Sunday, November 21, 2010

Raiding: Progression or Single-Focus?

In Vanilla and TBC, the raiding endgame was based around the idea of progression. A guild did Molten Core first, and after they moved on to Blackwing Lair, then AQ40, and finally Naxxramas. This was the pattern guilds and players followed regardless of when they started. A new guild or raider was expected to start in Molten Core and move their way upwards.

In contrast, Wrath raiding was based around a different idea: focus on the current tier. In general, at any given time the community--including newer raiders and guilds--focused on the most recent tier. When TotC was released, that was what everyone did. When ICC came out, everyone went for ICC. You could essentially solo your way, gear-wise, to the entry point for the most recent tier.

So which style was better?

Progression Style

To me, they both have strengths and weaknesses. Progression felt natural and organic. You moved through the raids and as you got better you did harder raids. You experienced each tier of content in roughly the same difficulty as it was intended. There was this sense of "being on the path" which really doesn't exist any more.

But on the other hand, guilds often got stuck on the path. There would come a boss or point which you just could not beat with your current guild, and that was that. And very few guilds actually got a chance to see the last couple tiers. The vast majority of guilds stalled out a lot earlier.

Secondly, I don't think recruitment was healthy in the Progression era. In order to sustain itself, a guild had to pick up people at the same level or just below to keep going. That meant that the high-end guilds poached the better players from the tier of guilds below them, and that tier in turn poached from below them. Players were always moving up from guild to guild, because they had to join a better guild in order to see newer content.

I know that in Wrath, a lot of the Royalty guilds have been complaining that recruiting has gotten harder, but I have no sympathy for them. Previously, they had their pick of good players, because joining a Royalty guild was the only way a player could see content like Naxxramas. Now, a good player doesn't have to leave her guild just to see new content.

Current Tier Focus Style

The Wrath model also has strengths and weaknesses. It's greatest strength was that a much larger percentage of the player base got to see the newest content. If you raid at all in Wrath, you've gotten to see ICC, and quite possibly have gotten to see the Lich King. Compare that with the percentage that saw Kil'jaeden or Kel'thuzad.

Second, I think it may have made recruitment, and bringing in alts, easier for lower tier guilds. They didn't lose people to the high end guilds as often, and newer recruits can solo to a reasonable entry point for raiding. We don't have to carry people through a lower tier to gear them up like we used to.

I really think that it has also made raiding guilds that target a shorter number of raid days or more casual atmosphere a lot more viable than they were in Vanilla/TBC.

However, the Current Tier Focus style does have downsides. First, the lower tiers of raid content got obsoleted. Very few people do Naxx and Ulduar now. And that means that raiding isn't quite the shared experience that it used to be. For instance, all raiders in Vanilla went through Molten Core. If I say "Loot the Hound", every single person who raided in Vanilla understands me. Whereas if I comment about the Heigan dance, there are players in ICC right now who won't know what I am talking about.

Or difficulty-wise, pretty much everyone who did BWL understands the challenge of Razorgore or Vael, because we all did it at more or less the same difficulty. But someone who gets taken to Ulduar now, in full i264 gear, just doesn't experience it in the same fashion as those of us who did it when it was the current focus.

The other major downside is that this model is very sensitive to the amount of time that an instance exists as the current tier. It is very arguable that the Wrath experience would have been a lot better if Ulduar had lasted for 2-3 more months, TotC 1 less month, and ICC maybe 1-2 less months. TotC was actually the current instance for longer than Ulduar.

In the Progression style an instance was "current" for as long as you were working on it, which is pretty much the ideal amount of time. You want just enough time to beat it, and maybe farm it a couple of times to finish off your set, before the new instance opens. Unfortunately, that amount of time is completely different from group to group.


So which style would you pick? As much as I liked the Progression style, I would much rather have the Current Focus style. The people at Elitist Jerks are very much in favor of the Progression style, but I think they suffer from survivor bias. It was a lot less fun for those of us in the lower tier to get stuck and lose players to the upper guilds.

Or worse, to have to choose to leave the guild and people that you liked because you knew that if you didn't, you would not see new content at all. For all the flaws of the Current Focus style, pretty much every guild that raids regularly can see all the content that Blizzard creates.


  1. My issue with current focus style is it gave birth to the evil Gear Score. At least to some degree with progression content, you were never stuck in the "4900gs trap" (full triumph gear set, but not high enough to get into a icc pug) and you could *actually* work your way up to current content.

    The downside of progression is I knew a lot of people who guild hopped if their guild were stuck on a particular progression tier. That left some guilds high and dry - breaking their progression or breaking the guild.

    The current model also seems to give you the flexibility to do your own thing when you want. While the progression model seemed more restricted time/dedicated group focused.

    In Wrath that raids became extremely puggable. In BC, the number of truly pug friendly raids was quite low until the end of the BC life cycle.

    I'm curious to see if Cata comes up with a 3rd way.

  2. I'm for focus hands down.

    @ G!

    Guild leveling and perks will deal with guild hoppers, since you have to earn rep with your current guild.

    The GS issue: It wasnt gear score back then it was "epiced out" I remember specifically hearing raid leaders say things like (in BC) "armory him" or "whats his gear like?"

    I had no issues getting in a guild good enough to do 10 man ICC. The issues players have with getting in guilds is...

    1.Diversity, if you play a paladin but your 100% against going a certain spec to help out your useless.

    2.Reliability, if you dont show up your useless.

    3.Skill, If you suck and you wont take advice, your useless.

    4. Attitude, if you have a bad attitude, your useless.


    The point is, progression style raiding didnt allow half the people who arent "parents basement raiders" to actually see content.

    Focus allows anyone with the aforementioned attributes, to see content.

    Furthermore, The Devs have spoken without even opening their mouths. If progression style raiding was the future of raiding they would have never made 10 = 25 raids.

    10m gear = 25m gear just less of it.

    Just my .02$

  3. I don't know. My head says focus, but my heart says that progression was the heart of the game.

    Even now, my experience in Wrath was a progression one, I stuck with the same guild from Naxx through to ICC.

    One issue with focus though is how new raiders will learn the ropes. It used to be that older learning instances were still in the rotation (so you'd join a guild which ran them). If people are coming straight in to the latest raid, where do the learning instances fit in?

  4. I don't see what's stopping them from doing both? We already know they're focusing on shorter raids, so there could be several raids at a given tier, with progression inside that.

  5. Actually the two systems are not mutually exclusive. In vanilla era the content was added to the top, if one reached 60 half year before TBC he had to walk the same gearing route as the guy who was 60 in the second month.

    In WotLK if you ding 80 today, you can be full 251+ in two weeks.

    There are middle ways like: standard progression but every month all existing raids get a 5% ICC-like buff. So imagine the old MC-BWL-AQ40-Naxx way, but one year after start MC has a +60% heal, HP, damage buff and BWL has +30%.

  6. I had my first char at maxlevel at arround 2.3

    Never made it to T5 and cleared ZA the first time just before 3.0

    And still, I really miss the progression style. I looked up at the T6 equiped players had a goal to reach. Wished to climb that ladder.

    Now? There is no ladder at all to climb. No goal to reach. I made a new char in the middle of icc, farmed a few heroics and was done with him. He had the best possible gear to start raiding icc in a week and since I already farmed it with my main I had absolutely no intention to farm it with another char.

    It's just extremely boring without real progression

  7. There are two kind of players. For the progression player nothing changes and there isn't any reason to complain. The progression player is aroung for the whole expansion and does all raids in order. Nothing changes for them besides that he looses his special snowflake status.

    But there is the player who doesn't play for the whole expansion. A person who starts raiding 1 year late will never have the chance to see all instances, time is the limitation. It's just not possible that a guild starts 1 year late and does everything twice as fast as the top guilde.

    There will always be people who will either not know the dance or not know ICC. With only 1 year or less of raiding you can't progress through all tiers. They were designed to keep you busy for 2 years.

    And if you have to skip some bosses in Ulduar for ToC that only means you wouldn't be able to see all bosses anyway. Or that Blizzard timed the introduction of the instances wrong. Which has nothing to do with the model.

  8. > My issue with current focus style is it gave birth
    > to the evil Gear Score. At least to some degree
    > with progression content, you were never stuck in
    > the "4900gs trap" (full triumph gear set, but not
    > high enough to get into a icc pug) and you could
    > *actually* work your way up to current content.

    But there wasn't a Sunwell PUG at all. It was hard enough to PUG Khara. Gear score has nothing to do with current focus vs. progression. It only has something to do with the puggability of raids.

    And yes, we did check armory for heroics back in TBC. That might sound silly these days but there were bosses which required a certain amount of DPS to kill (e.g. the tree in Botanica which healed himself).

  9. The biggest negative effect of the current system for me was how much focus they put on the emblem system. In a progression guild you were pretty much forced to do at one a day and as I raided in two roles I had to do so for a very long time. Playing with alts made it a lot worse. I really noticed my behaviour to others get so much worse in heroics over the expansion. Really frustrating experience.

  10. I think Gevlon is onto something.
    Right now, the period of time after players hit 80 but before they have gear adequate to raid ICC is mostly spent farming heroics. This is because the difficulty/reward ratio is skewed heavily in favor of them rather than early-tier raids.

    What would have happened if, in pre-BC, Blizzard had done to MC, then BWL, and then AQ, what they did to ICC? That is, gradually decrease the difficulty. Instead of spending six months to a year trying to catch up to a guild that is in Naxx40, a player could spend a week in MC, a couple weeks in BWL, three or four in AQ, and then be ready to raid anything.

    Let's apply it to WotLK.
    Players could spend a week running heroics and nerfed Naxx, a week doing ICC5 and undaunting Ulduar, a third week raiding Trail of the Crusader and maybe Ulduar not-so-hard modes, followed lastly by Trial of the Garden-variety Crusader in the final week on the progression path to ICC raids.

    Four weeks is more than two, but let's be honest, being able to do the top tier raid a mere fortnight after achieving max level was a tad fast. A month sounds about right to me.

    Do this, and voilà! Nearly everyone in ICC would know the Heigan dance, how it feels to have no mana regen whatsoever in a fight, and that the dark val'kyr twin is way hotter than the light. There is shared experience and a sense of progression, content doesn't go to waste, and the stagnation problems associated with inability to kill the likes of Vael or Kael'Thas are entirely alleviated.

  11. @Joshua: and at the same time the heigan dance (or any other boss mechanics for that matter) would be 100% irrelevant.

    You can stay at the "fire" in heigan and don't even notice it nowadays.

  12. @Anonymous
    You're absolutely right that the dance isn't quite the same if people aren't sporadically dropping like flies, causing you to have to finish the fight with only the 20% of your group that's actually competent. But the alternative is to not do those raids at all, which seems worse to me. At least relative newbies get to experience it in some form, and maybe have some fun and feel the sense of progression. It wouldn't be enjoyable for an expert such as you, but aren't heroics even more boring? Also, having Naxx and other beginning raids be easy enough to be worth doing would better prepare fresh 80s to raid more difficult places like ICC.

  13. I think there needs to be a balance between the two. With the heroic system, you can have a fully keyed progression experience (heroic) alongside a more casual approach.

    Personally, WotLK had the worst raiding experience of WoW for me. It was simply dumbed down too far, where you had no-skill-required raids that were entirely about gear and gear sets that took all the intelligence about selecting your gear away from the player.

  14. Fairly good observations on both systems. Of course, the question as to which one is "better" falls purely on personal preference.

    Although, I tend to agree with Kring when he suggests that Top Tier/Cutting Edge/Royalty guilds will still end up doing raids in a "Progression" fashion. They will do raids in order because they are completing content before the next stage is released. And they keep going to stay on top of the game.

    I guess another couple of questions that come to mind with the Focus style:
    So what if someone doesn't know the Heigan dance? It is likely that it isn't imperative to surviving whatever encounter they're facing next.
    Also, older raids become irrelevant to the progression guilds, so why does it matter if they become irrelevant to casual guilds? And the old raids become irrelevant with an expansion. Should people have to work their way through MC, BWL, etc. before being allowed to step foot in Outland? A little extreme, but it's kind of the same mentality. And maybe some people would have it that way.

    But me, my personal opinion falls on the Focus Style. My ragtag group of friends have been able to see much more content than we ever would have prior and it made my WoW experience much more enjoyable and "complete".

    Maybe there's a place with a bit more balance between the two systems, but I'll be a little disappointed if I don't get to have Blackwing strike me down like the chump that I am. :)

  15. Having experienced both camps since vanilla, I can see the value in both styles.

    I remember back in Vanilla being in IF when raid groups came in and watching a Human Pally wearing T2 on a Black War Tiger thinking how awesome that guy must be to be able to get that gear and rep. There was some epicness to raiding back then something I haven't felt in a long time. You knew back then those groups were doing it hard and truly earning their gear, rep and whatever other rewards they got.

    These days, esp in WotLK, everything is a hand out almost. I didnt start raiding until 8 weeks ago and now I have two 80s in 264 or better and ready for Cata. That needs to change.

    Blizz for the most are addressing it but I'd like to see more
    (a) Guild rep should lock jumpers into a single guild but doesnt help a guild that hits the wall against content
    (b) Id like to see more soft-set (ala Ulduar) difficulty modes or more than two (normal/hard) switches with loot drops being difficulty-level appropriate. That way people can see all the content on normal and still aspire to better gear on hard/Insane modes.
    (c) There should be some type of call to arms for raiding extending the weekly raid quest to the whole raid instance. The Call to arms raid instance could be buffed for that period to improve rep, xp whatever. Its a great way to see old content and will groups something to do during lock outs.

    hmm probably a lot more i can add but too tired to write but i think you get the idea.

  16. I enjoyed progression more. It was a great feeling to know that there was always more to reach for. If we stalled, that meant it was time to try harder, play better. However I do think it would be wise to add some way to get around a guild-killer boss.

  17. I don't understand how the WotLK raiding system helps people see more content by skipping to the last raid of the cycle. Doesn't it work out like this for non-cutting edge raiders:

    Progression style -
    Naxx - did it
    Ulduar - did it
    ToC - did some of it
    ICC - didn't get to it

    Focus Style -
    Naxx - didn't do it
    Ulduar - didn't do it
    ToC - did some of it
    ICC - did it

    In both styles, you are not seeing content. So I don't understand at all how that somehow becomes a part of equation.

  18. Also remember that TBC had some pretty strict class requirements, especially shamans and even a paladin tank was "mandatory". This didn't really help lower guilds, since any decent shaman was very sought after and would usually be offered a spot for a better guild.

  19. I completely agree with Coach Rob, I think Wrath was definitely lacking a sense of accomplishment as far as gear. Now you can level up to 80, run heroics for a few weeks, having never set foot into a raid at all and come out with full tier 10.

    Now that I don't have time to raid as much as I did in Vanilla, I like the availability, but I miss the sense of awe that came from seeing the decked out players walking around in Orgrimmar when someone who just turned 80 can look almost identical.

    Killing Arthas in WotLK didn't make me feel accomplished, it made me feel like every other shmuck walking around with a Kingslayer title.

    I like the focus style, but I hope they make the raids harder and slow down on the availability of purchasable epics.

  20. It's all about return for time invested. In Wrath, farming emblems in heroics is the fastest way to obtain gear to enter the current tier of raiding. There was nothing wrong with running Naxx/Ulduar/ToC post-ICC, you simply got more/better loot for your time farming heroics.

    If they increased the number of tokens and loot in older tiers, they would keep up a little better. When Ulduar comes out, give each boss an extra drop so you get 4 per boss instead of 3 and 3 tokens instead of 2. When ICC comes out, they'd be up to 6 drops and 5 tokens per boss.

    If MC was dropping 6 items per boss instead of 3 when AQ40 came out, new players and less progressed guilds would have been able to catch up faster without getting a free skip-all-old-content pass.

  21. I mostly agree with your analysis, but I think this argument.

    Its greatest strength was that a much larger percentage of the player base got to see the newest content.

    is faulty because it assumes that whatever is the most current content is the only content worth seeing.

    Yes, more people have seen the Lich King than Kil'Jaeden, but I'd be surprised if the new Naxx saw as many clears as Karazhan did back in the day (for example).

  22. I think that the current focus model works well. The mistake that was made was just providing one raid per tier, and having the 10 and 25 man raids on separate lockouts. That led to running the same instance over and over week after week multiple times per week.

    In Cataclysm with the shared lockouts and multiple raids per tier, it will feel more like a progression system even if it isn't one.

    It would be awesome if the current focus model had some incentive in place for players to go through the older raids at least once. If there was a one-time quest for each raid tier that provided a reward - enough reward that it would be worth running that raid instead of grinding heroics - then I'd vote for that.

  23. Wow, what a great article. I really like the points you made about both progression styles. I have met so many new raiders who are incapable of doing the safty dance. I don't know as though its fair to say that raids like ulduar, TOC and Naxx are obsolete just because many people choose not to run them anymore. I think it's still really fun to go back and get those hardmodes and achievements down and that they will still be challenging for most players. My guild recently did the Firefighter Hardmode and it was more tough than say rot or fester and it felt very good when we downed it.

  24. Posted by:ScottI completely agree with Coach Rob, I think Wrath was definitely lacking a sense of accomplishment as far as gear. Now you can level up to 80, run heroics for a few weeks, having never set foot into a raid at all and come out with full tier 10.

    Now that I don't have time to raid as much as I did in Vanilla, I like the availability, but I miss the sense of awe that came from seeing the decked out players walking around in Orgrimmar when someone who just turned 80 can look almost identical.

    Killing Arthas in WotLK didn't make me feel accomplished, it made me feel like every other shmuck walking around with a Kingslayer title.

    I like the focus style, but I hope they make the raids harder and slow down on the availability of purchasable epics.

    While I understand the accomplishment thing, I dont get it.

    If you were walking around with the same "kingslayer" title everyone else was then you started late just like everyone who is likely for focus over progression. The accomplishment isnt beating everyone to the kill, it killing the boss, its being able to say, "I beat WoW in WotLK".

    The game is an ongoing war, an accomplishment would be to say you killed every end game boss in the game when Blizzard decides that making another expansion is a bad idea.

    Having to kill every boss in progression is only fun for the hardcore, the all mighty dollar determines the fate of the game not the 20% of the players that think it should be hard....

    I'm in that 20%, i miss progression raiding, but its not where the money is.

    Heroic modes is where your progression guilds take the lead and get noted.

  25. Here's an idea, and forgive me if it's been suggested but I didn't read everyone's comments, go with progression style, but once the new content is released, turn the old raid into a 5-man.

    It could be a very hard 5-man. It would be something that would actually require a lot of skill to get through.

    Here's how I think this would help:

    1) You get to experience the "storyline" as much as anyone else. But it doesn't require that your entire guild take a night to walk just a few people though.

    2) Because it's a 5-man, you can run it multiple times per night. This will "speed" your skills up to where they need to be for the current difficulty of content (this implies that newer content would be harder).

    3) Since you can earn the lower tier gear from 5-mans anyway, it's not like you're "giving away loot" for anyone who's not cutting edge.

    As a player who has missed out on literally every raid in the game (I'm just now starting), I'm very sad that I really won't experience any of it unless I'm going through it with a few 80s. That's not how I want to experience it. :/

    Now, if I could run through a properly balanced 5-man MC at level 60 with 4 other level 60s, or a 5-man Black Temple. Wow. That'd be awesome!