The discussion about what might be "wrong" with Cataclysm continues, and one of the latest installments has turned people's attention towards raiding. Now, while I do have some issues with this expansion and have said as much, I'd like to come to Blizzard's defense as far as the raid content is concerned, because I think that this is one part of the expansion where they've done really well. I'm not the only one in our guild who's feeling a bit bored, but raid nights keep us logging on nonetheless because the raids are good. I'm not claiming that it's all perfect (where's the music for example), but I feel that the developers did get a lot of things right with this tier.
First off, bringing back the multiple raids per tier model has been a godsend. My guild has been struggling to down Atramedes for weeks now, and we were starting to get really frustrated. But hey, there are other places to progress! So the next week we just took a break from him and focused on downing the Ascendant Council in Bastion of Twlight instead, which we did, and after we returned to Blackwing Descent, energised and rejuvenated from that kill, we came really close to killing Atramedes too and I'm positive that we'll get him the next time we see him. Variety helps to keep the content fresh and to keep raiders motivated.
Also, while I haven't seen all the raid content yet (not even on normal), my overall impression is that it's pretty well balanced to challenge different people in the raid. I was a bit weary when both Halfus and Magmaw turned out to be little more than healer stress tests from what I could tell, but as we've moved on I found that a lot of fights didn't always try to push the healers to the max but put the focus on different members of the raid instead. A friend of mine was very amused when he whispered me in the middle of a Maloriak attempt and I responded instantly, causing him to question whether the encounter wasn't keeping me busy. The truth was that Maloriak isn't too bad as a healer; it's the interrupters who wiped us over and over again while they had to learn their role. And I was glad about that - I'm quite happy to let some damage dealers take the spotlight (and associated performance pressures) for a change.
I honestly also don't think that the difficulty is as bad as some people make it out to be. My guild is only on 7/12 in normal mode... and I consider that a good thing. I'm happy that the normal modes are challenging, and I don't really care much about the hard modes. They are something to keep you busy while you wait for the next tier, but they don't feel like "real" content to me. At the end of the day I'd rather be banging my head against normal modes and actually discover new encounters every other week, which only works if they are difficult enough to actually slow us down for a while.
I've heard people comment that they think that the current raid tier is too hard for a "starter tier", and I agree that it's a bit hard to get your foot in the door, seeing how there isn't even a traditionally easy "gatekeeper boss" in any of the raids, excluding Baradin Hold. The thing is... having a "starter tier" only makes sense if you actually have linear progression across tiers. WOTLK was originally supposed to work that way, which is why I was a lot less annoyed by Naxx's low difficulty than many other raiders (because hey, it was supposed to be the "intro raid" of the expansion, fair enough!) But then Blizzard abandoned that model and instead went for one where they try to funnel everyone into the latest raid instance so all the kids can play together, newbies and veterans alike; the moment you do that, staggering the difficulty across tiers becomes meaningless - because the newest raid is always the newbie raid and the progression raid at the same time.
Since Blizzard has so far announced no intentions to go back to linear raid progression, I believe that there's no reason to make tier eleven particularly accessible - or to make the next tier any harder, for that matter. It's just supposed to be something new and different, preferably at a difficulty that is easy enough that people who want to put the effort in can make some progress even if they aren't the best of players, but also hard enough to challenge the more skilled ones. This is always going to be a difficult balance to strike, but personally I prefer them to err on the side of more difficulty when it comes to raiding. As Ghostcrawler himself commented in a recent blog post, raids nerf themselves over time. If you already start out with things being too easy, you're only left with a bunch of frustrated raiders that have nowhere left to go.
Lessons Learned: Home Theater Edition
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