Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Blizzard Needs to Do To Save 25 Man Raiding

So by now you've heard about Blizzard modifying raid lockouts so that 25 man and 10 man raids will share the same lockout, and both types of raids will offer the same exact loot.  In attempt to address the immediate obvious question, "why the hell would you run a 25 man raid?" Blizzard's response is:

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.

I don't think I need to tell you why this is pretty laughable, and basically every WoW blogger out there has prognosticated the death of 25 man raiding.  10 man groups are a complete order of magnitude easier as far as organizing a roster, coordinating during the raid, and general camaraderie and enjoyment.  The only way 25 man raids will survive outside niche/novelty groups is if the bosses in 25 man are an order of magnitude easier.  Like, radically easier.  Like, so easy then the difficulty of grabbing 25 other people is offset because the 25 man encounters are so damn easy, the bosses just puke out loot and keel over and die as soon they see 25 snarling toons enter their room.

Ultimately, my hypothesis is this: fail-wiping actually has to be less likely in 25 man raids than 10 man raids, otherwise 25 man raiding will basically die.

The inherent challenge in any raid is the "fail-wipe."  If X raid members don't perform action Y within whatever painfully short time period, then the raid wipes.  Almost every single raid boss requires action 'Y.'  DPS bone spikes in Marrowgar.  Stack up to get spores in Festergut.  DPS slimes in Putricide.  None of these in isolation are hard to do, and as you outgear the encounter, failure to do Y does not necessarily lead to a wipe (e.g. a DPS dies on Festergut's first Pungent Blight because he didn't stack spores, but the raid has enough DPS to still kill him).

But even if you assume the an average raider has only a 5% chance to commit an error leading to a fail-wipe (ie. a 95% chance of doing everything right), this means that a raid of 25 average raiders only has a 27% chance of not having a single person fail during the entire fight (thus leading to a fail-wipe).  However a raid of 10 average raiders has just a hair short of a 60% chance of the same outcome.  And this is why it seems easy to get a group of well-geared, competent people with lots of raid experience in ICC and down several bosses, but to get the same caliber of people in a 25 man group, and you kill Saurfang, wipe a couple times on Festergut, and call it a day and disband.

This needs to go out the window in 25 man raids, to the point where the ratio needs to be reversed.  Not just evened out, but reversed entirely.  Instead of the base chance for a fail-wipe to be twice as likely in 25 man, it now needs to be twice as likely in 10 man.  This can either occur by tuning up the fail-wipe percentage in 10 mans, reducing the possibility of failure in 25 mans, or reducing the consequences of failure in 25 mans so that it doesn't result in a wipe (thus is not a fail-wipe).

If you were to apply this model to our current ICC bosses, you'd see:
- Marrowgar: Only bone spikes for one person in the 25 man version too.
- Deathwhisper: Mana shield has the same health in 10 man and 25 man.
- Saurfang: There are four adds in the 10 man version too.
- Festergut: Only need two stacks of innoculation to survive Pungent Blight.
- Rotface: The pre-nerfed 10 man version was actually a good example of this, as his health and the rate of the diseases made it considerably more difficult to maintain DPS while dealing with slime.

Think of it this way: I wasn't around for the vanilla days, but I heard that while Molten Core was a 40 man raid, you really only needed about 20 geared and competent people to complete it and everyone else could practically be AFK.  This is what 25 man raiding will need to turn into.  If you can't carry people, if you can't bring along people who even with a 100% failure rate won't cause a wipe, then it's simply too hard.  Because of the overhead in organizing a 25 man raid to begin with, it's not sufficient to just make the fail-wipe ratio the same.  Even if I could grab 24 random people and get just as far as grabbing 9 random people, it's so much easier to find 9 random people that I'd still do that.

Or as I mentioned earlier, they could go the other direction and make 10 man raiding needs to be the equivalent of 10 man heroic raiding now -- extra mechanics to deal with and higher boss tuning.  But I doubt they'll go in this direction because they'll be able to make less assumptions about raid class composition which limits the mechanics they can throw at us and they only want raiding to get more accessible, not less.

If this doesn't happen, then 25 man raiding will inevitably die.  It won't happen overnight.  25 man guilds will give Cataclysm the old college try, but the minute something goes wrong -- guild drama, attendance issues, progression stagnation -- it's going to be too tempting to break into 10 mans.  Because otherwise what's the point?  Why put yourself through twice the chance of failure when you can just get 9 people you actually like better, kick more ass, and get the same loot?

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