Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Downsizing Azeroth

The raiding environment has come a long way since the original World of Warcraft. Forty man raids went to 25, separate 10 mans raids were introduced (e.g. Karazhan) and eventually we were given 10 and 25 man version of all raids in WotLK. It is with this knowledge and the experience of raiding through all of these changes, that I ruminate on the new raiding changes for Cataclysm. If you haven't read the blue post yet, it has been summarized nicely on MMOC and quoted below:

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • 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.

The assumption or hope that they will be able to balance the difficulty of 10 and 25 man raids seems wrong. Getting 25 players to move in sync is a much more difficult task than doing the same with 10. Space available to spread out is also less taxing with 10 players, unless they plan to scale dungeons based on the raid size. The amount of HPS and DPS required for gear check fights will always tip one way or the other for raid size. Add management is another difficulty that scales poorly. On almost every fight currently available I can't imagine equal difficulty being achieved. It certainly won't happen by making bosses with more health, that hit harder.

The value proposition that is currently on offer and the one being presented for the future are moving away from each other. Currently my $15 subscription fee buys me three nights of 25 man raiding a week and 10 man raids as time permits (3-7 hours a week) . Mind you $15 isn't doing much to break the bank, however some simple math shows the discrepancy:

WotLK Raiding: 56 avg hours/month @ $15 a month = $0.27 an hour
Cataclysm Raiding: 36 avg hours/month @ $15 a month = $0.41 an hour

No matter how the value shacks out for each individual's play style, at the end of the day there will simply be less time spent raiding. Less time means you get less for your dollar and that just plain sucks.

Having both 10/25 man raids pull from the same loot table does not completely remove the incentive to raid with 25 players, but it takes steps in that direction. It is easier to schedule 10 people than it is 25. That is the reason they started 10/25 man versions in the first place. Removing the option to do both though will ultimately leave some folks out in the cold. The example used in the blue post:
...if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation...
Assumes that your normal group is 25 man, but can down size to 10 if need be. It usually takes 4-6 people posting out for us to be short handed. If that was the case we would have to have the perfect group structure and off specs to run two 10 man groups successfully. Otherwise 6-7 people will be left with nothing to do.

This may sound like the same complaint people made when the raid size was reduced from 40 to 25. I never subscribed to that argument though. In that case 40 man raids were being eliminated, 25 was your only option so you were forced to adapt. In this case 25 and 10 were both options and now you will be forced to choose. Raid with your 25 friends or cut the fat in a attempt to be more successful. All for the same gear.

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