Hard Mode Reflections and First Thoughts on ICC Hard Modes   9 comments

Hard Modes have been both a blessing and a curse this expansion. Blizzard wanted to make content more accessible to all different levels of players, while at the same time still provide challenges to those who wished to be pushed. They did this through Hard Modes. I have mixed feelings about the success of this strategy. While I do feel that it gave Blizzard the opportunity to open up the raiding game to more people, I’m not entirely certain that Hard Modes hit the mark as far as satiating the need for higher end raid content.

I’ve posted before about what I thought did, and did not, make an appealing Hard Mode so I won’t go into that particular rant again. (Hint: Dropping half your healers for DPS to meet the threshold for a fight isn’t it). However, as we are now into the last raid instance in this expansion, I thought perhaps another exploration of Hard Modes was in order.

Sartharion

This was our first experience, and I suppose the test, for Hard Modes in this expansion. It was, in fact, challenging. It required performance from all three roles in your raid, and it required your raid to stay focused and pay attention to what was happening in the encounter. If you did this particular hard mode in your Naxx gear, you worked for your kill. At least in my opinion. I did enjoy this hard mode.

Ulduar

I had a love/hate relationship with these hard modes. We struggled after our Yogg kill to get our first Hard Mode kill, Hodir. I think it took us 3 or 4 resets. There were a lot of things about several of the Ulduar Hard Modes that I really disliked. The first on that list being that a good number of the hard modes involved OMG MORE DPS to succeed. A lot of times that also meant fewer healers.

Of course there were a number of the Hard Modes that required more healers than usual, because instead of the hard mode require a disgusting amount of additional dps, it required a disgusting amount of additional heals because the “hard mode” was to throw out more damage. This in turn meant that you went from 3 healers on a 25 man hard mode, to 8 healers on another. This, to me, was not good design.

While we did finish all of these hard modes out, by the end we were mostly all in the next dungeon’s content gear and I do not think that some of them would have been achievable by us without the additional gear (hello Firefighter). And of course then there was Algalon, whose biggest challenge was the 60 minute timer that you were alloted every week. And every week you got to play the “pray to the internet gods” that someone did not go link dead during an attempt, or if they did that they came right back. While the Algalon fight itself was pretty cool, fighting the timer was not.

I did enjoy some of the hard modes, but I found a lot of them just flat out frustrating not only as a player, but also from a raid management perspective. I suppose in my opnion, I considered Ulduar’s Hard Modes to be hit or miss on the “success” scale. Some were alright, but some were just down right awful.

TotGC

ToC. Where to start with this one. I think Blizzard missed the mark with this instance as a whole, so that surely doesn’t help any with the hard modes. My first thoughts on this were that they were out of balance difficulty wise. The first encounter was far more difficult than the following two in the zone. Almost disproportionately so. I think it ran us several weeks to see our first kill, granted we also never utilized all 50 attempts on it in any given week, because we value our players too much and allocated what we considered a “reasonable” amount of time on the encounter for learning attempts. However, you really didn’t have another challenging encounter until Valks. While the fights did have some different aspects to them, I am not entirely certain I’d have considered many of them “successful” hard modes.

And then there was Anub. Much like what happened with Ulduar and Algalon, many guilds just stopped pushing this encounter when ICC hit. Why? Because it had a horrendus learning curve, and most guilds spent an excess of 200 pulls before finding success. We finished it, but I am not entirely certain we could convince our guild to go back for another go at it or an attempt at insanity. I am almost positive that our add tank burned his block gear in effigy the night of our kill. While this was a challenging encounter, it required so many things to go “just right”, that any one mistake was a potential wipe. Encounters like this tend to run raid tensions high and are more stressful than fun.

I was glad that we finished it out, but I do not think that people “enjoyed” the encounter. Add on top of that the limited attempts methodology, which while better than the “timed” attempts on Algalon, is far from a good design mechanic.

ICC

And that brings us to ICC. We are currently 8/12 in our 10 man hard mode progress, and after only one week with 25 Hard Modes unlocked, we have downed 4 of them. Let me be up front, however, and say that we are taking advantage of the Hellscream’s Warsong buff, which right now is at 10%. We generally fall in the top 3% range of guilds as far as progression goes.

My first thought is…well, it took us several weeks of work on our first hard mode kills in all of the other dungeons, and we nabbed four in our first week in ICC that they were available. I would definitely state that some of them were far easier than our Normal LK kill. But then I question, well how much of that is attributable to the buff? I think probably there is some leeway that we have received by having the buff active, I do not think that can, or should be, denied. However…I also don’t know that this is a bad thing either, really. I know that they are supposed to be challenging. I know that they are supposed to be “hard”. I know they are for the crème de la crème to achieve. An extra, a bonus track.

Perhaps we arne’t the cherry on top of guilds, but we are a solid guild who makes solid progression, perhaps the hot fudge under the whipped cream. And, a bit, I am happy (so far) that I don’t feel like I’m ramming my head against a wall hoping that eventually the wall will weaken, and that my head isn’t destroyed in the process. Some of that is probably attributed to the zone buff, I know, but I still felt that our raid grasped the hard modes a lot better, to date, with this zone. Perhaps they were easier? I don’t know. I probably won’t honestly have a serious feel for the overall difficulty of them until we get deeper into them with our 25s.

Of course, I am also revisiting the topic of: are hard modes fun?

They aren’t necessarily, un-fun. Some of them share the same faults of some of the Ulduar/TotGC hard modes in that they are just OMG MORE DAMAGE/HEALING, and don’t really add much more to the encounters but extra stress. But some of them are intriguing, and I do enjoy…of course some of them I hate as well, so that that for what you will ;-) There are only 4 in total that I’ve not seen yet, so I will have to reserve some judgment on those. However, they seemed tuned decently for the level of play of my guild. Which of course means that they are too easy for some…and too difficult for others. Go figure!

Overall Thoughts on Hard Modes

Overall, I really cannot decide if hard modes was the way to go with content. Obviously Blizzard believes that it is, as we have seen them in every dungeon push this expansion. However, I really don’t know if I like them. I mean, I really do like that the content is accessible to everyone that wants to see it. I think that is great, and I have no issue at all with it.

But on the other hand…I don’t know that Hard Modes always offer the kind of additional challenges that guilds who are looking for challenges want. Some of them are innovative and unique, but some of them really aren’t. They are just…well, more. And more is harder, right? For better or worse, I think they are here to stay. And I’m not entirely certain how I feel about that. I also understand, though, that raiding is often considered one of the best things about the game, and is definitely one of the things where Blizzard puts a lot of man power and design efforts, so it shouldn’t be limited to only a few to experience. But sometimes I do pine for the days of Black Wing Lair and Black Temple, where boss kills weren’t frivolous, and each new kill was a thing of pride that often took weeks to accomplish. Not that we don’t have that now, per se, it just feels…different.

/sigh I just don’t know what I think.

What do you think? Do you like the ICC Hard Modes? Did you like the previous Hard Modes? Do you want Blizzard to do away with the Hard Mode Model in Cataclysm?

Posted April 5, 2010 by Beruthiel in Hard Modes, Raid Leadership, Raiding

9 responses to “Hard Mode Reflections and First Thoughts on ICC Hard Modes

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  1. I agree on a broad scale with what you’ve said here. I honestly and truly feel that Blizzard achieved a lot of good with the system of switching things on and off through the execution of the fight. I definitely am not a fan of the current “flip the instance” method; I much preferred the Sarth1/2/3 or the Ulduar way of doing things. Meaning, if you left something alive, or did something in a certain order, or you all were playing on the ball and doing what you were all supposed to do, you had a shot at the hard mode.

    I also feel that Algalon was a good thing. In fact, I wish there were more Algalons in this game, and by that I mean, specific bosses that are only obtainable to the “harder” raiding group, only unlockable after completing the “hard” versions of the other bosses of the instance.

    But I would want them to do things to make the fights more interesting, ie Firefighter. Probably one of my favorite fights in this expansion. Yogg0, another amazing fight, one that is highly different than the normal version, without changing too terribly much of the fight mechanics because the “normal” version allowed for so much wiggle room and brute forcing that you just cannot, CANNOT do without Keepers. The Iron Council is a great one too, in that depending on who you left alive you had a completely different fight on your hands. Same with Sartharion.

    I thoroughly agree that an “enrage timer that’s 3 minutes shorter” on an already steep enrage timer does not a hard mode make.

    Anyway, a favorite term I hear lately is “poopsocking”. A lot of the bosses now are just poopsock targets, meaning anyone and everyone can kill it if they throw enough shit at it. It’ll stick eventually, right? And then it’s muscle memory after that. Having hard mode encounters of those same bosses (preferably in unique ways that make each encounter different from the normal version, making it feel fresh and new) allows those kills to feel a bit… better. And then, unlocking a SUPERSEKRET boss that no one else can get to, and then killing IT, brings back that feeling of kills mattering.

    I think I’m rambling now. I should stop. D=

    • I think I could be down for more “unlocked” type bosses as progression jewels, but please no more “timed” bosses! I beg :)

      The more progressive hard modes were definately interesting, even if I looked at them and thought “dear god, how is my guild ever going to pull that off”…but you know what, we did! The MOAR = HARDER, though, has got to go.

  2. I like the analysis of the different approaches to hard modes here, B.
    I don’t agree with the nostalgic, the old days were better, however. My guild is also in the top few percentiles of progression (10/12 in 10-man, starting heroic on 25), and I get tired of hearing things are too ezmode. The fact is, 90% of the planet is a long way from killing LK on normal. AND, the Proletariat should have their chance. Blizzard thinks so, and so do I.

    IF you accept the premise that everyone should be able to kill a boss, but SOME guilds can kill it HARDER, then Hard Modes are here to stay. And anyone who disagrees is welcome to their opinion, but I say their elitist jerks and I don’t like them, and there’s about 11 million paying subscribers who agree with me.

    Can we make Hard Modes better? I sure hope so. I, too, like the idea of adding elements to the fight ala Sarth or Ulduar… but as you pointed out so well that’s a very hit or miss proposition. Some of them work supremely well, some do not. I know I don’t like the moar damage/moar healing model as you have described it. I hope Blizzard puts extra effort into giving us Hard Modes that change the fight dynamic and make it …. different.

    On a couple other points. Limited attempts. I think we’ve seen the fail there, and hopefully they go away. Some guilds have the time and dedication to work around it with alts and transfers. Does that make them better? I certainly don’t think so.

    Gating. I think I like it. It’s not perfect, but if ICC had been released as a whole, some guilds would have had Lich King a week or two in and then be bored and clamoring for new content. I’m at peace with farming bosses for a few weeks while waiting for a new boss to open up. But I can see how others would object.

    Well, I’ll stop my ramble too. Good post.

    • I don’t know, fights used to seem epic. I mean really, really epic. Sure, there have been a few this expansion with that feel: Yogg, LK, maybe even Putricide… But for the most part, we mowed through a lot of the normal mode content, and a little bit I miss the feeling of accomplishment that you got just for killing something new.

      Maybe every boss doesn’t need to take weeks to kill, but I do think that some should take more than an evening. THen again, perhaps I am not seeing it through a clear enough glass, being in a guild that has played together for so long. I know that there are things that seem simple enough for us, but very challenging for others.

      Argh!

      • Exactly.
        By which, I mean, what seems easy to a top-3% guild isn’t for many others.
        And they DID tune a few fights like Putri and LK well enough to challenge even most of the top guilds.
        To me, I think while I’d love more ‘epic’ fights, they did/do a pretty good job of trying to make it work for as many people as possible – while perhaps not making it ‘perfect’ for anyone.

        After going 4/12 in my first week in 25 heroic, I can say that I’m actually more pleased than I expected. No, the fights aren’t dramatically different, but they seemed a little more different than your post seemed to imply.

        Not in as tremendous a way as Sarth3D, but still, some cool things. I like that Rotface and Festergut heroic had to deal with additional elements from the other fights. It just seems to ‘fit.’ The added raid damage from blood princes is not a unique element, but still does add some complexity directed at the ‘heart’ of the encounter (movement). Still…. yah, not so different overall.

  3. er, 10/12 heroic 10-man I meant to say.

  4. I haven’t seen the ICC hard modes yet, but I have to say that overall I haven’t enjoyed hard modes in WotLK. Doing the same fight all over again with a little extra damage or tighter enrage timers thrown in is just not fun. There haven’t been that many hard modes that actually change the fights siginficantly. As people have mentioned, the only really different fights are Sarth 3D, Yogg and Mimiron.

    I find that I’ve been longing for the Burning Crusade raiding model. No hard modes, the bosses were challenging enough on their own. There was also usually more than one raid instance to work on at a time. I really thought that the Mount Hyjal/Black Temple era was the highest point of WoW raiding. The content was engaging and kept the more hardcore guilds occupied. A few months later, everyone got hugely buffed and the less hardcore guilds were able to clear those instances too.

    • A lot of times I do feel that some hard modes feel very /headdesk to me. They are challenges, but not always the right kinds of challenges…if that makes any sense at all.

      I really, really enjoyed MH/BT. I think that as instances they were great (well…save the MH trash!), and I thought progression through them was well paced. While I am glad that Blizzard is exploring different avenues of raiding, I do hope that they find a better balance for everyone :)

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