Raiding has changed in the five -- almost six! -- years since World of Warcraft has been on the shelves. How's that for a pretty dumb statement? Can you imagine playing a game that hasn't changed in six years? Nowadays, people barely keep real-life jobs that long. Blizzard hasn't kept us engaged and constantly playing WoW because they hit on some single magic formula. Instead, they found a pretty good formula, made it better, and then kept it changing and improving for over half of a decade. The game continues to grow alongside its player base.
Of course, the argument you hear most nowadays is whether the game has somehow been "dumbed down." Epics are available more easily, so clearly Blizzard is catering to noobs. The entry requirement into raiding isn't as prohibitive, so that game's gotten somehow cheaper and too easy for your average raider.
DragonFireKai recently made a comment on a post that got me to thinking. Basically, he said that the biggest difference in raiding since the release of WoW is "the meta game. There are so many more effective resources for raiders to tap to up their game." This mirrors things Ghostcrawler, the lead systems designer at Blizzard, has had to say about the growth of the community. Let's take a look at how new resources and tools have grown over the years.
Mods are a great example of how the game has become more advanced. I remember my first raiding mod -- CTMod. I fired that sucker up for Molten Core was back in 2005. It was pretty awesome. You could do stuff with raid frames ... and then some stuff that was basically like the morden focus command. But, mostly, it was about raid frames. Then sometime later in 2005 -- heck, it even could have been 2006 -- I discovered the "orly check." Sure, nowadays, raiders have it all easy-mode with a formal, Blizzard-instituted ready check. But back in the day, we were lucky to have an orly check, and half the raid would respond "yarly" or "norly."
OK, I'm poking a little bit of fun here. CTMod was pretty damn useful at the time, since it let you coordinate between your main tank, main healers, DPS and the infinite string of off tanks that every raid seemed to require. We had the occasional other mod that would do things like downrank heals or help you manage your bags. But mods were not quite the refined science they are nowadays. Hell, KTM didn't hit sometime until 2006, if I recall. (I could be off in that.)
However, The Burning Crusade stepped all that up a notch. Mod-master superstar Antiarc was just one of a legion of addon developers who built a new generation of tools for WoW players. But basically, you needed a few fundamental tools for the raids of Burning Crusade: a boss mod to tell you that certain NPC abilities were ready, and a threat meter to warn you before you ripped aggro off the tank.
It was a slow progression over the years, but it's brought us to today, where DeadlyBossMods does everything but read the boss's mind and mods like AVR or Hudmap do everything but reach through the computer screen and tell you where you should stand and when.
For all that mods like these that have absolutely changed the gameplay experience, none of them were created by Blizzard. They were created by players to streamline their raids, to try and increase the likelihood of their raids' success. (That is goal of the player, in most cases: achieve success.) And whether you are copacetic with the presence of these mods or feel they're "dumbing down the game," neither case points back to Blizzard. Instead, the finger remains firmly planted on us, the players. The developers seem to do a pretty good job trying to account for the mods, though, which keeps raid complications moving forward.
The second resource that has vastly matured over the years, again, is us, the community. Sites like WoW.com, filled with intrepid journalists and trained adventure monkeys, work laboriously to bring you the latest and greats news. Tankspot will help you out with video guides, Wowhead can tell you anything you need to know about a spell or mob, and let's not even talk about the community-written Wowwiki. Hardly a day goes by without the folks at ElitistJerks taking a peek under the hood and seeing what's going on in the game's engine.
WoW.com wasn't founded until a year after WoW had been sitting on the shelves. Wowwiki cites itself as having been founded in 2004, but like most wikis, it picked up its pace as time flew. The first appearance of ElitistJerks in the Wayback Machine was in 2005; Tankspot made a huge splash for its unrivaled tank information in 2007. In the intervening years, dozens (if not hundreds) of WoW-related blogs have cropped up on the internet, each striving to provide interesting, timely and factual information to the gaming public.
See where this is going? If you were raiding Zul'Gurub, you had relatively few sources of information to get your data. Nowadays, you can hardly fire up Google without a hundred sites screaming any information you could possible want. (Sometimes, the information that's available is more than Blizzard would like.)
Even just looking at mods and community web sites, the resources surrounding World of Warcraft have grown immensely. Where once there was confusion about game mechanics or fight strategies, now you have absolute clarity. Where once raid leaders had to scream precise orders in Ventrillo or Teamspeak, now DeadlyBossMods counts down the seconds between attacks with absolute precision.
The game hasn't somehow become dumb. Instead, the community has mostly become immensely smarter.
Ready Check is here to provide you all the information and discussion you need to take your raiding to the next level. Check us out weekly to learn the strategies, bosses and encounters that make end-game raiding so much fun.