Prior to this expansion, raid progression usually started with 5 man instances. You didn’t enter 5 mans to zerg them for badges, you entered them for gear, for quests or for attunements. The bottom line of it is that 5 mans actually mattered in your linear raid progression. I mean think about it, you didn’t enter Molten Core in your greens; you didn’t enter Karazahn in your Stormrage Raiment. Well, to be fair, that might have been because you couldn’t even enter those zones without having to trek through numerous 5 man hurdles to gain access, but my point still stands!
With Wrath of the Lich King, I feel that 5 mans changed. They were no longer a stepping stone to raiding, the pre-req that they once had been, either because of gear requirements or attunements, but they became throw away things that you didn’t really have to engage in because raiding was open and available to you as soon as you reached level 80. Not everyone zoned into Halls of Lightning and experienced how beautiful it was, not everyone explored the lore within Zul’Drak. They just dinged 80 and headed to Naxx. And honestly, I think it’s a bit of a shame that people weren’t required to experience some of the instancing that the game offered.
Now, I don’t think I want to go back to some of the more archaic attunements that we have previously seen (I will cut someone if we see jailbreak 2.0, I’m not even joking!). But I would like to see a little more emphasis placed on the “pre-raid” portion of the game again. Where you weren’t racing to max level and then immediately thrown into the first raid instance available, but rather where you build your way to being prepared for that first raid. Where you have “testing grounds” to learn the nuances of your class, and to hone your skills before starting your first true battle. In essence a return to focusing on the Journey.
And with the fairly recent information hinting at the reintroduction of “dungeon” sets, I am certainly curious if Blizzard is moving back to putting more emphasis on the first step to the raid game being “gearing” to enter your first raid. Returning to a progression line that looks like it did pre-WotLK.
Instancing -> Raid 1 -> Raid 2 -> Raid 3 -> etc
The other day we were casually discussing what our leveling time frame should be for Cataclysm in vent. That is the amount of time we allot before we expect members of our core progression team to be max level and raid ready. We generally like to set a reasonable timeframe, so as that if you played only during our scheduled raiding hours you can achieve our expectations. And someone commented that they didn’t think that progression would go straight from hitting level 85 into raiding, but that people will probably need time to instance to be ready to raid, and it caused me a moment’s pause to think about it.
I really hope that they are right. I hope that Cataclysm’s progression starts with preparing for battle by way of dungeons.
I think that 5 man instancing offers a lot, not only gear and experience wise, but also closer social experiences that people may not get in a raid setting. Not only that, but 5 mans give people a place to learn and grow as players. Something that is sorely missing in today’s zerg happy, “go go go” environment. Why are there so many poor players? Because the game doesn’t expect any more of people. You no longer have to truly learn to play for success, and I put a large part of the blame on the system. It’s just a tad too easy. It doesn’t need to be “hard” to win, but there should still be some challenge so that people need to invest themselves in what they are doing for success. And do you know what else? People should put their back up and accept the challenge that faces them, rather than turn tail and run away so quickly when something is difficult.
I think that I’d like Cataclysm’s “pre-raid” requirement to be a good mix of what we saw in Vanilla and TBC with some improvements. I liked that in vanilla there was a linear place to start your gear journey: Instances. Your first step upon reaching level 60 was to get your dungeon set, to explore 5 man content and have somewhere you begin to learn and master your craft. However, I disliked that if you were behind in the raid game, you were largely stuck behind unless someone was willing to take a chance on you. I liked that in TBC you were required to work through the 5 man instances to obtain upgrades for your first raid, but I strongly disliked the grind it took to open up heroics. What I liked about WotLK is the use of newly introduced instances with each tier of content after Ulduar to help “reset” the gear threshold. I liked that the instances provided gear that could let a new player “catch up” and let them be a viable contributor to a raid as opposed to a potential liability to the raid while they had to back gear.
What I absolutely do not want is a continual badge grind that requires 5 man instances for the entirety of an expansion. I think that this is going to be somewhat fixed with the “tiering” of badges to match the tiering of raids. I do hope that they will continue to introduce new 5 man content throughout the expansions life cycle.
I’m looking forward to more information on what the “end game” will look like at 85. If people will need to spend some quality time dungeon crawling before facing the first of Deathwing’s forces.
So, will dungeons be a pre-req for raiding in Cataclysm? I sure hope so! What do you think?