One Free Kill

| Thursday, November 25, 2010
Blessing of Kings had an interesting topic yesterday: progression raiding vs. raid the current tier.

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.


Personally, I liked progression more. In a progression system we didn't beat bosses by drastically overgearing them. We didn't do much farming of outdated content. We did what suited our gear and personal experience levels.

But progression has a couple huge downsides. One is rerolling. If you want to change class, you start at the bottom and there's no quick way up to where you should be, based on experience. LK's solution was heroic automatically putting players at the second to highest tier (I'm counting raids, not sets, so 245 is second to highest since ToC is second to highest raid). I'd have preferred a system of retirement and hastened gearing and progression. Obviously this doesn't work quite right outside of a badge system, but the general concept is the same: trade one character for another.

Then there are the guild-killer bosses. These are the bosses that you get stuck on and do not get past. If you can't kill Vael, you're not going any further in Blackwing Lair and you're done on the 40 man track. Go back to MC, ZG, and AQ20, because you're not getting any further. Oh hey, three substantial raids even if you get stuck. Funny, that doesn't sound so bad after all. But no one likes to be stuck. The strange thing is that bosses in a raid don't follow perfect progression of difficulty, so Vael is harder than the bosses after him. If somehow Vael wasn't there, a guild could get a bit further along and possibly even kill all the rest and move on to the next raid. Or gear up some more (but not a ton more) and that would help. And then they can go on to the next raid.

So I propose a One Free Kill mechanic for raids. Each week you get one free boss dead. It gives no loot, no achievement, no quest progress, cannot be skinned, mined, or engineered. It's just not in your way anymore. Go on and die to something else. Note that this isn't one boss per raid, but per week, and it will be preserved by raid saves. By that I mean if you carry over a raid ID, you also carry over your kill limit. So you can't kill, save, kill next boss, save to next week, and so on. Also raid achievements would be tied to every boss, so skipping a boss will mean no raid achievement.

Obviously this hurts the model of progression. Even worse, it hurts some of that thrill of finally downing a boss. The raid itself will lose some meaning when the toughest fights can be skipped (or at least one). But I think it would be worth it for many players. Content isn't trivialized, just that the one particular fight that ruined everything cannot ruin everything.

My guild in vanilla actually was stuck on Razorgore, not Vael. So maybe we'd have not gotten anywhere anyway. But maybe having a different boss to wipe on would have helped. It's frustrating to do the same failure week after week. Diversifying the failure could help.

I think Cataclysm will add another mechanic to make progression raiding more playable: smaller raids. When a 40 man was banging its head against a wall, it was often hard to see exactly what was going wrong. Just recruiting was hard enough with so many people, getting the exact right players even harder. Dropping to a 25 man maximum helped. Making 10 man raiding a more significant progression path will do even more. It's a lot easier to troubleshoot a smaller group. It's easier to recruit and replace. Maybe 10-man Vael would have still help up guilds, but I think it would have killed a lot fewer.

But progression is dead.

5 comments:

Syl said...

I'm with you on the progression bit, I like the idea of having to raid all content in order to get forward and I actually liked the attunement questchains or gated instances.

what I do prefer however, is having 2 instances available per tier, so you're not stuck seeing the same place over and over every week with your guild. TBC was kinda brilliant that way, you had SSC and TK you could work on simultaneously and you also needed both in order to move on to BT.
and you had two 10mans aside of this as well. that's what I call great diversity.

WotLk was both linear and unlinear here - no you can't really chose where to go per tier, yes you can skip all that's come before.
the worst out of both worlds for me, hehe...but at least they designed some fun instances and encounters (mainly ulduar and ICC, not so much naxx and ToC).

I look forward to more choices again in Cata.
oh and, we actually raided original naxx before aq40 back then, as did many guilds on our server. the aq40 tier sets weren't useful for half the classes, so many guilds actually opted to go to naxx straight away.

Nils said...

I, too, liked classic/TBC more. And I will never understand what's so great about throwing expensive content into the trash can. Blizzard loves it, it seems.

Ngita said...

The only thing about 2 instances per teir is its very easy to get stuck farming easy bosses from both rather then being forced to kill a harder boss and eventually getting him on farm, I think I my guild spent about a year on t5 content, I didnt raid for 6-8 months and when I came back whe had killed about 3 more bosses and after all that we only killed kael and vashj 3 times each before moving into t6 and dropping t5 content completely - 2 days a week raiding guild.

Vael was funny, sure it was hard but a lot of it was prep, and learning after the first kill we one shot for 6 weeks, until the fact that different tanks where getting different upgrades mucked up threat. When your 4th tank pullls off your first tank its going to go bad.
On the other hand razorgore stayed scappy for months, let alone the fact at least one of the drakes got harder the more gnome tanks you had that day.

Andy said...

I think ICC has a good way to handle the "getting stuck on one boss" issue: multiple bosses accessible from the same point. Obviously you need to get past Saurfang to reach that point, so it's not like you start in the middle with all the bosses spread in a circle around you, but being able to choose which wing you attempt can break up the monotony quite nicely.

Klepsacovic said...

Ngita, you raise a good point. The gear and content would have to be tuned just right so that clearly just one wing/instance wouldn't be enough to be ready for the next raid, or at least it would be hard enough that it might be easier to just figure out the other raid. So maybe one wing drops chest, helm, wrists, another has legs, gloves, and boots; a third wing has belt and shoulders.

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