Attunements and why they must never return

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|07.06.12

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Attunements and why they must never return
I loathe attunements. When you mention how fun old attunement chains were, I hiss and flee into the night like a werewolf from a cross. That is werewolves, right? No? It's vampires? Oh. Well, whichever. The point is, no. No, they were not fun. No. My lord, how much nostalgia must you be inhaling to argue that the Onyxia chain was fun? The Alliance version had a cool payoff, yes, but my word that thing was a slog -- and the Horde one? Pure, concentrated boring slop. I included the Wowcrendor video above because it's not an exaggeration. I did that quest chain. Twice. At the end, I hated all that lived, and you are all very fortunate that I don't have a death ray because just thinking about that quest makes me want to wipe out whole cities.

All of Draztal's points about attunements are valid. I salute you, brave EU CM, for your willingness to say what so many people seem to have forgotten about them. They're content barriers. That's all that they are. The people remembering them so fondly are, so far as I can tell, drunk out of their minds on the sweet and heady wine of nostalgia or just really invested in creating artificial ways to keep other players from seeing the content. I don't understand the mindset that demands extra hoops outside of the content and its actual difficulty be added to arrest progress.

I like a challenge. I do hard content in my raids. That's fun for me. What I don't like or want is a barrier to entry that has nothing to do with skill, just time and the ability to get other people to help me get through a series of stages that serve no other purpose but to delay me, especially when we're already delayed by other aspects of the game anyway.

Now, of course there's the argument that attunement quest chains are a fun way to present game lore to people. Who doesn't remember fondly seeing Bolvar fight the dragonkin in Stormwind? Well, anyone who was Horde, I guess. Doing the quests to attune to Karazhan and then doing the quests to get the Nightbane urn got you a nice chunk of the story behind the instance, it's true. But you can do quests to give you lore without making them content barriers, and people ignored the lore behind attunement chain quests just as easily as they ignore the lore today.

Go to Desolace, and then wander the earth forever, weeping and crying out Rexxar, Rexxar, Rexxar, until your seared bones lie in the parched soil. I simply cannot stress how much I hate attunements. Back in vanilla, I remember having to scramble to get the Onyxia and Molten Core attunements done to start raiding. No one wanted to do them.

And then, after I got them done, every time we were recruiting, I would have to do them again because someone didn't have some part of the quests completed. And it was always some other part. Person A hadn't mind-controlled the dragon in the Wyrmbog yet. Person B needed the note off of BRD mobs to get on the quest to free Windsor. Person C needed the blood off of Drakkisath, and so did six other people in the big group we assembled, and even after patch 1.4, he wouldn't drop enough to get everyone attuned.

I did every attunement this game had. I did the vanilla ones up to and including attunement to Naxxramas, which was pointlessly expensive either in terms of gold or time. (I ground to exalted with the Argent Dawn to save the gold cost -- and frankly, I should have just paid them, because running dungeons and farming mobs for Scourgestones was not worth it.)

In fact, I never did a single attunement chain in either vanilla or The Burning Crusade that wasn't pointlessly long, full of extraneous steps, or just plain tedious. Did they have epic moments? Some of them did, absolutely. I enjoyed getting to turn into a broken when I attacked Tempest Keep, sure. But when the main reaction to a quest chain is to swoon with relief that you're finally done with it, that doesn't seem to me to be a compelling experience. Attunements were endured.

Marshall Windsor, WoW's first Hey, is that danger? Let's run into it screaming and naked! hero No one enjoyed having to grind to revered with a faction in order to buy a key to unlock heroic dungeons. No one. If you tell me you did, I have to conclude that you have been hollowed out and are being worn as a suit by a creature of pure madness from beyond the stars.

At no point was wandering around Desolace trying to find Rexxar fun for anyone but the most determined Waldo enthusiast. I was one of the few people I knew with the Karazhan key, because everyone just kept making me go to Karazhan and let them in because no one wanted to do that chain again for their alts. Every time someone decided they were going to switch mains, we all cringed at the idea of running them through these attunements, and we wouldn't recruit players who didn't already have them, leading to the existence of feeder guilds whose only purpose seemed to be getting people attuned so that they could quit and join other guilds that were actually doing the content. Arguing that these hurdles were anything other than an obstacle is disingenuous.

The next argument is that yes, old attunement chains were too long, but Blizzard can design new ones that are more fun and less tedious. Yes, I'm sure they can do that. Why? Explain to me exactly why you want to introduce a barrier to content that keeps players who don't have access to a large group of people at a convenient time from seeing it. Because if the attunement quests are easily completed through the Raid Finder and the Dungeon Finder, why do we need them at all?

If attunements don't provide a barrier to content, they're not attunements -- they're just long quest chains. I'm totally OK with long quest chains. And if these new, Raid and Dungeon Finder attunements are completable via these tools, they just funnel raiders into them who may or may not want to use them. Six months down the road, if your alt needs to run the Raid Finder version of Great Evil Temple of Despair in order to unlock the normal version, that just means he has to run that content even if he's geared enough to bypass it. It makes content mandatory, not optional.

Attunements existed to keep you from doing what you wanted to do until you'd done what you didn't. Attunements that are not content barriers are not attunements. Ones that are content barriers take away choice; they force players to run content rather than giving them the option to do so, which is exactly the opposite direction Mists of Pandaria is headed with its daily valor quests, scenarios, dungeon challenge modes, Raid Finder in every tier of raiding and many, many options for reputation gain.

Mists of Pandaria is all about doing what you want to do, not being forced to do something to get to what you want to do. Heroic mode raiding already has enough barriers -- you not only have to be geared enough, you usually have to beat the entire instance on normal first before you can progress to heroic. In the case of Dragon Soul, you need to clear the entire raid on heroic before you can attempt the two Deathwing fights. Similarly, you need to kill all of Firelands on heroic to attempt heroic Ragnaros. In my opinion, this model has sufficient walls to keep people out.

Now, I have seen the argument that one benefit to attunements was that they caused raiders to display a level of competence in previous content before they could move on to the next level. You had to kill Kael and Vashj to get to BT/Hyjal, and to even get into SSC/TK you were expected to run Gruul's, Magtheridon's Lair and Karazhan. My problem with this argument is, progression raiders do that anyway. You ran BWD and Bastion, then ran Firelands, and finally ran Dragon Soul. You progressed, mastered the content, moved on.

All that attunements did was force your raiding guild to take a night off and run older content again. We have a new healing paladin joining, he's done everything but Kael'thas because his last guild just couldn't hack it, and now we have to go back and run TK again when we're well past that point to get this one guy able to raid with us, or we just don't recruit him. Sure, he's a great player, great fit for the guild, but he doesn't have Kael so we're going to pass on him. That's not training anyone. It's not promoting competence. It means either we pass, or we brute force smash the older raid to get him through it. In neither case does the attunement add anything for us.

Furthermore, with heroic modes, raiding already has a built in competence check in place. You can't do heroics until someone has cleared the normal mode. I don't see the reason for another barrier of that kind.

It is not enough that I succeed; you must fail to get to try. It seems to me that attunement nostalgia breaks down into a few camps. There are the people who just plain don't want the hoi polloi in their heroic raids and will welcome anything that keeps players out to inflate their own sense of accomplishment. They find the idea that 10% of the players in raiding can kill the end boss of the expansion on heroic to mean that far, far too many players are doing so, and anything that makes it harder for people to get into that raiding is fine by them -- especially if that barrier isn't really skill or gear but time, since they know they can devote the time to jumping all the hoops but someone else might not have the kind of time to dedicate a week or so to running everything to get attuned.

Barriers that are purely time-based like this are always going to favor people who can set it aside and unduly hinder that really excellent rogue who blasts out tons of DPS but has to go to her kid's piano recital, or the tank who needs to miss two nights to do overtime. Players who want attunments for this reason aren't content with getting the content done first; they hate the idea that anyone else might get to do it.

Another group seem to believe that the attunement process creates bonds between players and promotes unity. In my experience, it just ended up ticking people off who had to run Steam Vaults again to get Dave's priest attuned for the alt run or forcing us to spend a raid night getting the new feral attuned to Hyjal instead of running Black Temple. They didn't foster a sense of group unity; they hampered it.

Lore without hoops As for the lore aspect of attunements, I won't lie -- that's valid to some extent. It was usually buried under lots of pointless busywork, but it was there. I did love watching Windsor clean house in Stormwind. I did enjoy some of the AQ opening. Seeing the last of the Highborne inside Naxxramas the first time we zoned in was cool.

But ultimately, a lot of these moments were seriously delayed gratification and were at a cost that just shouldn't have been paid. Making cool lore stuff part of a mandatory gateway just takes the shine off of the cool lore, because you're so focused on burning through the attunement as fast as possible you can't take the time to pay attention to it anyway, especially if you have four or more other people there who did it already and are just carrying you through it as fast as possible to get you ready for the raid.

I applaud the Lorewalkers for giving us a new way to experience the lore, and I pray that attunements never return. We already have to run dungeons to run heroic dungeons to run raids to run heroic raids. That's enough of a barrier. We don't need purely time-based chains of quests to keep our alts running around months down the road, make switching mains harder, make recruiting harder, foster resentment among players having to help clear it all again, and otherwise just clogging up the works and making optional content mandatory. I will absolutely shoot attunements with garlic bullets should they return.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

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