Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Was Blackwing Lair Boring?

I recently had a chance to see a raid video of Blackwing Lair, by A Few Good Men. I have always liked Blackwing Lair, and consider it to be one of my favorite instances.

However, on watching the video, what struck me was the Blackwing Lair fights look really boring, at least compared to modern fights. Everyone pretty much just stands in one spot and spams DPS or heals. The only fights that look mildly interesting are Razorgore and Nefarian.

Admittedly, part of it is that a lot of the challenge in BWL dealt with tank threat (Vael, Broodlord, Ebonroc) and Line of Sight (Firemaw, Chromaggus) which was important in the days before Omen and that is something that is something that videos don't convey well.

Is it just nostalgia that tints our view of old fights? Is it hard to appreciate just how unique and interesting modern fights are?

Even Trial of the Crusader, for all that instance is denigrated, had far more complex fights than BWL. Take a look at Northrend Beasts, with its three phases, snobolds, multiple wyrms, poisons that cancelled each other, evading charging yetis, etc. That's significantly more complex than even Nefarian was.

Revisiting Blackwing Lair has certainly made me appreciate modern raid fights more, especially those in Icecrown Citadel.


  1. Did you ever try MUDD ? Only text and a few symbols on a 12" kinda very sucky screen. Gamers got hooked and played for 12 hours straight. Think it was all about the sissle - the excitement going on in your brain. We don`t want to think all the time, we want to embrace the excitement and have fun. But maby your right, maby were all becomming spoiled children now. Hm.

  2. I wish I started playing wow earlier instead of making fun of my colleagues about it back then :) I missed that era entirely and it's only been recently that I've set foot in that place.

    My first thoughts were that it was yet again exactly that same blackrock design, which put me off a little. I could however easily imagine how impressive it must have been at the correct level and with a 40 man team. It probably also helps that I like dragon fights.

  3. Comparing BWL to current wow isn't really fair.

    Old talent trees sucked, classes we're very unbalanced, things like DBM and Omen didn't exist, AOE tanking didn't exist.

    When it was released it was the pinnacle of raiding and a huge step up from MC. I still see Razorgore Vael and Nefarian as very cool encounters.

    The 3 dragons in the middle we're indeed a bit easier, except maybe Flamegor with the stacking fire debuff and the wing buffet that needed to be taunted off.

    Overall vanilla was more dull, only the last fights in AQ 40 and Naxx compare to the current encounters. That didn't mean however that it was boring, it was a different game and i enjoyed almost every moment of it. (except farming MC the last months because that was just seriously lame)

  4. Blackwing Lair was a step in the development of raid instances and arguably one of the most important steps.

    After having raided The Molten Core for months, the first BWL fight (Razorgore) was so complex that my guild had to practice it for 3 weeks to get it right, even though we knew the tactics beforehand. We had the required gear, so this was only about acquiring the skill and cooperation necessary. Remember, these were still 40-player raids.

    While most of the other encounters were simpler in BWL, this one was a real important step towards today's raiding and should not be deemed trivial from our current point of view.

  5. No, it was not boring. Not for me anyway. You had to coordinate 40 people. There were lots of preparations to make. You HAD to follow instructions.

    The dragons were a bit similar, but the other fights were interesting and the trash complicated. The Suppression room was an extreme version of this. 40 people sneaking along the edge of a room, stacking on top of each other and moving in unison while the rogue (was me at the time) disarmed the traps.

    Maybe it was all the newness and epic feel to it, but for me BWL was the hardest raiding I've ever done. I used to farm potions, felwood healing tubers (Whipper root tubers), resistance gear, etc. for hours in order to have the best survivability.

    I miss it :)

  6. I loved BWL. Vael was a guild-breaker. Flamegor was a resist-check. Broodlord was a healer check, assuming you could manage the suppression room. Chromie was a bout dispelling and debuff management. Nef was just flat-out fun, with the class callouts being a sweet part of the fight.

    As a 40-man, it had a truly epic feel.

    I will never miss handing out pally buffs, however. 15-minute durations with 5 pallies across 8 classes with different specs - ugh.

  7. If I were to rank my favorite raid instances of all time, BWL would be #2. Honestly, it was #1 until I really started looking closer at Ulduar.

    What is it that I like about BWL over other raids? It isn't the complexity - though like others said it was very complex at the time. Remember trying to keep up with all the dispells on Chrommagus? I was a Warlock at the time and even I was assisting with dispels.

    In my mind, though, BWL was the perfect mix of trash vs boss:

    Zone in - boss!
    Kill something like 5 trash and Boss!
    Then some interesting trash - interesting in their abilities (grenades, summons) and interesting in their drops (legendary ore?! that had lore behind it?!?).
    Then 3 bosses in quick succession.
    Then trash that made all the DPS have mini-orgasms or mini-suicides depending on vulnerabilities.
    Then Boss and Boss!

    Everything was cohesive from a story perspective. Netharian was doing very bad things to dragons. He was doing so with the assistance of goblins and extremely rare ores. The results of these expirements were dragons that were resistant or vulnerable to certain types of attacks. And then there was the powerful perversion capable of inflicting his enemies with the strengths of each of the dragon flights. And once you got past that you faced Nefarian himself.

    In my mind, Ulduar is the only raid that has such a cohesive story explaining each of the bosses and their place in the instance. ICC is probably just as close, but I haven't cleared it so I can't include in on my "best raid instance ever list".

  8. Speaking as a healer, I found BWL *less* boring than modern raids, because in BWL I still had to actually think what healing spell to use. Balancing speed and mana efficiency was a challenge, and sometimes the only way to succeed was to set up a "healing rotation", with some healers regenerating mana while others took over their job. When did you last read of a healing rotation being used in a WotLK raid?

    Modern raids surely *look* more dynamic, and you need to move more often for various reasons, either to avoid some effect, or to be closer / further apart from other players. But in my opinion that mechanic is overused. Raids shouldn't resemble a game of Super Mario in my opinion.

  9. The fights didn't require as much movement, but I think they had interest in other ways. Most obviously, mechanics back then were different: aggro mattered, mana management was much more important (too important, I thought), and you couldn't overgear content as easily, so the challenges remained longer.

    I must admit though, much of the 'challenge' was tedious cleanse spam and specific gear checks, such as Onyxia scale cloaks or certain resistances (for MC and AQ). I think this reflects a change in raid philosophy, that much of the interest used to come from the size of the raid and a sort of brute force defeat of opponents (cleanse spam) whereas now the devs go for smaller raids, less spam, and more dynamic fights where you're almost tricking the mobs rather than outgunning them.

  10. I'll echo some earlier comments in saying the reason it was such a good instance is it was much more dynamic than MC that came before it.

    BWL was the first raid designed where blizz had actually seen how ppl raid. They came up with new ideas (tank swaps, dps races, random factors in chrono and nef) most of which we take now as normal but then it added a complexity that we hadn't seen before.

    Now adays fights use a different combination of abilities and ideas we are familiar with, but rarely is there something truly new and unique in an encounter. BWL was full of new.

  11. I think Tobold hit on part of why BWL was interesting. Mana management was a huge factor for both healers and DPS. Down ranking healers to conserve mana. Healing rotations. No replenishment.

    Threat management was huge issue for DPS, if you turned one of those dragons you wiped the raid, even if you turned some of the trash mobs you got in serious trouble.

    Not taking damage or having to use bandages and whipper roots for health all mattered. No AoE heals. Gear mattered incredibly to have enough HP, mana regen and spell power.

    Razorgore was a completely different fight to anything seen before.

  12. I haven't raided since vanilla, (due to time / life balances issues) but back then I was a wet behind the ears marksmanship hunter, with full tier 1, and a few pieces of tier 2. Tanks were always warriors, and paladins and druids always healers.
    anyways, I remember the feeling the first time my guild downed nef, it was definitely a highlight in my personal gaming history, organising 40 people to work coherently is no easy task.

    kiting razorgore's adds around the room was mind baffling to watch if you had never seen it before. and Vael was always a challenge. At least the tier epics were a sign of accomplishment those days, my prot pala is now decked out in 232 gear from running 5man heroics, and doesn't look much different from a heroic 25 man raider.
    /rose tinted spectacles

  13. When my guild finished Molten Core the first time we decided to commit one night a week to BWL. It almost broke our guild. The spectacular failures, the frustrations, and /gquits forced us to farm MC for a month before we tried it again. It still was tough but after a few weeks we finally beat him only to hit Vael and another huge learning curve. We downed him a few weeks later and then cruised through the rest of the instance. Blizzard used to put major roadblocks out there to challenge guilds which forced them to adapt. Overcoming the adversity was the fun and 4 years later my favorite memory in the game still is the night we made it to the top of BWL and looked down the mountain. The sense of accomplishment is something that really doesn't exist today.

    I understand that Blizzard wants everyone to enjoy the content and doesn't want a repeat of Naxx 1.0 but I think they've gone too far the other direction. Honestly I think what they did in BC was about right if they would have gotten rid of the attunements a bit quicker. Everyone's goal in BC was to beat Illidan and they gave us the Sunwell as bonus content for hardcore raiders. I hope they rethink their philosophy for Cataclysm.

  14. I agree with completely with Floris.

    Wow raiding is a totally different beast than it was a few years ago.

    Classes were pigeonholed into certain trees for raiding, there wasn't nearing as much AoE (healing and dps) spells, threat actually mattered and threat-meters were not around (at least not at the beginning).

  15. "WAIT FOR 3 SUNDERS!!!!"

    LOL. I loved BWL, 40 people working together. People weren't all about the purples back then. Yes raiding was different back then, better? No, but it felt more epic to me.