The Attunement Debate

There are two big debates going on right now in all of the WoW-related forums.  One is about the merit of attunement quests, and the other is about the pattern of gradually nerfing raids.  Today I’ll give my take on attunements, and my next post will be about raid nerfs.

As someone who has played since vanilla, I’ve lived through the ups and downs of attunements.  I didn’t raid in vanilla, but I did go through the attunement for Molten Core.  In Burning Crusade, I did the attunement quest chain for Karazhan since we actively raided there.  Later, I did the attunment chain for Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern, but I did them primarily to get the Champion of the Naaru title, not to do the raids.  (In fact, as I remember it I completed the attunements the last week before they removed the ability to get the title pre-WotLK)

Karazhan-style attunements

To get attuned for Karazhan was relatively painless, but time consuming.  It involved running nine instances after you had hit the level cap.  This had good and bad implications.

  • The good: you learned the story behind the raid.  The quest chain told you through the backstory of Karazhan, which made the raid itself more interesting.
  • The bad: it slowed everyone down.  If you leveled a toon, then once you hit the level cap you had to get guildies (pug groups were hard to put together back then) to do nine instance runs with you before you were able to do the first raid tier of the expansion.  It took a week, if you were lucky and put a burden on everyone in the guild to run content that had no reward for them.

I think that the LFG system in place today would make this method much more palatable, however, in the current setup it is someone useless.  Blizzard doesn’t need to force players to run instances.  In Cataclysm, with the LFG system in full force and gear level requirements, everyone will run heroics for JP or VP gear before they start raiding.  There is no need to put an attunement quest chain in place because people are going to run the instances anyway!

TK/SSC/MH/BT-style attunements

This is where the real debate is happening.  To get attuned for Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Caverns (tier 5), you had to run the raids from the previous tier (Gruul, Magtheridon, and Karazhan).  Then to get attuned for Mount Hyjal and Black Temple (tier 6) you had to run SSC and TK.

That means that a player who just hits the level cap HAD to run all of the tiers (Kara, Gruul, Magtheridon, SSC, and TK) to get to the highest raid tier.  There is no skipping a tier.

One side of this debate says, “That is good!  It gets the players raiding experience before they get to the harder tiers!”  However, its more complicated than that.  Think of your recent guild raids.  While you were running Dragon Soul, how often would your guild go back and run Blackwing Descent?  How about Baradin Hold?  Throne of the Four Winds?  Probably never.  Would you want to?

In reality, here is what happened in Burning Crusade.  Guilds became farm systems.  I know because my guild was on the low-end of the system, and I remember it well.

The high-end guilds would advance to the most current level of raid content.  If you wanted to join one of those guilds, they insisted that you should already be attuned because they didn’t want to run old content.  That meant that you had to join a guild that was still running old content.

Players would join my guild while we were running the Gruul/Magtheridon tier.  Once we were able to clear those raids, some players would leave our guild to jump to a guild that was in the SSC/TK tier.  Once the players had cleared those, they would try to jump to a top guild in BT/MH.

At this point, some would ask, “But why didn’t your guild just keep progressing past that tier so you could get to the higher tiers?”  Its hard to do that when you keep losing players.  And every time we lost players, in order to replace them we had to go back and run old content to attune them.  It was a terrible cycle and actually prohibited progression for all but the top guilds.

And that is why that attunement style cannot be brought back.  It created a nearly unbreakable caste system in the game.  (of course, the elitists want exactly that, which is why they argue so strongly for attunements)


There is probably a middle ground to this, but with the LFG making heroics and JP/VP gear so accessible and all but required prior to raiding, I think its not needed.  The devs should be able to wrap the backstory up in the heroic instances and it would accomplish most of what an attunement chain could do.  I’d suggest to add maybe one or two solo pre-quests before the heroics as a story hook, because once you’re in the heroics the go-go-go crowd can make it hard to stop and read quest text.


4 Responses to “The Attunement Debate”

  1. July 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    If I recall correctly (and I may not be), the Karazhan attunement was just to get the key to open the gate. As long as someone in the group had the key, they could open the gate for everyone. This was slightly annoying for that person, as they’d have to sit there and continually open the gate until the whole raid was in. And if anyone had to leave the instance for some reason…yeah.

    I do miss attunements from a personal standpoint. I actually really liked doing them. For me.

    But I don’t miss having to do them for others. Pretty much for all the reasons you’ve outlined.

    I think the re-launch of ZA/ZG had the right idea. There was a series of quests that you -could- do if you wanted, and they acted as an attunement might. They just didn’t actually keep you out of the dungeons if you didn’t do them.

    If raids implemented similar quest chains, maybe ones that took you into dungeons looking for specific items or to kill specific (side-)bosses and had a tangible reward at the end in place of access to the raid, it’d be good. A mini-pet or mount, maybe. Or even a piece of transmografiable gear. If you did all the attunements in an expansion, you could make a whole set out of it.

    • July 12, 2012 at 7:36 am

      Actually, back when Burning Crusade first launched, everyone needed the key. It was only months later that only one person needed a key and could let you in.

  2. July 12, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Doing attunements for people, for my guild back in Vanilla/BC, usually meant that those people felt indebted to us for helping them out. We had our fair share of guild hoppers and people who were poached, but in many cases, all we had to do in order to help someone out with attunement was a BRD Jailbreak or quick Attunement to the Core run or an UBRS run (BWL/end of Onyxia).

    My guild benefited from the removal of the SSC/TK attunements and, later, the Hyjal/BT attunements. We did get the Hyjal/BT attunements done (Hyjal was hard not to, since it required killing Vashj and Kael, while we did the BT attunement to get the precious shadow resistance neck, the Medallion of Karabor) and most of us sport the Hand of A’dal title. So the attunements for SSC/TK never adversely affected us (and grats on Champion of the Naaru, I have huge respect for anyone who did all the stuff to get that!) and we were able to keep progressing when we felt we were ready to move beyond T4. We kind of lucked out because we formed on June 1, 2007, so while we were still farming Karazhan, those attunements were removed and we knew we could take our time before heading to SSC or TK and go when we felt ready.

    I’m an advocate for attunements and I’m currently a high-end raider, but I’m not in favour of a never-changing caste system. I think attunements can make a return (not that they will) without bringing about the difficulties you discuss. In particular, I think that a bit less complexity (I mean, come on, TK’s and BT’s attunements were immense!) coupled with account-bound attunement might make a significant difference.

    Alas, Blizzard hates the idea of attunements, which is pretty hilarious to consider since they’re the ones who came up with, oh, the Onyxia chain and such. 😉

    Interesting post! Oh, and btw, it’s just five instances for Karazhan attunement: Shadow Labyrinth, Steamvaults, Arcatraz, then The Black Morass (which requires Escape from Durnholde to be done at least once beforehand).

    • July 12, 2012 at 11:12 am

      I think that the only hate the idea of attunements now, in light of the changes in game and the playerbase since those first years. The competition for subscription dollars is much tougher than it once was. More importantly, WoW has become so focused on endgame.

      In Vanilla, WoW was a leveling game for the majority of its players. Attunements made sense because raiding was that “optional” activity to do at the level cap.

      When Burning Crusade made raiding so much more available, the attunements were exposed as a huge barrier cutting off an important part of the game for many of the players. What seemed like a good idea at the time created the caste system that I detailed in the main post.

      Now, WoW is clearly an endgame-focused game. You can level to the level cap within a couple of weeks after the release of an expansion, and then you have two years with just raiding to do. If raiding is going to be the main game activity for two years, then there cannot be barriers to entry. Thus, Blizzard now hates attunements. They are protecting the interests of most of their players, which is the right thing for a company to do.

      I’m sure that they could do something with simple attunements, but they have sent a clear message that they are not. I think that guild-based attunements is an interesting idea, as long as its not so hard to accomplish that it also results in a guild caste system.

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