What is raiding in WoW today?

In somewhat of an odd coincidence, the day Tobold posts about mini-Naxx is also around the time the topic of raiding was brought up in our vent. We were discussing what made raiding fun for us back in vanilla WoW, and if we could ever go back to WoW raiding (quick answer, no, we are all set with candyland). This got me thinking about what raiding is, and at what point does an instanced dungeon become a raid?

I never considered Upper Black Rock Spire a raid. It was a 15 man instance, but back then a 15 man was small compared to a 40 man raid, and UBRS was rather short compared to MC or BWL. But if you released UBRS today, it would very likely be considered ultra hardcore content.

For one, it requires a key to enter, one that back in the day meant you had to run LBRS multiple times and get a bit lucky with gem drops. You also had to have one member of the guild build the key, and then that member would need to open UBRS for the rest. The instance itself starts off easy, but the final encounter is far tougher than anything before it. It’s also a gear check fight, as no amount of skill can overcome the initial burst of damage from the encounter, or certain unstoppable attacks.

The reason I never considered UBRS a raid was because you either beat it or failed, but you never really ‘worked’ at it. The place was simple enough that success or failure came down to classes, gear, and basic game knowhow. You never switched classes for certain bosses, changed up group makeup, or switched gear. In, out, repeat, that was UBRS for me.

In direct contrast, raiding was a constant challenge at the time. From getting the first two giants in MC down, to the first boss, to finally downing Rag, each night there was a goal, and future raids depended on our success that night. If we failed to clear up to point x, it meant less time working on whatever current encounter gave us trouble. Learning to speed clear trash was important, as a raid could only go for so long, and you only had 7 days before the whole place reset. When we finally had MC on farm, it was balancing that farming with learning BWL, and again once we had BWL on farm and we were working on AQ40 and later Nax. If you had a solid group logged in that night, you went and tackled tougher content. If the B team showed up, you knocked out ‘lesser’ content like MC or BWL to try to gear people up.

Raiding, and being a raid leader, went far beyond watching a youtube video of Curse and managing a DKP mod. If the guild failed to make sufficient progress, members would start to tire, log on less, and your guild goes down the spiral until you collapse. Getting a server first meant a lot of e-fame on that server, and the pool of potential recruits always increased. You had to keep the emo druids away from the razor, feed the lootwhore all-stars enough to keep them happy, pat the healers on the head to make them feel loved, and all the other random crap that you get in /tell. Officer chat was one long bitch list about how our members are a bunch of babies, and what we would do for just a few people who could focus for longer than 10 minutes. At the time, it was a lot of fun, in that odd “I hate you” kind of way. The constant challenge of making progress compared to the rest of the server is what fueled us.

I’m guessing very little of that happens now, with how much more ‘accessible’ raiding is in WotLK. When you down a boss the first night, with fresh 80s, I can’t help but wonder if that’s even considered a raid. That’s the kind of result you get from an instance, not a raid. In an instance you go in, learn the one or two tricks a boss has, and then beat him on the 2nd or 3rd attempt. In a raid, you reach the boss, learn his first phase or trick, and then spend a night or two learning to deal with it. Hopefully by the end of the week, you have each step down, have the people to follow the steps, enough gear to overcome the gear check, and down the boss. It’s far slower, but ultimately more rewarding. Effort/reward and all that, right?

The first clear of MC was a big deal, as was BWL, AQ40, and especially the original Nax. Everyone who raided back then knew about the Four Horsemen fight, knew which guilds were struggling on the fight, and waited to see who would finally overcome it. Aside from mini-Nax being beaten in 3 days, what significance does it have? Clearly it did not take very long, or have any true ‘weed-out’ encounters like Vael was in BWL, or the Twin Emps were in AQ40.

Which returns me to the original question, at which point does an instanced dungeon become a raid? It’s not the number of people, since now a 10 man in considered a raid, and the actual number varies from 10-25. It’s not difficulty, since mini-Nax is reportedly easier than some of the heroic 5 mans in WotLK. It’s not the epic gear the bosses drop, since WotLK ‘shattered’ that definition. So what is raiding now in WoW, or does the definition not even matter, as long as the content is ‘accessible’ to everyone with 1-2 hours a week?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to What is raiding in WoW today?

  1. tenfoldhate says:

    I think a dungeon becomes a raid when fun turns to suck–when equal time is spent standing around with your broadsword in your hand while people bicker and discuss strats in vent. Once the plotting to playing ratio becomes 1:1 or in worse cases 2:1, a “dungeon” becomes a “raid” and fun becomes a heaping mound of poo.

  2. Mikejl says:

    IMO .. it becomes a raid when:
    – You need to grind for mats to prep before hand
    – You need to have certain mods loaded
    – You need to use vent
    – You need to be a certain spec
    – You need to have X DPS or Y healing
    – You need to read the walk through and maps ahead of time
    – You need to stand “here” use this spell at X time . no don’t use that .. more DOTS!!
    and worst .. you need to no all this X times a week in order to get points or token to get gear.

  3. Hirvox says:

    To me, it was always about the difficulty, and thus I haven’t had much interest in WotLK “raiding”.

  4. Hudson says:

    Luckily this expansion has avoided many of the things Mikejl talks about. Some still there in 25 man form but definately not 10 man. A lot easier nowadays to get into the game. In a way kinda sad.

    Many of the readers never probably raided in EQ1 so I find it funny to hear about them bitch about WoW raiding given how easy it is compared to 1999-2001 EQ1. Guess you can’t please all MMO players. “WAHH I HAVE TO USE VENT!” back then we had raid wide macros and we loved it!

  5. syncaine says:

    The other point one can gather here is anything beyond a loot pinata is a raid, and hence not worth it. Really sad, but not exactly unexpected.

  6. Mikejl says:

    Want to add some follow-up to my above post. Not all the above is bad. I will put forth I am not a fan of raiding. Where you need to run the same content over and over for gear, DKP or tokens.
    I do love seeing the raid areas (I recall the “cool” factor when I first seeing Ragnaros) and a few visits were fun. I like the artwork and music that went into these areas. When the raid became work and very elitist that things went sour for me.

  7. spinks says:

    I think it’s partly to do with the numbers. The old 40 man raids really felt more epic. When we first zoned into Molten Core, there was a real ‘omg, I’m here in a raid instance with a raid!’ feel to the whole thing.

    The raids now, well, they’re like big instances with more people. They’re fun but I miss the big numbers.

  8. Beau Turkey says:

    “We were discussing what made raiding fun for us back in vanilla WoW, and if we could ever go back to WoW raiding (quick answer, no, we are all set with candyland).”

    Look, I understand that in the insulated world of a raiding guild, everyone thinks that while THEY are doing something grand, the rest of the 10 million playerbase are wallowing in kindergarten.

    But let me be blunt: raiding is, in the grand scheme (of mmo’s even) simply time management.

    How do I know this: because you said it yourself…after an amount of TIME you conquer a mob or defeat a monster. You spend hours upon hours in the same place over and over until you simply get used to it.

    That’s all it is. Time. Anyone can do it.

    Blizzard made their decision not to make it easier but to make “grouping” (calling it a raid or a dungeon is something only “raiders” worry about..those terms mean nothing..you are still just a group of people getting together to play) less sucking of all time. That, if you didn’t notice, is how they have made their game for the last few years.

    So yeh, a definition of raid vs. dungeon? Raiders think that “raiding” means the hardest content in the game, usually done at higher levels, while a dungeon is anything under that.

    I hope you find your challenge. If you want, taxes are time consuming and challenging, more so than raiding ever could be. And about as fun.

    I keed I keed!


  9. syncaine says:

    It’s true, with enough time, technically any collection of players will finish a raid. But finishing was not what kept us going, it was finishing first (in our case, server first, in others, world). The ‘first’ part is what creates the challenge, and that comes down to more than just who plays more (but that certainly helps)

    The candyland part was for WoW as a whole, not for raiding / not raiding. And I agree that Blizzard is clearly moving further and further into ‘accessible’ content. Cool for some, not cool for others. Luckily we all have plenty of quality choices now, so all good.

  10. Swift Voyager says:

    Old WoW raid:

    2. raid – enter someone else’s territory and take spoils; “The pirates raided the coastal villages regularly”

    New Wow raid?:

    4. raid – search for something needed or desired; “Our babysitter raided our refrigerator”

    Source: thefreedictionary.com/raid

    I never knew the word “raid” came from the word road. You learn something new every day.

  11. Herc says:

    Blizzard already mentioned that they will not make another encounter as hard as Kiljaeden/Muru. So the hopes of seeing another raid as hard as Sunwell is gone … at least for now.

    I’ve also raided all 40 man dungeons up to KT in Naxx so I understand when you say you want that epic feeling back to raiding. Getting those server first and acquiring those “epic” items that only a handful will ever wear/use it.

    I think part of it is because players grow and learn all these encounters/events that they tend to adapt quicker now unlike their first raid back in MC. We players tend to get bored really quick.

    Regarding “Raiding” in WOTLK

    Yes, it’s easier but hey it’s Naxx…again. We knew what we were going to up against. Plus don’t forget it’s an entry raiding. When you see people killing 25man Malygos and Sartharion with 3 drakes up left and right then something is wrong but that is not the case atm.

    I do admit clearing everything in 1-2 nights tends to get a little bit boring. But then again were the top guild in the server and we really don’t resepresent the majority of the players but rather the less than 1% “hard-core” raiders who still thinks this is vanilla wow =P.

    We only have Sartharion with 3 drakes up left(You can kill the drakes before the main boss but that makes the encounter really trivial, which is what most guilds do on the first attempts), really different from clearing naxx in 1 night. We didn’t make it last week but we are devoting 1-2 nights this week to get some progress.

    WOW is easier atm entry raiding level wise. There done.

    For the hardcores, there’s achivements to do 25mans and even in 5mans. Some include no one dieng in Naxx the whole run, if you do that you get a Title. Some gives you a mount. etc.

    For the casuals, well theres no better time to get into “raiding” in WoW =). 10mans will be easier to join not sure about 25mans as that is usualy a guild thing and they don’t usually let pugs get in unless u got the gear for it.

    Raiding atm in WoW is for dungeons 10mans and 25mans.

    My definition of raiding? Well I can’t point my finger what it is exactly but it’s got something to do with players + encounter + loot + tougher encounter. I prolly won’t have the epic feeling again back in Vanilla WoW but the rush on killing a new boss that we have worked on for nights never gets old.

  12. sluxi says:

    Ever considered that epic feeling may just be because raiding was new to you back then? I’ll say even Karazhan felt fairly epic for me when we started it with appropriate-level gear and a group of folks who had never been there before, most never raided before.

  13. Beau says:

    Also, look at it this way: the challenge of those raids never left, the players simply outgrew it.

    All I can say to players that place this much value on a raid is this: it is your DESTINY to do that, to spend hours and hours conquering monsters, to “crunch numbers” and to figure out strats.

    I am not making fun here, I swear.

    Being that it is your destiny, you need to go find it somewhere. It is out there, still. Or, get into the industry and make your own game.

    Some people live to role-play, or to become the best zookeeper ever, or to become a sniper in the army. I just stumble my way through life, having a good time and some adventures along the way.

    If raiding of yesteryear was your high-school football memory, then go find it! GO! NOW!


  14. Herc says:

    I think I forgot to mentioned what sluxi mentiioned >_< it won’t ever be the same. But then again that’s not the only reason why we raid =P i.e. character progression, server first, top dpser etc.

  15. mbp says:

    Syncaine I have never been a hardcore raider but I think I can being to imagine the feats of organisation and discipline that you describe. I think I can begin to imagine the frustrations, the breakthroughs, the arguments, the compromises, the moments of pride, the moments of embarrassment, the adrenaline rush of attempting, the despair of failing and the unique fleeting moments of exhausted crystal clear clarity that only come when you finally succeed after many frustrated attempts.

    I can begin to imagine because after all … that is living.

    However before you slip too far into your reverie of how things used to be I need to remind you of the post that first brought me to your blog: “Looking in the Mirror: The sickness Curse that was WoW raiding” https://syncaine.wordpress.com/2007/09/13/looking-in-the-mirror-the-sickness-that-was-wow-raiding/

    Read that post again Syncaine. Do you really want to go back?

    Yes it was it was epic. Yes it was wonderful. In a more enlightened world perhaps you may even be able to proudly tell your grandchildren that “you were there” but do you REALLY want to go back?

  16. syncaine says:

    Well like I said, no plans to return to WoW or raiding, no time for that anymore :)

    I still think you can have a challenging raiding game, and as with all things, anything can be abused. Just because I got too far into it during college does not mean the overall idea is flawed, right? But I’m one who enjoys a challenge, and it’s very clear WoW is moving farther and farther away from catering to that. No worries, plenty of other MMOs out.

  17. Brast says:

    The word “raid” is very clear in its definition for WoW (>5 people), but you are obviously using it to describe what felt to you like an epic encounter. The BRS->MC->BWL path was certainly much more difficult. It has less loot for more people and unforgiving bosses (Vael anyone?). This made downing these bosses much more satisfying and the loot someone got more exhilerating. Agreed.

    The challenges of raiding in WotLK are still there for the majority of the player base, but certainly not the same for those with more hours and skill to throw at encounters. Does that mean these encounters cannot feel epic? It is a valid question and somewhat subjective to the player. If you expect EQ-like grinds and months of preparation for a raid boss, you will not find it in WoW anymore. If you define an epic encounter as a group of people having to coordinate in multiple roles against a powerful foe who seeks to then this still exists. The Malygos encounter is especially interesting and the use of flying dragons gives it the epic feel to a game that I certainly look for.

    In short, I do not think epic == hard

  18. Scott says:

    Being completely snarky here, but how old were you when you were raiding for server firsts? I didn’t think anyone over say 15 or so cared about that; after all, only forum-goers even have a clue. It’s not like the games actually make it known to the server population.

    I’m going to go with Bast in that technically a “raid” is anything more than the standard 5-man group. Add a 6th person and *poof* you have to convert to a raid and deal with all the “my buffs and spells only work for my own group” garbage.

    Should a raid be “epic?” Absolutely! But… Molten Core? Epic? Oh sure, the moment you zone in it’s cool, new environment and all. But sorry that whole thing was boring as hell until Ragnaros. Onyxia? Sorry, I come from an RP and literary background where dragons are beyond uber. Not some retarded boss that has a color-by-numbers three-phase script and is dead in less time than it took to fight through the handful of trash mobs to get to her. The AQ’s? Interesting environment again, and cool music, but another snoozefest for the most part. BWL… a lot going on at once in there, you had to be on your A-game but I can’t say that it inspired my imagination either. I left the game on TBC launch day but, I’ll just say I expected more from it all at the time.

    Something “epic” should certainly be challenging. I don’t know that sending raiding guilds packing with their tails between their legs for weeks or months on each new boss is the way to do it. More importantly, I look for a challenge that gives everyone involved their own time to shine, and something very cinematic that provokes my imagination and makes me want to come back for the experience, not the loot.

  19. syncaine says:

    During the only period one can honestly devote that much time, college. And the only people who cared were the other guilds raiding, but at that level, that’s really the only crowd you care about. Just like casuals don’t care about raiding, raiders don’t really consider the 5 man crowd. Different worlds.

    And if MC pre-BWL did nothing for you, how do you think mini-naxx stacks up to that now?

  20. Dingbat says:

    First off I’m not a raider and probably never will be, but I’ve met enough to understand what appeals to raiders. I’v always been ok with the fact that some content was inaccessible to me because I didn’t raid, as log as there was other content for me to play with.

    This post seem to indicate that yet another part of the playerbase is getting the cold shoulder in order to please the main bulk of the 11m playerbase.

    Now there are nothing, as always, for the PvP crowd (and no, Arenas and BG doesn’t count) and nothing for the hardcore raiders. But I guess everyone else is happy.

  21. *vlad* says:

    No one is allowed to do anything that isn’t mainstream anymore, and if you did do or have the desire to do so, then you are immature, have too much time on your hands, are a loser in real life, and no one cares about your achievements anyway.

    Didn’t we all start playing games in order to have fun? Back in the 80s, that always meant for me getting to the end boss and beating him, whether it was Akari Warriors or Ghosts n Ghouls.

    Nowadays everyone wants to set the game to Easy, and people who want to switch the game to Hard are despised.

  22. Ken says:

    I missed out on alot of the BC and Pre BC content, partly because I was always a part of a Leveling guild, or a guild that was just run by a kid that didn’t take the time to lead the guild. I was fortune with the guild I got into this time around. We focused on a wide variety of topics, PVP, Leveling, arena, BG’s and end game raiding. The one thing I realized was this, after visiting the old vanilla wow raids, Onyxia, AQ40.. then playing around with some of the end game content of BC only to move on to Wrath Raids, I am dissappointed as a whole. Sure it has become a show up and collect your gear. However, there is no value to what is earned because it has been handed to us like a gift. There is no sense of accomplishment, other than to be the first to do this that or the other thing…. This week I did my First , second and third 25 Man raid… all of them met with success, and I was left wanting.

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