Friday, January 22, 2010

The Illusion of Parity

Last week, Rohan of Blessing of Kings wrote a piece extolling the virtues of Blizzard’s ‘limited attempts’ on Putricide. She (He? I ‘m not sure, and I apologize if you read this and I'm wrong!) feels that the weekly limit helps separate the various grades of guilds, and also perhaps leads to more focus and determination during attempts. Limited attempts would likely help my own guild; we frequently come through with the clutch kill after much head-banging when our raid leader declares ‘one more try, then we’re going to call it.”

I’m really not 100% sure why Blizzard went with the limited attempts (first seen with Grand Crusader) or staggered boss/wing releases as we see now with Icecrown. Cynics would argue that it’s to keep the Royalty and Aristocrat guilds (from another Rohan post) from mowing through the entire thing in a couple of weeks, thus keeping people tied into the game a little bit longer. No doubt, had Blizzard released Icecrown Citadel in its entirety, we would have had several guilds reporting Arthas kills before Christmas, with significant progress made on hardmodes. Idle hands is the Devil’s workshop, they say; players who aren’t engaged may drift off to other games or, worse yet, engage in despicable acts of trade chat brutality (Oh, right, they're doing that anyway. Never mind). Blizzard may not mind Trade chat, but they certainly don't want defectors, so it seems a good policy from that standpoint.

Less cynically, one might argue that the staggered release of Icecrown is allowing Blizzard to look at how guilds are faring currently, and fine-tuning the next wing before release. If they see too many people ripping through the Plaguewerks they can ramp up the Crimson Halls. I’d like to think this is part of Blizzard’s idea, but perhaps I'm just being naive.

One thing I do like about the staggered release (or did like, until I got a hard, cold dose of reality) is the Illusion of Parity created by the staggered release schedule. My guild fits squarely into the gentry in Rohan’s hierarchy; I’m well aware of our place, and I try not to compare it with the top guilds on my realm. Yet when Icecrown's Lower Spire was released, I couldn't help but feel that everyone was even. It didn't matter that we hadn't done Grand Crusader: As far as Icecrown was concerned, we were in the same place as everyone else. It was strangely thrilling.

The Illusion persisted even after we failed to clear the Lower Citadel the first week, then the second, then the third. Saurfang held us up, yet the Illusion held: Even though others had mastered Saurfang, nodoby could get in those doors. Muradin was waiting just for us!

I was extremely agitated the night before the Plaguewerks release. My guild had all all night to take down Saurfang. I wanted to kill him in the worst way, so that we could maintain the Illusion. Killing him, getting the clear before the next wing, would be some kind of validation of the Illusion; it would show that we had a place at the table with the upper crust of the server. I wanted it. Bad.

We failed. I was sorely disappointed. We were now behind.

The world didn't end, however. We went back in two nights later and cleared the entire lower citadel, including the obnoxious, dead orc. We were in the Plaguewerks. WE were once again even. The Illusion was restored.

This week the Illusion has been completely torn away. Last week we finally took down Festergut, only to get stymied by Rotface (coordination is always problematic for us). We went in this week full of optimism, and were inexplicably and completely owned by Marrowgar. It was one of those nights where it felt like everyone forgot how to play. Even the Raid Leader's call of ‘one last chance then we call it’ failed to work its magic that night.

And here then is the downside of the Illusion of Parity: in my heart I knew that we weren't near the equal of the Royalty guilds, yet I allowed myself to believe on some level that we were. On some level I guess I want us to be on that level; I allowed my heart to convince my mind of something my mind knew wasn't true. Marrowgar gave me a good Saber Lash for my silliness, and I'll never fall for that again. Unless, of course, we should manage to catch up during the wait for the Frostwing Halls.

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