Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Blueprint for Endgame: Pre-Raid

This expansion has seen a lot experimentation in endgame. Some of it has been good, and some of it has been bad. After thinking about what I liked and disliked in Wrath, here is the first part of a plan that I would love to see in Cataclysm.


1. The first Tier of raiding opens 3 months after the launch of Cataclysm.

I greatly disliked the "rush" to get to Naxxramas. Levelling, normal dungeons, and heroics, were all severely diminished by the fact that Naxx was available so early. By delaying the opening of raiding for a few months, that gives everyone time to explore all the other facets of the game at leisure. As well, normal dungeon and heroic loot won't get obsoleted so fast.

2. 5-mans only drop blue gear.

I think that dropping scarce epics was a mistake. For one thing, the one epic drop obsoletes a lot of the other blue gear that drops. For example, [Red Sword of Courage] was strictly better than all other 5-man tanking weapons. Second, it allows you to start the raid game at lower item level. Finally, I think everyone skipped past blues and into epics too fast.

3. Heroic 5-mans drop an 8-piece class set.

I miss the dungeon sets of Vanilla. Dropping an 8-piece set gives something for people to collect, a reason to run many heroics. Ideally one piece would be dropped by the end boss of each heroic instance. There would be a version for each class-role combination. The set would have 2-, 4-, and 6-piece bonuses.

As for looks, I think a good motif would be "greatest hits from Tiers 1-6". That way it's a nod to nostalgia, while reusing artwork. For example, the Ret paladin set might be "Reforged Judgement", or the Rogue set could be "Restored Bloodfang". Alternatively the set could just use the blue Cataclysm armor artwork.

4. Heroic 5-mans do not drop badges at the start.

There is no need for badges at this point in time. Later, once raiding gets underway, badges can drop.

Edit: After thinking about this a bit more, it occurs to me that Heirloom gear will still need to be purchased. Heroics could drop Valiant Badges, but the only things for sale at this point will be the Heirloom gear. I think that Badge gear fills a hole when it comes to the scarcity of raid drops, but since random heroics can be run extremely often, badge gear is not necessary for 5-mans.

5. The Daily Heroic rewards 2x Champion Badges. A maximum of 8 Champion Badges can be earned each week.

There is a weekly cap on Badges so that people do not have to log in every single day.

6. There will be a maximum of 3 epic items available from professions. No weapons. Maybe belt and bracers and a ring. Recipes for these items cost Champion Badges. As well, these recipes require an ingredient which costs Champion Badges.

Here's a little tidbit to make crafting interesting. These recipes should be highly valued, as they are pretty much the only epics in the game (other than maybe a couple epics from exalted faction reputation). I like the way Primordial Saronite has worked out, and I think it's a good model to use for professions at the start of the expansion.

7. Reputation grinds use the "Tabard" model of Wrath.

I really like this model. It's flexible and easy to understand. As well, wearing a faction's tabard really drives home the idea that you are working for that faction, or accomplishing deeds in that faction's name.


I think this model will give people a solid foundation to start raiding. They can take their time leveling, collect sets in dungeons, and will enter the first tier of raiding with mostly blues and maybe one or two epics. I think that the first point is key, though. If Cataclysm launches with raids, a vast amount of content is going to go to waste.


  1. I would really like to avoid the rush to raid like this. Gating similar to Kara in BC is an option, too. It actually felt like an achievement to get into Kara, and it served a good "you must be this tall to ride" check.

  2. I think all I really have to say here is that I love you. Please go work for Blizzard. :)

  3. I agree, except I think that the emblem system in Wrath worked very well, and I think heroics should still continue to drop them. Going back to a model where you have to be lucky enough to have the boss you want drop the gear you want in the spec you want and then win the roll is a huge step backward - that gear, especially if there's actual sets, needs to also be available from vendors for emblems.

  4. All sounds great, but haven't they announced 4 raids at release already?

  5. Blinding ideas all the way through.Because of the way I started I didnt get into Kara till mid way through BC so I really experienced all of BC.
    With Wrath even my old guild was running raids quite early into Naxx and I felt compelled to keep up so I could raid. Hence I feel I really rushed Wrath to get to 80 and missed a lot of the feel of it.

    I can see this happening again in Cataclysm and with such a big change it would be nice to get a few months to "savour" it before I get on the raid merry go round again.


  6. I pretty much agree with everything you said but have one thing to add. Blizzard showed in Vanilla that they could make an instance available but unattainable due to difficulty (Razorgore!!!). I wish they hadn't gone to the concept making instances/raids easy from day 1. In Vanilla/BC they made instances very hard at first and slowly nerfed it to make content more accessible. It forced everyone to concentrate on ways to improve themselves. Now all everyone does is wait for the next loot pinata to open. My favorite nights in the game were when we finally were able to get into Nef's room in BWL and able to enter the Black Temple as it felt very special. It is not the same in WotLK.

    I also wish they'd bring back attunement quests. I think BC's Karazhan quest or the Onyxia attunement were about perfect -- a bit of backstory and it made sure everyone had paid their dues. Bliz got a little too crazy with the SSC to BT attunements though.

  7. It was a shame that heroics seemed to get skipped more so than in BC, until they become just badge-farming randoms.

  8. I whole-heartedly agree with all of the points you've made. It would be nice to see the return of the dungeon sets.

    I know im in the minority when i say it would be nice to see attunements again.

    I've been playing since vanilla and i like how they opened up the game so everyone has a chance to experience all of the content but
    i am saddened by the gearscore,gogogo,give me my purples now generation of WoW.

    Great post and Great ideas!

  9. Badge gain is already capped (two a day plus the raids.) The question isn't whether or not we have one; lockouts ensure that we do. The question is what that number should be.

  10. I disagree with capping badge gain over time at such low values. I think there should be some differentiation between players that want to spend their time and effort gaining as many badges as possible and those who approach it more casualy.
    If i'm willing to spend effort on getting those badges - i should be able to.
    It's a fine like to tread between requiring the grind and cripping the more dedicated players and you pushed it too far into the 'screw the hardcores, there is only 1% of them anyway'.

  11. It's a fine like to tread between requiring the grind and cripping the more dedicated players and you pushed it too far into the 'screw the hardcores, there is only 1% of them anyway'

    I'm interested in the problem with "screw the hardcores." They are only 1% and they take up a much higher percentage of resources. Given that Blizzard is a business, why wouldn't they be willing to give up 1% to double the size of the 99%?

  12. There needs to be raid content available as soon as you hit the end game... otherwise why level at all? Leveling to the cap just to run heroics... doesn't sound exciting.

    There are a lot of people who have only one level 80. They don't like leveling they don't have alts and they only play the game for raiding. I'm not one of them but at the same time there needs to be room for both.

    If things went your proposed way... then the person would hit 85... and stop playing until the raid dungeon was released. Why would they farm heroics for months just to start raiding? Especially if, like in wrath, there is never anything to graduate too. I've ran the same heroics since November of last year. It isn't enjoyable anymore and hasn't been in some time.

    There needs to be a fast paced end game. There is always room to take your time through content the second, third... or in my case 10th time around. In the end it all becomes boring and repetitive... do you want to make it that way right off the bat?

    I do agree with slowing down how fast we outpace heroics. For instance... I don't think heroics should be available at all until after the first raid content is down. That way you can scale it appropriately and have a challenge, in addition to better rewards. Then maybe after the following tier... allow the heroics to drop emblems.

    With that sort of system... the people who want to exclusively raid... can do so without ever having to step foot inside a heroic. But heroics still provide a place for new players and alts to catch up to the current raid content.

  13. "the people who want to exclusively raid...can do so without ever having to step foot inside a heroic."

    there lies the problem imo. skipping a clear path of progression and being able to jump right in to raiding takes away from the feeling of acheivement.

    i'm not HC by any means but i'm all for putting out a little effort to progress to endgame raiding, not just hitting 80 and jumping in or being carried through content but thats just me.

  14. I agree with every single one of your ideas. I too would like to see that heroics have a place again before raiding. One thing I would add to your list is the idea of making Cataclysm instances (normal and heroic) a bit more of a challenge than we saw in Wrath. Outstanding post.

  15. I think gating the first raid somehow (e.g. AQ or SWP) would be a good compromise. It would have to be coupled with challenging pre-raid max level content, however. I liked the BC heroic model much better than Wrath. In BC it took a competent group just to get through Heroic Shattered Halls or Durnhold Keep, and the single epic that dropped at the end was as well deserved as any drop you won in KZ :) In wrath, you could finish any heroic on the day your turned 80 (with the except of HoL, maybe, if you were a holy paladin ;) ). I'd like to see a return to heroic content as a half step between regular instances and the first tier of raiding.

  16. I completely agree with #1.

    On the surface, it seems strange to favor slower release of content, but it really does make the end game better in my opinion.

  17. @Anon

    That is what I meant... once someone gets into raiding... they should never have to back peddle into doing heroics. Sure you hit 80, you start running instances and heroics to get the gear to start raiding... but once you get into raiding that should be it for heroics.

    Heroics should be challenging and lets face it... after you get a bit of raid gear there is no challenge in a heroic. Heck in wrath... heroics were never a challenge.


  18. I'm interested in the problem with "screw the hardcores." They are only 1% and they take up a much higher percentage of resources. Given that Blizzard is a business, why wouldn't they be willing to give up 1% to double the size of the 99%?

    Exactly because as you put it "Blizzard is a business", why would they give up paying customers?
    And what doubling are you speaking of?
    I don't see why they can not opt for having both (they obviously should and are doing that).

    Btw, hardcores kill the bosses first, write strats, make movies, host and fill ej, etc... they do live raids at blizzcon too.
    The heard of a community is hardcores mostly imho.

  19. I don't really see this plan as "screwing the hardcores". Hardcore people don't just want to raid. They like questing and 5-mans and leveling and lore just as much as the rest of the audience.

    Raiding will come in time. This initial period just gives everyone a chance to stop and smell the roses and prepare for raiding. Plus, it will mean that the race will begin in earnest, with many possible contenders.

    Sometimes, building anticipation is just as important as the rest of things.

    A guild can wait for its entire raidforce to catch up, and enter the new content as a cohesive group.

  20. I agree with most of what you say, however, I like the idea of tiered epics that they currently have. You're leaving the majority of people who don't raid out of the epic loop this way. This plan satisfies the raiders nicely giving them incentive to look forward to raiding, but doesn't do anything for people who don't raid.

  21. Oh, maybe I didn't really make it clear, but this is just the pre-raid time period, before the first raid is launched. After the raid game starts up, things will change slightly (Heroics start dropping badges, etc.)

    I'm going to write another post detailing how I'd like the raid game to work.

  22. 3 months with no raiding? No thank you, I'd drop the game altogether. Raiding isn't the only thing I do in game, but it is the only thing that keeps me coming back to the game. Obviously, I don't speak for everyone but I get the feeling there are some out there that do share the sentiment.

    Have you thought of what this would do to lower end raiding guilds? People would take breaks from the game and come back at different times. Often, I'm sure they'd find a significant drop in playerbase, and travel to another guild. More people do the same, and you have a mass guild exodus.

    I like your other ideas in improving the game and character development paths, but there's other ways to stifle progress without taking a significant portion of the game away for months at a time.

  23. You've forgotten one crucial factor: gear from previous expansion.

    Why would one collect 8-piece blue sets if one could simply walk into the initial raids with ilvl277 triple-socketed epics?

  24. @ Ephemeron with a whole brand new stat system and a new expansion there is nothing preventing Blizzard from making the 8pc set, and bonus be worth more than someones full i277/264 set. If you cast your mind back to WoLK Naxx there were some people still using Sunwell gear in there, cast your mind a little further back to the start of BC and everyone had replaced their Naxx gear in the first couple of levels. Expect Blizzard to find an even better balance this time around.

    @Rohan I think 3 months might be a little too long, remember that we are only going to be moving up 5 levels before people start running heroic instances, that will make finishing off leftover quests a piece of cake and then the exploration soon after. I think 2 months will be plenty of time.

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  26. I didn't replace most of my lvl 60 Naxx40 epics until 68-70. The greens and even many of the blues didn't come close until then. I was a paladin though, and I guess it could have been different for other classes, but I thought the progression was where it should be.

    Three months definitely does seem a little bit long to me, and I think the AJs do have a point about some of the more hardcore players dropping the game and Blizzard losing out. The key is to find the right time period to wait before implementing each aspect of the endgame. One strategy Bliz could use is to create world events and other such entertainment that will keep a lot of the hardcore players interested in the game, while not granting them much in the way of upgrades. This will ideally tide them over for, let's say, a month or so after they reach the level cap but before the competitive raiding is released, yet still keep them on a relatively level playing field with the explorers and slower levelers. Bliz might also do well to build up some hype approaching the release of the first raid or group of raids. The more the bulk of players care about it (or at least the more the hardcores think the masses care), the more likely the hardcores are to stick around to be the first ones to kill the big boss dragons, ogres, and liches.

    Strangely, I consider myself to be an explorer, a slow leveler, and a hardcore player. I would LOVE to be able to take my time and actually read quest text without the feeling of being rushed. I really enjoy leveling and exploring the landscapes and towns, trying out the new spells and abilities in different situations, checking out the cool monster types, learning about the professions, and chatting casually with friends along the way, all - get this - without having to take a week or two off from work when the expantion comes out. When I am pressured, both by peers and by my own desire to be at the top of the game, to get to the max level as quickly as possible, I can't do any of the aforementioned fun things without sacrificing precious time toward raiding glory.

  27. @Phelps ... couldn't have said it better myself.

    Gating needs to return. Gating increased the feeling of accomplishment amongst everyone involved. Those people who strived long and hard to get attuned to places like Kara, SSC, TK, and even Hyjal and BT did so with pride. Gate them early with quests. They do not need to be overly difficult. Kara's key quest was challenging in the early days, but it became easier until it was removed. Gate raids and instances and then remove the gates when the time was appropriate. When they lifted the gate for SSC and TK it was appropriate, when they lifted it for Hyjal and BT it was right on. The problem was they never fully lifted Kara's, even when it didnt require the key, it still required one person to have the key.

    The biggest thing I can say is, while I am not a huge fan of your concept on raid tiering. I do agree that its probably he best concept that keeps the 10/25 system. I do believe 10 man Heroic should be looked higher upon and even made more challenging and raised above the normal 25. But that is just me looking for a better challenge with my now limited resources.

    The big problem with your theory is that if I have the option of going in and doing only a couple of bosses with a pug in a 10man, or a couple of bosses in a pug in a 25man, I will choose 25 all the time. Its impossible to do what you wish with things being puggable. 10man normal raids would be extremely limited to guild/friend raids with the pug people looking for 25s. Personally, I would rather just see them do the Kara/ZA vs SSC/TK system again and make nice, well tuned 10 man instances and nice and well tuned 25mans. Its impossible to tune the same bosses for both levels to a decent degree.

    Lastly, the biggest thing I agree with here, is that tier should NEVER be purchasable through emblems/badges. This is one of the biggest mistakes they made in Wrath.