Thanks for posting these notes and commentary, Vay, Cleavis and Mispeled. Was really great talking with you and the rest of the classic community council folks yesterday.
I wanted to chime in and talk about the “ilvl squish” in ToC/ICC a bit more, and provide even more context for anyone who is reading this who may have some questions about this idea (and I do want to stress, it’s currently just an idea)
There’s actually several goals, here, with two being the primary:
Give Ulduar time to breathe
Going to start with a little history recap here; In original Wrath of the Lich King, Ulduar occupied an interesting design space as even the normal modes for many of the bosses were a pretty large cut above Naxxramas 10/25 in terms of difficulty. For many people just joining World of Warcraft during at the start of Wrath of the Lich King, Naxx was potentially their first raid and as Naxx was so accessible, it had huge participation. Ulduar however, had much lower participation and many groups that were successfully clearing Naxx and the other Tier 7 raids suddenly found themselves struggling.
Overall a few different things were tried including some nerfs to Ulduar as well as trying to get a new raid out to players to bridge the gap between Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel. This raid was released around 3 1/2 months after Ulduar, and was released with gear equivalent to another full tier up from Tier 8 gear, with the addition of heroic mode which provided an even larger ilvl jump over normal mode than rewards for defeating hard mode encounters in Ulduar were. By early World of Warcraft raid tier standards, Ulduar had a relatively short run before being effectively replaced and outclassed by significantly better rewards from a much more accessible raid in Trial of the Crusader.
As years have passed, we think its safe to say that Ulduar is now regarded as one of the best and most unique raid experiences in WoW, and those that enjoyed it undoubtedly felt like it was cut quite short. We want to make sure that Ulduar is front and center during its time in Wrath Classic, and still has healthy amount of time to breathe before Trial of the Crusader is released, and by extension, Season 7 for Arena is introduced. This bridges to the next major goal for this change…
Don’t Cut Arena Season 7 Short
Early on in discussions to plan Wrath of the Lich King Classic, we knew we wanted Ulduar to have a good long run, and the first Idea we considered was simply making the Trial of the Crusader tier (Tier 9) much shorter, potentially up to half as long as Ulduar (Tier 8). However, the major problem with that plan is that we’d then need to either start Arena Season 7 right in the middle of Tier 8 and create a situation where PvP gear would be in many cases BiS to PvE raiders for multiple months, or start Season 7 late and have it be a very short, truncated season.
Arena seasons need a certain amount of time to breathe as well and this idea of a truncated season did not sit well with us at all. By going ahead and releasing Trial of the Crusader at a time that makes sense to line up with Arena Season 7, that feels much better for PvP-focused players.
In addition to the goals above, we also had 3 other main secondary goals:
Encourage Older Raids to remain Relevant and worth doing for Alts and PUGs.
One thing we really like in Classic and Burning Crusade is that older tiers of raiding continue to see participation even when that content is no longer current. This means that there’s a large variety of things to do for your alts or on off-nights, and due to the overall flatter nature of gear and ilvl progression in those earlier versions of wow, this makes these older raids more appealing to continue to run. By lowering the ilvl of ToC slightly, this makes running Ulduar hard modes appealing and a worthwhile investment for longer than it otherwise might be. As mentioned above, Normal ToC gear is so much better than even Ulduar hard mode gear, that most guilds would very likely drop Ulduar completely, and it would be less appealing to alts much faster.
Allow us to increase difficulty slightly in later tiers without changing bosses or the mechanics themselves.
We have a ton of reverence and respect for the encounters in Wrath of the Lich King Classic and wanted to make as few adjustments here as possible. Slightly lowering overall player power going into a raid like ICC allows our modern, more savvy Classic players to have a bit more of a challenge in that raid without needing to make risky changes to the encounters themselves. And with the progressive raid buff system that comes in later in ICC, we still feel like this raid will be accessible to raid groups of varying skill levels after some time passes.
Curb a bit of the wild scaling that occurs with such massive iLvl jumps between tiers
Kris Zierhut was one of the designers responsible for planning itemization during original Wrath of the Lich King, and he’s back on our team now working on the Classic version. He often times says that a stated goal of gearing and scaling in original Wrath was to avoid the situation we got into at the end of The Burning Crusade where certain classes and roles scaled so well that they had to make major systemic adjustments to Sunwell Plateau to compensate for this. The most notable example of this is “Sunwell Radiance” which effectively reduced the avoidance of all tanks by a flat, massive amount. While effective, this debuff never felt great because it meant that the progression of your character meant little when you got to Sunwell, as there was a global debuff that negated the benefits you got from your hard-won gear across the board.
As alluded to above, Trial of the Crusader’s injection into the overall design of raid progression in Wrath of the Lich King conflicted with those original goals and intent, and ultimately led to the same type of scaling problems that were faced late in The Burning Crusade. We feel that an adjustment here could help with this concern when we get to ICC, and add up to a more interesting experience overall.
We totally understand that at face value “nerfing” gear is a scary prospect, but we are committed to taking extreme care to not make too many waves, and ensure that in relative terms, classes and roles that excelled later in the expansion will continue to feel powerful as they progress.
Thank you for reading if you got this far, and apologies for the length of this, but floating a change like this really needs a thorough explanation and reasoning for context. We wanted to start this with a focused group of community council members, and we’d love to get feedback on this in the coming weeks. We still have time to make further adjustments to this idea.