Icecrown gating and difficulty

There's been a lot of hubbub in the blogosphere about the news that the release of Icecrown Citadel will be slowly staggered and that people will only have limited amounts of attempts on several bosses even on normal mode. I understand that the top raid guilds are annoyed by this, but personally I don't think it will affect me much. My guild is not the kind to push for server firsts, and if running out of attempts forces us to stop for the week or to go back and farm Trial of the Crusader some more, so be it. Waiting a few more weeks to kill the Lich King won't make or break the game for me.

What amuses me slightly about this whole development is that it's basically a sign of Blizzard doing some massive backpedaling from their initial WOTLK raiding policy. Personally I thought that BC raiding was fine with its continual increase in difficulty and attunement requirements, but for some reason the developers thought that things needed to change and that it would be a good idea to make all the WOTLK starter raids super easy and immediately accessible to everyone. The result? People cleared everything really quickly and then asked: "What now?"

Seeing that this wasn't working as planned, Ulduar was designed to be harder again and to keep players busy for longer, though judging by how quickly some of the encounters were nerfed again, Blizzard soon had regrets about that too.

Along comes Trial of the Crusader, going back to super easy mode (though with a "make this really difficult" switch for the hardcore raiders), but not releasing all the bosses at once to make sure that nobody cleared the whole instance in the first week. And now we get more of the same in Icecrown, trying to make everything really accessible, yet at the same time not immediately accessible, like it used to be in BC because of attunements.

The difference with this new system is that it basically rewards long periods of inactivity. In BC things went like this: Want to kill Prince Malchezaar? Better get cracking and work on that Karazhan attunement! In Icecrown it will be: Want to kill Arthas? Well, wait a couple of weeks and he'll be unlocked automatically. Wait even longer and you'll get a powerful buff to defeat him more easily! It's like... rested XP for raids, except that there's no choice to keep going unrested. I think Blizzard have overshot their goal of appealing to the casual player if they make content that actively prevents you from playing more.

Also, it leaves me concerned about the difficulty of normal mode Icecrown. Surely if it offered a decent challenge you wouldn't have to erect such heavy artificial barriers to hold people back? Hard modes or not, if normal mode Arthas turns out to be as much of a pushover as Anub'arak, I'll be disappointed.

Anyone remember how at the start of WOTLK, Blizzard said that they would make the tiers coming after Naxx progressively harder when people complained that Naxx & Co. were too easy? They said that they just wanted to make things a bit more accessible overall, which I thought was fair enough, considering the insane difficulty of Sunwell at the end of BC. Ulduar lived up to that promise, but with the release of Trial of the Champion it all went out the window again. Sure, Trial requires somewhat better gear than Naxx (to make sure that your tank doesn't go splat on Gormok and your dps can kill Anub'arak before he enrages), but mechanics-wise it's a huge step backwards from Ulduar again and pretty much on par with Naxx. The impression I got from this is that Blizzard has kind of stopped caring about logical raid progression and just makes everything really easy so everyone can do it, adding a "really difficult" option for the hardcore, and leaving all the middle-of-the-road raiders in some kind of black hole where the normal modes offer no challenge and the hard modes are too hard. I guess we'll all just have to level some more alts instead then?

1 comment:

  1. Good and insightful writeup.

    WotLK really has been a push-over, hasn't it? I'm no raider and therefore a mere casual player, but even I would appreciate a challenge where I seek them out; in 5-man instances.

    Sunwell was challenging, and attunement to the different TBC instances made the whole thing more interesting.

    I had a take on Naxx 10-man before Ulduar was out, but just after a handful runs it was obvious that with good players, the instance wasn't much of challenge. We surely wiped, and had to progress, but then we also had players that performed less then optimal.

    My favorite take on improving instancing would be to introduce "zoneing". Let mobs, even bosses, wander throughout the instance in random patterns and compositions, in theory making it possible to encounter two bosses at the same time etc. (not saying that is should be at all possible to *defeat* two bosses at the same time..)

    I can appreciate that they make content available to other then just the hard-core players over time (by making it easier), but to differentiate who's done what they could alter the loot-tables to drop better gear on harder modes/levels. E.g. you do a raid instance after several "nerfs" or mechanics changes that make the instance eaiser; the loot you get is less good.

    Anyhow. This is just me rambling. You put it way better :)