We here at WoW.com play (and love) the game just like anybody else. Blizzard's recent announcement regarding Cataclysm's raid progression changes certainly sparked debate among the team. While we spent hours debating this amongst ourselves, we tried to get a snapshot of our initial feelings on the changes.
This article will be broken up into two pages. The first page will be the WoW.com writers against the change. In the interest of ending on a high note, the second page will be the writers for the change.
In general, I disapprove of this change.
I wouldn't mind the move to 10/25 dropping the same quality of gear, with 25's dropping more, although it would have to be a good deal more, not just proportionately more -- if 10's drop 2 pieces of loot per boss then 25's need to drop more than 5 per boss to make it worthwhile to go through the added annoyance of the process. Add the difficulty of most fights on 25 and it gets worse, since it will be so much easier to just get nine additional folks and run 10's than wait for the class balance you need for 25's. But if you could hit that balance, it could in theory manage to still reward 25 man groups for their tenacity.
However, by sharing lockouts between 10 and 25 you basically force segregation between 10 and 25 man raiding that doesn't currently exist. If you're in a guild that routinely runs 10's and can sometimes PUG or guild alliance 25's, you're losing little (unless you really liked your guild alliance) but if you're in a primarily 25 man group that sometimes runs 10's for fun or supplemental loot, that window is gone. The ability to use 10's to shake down a new recruit in a raid situation, the ability to come in to a 10 to help folks out without endangering your 25 man progression, that's all gone. And since 10's will always be far easier to organize, we're looking at the possibility of the Karazhan guild-split effect all over again. Group A levels to 85 a week or two before group B, and starts running the 10's, getting way ahead on gear. Are they going to want to lose their progression to sit around and wait for everyone to be ready to raid 25's? Are we going to be pressured to level faster to move into raiding faster since we'll have no means to really catch up?
The cost to guild alliances (why bother when you can just run the 10 for the same loot and not have to bother with the hassle?) and to current 25 man raid forces who will be sheared apart in Cataclysm seems too high for the presumed benefit. Again, I'd be fine if not for the shared lockout, it would allow you to run 10's without losing 25's and thus would give people options. This seems too restrictive to me.
I have to admit to being a bit leery of the change. As a guild leader, it reminds me of the vanilla to Burning Crusade change, knowing that it has the potential to gut the guild. I think we'll see far, far more 10-mans than 25. After all, if you take the average mid-progression 25-man, you can almost always pop out the top 10 performers to make a better progressing 10-man. 25-man recruitment will get harder with people leaving more often when the raid stalls for a few weeks. I also think this is really going to put class balance under much more of a magnifying glass, with 10-man class buffs being more important. And also, welcome back raid stacking. On the other hand, I love the fact that BiS loot won't be a mix of 10 and 25-man loot anymore. I don't think hardcore guilds will be much affected -- for them it just means less required raiding. Causal guilds will fall apart in droves and reform in much smaller micro-guilds, methinks.
I'm a little worried about the change myself. I like the size and atmosphere of 25 man raiding compared to 10. It adds that extra layer of complexity and just feels that much more fulfilling to me. Overall, it will be good for the game since it frees up even more time for players. It will also increase the level of accessibility so that players don't feel that pressure in doing both 10s and 25s in order to stay competitive. I know the rewards have not been set in stone yet, but while I am intrinsically motivated to run 25s, not everyone else is going to feel the same way. There should be some sort of extra reward for the logistics and challenges of establishing a 25s run. Additional gold and badges are nice, but it doesn't feel sufficient.
This change is driving me nuts, and I can't quite put my finger on why, but I've managed to rationalize it out to a degree. If the line between 10-man raiding and 25-man raiding is disappearing, there's little reason to do 25-man raids. Recruiting for 25-mans right now is painful, largely due to the sheer number of players that have badged their way to end-game gear and expect to get a free pass into a 25-man raid guild with no knowledge of the fights, much less any knowledge of what raiding is like at all. For an experienced, progression-focused raid guild, this is a nightmare -- you run a raid to successfully run a raid, not to hold a new person's hand through the instance. In light of that, a lot of people will more than likely be downsizing to 10-man raiding, simply because recruitment and getting a solid 10-man team is much, much easier than doing so with a 25-man team.
Right, so we've got people scaling down to 10-man raiding, which shouldn't be a huge issue, but it is for me. Why? Because I come from the days of 40-man Molten Core runs. Back then, facing off against Ragnaros felt absolutely epic, and I think a large part of that was the fact that you needed so many people to kill him. I know, it sounds ridiculous and honestly I had my own problems with the 40-man raid model because it was so bloated and hard to put together, but -- and this is a big but -- at the end of the day, standing there with a legion of people staring at this all-powerful fire lord bursting out of the lava was just awe-inspiring, thrilling and amazing. I took a break between AQ40 and Burning Crusade, came back for Hyjal. Going from 40 people to 25 felt really off at first, but it was all right --25 people facing off with Archimonde still felt epic. 25 people going in and defeating Illidan felt epic. 10-man raiding, though...Zul'Aman and Karazhan were both designed specifically for 10 players, so it felt right being in there. Naxxramas, Ulduar, even Icecrown all just feel ... empty. It doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel epic.
If I am going to go in and fight an Old God or Deathwing, then by god I better feel like I should be bringing in an army. That's what makes these instances fun for me, and I realize I'm one of probably a very, very few players that feel this way, but somewhere along the line, Blizzard lost that "Dear god we are all about to die" feeling, that awe-inspiring shock that you get when you see a new raid zone, and part of that for me is that just taking 10 people to kill the flipping Lich King feels so ridiculous from a logical standpoint of "This is how the story goes, this is how horrible this villain is." He can't be that bad if it only takes 10 people to kill him. Maybe this is just more of a design flaw and less of anything to do with the 10-man vs 25-man argument, I don't know -- but I miss that feeling I got when I first saw Ragnaros. That feeling that maybe, just maybe, 40 people weren't going to be enough.
I have always supported Blizzard's decision to make the game more accessible to all players; but the reason I supported it was because Blizzard said they would always keep an aspect of the game for the hardcore players. Before now I was extremely excited for Cataclysm, but now I feel as though my heart has been ripped out.
I play in a high ranking 25-man guild because that is what I love to do. I don't do it for the glory, better gear, prettier mounts, or legendary items. I do it because the environment in a successful 25-man raiding guild is vastly different than 10-man raiding guilds - and yes, I have been in both during this last expansion. I think there is this idea that successful 25-man guilds are just an assembly of good players who want to kill dragons and get loot. That is not entirely the case. Sure we want to kill dragons, but having a common goal is not why we achieve what we do in the time we do. What makes top 25-man guilds succeed is the way they are run and organized. This includes having a great leader (or leaders), crafting a solid foundation and ideology for the guild, and finding skilled players who are willing to follow. This dynamic simply doesn't exist in the same capacity in a 10-man guild, and on that thought, my biggest problem with 10-man guilds is the 'too many cooks in the kitchen' aspect of them. Anyone who has pugged knows how much more difficult it is to lead 25 people versus 10. Well, it is just as difficult to lead 25 good players as it is 25 bad players - and that is what makes 25-man raiding so rewarding to me. To me, 25-man raiding offers a large and interconnected community; 10-man guilds are just a large group of friends running dungeons together. If I just wanted to play games with my friends, I would go do that ... in the flesh.
Blizzard's proposal removes the incentive to do 25-man raids, which will kill the majority of 25-man guilds, which in turn will kill the community I come to the game for. I hate to say it, but for the first time ever I have been served a very good reason to quit the game.
The competitive raiding scene is what drove me to play WoW. I started in a casual guild in Vanilla and as I discovered and grasped the concept of a 'top' guild I worked hard to become better at the game so that I could join one. I wanted to play the best and be the best and I worked for it and I still do. It is by far the primary reason I and the majority of players in my guild play this game. When I'm not playing WoW, I play MW2, COD4, and MvC2. Highly competitive games that force you to exert relentless dominance over your competitors and instill a sense of superiority and accomplishment in achieving a win and/or goal. This same feeling is why I and people in guilds such as mine play this game.
Removing not only the difference in rewards, but the difference in difficulty between 10 and 25-man raids inevitably removes from 25-man raiding the sense of accomplishment. Without this, combined with the already acknowledged logistic challenges of running a 25-man raid, there is little to no incentive to run 25-man content. It is undeniably more difficult to run a 25-man guild and raid. The leadership needs to be better, stronger, more reactive, proactive, and understanding. Finding and successfully recruiting an adequate quantity of quality players is in itself its own raid boss. Accommodating 25-unique personalities while minimizing conflict and carefully utilizing each players individual strengths and weaknesses without hindering progression is a supremely daunting task that no guild will ever fully master. The same cannot and will not be said for 10-man raids, guilds, or groups. With this knowledge in hand, the obvious question is: why would anybody run 25-mans in Cataclysm? The hardcore players like myself have no sense of accomplishment and no discernable way to establish who is best. The casual players have no rewards or incentive.
Before it appears as if my sky is falling, it should be noted that my guild will likely be fine. We're inevitably going to run 10 and 25 man content using a combination of alts and mains and attempt to remain competitive taking the first kills in both raid sizes. I completely expect that any guild in the top 25 worldwide will do this. What about the 25-man guilds who have no shot at a US or EU or even world first kills though? If that's the last ounce of reason to run 25-man content and they've no shot at that, what reason do 25-man guilds from top 25 have? It is very likely that we will see a mass migration from 25-man content to 10-man content. If Blizzard meets their goal of accurately removing the difficulty gap between 10 and 25-man raids then there will be no point in distinguishing between a first 25 and a first 10 kill.
I am all for allowing people to experience content and play the game at whatever level they so choose, but that should not require gutting my enjoyment to do so. It is very easy to argue that my reasons and points are shallow and therefore easily disregarded, but who got world first heroic Lich King? Who got US first? In today's game, the average player knows the answer to those questions and it isn't unreasonable to want to be that answer. Many people play games to enjoy them. Some play to win and some play to be the best. Everybody has goals and reasons and aspirations. Whether it be one or many, selfless or shallow, we should attempt to remain mindful of most and I don't see it here. This change is good for many casuals, bad for any casual that genuinely enjoyed 25-man raiding, and at first glance, terrible for hardcore competitive raiding. However, it remains to be seen how the community reacts to its implementation. If there is no competitive scene, there is no reason for me (or anybody who wants to be in a guild like mine) to continue playing.
Fox Van Allen
Most of the casual players I know have gotten their starts in "training wheel" raids run by my guild. The hardcore raiders would frequently organize smaller 10-man runs for newer players, teaching them the basics of raiding. Keeping 10-man content and 25-man content separate allowed this: We weren't sacrificing anything to help teach new players. The pressure was low. Newer players had less competition for gear and could catch up to the rest of the team at a relatively quick pace.
Without our ten-man training grounds, we'd have been harder pressed to vet new applicants, to give newer players more experience with the fights, and to help gear people for their off-spec. I know Blizzard wants to make their raiding open to as many people as possible, but it seems like they're accomplishing the exact opposite here. They're raising the barrier to entry for the new player. Every raid will be "valuable" to serious players, and newer players will find it harder to work their way into the fold of a successful team.
Anything I can offer will essentially be echoing much of what was already said. I don't like this change, I don't like it one bit. It sits very funny in my gut and leaves me with a feeling of dread. I think it stems from having lived through the transition from 40-man content down to 25-man content. When Burning Crusade was released raiding was shoved through a 10-man filter before you got to the larger content. Don't get me wrong, I loved Kara and thought it was a great instance, but it did two things to a lot of guilds.
- Allowed for the creation of the A team B team syndrome. What I mean by this is the first 10 people to get to the level cap immediately could raid. While this is good, many people began to feel left out because they were slower leveling or because they would rather enjoy the leveling experience. When the next 10 got to cap and they started raiding behind the first group, there was a sense of disparity. A lot of guilds I know on a personal level splintered on this point and just couldn't make the transition. By offering variable content in Wrath, Blizzard effectively removed this, 10 players could run but the minute there was 25 people at cap you could switch gears.
- Because raiders were essentially required to run this content in order to gear up for the larger instances it forced large chunks of people to have to wait for others. I saw many guilds splinter as the first 10 players waited for the next 10 players (in truth 15 players at this point) to gear up enough to start in on the 25 man raiding content. People got bored waiting and raiding cores up and left a bunch of guilds in the cold and in shambles.