Lamentations of a Heroic Raider
I have been working on writing down my thoughts on this latest tier of raiding, but one tangential thought probably deserves its own post. One of the things I like about any video game and look back upon fondly is reaching a new part of the world that was previously closed to me but, through accomplishment, I am now able to see. It might be an entirely new zone or it might just a new room in a sprawling castle. Or it might be seeing what that princess at the end of the castle looks like. It's not so much about the artistic value of the area itself and it isn't about playing the game in that part (yet). Rather, previously my world view within the context of this game was smaller. Now it's bigger, and it's because I beat a challenge to make it so.
I still appreciate the sense of wonder I get as this happens and WoW raiding is no exception. But for a heroic raider, I think the effect is much smaller (and normal mode raiders too, now that LFR is out). Normal modes are completed relatively quickly, and while it was cool to see Elegon's room for the first time and whatnot, it wasn't really that meaningful because it wasn't very hard to reach that point. By the time we started facing something that we could NOT complete relatively quickly (heroic modes), the visual effect of an emerging world had already been exhausted.
As I was writing the aforementioned tier 14 recap post, I noticed that most of what I was recalling were the specific details of the encounters and their mechanics and whether I thought that was good or fun or whatever. While this is important it is also a bit unfair to the designers because there is only so much more they can offer once those encounters have become disassociated with the lore and feel of the place. Would we be examining the intricate details of the raid mechanics and their requirements under such an intense microscope if that were not the only thing that made heroic separate from normal?
Back in BC the heroics were just the only 'mode' of the raid (and I was much worse, so 'normal mode' for me meant I was in SSC instead of BT) but I loved how I saw so much more of each place as I downed a new boss. Killing Supremus didn't just mean we got loot, it meant we could actually go inside the temple and see Akama and all of the other wings. Sometimes it was cool just to take a look at a boss even if we were really going to work on another boss soon. And by the time you beat the council you could see Illidan at the top of that temple. The graphics weren't really that impressive - it was the same as you could see flying around outside raid - but man did that mean so much.
Perhaps this is simply a loss of innocence as I become a better raider. There's a reason I chose "lamentations" over "complaints" for the title. But I did come across an interesting interview here with one quote I want to point out. He's talking about the introduction of 10 and 25 Naxrammas 2.0, but keep in mind that in this original iteration 10 man was the normal mode and 25 was heroic. Jokes about 10s and 25s aside, this is a commentary about normal and heroic, not 10 and 25 raiding.
The only caveat for me is that I feel that the highest-tier zone at a given time should start off as a 25-man-only experience and then have the 10-man version unlocked once the zone is defeated on a server, or once a given amount of time passes, whichever comes first. To use a contemporary example, I think it would have cheapened the overall experience of Sunwell-25 if while we'd been wiping for hours on M'uru we were going in on weekends and steamrolling through K'J in the 10-man version in a couple of hours. It would have diminished the sense of exploration and achievement at clearing the zone. I do feel that 10-man-only players should get to experience the same lore and ultimately see the same content, but I don't think that the easier alternative should be available right away. It'll just get cleared right away by overgeared high-end raiders anyway, and kind of like using a cheat code to skip through a regular video game, I think that it would diminish the experience for all involved.
Needless to say, I think his sentiments are spot on. Unfortunately it didn't happen this way and normal modes actually come out EARLIER than heroics. LFR does come out a little later, but it's the same thing here - LFR diminishes the experience of the normal mode raider in the same way normal does to heroics. I'm sure some wouldn't agree with this and want to have their normal modes (or LFR) right away, but personally I would very much be interested in seeing the hardest difficulty first with the lesser difficulties still offering access to everyone, but later. And if you want to see content a little faster, maybe you can try for harder challenges? Regardless, this is all academic as there's no way it would happen after the precedents set for the last three expansions.