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Sep 8th 2011 10:31PM Lissanna's comment on the original post was dead on. When I ran my original guild, we started mid-expansion and pushed all the way to Brutallus before the pre-Wrath nerf, killing on average 2-4 bosses per month. The fact that we had several dozen bosses that were all essentially current (just because you were progressing in Tier 5 or 6 didn't necessarily make previous tiers either easy or obsolete) gave us a lot to work with and a lot of motivation to keep pushing. When we downed Lady Vashj or Archimonde, we were thrilled by the achievement (little A) and didn't have a "Sigh - guess next week we start on heroic modes" mixed emotion.
All of this is academic for me, since I haven't logged in in almost three months and don't intend to return to the game. But there are enough people I know and talk to who DO play that what goes on in game still interests me, even though I don't see it directly.
Sep 8th 2011 8:30PM Thanks to Allison for noting my original comment!
A few points of reference: I ran a progression guild during Burning Crusade and the early part of Wrath, then raided in a World Top 100 guild for a year before retiring due to real life commitments. I saw raiding during Burning Crusade when it was a very different model from what it is today, and while I agree that creating content that is experienced by a very small portion of the game's players is an undesirable model, so is an endgame that has lost most meaning to a growing number of players. I don't think it's an either/or choice, though.
One of the big advantages the Burning Crusade model had was that almost all of the endgame content was available either from release or within a few short months (everything up through Black Temple). That gave a LOT of content for people to work on over the course of the expansion, including heroics that ranged in difficulty up to a challenge even for people in T6 gear), and it was only well in to the second year that issues cropped up with the top guilds running out of things to do (necessitating the Sunwell patch, which in itself, offered a great deal more content for players at level 70).
Since Wrath was released, Blizzard has offered raid content that is "current" for only a few months, and then it's shuffled off into the "old content" graveyard. This constant hamster-wheel of raid "seasons" (which I refer to that way because they are integrally linked to PvP seasons) means that end game players never have more than one tier of things to work on that are meaningful, and as with Firelands, that can be as few as 7 bosses.
Combined with my earlier comments about the need to factor in 10m and 25m versions of an encounter, plus normal and heroic modes, means that not only does an endgame player have fewer challenges awaiting him/her, but those challenges just aren't as interesting as they were in Burning Crusade. (And make no mistake, I am not defending everything about BC - it had its share of flaws and there are some parts of Wrath and Cataclysm that are far superior).
The point of all this is that Blizzard's goal is, or should be, supplying sufficient interesting and challenging endgame content each expansion so that its players don't become bored and leave, and that guilds don't face crippling difficulties that diminish the benefit of being in an endgame guild. Clearly they are failing at both goals right now, as is demonstrated by the exodus of players and the decline of 25m raiding and raiding guilds (case in point, my old Top 100 guild is reduced to 1, sometimes 2, 10m groups that are in the Top 500 range due to lack of people).
I am not suggesting that Blizzard should go back to the Burning Crusade model. I don't work for Blizzard and am not a game designer, so there are elements to which I am not privy and probably don't understand. But I think the fact that endgame content is so - shallow now (in other words there simply is not a lot for players to do at max level other than raid, or BG, or arena, or CURRENT heroics that feels like it matters) that most players are finding less and less reason to keep playing, especially if they are not interested/able to play at the very highest level, or even if they don't raid at all.
What I AM suggesting is that Blizzard needs to sit down and take a good hard look at how people play, and how people WANT to play, and offer deeper content at the release of a new expansion for players who enjoy all varieties of endgame: progression raiding, casual raiding, 5m instances, perhaps solo adventures that feel challenging (and are suitably rewarded), PvP, and other means. If they want people to continue playing as much as they did in past expansions, then Blizzard needs to give them reasons to do so, not just a "Here's this patch's raid tier and PvP sets, seeya in 5 months!"
Aug 27th 2011 5:01PM I quit the game a couple of months ago after a "long, slow goodbye" of half a year of progressively casual playing. Transmogrification is definitely a plus for the game, and I will admit that the idea of seeing my warlock sporting Tier 5 or Tier 8 again is alluring, it's not enough to make me return.
Aug 25th 2011 4:20PM I think one aspect affecting things is the fact that since content is by nature designed for both 10 and 25 player modes, and normal and heroic modes, that constrains greatly what the designers can do with an encounter.
For example, in BC one of the hardest fights for a lot of guilds was Teron Gorefiend, who randomly killed a player every 30 seconds (leading to a sub-fight where the dead player controlled a ghost that killed constructs). Because that encounter was designed to last 5-6 minutes and the first death occurred about 90 seconds in to the fight, you would likely lose 7-8 players during the encounter (of course with battle rez, soulstone, etc., you could protect healers in case you got an insane streak of bad luck).
That style of mechanic simply can't be done in today's raid, because scaling it down for 10m would either cause the deaths to come too far apart to be considered, or RNG could kill all your healers in no time (without the benefit of more than one battle res).
This is the sort of scaling issue that inhibits encounter designers, who have to take in to account four potential modes for each encounter. It homogenizes encounters, and I think contributes to the fatigue that raiders feel.