|The big red button that activates Mimiron's hard mode,|
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.
"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,
MultitaskingHow 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.
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.
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.
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,
IronboundI 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?