The Myth that One Raid Endgame Fits All

scrusi posts today about why he thinks the Lich King endgame leads to boredom, and underused raid instances. I read this, and I think about the TBC endgame, which also led to boredom and underused raid instances. (Ask anyone whose raid was stuck in Serpentshrine for most of the expansion.)

I suspect that all raiding endgames, when stretched out over months or years, will lead to … boredom and underused raid instances. The only difference is who gets bored, how quickly, which raid instances are underused, and which guilds feel most of the pressure.

So what is the ideal?

  • Raids become a regular hobby. The raid group becomes like a sports team with scheduled games, et al.
  • You should always have something to do, and something to aim for both individually and as a raid group.
  • Your group should be able to replace any members who leave so that it can keep raiding.
  • If you come late to the expansion, you should be able to join a group of your friends.
  • There should be enough new or varied content that people in your group don’t get bored.

To my mind, the big issue with raiding endgames is that players have to balance up group progression vs individual progression. If all raid content consisted of PUG raids with relaxed gear/ ability requirements and there was a lot of solo (or small group) content where players could go for progression, then we could have a setup in which one endgame fits all. It might be that newer games try a version of this model. It’s probably easier to support and would make a lot of players much happier and less stressed.

And yet, progressing as part of a group can lead to a deep and rewarding gaming experience. For a lot of players, it’s key to why we enjoy MMOs, because we can play alongside team mates and friends for weeks, months, or even years. If all players started at the beginning of the expansion and progressed alongside their raid, then they’d be able to take on the content when it was introduced. Given enough difficulty sliders, they’d get through it somehow at an appropriate pace. But this doesn’t always happen. Some players start playing later into the expansion. Some change groups for social reasons, scheduling reasons, or play style reasons. Maybe you want a more hardcore experience. Maybe you decide you would prefer to raid with your mates. Maybe something comes up iRL and you need to switch from raiding four nights a week to one.

There are no easy answers. Either progression is less important, so newer players can catch up easily with established groups. Or else progression is king, players are forced to raid with other people at a similar progression level, and guild hopping returns as the recommended way for people to ‘jump a few tiers.’

Accessibility means that Blizzard have prioritised letting newer players gear quickly and raid with their friends in Wrath. Those friends have no need to go back and run older instances again, and (more importantly) they don’t generally want to because they already burned out on that content.

In TBC, recruitment posed a different type of issue to guilds. It was harder to just gear up the new alt or new player and let them join. Guild hopping was recognised as the best way for a new player to manage this, which probably suited some people but made others a lot unhappier. Ultimately, forcing progression raiders to go back to older instances to gear or key new recruits certainly didn’t help with avoiding burnout for them. Using less progressed guilds as feeders to more hardcore guilds (ie. they recruited new people and trained/ geared them, who then left to join more hardcore raids) also gave them a demoralising level of turnover. It wasn’t a better raid system, it just hit a different group of players more harshly.

We know that players can be enticed to run content by suitable rewards, but that adds an extra element of pressure into the game which won’t suit some groups. (Imagine if the rewards for running Naxx, Ulduar, and TotC in the same week were so high that competitive raiders felt pushed to do as many as possible.)

Weekly raid quests have been fairly successful. PUGs form quickly. But it’s not really the same experience as running those old raids when they were new, with a bunch of similarly geared people.

For all that some people complain about WoW’s lack of innovation, Blizzard have tinkered a good deal with the raid game, and how new content is introduced into the end game in general.  They’ve made changes during Wrath that would have really eased pressure in TBC. For example, being able to extend the locks on a raid instance means that even raids on a very casual schedule aren’t pressured to clear everything in a week before it resets,

So why don’t new players form new raid groups?

So if people who aren’t burned out on the older instances still want to run them for fun, what is stopping them?

The answer is, because you need a group. And because a lot of people don’t want to organise one, especially not with other new players who they may have to teach. Only at the very start of an expansion do raids start from the beginning (and even then, a lot of them will be full of experienced raiders from other games or expansions.)

Logic says that raid progression is an old and outdated mechanic. The type of progression that groups can earn via rated battlegrounds will probably work much better for WoW. Gear matters but good play and tactics mean that a skilled team can work around it while gearing new members. But that’s PvP.

And yet, some of the best experiences I’ve had in MMOs have been watching entire raid groups grow and learn together. Very soon, I suspect, we’ll rate these experiences alongside waiting 17 hours for a boss to spawn or crippling death penalties: memories of an earlier and more hardcore era.

7 thoughts on “The Myth that One Raid Endgame Fits All

  1. Right now, gear basically gets reset every tier, since you can always purchase stuff one step back from the best with emblems that you can get from everywhere. The problem is, how do you make people want to do harder raids, when they can get the same basic rewards from running heroics?

    I think the best solution for this is 2 fold. First, no Heroic should ever drop gear that is higher ilvl than any raid. I think this is honestly the biggest mistake Blizzard made in wrath. Second, keep doing upgrade tokens the same way they are done in ICC for all raids, but make the tokens for whatever is the “emblem of triumph” gear for that tier drop from every raid except the current top tier. That way, there is still something in older raids that is worth having over just going heroics > top tier raid.

  2. There must be a middle way between having new players grind through 2 raid instances before they can join the guild (TBC), and just giving out free epics from heroics (WotLK). I’m not too fond of either way, but from my feelings in Wrath I’d choose the first option any day.

  3. It’s odd – I recognise what you’re saying about the emergent behaviour of past games being more hardcore, and yet, the raiding game has always felt more difficult (in social and logistical terms, not gameplay) than any of the spawn-camping, corpse-runs, or other issues of older games.

    Hell, I quite enjoyed spawn-camping…

  4. I honestly see no difference in the amount of guild hopping that happened in my immediate surroundings between BC and WOTLK. My guild “fed” raiders to the more hardcore guilds throughout both expansions. :/

    Likewise, getting a new raider geared up wasn’t really that big a deal for most of BC either, as long as you weren’t trying to be a new main tank. If you had Karazhan loot (and even the more progressed guilds still liked to run Kara for badges, void crystals and to gear up alts) and a couple of badge items, you were good to jump into Hyjal or BT. The problem were things like the long attunement chains that required you to kill raid bosses, but Blizzard got rid of those for a reason.

    I think they really missed a big opportunity with the weekly raid quest. They should have given you ten frost emblems for killing the last or near-to-last boss in each raid instead of the first. The current system doesn’t actually encourage anyone to still raid Naxx for example – it just means that people get saved pugging the first boss for the weekly and then you can’t make a guild run for a full clear later on.

    • It did make a big difference to my raid group. In TBC, people who really wanted to see all the raid instances had no real choice but to leave. In Wrath, they could stay with the same group, raid at a more casual pace, but still get to see just about everything. We’ve actually lost very few people to more hardcore raid groups this time around and most of those actually had friends in the other raid groups they wanted to go and join.

      The gear issue I don’t remember being so bad in TBC, true. It’s more that we used to recruit brand new raiders who had never raided before, teach them how to raid … and then when they started to pull their weight they’d leave for another more hardcore group. When I talk about being a feeder guild, I mean when it just keeps happening so often that you wonder why you bother. I know it was very demoralising and again Wrath really hasn’t been like that for us.

  5. I only really started to see guildjumping here at the very end of WotLK, but this was more because the lower guilds ran into progression roadblocks (which then spiraled out of control as people started to leave, leading to guild failure.)

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