Monday, November 19, 2007
Improving raid endgame progression
Doeg left an excellent comment on the Zul'Aman thread, which I want to take up to better explain my position, as I feel I haven't expressed myself well in that ZA post.
ZA is not targeted for toons in blues-n-greens, or even fully blues. Heroics, crafting, and PvP are ways to get the epics needed to survive Kara, where you get more-and-better epics, and then on to ZA. (I like that variety in obtaining gear, because I remember the days back when pretty much the only realistic endgame gear path in WoW was 40-man raiding.)This is exactly the game design failure I'm talking about. Ideally a player hits level 70 and what he has to do next in the progression is identical to what he *wants* to do next. Many, many players *want* to raid, far more than are currently actually raiding.
Interestingly, the very same complaints that are being leveled against ZA (too hard) are also proving true in the case of the reduction of Heroic key requirements. Within a few days there were stories circulating on my server about "I'm 70 now I can run a Heroic!" groups trying to jump into Heroics and getting mercilessly slaughtered.
I suppose that is, in part, a game design failure of sorts. Blizz guides us by the nose though the 1-70 content, mostly controlling access by turning on those little "!" when we're deemed ready. I suppose those poor guys and gals thought that a Heroic key was the equivalent of a yellow "!". It reminds me of the guildies who ding 70 and immediately say, "When's the next Kara run?", to which you have to say, "Whoa, there, big fella..." :).
"Hard" or "easy" content does not exist in absolute terms. How hard a given dungeon is depends to some extent on how familiar the players are with it, but to an even larger extent to their level and gear. The heroic dungeons are a very good example for that. If you would do lets say the non-heroic Underbog with a group of level 58 characters equipped in green gear it would be very hard. Now the players level up, and get better gear, so by the time they are level 70 the non-heroic Underbog is rather easy to beat. But if at that point the same players try the same dungeon in heroic mode, they are back to it being hard again, as hard as when they were 58. A couple of months of gear progression later, heroic Underbog becomes easy again. Note how what the mobs in Underbog are doing doesn't change at all during that progression, only the numerical values of the stats of the players and the mobs change.
Initially Blizzard tried to prevent people from entering dungeons that were too hard for them by attunement requirements. The reason you need a key for Karazhan is that getting the key for Karazhan should drag you through several level 70 dungeons and is thus likely to acquire you some necessary gear. But being forced to do certain things wasn't very popular, the attunement scheme was abandoned for the latter raid dungeons. Strangely you still need a key for Karazhan, but can enter the harder raid dungeons without one. That shifts the problem to the guilds, who now have to tell people that they can't join lets say a Zul'Aman raid before having done a certain number of Karazhan raids.
What I am proposing is a better progression. I can see how this might be too late for TBC, but I can still dream about something like it being implemented for Wrath of the Lich King. Imagine when players hit level 80 they have a *choice* between level 80 5-man dungeons and an entry-level raid dungeon. The "difficulty" of the entry-level raid dungeon would be such that you have pretty much the same chance to succeed with the same geared people (only more of them) in the raid dungeon than what you'd have if you went to a typical level 80 5-man dungeon. And the loot would also be similar, or a tiny bit better to make up for the fact that it is harder to organize a larger group. We could even have *two* entry-level raid dungeons, one for 10 players and one for 25, to accomodate all guild sizes.
The result of that would be that all those players shouting "Ding 80, I want to join a raid" could actually do so. And of course there would be "harder", that is Karazhan-equivalent and up, raid dungeons after those entry-level raid dungeons. So the real hardcore could probably skip or do very fast the entry-level raid dungeons and go right to the next level. But the entry-level raid dungeons would make entry into the raiding progression accessible for a much larger part of the player base. If these players don't play very well, or their real-life schedules prevents them from attending on a regular basis, they might never make the next level. But at least they could raid at all. And by doing so they would learn about how to behave in a raid, and ultimately get better at it. It isn't so much that Karazhan or Zul'Aman is "too hard", the problem is that there is no easier alternative to go on a raid. Why not give people the opportunity to raid with the training-wheels still on?