I was reading a post over at Big Bear Butt Blogger about how easy it is for people to enter raids these days and how he misses attunements. The remarkable thing was not the comment itself. Goodness knows there are plenty of people ready and willing to whine on the forums about how the unwashed (and ostensibly unqualified) masses are able to enter the highest level content if they so choose.
The remarkable thing is that the Big Bear Butt is a casual player, who raids on occasion but takes pains to make sure his readers are aware that his guild is not a raid guild by any stretch of the imagination. He is the kind of player most enabled by the removal of attunements.
Bear doesn't seem to miss attunements for purposes of elitism. He misses them because they told a story, of why we were doing what we did. Not everyone watches game trailers. I'm sure there are plenty of people who have no idea why they're going into Ulduar other than it was the raid that was released in 3.1. Whereas if there had been an attunement of sorts people would at least understand someone of the situation because there would have been a quest to go there.
I didn't raid in vanilla, but I'd heard about attunement, and was quite proud of having gotten attuned to MC. It was one of those just in case things. During TBC I eventually did the Onyxia attunement quest with an old school raiding group, and it was quite epic.
And of course I did the Kara key quest, twice, on both my druid and my pally. It wasn't really a pain, though I could see that being the case if someone really needed their alt ready to go now, but for a casual alt it was fine.
But I can see where the attunement mechanic broke down in TBC vs. vanilla. In vanilla not everything was attuned, and attunement difficulty varied. MC and BWL attunements were puggable, since they were in BRD and UBRS. AQ and ZG didn't have any. Naxx's attunement could even be solo-ed without ever stepping in an instance.
In TBC Kara was a bit of a run, but still 5-man material. The hard part was SSC/TK, and then MH and BT.
For SSC one had to beat both Nightbane in Kara (10-man raid) and Gruul (25-man raid). Like 25-man OS, people stopped going to Gruul once they didn't have to because it's a short raid without a lot of drops… that unfortunately requires a lot people; too many people for too little reward.
For TK one had to do a bunch of hard quests in SMV and then do several of the harder heroics, and TBC heroics were nothing like today's heroics. They were hard. I remember I was trying to ask some guildies if they would run heroic Sethekk with me so I could get my epic flight form, and they wouldn't even though we were in Kara at the time because heroic Sethekk was considered too hard. Heroic Sethekk was nothing compared to heroic Arc.
MH and BT required killing both the final bosses in SSC and TK, who were atrociously difficult (people still have their tainted core macros on my server… it was so bad even rank and file raiders made use of them). When the attunements were lifted guilds skipped past Vashj and Kael'thas to the T6 content and cleared a lot of it, because those two gatekeeper bosses were so hard in comparison to the fights that followed.
I admit there was something nice to knowing the Black Temple guilds from the still stuck in SSC guilds, you knew who was in a guild that got things done, and I think Bear misses that as well, but I only need to look at Ulduar to know what would have happened on my server if Tirion Fordring had only allowed guilds that had defeated Yogg to progress.
My server is not very advanced Horde-side. We do all right, but we've always been casual. Even our most advanced guild still considers itself more hardcore casual than hardcore period.
So when 3.2 landed it happened that out of the half dozen or so 25-man guilds that were at the end of Ulduar, only one of them had actually defeated Yogg. If Yogg had been part of a ToC attunement, very few people would have been enjoying the ToC loot piñata. Of course we've had guilds go back and beat Yogg after 3.2 landed, but they were sporting their ToC gear.
With TBC-style attunement you couldn't go back to old content and beat it by outgearing it. You either beat it with what you had, you accepted that your guild would go no further, or you broke up and found another guild that you hoped would do better.
What would have happened to those five or so guilds that had stone-walled on Yogg? Maybe a couple of them would have eventually beaten it post-patch, but there's a good chance the rest would cease to try, either settling for being "casual" or breaking up entirely.
There was much flak given to guilds that had skipped into MH and BT, because they weren't doing it the "real" way, they didn't earn it, but in WotLK, guilds aren't put down for skipping Yogg for ToC. Almost every Horde guild on my server did it. And those guilds that might have broken up for lack of progress… didn't.
I find that I like the idea that the gating process is the gear. ToC still hits hard enough that it's a gear check. It's not necessarily hard in terms of execution, but needs a greater level of gear than Ulduar or Naxx, so the fresh 80 still has no place in it. This allows more people to see the content if they really want to.
But Bear has a point with the lack of story, the lack of epic-ness leading into the raid itself.
Icecrown is coming up and it's a huge point of lore. But will it have any quests to lay out the story, or will we just walk in there while Tirion Fordring gives a nice little VO that we end up not listening to because we're too busy discussing raid strats?