Thursday, December 19, 2013

3.46. Glory

The big red button that activates Mimiron's hard mode,
Ulduar

Firefighter

"Stand right here in this corner."

Twenty some-odd players crunched together, backs pressed up against one of the metallic walls as instructed. Omaric and Bretthew shuffled around to prepare for instruction. An enormous red button hovered above us like a canopy, larger than the entire group of raiders. I hovered my mouse over it, the tooltip revealing a message: "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!" Two weekends had passed since our completion of One Light in the Darkness. Last weekend, we'd cleared up through Auriaya and made initial attempts on Mimi. Tonight, four hours were on the clock; only a few minutes had passed since the official start time for a DoD raid.

Another new feature added with the release of Ulduar was the ability to extend a raid lock. Further adding to a raiding guild's convenience, raid lock extension provided guilds with the option of saving their weekly progress. Rather than starting from scratch each Tuesday (or Wednesday, for you Europeans), guilds could now return from whence they left off; a sort-of raid progression "save game", if you will. Casual raiding guilds wept with joy at the inclusion of this feature, freeing them from the brutality of clearing an entire instance in under a week. It was a feature to, again, grant guilds the necessary flexibility to experience endgame content, one piled on to an ever increasing list of compromises that the more hardcore of guilds questioned.

Extending a lock was not without its consequences: all the loot that would've gone to gear up lackluster players would be flushed down the drain. Truly hardcore raiding guilds cared little for loot, extending only if and when it made sense to secure a server or world first boss kill. As DoD continued to walk the fine line between casual and hardcore, we had our own stance on when it was appropriate to sacrifice gear in lieu of progression: when we needed to maximize the use of our eight hours per week on only the most difficult of encounters.

Like tonight.

"The flames aren't as random as you think. They spawn near you, and they'll seek you out...so the key is controlling them."

Bretthew continued Omaric's thought, "So that means everyone moves carefully. Together. Spreading out is actually a bad idea. What we ultimately want is fire to spawn near other fires, and you do that by staying near existing fires. This is mostly on melee's shoulders..."

"...so we're perpetually fucked -- is what you are saying."

Bretthew laughed, "...more or less."

The two raid leaders began to square away positioning, suggesting various movement strategies for the groups. Having seen the 10-Man version first-hand, Jungard was well-equipped to direct melee traffic. Among those drivers stood the guild leader, having cut over to my new role -- in training for legendaries to come. To my left, a familiar old face listened quietly to Jungard's direction, taking his place among melee, his weapons dripping with vile poisons.

"Fancy meeting you here," I whispered the rogue. He returned a smiley and said nothing.

Descendants of Draenor completes "Firefighter (25 Player)",
wrapping up the final meta for Glory of the Ulduar Raider,
Ulduar

Multitasking

How much do you think you can keep track of at once?

This is what we had to look forward to, on the off-chance we executed a clean transition into phase four:
  • Three synchronized health bars: The health of all three mini-bosses making up the V-07-TR-0N. As we depleted the boss's health, each of the three pools had to remain in synchronicity; killing any one of the three parts of V-07-TR-0N's body too soon would cause the remaining functional parts to resurrect it.
  • Shock Blast: No player could risk being near the clockwork construct when shock blast was about to go off, not even the tanks. 
  • Mines: Ejected by Leviathan MKII (V-07-TR-0N's feet), stepping on any of the freshly laid mines that formed a ring around the boss was nearly always fatal. The risk of setting them off was increased now that Omaric and Bretthew were dragging the boss around the circumference of the room.
  • Laser Barrage: VX-001 (V-07-TR-0N's body) continued to produce a focused stream of instant death. All players had to move around the boss, avoiding impenetrable purple beams of focused fire on a full 360 degree rotation. It could not be healed through. If players didn't move, they died.
  • Rocket Strikes: Also from VX-001, the floor continued to feature randomly painted targets, offering players mere seconds to sidestep impending rocket strikes. These crosshairs were now infinitely more difficult to see on a screen ablaze with fire.
  • Frost Bombs: Slowly moving blue orbs forced anyone near them to get away as fast as possible. Ten seconds was the grace period. After that, any player within fifteen yards was a tax write-off.
  • Emergency Fire Bots: These annoying contraptions distracted and confused the raid; their silencing aura shutting down casters and healers in the process. Raiders were instructed to keep their distance, specific players were assigned to blow them to bits.
  • Fire, fire, fire: Always and forever. Fire covered every inch of the screen, closing in on players, suffocating them, turning feet into inches, reducing what little safe spots remained in the room.
On top of all these things, we had our roles. Healers had to keep people alive. The tanks had to drag V-07-TR-0N around his room with care and precision. DPS had to unleash every ounce of Hell onto the boss they could wring out. Roles we had all come to perfect over the course of many months of play in multiple tiers of content.

Except myself, of course. I always had to be the exception to the rule.

I had to keep one eye on the wealth of items bombarding the raid, and the other eye on what little DPS I was able to contribute, always struggling to find a better groove, push my damage up the meters with what little off-spec gear I'd managed to piece together. Hour after hour we sunk into Firefighter, walking the tightrope, imminent death a constant threat. When the raid perfected its handling of one roadblock, we'd fall behind in other areas. Nervousness and exhaustion led some pulls to go down the drain right from the start, annihilating the tired and the weak before even getting a chance to see phase two.

And the fire...

Flames scorched virtual flesh, closing in with a claustrophobic intensity that hypnotized players. When focused on moving just enough to keep the fire at bay, they lost sight of the multitude of other risks on their plate. Early deaths in phase one were our first obstacle. Healers caught in Flame Suppressant would have their healing slowed, though most of the deaths couldn't be helped by heals. Careless players met a quick and painful death by stepping on ejected mines. A rocket strike here. A frost bomb there. A few seconds late in rotating around the boss, getting caught in a laser barrage as a result. Then, it was the long run back. Half the time was spent perfecting the art of returning to Mimiron's room quickly, buffing, preparing for another pull. How many more attempts could we fit in? An hour ticked away. Then another. And another.

Phase four continued to devolve into a pyromaniac's wet dream.

---

Only thirty minutes remained for the evening, the second full night of work practicing the million and one things Mimiron had planned out for us. Countless pulls over the weekend had been attempted, and slowly, the 25-Man progression team had begun to refine their system. Frost bombs were now less of an impediment, players had learned their Pavlovian lesson to move their ass...or have it handed to them. Fire bots were a non-factor; casters dodged and weaved out of their silencing auras, unleashing bursts of magical light that blew the contraptions apart before the bots had a chance to wreak havoc on the raid.

Baby steps.

We were fast approaching the definitive "famous last pull" of the night, but the sheer randomness of luck offered us no insight into how close we were to wrapping things up; each pull felt like the first. Omaric and Bretthew dragged the enormous robot across the outer edges of the room, a ring of discs flipping out onto the ground. I glanced up at my raid frames. Neps was out of commission, as was Jungard and Abrinis. I continued to eat into the boss's health with every Obliterate I could, dumping Frost Strikes as soon as my Runic Power capped out. My gaze darted back down towards the damage meters for a split second.
9th.

A wave of deja vu washed over, remembering Zanjina's first night of crossing into the top 10. I popped my remaining trinkets and potions, dug in deep, Mature's refreshing runes scrolling down the screen like Guitar Hero.

The picture stuttered a moment, as it typically did when uncached assets were being loaded by the game client for the first time. In reality it was no more than a second, but to me, it seemed that the game had stopped completely. When your screen locks up, your heart sinks and you know you're about to be kicked off the server. This would have been a shit-poor time for that to happen. But I wasn't kicked off the server, and nobody was disconnecting. Instead, a flash of yellow text scrolled up through guild chat while the familiar gong sound-effect of an achievement bellowed out of the speakers sitting atop my desk. Wide-eyed, I glared at the screen, just below Mature's health. Two golden bars delivered the news.

The 25-Man Progression team displays their freshly
acquired Ironbound Proto-Drakes,
Dalaran

Ironbound

I slumped into my chair and looked up at the ceiling, while cheering and screams overflowed from those speakers and filled my computer room with the noises of triumph and celebration.

On November 1st, 2009, six-and-a-half months after Ulduar was released to World of Warcraft, Descendants of Draenor completed Glory of the Ulduar Raider in 25-Man progression.

Completing Glory of the Ulduar Raider was both euphoric and empowering; the events of the previous tier had now been redeemed. As the 25-Man progression team coalesced over Dalaran in a cloud of purple Ironbound Proto-Drakes, our heart-aching loss of The Immortal was fast becoming a distant memory. As our Twilight Vanquisher titles had done so before them, these proto-drakes would act as badges of pride to those dedicated and loyal to the raid team, and to the guild. As well, they would provide the necessary sales pitches for those on Deathwing-US who continued to a seek a place amongst a 25-Man progression raiding guild, when the hardcore ones had turned them away.

---

One day after we completed this massive raiding accomplishment, a post was made to "The Leaver's Lounge". The Leaver's Lounge was a section of our forums set aside to wish players well on their quest to pursue new interests, outside of the confines of Azeroth. Stickied up at the top of the forum was a popular internet meme; an appropriate final message I directed to players, mocking their exit from World of Warcraft. In the photo, a stereotypical nerdy gamer wearing a headset sat in front of a keyboard and mouse. But in the place where a monitor would normally sit, the gamer instead faced an open window, peering out into his neighborhood with focused concentration. The meme's message read:

Reality: Worst. Game. Ever.

The newest post to The Leaver's Lounge was from Crasian.

Snow was coming, and he yearned to ski atop the Colorado Mountains. He thanked us for the community we provided, congratulated the 25-Man team for their tremendous work on Glory, and wished us well as we headed off toward the next big challenge deep within Icecrown. He thanked Cheeseus for putting up with him, the progression team for the fond memories he'd take away. And he thanked me, for allowing him the chance to hold the rank of Elite and help be a part of the team that drove progression, week after week. It was a heartfelt goodbye message, followed by virtual waves from the members of DoD that had had a chance to play with him.

I read his goodbye forum post, slowly scrolling down the series of replies made by his former teammates, and could only think one thing:

So. Mr. "expected to be at every raid." You wanted to claim Shadowmourne all to yourself, and yet this entire time your plan was to take a leave of absence. Why had you failed to bring this up in any of our conversations regarding a promotion?

What else had you kept from me?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Totally playing devils advocate here. >_>

Perhaps the announcement is what prompted him to examine what he was doing?

It's certainly possible (Probable) that he was planning it all along, but he could also have changed plans "recently".

----Catelina (KT - Alliance Priest)

Shawn Holmes said...

@Catelina,

Astute! It's true that Crasian's plans may have changed as-a-result-of, as opposed to in-spite-of.

I'm just making sure readers know where *my* head was at.

Fred said...

Oh Firefighter. The achievement that haunted me for way to long.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying your blog so much. Was an officer of a raiding guild in Wrath & now in MoP find myself in the same seat.

Your posts bring back such good memories of progressing through Wrath content - while showing me that the problems I faced as a new officer are the same darn problems that show up in every raiding guild.

I'm trying to get my fellow officers to follow your blog - its a great reminder/education.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by! Great to hear that you have found the story inspiring and are using it on your guild. Let me know what they think!

Cameron Harrison said...

At the time I was a young player not only to the game but also in life. I had spent many many hours playing the game and raiding. Something I enjoyed very much; however, after not receiving Shadowmourne it was almost a blessing. I was a Junior college without a clue what my true interests were. I knew that the game was postponing my true calling. It gave me the opportunity to walk away from the game without feeling guilty. The legendary would be handed off to Mature and Jungard and maybe even me after the 2 of them get theirs; however, the only thing that I would leave with was the great memories I had playing with all of them in Ulduar.

I returned to play in MOP; however, I find myself only really being able to play through one patch. I seem to lose interest as I get very drained from raiding now and because of this I have stepped away from MMO's now. Could be maturity...lack of interest, who really knows.

All in all I enjoy this blog very much and yes, it is being told from the perspective of Shawn Holmes. I have a great respect for the man and the player behind the greatest guild on Deathwing. I hope the readers will continue to enjoy this blog.

-Crasian

Max0r847 said...

Explain your obsession with finding out who was getting the Shadowmourne. Would you say it was just part of your obsession, however fleeting, with the game? When you walked away did you kind of feel a sting of stupidity like, "Why was I so focused on whether I was getting that weapon or not?"

I believe I've finally eliminated every last trace of loot whoring out of my system, but I've got to admit, for years I was a conniving loot whore. In the long run it's a horrible affliction.

-Max0r

Crasian said...

Hey Max0r,

Shawn pointed your comment out to me today. I just wanted to answer your question.

I think I was so fixated on obtaining Shadowmourne because I had gone to Blizzcon that year when they announced it. They had shown the animation, no stats at the time, but they did hint at the legendary power/affix.

Before ICC I was putting out great numbers. I was ranking between top 10 and 20 dps spot according to WoL at the time. I had thought that based on my performance and coordinating alt raids(10 mans)that I would have a good shot at obtaining this in my guild.

When I was passed for the promotion and when Shadowmourne was given to another. I will admit it was very obsetting. This is about the time I discovered that I realizing how dumb it was to get so worked up about pixels...

Some could say this was used as an excuse to leave/quit the game, but I saw it as a a way to break an unhealthy habit.

I didn't feel stupid when I left. I just realized that there was more to life than being the mouse clicker behind some virtual character.

I hope that answers your question.

Max0r847 said...

Yea, I've noticed my distaste for WoW grew in proportion to my morbid fixation with getting the next piece of gear. Perhaps for you WoW was never something you ultimately would be into anyway, but for me, once I dropped certain negative elements of it, all my previous burnout and negativity was washed away.

But retail WoW encourages impatience and soul-sucking strife, with the constant tier updates and expansions, no one has time to take it easy if they want to play at a high level. This is sad, because I find the game so rich and rewarding over time, staying at the same tier, being able to take my time to work from the ground up without having my progress washed away.

This I can do thanks to private servers. On these servers you can buy Shadowmournes. The questlines typically don't work (dolla dolla bill yall), or are disabled due to the many exploits people manage to take advantage of (atleast that's what they claim, why ruin a good thing with people buying lolmournes for upwards of $300 a pop). On a small private server I was on they were only $15 bucks during a half price everything promotion, and I got one for PvP reasons. They are all they're cracked up to be, and more. Of all the slot upgrades the 'mourne will yield a ridiculous increase compared to any other possible upgrade. But you knew that already ;)

http://i.imgur.com/EMGgIhl.png

It's an amazing weapon, cheapened by all the people buying it, admittedly a bit ugly with the berserking enchant. Doesn't blend well with ret pally gear (unlike 284 Glorenzelg, which looks amazing), but upon closer examination is more beautiful than it appears from a distance. The details of the model are quite exquisite. The Shadow's Edge looks very plain in comparison. On the server I currently play, Shadowmourne now has a very very small chance to drop off 25HC Lich King and Halion. If I ever am to acquire one, that's how it will be (not on that other server anymore).

It's too bad WoW came out and progressed several years too early for me to be at the forefront of the progression, rather than drudging up memories behind the times, on servers where everyone can buy their way to glory (to some extent) and prefers to farm end-game with overgeared baddies/tryhards (many equipped with Shadowmourne, who are hardly qualified to wield a Kobold mining shovel) many of whom don't even use full keybinds, saying it's easy and claiming boredom (how can such a wonderful game be boring?), while at the same time acting elite (and yet so few guilds even with their ridiculous gear levels manage to get bane, light of dawn or 25hc halion, I thought it was boring and easy?), instead of forming a wicked team and conquering things from the ground up without gear bloat. Based on all that I've seen I'm convinced I could have been a top contender back in the day. It pains me to watch videos of top players from back then, because I feel like I would have been most at home in those situations, and missed the boat.

Mouse clicker? Pixels? Virtual character? How Dare you, Sir. How Dare you!

Shawn Holmes said...

@Max0r847,

Rawr!!