Saturday, September 8, 2012

The History of My Cataclysm - The Zuls Phase

Go here for part one, the T11 Phase.

I was going to make this the Zuls and T12 phase but the Zuls deserve a post of their own for the huge role they played in the game.  Some people might think that this was just a small patch that gave us two old raids converted into heroics but it was more than that, much more than that to many like myself.

Fair warning, I have nearly nothing nice to say about the game for this phase and while it is more about my history of the game playing during the time, it will be more about my dislike for the game during this time.

This patch was originally supposed to contain the abyssal maw raid and if it had perhaps the history for my play during this phase would have been completely different.  I believe that if it did, cataclysm as a whole would have been completely different and remembered better than it will be by most.

Being it didn't, the face of the game changed forever because of it and the faith in the game makers was all but destroyed for many, myself included.

The Zuls were released late T11 and did serve a purpose for guilds like mine that were having issues getting raids going.  It allowed us to recruit new players and catch them up quicker with 353 gear instead of the 346 gear that heroics offered.  Not much of a difference mind you, but it sure did feel as if the new people would be one less step behind, or half a step behind to be more accurate.

While my raid team was just starting to develop when the Zuls came out many guilds had started to dismantle.  For reasons like mine incurred early on that were not related to raid difficulty or because of the raid difficulty which many casual guilds felt was overwhelming.

So my guild had started recruiting people that were looking to raid but their guilds either did not want to work on T11 because of difficulty or they just couldn't because they did not have the people.  We experienced that ourselves as our minimal progress at the time the zuls came out showed.  I think we only had 6 of the T11 bosses down when the Zuls were released and oddly enough, the one that people called the easiest, halfus, we had not downed as a guild if that makes any sense.

I can not be sure what it is that does it, perhaps it is the way I raid lead or the people in our team, but when something is easy we always seem to have difficulty with it but when something is deemed harder in comparison we usually move along quicker with it.  It makes for interesting raiding for sure.  We wiped nearly 100 times before we downed magmaw the first time but we downed ODS the first time the same day we downed him but in only 2 tries, if that shows you what I mean.  We are a weird group for sure but they are great people even if they are cut from a different cloth than most.

It was after the Zuls were released that we had decided to start getting a second team going being the first raid team was starting to meld together and become a little more dependable and we could gear up others more efficiently with them.  Anyone will tell you that half the problem with building a good raid team is getting the same people to show up on time every week and while rebuilding that was an issue for us, a big one, it was starting to correct itself.  Until the zuls came.

A new raid was what we needed, really needed.  Like I had mentioned we were behind in progression because of our late start and if the abyssal maw had been released, being we now had a somewhat regular group, we could have started new, but that was not to happen.

Instead we had to continue on with T11 knowing we were always a day late and a dollar short.  It would have been nicer to start with everyone else new again but that was not to happen.  We had to continue to play catch up.  Don't get me wrong, I loved T11, but would have also loved being able to try something new and get what would have been a fresh start because at that point we finally had a team that would be ready to go at the start.  If a raid was released in 4.1 we would have entered and started raiding on day one.  After the late start to T11 that was just what the doctor ordered.

It was during the Zul phase that I changed my main tank and my main healer at the time.  I was, up until this point, mostly healing on my priest even if I felt disc was quite lacking but I was comfortable with it and mostly tanking on my warrior.

I can't be sure if it was me, or my luck with random groups but I could not for the life of me ever finish a zul with my warrior or my priest.  Even in guild groups.  My priest just did not feel like it had the power to keep people up and my warrior felt lacking as well.

It could very well have been my skill level on each that was the issue but I still switched my main tank and my main healer to my druid, for guild zuls only, and my shaman.  Actually my shaman started to work into the mix before the zuls but this was when it really took over.

Being I do not random much on my tanks, read as extremely rarely, and we had some regular tanks finally, even switching my tank for randoms to my bear it did not allow it to pass my warrior in gear and my warrior stayed my main raid tank.  On the rare occasion when a tank was needed for a random however I would use my druid because it seemed a lot more capable than my warrior for them.  Not sure why but my warrior could not cut it.  My lesser geared druid had nearly no problems but my warrior, that could raid tank like a champ, could not do a zul.

I completely quit using my priest during the Zuls.  Stopped even raiding with her.  I had gotten to the panther boss three times in three days with three different random groups and we wiped and wiped and wiped on them.  Being I am a raid leader and as such I am usually pretty good at picking out where the problems are and I could tell the problem was me.  I just could not do it as disc, at least not with random people.

I switched to holy, for the first time ever during this point and was able to heal it but I did not like holy, so my offspec went back to a disc PvP spec and my priest went to the shelf.  My shaman took over as my main healer because I felt like a god with it in the Zuls.

The shaman healer was made for content like this in my opinion as it had so many tools I would use that my priest, or any other healer for that matter, were completely lacking.  I had an off tank, an interrupt, a form of crowd control, the ability to drop 100K heals, you name it, my shaman had everything my disc priest was lacking and more.  It was also the point where I first noticed that shaman were insanely over powered in any form of 5 man content.  So my priest feeling lacking in disc and my shaman feeling powerful meant that it was shaman time.

Within a few weeks of the Zul grind and a few raids where I brought my shaman instead of my priest it passed my priests gear level and my priest left to never be seen again until firelands came out and it would heal the rare reputation run late in that patch for alts or to do the spot healing job when a third healer was needed and my shaman was saved to another group and that was it.

During the Zuls was also when I stopped healing on my druid, even if I had not done it much before, stopped healing on my paladin, even if I had not done it much before, and stopped playing my rogue completely even if my rogue was my only melee DPS at the time I had said, sorry, if needed I can not fill the role of melee DPS any more.

When they were released I had 8 classes at 85, only my warlock and death knight were not at 85 yet.  I was playing all 8 classes when they came out but by the time firelands came out I was only playing my hunter, my shaman and my warrior.  That is it.  The other five classes I had totally given up on the valor grind with, I would not go into a zul with them.

My hunter was always my main, but my druid was my main tank and my priest was my main healer.  It was sad to see them both dropped to fill in roles being they were the tank and healer I felt most comfortable with them.

Even if I was doing well enough on the other classes that got left behind the people in my groups were not and I did not feel like I could compensate for what others were lacking with the other classes like I could with my only three remaining active characters.

After only a few weeks of running zuls, with only my hunter and my shaman now being I only tank for guild, I was already burnt out on them.  Like it or not I was stuck running it on my hunter because he was not raiding.  While I could slack off on my shaman as I was using it to raid and same with my warrior, I could not with my hunter.  They would get their valor points in raids, my hunter did not have that option.

See folks, this is why I think that raid gear should always be available for purchase with valor points.  People like to call it welfare gear, I like to call it keeping up with my raiders.  There is no reason my main should get left behind because I am needed to heal or tank.  I should be able to get raid gear on my main even if I am not raiding so I do not fall behind. 

Call it welfare gear if you want, but grinding those Zuls was hard work, very hard work, and I earned that gear a hell of a lot more than I do in raiding.  In raiding you go in with a preset group with a leader and a plan and you will usually down a few things and get some gear as well as valor.  That is easy, if there is such a thing as welfare gear it is that, raiding gear is welfare gear.  Doing Zuls was painful, it was hard, it was a nightmare most times, now that is earning your gear.

I had always believed that point/emblem gear was earning it and raiding gear was just having it handed to you, but after the Zuls that opinion was cemented in my mind forever.  Anyone that says that point gear is welfare gear does not know what welfare means and needs to learn before they talk, no offense, but welfare means getting something for nothing. 

Grinding Zuls with all of those horrible players was hard work.  If you are doing hard work, you are not getting something for nothing.  You will never convince me otherwise.  Point gear is not and never will be welfare gear.  Poking a raid boss with a stick and looting it for free loot and valor points is welfare gear.  Not the point gear itself.  You earned your point gear with blood, sweat and tears if you were doing Zuls to get them.

We really needed the abyssal maw, I kept saying it, we needed something.  I was sick of the zuls, I was stressed not playing my main, I was trying to run two groups with alts and lesser players and while I loved T11 all I wished for was one solid group or a full reset with a new raid.  A new raid would have been like a new start and we needed that, the game needed that.

Randoming into two dungeons, which is not exactly what I would call random, was starting to get to me.  It was the first time this expansion I had actually started to contemplate quitting, and it was the second time I seriously thought about taking a break.

I was sick of the same two dungeons over and over, I was sick of killing the same raid bosses every week, I was sick of not being able to play my main, I was sick of having nothing to do on non raid nights except subjecting myself to the hell that was known as the Zuls.

I left warcarft at the time, stopped doing the Zuls, could not do them any more.  I joined 5 of our guild mates in the move to rift because of the zuls along with the few others that had went there right away.  I was still logging into warcarft to raid.  I was still doing my jewelcrafting dailies.  That was about it really.

I started rift and found something I had been missing for a long time with warcraft, the feel of something new.  Can't blame warcraft for that, a new feeling can only come with something new and once I've played it, I would never have that new feeling again.  But maybe in a way you could blame blizzard.  After all, they did release the Zuls as 5 mans and called it new content.  Sorry, but that was not new.  It was content before as lower level raids and it was more fun as lower level raids that you could go back and solo for fun.

So they took two raids that were fun to solo and turned them into a nightmare run from hell grind fest with mostly bad and worse players.  Not exactly a way to get that new feeling again.  Taking something that was fun and turning it into hell and then telling you that you needed to do them over and over again and only them to maximize your valor was the last straw for me.  Maybe I can blame blizzard for that horrible mistake.

While I was playing rift I saw many of the part timers in the guild deciding to take breaks as well.  Some tested the rift waters, some just said they wanted to take some time off, some just stopped logging in without saying a word.

Nearly half the guilds on the server started to fall apart.  The nightmare that was the end of T11 had started and it was not because T11 had went to long, like I said, T11 was a good raiding tier, it was because of the Zuls.

One guild, that used to be a really large guild in wrath, even ran two 25 mans I believe, just crumbled over night.  I am not kidding, it was a few weeks after the Zuls came out and then nearly their entire guild left over night.  We ended up recruiting roughly 8 players from that guild into ours.  Two of them left the game shortly after and another 2 took a break and did not seem them return until mid firelands.  All of them said the same thing when they left, I can't do these Zuls any more.

The combination of T11 not being pug friendly, no separate 10 and 25 man lock outs, there being nothing to do out in the world, and the two dungeon randoms that were harder that most raids when done with random people all caught up to them, and to me, hence the reason I was playing rift.

People love to always claim that warcarft is dying and that this game will kill it or that game will kill it but I've always said that the only thing that can kill warcraft is blizzard.  I was right.  The Zuls are the closest to death that warcraft has ever come.  They still have not recovered from it.

4.1 was a series of mistakes, it was a list of how not to do things.  They would have been better off not even releasing it and just nerfing T11 so it could be pugged easily.  They would have been better off if they made you have a choice to random just for zuls or for everything for the same amount of valor.  They would have been better releasing even a small abyssal maw raid just as filler even if it dropped the same item level gear as T11. 

It would have been better if they released an easy raid for people to do.  The majority of their player base had problems with the original heroics, even the nerfed versions, and if they made the Zuls easier, not harder than them, that would have helped too.  It would have been better if they added a patch that had more than recycled content.  It would have been better if that two dungeon grind was something new.  It would have been better if they actually made doing them part of the bigger story and not just filler that they would forget about as soon as 4.2 came out. 

If there was ever a call of death in the game, it was 4.1.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I started to think that it was their way of seeing how far they can push their player base before it would push back.  I kept thinking that it had to be some sort of joke.  No company that has been this successful for this long could release this and think it was a good idea.  It had to be some sort of joke.  It is what made me lose faith in blizzard and their ability to offer the player base good content worth playing.

I would go from playing rift to playing warcraft and keep thinking that rift is proof that blizzard has completely lost touch with its player base.  I had always believed that blizzard could keep me playing, until 4.1.  It made me realize that perhaps they don't want me to play because if they did they would not be going through such extreme efforts to give me a reason to play rift, or anything else, instead.

As a side note, and you can look it up if you would like, since 4.1 was released, the only MMO of the genre that has actually grown in size when it comes to a paying player base is rift.

Releasing 4.1 at the time rift came out might have been a marketing move on blizzards part to try and get something out there for people when a new game was released and it backfired.  It backfired because rift is a better game than warcraft is.

I would have quit completely at that point if not for one thing, the graphics of rift.  I did not like them.  It is a two part reason.  Part one being I am color blind and their higher graphics mean a higher color selection which means more I can not see because of it.  Sometimes it made questing extremely hard, sometimes I could not find quest times even with a glow to them.  I often walked right into mobs because I could not see them, they were the same color as the background to me.  Part two was the higher graphics looked horrible to me when moving.  I play at ultra, but while standing still the game was visually stunning, when moving it was horrible.  Just go to strafe on a character and you will see what I mean.  The human body can not move like that, it just looks so horrible and contorted.

So while I think rift is a better game than warcraft at the moment, I don't see me ever leaving for it.  It is good, but it is not for me.

So when I came back to warcraft I came back with a better understanding as you why blizzard has not upgraded their graphics yet and why they will never move from the cartoonish looks.  It is because that is better for the type of game this is.  Warcraft can still be just as visually stunning as rift at times but they just do it in a different way.  While cartoonish in looks their characters move in a way that seems natural.

Do you know why I stayed playing warcraft over rift even if I liked most everything rift had to offer in comparison?  The graphics.

Hey, I told you I am different from most people.  Many people leave warcraft because they want better graphics and I stayed because of them.  The way I look at it is that those better graphics are just not good enough yet.  Maybe in years to come, but you can not make real looking characters that move like they should because that does not look real.  The technology is just not there yet.  Perhaps soon it will be, but for now, warcraft got me back because their cartoonish graphics are much better than the real ones of rift.

If rift had warcrafts graphics, you would have never seen me playing warcraft again, this would be a rift blog right now.  It would all be because of 4.1.  It would have all been because of the Zuls pushed me out and made me look for something else to play.

The only thing that will ever kill warcraft is blizzard, and they tried to and failed because too many people stuck with it.  If I was one to gamble I would bet that the people that left the game, those large subscription numbers we saw dropping, they were all raiders, or at least end gamers that dungeon at the least.

The levelers, the questers, the PvPers, the ones not at max level, they were not effected like the people at 85 were.  Those losses, those huge losses, they were the 85s that left.  That is what I would gamble and like I said, I was almost one of them.

4.1 was almost the death of the game for me and perhaps if I were not color blind and rift had better movement graphics I might have left.  My history of cataclysm almost took a turn to ending with this patch.  It was really close.  I was almost to the point that I would rather watch reruns of bad 70s cop shows on TV than log on any play either warcraft or rift.

4.1 had me looking to find a new hobby.  I'd been burnt out on warcraft before, but never did I actively look for someone else to do like I did then.  I wanted to find something else.  I played so many other games.  None grabbed me but if you look at the losses from that time it is safe to say some grabbed a lot of other people.

If warcraft is ever going to die it will be blizzards doing and it will be with patch 5.1 when blizzard releases 2 new dungeons only and makes us do it all over again.  Are you ready for AQ 20 and AQ 40 in new 5 man versions and nothing to do but them over and over and over?  Lets hope it does not happen because if it does I am gone next time.

Hey, at least mists will give us other options if we do not want to do the dungeon grind.  Perhaps they did learn something, only time will tell.

Coming soon... The History of My Cataclysm The T12 Phase


  1. Again a nice read.

    Vou already touched upon it, but: I never understood why they made the Zuls Heroic-only.

    The big bottleneck of Cata-start was that they had emasculated all of the rest of the game to roller-coaster people to max level, only to smack their head on the wall of Cata Heroics, which worked with organized groups but not for the Random PuG's and the purpose Heroics had acquired (elaborate Dailies).

    While the Zuls were optional (no offense but people could at least get their Valor also in other ways like the original Heroics, something people tend to forget in their tales of woe. DW, you're really not the worst 'offender' by far), there were only two 85 Normals on release creating the issue that many had 'outgrown' the two 85 Normals (let alone the lower level ones) but, being dependant on PuG's etc., could not advance through the Start-Heroics.

    Zul-Normals would have been ideal (if we forget the rehash etc. factor - and having grinded Exalted Zandalar on my 60 Alchemist only to have two weeks later the Living Action Pot recipe made a 4 GP normal vendor Recipe grrrr ) to close that gap, but GC chose not to grasp this opportunity to band-aid, obsessed as he is with 2%-Progression

    (also ticking off Arena and already-faltering Rated BG players by postponing their Gear during this time because of the same; the from what I understand rampant MMR cheating that went unpunished didn't help, either)

    I doubt part of 2% of the player base was mostly responsible for an over-10% drop of the player base during this time, the numbers simply don't add up. I can see however how increasingly-borked PvP, borked & unfun Tol Barad, herding people into an inaccessible end-game, etc. etc. could be responsible for such a huge drop.

    (afaik other established games at the time didn't suffer similar huge drops, making the 'it's the economy, stupid!' excuse we've also heard a tad unlikely)

    The graphics issue is familliar ;) If they ever do update the graphics so older machines can't really run it anymore, they might end up killing their game IMO.

    1. You could get them other ways yes, but not as efficiently. Not to mention the only people doing the older ones were the people that could not make it into the Zuls at the start. Which meant the older heroics were still harder. At least with the zuls you had a chance of getting a decent group, which I did more than a few times. It wasn't always bad, just more bad than good.

      I agree, anyone that blamed the economy was just making excuses for blizzard, while it was a contributing factor for many I am sure, it was not a huge factor like some like to make it out to be.

      The graphics are what is keeping the game going, for people like me and like you said, for people that have machines that could not handle anything better. The graphics are a huge factor and many don't realize that the smartest thing blizzard has ever done was to not push to update them too much. In my opinion at least.

  2. I hate it when they rework old content and introduce it as "new" content. I would rather they work on real new content and leave the old stuff as-is. That way they don't remove things like the old ZG mounts and such, so collectors and completists can go back for that stuff, and raiders don't get burned out by revisiting old stuff that's forced into their normal progression.

    1. It might have not been so bad if they made entirely new instances in the old setting. They could have saved money and time using an old back drop but with new story to it. Would not have been great, like DS reusing old backgrounds, but at least it would not be completely rehashed and we could have kept the old content to run for fun.

  3. I agree the Zul's were a huge mistake. I loathed them and I wasn't under the kind of pressure you were. I was trying to get into raiding at the time so I forced myself to run them for the upgrades and to get capped. I was doing this on two characters as I was trying to give options on the recruitment form. I don't think you could run the original heroics for valor, they made it so you could later but not in 4.1 I don't think.

    If I got burnt out of the game in this period, like I said, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you. Two new heroics does not make a content patch. There should have been a new raid, or a new daily quest hub, or something else. Two heroics, which were even more unfriendly to pugs than the original cata heroics, which were rehashed old raids. No, it was a huge huge mistake.

    I do love this game, and I'm loving everything I'm seeing about Mists. However, if they do the same in 5.1 I'll lose what faith I have left.

    I can't agree with this post more.

    1. I'm fairly certain that at 4.1. you could still get Valor for the Starter Heroics (on top of my head that was even the case in 4.3) and - and this has been called a mistake - 1.5 times that amount by limiting yourself to just two 'Random' Zuls that took even longer to complete, if you were able to complete them to begin with.

      AFAIK (wasn't playing at the time) people like my friends avoided 'Zul lethargy' by doing the Zuls only with premades and a healthy dose of the other current Heroics, which people had started to outgear a bit more and hence went smoother than before.

    2. Oh no wait I remember now. You could get 70 VP doing old heroics but only 7x so you couldn't cap out that way. You could get 140 VP doing Zul's and I think in 4.1 the valor cap was 980 meaning you could cap out that way.

      I didn't have the option of premades as there wasn't anyone around to run them with me. Plus the 353 items that dropped were still an upgrade for me in a couple of spots. So by running Zul's it was a 2 for 1 deal, points and maybe gear. I wasn't raiding but I wanted too so I had to gear up every possible way. I had all the rep pieces that were upgrades even if in some cases they were poorly itemized and I got valor gear when I could. I never did get my tanking shoulders though. I replaced my 346 ones with LFR and that was the first drop I had.

    3. Some times the little things matter a lot. Like I said in the post, I think they would have been better not even giving us 4.1 instead of giving us what they did.

      Like Netherlands said, you could get valor from the old heroics but 70 per instead of 140 and for me, trying to gear and cap various characters, the longer route of 70 was not an attractive option.

      The concept of the Zuls, to give us something between the harder heroics and the harder raids for the people that needed it, was a good idea. If only they had not been rehashed content and harder that the original heroics they were trying to help reduce the pressure of.

  4. I can't even remember exactly what I was doing during 4.1. I certainly was not running ZA/ZG...

    I did the quest line and I ran one of them a couple of times. I remember getting lost after wipes and stuff and just decided these weren't for me.

    4.0 and 4.1 turned me into a collector/achievement junkie. I was soloing old content, grinding old faction reps, collecting pets and mounts. I now have Loremaster, Explorer, Exalted, 147 pets, 113 mounts, and 9750 achievement points thanks to 4.0 and 4.1...

    If it wasn't for that stuff, I'm sure I would have quit like so many others.

    1. See, that was my problem, I did not have any of that too do.

      I was a loremaster, explorer, exalted, had tons of mounts and pets in wrath.

      So that is why it hit me so hard. I did not have all that stuff to pass the time.

    2. Yeah, if I had been playing for as long as you, I would have definitely been in the same boat.