Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


Philosophy

February 16, 2012

End-Game Gearing, Part I – An Evolution

Ascending_and_Descending_cr

Whenever I think about the process of gearing in WoW, I invariably picture MC Escher’s famous print, “Ascending and Descending”. Although more people might be familiar with the movie Inception’s depiction of the Penrose Stairs, the visual is still a keen one—a never-ending loop of stairs which you can ascend ceaselessly and still never progress past a point where you already had been. To me, the endgame gearing process is very much like that continuous loop of stairs. Your Best-in-Slot from the previous tier, that you spent weeks or months farming, is outdated and insufficient the moment new content is released. And no matter the gear thresholds that you surpass, you will never have gear that is truly irreplaceable.

How you regard this process (consciously or subconsciously) contributes to how you experience endgame content. There is the hardcore group, WoW’s “elite”, who are the kind of people who sprint up the staircase, concerned only with reaching the top and staying there. Other players prefer to climb the stairs at their own pace, progressing through content at a brisk but not entirely aggressive rate. Maybe they finish content before the next patch and maybe they don’t; their own values will dictate which it is. While others, through personal preference or simply because they got a late start, lag behind the group, but still play within the same gearing model.

But the gearing model in which these three player types operate is not a linear game—it is punctuated by platforms, the gearing thresholds that both set the bar and give you a moment to rest before you push on further.  Some gear thresholds are visibly set by the game, such as the average ilvl rating for Cataclysm heroic dungeons or LFR, while other gear thresholds are a little less obvious, such as the gear needed to beat HM Ultraxion’s enrage timer or the amount of resilience you need to stand a chance against last season’s super-Gladiator. In the PVE game, gear thresholds serve as gates to progression, and the previous tiers’ farming efforts are, essentially, the attempt to surpass the current tier’s gear thresholds.

In this way, the gearing process and raid difficulties are intertwined, because as players get more gear, the perceived/actual difficulty of raid encounters diminishes. So it follows that the distribution of gear is one of the most influential factors in the progress of the PVE game, the valve that controls not only the quantity but also the distribution of players in the raid content. As the first part of a two-part post addressing PVE gearing and raid difficulty, I first want to talk about how the evolution of endgame gearing and highlight some of the major issues/trends that cropped up during Cataclysm.

 

The Challenges Inherent in Endgame Gearing

Although PVP and PVE endgame are entirely different beasts, they do share some similarities in that they both need to address fundamental design challenges in endgame (so that people don’t get bored and wander off after two months). For example, they have to provide viable progression paths for all players, from the realm-first raider to the new subscriber who gets into BG’s in the final season of an expansion. And, both types of endgame need to satisfy a range of time commitments, from the 12-hour per day player, to the 4-hours per week player. Finally, and most importantly, both systems have to encourage players to continue their endgame endeavours—PVE does this through new tiers, PVP does this through new seasons. But both do it through the gearing process as well, the unspoken promise that if you invest the time now, you’ll have an advantage later on, that the stat upgrade from T12 to T13 is really worth the time it takes to get it.

But the two endgame models don’t share everything, especially when it comes to how they distribute that gear to the playerbase. Unlike gearing for PVP, which is limited to a fixed two-tiered system (three, if you count crafted blue starter gear), PVE gearing is a more complex model.  While PVP gearing is effort-based—in battlegrounds you even earn points where you fail to complete the basic objective, although the same can’t be said of Arenas—the PVE model is a hybrid, a combination of kill-based effort points and pure RNG. In addition, while PVP rewards are divorced from the way in which you earn them (eg: you played relatively the same BG’s to earn a Season 3 chest as you did to earn a Season 10 chest), PVE rewards are inherently tied to their source in ways beyond simple aesthetics. A new tier equates to new battles and a new locale. Further, while the challenge and variation of PVP is provided by other players, the challenge and variation of PVE is provided by different instances. Just imagine if every single Cata instance was released at the start of the expansion and only the loot tables were updated every patch—wouldn’t be much fun, would it?

Obviously, and as with everything on LiG5, I’m going to stick to talking about the PVE gearing model in this post, because it’s one that I have a massive amount of experience working with. But, it’s also one that I think has undergone a fundamental shift as of late, one that I’m hoping to convince you needs changing.

 

The Burning Crusade / Wrath Gearing Model

A good number of people lately have, in rose-tinted hindsight, been tossing around the idea of Burning Crusade as the “Golden Era” of raiding in WoW. Consistently cited in support of this argument is the premise that in BC, players raided multiple tiers/instances concurrently—something you don’t see as often in today’s raiding scene. In BC, guilds worked on the starting bosses Mount Hyjal and Black Temple while also continuing their efforts on Kael’thas in Tempest Keep and Lady Vashj in Serpentshrine Cavern (in part due to the revolving door that was raid attunement). Likewise, those guilds working on Sunwell also made time in their raid schedules for repeat kills of select BT bosses and … *shudder* …  Archimonde. And, almost every guild out there will attest to running Gruul’s Lair every week for the insanely low drop-rate, but enduringly awesome Dragonspine Trophy.

In regards to the smaller raids that punctuated the BC raiding scene, Kara runs were an easy way to gear up alts (and enjoy late-night drunken/silly antics with your guildmates) but also a regular staple for those wanting to farm a few Badges of Justice post-2.3. When ZA was released mid-expansion, less progressed guilds swapped it in for their typical Kara runs, while those guilds farming BT made easy work of bear runs and didn’t give a second thought to its loot.

It’s important to note that “badges” and “badge loot” were new concepts in BC. Released with the expansion, badge loot provided an alternate method for acquiring starter raid gear, aside from Exalted faction loot and craftables, via heroic mode dungeons. It was a decided departure from the Vanilla gearing model which was based purely in RNG, even for tier gear. The 2.0.3 badge gear was on par with those items found in Karazhan, which at the time, would have been considered pre-raid gear since 10-mans weren’t really considered raiding at that point. And when the badge gear was updated late in the expansion in Patch 2.3 (which was the point at which Badges of Justice were patched to drop from Kara and ZA), the ilevel of the new badge gear was equivalent to late t5 / early t6 items.

But perhaps the first indicator of the gearing model changes to come was found in Patch 2.4, which marked the release of Sunwell, the Isle of Quel’Danas (and associated dailies) and Magister’s Terrace, a 5-man dungeon. Introduced late-expansion, the normal mode version of Magister’s dropped blue loot, roughly equivalent to Karazhan gear (which was epic). But the heroic mode of Magister’s dropped epics, including weapons and trinkets, which were comparable to early Tier 5 gear. It was the first time that a 5-man instance dropped *only* epics. (BC Heroic mode dungeons had previously only dropped epics on the final heroic mode boss). Whereas previously, your progression path into PVE raiding was

Dungeons –> Heroic Dungeons–> Kara –> Badge Gear –> T5 (SSC/TK) –> T6 (BT/MHJ) –>Sunwell

upon the introduction of Magister’s and updated Badge of Justice items, the gearing path became:

Kara / Magister’s –>Badge Gear / ZA –>T6 (BT/MHJ) –>Sunwell

What this did was provide the BC community with a way to “catch up” to approximate gear level of those players who had been farming SSC and TK for months. Likewise, the influx of gear into the raiding populace effectively closed the gap between the stats players had and the stats that they would need to kill bosses that they had been struggling to kill. It was enabling progression by helping those at the bottom of the pack. More importantly, this late-expansion “catch up” established a precedent for gearing that was perpetuated in the following expansion.

While most players remember the ICC heroics as being gear factories and the path by which you could moderately gear out alts to raid, what players oftentimes forget is that Forge, Pit, and Halls weren’t the only “catch-up” instances in WotLK. When Trial of the Crusader was implemented with Patch 3.2, 9 months after the expansion’s release, it brought with it a mini instance (Trial of the Champion) with the same intent as Magister’s—catching players up who had missed out on PVE content up until that point. Its normal-mode items were roughly equivalent to Naxx 10 gear, while its heroic-mode items were roughly equivalent to Naxx25 end-boss gear / Ulduar 10 gear. (Remember: this was the time when the ilvl of 10-man gear was less than the ilvl of the same boss’s 25-man gear).

But, I think the most important distinction to make here is that this model differed from Magister’s implementation because it was designed to get players into the current tier of content. The Badge of Justice gear released in concurrence with Sunwell was situated such that it provided people a way to get into the previous tier of content. When the Icecrown 5-mans were released, they continued the ToC model, giving players the minimum level of gear that, when combined with badge gear, would enable them to go into ICC10. The new player, outfitted with the 5-man gear, wasn’t quite at the level of someone who had been doing HM 10’s or NM 25’s, but they were close enough to make a jump.

 

So What Changed with Cataclysm?

Three major things changed with Cataclysm that, I think, had a significant impact on the gearing process, and as a result, on the progression path of raid teams. Yes, I’m going to be talking about LFR here, but let’s get two other major impacts out of the way beforehand.

First, with every tier of content in Cataclysm, we saw the release of ways for the raiding populace to “catch up” their characters’ gear to the current level of content. Tier 12 and Firelands were predicated by the release of Patch 4.1, which launched the newly-revamped versions of Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub. The gear found in these two troll heroics was effectively on par with normal-mode Tier 11 raid gear (ilvl 353 versus 359), a tier which, at the time, constituted current content. The Tier 12 Patch, 4.2, didn’t bring with it any additional instances, but it did introduce the Molten Front, which actually contained gear that was higher ilvl than normal-mode Tier 11 (but below that of Firelands normal modes). Similarly, in Patch 4.3, Tier 13 was accompanied by 3 new heroic mode dungeons complementing the Dragon Soul / Deathwing lore, and providing players with ilvl 378 gear, which was the minimum level of gear needed to start Dragon Soul normal raiding.

So, the Tier 11 gearing path, at the start of Cataclysm, was set up as:

Dungeons –>Heroic Dungeons / Justice –>Tier 11 NM / Valor –> Tier 11 HM

But in patch 4.1 it changed to:

Heroic Dungeons / Justice –>ZA/ZG / Tier 11 NM / Valor –> Tier 11 HM

With patch 4.2 it changed to:

Heroic Dungeons / Justice –> ZA/ZG / Molten Front –> Tier 12 NM / Valor –> Tier 12 HM

And, again, with patch 4.3 it changed to:

Heroic Dungeons/ZA/ZG/Justice –>DS Heroic Dungeons –>LFR –>Tier 13 NM / Valor –>Tier 13 HM

I really want to drive this point home here—with every new tier of content in Cataclysm, raiders were given a way to leapfrog over the previous tier’s content and jump right into the new instance. If you were in a guild that completed normal modes in the previous tier and had spent 5-6 months farming to get NM best-in-slot, your gear would have been equal to the player who came back and spent a week farming the new instance, with the only exception being tier bonuses. Only players who had managed hard mode kills had gear that was a higher ilvl than the subsequent tier’s normal mode loot.

The second thing that changed in Cataclysm raiding was the application, every tier, of a nerf to content difficulty by means other than gear. Different from the buff that was applied in Icecrown (and which is making a resurgence of sorts in Dragon Soul), every tier of raids in Cataclysm saw their bosses nerfed in order to aid progression of guilds who had reached a hurdle of some sort. Tier 11 saw a 25-30% nerf in difficulty upon the launch of Firelands, a change which enabled a number of guilds to push through the final encounters of the instance. Tier 12, however, saw a major nerf applied just 3 months after release, in the form of a 15-25% reduction of HP and/or damage from most bosses. This was, arguably, one of the most aggressive nerfs that the PVE game had seen to date, with possibly the exception of Patch 3.0, which nerfed all BC raid content by an approximate 25- 30% one month before WotLK release. That’s right, the only other nerf of this caliber was ONE MONTH before the level cap was raised from 70 to 80.

The combined impact of these first two changes to the Cataclysm raiding scene resulted in, to give you a good visual here, a snowplow effect. In essence, by providing those guilds struggling to finish content with a substantial buff, Blizzard was pushing players en masse out of “old” content and into the “new” content. Same thing with the “catch up” instances—players were provided with the means to entirely skip over the gear farming that defines the PVE game and bypass the gear thresholds that the farming was intended to address. Remember back in the start of this post where I said that PVE longevity was based on the premise that your investment of farming time would pay off in the next tier? Well “catch up” instances, in their current state, completely undermine that concept because they take that first path I illustrated in BC, which tracked an entire gearing progression from dungeons to T4, then badge gear and ZA, then T5 then T6, then Sunwell, and condense it down to the point where you have players making it from fresh 85 to DS raider in the span of a week. Which brings me to the third major change of Cataclysm—LFR.

Now, I am a fan of LFR, despite the fact that I, like many other progression raiders out there, spent an insane amount of time farming it at the start of this tier. Quite frankly, the accessibility and ease that LFR brings to the raiding game is introducing Dragon Soul to a host of players who would have never ventured past the first couple of bosses in the instance. And to me, that’s amazing because as someone who loves raiding, I want to see other people love it just as much as I do. If the sole goal of LFR was to open the doors to PVE raiding and end game, then the mission is a resounding success.

But, like many of the new systems rolled out during Cataclysm, LFR significantly altered how raiders geared in the last tier of the expansion and, thus, significantly impacted their progression path. All exploits aside, LFR inserted itself into gearing/progression path for all guilds by introducing a gear level that was one step ahead of the normal mode gear in the previous tier. When combined with amazing tier set bonuses, especially those for tanks, which were leagues beyond any stat increase, LFR became the stepping stone so large that it overshadowed the previous tier’s hard modes and became a necessity for HM guilds needing the edge that new gear provided. Add onto this the fact that guilds could control the distribution of LFR loot by queuing as a 25-man group, and the fact that it shared no loot lockouts with normal/heroic modes, and LFR’s gearing impacts made the snowplow effect I talked about above look downright subtle.

The end result of Cataclysm’s efforts is that, at the end of an expansion, your entire raiding community is shoved into one instance with a total of 8 bosses, the Aspects buff ever-pushing them into “harder” content. Not only that, but you’re left with a gearing model that encourages players to abandon their efforts to farm previous tiers with their guilds, and instead zerg gear through LFR when new content is released. Instead of a model that rewards continual and consistent effort, you have one that de-emphasizes commitment and deferred gratification (and devalues guilds in the process). I sincerely hope that I’m not alone in believing that that’s a fairly bleak picture and a far cry from the model that many enjoyed in BC.

 

What’s the Lesson in This?

So, to cap off the first half of this post … I think we can come out of this gearing restrospective with a couple truisms:

  1. Players will take the path of least resistance when it comes to gear, and there’s no faulting them for that. If there’s a way to get equivalent ilvl gear without the conditions and commitment of a raid team, players will take it.
  2. Raid content farming was not as rewarded in Cataclysm as it was in previous expansions.
  3. Providing players a means to “catch up” will truncate the lifespan of PVE content and likewise discourage concurrent tier raiding (because the new gear will be better than almost all gear from the previous tier).
  4. The way in which LFR was incorporated into the progression model was problematic because: a) it provided an easy way to get new tier bonuses, b) allowed guilds to mitigate some of the effects of loot RNG, and c) created a new gear threshold that was situated between Tier 12 NM loot and Tier 13 NM loot.

In my mind, these are the core issues that Blizzard should be addressing when it comes to planning the gearing model in Mists. Because although the Blues have stated that they (Blizzard) want to get more people into raid content so that they aren’t designing PVE end-game for 1-2% of the WoW population, the methods that they’ve put in place to enable players to get into raids are actually undermining the longevity of content.  Entire raid instances are obsolete when a new patch is released and content which could have been enjoyable and, more importantly, rewarding for those players getting a late start, is cast aside in order to shovel them into the shiny new instance. And while I understand that the spectrum of players in endgame raiding is ever-increasing, I think it’s important to understand that there is value and reward to be had climbing that loop of stairs. And it isn’t found in the loot that you get, but rather the process of getting it.

So what’s to be done? I have some suggestions addressing that very question, so stay tuned for the second half of this discussion: End-Game Gearing, Part II – Devising a New Solution.






21 Comments


  1. hoofs

    hiya Vixin, great post as usual.
    we are far from a HM guild, but we enjoy curent content, usualy clearing it on normal as the next tier arives.
    in Tier 13 we had to recuit a replacement tank, he was a RL friend and had not raided since ICC.
    we geared him up in the new 5mans, and he is up with our better geared players fro m LFR in about two weeks from fresh ding gear.
    I feel it is a shame he missed all of the great bosses we all banged our heads against in BWD, BOT & TFW, let alone FL. It was just ‘better’ for the whole team if he could step straight into DS with us fresh.

    a real shame.
    thanx again :)


    • Very valid point. In today’s environment, where recruitment seems to be a challenge for almost every guild out there, there is a distinct advantage to a fast gearing process when it comes to finding a replacement for your roster.

      But I wonder if we’re only addressing the symptom (gearing of new players) of a much larger problem (high guild attrition rates). Maybe, the fast gearing process wouldn’t be as necessary if players weren’t burning out as quickly and found more enjoyment in a PVE world that was fitted to their level of play. Or maybe if there was a greater advantage to sticking with a guild, raiding rosters wouldn’t be such a revolving door.


  2. Matts

    I have read your many great and insightful blog posts for some time now, but this one is truly spot on. I agree that the increasing truncation of the gear cycle is a major threat to the spirit of the PvE game, though I haven’t been able to as exactly pinpoint the problem as you do here.
    Overcoming challenging encounters to see new content has always been my main driving force to play WoW followed by character progression (ie gear upgrades, skills, achievements etc). The introduction of LFR meant that everyone gets to see the new content without much effort. That leaves the difference in reward for a huge difference in effort and challenge at a tiny green heroic tag and 13 point higher item level. It is sad that every instance but the current tier raid immediately become completely redundant.

    I really look forward to reading your suggestions for a solution and I hope Blizzard reads it closely too.

    On a side note I found DS normal to be disappointingly under-tuned. It took my guild two resets to kill madness compared to all other previous standard sized raid isntances that have kept us busy for two months or so before we managed to down the end boss.


  3. Aanzeijar

    Great setup for the followup, I’m eagerly awaiting your solutions.

    Upon reading this, I am once again reminded what I miss most: The late-night drunken/silly antics with my guildmates in Karazhan, and the weird LFG picks we used to get to know in those nights, like the infamous Marjoram .


  4. I think the heavy gear catch up from new instance farming and LFR has been both boon and bane for current teir raiders , It combatted a serious problem with recruitment meaning skilled players had the opportunity to gear up alts , or to catch up after breaks and manage to claw their way back into the raid scene .

    We’ve picked up two such suitable recruits who scraped there way in with this methodology which we would not be able to have done if their gear had been a burden to our HC progress .

    Yes it devalues our progress gear and undermines peoples desire to farm the previous content , but honestly i spent enough time in firelands ;-) and for the love of the elements … please dont send me back to the world of red . People have rose coloured memory of tbc I remember doing gear and attunement runs for recruits back when i was running TBC progress … this was not fun then and it wouldnt be fun now if we still had to dedicate a monday or tuesday timeslot to this.

    What blizzard needs to find a way of using smarter mechanics for rewarding us for our slog through the old content whilst not making this unbalanced for the catch ups. A good example of this is the firelands rep reward high ilvl ring it still holds up through normal dsoul , and in some situations is better tailored to our class than early hc drops, especially if you drop billiant queens garnet in the socket.

    LFR to me was brilliant … conceptually but as a 10 man we couldnt really control the loot drops through sheer numbers i did notice an alarming correlation of low performing players getting gear but i but it down to sod’s law … but the more i see this the more paranoid i get

    http://thegrumpyelf.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-dont-people-try.html

    Hrmmmm


  5. Xico

    Well, we have only seen the first incarnation of the LFR tool, and one that is limited to one raiding tier.
    One or two years from now, when we have multiple raiding tiers on LFR, the picture might be substantially different. It may very well allow for a different progression path, e.g. freshly dinged max level characters are expected to go to 5 mans and then raid LFR on every single tier until they’re ready to jump to the current tier at normal difficulty, with LFR replacing the catch up 5 man heroics. If queues are reasonable for all raids this might work, and it would enable Blizzard to stop making new 5 mans half-way through an expansion, thus saving development resources.


    • Excellent points! You’re right, this is the first incarnation of LFR and the testing grounds for expansions and tiers to come. So I do think (or maybe I just hope) that there will be some changes on the horizon.


  6. TheDixieFlatline

    The article read like one really long “I-getz-purplez-not-you-noob” post. You have an end-game raider arguing that gear distribution that allows newer players to forgo previous raid tiers as being unfair, but he’s painting it as a reason why pve content would have less longevity. I will never understand this ridiculously needy issue people have sometimes. Quite frankly, who cares if some new guy didn’t have to do what you did?
    I didn’t have to build my calculator before I took a math class, does this mean I have somehow lost out? Should I walk uphill both ways to school? In snow? Perhaps we should all hunt, skin, and design our own clothes, because our ancestors certainly didn’t have high end synthetic fibers when THEY started out (conveniently assembled by foreign children, no less.)
    These games are designed around the concept of continual evolution of the character, and that’s how they keep drawing the players in. A game system that panders solely to the elite, by forcing the newcomers to grind through endless waves of boars in the forest before they can join the welcomed cabal, will never be as financially successful, and last I checked, money greases the wheels that make the world go ’round. Just look at EVE. Great game, wins many awards, miniscule in player base compared to Warcraft, because it is a game based on time and veteran-ship.
    As someone who experienced the “BC grind” on a medium-small server, I can vouch for how little ANYONE desired being force-fed through the meatgrinder that was Gruul/Mag/TK/SSC/Hyjal JUST so they could see Black Temple. Inevitably, the majority of exposure to the instance came so late in the expansion that sunwell was already cresting the ridge, and the grind got kicked up to 11.
    For me, progression isn’t about lookin’ good, or expecting someone else to toil their way up to my elitist standards. Progression is about maximizing my own personal capabilities within the intricate dance that is a complex raid boss. This level of achievement is not going to be taken from me because some two-week-old toon is dancing around in LFR gear.
    Anyone can get purple pixels to drop for them… not everyone can go 8/8HM, even when its old hat. Isn’t the pride of your accomplishment enough?

    -Dixiflatline/Lyricist/Brigand/Yakityyak of Demon Soul (US)


    • Quite frankly, I’m a little shocked and a more than a little disappointed that you came out of the post thinking I was presenting another tried and true elitist perspective on endgame. I didn’t touch on the value of epics, nor did I discuss anything having to do with entitlement, nor did I say that my accomplishments were diminished because someone else was able to duplicate them, nor did I address the difficulty of encounters from a casual versus hardcore perspective; none are relevant. In fact, I fully concede that the gearing process that I’m arguing should be changed, is one that I myself have benefited from.

      But, I do think (as I so stated), that the gearing process today places too much emphasis on the destination and not enough emphasis on the journey. Ultimately, Blizzard can’t design one instance that offers the “right” level of challenge to everyone out there. But if we raiders have a spectrum of instances from which to choose, instead of being shoved into just one because it’s the new hotness, the chances are that we’d find it more rewarding than either a) butting our heads up against a wall repeatedly, or b) sailing through an instance with a 30% buff.

      So, I would encourage you to go back and read my post again (I know, it’s long, I’m sorry) with more of an open mind. Applying your preconceived notions of what hard mode raiders want does both of us a disservice, because, I assure you, I am no more interested in closing off raiding to the world than you are. I happen to be 8/8 HM because I hunger for stress and challenge like a fat kid loves cake, not because I want a “Super Awesome Elite Raider” certificate to display proudly on my refrigerator. So please don’t assume I share the same mindset as the elitist pricks you’ve come across in the past.


      • Ragas

        I must say I agree with some points that TheDixieFlatline, pointed out. During TBC, I played on a server with medium population and I remember the nightmare that was gearing new people endless Kara/Gruul/TK/SSC so people can go BT. Even some top guilds on high populated servers were runing old content for new players to gear them out.

        I do realize that now new players do miss out on content like Black Wing Descend, The Bastion of Twilight however I must admit that personally I would vomit if I am asked to run them to gear people after spending there time and time again clearing them in Normal and Heroic.

        The current system although not perfect is a nice solution and does not burden the guilds to run old content for new players or players who took a long break and came back ready to raid.


  7. Gorbag

    Did you read the article? Vix clearly stated that keeping people out of raiding isn’t her desire. As for what she actually said, I couldn’t agree more; it seems like a waste to throw away the previous tier of content every patch.

    Heroic dungeons were created to solve two problems, one for players and one for devs. The yoyo effect (guilds sliding back into old content to gear up new recruits) was rough in vanilla/BC, and only got worse the further you progressed. Giving players a way to leapfrog the earlier tiers broadened the recruiting pool, making that slide much shorter and less painful. Devs also saw the dungeons they’d worked hard to create sitting empty, and used badges as a way to get people back into 5 man content.

    I think the best solution would be to keep the valor/justice system, but dump the random heroics. Let all previous tiers reward justice, and last tier reward some valor (with a 7 boss cap, like random heroics now). I’d much prefer to run firelands once a week over random heroics, and with LFR the barriers to entry are very low.

    IMO this would solve the same two problems, but keep the more interesting and fun content in use; and, implemented correctly, would give a leg up to new/returning players without eliminating the progression from progression raiding.


    • TheDixieFlatline

      “Did you read the article?”

      Of course I read the article. I’m not typically of the mind to wander the internet searching for random posts to throw out “har har elitist” comments.

      ” …the gearing process today places too much emphasis on the destination and not enough emphasis on the journey…”

      This is the statement I’m taking issue with. In what way does Blizzard fostering newer players into advanced settings affect your own personal experience? Our worlds are all incredibly subjective in nature, so what possible alteration to this process for others could create a situation that disrupts your own? You claim that “your investment of farming time would pay off in the next tier’, but then claim that gear is not the relevant factor. What investment then is it you’re seeking to collect on? You only ever get the one “first-kill.”

      I understand it is most likely not your intent for this to be the message you wish to convey, and I most definitely understand how it would be desirable to have a system that can allow for that wide-eyed progression we all once made, but your path of progress will never be the same as anothers, and your concern that they follow in your footsteps will never be fulfilled. If you’re arguing that there should be a wider range of raids available, that’s one thing, but those raids only spread out the amount of content you can enjoy, and consequently reduce their ability to make one good instance with lots of depth.

      We aren’t giving any favors to newcomers by promoting a concept of forced achievement. We can never “turn back the clock,” as it were, and give them that same struggle we had. Old content is, unfortunately, just that; old. The dungeons have been explored, the treasure chests ravaged, scraps of monster torsos piled in heaps shaped like “U’s” in a single spot. We can only hope that our fond memories and anecdotal stories help encourage them to forge their own way into the unknown and fantastically new material we are given. To quote Walter Donaldson,

      …”How ‘ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm (after they’ve seen Paree?)”…


      • You are however, of the mind, to come on my blog and toss insults my way based on a post that did none of the things that you’re accusing it of doing. And despite the fact that you were downright rude and condescending, I still approved your comment because I thought that your poor representation of a counter-perspective was still better than no counter-perspective at all.

        “In what way does Blizzard fostering newer players into advanced settings affect your own personal experience?”

        You did actually manage to ask a good question here, amidst the rest of your slippery slope arguments and hyberpole. And my answer is: it doesn’t. I’m done with content. Blizzard can throw everyone into DS complete with 410 gear and it wouldn’t change my progress. But what happens when those players hit a wall? What happens if they speed through content and find themselves unfulfilled? What happens when they quit? What happens when they’re the motivation behind a 30% nerf to content that strips the guild working on killing Madness of the pride of their kill? The raiding game as a whole, suffers. And yeah, I care about that.

        You came into this post with a chip on your shoulder, that much was clear in your first post where you implied that I was advocating a “game system that panders solely to the elite, by forcing the newcomers to grind through endless waves of boars in the forest before they can join the welcomed cabal”. But I’m not–almost everyone who has commented here has understood that except you. I was in a struggling guild in BC, I was in them in Wrath, and I still raid in some of those guilds with people who are very much, I’d imagine, like the people in your guild. I care about how they feel about content because they’re my guildmates too.

        So yeah, I’m going to spend weeks of my personal time researching, writing, and attempting to clearly articulate as unbiased an argument as I can present about how to change the raiding game for the better, so that people like you and like me and like OUR guildies can look at their accomplishments with pride.

        I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, but next time, come armed with solid counter-arguments instead of insults. I bet we’d both like that conversation a lot more than this one.


  8. ElBne

    Hi Vix,

    I just wanted to say that I loved this post because it helps flesh out one of my major concerns with WoW these days.

    Basically the major affect that the new gearing paradigm had (on me personally anyway) was to change my perception of value with regards to gearing up. Especially for alts. Essentially while it has always been true that the previous tiers gear was all but worthless in current content, it hasn’t felt so nakedly obvious until the VP/JP system.

    Case in point, I raid in a HM guild on my rogue. I loves my rogue and I keep on top of his gearing to help my guild raid. In TBC/Wrath I also always had at least one alt that I kept up on. In TBC that was because of raid stacking in Sunwell, however in Wrath keeping alts geared was..for lack of a better term…fun. I loved AoE-fest faceroll heroics on my warrior and since I could keep him geared I was also able to alt-raid with him so I got my tanking fix.

    With VP/JP what was made obvious to me was that any time I spent on my alts was basically “wasted” time in terms of progression. I actually finished most of Archaeology on my rogue (which I kind of hate) because I genuinely felt that at least my achievements wouldn’t be “worthless” in 5 months.

    I want to reiterate, this was always basically the way the game worked. Just that it didn’t feel that way.

    As I said to a friend of mine when I unsubbed for 5 months to avoid Zul-roics (my previous guild died to drama in T11) “I’m tired of feeling like a sucker for giving Blizz $15 to do content I don’t like that won’t matter by the time they come out with content I do like.”


  9. First of all, excellent post.

    I know that your plan is to propose a solution in a followup post, but upon reading the first couple comments, it struck me: the biggest obstacle to gearing to current content is time. LFR is a great way to get players up to date, but I feel as though there is an equally effective solution right under our noses…

    What if Blizzard, as they release new content, shortened or even removed the lockouts from previous tier’s content? This would allow players a reasonably fast way to get their gear up to par, while also allowing them to progress through content the way it was meant to. With valor point gear, they would also be able to pick up current level gear at an appropriate pace.

    At any rate, I think Blizzard needs to address something about their system, as this entire expansion has felt “rushed” and “impatient” and I don’t think Blizzard will be able to appease a restless playerbase for another expansion.
    Kathroman´s last post ..[General] Kill the competition?


  10. I very much agree with your themes here, Vixsin. I’m a relative newcomer to WoW (though I’ve played other mmorpg’s for years), but it has seemed strange to me that Blizzard makes it SO easy to “catch up” with the latest and most powerful gear even if you’ve never set foot in a pre-current raid. Of course there’s both good and bad in this — we all want to gear up our alts, and we all want new players to feel they can join the game in midstream without being at too big a disadvantage. However, I think it would enrich the game for all of us if the stepping stones Blizzard provides to gearing up were a little better balanced. For example, perhaps LFR tier pieces shouldn’t have bonuses on them, or maybe the bonuses should be half strength. Maybe ZA/ZG should have dropped items that had bonuses on them that ONLY worked in T11 raid instances (to encourage guilds to gear up new players & alts in BoT/BWD, but make the farming a little bit easier/faster). There are ways they could facilitate “catching up” while not making previous content completely obsolete the day new content is released, they’d just need to take a less heavy-handed approach.

    I understand that with the release of a new expansion, even the best BIS gear is going to be outdated on day 1 — as it should be. But, IMO, in mid-expansion each tier’s BIS items shouldn’t be so quickly replaced by easily obtainable dungeon drops and quest rewards — it makes the months of effort we put in getting those BIS items seem less “epic”.


  11. Aara

    This post really rings true for me, and I’m looking forward to part 2.

    One thing I have struggled with is people who have only done LFR raids coming in to a normal raid and failing miserably. That is, they have not read up on the differences in the encounters between LFR and normal, they don’t have a stock of consumables, they don’t follow directions, and so on. However, their apparent success in the LFR encounter has lead them to think they are ready to walk through normal. I think this false confidence is one of the unintended consequences of LFR.

    Do you have any plans to address this in part 2?


  12. Liyhe

    As someone who hit 80 a few days before the dungeon finder came out back in WoTLK I am glad it did, it allowed me to catch up to guildmates who have been 80 for a while and allowed me to see content hassle free.

    Knowing only the LK gear grind, and now the Cata gear grind. I think Blizzard did a good job of doing what they set out to do, they want people to see their content and all the hard work they put into their raids etc.

    ” …the gearing process today places too much emphasis on the destination and not enough emphasis on the journey…”

    However with this line I also agree there could be something more to make the journey more epic and less like a loot factory. Alts can almost be geared faster then one can blink. Makes the game seem cheap?

    Even with the ease of gear attainability, something still needs to be done with the overall difficulty on the game, making LFR so dumbed down or even the new DS dungeons, does nothing to teach people how to play. Gear does not make the player, using all ones abilities makes the player, not the color of your items.


  13. Cnossus

    I love WoW conceptually, graphically and nothing comes close to the creativity of zones and fights. But it is a treadmill, the percentages remain the same, and I do get frustrated with the start overs. However, I find that once I am geared and tuned and gemmed and enchanted, I park my toon and bring out an alt to do it all over again. The game is about constant challenge. Hats off to the developers.


  14. Gorbag

    Vixsin, you’re killing me :) over a week checking your blog at least twice a day and no part 2!


  15. Chad

    First off I have to say thanks for this post. It’s well written and really understanding of the entire raiding scene, something I haven’t found often in hard mode raiders.

    A few things I wanted to add from the point of view of the ten man normal raider.

    While Kara was great when we started, by the time they patched in the badges, and especially after the 2.4 badge rewards, Kara became the way to grind out some badges every week, and it really ruined the place for me. The lesson I took away from this was you have to be careful about over-incentivizing old content.

    You certainly mentioned how things changed with 3.2 and ToC but I think it gets lost a little in the Cata conversation. All of this really changed in 3.2. I remember when first starting in Ulduar we would sometimes hop back to Naxx for some quick shots at gear to fill in gaps for people. From 3.2 onward, that never happened. We only every went back to “older” content to try for an achievement. The difference in Cata was that the system was present from the get go. Which does lead to a possible side conversation – is the catch up system something you only really want in the game later? Like say when ICC is going to be current content for 9+ months.

    As a normal raider this expansion, there were two gearing things I found odd, and you touched on them both I think. The first was the low valor reward for clearing T11 as of 4.2. Firelands progress was slow for us so valor was a main source of gear and our best way of getting that was to run 5 mans. When the system actively encourages me to do something other than raid, something is off. And the second was the LFR gear issue that you mentioned. My raid group got to Ultraxion without much trouble and then hit a brick wall. I simmed my character out and found out I didn’t have the gear, even when playing computer perfect, to put out my needed share of dps. (our low number of clears of firelands didn’t help here). At this point the best thing for me to do was to do LFR, which has lead to me burning out on Dragon Soul even before I actually had made it all the way through on normal. Now, I concede they likely put the rewards on the LFR fairly high to make sure people used it. Due to it’s success I’m hoping they tune down the rewards in Mists.

    Again, thanks for the post. Some thoughtful analysis and it made for a great read.



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