Hear the music in the air? That is the death knell of World of Warcraft – or at least that’s what many players have said this week. These players started ordering up last rites for the game after a single developer post announced that 10-man and 25-man raids would share a raid timer and drop the same loot in Cataclysm. The sorry prognosticators of WoW’s fate argue the changes will cause the death of 25-man raiding and with it the death of the game itself. I am loathe to admit it, but these players are right…or at least half so.
So is 25-man raiding really on life-support? Unfortunately, for those of you who play the game with 24 close friends, the answer is yes. With a shared raid timer a decision will have to be made between raiding 10-man and 25-man mode every week, and it’s a lot easier to find 10 good players than 25 good players. If 10 and 25-man modes of the instance drop the same loot why take the second tier of 15 players? Why not go with the best 10? The instance will be cleared faster, coordination of players will be easier, and progression will be more likely. It’s going to take a pretty tight bond between 25 players to overcome the pressure to strip down to the 10 most talented. Blizzard has added the caveat that the 25-man instances will drop more loot (I am assuming that is per capita) than the 10 man modes, but that seems more of a way of placating 25-man guilds than an incentive to keep 25-man modes viable in the future. So just like the transition from Vanilla WoW to Burning Crusade, our guilds are going to be pruned down in anticipation of the coming expansion.
But does the pending transition from 25-man to 10-man really have to spell the doom of WoW? I hate to always play the historian here, but this has happened before. Remember when raids were 40 players? Remember the announcement to move to a 25-man format? The same doom and gloom warnings were heard all over the internet then too. But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral – WoW perked up and even flourished. We didn’t realize until raids were trimmed to 25 that we had been fielding 20-25 skilled players and filling up to 40 with players that were only really capable of smashing their heads against the keyboard regularly. Those same 10-15 people that died every other encounter were trimmed out of 25-man raiding. The results of the pruning were remarkable. Encounters began being more creative and challenging. Dungeons began being tuned to skilled players and not the mixture of skilled players and space-fillers that we had grown accustomed to in Vanilla WoW. At first the transition was rough. It was surprisingly hard to find 25 skilled players, but eventually it allowed for the design and implementation of more creative, challenging, and ultimately more enjoyable dungeons in Burning Crusade than we had seen in Vanilla WoW.
Soon 10-man raiding guilds will no longer be the red-headed-stepchildren of their larger 25-man counterparts. And the change is long overdue. Let’s face it. Despite the bravado and chest thumping of a 25-man encounter, how does it really differ from a 10-man? In Icecrown Citadel, the difference in difficulty between a 25-man and 10-man encounter was entirely artificial. The mechanics on the fights were essentially identical; there were just more players. Positioning 15 more players is oftentimes the hardest transition between 25 and 10-man raids. (Can you imagine taking 40 players to fight Arthas with defile? Good luck). Once that is accomplished 25-man raids were only really more difficult because you had to find 25 decent players, 15 more than a 10-man.
So what can we expect to see with our new streamlined 10-man guilds? Between the sheer reduction in numbers and the introduction of the new guild leveling system, I think that players can expect to experience a significantly more closely knit guild environment. The 10-15 players that raid together will know each other better and be more invested in each others’ successes than the 30-40 player guilds of the past.
Perhaps less obvious is the role that dual spec will play in new 10 man encounters. In a 25-man raid you can essentially field a raid with all classes all specs represented (Note: I know that would technically be 30 players but there are lots of classes that don’t really bring a different contribution to the raid depending on spec – hunters, warlocks, mages, I am looking at you). In 10-man raiding no such luxury exists. One fight you may need a resto druid, the next that player may be in owl form dpsing down a boss. Similarly a paladin tanking one encounter may pass the reigns of tanking over to a warrior or druid on the next encounter to switch to a holy spec. The limitation on numbers of raid members will introduce a new element of strategy to each encounter. How do you spec your 10-man raid to maximize your potential to down each individual boss? Players will have to be more flexible, they will need two specs, not an “off-spec” and a “main spec”. The other huge change will be in terms of time commitment. Right now, most serious players are essentially doubling their raiding time. They spend half the week raiding in a 25-man group, half the week raiding in a 10-man group. By merging the timers on 10 and 25-man raids Blizzard has given all of us an additional 5-10 hours during the week.
So before you proclaim the death of raiding and the dissolution of WoW, give your new and improved 10-man raid a chance; you might even like it.