Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Raiding used to be easier

Considering Blizzard intend to remove Zul'Gurub when Cataclysm comes, I have gotten a good reason to become old and nostalgic, reminiscing the good old raiding days of ZG.

I remember my first runs in there, killing Venoxis (without much trouble), wiping our asses off on Arlokk and I never actually got to see Hakkar. My brother played quite alot back then and he was part of a serious endgame raiding guild. Everyone wanted the trinkets back then - the one you got from Heart of Hakkar. They where frickin awesome.

Now ZG is mainly visited by crazy people who want to make level 60 rp raid runs (yes they exist) and the manic mount collectors (who will cry tears of blood if they don't get that mount before Cataclysm). Love was one of them, but he at least was lucky enough to get the Tiger Mount, so he wont weep as much about not getting the Raptor mount I think.

Ah ZG. That was how raiding was supposed to be. But wait a minute. Is that really true? Let's go back and tell the whole story.

Back then I wasn't part of a raiding guild. I don't think I was part of much at all. The only times I got to raid was when some endgame raiding guild was desperate for healers. As far as I know I wasn't even healing specced as I mainly played a shadow priest. Unfortunately Shadow was a completely unviable spec for raiding, for game design reasons (such as Mind Blast having extra high threat and other silly things like it). If I ever wanted to do an instance or raid it was going to be as a healer. Was I a good healer? Probably not. I doubt it. Did I know anything about raid tacs or how to heal efficiently in a raid? Hah, in your dreams buddy. This meant I didn't raid much, but I could've raided more if I wanted to, healers were hard to come by even then! I did some runs into MC and some runs into ZG, never got the chance for Naxx and BWL before BC came though. Even funnier was that Love healed in MC as a feral a couple of times.

Part of any society will be the people who are convinced everything was better before. Any other time than right now. WoW is no exception. They remember the old Vanilla days in a pinkish glow smelling of flowers and unicorn poo. In my guild right now we have plenty of people talking about how much better things used to be before, and that raiding isn't the same and you have all heard the yappings before. No, raiding isn't the same. If it was you'd think that was boring too. More boring, I am sure. But of course in the end it is a matter of taste.

What really gets me though is when people tell me that raiding has become too easy. Let me just tell you what I think about that kind of statement: It is wrong. Not completely wrong, nothing is ever without its grains of truth, but it is mostly wrong. Why so?

When people say these kinds of things they generally refer to the good old 40-man raids. I despised them. The reason is simple - I never felt like my presence made any difference. If I was off and died in a corner, no one could've cared less. That wasn't because I raided with pricks but because the fights were designed that way. Out of 40 people, 10 were easily dispensable. Then came Naxx and changed all that of course. I'll admit freely that Naxx was a really difficult raid, but for how long did people get to play that one? 6 months? Something like that. When people talk about difficult 40-man raids they're thinking about MC, BWL and ZG.

If these instances were so difficult, isn't it interesting then that someone with no gear, the completely wrong spec, no know-how of their class whatsoever and who gladly admits to never ever have done a boss or even heard of it before, easily gets invited to a raid? Do you think that would happen today? When people ask for achievements, gearscore and preferrably a relationship to Jesus to for an invitation to VoA? Getting into a raid has definitely become alot more difficult. People demand way more than they did of you back in the Vanilla days. Did I pull my weight in those MC and Zg raids? I strongly doubt it, but my mere presence as cannonfodder was worth enough to bring me along. You won't ever see that today.

There are several explanations for this of course. One is just as with the swedish labor market (and every other labor market too I am sure) - if there is enough people to go around you can demand more of your applicants. There will always be enough to fill those spots. In the same way I think that back in Vanilla it was very difficult finding a level 60 who knew anything about their class, even if it was as limited as my knowledge back then. Nowadays even the noobs know more than I did, and in any case they've got way better gear. The player base has also increased significantly over the last 5 years, there are simply more people around. And if there are more people to pick from, you can generally heighten your demands of quality for each player.

This is a good part of the explanation, but not all of it. Not even the important part of it. I think the most important reason for the differences in demands is what I already mentioned earlier. In a 40-man raid it was ok for one, two or five people to go afk/die during a fight. The fight would be slightly more difficult perhaps, especially if those people were tanks, but in most cases still manageable. A friend of mine who endgame raided several nights a week back then could go afk mid fight without anyone noticing much (he played a warlock, SB spam ftw). You think a raid would survive long if that happened during most of the raid fights we've got in Wotlk? In 25man you could manage without one, maybe even two players if the rest of the raid was really good. In 10man any loss would be devastating. We're talking 10% of the raid in one person. It makes a difference.

Some things have become easier today. For example it is easier to find good tactics to read about fights in advance. Back in Vanilla alot of raiding had to be done the good old trial and error way, which of course made a fight seem tougher and maybe more epic once you got it right. But the fights as such weren't more difficult at all, on the contrary.

And to some people it probably was more difficult back in Vanilla. Imagine being a raid leader to 40 people instead of 10/25? Back then you actually needed officers who held track of their class, because no one person could do that efficiently. And as always, the MT probably had as much responsibility as they always do and the loss of the MT is always bad, to any size raid. But to the rest of the raid you felt like an ant in an antfarm. Your part was important in the big picture, but if you died someone would easily pick it up. That isn't possible in the raids we have today. The raids demand more of each person today than they ever have.

Do you agree? Has raiding become more difficult or easier?

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