ToC-10 as a Starter Raid Instance

I’ve finally been able to get in on the raiding game in World of Warcraft. Signing up with Chaotic Damnation has been a great decision and I now find myself as one of the guild’s two main tanks for the foreseeable future. The transition into raiding hasn’t been that bad since I’ve raided with PuGs in the past. It’s been fun getting to know the different members, but our relative newness has shown up a few times.

We decided to start with Trial of the Crusader (10). The decision was a pretty apparent one based on our gear. It was the next step up from the badge armor most of us were wearing. We also had a couple ICC-geared members, so ToC looked like it would represent the decent, if not over the top, challenge, as well.

Since everyone goes by item levels now, Ulduar comes across as a step down for players with full triumph sets. Ulduar is pretty much useless for the beginning raider, a few particular drops notwithstanding.

So, we went into ToC-10. I was optimistic since the other tank and I had cleared it together the night before. Where that night’s raid had gone smoothly, this one seemed to trip up like never before. That a raid is a sum of its parts became readily apparent. When one person would get something, another would slip up and die. I was still learning myself, too. I don’t think anyone was exempt from making some mistake that night. In the end, we couldn’t get past the northrend beasts (encounter one).

That afternoon stuck with me, and I can’t help but think other people must be going through the same thing. Like I mentioned above, ToC is pretty much the first raid most new players will experience. The treadmill design of WoW’s raiding game has all but phased out everything before it, and ToC is still required to prepare for Icecrown Citadel (ICC).

That first fight was never meant to be a new raider’s first challenge. It’s atypical to the rest of WoW’s raiding game. Instead of going through trash and taking bosses one at a time, ToC removes trash entirely and pits you against four sequential bosses. Each one has its own gimmick, you have to know to succeed. If you fail on any of them, you have to start all over again. New raiders have to hope their group is willing to explain everything out before they begin, or be willing to research the encounters beforehand. Which, I should say, only gets you so far if you’ve never actually experienced the fight.

Now, in my guild, things are alright since everyone is pretty patient and understanding; but, to some players, this must just feel like being thrown into the meat grinder. Especially if you’re tanking or healing. That’s probably why I’ve only ever cleared it on guild runs. Usually, PuGs give up halfway through. For DPS, it’s not as hard – I’ve done it on my mage – but I can’t imagine many tanks trying to PuG this walking away feeling too good about themselves. I mean, once you get it and understand the gimmicks, it’s like everything *unlocks*, but unless everyone in that group knows the fights, it can be a tough go. Tougher, I’d say, than what Blizzard would prefer new raiders experience.

Which is why, to me, this kind of endgame design seems essentially flawed. Really, the new raider’s only fault is coming late to the party. And, in turn, they can’t find groups for challenge-appropriate instances and are forced to “aim high.” Lots of people do it, yes, but I don’t see how Blizzard can be content with it in this state. Not only does it render prior instances empty and unused (forgiving the stray weekly), but it also keeps raiding from being accessible to new players. And, in the days of gearscore and achievement linking, it gives players one more reason to be cliquey and shut new people out.

I don’t see this changing much in Cataclysm. WoW, and lots of other games, make a habit out of replacing their content over time. Still, this ramping up of difficulty the older the expansion gets seems counter-intuitive. Not for the people progressing, of course, then it should ramp up. But, speaking from experience, new raiders are apprehensive, feel like they’re being judged (and probably are), and will feel defeated when their “entry level” raid wipes the floor with them. They need positive first experiences if they’re expected to stick with it. Not easy, but positive, and that’s a matter of smart design.

Happy Monday, folks!

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