Mists of Pandaria Needs More Ulduar

I miss Ulduar. I have a suspicion that it ranks up there as the raider’s choice raid instance of all time. From the pacing, to the art, the difficulty and so forth, it has a fond place in the hearts of most Wrath raiders.

But what exactly about Ulduar made it so enticing? How can Blizzard recreate that feeling of wonder and accomplishment in future raid instances?

Atmosphere

The one that did it for me the most was that it wasn’t a typical dungeon like atmosphere. It wasn’t dark or dreary. It wasn’t like Black Temple, Icecrown Citadel or Blackwing Descent. It’s not the standard dark and dank dungeon. It was way brighter and had more variety with the different rooms. Granted, you had to siege your way in but once you were inside, it felt like you were in a type of shrine. Ice cavern on one side, lush tropics on another side, and it had a tram.

Every raid instance needs a tram.

In Mists, I’m hoping to see more encounters in outdoor instances. Less inside a dark cave or the side of a mountain. Maybe more in a dojo or up the side of a physical mountain (Mount Hyjal anyone?).

Limited time

Sadly this raid instance didn’t have the shelf life that other raid instances had. It felt really short because it came out in the spring. Right as summer rolled around, Trial of the Crusader came out and the players heading back into Ulduar stopped because that gear and challenge incentive wasn’t there anymore. Maybe the reason the instance is remembered so fondly is that most players didn’t have time to get sick of the place yet.

Amount of bosses

Ulduar had 14 bosses (1 of them was Algalon). I think there’s a sweet spot somewhere if you’re looking at number of bosses in a tier and amount of time allocated to clearing that tier. Ulduar’s time frame was effectively 4 months with 13 bosses (and this excludes the hard mode variations). The other tier that ranks in my favourites list was tier 5 which had 10 bosses (6 in Serpentshrine Cavern and 4 in Tempest Keep). Firelands was the only one for tier 12 (effectively 7 bosses plus hard modes and a Baradin Hold boss).

I liked the model which had more than one raid instance per tier. Tier 5 and tier 11 are good examples of this. You had a good amount of bosses that were spread out over multiple instances allowing raid groups to pick and choose where to start from each week. Instead of jamming them all into instance, having them spread out gave the feeling of not burning out as quickly.

2 – 3 instances of 3 – 5 bosses sprinkled throughout seem to be the most ideal and I hope they’ll revisit that consistently in Mists.

Catch phrase

Every raid instance needs a catch phrase.

IN THE MOUNTAINS!

… Right?

Conditional hard modes

Activated hard modes of each boss had to be triggered manually by doing specific encounter things. This was first made popular in Obsidian Sanctum against Sartharion where the amount of drakes killed affected the difficulty level of the boss. Flame Leviathan was affected by the amount of towers that were killed. Deconstructor’s was triggered by whether or not your raid group DPS was high enough to destroy the heart. Nowadays all your raid leaders need to do is toggle a switch.

Actually, now that I think about it, there were scalable hard modes. Iron Council could be engaged multiple ways depending on the order. Freya was just nuts.

My finest moment?

Orbituary on 25 man. You’d be hard pressed to find another encounter so demanding in terms of coordination required. When successfully pulled off, it was one of the greatest highs experienced because you were taking on an encounter where most players weren’t using their actual class abilities (other than the boarding team). Each catapult launcher had to coordinate navigation, sprints, fuel reloading and maintaining DPS. Those on the bikes had to make sure they were in position to retrieve launched players, drop oil slicks and so forth. Can’t remember what the siege ones did other than interrupts and trying to shoot fuel.

Though I suspect if Ulduar had been out for another month or two, we would all have been annoyed with it.

Maybe Pandaria will have a similar installation hidden on the island.

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.

Comments

  1. Yep I agree and have stated so several times on my blog about this exact topic.

    http://www.mmo-report.com/2011/05/the-vision-of-a-new-mmo-encounter-paradigm/

  2. I was a big fan of the 4+ difficulty encounters (Sarth, Freya, Flame Leviathan, Yogg). Although any hardmode that is more than just higher damage/hp makes me happy.

  3. Ulduar was my favorite raid of all of them in WoW. The bosses were great from XT to Hodir to Mimiron to Yogg. It was also the time when my personal raid group was really clicking (we hit 3rd Alliance on our server). We never recaptured that feel.

  4. A counterpoint against “Amount of bosses”:

    My guild was raided one night a week, four hours. Ulduar was so long that we never got more than two keepers down per night. We don’t have as fond memories as most, because we were never able to finish.

    This was before raid locks could be extended, and I’ve always wondered how many other guilds were in the same position as us, and if we are the reason Blizzard added extendable raid locks to the ToC patch.

  5. You know, I was thinking about this last night, much to my husband’s chagrin.

    Just randomly, I started quoting XT. The voice acting in Ulduar was some of the most memorable in the last few years, the atmosphere was breathtaking, and the hard mode mechanics really were hard!

    I can agree with the sentiment that if we had Ulduar for a little longer, we would have been sick of it, though I’m reasonably sure most people would traded for more Ulduar in lieu of ToC.

    So Matt, I think you need to email your buddy GC on this one. MOAR ULDUAR!

  6. Lychordia says:

    Wish I would have gotten that legendary put together. I miss Ulduar. I recently saw a pug announced on trade chat and had to restrain myself due to time constraints. I might have to see about setting one up when I have time. Thanks for the reminder on the fun!

  7. For me the thing that made Ulduar amazing was the scale in difficulty. Flame Levi with no towers was so easy that it could be done with a 1/3 full raid. Where as 0 light was considered by some top guilds to be impossible, and there was every possible difficulty in between.

    Yogg 0 was beaten by Stars in July and 3.2 Release in August, which means everyone had 3+ months of progression in ulduar, and only a handful of guilds ever completed it. Compare this to say Madness which was defeated in less than a month (and now we will have this instance for over 5 months more than likely).

    Also there are 16 possible encounter difficulties in say DS. There was FLx5, Ig, Razor, XTx2, ICx3, Kologarn, Auriya, Hodirx2, Thorimx2, Freyax4, Mimironx2, Vezaxx2, Yoggx5, Algalon – 32 difficulties in Ulduar and it only being out for 4 months that meant that you could average 2 new boss kills a week and still have had progression the entire time. In my guild we had probably a month more of ulduar before we really hit the progression wall (We were working on Yogg+2 and Freya full HM, and after freya we would have started on algalon). We would have gotten freya eventually and maybe possibly Yogg+2, but would have been stuck after that.

    Ulduar had the smoothest progression curve of any instance blizzard has ever made, without nerfs or gates there was smooth steady progression by guilds from the absolute best to the mediocre for months. There was always a new fight to be working on, every week had some progression.

  8. IMO, Ulduar is the epitome of raiding. There was a nice, sweet spot between trash and bosses. Each boss fight had some variety, so you didn’t get burned out on either tank-n-spank or constant motion mechanics. There were fights where some classes shone, but not many (to my recollection) where people were benched because their class was useless in the fight (::cough cough:: Chimaeron and Baleroc ::cough cough::)

    Sadly, Blizzard stated at the last Blizzcon that though they would like to do more Ulduar-style hard modes, they simply can’t come up with enough boss fight mechanics that lend themselves to an Uldaur HM. So I highly doubt we’ll see it any more.

    • Actually they did could not think of unique ways to activate the multi-level hard modes and have each feel different. Which is a lame excuse.

      They felt that the Ulduar and OS3D were too arcane an implementation to activate. They are correct on that part. However why they just don’t add more detailed raid toggle interface than hard/normal is just being too focused on other systems to actually make the best raid interface possible.

      Hmm new blog post idea, thanks.

    • Hey Malchome!

      First, your welcome on the idea (and poke me when it’s done so I can check it out).

      Second, good point on the implementation. Though the bit about multiple levels, last I heard, was that they were thinking to implement a third difficulty level for raiding. Either that, or that might be the Challenge mode thing. Not sure.

  9. MoP will need a lot of things, but Ulduar isn’t one of them.
    I’m of the camp that Ulduar wasn’t ‘impressive’ in its design. Many of the boss fights required little more than mindless execution once strats were developped. That being said, the entirety of the zone wasn’t without its originality. But it hardly ranks as ‘Blizzard’s best’ when considering each instance, framed in its contextual timeline.
    I believe, personal hunch, that Ulduar represents the peak for the vast majority of WoW raiders from vanilla through present. It receives overwhelming support because it was good (not great) but it is the largest common denominator raid experience in the game. I think with a little introspection this statement will ring fairly true, and statements in both the OP and comments corroborate this.
    MoP needs many things to put WoW back to stable numbers, and that is a focus on overall gameplay quality. Not just the raiding scene, but the lackluster crafting, personal impact, player interaction etc. The game’s varieties of play could use major cohesion and in many areas reconstruction.

    • Now I’m curious.

      How would you improve the crafting experience? What activities can be done to boost it to be … more fun? Engaging? Or something?

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