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?
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?).
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.
Every raid instance needs a catch phrase.
IN THE MOUNTAINS!
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.