I think apologies are in order. This post was promised to you on Friday. I could bring up multiple excuses such as exams are looming, Diablo 3 took my time, or perhaps the most ominous, I am succumbing to post expansion burnout (shudder), but I wont. Instead, I will stop spending time writing a post-script and actually write this post.
Raiding has been a staple of WoW since the very beginning. Since then, we have had multiple and profound changes but the core design philosophy, kill boss, loot corpse, plaster yourself with purple stuff, kill bigger boss, has remained the same. A new tier is just a method to invalidate our current power, forcing us to start the ceaseless climb to the top all over again, and yet we continue to devour any of Blizzards offerings without a second thought. We can debate for days the merits of this drip-feed method of content delivery, I for one would weigh in that Blizzard deserves credit for such an ingenious business model, however, the content of this post is about what was good, and subsequently, what I liked, about Cataclysm, not how we can change to world by boycotting bad raids (authors note: you can’t change the world by boycotting anything)
I think JustRight unintentionally touched on an important point last week, personal experience trumps good design with how we view a raid/tier, Ulduar being the prime example. People enjoyed Ulduar way more than they should have. Most people only killed the first four bosses on normal mode, however everyone waxes on about how utterly amazing it was. Lets look at it from a design point of view, Ulduar is essentially a masonic club, everyone can see the foyer, but only the chosen get to see the secret underground rooms. Being in a Masonic club is cool and all, but what is the point if you get no actual benefits? Sure Ulduar was pretty, and sure, that first fight was unique, but let’s be serious here, the next three fights were glorified add control, the following 3 were gear checks, and when you finally get to fights that actually have meaningful mechanics and strategy, you had to a member of a 3+ night a week raiding guild or forget it. Dissociating more than half your player base is the opposite of good design.
This lack of critical view because of personal experience is what I like to call the rose-tinted goggle effect. Not that I am immune myself. As I mentioned last Tuesday, Firelands holds that place for me. Being with mates and working together to kill stuff is fun. Even constantly wiping on the insane amount of trash was fun. As WoW Insider puts it, the right friends make the game. Firelands was the best raid for me because the most fun I had was just being there with friends. From playing chicken with people jumping over the lava, and the tping back up, those bloody turtles, the lag rock (you know the one on the ramp up to the entrance that you can’t see, so you run on the spot for a bit) to trying to fly out when everyone else dies to Alysrazor’s firestorm, all those mean way more to me than the recycled models and over-abundance of red.
Sentiment aside, Firelands may not have been the most inspiring raid, but now with an unpopular opinion, I think that Dragon Soul was. Dragon Soul gets much more criticism than the ither cata tiers because it was in the spotlight as the capstone raid of an expansion and we have all spent way to much time in the icy wastes, or tentacular maws, but lots of people are missing the forest for the trees. I concede that there was some missed opportunities, but these would have built on the achievements of Dragon Soul, and there absence does not detract from them. Just think about all it has accomplished.
LFR has been a huge success and allowed weekend warriors to actually see some raid content. I don’t think people understand how important this is for the player base. Raiding is no longer only for those who can dedicate hours every week, and have the patience to actually progress. This by itself would cement Dragon Soul, however;
Dragon Soul built on its predecessors in heroic level tuning, finally reaching the balance between balance and progression. I think we can all agree that Heroic tier 11 and 12 were too hard. Not to say that tier 13 was too easy, JustRight’s opinion is not informed by fact, rather by playing after a 15% nerf, of course it is going to be easier. Having raided when the content was actually current in a lower end guild, being able to down Deathwing without killing myself every week with progression was extremely satisfying. Downing Morchok and Kohcrom on heroic was exciting, and steadily moving through heroics was way better than what any other tier has offered my level of raiding.
Finally, people have bashed the story surrounding Dragon Soul, but name another raid where you are the spearhead of an elite fighting squad that is actually preventing the end of the world. Most other raid’s, Ulduar included, you are simply going into some bad guys domain to murder him before he does anything bad. You don’t just save the world by slaying Ultraxion the Harbringer of Twilight before he explodes all over everything, but you slay Deathwing as he too tries to destroy everything with his 60s cast time cataclysm.
In the end, what I am not trying to say is that everything you used to love is in fact bad. What I am getting at is that we should always be critical, always look beyond the rush of killing things and analyse whether there is any actually value, and we should always think about other poeple. Opinions like “I dont find it hard” or “People should get better at their class” are unhelpful, and frankly, snobbish. It is the multitude of people who now can raid that keep the WoW we love chugging along, so ultimately, it really isn’t Dragon Soul itself, or even LFR that has been the highlight of Cataclysm, rather the shift in design philosophy. Raiding is no longer the demense of the dedicated few, and for that, we can all enjoy WoW more.