Monday, April 26, 2010

Cataclysm Raid Progression Preview - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

I was thinking about writing something else this afternoon, but with this breaking news, I thought it was better to offer my opinion.  Here is a copy of what Blizzard said this morning:

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! 

So many things to go through in just this little post.  I decided to break them into three categories to express my joy, concern, and WTF.

THE GOOD

1) Goodbye Summer Lull - So what if people are on vacation for a week, you can still raid at least one ten man and progress and get loot.  Blizzard will be my lord and savior if they make it so you can form two ten mans from the one 25 man lockout to continue.  I don't think that will happen, but it would be awesome.

2)  Goodbye Waiting for People to Hit 85 - When the first group of ten raiders get to level 85, you are good to start progression raiding.  And when you get enough to get up to 25 man, the 10 man people won't be rolling on your loot because it is the same and they may have already got it.  Yes, Blizzard says there is more incentive to run 25 mans, but it doesn't mean you can't gear up while waiting for the rest of your guild.

3) Hello One Level of Tier Tokens - I think Blizzard hit the sweet spot with buying initial tier gear with badges.  However, instead of having the current confusing system of getting either the heroic 10 man or 25 man tokens and then moving up to heroic 25 man tokens, there will be one tier of tokens and it will be heroic.

4) Hello Multiple Raids in a Single Tier - That is the one great thing I do remember about Burning Crusade.  Yes, there were not a lot of bosses in the raids, but there were more raids.  And more raids equals more fun and unique challenges.   

5) Goodbye Gear Score - This is partially Blizzard's answer to idiots who say that Gear Score is important.   Now, you can only have 10/25 man gear or 10/25 man heroic gear.  

THE BAD

Just a note of clarity I personally feel all these changes are awesome.  There are a lot of great things in this.  I'm playing the devil's advocate for this.

1) Cannot Gear Up As Quickly - With only one raid lockout, you can only get X amount of badges per week.  This means it will take longer to get your initial tier gear in each subsequent tier thus making it harder and longer to get the best gear.
2)  Incentive for the Hardcore - With the exact same loot on 10 and 25 man raids, what is the incentive?  People in a PUG can get the same gear as I can in my hardcore raiding guild.  How is this fair?  Yes, we get more gear and more gold, but that is not enough incentive for the 25 man raiding guilds.

3) Eliminates the "Super" Group - What if I'm in a guild of 25 people where most don't have a clue what they are doing, but I have a group of 10 players who are really good and I would like to progress with them.  Should I have to drag the rest of these losers around to run 25 mans and still not get to run and progress in 10 mans?
4) Heroic 10 Man With Equal Loot as Heroic 25 Man - I feel like I should hold over the fact that I can run heroic 25 man runs and thus I'm better than you but you may have somebody who is getting dragged along in heroic 10 mans who have the same gear.  How will they know the difference and know I'm better?
  
5) Gear Score is Gone - How can I judge a player if they just run 10 mans and have the same gear as I do.  It is not fair.

THE (Potentially) UGLY


1) Heroic Gearing Before Raids - While I'm okay with this idea, I hope they do not move back to a BC mentality with this.  While I was playing a feral druid at level 70, I remember having to grind Cenarion Expedition rep to get the exalted staff which was best pre-raid staff for feral druids.  Please don't make me do that again.  I think running a few heroics to get the highest blue gear and some epics is fine, but don't make me grind rep to just get in raids.

2)  Heroic vs Normal Raids - Reading the post, I think they are going to try to do what they did with ICC and make it where you cannot attempt heroic mode until  you beat Lich King.  While I understand the thinking behind that, I would much rather go back to an Ulduar style heroic mode in two respects.  One, you should be able to try it at any time.  Wouldn't it be nice if you have been grinding Marrowgar for weeks on end and you had some way to make it heroic before you beat Lich King?  That would be awesome.  They can even have tiered things.  For example, you currently cannot fight Lich King on Heroic unless you beat Putricide, Blood Queen, Saurfang, and Sindgrigosa on heroic in that raid ID.  Second, they need to bring back the old way of activating hard modes.  While flipping a menu option is awesome, I would much rather push a big red button or have something in the environment that you could do to turn it on.  At one time, I thought that the menu option was fine, but after going back to do hard modes in Ulduar, it made me realize how much fun that was.

So these are my overall opinions.  I would love to hear from everybody on their thoughts on this.

4 comments:

David said...

I think if we can easily move from 25s to 10s on those bad attendance nights it will be fine.

Also assuming that they can normalize the difficulty I don't think you need to worry about progression disparities between 10 and 25 because you have to then assume the fights are the same difficulty

For me potentially it could be a life saver during the holidays, spring break and summer lull

http://variantavatar.com/

healsinheels said...

"I would much rather push a big red button or have something in the environment that you could do to turn it on."

That button has gotten me in SO MUCH TROUBLE. *grin*

Also your pic for "good" made me "d'awww" at my computer at work, dangit. :p

I'm cautiously excited about these changes, just like every other class/mechanics change I've seen thus far.

~Ash

pewter said...

Yeah, we've been going back to Ulduar HM recently, and they are a LOT more fun than the menu/difficulty settings of ToC. I've not done ICC heroics, but it is frustrating not to be able to attempt them - Lower Spire is so bloody boring I would welcome the chance to liven them up.

Redhawks said...

@David

I agree with about moving from 25 mans to 10 mans if necessary is great. I hope they do make it as easy as possible to do that. If they can make two raids out of one, it would be even more awesome. It is definitely one of those things that will help during times where attendance is small.

I agree with the normalization. They only have one of two ways they can. They either have to make 10 man harder or 25 man easier. I do not forsee Blizzard making 25 man easier, so we have to assume that the difficulty will just be raised on 10 mans.

@Healsinheels

I wish that button would have got me in trouble. I wanted to push it so many times, but was always told be raid leaders not to push it. I hope to get back in to hard mode Ulduar since I need Firefighter to get my 310% mount.

Also, I love cats. I have two cats of my own who sit and watch me play WoW. Or sleep.

@pewter

Ulduar hard modes actually felt like hard modes which is what I like about them. You broke XT's heart or pushed a red button or beat Steelbreaker last. Turning a menu option off and on does not seem right.