Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Look Back at Wrath of the Lich King

Cataclysm is being released in just over a month. The Balance tree seems to be finished for Cataclysm from Blizzards point of view. I've killed every 25man boss on hard mode and completed all of the meta achievements. I am officially in a holding pattern just waiting for Cataclysm.

Not only am I in a holding pattern in the game, but the blog is in a bit of a holding pattern as well. There just isn't much to talk about at the moment, and looking at the other moonkin bloggers they seem to feel the same way. I took a look back at what I wrote before WotLK came out to try and get some ideas, and the only one that popped out was my expansion in review post. So, lets take a look back at WotLK.

Favorite 5man:
The Nexus - To be honest I had a hard time picking my favorite 5man instance because none of hem really stuck out, but I always thought The Nexus was pretty well done. It had a decent length, and a nice variety of bosses with interesting mechanics. I wouldn't say I absolutely loved the instance, but if all the Cataclysm instance turned out like The Nexus I would be happy.

Least Favorite 5man: It's a Tie.
Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom - This one is a little funny because I actually listed Herald Volazj as a fun fight in my WotLK first impressions post two years ago. However, I have to include it as one of my least favorite instances, because every time it popped up on the LFD tool, I was disappointed. I could handle Oculus and Halls of Stone without a problem, but Old Kingdom was always a pain in the neck. I think it's because everyone seemed to do it a little differently. I never knew what bosses or trash we were doing, plus I suffered through some truly horrible tanks in this instance.

Trial of the Champion - Overall it was a horribly designed instance. I am not someone who is against vehicle fights, but the jousting mechanic sucked. It was a basic free-for-all that didn't really require any control or skill. When you finally got off the horses, the three mobs you had to kill were basic tank and spanks. Eadric the Pure and Confessor Paletress were only a slight improvement. The Black night did have a little flavor and complexity to him, but in my opinion it was too little too late. Combine this with massively long RP and this instance became incredibly boring.

Favorite Raid:
Ulduar - I didn't like everything about Ulduar, but it was easily the best designed Raid Instance in WotLK. Most of the bosses where well designed and there was great variety. The hard modes in most cases actually changed the way the fight worked. The fights were tuned really well. My biggest complaint about Ulduar is that ToC was released to early and pushed it to the back burner before a lot of good guilds had a chance to complete it.

Least Favorite Raid:
Naxxramus - Just so you get a better sense of where I'm coming from, I never raided Naxx before WotLK. My first experience with it was in early December 2008, but Naxx's two big problems became apparent very quickly.

First, Naxx was way to easy. I understand that it is a first tier raid, but other then a couple of bosses like Thadius it provided almost no challenge. This was before the addition of Hard Modes as a rule, so there is no way that so many guilds should have been able and clear the instance in it's first week of real attempts.

The second problem Naxxramus had was that it was a relic of an earlier time. Have you ever had a friend or parent tell you how great this old movie is and then not see what all the fuss is about when you actually watch it? That is how I feel about Naxxramus. I understand why they brought it back, I understand why it was great back in the day, but it clearly didn't live up to more current design standards. Most of the Naxx bosses had only one or two mechanics that you really had to pay attention to. If you take a look at Karazhan, Gruul and Mag, you can see that the fights were much more complicated. Naxx was great in its day, but on fortunately it's day had passed.

Favorite Fight:
Mimiron - Mimiron is probably going to top almost everyone's list, but I am having a hard time identifying a better fight. On normal mode it was a complicated four phase fight that required a lot of coordination. On hard mode, the addition of the fire made it insane. Having limited and unpredictable space forced the raid to think on the fly and adapt the strategy on an attempt by attempt basis. I was very frustrated at times with this fight, but it was also very satisfying.

Runner Up: Malygos - I know some of you will disagree with me on this but I thought Malygos was a great fight. Phase one was fun and interesting trying to manage the sparks for additional DPS. Phase 2 was a nice balancing act of keeping your self safe, but trying to kill the disks as fast as possible. Phase three was a great example of a vehicle fight done right in my opinion. It was a little difficult operating in a 3D environment but there were clear ways to succeed and clear ways to fail. Overall, a very well designed encounter in my opinion.

Least Favorite Fight:
Hodir - It's a little funny that my least favorite fight comes from my favorite raid instances, but the Hodir fight annoys me to no end. My problem with it was that there was no difference between normal mode and Hard mode. It really should have been called lazy mode and normal mode, because if you couldn't be bothered to figure out how the buffs worked and try and use them to your advantage then you were lazy. The other big problem was that it was easy to fail the hard mode but kill the boss on accident. There nothing like ruining a raid night because your DoTs kill a boss a couple of seconds to late.

Most Disappointing Fight:
Gunship - I could easily call Gunship my least favorite fight, but it fails so much that it deserves its own category. I think what's most disappointing about this fight is that it sounded awesome when they mentioned it at Blizzcon, but it turned out to be completely face roll. I think they were trying to make another fight like Karazhan's Chess encounter, but Gunship had several problems Chess didn't. First, a large number of players spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for adds to spawn. I was so bored on one of my kills I spent the entire time trying to see how high I could get on the horde boat as an Alliance Player. The second problem was that all of the mechanics lacked teeth. While the boss and some of the adds could hit hard there was much to worry about for the raid as a whole. Heck, you could stand in void zones and no one would care. Finally there was no reasonable way to fail the encounter other then a mistake by a key player like a tank.

Best Moment:
Getting Immortal - Wrath of the Lich King is littered with horror stories about the Immortal achievement. I can probably only look back on it fondly because I eventually completed it while it was still relevant, but it was a monumental effort. We spent weeks on it, and had countless near misses with single deaths KT or some other stupid boss. We finally got it on April 1st just a couple of weeks before Ulduar was released and earned the T7 Meta mounts. It was an awesome feeling to complete that achievement, and clearly showed LoE was an awesome guild despite raiding half the time that most other guilds did.

A lot of people like to say Immortal was all about RNG. I agree that there is a decent chunk of RNG involved, but to say that it's all about RNG is just an excuse. When we failed one week, we figured out how not to fail like that again next week. If we couldn't trust some one to do what was needed they got sat. Overall, this achievement taught me to think about my own survival. I probably wouldn't be the raider I am today without it.

What Blizzard did right in WotLK:
Adding hard modes - The balance and design of Hard Modes hasn't always been right, but the concept is a home run in my opinion. I am not one of those people who thinks you have to be hardcore to see content, and with hard modes it's possible to provide difficult content for those interested in the progression race and regular content for those that just want to see content without being hardcore.

Balancing on the fly - Before WotLK the philosophy seemed to be that balancing should primarily happen when you release a new expansion. As a moonkin I would look at every patch hoping for a little buff here or a little buff their, but they rarely came. In WotLK the philosophy clearly changed, and it was for the better in my opinion. I love that, Blizzard was willing to make adjustment through out the expansion when they were needed. Now that we are on the door step to Cataclysm, I'm not worried that not all of the issues have been fixed. I'm now confident that Blizzard will continue to look at the problems and make adjustments when necessary.

What Blizzard did wrong in WotLK:
Wimping out on Hard modes - As I said above I think hard modes are a great addition to the game, but towards the end of the expansion Blizzard seemed to get lazy in their design. In Ulduar, doing a hard mode actually changed the fight. In most cases the bosses gained new abilities or a mechanic was added that changed the way the fight worked. After Ulduar most of the hard modes could be summed up in one statement: "The boss hits harder and more adds spawn." With a couple of exceptions the ICC strats didn't change much from normal mode to hard mode. So, all hard modes meant was that you were wiping to the thing you killed last week for 13 more ilevel points.

No sense of progression in WotLK raids - I'm having a hard time describing what I mean. In TBC, guilds progressed from Kara, Mag, and Gruul to SSC and TK, and then to Hyjal and BT. A guild could progress at its own pace and there was a purpose for completing content before moving on to the next one. In WotLK, once Ulduar was released Naxxramus was dead. As much as ToC sucked, it pretty much halted relevant Ulduar progression, and so one. Once a new patch comes out there is little incentive to go back and see the old content in anyway that is challenging.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Blizzard should go back to the big TBC style attunement quests, but I would like to see something that forces guilds and/or players to progress rather then start again as if the 3 month break they just took didn't happen. I think it would be possible to create a reasonable system with guild wide attunements and possibly restricting them to hard modes, but I think it's a little to easy to get into the highest level of progression currently.

Future Plans:
I do have a couple posts planned for the time between now and the release of Cataclysm. I hope to have a new gear guide up before the release of Cataclysm. My raid guide should also be fairly easy to update for level 85 and patch 4.0.3. I also have a post on Leveling guides written that I will post once I know a little bit more about the various 80-85 being sold. I'm also thinking about a couple of other pieces like "Blizzard's unfinished Moonkin business" and a "Cata preview" from my experiences on the Beta.


Anonymous said...

I agree with virtually everything in this post.

I think a good way to keep old content relevant would be to do away with the idea that every new raid= a FULL new set of gear. Each new major raid would add a few new BiS pieces for each class. Now, I guess guilds could still jump into the "highest" raid strait off, but they would experience the entire expansion's content throughout the life of the expansion, rather than grinding heroics and skipping almost every raid. Later raids could still be harder, but they would be harder more because of higher skill requirement than higher gear requirement.

Tsuki said...

Getting Immortal was the pinnacle of WotLK for me. I hadn't heard such nerdscreaming since a guild-first Rag kill years ago, and I'm yet to hear it again... My group didn't even cheer after finally getting Tribute to Insanity, it felt more like the end of a nightmare.

And I definitely agree about Mimiron, what a damn fun fight. Keeps you on your toes for 10min straight, no matter what role you are or how good you gear is. Too bad no one in my (old) guild would share this sentiment :(

Mike said...

I have an alt Ret Pally that has never set foot in a raid decked out in 264 gear. As much as collecting the emblems has become the prime motivation to doing the heroics I kind of miss the days when it felt like I truly earned the gear. This is my only real disappointment in WoTLK.

voz said...

Most people would agree with you on why you liked and disliked some of the content in WotLK. Mimiron will always hold a special place in everyone’s heart as the really unique encounter.
Some of the topics you touched on were complete failures and some were very good, here is a quick view on what some of those are:
Success's in wrath:
Hard Modes - Hard modes basically doubled the content, and gave hard core guilds some challenges to work at.
Unique Encounters - Unlike classic, and TBC, Wrath has had very complex and interesting mechanics added to fights.

While I understand MMO's dont have a set path, and blizzard was testing new features, a huge chunk of Wraths failures were in part due to the high gear jumps and overall game flow designed for 'casual players'
Wraths Failures:
No sense of progression - I can not put it into better words, Wrath had no progression, every guild and every pug was able to do new content with in a week of its release. I figure the reason is the huge gear jumps between content. While the Trial of the Crusader flowed with the theme of Wrath and seemed very good on paper, the design in the end product was a decline from Ulduar, which was the greatest instance (IMO) in Wrath. The energy and time it took to make a legendary such as val'anyr was a down grade from ToC25 items is evident of the gear gap between content. This made older raids pointless to run.
Game mechanics - The boss mechanics were better the in both classic and TBC, however, the ability tanks have unlimited agro & rage, and healers with unlimited mana made the game mechanics work not as well as they could have. Blizzard even realized the problem with massive gear gaps between content as they had to apply a 20% dodge debuff in ICC. (I am aware that Blizzard is fixing this in Cata, doesn't change the fact it was a problem in wrath)
Hard Modes- Hard modes should be HARD. Chances are if you are a casual player, you know that you are a casual player, and should not expect to be downing the hard core content a month after it comes out.
ICC - Personally, I did not find ICC enjoyable, at all. The layout was too much like Naxx, which was a failure (as graylo stated) and the features were only a test to see how players would react to them, such as the lock out system (40 trys and your screwed for the week, and the zone buff) ICC was suppose to be the conclusion to the dramatic rise of the arthas into lich king after personally watching him kill his father and destroy his kingdom. The start of everything was in WC3 the frozen throne, released july 1, 2003 ... that was 7 years ago. The conclusion to the main thread that held much of the warcraft universe together should not be a place to have experimental mechanics, and week hardmodes for 'casual players'. ICC would have been a good raid if it was not the ending of an epic storyline. In short, ICC feel a mile below its own lore.
TL:DR. ICC sucked, Hard modes should be hard, Gear was too strong in new content making lots of problems and taking away the sense of progression.
p.s. sorry for my spelling.

Sarge @ the.movies said...

I agree with most things you stated.
In retrospect Ulduar was the best raid and it's a real shame, that ToC was released to early.
My casual guild never finished Ulduar properly, because most people are just interested in BiS purples.

Yeah Mimiron:
Painful experience learning the fight, but one of the greatest feelings of joy on the first kill.
We returned a few months later with a twink raid and one shoot him, which was totally unexpected.

As to atunement: I don't think there's much Blizz can improve about it without shutting casuals out.

Overall I'm very happy with WotLK.
Something I really hope to improve is the timing for the raids.
Early raids where rushed out and ICC was on for 12 months - that's just not right.

Berdache said...

Again I agree with on most of your points, Ulduar and Mimiron (still love the fight) being top of my list too and the use of hard modes to differentiate between hard core guilds and the rest, so the rest of us can actually see content.

What I would disagree with you is with progression. With too much progression (ie forcing people to gear up using old raids) once an expansion is underway a fair few guilds would not be able to progress through content .. but players would by leaving one guild to join another.

I was in such a feeder guild in vanilla, ever time we got close to moving up to the next raid several key (and well geared) people whould leave and we would have to start gearing up new people. I was soul destroying.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that the WotLK model worked to make all but the current raid obsolete, and that this was a shame (especially where Ulduar was concerned). I'm not sure how to fix it though.

In BC, you definitely felt like you advanced from raid to raid, in part because of the attunements, and in part because you needed the gear from raid x-1 in order to have a chance in raid x. This model was great in that it made players and guilds feel like they were accomplishing something, and in that it really encouraged all raiders to see all raid content (as opposed to skipping Naxx and Ulduar, which is the norm these days).

However, it also resulted in a system where very few people (compared to WotLK) raided, and where it was quite difficult to get an alt geared to the point of raiding current content. Every time, you had to start from square one all over again.

I guess I'd be in favor of a mixed system of guild attunements. I think that some basic attunement quests are actually pretty neat. It just when they get to be as long and tricky as the Onyxia line that it starts to act as a real barrier. If each raid was linked to a friendly NPC faction, perhaps guilds could do some basic quest lines (perhaps culminating in one of the new semi-difficult, rapidly respawning outdoor bosses) to get access to the raid. Then, in order to get access to the next raid, the guild would either need to down the final boss of the current raid, or else run it a sufficient number of times to do something like get exalted rep with the linked npc faction. This would allow skilled guilds or alt guilds to move up the chain more quickly, while still providing a way for more casual guilds to advance even if they never finish off the final boss.

The problem, of course, is that any sort of attunement has the potential to wreak havoc with PUGs. The system could work in a couple of ways. First, each player could get account-wide attunement whenever any of their characters had either completed an individual attunement chain, or was in a guild that was attuned. Second, PUGs could enter any raid that the raid leader had access to. Or third, there could be some special way to designate PUG raids (like choosing between normal/heroic) so that they would not require attunement, but so that the final boss was not available (or something like that).

Just my two cents. I'm guessing Blizzard will simply continue making each raid completely eclipse the prior ones. This takes away from the feeling of advancement and accomplishment, but does allow more people to, at least in theory, see the content.


Bolink said...

Just ran a Nexus is a fun 5 man. There is enough danger to keep you on your toes without having to be too overly concerned. The bosses are different enough to keep it interesting. I like the final boss as's a bit odd that everyone runs around jumping like fools but what the heck? Nice summery of WOTLK.

Voink said...

Excellent post, Graylo. Although we as a guild never 'finished' Ulduar while it was still progression, we had several weeks of stalled attempts during summer and exam time and most of our guild didn't seem interested in finishing it. But it was by far my favorite raid, too.

I'd be hyprocritical in agreeing on the progression thing even if I agreed with it in principle, since the factor of not needing to do every raid was probably the only reason we progressed as far as we did. I'd like to think a balance between BC's hardcore manifesto and WoTLK's facepalm type easy is needed.

Anonymous said...

The BC progression system was quite hellish for a lot of guilds trying to recruit. You often had to put up with weeks of gearing up recruits just to see if they would work at all. I think you are forgetting what an insane guild killer that system was in the very endgame :)

Nostalgia can do tricky things!

Shyner said...

I think one of the reasons it felt like progression was because they had multiple instances out for each tier.

T4-Kara, Gruuls, Mag
Random Instance-ZA

BT was clearably in a couple of days one you had it on farm. SWP was clearable in 1 night. Guilds are clearing 12/12 HM ICC in 1 night now.

Having multiple instances of the same tier gave guilds more to do while still gearing up. Also having an instance with fewer bosses, but making them harder, gives more sense of accomplishment, like SWP. BT was good because it had some challenging (but not overly) encounters, and it also had a couple "gimmie" fights. ICC has a lot of "gimmie" fights, and only 1 real challenge. I'm hoping they design Cata raids more like they did TBC..

Conghaile said...

I initially agreed with what you said about progression, but then I read Silinix's comment and had a revelation: if it weren't for the current model, my guild would be dead in the water. Our guild schedule is very similar to yours; we only raid 25's twice a week for 3 hours and do marginally well (10/12 HMs at time of 4.0.1). We had a long lull right in the middle of 3.3 where people started falling off of the enthusiasm bus. We were stuck on LK with a solid core of capable players, but just not enough to fill a raid. As we belong to a low population faction, we did not have a big pool to gather from; and very few out there would have been nearly as well progressed as we were. We had a big recruitment drive that ended up netting us a fair number of good players in only slightly less than ideal gear. These are the kind of players that would not have been recruitable in significant numbers until the beginning of a new expansion in the old model. We were thus able to get right back on our feet and take off into heroic modes instead of having to give up and wait until Cataclysm to recruit effectively.

--G! said...

I respectfully disagree that Naxx was too easy. My guild of casuals took weeks to get Heigan & zombie puppy at gear appropriate. Maybe it was too easy for experienced raiders - but it was tuned just right for people who never raided in their lives.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I think TOC was really the worst raid ever done in WoW.
Naxx was bad because everyone was expecting a mix between old Naxx and Kara, but what was really there was a lolNaxx. It was poorly thought out and poorly implemented. ToC was just a joke. And a bad one.

Still, a lot of guilds couldnt clear it for a while and some achievements there are still hard to get.

Tsuds said...

I leveled my main and first alt a little behind the rest of my guild feeling almost constantly like the little sister scrambling to catch up with the older brothers while they did Kara and so on. By the time I started raiding we dove straight into Naxx, emblem collecting and hit ICC. I feel like I've missed out on something by not having to be attuned and by not needing really to progress from one raid to the next (although in retrospect it would have been a darn good idea as I suspect I'd be a better raider).