Thursday, August 23, 2012

2.4. Karazhan

Kerulak joins a few of the original core 40-Man
raid team from Vanilla to battle Attumen,

The Lonely Tower

The Burning Crusade gave us a whole mess of hoops to jump through in order to re-establish our raiding machine, and attunement played heavily into this. Officially, attunement existed as a gate; certain players shouldn't be simply waltzing in to a raid instance. Players who didn't know what they were doing would (presumably) stumble into said instance, proceed to get their faces smashed in, and then complain about how difficult the game was. To proactively stymie this chain of complaints before they even started, Blizzard gated the instances by forcing players who intended to raid to complete a series of trials and quests to gain access. Hitting level 70 was not enough. And, as Descendants of Draenor's roster of 70s grew at different intervals, so too, were those 70s currently progressed through their attunement quests at varying stages. Some finished early, and had time to kill -- they needed something to occupy their time as the roster filled out.

That something was Karazhan.

Karazhan was a new 10-Man instance nestled in an area of the Eastern Kingdoms known as Deadwind Pass. It was heavily steeped in Warcraft lore, so the biggest nerds of us were squealing like schoolgirls when Karazhan was announced and loaded into our new expansion. I'd long since devoured The Last Guardian, Blizzard's only source of Karazhan-related lore at the time, telling the story of Medivh's downward spiral into madness. Grubb's novel referred to it as "The Lonely Tower", cursed after the death of its former master. Inside, tortured souls and ghostly phantoms haunted every corner, crumbling staircases revealed demonic contraptions and newly uninvited guests. Secret passages twisted every which way, hiding horrific visions of Fleshbeasts. Karazhan even boasted a gigantic Chess Board, a unique encounter in which we battled the ghost of Medivh himself by moving living "pieces" in an attempt to defeat each other's King...a game Medivh enjoyed cheating at.

A 10-Man group hams it up next to
the defeated Maiden of Virtue,

A Glorified 5-Man

Karazhan had its own keying requirements, but they were trivial in comparison to the 25-Man attunement the guild was presently engaged in. And, due to its reduced size, Karazhan was much easier to coordinate. So much so, that raiders could put together a team ad-hoc, and work their way through as though it were a 5-Man. It is safe to say that the core raid team in Descendants of Draenor looked upon Karazhan as simply that...a glorified, more involved 5-Man -- at least, on the surface. There were subtle differences that our players paid little attention to, and I fell into that dismissive group as well.

10-Man instances appeared in the early months of Vanilla, these being Stratholme and Scholomance. Lower and Upper Blackrock Spire (LBRS and UBRS, respectively) were initially 15-Man to start, but they were also reduced to 10-Man, as Blizzard played with various sizes and difficulties. I imagine a great deal of those first two years were as much a learning exercise for Blizzard as it was for us playing their game. Gear-wise, the rewards were blue-quality ("Rares", in WoW-speak), often allowing us to work toward a Tier 0 Dungeon Set of items. Those rare items paled in comparison to the purple-quality items of Molten Core, Blackwing Lair and beyond -- items we refer to as "Epics". And, just like the 5-Man dungeons themselves, those 10-Man dungeons reset every day, whereas raids sat on a 7-day reset timer: You could only run raids once per week. So while those 10-Mans were challenging, we never considered them actual raid content, as the only thing that technically made them a raid was the simple fact that there were more than 5 players present. For all intents and purposes, 10-Man content was regarded with little seriousness by raiders in Vanilla, if any at all.

When Zul'Gurub and The Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj -- two 20-Man instances -- were introduced to the raiding scene, their smaller size and far less impressive loot tables (in comparison to the 40s) also buried another subtle difference: both raids were on three-day timers. So while the larger, more involved raids reset each week, these smaller, inconsequential ones refreshed more frequently, more akin to the first generation of 10-Mans that hardcore raiders paid little attention to. There was no need for an overt explanation on what was easier and what was more involved -- we had enough information to make up our own minds. Inconsequential loot. Easier bosses. A smaller raid, on a more frequent reset timer.

When it was time to put together a 10-Man group for Karazhan, we never even gave it a second thought.

Baite atop the Fiery Warhorse, after
defeating Attumen the Huntsman,

The Fiery Warhorse

By the time Ater was 70, he was already fashioning himself a group of people to take into Karazhan, based upon whomever was 70, keyed, and ready to go. As was his way in approaching people, Ater was always willing to try out new players, even if he wasn't terribly familiar with the newest of them. A few of those individuals happened to be players from our Vanilla 40-Man progression team. Those people were a no-brainer, Ater's first-hand experience raiding with them was a sure bet, so he readily added them to the invite list. As for the new people, in typical Ater fashion, he bore no biases against them. If they were motivated and ready-to-go, he gladly gave them an opportunity to impress. As luck would have it, one such new recruit was a Restoration Shaman named Baite.

While many of us continued to level, pressing on with our keying quests and assisting one another, we listened with curiosity to the initial reports coming back from Karazhan. Verdict: Full-on awesome. Ater and the crew were having tons of fun, getting used to the new trash and drinking in the layout of the immense castle. They would link new armor and weapons in guild chat and we'd immediately dig into mathing out the improvements in DPS, healing and survivability gains. Before long, they arrived at the first boss, Attumen the Huntsman, and began working through a strategy on-the-fly. They made several attempts, adjusted their positioning, and got a handle on the transition. When they spammed guild chat announcing Attumen's defeat, I watched the chat window for loot to be linked. In a bizarre stroke of luck, the unthinkable happened: In that very first kill that was made by a 10-Man team in Descendants of Draenor, quite possibly one of the first on Deathwing-US, Attumen dropped the exceedingly rare Epic mount, a horse whose eyes and hooves were bathed in fire.

The guild was stunned. Shouts of congratulations were sent back to the team in Karazhan over Vent and in guild-chat. Ater made certain to allow everyone a chance to roll on the mount, as this was something our guild took very seriously; we would never ninja items from bosses. With Ater telling everyone to /roll (the game client randomly rolls a number between 1 and 100), the winner was none other than our new recruit, Baite. He was shocked and surprised by this graciousness. Without any push-back from the team, arguments or drama, the remaining nine players handed the mount over to Baite, along with their support. I instructed him to hold tight, and immediately flew over to Karazhan to grab a screenshot to proudly display it on our website. Baite was overwhelmed at the camaraderie, he couldn't believe that we were treating a new recruit so well. But in my eyes, this was par-for-the-course in Descendants of Draenor. We treated everyone equally and fairly -- a virtual family extended online into a world of internet dragons.

It would take many more months of harsh lessons for me to learn that treating people equally...and treating people fairly...were two entirely different concepts, a product of my continued lack of formality in running the guild, and an unhealthy reliance on the existence of common sense.


Direwulf13 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Direwulf13 said...

I've been reading your blog at work in bits and pieces over the last week. My memory is being refreshed of times and things that I had forgotten while playing WoW. Kara was by far one of the most fun raids I've ever done. Your story is making me want to play again...and I gave up halfway through Cataclysm...