Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


Philosophy

April 28, 2010

Change is Nigh for Raiding and Gearing

Angel14R1

If only the new Angel of Mass Raid Resurrection used this model …

This week, Blizzard created quite a stir in the raiding world by releasing two previews—the first pertaining to dungeon lockouts and the second on the new “badge” system. And although both of these releases still seem to be more philosophy than refined goals, the stir they have created has had the community drawing a plethora of lines in the sand. Personally, and as you no doubt have noticed, I tend to approach these sort of announcements with a good helping of caution for the simple fact that announcing an idea is a lot different than locking it into Cataclysm release. I don’t claim to have a grasp on the WoW community as a whole, nor have I been involved since WoW’s onset to witness the affects of the various changes Blizzard has made over the years. (Heck, I doubt that most people who have been involved since Vanilla Beta would even be able to summarize the global impacts of the structural and philosophical changes executed over the course of the game.) But what I do know is this … the end of Azeroth as we know it, might bring some good things along with it.

 

The Price of Logistics

By now, you’ve likely heard about Blizzard’s intentions for Cataclysm raiding—that both 25 and 10 mans will share the same Raid ID and, thus, the same lockout. Heroic and Normal modes will remain a boss-based toggle, effectively removing the 4 dungeon repetition we tested in 3.2 with ToC10, ToGC10, ToC25, and ToGC25. Come Cataclysm, the multi-prong raiding model is getting shelved in favor of one all-purpose raid. Offering more clarification, Bashiok went on to say that Blizzard is entertaining the idea of letting a raid toggle between the 25-man version and 10-man version within the given lockout period. But what caught my eye most of all was his answer to a subsequent question:

When we say “25 should drop more loot,” we’re just sharing a philosophy. You shouldn’t assume that this means that 10-player modes will drop 1 item or that 25-player modes will drop 6 items, or whatever. We haven’t finalized how much loot will drop, but our general goal is that 25s should drop more to help make up for some of the logistical cost. (Emphasis added)

To me, this seems to be the heart of the issue and it is something that Blizzard will vitally need to address as they move ahead with this raiding model. Over the course of 2 xpacs, the reward for the logistical cost of 25-man raiding has shifted multiple times. In BC, with its reduction of raids to 25-man and 10-man segments, the reward for raids’ increased logistical cost was heavily tied to gear and progression. There were no BT or Sunwell 10man runs, and likewise, Badge of Justice gear (which could be gained strictly through 10s and heroic raiding) was limited to an ilevel below the offerings found in BT, even when Sunwell was in place. And while ZA offered a tangible reward for “harder” content, which really was unobtainable for players not in high end raiding gear, there was really no reward to be had for electing for smaller sized raid portions.

In WotLK, the model changed, this time offering equal content portions to both 10-man and 25-man teams alike. While the reduced quality of gear remained in effect for 10-man teams, they could now explore and vanquish the same encounters that the larger raiding teams could. Awards, in terms of achievements, were normalized and everything that was handed out to the larger raid team, with the exception of legendaries, had a smaller team counterpart. In addition to the reward model, Blizzard also introduced in Wrath a tuning system (scalable difficulty encounters and then “Heroic” modes), which allowed more players to experience content instead of being “cockblocked” by difficulty halfway into the instance. So by removing the progression component of the coordination reward, Blizzard placed even more emphasis on the reward value of loot.

 

Addressing Opportunity Cost

In Cataclysm, the proposition is to remove this remaining vestige of the raiding reward model and replace it with something else instead—increased cash and prizes, possible reskinned reward models, and more gear drops are the current ideas on the table. From a preliminary perspective, I have to say I’m having a hard time getting on board.

Let’s address the last idea on that list first—more gear drops—because I think of all of the proposed rewards it ties in most to what the large majority of players value. (It’s worth noting here that valuing loot is not synonymous with raiding expressly for the desire to see yourself decked out in 277 gear and/or at the top of WoL’s ranking system.) In introducing a system in which the logistical cost of 25s is rewarded with *faster* loot that is indistinguishable in every valuable way from the *slower* loot, Blizzard is attributing value to the speed at which a raider attains gear. And while faster gearing may in fact be a motivation for some raiders, the problem with the “faster loot” value is that it degrades much more rapidly as a result of its premise. The raiders’ enjoyment of the benefit is limited only to the time in which their reward is more visible than the rewards earned by small team players. Additionally, it has a negative side effect in that it ensures that a player who values gear is able to reach their gear goals faster and thus, are sooner faced with the prospect of raiding with no tangible reward.

In terms of the toggle option, between 25-man and 10-man modes, my feelings are even more divided. While I do think it is a solution to the ever-present issue of raid attendance, I’m not sure it is the solution given that the potential to shaft a significant portion of your raid team is huge. If for example, you’ve cleared ¼ of an instance and come raid time on a subsequent night find yourself missing a couple people or the right makeup you have only two options: 1. Postpone the raid, or 2. Toggle to 10-man and ask 1 to 15 players to take a seat on the bench. That means, if composition was your issue and you did in fact have 25 people or more online, your bench will be larger than your raid team. I simply can’t see players being willing to withstand that sort of kiss-off for very long without quickly becoming mutinous. And while the counter on issue #2 would simply be to let Raid IDs be splittable (so that your 25s team could split into 2-3 teams and finish the instance if they so wished) I think the potential for abuse there would be significant as well.

But what happens when a player doesn’t value loot very highly? To me, loot isn’t a primary motivation in raiding. And despite being called a liar every time I make that statement (good lord I love it when self-centered pricks judge you by their own cynical standards), the fact remains that loot is simply a means to an end. That end, from my perspective, is besting the hardest encounters in game; the primary reason I raid is for the challenge. And the performance challenges to be had in small versus large teams are incredibly disparate.

So in addition to addressing the reward for the logistical cost of 25mans, Blizzard will also need to play a careful balancing act with encounters themselves—ensuring continuity between the two raid sizes while also ensuring that the level of complexity is appropriate for the increased raid size. In tank-and-spank fights, this might simply equate to more boss health and/or debuffs, but in more complex encounters this could be an incredibly difficult undertaking indeed.

In the end, I think it comes down to what order of priorities Blizzard has when it comes to raiding. As they have expressly stated, their goal for Cataclysm is to allow people to choose 10s or 25s as a matter of personal preference . Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that “preference” plays a large part into anyone’s decision of what scale of raid they prefer; I think it has more to do with opportunity cost. And if the gain for increased logistical cost isn’t enough to balance the gain from the smaller/easier 10s team, then Blizzard may well face a community in which 25s are no longer the raiding guild norm.

 

Gearing Evolution

Going almost hand-in-hand with their announcement on raiding refinements, was Blizzard’s statement of intent for the (near) effort-based gearing system in Cataclysm. Taking pages from the past gearing successes of honor/arena points and badges/emblems, the intention in the next xpac is to introduce raiding points which accrue in a similar way to badges, but which allow for more tuned point rewards instead of the binary badge option. In addition, the two-tier point system will allow Blizzard to “roll over” points from the last tier, eliminating the pesky 5 tiers of badges that are current in game and making new content transitions easier on the entire point-earning player base.

As I mentioned before, I wasn’t an active raider in Vanilla so I can’t speak from experience about the availability of loot then. But from what I do know from conversations with those old and grizzled raiders, items were incredibly hard to come by. Not only were drops limited in quantity, but the specificity of itemization made drops applicable, in most cases, to only one or two classes. In addition, instead of the grouped tier tokens that we have now, which were introduced in BC, tier items themselves dropped from bosses, and thus, entire tier sets were exceedingly hard to come by. (As a result of this high investment system, raiding and raiding gear were established as gauges of the players’ eliteness and dedication. I think this formed the basis for the problems we’re encountering these days with the general sneering about “catering to casuals”. The velvet rope was torn down; but that’s something for a different post …)

So, we’ve seen over the course of two xpacs, that Blizzard has fleshed out and distinctly defined a relationship between effort and reward. Honor in battlegrounds, the first introductions of loot rewards independent of bosses, rated arenas—all of them provide a real and non-RNG based system in which players can see a direct output of their effort. And while “badges” have significantly changed the ways in which players can further the stats of their characters, they did not allow for the flexibility that Blizzard has currently with Honor and Arena points. (A model with a range of values from 0-70,000 will arguably be more nuanced than one with a range of 0-90, thus lending more opportunity to throttle players’ gearing efforts.)

… one of the problems we kept running into with the current badges was granularity — you can’t offer half a badge the way you can offer 1, 3 or 5 points. Depending on your perspective, you can argue that your character “earning” valor for defeating an enemy makes more sense in the game world than the dragon having all of these badges on its corpse.

In contrast to my skeptical perspective on the raiding adjustments, I can solidly stand behind the switch to a PVE point system, because it isn’t changing the net result (gear for effort); it is simply making the gearing system easier to understand and operate within. And although I may not like the idea that someone can AFK in AV and earn PVP or PVE gear, I do think that the effect of a “you choose your reward” system is a positive one indeed. (And it should be nice on those dragons who needed to schlep around thousands of badges for all of the raiders who came knocking on their doors.)

 

A Raiding Outlook

This week, I think, was a mixed bag for raiders. While some view the increased recognition of 10s as a viable raiding path as a good thing (there will be no need to distinguish “pure” 10s guilds from the 25s who “farm” them for gear), I’m in the boat of skepticism with a number of other 25s devotees who are loathe to see our guilds collapse beneath the weight of “faster” and “easier”. But like I said in the opener, I do think change is a good thing, and its benefits shouldn’t be overshadowed by a few of us old curmudgeons who want to stay in the rut we’ve become accustomed to.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions. ~Ellen Glasgow






8 Comments


  1. Vixsin, thank you so much for writing out this thoughtful post on the changes. I’ve not been nearly so calm as to be able to analyze the issues; my raiding coalition has pretty much accepted that we are ending at the expansion and the anger I feel at that ending being brought about by Blizzard itself tends to keep me from being able to express what I want. If we had broken up because of internal issues, I could accept it. Having the ending -forced- upon us makes me want to scream.

    I do stand by my stance that I would rather Blizzard just come out and say “no more 25-mans” than this. Having them say “it’s a viable option!” when logically the masses won’t take it is frustrating. 25-man raiding depends on the community and the community is very much based on doing things faster and easier.
    .-= Codi´s last blog ..Expansion announcement – My view on it =-.


  2. Mimdu

    I don’t particularly have an opinion on the “points” announcement. 5 tiers of badges and whatnot ended up pretty clunky in Wrath, so all in all it seems like a positive change, albeit one that wants to promote the 3.3 “tier gear for badges, top-raid ready gear available for less work” philosophy that I’m a bit torn over. While it does make it easier for new players, or players who took a break, or alts, to get good enough gear, it really makes it possible for anyone with a pulse to be in the gear you may’ve worked months for. Generally people don’t seem to approve of that.

    Now as for the 10/25 thing… I don’t actually mind that they’ll have the same loot. I was more upset that the lockouts are shared. I raid 25-mans with my guild, and 10-mans with a few of my older and closer friends, and that is no longer a possibility. 10-mans are for the most part logistically easier, and (if you can find 9 other competent players, far easier than finding 24 other competent players) far less risky. I also am doubtful of Blizzard’s ability to balance encounters to be of equal difficulty when the very foundation of the raids (buffs, space, number of healers/tanks) are so different.

    I can also honestly see where the issue is that 25-mans will simply lose the manpower. I imagine a LOT of players play for reward, and while Blizz may think more loot from 25s (and it’d have to be 7 or more pieces per boss compared to 2 from 10-man) will keep them running, I think people are inclined in this game to take the easiest, least time consuming path. Yes, if you can get a solid 25-man group consistently you may gear up faster, but the average player can’t do that, and the average guild is (often substantially) more progressed in their 10-man than their 25-man. I think very few guilds will stick to 25-mans, and even those guilds will die out eventually as players bleed out. Since no one will want to risk losing their stable 10-man guild/raids to be recruited into a 25-man guild, I also think recruiting for 25-mans will basically gas out.

    Exclusive choices are never good, especially when it’s a cornerstone of the game. I mean if you could only do 2s, 3s, or 5s in Arena, and 2s offered all the same rewards… well, that’s already happened, and we saw the outcome. People are just inclined to do what’s easiest and what relies on other people the least.


  3. slopoke

    Thanks, this is a very in depth look at the recent changes.

    Here is a thought, and yes, it is probably too early to speculate, but speculate I am going to do anyway.

    What if Blizz plans to use this system to give a DIFFERENT amount of points to raiders, depending on their role, performance, etc?

    I remember reading many blog posts regarding tanks (or healers) deserving a larger reward than dps in a 5 man. Well, with the point system, this would be easy to do.

    Or, what if similar to when you enter a BG late you get less honor points right now, if you die early in a fight you get less points? Or it is based on your ‘uptime’.

    I won’t re-quote the quote you included in the blog post, but why does Blizz need additional granularity if not to do something like this in the future?

    Any thoughts?

    (NOTE: I am not proposing this to be GOOD, uneven distribution among raiders, just mentioning that it will become POSSIBLE)


  4. Gronthe

    I think that if those current 25-man raiding guilds that raid for the challenge, like you, and are well organized, I see no reason why they would stop 25-man raiding if that’s what they all like doing. On the other hand, if those same guilds are filled with people who primarily run 25-mans for the gear but given the chance would enjoy a smaller group environment, then they will gravitate to 10-man guilds and raiding. Maybe that’s nieve, but I figure that people will follow a path they want, but that changes which parts of the game see more activity than others.

    I don’t claim to know what will happen, I much rather observe actual behavior than speculate on it. I think you are not alone in your motives, but neither are all the others who do raid for the gear. We would never classify elitists and casuals and hybrids and whatevers if those groups didn’t exist. I think it’s difficult for Blizzard to make a game that all kinds of people enjoy, so the changes they are proposing now seem to be well thought out. But what do I know? I, for one, can’t wait to see how things shake out.


  5. Monsieur

    Not really a big issue for me, but for progression raiders, a shift from 25 to 10 will be much harder on the victims of min-maxing. Been nerfed too much one patch and you’re out. 2-3 healing spots and 4 healing classes, who gets the boot? That is, IF the focus shifts from 25 to 10 out of convinience


  6. Phew Vixsin, your post comes the closest to saying what I’m feeling about the announcements – that the experience of 25 mans will be lost because they’re too much effort to run for not enough (meaningful) rewards. I worry that many raiders will move into the 10 man raid format simply because they are “easier” or, perhaps it’s better to say, less troublesome.

    I prefer the 25 man raiding experience. But Blizzard will not motivate me and 24 people by offering me extra gold or a few extra weeks wearing the latest gear.


  7. [...] couple more interesting reads on the changes here, here and here.  Vixsin has a very rational analysis of the situation and keep himself emotionally [...]


  8. Consider, as well, the proposed changes to the guild system. There is the reward aspect made possible with guild achievements, leveling, perks, and BoGuild items/patterns. There is also changes to the LFGuild system which will facilitate a lot of change.

    Consider myself. My own guild could, with some effort to fill certain roles, form a 10 man. Instead, we started an alliance 25 man back in Naxx which persists to this day. Almost half of our regular raiders run 10 mans within their allied guild. I enjoy running 25 mans so much that I manage a lot of the logistics. I’d like to continue to run 25s, but right now I doubt my own guild can recruit well enough to reach that point in Cataclysm.

    Maybe the others raid with us on alts. Maybe it scales down to 10 man. Or maybe the new LFGuild system leads to a new ‘raid team’ style of play where having an alt (or 3 or 4) in different guilds becomes an accepted practice. These new guilds will appear as existing raiding alliances and established PuGs try to remain relevant in v4.
    .-= Joe Ego´s last blog ..Welcome! =-.



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