The game is easy now. Really. Naxxramas was a breeze, and the only thing that gave a real challenge to raids in Wrath of the Lich King was the Obsidian Sanctum with three drakes up. Blizzard tuned raids and dungeons to become very accessible, and nowadays pretty much every Level 80 has at least stepped into Naxxramas. You know what? I think it's brilliant. There are those of you who think the game has been dumbed down, and that's kind of valid. I'd like to think of it as the game opening up.
I mean, back then, who was able to raid the original Naxxramas? Sure, it was released pretty close to The Burning Crusade, but only the best of the best guilds got to try it. That's a thimbleful in a large bucket of players. I never stepped in Naxxramas before Wrath. I never did Black Temple, either, although it was being pugged after the nerfs. Quite obviously, the closest I got to Kil'jaeden was through the cinematic in Magisters' Terrace. These days, I quite enjoy being able to relate to my high end raiding colleagues in WoW Insider.
Of course, most of them have done three drakes, and I haven't. My guild's come close, but when our our brother and sister team of healer and tank get disconnected during the most data intensive part of the encounter... well, it's a taller order for us. But that's besides the point. We get to experience it. We get to enjoy it. Ghostcrawler lays out Blizzard's new philosophy on raiding, and I for one appreciate it. He explains that it takes a lot of resources to produce a raid, and that "it seems an odd choice to lavish all that attention on such a tiny percent of the player base."
Instead, Blizzard has designed Ulduar to have "hard modes" or ways to tackle the encounter with varying degrees of difficulty. Ghostcrawler hopes that this will provide the cutting edge guilds with the challenge they need. After testing the water with Obsidian Sanctum, they're "going full bore with Ulduar". That's an excellent design philosophy which allows majority of the players base to see what Ghostcrawler calls "the coolest stuff in the game," but still gives the hardcore raiders "a lot to chew on". I mean, Ensidia might have cleared all the content in three days, but it took them a few days more to do Sartharion with three drakes, and Method beat them to 10-man World First.
If Blizzard does their job right, Ulduar will be something like that. Many guilds will be able to clear it, but only the most dedicated ones will be able to complete the hard modes. Naturally, the rewards for the hard modes will be appropriate for the difficulty. For many players it will be enough that they get to see a lot of what drives the story of the game. For the dedicated few, they'll get to experience it and have something test their mettle. There are 10- and 25-man raids, opening up the content to even more players. From a very basic perspective, that's squeezing the most out of a limited resource. I mean, it's just smart.
To Blizzard, though, it's more than that. They want you -- us to see what they've been working so hard on. Unlike Naxxramas, which reuses old models and textures, Ulduar is brand new. New models, new art, new textures, new encounters, maybe even new music! I'm thankful that I'll get to see all of that. Maybe I'll get to do it in hard mode, maybe not. But I'll get to see it. I'll get to enjoy it. Most of you will, too. That's the beautiful thing about the game now. More people than ever will get to experience it in full. Say what you will about how "easy" this game has become, but I'm grateful that I don't have to be in a bleeding edge guild just to enjoy the endgame.
Guess what? There will be rewards. Ghostcrawler said that "Ulduar has more items than all of BC's raids put together" which means that there's just been a ton of work put into it. Fourteen bosses in one raid... that's massive. I don't care how hardcore your guild is, fourteen bosses is going to keep people busy for a while. And just when you think you've cleared it, there's the hard mode. Think about it... there are drops from fourteen bosses in 10- and 25-man plus the hard mode rewards. That's a lot of loot for everyone at all levels of play.
When Patch 3.1 finally arrives, what Ghostcrawler calls "the 'World First' crowd" should find themselves busy with the hard modes while the rest of us will be enjoying the scenery. Kind of. I'm sure we'll be wiping quite a bit on the bosses, but I can assure you we'll be doing it with a smile on our faces.