As part of my efforts to substantiate the theories presented in my 2-part series on endgame gearing and progression, I sorted through a ton of data dealing with achievements and guild progression in Tiers 11 and 12. I had originally drafted those two posts with the results of that data analysis included, but due to the fact that I can be a long-winded arse at the best of times, it ultimately was put on the chopping block in my final round of edits. However, because it is, I think, pretty interesting data, I wanted to offer it up for consumption if for no other reason to provide some insight into the numbers behind it all.
So, to set the stage for this data, let’s start with an idea that Zarhym put forth in March of last year when speaking about the longevity of Tier 11 versus the difficulty it presented to the raiding community:
We expect a fair amount of players will still run this content for loot and achievements once Firelands is released … This content will still be there, still be a viable means of progression, and become easier as Cataclysm’s lifespan continues. (Source)
Of course, if you read the Endgame Gearing posts you know that my contention is that Zarhym’s vision about “old content” never came to pass, at least not when it came to it still being viable progression.
To back up this hypothesis, I turned to the amazing mind behind one of my newest favorite sites, Bethink of WoWtrack.org. The question that I asked– could he provide me a numerical breakdown of guild first kills pre- versus post-patch for both T11 and T12? Here’s the graphical representation of what he gave me:
As detailed in the graph’s legend, the blue bars represent Normal Mode first kills and the green bars represent Hard Mode first kills. The kills of each type are then further subdivided between pre-patch (dark blue and dark green) and post-patch (light blue and light green). It’s important to note that his numbers differ from those displayed by WoWProgress because, as Bethink so aptly described to me, tracking kills is a function of parameters, and thus you can only represent what defines a “first kill” in your system. So, there’s likely some room for movement on the numbers, and it’s certainly expected that they have changed since I requested them over a month ago.
Regardless, the picture that the above data presents is, at least to me, enough to validate the idea that progression content in Cataclysm was generally isolated to the current tier; as much as Blizzard hoped that guilds would return to older content for progression purposes, very few actually did. Now, what’s important to note here is that I asked for guild kills, not player kills. The reason that I made this distinction is that I wanted to isolate and exclude, as much as possible, inflation of kills due to alt participation. Scoring a kill on an alt or in a new guild is not the same progressing on a boss that you’ve never killed before (which is an interesting thing to consider given the lengths that HM guilds go to test new bosses—can we really call those kills progression? … but I digress.)
What I found curious about the data above, once I had it in nice chart format, was the rise in the number of hardmode kills from Tier 11 to Tier 12. As many guilds killed HM Atramedes pre-patch as killed Alysrazor HM pre-patch? Quite frankly, I was boggled. Until I remembered the incredible fuss that surrounded the Firelands hotfix, which substantially nerfed both normal and hard modes and was decried loudly by the vocal minority on both forums and community blogs.
So this time around I asked Bethink to give me a “Before & After” picture of Firelands content. And here’s what that looked like:
In the above, you have the same color distribution as in the previous chart—blue equates to NM kills and green equates to HM kills. But this time I swapped the darkness of the colors in order to draw something to your attention—the large jump in kills of hard mode content post-hotfix. In the case of Alysrazor and Baleroc, HM kills shot up by over 400% in the newly-nerfed content. In contrast, though, NM Ragnaros kills only increased by around 15-20%, seemingly indicating that the encounter’s “difficulty” couldn’t be easily overcome by a nerf to damage. Interestingly enough, the hotfix had the opposite effect on HM Rag kills, which increased by over 700% post-hotfix, but even with that meteoric rise, still wound up about as killable as Sinestra.
I think what I’m left with after reviewing this data, and it’s a contributing reason as to why I chose to cut it out of the gearing post, is really two things:
- I’m struck by how much space there is between the guild that can kill NM Shannox and a guild that can kill HM Ragnaros. Yes, I think there is a differential in skill/aptitude, but more importantly, I think that divide represents a differential in what those players value. The player that loved HM Rag is an entirely different beast than someone with is satisfied with LFR content. And I’m not saying that with any malice or condescension, but rather saying that from a raid design perspective, the audience is getting bigger.
- The Firelands nerf, as contested as it was, ended up pushing the raiding community to the “right” levels of progression, slightly below that of Tier 11. This is incredibly evident if you look at the chart below, which details total guild first kills on each boss in Tier 11 and Tier 12, as of Feb. 15th. Had that nerf not gone into place, I think we would have seen a much larger drop off in the players participating in DS; with a lower average gear level in the raiding populace, LFR might not have been as successful. So the result was right, it was the application that was flawed.
To wrap this all up, I want to leave you with a quote from Bashiok, back in May 2011, talking about the gradual and continual nerfing of content:
It’s always been our intent to offer new raid tiers in Cataclysm that are difficult to provide challenge to the raiding guilds, and then gradually allow older content to self-nerf as people gear up through VP, and then eventual literal nerfs to the content. That’s something we’ve been communicating for some time.
Burning Crusade swung the pendulum one way, and Wrath of the Lich King swung it back too far the other. We’re attempting to find that middle ground where there’s still something brutally difficult for the cutting edge, but content gradually comes down until it’s extremely accessible (ie PUGable) either simply through gear proliferation, or literal content difficulty nerfs. (Source)
To be fair, after reading that statement, I don’t think Cataclysm’s content was all that far off from the middle ground that they were looking for. It just leaves me wondering where, in that pendulum’s arc, is the sweet spot for Mists.
PS: Yes, for me, 1220 words is a “mini” post. /facepalm