Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blue Post: ICC Raid Access and Progression

Blizzard dropped a bit of a bomb shell today when they detailed some of their plans for ICC. You can find the post here. In this post, I will comment on what I think are the highlights.

Icecrown Citadel is going to be broken up into four distinct sections: The Lower Spire, Plagueworks, Crimson Hall, and Frostwing Halls. We plan on releasing these four sections of Icecrown Citadel over time and not all immediately when patch 3.3.0 goes live.

The first section that opens will include the Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, Icecrown Gunship Battle, and Deathbringer Saurfang encounters. Progress beyond that point will be prevented for several weeks. Then the Plagueworks will open with Rotface, Festergut, and Professor Putricide becoming available. After another period of time, the Crimson Hall will open and you can then fight the Blood Princes and Blood-Queen Lana'thel. The final Frostwing Halls unlock then occurs after that, making Valithria Dreamwalker, Sindragosa, and the Lich King available. We believe a staggered release of the content will allow players to experience Icecrown Citadel at a sustainable, measured, and ultimately more enjoyable pace.

I agree, I think staggering the release will make the content more enjoy able. Hopefully by the time ICC is released we will have killed Anub, and it will only take us an hour to clear ToGC. This way we can work on achievements like Mad Skill and Insanity while still getting to work on some new bosses.

I know the hardcore racers won't like it, but that is not me. It suits my playstyle and my guilds playstyle perfectly.

Limited Attempts
The Ashen Verdict provides reinforcements and material for players to assault Icecrown Citadel, but this support is not endless. Raids will have a limited number of attempts total each week to defeat the four most difficult encounters in Icecrown Citadel: Professor Putricide, Blood-Queen Lana'thel, Sindragosa, and the Lich King. As these boss encounters are unlocked, the number of attempts available per week will increase. The initial number of attempts provided for defeating Professor Putricide is only five. When Blood-Queen Lana'thel unlocks, the amount of total attempts remaining will increase to 10. Then when Sindragosa and the Lich King unlock, 15 total attempts will be available to defeat all four bosses. After a raid has exhausted their attempts for the week, the Ashen Verdict must withdraw their support and the four most difficult bosses all
despawn and become unavailable for the week. The limited attempt system is a feature of both Normal and Heroic difficulty.

In the weeks and months after all twelve encounters are unlocked, additional attempts against the final four boss encounters become available. This represents the Ashen Verdict growing more powerful and gaining a stronger foothold in Icecrown Citadel.

As a general concept I don't have a problem with Blizzard limiting the number of attempts a guild can make on a boss each week. I do think it makes it easier to compare guilds who spend 30 hours a week raiding with guild that spend 10-15 hours a week. However, I don't think the ToGC model of limited attempts had any real impact on most guilds. Fifty attempts was to much, and it ended up giving most guilds 45-50 attempts on Anub when they first started working on him. I think the new model is trying to fix that issue, but I think it fails miserably for a couple of reasons.

  1. First, 5 attempts is just to low unless the boss is relatively easy. It also doesn't fix the problem that by the time we get to Arthas we will have a lot more attempts because we should be killing the earlier bosses with ease at this point. In my opinion they should increase the number of attempts you start with, and decrease the rate at which you gain more. For example, the first week you should have 10 attempts on the first boss. When the second boss is released you gain an additional 3 attempts. When Arthas is released you gain another 3. This way you don't walk up to Arthas with a thousand attempts, but you also have enough attempts for the first boss to put some real work into him.

  2. Second, this system favors PTR guilds. Some guilds already have dozens of attempts on these bosses. I know we benefit from the guides they write but that is not the same as doing the actual encounter. It just seems unfair to me that they can start these encounters with unlimited attempts and we only start with 5 because we didn't have the time to help test.

  3. Third this system discourages us from doing some of the bosses on hard mode. Unless I'm reading it wrong the limited attempts are tied to the normal and Heroic versions of the bosses. If I was a raid leader and wanted to work on Arthas, why would I risk wasting an attempt on Hard Mode Blood-Queen when I can do it on normal with less risk. Therefore, a lot of guild are going to get their first kills and not do it again for several weeks because they want to work on something else. I misread the post.
As I said before, I don't have a problem with limited attempts, but I think the way Blizzard is trying to implement it for ICC creates more problems then it fixes.

The Spell
To further help raids, Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream will begin to provide
assistance by inspiring the armies attacking Icecrown Citadel. This is represented as an additional zone wide spell effect applied to all players that will increase their hit points, damage dealt, and healing done. This effect will also increase in effectiveness over time. Players may opt out of the spell's effect if they so wish.

Obviously, little is know about this spell, but my first reaction is that I hate it. I realize you can click it off, but a gradual built in nerf is not the way Blizzard should be tuning encounters. It just feels cheap to me. This way you never know if you just downed that boss because you improved or if the the fight was finally nerfed enough.

Picking up additional gear from one week to the next is already an indirect nerf to the content, why do then need to provide this charity. Blizzard should design the encounters to be as though as they think they should be. If it's decided that the encounter is to hard then nerf it, but I want to kill the boss on the intended difficulty. This just feels like the MMO equivalent of having your mommy stand over you and give you a participation ribbon at a swim meet.


Dale said...

I have to disagree with you on the spell. I think this is a nice way to gradually make it easier, rather than just the inevitable boss hp/dmg nerf that would come.

I will use M'uru as an example (my guild was stuck on 4/6 like many), it would have been really nice to slowly get better at that encounter, rather than one week it being near impossible to turning it into a joke the next.

Anonymous said...

Your point 3 above you did misread. You can only work on Herioc Arthas if you've also done Herioc Professor Putricide, Blood-Queen Lana'thel, and Sindragosa.

From the blue post:

...the Heroic difficulty of The Lich King encounter may not be attempted in any week unless the three aforementioned encounters have been defeated in Heroic difficulty that week.

Jonathan said...

"Third this system discourages us from doing some of the bosses on hard mode. Unless I'm reading it wrong the limited attempts are tied to the normal and Heroic versions of the bosses. If I was a raid leader and wanted to work on Arthas, why would I risk wasting an attempt on Hard Mode Blood-Queen when I can do it on normal with less risk. Therefore, a lot of guild are going to get their first kills and not do it again for several weeks because they want to work on something else."

Another part of the post mentions that Heroic Arthas cannot be attempted if the other 'hard' bosses were not killed in Heroic mode, iirc.

Jormundgard said...

I don't see the problem with a zonewide buff that increases over time. It's not much different from getting new gear and going back to an older raid, which isn't an option in a final patch.

Buffs like these give less skilled players (or really, unevenly skilled teams) the chance to experience content that they would otherwise be unable to see, which I think should be encouraged.

Graylo said...


Let me ask you this question. Lets say the spell had been active during SWP. When you finally did kill M'uru. How would you know what caused you to kill him? Was it that you finally exicuted the fight well enough, or was because the fight had finally been nerfed enough?

I'm not opposed to all nerfs, because some fights are created to hard. However, I think a line needs to be drawn in the sand some where.


I agree that this is very similar to getting gear upgrades, so why isn't that enough?

I also thought that the normal modes were the mechanic by which Underskilled or Uneven teams could see all the content. Again, you have to draw the line somewhere. Blizzard shouldn't give the raiding experance to everyone because they pay a subscription fee. I think the players have to meet them half way at some point.

Kamiken said...

I agree that the spell goes a bit too far in terms of eventually nerfing the fights. Its already bad enough that fights are becoming easy enough so people do not have to learn to properly play their classes to win. Why should they make it any easier to either be carried through content or just let the content nerf itself to allow people to glide through it.

There should be some sense of accomplishment involved instead of blizzard taking the carrot off the stick they had placed in front of us and shoving it in our mouths.

Gearing is now easy with the badge system the way it is and it will get easier with the new patch so making the content nerf itself doesnt seem like the right move to challenge players at this time.

Dale said...


You couldn't, because every week you would be inching closer, even if the raid and individual play level stayed constant.

I just don't think it feels "cheap" as you describe, to me cheap feels like a 30% hp and damage nerf one day and everything becomes a joke.

As long as everyone has access to the same level of the buff then it's a pretty even playing field. Some of the later encounters may even have been designed with the buff in mind due to the delayed opening of the final bosses.

Graylo said...


Lets not forget that the 30% TBC nerf was on the eve of an expansion. At that point everything changed. In just a months time no one would care about TBC any more. Yes, it made post 3.0 kills seem a little cheap, but it was also a last ditch effort to let more people see the content.

Now, lets look to see how the game has evolved since then. First we have 25mans and 10 mans. This gives players two different ways to see the content. Then they provided hard modes (or as some like to call them easymodes). Basically we are at a point where the endgame content is more accessable then ever before, and the goal of the original 30% nerf is already baked into new content. So, what is the purpose of an additonal nerf?

You say that his won't feel cheap to you. Fine, that is your perspective, but I'll ask you this. Which is worse: having an encounter nerfed by 30% after it has been available for 10 weeks or having he same encounter nerfed by 3% every week for 10 weeks?

How is the second situation any less cheap then the first? At least in the first you have an opprotunity to learn the encounter and kill it before the nerf instead of having it spoonfed to you until you kill it.

Dale said...

Agree these are 2 different situations, and there certainly will be no roadblock like M'uru we face in Icecrown.

There is no disguising it, a nerf is a nerf. I just think the gradual spell buff fits in nicer with the story than the standard "boss does x ability less" after some random Tuesday.

I can see it from both sides and I don't particularly enjoy downing nerfed content either. In an ideal situation there would be no nerfs and everything would be perfectly tuned but unfortunately Blizzard has shown they will keep nerfing stuff, so that portion of the game is here to stay.

For those that are really bothered by the nerfs there is still plenty of ways to differentiate themselves from casual guilds, with various ranking sites, achievements (drakes anyone?).

Jormundgard said...


As this is possibly the final patch, such gear upgrades might not be an option. So that may be the rationale.

Since Heroic mode should be the exclusive realm of competitive PvE, I agree that the buff shouldn't carry over to there.

Aeiedil said...

It would be nice to think that they will include an achievement whereby you kill x y and z on heroic without the nerf-buff. That would give a way for people to conquer the content without the nerf-buff and be able to show it off, which is likely to be what is desired.

As it stands the only way you will be able to tell is by the date on your achievement and trying to figure out how nerfed they were then

Jornk said...

You keep forgetting that the buff is optional. I think this buff is an attempt to add an "Easy" difficulty level. Most video games have 3 difficulty settings, why shouldn't WoW?

The cream will still rise to the top and your best guilds are still going to be the first to complete the content. All this does is give guilds with a slower learning curve a chance to experience the "full monty" before a new expansion comes out and Dalaran becomes a ghost town.

The average gamer is said to be round about 35 years old. That's a metric that I think blizz is taking into account with regards to building content. Most 35 year olds that I know have jobs, families, etc... and don't have the time to put in to a hard core raiding schedule.

Graylo said...

@Dale, Jorm, Aeiedir, Jornk

If the nerf only applys to Normal mode then I won't have a big problem with it, because Normal mode has very little value in progression based raiding. However, that was not the impression I got. When I read the statement it sounds like the spell applys to all versions of the instance.

Ultimately this move is being done to purely to make the content more accessable. I have no problem with the content being more accessable. I don't think you should need to raid 20 hours a week to see Arthas die, and I am not one of those raiders that yells and stomps their feet when people can get good gear at a cheap price. In fact, I would not have seen KJ die in Sunwell if it wasn't for the 30% nerf.

My point is that Blizzard has already taken several very good steps to make the content accessble.

1. 10 mans vs 25 mans - You can now do the content two different ways and 10 man is generally easier.

2. Hard Mode vs Normal Mode - Raiders now have an easyer progression path to get to all the RP without having to kill some really tough bosses. Every normal mode in WotLK has been pugged without issue.

3. Emblems Galore - When 3.3 comes out, with only a couple of weeks work any player can get a full set of T9 tier gear by running a few heroics every day, and it will be easier to find a group then ever before.

My question is, When is enough enough? Is the next step for Arthas to give newly dinged 80s a guided tour of ICC with free prizes at the end? In my opinion raiding should require at least a little effort, and I think this spell is doing a way with that.

@Jornk specifically.

"Most 35 year olds that I know have jobs, families, etc... and don't have the time to put in to a hard core raiding schedule."

I am a 33 year old with a wife, a career and 2 small children. Many of the people in my guild are slimilar to me. We raid only 9 hours a week and still maintain a High level of progression. My point is that if this is something they want to do then they should work for it. They should learn the fights, learn their classes. Search for a guild that suits their needs. They are out there.

Jornk said...

What if those 9 hours are the only 9 hours that you spend in the game per week? I bet it would take alot longer to acquire gear if you didn't spend the extra time outside of the raids farming up heroics. This is the time that I am speaking of. Most of my out of raid time is spent farming mats or running fast dailies for gold to repair with. 30 minutes in a dungeon for a couple of badges doesn't make it high up on the priority list here as without the mats and the gold, I can't raid.

A majority of "9 hour guilds" probably don't have a high level of progression like yours. I think you are showing a great deal of personal bias in regards to this issue and using your guild as the standard in which to compare all other guilds.

Why are you so mad that they are making the content accessible to everyone instead of just the few guilds that are lucky enough to have a good group of raiders (like yours) or a hard core schedule?

Dale said...


I don't think he is mad, rather questioning the level to which Blizzard is opening up the content.

This isn't a new debate, it's been going for 3 years, we're not even sure how much of an affect this buff will have or how extensive it will be at this point.

We really need to wait and see before we make judgement of this. I do like how Blizzard is constantly refining their game though, they are certainly open to experimenting with each instance.

ZacharyPruckowski said...

I like the accumulating buff, provided that you need to disable it to get credit for hard mode frostwyrms. It'll create an "easy mode", a "normal mode", a "harder mode", and a true "hard mode".

I think it'll make the encounters easier to learn - you can do the encounter with all its mechanics but with more forgiving math, master that, and then try it "for real" without the buffs. It'll also prevent guilds from being permanently cock-blocked on a boss, while still giving epeeners (sorry, can't resist) something to compare against in terms of "beat it without aura" or "beat it with only X stacks".

Graylo said...


As I've said several times in this post, in these comments, and in my blog in general, I have no problem with the content being more accessable. However, a line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think blizzard has already done enough to allow people to experiance the content.

Let me try and put it another way. A while back a friend of mine joined a guild that raided one night a week for 3 hours. There progress was slow and they were know where near server first, but they ended up clearing BT before the nerfs and I think before SWP was released. Also realize that this was before you could extend raid lockouts.

In my opinion a gradual nerf like this spell is an insult to them. It doesn't give them the time necessary to kill the bosses the way they are intended to be killed. Though you are arguing against elitist attitudes you are actually supporting them, because everyone will say, "I killed Arthis the first week when you killed im after the 20% nerf 3 months later."

I also don't care if blizzard does a 3.0, everybody in the pool, style nerf when 4.0 comes out. I just think they need to keep the measuring stick as stable as possible while people are still trying to progress in a competetive way. With this spell you never know if you killed that boss because you were good enough or it got nerfed enough.

Jornk said...

Elitist attitudes are typically found in guilds that spend a greeat deal of time in the instance, thus clearing the content "the intended way".

The fact remains that some guilds would not be able to get through content without some sort of a buff. I get your point about Blizz already giving options at "content difficulty", but I think those options were pointed at making content accessible to a smaller group size so guilds could evolve more quickly, and accidentally created a difficulty setting in the process.

I'm sure they will add some sort of reward for completing the bosses without the buff. Blizz is usually pretty good at covering all the bases.

All in all, I'm taking this buff thing as Blizz taking a page out of the EA Sports playbook. A "Madden IQ" approach to raiding. You can turn it off and put it at the "All Pro setting", or you can let the IQ function decide how much help you need. They are merely making challenge a choice and not a necessity.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, who wants challenge anyway?

Anonymous said...

I think the big beef for a lot of us is that "WE" will no longer be challenged. Which means we will grow bored fast with a game we have loved for a long time, only because we were not given the same content we are used to.

Jormundgard said...

The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that if people want this much control over the level of difficulty, then they should lobby for some control over the server software.

If that's too much work, then you need to start with the economic interest of the developer. Blizzard will do what is best for Blizzard. Maybe it is in their best interest to make it more competitive. But I don't see that being argued here. It seems like the most crucial component is missing from this discussion.

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad I don't have to research 15 strats at once.

Ninto said...

I like the gradual nerf idea as a method to prevent pugs from breaking up after a few wipes, which often happens. I know pugs are "evil" but for those of us who aren't able to have a schedule that fits with a guild requirements, pugging is often the only way to go.

Many a pug will wipe a few times while everyone gets used to each other and the content, and if the gradual nerf makes the instance doable then we won't have had to waste an hour or more on an instance that we're then locked to and can't even restart until next tuesday, due to the nature of the pug.

Aenarcyon: Mal' Ganis PvP Server said...

Putting the spell into the raid is truley a bad idea in my opinion. I'm kinda wondering...and ii know that I'm going to sound life a lore nerd (I'm really not) but puting in a spell that gives you a big ass buff...that's just not the way something like an endgame boss should be like. By getting to the Lich King without a buff, you will have proven that you don't need a buff that was put into the game to let all the less serious player experience a Lich King fight. The Lich King fight should be a reward for those who have put the effort into getting there. That's just my opinion though...