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|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!
- 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.
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.