From a blue post in the forums…
Ulduar has a ton of bosses. While I’m sure some players would love for us to deliver an instance with that level of content every month or so (and throw in a 5-player run to boot!), it’s not in the cards, at least not for the next couple of years.
Instead, what we tried to do with Ulduar is offer a lot of different ways to play the encounters. While the progress-oriented guilds may clear it quickly, we hope that some of the hard modes will offer them a lot to chew on. All of the players who are somewhere between barely being able to clear the instance and the “world first” crowd should be able to find a comfortable difficulty level as well.
There is quite a bit of anticipation for patch 3.1. A lot of that hype is a result of boredom – many players are done with the current content and are looking forward to something new. Wrath, as it turned out, was very short on content.
It didn’t seem that way at first. At release, Wrath seemed to have a lot to do… a dozen instances, all with regular and heroic modes, plus three quick raids (VoA, OS, EoE) and one large raid (Naxx) all with both 10- and 25-man modes.
However, I think Blizz misplayed their hand. With all of their efforts top make raiding more accessible, it made the instances all but irrelevant. For a lot of players, instances are just a quick way to get XP on the way to 80, and are easily skipped or overlooked. Heroics are important for reputation gains, but since Naxx is not too challenging there is no need to gear up through heroics before starting 10 and 25 man raiding. A large amount of play time revolves around Naxx, Naxx, and more Naxx.
I know a number of casual players that spend 1-2 nights a week in heroic Naxx, and then 1-2 nights a week in regular Naxx. Is that fun?
For raiders, both hardcore and casual, the upcoming patch promises Ulduar – another large raid with 10 and 25 man modes. Is that enough?
Ulduar will reward players with new loot, but explorer-types are being left out. I’m an ESAK on the Bartle Test, but its not just me. Explorer is the most common result on the Bartle test, so there are a lot of other gamers like me, who enjoy finding new places, new bosses, new stuff.
Think back to pre-BC. Raiding guilds had UBRS as a starting 10-man raid, followed by Molten Core and Onyxia’s Lair for 40 players. Then ZG and BWL were added later for guilds that had completed MC and Ony. Finally, Naxxramas was put into the game for top-tier guilds.
Burning Crusade gave us Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, Magtheridon, SSC, and Tempest Keep all at release. That’s three full raids and two short raids. No one was clearing SSC within the first week after release, the way they did with Naxx 25. Later, Black Temple, Zul’Aman, Mount Hyjal, and Sunwell were put in. There were many levels of raiding depending on your guild’s skill, time commitment, and progression.
In both cases, there was a clear path of progression. In vanilla WoW, you finished MC to get to BWL and if you cleared BWL you could do Naxx. In BC, guilds finished Kara to move on to Gruul and Mag, leading them into TK and SSC and then on to BT and MH. When you cleared one tier of raiding, the reward (for me, the explorer type) was getting to move on to new content. Sure, loot is nice. But the real prize was seeing new places with new atmosphere and new bosses that had new fight mechanics.
Unfortunately, with all of those tiers of raiding, the majority of guilds never made it to the high end raid instances. Most people (myself included) agree that this was a problem. Only the elitists want content to be restricted to just a few select people.
10 vs 25 man raids do count as progression but it does not have new content as reward. So doing Naxx 25 after finishing Naxx 10 doesn’t carry much excitement for me. On top of that, you didn’t really need to finish Naxx 10 in order to do Naxx 25, so it barely counts as a real step up in raiding.
Hard modes, like Sarth 3D, are cool and provide real challenges for high-end raiding, but again do not reward explorer-types with new content. I am not all that motivated to do Sarth+anything, myself, because I’ve already seen what the fight will look like and so there is nothing “new” to it except the chance for an achievement and a title.
Now Ulduar is coming, and it will have 10 and 25 man versions, and hard modes. All of that will give a myriad of challenges to guilds of all types. Everyone will be able to raid Ulduar, as there are almost no barriers to participation. And that’s all good.
But what about us explorers? For those of us who look forward to new stuff, we’re getting one new place. All the hard modes and versions are fine, but its still the same content being retasked over and over. After my first time finishing 10-man Ulduar, whenever that happens, all the other versions will be repetitive.
Also, since Ulduar wasn’t available on release, it isn’t going to seem like a reward for finishing Naxx. They are too far separated in time. And who knows how long it will be before we get more raids?
I would have liked to see more raid instances instead of the the same one with harder modes. I like seeing all the effort that Blizz puts into their art and music, and running the same place over and over just doesn’t do it for me. Since that isn’t happening, my hope is that Blizzard will surprise us with another raid instance not too long after Ulduar. For me, the existence of more tiers of raiding give me long-term goals. I’ll be more excited to clear Ulduar if I know that finishing it will propel me into another Zul-something raid, or another dragon in OS, or Icecrown Citadel.
But as it seems right now, finishing Ulduar will just open up… harder versions of Ulduar. /yawn