Now, before you tell me that I need to learn to play, let me explain a bit. For most of the time that I've been with my guild, I've thought of it as a hardmode guild. Just based on experience, hardmode operations are where we spend most of our time making smooth progress while still being challenged. Story modes are easy for us. Nightmare mode is the kind of content we'll stick our noses in once we've cleared hardmode, and while we'll manage to kill a couple of bosses, it takes us very long and I don't think we've ever finished a NiM operation before the next raid tier was released and allowed us to overgear the content.
I think it's okay to acknowledge these limitations. The vast majority of the player base has them. Unless you're in a small number of top guilds, you're always going to run up against a progression wall eventually where the difficulty of the content is increasingly too high to overcome for the combined skill level of you and your guildies. It's a normal part of engaging in this kind of endgame. It is however also a risk, because if people run into a wall for too long, they get frustrated and stop logging in.
As it turns out, Sparky was the easy part...
From Bioware's point of view, the trick is therefore to combine the inclusion of challenging content with giving people the ability to progress for as long as possible without hitting a wall. Tiered difficulty levels are a great way of achieving this, because it adds several different steps for people to climb and therefore stretches things out. Ideally, you then release a whole new operation before people have had time to get frustrated with whatever difficulty mode they can't beat.
Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice have been very unforgiving in that regard. I've said from the start that I feel that their story modes are too harsh in parts and are likely to turn casual raiders off the whole thing before they even have a chance to get started. HealingSWTOR also asked back in February whether the operations are too hard and included the hardmodes in his question. Many experienced raiders have noted that the hardmodes for Ravagers and Temple of Sacrifice are more on par with the difficulty of nightmare mode in previous tiers. So when you have a (slightly too diffcult for what it's supposed to be) story mode, immediately followed by what's effectively a nightmare mode, where does that leave a hardmode guild? Not in a happy place.
For comparison, I've looked at what I posted about Dread Fortress and Palace back when they were current content - we had to put up with them for over a year after all. From what I can tell, it took my ops group a little less than six months to clear both operations on hardmode. That means that on average, we killed a new boss every two to three weeks. To me, that's pretty good in the sense that it's neither so fast that things feel too easy, nor so slow that frustration starts to build up. But then we moved on to nightmare, and things started to slow down. Nefra was comparatively easy, but Draxus took us something like two months to get down, and even as we managed to tick off a couple more boss kills, we couldn't always get them down consistently, which made it all the harder to actually get any time on later bosses that we were supposed to progress on. In hindsight I'm pretty amazed that we managed to keep ourselves busy with nightmare modes for more than half a year under those circumstances, without going completely bonkers or having people rage-quit en masse. That level of difficulty just isn't our forte and we simply spent way too much time wiping and not achieving anything for it to be a lot of fun.
And now? Well, we cleared the story modes in the first week and got HM Sparky and Malaphar down quickly. That was back in December. For the last four months however we've been struggling with what comes after. We have got both Bulo and Sword Squadron down, however it's still incredibly hard to repeat those kills, to the point where we haven't really had a chance to really work on the third boss in either operation.
You can do it! Or can you?