Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The second death of Naxxramas

If you measure the success of a dungeon by how many people are visiting it, the first incarnation of Naxxramas was a failure. Introduced late in vanilla WoW with patch 1.11 it was the last dungeon to be added before the Burning Crusade expansion, the difficulty was so high, that only an estimated 1% of players ever got to see it. That was one of the reasons why Blizzard decided to recycle Naxxramas for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. When WotLK was released, Naxxramas was the only raid dungeon with more than one boss, and its difficulty level was tuned in a way that even average guilds would have a good shot at going there. So for some time the place was a huge success and rather crowded. But 15 months later Naxxramas is deserted again. In this article I will argue that the second death of Naxxramas was caused by a divergence between how raids are structured nowadays, and how the reward system is structured, in the hope that the same mistake will be avoided with the design of the Cataclysm raids.

To my personal WoW status report coldheat commented that modern raids are full of what he calls “generic tasks”. That means that the difficulty of many raid boss encounters is caused by people having to learn to move or react in specific ways, which is completely independent of their class, build, or gear. Thus to use some Naxxramas examples, the dance at Heigan the Unclean, or the polarity shift at Thaddius poses a challenge, a set of moves to be learned, which will be exactly the same for let’s say a mage, a hunter, or a priest. Putting that mage, hunter, and priest into much better gear will not help them much for such a generic task, as the penalty for not doing “the dance” correctly is designed to be so extremely harsh that you can’t ignore it even if you are extremely overgeared for the encounter.

This design around generic tasks fundamentally changes the structure of the raid circuit. In vanilla WoW, if you were geared enough for Naxxramas, doing Molten Core would have been extremely easy. In Wrath of the Lich King, being geared enough for Icecrown Citadel doesn’t make Naxxramas that much easier. I participated in two Naxxramas raids in the last weeks, one with a pickup raid group which in spite of being overgeared wiped twice at Anub’Rekhan before falling apart; the second with my guild, which just having successfully beaten ToC with the same raid compositions then managed to wipe more often on Instructor Razuvious (for the weekly raid quest) than on any of the ToC bosses. People simply forget how to do those generic tasks if they didn’t try them for several months, and suddenly Naxxramas ends up being “harder” than Trial of the Crusader. The difficulty is mostly a function of practice with generic tasks, and not so much a function of how well your raid group can deal damage, withstand damage, or heal.

In vanilla WoW the structure of the raid circuit was very different. Most encounters were testing the overall power level of the raid group. Many called that a “gear check”, but of course gear was only a part of the equation. Two characters of the same class in the same gear do not necessarily have the same performance. Instead that “gear check” structure resulted in the better players advancing faster than the less good players, because they needed to farm less gear to be able to beat the next encounter. The design wasn’t always optimal, because too many players couldn’t advance any more at all, not even after gearing up to the max in whatever content they were able to beat. But the basic structure was a healthy one, with the raid circuit progressing from 5-man dungeons to easier raids to harder raids.

Right now that idea of raid progress is in shambles. People laugh at the idea that after finishing with heroics they should do Naxxramas next, then Ulduar, then ToC, then Icecrown. I suspect that part of the problem is that Blizzard wasn’t all that sure whether their 4th attempt at designing a looking-for-group functionality would finally work, and therefore decided to sweeten the deal by giving out a too high level of emblems as reward for the Dungeon Finder random heroics. But the other part of the problem is the design around generic tasks, so that learning how to move let’s say in the encounter in ToC with Icehowl isn’t really any more difficult than learning the dance at Heigan. Knowing how to squeeze out the last bit of performance of your class matters a lot less than knowing the specific encounter.

In vanilla WoW, somebody having geared up in 5-man dungeons would have no way to bypass Molten Core. Molten Core would not only be necessary for him to gear up for Blackwing Lair, but would also teach him how to play his class optimally in a raid environment. In WotLK, somebody having geared up in 5-man heroics simply has no reason to visit Naxxramas anymore. His gear is already much better than the Naxxramas drops, and what he could learn about raiding in Naxxramas would be mostly specific generic tasks of Naxxramas, which won’t help for the next raid dungeon at all. Thus even pickup raids in trade chat never organize raids to Naxxramas and Ulduar (except for weekly raid quest), but instead go directly to ToC and ICC. But at the same time the person organizing that ToC / ICC raid will ask for you to link the achievement proving that you already mastered the generic tasks of that specific dungeon.

Thus now we have a raid structure where one raid doesn’t really lead to the next one anymore. Several commenters advised me to go directly from heroics to raiding Icecrown Citadel, the last raid dungeon. Access to raid dungeons isn’t determined any more by whether the raid group has the power, the skill, and the gear to overcome the next challenge, but simply by when Blizzard opens the door to the next dungeon. But while the raid circuit structure changed, the structure of raid rewards is still the same. Naxxramas is standing empty because of that divergence: It isn’t easier to master Naxxramas than to master ToC, but the rewards of Naxxramas are less good than what you can get in heroics, while ToC still might give you some upgrades.

So where does that lead us to for Cataclysm? The Dungeon Finder is now well established as idea and tool, and it won’t be necessary to hand out extreme rewards for doing level 85 heroics. I’d assume that we get a similar structure: 2 emblems of a higher type for the first random heroic, 2 emblems of a one lower type for further heroics, plus one of these lower type emblems per boss killed. But the lower type emblem should buy gear that has the same item level than what you can get in the first level 85 raid dungeon, so visiting that first raid dungeon should still be interesting. The tricky part will be how to design the raid dungeons to form a clear sequence again. Blizzard could go back to the old system of making the harder dungeons have more checks of character power instead of just checking mastery of specific generic tasks. Or they could modify the reward structure of the raid dungeons, so that the rewards from the first raid dungeon aren’t obsolete as soon as you visit the second one. If the gear requirements from one dungeon to the next are less steep, then the reward structure has to be less steep as well. Then Blizzard just needs to add a working looking-for-raid functionality, and maybe in Cataclysm we can avoid the situation that some raid dungeons are simply skipped.
Adding cc requirements would be good as well, instead of the 'nuke aoe' tactics that seem to be the norm at the moment
There are some of the basic premises for this post, that I do not agree with.
I do not think that people are skipping Naxxramas because it is just as hard as ToC, but ToC has better rewards. They skip Nax, *only* because ToC and ICC has better rewards.
Otherwise fights like Sartharion would still be done by everyone. (it has all the basics, you need for learning your class: cooldown management for tanks, learning to dps while beeing ready to move for ranged and staying clear of dragons tails for melee.)
But they are not. Sarth and his precious eggs are left alone, untill it is the raid weekly.

Another point of the lfg reward-buffs, where not -in my opinion- a means to make going into LFG an exciting feature. It was a way to ensure that newcommers, latecommers and "i have a job" casuals could gear up and, go straight into raiding where people where still raiding (ToC and ICC).
My guess for the LFG system for Cataclysm, is that it will follow the same path dungeons have so far: award emblems one tier below current end-game.
One of the recurring problems in WoW raid design is vertical progression. While TBC did have some alternate dungeons like SSC/TK and BT/Hyjal, the progression path was very vertical. This has continued in Wrath after the initial release, with the only difference that Blizzard is obsoleting the old raids as soon as the new one is released. Content is always consumed faster than it's produced, and Blizzard is not doing themselves any favors by focusing all attention to one dungeon at the time.

IMHO, late Vanilla had the best overall design with Zul'Gurub, Molten Core, AQ20, Onyxia and world bosses occupying roughly the same gear/difficulty range. Likewise, AQ40 overlapped with both BWL and Naxx. Of course, Vanilla also had the perfect example of vertical design with the very strict linking of MC and BWL. If you wanted to progress in BWL at all, you had to farm MC.
Blizzard is actually publicizing their design goals (well, most of them at least), and from what I read I gather that they want as many people as possible to see as much as possible of the content they create, and the way they're doing it is by making sure that everybody is able to acquire the gear needed for the latest raid, without having to go through the previous tiers.

This isn't really a solution though, since they've now made the older raids empty of poeple, which has the consequence that you have to be playing from the start of each expansion to see raids at the gear level they were intended for.

Blizzard really have written themselves into a corner by focusing so much on gear.
The problem is that this is assuming that Blizzard would want to go back to a step-by-step raid progression model at all. I don't think they do, they've made too much of a point of funneling everyone into whatever is the newest raid at the time and making the old content unattractive. They are afraid of people complaining about being behind on progression and getting stuck, like it frequently happened in BC, so they want everyone to focus on the new and shiny stuff these days.

What makes me sad is that even with the current model they could have got people interested in the older raids again by designing the weekly raid quest in a more sensible way, for example by giving two frost emblems per end boss for the larger raids like Naxx - ten frosties for clearing a whole low-level raid doesn't sound like such a bad deal, does it? Instead they decided to make all the weekly raid quests focus on just smacking whichever boss is around the first corner, which results in everyone pugging raids just for that boss and then leaving. So much for revitalising Naxx...
Im sorry but i think that you have a very narrow view of whats going on.

Blizz have intentionally designed the raid pathway the way they have so that more people get to see raids.

They are fine with frew people going to Naxx and for any half decent guild the bosses in Naxx should be relatively easy once you know the mechanics.

The way they send people to experience things like Naxx / Uld / ToC is via the weekly quests. At least people get to see some part of these raids and may stay to finish them off.

If the progression wasnt as it is today you would have a very unhappy player base! There are allot of people out there with 2 or more alts. Can you imagine having to go through all the rigmarole of gearing them up to get them ready for the real progression raids that the rest of their mains are doing?? It just wouldn't happen! This would mean that there would be allot of bored people stuck in a void once they had reached 80. They wouldn't be able to level those atls to progression standard because they wouldn't have the time to do both alt raiding and progression raiding.

Add to this the fact that Blizz want more that just that 1% to see the final raid in the game. To do this they allow people to get the latest emblems via daily dungeons and weekly quests. Now the elite probably have their 4pc T4 but the rest of us have one or 2 pieces and are grinding away to get the rest and hopefully we will one day be able to take on Arthas.

Lets be honest as good as Naxx is we want to be killing the big baddie Arthas not still chugging away at the first raid in the xpac
Just bring back attunements. People have to do certain quests and heroic dungeons. Once they did they can enter Naxx25, complete it and then Ulduar25 and so forth. Gear-resets should only happen with a new expansion and not because of a new feature (LFD). I wouldn't have to ask for an achievement-links (unless maybe for hardmodes) because if you wanted to go to ICC25 you can only enter it with a completed ToC25 and that would be enough for me.
The issue isn't "Naxx is hard" or "Naxx is bad" but "Naxx gives no return on my time and isn't interesting when this geared".

Gearchecks are blown past. Raid DPS is a multiple of what it once was (135k required for Fester 25, 36k for Patch 25), Tanks are hugely more powerful and we're seeing 40k mana pools on healers.

Most of the interesting fight mechanics don't even make a showing at this gear level any more:

Fights where today's raid DPS benchmark nuke-kills the boss before the major encounter mechanics can kick in:
Anub'Rekhan (no locust swarm)
Grand Widow Faerlina (no Frenzy)
Noth (no teleport phase)
Heigan (no DPS dancing)
Gluth (no decimate)

5 outright Nuke out of 15 bosses. Given one or two of the others are Nuke by design, it's a fair percentage of dead encounters.

The rest of the encounters are a mixture of "know one trick about the fight" and tank/healer gearchecks which are also blown through. The exception to this is KT who can still be a pain due to his MC mechanics.

It's more accurate to say: Naxx no longer offers any real challenge, comparable emblem return on time compared to heroics, or worthwhile drops. That is why it's an abandoned instance.
Its all about what people want imo. Most people want better gear and ofc they all want to have fun. Imo Bliz has made a fundamental mistake after vanilla. They took away the dice roll effect. Few people are excited about what drops of the boss now. They get the badges and they get gear soon enough. I bet if you let bosses in Nax have a small drop rate of something really good. Some sort of fragment needed for a legendary item. Then you would def. se alot of more action in there. Sometimes I really miss vanilla wow.
The sad thing is I've only ever killed one boss in Naxx and because people have 'outgeared it' its doubtful I'll ever get to see it.

Blizzard should really think about gear scaling and the way forward. The reason for people not doing Naxx is its easier to grind for emblems and do the Icecrown heroics to gear up.
My guild is slowly going through Naxx. As new 80s, we geared up with Frost and Triumph badges, and through Wintergrasp. We are not at Criven's stage where we can nuke-kill Anub'Rekhan, Grand Widow Faerlina, Noth or Heigan, before the major encounter mechanic kicked in. In fact when we downed Heigan, it was after the ranged DPS had danced 3 times.

I'm enjoying the fights for their own sake, but I do take the point that the gear rewards are meaningless. Enjoyment of the encounters is the only reason why anybody would go to Naxxramas nowadays.

But ask yourself this: isn't enjoyment of the encounters the only reason why you play WoW, anyway?
Several ideas:

1) Blizzards wants all players to be at one level of pregression. They want all WOW players to work on ICC right now, because this way you can find more players to raid with. I do not agree with this design decision; but it is a decision, not an accident.

2) You could solve the problem with incentives, by introducing one big pool of loot that can drop in all raids/dungeons.
The introduction of a new dungeon also introduced new loot. However, this new loot could also drop in the older dungeons.
To motivate people to actually raid the new dungeon the % chance or the number of tokens that drop could be higher in the later raid dungeons.

3) I don't think (2) is optimal, but it is better than today situation.

4) In my opinion there is no reason why a 5 man dungeon should be easier than a 25 man raid.
This is also the basic problem here: The problem of advancing by raiding always is that you need to be organised in a big raid group. if you are not it doesn't even matter how skilled you are.

5) The big problem with hard 5 man dungeons, however, still is that they are impossible to balance. Since there are a hell of a lot of different speccs (with very different group buffs) in WoW, it is impossible to introduce a 5 man dungeon that is hard for all groups.
It would either be hard for some and impossible for others or hard for some and easy for others. This is the place to work at, in my opinion. Once you solved this dilemma, you can spread the dungeons and raids across all difficulty levels.

This way even those players who do not take part in 25/10 man raids can still progress. And, by the way: Many people feel that hard 5-man dungeons are much more fun than hard 25 man dungeons, because you do not always wipe because of "somebody else who you don't even know".
Have you ran Naxx now with a group full of people in current raid gear?

Gear does make a difference. Quite a large one.
Fremskritt, you put that very well.

Think about it: is it really necessary that ICC awards gear that is so incredibly more powerful than Naxx?

I fear that the answer is "yes", that Blizzard knows that the only way to keep subscribers over an extended period of time is to dangle purple in front of them. More dps, bigger heals etc... But really, it makes me a very sad panda. I want to think that I'm playing for the fun.
Bringing back attunements is a terrible idea that would just make an annoying time suck for guild when they need to attune a new member to their current progression raid instance.

Anybody who was in a progression based guild of any decent quality in BC remembers the annoyance of having to replace a raider once you were into hyjal/BT progression level. "Ok, we're gonna have to take a day out of our raid schedule and carry the new guy through SSC and TK." They learn nothing, half the time, they wind up spending the majority of the fights dead while you 24 man the fights that you outgear and steamroll. The only thing that's been accomplished is that you've lost a raid day for the sake of a ton of shards.

The same thing would hold true now. Fresh raider you're looking to bring into ICC? You'd have to go to naxx, 3 hours, if you're still the well oiled machine you were at the end of 3.0. Then Ulduar, another 3 hour instance. Then spend an hour in ToC. That's 7 hours, if your guild is good, just to fix one hole in your raid. My guild raids two nights a week, from 630 to 10. That's our whole raid week gone, just so we could get ONE raider into the instance that we should be raiding.

The solution that works, the one that blizzard did implement, has been completely ignored by Tobold here. Implement those general skill checks in new 5 man content.

Kiting and Rooting adds: Lich King>Bronjahm
Stop DPS on command: Yogg-Saron>Devourer of Souls
Rotating Death Beam: Mimiron>Devourer
LoS Debuff: Sindragosa>Garfrost
Shock Nova: Mimiron>Ick
Void Zones: Putricide>Ick
Stationary AoE: Putricide>Ick
Pursuit: Flame Leviathan>Ick
Kite Boss or chain CD: Vezax>Tyrannus
Cleanse Dubuffs: Lich King>Marwynn
Quick Add switches: Valithria>LKE

Those skill checks that long time raiders practiced in Naxx are now in the new five mans. And they can be practiced, not on a weekly basis, but a daily one.
This has already been said, but I'll repeat it to show my agreement: the design goal of the end game in WoW as of late is to give the opportunity to new level 80's to quickly get to a competitive state to do the latest or second-to-latest raid content. The by-product (an empty Naxx) is acceptable collateral damage because it's already "been done." Perhaps not by the new crop of 80's, but by a healthy amount of level 80's at a time when Naxx was relevant. This seems to be good enough, and I would expect the same in Cataclysm, as it is the most mass-market friendly game design.

If you ask me, I prefer the old way, when MC and BWL didn't become obsolete until TBC came out. But I realize that's a niche position.
But wouldn't a design in which all raid content is both relevant and accessible be preferable?
Tobold, did you ever ponder WHY only 1% of the players managed to get into Naxx v1? Maybe it had something to do with the vertical raid progression whose lack you now lament?

You may not remember, but trying to get new blood into Naxx, a new replacement player for the raid, was a very painful experience. Not only did you have to get exalted with the Argent Dawn, but you also had to be very well geared from AQ40. To get AQ40 gear you had to have good gear from BWL. To get gear from BWL you had to get gear from MC - only later did they add ZG to the mix, which skipped MC/BWL. If you wanted to progress you had to jump guilds, from the casuals farming MC/Naxx through all of vanilla to the raiders who stopped at AQ to get to the elite who were doing Naxx.

So what can we draw from this? That vertical raid progression, where you HAVE to progress through one raid to get to another, is not a "healthy one", but is a very flawed instance of game design. The current iteration of the raid circuit, where 5 man content and badges allow you to raid the current tier of raids, is a thousand times better. Imagine that you had to do Naxx, then Ulduar, then ToC to step into ICC....yeah, exactly, less than 1% of the current players would be ever setting foot into ICC.

Here's another example: Black Temple. When you had to kill Vael and Vash to attune yourself to BT, only the top guilds ever made in. The other 99% were left farming Kara. Only after they removed the attunement process did people start to trickle in and get to see Illidan.

In conclusion, I do not understand why anyone would want to return to the old vanilla days. It was simply bad game design. And the whole topic has nothing to do with generic tasks (coldheat's term is spot-on, but vanilla had PLENTY of those as well), it's all about the incentives/rewards/power curve.
I do not understand why anyone would want to return to the old vanilla days.

I don't want that. But the current situation isn't any better than the vanilla WoW situation: A character arriving at the level cap and having geared up in 5-man content does NOT have any more choice now than in vanilla WoW. Whether he can "only do ZG/MC" or "only do ToC/ICC" is the same.
@ tobold - But wouldn't a design in which all raid content is both relevant and accessible be preferable? -

For that to happen you'd have to go back to Naxx, Toc, and Ulduar and make them all drop frost badges. You'd also need to make the bosses drop Ilevel 251 gear. While your at it you'd need to make all the old bosses harder so that people didn't simply skip ICC to get the "easy loot".

Then you encounter the following dilemma. Naxx was designed to be raid-able by nearly anyone. Uldaur slightly less so Toc slightly less so and ICC least of all. If all 4 raids were balanced to the same difficulty then either the casual raiders get screwed because suddenly things are too hard for them, or the hardcore raids get screwed because suddenly things are too easy for them.

There is a problem in wow right now, its the "Best in slot" mentality. Anything that doesn't provide the best whatever is worthless.

Two pieces of gear, one with an interesting proc the other with just pure stats. It takes the community 10seconds to calculate if the proc is better then the stats, if not the item is worthless and ignored.

two talent specs one provides 2% more damage in 90% of situations. The other talent spec is worthless and ignored.

two raids, both take a roughly equal amount of time one gives better loot, the lesser is worthless and ignored.
'But wouldn't a design in which all raid content is both relevant and accessible be preferable?'

Everything is already accessible. You can't make everything equally relevant. Nobody will spend time and gold trying to learn a difficult new raid if the old raid is equally relevant, yes?
yes they do have more choice, there's nothing stopping anyone going to naxx now apart from finding 9 other people who want to as well, and if the problem is as big as you say, that shouldn't be hard even within your own guild, nevermind server.

previously, people were stopped from doing them by attunement chains and vertical progression and the necessity of being in a top-tier guild

I think a mountain is being made out of a molehill here really, if someone wants to run naxx now to see the place, I don't see any barrier to them doing so
why are we tuning the game around toons that "just capped" or "just finished heroics"? The vast majority of WoW players capped and finished the heroic circuit, like a year ago. They've already seen their share of Naxx and Ulduar. Who cares about those zones anymore. Bring on the Lich King.
But wouldn't a design in which all raid content is both relevant and accessible be preferable?

One person's relevance is another person's chore. Here's the problem:

1. Let's assume Naxxramas is accessible right now. Blizzard did a great job of making Naxx v2 so. That means that you want to make it relevant.

2. If Naxx is relevant (e.g. drops loot on par with newest raid), then you have three options: Naxx either drops loot better, worse, or equal to new loot.

- If it drops better loot, then people will forgo the new raid for Naxx. And they will complain about it, because they have had Naxx runs for ages (e.g. Dragonfang Talisman off of Gruul back in BC) that will likely have to continue into perpetuity.

- If it drops worse loot, then people will forgo Naxx for the new raid. This is the current situation.

- If it drops equal loot, people will gravitate toward whichever raid is easier. This is what happened with heroic dungeons in both BC and LK - people would skip the hard ones and farm the easy ones.

Content in the MMO model is mostly disposable. Players will become bored and unhappy with content they feel they "have" to run every week (see: Karazhan in BC after heroic badges added), despite their progression level. It's somewhat saddening to see the old content cast by the wayside, but the alternative is worse overall for the player base.

"I don't want that. But the current situation isn't any better than the vanilla WoW situation: A character arriving at the level cap and having geared up in 5-man content does NOT have any more choice now than in vanilla WoW. Whether he can "only do ZG/MC" or "only do ToC/ICC" is the same."

Actually, there is a quite a bit of difference between being stuck at the bottom of the progression curve, and being 'directed' to the top of the progression curve. After all, moving down the ladder is a heck of a time easier than moving up.
"Or they could modify the reward structure of the raid dungeons, so that the rewards from the first raid dungeon aren’t obsolete as soon as you visit the second one"

To be fair, i think that was more a fact of itemlevel getting out of hand due to the hardmode change. Blizzard has said they weren't expecting so much inflation (and is one of the reasons we're seeing chill of the throne, crit caps, etc..), but it was a lesser evil so that HMs could drop better loot.

Although, the gap would still be there. Just alot smaller.

Perhaps a more natural way would be to tier like in Vanilla(requiring you do the old one). But when a new instance comes out, do something like Nils' suggested, or instead increase the droprate of everything to artificially speed up the gearing process. guilds who had to farm Naxx before uld was out would have their gear, and new guilds afterwards would be fully caught up after say, a month or so. And they get to see raid content/practice raiding, instead mindlessy farming heroics
Maybe instead of the types of raids in WotLK, where the gear gets better with the release of each new raid, all raids they create could grant equal ilvl gear, but each have, instead of normal and heroic, 3-5 levels of that raid, each level granting higher ilvl gear.

This would make it so that at the first level all raids would be viable, for they offer the same ilvl gear. Same with the second and third.

It's a shame that nobody wants to run anything except the latest and greatest, it's poor design indeed. Make all raids relevant, then we'll go to all of them. Have all raids dish out equal ilvl gear, but you progress through the levels of the raid instead of one raid being a stepping stone for another. I would do that. It would keep raids fresh and populated and people coming back for more and more.
A lot of things came together in Wrath to leave Naxx deserted, but I don't think its difficulty was a major factor.

The gradient of the progression curve is arguably too shallow, but more importantly, heroics have pretty much rendered the whole concept of progression irrelevant. Blizzard has (intentionally, I think) thrown progression out of the window with a badge philosophy that encourages players to farm mindless heroic content as a springboard to the top of the curve.

What I think they are saying is this: we want end game raiding to be a journey, and we want to take as many of you with us on it as possible. So at each release of new raid content, they are signalling their desire for us to explore it.

Now some might argue that Blizzard has struggled in Wrath to hold the attentions of all raiders for long enough, and I certainly think the confusion of gear that has resulted from two sizes of raid plus heroic modes has distorted exactly what it means to be 'geared' for a particular encounter. But I think they'll learn from these things in the expansion.

I agree with Rohan, I think Wrath raids have been much more interesting and varied. I'm looking forward even greater variation in Cataclysm.
@The Renaissance Man

I'm not trying to be mean but I can tell WoW is you first experience with raiding.

You can do attunements without having to force every member to go back and get one. EQ did it... 7 years ago.

I think attunements are good when content first comes out but I feel it should eventually be removed.

I think BC had a better flow of Raid Encounters than Wrath does.
"the difficulty was so high, that only an estimated 1% of players ever got to see it." What is the definition of see it?

One of the amusing things that stand out in my memory from the naxx era was seeing a warrior in Teir 0 and dual weilding the bop 1 handers that dropped from trash.

In todays terms early naxx ie first 8 bosses was not that hard, What was hard was the huge amount of farming to get that far in consumables and gear.
This is all true but you don't mention the other side of the medal.

In vanilla WoW if you were just starting WoW a year into the game there was no way that you could keep up. A naxxramas level guild wouldn't be in a hurry to accept a fresh member. Still remember the access keys? Getting 40 men together to spend four hours doing an instance just to get one or two men their key? No fun at all.
I agree with all the previous comments agruing against vertical progression. Blizzard has tried to keep the previous raid content for gathering too much dust with their weekly raids. A present, bosses are found relatively early in the instance which results in PUG steamrolling through the one boss then leaving. Possibly the weekly raid targeted at one of the end bosses which would require the clearing of the whole instance. The problem with this is that time that it would take. How many people would take 4 hours they could have raided ICC with to raid old content? I don't see any other way of making Naxx and Ulduar relevant without going back to vertical progression. Don't forget many players are probably sick and tired of Naxx, Ulduar (and to a lesser extent Totc) by now. For instance last night was an off raiding night and one of the officers wanted to get together a group for a TOGC Tribute run but was not met with much interest or enthusiasm because there wasn't any loot of interest and the guild has been doing Totc for ages.
So here's a thought. It's not 100% thought out so bear with me :)

I think we can all agree that, say, 8-manning Naxx-25 would still be pretty difficult right? So one way to make old raids stay relevant would be to encourage endgame-geared toons to run the raid shorthanded.

So say you completely deflate the value of the emblems that get dropped. So instead of a standard of 1 emblem per boss make it, oh, 10. Then of course all the gear would cost 10x as much.

And make it so that raid bosses drop a TOTAL number of emblems (100 on 10-man and 250 on 25-man). In the normal course of progression that would mean each player gets 10 emblems to help him gear up.

But if you were to, say, run Naxx25 with say 12 players, everyone would get about double the reward. And if it were arranged so that you would get better rewards spending an evening in Naxxramas than you would chain-running LFG heroics, then you would see guilds spending some of their time (say on "non-raid" nights) gearing up in the old raid, which would still be pretty hard since your dps (and maybe healing) would be gimped.

There's probably a million issues with this, but it's the general idea I like -- keep old content relevant by encouraging shorthanded play.
The only way I see they could make Naxx and Ulduar relevant at this point would be to have the bosses drop enough Emblems of Triumph to make it a better way to farm badges than run 5-mans. Probably along the lines of 3 badges a boss in Naxx, 4 badges a boss in Ulduar, so you'd get 45 and 52 badges for a full clear of the two dungeons respectively. This seems like a lot of badges, but basically works out to one piece of gear for a full clear of a raid, which seems like a fair enough trade-off.

I'm not saying this is a perfect solution. It would just turn Naxx and Ulduar into badge farms, but at least people would still run them.
One interesting point that I think got lost is that Naxx v2 is actually a nerfed version of v1 except for health/damage numbers on some of the bosses -- major mechanics were removed from several bosses, and others were simplified to make the encounters easier. I wish that there was some way to go back to Naxx-40 to see the difference in the encounters; I went there at 70 a few times as part of a "farm" group getting T3 for level-60 twinks and I don't think we were ever able to complete the dungeon.

Some of the removed/simplified mechancs:
Heigan: teleport players to the end of the gauntlet in the next room
Patchwerk: Hateful Strike simplified
Gluth: removal of crushing blows, more stuns/roots for chow
Noth: IIRC, the adds were more challenging with more abilities
I think alot of it simply comes down to people don't actually want a challenge. They want better gear and the ability to brag about beating a perceived challenge.

Players could create artifical challenges like Gevlon is doing, which actually creates a near endless supply of content. They just choose not to because they are mainly driven by loot.
As true as some of your observations are, there are a couple of things I'd like to add:

A) during classic almost alts weren't that common. Certainly no one but the most extreme gamers had 4+ chars at max level.

B) if you had bad luck / some bad players / guild/raid drama you were stuck. As in: you were stuck in 20-man raids (at best). Even MC was not done by random raids (on my server). The most you could hope for was ZG or AQ20.

C) Players quit the game rarely in classic - even breaks were less common. And that's not because the content / game was any better, people just hadn't played it for *so long*.

Overall, I much prefer the "new" WoW of WotLK (even though I am in a guild that is far from casual). Your alt raid is missing a healer? Sure someone has an alt which is adequate to help out. That was almost unthinkable in classic. You played your one char, because the chances for a drop were so abysmally low that you didn't want to risk to be there with an alt and not with your main.

Sure it's a little bit sad that people don't do Naxx anymore, but tbh: If anyone were looking for Naxx25 other than for achievements, you'd have to question sense in the game.

Ulduar is a different thing, we still have alt raids going after the protodrakes. And I guess even if you overgear the content someone that's still some achievement, and fun for sure.
One way to revive Naxx raiding is to introduce hard modes. All Blizzard has to do is to restore vanilla Naxx mechanics and adjust stats on bosses. And have bosses drop heroic versions of Naxx loot on par with ToC/ICC and emblems of frost.
I believe Blizzard shot themselves in the foot with Naxxramas in regards to the quality content they released with Ulduar and ICC.
As for LFD in Cataclysm, I think the tier system put in place for T9 and T10 content will easily carry over - specifically a generic token drop for 25-man and heroic content, or in combination of having an item from lower tier content (example: T10 - exchanging a T10 piece along with a token for a T10 25-man item), while still allowing people to have basic 10-man tier gear for badges. I DO NOT care for the current system where we run heroics for items 2.5 tiers above the content. Perhaps the basic T11 raids, when T12 content becomes available, will give T12 tokens instead of heroics.
For example, the first LFD heroic run (at launch) will provide 5x tier 11 badges and say 50g, while subsequent runs will provide 2x tier 11 badges and 15g, with each boss giving 1x tier 11 badge. Perhaps single (say a Malygos style heroic) and double boss heroics (like Forge of Souls) could be designed with rewards to match, ie only epic drops and multiple badge drops. Perhaps such a heroic could be designed which would drop only non-set pieces (neck, wrist, waist, boot, ring, trinket, weapon, ranged, shield) which would have good stats and itemization but not always perfect for every class (for example, a physical mail item that's a bit heavy on haste and a bit light on raw agility).
Didn't read all the comments so sorry if I repeat something. An idea I was thinking about sort of plays on the old Everquest system of getting 'flagged' in order to go to certain areas. This would help with Blizzard having their content skipped because players are geared enough to compete in the highest level dungeon for gear.

It would be where in order to get 'flagged' or allowed into a dungeon you had to participate in a series of tasks in which your gear could be tested in a way that if everyone didnt measure up to some combination of gearscore/skill/other then they wouldnt succeed; couple that with not letting those who have passed into the event of flagging steps again so you don't have those geared from higher gear dungeons to carry those through it. Something to think about maybe?
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Pretty much everything was said already here.

I'll repeat some points from my pov:

- I've run Naxxramas v2 so many times that I'd poke if I'm forced to do it again and again (be it on my main or alts), you don't run Maraudon for the very same reason - it's an obsolete content

- Blizzard wants literally everyone (ok, at least half of the subscribers) to have an access to the last tier of raiding (ICC nerfs are incoming soon, remember)

- in vanilla if you were in naxx v1 progression guild you'd know that it was your guild destroying fun for others - you needed constant flow of the best people on the server (because, yes, people did quit the game), ruining progression path for the other guilds for days, weeks, months or at all (try to raid when your 2 main tanks in full bwl/aq/naxx gear level just transferred to another guild), this caused so much drama that it's hard to imagine for the people who never experienced this

It wasn't much an issue in MC days, it wasn't that of issue in BWL days, it killed whole guilds in AQ/Naxx days though. Blizzard doesn't want that to happen again.

If your MT quits now it's not a biggie, few days later (or even at the very same day) you have an alt/main/whatever geared enough to progress further.
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