Monday, April 26, 2010

Raiding Equity

Since I’m sure the Blogosphere is about to erupt over the recent announcement about Raiding in Cataclysm, I wanted to get down my thoughts before I read any of the other fantastic entries from my colleagues.
In case you missed the announcement, let me recap it quickly (from WoW.com)
  • 10- and 25- man raids in Cataclysm will share the same lockout
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • 10- and 25- man bosses will be close in difficulty
  • 10- and 25- man bosses will drop the exact same items
  • 25-man bosses will drop a higher quantity of loot, but not quality
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.
  • Content will continue to be gated
  • First Cataclysm raids will be tuned for players in dungeons blues and crafted items
The first thing that strikes me is how similar the announced plan is to some of the changes I thought would work when I wrote “10 Man World Firsts”. Allow me to quote a couple of things I said there.
“The Devs could address the disparity of rewards, challenge, and expectation by enforcing a shared Raid Lockout on 10 and 25 mans”, “The 10 and 25 could drop the exact same gear”, “The Team would have a much better handle on the average iLevel of the players raiding each instance. This would let them better tune the encounters to be approximately equally challenging regardless of raid size.”
So I got pretty close to the mark on several of these changes. Naturally, since the changes are so close to my stated preferences for the game, I’m thrilled. Whether you choose to do 10s or 25s will truly be a choice now. 10 man raiders will no longer be penalized for playing and raiding in the way they prefer.
But, as I stated in 10 Man World Firsts, these changes will not address the recruitment concern. We will see with our own eyes if the 25 man raiders were right, and these changes will cause guild after guild to flock to the 10 man scene. With a dwindling recruitment pool, even guilds that might prefer to run 25s will throw in the towel and run as 10s.
25 man raiders have the additional concern of managing their bench. You need 5 to 7 players on your bench to make a 25 man go. In Wrath, those players were free to run 10 mans for upgrades whereas in Cataclysm, if they run 10 mans for upgrades, they will be locked out from running the 25 man that week. It will put pressure on Raid Leaders to be able tell a bench player if he is going or not early in the week. The expectation will be for the bench player to save his lock out until the very last moment, and then leave him scrambling for group right before reset if he doesn’t get into the 25 man.
Also affecting bench players is that 25s do much more frequent swapping of players than I’ve seen 10 man teams do. Our team is pretty well set from the moment we zone in, barring an emergency. If you get saved to 1 or bosses, or worse get saved to a wipefest and never see a boss go down, it would really put a dent in your gear progression that week.
I do hope that as more people do 10 mans, they will come to enjoy the closer knit groups that form. As a consequence, they might stop seeing their fellow players are merely cogs to plug into the Raiding machine and as the living breathing human beings they are. When I raid, I want to raid with people like Wich, Blue, Black, Jag, Ofn, Donk, Grim, Shad, Pink, Perp,  Dario, Daro, shoot, even Stark and Lakini. (I know I missed some people, sorry!) I don’t care what class they are playing, or what buff they bring. I want to hang out with the people behind the pixels and kill internet dragons.
Keep in mind that the Developers still have the Guild Leveling System and Guild Talent Points if they want a way to reward 25 man raiders that goes beyond just giving access to the best gear. 25s could also have more procs built into their weapons/trinkets (for the same ilevel), or perhaps have better graphics like glows or particle effects.
While I have sympathy for the 25 man raiders who are concerned that their preferred  play style is being depreciated, I am very excited for the changes being made to raiding. This is just a continuation of the trend that began with going from 40 mans to 25 mans, and then moving away from ‘Sunwell’ type raids to more accessible ones. Raiding continues to improve (or die a slow death depending on your point of view) each Expansion.
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