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Ready Check: What makes raiding fun?

Tyler Caraway

Ready Check helps you prepare yourself and your raid for the bosses that simply require killing. Check back with Ready Check each week for the latest pointers on killing adds, not standing in fire, and hoping for loot that won't drop. Questions, comments, or something you would like to see? Email me at tyler@wowinsider or message me on Twitter @murmursofadruid.

Ahh, it is a new year, and as is common during this time, we put aside a spot of our days in order to reflect upon the previous year. We do this to see where we went wrong, where we went right, what aspects we think we need to improve upon.

Video games, particularly MMOs, are not so different from people, and MMO players too must undergo this same reflection. In WoW especially, one thing stands out above all the rest: Raiding continues to be a failure.

Now, now, I am not apart of the camp which decries the dumbing down of content. In fact, I still laud the quality of WoW's raids that Blizzard is putting out, even if I think they are becoming a bit light on the size factor. I am instead speaking in terms of sheer numbers. Raiding has never been an aspect of WoW that a majority of the community participated in, despite its being where the largest amount of new content is seen throughout expansions. Even though raiding has grown more and more accessible over this past year, there are still more people who don't raid than do.

On the matter of accessibility

The Raid Finder, for what demerits some give it, has been a huge success and vastly increased the amount of people that are raiding. Not matter how or why it is that the playerbase is raiding, the simple fact that it is is a leap in the right direction. I would say that Cataclysm as an expansion has been wholly focused on problems of accessibility -- that is, allowing a broader audience of players to attain the capabilities they need in order to complete certain content. Yet I would contend that this is merely one of a multitude of factors that hinders raiding numbers.

Yes, the long-held stigma that raiding is hard, time-consuming, and only for those who can devote their entire lives into the game does need to be broken, but I feel it rather has at this point and we still aren't where we should be in terms of raiding numbers. As Blizzard moves forward into the new year with a new expansion coming in the not too distant future, it needs to look at the other facets of raiding that might be holding it back.

One of these aspects that I want to bring up is fun.

How to define fun?

Fun is such an undefinable quality that something can posses -- worses it is often difficult to put into words. Idly tossing around a yo-yo can be fun despite that it's so basic, so simple. Baking an eight-course meal that requires hours of preparation and hard work can be fun even though it's difficult and time-consuming. Fun is such an amorphous trait that it's hard to say, "This is what needs to be done to make things fun."

However, this is exactly what needs to be done, because raiding should be fun and the players expect that. Therefore, we have to take a look at what has been fun in terms of past raiding so that we can hope to recreate it for the future.

The case of Karazhan

Whenever raiding is brought up, one of the first topics that enters the discussion is Karazhan. Everyone from that time period loved Kara; it was the epitome of a fun raid. The scenery, the bosses, the music, the design -- everything about the entire instance was absolutely perfect, yet there is little about the instance that would fit into the current raid design.

To start with, Karazhan was huge. I don't just mean that it had a large number of bosses, which it did, but the overall layout of the zone was simply enormous. Wiping on Shade of Aran or Netherspite or Opera meant a very lengthy run back for the raid that you simply don't see in today's raids.

In fact, I would say that most raiders would be annoyed by the length of the run back from a majority of the boss encounters in that instance, yet it never seemed to be an issue. Sure, people complained about Serpentshrine Cavern's run-back, which was horrendously long as well, but it really wasn't any worse than several of Karazhan's. It's strange how a problem from one instance can be absent in another despite their being entirely the same.

Regardless, I think that it is time for Blizzard to give up on Karazhan, as it were. Karazhan was magical; it was perfect. It was a flawless raid that simply cannot be replicated again. It wasn't the design of the raid so much as it was the timing, the atmosphere, everything. Karazhan was more than a raid and more than an instance; it was a mindset, a time period, a community perception to which we cannot get back. Yes, Karazhan was fun, but struggling till madness to recreate it isn't going to solve anything.

The case of Ulduar

The second raid that tops everyone's list is Ulduar. On a personal level, I simply don't understand the fascination that players have with the zone, nor do I get what it is about it that made it so fun for the wide majority. Perhaps it is my selective memory, but I recall the vast amount of complaining about Flame Leviathan, how buggy and utterly boring Vezax was until the hotfixes, and a multitude of other boss problems. I remember many complaints over Hodir, Mimiron, Yog, Vezax, and XT's needing to be retuned. Even the trash in Ulduar had to be nerfed because it was "too hard" for a wide number of people.

One perk that I have seen frequently mentioned was the execution of hard modes in Ulduar, which followed the model of doing things before or during the encounter instead of merely flipping a toggle. To that end, I have to side with Blizzard. It was more fun and more engaging to kill XT's heart or change the order in which you kill the Iron Council, but Blizzard was right in that this was an entirely unintuitive concept, not to mention that it didn't work for every boss.

Kologarn didn't have a hard mode, nor did Ignis, Razorsacale, or Auriaya. How were players to know this? How are you supposed to just know that killing Steelbreaker last awarded your raid with additional, better loot? And then there's Hodir, whose hard mode was merely killing him fast enough. Or what about Thorim? Maybe you didn't want to do hard mode, but your group clears through the gauntlet fast enough --how were you to know that you had to sit there and twiddle your thumbs for a while? Why should you even have to? While it may be less fun overall, you cannot question that a hard mode toggle is certainly a far better system.

I liked Ulduar, but I certainly didn't love it with the same fervor that many people seem to. Nothing against those who do, but it just wasn't it for me. I'm much more a Naxx fan, although I prefer the original over the remake, but isn't that always how it goes?

More input from more raiders

You might wonder, why bring this all up? And why only mention arguments against what is commonly thought of as fun? The reason is because I want to hear it from you. I can sit here all day and talk about what I think is fun, but I'm just one person. I want for the community to tell me what they think is fun.

I want more than "Ulduar, because it was awesome," though. I know lots of people think Ulduar is fun -- so now you have my groundwork against it. Counter it! Find another raid you liked instead! Tell me, what about raiding do you find fun?

Ready Check shares all the strategies and inside information you need to take your raiding to the next level. Be sure to look up our strategy guides to Cataclysm's 5-man instances, and for more healer-centric advice, visit Raid Rx.

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