WoW! Thoughts! — On Lore and Challenging Bosses
After earlier reports of a bugged defeat, Ra-den, the heroic-only thirteenth boss in the Throne of Thunder, was finally downed by Method last week. What makes Ra-den so intriguing is that he is the Titanic Watcher that Lei Shen defeated to claim the power that transformed him into the Thunder King. Ra-den is an exciting character for raiders and lore fans due to his placement as one of the most challenging boss fights in Mists of Pandaria, and also his location in history. Unfortunately, unless you belong to a hardcore guild, you will not get to see Ra-den any time soon.
Blizzard has a history of giving raiders a challenge in the form of optional bosses. Cataclysm had Sinestra in the Bastion of Twilight, but the most comparable example for restricted content to Ra-Den is Algalon. Algalon was an originally an elite mode only boss in the Ulduar raid. To unlock Algalon, players needed to complete a series of quests that required them to defeat several other bosses in Ulduar on hard-mode. These hard-modes were triggered by killing bosses in a certain order, or leaving certain adds up for the duration of a fight. Once all the criteria were met, a quest was available that allowed players to engage Algalon. Doing so put them in one of the toughest fights from Wrath of the Lich King; a fight tough enough to give Algalon the nickname “Algalon the Raid Destroyer.”
The accessibility of Algalon entirely depended upon the skill of your raid-team. While Algalon was the real challenge at the heart of Ulduar, players could not claim the right to see what he had to offer simply because they were interested. That’s the fundamental problem with Ra-den. Players who want to delve into the lore are unable to experience the content simply because they may lack a guild with the right skills.
WoW sits at a crossroads. At its core, it is a game about getting a large group of people together and killing internet dragons. But Azeroth is also a world, and while it exists primarily to explain why we are killing these dragons, it also provides its share of intrigue and mystery. Players can like WoW for the combat, or the lore, or other reasons altogether. If anything, Mists of Pandaria has excelled at giving players more choice in how to engage the game. It’s entirely possible that new players only know Warcraft through pet battles, with the occasional quest or dungeon attempted for variety. The genesis of Warcraft was in the RTS games, but some players may have found the novels first, and come to the game that way. We all enter Azeroth through the same login screen, but each of us arrived at that screen through different methods; and that manifests itself in how differently we play Warcraft once we’ve logged in.
Bosses like Ra-den and Algalon serve to be a challenge for the hardest of the hardcore raiders. Ra-den stood for roughly five weeks before encountering his demise. Complaints abound of Warcraft targeting the casual player, or becoming too easy, but Ra-den is a sign that truly difficult content still exists within the game. Anyone can run back and get prior tier gear now that they out-level the content and transmogrify it to look l33t at the Orgrimmar or Stormwind banks, but only the best of the best will have gear dropped from Ra-den. These sorts of challenges need to be in the game, as players need to be able to test themselves at the highest level. The only problem that comes with that is that players who want to delve into the mysteries and see what Ra-den has to offer are sidelined.
The issue with Algalon and Ra-den is that they are related to the Titans, the enigmatic creators of Azeroth. We’ve dealt with their machinations before, and as we dig into what they’ve left behind we begin to get answers about Azeroth, the origins of all living things, and hints at the content that is to come. The Titans are more than just information for lore fans to seek out and learn about — they are still very much one of the biggest mysteries in World of Warcraft, and players are interested to find out more about them to piece together the puzzle that they are. Algalon taught us that the Titans are still monitoring Azeroth, and that they have facilities here to destroy it if needed. To that degree, he presaged the entire Uldum zone in Cataclysm. Ra-den is the link between the Titans and the Mogu. What we learn from him helps explain the Mogu’s behavior throughout Mists and is another piece of the Titanic puzzle. Players interested in the lore are going to want to see Ra-den, and unless they are the kind of player who also excels at raiding, they are going to be denied.
For anything that I care about, I avoid spoilers. But for stuff I’m not interested in, I’ll read spoilers just to stay informed. World of Warcraft is the one medium that breaks that rule. As I never know if content will be gated behind something I can’t access (be it raid-specific or faction-restricted), I need to read about or listen to what was datamined as soon as its publicly available because I can’t assure myself that I’ll get to see it. In a way, reading or listening to content outside of the game is no different than seeking out the books or the many short stories on the website. It enhances my knowledge of the game in a venue outside the game itself. But officially written content is meant to be consumed that way. It is designed to immerse me in the World of Warcraft, through presentation and pictures.
The only way spoilers are immersive is if they have a Warcraft logo on the page. End-of-expansion content, like the death of Arthas or the Aspects becoming mortal, has been placed in game, available for all to view with triggers in major cities. Blizzard knows that in instances like that, players spent a whole expansion working to defeat a major threat, and even if they don’t get to raid themselves, players should at least see the immediate conclusion to that story. Raiders still get the satisfaction of a difficult fight completed, while everyone can appreciate the events of the plot and see what happens next. But Algalon and Ra-den have no such cinematic, and they remain gated.
Blizzard’s problem stems from the fact that they can’t simply interject a boss fight at the end of a major raid without a reason. The minions of Yogg-Saron and Lei Shen work well for the content that precedes them, but after defeating them, there needs to be a special reason why raiders are fighting this additional boss. This traps Blizzard into giving raiders fights that are massively interesting to anyone who follows the lore. It’s great that these fights are in the game. It’s just odd that the players who would appreciate them the most probably won’t get to see them. I’m not sure if that’s something Blizzard can resolve. While I won’t look forward to whatever extra bosses will be released in raids to come, I will look forward to the datamined dialogue that will show up on MMO-Champion.
Blizzcon tickets go on sale next week! Now’s your chance to be disappointed when they don’t mention anything about Titan! http://us.battle.net/blizzcon/en/blog/9341624/BlizzCon%C2%AE_2013_Tickets_On_Sale_April_24_and_27-4_4_2013
Pinnacle of Storms in now available in Raid Finder! Hooray! More Throne of Thunder trash to
wipe on fight!!! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/9496790/Raid_Finder_-_Pinnacle_of_Storms_Now_Open-4_16_2013
WoW Battlechest is only $10! You can get someone started in pet battles for cheaper than buying them a Pokemon game! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/9427061/This_Week_Only%E2%80%94Give_the_World_of_Warcraft_Battle_Chest_for_Only_10-4_16_2013
Student Art Contest winners announced. Old Crow? Someone liked the Arrakoa a little too much… http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/9447313/Student_Art_Contest_Winners-4_15_2013
Ra-den image courtesy Wowpedia.