Sightseeing and Raiding Achievements

"The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." - Albert Einstein
Perhaps one of the more lamentable facts of life when it comes to World of Warcraft raiding is that as each new tier of content comes out, the raids and dungeons of previous tiers tend to get quickly abandoned like an awkwardly phrased metaphor. This phenomena typically gets worse the older a raid is until the only time people will visit is to do the raiding equivalent of sightseeing. Now that's all fine and good if the purpose is simply to revisit a raid that has been completed previously for the sake of nostalgia, but what about someone going in to see a dungeon for the first time?

There are some magnificently complex and wonderful encounters in these old raids. The truly sad thing is that the typical sightseer will go in as an overlevelled and overgeared wrecking machine and rip through these old bosses with the same level of delicacy as it would take to open a Chunky Soup can with a stick of dynamite. Bosses die and encounters are completed with no regard to the very mechanics and elements that make the fights actually interesting. The end result is that the player smacks around some poor, lonely, underpowered bosses and gets the achievement for completing the raid, but doesn't actually experience or understand the raid on anything but the most superficial level. It's rather like going to Paris and never leaving the McDonalds in the airport; you get the stamp on your passport to say you've been there but can't really say much other than the hamburgers are awful.

Sadly, this essentially renders the Raid achievements and the titles that are associated with them meaningless.

Take my Shaman and Paladin as examples. My shaman wears the Starcaller title for defeating Algalon. She got it long after Ulduar was relevant, as an 85 in a full raid of level 85s. I defeated the encounter but really don't have an appreciation of what the fight is all about, nor does the title have any true emotional value; it just looks neat.

My Paladin, Thosif, on the other hand, typically wears his Kingslayer title with pride. I earned that title with my previous guild Shadowgarde through a lot of hard work and effort while the encounter was still the pinnacle of raiding (Halion just doesn't count and everybody knows it). The title and the achievement have meaning to me precisely because I feel that I earned them. The fact that a person can take a group of 85s and blitz their way through Icecrown Citadel in an hour and get the title makes it feel a little less special as well; I know I earned it, but others would probably just assume I got it the easy way.

Now, before anyone gets huffy and starts calling me an elitist, this is just how I feel about it personally. There are lots of reasons that people like going into old raids and dungeons at high levels, and I am certainly don't want to take anyone's fun away. But for me, the thrill of raiding comes from the challenge, and if I'm going to experience a raid for the first time, that's how I'd prefer to see it.

The obvious problem is that it's virtually impossible to get a group of people at the appropriate level in the appropriate gear together at the same time to run an old raid. Very few people will halt their levelling progress on a new alt long enough to gear him to run a raid, and even if someone did it's unlikely that they would be able to find enough other people who were doing that at the same time. It comes down to motivation: There simply is no incentive to do an older raid at the proper level. It's much simpler to either get a guildmate or two to run your alt through it, or wait until you're maximum level.


There is, however, one singular achievement (technically a Feat of Strength) that a sightseeing raider can't get: Herald of the Titans. This little gem of an achievement requires a player to be the appropriate level as well as have the appropriate gear for the encounter. No overpowered tourists allowed.

This title is unique in that it is only available for a limited time while a character is level 80 and once you've passed that threshold you're out of luck on that character. If you want the title now, you're going to have to pause your XP, gear up your level 80 alt and find a group willing to go with you and kill the encounter the old fashioned way.

In essence, what this achievement does is make this single old raid encounter permanently relevant.

This achievement is not new—it's been around since Ulduar itself—but as we move into the new expansion I think it can give Blizzard a template for future raids. Why couldn't each new raid tier have a meta achievement with similar requirements to Herald of the Titans, each one with a unique and desirable vanity reward such as a mount or pet? The players that are running it while it's current would get it as a matter of course, but it could give people reasons to run the previous tier with their alts using the proper gear even after it is no longer the cutting edge. This would allow people to get the feeling of Burning Crusade and Vanilla raiding (of having to progress through each tier sequentially) if they want it, but would not actually require anyone to do it if they didn't feel like it.

And while we're on the subject, why couldn't Blizzard add similar achievements to older raids? Why not bring the Hand of Adal title back, but require that only a level 70 in a level 70 raid group could get it? How difficult would it be to reinstate the Immortal and Undying titles from Naxxramas with a character and item level restriction? What would be the effect of a Karazahn achievement that awards a miniature Wolfman or Strawman pet? Would there be a massive move towards creating level 70 raiding teams on Twitter to farm this beloved raid instance? If the rewards were unique enough, the hardcore would likely start frothing at the mouth to get alts to the proper level to get them.

Hell, a new Lady Vashj title might even make Kurn resubscribe for Mists.

Blizzard has made a big fuss about making sure that there is lots of things to do at maximum level, but adding a couple of these little achievements and rewards scattered through the beloved and excellent older content would give people things to do before max level that are equally important to do. Right now, the content is massively weighted towards the maximum level, and that is by design, but that also means that—by design—there is a massive amount of content that the vast majority of people will never get a chance to experience properly.

With the advent of Cross-Realm Raiding and soon Cross-Realm Zones there will potentially be lots of players who might be interested in halting their levelling progression on an alt in order to do some older raiding for their one shot at a unique reward. It may help remove the pressure to level as quickly as possible just so that there's something that they can do with their friends, and allow people to stop, smell the roses and actually experience the content that's out there in this big, virtual world of ours.


The Lament for Theramore

Thee Theramore! O sadly lost!
Alliance lament frae coast to coast.
Now war grips, the barking host
May kill us a';
For noble Jaina's fabl'd post,
Is ta'en awa'.
Dwarvish Lament for Theramore *

It is the worst kept secret in the World of Warcraft that Theramore is going to be destroyed in the pre-expansion event leading up to the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. The details are still unknown, but the destruction of the city will change the Alliance's position in Kalimdor drastically. At this point it's unclear as to whether Theramore will be in Alliance or Horde hands, whether it will remain a quest hub or become an instanced scenario of some kind, or just be left as a smoking, purple glowing crater in the ground.

And while others (ahem, Rades) have speculated on what the destruction of will mean to the Alliance from a lore perspective, I want to talk about what it's going to mean from my perspective as a life-long Alliance player.

What brought this topic to mind is that I was watching this video of what Theramore will look like after the Horde have their way with it. It broke my heart a little bit.


Even the name isn't really evocative of a place you'd choose to go willingly, and certainly Dustwallow Marsh isn't exactly a vacation spot. It's not pretty or scenic. In fact, it's downright dreary and just plain creepy; the sort of place you'd expect a spider to drop down out of the trees at any moment as you're walking through it. As a player, I get an ominous feeling when adventuring in Dustwallow, particularly in places like the Wyrmbog with it's wandering Dragonkin, Witch Hill and the spirits that eternally haunt it, and Darkmist Cavern with it's endless supply of eight-legged beasties.

In stark contrast to the impenetrable depths of the Swamp stands proud Theramore, a small but gleaming (relative to the rest of the marsh, at least) Alliance city perched precariously on an island. Compared to the rest of Dustwallow and Southern Kalimdor, to the Alliance player Theramore seemed like a bright shining beacon of civilization jutting out of the literal middle of nowhere. It was the essential travel hub for an Alliance player looking to get anywhere on Kalimdor since the only other town with connections to the Eastern Kingdoms was in Auberdine (now Lor'danel) and trying to get to some of the more far-flung areas (I'm looking at you, Gadgetzan) could result in a half-hour long hippogriff ride and a good chance to catch up on some reading.

Theramore was also the main quest hub for Dustwallow, and for a lot of players like myself it was the first time setting foot on the Kalimdor continent after following a breadcrumb quest from a bloke eternally standing on the Menethil dock asking whomever walks by to deliver something to the Inn there.

Now, I can't really speak to how other people level their characters, but I always made a point to go through Dustwallow with my characters. It just seemed a more natural and interesting place to go after the Wetlands than Arathi Highlands or the Badlands. I always liked the stories that were told in Dustwallow during it's first iteration. The Shady Rest Inn storyline was particularly moving, with a great emotional pay-off at the end. I've always liked the chain of quests at Swamplight Manor to cleanse "Swamp Eye" Jarl. And of course who can forget setting the raptors loose on the unsuspecting Grimtotem?

It's a zone that reminds me a lot of one of my other other favourite zones, Duskwood. It has the same kind of creepy, foreboding atmosphere to it that I like so much. And both zones had an insane amount of running back and forth before they were mercifully streamlined in Cataclysm. And all of those great memories started in poor, doomed Theramore.


With the impending destruction of Theramore there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of Dustwallow as it continues it's transition from sleepy, moody swamp that felt very insignificant in the grand scheme of the world to the front lines of an all-out war with the Horde. What will become of the small stories? Who's going to take the time to cleanse Jarl of his demonic possession in the middle of a battlefield? Is someone going to walk "Stinky" Ignatz home with Horde siege engines laying waste to the landscape?

But all that having been said, why do a lot of Alliance players lament the loss of this town so much?

Well, it's been talked about to death, but during the early stages of the War (represented by the Cataclysm expansion) the Alliance has been getting the hell kicked out of it. Southshore lost, massive horde incursions into the Night Elf homelands of Ashenvale and minor ones in Darkshore, the loss of Andorhol after the Scourge were finally defeated, and our new allies in Gilneas turned to homeless refugees forced to live in a tree by the Forsaken war machine. To the Alliance player, Cataclysm has been one iron-booted kick in the nuts after another.

Now we're losing Theramore. Whump. That's gonna sting the ol' Dwarf Potatoes.

I think that for me, at least, losing Theramore is going to make Kalimdor feel a lot less friendly and much more foreign. It's hostile enemy territory now, with no real safe havens worth mentioning for the Alliance. Go away, Dwarves, you are not welcome here.

But in all honesty, the real reason that people are complaining about the loss of Theramore has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with human psychology: People embrace the familiar and fear the unknown. Things that we know are comforting. And in this terrifying new world of conflict, destruction and all-out factional war that MoP is bringing with it people are naturally going to cling to those things that remind us of a simpler, better time of relative peace.

You know, when all we had to worry about was an innumerable, unstoppable undead army that was going to take over the entire world and suck out our brains. The good ol' days.

* Adapted from Robert Burns' poem Old Scotch Drink.