Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Problems with "Linear Progression"

I started to respond to a post one of the bloggers I follow made, and then realized my response was going to end up as long as her post...So this seems like a better alternative: Asilwen this post is for you!

For those of you who don't want to read the post, basically what I got out of it (so this may not be the intended message), Asilwen states that she liked the BC style of raiding involving keys, attunement and the basic need to do the raids in order, even near the end, in order to go on to harder raids. I see many problems with this, and while I think they have been presented by a number of different authors (Weekly Marmot by Tankspot, Blizz Blueposters, and probably a ridiculous number of others) I decided I would post what my perspective is.
I am a "Wrath Baby", I started playing when Ulduar was out, and wasn't geared for raiding until ToC came out (see My First Post for the whole story!). While I suppose I fit the broad definition of this title, I like to think I adapted to both the style of healing (triage/mana conservation) and tanking (avoidance/mitigation >>>>> Stam) quite a bit faster than most people seem to have, though this may just be the conceit that all people have to some degree, and maybe I am a true "Wrath Baby" and don't see it. But, I digress.
Here is a brief list of the problems I see with what I call "Linear Progression" (needing to clear each raid in succession before moving on)(presented using Wrath as a bench mark, because that's the "Tier" I best know!)
  1. Skilled Guilds/Players move on when new raids are released. Yes they may go back for achievements, or  that one piece that is still BiS until heroics (Solace of the Defeated anyone?), however they spend most of their time in the new raid. Raiding Guilds generally expect applicants to be at the appropriated gear level for where they are raiding, this means that guilds raiding ICC would have expected applicants to have cleared (or close to) Trial of the Grand Crusader, before applying, guilds raiding ToGC would have expected people to have basic familiarity with ToC (and most of the gear), and guilds raiding Ulduar would have expected people to be fully geared in Naxx gear. This part I don't necessarily disagree with. It's a much easier way of weeding out people who know what progression takes, have some idea of how a raid is ran, etc. However, going back to the first point: Guilds that can move on to higher progression will. So how does someone that starts halfway through Wrath get to the point where they can raid ICC? Well first they need to find a group doing Naxx. This should be easy, trade chat spam FTW, everyone who has ran heroics is geared for Naxx so your applicant pool is basically every level 80. So after wiping with Pugs for weeks, you are now geared for Ulduar. There is suddenly a much smaller pool to pull raiders from, however there is likely a pretty large number of people at the point you are at, that have pugged Naxx, and are ready/want to move on. So you find yourself a guild and run Ulduar for months, yes months. Here is where this Linear issue starts to break down. If you are raiding progression ICC, you are not spending time raiding Ulduar, meaning only people geared for Naxx and Ulduar, will be raiding Ulduar. As soon as a toon is geared for ToC, if their entire guild is not ready, or close to (another week or two) they jump ship to a guild that IS raiding ToC, meaning that guild becomes stagnated at the Ulduar level, generally with players that aren't quite as good as the average ToC raider. So eventually you get geared enough to raid ToC, so you jump to a different guild. At this point guilds are getting harder to come by, and you may have to consider a server transfer if you are on a Low Pop server. Again your raider pool is pretty small, meaning there are probably only a few guilds to apply to, which means that you will need to be a pretty good player to get a regular raid spot. Again you have the issue of "attrition" where the geared players jump to the ICC guilds, and so every week you have new, less geared people coming into raid, and so progression goes slow, you get geared slow, and eventually by the time you are ready to move onto ICC, the new expansion is released. Wow TL;DR climbing the progression ladder takes a REALLY long time if you start playing after release, and is a HUGE uphill battle that burns people out faster than raiding ICC for a year waiting on Cata release.
  2. Burnout. Lets say you are a Raid Leader for an Ulduar guild. Lets say you REALLY like this guild, and it's hard to find friendly ToC guilds (Damned Elitists!), every month you see people leaving your guild for ToC
Okay, well I guess the main issue is probably with number 1. When I started this post I was really thinking I had all these good reasons, I would have this huge list, but really it all comes down the first point, that unless you are willing to put in those 4 nights a week to raid with a serious group, and ride that wave of tier releases, you will be left behind and forced to fight your way uphill (both ways, in blistering winds, waist deep snow, and without shoes, okay so maybe I've been talking to my Grandparents too much lately?)


  1. I've mostly been satisfied with the way Blizzard did raiding in most of Wrath, and I'm not really that eager to return to the glory days of BC attunements and guild stratification. I've played off and on since vanilla, but most of my raid experience was during Wrath. I raided a little bit in BC, but mostly only in Kara and ZA because my guild wasn't good enough to get down Gruul or Mag so there was really no way we were going to progress to SSC or TK. If I'd wanted to see those, I'd have had to jump to another guild, and I don't really like the idea of guilds as a series of ladder rungs you take as you move up in content tiers. That's not really my idea of what a guild is, and I don't think it's Blizzard's either. I like that Wrath opened things up and allowed every guild to have an opportunity to see the latest content while its still relatively new.

    In theory, I do kind of like the idea of people playing up through the old content. One of the many things I disliked about ToC is that the instant it dropped it rendered Ulduar (IMO a vastly superior raiding experience) completely obsolete. That may mainly have been a timing issue - if they'd released ToC 3-4 months later it probably would have worked out better both with Ulduar and with ICC later on - but it still made me wish there was a reason to return. I think Blizzard could maybe have helped with this if they'd made say Ulduar heroic gear say a half tier better than normal ToC gear, but they've chosen not to do that, and that would only have helped to keep people running Ulduar for a little longer, not go back to Naxx once ToC was released or to Ulduar once ICC was released.

    Sadly, while I theoretically like the idea of having people go through all the older raids to get geared for the current one, I think it does through entirely too many obstacles in the face of new raiders, or raiders who've fallen behind in the iLevel race. If the only way to get raid-worthy gear is to raid, then you're completely dependent on either being in a guild that's willing to go back and get people geared up (probably over and over and over again as the expansion goes on), or being able to find decent PUG raids. And by and large, Cata and the raid lockout changes seem to have lobbed a grenade right into the heart of PUG raiding on most servers, at least for right now.

    So the first method seems to demand a lot of backtracking from a raid team that would probably rather be doing more current content, while the second is kind of a crapshoot at the moment. Given Blizzard's intent to make raiding more accessible, I can't see them going back to giving players only those two choices, nor, on balance, do I think I really want them to. Much as I'd like to see people spending time in older instances that might be new to them, there are too many obstacles for me to come away thinking that it's a really good idea.

    I do fully and completely support the use of white space and paragraph breaks, however. ;)

  2. My experience #1: In TBC my guild and I managed to clear Kara, Maggy, Gruul and ZA. Then we lost some raiders and hit a bit of a wall, oh dear, whatever were we to do? We contacted a BT-level guild, they picked up the seven remaining people from my guild and ran us through SSC+TK for the next three weeks to gear us up, they did this on their last raiding night of the week to ensure they had a satisfactory amount of time on current content.
    Result: A much more advanced guild WILLINGLY ran older content to gear up new players, they did this as a single entity because tehy knew it was required for THEM to continue in progression.
    Honestly, your description of your option #1 is very lopsided and paints the entire attunement/on-rails raiding experience in a very negative light.
    It is a GOOD system, running through previous tiers (and remember it's still NEW to the person progressing through it) is the best way to teach / relearn raiding skills.
    My experience the second: While progressing through TOC hard modes we had two new people join our raiding ranks. And remember; it was impossible to flesh out ALL item slots through badge gear etc. We had to run these two toons through Ulduar hard modes for some gear, and then through TOC normal for the rest of their gear. Then, and only then, could they take on the TOC hard modes to earn further gear.
    My experience the third: Blizzard did a single "gear reset" in TBC and I think it worked wonderfully. Only having one reset kept heroics tough for a long long time, and I think we can all agree that challenging content is fun content.
    Conclusions of my ramble: Set-Path raiding worked well in the past, it would work well again. Entitle-sloths will never let it happen though, as soon as you give them a whiff of hard work they'll be off like a shot.