My first experience of raiding was, it must be said, not great. In fact, it roughly mirrored my last organised attempt doing the same thing: chaotic, unsatisfying and ending with a massive row. The reason why I stopped is complex, and has been discussed in various places across the Blog over the years. If you really want to know, it should not be impossible to find, but ultimately, it can be boiled down to one word: people. Sure, I own a ton of great, fulfilling and really very wonderful memories of the times when it all went right. My particular issue revolves around times when it didn’t, and that’s where the problem lies still.
If I’m honest, Molten Core was the place where I learnt all the harshest lessons at once. If I’d been smart back in those early days I would never have started down the path at all. However, I made a fatal error of judgement in those early days, and never really understood the consequences until, ironically, it was too late to change the course of my journey. I assumed that I was wanted as a raider because I was competent. Only now with time to reflect and consider what was going on, do I realise that wasn’t the whole story. What mattered more, and continued to do so, was the fact I was motivated.
As a raid leader over the years I had to bolster the confidence of others. Yes, you’re capable and all variants therein was the mantra, time and again. You learnt as a Raid leader never to lie, but always consider making others believe that they were good enough. Back in the early days of MC there was a pull before the rooms of Imps that lead to Lucifron and Magmadar which was tricky and required a Hunter to perform. On my first Raid, keen to impress, I volunteered (I think because the Hunter Class leader had DC-d at the time and couldn’t get back on.) Suddenly, I leapfrogged a number of other Hunters in the raid in competence, and was complimented for my industry.
So it began: because I turned up every week, didn’t cause a fuss over DKP and just did my job? I became slowly indispensable. I got the Hunter Leader job. I organised other Hunters. It was all going really well too, and we managed to complete Molten Core just as the rumours began to circulate of a new Expansion coming. In fact, we were doing the first boss in Blackwing Lair when the news broke: all old content would effectively be pointless. After that, the alliance pretty much collapsed and I began the task of organising our Guild to start the business of attuning ourselves to Karazhan at 70. Those early weeks had given me the confidence to organise and motivate moving forward.
However, I was never really confident in my own ability, not even from those early days. In many ways, not much has changed in twelve years at all. When I look back now on those last months before The Burning Crusade launched, I realise just how much what happened then shaped all my experiences going forward. I would have given everything up too, especially after a number of disastrous raiding experiences, were it not for one part of gameplay that not only allowed me to play in my own way, but that did not judge me for anything except how I performed as an individual. You may find it hard to believe, but the thing that kept me sane and allowed me to continue to play as a Raider was Player versus Player.
Without Alterac Valley, I’d not be here at all.
Back then, of course, there was normally one AV that would either not go on very long at all (see pros above) or would last forever. The best fights undoubtedly ended up being at weekends, and famously on a Saturday here when both kids went to stay with their grandparents for the weekend I blew eight hours in a continuous Battleground, which involved multiple summons of both Forest and Ice Lord. For an hour I was hidden behind the same tree at the entrance to the Alliance base as wave after wave of Horde attacked. My plan was simple: Serpent Sting anything with a pulse. I became very good at doing just that, and had other people not thought PvP a waste of time and effort and asked to do raids instead, I know my Warcraft life would have taken a vastly different path.
One of my earliest positive experiences in game was doing PvP on my original server at Sun Rock Retreat in Stonetalon, sniping Horde players as they exited their base. This wasn’t max level griefing either, I was only in my 40’s at the time. I would give as good as I got to the chat griefers too: I found negativity an incentive to just do my best, regardless of what anyone else thought. In the end, I only had myself to look after, and I think that was what I needed most when in the Real World there were two small lives that depended on me. PvP gave me autonomy, and effectively a release from the constraints I found elsewhere. Without that release, life would have been a lot bleaker.
A lot of elements have combined to make me what I am today, in game. I’d be foolish not to acknowledge what a seminal influence early raiding was on the journey that followed once The Burning Crusade was live, but on reflection it was PvP that mattered more. As that part of the game attempts to reinvent itself in Legion, I realise that it bears little or no resemblance to what I remember not because anyone making the game ruined what that was in any way, shape or form. I’m the one who changed. I no longer need that crutch, because I’ve found a way to walk without it.
Of all the things that were great about Vanilla, I think AV was the best of all.