World of Warcraft has held my interest for a long time, I started playing some 15 to 18 months ago, and for the first 10 or so months of those I was a casual player, I levelled my Warlock and Paladin together (well separately since they were on the same account), slowly climbing the levels and eventually reaching the grand height of 60 shortly after TBC was released. At this point my Guild then started suggesting Karazhan runs (well actually once TBC was released and a few hit 70). Suffice to say I wasn't terribly interested, at the level cap there would be nothing to do but raid, and that was boring (having heard the joys of hanging around trying to get 40 people to raid). Eventually I bowed to pressure and got my Warlock to 70, then pushed my Paladin to 70 quickly (around 21 days played each, or around 5% of the speed of the World Records).
So I entered Karazhan with 9 other people from my Guild, we took it by storm, clearing the trash to the Animal boss with only minor casualties, but many respawns, then the boss could take a night. Karazhan was rather boring you can guess. We did try Attuman as well a few times, took ages to get to him and many wipes, it wasn't looking good. At this point I respecced myself to a Tank, a Paladin Tank (and Paladin's don't Tank...), I ran a lot of Heroics, a few guys from the guild really helped me, we wiped a lot getting used to Tanking and learning my limits. Being honest this was great fun, I learned a lot and it made me a good Tank, I went from wondering how much punishment myself and a Healer could take, to basically being able to judge it within a single pull, I learned to mark and I learned to Tank properly. Despite this I was not allowed to Tank Karazhan, even as the best geared tank, simply because Paladins didn't Tank.
So I started Pugging Karazhan, I had met a couple of people while pugging, and we did a lot of Heroics together - Badges of Justice I had lots of, I Tanked Karazhan in a moving pug most weeks, being allowed to MT and to actually fill the role I wanted to, getting to raid lead and have fun. Suddenly the game was no longer about levelling, grinding and getting through the game, in truth that was kind of boring now, raiding was fun, you worked with 9 other people to achieve something and it was a lot more complex than pull, drink, omg I pulled a 2nd mob...
At this point one of the girls I had been pugging with told me she was applying to a Raiding Guild, the 20th top Guild on the server, or 12th on the Alliance side. So I thought why not, I followed her and made an application (the other guy did as well, we moved as a group to a Raiding Guild to try and make some progress).
A Raiding Guild:
So it worked, I was in a raiding guild, and being honest it was great, we went to Serpent Shrine Caverns, and I got to tank (yes small t, I got to Tank Sheeped mobs since the Warriors were better geared, and Paladins don't tank). we were making progress a bit though, a zillion (or at least feels like it, by the release of 2.4 I had / spent roughly 1700 Badges of Justice, its probably over 2600 by now) Heroics I geared myself up (Badge gear being basically the only option for a Paladin Tank since T4 was ok, and T5 only really optimised for Hyjal trash waves). Suddenly I was the best geared Tank again, this time though with some effort, in places like Karazhan at first I proved not only that I could Tank, but that I could do it on a Paladin, and I could single Tank everything bar Netherspite in Karazhan (burning 2 fear wards a ground phase on Nightbane, but I did it).
We started to make some progress, going from downing Gruul to downing Gruul, Lurker and Hydross, eventually Void Reaver, we were making some real progress. We had a lot of non-raiders, it wasn't a strict Raiding Guild but rather a community guild, so we couldn't demand 24/7 attendance, or even that people knew the bosses, we needed the people and the spirit to get through the bosses and we needed it a lot. Lots of interesting things happened in this period, we started Zul'aman runs, and I met some people who play important parts in my story, but that's another post.
So we started making faster progress, moving to 4/6 Serpent Shrine Cavern (with a single try on Leotheras the Blind, which I Tanked despite the insistence on needing a Warlock for the Demon), and 3/4 Tempest Keep, we were actually moving forward. 2.4 hit and opened up Hyjal to us, so we went in and downed Rage Winterchill, alas Antheron really stopped us. In what was a terrible series of coincidences with Summer, parts of the Raiding Core leaving, and a general apathy our Raids pretty much ground to a halt, it became a case of more likely a cancelled Raid than a successful one, and if we did get it going we were more likely to wipe than to get loot.
Eventually I left, no storm of protest, no fireworks, just a simple goodbye and became guildless. I took a very short tenure in another Guild, however at the time it wasn't for me, I didn't fit in with them, and their need for a Protection Paladin was minimal, so once again I went guildless. Again honesty is key, I was bored, I was at this point geared to Tank Illidan if needed, Heroics were all AoE Tankable, the latest instance Magister's Terrace really wanted some Crowd Control (for the 3rd boss if nothing else since no Tank is useful, but especially for the Mage Guards, their Glaive could wipe a party so quickly if it knocked me down and the Healer), but was doable without it. There was really challenge in the game with the gear level I had access to and the content I could do without a Guild. I lost the ability to really have fun levelling, it was the lead up to the end game now rather than the game itself.
A while previously, while in my last Guild, we had met the GM of another Guild, and Tanked / Healed their progression kill on Al'ar (we couldn't make our Guild's Tempest Keep runs that week, so pugged it for fun), he approached me and took me in, as a Tank. Straight off the bat I was a Tank, I skipped 50% of the game and moved directly to Gurtogg Bloodboil, we failed that night, and downed him the next. Suddenly there was progress again, the reset on a Wednesday came up and we cleared 4/5 Hyjal, then 3/5 Black Temple, I got my first taste of the Ghosts, and watched as Teron Gorefiend, the Legendary creator of the Death Knights, died at my corpse's feet (would probably have been better if it died at my feet, but I got ghosted). We were working again, gearing up and moving forward, we cleared Lady Vashj in a single try, and Kael'thas Sunstrider took us 9 attempts, including 3-4 that ended within about 2 minutes with deaths to Thaladred or Capernian running free.
Life was kind of fun again, then the Guild started to have problems, we were stalling, the Hardcore Raiders wanted to move forwards, but we didn't have to people available to do it easily. A lot of back biting started, and eventually the GM took a hard call, and gutted the Guild (some members and Officers were doing things like Ninjaing loot in Gruul's for alts, a practice the Guild whole heartedly disapproved of, and we kicked some 9 members for participating, or failing to raise a complaint about it). This really shouldn't have been a major issue, the people we lost didn't raid that much and indeed were very bad for the Guild, spreading bad blood, rumours and generally being horribly unsupportive. In short though our downward trend went a bit further, and the GM decided the best thing to do was to let people move on freely, so he disbanded us overnight.
We tried to reform, it might have worked, but alas most of the people who would form a Raiding Core were already moving on, and recruiting more at this stage was hard without actual progress. The server had a very low population of high end Guilds, roughly 4 in Sunwell (3 Alliance, 1 Horde, with another Horde very close I believe). No where really to go I found out that Silvermoon had a need for Protection Paladins (for once the Blizzard Recruitment forums actually proved useful, this was a surprise since normally they are kindof useless), it had a lot of Raiding Guilds as well, and with that I decided to move, some short goodbyes, leaving my Warlock there and jumping to a new Server.
I wasn't sure I really wanted to go, but the Raiding situation on my server was such that if I didn't I would be doing not a lot, or heading back to SSC and TK level progression. Simply all the top guilds Tanks are there, and likely to stay there for a duration. For a raider this meant that there was nothing there, the majority of my friends would be busy raiding (the joy of DPS and Healers is that there seems to be a much higher turnover and need, a small tanking corps that is loyal is very unshakeable and important to progress). I had tried not raiding previously, and within a few days I was bored, there is only so much fun you can have pulling another 5 Elites in Shattered Halls.
A New Beginning:
I sometimes wonder what it is about Summer, we still have 30+ people online in my new Guild, we have the people and the expertise, we have people wanting to raid and still raiding Karazhan for fun. Yet sometimes it can be so hard to motivate people to raid, or rather to succeed, its not the difficulty of the game that seems to kill progress, but rather the motivation and competency of the group. The motivation is unfortunately very easy to kill. People tend to keep pushing on after something is gone, or go and run something else afterwards, but without the motivation the attempts are wasted.
I look forward to the future, of seeing how this comes together, but I do wonder what lies down the road for me, I have moved from Casual to Hardcore, from a leveller to a raider, and I have seen most of the end game. Yet it seems that at some point everything stops around me, and the only way to move is to move. I would much rather stay and have a home, a Guild you belong in, enjoy and have memories of than jump Guilds, but it seems the game is in many ways designed to make me jump, to make players move up, creating a gap in their current Guilds, stalling progress further. Its an odd process, one I think many of us would rather avoid, but there doesn't seem to be a counter to it as motivation fades.
What lies ahead, I don't know. I hope for a bright future, a happily ever after where I get to raid, I get to find a home and we get to really push forward and see what we want to see. The question is can reality match my fairy tale...