The success of a (raid) instance (part I) – or, why do so many people not like Coliseum?

3 September 2009 § 1 Comment

We killed Anub’Arak today – after only 2 attempts, which has been more or less the average for the whole Trial of the Crusader instance. So, final boss down, time for some considerations on the raid instance as a whole. Most everyone I know is complaining about how easy it is – but I think the situation is more complicated than that. In fact, all these whining about it made me think a bit about what makes a raid instance a success – and most importantly, a success for whom. This is a bit of a big argument, so I’ll break it into multiple posts.

I think I can identify three main causes of complaint about Coliseum. Let me see if I can examine them one by one.

The first and most apparent is that it’s “too easy”. Many groups one-shot the bosses as they are added weekly, and so after about 10 mins of excitement about the new fight, there’s nothing else to do. This is, however, only partly true. My own raid has (as I said) one- or two-shot all the bosses, and we certainly are no Ensidia. However, I also went in on various alts with other groups, and I think the fights are actually not as easy as they look. I think part of it is the gear requirements on tanks and healers (much less so on dps): even on normal, bosses hit quite hard, and there’s often some unavoidable raid damage. The raid damage is key, though: a good group manages to reduce that to a minimum, by spreading out, healing the Incinerate Flesh, cc’ing/locking down properly the various champions, avoiding the wrong-colour orbs, etc. However, as soon as the group is not on top of its game, this raid damage seems to grow exponentially and become fairly tough to deal with. The skills required to minimise this damage are probably second nature to a raid working on Ulduar hard modes – but it probably is not to a group whose main raiding experience is Naxx. Even my group, on alts (decently geared, but not the toons we would normally raid with) failed miserably, mostly because many of us didn’t have the automatic response to emergency situations, and thus as soon as stuff didn’t go perfectly well, it snowballed quickly to its (and our) bitter end.

So, maybe, it’s not so much that it’s easy, but that it forces everyone to face the same level of difficulty. In other words, the solution of forcing everyone to complete the instance before attempting hard modes may have backfired. ALL guilds from the world top to the average guild had to go four weeks doing regular bosses they would one or two shot, creating a sense of frustration because stuff was too easy. Compare this with Ulduar, where four weeks in some guilds were on Yogg-Saron (like we were), some were working on the keepers and some more were already fighting through the hard modes – or on Algalon, in the case of the very top guilds. Compare also to the gating Blizzard used for Sunwell, where actually GETTING to kill one boss before the next one was released was a challenge. I think Blizzard tried to stretch the release of this content, to avoid a repeat of the cycle of 2 weeks of mad activity and 4 months (or more) of farming. The result, however, has been that the top raids are still frustrated, so I’m not sure they really achieved anything with this gating.

In a different camp, we have the lore freaks, lamenting the lack of background of the new instance – and this is the second major complaint I hear. In its defence, Blizzard actually did give us some background – through the chatter of the various NPCs around the Argent Tournament Grounds. We have King Varian and Jaina, Thrall and Garrosh arriving at the ground, and we also have a short speech by Tirion explaining why the Tournament. Frankly, it makes sense that you would not want to send a big army against an enemy who can raise dead, but instead find the top champions and send them as small squads – it makes less sense that you choose champions by jousting, but that’s another story. I personally don’t like the option of NPCs chatting in a major area to give story clues: to me, it feels interesting the first time, deadly boring (and spammy on my log) any time after that. NPC background chat is great to establish mood (witness the ongoing complaint the Horde has about the difference between Stormwind and Orgrimmar), but as a tool to further story, it feels too much like watching a diorama in a museum. That said, at least this time we DO have an explanation for an instance, and it’s in the game (unlike, say, Sartharion, where a flimsy explanation was in the books, and no tie-in was made to the rest of the game to this day).

This leaves me with the third type of complaints – that it just doesn’t feel epic enough. In vanilla WoW, we fought an Elemental Lord and his lieutenants; a scheming black dragon who had infiltrated, corrupted and influenced the whole Alliance; her brother, who was intent on creating a new dragonflight to dominate the world; an Old God and his bugs; and the main lieutenant of the Lich King. In Burning Crusade, we had an imprisoned Pit Lord; a Gronn (admittedly, why did we kill Gruul?); the two lieutenants of Illidan and their minions; Archimonde (although really, we only had reason to fight Rage Winterchill, and only to do it once to get the key to Black Temple); Illidan and his lieutenants; Kil’jaeden and various Burning Legion figures (including a captive dragon, another pit lord, a captured Naaru and two eredar). In Wrath so far, we had the main lieutenant of the Lich King (again ;-P); a crazy Dragon Aspect; a black dragon creating a new dragonflight (again…); an Old God and his corrupted Titan jailors – and the Titan messenger trying to sterilise the world. If you look at it that way, even with a couple of raid instances not very well explained, it’s difficult to be excited because we’re fighting not one, but TWO Jormungars. The other bosses are not better: an eredar lord summoned by mistake by the comic relief; two lieutenants of the Lich King we never heard about  before; and a Nerubian King who a) we have beaten before at lvl 73; b) just happened to be burrowing beneath the Coliseum (and kudos to Tirion for not thinking about that…. /facepalm material, that). Last week the point was painfully obvious to us, as we went from fighting Algalon (constellations do his bidding, he creates big bangs), to fighting… the beasts of Northrend. I understand that it’s difficult to give players more and newer epic fights that up the ante from the tier before. However, I can understand the players when for the first time they are let down in this progression.

I think this is long enough for one post (I’m starting to see why the main tank in my raid thinks I’m verbose) – in part II I’ll switch gears and try to divine Blizzard’s perspective on Coliseum.


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