A Step Back

I think it's been obvious from my posts about BC Classic that I've not been entirely happy with it. The "problem" is that I've not been entirely unhappy with it either. Instead, my feelings about the game have been oscillating in strange ways. Some nights I'd have fun with a friend, or a really good dungeon run, and I'd think to myself: Yes, this is it! This is what I love about this game. But then I'd log on the next evening and it wouldn't be like that at all; I'd just feel slightly weird and uncomfortable and log off again. What do you do in that sort of situation?

Other people have been having their own version of Burning Crusade malaise and there's been some discussion about it on the guild Discord, and a sentiment that many people supported in that conversation was to give it time. The launch of a new expansion is always a weird period of transition and so on. And they were not wrong in that! But how long does it make sense to wait for things to just magically improve and feel better?

I was hoping that getting back into large scale raiding would reinvigorate my passion by giving the guild as a whole something to rally behind. And it did work to some extent, but sadly that feeling was only temporary for me. I told myself that I'd continue raiding for at least a month, to give it a fair chance and not make any rash decisions based on a single evening's mood. However, the longer I allowed the thought of taking a step back to simmer, the more appealing it became - until I finally told the officers that I wanted to step down from the core raiding team. I felt a little bad during the conversation we had, because when you tell someone in a leadership position that you're not having fun I think it's easy for them to feel like they're to blame somehow, but I still think that it was the right thing to do.

Ultimately, there were three main factors to my decision.

First off, redoing raids I already progressed through fourteen years ago is just not everything I'd hoped it would be. The other day I found a diary entry in which I briefly described my guild's first Magtheridon kill back in 2007. Back then I wrote: I just have to mention that my Horde guild was finally victorious over Magtheridon tonight. After getting progressively worse at every attempt during the past few weeks, we finally got him down tonight. What a turnaround! As one of my guildies put it, Teamspeak was a "mass orgasm while trapped in a burning building". 

What a contrast to our mild surprise at everyone's cube-clicking competence in 2021! And yes, you could ask: What did I expect? I knew it wasn't going to be the same. But I had hoped that it was still going to be sufficiently fun, the same way levelling and running dungeons in Classic has been fun despite of those things also being activities that I've done before. It turns out that something about raiding is different though.

You could argue (and at least one of the officers did) that it might just be an issue with tier four being a bit short and boring and that things will be more interesting in tier five for sure. After all, that has Kael'thas and Vashj! And I do have very emotional memories of those as well... but in a way, that's only more of a reason to not want to do them again. Looking at how tier four has gone, I'm honestly a bit worried about just tainting my good memories of those fights as well by seeing them go down with a whimper instead of a bang.

Which sort of leads me to my second point: the raiding atmosphere. Again, I knew that there was going to be turnover, the way there always is with a new expansion in every MMO I've ever played, and I knew that some people wouldn't get raid spots. But I underestimated just how much I'd miss certain characters because of how much they contributed to the general mood that I loved so much.

Possibly the most striking example of this has been the departure of the guild's bard and recruiter, the paladin healer in full plate that recruited me back in August last year. I knew that leadership considered him a pain in many ways: not bothering to read Discord, constantly asking redundant questions during raids, always insisting on wearing his terribly sub-optimal suit of full plate gear for the sake of RP. Apparently he was told in no uncertain terms that he didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell at a core raid spot in BC unless he was going to change his ways from the ground up. And as someone who's familiar with being in an officer position... I kind of get why that was! Plus he and I weren't even really close anyway.

And yet... without him, I never would have joined the guild. His sub-optimal gear was what gave me the confidence to try raiding with the Forks in the first place, because as he himself acknowledged: If he could get away with healing raids in full plate, there was little to worry about in terms of pressure to min-max. There was that time when I had a bit of a fight with someone on Discord and he whispered me to ask if I was okay and offered comfort through some surprisingly sensitive insight. He also had a reputation for being extremely hard of hearing and unable to recognise anyone's voice on Discord, even that of the raid leader - but I remember one evening during some post-raid chatter on voice, I said something and he responded, addressing me by name... leading to me exclaiming, "oh my god, Inquiz, you recognised me by my voice" and feeling strangely yet incredibly flattered - a particularly poignant memory with all the recent instances of people seemingly not even remembering who I am. Many of the funny memories I captured in video clips or in writing on this blog featured him as well. And now he's gone, off to heal and recruit for some other guild in his plate suit. It's strange how much even people you barely know can contribute to the comforting tapestry of a familiar environment.

And with all these people leaving, and some others joining, things change. I'm not alone in struggling with this, so I was initially going to chuck it all up to a generic fear of everything simply being different, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it wasn't as simple as that, which brings me to my reason number three for stepping down: The guild has been taking some very clear steps towards being less casual, even if it's hard to admit for some people. No more free consumables from the guild bank, more expectations to follow rules. And there's nothing wrong with that! But I don't really think it's what I want from the game, not anymore.

I started raiding in Classic almost bristling at the thought of gathering consumables and world buffs, but as time went on and we progressed into harder content, I saw the difference that they made and decided to put more of an effort in. I felt inspired by other people's dedication and work, and soon aspired to be more like them, and to in turn lift other people up by doing things like helping out with Tribute runs when I could, even if I didn't necessarily need one myself. But I also knew that if I couldn't get my buffs or consumes one week for whatever reason, it was going to be fine. We weren't concerned with how much dps people did; we just wanted everyone to show up and follow the raid leader's instructions please.

Yet now we have rules to bring consumables, and people like to talk about dps a lot. And neither of those things is wrong, but I've realised that they're not something I want to deal with at this point in my life. Fourteen years ago bringing flasks to every raid was a complete non-issue to me and I cared about my spot on the dps meter too. But now I just feel bad when someone (anyone!) gets told off to stop being a slacker and flask up already, as I'd rather deal with people not having consumes than being told off for not having them. And having raided without live damage metres in SWTOR for nearly ten years has made me realise how much toxicity they encourage, so that I really prefer for people not to be involved in this sort of e-peening, never mind mid-combat.

I'm kind of wondering whether a gradual move towards being more hardcore is inevitable for any kind of guild that manages to stick around for a certain amount of time. As content gets harder, games kind of force you to evolve with that increased difficulty or be left behind - and Burning Crusade raids are definitely a step up from Classic. The Forks did become at least slightly more progression-focused on our journey to and through Naxx as well - and it was the same thing for my old Burning Crusade guild back in the day. Being a complete noob myself and constantly improving my own gameplay alongside everyone else, it was certainly satisfying for me too at the time.

The problem is, I've been through this whole song and dance before. I didn't come to Classic for that. I kind of stumbled into raiding because the guild's atmosphere was so great and the company meant so much to me. They needed a hunter and I felt that I was being helpful by coming along. I was hoping that we could just continue hanging out in the same kind of chill raid environment that we'd had before. When I agreed to new rules like bringing full consumables to every raid it didn't feel like a big deal, but considering the ease with which we've killed everything, it seems that was about as necessary as worrying about world buffs in Molten Core - the exact sort of situation I'd been keen to avoid ever since I first heard about how people raided in Classic. The moment I realised that I'd kind of become what I used to despise was really quite eye-opening to me. Maybe more preparation will be needed to down bosses later on... but considering the limited amount of time I'm willing to devote to Classic in general, I just don't want to be spending most of it worrying about farming/preparing for next week's raid.

There are still many good people in the Forks, and I've certainly not disliked any of the raids I've been to. Any of the three major issues I just discussed probably wouldn't have caused me to quit progression raiding on their own, but everything put together is just... meh. I'm in a place in my life where I have so many things vying for my attention that reserving seven hours a week for something that's merely okay does not strike me as a good use of my time. I was willing to go the extra mile and raid in two MMOs at once last autumn because it didn't used to matter if I was feeling a bit grumpy one evening... in a Classic Fork raid, I'd usually be smiling or giggling about something or other within five minutes. People still make me smile sometimes, but not as much - after all, some of the players that were the funniest to me have been victims of the downsizing or disappeared for other reasons. Overall, progression raiding in BC Classic has felt too much like simply going through the motions to me... and that's just not something I've got time for anymore in my hobbies.


  1. I can appreciate that. And I'm surprised that you didn't tell them that you were taking a step back because 'nobody messes with The Empress.'

    But still, I do understand where you're coming from, and I never even played in TBC in the first place. My guild has moved on from being semi-casual through semi-hardcore and now firmly planted in the hardcore area. And to be fair, that's about only half the raiding of the guild, where the sweatiest hardcore raiders we have are all in the "other" raid. And even the raid lead on my raid has said that she feels the pressure to not be considered essentially the 'farm team raid', in spite of the fact that our raid is more true to the original intentions of the guild's raiding.

    1. I started writing this post about a week ago and it went through a lot more edits than my usual drafts, but I've got to say that it's already been like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders... my play time has felt so much more relaxed, it's been great. Had a hilarious Kara run since then too. (I'm still going there because it's not progression.)

      How do you feel about all this stuff happening in your guild, Red? I figured you've mostly been quiet about it because like me you don't really get joy out of ranting about the same things over and over, but maybe it's time for you to take some sort of step as well if you're displeased with your current situation? Or is your team still not actually raiding yet?

    2. Our first formal raid was last Monday. A bit rough, but we got High King and Gruul down. Mags was, well, a different story.

      But the bigger thing for me is that the rumors of mid-August Phase 2, which is still waaay too soon for my taste, is likely more than just a rumor.

      Unless the current situation at Blizz delays things a bit, that is....

  2. I'm sorry things changed with your guild. The sad thing is that being hardcore in TBC isn't that necessary. The fights themselves are pretty easy, mechanics-wise, compared to modern MMO boss fights. I have the feeling that keeping up with the "serious" raiding guilds has become the mindset of too many guilds. Which is sad because progression doesn't have to be defined by a patch or a tier.

    It is nice to know you're finding your fun in the expansion even if it wasn't quite the way you initially imagined it. Here's to BC continuing to be a delight for you and not a burden. :)

    1. The guild hasn't really gone hardcore... like so many things in life, it's a spectrum. But even moving from fully casual to semi-casual or whatever you want to call it was more than I wanted to deal with at this point to be honest.

  3. That kinda sucks but if at least it doesn't kill your enjoyment of the game completely then not all hope is lost.

    Interestingly my curiosity for Karazhan is only "why do I remember it being so hard" and the rest of T4-T6 content isn't really what I would want to spend time on. Or to rephrase, if someone gave me a moderately geared toon, I'd try it - but grinding out gear just to be on the required level... nope. That's actually where I prefer retail, especially in the 2nd tier of this expansion. "New raid comes out? Cool. Prep time: as long as it takes to watch the strat videos. Gear grind time: zero".

    1. Hm, I seem to remember a fair bit of talk about how gear mattered during Castle Nathria and people being asked to spend time gearing up in M+. I guess it depends on the difficulty level you want to run.

      I actually think that Classic's gear grind's not too bad for a dps in terms of what you "need" to be viable in a raid, but the community has created its own mental prisons about "needing" full best-in-slot and some people just have expectations that to me feel very warped. The other day a friend was completely baffled that I didn't want to grind normal Mechanar and Botanica over and over to complete my Beast Lord set asap. "But it's easy, it could be done in a day!" Yeah, if you really enjoy repetition and got nothing else going on in your life I guess...