Throughout the history of World of Warcraft, raiding has stood at the forefront of the game. With each and every expansion, the playerbase has looked forward to new raids more so than any other piece of content in the entirety of the game. And while raids continue to evolve as WoW grows through the years, one particular instance has made a lasting impact on the way endgame content is approached, designed, and implemented in the game. To this day, every raider on Azeroth can still feel the lasting impact of Ulduar, as everything surrounding one of WoW’s greatest raids helped change high-level PvE content in the game forever.
On April 15, 2009, Patch 3.1.0, Secrets of Ulduar, was released, subsequently changing the way we approach raids in WoW. Before Ulduar, raids were considered to be fairly linear and entirely mandatory, but when Patch 3.1.0 broke out onto the scene, WoW raiders were presented with more options and chances to flourish than ever before.
For Blizzard, the raid was essentially a melting pot of ideas. Every feature and aspect from previous raids came to a head in Ulduar, making the instance a colossal landmark on which the game has based all of its content on to this day. And while many of these concepts have been around since WoW’s inception, Ulduar took them and tuned them to a degree we had never seen before.
One of the most major ideas that Ulduar perfected was the concept of options. A player could enter Ulduar each and every week and get a different experience every single time if they truly wanted to. Although the instance contains 14 bosses, 9 of them are technically passable. And while it was still encouraged to complete the raid in its entirety, the concept of optional bosses gave players the ability to essentially “choose their own adventure”. You could skip almost any boss in the instance on any given night, then circle back around just a few days later and get the kill. It was the presentation of options and freedom that made Ulduar so unique in comparison to any raid released in WoW up to that point.
In addition to the freedom that Ulduar gave raiders, the size of the raid was practically unprecedented, and left a lasting example for future raids to model themselves off of in the coming years. Each new raid introduced in Wrath of the Lich King prior to the release of Ulduar averaged around 3 bosses per instance, while the average amount of bosses in a raid throughout WoW’s history before Ulduar’s release sat at 7. Needless to say, Ulduar’s mark of 14 bosses was practically never-before-seen, as the only raid that had topped it to that point was Naxxramas and its 16 bosses.
However, it’s not like Ulduar’s 14 encounters was merely an outlier. The raid set a precedent for years to come, as massive raids became sort-of a standard for Blizzard’s PvE content. Since Ulduar, Blizzard has there have been 6 raids with 10 or more bosses, including 2 out of the 5 released during Mists of Pandaria and 2 of the 4 raids for Legion. Over the course of the past 8+ years, since the Ulduar turning point, raids have averaged 9 bosses or more, a steady increase when compared to the 7 boss-average posted by instances during the infancy of WoW.
And still, to this day, you can go back to Ulduar at any moment. It truly is a frozen moment in time; a turning point in the history of World of Warcraft that has influenced the game and its players for nearly a decade since its release. And although WoW continues to grow and change every single day, there’s still a single point in the game’s history where we can look back and see when nearly everything changed.
That point in time is April 15, 2009, and that landmark moment is encapsulated in Ulduar. And now, almost ten years later, Battle for Azeroth is right around the corner, and it’s only a matter of time until raiders can get their hands on a brand new piece of high-level PvE content. However, one thing is for certain: the legacy of Ulduar is still alive, and the raid’s impact on the game isn’t going away any time soon.
Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft