What makes a good raid?

I love deep, insightful think pieces – as you may have noticed – and today, Tree Heals Go Whoosh has something of a doozy for us.

See, Tzufit has been watching the discussion in the blogosphere about Firelands, previous raids, and what’s gone right and wrong, and today, she’s coming out with her thoughts on raids as a whole – what makes them work, and what makes them fail. It’s a pretty epic post, clearly born from a lot of thinking and expertise, and talks less about numbers, stats, and strategy than about mood, feel, and expectations

“Whether a designer is tasked with creating a raid instance that’s a haunted castle, an elemental plane, a horrifying zombie factory, or the seat of the world’s creators, the raid must feel like it could really be that place. Karazhan is an oft-cited example of this, and one that would have been difficult for its designers to screw up. The idea of a haunted castle isn’t exactly a new concept in fantasy, and so Kara’s designers had plenty of common mythology to use in its creation. A terrifying dungeon complete with a dead horseman, followed by hallways full of the ghosts of former guests, a dinner party gone wrong, a haunted opera, a living chess set, and a castle whose foothold in reality and our dimension slowly slips away as we rise higher and higher – while these are all things that may have been done before, they are perfectly executed in Karazhan.

Ulduar, for me, is the ultimate example of Blizzard’s design team being given a concept that could be extremely daunting and just hitting it completely out of the park. Imagine, at the beginning of Wrath, if you were one of the designers assigned to help figure out what the Titan architecture in the Storm Peaks would look like. The Titans were known of prior to Wrath, but we had seen only minimal examples of their structures in the form of the ruins of Uldaman. Instead of going in a predictable route and referencing Greek or Norse ideas of what the temple of the gods would look like, the Ulduar designers created something extremely unique. Ulduar blends “Titan technology” with classical columns, delicate stained glass, and the unique realms of each of the Keepers.”

It’s really nice to see a piece talking more about the game as an experience than as a collection of numbers. Tzufit’s right on the money here, certainly for me, when she’s talking about what makes these raid instances work and not work, and her decision to include a lot of quotes not just from her but also the rest of her guild make the piece feel well-researched and weighty.

And some of her points are decidedly non-obvious. I’d not really considered that the reason the Firelands doesn’t work for me, or a lot of people, is that it matches our expectations but nothing more. As a storyteller I know it’s important to surprise and delight as well as fit into expectations – but applying that rule to the raid instances of WoW suddenly makes sense of why the continual crazed inventiveness of Kharazan or Ulduar are firm favourites, whilst the ongoing red of The Firelands, just doesn’t do it. And no matter how much we may talk of WoW, or any other MMO, as a game, the fact is the most magical moments and the greatest memories come from when we’re immersed and forget that fact.

Great piece, and I heartily recommend reading right the way through!

Do you agree with Tzufit’s analysis? Or do you think there’s more to it? Let’s discuss!

Quote taken directly from Tzufit’s magnum opus .

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