Cataclysm raid refinements open doors, leave questions

Bibi’s quick take on [MMO-Champion]:

  • 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 news came down this afternoon that these significant changes will be made to raiding when we get to Cataclysm. A little vague, a little bit left to be desired, but nonetheless thought provoking. From the perspective of a player that enjoys heroic raiding at the 25 man level, it certainly got me thinking.

Each tier so far this expansion has had a 25 man and 10 man raid. For hardcore raiders, it’s a simple concept, to gear your character faster, you do more content. Running both the 10 and 25 man each reset is an accepted practice. The only reason a person would kill the same bosses twice a week is for the gear. Also, with so much gear being placed on the badge vendor (tier starters in ICC), you also need that extra influx of badges to make sure you got the gear you need for progression right now and not 3 months from now (now being December ’09).

The biggest problem, aside from badge generation, was the fact that 10 man and 25 contained unique loot. But wait, isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t they have distinguishable gear to really denote a “10 man” and “25 man” raider? The idea is good, but the itemization always fell short of the goal in a few unique circumstances. The biggest offender here were trinkets (Mjolnir Runestone, anyone?), but there were still a few weapons and other pieces of gear that just happened to be itemized better in 10 man. This meant that in order to get the best gear for your toon, you needed to do 10 and 25 man.

With 10 man’s removed from the docket of a main raider, it will relieve a lot of intra-guild stress generated from finding a 10 man group.  In a small roster situation, a 25 man guild barely has enough raiders to field 2 10 mans with a backup here or there. It’s a strange predicament and something, as a raid leader, you want to facilitate, but you end up going insane trying to do so. The new lockouts will now give you a hard number on the amount of gear coming into your raid.

So in Cataclysm the choice to be a 25 man guild will really mean something…

…or will it.

There was another practice that came about this expansion with the advent of gated content: running 2 25 mans. The amount of gear coming into your raid could be increased by running half of your guild’s mains  in 2 different 25 mans, filling each half with alts. This was easy to do in normal mode ICC since the content was easy and was released in small chunks. Once it went out to a full fledged 12 boss instance (and you had hard modes), trying to attempt this became harder to do so while actually having days in the week where you don’t raid.

The Cataclysm raids, according to the Blues, will be smaller (5 or 6 bosses each).  The temptation will be there (to split your raid), but I don’t think that the time in a raid week will be there. At the moment, you can already see signs that a lot of guilds are dialing back their raid time per week (and being incredibly successful doing so). Very successful, low hour per week raids are very attractive as they minimize time spent in game,  but maximize character progression.

The only difference between the two raiding types now is the fact that you will get more (badges, gear, money) from the 25 man. “More” is so subjective that it’s hard to comment, but this is something that I get a little worried about when I think down the line in Cataclysm.

End of the line for 25 mans?

Blizzard has now decided to support 25 man raiding only because there is a segment of the population that enjoys “large scale raiding.” Count me among that group. I love going in with 25 and battling a boss that needs the synergy and coordination of a lot of people. I hated the logistical nightmare of 40 man raiding, but liked the fact that it took so many people to kill one boss.

I don’t like worrying or speculating, or going doom and gloom, but this is something that I think is a good issue to bring up. The lure of 10 man raiding is how controllable the environment is. You are dealing with 10 people. Getting 10 schedules aligned and working is relatively easy. It’s possible to fit a 10 man into almost any day of the week and even change it week to week to suit the needs of the group. The group is also small enough that no loot system is really needed, and every decision can be made by the group.

Raiders were attracted to the 25 man setting because it had better gear and the encounters were (generally) more challenging. The only difference now will be the amount of gear. This begs the question: If I’m only raiding with 9 other people, why do I need more gear and badges? What are the chances I’ll be competing for gear if I’m the only Rogue or only Shaman?

Again, expansion talk is always precarious.

The difference in the drops (including badges and gold) could be incredibly significant. Twenty five man raiders may end up getting twice the badge/gold input as the 10 man raiders. However, this is an aspect that I think Blizzard needs to get just right, or it will mark the slow downfall (and eventual demise) of 25 man raiding. It is impossible to know at this point how big this will be. The price of badge gear, the exact amount of loot or gold, and the number of bosses will all factor in.


There are a lot of established 25 man raiding guilds (Blood Red Moon being one of them). Our guild won’t die because of this lockout change, but it might be hard to maintain a roster as more “starting with Cataclysm” players enter the game and “older/veteran” players leave.

Over the life of an expansion, a guild loses players. Some of those players move on to other guilds, some just quit the game. During Wrath of the Lich King I probably saw no less than 20 players (if not more) join and then eventually leave the ranks of Blood Red Moon.  These players ranged from one week wonders to three year guild veterans and everything in between. It’s normal and something that is easy to handle with consistent, proactive recruitment. With the new system, what will be the motivation for a “new player” (Cataclysm borne) to seek out a 25 man raiding group?

My answer to that question is reputation. The rep of a server’s guilds will keep funneling players into them, but will that hold up once those players get a sense of what 25 man raiding and 10 man raiding are all about?

There’s still the question of current players. Maybe it’s easier for a group of in game friends to leave their guilds. Leave the dkp systems, the recruitment, and the logistics of 25 man raiding behind and start something for themselves and close friends. It might not be a new guild, but a new raiding group (you only get one lockout per character).

Could we see the rise of “raiding teams” along the lines of how people view “arena teams”?

Is an official format like this coming with the new guild leveling system (players being grouped by both guild and/or raid)? In game rankings, perhaps?

10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other

I’m anxiously awaiting what becomes of this statement. To me, the simple act of coordinating 25 people is harder, and Blizzard acknowledges that. I only hope that they align the difference in difficulty with their “more loot” policy for 25 man raiders. If 25 mans are more difficult, but drop the same loot as a 10 man, do fringe 25 man raiders continue to stick with 25 man raiding or instead opt for the 10 mans?

Does 25 man raiding end up being there only to serve guilds that have been around? Why would a player starting up a guild want to tackle building up a 25 man raiding force? Would it even be possible given the above changes?

Keeping the difficulty close will be, in a word, difficult. There was evidence of this during this expansion (10 man Sarth 3D was harder, comparatively, than 25 man), but most of it was the exact opposite. Icecrown Citadel Heroic, in its entirety, is simple on 10 man when compared to 25. The differences between things such as one Val’kyr vs. three on Lich King, or the minimized dangers of Lady Deathwhisper 10 (1 ghost, 1 add) are huge.

I would say the encounter designers really have their work cut out for them, but that is an understatement.

Toward the Future

I ask a lot of questions in this post because that’s what Blizzard has opened themselves up to at this point. I’m predicting a lot of forum rage and possibly a few rebuttals and clarification by the design team.

The direction they are heading: one lockout, same gear, same difficulty, gives players a black and white choice: 10 or 25 man., heroic or normal. For established 25 man guilds, this is a good thing. No more pressure to run 10 mans. Further, 10 mans can be reserved purely for alt advancement as a fun side activity. Smaller raid sizes encourage pickup raids. They also encourage raids at odd hours when you might have the people but not the time complete a full (12+ boss) instance without missing out on some of the encounters.

A unified loot pool will keep the quantity of epics down and hopefully control the itemization to a degree. There will always be bad pieces of gear, but now there should be less bad ones compared to ones that are actually desired.

Blizzard’s desire to focus game play and remove “grindy” elements is crossing them into a weird territory that other MMOs have not been. Formerly, the way to show how good you are in an MMO was how much time you put into the game. Blizzard’s divergence from this long established practice is an interesting one that pulls them closer to what people like from their console games. They want people to be able to show their stuff and achieve things in a small frame of time (and with the people they enjoy playing beside).

If anyone can pull that off, it’s Blizzard. I just hope that by doing this they don’t remove the challenge of the game that many of us have to come to enjoy in the format we’ve come to enjoy it.

  • 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.

9 Responses to Cataclysm raid refinements open doors, leave questions

  1. Min says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I’m pissed, coming from a 25 man perspective. However, I’m also relieved, because it’s much more relaxing and less time consuming to do a 10 man.

    For example, if I couldn’t make it to a 25 man raid that week, I can do a 10 man and still possibly get the same exact gear that someone from a 25 man could have got.

    But then again, will we come across schedule frustrations, where someone thinks they can’t make it to 25 man, locks themselves to a 10 man, and then later realize they are available to a 25 man? It’s a bit more riskier now.

    I also foresee less people dealing with sitting out for 25 man raid content.

    But then again, this is all speculation.

    I really do hope there is more incentive for 25. I like the experience myself, but I have to admit I like and WANT the achievements and gear I get out of 25 man to be greater than 10. It’s what the blood, sweat, and tears was worth for.

    So this leaves a lot of 25 man raiders to ask themselves if they are okay with 10 and 25 man to be homogenized, and still dedicate themselves to a 25 man raid.

    Personally, I’m not quite sure. I have to wait and see. I have a busy future ahead of me, and honestly the 10 mans are looking more and more appealing for someone who has a schedule that can’t fit 25 mans.

    So yeah…I wrote a lot. 😦 lol

  2. Borsk says:

    The “joining a raid late” thing was already a problem for some guilds as ICC was still gated and badges were really important. Like I said, it’s going to be very interesting to see how they create the separation.

    The yet-to-be-revealed “Guild Leveling” system might have a lot more for 25 man raiders (or at least, faster advancement perhaps) than for 10 man.

  3. Blacksen says:

    I agree with a lot of the points you touched on. One thing you didn’t mention is the balancing act that Blizzard’s now going to have to pursue. How is Blizzard going to balance abilities around both 10mans and 25mans? There’s a real risk that Resto Shamans could be the “25 man healer” with things like Rain of Healing, while Resto Druids could be the “10 man healer” keeping 10 rejuv’s up at a time. What happens to classes like warlocks and mages, who are incredibly dependent on raid buffs, while marksmen hunters and unholy deathknights really only need one? Tanking disparities are going to be magnified in a 10man setting if it’s supposed to be “balanced” with its 25man counterpart.

    I think that it’s a noble goal. Feeling the need to do both a 10man and 25man each week is really annoying and really burns people out. But this solution is simply overkill.

  4. Wugan says:

    Great thoughts as always. I tend to have the same approach, and I’m always glad when the game moves toward rewarding skill rather than simply time invested.

  5. Impulse says:

    A lot of the reason 10 mans ulduar and beyond were easier is because designers were trying to make them so. Aside from OS3D, a good portion of naxx tended to be easier on 25, and I’ve always found Maly 25 easier than 10. Blizzard acknowledged this and went forward trying to keep 10 man difficulty at least even with 25, and tuned towards making it too easy rather than too hard.

    Even if that wasn’t the case, every 10 man after naxx would have been the easy mode, because since ulduar, 10 man raids have largely been done by people wearing 25 man gear. Of course they’re easier if you’re doing both. They’re designed with lower gear requirements. I don’t know if they’ll succeed at making 10s and 25s similar in difficulty, though i suspect they’ll get close. But they’ll never succeed at doing so while they drop different tiers of gear.

  6. Borsk says:

    I agree. The early 10 mans, OS3D in particular, are some of my favorite encounters. Getting a chance to both tank and heal that fight successfully was one of my favorite things this expansion.

    Like I said, the encounter designers have their work cut out for them, but I think they’ll find some interesting ways to challenge a 10 man. We’ve seen glimpses, hopefully they can do it for an entire expansion.

  7. […] almost cliche at this point to say the response to the Cataclysm raiding changes has been nothing short of loud and far from calm. When you do something as drastic as announce […]

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