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WoW Wednesday: Raiding, Legendaries and Expectations in Warcraft

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single raider in possession of a good iLevel, must be in want of a raid team.’

Heroic and Mythic Difficulty’, A Novel by Jane_Austin, L110 Holy Priest.

World of Warcraft, like it or not, is a game about people. That’s what the MMO bit means. Without people, certain parts of that process become impossible. Sure, you can go crush stuff when it stops being current and becomes Legacy, but it is never the intention of the designers that you avoid the hard stuff until it becomes easy, and that means that if you want to play the game, you have to go find people to raid with.

It’s a succession of introducing yourself to random groups of strangers, seeing if you fit in, and then hoping you can make a space for yourself in polite society. You can improve your mind through reading up on raid strategies, you can learn the popular songs that get sung on Discord, and if you’re lucky, you might catch the eye of that handsome yet proud Night Elf Healer and be complimented on your play style.

Oh, if only raiding were as predictable as a Jane Austin novel. Who am I kidding, this week’s ‘Race for World First’ has seen more drama and intrigue than you’d find in a mid-length Agatha Christie thriller. Cheats, bounders, squatters, exploits and as even as I type this, nobody’s yet managed to beat Gul’dan on both EU and US lockouts. That means that we go into a whole second week, which after the relative disappointment of the Emerald Dream, and the painful Helya Three Boss Circus, should at least give the hardcore players something to be cheered by. Raiding got ‘hard’ again, and I’m seeing people compliment the Dev Team on boss mechanics that really are a step forward from what we’ve seen in the past.

Having done the first three Nighthold bosses in the variable field that is LFR? Yes, this is new and different but more importantly, this time around, we have a genuine narrative justification for being here.

WoW Wednesday: Raiding, Legendaries and Expectations in Warcraft

The memory of Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry have been summarily buried with the conclusion of the Suramar quest line in the Nighthold that made me feel that yes, I really did want to beat the stuffing out of all these mobs. There are also mechanics that are a real evolution from what people will expect, and I found myself genuinely impressed at what I had to do even with the training wheels on. I have to congratulate Blizzard myself on what I think might end up as one of the best raid instances in terms of technical aptitude since perhaps Dragon Soul, where you were forced to learn every fight in an increasing difficulty curve.

Then, when my LFR had been going so well, after the second boss a Priest in my group looted a Legendary item, and it was as if someone had opened a tap of bile and hatred at the person concerned, who summarily left (I assume) because nobody should have to put up with that kind of abuse in a game you play for relaxation.

Here is the problem right now: Orange loot, that once upon a time was hard worked for, remained impossible to steamroller through for years. Presented as the pinnacle, indisputable mark of prestige in the game world, it was summarily standardized in Pandaria, commercialized in Draenor and effectively condemned through a quest line that had nothing to do with the concept that inspired it.

Once it became apparent in Legion that Legendaries would again be the ‘random’ drop but with on-use effects which would give the wielders an undoubted advantage? The gloves were off. The howls of complaint were largely ignored, much as the advice of well-meaning great aunts or good friends who already knew the truth about your status if you were never to loot an Orange item to begin with.

Everybody with even the slightest raiding expectation going into Legion knew these things would be trouble, and lo and behold, I began to hear the horror stories: I can’t raid because I don’t have the right DPS Legendaries. My team have benched me. These stories didn’t just happen occasionally, there was a period where I ended up muting the L-word on Twitter because people were either celebrating you had the right one, or complaining the wrong one had dropped. Even worse were those who ended up with nothing, the old maids and unmarried clergy of Azeroth, especially when it became apparent people were packing FOUR of the things after running a bazillion Mythic Plus dungeons.

Eventually, in the midst of a Dev Chat, Ion Hazzikostas remarked that ‘universally useful throughput Legendaries were a mistake.’ Yeah, they screwed up, but as we were only three months into Legion, how would a happy ending be salvaged?

Once it became apparent that the mistake had been made, it was only a matter of time before one of two things came to be. Either Legendaries would remain unchanged, or they’d elope with the Development team to London to pour shame on their family and condemn Epic items to remain forever unlooted… no hang on, this was never in the plot. Something genuinely amazing happened when the 7.2 PTR dropped. Crafted Legendaries are on the table. We don’t yet know how they’ll work, or if they’ll give simply their makers an advantage.

In fact, until Blizzard works out how they’ll be made, we’ll just stare at some half finished quest chains and have to wonder. As of the latest version of the test client, which is being deployed as I type, you still won’t get a clue. For that, you’ll need to wait for the final chapter.

The point of all these changes and plot twists, of course, has been to try and make Legendary Loot Great Again. Not unlike my attempts at allusion in this post, I think everybody can agree that Legion’s Legendaries haven’t worked. In fact, in some ways, we’re now worse off than when everybody had a Legendary Cloak or Ring, unless you gave up somewhere between the Foundry and Tanaan Jungle. Yes, the joy of randomly looting a Legendary is lovely and all, but not when 22 other people then throw rocks at you, or if your lack of the right Orange results in no longer being part of the progression team.

The expectations were all wrong to begin with and I think, on considered reflection, maybe the Artifact would have been enough. Yet, the system won’t go away. In fact, if Blizzard has its way, there may yet be a whole new generation of Orange stupidity floating around come our return to the Broken Shore.

There was a request by game Designer Jeremy Feasel last week, asking how players would like to see Legendaries work moving forward. My response?

However you look at it, from my space, over here in Codgers Corner (where all the old raiders go to complain at the state of the game), the Legendary ‘experiment’ has failed. In a game that has become so totally fixated on the notion of power being how you vanquish foes, the Legendary’s luster has been both tarnished and ruined by successive attempts to reinvent the notion that your item is better than anybody else’s. If you make that true, then EVERYBODY who has to kill a mob in competitive situations is going to want to own it, because without they will be at a disadvantage. It’s like telling an Austin heroine that she can’t use her quick-wittedness and ability to dance at the drop of a handkerchief to snare the man of her dreams, she’ll have to rely on a coarse double entendre and a tea towel instead.

That’s not how great novels work. Everybody gets to be the hero, and they all have that moment of awesome glory to revel in… except maybe this time we did enough with the Class Fantasy and the Artifacts. Perhaps, shockingly, we could have just removed all the Legendaries completely and leveled the playing field. Except if that had happened, the trend of making players truly heroic would have suffered a setback even the most competent of writers would have struggled to write an escape from. Now we’re stuck between Orange and a bad place for anybody who still isn’t able to get the boost they need to become the true DPS advantage their raid team requires.

It’s at this moment I am really glad I no longer raid. My two Legendary items are what keep me alive when I solo play or helps my Druid healing friend when we’re in Mythic Plus. I have no pretensions of grandeur. My story doesn’t end with an ‘Ahead of the Curve’ clear of the Nighthold.

For people like me, the color of the loot never mattered to begin with. For everybody else, Blizzard has a problem to solve which has the potential to be more divisive than that little argument we all had last year over flying. Raiding, Legendaries, and expectations in Warcraft are all at a game time high. I for one will be getting the popcorn out to see how they solve this one. I know it won’t be easy, either. However, for the sake of long-term peace in the MMO, they really need to try.

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