsts". If it turns out that in the absense of exclusive privileged access to the best gear and the most high-profile content (signature Warcraft bosses, etc) the raid game dies, that saves Blizzard the bother of having to develop (complex) 25-man content in the future.
Q) Why is the best available PVE gear better than the best available PVP gear during an Age?
A) Balance on PVP servers, primarily. Since PVP gear is (much) better itemised for PVP, raiders would stand little chance against PVPers in world PVP with similar iLevel gear.
Q) Titles are lame.
A) Okay. I think so too, and I much prefer the more complex or involved reward systems in City of Heroes and Lord Of The Rings: Online. Titles seem to be Blizzard's non-mechanical reward of choice so I used them too. Feel free to substitute a public Hall of Fame, mounts, pets, tabards, +1% XP, +1% Rep, or my favourite, a permanent +5% size increase, instead. Whatever you feel (other than actual gear) ought to separate the elite from those who come after them.
Q) Why do the five-man dungeons have reduced lockout timers? That way five-man groups can accumulate gear much faster!
A) Exactly. This allows advanced raid groups to gear up for their content more quickly and conveniently and allows raiders who want to join the bleeding edge to put time in now to get there before the next Age arrives.
Q) You can't retune a 25-man encounter to a 5-man encounter.
A) You can't exactly replicate the structure and quality of every large group encounter with a small group. Some players find the "epic" feel of large numbers of players present to be valuable, but those players will have large group content available to them. Some encounters require certain quantites of certain roles (two, three, four tanks, etc) and these would need to be redesigned for 10- or 5-man play. However, replicating the exact nature of the encounter is less important than including content at all. If a player wants to experience the full complexity of a 25-man encounter, that encounter will still always be available to them. Players who can't or won't do that can experience a redesigned, less complex version along similar lines later on. However, the flavour of the fight and if necessary exhaustive learning of the fight can be retained. A long fight with many phases will be much quicker to learn with a small group, but still extremely demanding by comparison to a tank and spank.
Moroes: What's actually tactically significant in the Moroes fight is that he has adds which need to be contained, either through effective crowd control or well-coordinated tanking. However, what's actually memorable about the fight is the way he gouges the tank and ganks people, or vanishes and garrottes. These mechanics can be easily replicated in five man, with the inclusion of perhaps one or two adds which need to be contained or killed.
Wizard of Oz: This encounter is demanding on group composition, requiring: a) A warlock or hunter to chain fear Roar, b) A mage, warlock or shaman to chain fire Strawman, c) a free body to kite Tinhead around, d) someone spare to stop Tito from ganking a healer and e) everyone left to dps Dorothee down ASAP. With some redesign the essential flavour of this encounter can be preserved with less demanding composition. For example, rather than having to chain fear Roar, the first Fear effect applied to him could nerf his damage output by 90%, or fear him for a consistent 1 minute. This would require the presence of a warlock, hunter, priest, warrior or leatherworker with Drums of Panic. Even Flash Bombs could be used to control him. Likewise, the dazed debuff on Strawman could be lengthened to the extent that a rogue with fast weapons with Fiery Weapon on them could effectively control him, or the players could take it in turns to Ez-Thro Dynamite.
Al'ar: Significant features of this fight are his Ragnaros-like I-nuke-you-if-no-one-is-near, summoning of adds, necessary mobility due to patches of fire, and the use of multiple tanks to avoid debuffs. In a 5-man context, it is possible to retain all of these elements without substantial redesign. For example, there is no need for the adds to require tanking as long as prompt and skilled action on the part of the dps is required. Making sure someone stays in melee range is still reasonable and could be tuned to be more demanding (requiring speed buffs, for example from potions) since there are not five tanks available. Tank swapping after a debuff is also perfectly possible, especially if the boss deals (or is made to deal) primarily magical damage from spells against which tanking classes are not as significant. "Tank" swapping via dps classes carefully managing aggro to eat debuffs can be made to be more challenging, especially in the presence of adds and dangerous areas of ground.
Kael'thas: Nothing in this fight explicitly demands the presence of a particular size or composition of party as long as his abilities (and those of the advisors) are tuned to account for it. The group would be required to bring a character capable of using each of the ability-deflecting items and potentially miss out on one or two of them. Yes, it would be easier because there will be less people, and yes, it'll take less time (probably much, much less time) to learn than the 25-man version for the same reason, but so what? It's still head and shoulders above Warlord Kalithresh.
There's a lot of potential in five-man versions of raid fights for imaginative or creative use of unusual abilities for the designers and the players. Flash bombs are a good example - is it somehow easier to assign someone to repeatedly flash bomb Roar rather than have a warlock do it? I don't think so. It also opens up an otherwise more or less useless item (obviously it would have to work on level 73 targets...) and allows classes that don't usually have the challenge of constant CC to experience it.
Your model will make any player evolution impossible.
Current scheme is a) I reached 70 b) I done with 70 instances c) I started heroics d) I realised that I'm done with 5 man content and to progress I need more e) I found kara guild f) Done with kara and need more g) moved to t5
As I understand your model, you just offering [Primal Fire v.2] to those who farm [Primal Fire], discouraging people to go on next stage as it will be fine for players being stuck at one level (And yes, it is actually one level) if they constantly fed with new version of "primal to farm"
And idea of making old content look new (and retuned scarlet monastery will not become anything else but scarlet monastery) is a bit too cheap trick for WoW isn't it? (Developing Naxx2 is totally different from making multiple versions of one dungeon)
Sorry for critique but I think your model will just lock most players in some infinite cycle.
At the moment the progression is roughly solo->5 man->10 man->25 man.
Are you saying that this system is badly thought out because instead of this progression it could be solo->5 man->5 man->5 man if you wanted it to be, and that you aren't "forced" to move on to 10 man and 25 man content if you don't want to?
I agree with the general principle, but I am not sure about your approach. The issue is casuals, who we will define as people who dont want to or dont have time for raiding but not unskilled, dont have much they can do. They have 5 mans that dont really change in difficulty or loot, and 10 mans which dont come as often as 25s. There are rep grinds but I think everyone agrees they suck.
First I think that 5 mans have a difficulty cap due to the fact that it has to be doable with tank/healer/dps regardless of class. It is also hard to have any meaningful coordination difficulty between only 5 people. A significant part of the 'difficulty' of raiding is coordinating that many people. I think it would be even more work for blizz to create 5 mans like this than they do now.
I think a better solution would be to have raids and 5/10 mans come out at the same time with similar difficulty. Sunwell and Magister's Terrace could work like this, but MT would need to be as hard as Sunwell is, and drop loot on par or a little under sunwell. I think this would work for a 10 man/3 day reset.
The problem with putting the 10/25 progression out there is that five levels into the next expansion they are nearly in the same boat as everyone who passed it over. Now we certainly don't know what the next expansion will actually do gear wise, but given the monty hall nature of the game now I fully expect that before a player completes to the final level that the majority of their gear from TBC is just going to be useless.
As such, people aren't being forced into 5-5-10-25 anyway. Getting past 10 for most people is a non-starter. I think Blizzard has noticed this too. As such the explosion of gear in arena/pvp has come along to give people cool looking items which seems to be the focus. There are a lot more "I look cool" people than number crunching tacticians. Get outside of my core group of people and I find them all the time, usually unguilded or shortly changing.
Instead of taking 25 down to 5 perhaps blizzard should work the other way? Start out as 5, then make 10 and 25. They don't necessarily have to release the 5 man early on if ever, but by increasing difficulty shouldn't that make balance easier? Besides by adding on they can tweak requirements to get class representation up to the levels they desire.
I am clearly in the casual raider category, I just don't have time. I like the idea of 25 player raids. That is what puts the epic into the game. I do think they need to be recognized through items and the like. The problem is always the next release ends up trumping them. Just like the people crying on the boards when TBC came out because of all their hard work. We don't necessarily need progression but we do need the epic. There are people out there to whom a five man is as boring as the solo grind.
Keep in mind natural burnout of any player, at this moment there's 3 ways a) Jumping on next stage of game b) Leaving WoW c) Starting new main
And I think with 5man> 5man > 5man progression % of leaving "Because I've seen everything" will increase.
Current 5 man to prepare for 10 man, 10 man to prepare for 25 man, 25 man to prepare for fresh content is working, As 5 man just cannot give enough efforts absorption as large and hard raids wich ideal to keep players busy.
I may be wrong as casual player psychology is a dark side for me.
There is always reason to jump up to the next group size, because doing so gives you access to content you don't have access to right now. After the next age, 6-12 months down the line, that content will become accessible to you without jumping up a group size. Realistically, if you want to be at the cutting edge you still can be at the cutting edge (and there is slighty less barrier to prevent you from doing so, although you have to be "as good"). If you don't want to be at the cutting edge, well, you still don't have to be. The only difference is that you can choose to do 10-man SSC instead of 25-man SSC. Either way, they're never going to be in the newest, hardest content when it's new and hard.
Why should they be doing 25-man if they'd rather do 10-man?
I don't know if re-tuning whole dungeons would really be a good idea. The problem with your model is that if you "are late", you can't experience the same content as previous raiders. Let's say we are in the third Age: I would be unable to experience the "good old 25-man Karazhan", even if I want to.
Basically, in my opinion, anything that "remove" content is a bad move. The fact that someone started playing late should not stop him from experiencing the same instances that more experienced raiders.
However, I like the idea to apply the "seasons" principe to PvE. Another way to do this would simple be to "move down one tier" the drop rewards. For example, during the first Age, the items would drop the same as now. During the second age, Heroic instance bosses would drop T4 items, Karazhan would drop T5 items, and SSC/TK would drop T6 items. And so on.
The same can apply to Heroic badges items: just lower the price of older items when a new season appear (a Helm that costed 100 tokens during the First Age would only cost 60 during the second, 30 during the third, etc).
This way, you don't need to nerf the instances anymore (as the average ilevel of players equipment would increase anyway), you don't "remove" content (excepted, maybe, some old loots. But even, too old items could be sold for a faction requirement of whatnot), and you still have the time to develop new instances (be it 5-man or raid instances).
This would actually be better than the current situation. I'm in a ten-man guild, and we spent long enough getting our new players to 70 and training them that Kara had been nerfed by that point. We never got to experience it pre-nerf, and now we never will. It's been nice to see Zul'Aman "fresh", in the safe knowledge that somewhere along the line it's going to become easier.
They have loot. They have content. What they lack is progression. Raiders often ask "why do non-raiders need better gear?". The answer is, they don't. This doesn't mean they should lose out on gear, it means they should gain on content. Content which is challenging and rewarding. Ogri'la is content, but it's not something you move onto after mastering heroics. Magister's Terrace *is* progression content, but it's one instance, and what is the gear in Magister's Terrace for? Ogri'la, I suppose.
Having the 2.3 badge loot, or Tier 4 (personally I would have had the 2.3 badge loot drop in Zul'Aman like it's clearly supposed to, and had Tier 4 tokens purchasable for badges) gives 5-manners the same old content with new rewards. Some people are happy to murder Pathaleon dozens and dozens more times, but surely a lot of people are thinking "Gee, it'd be nice to fight something other than Pathaleon".
This will make karazhan guilds to farm karazhan twice, first for t4, then for t5.
Speaking as a casual player, I think this is a great idea. Due to time constraints I have recently been forced to stop raiding. Because I don't have access to higher level content I have no desire to play my druid. My gear is adequate to tank any content that I have access to, so why should I grind rep or instances for that marginal upgrade when my gear is fine?
This idea would give me access to an upgrade path, access to new (to me) content, and most importantly a reason to spend time developing my character.
In regards to missing out on 25 man Karazan, if you are interested in doing 25 man content you aren't the kind of player that would be happy with 25 man Karazan for too long anyway. You would want to get past is asap and get to the higher content. Making Karazan a 5 man would let you get to the higher 25 content faster.
Okay, I understand what you mean. I think I focused a bit too much on the "lost" content because, in my opinion, a retuned instance is lost content. You keep the lore, the graphisms and cool emotes, but you lose the "heart" of the content: the fine tuning of a lovely scripted fight. A 5-man Opera event would looks like a 25-man one, but the dynamic behind it would be different. It's not just a matter of adjusting a boss hitpoints or damage output, it's that you can't expect the same complexity in a 5-man encounter as in a 10-man one.
After reading your replies, I think I can agree when you say that 5-man'ers lack progression. Maybe made the "standard" version of a re-tuned Karazhan a 5-man dungeon of "heroic" difficulty, and the let the players access the old raiding instance using the "heroic mode" of said instance ? This way, the old content would not be lost.
But on a second though, I doubt that a lot of players would like to experience old content "the hard way", doing a 10-man run of Karazhan when a 5-man one is accessible with the same rewards...
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