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Officers' Quarters: The great raid-size debate, part 3


Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

Welcome to the third and final column exploring the various pros and cons of raid size in WoW's upcoming Cataclysm expansion. Before we talk about the final category, let's recap.

In part 1, I examined the various gameplay considerations that come along with the different sizes.

Gameplay
  • We can only speculate about relative difficulty.
  • 10-man raids offer fewer options for dealing with specific boss abilities and/or adds.
  • Position-based abilities are easier to deal with in 10s.
  • Player deaths are not as crippling in 25-mans.
  • It's easier to cover for someone else's mistake with 25 players.
In part 2, I talked about the logistics involved in running each size and the rewards you can obtain from them.

Logistics
  • A 25-man raid requires an intense recruiting effort.
  • "Cat herding" is flat-out easier in 10-man raids.
  • More raiders mean more attendance issues and technical issues.
  • Subbing is easier in a larger raid.
  • Scheduling difficulties are easier to manage with more players.
  • Loot is easier to distribute in 10-man.


Rewards
  • 25-man bosses are worth more valor points.
  • Normal 10s offer the same amount of items per player.
  • Heroic 25s will drop more items per player than heroic 10s.
  • Fewer items will be sharded in 25s.
  • Legendary items should be available to both sizes.
  • Achievements are equivalent.
It's already a lot to think about! Now let's get into the final category: intangibles.

Intangibles
  • What's more "epic" to you? Many people think that the larger raids have a more epic feel. Bringing more people with you certainly makes it seem like the boss is more powerful and the threat more dire. On the other hand, being able to kill the Lich King with just nine friends means that you and your guildmates must be pretty powerful and threatening in your own right. There's no right answer here, obviously, but everyone seems to have an opinion. I suppose it comes down to whether you want to feel like you're part of an elite army assembled to exterminate an enemy or a small band of adventurers defying the odds.
  • 10-man raids place more pressure on individual players. With so few raiders in the group, each individual carries a heavy responsibility. There is pressure to show up night after night with (generally speaking) fewer players available to replace you, especially if you're a tank or healer. During a boss fight, no one can make up for your slack, so you have to push yourself hard every night. Mistakes are more evident and most costly. Some players thrive on this pressure; others eventually let it crush them, leading to faster burnout on content.
  • In the past, 25-man kills have been awarded greater prestige. World-first 10-man kills in Wrath were an afterthought. In The Burning Crusade, raids designed for 10 players weren't taken all that seriously. Karazhan was thought of as a more difficult Upper Blackrock Spire, barely a raid at all. Zul'Aman wasn't even really considered progression, given that it was released two patches after the Black Temple and provided loot with a lower item level. We won't know for sure how Cataclysm's progression will be perceived until it happens. If Blizzard manages to balance the difficulty between the two sizes, then it's possible that 10-man raiding won't be dismissed as it has been in the past, especially since you'll no longer be able to outgear it with 25-man item levels. However, I predict that the vast majority of players will still consider 25-man raiding to be the "real" progression path, if you care about such things.
  • Loot drama is more likely to happen in a small raid. I'm not sure how many people are going to agree with me here, because the common thinking is just the opposite. Obviously, much of the drama potential depends on the system that you use. In general terms of keeping players happy with their loot situation, though, bigger is better in my experience. For one thing, more loot drops per boss, so players feel like they're more likely to get an item, even if it's statistically untrue (it depends on your system). Also, the distribution of loot tends to be more even in a larger raid. In a 10-man, when you're only getting two drops per boss, those drops can heavily favor a single player's spec, meaning everyone else watches as one person gets item after item uncontested. I've also noticed that players tend to take loot decisions more personally in a smaller environment -- I suspect it's because they're usually only competing with one or two other players for most of their loot. Some players keep a mental tally of who got what, and it's easier to let that sort of thing get you worked up in a smaller group. Finally, some players tend to expect to receive a drop every night when there are only 10 total raiders. All of these factors add up to create fertile ground for seeds of drama to sprout.
  • According to jamesdanek, 25-man raiding is way more fun. Whether or not you agree with him, the fun factor is the most important consideration among all of these categories. Raiding is supposed to be fun, and I'm glad that Blizzard is bringing the game toward a future in which fun can be the biggest factor when we make this choice and we're not obligated to run both sizes to stay competitive.
I'm sure I've overlooked other intangible considerations, but from these five, I would say that 25-man raiding comes out ahead here. In fact, out of all four categories, 25-man raiding is the victor in three of them: gameplay, rewards (barely), and intangibles. The logistics category, however, is hugely important for guild officers -- and that's where 10-man shines.

What is the right size for your guild? Let's take a look.

Small but mighty

In my experience, the most important factor for 10-man success is player chemistry. A tight-knit team in which everyone gets along and shares the same expectations is immensely helpful. If you have that already, then you're going to have a lot of fun in Cataclysm. If you don't, I recommend recruiting based more on attitude and personality than other factors. Skill can be learned; gear can be won; but you can't change who someone is.

I recommend the 10-man size for:
  • New guilds Build on your 10-man success to help you recruit if you want to expand.
  • Guilds that are new to raiding Get your feet wet in 10s first.
  • Guilds in which not everyone is interested in raiding Those who don't want to raid will be pressured to do so more often if you're running 25s.
  • Guilds with only one to three active officers Leading and supporting 25s would be extremely taxing on them.
  • Guilds where the majority of members prefer this size
The last point is the most obvious but also the most crucial. Because we will be mostly limited to one size or the other on our main characters, most players are not going to stay in guilds that aren't raiding at the size they prefer. If you choose the size that you want without considering what your members want, you might find yourself with an empty roster in early 2011.

So you want to supersize it


More so than 10-man, guilds that are successful at 25-man raiding greatly depend on their officers. If you have enough motivated officers who can support the required recruiting, handle more complex loot distribution, and herd more cats, then you are the ideal guild for 25-man raids.

The key word here is "motivated." Larger raids require much more effort from officers. Guilds full of officers who are such in name only will have a difficult time adequately supporting this type of raiding. The one or two officers who are actively working to make those raids happen along with handling all the other tasks of leading a guild will eventually become overwhelmed by these duties.

If you want to raid 25s effectively over the long haul, then you must have a full complement of leaders. In my experience, four extremely proactive officers is the bare minimum: a guild leader, a raid leader, a full-time recruiter, and a loot master. Each of these roles is highly stressful, and I don't recommend anyone doubling up on them. From there, you'll eventually need more officers to help with each of these tasks and to carry out other duties. Officers who can do all that with less than four are special people, and you should thank them every day.

You can build up such an officer corps by drawing from your membership, but if your members aren't interested in helping out, it will be difficult to find enough officers. You can't count on new recruits to take on these tasks.

I don't say this to scare anyone away from 25-man raiding. I say it to make you aware of what it takes to do it right. If you've weighed all the options and you want to raid at this size, do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough support before you set out on this venture. Plowing ahead into 25-man territory when your guild isn't ready for it can cause enough strain to bring down the whole community.

Predictions

Some players have predicted that 25-man raiding will become extinct in Cataclysm. I don't buy it for a second. As long as there are players who find more enjoyment in the 25s -- and there are plenty of them out there, believe me -- they will continue to make larger raids happen regardless of other factors.

I do believe, on the the other hand, that strict 10-man raiding guilds will become much more common. Many players prefer this size, and many officers prefer the lighter workload. Now that 10s will offer a similar difficulty curve for nearly the same rewards, more guilds will choose this path (but certainly not all).

Of course, some guilds will try to be flexible. They'll run 10s when attendance is low, two 10s when they have the right mix of specs and classes, and 25s when they've got a full boat. It'll be easier to pull off with the new raid lockout system, and it's one way to work around attendance issues.

In my opinion, however, aiming for a specific size and doing your best to make sure your raids go off as planned and progress as expected is the best way to prevent drama and ensure long-term success for your guild -- no matter which size you choose.

So, after all that, what's your plan? Tell us below!

/salute

Learn how to survive the leveling process, deal with guild perk freeloaders, and discuss the guild talent controversy or the guild reputation system. Send Scott your guild-related questions and suggestions at scott@wow.com; you may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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