Blizzard announced today some changes to their raiding system, which basically boils down to the following:
  • There will be only one (1) raid lockout per raid instance per week, so if you get saved to a 10-man raid, you cannot then do the same raid with a 25-man group.
  • Heroic mode settings will be determined on a per-boss basis, similar to how Icecrown Citadel currently works (likely too that you will have to complete the entire instance before you can switch it to Heroic).
  • The discrepancy between 10-man and 25-man difficulty levels will be leveled out (this means that you won't end up having a boss that is incredibly easy on 25-man while being a raid killer on 10-man, or vice versa).
  • 10-man and 25-man raid bosses will share a loot table (meaning the 10-man version of a boss will drop the exact same items as the 25-man version of the same boss), however, to compensate, 25-man versions will drop a higher quantity of items.  In addition to 25-mans dropping a higher quantity of loot, they will also drop more badges and more gold.
  • When first entering raid content, there will be many raids with few raid bosses (instead of one raid with 11-15 bosses, we will see 3-4 raids with 4-6 bosses).
  • Raid content will again be gated (meaning you either have to complete a certain bit before progressing, or you have to wait until the additional wings of the instance are released).
  • Entry level raids will be tuned for players in leveling (blue) and crafted items.
With these changes in mind, let's take a look at how they will actually change gameplay:

Since players will only be able to progress through a raid instance once per week, they will have to first make a choice:  do 10-man and have an easier time of getting a group together, possibly sacrificing group cohesiveness or do 25-man, and deal with organizing a larger group, but getting a better chance at the item you want.

If you are in a guild, it will likely be a decision based on the size of your guild.  If you have a guild that is able to field enough people to put together a 25-man raid, it would definitely be in your best interest to do 25-man, simply because you have a better chance at the gear you are after.

Likewise, if you are in a smaller guild, the 10-man version will allow you to still complete the instance without feeling penalized for not doing 25-man content.

However, if you more often participate in Pick Up Groups (pugs), you may be at a disadvantage.  Let's say you are in a guild with 17 active raiders, do you try to pick up the remaining few to make it a 25-man?  Well, what if you cannot tell how good those other 8 players actually are?  If they are poor players, you may only make it through 50% of the content on 25-man, but what if you could have easily made it through 80% of the content on 10-man?  You would have made more progress, but lost out on gear.

This issue could be alleviated by allowing for the ability to switch between 10-man and 25-man modes (similar to switching between normal and heroic modes).  The major problem with doing this is that certain bosses, simply by the nature of the encounter, are going to be easier on 10-man, while others may be easier on 25-man.  So, to stop a raid from switching between the two modes on a whim, I would say a two (2) hour soft reset is required before the switch could be made (if you are not familiar, a soft reset usually takes 1-2 hours of nobody being inside the instance).

Whichever way you choose to raid will be up to you, but there are a few things that this will undoubtedly do:
  1. Reduce the overall amount of time that people are raiding.  This is because you won't have the option of spending 3 hours in 10-man followed by 4 hours in 25-man.
  2. Reduce gear inflation.  One major issue in Wrath of the Lich King was that gear inflated too quickly due to having 3-4 levels of gear per patch (10-man, 10-man heroic, 25-man, 25-man heroic).  Less gear inflation also has the added benefit of having smaller patches, and less time between patches (because fewer game files need to be added/programmed/designed).
  3. Less of a reliance of gear as a definition of skill.  If the gear is more accessible, then you will determine someone's ability by actually playing with them.  This will in turn make add-ons such as GearScore and ElitistGroup both less effective, and more effective at the same time (gear at levels A-B, skill will be indeterminate, but at level D-E, you may be able to say "you know, that guy has some impressive
Also, because bosses will share a loot table between 10-man and 25-man (coupled with the stat changes they are making), properly gearing your character will be more direct.  No more, I need XXX from this boss in 10-man, but YYY from this boss in 25-man.  You will be able to just say, I need XXX from this boss.

With regards to the complaints from the community, I think some people are overreacting a bit to these changes.  Will the changes be the "death of 25-man raiding", absolutely not, Blizzard does want people raiding 25-man content, but they don't have to if that is not their thing.  The idea is that the content is more accessible, not necessarily easier, and because some people equate accessible with easy, they have begun to present themselves in a way that makes them look like drama queens, which is rather unsightly.

Is Blizzard making things easier and less time consuming for the average player? Yes, absolutely.  Are they evolving their game to keep pace with their player base? Very much so.  Are these changes actually harming your gameplay? Umm...probably not.

Personally, I look forward to the day where I don't hear "We should be doing 25-mans so we can get better gear to do 10-mans", when we often don't have people showing up past the first night.  I would rather progress through the content with a smaller group that actually wants to play, learn the fights, and pick up gear along the way.

See you in the Shadows,

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