Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

On Progression

Here’s an awesome quote from an awesome post by Klepsacovic:

“Get rid of all this “we want players to see content” crap. It’s not working out so well. It’s fundamentally incompatible with challenging content and good community.” – Klepsacovic, Troll Racials are Overpowered

Damn straight. I’ve made no secret of my love for the progression system in The Burning Crusade and my corollary hate for the way things worked in Wrath of the Lich King. I really liked having higher difficulty instances to look forward to instead of always playing the newest content by default and forgetting about the rest.

Klepsacovic calls that type of progression “linear raiding” but I don’t think it has to actually be linear. What it should not be is shallow though. There need to be multiple layers of difficulty that you can progress through instead of one “current” instance and a bunch of now-trivial crap. He continues to say that this is not limited to raiding but to five-man instances (heroics) as well. I would go so far to say that all content should be structured that way, at least as far as achievers and explorers are concerned.

Socializers and killers are different animals (and ones I don’t really understand), but achievers and explorers (the two gamer types most focused on game content instead of player interaction) require depth to be entertained. Both want their gameplay to give them access to new and exciting content and shallow progression trees don’t allow much access to anything new by definition. Furthermore, it is quite useful to have something to look forward to – be it “I wonder what’s behind that mountain.” or “I really want to get into Black Temple and finally get to fight Illidan.”

Shallow progression such as we have in Wrath of the Lich King (I won’t speak to the topic of Cataclysm raiding since I simply don’t know how things are handled there.) simply doesn’t provide such an outlook. Sure, common sense might tell you that it is a very bad idea, economically, to show some of your content to only a really small part of the player base, but you shouldn’t underestimate the value of a carrot on a stick. Players are far more likely to stick around trying to get into top tier raiding (or what have you) than when they are waiting for you to release the next content patch because all your content has been seen already.

And no, artificial barriers to entry are not a solution at all.

[UPDATE: Klepsacovic has posted again on the topic, looking at some of the negative aspects of linear progression.]

  • I cleared Naxx and said bye to Cataclysm. Had already too much Kara/Gruul/TK farm mode in TBC.

    There are probably more reason than just the raiding system, but despite the more beautiful continent Northrend I can’t help but TBC was a lot more fun for me.

    Cataclysm’s revamped super easy levelling world pissed me off so much that I deleted all my WoW toons during welcome back week. So much about that. There are several blogposts about this levelling content difficulty in Cata floating around atm, you will surely find them.

  • I completely agree. Another tier that is magically opened by the developers is just not as much fun as a tier that is already there. It’s also not an effective carrot at all.
    Nils´s last blog post ..Optimization and Player Segregation- Part II

  • I must admit I miss the days when my guild was working in BWL and other guilds on the server were in AQ40 and Naxx. It sounds cheesy but it gave you role models in raiding who inspired you to what it was be possible to acheive if you put the effort in. I can also remember being really disappointed when ToC came out causing all the gear from Ulduar to become redundant despite us still having many bosses in Ulduar to kill.

    Having said that it wasn’t all great, I can remember working on SWP in TBC and finding it impossible to find good recruits with the 4 parts tier 6 needed to kill the later bosses. This meant we ended up farming BT and MH pretty much until the end of the expansion just to gear up new recruits. It also created a situation where many guilds in the middle ranks were repeatedly used by members to gear up so they could apply higher up the raiding hierachy.

    Personally I would like some sort of a cross between old and new. So old heroics can never be used to bypass a raiding tier with badges but rather a couple of new heroics (like the new troll instances) come out in a patch inbetween each raid. These could provide players late to the party a 5man progression path that would result in them being able to join a guild in the newer content without having to move up through the ranks of raiding guilds taking gear as they go.

  • I love the idea of a 5-men progression path allowing for people to play catch-up, assuming that it includes good difficulty progression.

    5 mens would give the new players / alts / what have you a much easier (coordination-wise) way of catching up to the guild that does not require 24 (or 39!) people farming the same content over and over again. One has to be careful though that these instances don’t become simple grinds and that they teach at least somewhat raiding-appropriate skillsets. There’s not much to like about a new recruit with awesome gear from 5-men dungeons but no experience in how to actually play his or her class in raid encounters.

  • Scrusi, that “challenging 5-man alternative path” sounds like it would too easily just turn into what we saw in LK: the mindless grind that isn’t used for catch-up, but for skipping content and creating a lot of this:
    :There’s not much to like about a new recruit with awesome gear from 5-men dungeons but no experience in how to actually play his or her class in raid encounters.”

  • Hence my mention of exactly that problem 😉
    I like the idea in theory because it can be really hard to catch-up through full raids when content is actually challenging and of progressive difficulty. (And if you manage to do so, you are most likely one of those despicable guild-hoppers.)
    I see huge problems in practical implementation.

  • Guild hoppers should be an indication of a problem with the guild. If the players can move up, why is the guild still sitting in old content? Maybe the guild-hoppers are merely using their feet to convey the idea that the guild isn’t playing up to its potential, or that some players are holding it back.

  • I’m not so sure about that. In any developed linear progression system you will have more dedicated and /or better guilds being further ahead than the more laid back / worse guilds. A new player with high dedication / skill will have no chance to get into a guild that fits her profile right away. She will therefore join a less progressed guild and then move on to a “better” one as soon as she can. This does not happen (as much) in a system that allows for easy catch-up.
    scrusi´s last blog post ..On Progression