|DoD surveys The Twin Emperors,|
The Temple of Ahn'Qiraj
Options Dry UpAttempts on Twin Emperors were not going well at all. One week earlier, the 40-Man raiders had successfully exterminated Princess Huhuran, earning the first set of "real" rewards in the instance. From Skeram up through Fankriss, loot was on-par with that of Blackwing Lair (for the most part). Blizzard tried something new with Ahn'Qiraj: instead of issuing our set pieces directly from the corpse of a boss, we'd collect tokens to be exchanged for the actual gear. These Qiraji Bindings were shared among multiple classes, which added a layer of complexity to our fixed-cost DKP system. It was already an administrative nightmare to catalog every item, estimating its worth to a particular class. Now we had to consider the value of the exchanged item, normalizing the cost between the classes that shared it. Players regularly dismissed their assigned loot, opting to pick-and-choose random off-pieces to maximize their play -- which only made the administration worse. The good news is that we finally had some Tier 2.5 tokens to our name, thanks to the death of Huhu...
...the bad news is they would be the last AQ tokens that Descendants of Draenor would see.
The problem of AQ40 was becoming more painfully clear upon each wipe at the hands of Emperors Vek'lor and Vek'nilash. First and foremost, we'd run out of time on the schedule. B-team became more prolific at leaving us "cleanups" as they failed to empty out Blackwing Lair. Instead of starting AQ40 work fresh, A-team continued to sink precious minutes into Nefarian kills before moving to Silithus. And, A-team themselves had issues with farm bosses. Our first kill of Skeram was months behind us, yet we still struggled with execution, and the same held true for Battleguard Satura. We regularly skipped the bug family to shave time off clears; the change was negligible. Even a mistake or two on Fankriss meant re-doing the gauntlet that proceeded him. Let us not forget about The Princess whom had already proven to us she was going to require multiple attempts per night; the self-proclaimed queen of the 1% wipe. After A-team swallowed all of that, precious few hours remained to work on The Twin Emperors, and we were only now digging into the tough content. For behind The Twin Emperors nestled Ouro and Viscidus (both of whom could be skipped) and the ultimate evil behind all of Ahn'Qiraj: C'thun. We'd heard the horror stories of world-first guilds burning week after week after week on the final boss. Two days a week was no longer enough.
So, there was the problem of time; a lack of a viable schedule. There was the problem of loot, that being nearly every boss we were killing en route to The Twin Emperors producing nothing of upgrade value. There was the looming expansion, still in development by Blizzard but in the forefront of our minds every day. A release date wasn't yet set in stone, but we predicted that it would be soon, and we wanted as much off our plates as we could stand.
And, of course, there was the issue with Naxxramas.
|Kerulak and the 40-Man team gets Power Word: Fortitude|
in preparation for the nightly work in Naxxramas,
2.5 vs. 3.0An entire raid instance still existed that we hadn't even set foot in. The ultimate raid in Vanilla, a devastatingly oppressive instance that only the dedicated few raiders of World of Warcraft could claim a victory over. We knew by pouring over the Elitist Jerks discussions and examining the loot tables buried within thotbott.com that Naxxramas was, coin-for-coin, worth every bit of energy put into it. Items that dropped off the first bosses alone put our existing gear to shame, and with most players in A-team built on Tier 2, the prospect of leap-frogging out of AQ40's pathetic 2.5 side-grades straight into Tier 3 made our core raiders drool with anticipation.
The only other possibility to increase our progress was to come to an agreement with a competing guild, one less progressed than us. These less progressed guilds whom were able to clear the first half of AQ40 were starting to "give up" their raid locks to more progressed guilds, who would swoop in, inherit the half-cleared instance, and then power through the remaining second half. The price on the "sale" of these locks varied from handfuls of gold, and/or promised loot if it dropped, to "carrying" several of the lesser-progressed-guildies along for the ride. None of these options sat well with me. They all seemed like forms of selling out. Could we actually say we cleared AQ40 if others were doing half the job for us? It didn't matter what I thought, anyway. There were no half-eaten AQ40 raid locks to assume on Deathwing-US. Whatever inter-guild agreements may have been on-the-table got scooped up by other guilds with greater desperation and less conscience.
After The Twin Emperors made it clear we would be spending weeks working on their encounter, and with our options dwindling, the officers and I came to a difficult decision: Our work in Ahn'Qiraj was over. Princess Huhuran would remain the final boss defeated by Descendants of Draenor in AQ40, and all of our efforts would now be turned towards the necropolis that floated above the Eastern Plaguelands.
Some of the officers didn't take this news well. Kadrok was particularly angry by this decision, and felt his voice hadn't been heard enough. An old school EQ player, he was unsatisfied with an incomplete instance on our track record. Trying to outline the logical reasons why we left AQ40 only reiterated to me that it was a decision not made lightly. But as an honorable officer, Kadrok bit his tongue and stuck to the assignment, continuing to lead and shape the Shamans into a respectable crew of healers. I encouraged him at every opportunity I could, but I could tell he was not pleased with leaving AQ40 behind. I wished there was a way that everyone could be happy. There wasn't. And for those of the raid team who couldn't stand AQ40, celebrating our decision with virtual backflips, Kadrok and like-minded completionists only grew more disgusted at our choice to throw in the towel.
|Kerulak takes some flak from a non-raiding player,|
The Need For a GateBefore we set foot in Naxxramas, we needed all of our players to gain access, a process known as "attunement". Molten Core and Blackwing Lair both had an attunement that was easily digested: run a long dungeon and collect a quest item at the end. AQ40, meanwhile, had no attunement whatsoever (save the server-wide unlocking of the entire instance). But Naxxramas had a different plan in store for us. Stationed in Light's Hope Chapel stood a series of NPCs revealing the attunement quest to us. There was no challenge, no dungeon to run or quest item to return -- in fact, the attunement was completely free...
...if you were exalted with The Argent Dawn.
Now, if it turned out that you hadn't run 10-Man Stratholme or Scholomance a billion times already, no problem! You could also gain access to the floating necropolis for a small fee of 30 gold if The Argent Dawn saw you were at least Revered. Even those who were only Honored could buy their way in, though the cost was raised to 60 gold for these less dedicated folks.
Let me take a moment to propel you back into a game where having gold was practically unheard of. In those days, there was no such thing as a daily quest -- a quest you could repeat over and over, racking up vast amounts of wealth. In Vanilla, once you walked the entire surface of Azeroth, completing every quest in every zone, quests no longer became your primary source of income. From that point on, money came from either playing the Auction House, or farming high-level mobs until your eyes bled. And when carrion grubs in the Plaguelands dropped 2s each, it was a long, hard road to 30g.
The grinding became so incessantly awful that I often forgot why I was there in the first place, gaining temporary bursts of insanity that caused me to make bets with myself on what I would hit first, the reputation or the gold cost. In a burst of craziness, I'd scribble down some notes on how fast I thought I was earning reputation, then compare it to the insanely low income of mob farming. Gold...it was definitely going to be the Gold that wins out. Ha ha! I told you, game. I told you!! I'm totally going to get the gold before I max my rep.
Reality would quickly snap back like a bucket of water being dumped on me as I sat at the computer. What the fuck was I doing? Was this why I swore never to touch another MMO again? Why hadn't I listened to myself? Who considers this 'fun'? Didn't I learn my lesson in EverQuest?
"If they know what's good for them, they'll ditch any and all concepts of attunement in the expansion", I typed into guild chat.
"They do it to gate the raid," Kadrok replied, "Not everyone belongs in there."
"Nor should they be! But for God's sake, can't the player's skill...or lack thereof....be the gate itself? There has to be a better solution than this."
"They should just do it off of your gear", typed Gutrippa, adding to the conversation.
"Yeah, exactly! This makes perfect sense. Examine a person's gear. If you don't have the gear, don't let people in the instance!"
Blain typed his two cents into guild chat, "Gear doesn't make a bad player good tho."
In that brief moment of lucidity, the Naxxramas attunement made sense. For all the technology that WoW was bringing to the table, a good ol' fashioned grind was the most practical way to keep non-raiders at bay. A casual would look at a grind like that and give it the middle finger. There'd be no complaints of 'the instance is too hard', or 'we can't figure out these bosses', because players who used those excuses as a crutch wouldn't even get a taste test. The rest of us might bitch to ourselves quietly...but then knock it out. Besides, players that didn't raid had other opportunities to take their jealous rage out on us, spitting on us in public at the sight of our gear. A /spit is much easier than, say, getting off your ass and making it happen. They were unwilling to pay their entrance fee like the rest of us. Those players would always exist, but the logistics behind these gates diminished their opportunity to bitch. Of what little animosity that remained towards our progress and success, we ate.
I won my own bet: the 30 gold pieces accumulated first. To this day, Kerulak is still not exalted with The Argent Dawn.