Welcome to a rousing edition of “Back in my day, we walked to school, in the snow, uphill… both ways.”
Also known as comparing old school gameplay with the new world order.
But I wanna do something NOW!
Blizzard has recently announced that the much anticipated Icecrown Citadel raids are not going to be released as one huge content release. Instead, they will be unlocking a certain number of bosses at regular intervals, with spaces of perhaps a few weeks in between each release.
This, it is supposed, will allow guilds to concentrate on the awesomeness of the first group of bosses, and really pay attention so as not to lose out on any of the cool features of the released challenges. Otherwise, if they released everything all at once, why, guilds might give the fights scant attention, due to just trying to ‘rush through’ each fight in their eagerness to see how far they can get in the shortest possible amount of time.
Or maybe they’d just like everyone to relax and not get so caught up in raiding over the holidays. Who knows? My interpretation of the reason is certainly open to debate.
The point is, there is a new big raid coming soon, but you won’t be able to do it at the pace your guild is capable of, you will be limited to going no faster than the pace they have chosen for you.
And you can be certain that there will be multiple hard modes for encounters.
I wanted to mention it, not because it affects me all that grievously, but because sometimes in the midst of day to day events, it’s easy to lose sight of what brought you to this pass.
Stay awhile, and listen
I recently decided to do something silly.
I decided to get my Kara key on my Paladin.
I always liked Karazhan. Why not go see about getting the key so I can pop in there whenever I want?
And more, how about the Urn as well? The whole 9 yards, the quest chains inside and out, everything.
Thinking about the prospect brought to mind how I felt the first time I approached this on my main, Windshadow.
I’d reached level 70, I’d run some regular instances, I’d run some heroics, but here was the big time. If I wanted to raid with a guild, I’d have to be able to get into Karazhan. I’d have to get the key.
It took effort. It took some planning. There were goals. There was a lot to do.
And there was a lot of anticipation. You knew you were taking on a big challenge to get it all done, but at the end, you would be all set to enter Karazhan whenever you’d like.
You start by going on out to Karazhan itself, where you are directed to complete a few quests, getting some essences and divining the locations of ley line activity.
From there, you travel a great distance, where you introduce yourself for the first time to the Kirin Tor, at the blasted ruins where Dalaran once stood. There, you present the findings of your investigations, and are sent to go forth to Shattrath, to begin following up with the mysteries of Karazhan.
Traveling to Shattrath, you talk directly to legendary Khadgar himself, and you discover that, to enter Karazhan itself, you must recover three fragments of the fabled Key to that legendary edifice. These fragments were hidden in locations that once were quite secure, but now, with the shattering of Outlands, has resulted in them being quite difficult to obtain.
The first key fragment you must acquire was placed deep within the Shadow Labyrinth, in fact it is now in the same chamber within which Murmur now tries to force his way into Auchindoin. Go forth, and recover it!
You travel to Auchindoin, and prepare to go in and get the key fragment.
But wait! The doors to Shadow Labyrinth are locked, and you must first get a key to unlock those doors, before you can proceed (or be a Rogue with lockpicking of 350, etc). The Key to Shadow Labyrinth drops from the last boss of another of the Auchindoin instances. Are you prepared to face Talon King Ikiss of Sethekk Halls?
That’s right, you must triumph against Sethekk Halls, and once that is done, THEN you are free to enter Shadow labyrinth, and get the first key fragment.
You return to Shattrath, and there you learn that the last two key fragments require you to go to two other instances… Steamvaults in Zangarmarsh, and Arcatraz in Netherstorm.
You enter Steamvaults, and find that this key was concealed deep in a pond, which is not too far from the entrance. Well, they can’t ALL be at end boss areas, now can they? These areas were supposed to have once been secure, and what happened to make them difficult to reach happened afterwards. Mission accomplished! Whew!
Then, you journey across the Outlands to the far off distant Arcatraz.
You rush to enter, but wait! This, too, is locked! You need a Key to the Arcatraz to get in!
Okay, that’s fine. How do we do that?
Well, it involves going to Area 52, and befriending Nether-Stalker Kay’ji, who is having some problems with those darn Zaxxis and Warp-Raider Nesaad. Why don’t you help him out?
After a while of doing him favors, then his boss, then his bosses’ boss and head high muckety muck Nexus-Prince Haramad, you eventually do more than just gain the Key to the Arcatraz. You actually recover the Ata’mal Crystal, and are sent to return it, as a sign of peace, to A’dal himself in Shattrath.
This is the shit, in case you’re wondering.
NOW you are told that bad things are brewing, and in order to find out more, you must obtain the key to the Arcatraz. This involves killing two entities, that just happen to be the end bosses of… wait for it… Botanica and Mechanar. Once you have killed both of them and obtained their two pieces of the key, you will be able to open the Arcatraz, go all the way inside to the final boss, and get the third fragment to the Key of Karazhan.
Holy crap, that was awesome, wasn’t it? Damn, I earned that Kara key!
But wait… that sense of accomplishment was good, but you’re not quite there yet.
You’ve got the three key fragments, return them to Khadgar, and wait patiently for the Kara attunement.
Unfortunately, even though you’ve got the pieces, the Key won’t work unless it has Medivh’s blessing on it. Yes, Medivh is dead, but that’s okay. If you travel to the Caverns of Time, you can enter the Black Morass, traveling back in time to speak with Medivh… personally.
While he’s in the very act of opening the Dark Portal.
Holy crap again, right?
Okay, we can do this. Off we go to the Dark Portal. Hummina hummina.
But wait! What’s this? Khadgar may have sent you, but the Bronze Dragonflight are in a sticky situation. They need help in restoring the fragile balance of events, and want you to go take care of something for them in the distant past… and they control the portals. You cannot go into the Black Morass until you first help them rescue… Thrall!
That’s right, you must go back in time to when Thrall, then a young orc ophan, was held captive in Durnholde Keep, being trained as a gladiator, kept enslaved and taught the strategy and tactics of the Alliance races that he would one day turn on the Alliance itself, founding the Horde of today.
War Chief. Shaman. Thrall himself.
There are those beings known as the Infinite Dragonflight that seek to go back in time to destroy him, and you must see to it that he is rescued, and goes free.
Man, this shit is epic, dawg! Sign my butt right up!
Off you go, complete the Escape from Durnholde Keep, and prove yourself to the Bronze Dragonflight against the forces of the Infinite Dragonflight.
Now that you’ve done that, they send you in to see to it that Medivh survives to open the Dark Portal unhindered by the Infinite Dragonflight… and along the way, you get to show Medivh your key.
He sees it… but decides to keep it to give to Khadgar later, and gives you his very own key to Karazhan in it’s place!
Congratulations, my friend. You have completed an arduous and complicated process that has led you through many instances, many epic storylines, and culminated in granting you access to the fabled halls of Karazhan.
A place so immense, with it’s basement cellars overrun with beasts and bugs, it’s dining halls and kitchens, it’s secret demonic guests, dragon skeletons and dragon spirits, gaming diversions and mad parents full of “Flame Wreath, don’t move!”
A place so incredible, that running it in all it’s glory, week after week, happily kept players occupied for a year and more!
Is there a point in here, somewhere?
Yes, there is.
I ran down all these epic events that must be followed before Karazhan could be attempted. But I could have done the same thing concerning attunement to fight Onyxia, except that the attunement for Onyxia has been removed. The Karazhan attunement process is still live, and can still be done for those that want to seek it out and enjoy it.
Once upon a time, it was accepted that a part of the process of preparing to raid was to follow a certain amount of preparation. We were fortunate, I think, that the quests and storylines you enjoyed to do this were so epic in scope, so diverse and imaginative.
Sometimes some parts seemed to drag, others were choke points of varying difficulty, and after your third character hit 70 it got old trying to find someone in your raiding guild to go back and bring you through the whole thing again. Appeals for sanity were made.
And change happened.
Attunements were simplified, reduced, and eventually, removed.
I really think that was a mistake.
I love the quests, the stories, the rich world all of this takes part in. Karazhan had a ton of stuff going on, and you played through all of this backstory long before you went in there. And once inside, it took a long time to make your way through, and after the halfway point, it really picked up steam with boss after boss after boss, each rich in history and legend.
Things are certainly more accessible now. Ding 80, throw some stuffs on and in you go, whereever it may be.
Now, if it’s your third max level character, sure. You’ve been there, you’ve done that, it’s all good.
But what about your first?
Does Ulduar seem as epic if you haven’t done any quests at all? Does Heroic Trial of the Crusader?
What about a middle ground? You have the attunement, the Key, the incredible storyline and quests that take you in and out of the world of warcraft content, meeting and interacting with key figures in the story…
But once you’ve done it, the attunement or key is Bind to Account?
One other thing.
Part of the old school of raiding had been bragging rights on which bosses you had completed. How far into the progression you were.
With the inclusion of hard mode variations that are achievement based and optional, it’s become much harder to feel where any particular guild may be, or to feel that you are part of a competition with other guilds, because one guild may skip hard modes to clear first, and others may stay on one hard mode entirely before moving on, or skip some hard modes in favor of others, etc.
Why not change things up a little, so that hard modes themselves cannot be attempted until every member of the run has completed the regular version, in it’s entirety?
That’s right. An attunement you obtain by competing the normal mode, from start to finish, that allow you to enter the hard mode.
And make the entire raid be the hard mode. An entire step up, instead of bits and pieces.
Again, with the Bind on Account attunement, this would mean a guild would only have to get their team through once per player in normal to be attuned. Does that truly seem unreasonable, that new players would have to see the content on normal first before moving on to the advanced mode?
It would certainly return competition at one level… once again, a guild would be able to show where they were in progression, by naming one boss they were at. “We’ve cleared Iron Council Hard”.
I don’t concern myself with advancement or progression, but I do admire competition, and I miss some of the epic feel of the preliminaries to raiding. I miss that feeling that, stepping into a new raid, I had to climb a long way to get there, anticipating how cool it would be the whole time.
Did you hate some attunements? I don’t think that knowing there were bad, pointless or endlessly grinding attunements means that an argument is made that all attunements are bad and should be removed.
Instead, I think that it shows that, when an attunement is done right, it adds to the entire experience, it brings a sense of depth and meaning to what you are doing that really adds to the immersion of the entire experience.
It’s there in Wrath of the Lich King… there are insanely awesome quest chains in Icecrown, in the mountains around Ulduar, in the heart of Dragonblight…
But they are not tied into, or unified together with instances and events to bring you, ultimately, into having to do them once before entering the massive end game raid that they eventually lead into, driving the story to a meaningful conclusion.
And that, my friends, is a shame.