The State of Raiding

In vanilla/classic WoW raiders were hard core players and the game was like a ladder you had to climb step-by-step to get to the top. Getting to 60 was a really epic journey and that took time and people learned their class and how to play the game generally. Once at 60 you farmed the 60 dungeons including Upper Blackrock Spire a 15 (and later 10) man raid zone that had no reset (ie it was like a normal 5 man dungeon) for blue gear that was capable of getting you into Molten Core and not getting your ass handed to you on a plate. There were armor sets for each class too. Once you started raiding there was a clearly defined progress path that really could not be fast tracked. 

The loot was relatively closely itemised so while upgrades for all were available in the latest and greatest there was also upgrades for people in the next tier down. This meant that there was variety in what you were doing each raid and if you had a new recruit who needed gear you were running content that would get them their raid gear.

The Burning Crusade saw some changes, raiding was opened up with Karazhan a 10 man weekly reseting raid zone. This was good it meant that no more was raiding for the elite hard core but everyone could do it. After the attunement process from hell and getting attuned for all raids was, initially all linked.

Seriously that was way too complicated, but it did mean that people had to earn their right to raid. Blizzard removed this mid way through TBC which at the time this was seen as a bad thing but looking on 3 years later I think it is a good thing to make people earn the right to raid. Some middle ground should be found.
So upto the end of TBC raid progression was: 
TIER0: Level 60 instances
TIER 1: Zul’Gurub (20 man), Molten Core, Onyxia, 
TIER 2: AQ20, Blackwing Lair, 
TIER 2.5: AQ40 
TIER 3: Naxxramas. 
TIER 4: Karazhan, Gruul, Magtheridon,
TIER 5: Serpentshrine, Tempest Keep
TIER 6: Mount Hyjal, Black Temple
TIER 6.5: Sunwell Plateau
As you will see I have 2 x.5 levels. These were, in my opinion hard mode content aimed at the hard core elite players back in the day. No hard mode bosses, Blizzard gave players new content.
Enter Wrath raiding. It started badly. The revamped Naxx got steam rolled 3 days after launch I kid you not (source).  Thats 3 days to do 10 levels and gear up, oh wait they didnt gear up they used their epics from Tier 6.5. Alarm bells were sounded, we all moaned, but hey these guys were almost profession and were the best in the world. But all the naysayers were right, Naxx was too damed easy, Blizzards “best ever” raid dungeon became little more than a playground for everyone that entered. To make matters worse we got left with this and 2 1 boss raid instances for 6 months. Guilds imploded, people left the game, the average Joe who would normally not have reached the pinnacle, many never returned. 
Eventually, Ulduar came. It was brilliant, the level of difficulty was hard enough and if not there was optional hard modes. Awesome, awesome awsome, the downside was there was nothing more. It was Ulduar 10 or Ulduar 25 with the optional challenge of hard modes. Nobody went back to Naxx except to gear up their alts, heck everyone had best in slot from Naxx, Malygos and Sartharion already. Ulduar lasted 5 months and again people got bored inside there. Then came Trial of the Crusader. the lamest excuse of an instance ever. This time we got 4 instance we could run each week. 10, 25 hard mode 10 and hard mode 25. The differences between them, none this lasted another 5 months and more poeple became disillusioned and left. Most did not return even with ICC. Now we have ICC, its been here 6 months conservative estimates are we’ll have it for another 3, doom prophets predict another 5. Although the next patch gives us a new zone with a single boss in. Hopes for that are low, I expect the same faceroll after 3 weeks as we have on normal mode ICC already.

In Wrath the raiding progression was:
Tier 7: Naxxramas, Sartharion and Malygos (10 and 25) giving iLevel 200-213 loot (226 from Kel Thuzad and Malygos);
Tier 8: Ulduar (10 and 25) giving iLevel 219 – 226 loot (239 for 25 man hard mode loot);
Tier 9: Trial of the Crusader and Onyxia (10 and 25)  giving iLevel 232-245 loot (258 for hard mode);
Tier 10: Icecrown Citadel (10 and 25)  giving iLevel 251-264 loot (277 for hard mode);

The gear range in each instance was insanely wide, and the only way people were going back a tier is if they were able to clear hard modes, which were generally only being done by the limited few guilds who blitzed the normal mode versions and hit the hard modes so early that they had their gear already. This combined with the ability to get geared into T9.10 equivalent (iLevel 232) gear by running normal heroics through Emblems of Triumph that drop like sweeties (candies if you’re west side of the Atlantic pond) or the iLevel 232 epics that drop in the heroic Icecrown 5 man instances has resulted in everyone being an ICC raider (either 10 or 25) and while I agree that everyone should be able to they should at least have to earn the right to be there by learning the basic boss mechanics by doing the easier content first. 

At the risk of sounding like the elitist jerk that is very prevalent in online gaming, the ability of many “raiders” beggars belief and I am thankful that by being in a guild I am mostly (I have alts that I raid with too in pick up groups) isolated from the casual entitled raider who believes the fire is cozy and should be hugged because moving “lowers my DPS don’t you know buddy” and  that the healers failed because they didn’t keep him alive. Well as I always tell them, “floor inspectors do zero DPS”. 

Anyways, sidetracked there, Blizzard seem to have been distracted this expansion. I am not sure if it is catering for the masses, development of other titles (Starcraft II, Diablo III, teh unannounced MMO or even Cataclysm). The irony is the best instance was Ulduar and they killed that off earliest. Icwcrown Citadel should have been the best ever raid instance but quite frankly its not unless you focus solely on the storyline, don’t get me wrong its not bad just not the best in Wrath.
What would I have done differently?
Uldaur would have been 2 instances. The first section would have been launched in February 2009 meaning that Naxx would have been 3 month old. This 5 Boss instance would have finished at the point where Kologarn is making the Assembly of Iron the end boss.

Ulduar proper would have been released at the same time Ulduar did get launched Kologarn would have been the first boss leading onto the keepers. This would have only been accesible killing the Assembly of Iron.

I believe that this would have given everyone the chance to experience Ulduar and given the fact that most guilds didn’t blitz through Ulduar, even the 2nd part would have survived until the launch of Trial of the Crusade, which should, like all other raids had 2 lockouts, 10 and 25. The hard modes should have been in the 1 instance and should have been tiered in difficulty rather than a binary normal or hard mode (an idea I have adopted from Totalbiscuit of the CynicalBrit)

Next would have been a 4 boss Icecrown Citadel Lower Spire, released early December 2009 as ICC was. This would have taken us to Saurfang as the end boss, and killing him would attune you for Icecrown Citadel Upper Spire. This 2nd Icecrown Citadel raid instance would have been launched in February 2010. This would mean that today we would be sitting on a 4 month old raid instance which is still not ideal, but would make a lot of players feel more positive about WoW than they do today.

In addition, the iLevel of loot should have had way more overlap. Instead of upping the iLevel for the 10 man versions it should have simply been the same level as the 25 man raid from the Tier below and hard modes the same as the tier above, that is:

  • Naxxramas 25 and Ulduar 10 loot would have been iLevel 213;
  • Ulduar 10 (hard), Trial of the Crusader 10 and Ulduar 25 would have been iLevel 226;
  • Ulduar 25 (hard), Trial of the Crusader 10 (hard), Icecrown Citadel 10 and Trial of the Crusader 25 would have been iLevel 239;
  • Trial of the Crusader 25 (hard), Icecrown Citadel 10 (hard) and Icecrown Citadel 25 would have been iLevel 252;
  • Icecrown Citadel 25 (hard)  would have been iLevel 265;
I have deliberately stuck to the 13 point gap that Blizzard seems to have nominally selected as it just makes things more realistic. It would have reduced the overall power of players marginally but would have kept alive 3 raid instances at anyone time which would cater for the average guilds and those not at the cutting edge would have still been able to see most content in some form.

Will things change in Cataclysm? I hope so, the recently announced single lockout for 10 and 25 is a good thing as it will fix the current monotony of raiding the same dungeon all the time. Will the content be plentiful? It sounds like it will, but lets hope that Blizzard have learnt  and the content won’t be so easy or so hard that either everyone can do it with minimal effort or no one can do it without spending days to perfect intricate strategies.

Fingers crossed!

Posted by Evlyxx


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