Monday, April 26, 2010

Cataclysm and Raid Size

Big news coming down the pipe today: Nethaera posted the following on the forums, and sent up a cheer through the ten-man raiders (among others!). I've copied it here if you don't wish to follow the link.

(click here to skip the blue)

We're continuing to refine the raid progression paths in Cataclysm, and we'd like to share some of those changes with you today. Please enjoy!

The first of the refinements being made is that we're combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. In other words, if you wanted to do both a 10- and 25-person raid in a single week, you’d need to do so on two different characters. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn't apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.

We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we'll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They'll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items. Choosing Heroic mode will drop a scaled-up version of those items. Our hope is that players will be able to associate bosses with their loot tables and even associate specific artwork with specific item names to a far greater extent than today.

Dungeon Difficulty and Rewards
10- and 25-player (normal difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop the exact same items as each other.
10- and 25-player (Heroic difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop more powerful versions of the normal-difficulty items.

We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people. The raid designers are designing encounters with these changes in mind, and the class designers are making class changes to help make 10-person groups easier to build. Running 25-player raids will be a bit more lucrative, as should be expected, but if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation, you can do that and not suffer a dramatic loss to your ability to get the items you want.

We recognize that very long raids can be a barrier for some players, but we also want to provide enough encounters for the experience to feel epic. 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. All of these bosses would drop the same item level gear, but the dungeons themselves being different environments will provide some variety in location and visual style, as well as separate raid lockouts. Think of how you could raid Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep separately, but you might still want to hit both every week.

We do like how gating bosses over time allows the community to focus on individual encounters instead of just racing to the end boss, so we’re likely to keep that design moving forward. We don't plan to impose attempt limitations again though, except maybe in cases of rare optional bosses (like Algalon). Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.

In terms of tuning, we want groups to be able to jump into the first raids pretty quickly, but we also don’t want them to overshadow the Heroic 5-player dungeons and more powerful quest rewards. We’ll be designing the first few raid zones assuming that players have accumulated some blue gear from dungeons, crafted equipment, or quest rewards. In general, we want you and your guild members to participate in and enjoy the level up experience.

We design our raids to be accessible to a broad spectrum of players, so we want groups to be able to make the decision about whether to attempt the normal or Heroic versions of raids pretty quickly. The goal with all of these changes is to make it as much of a choice or effect of circumstance whether you raid as a group of 10 or as a group of 25 as possible. Whether you're a big guild or a small guild the choice won't be dependent on what items drop, but instead on what you enjoy the most.

We realize that with any changes to progression pathways there are going to be questions. We're eagerly awaiting any that we may have left unanswered. To the comments!

The TL:DR:
  • Each instance has a shared raid lockout across both 10 and 25 raid sizes. This means you can't hit up both the 10 and the 25 versions in the same week.
  • Difficulty of the instance between raid sizes will be equal as much as possible.
  • Loot will be identical in both raid sizes. 25-man raid loot will not be better than 10-man raid loot. Both will drop the same iLevel loot. Both will share loot tables. /does a trinket dance!
  • 25m will get more loot per kill, gold, and badges than 10m boss kills. The exact proportion is not mentioned, but it is hinted at being more than an equal percentage (ie. rather than 2 drops in 10m/5 in 25m, it is more likely to be 2 in 10, 7+ in 25). The 25m raiders will also be able to purchase badge items far more quickly; overall, 25-man raiders will gear up more quickly. This is the carrot to run with more cats.
  • Limited Attempt mechanics will be rare and likely only on a couple optional bosses.
  • Gated content (especially heroic mode) will likely continue in Cataclysm.

Instance Length and Raider Rotations:

Additionally, the initial raid instances will be small, about 5-6 bosses. In multi-night raiding guilds, this is a big plus: if you have only one huge instance to raid and your guild always raids (using Vortex as an example) Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, and if you have a raider who can never make Tuesdays, then that raider will always miss the bosses, gear, and experiences of the first part of that one big instance that is run on Tuesdays. Considering how specific bosses drop specific gear they may need, or that many raiders like seeing all parts of content to experience it and get variety, this is no small matter for guilds. This is a situation that occurs in many guilds, and this exact example is one I have seen with my own husband.

If you have an option to swap instances or even wings that you start on each week, then that raider gets to see the content and access the drops involved on an every-other-week rotation.... compared to current ICC, where the only option to start is Lower Citadel or, oh, Lower Citadel. VoA takes 10 minutes, and ToC is all but forgotten when you're raiding hardmode ICC. This seems to be what they are trying to remedy: allowing guilds to hit multiple instances in one week that offer the same level of gear and content commitment, and thus allow guilds to rotate what nights they raid which content.

...never mind that in equalizing gear (and difficulty to match the gear) across the floor, there will be far fewer raiders snubbing their noses at 10-strict guilds as being subpar or "nubs" (being as 10s are clearly so easy for them in their much higher gear).

Thank you, Blizzard.

Difficulty Levels:

Many of the comments I have seen from the knee-jerk forum posters are to the effect of "lulz we can raid the easy tens to get the same loot as 25, gg blizz for catering to the casuals and making wow too easy," which blatantly ignores the whole "We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve." This is remnant of the misconception that 10mans are easy: they are easy in 25-man gear, but they are not easy in the gear that they were BALANCED for. When the gear is balanced, so too will the difficulty feel balanced. 10s in Cataclysm will not be easy in 25-man gear, because 25-man gear WILL BE 10-man gear.

Of course, we might be seeing more Sarth10-3D in the difficulty scaling between tens and 25s, but it will simply be from the difficulty of balancing the mechanics rather than gear levels.
  • For a breakdown of ways that 10 and 25 are different in terms of difficulty balancing, you can read more detail in my post here. It includes space, class balance, dual specs, and even disconnects and how they impact the different raid sizes, and how they can be made to balance: if not equally on a certain boss, then balanced across multiple bosses in an instance.
  • If you are curious about what 10-man raiding guilds are really like to play in and be a part of, you can read my rather depthy explanation.
  • If you just need to see a cute puppy picture to feel happy and fuzzy again, go here. I'm still jealous, Zing.


Jasyla said...

I love that the idea of having two smaller raid instances instead of one large one. Having two raids to work on at once makes things so much less tedious.

However, I think with the changes to lockouts, 25-man raiding will be a thing of the past. :(

Jardal said...

Cheer's Kae! I agree.

Charles said...

I'm utterly thrilled with this announcement and I think it's very gutsy of Blizzard to do it. I think it's the next logical step for the raid game to take - it's the direction they've been moving in since Zul'Gurub and enforcing size limits on vanilla instances (e.g. only 5 players fit in Scholomance instead of 40).

Most of all it seems to promote fun and community over grinding and opportunism. Which is great.

(Already written some more thoughts elsewhere.)

Kae said...

I don't think Blizz will allow 25s to die off. They simply need to determine how many gear pieces to drop to make the carrot big enough for guild leaders to want to handle herding that many cats... because trust me, leading large guilds truly is trying to herd cats. It will not be an equal proportion with 10mans, that's to be sure!

Question remains is what they plan to do with Legendaries.

Hana said...

I'm loving this. :D It's really legitimzing 10-mans as a choice rather than the sad cousin of the larger raids.

25-man raiding might suffer a bit, but arguably those guilds that will be hurt are those that didn't have a strong 25-man core to begin with.

Vidyala said...

Thanks for making the point (and I think it can't be made enough), Kae, that tens aren't often taken seriously - because folks are doing them in their greater 25s gear. I know your strict tens guild is doing amazingly well, and I have a lot of admiration and respect for other strict tens folks who are tackling *hard* content wearing gear that was intended to tackle it with. It's no walk in the park!

lissanna said...

Recruiting for & sustaining a guild that runs 10-mans will be easier in Cata than trying to run a 25-man guild. That's the point that keeps getting lost. It's not about boss difficulty. It's about how much recruiting for a 25-man guild is going to suck for everyone who isn't currently in the top 10% of raiding 25-man guilds.

Anonymous said...

There is more to the "10s being easier" then just gear. Many current encounter mechanics (spacing out for this, grouping up for that, etc.) are simply easier to do with fewer people.

I do think this will hurt 25 man raiding to an extent. I also think it will promote even more alt play (which Blizz seems to be strongly encouraging). This has me thinking about what my second "main" will be.

Avatar said...

I tend to agree with you, most peoples' knee jerk reactions on the wow forums is ridiculous and they glossed over that the difficulty is being normalized.

As a GM/RL myself I am hoping that you can drop from a 25 to a 10 on the same raid lockout ID, and vice versa, as it will give some flexibility to my guild during those spike in real life when attendance is low and we still want to progress.

Kae said...

Recruiting for 10strict is currently a very hard thing to do. Trying to find raiders who are willing to entirely give up even pugging 25s is a very exhausting task. GuildOx helps immensely, but there simply are fewer players out there who are looking for 10-strict.

Cata will certainly open the flood gates on that count.

Liss, I can definitely empathize with where your guild is at in terms of being a non-top-tier-25man guild. I helped lead a guild like that back in vanilla/BC: we were constantly hemorrhaging raiders to better guilds, and fighting to keep the guild together and happy, walking the tight-rope between casual play and progression. I can certainly give a nod towards the truth that organizing 25 raiders (or 40 back in the day) is far more a headache than with a raiding roster of 13-14 for a 10m.

These changes will certainly impact your guild rather hard, as each raider will choose between the community of the guild and finding a more "progressed" guild. However, I doubt you will be alone in your preference for larger, more "epic-feeling" raid sizes, and some players will simply be drawn in with having a higher loot drop rate than they say will be available in the tens.

If remaining in 25s is what you truly want to do for the sake of running 25s, fight for it! Don't let your guild disintegrate if at all possible. Remember that there will be other 25-man guilds in the same boat; some will certainly disintegrate, but the same thing seems to happen with every expansion. Others will feel the same way, and recondense into 25-man raiding guilds who are there to enjoy the epic feel of their larger numbers. Have hope :)

Blizzard seems to like having 25-man raids, still. I haven't seen much evidence that they are trying to completely destroy them.

Keredria said...

Finally Kae, its our time, its our time. ;)

As a strict 10 raider, all I can say is hooray!

Mark said...

This change has me almost entirely convinced that WoW 5.0 is going to be exclusively 10-man. TBC started the 10-man push, WotLK furthered it and Cataclysm will cement it as the premier raid size.

I think there is just a base social and psychological element to 10-mans being more appealing than 25-mans. It would also explain why almost all major sports have no more than 11 people on the field at once (per team). I don't think it's a coincidence.

Alyae said...

Note: 25 man guilds that try to run two 10 man runs per week could come into drama if:

A) both 10 man groups are more or less static and one frequently does better then the other.

B) If both 10 mans are not static but one has to carry a few dead weight players, that most 25 man guilds can get away with. Can't get away with dead weight in 10's.

Having said that ....

We all know that some fights, like LK that require a lot of co-ordination are easier in 10, where fights like Council Hard where movement is discouraged are harder with such a huge room and so few people spread out in it.

Hello, can you say warlock porting to the far corner in a room just to get an orb? I can!

Sarth 3 drakes on 10, was an example and others.

However, having said that, what makes it such a big deal if one raid size is better for one thing, while the other is better for another? I'd say that in all the difficulty for both in appropriate level gear for an entire instance is the same.

Otherwise a 10 strict guild like ours should be much further ahead progression on our server against the 25 man guilds. We are both raiding appropriate at ilevel appropriate gear right? Yet, we still sit (4th) on progression on our server with more hardcore guilds, Might, fusion etc ahead of us.

If 10's were so easy, we should be ranked higher. Not to toot our own horns, but we really do work well together, and if you cloned us all, and we started running 25's i guarantee you we'd be at the same place on the list.

Kae said...

...cloned Vortexians... now that's a scary thought. There'd be a lot more awesome girl gamers running around, though!

I hadn't thought about Blood Council: that one is indeed harder on ten, due to movement restrictions compounded with orb spawns AND flame orbs that need to be tagged to keep them from annihilating their buddies. On the flip side, spreading for the white explosion thingies is easier. Give and take, eh?