3.3: The Fall of the Lich King… So Far

3.3 has been out for over a week. It’s time I gave my thoughts on the patch, so far.

Be warned: Spoilers ahead!

The Looking for Dungeon System

The looking for dungeon pane.The new dungeon system (which I call “LFD,” because of the /lfd command), is quite good. When people in your guild have lost interest in running heroics, or when they are saved to the dungeons you need, you can easily use this system to get a group, instead of trolling trade or the LFG channel as before. While it can take several minutes for a pure DPSer to find a group, if you’re a tank or a healer, it is typically instant. This trend may vary, however, as it adheres to supply and demand.

Obviously, there are some annoyances you’ll come across. But that’s going to happen whenever you’re dealing with people, regardless of the system. These minor thorns are insignificant when you consider the fact that most groups using the LFD system are successful. I’ve only had two extremely poor experiences, thus far; one was a Halls of Reflection, and the other was an Old Kingdom. We still finished, but not until after rotating of a couple players.

In general, the system is awesome. You get two frost badges for the first random heroic you do. And two triumph badges for subsequent random heroics. It’s a great way to establish your gear, and to gear up alts. I also find myself far less bored during downtime, which is a huge plus, considering Lunacy is no longer raiding hardcore and I’ve gone casual myself. If I don’t have a whole lot of time, I can log in, look for a dungeon, run it quickly, get my badges, and log off.

The Frozen Halls (the New 5-Mans)

The new five-man dungeons are some of the best Blizzard has produced thus far. The lore is rather rich. The artwork is superb. And most of the encounters are interesting. They are also somewhat challenging on heroic, but not overly complex nor impossible.

I do have my criticisms; however, they are minor.

I think Bronjahm, the Godfather of Souls, goes too far in terms of Blizzard’s humorous intentions. I get it; he’s supposed to be a representation of James Brown. But “godfather” is not the right title for someone who is supposed to oversee the separation and grinding of people’s souls. The music that plays while you’re fighting him makes me /palmface. And the sounds he makes while fighting him are ridiculous. I understand WoW has always had elements of humor, and I usually appreciate them, but there has to at least be a small amount of believability somewhere. Obviously I mean “believability” in the context of a fantastical storyline that has serious elements. For example, you wouldn’t see Arthas wearing a pink tabard just because it’s funny.

Also, the Forge of Souls doesn’t have an in-game explanation as to its purpose. You can guess, however, given the dungeon’s title. So perhaps it’s not needed. The Halls of Reflection is the linchpin of the dungeon trio’s lore, anyway. And the Pit of Saron also has some great lore development. But at least a little background concerning the Forge could have been included in the actual game. All they had to do was add one sentence to the introductions given by Jaina and Sylvannas. “Here, you will face two of the Lich King’s lieutenants, those who grind and devour souls of the innocent and righteous. Be wary, heroes!” Instead, you have to read the patch development notes to get an idea of what it’s all about. And you’ll probably have to read a manga and a book later on. But I like the Devourer of Souls. And Jaina’s presence. And the artwork involved. So I’m not disappointed.

There are a couple other issues, including the obligatory one about the add phases of the first encounter in Halls of Reflection. But, overall, the dungeons are great! The Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflection (HoR) have some awesome lore development (particularly HoR). The art direction is fantastic. Most of the music meets my approval. And the last encounter in the Halls of Reflection is great all-around, completing the all-around satisfaction of clearing all three.

If you want to get an idea of what the dungeons have to offer in terms of lore, just watch Kinaesthesia’s video (be warned, it contains lots of spoilers).

Quel’Delar Questline

I had the opportunity of doing the Quel’Delar questline. I’m a little mixed on this one. Overall, the questline is very good. But the quality of presentation is somewhat mixed. There are a couple instances of voice acting, but there are parts without voiceovers that warrant the practice (particularly the scene at the Sunwell). For what it’s worth, I really love the fact that they’ve actually gone and changed (or, rather, phased) parts of the game to match the progressing lore. Seeing the Sunwell with blood elf leaders and pilgrims surrounding it was quite different from seeing it before and after doing Kil’jaeden.

This is a step in the right direction for quests in general. More of this and the questing game will achieve a higher level of enjoyability.

Icecrown Citadel (the Raid)

I’ve had the chance of running the 10-man version of Icecrown Citadel (ICC), thus far. I probably won’t be running the 25-man until after the holidays, however.

The Art, Graphics and Music

I’m impressed with the art and music of ICC, thus far. Blizzard has begun using terrain blending with this patch, and you can really see the difference it makes when employed. An example of this is the blending between the citadel’s floor and the ice that comprises the spire Arthas ascended at the end of The Frozen Throne.

The Spire in Icecrown.

I do note Icecrown uses spell effects that cause my computer to come to a crawl, even when I turn particle effects all the way down. These are included in the mist that comes off the spire, and the mist that hangs around the floor leading up to the first boss. After I leave these areas, I’m fine. Before then, however, my FPS tends to drop into the single digits. This is perhaps unique only to those of us who’ve been slow to upgrade our 7 series GeForce cards, however, so I’ll just have to cave and finally buy one (the downside of being a poor student).

The music in ICC is good, but not as good as past entries from WoW’s soundtrack. The highlight, so far, has been the music that plays during the gunship battle. But given what I’ve heard from the MPQ files, I’m not sure I expect anything that lives up to the music from Black Temple, Grizzly Hills, or Storm Peaks. To be fair, however, those three zones would be difficult to outdo.

The Lore (so Far)

The lore for ICC seems as though it will outdo its predecessors. Lord Marrowgar and Lady Deathwhisper could perhaps have used a tad more fleshing out, but they’re not major characters, so I guess that’s okay. The opening dialog that occurs while you’re clearing the first trash packs is quite good. It’ll be interesting to see how the twist involving Bolvar plays out. As a player, your investment in the story is heightened by the fact that Arthas plays a large role in the world outside the dungeon, as well.

The scene that occurs after you defeat Deathbringer Saurfang is amazing, especially considering Blizzard actually created animations to portray what is going on in the scene. That the older Saurfang actually lifts up the body of his son and carries it off makes it a whole lot more interesting. In the past, Blizzard would have just despawned the body or had Saurfang cast a spell causing the younger’s spirit to ascend to that great orc encampment in the sky. The development efforts involved in this scene makes it much more touching.

Saurfang Carrying the Younger

The Encounters (so Far)

I can’t say I was a huge fan of the 10-man version of Marrowgar before they changed the damage he did to the tanks. Without a paladin to heal both tanks with beacon, it was a bit rough at times. But that’s more of a class balancing issue than anything else. Disregarding that issue, it’s a simple, but interesting fight. It does recycle some mechanics, notably from Supremus and Leotheras, but that’s okay given that it’s the first boss in the dungeon. I can see this encounter potentially being devestating to tanks on heroic.

Lady Deathwhisper reminds me of Akama, in a sense. You have a stationary target (like the channelers on Akama) and then adds that spawn periodically (some casters, some melee). The adds here are a bit more complicated, however. Some can only be DPSed by casters. Some reflect spells. Once you get through the first phase, you have a phase that goes downhill from there. It’s difficult to tell how this would play out on heroic.

I really love the gunship battle. Absolutely, positively. From rocket packing in bear form while people set up, to actually doing the encounter, it’s all-around great. Even if it is amazingly easy on normal mode, it’s still great fun! My only complaint is the fact that using the rockey pack shifts you out of moonkin and tree form. Everytime you rocket over, you have to re-shift. Which sucks, because using the rocket pack also does damage, making it a useful component to DPS when you’re going form add to add.

In terms of encounter design, I generally like Deathbringer Saurfang. However, it strikes me as the type of encounter that will work very much like Teron Gorefiend, in the sense that you want to stack as much DPS as possible to minimize how chaotic the damage becomes. The faster you kill him, the less damage Saurfang does, the less healing is needed. So might as well just stack 1 healer (so long as they can handle it), 2 tanks, and 7 DPS. I can imagine guilds doing this in the future on normal mode with nothing but enhance shamans healing with instant chain heals. Another awkward thing about the encounter is the fact that melee are somewhat of a liability on DPSing the adds that spawn. It’s fine on 25-man, but on 10-man, you’re not always guaranteed to have three or even two ranged DPSers.

I can’t really get a decent feel for the encounters until I see the entire instance. Encounters are always a hit-and-miss affair. Some are great. Some are poor. Some are okay. So far, my impression is that we have two okay encounters, one great one, and one encounter that is good (but with minor issues).

Gating

Someone asked me in a comment from my previous entry what I thought about gating within dungeons. Gating is the concept that only certain wings of an instance will be open upon the dungeon’s initial release, while others unlock over time. This concept was originally introduced in Sunwell Plateau (SWP), and also found its place in ToC.

Gating

Personally, I’m not at all a fan of the system. I would rather play a dungeon from start to finish, while my sense of wonderment and interest in the dungeon as a whole is at its peak. The same goes for any material from other media. I would rather play an RPG in one week, rather than in fragments over a few months. A movie is far more engrossing if I don’t take breaks every 15 minutes to answer the phone, get a drink, make some dinner, etc. And a book is easier to follow if I’m not putting it down for a week before I pick it up again.

Gating hinders your ability to experience content while it’s still fresh. And so I dislike it. I realize it heightens competition, by giving others a chance to catch up, but if someone wants the take the extra time to move forward after they kill a boss, I say let them. It cheapens other parts of the gameplay experience, otherwise. And, for the most part, the truly skilled guilds will catch up to those who put in the extra time anyway. This happened on Proudmoore with the normal version of Yogg-Saron, where a guild got to him first by raiding 7 days a week, but then placed 11th on their Yogg kill after people burnt out.

So long as the story is meant to play out from the beginning of the dungeon to its end, it should be open from its beginning to its end. We shouldn’t cheapen content in the name of competition or even “getting it out there.” We can use achievements or other mechanics for that (see my previous entry for examples).

Limited Attempts

I already had my rant about limited attempts in my previous entry. I don’t really need to retread what I think about the concept. But to summarize for people who don’t want to read: I think it’s terrible.

Loot

I’m actually a fan of the way loot works in T10 content. T9 was awkward, because waiting for a token to drop before buying T9 was far more efficient than buying the 232 gear and upgrading to 245. With T10, you’re required to buy the lower version before you can purchase the upgrades, ensuring that going for the intermediate upgrade is not detrimental to your badge expenditure. This system is more logical.

As far how the loot is designed, I’m a bit mixed. Restoration druids still have the issue where haste is useless past the cap (except in the rare situation where rapid rejuvenation is a huge boon), and crit is useful only for nourish and regrowth (once you drop 4PT9). Our 4PT10 is really strange. On a basic level, it’s not as good as 4PT9, because it’s not likely to be controlled in regards to who it jumps to. But the extra stats on T10 will likely push it slightly over if you’re looking purely at HPS numbers. In 10-mans, however, I’m thinking T9 might still be better, due simply to the fact that T10 will be overwriting rejuvenations in situations where you’re spamming it.

Moonkin-wise, I’m very happy.

Overall

Get rid of gating and limited attempts, and I think ICC could be the best raid instance Blizzard has yet produced. So far, in terms of lore, art and music, it’s already there. But gameplay-wise, it’s left to be seen where it stands amongst the likes of (in my opinion) Sunwell, TK and heroic Ulduar.

http://www.wowhead.com/?spell=72371

ToGC, and Hardcore Raiding in Wrath of the Lich King

I apologize if this entry seems rushed. That’s because it is. With the release candidate up on the PTR for 3.3, I feel I need to provide criticism well before Tuesday, on the chance we could see 3.3 hit the live servers next week. I feel there are things Blizzard has not considered carefully enough.  Things that have driven some of us away from a part of the game we used to love. So there aren’t any links to help clarify terminology, and explanation is minimal.

To be fair, I think the raiding game is much improved. I like how raiding has become much more accessible with the separation of difficulty between normal and heroic versions of each boss. I like the way Ulduar was designed in terms of the presentation of its story within the dungeon. I love the artistic atmosphere of Ulduar. I originally thought I wouldn’t like it, because I’m not a fan of the old god storyline, but it took me by surprise. I also thought some of the hard modes were well-designed (even if some of them needed to be re-tuned).

But then ToGC was released, and it was like taking one step forward, then a few steps backward. I honestly like that the normal and heroic versions of the instance have separate lockouts. It allows you to experience the normal content, without ruining your ability to attempt the harder versions of each boss. It also promotes a more linear progression route, without hindering a person’s ability to experience the (potential) beauty of a dungeon and the resolution of its various story arcs. And on a very basic level, I actually like the design of the heroic versions of a few bosses. However, everything else I dislike.

I dislike the concept of limited attempts on heroic. Creating an artificial pacing mechanism that limits the time people want to put into various areas of the game is a mistake. And the mechanic also turns what would otherwise be well-designed encounters into frustrating experiences. I dislike how rushed the instance feels. Not artistically, as I don’t actually care that most of the dungeon is just an arena in which to face bosses, but how the encounters were buggy and poorly tuned at release. I also dislike how poorly the Anub’arak storyline concluded, which contributed to a feeling that ToC was rushed.

Some of these issues I think Blizzard could stand to further evaluate. With Icecrown Citadel (ICC hereafter), they’re removing the separation of heroic and normal versions, and I feel that’s a decision that has its ups and downs. They’re still planning to use attempt limitations. Sure, they are making it so your available attempts go up as time passes, but I think they should have explored other options for heightening competition. That said, we are at least taking some more steps forward. It appears ICC will have the most epic storyline presentation for a raid instance to date. And the artwork and atmosphere is comparable to the likes of SWP and Ulduar. What’s more, Blizzard has recognized the fact that achievements like Insanity and Immortality have potential RNG components that could be frustrating for various content, so they are shying away from putting emphasis on them.

But there is, in my opinion, a better way to implement pacing mechanisms that challenge top guilds while allowing mid-level hardcore guilds to do what they want to do on their own time. There is also, in my opinion, a good way to separate normal and heroic versions of the instance without ruining gear pacing for heroic progression. And these are things I feel we, as a community, need to discuss and debate.

Limited Attempts

Imagine you’ve just picked up a new Zelda game. You’ve got the week off, and you’re ready for marathon sessions to beat the game. Like the good gamer you are (yeah, right), you’ve refrained from buying the strategy guide. A few hours into your first playing session, you hit the first boss in the first dungeon and you’re ready to begin figuring it out. The first time, you die because you’re not sure what to do. The second time, you die because there are a couple subtleties you missed. The third time, you die because a new phase takes you by surprise. The fourth time, you die while trying to figure out what to do in the second phase. And the fifth time, you die because of the subtleties of that final phase.

After the fifth death, the game bumps you outside the dungeon. When you try to re-enter, a message pops up on your screen sayng, “You’ve exhausted your attempts at clearing this dungeon. Better luck next week!” At this stage, most gamers experience a sense of disappointment. Being unable to play a game on your time can be frustrating. This is the way I felt whenever we’d run out of attempts in ToGC. You’re not stopping because you’ve exhausted your raid schedule. You’re not stopping because you’ve cleared the instance. You’re not even stopping because the content seems impossible for your guild. You’re stopping because an artificial pacing mechanism forces you to do so.

Limited attempts can also ruin encounters that would otherwise feel well-designed or enjoyable. For example, if attempt limitations were removed, I would probably enjoy the Twin Valk’yr encounter. I think, on a basic level, the RNG component to orbs is what makes it a challenging fight to defeat. It’s similar to the way the RNG components of Kil’jaeden and Archimonde were what made those fights challenging, as well. But when a random situation generated can potentially ruin your attempt count, I find the encounter annoying. When you have to stack for battle rezzes just to have a decent shot at Insanity every week, I cringe. When you have to wait for various cooldowns just to limit the loss of your attempts, so you can progress on Anub’arak, I get annoyed. Without limited attempts, and attempt-based achievements, these feelings disappear.

I understand the desire to heighten the competition for the top guilds in the world. But even people I know in Might (who ranked number two in the world on Immortality), who are former members of Lunacy’s raid, dislike the concept of limited attempts. While it definitely separates the skilled guilds from those who merely brute force their way through content with insane raid comps, bloated raid schedules, or a combination of the two, it has the very detrimental effect of forcing people to stop raiding the content they want to raid and return to content they’ve already exhausted and find boring. Some even choose to simply stop raiding for the rest of the week.

This isn’t at all good for mid-level hardcore raiding guilds (those ranked between 50th and maybe 200th in the U.S.). Most people at this level find normal modes uninteresting and nothing more than content that serves to supplement gear. Their enjoyment is obtained primarily from progressing, and the majority of their progression time is spent on the heroic versions of the newest dungeons. But there’s nothing more anticlimactic and disappointing in a given week than having your attempts run dry. If the first time you reach Anub’arak, you have two days left in your raiding schedule, but only five attempts, it’s quite disconcerting. You want to put in time on that content, but you can only put in so much because you have limited attempts. As a result, people lose a lot of the enjoyment they obtain when raiding such content.

I’d rather Blizzard not risk the well-being of mid-level guilds for the sake of a group of players that don’t even comprise 1% of the raiding population. Who cares if a guild wants to spend 16 hours a day to be number one in the world on an instance clear, when it means mid-level guilds could be happier overall. Some of the guilds that don’t spend as much time as those that do to achieve high rankings often don’t care whether or not they rank well in the world, anyway. And you can still have achievements Immortality, anyway, without limiting the attempts a guild has in a given week. You can still reward guilds for clearing an instance without wiping, without limiting others’ attempts. And there are other mechanics and accomplishments that can heighten competition for guilds, without limiting the raiding time for others who don’t care about such competition and only care about personal progression.

I’d rather see Blizzard overtune bosses initially, then slowly nerf them by doing something like decreasing their health and damage done by 1% each week, instead of limiting attempts. (Obviously, you’d have to set a floor per encounter to keep it from falling over dead by default, and to prevent it from becoming too easy, however.)

Insanity and Immortality

Personally, I’m okay with the inclusion of Insanity and Imortality-based achievements, so long as the raiding community can decide whether or not such achievements are major progression points. I think Immortality is too RNG-based to really be a basis for ranking guilds sequentially, even though accomplishing the achievement is definitely a testament to a raid’s skill (and composition). But because RNG can contribute to failure in that area, it is not something I believe you can use to make a distinction between the first and second place guilds. One guild could have had vortexes during the downtime between each mass orb spawn in their first week of seriously trying Immortality, while the other could have had vortexes during orb spawns that same week. The high-end community is typically smart enough to recognize these realities, and it is usually reflected on sites like WoWProgress.

I definitely think people shouldn’t be rewarded with gear for achievements that are highly dependent on RNG, in any case. A mount for Immortality is fine. But I’d like to see more rewards for other, clear-cut testaments to skill. I would much prefer people get an extra piece of loot for doing a speed kill of a heroic boss. I’m also fine with rewarding guilds for not losing anyone on a specific fight. This would give guilds multiples ways of exhibiting their skills and heightening competition, while minimizing potentially frustrating situations that individual encounters can often create. I’m not saying Insanity falls into the category of RNG, I definitely think the achievement is doable nearly every week, because you can counter the RNG with things like battle rezzes and raid comp. But Immortality definitely has a very high RNG component to it. But less emphasis on rewarding achievements susceptible to RNG is needed.

The interesting thing is, however, that you would need to separate achievements based on whether or not you’re doing the normal or heroic versions of an encounter. For example, a speed kill achievement of Yogg-Saron exists. However, that requires you to forego doing the heroic version of Yogg-Saron. So this why I also advocate putting the normal and heroic versions of a boss on separate lockouts. Or, alternatively, they could change the parameters of an achievement for each version–that way, you still get the achievement, without having to sacrifice your ability to do the heroic version if that’s what you would prefer. Such deserves more discussion in the “normal and heroic difficulties” section.

Heroic and Normal Difficulties

I’m a very big fan of the concept of having normal and heroic versions of each boss. By doing so, you can make raiding accessible at the normal level, and allow casual players to witness the development of various storylines, while maintaining the ability to challenge guilds with a hardcore disposition and creating more enjoyable content for them through heroic modes.

There is, however, an issue of how you separate these difficulties. Yogg-Saron I think was an interesting case, having five different levels of difficulty, each progressively more difficult than another. This is in and of itself an interesting design, and I honestly really loved the way Alone in the Darkness played out in terms of challenge and enjoyability. I know caster classes might disagree with me, but it was definitely fun and interesting for me as a healer accompanying the illusion room DPSers and then healing through the crazy damage in phase three.

But I also like the idea of putting normal and heroic versions on separate lockouts. By doing so, you make the heroic content more linear, and this creates a more intriguing grounds for competition, as people can’t skip ahead to other bosses and snipe realm firsts. I suppose you could still have different levels of difficulty even if you separated the lockouts of normal and heroic, though. Yogg4 would be in the normal version, while Yogg0/1/2/3 would exist in the heroic version. And having variable difficulty levels for final and optional bosses is something I support.

But I think in order to make this a reality, you need to design gear with lockout separation in mind. Otherwise, gear inflation becomes a problem. The obvious way to address this issue (to me) would simply be to make gear obtained from the normal version of an instance the same item level as the gear obtained from the heroic version of previous content. The same, likewise, for the heroic version of gear obtained from the 10-man. Gear in and of itself is a big issue, though.

Gearing

I think one of the things I find frustrating is that you often have to go back to older or easier content to get items that are BIS (best in slot). If you want to have a full set of BIS gear for a moonkin, for example, you need the GVH trinket, 2PT8 from Ulduar, and a ring from ToGC10. 2PT8 should no longer be requisite in 3.3, though I haven’t done any spreadsheeting to make sure that’s really the case (and probably won’t, because spreadsheeting moonkin DPS accurately is difficult, as our rotation doesn’t have a solid pattern).

Blizzard really should make every item in a 25-man heroic a direct upgrade from 10-man heroic, and also do the same for the normal versions. This way, 10-mans wouldn’t be requisite for hardcore competition, though they would still provide a way to supplement gear.

The way I see it, item level progression should have gone as follows:

  • 213: Uld10 Normal
  • 226: Uld10 Heroic, Uld25 Normal, ToC10
  • 239: Uld25 Heroic, ToC25 , ToGC10
  • 245: ToGC25

This in and of itself has its flaws, of course. Blizzard wants people to feel compelled to upgrade their gear each time new content is released, so this wouldn’t compel people to go from Uld25H to ToC25 to do so. So some separation between the previous heroic and the new content’s normal version might be called for. But then time spent in the previous heroic might seem wasted, because the normal versions are typically so easy you can PUG them, which is why I advocate the normal version of new content dropping gear that’s the same item level as the previous content’s heroic gear.

Class Raiding Balance

For the most part, I think Blizzard has done a decent job with class balance in Wrath. Yes, some classes have been, at various points, overpowered or underpowered. But more attention is being paid to the issue than was being done in both vanilla and TBC. They don’t always make the right decisions (4PT9 and pestilence remained situationally overpowered for DK’s in raiding all throughout 3.2), but they at least make decisions with much more frequency that before. And that’s more than nearly all other MMO companies out there do these days.

The Raiding Game Overall

Overall, I like the increase in accessibility to raiding. During TBC, a lot of the content in raid instances was exclusive only to a small amount of players. Even after 3.0, the number of people who actually got to see Kil’jaeden was still relatively small. People can surely go back to Sunwell nowadays, but it doesn’t come at all close to the experience of doing it at level 70. The look and feel of the Eredar Twins room holds much less important if people just barrel through the content without even blinking. So the increase in accessibility is a cool thing.

I also think the “gear reset” that happens with new content is a good thing. Back in vanilla WoW, you had to essentially guild hop just to meet the requirements for guilds running Naxxramas. For new players to the game, this was a rather arduous task. So having decent gear readily available to help prepare people to enter or re-enter hardcore raiding I also consider a decent concept.

The basic concept of heroic versions of a boss is also good. Yes, admittedly, it does make the experience a tad cheapened when you’ve already seen the boss and its fundamental mechanics on normal. But I still really enjoyed defeating Yogg0 for the first time, and heroic modes are a great way to accomplish the increase in accessibility I also like. And nothing says Blizzard can’t design the heroic mechanics to be completely different from the normal version, while still maintaining the same artistic and story-based elements that exist in normal. That’s something Blizzard could certainly consider.

But the raiding game needs tweaks–some serious, some minor. I think limited attempts need to go, and better concepts need to be employed. More consideration in hardcore content needs to be given to mid-level guilds.

ToGC’s failures and the resulting frustrations of people need to serve as an example on which the raiding game can be improved. While I am no longer planning to be involved in that part of the game, it’s still important for the game’s overall health. Let mine and others’ frustrations, criticisms and praise serve as something for Blizzard to consider for the future development of WoW. By voicing out opinions, we can help Blizzard design Cataclysm to please as many people as possible.

Memories of Lunacy’s Raid

To accompany my personal farewell, I just want to reflect on Lunacy’s relatively brief history. Our highlights include:

  • U.S. 49th Kalecgos.
  • U.S. 50th Brutallus.
  • U.S. 40th M’uru.
  • U.S. 64th Kil’jaeden.
  • U.S. 52nd Lose Your Illusion.
  • U.S. 45th Steelbreaker (no VW cheese).
  • U.S. 57th Heartbreaker.
  • U.S. 60th GVH.
  • U.S. 56th Yogg1.
  • U.S. 85th Yogg0.
  • We also placed fairly well on 5-minute Malygos, but WoWProgress no longer has that on record.

We did this all while raiding on merely 20 hours a week (only more than 20 hours roughly three times each expansion).

Lunacy was a fresh guild at the beginning of TBC. Its birth was a result of my desire to create my own guild, and a friend’s willingness to help me co-lead. We started with only a small handful of players looking to raid hardcore at the beginning of TBC and built the guild from scratch. We managed to get the server second clear of Karazhan, and the best legitimate attempt of Gruul on the server pre-nerf (5%), despite the fact that we had only just managed to build the guild to a level where we could raid 25-man content.

We started getting realm firsts with our kill of Hydross, and from there we succeeded to do so on every boss except Lurker (because the guild that beat us did him first, while we focused on harder bosses), and Illidan (due to tank attrition).

The guild’s atmosphere was relaxed, but not to a point where performance suffered. We had really only a few people with questionable attitudes, and they didn’t dominate our otherwise friendly and crazy shenanigans.

Tempest Keep was really where we hit our stride. We took off entire raiding days to do marathon heroic sessions to make sure people were prepared for attunement. Our kill of Kael’thas was three weeks before the next guild on Proudmoore. And the same happened in Hyjal with our kill of Archimonde. A crew of 19 people stuck around after our Kael’thas kill to knock off Rage before the reset so we could be ready to do BT comfortably the following week.

We had our bumps at the end of Black Temple, however, with the guild that beat us putting in extra time while we suffered because we had only three tanks to work with (one of which was often two hours late to the raid). We only lost by 30 minutes, despite the fact that we didn’t put in extra time on BT at all, except a handful of us who would farm trash for hearts. We put in a grand total of two extra hours on Hyjal for the early attunement push.

Fortunately, people in the guild recognized our strengths and didn’t let the loss get to them. As a result, our first week in SWP was extremely strong. We got the U.S. 49th kill of Kalecgos and 50th of Brutallus.

But we stumbled greatly on Felmyst, dropping down to 121st. It exposed the weaknesses we had in terms of situational awareness. But we were determined not to let that happen on subsequent kills, and sat people who did not meet our standards of performance in that regard. This allowed us to improve by 51 places on the Eredar Twins (70th in the U.S.) and M’uru (40th in the U.S.).

Kil’jaeden was also a stumbling point, again showing our weaknesses in terms of situational awareness. But the people who had major problems on Felmyst showed improvement and we still managed the 64th kill in the U.S., despite the fact that we were often running with barely enough people to attempt the encounter, much less repeat M’uru before the major nerf.

Come Wrath, we started having major problems. A lot of our stronger players used the transition from one expansion to another to step away from WoW or raiding. Some of our stronger players remained, but we had gaping holes to fill. And we were never the same. We went through a lot of truly mediocre recruits to find some good ones, but we never found enough to man full raids every day in our schedule, despite the fact that we lowered our standards slightly just so we could man full raids enough to progress.

It’s amazing to me, however, that despite our problems, we were still managing a lot of top 100 kills in the U.S. for Ulduar hard modes, and even one in the top 50. It made me wonder what we could have accomplished had we not taken such a huge hit between expansions.

Alas, our problems slowly caught up to us, and this version of the raid is no more.

There were a lot of fun moments. Even in Wrath. It is thanks to nearly all members of Lunacy’s raid, past and present. Admittedly, not all of you, but roughly 98%. Thanks for making the time spent well worth it! I leave you with some of the videos of our fond memories.

A Farewell to (Hardcore) Raiding

This likely won’t come as a surprise to people on Proudmoore who have already heard the news, but my time as a hardcore raider is over. Lunacy’s existence as a hardcore raiding guild is also finished (though I add “for now,” since we still exist as a social entity and a raid could form under the tag in the future).

The reasons I’m stepping back from the hardcore raiding scene are several. Prime in my reasoning is simply life. However, I still would have stepped away in the future, regardless. This is because the mid-level hardcore raiding atmosphere is extremely stressful and I was losing a lot of the enjoyment that used to come with hardcore raiding. I have to admit ToGC’s design also played a role in my loss of interest.

This So-Called “Real Life” Has Me Running

I don’t think the audience of a gaming blog would be very receptive to the story of my life. You’re here for insight into WoW and the act of playing it. If anything, you probably read this and other blogs because you can’t stand reading people’s personal blogs. But as it is a reason for stepping back, and stepping away from raiding will affect this blog’s content, I owe a short summary of why my life is getting hectic. So here goes:

  1. I’m finishing my BA in English.
  2. Afterwards, I will be applying to enter an MFA program in creative writing.
  3. I’d like to take running more seriously.
  4. Related to #1 and #2, I’ll be taking my writing from hobby to serious pursuit.

However, though I have plans, I don’t have expectations. I don’t expect to become a famous author of bestselling novels, or a Hollywoord screenwriter. I don’t expect to become an Olympic marathoner, though I’d love to break my personal bests. I just want to finish my degree and try things that will either work or not, be it journalism, commissioned writing, teaching, or something I don’t expect.

These are things I cannot do while maintaining a rigorous raiding schedule, much less while leading a hardcore guild. Gaming needs to take a back seat.

Wrath’s Mid-Level Hardcore Raiding Atmosphere Was Extremely Stressful

It’s difficult to talk about issues concerning the raiding atmosphere without being candid about recent events within my guild. However, because Lunacy still exists (albeit casually), I don’t feel comfortable discussing even vague examples that could be applied by our current and former members to specific incidents that may have occurred, no matter how accurate or inaccurate.

So I’ll use ambiguity.

I hate drama. I hate snark. I hate irrationality. I hate not having the tools to deal with people who have problems, be they attitude- or performance-related, because you worry about not being able to replace that person swiftly. When the major reason your guild exists is to progress and defeat bosses at all levels of difficulty, it’s difficult to potentially put yourself in a position where you can’t do that. People who joined to progress become unhappy when you can’t kill bosses, and when that happens you risk falling apart.

On the other hand, if you keep the people with attitude problems around, you risk driving others away. And if you lower your performance standards, you hurt your progression. So by not doing anything, you also risk the guild falling apart.

If I had 5 or 6 people waiting on the bench every night, the course of action would have been obvious. But because raiding is now much more accessible than it was before, mid-level hardcore guilds are bleeding members left and right. So you have a glut of guilds, and a shortage of recruits. Fixing problems becomes extremely difficult when that happens, as you become a victim of the situation.

It’s not Blizzard’s fault, however. The increase in accessibility to raiding is a good thing in the long-term. But it’s created a short-term problem with a glut of guilds and a shortage of hardcore raiders that I don’t think will resolve itself until Cataclysm’s release.

ToGC’s Design Problems

There are several reasons I dislike ToGC:

  • Limited attempts.
  • How the random mechanics of certain fights can affect your attempt count.
  • How the awkward AI on a couple fights can be a frustrating component that results in losing attempts.
  • Warriors in full block gear taking half the damage of a protadin in better overall gear.
  • How rushed it felt, with major changes needed on three of the heroic encounters shortly after the heroic modes opened (Northrend Beasts, Jaraxxus and the Twin Valks).

These issues warrant a much larger entry. A mere list of issues does not accurately summarize my thoughts in detail. For example, I wouldn’t care about RNG-based difficulty if the attempt system didn’t exist. In any case, I much prefer different design concepts, and I’ll express my full thoughts in a post as soon as possible (I want to try to get something out there before next Tuesday, as the PTR has a release candidate version going up).

So Where Do I Go from Here?

Honestly, I’m not sure where I’ll be going from here. There are so many conflicting issues going on, I just don’t know where I’ll be several months from now.

I really want to set up a serious PvP crew on Proudmoore (something that hasn’t been done for a very long time), but I worry about having to turn down people in Lunacy who just wouldn’t make the cut (the types that run off for HK’s instead of being there to assist the flag carrier in WSG).

I want to set up a serious 3v3 team, but I’m not sure my current plans will follow through the way I want them to. And I’m not sure Proudmoore will provide me with the tools to create a team as successful as I’d like, if the current plans don’t work out.

At the same time, I don’t want transfer off, because that would hurt my ability to rebuild the social side of Lunacy.

And then Cataclysm is likely to change the game in extreme ways. So I have no idea what I’ll be doing until I know what Cataclysm is actually going to change and introduce.

What I do know is that I’ll be playing much more casually than I was before.

What’s in Store for the Blog?

Stepping away from raiding means I won’t be writing about how well or poorly a boss is designed if I don’t experience it. But the blog is changing (and has already changed) for reasons more than just me stepping away form raiding.

To be honest, I’ve found it difficult to write about a game in the MMO industry with any sort of enthusiasm. It used to be that I was excited about a lot of things. I was even planning to develop my own web site, the details of which I’m going to keep under wraps, in case I end up going down that road if other life plans don’t work out. But the volatility behind the development of games in the industry has me weary, so I’d rather try other possibilities in my life first and not spend so much of my focus on it.

That said, I still enjoy parts of WoW. And the blog still exists. So I will write about it. But I probably won’t bother addressing topics like how Arthas is an antithetical version of King Arthur. It’s very possible Blizzard could have gone down that road. But then you know some head designer is going to say “No, scrap that! It wouldn’t make for an interesting raid encounter!”

I’m not saying the designer is wrong. You want an interesting encounter for the last boss in an expansion. Entertainment is as important as story. Take PvP, for example. PvP is a source of entertainment. And there needs to be a reason for PvP to exist in the game, even if Garrosh and Varian are extremely superficial characters.

I’ve merely come to the conclusion that various parts of the game won’t ever be exactly the way I want them. No matter how much I advocate the practice, I don’t think story arcs will ever be fully contained within the world of WoW. There will always be something introduced I won’t like. In short, “You can’t please everyone.” This is simply how MMO design and development works. And so I’ve lost some enthusiasm, and I won’t be going out of my way to write about certiain things anymore. You might have noticed I haven’t done that for almost a year, now. But I will probably write more than I have lately, at least.

In any case, I’ll be around.