Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
 
Progression and persistence

For me an ideal raid endgame would start with a dungeon that is relatively easy, and then get progressively harder with each following dungeon. As a consequence, players and guilds would spread out, with the best players advancing fastest, and the least good progressing very slowly, and that mostly through the inevitable gear accumulation. And all these raid dungeons would remain as they are throughout the expansion.

Blizzard's idea in Cataclysm appears to be to have a "current" dungeon set which is rather hard, and then nerf that set of raid dungeons when the next set of raid dungeons is patched in. Unfortunately the earlier version of this concept in Wrath of the Lich King shows that this simply doesn't work: The earlier raid dungeons just stood empty when a new set became "current". Instead of having persistent dungeon difficulty and a progression through them, the "add new and nerf old" concept just makes the old content irrelevant. If your guild doesn't happen to have finished their progression through the old content EXACTLY at the moment of the next content patch, you're screwed. If you are too fast, you have to wait around. If you are too slow, the boss kill you were looking forward to just got nerfed into being trivial and not fun any more.

If Blizzard thinks that by patch 4.2 they can get both the bored hardcore and the frustrated average players back into the game with one stroke, I'm afraid they will be severely disappointed. Some people will doubtlessly enjoy the new Firelands "personal development" daily quests. But their raid progression strategy is a complete dud that ends up making nobody happy.
Comments:
Liked the post, your idea of progressive end game is worth looking into.

Would increased badge/tokens be an answer to the old content being empty question?

Just wondering...
 
The one bonus is that heroic raids remain unchanged except for higher tier gear making it easier. I get a pretty nice rush from killing a new boss, but we blew through most of them anyway. Hard modes are where the real sense of accomplishment comes for me now, and they aren't going anywhere.
 
Unfortunately the earlier version of this concept in Wrath of the Lich King shows that this simply doesn't work: The earlier raid dungeons just stood empty when a new set became "current".

What "didn't work" about them? The Wrath dungeons worked exactly as they should and did - the content was never intended to stay relevant for 100% of the expansion. Surely someone as savvy as you would understand the concept of episodic content and/or recognizing planned obsolescence when it's happening.

Your "ideal" is bad MMO game design as it does not account for player churn. When Blizzard released Naxx 1.0 and Sunwell, the audience capable of zoning into them and downing bosses were only a fraction of the total people raiding, but it cost Blizzard exactly the same amount of design resources. Meanwhile, those top-tier guilds could only replace members by poaching players from guilds a tier behind, who had to replace poached members by poaching some more from below them, and on down the totem pole. Guilds perpetually stuck in Kara were unhappy, guilds stuck in T5 content while people ahead of them got content they would never see were unhappy, and the upper-crust were unhappy having to go back into farm content to gear up the (poached) new recruits.

If your guild doesn't happen to have finished their progression through the old content EXACTLY at the moment of the next content patch, you're screwed. If you are too fast, you have to wait around. If you are too slow, the boss kill you were looking forward to just got nerfed into being trivial and not fun any more.

Oh, please. There will always be players waiting around, because no design team out there can make content faster than players can consume it - that is what "farm content" means. If you remember reading about Paragon, they actually thought there was too much content available this tier, let alone there being multiple tiers to blast through in the race to the end. The only real complaint anyone should have about this model are those who aren't done with T11 by the time T12 comes out and "ruins" their progression.

Then again, it's been 6+ months, and I don't think people who can down the content but lack the time-management skills to do so in half a year is a demographic that needs catering to.
 
Progressive end game as described in the post definitely is more fun and meaningful for raiding guilds. This is on top of the very important benefit of keeping the lower tier raids relevant throughout the expansion (so that content is not wasted for those who started raiding later in the expansion, or for the slower guilds).

As it stands, there are 2 important downside I can think of to having a progression system like that:

1) Recruitment for guilds - if recruit someone not geared for current tier, the guild will have to carry that person thru some farm runs (an issue during BC times).

2) The current system of valor and justice, where valor gear from previous tier is purchasable for justice, needs to be removed. This is because this vp/jp system also makes old content irrelevant. But if removed, the people starting the expansion later will find older dungeons more deserted. More generally speaking, gear above 359 should not be made available by means other than raids.

I think the solution for (1) can be as follows:
Put in guild rewards gear that is tied to the guild raid progression (say 13 ilvl below the tier the guild is doing atm), purchasable by guildies, but "Requires Friendly with " to wear. This will serve as started gear for new recruits at low gear level.

For (2), I cannot think of an elegant solution at the moment, one candidate is something like below:
Dungeons will still only yield only gear on par with the lowest raid, meaning similar to the situation before 4.2 (ilvl 346, 353, 359). Over-geared people may obtain "Call to Arms" goodie bag if queue in the 5mans. However, there still need to be a way to handle further tiers of 5mans being added later in the expansion.

One note - I don't think that nerfing previous raid tier as a new one is released (ala the 4.2 20% nerf) is the root problem of wasting content, it is more the availability of gear that is better than the lowest raid tier. Some degree of nerfing definitely is good, so that people that are stuck can progress thru now, and people who started late can progress faster.
 
That, or make raids that get progressively ... harder.
 
I shall reply with Blizzard's own words:

"I think the biggest issue now is that Cataclysm didn't launch with an intro raid tier. We're now following through with the stair-step method of having one hard raid and one intro raid, but it took a while to see the plan through -- which is obviously a bit jarring. So now we have a new tier, VP converts to JP, the old tier gets stepped down and the new hotness is going to be that difficult climb.

I think if we had the intro tier/hard tier available (as we will in 4.2) when the expansion first launched it would feel more natural now to see that stair step just moving forward. With the current setup it seems like we're the bad guys going in and messing with your stuff, and that view is somewhat based on not really including the new harder tier in the equation since it's not available yet. It's just not going to be an issue when the new content is available, but for now it's something to make observations and personal declarations about."


http://blue.mmo-champion.com/topic/177306/mild-medium-spicy-hot

Their raid progression strategy isn't set in stone in the first place. They're still just tossing darts into the dark and seeing what works best. They've acknowledged that it could've done better, and they probably would've done exactly as you have laid out, but they just didn't hit their mark.
 
I think Blizzard's biggest mistake in Cata was that they made all the boss fights too difficult. They should've made easier entry-level bosses where the average player can get 3-4 kills (and maybe eventually move to 6-7). Right now, most guilds are struggling to even get a kill.
 
This is on top of the very important benefit of keeping the lower tier raids relevant throughout the expansion (so that content is not wasted for those who started raiding later in the expansion, or for the slower guilds).

Except you keep the "lower raids relevant" by ensuring that more people get stuck in the first 50% than ever even zone into the later raids. People end up raiding every level of content for the duration of the expansion, but number-wise it simply does not work out. Eventually the next expansion will come out and just as many (if not more) people get "shut out" of progression in the reset, just like all the T5 and Kara guilds when Wrath was released.

The Wrath/Cata model at least ensures the majority of the raiding population experiences each tier of content as it happens, while still allowing the pros to have distinctions within hardmodes.
 
You are right that your scheme is better for both good and less good PLAYERS. But most of the subscribers are socials who don't want to play, just want to "hang out" and "be cool". So they are given easy rides to "gear up" and then go to the current content where the "cool duds r"
 
The new approach is brilliant, really, and it solves more issues than it creates.

1) From a production perspective, they were cranking out huge dungeons that only a tiny percentage of their players saw. That's a lot of wasted manpower for little or no return. Also, this way, Blizzard can focus more on one dungeon at a time and expansions aren't delayed for it.
2) From a story perspective, everyone who raids can see the whole story. Everyone is included.
3) From a subscription perspective, I would wager people remain subscribed for longer because WoW is now a Dungeon-of-the-Month-Club. It's now only a question of when, not if, a player's guild will be able to experience a dungeon. Before, players could stop subscribing with little remorse; it's harder to stop now.
4) From a competition perspective, Blizzard can release new dungeons as a counter to competitors' releases or launches. Now new dungeons are real products.
5) From a promotional perspective, Blizzard can make a big deal out of new dungeons being released. Before, new dungeons were just part of the expansion. Now they're marketing weapons.

So, while I agree with your complaints about WOTLK dungeons and beyond, I think it's almost entirely beneficial for Blizzard to continue as-is.
 
The current system is better if you subscribe for 1 month every 6 month. The old system was better if you subscribe for 6 months every 6 months...

I would actually love to have a reason to subscribe for 6 months every 6 months. But with the current system .. no. Actually, I'm subscribed for 0 months every 6 months since January.
 
"Then again, it's been 6+ months, and I don't think people who can down the content but lack the time-management skills to do so in half a year is a demographic that needs catering to."

That would be us. Guild of mostly young professionals (real life friends) with other hobbies, 3-4 hours raiding a week, maybe 3 weeks in 4, mixed abilities. We're getting a new boss down every 2-3 weeks, and have been since January.

That said, when Firelands hits, we'll have some hardmodes, and the new raids, and will no doubt find that we storm through a few new bosses in a coupld of weeks, get some gear, and have a new progression target when we get to a new 'what's hard' plateau.

Model works for us, whether or not they intend it to.
 
I agree totally. It's just more evidence, really, that the current designers (not the coders and scripters, they're a good as ever) are fairly incompetent, and they've had a severe talent drain into other projects.

I'm awaiting Titan or, hopefully, someone who'll make WoW Classic 2.0 to scratch the dungeon grind itch.
 
Yes, yes, YES. Your content is relevant to my interests and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter :)

My guild is in exactly the position to be worst hit by these nerfs - we're making progress, but we're only half-way through the content. It's been hard - perhaps too hard - but we were all looking forward to completing the Tier 11 raids with perhaps a slight buff from a new gear set.

Now, the other big question - why are a large part of the playerbase so hostile to any suggestion that Blizzard's current approach is the wrong one, or that there might be players who aren't being fully catered to by it?

(You may or may not have seen the vitriolic reactions to Rebecca's post on the nerfs over at http://www.mmomeltingpot.com/2011/05/editorial-blizzard-burying-raid-content-quick-light-a-candle )

It really seems that most of the WoW audience is convinced that there are only two types of player - the hardcore leet, who have already completed the current content, and the useless casual, who don't want anything that is in any way challenging.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
I think it's funny to see people talking about the need to account for player churn, while claiming in the same comment that anyone who might be interested in raiding the previous dungeon must have been playing forever and simply be stuck. Because there are never any new players who join later and for whom it would be new and exciting content...

And Blizzard wonders why their players go through content faster than ever. I couldn't possibly have anything to do with you rushing to make everything obsolete within only a couple of months, could it?
 
The notion that lesser players should only see the raid content a tier behind their betters is superficially attractive, but I think it's going to fail big time.

As Gevlon notes, these players (and, I should add, the better players too) are playing to feel good about themselves. Being relegated to the welfare tier greatly diminishes the ego boost.

I think the devs failed to understand why many of their players were playing the game. I think they had the notion that things would be best if everyone had content tuned close to their level of competence.

The really good players want a challenge, since they are capable of overcoming it, and when they do so it reaffirms their superiority. Their egos are well served.

Lesser players, on the other hand, will struggle even in the welfare tier, which will reaffirm their inferiority. This will fail to be a satisfying experience. They may end up deciding that if they are just there to "see the content" and not be satisfied, they might as well do it at level 90.
 
This has always been their formula. It worked well in wotlk since everyone progressed rather nicely toward the LK ultimate goal -- even getting ICC buffs every few weeks. The kept the carrot close enough to everyone's nose that they still chased it.

The item level treadmill definitely has its limitations yet Blizz seems entirely unwilling to branch into horizontal content (same item level requirements but with different strategies, guild achievements or other mechanics). Since most fights are coordination and choreography anyway, why not remove some of the gear level requirements altogether? This would at least help fill time for guilds until the next tier reset.
 
Isn't this a lot like the apartheid you didn't like before?
"Both Nils and Klepsacovic have been arguing for player segregation in MMORPGs, separating the good players from the bad players by some game feature. I don't think that apartheid (the Afrikaans word for segregation) is a good idea."
 
It seems to me that they've made a pretty rational decision. The number of people who haven't been making good progress, or don't have an organized guild and want to PUG, is greater than the number of people doing organized raids that have not cleared all the normal mode content six months after it was released, but are still making progress and want more time.
 
IMO people like Neowolf2 and Gevlon who believe the world is only made up of 2 types of people, don't get it at all.

Their 2 types are people like them, and other, inferior people.

Developers understand, and must plan for the fact that people play these long term, progression related games differently, not better or worse.

And someone has to decide the hows and the whens of the progression of static content. And they have to try to please as many different types of players as possible.

I like that they tweak the progression every expansion. I like content patches as events. I like that uber players have plenty of time to wrestle with new and difficult content. And I like that I can anticipate to have some time when that content is both accessible and meaningful to me.

I'm just not convinced that there is a problem with the current design of progression.

WTB guild like Inquisitor's.
 
Bristal: what makes you think I'm not one of the inferior people? :)
 
Nothing new here. They used this formula in vanilla and TBC ...and they abandoned it. They even used it in LK, but in a very different way. No one knows why they think its a good idea to nullify content or to assist it with getting old.
 
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