Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Wrong Approach To Saving The 25-man

Blizzard recently unveiled raiding incentive changes for the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. Most notably, the larger 25-man group will no longer get higher-quality loot. They will get higher quantity (perhaps MORE than the 2.5x needed just to compensate for group size), but both formats will receive the same items. The changes were inevitable - itemizing four reward tiers (10/25 man and normal/hard) literally broke Wrath's gear curve and forced two gear resets in 2009. However, bloggers like Larisa, Rohan and Spinks are fearing that the changes will mean the end of the 25-man raid.

The concern is not necessarily incorrect - gear rewards have been pretty effective in motivating at least a certain segment of the population - but I believe it to be a misguided approach. Taking that tack pre-supposes that the activity of raiding is so non-fun that it is only viable when propped up with gear rewards, which might be why Blizzard does not find it persuasive.

The role of gear in raiding
Tobold has a skirmish with his commenters in which he argues:
"Because the gear you get from raiding is only good for raiding, if you don't raid there is absolutely no need for the stuff: You can't use raid gear for PvP because it doesn't have resilience, and you don't need it for daily quests or heroic dungeons, because it is overpowered for that. So somehow players must find raiding inherently fun."
I'm not convinced. At a minimum, PVP weapons are only attainable by top-rated Arena teams, with the explicitly stated design that other players would raid to fill at least that (somewhat crucial) slot. Also, once you have sufficient resilience, access to raid gear gives you the option of swapping in higher DPS items for more damage (a crucial element of WoW's burst-heavy PVP).

More seriously, assuming that raid gear is not needed for daily heroics assumes that players are doing them for the challenge, which is flat out contradicted by the evidence. If players wanted to be challenged in this content, they wouldn't be running it in raid gear up to 100 item levels above what it was designed for, and using gearscore as a criterion to kick out anyone who might actually need the upgrades for fear of slowing down their loot run. The main reason why 5-mans are so popular is PRECISELY because raid gear trivializes the content. Five-man content was on its last legs until Blizzard bribed raiders into trivial content with inappropriately high-quality loot.

Emphasize the positive
If you're out to make the case for the 25-man, the better approach is to emphasize the positives. The posts that I linked up top try to move things in that direction, but the take-home message is always that players will not do larger raids unless they are bribed with better gear. As if that weren't enough, over on Tobold's post, longtime commenter Stabs notes:

"You know, I've seen a lot of people lamenting that 25 man raids won't be organised for them but I haven't seen many people who actually do the organising complain."
As Stabs predicts, Ferrel, who runs a raiding group in EQ2's smaller two-group format, seems to be pleased. This is the second big strike against the larger format, in that it disproportionately rewards the out-of-game logistics required to get a large number of players with the appropriate mix of classes online at the same time.

(Then again, there's nothing about this logic that cannot be applied to even smaller groups - if the prime directive of MMORPG's is to allow players to experience content with their friends, why does that cease to be valid for players with only 5 friends, or players with none at all?)

We live in an era where even the biggest studios cannot produce content quickly enough, and where it is no longer viable for them to set aside the lion's share of the content for a format that few players will experience. Blizzard has concluded that opening the content to more types of players - smaller, and less hardcore groups - is the only way to justify the continued development expense.

In response, the loudest, most consistent counterargument has emphasized negative stereotypes of raiding - that it is an unpleasant loot slot machine that players only do because it allows them access to exclusive storylines and superior gear. If raiding is so bad that this really a big part of the truth (it certainly isn't all of the truth for all of the players), is the format even worth saving?

Blizzard doesn't seem to be convinced, and I'm not sure if I blame them.


Longasc said...

Extrinsic motivations become the major motivating factor, as is gathering badges and tokens for exchange for ever better gear.

Raiding is fun - but not for everyone. I simply cannot stand the huge raids anymore, they are annoying me. I prefer smaller groups.

It is about time to explore new endgame activities. Daily Quests and Badgerism abound in WoW, STO, LOTRO (does not matter if you name them tokens, (skirmish) marks, badges...) and cannot be the answer.

ArenaNet made bold claims for GW2, I am sceptical, but I would so like their vision to become true. This would be my gamer's dream fulfilled.

BTW: I think their raidlock share of 10 and 25 man raids is just to lower the badge/token acquisition rate, not to protect raiders from raiding too much or other things.

What's my main Again? said...

I see this more as Blizz trying to save the 25 man raider than the 25 man raid itself.

I'm a raid leader in my guild which means I organize and run both the 10 and 25 man ICC progression raid nights. 4 nights a week set aside to the same bloody instance has, to say the least, burnt me out quite a bit.

A change like this could work very well in my guilds favor. Some night we barely have 20 people signed up for 25's... others we have 37 signups. This is brutal to manage especially when dealing with multiple 10 man ID's

But in Cat combined with the option of multiple raid dungeons on each tier... I can take whatever we get for the night and work with it. If its 25 people than we hit 25 man raid's for more loot. If it is 10 man than we still get the shot at loot and don't have a missed raid night.

I personally would love to just stick to 10 man's with a set team. I love the camaraderie that forms in a tight group of people. At the same time you get a much more grand feeling downing something with 25 people from your guild for the first time.

Anonymous said...

I feel like most people who play this game are just raiding for the aesthetics of the gear that drops. There are people who buy gear with gold or real money and they have no actual use for the item (which is used to complete tasks in raids and PvP easier) and instead wear the item, sit in Orgrimmar and /afk hoping for other socials to crowd around him and gawk at his gear.

Spinks said...

Now imagine if they gave out the same gear from solo instances. How many people would raid then?

And would that prove that people hate raids, or that they always prefer the easiest route to the rewards?

I think the people who feel more upset are those who didn't just see their raid groups as a bunch of random people who helped them get loot. But at the same time, because loot was present as a reward, there probably are a few people in each raid guild who are motivated by it. You don't have to lose all that many people to make a raid group unviable ..

Matt said...

The activity of raiding is fun. The logistics aren't. Top end raiders, who may not be interested in loot are interested in progression. If the top 10 of a 25 player guild can progress farther in a 10 man, then dragging 15 people along for a 25, then that is what they will do. If anything its the fact that the hardcore raider puts progression over loot that will doom the 25 man format.