Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 15, 2009
 
The psychology of exclusivity

A reader wrote me with an interesting insight on Naxxramas: "I think the core of this casual raid vs hardcore raid debacle that WotLK is turning into lies with the age old Gear vs Skill thing. Hardcore raiders prefer to attribute their success to skill. Rather than better geared than casuals, they are better skilled, and the gear is only a symptom of that. The reason that people are reacting so violently to easy Naxx is that it is making it plain to see for all is that gear is really the ONLY thing that matters in WoW.

Naxx at 80 has all the same skill requirement as it did at 60 (Plus or minus a very very few changes). You still have to get away from anub'arak, stay out of the slime and behind the boss on grob, change sides on thaddius, dance on Heigan, be smart with healing on Loatheb, and get behind the Iceblock on Saph. If you aren't "skilled" enough to to those actions, you can still fail in naxx. The ONLY real thing that has changed is the gear requirements (From "Have to have perfect gear" to "You can get by as a fresh level capped character"). Wow is and always has been about the gear treadmill."


I found that definition of skill a bit too narrow. "Skill" isn't black and white, either you can dance at Heigan or you can't. In most cases there is a penalty for failing to "get out of the fire", but if you have enough health and your healers enough healing power, you can just overcome the penalty. Thus if you do Molten Core at level 80, you don't need to run if you are the bomb at Baron Geddon (which is another argument why training for raiding in lower level raid dungeons doesn't work). Another example is crowd control at Moroes in Karazhan, which was extremely important in the original version, but after patch 3.0.2 most raids just gathered all the adds on one spot and aoe'd them down.

So I do think it took more skill to do Naxxramas at 60 than it takes today. But his comment is touching on a different issue, that of exclusivity. The human mind is tribal, and automatically thinks in terms of "us and them". We have a basic human *need* to belong to a group which is different, and in our minds "better", than another group. Thus people sort themselves into Democrats and Republicans, or into fans of different sports teams, and both sides look down on the other side.

So pre-WotLK there was this nice group distinction of you either being a raider or not. The raiders could look down on the casual players who didn't have the "skill" to kill Moroes in Karazhan. And the casuals could look down on the raiders who "obviously" only got there due to their gear. Now with Wrath of the Lich King comes Naxxramas, and suddenly everybody is a raider. Blizzard is starting to have instance server problems, with lag in Naxxramas, and "no more instances can be opened right now" error messages, because every evening Naxxramas and heroic dungeons are simply packed. And not only is everyone a raider now, there are also less distinctions between top guilds and mediocre raiding guilds. Instead of just having one or two guilds per server that were able to beat Sunwell, suddenly a dozen raid guilds can do the hardest available content. There is no "us and them" any more, only people who don't want to raid don't raid. There is no exclusivity.

Turning the clock back and making Naxxramas much harder, excluding a lot of people from using it, would be something that Blizzard would have problems doing. It would cause a huge wave of protest of all those average players who thoroughly enjoy now being able to raid. So the devs decided to go only part of the way. Blizzard *is* making raiding harder, by nerfing healing in patch 3.0.8: If you have a healing meter like Recount and check it after a typical raid with druid and holy priests healers, you'll see that typically 30% to 40% of the healing by them is done with Wild Growth and Circle of Healing. Both are currently instant spells and can be spammed as fast as the global cooldown permits. And they are both "smart" heals, searching automatically for the wounded raid members, thus minimizing overhealing. In the patch both spells will have a 6-second cooldown, and raids risk losing a quarter of their healing, which should make raids in general harder.

But the other part of the solution has to be adding harder raid dungeons. Ulduar *must* be significantly harder than Naxxramas, so the hardcore regain a sense of exclusivity. They'll have to live with the fact that the limit between "us" and "them" is not whether somebody can raid at all, but whether he can raid Ulduar or not. The casuals have nothing to complain, because the *can* raid, just not everywhere. And the hardcore have nothing to complain because they *do* distinguish themselves from the less skilled players.
Comments:
It is not really a feeling of exclusivity. You picked a very good example, Moroes. What is more interesting: Crowd control or round'em up in one spot and AoE nuke them. I got SICK by the trashy quality of WOTLK trash mobs: AoE madness par excellence. The bosses are also easy, though some are really designed to be different and refreshing. But all those nice ideas go down the drain when you can just overpower the opposition without having to adapt to the challenge ahead. This is what killed WOTLK dungeons for me.

You do not need to be an elitist to get bored by such pushover dungeons. Or is it all about grabbing loot in the easiest possible way in the shortest time possible?
 
I don't feel that a hard Ulduar would solve all problems. It may keep the hardcore happy, but what about the average raider who has cleared the rest of the content, got all their gear upgrades, and is bored and wants to raid somewhere new? Will they say, "Sorry, that's it for you in this expansion, see you next year"? We had that with Karazhan, because ZA was not pitched at a good difficulty for a group which had only cleared Kara and was in T4.

I think people do want to find ways to make themselves stand out or be more valuable compared to others. It isn't just hardcore raiders with the shiny purples; more casual players used to do crazy grinding quests to get a winterspring sabre mount and there was never any particular reason for it than to prove that you could.

It's like with exploring, what's the point of knowing all the quests and where every different thing in the game drops when everyone else just looks it up on wowhead anyway? Being game knowledgeable is no longer going to separate a player from anyone else with a browser. (I used to like being the person who knew stuff in games :P ). Similarly, being a raider isn't going to impress anyone.

I'm not sure where I am going with this, but I think there is a fun part to playing with others whic involves showing off. It doesn't have to be mean spirited or elitist (although people being people, there is that side to it) and maybe more fluff could help fill that gap.
 
I feel - or to be precise I hope - that the difficulty level of Naxx (and the rest of the instances which I fould easy) are the result of an intermediate era in which Blizzard attempted to bring more people into the PvE content in in particular raiding. By increasing the population of raiders and diminishing the gap between casual, mainstream and hardcore players (notice the mid point here, its intentional) Blizzard maintains some interest for people that in tBC was accused they had forgoten.

People get the chance to raid more, see more, loot more. At the same time though a part of the population is left `unpleassed'. Mainsteam players who like chalenges and hardcore ones are somewhat left without the ammount of reward they would like. An achievement, a title and a mount might seem to little of a reward for some. Whether we like it or not we are accustomed to `tier' or instance level differences.

As I have mentioned to an other blog...

The matter at hand starts to leave the boundaries of a shared virtual environment and becomes philosophical. Reward, effort-put, ammount of available resources etc become a complicated mix when put together. It seems our sublime desire for the 'best' along with our inability to obtain it in real life has crawled up into a game.

I am personaly satisfied with trying harder things 'cause I love the game. But at the end of the day I do not mind I never saw KJ for example. I patently await the next bunch of chalenges (Ulduar) to see where they are going with it.
 
The thing is, I wouldn't necessarily consider someone who attends raids a raider, and I dispute that gear translate to "skill". Naxx 25 has been done by hardcore guilds in their level 70 gear, but I've seen people in 80 epics die to Heigan's floor every bloody week.

My hope is that Blizzard's point with easy Naxxramas is to make better players more easily able to compensate for the loss of poor players during a fight, so that the poor players get raiding experience and hopefully understand how to approach non-tank-and-spank fights.

My fear is that nearly everyone will have tasted raiding, and if they've put reasonable time toward gear advancement, they'll pass the gear checks in Ulduar. When guilds full of casual dead weight can't survive the more structured fights - or the more chaotic, for that matter - further on, it could go easily the way of Karazhan.

I think the key is to be organized and ready to move on, so that the group can experience the challenge before the nerf.
 
Dunno if the new dungeon will need to be hard. As you've pointed out in an earlier post, the "hardcore" are a small percentage of Blizzard's fanbase. I think they want more people raiding, and will continue to make that possible. There just isn't enough other content at 80 to keep people re-upping their subs. 3.1 will tell the (next part) of the tale . . .
 
Pure gold, Jezebeau, pure gold.
So we now reached the conclusion that the gear excuse is only valid if gear allows you to trample the content without a care for strategy, tactics and execution.
When the Strategy is defined (either by checking what Nihilum did and repeat, adapt or create a whole new tactic) then that leaves us with tactics and execution and that is a different ball game.
Some people cannot push buttons and move, some people cannot push all the buttons fast enough (or slow enough), some people have to constantly look at the screen to see when when the cooldown of an instant healing spell is over so they can press it again, some people have no space awareness whatsoever, some people cannot follow a simple command on vent when things get too hectic, some people cannot look beyond their own character and specific task and don't throw a heal the MT way when the raid is already topped, and so on, and so on...

All this requires skill and skill is nothing that one cannot achieve through some effort and effort translates into repetition. The more you raid, the better you get at it. And that is why some guilds have already trampled Naxx 25. Now tell me, does the Immortal achievement translates into a reward befitting the achievement? A cool mount or a über piece of gear? If so, expect the whining to resume soon. :)
 
I don't feel that a hard Ulduar would solve all problems. It may keep the hardcore happy, but what about the average raider who has cleared the rest of the content, got all their gear upgrades, and is bored and wants to raid somewhere new? Will they say, "Sorry, that's it for you in this expansion, see you next year"? We had that with Karazhan, because ZA was not pitched at a good difficulty for a group which had only cleared Kara and was in T4.
Quoted for truth. Lack of progression is toxic, no matter whether it's the casuals or the hardcore who are lacking. If all you can do is twiddle your thumbs or bash your head against the proverbial brick wall, then you have plenty of time for envy. Why did those guys get content and we didn't? Why is their content more shiny? Blizzard should be doing content for people like me!

Ulduar *must* be significantly harder than Naxxramas, so the hardcore regain a sense of exclusivity.
I respectfully disagree. Blizzard should not build more ivory towers. Not for the hardcore nor for the casuals. But they do need to ramp up their schedule or preferably have more teams working in parallel. They seemed to partially realize the danger of playing favourites by phasing out the concept of a "class patch" and more-or-less pairing Arena seasons with PvE tiers, but some schisms are still there. Each patch needs to have something for everyone.
 
Uldar should be Harder, Yes. Significantly harder? No.

It is a progression, each raid should be harder than the next. There should be no brick wall, instead it should be an incline.
 
If you had cleared Karazhan, you could clear Zul Aman. That is a fact, because I did it with my Horde guild.
Yes, a casual guild where we often had to cancel raids because we only had 2 tanks in the guild. None of us had been to Maulgar, Gruul or Magtheridon, never mind SSC or BT. Did we clear it as fast as people are clearing Naxx at the moment? Of course not. We had to work on the Bear and the Eagle bosses over and over, but the loot rewards we got enabled us to progress to the rest.

Raiding is time-consuming; that is the biggest block to raid progression, not gear, not skill. People who didn't have 3-4 hours spare time a day pre-WotLK still won't have time now.
The difference is that in Wrath, you only need 1 or 2 days to clear Naxxramas rather than 4 or 5 in original WoW (and don't forget, in order to get to original Naxx you probably had already spent a large amount of time in BC, BWL, AQ20/40 in order to gear up).
Nowadays you gain loot 4-5 times quicker, and no doubt get bored of the place 4-5 times quicker.

Blizzard did make mistakes with attunements in BC. I don't agree with anyone who felt that attunement to Karazhan was too hard, but certainly getting into SSC and BT was.
 
"Naxx at 80 has all the same skill requirement as it did at 60 (Plus or minus a very very few changes). You still have to get away from anub'arak[...]"

Lol I knew that would happen with the mind of people ever since Blizzard announced that they would rework Naxx as an Entryraid. If a Boss has the same name, stands in the same instance and uses the same skills it has to be the same boss, right?
Wrong. Let me use Anub as an example. Both in his old and new version he uses Impale, Locust Swarm, spawns some adds from time to time and spawns bugs out of dead bodies. The difference is that in his new incarnation those skills are kind of 'disconnected' from each other. In the past a player would stand too near when he casts Locust Swarm and he would simply die without any chance of survival. Today I simply heal through it if they don't get too much of it. In the past that dead player would spawn bugs, today its only a chance that this will happen. In the past those bugs were deadly, if the mages didn't use frostnova right away and killed them, they would rip a healer apart in seconds. Today some of them can gnaw on me and I will simply tell the DDs to do their job while continuing to heal as if nothing is happening. In the past this additional death would spawn even more bugs, leading to a chain reaction and a wipe.
Now remember: This serie of events started with one person standing too near the boss. In the past this meant 40 dead people. Today the worst that can happen is one dead player.
 
I don't want raids to be harder because of some twisted notion of exclusivity - I want raids to be harder so that there is actually a challenge to overcome that takes MONTHS and HARD WORK and ADAPTATION. I don't raid so that I can show off to non-raiders - I raid to be challenged in a manner that promotes teamwork between a group of like-minded individuals.

Only releasing the simplest of raids means that many guilds are completely finished with the hardest content the game has to offer, and thus totally bored. Sure, I could farm Naxx week in and week out for months..... but what's the point?

I have no problem whatsoever with a sense of progression through the raiding scene - but to release only the mindlessly trivial content was really not a good move, IMO.
 
OK, I might be wrong here as I don't actually play WoW at the moment, but wasn't putting out a 10 and a 25 man version of each raid supposed to solve this problem? If you were casual or bad, you went with the 10-man, if not, you went with the 25-man?

I'm all for having content that's accessible to everyone but part of that is having a challenging version for those who want such a challenge. The gear doesn't need to be miles ahead of the 'easy mode' version, and an achievement so you can say you did it.
 
@Kessiaan: 10-man and 25-man raids are not created to be different in terms of difficulty. 10-mans are not the easy version, its the version for those guilds that don't have 25 people available.
 
They should just stay the course. Those raiders had no one paying attention anyway, save for the rest in their guild. Being that it wasn't some official title, they will just absorb into the role of someone enjoying a game.
The most striking part is the sheer amount of activities you can participate in in WoTLK. Almost every major quest is different: riding dragons, bombing enemies. All of that is rushed through as quickly as possible simply because of this perception that the end-game is somehow better.
So yeh, I hope WoW stays this path, making raids/dungeons actually funner and for all. No one will miss screaming on the Vent server.
 
"No one will miss screaming on the Vent server."

Have you ever been shouted at in Vent?
If so, care to tell us why?
 
I don't understand why the hardcore don't become creative in trying to make challenges for themselves.

10 man Naxx too easy? Bring only 5 people. Or play in the level 1 starter gear. Don't use heals. Try to bring a boss down within thirty seconds.

There's a lot of things a player can do to make the game harder for themselves that doesn't require Blizzard to cater to them exclusivly.

If it's not about the gear but the skill of the player they should be able to do 10 man Naxx in level 1 starter gear in an hour. ;)
 
"10 man Naxx too easy? Bring only 5 people. Or play in the level 1 starter gear. Don't use heals. Try to bring a boss down within thirty seconds."

That same reasoning could be applied to older raids. If it's all about content, why don't you just go back to older raids as soon as you outgrow them?
I bet that the pre-nerf Sunwell and even SSC could still give lvl 80 players who are not used to raiding a run for their money.
The problem is reward. Players want gear, they don't give a rat's ass about content.
Have any idea how many times i tried to organize some Vanilla WoW raids when i reached lvl 70? Just for the fun of it and to see the content? Have any idea of how many times i got more than 10 players to do them?

No reward, no game. But you can bet the farm that if Blizz gives über rewards for those achievements, the hardcore will start doing them. And everybody else will start screaming again. Only this time they will have to be honest about it. :)
 
@spinksville
"and maybe more fluff could help fill that gap.

This is an interesting point, as earlier comments have said there's a lot to do at level cap, not just "new and improved" quest types, but also fluff to collect. Why do you think there's a reward for collecting 50 minipets and 50 mounts? Why are there several dang expensive mounts, some of them even require rep? I remember reading on the WotLK boards over a year ago about a post who asked what the new gold sinks would be, and here's the answer: fluff. People in my guild are boggling at me because I got so much stuff that doesn't improve my character statswise, but they haven't gotten the point of why I'm doing it: to stand out. That's the new exclusive stuff, the things you can get without raiding (but not without lots of farming, luckily even farming has been made more fun). I like to believe I stand out with my Loremaster title, albino drake (which is more uncommon than the bronze one from the Strat event), skunk minipet and Mechano-Hog. And the best part is: I didn't need to raid at all for any of it. Actually a bad raid night could set me back. I still went to raids though because I find raiding to be fun in itself, so it was worth it anyway.

I think people need to get off their blinders and see all the other things in the game. Blizzard has never claimed anywhere that the goal of the game is getting uber epics, and if you think that their making gear easier to get is a sign I'm wrong, think about it this way: in vanilla gearing up was much harder than other things in the game (not that there was much more to do...), they've done like they've done since the start of TBC: nerf the difficulty of getting it to bring it on par with other things you can do, while adding more things. WotLK maybe brought it too far, you're no longer a nolifer if you got full raid epics, but you are if you ride one of the expensive mounts which can be gotten solo if you spend enough time. I'll keep farming my expensive stuff though, if I get called a gold buyer for doing it I'll just laugh, because I know that those who call me one are just jealous of what I've done, and clearly got no idea how easy it is to get gold nowadays (and it never really was). There are "slackers" everywhere. ;)
 
"Naxx at 80 has all the same skill requirement as it did at 60 (Plus or minus a very very few changes). You still have to get away from anub'arak, stay out of the slime and behind the boss on grob, change sides on thaddius, dance on Heigan, be smart with healing on Loatheb, and get behind the Iceblock on Saph. If you aren't "skilled" enough to to those actions, you can still fail in naxx. The ONLY real thing that has changed is the gear requirements (From "Have to have perfect gear" to "You can get by as a fresh level capped character"). Wow is and always has been about the gear treadmill."

Absolute rubbish. First off, a lot of the difficulty that top end guilds encounter is in defeating content that hasn't been analyzed and strategized and movieized a thousand times over. Naxxramas is old content and it is thoroughly understand. Having an encyclopedia of information available about every encounter significantly trivializes them. Second, the tuning is quite different. Naxx originally DID have a decent amount of easy fights which are still easy. But there were a lot of fights that used to be much more tightly tuned (Patchwerk, Gothik, Thaddius, Four Horseman, Sapphiron, Kel'thuzad). To say they're the same encounters now just because the base mechanics are nearly the same is to show how ignorant one is about how much tuning effects the difficulty of an encounter. As an example, original M'uru (the hardest fight in the game ever) and M'uru with 30% less HP are completely different fights. The names of the mobs and the graphics are the same, but it's not the same fight. Not even remotely close. The same can be said for Naxx at 60 and Naxx at 80.

Beyond that, this read is ignorant of the changing paradigm of measuring raid progression. Blizzard is making content accessible and inclusive while retaining difficulty through the addition of achievements. It's a genius move on their part. The content itself is easy but hardcore guilds can still demonstrate their prowess by completing difficult achievements. Sure all the mediocre guilds have cleared Naxx and Malygos, but they haven't killed Sartharion with three drakes. They haven't gotten Immortal. They haven't gotten Heroic: Glory of the raider. www.wowprogress.com is still doing a fine job of ranking guilds by progression despite the fact that most raiding is easy.

It always amuses me to read posts on the front page of guild sites like "Malygos down, all content cleared!". No, no you did not clear all the content. Go kill Sartharion with three drakes. Go get Glory of the Raider. You're not done. People need to wake up and realize the paradigm of how progression is measured has changed. Ulduar will drive this point home when Blizzard makes a hard mode for every encounter that gives additional loot and rewards and all the major progression sites count towards progression rankings. People will realize that clearing the zone is just the first step, an easy step that every half decent guild will complete. Completing the achievements will be the true competition and is what will separate the great guilds from the mediocre ones. Not the gear.

It's doesn't take gear to get Immortal. It doesn't take gear to kill Sartharion with three drakes. It doesn't take gear to kill Malygos in five minutes.
 
/cheer at Trouble

People need to wake up and realize the paradigm of how progression is measured has changed...

...People will realize that clearing the zone is just the first step, an easy step that every half decent guild will complete.


Thanks for making this clearer.

This is what the developers intended and its up to players if we are going to accept it/use it.

Completing the achievements will be the true competition and is what will separate the great guilds from the mediocre ones.

It's not about what instance can you clear anymore. Heck everyone and their mom already "cleared" content. But what separates our guild is we have cleared 3D Sarth and currently working hard on Immortal.

Players who don't care about achievements theyll just stop raiding when they have seen the content which is absolutely fine but for some players(like me) I really don't care that we only get an extra mount cause we did 3 drake sartharion(instead of 2) what matters was we set a goal as a guild and we have overcame it.
 
Trouble, probably your post was the only thing i needed in order to go back to WoW... :)
 
They ought to have a dungeon in between Ulduar and Nax in difficulty, which was more challenging and that the less "hardcore" people could do along with the hardcore, and then work up enough gear to run Ulduar eventually, but the "uber hardcore" people who are full of themselves could skip straight to Ulduar if they wanted to. In other words make it so everybody can raid, but it takes longer to climb the ladder if you are less "skilled" (i.e. nuts)
 
"They ought to have a dungeon in between Ulduar and Nax in difficulty, which was more challenging and that the less "hardcore" people could do along with the hardcore, and then work up enough gear to run Ulduar eventually"

Replace Ulduar with Icecrown Citadel in that sentence, and the answer will be Ulduar.
 
@thallian
Is there something wrong with players looking for a challenge? So all of them are full of themselves now? k

They ought to have a dungeon in between Ulduar and Nax in difficulty
Why? Why would Blizz backtrack? They have listened to the players who felt they were missing out, who wanted to see BT/MH/Sunwell back in prebc but simply couldnt.

They already made it so more players could see content and now you want to alienate yourself?

When Ulduar comes out chances are it is going to be cleared by most raiding guilds in 1-2 months. Just what Blizz intended ... the you know, majority of the players seeing content. It will be tougher than Naxx but it's not going to be a big jump.

For the players who wants more challenge I can see them introducing fights like Sartharion where they have the option to up the difficulty.

Again Guilds clearing all the instances will be the norm ... get used to it. It's the achievements/killing bosses in a certain way that is going to separate good guilds from ok ones. Labeling guilds on which instances they have cleared will mean little and will be a thing of the past if not already.
 
Actually, Naxx at 80 is easier than it was at 60, in several ways. The player damage vs. boss health ratio been increased; at level 60, Thaddius had about 10M hitpoints; 20 levels later, his HP is 30M, with about the same length of enrage timer. So DPS needs to do about 3-4x the damage they would need to do at level 60 -- not quite as tough.

Heigan used to teleport characters down the far end of the gauntlet (the one with the eye beams). He stopped doing that.

They did keep Kel'thuzad's mind control on 25-man, but it's gone on 10-man.

One tank can tank all of Razuvious' adds on 25-man; you used to need all 4.

Two of the four horsemen now tank themselves. I also think that they've reduced the radius of the marks somewhat. (maybe 45 yards instead of 65?)

That's not to say that I think Naxx isn't a great dungeon, and a great raid intro. It encourages players to pay more attention to movement and grouping, skills that aren't needed when soloing, (you can brute force or give up on most movement challenges, like the Reclusive Runemaster boss) and are only sometimes needed in 5-man dungeons. (Krystallus, Maiden of Grief, Keristraza, and others come to mind)
 
For me it appears to be obvious that you need *both* gear and skill to beat any given encounter. The more you have of one, the less you need of the other. In both directions.

And that is the reason why Naxxramas is accessible to everyone now. A less skilled group will not be able to clear Naxx on the first try. But they will with a modicum of perseverance kill a few bosses. And come back another day, now being a bit more trained, and a bit more geared. So sooner or later they have enough gear to overcome their lack of skill. It isn't just that there is a difference between killing the same boss at the original level 60 Naxx and the new level 80 Naxx. There are lots of differences in the difficulty level of every boss fight depending on what classes and gear you have available. The current Naxxramas in green gear, in blue gear, or in purple gear does not require the same level of skill.
 
"The more you have of one, the less you need of the other."

Agree

Better gear = more buffer for mistakes.

When Ulduar is released the race to clear content/achievements will begin. With guilds who are equally geared(with also the same amount of hours put in raiding per week), the one who has better skill and coordination will come out top no doubt.
 
I don't think Ulduar is going to be that much harder unless they just want to pull a complete 180 on their new design direction.


The problem if they do that is it would be a very clear demonstration that if a small segment of the populace whines long enough, it will get what it wants, and will do so MUCH clearer than all the stupid class panics that have happened over the years.

I think having options to make it hard is the better course for them to take, as it avoids the entire problem they had with Naxx40 and the Sunwell, that they spent an extrodinary amount of time making and testing these instances only to have an extraordinarily LOW portion of the populace even able to set foot in it, much less clear anything outside of the Spider Wing.

I really think there is no turning back here.


(Remember, if you're telling yourself "Well this hard mode is stupid because we could do the encounter easier and get similar rewards" or "it's just stupid fluff", you're just trying to rationalize it away. It's there, it exists, if you don't at least TRY to conquer it you prove you're just after your epic meal ticket like most folks)
 
It makes sense to me for Ulduar to be BWL/early AQ40-difficulty to Naxx's MC-difficulty, with the hardmode challenges at SWP/Naxx40 level. Upgrade instance #3 (?) and Icecrown from there. This is pretty much what the blues have hinted at. Yes, the hardcores are still going to be a bit unhappy and will have to wait for instance #3 for the normal versions of the bosses to be at all challenging.

And your reader's argument doesn't really make sense. If at the end of TBC you gave bad players a full set of SWP gear very few if any of them would be able to get anywhere at all in SWP. The encounters are currently heavily cushioned in terms of available gear vs. required gear relative to previous dungeons. Where skill actually shows up is in situations where the available gear is barely able to meet the requirements for an encounter. Which is not the case right now.
 
Your reader's comments aren't logical. Old Naxx was hard for two reasons. One, it required almost perfect gear to even be possible, which in turn required you to have spent the grinds in MC, BWL, AQ40, etc. And secondly, the fights were _still_ tricky on top of the gear requirement. Your reader makes it sound like every Naxx fight was Patchwerk, when as we can all see in Wrath that isn't the case.

The advantage of new Naxx is that every fight is essentially an execution fight. There is little in terms of gear checks (we dropped frost resist by our third Sapph kill), or RNG aspects to the fights. Either you can stay 10 yards away during KT or you can't, either you can do the Safety Dance or you can't (regardless if someone healed you through it), either you can trade Horsemen marks or you can't. As we get into later raids which will be more difficult, Naxx will be an excellent proving ground for recruits to see what someone can or can't do, irrespective of pixels.
 
I'm sorry, but hardcore players can pretend to be more skilled all day long, but WoW is 99% about time invested. The "skills" you talk about involve experience, and not a great deal at that. Skill is beating Mario 2, doing anything meaningful in Shinobi, beating intensely skilled players at RTS games, hell beating ToeJam and Earl when your partner keeps giving you rocket skates at the worst possible times. Not spending 100 hours getting gear, and then with that gear acting in a competent manner and hitting 4, 2, 6, 1, repeat over and over.

I'll freely admit that there is more skill involved in WoW than I'm giving credit for, but it's truly a minimal amount compared to almost every other game in existence. It takes some organizational skill, and you need to be able to do some task competently. But once someone tells you what to do, and you've spent enough time on the gear treadmill, it's just NOT very hard, and takes very, very little skill. But the hardcore players who have spent hundreds of hours playing this fun but easy game need to feel good about themselves, I suppose.
 
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