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“The 10 vs. 25 Debate Madness” or “Further Arguments”

April 30, 2010 4 comments

There is an excellent post on WoW.com, with the staff writer split evenly about Blizzard’s recently announced raid changes in the upcoming Cataclysm expansion.

The first page details opinions of those writers who feel this is a turn for the worse, and understandably enough, most of them are affiliated with 25-man guilds. The second page details opinions from the other side of the fence, writers applauding the said changes. It’s a good read, especially if you are looking to find strong arguments for both sides of the equation.

Link: WoW.com reacts to the Cataclysm raid changes.

“Continuing the 10 vs 25 debate” or “What Leto Said”

April 28, 2010 4 comments

Commenter and old WoW buddy Leto posted a lengthy and well-thought out response to my musings on the upcoming changes to the raid structure in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. I think his comment deserves a post of its own.

The post is part opinion, and part an honest trip down memory lane.

Our 40-man raids had an extremely tight knit core carrying a bunch of retards through content. For every exceptional player, we had a keyboard turning tank, slowly inching his way 180 degrees as adds I pulled off him with healing aggro during Gothik the Harvester destroyed me. The time commitments for the raids themselves were brutal, saying nothing of the headache of actually organizing, running, and administrating these beasts. With the advent of Burning Crusade’s lower raid sizes, the strength of our core shined through, however, as we pulled off server firsts in Gruul’s Lair, as well as Karazhan. 10 mans and 25 mans, while easier to get together than their 40 man predecessors, brought with them their own administrative challenges. How do we go about cutting the fat transitioning into this new raid size? How do we create a 10 man ‘A’ team for Karazhan progression without making other guild members feel alienated? What ended up really doing us in, however, was a case of the old ‘burn outs‘. Many of our core began taking breaks from raiding, or the game in general, and understandably so.

Lich King did a good job in bringing raids to the masses, so to speak, or as I like to call it, ‘Nintendo Wii’ing World of Warcraft’. Many classes were homogenized, dungeons were made simpler (who remembers the last time CC was necessary?) and 10 and 25 man version of raids were introduced, with optional challenges to help filter difficulty and appeal to the widest variety of players. More casual players were given badge loot to gear up in epics, however, the real loot was still, nonetheless, reserved for the 25 man raiders. Previous raiders like myself, not for lack of skill but rather lack of time, were thus still shafted from the best loot, but at least given a bit of compensation as WoW continued to become much more casual friendly. This merging of 10/25 man raid loot/lockouts is the next logical progression in Blizzard’s apparent strategy. Just as Nintendo’s ‘Blue Ocean’ strategy expanded the gaming market by appealing to a wider variety of people, so too does Blizzard expand WoW’s gazillion person player-base by continuing to appeal to an expanding contingent of casual player. I, for one, welcome this change.

With 10 man raids now on equal footing with 25, I’m able to raid with what’s left of my best old-school raiding friends and be rewarded, not for our time sink, but for our skill (assuming Blizzard is able to properly balance difficulty). The beauty of playing with a group you’ve known for 5 years is that the headache previously associated with raid leading is completely gone. 10 mans of this nature are laizzez faire. As Bronte said, these are knuckleheads you can trust with your virtual life. I know Bronte can pick up the slack if I get incapacitated; I know these tanks won’t keyboard turn and let me die to adds *cough* Waevyrn; I know these DPS won’t stand there with their thumbs up their butts while a mob blast novas; I know Peebers is going to be drunk. This kind of synergy is what makes 10 mans so appealing.

Many hardcore raiders hate this pandering to the casual, seeing it as trivializing their hard work, and I sympathize. However, look at it this way: the added time it takes to organize 25 mans will be balanced by the increased speed in which 25 man raiders will gear up via increased item and badge drops. Many people seem to be downplaying the importance of this. What this means is that it is 25 man players who will first be decked out in Tier 42, and therefore the first players geared enough to take on Hard Modes, reaping the inherent benefits (Be it titles, mounts, better gear, etc.). Your elitist e-peen can still be satiated! People who see this change as the death of 25 mans are mistaken. The quality of a piece of gear should be based on the skill required to obtain it. The amount of gear you acquire should be dependent on the amount of time/energy you put into acquiring it. This seems to be the philosophy Blizzard is approaching with these new raids, and therefore there will still be much incentive for 25 man raiding as it will simply be the quickest way to gear up and take on Hard Modes. That time and effort you put into organization is rewarded with efficiency, while still allowing 10 mans to acquire equal level gear, albeit at a slower pace. And I’m entirely all right with that.

“The Death of 25-Man Raids in WoW” or “A Larger Discussion on Cataclysm Raid Changes”

April 27, 2010 6 comments

A Quick Recap

Yesterday Blizzard Entertainment announced some unexpected changes to the raid structure in World of Warcraft’s third upcoming expansion, Cataclysm. 10-man instances and 25-man instances will feature the same loot from boss encounters, and will share a raid lockout ID. In other words, if you can get an item from a 25-man instance, you can get the same item from the 10-man.

Some Questions About the Raid Lockout ID

The only thing I am confused about is raid lockout IDs. If the 25-man and 10-man versions share the same ID, does this mean a) if you kill a boss in the 25-man version, he also dies in he 10-man version, or b) If you are saved to a 25-man instance, you cannot enter the 10-man version of that instance for that week.

Additionally, is it possible to kill one boss in the 25-man version, and kill the next one in the 10-man version, since the ID is the same?

Answers, I suspect, will emerge over the course of time.

A Matter of Difficulty

So far, the 10-mans feature the same encounters as 25-mans, simply tweaked to the smaller group size. In most cases the 10-man version of an encounter is easier, since there may be a smaller number of factors or combat mechanics to manage. In certain other cases, the 10-man versions are substantially harder than their 25-man counterparts (Sartharion + 3D comes to mind).

One of the things highlighted in the announcement was that the difficulty fluctuation between 10-mans and 25-mans will be closer. I am sure anyone can agree, it would be virtually impossible to ensure the same exact difficulty for any given encounter across both types of raids, so I wonder how this claim can be made with the wide disparity of combat mechanics involved in a 10-man, vs. a 25-man.

Shifting Perspectives

It is interesting to me how difference in your status as a raider can diametrically alter the manner in which you look at this piece of news. I have been playing WoW with the same band of ruffians, off an on, for the last five years or so. In that time, we have raided 40-man instances, briefly held on to the top-dog slot on our server, and conquered 25-man, 20-man and 10-man content. The group I run with is at a juncture where we are tired of having to recruit new individuals to our folds every few months as people splinter, burn out, get tired or simply move on. We are just focused on building and maintaining a very closely-knit force of about 10-12 raiders to consistently take on 10-man content.

So when we heard of the announcement above, everyone in the core group was ecstatic. We would no longer have to be second-class citizens simply because we did not want to go through the pains of running 25-mans with nearly 15 unknown individuals. We could finally compete with the larger guilds on equal footing.

But I found out quickly that our perspective was quite different from those who were in larger guilds. Matticus, for one, believes that having the same drops, just multiplied by 2.5, would be screwing over the 25-man raiding guilds.

“Please, do not screw over the players who prefer to do 25s. I believe some of the extra rewards are badges, loot, and gold. The extra gold is nice and all but for most organizations, it isn’t a problem. Having extra badges will speed up the gearing process for sure.”

Matticus fears people will naturally gravitate towards 10-mans because they are easier (and arguably faster) to organize than 25-mans, and now offer the same exact loot. Understandable I suppose. I mean think about it, the 10-mans now enjoy the advantages of some of the following:

  • a tightly-knit crew
  • ease of organization
  • speed of putting it together
  • access to the same content and itemization
  • better probability of rolling for an item you need (a 10% chance in 10-mans vs. a 4% chance in 25-mans)

He also brings up another interesting point. In the past, players  from the 25-man version of an instance would tear up the 10-man version because they were over-geared. But the playing field is the same now: both instances offering the same rewards implies that gearing from the 25-man will not give you a distinct advantage over the 10-man.

Larisa, over at the Ping Pigtail Inn, another 25-man raider, shares the same perspective. She also feels that 25-mans should have better rewards than 10-mans because organizing a 25-man raid is significantly more complicated. Having organized a guild of over 60 individuals for 40 man raids in vanilla WoW, I understand her perspective, but being in the 10-man raiding boat now, I don’t agree with her conclusion.

She herself states that the 10-mans can be arguably more difficult because the mistake of one individual has that much more impact on the overall raid than in a 25-man. This is perhaps the most powerful argument to make for the upcoming change. On any given encounter in a 25-man, if a healer gets himself killed, there are still (on average) four other healers that can pick up the slack. If a healer dies in the 10-man, the other healer is effectively screwed unless there is some sort of miracle. Losing one DPS’er in a 25-man could mean a net loss of 1 / (25 – 5 healers -3 tanks) x 100 = 5.88% DPS. Losing the same in a 10-man implies a net loss of 1 / (10 – 2 healers – 2 tanks) x 100 = 16.67% DPS, nearly three times the overall impact.

Additionally, there is a social argument to be made here. Having played with a large number of individuals in the many years I have played the game, I know I am playing at my best and I am most comfortable when I am raiding with individuals that I can trust with my virtual life. A 10-man, for me, has just the right number of individuals that I can rely on in any given situation. In any raid larger than 25 people, I am almost guaranteed to run with at least a few individuals I might not be comfortable playing with. So if I just want to play with my core group, why should my raiding be penalized because I choose not to group with the people I don’t enjoy playing the game with. This new change affords smaller, closely-knit communities this exact privilege: to enjoy the game with the people you want to play with, without having to worry about doing inferior content for inferior loot.

Larisa also quotes a comment from MMO-Champion:

“This means basicly get the best ppl from you 25 man raiding guild , kick out all others , and focus on 10 man raids? less troubles with organisation , less drama , more chance on raiding since you don’t have to count on that many peeps.”

I have to admit I can sympathize with her frustration, but I feel that the change is necessary and long overdue. In addition, if a 25-man guild kicks out the weakest links, it goes on to prove the social point I made above: everyone prefers playing World of Warcraft with the people they can trust and rely on in any given situation. This change, although not terribly conducive to incite interest in 25-mans, allows you to do that.

Avatar has a different take altogether, one that none of the rest of us thought of. He says:

“First because 10 and 25s are on the same lockout timer, I expect to see pug 10s and 25s (with the exception of alt runs) to mostly disappear, no one wants to chance getting a pug together and lock themselves out of both the 25 and 10 man version, especially if you can run it with your guild. Most raiding guilds probably won’t tolerate you getting locked out of raids.”

It is an interesting thought, but I doubt most individuals that raid endgame competitively, also pug the same content. I think pugging will continue, albeit the number of raids will reduce because of the shared lockout ID, but not disappear altogether. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

At least Keen, in the same boat as I am, agrees with me in this.

“This is fantastic.  My guild (or a pug or whatever) can choose to spread our content out over a longer period and tackle one of these smaller raids a night or pack them all in.  We can rotate people in and out and people can choose what they can make and not feel like they’re missing out by going to one because better loot drops in the other.  I’m a big proponent of streamlining raids.  I’d prefer them to just be the dang bosses anyway with the fights being more intricate and epic.  This moves right along in that direction.”

Just a matter of perspective I suppose. :)

“Smaller Guilds Buffed in Cataclysm” or “10 vs. 25″

April 27, 2010 7 comments
EDIT: A larger discussion on the upcoming raid changes can be found here.

Blizzard today shared some truly stunning news regarding the way 10-man and 25-man dungeons will perform in World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion. Ready? The loot tables for raid lockout ID’s for 10-mans and 25-mans will be the same.

This is undoubtedly one of the biggest changes since 10-man and 25-man dungeons were introduced. It effectively implies that smaller guilds will no longer have to feel like they are engaging inferior content for inferior loot because they cannot muster the numbers for a larger 25-man team. In addition, the 25-man guilds will not be able to farm the 10-man content as well, since the raid lockout ID will be the same.
Blizzard has essentially taken steps to ensure the smaller guilds can play and compete on an equal footing with some of the larger guilds in WoW.

To summarize some of the key points in the announcement:
  1. 10-man and 25-man will be comparable in difficulty.
  2. You can choose the difficulty of an encounter (normal or heroic) when you get to the boss.
  3. The initial raids in Cataclysm will be designed to be tackled by players in Cataclysm dungeon blues and crafted gear.
  4. Most importantly, 10-man and 25-man instances will drop the same exact loot, and share the same lock out. The only difference is that if the 10-man drops 2 items from a boss, the 25-man will drop 5 items from the same boss to keep loot distribution even.

It’s not April 1st is it?

“Cataclysm Features Flight From the Get-Go” or “280 is the new 310!”

April 20, 2010 1 comment

Yup, you read it right. During a Twitter Chat with Blizzard developers, Bashiok says there are plans to allow flight from the moment you load into the decimated and wrecked world of Cataclysm. In addition, all mounts will be upgraded to 310% speed, because Blizzard doesn’t like the fact that no one uses their older mounts once a faster mount is acquired through PvP or instance achievements etc.

Our current plan, is that in Cataclysm, you can learn a new rank of flying that lets all flying mounts move at 310% (even current 280% mounts). That will probably be as fast as mounts will ever get. We don’t like it that when you get a 310% mount that you stop using your old ones. (source)

More than likely, you’ll just be able to fly from the beginning. (source)

It does make sense on some level I suppose. I don’t own a 310% speed mount myself (however, being a Paladin, my mounted speed on 280% speed mount is actually 336%, so suck it non-Paladins-who-own-a-310%-speed-mount!), but I don’t know anyone who owns a 310% mount, and uses a slower one, regardless of how cool it looks. And in all honesty why would they? This is a clear case where function wins the ever-raging battle against form. If you can get there faster, why does it matter if you are riding on a cross between a retarded unicorn and Chuck Norris to get there?

Or something like that?

“Cataclysm Paladin Class Changes” or “Couldn’t Have Said it Better Myself – Almost”

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Chase Christian on WoW.com has written up a fantastic recap of the Holy Paladin class changes, the class I am most interest in, since I have been playing that role for nearly six years now. It’s worth a read if you are into Holy Paladins, and most of what he says makes a lot of sense.

The only thing I don’t particularly agree with him on his perceived enthusiasm regarding Healing Hands. I don’t feel the changes announced so far can convincingly make the argument that Paladins may, finally, step out of their tightly confined box of being tank healers.

I suppose time will tell.

“On the Notion of Paladins as Group Healers” or “The Who What Now?”

April 16, 2010 2 comments

In the proffered class changes for Cataclysm, three new spells have been announced for Paladins: Blinding Shield, Healing Hands, and Guardian of the Ancient Kings, accompanying some other interesting changes such as combining Blessing of Might with Blessing of Wisdom, making Holy Shock and Crusader Strike core abilities for all Paladins, using Spirit as the mana-regeneration stat, and a new, talent-based Greater Heal.

What stood out to me were the proposed, if marvelously vague changes, allowing Paladins to be suitable group healers. Holy Paladins have three spells, Holy Shock and Flash of Light for quicker heals and Holy Light for better throughput. Healing Hands and Greater Heal expand the healing arsenal. A Holy Paladin could put Beacon of Light on the tank, use Healing Hands to help the group, and directly heal a secondary target. However, since Healing Hands necessitates close proximity, and lasts merely six seconds, the group healing may improve marginally, but I am not convinced it will be enough alter their perception as weak group healers. Obviously the Ultra-Uber-Heal does not help group healing.

Blizzard also alluded to the fact that healing two targets for the cost of one, as allowed by Beacon of Light, would be too powerful for Cataclysm. To balance that, they might either increase the cost of a Beacon-based healing, or restrict Beacon to certain heals. This seems, at least to me, a counter-intuitive methodology. One the one hand, group healing is being dangled in front of Paladins as the most desirable change, while on the other hand, certain tried and tested mechanisms are being penalized for fear of being too powerful, thereby nerfing the Holy Paladin.

Perhaps the concept will make better, more holistic sense with additional information, which obviously includes as yet unrevealed changes to Paladin class mechanisms.

“Bronte the Psychic” or “Math FTW?”

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I predicted over a month back what the release dates for Icecrown (Patch 3.3) and Cataclysm would be, using some empirical analysis of past content release and gaps. Looks like I may have been right after all!

Read this: ““Cataclysmic” or “When it’s Done, Stupid!”“.

Then read this: “Patch 3.3 Not Live for “1 Month +”“.

“Cataclysmic” or “When it’s Done, Stupid!”

October 15, 2009 9 comments

Cataclysmic or When Its Done Stupid

Speculations for a possible release date for World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Cataclysm, are already making the rounds within the blogosphere. It was about as inevitable as Mel Gibson’s fall from grace, or the steady stream of ‘leaked’ celebrity sex tapes, I suppose. As MMO players, with tiny morsels of carefully manipulated information thrown our way every once in a blue moon, rumors, speculations, and in this case, estimations are what keep us at bay till the vicious cycle starts all over again.

Let’s take a look at what some of the people in the community have to say.

Pink Pigtail Inn

Elnia over at Pink Pigtail Inn believes the game will be released on February 1, 2009. She gives five reasons:

  1. The expansion was announced at Blizzcon. It doesn’t make sense for them to wait for another Blizzcon to announce the release date.
  2. The last two expansions were released in the winter season.
  3. Blizzard said it would make yearly expansions. Considering that they have been working on Cataclysm since before Wrath was released, a summer 2010 release date would be very unlikely.
  4. Icecrown will be released likely no later than December 1, 2009. Anything past February 1, 2010 would create a massive content gap.
  5. Anything past the February 1, 2010 release date would be a poor marketing decision as you would not be able to tap into the deep pockets of the holiday shoppers.

Tobold’s MMORPG Blog

The aptly named blog has an entry that argues for a 6 month delay between patch 3.3 and the third expansion. He states that Blizzard has sped up its development cycle and wouldn’t need a full 24 months to put out a new expansion.

We Fly Spitfires

Finally, Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires says the release date will be 11th November, 2010. His reasoning? The simplest of all: a hunch.

My guess: July 20, 2010

Let’s look at some empirical and chronological evidence.

  1. The last two expansions’ release dates were announced on September 11, 2006 (BC, released January 16, 2006), and September 15, 2008 (WotLK, released November 13, 2008), and not during Blizzcon. This means Blizzard will likely not announce it by next Blizzcon, the announcement will be much sooner.
  2. Going off of what Tobold said, for Blizzard, if providing a polished product means taking the extra time to ensure everything is just right, they will delay the release. Burning Crusade was released 26 months after vanilla WoW. Wrath of the Lich King was release 22 months after the Burning Crusade. Elnia’s estimation, Feb 1, 2010 is merely 15 months after the previous expansions. Tobold puts it at early summer, say, May 1, 2009, which makes it 18 months. Gordon’s guess is a full 24 months. Given that the second expansion was released 4 months sooner than the first one, it stands to reason that the third expansion will take less than 22 months. 15 months, however, seems highly unlikely to me. So I am with Tobold on this one.
  3. Let’s look at the patches right before the last two expansions. Patch 1.11: Shadow of the Necropolis was released on June 11, 2006, well over 7 months before the expansion. Patch 2.4: Fury of the Sunwell was released on March 25, 2008, again almost 8 months before the second expansion. This implies there would be approximately 7+ months between the last major patch, Icecrown, and Cataclysm. So Tobold is again right on the money. Elnia feels anything more than 3 months is too long a content gap. It is for maybe the top 5% guilds that play WoW, but not for everyone. There should be at least 6-7 months to allow everyone to see the penultimate content in Wrath of the Lich King.
  4. The marketing Masters graduate in me agrees with Elnia in that anything past February 1, 2009 would be a poor business decision. But then again consider the fact that WoW has nearly 12 million active subscriptions. Most of the player base is excited about Cataclysm. I have a feeling that no matter what the release date, the store copies would vanish faster than Thai whores on new years.
  5. How long before Icecrown? I have built a time line of patches that introduced new instances. The average release time between major content patches is 4.4 months. Following the law of averages, we should see Icecrown sometime around December 20, 2009. The date doesn’t make sense, as a December release will see limited playtimes due to the holiday season. A more realistic release date would be January 5, 2009. That being said, clock on the seven month cycle from the last major content patch to the expansion date would kick off on December 20, 2009.
  • Vanilla release
  • Mauradon – 1.5 months
  • Dire Maul – 2.7 months
  • Blackwing Lair – 4.3 months
  • Zul’Gurub – 2 months
  • Ahn’Qiraj – 3.5 months
  • Naxxaramas – 5.6 months
  • The Burning Crusade – 6.8 months
  • The Black Temple – 4.3 months
  • Zul’Aman – 5.7 months
  • Sunwell – 4.4 months
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 7.6 months
  • Ulduar – 5 months
  • Call of the Crusade – 3.7 months
  • Icecrown – Unknown
  • Average: 4.4 months

Given the data above, I estimate that Cataclysm will be released July 20, 2010. What do you think?

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