35 yards out noted that tier 5 content seems to have slipped by the wayside in the current WoW climate, heroic instances and Karazhan still hold an interest for those in the casual side, newly levelled 70s and simply for badges as they offer very good return on investment. The tier 4 content is similar, Gruul takes at most an hour for a guild really hitting it beyond its level, Magtheridon can be cleared similarly, both are essentially badges, shards and gold even if the drops are no longer useful. Again this looks at T4 as essentially a stepping stone and a gearing step for raiders, even once the instances are no longer useful gear wise the badge return, gold and potential for shards makes them commonly run instances even in T6 guilds, heck they are even fun to pug, get a few good healers / tanks and 18 pugging members can easily clear it while only partially geared for it.
Tier 6 content is still new to a lot of people, the dropping of attunements allowed people to step inside this hidden world and give it a go, again the loot mechanics of the first bosses, having been largely a reward for Kael'thas Sunstrider and Lady Vashj kills present easy epics to T5 guilds rather than stress and wipes. The intances themselves are also in many ways more interesting, Tempest Keep doesn't feel like an epic instance, it feels like the Starship Enterprise, you board it, move up 2 corridors and are in either the bar or the bridge, Coilfang offered the opportunity for a massive multi-leveled dungeon, instead it feels like a fairly small instance with very little explanation as to its purpose, or perhaps its a bad joke, "A Naga, a Giant, A Fish, An elemental and a Blood Elf walk into a resevoir..." what were they guarding, and what is the point of the instance. Tier 6 has this, Hyjal you fight waves of trash interlaced with bosses (though to be honest we shouldn't have left the alliance camp, we could hold them there all day), its a withdrawing fight with a purpose, perhaps less epic than it should have been but still interesting. Black Temple you sneak in through the sewers, (skipping a boss if you want to) and into the temple itself, confronting those protecting the path to Lord Illidan, ok some of the fights make no sense, who put the crazy orc in the basement?, but it feels like it has a purpose, culminating in a fight on the roof of the temple to kill the betrayer.
So really from a progression point of view in my eyes at least Tier 5 was always a stepping stone in many ways, Karazhan was slightly strange, but interesting, you saw Medivh and his house, Gruul and Magtheridon made a certain amount of sense, then this middle tier which feels a lot more like random instances, why was the void reaver in tempest keep, why are they so small when they are meant to be epic, an artifical block on progression like Kael'thas and Vashj are not good design concepts as they are exactly that, artificial. With a better path through these instances, a better design to them and indeed a better return I think this tier might still be used more. lets face it, why grind Tier 5 instances with only 10 bosses when Tier 6 has 14, and Tier 4 13, the gear you need is likely replaceable in T6, or is highly targettable due to the multi-pathed nature of tier 5 content, with no locks on vashj you can solo target any boss in the instance with minimal trash pulls.
So thats another question, was the multi-pathed nature of the Tier 5 content a failure, a benefit or a non-issue, in my last post I asked for this idea, more paths, more random content and indeed a way to add repalyability to the game's instances, tier 5 offered fixed pulls however you could pick and choose the order of them in away you can't in tier 4 and 6, yet it still feels wrong, no matter what you do the instances seem small, and horribly random, not random like MgT where the mobs change, but random as in why is there a fel reaver in the middle of this space ship, and how did it get through the door. So in this case, multi-path and letting you pick your targets seems to fail as a design due to the massive imposition that is Kael'thas and Vashj, better would be to target a wing of Tempest Keep, fighting your way through the trash to the Astromancy chamber, clearing the Astromancers before eventually confronting Solarion, perhaps even locking the other wing when you kill the first boss in that wing until the last is cleared, let your choices make a path, not merely a kill order.
Finally we have the issue of loot, its very important really, to most raiders loot is something we want, we have DKP systems, Suicide Kings or loot councils to decide who gets it, some argue that it should benefit raids, others argue for it benefiting the individual, others don't care as long as they gets some eventually. The question is what did T5 offer us, and from a tanks's perspective I say not a lot, my T5 gear is all block gear for Hyjal, which can be achieved in other ways using epics and blues, there is a nice ring and a neck, both of which get replaced later in T6 so really not a lot loot wise to keep us here. I think there are a few best in slot drops in the Tier 5 instances, but not in the way in which the dragonspine trophy from Gruul draws T5-6 rogues back to the instance. The answer really to making tier's valuable is then to make them valuable no matter what progress level you are at, T4 provides badges, T5 could provide crafting materials and T6 the patterns to use them.
The attunements to the instances slowed progression, and forces you to see the game correctly, dropping these lets you skip things, however doing so should not really be a benefit, adding loot bosses to the start of instances encourages farming them, instead hiding them behind Kael'thas or Vashj would have been more interesting, Tempest Keep with 7 bosses, the 3 primary ones to disable the shield leading to Kael'thas, Kael'thas himself on the "bridge", then heading down into the depths of the keep to sabotage the engines, fighting against Blood Elf and perhaps Legion engineers (void reaver suddenly makes more sense if there is a larger presence there). Putting the loot bosses this way forces you to complete the content to get the nice rewards, rather than simply waiting for the attunement to drop. Blizzard have seen this now, you don't need attunements in WoTLK, instead its difficulty based.
This still lacks a major draw back to the instances, firstly removing the multi-path slightly so you need to clear at least a few bosses to hit the legendary characters, then offering good loot from them, why would Kael'thas not have access to a Legendary caster weapon of imbaness in the same way Illidan has his glaives, the supreme engineer in the basement is actually carrying (or possibly) so really nice trinkets that were part of the interstellar engines... Ok so loot basically, but why not make crafter items drop in here from the trash or bosses, something hard to get yet valuable, maybe something like:
Power Core Sliver
Power Core - BOP
Unstable Power Core - BOE
Then items to use it, same as the apexis items:
Unstable Amulet of Power
- +20 spell damage
- +20 int
- +15 stam
- use, consumes a power core sliver, granting +250 spell damage for 20s, and +50spell damage to all party members within 30 yards.
Suddenly farming these instances is good, you need a stock of those slivers, cores and unstable cores to power your items which otherwise are lackluster, even something as simple a vortexes drew people to T5 until the badge purchases let you skip this stage. There needs to be something unique in each tier to keep people interested when the badge progression level passes over it, and this is what T5 lacked, that spark to really keep you interested, that draw back to it, and possibly the puggable nature of it, T4 had 10 mans, and easy 25mans once you passed them, tier 5 is still hard to pug, and thats an entry barrier it cannot afford to have if guilds no longer run it in a constructed way.