Oh, the suspense!
Attunements, such good memories you and me. That endless questline to get into Onyxia’s Lair, the crumpled up note that just wouldn’t drop in BRD. Countless wipes during countless jailbreaks. Then, getting a rogue to help you through the Shadowforge door. Jumping into the lava to enter the Molten Core for the very first time. You messed that one up alright, Executus.
In the Burning Crusade, you were still quite great. At least for a while. Not even Karazhan came for free and what a great place that was. The countless tears we shed to get Vashj down. The realm PuG I joined (the only time ever) just for a Kael’thas kill before the patch. Gawd, that lovely ring – and hands on the best title. Black Temple…I don’t know how many visits to Akama it took in total. The questline must have been 100 quests long (at least), some of which brought tears to my eyes because we kept wiping like sissies fighting those elites in SMV. All just to see Illidan. And who wouldn’t want that?
Attunements, you gave our guild a direction. You made us teamwork and plan. You gave us time. And long stories with epic moments. The excitement to get there – and everyone could get there in due time if they really cared to.
Then, things kinda changed. I felt sorry for those that came after us. Later, things never were quite the same. No more locks, just open doors. Open doors guard no treasure.
Why attunements were made of win
Maybe you’ve heard the term before. I don’t think there’s an equivalent in English which is rather striking, given the fact that its vocabulary is generally so vast. “Vorfreude”, translated from German, means “the joy of anticipation” – the long wait before a great event, the excitement, the nervousness beforehand which are very often greater and better than the thing itself. Vorfreude is a good feeling: looking forward to something rather than having everything at once, right nao! Instant access to everything, ye I know that’s how the trend has gone in almost every possible way in WoW – but I loved earning my way to attunements, having that distant goal while enjoying content on the way, beating challenges, removing obstacles in my path. I also loved helping guildies to get there.
2) Long, epic questlines
The questlines were often long, with plenty to do on the way. Traveling was a big part, running different instances, picking up different items, talking to all sorts of NPCs. They increased in difficulty until a group was the only way to get further. They were also a great preparation or introduction to what was to come: what the background story and history of the places were, so you understood why you actually went there. I don’t think I ever got more lore from quests than during instance attunements, being as raid-focused as I was. What am I doing here? Who are these people and why are they locked up in chains? Ah, I see.
3) Content progression
A very big factor was that attunements actually timed the way content was consumed. There was a clear path of progression, a sort of dramatic script. Not necessarily in the sense that you could only ever raid one instance at a time, but you could never access everything at once. And while that could stall you, what it really did too was grant guilds time. Less rushing, less stress trying to keep up with omg-everything. More time to prepare the guild because you really had no other choice. A more natural flow of content that would last longer since it was more well-spread. Patience, suspense. Why do people think they must always get everything and at once? Good things take time, anyone?
Already mentioned under 1) and 2), the increasing difficulty of quests, frequent group quests or instance runs forced people to teamplay. You needed help to get those elites down for the next step, you needed a party to enter a heroic. The challenges weren’t overly hard but they required cooperation – no going solo for you. And on a bigger scale, guilds would engage in big attunement efforts to get ready for raiding; getting everyone up to par, attuning new members quickly, helping each other with that last step or two of the chain, no matter how often you’d already done it (eugh). I know some guilds moaned about this, but you know what: this kinda stuff is what guilds are there for. That’s WHY people play in guilds. Or used to. Anyway. I realize anything vaguely resembling “guild preparations” is a nuisance these days.
5) Keys (and other trophies, harrr!)
Last but not least, attunements brought us keys. Keys of all sizes and flavors, shiny keys and rusty ones. Keys made of copper or brass, keys made of bronze or bone. Keys dropped by a keymaster, keys acquired after a long series of quests. Keys that opened huge steel gates or the tiniest locks in a dungeon. Keys that all told a story about where we’ve been and what we have done. Keys jingling merrily on our key ring.
And of course other trophies that we would keep for keep’s sake; like a necklace or cloak that took so much effort to acquire that parting was no option. These were our real trophies, our mementos, our battle scars.
Holding on to your keys
I don’t know what other MMO players want of their games these days. I know that I want adventures. I want challenges that are hard and long and I want to beat them with a group of people I call comrades or friends. I want my rewards to tell stories.
I want keys – and attunements are keys. Keys to open locks. Locks that open doors, doors that lead into a world of adventure. You want to watch out for them, friend; for every good fantasy story has keys in it. It can’t be a good thing if they slowly start disappearing in the sands of time.