The Evolution of a Raider

With another expansion knocking on our door I wanted to pause for a moment and reflect on my last -8 years- of playing World of Warcraft. Some would boggle at the fact that I’ve been playing this game for so long, but remember that playing an MMO isn’t like constantly replaying a console game. MMOs need to stay new and introduce content in order to stay afloat. There are older MMOs than WoW, and people who have no doubt played them consistently since their launch.

My feelings towards WoW have changed over the years. I’ve built a persona for myself that is mainly goofy, light-hearted, and sassy when the time comes for it. A lot of people may not take me seriously but let me just say that I’ve been there. I’ve seen things. I’ve played this game for longer than some of the developers have. I would never presume that I know all there is to know about WoW, but I know what I’ve seen and experienced.

I knew when I started playing  vanilla and saw the people in their t1 and t2 sets (other raids weren’t released at the time) that I wanted to be like them. I also wanted to be a badass at PVP like the high warlord videos I was seeing on youtube all over the place. I played a shaman, and I was terrible at it. But the fact of the matter was that in vanilla if you could spec resto, drop totems regularly, and use your healing wave button, you could make it in a raid.

I’ve always been predisposed to healing classes – ever since I started playing RPGs and would always – ALWAYS build at least one or two white mages to buffer my parties. The same was true when I started playing MUDs – always a cleric. Healing comes easily and naturally to me, both active and reactive. Maybe that predisposition is what carried me through being a 40-man healer and onward, despite being so terrible that I actually kept my auto attack button bound on my bars.

By sheer happenstance I was invited into an MC raid with my first guild. In the 40man days it didn’t really matter what the player was like as long as they were a warm body. Because of this, I started getting invited to more raids until finally I was invited to the guild and put on the roster. Vanilla raiding was a flurry of 5 hour raid nights and DKP.. It would, quite literally, take weeks for someone to get an upgrade. Between the RNG loot system (which originally didn’t differentiate between alliance and horde so horde would get paladin loot and vice versa.) and the fact that you had 40 people, up to 5 other people of your class playing in the same raid, it took absolutely ages to get a full set of gear. And when you did, the next raid tier was usually out anyway.

Vanilla was probably the most meaningful raid experience for me because it was my first. You ALWAYS remember your first, whether you want to or not. I make no qualms about the difficulty of the encounters or the hardships of organizing a 40man raiding guild.

In vanilla we cleared MC, BWL, the world dragons, ZG, AQ20, some of AQ40, and some of Naxx. I’m probably forgetting some encounters. I can look back upon these days with rose-tinted glasses but the truth of the matter is that it took a lot of time. A lot of time and dedication to do what we did. At that point in my life I was a college student so I had pretty much all the time in the world. No job, freshman in college so I wasn’t doing the harder classes yet – yeah I was pretty much open to sitting there for hours or farming dukes in Silithus in my off time.

Then The Burning Crusade was released and everything changed when the fire nation attacked. At this point the first real TBC dungeon was Kara, and 40man raiding guilds utterly panicked.The whole system was changed – like the rug was pulled out from under us. The start of TBC was a rocky time for most guilds with drama and splintering all over the place on every server. My guild was one such casualty of this, and so I took a long break after raiding through Kara and Gruul’s lair.

I came back and leveled a mage allianceside and picked up where I left off. I raided through SSC, TK, BT, and Hyjal – quitting just before Sunwell was released.

Mechanics started to change – as if the developers were coming into their own and breaking free of the Everquest style raid traditions of time spent + damage done + damage taken = loot. Instead of standing in one place decursing, now people had to run around a platform or throw an item to each other. To those of us from vanilla, this was huge. It was a huge change. “But my tears were broken!”

At this time I was still in college messing around. Still had time on my hands, still could sit around and farm rep until I had a Netherdrake when they were current. I had Blue Suede Shoes and I loved them.

Then came the Wrath. The Wrath of the Lich King. To its credit, WoTLK continued the idea of revolutionizing game mechanics at their core. Suddenly vehicle quests were a reality. Gone were the days of collecting 28 bear asses for Grogg Orctooth in the barrens. Now we rode on harpoons and horses escaping from worgen and vrykul.

I continued raiding in WoTLK on my mage. I got through the original Naxx, Malygos, and Sarth before taking a break. I came back around the tail end of Ulduar and the introduction to Trial of the Grand Crusader.

Now mechanics were getting weirder. Shoot down frost patches, run around catching light and dark orbs, pilot tanks through a warzone. All of this was a strange new world, but it was fun!

It was around this time that I was on my own looking for a job. Suddenly I had less time than I used to and way less of a drive to keep playing at the level I was before. In the grand scheme of things, WoW and raiding got bumped a tier lower on my hierarchy of needs. I played through most of ICC, but their arbitrary gating of content dragged the dungeon out far longer than it needed to be. Once the frostwing halls opened I had already been raiding ICC for a good while and I was sick of it, even without seeing the last few bosses. It was at that point that I quit playing until the release of Cataclysm.

With the news of Cataclysm, I was totally pumped for what it would bring. I think at the first glimpses of the expansion we all had ideas in our heads of what would change and how much we would enjoy the new content. I wouldn’t say that Cataclysm was a failed expansion – but I would say that the resources for it were placed in areas that most players didn’t fully experience. I enjoyed the new questing and revamped zones, but I will openly admit there was very little for my level 85 character to do after getting to 85. It was at this point that I decided to go back to my roots and start playing a healer again – and Gloriia the worgen priest was created.

I picked up my raiding pants and tried to be serious again with the T11 content. Anyone who played T11 content when people were still working for world firsts can tell you that it was brutal. In a misguided attempt to harken back to vanilla raiding/dungeon difficulty (which was an arbitrary difficulty made from gear checks and resistance fights) they had destroyed many of the things that made playing fun. Suddenly being a healer was a weird sort of punishment. I logged in daily and hated playing my own class. It just…wasn’t fun!

One day when we were attempting the Nef/Ony fight I realized that I was no longer having fun wiping over and over again to progression fights. Gone were the days of being in MC when I would happily sit there and run back after wiping to lava packs. That sense of pride I had at being the best had all but deteriorated as well. So here I was  – not having fun and to me not having a reason to continue punishing myself by playing something I wasn’t enjoying.

When I was younger I probably would have just slogged through the feelings and kept going. But now that I was older – on my own, working, having played WoW for about 6-7 years, I knew that there was no point in making myself miserable on my own dime when there were plenty of other things I could be doing. If there is such a thing as a transition to being a casual player – this is when I went through it.

Unfortunately without raiding at that point in Cataclysm, there was very little to do. And I quit for a good while before ultimately coming back at the tail end of Firelands to play with the guild I am in now. At some point after dragon soul came out a group of us decided to try our hand at raiding again, and thankfully Blizzard added in Looking for Raid and the buff to DS. This made it possible for us to go in a very limited schedule and still be able to briefly experience the hayday glory of killing raid bosses again.

The large majority of the raid I run now is made up of former hardcore raiders that at this point have hit the raiding retirement home. We want to go in and see content but not deal with whippersnappers and hoozawhatsits.

I think that on the whole there are a lot of players exactly like me and Blizzard acknowledges that – that is why they put in some of the changes like the buffs/nerfs as content gets older. The raiding scene is a cycle. People constantly enter it with fresh faces gunning for world firsts because they’re like me when I first started. They have the time, the drive, and the pride. Eventually time drags on and people get to the point I’m at now, but by then there’s even more newer raiders lining up to take their places in the server first guilds.

So here is the challenge that comes with raid balancing. On the one hand you have the raider me from 7 years ago looking for content to constantly devour while wanting to be the absolute best. On the other hand you have the raider me from now that just wants to go in, kill a boss, then go to IHOP for the early bird special.

Striking a balance between the two is difficult, but I think most players understand the benefit of changes like Looking For Raid and slow, gradual nerfs to content that people have already downed. Do I think the DS debuff went in too quickly? Yes. But overall I think it was a good addition.

The only thing I can say with 100% certainty that I hate involving raiding is arbitrary content blocks. I touched on this in my WoWInsider interview but the blocking of ICC by wing was what caused me to quit for MONTHS in WoTLK. If I want to go in and down the content – let me do so. If an encounter is difficult it will prevent me from progressing in the natural way. Content blocks serve no purpose outside of frustrating the raiders that genuinely want to go in and down content while it is interesting to them. If you push them away by blocking it off, the chances are VERY LIKELY that they will get bored before even getting through it. At least if they blow through it quickly and start to get bored they can set up things like achievement runs or alt runs to keep themselves occupied.

That said…

At this point in my raiding career I do not presume to know how upper tier guilds run because I don’t want to. Because of that I rarely argue on the forums involving bleeding edge content. All I can do is argue from my perspective as a lower end raider for the things that would be enjoyable for me while not detracting from what OTHERS enjoy. It would be nice if everyone shared this philosophy, but such is the way of the forums.

In my 8 years playing I’ve seen and done a lot. Rarely do I look back on my time spent playing with such clarity but I feel like people deserve to know who I am as a WoW player and where I come from when I discuss certain things. It frustrates me to no end to not be listened to either by the developers, community managers, or my peers because of my goofy exterior persona. Maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m talking about when I say the things I do.

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2 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Raider

  1. Can you please get out of my brain and get back in your own skull :p I could have written this post, far worse than you and your eloquent words…but I know exactly what you are saying!

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