Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Ulduar

So here it is, what many WoW players waited for patiently for months. The next bit of content, the awaited challenge, the new place to be, the new loot-bank, tier8, new achievements, new enemies and a whole lot of things we play for...

Ulduar.

For countless millennia, Ulduar has remained undisturbed by mortals, far away from their concerns and their struggles. But since its recent discovery, many have wondered what the structure's original purpose may have been. Some thought it a city, built to herald the glory of its makers; some thought it a vault containing innumerable treasures, perhaps even relics of the mighty Titans themselves. They were wrong. Beyond its gates lies no city, no treasure vault, no final answer to the Titan's mysteries. All that awaits those who dare set foot in Ulduar is a horror even the Titans could not, would not destroy, an evil they merely... contained. Beneath ancient Ulduar, the Old God of death lies, whispering.... Tread carefully, or his prison will become your tomb.

First, lets take a look on some bits of information from the Blues (not the Brothers...):

As the next step in tiered raid progression in Wrath of the Lich King, Ulduar is set to blow players away with gorgeous setpieces, sprawling battlefields, and innovative boss encounters. Ulduar's design aims to provide a fun, unique, and innovative raid experience, but it also includes additional challenges - and rewards - for seasoned raiders. In this sneak-peek at World of Warcraft's newest raid dungeon, we'll take a look at some of the new content that makes Ulduar rise above the crop of amazing dungeons already available in World of Warcraft.


More pictures in: 1,2,3,4 from mmo-champion

From the pictures posted in mmo-champion the place sure looks nice, on par with the titan architecture, possibly (hopefully? ;-p) reminiscent of Uldaman in some places. About the detail on innovation, achievements etc, more further on...

Many players have already gotten their Wrath of the Lich King raiding feet wet in Naxxramas and the Sartharion raid, but Ulduar is the first example of the expansion's much larger, truly epic scope of raiding, as will be evident from the second you set foot in the instance. The most obvious difference between Ulduar and its predecessors is that the dungeon actually comprises two separate raid areas. The first section is an epic battle against a vast army standing between you and the entrance of the dungeon proper; in the second area, you will dive into the heart of the dungeon itself and finally discover the secrets of Ulduar.

So, here is an implied reasoning on why raiding content was fairly easy in 3.xx. To get more people's feet wet. Now - the devs claim - comes the hard/epic/interesting part. Possibly one of the reasons we set foot in Northrend. One of the reasons Brann is here. Maybe one of the reasons Arthas is here too...

An interesting twist (depending on scale) is the battle prior to the instance. Kinda gives some depth to the meaning of raiding a place of secrets. You would think someone would try to protect those secrets, right? So, here it is. The defenders of the instance, the front line. We will have to pass from those guys first.

Ulduar's new master has rallied his own massive Iron Army to guard the entrance to Ulduar and to prevent any unwanted guests - including you, especially you - from reaching the inner sanctum. Thankfully, you'll be able to face the Iron Army on even footing: although the main Horde and Alliance forces are focused on the forces beyond the Wrathgate and on each other, some who are better able to appreciate the true magnitude of Ulduar's threat have managed to scrap together a small fleet of siege vehicles to aid you in the assault.

Yes, especially you. You are the one they are afraid off, you are the one that affected the history to some extent up to now and you will be the one to make more changes. You. Arthas thought the same...

So, siege a place before we enter. Aided from some enlightened Alliance/Horde who think there is something worth fighting here. It looks like Blizzard is adding depth and purpose to why we need to go there.

You and your friends will have to use these vehicles wisely to break through Ulduar's defenses. A mix of motorcycles, demolishers, and siege engines will be at your disposal, each granting unique abilities to the pilot and the passenger. Motorcycle drivers, for example, can create pools of liquid tar that snare opponents and can be set on fire by area effect attacks, while demolisher passengers can load themselves into the vehicle's catapult so that the pilot can launch them into the distance. If used judiciously, these and other abilities will help decimate the Iron Army and any other threats lying in wait between you and Ulduar.

So, here comes the first innovation. Vehicles. One of Blizzard's 'aces' in Wotlk. We need to see how this will be implemented but on paper it looks fun. I know people already whine about it but I personally find vehicles a fun aspect.

One such threat is the Flame Leviathan. After you've plowed through the innumerable ranks of the Iron Army, you will be confronted by an enormous tank. Mimiron built the Flame Leviathan as part of the V0-L7R-0N weapons platform, which means that it packs quite a punch. Normal spells and abilities won't be enough to take down this juggernaut, so you will have to rely on your siege vehicles to outmaneuver and defeat the boss. After wearing the massive war machine down, you will have to launch players onto the tank's back to destroy its defense turrets and sabotage the Leviathan before you can move on. Of course, if you'd like an additional challenge beyond this naturally frantic (but extremely fun) fight, you can try your hand at one of the Flame Leviathan's different Hard Modes (see sidebar).

Robo Wars! Ok, if this is what I imagine it will be like WWII (Check here and you will get where I am getting at.)

Of course, the vehicle gauntlet, the Iron Army, and the battle against the Flame Leviathan are only the start of World of Warcraft's most ambitious raid to date. Patch 3.1 will hit the Public Test Realms very soon, so you will be able to see for yourself what other challenges await beyond the gates of ancient Ulduar.

Ulduar brilliantly illustrates the new design challenges and innovations that come with the bigger scope of the expansion's raids. In order to make raid content more accessible, it has to offer a lot of variety, but it also needs to include a very granular means for players to adjust a raid's difficulty. This concept was first realized in the Burning Crusade with the introduction of Heroic mode, and Wrath of the Lich King is developing the idea even further with new Hard Modes.

So, they got something in mind, for sure, and we are going to see it further on, starting with Ulduar and presumably eventually Icecrown Citadel

Boss fights that have a Hard Mode are affected by certain variables which players can control and which change the encounter's difficulty. For example, spread throughout Ulduar's vehicle section are four defense towers you can destroy. The more towers you leave intact, the harder the encounter with the Flame Leviathan will be, but the loot will also be better.

Ok, hard, easy mode, drakes, achievements etc.

Ulduar isn't the first dungeon to include Hard Mode, but it certainly makes the most use of it. Out of 14 bosses, 11 will have a Hard Mode that offers additional challenges and rewards. Ulduar will appeal to a wide range of play styles, but the dungeon also has great longevity and a high replay value.

Ok, take a note on the last sentence. Great LONGEVITY, high REPLAY value. Lets see how true this is, cause if it is then we are up for a wild ride! Also, I think its the first time these features are mentioned by devs; kind of a response to those claiming the current content is short, easy and boring.

And a further post with some more details:

Ok, we're getting close to the point where we will need testing of Ulduar boss encounters on PTR, so let's talk about Ulduar testing!

We're going to be performing testing differently than in the past. We're looking for much more targeted feedback, and we don't want to just have the zone freely open and allow extended, unsupervised testing to take place. So, when the PTR servers come up with 3.1.0, by default Ulduar will be turned completely off. We'll instead enable Ulduar and specific bosses during times where the encounter team can observe testing.

Shortly after 3.1.0 PTR is up and running, I'll post a schedule that will indicate when we will open specific bosses to testing. We'll have testing opportunities for both EU and NA region PTRs in their respective prime time playing hours. There might also be a boss or two we do leave up for extended testing, and some bosses will only be tested in either the EU or NA. Some encounters won't be up on the PTR at all! There's 14 boss encounters in Ulduar, there will be lots to test. The schedule will be quite flexible, check in the Dungeons & Raids forum and on the PTR forum for updates.

The first set of boss encounters to get testing will include:

  • Freya
  • Thorim
  • Hodir
  • The Iron Council
Both 10 player and 25 player versions of the encounters will be open to testing, and we expect players to have nearly full Naxxramas gear. While Jillian McWeaksauce might make appearances on the PTR to provide testing consumables, please try to bring your own.

I hope to see raid groups of many different skill levels on the 3.1.0 PTR servers when they become available!

The first boss has you enter 1 of 3 different vehicles (Chopper, Demolisher, and Siege Engine) to fight your way through an immense Iron army to the Flame Leviathan and defeat him. After that, there's very little use of vehicles by players. We'll have the fight up on the PTR at a later date, but this fight isn't in the first wave of boss encounters to be tested.

Actually, the effectiveness of the vehicles in the Flame Leviathan fight changes depending on the quality of the gear. So someone in full Naxxramas epics (or Ulduar epics!) will have an easier time than someone in greens.

So, BLizzard is attempting a more controlled testing procedure, supervising even more than they did with Sunwell. The result will be presumably better monitoring, debugging and tweaking, but less tactics posted afterward. World firsts from exausting the PTR content will be a tad harder (I doubt if certain guilds wont get them anyway).

The aforementioned bosses are also characters we have encountered up to now so I expect their respective stories to develop. I also sense the possibility of new factions cropping up, aside from the Sunreavers and the Silver Convenant. Also, the vehicle quality changes with our gear. Quite clever I must admit...

One thing is for sure, this is an exiting time. Now lets see how bad that paladin tier8 looks like...

P.S. All the information above was obtained from mmo-champion

4 comments:

Darraxus 18 February 2009 19:09  

Very interesting information. Ulduar is looking better by the day, though it does make me a tad sad that we will be killing Hodir, Freya etc. Hopefully once we defeat them, they will join you in the final battle against the Old God (who I assume is Yogg'Saron).

Lance 19 February 2009 09:38  

Yogg'Saron is indeed expected to be the final encounter.

As far as Hodir, Freya etc. I think Blizzard is playing the 'corrupt-evil' card. We will see.

Ruhtra 19 February 2009 20:21  

It is sad though. It would be nice to just defeat someone, perhaps cleanse them after the fight so they join like Darraxus mentioned.

Time will tell.

World of Warcraft Gold Guides 7 May 2009 22:24  

good post :)

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