WotLK Raiding : Not epic enough?

Many people have expressed sentiments of unhappiness with the direction WoW has been taking, and cancelled their subscriptions or closed down their blogs. Karthis was the latest one, and he will be missed as one of the best sources of feral druid information.

Me and my wife have also been feeling the same. Her account has now officially lapsed, and she can no longer log on to WoW (not that she has been trying to anyway…). I’ll probably still renew my subscription, at least until my guild clears normal Ulduar-10. Past that, there doesn’t seem to be much that will sustain my interest. The main reason is a feeling that the game has been dumbed down. The main end-game activity, raiding, has been watered down and diluted “so that everyone can take part”. I’ve previously voiced my opinions on this more than once, but I’ll do so again.

Raiding was akin to a test. Everyone could always take part. Some people did well because they prepared and were knowledgeable. Some people barely got by but still passed the course. And some people partied all night, showed up wasted 30 minutes late without any pants, and got 7/100. In WotLK raiding, the new philosophy seems to be “everyone gets a gold star” for zoning in. The smart kids are supposed to challenge themselves by taking the test while standing on their heads. Holding the pencil with their toes. While not wearing any pants either.

The result is that raiding just doesn’t seem like an epic challenge anymore. WotLK raiding is certainly “epic” in that loot drops like dandruff, but the actual encounters leave me feeling like I’m in an extended heroic run. There’s so much loot that I’m pretty numb to it already since the numbers are so ridiculous that they look like the cost of toilet paper in Indonesian rupiahs. “2 rolls will cost you 500,000 rupiahs, sir”

Part of me wonders how much is simply due to the fact that we’ve been playing WoW for more than 3 years. That’s a really long time, and we’re not even among those who played since the beta. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the difficulty of a raid encounter isn’t just how much hp and damage the boss does. A long-time raider has probably seen most of the tricks that a raid mob can do. This leads to a sense of “oh he has venoxis chain lightning, a anubisath meteor, and they have to die together like core hounds”.

Even though Ulduar is definitely a step up from Naxxramas, the fights still seem a bit dumbed down. By this I mean that there is much less individual responsibility for raid members. In general, tanks tank mobs, healers heal everyone, and dps just kill things. Yes, this is not a major revelation. But it leaves me feeling that the raid is not a team of adventurers fighting into a dungeon. There’s no sense of cooperation and teamwork that characterised many of the Classic and TBC raids. The only thing that makes these fights not strictly tank and spank is the need to occasionally move to avoid ability X, but even then this is just responsibility to yourself. It’s not teamwork.

In Classic 40-mans, it felt like you were part of this big force that assembled to take down a big bad boss. Rogues had to disarm traps to get past the suppression room. Hunters had to tranquilise enraged targets. Warlocks had to chain banish elementals. Healers had to rotate regen periods to keep up their mana to plonk heals on the 8 tanks wailing on all sorts of crap.

TBC was the 25 man era. SSC, TK, Hyjal and BT all had interesting complicated fights. As an officer, we wailed and gnashed our teeth when people screwed up and wiped the raid, but there was a real sense of camraderie when everything clicked and the raid pulled it together to down the boss. To this day nothing compares to the feeling we had when we downed Vashj, after close to 2 months of attempts. We struggled with attendance, the usual no-shows on progression bosses. Our first kill was done with a bunch of non-raiders in blue gear, who had the heart and the willingness to learn which enabled us to take down what I still feel to be the hardest boss pre-Sunwell. We went in there night after night, in a fight where basically no one can screw up. Our elemental dps teams learned how to work together and cover each other when a tainted elemental spawned. Our strider kiters and strider dps team worked out how to use netherweave nets to help down each strider in time before the next spawn. The naga tank and dps team put out good dps to down each elite naga and helped clean up leaking elementals from all quarters. We passed cores like NFL quarterbacks. When we finally downed her, my hands were shaking for an hour. To this day, I still respect the people who were willing to stick to it, and I’ll never feel the same about the scum that came slinking back from “real life issues” once t5 helms became available.

Even the attunements and grinding contributed to the feeling of accomplishment. It gave people something to do outside of raids. Me and my wife duoed the first 2 rooms of Scholomance at 60 to get exalted Argent Dawn rep for the spellpower trinket for my warlock. At 70, we duoed the first room of heroic Steamvaults to get exalted Cenarion Expedition rep for the hit rating ring. In WotLK, you can just go press random buttons in a Naxx-25 and walk out with 5 epics.

Please note that none of the above stems from a desire for exclusivity, something which really boggles me. Why do I care that you’re standing in Ironforge with shoulders from Boss Y? It doesn’t change my play experience in the slightest. I’m more confused at how there are so many dumb people who use their max level characters to go to Ironforge/Stormwind to buy stuff from the AH and then say “sorry need summon my hearth is on cooldown”. It’s almost like they have never heard of AH characters…

Are hard mode achievements epic? Not to me. Doing things in a dumb way to get a title and more purple rupiahs doesn’t feel epic either. There’s no challenge in a fight where the raid goes “We could pwn this guy anytime we want, but WE’RE NOT GOING TO”.

However, Blizzard seems to be sticking firmly with this new raiding philosophy. And of course, many people do seem to like it. Some people would like it if they zoned in and pressed a button and got 5 epics, it would be the most popular instance Blizzard ever created. It would be boring as hell, but still popular. Kind of like WotLK raiding?

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