When they made the announcements at Blizzcon, I was excited by all the various things that were going to get fixed in Mists of Pandaria: More activities you could do by yourself or in small groups (3-man instances, pet battles, 5-man challenge modes), along with huge class and talent changes. However, the information on raids in Mists of Pandaria greatly concerned me. The raiding content was going to maintain the current split of 10 Normal, 25 Normal, 10 Heroic, 25 Heroic (with the addition of 25 LFR that got introduced in Dragonsoul). I see topics about raid sizes pop up all the time, most recently on WoW insider. This topic always gets me all worked up and angry because I’m in a 25-man raiding guild and I don’t want to see my guild die (and I feel like all attempts I make to defend my 25-man raid size just ends up with 10-man raiders angry at me). So, I’m going to take a slightly different approach with this article to look at why I feel that having two raid sizes is bad for the community (but more than one difficulty level is okay), why 25-mans aren’t going to survive MoP, and why I wish we would just move to 15-man raids.
Difficulty levels are okay
Having three difficulty levels (LFR, Normal, and Hard modes) seems to overall be fine. You can kill a boss in normal-mode and then go and kill it on hard mode, and you get a sense of accomplishment for having mastered the harder difficulty level. Some guilds will only see it on the normal level, and they will still be proud of themselves for seeing the content on their schedule. There are plenty of people who don’t have the life, reaction times, reflexes, experience, and/or computer equipment to handle raiding super hard modes all the time. My guild is full of a lot of people who have limited playtimes and have “retired” from hard-core raiding, and we have also brought to our raiding team brand-new raiders who entered their first raid dungeon with us when they first started raiding. While having multiple difficulty levels stressed me out when they first came out, I’ve come to accept that this was an overall good change for the game, even if there could be better ways to have more linear scaling rather than dichotomous scaling. Still, for the purposes of this post, I wanted to highlight that the multiple difficulty levels doesn’t create a problem for forming new guilds, since you have to kill normal-modes before you can start on hard-modes, everyone starts at the same place.
The problem of Brown shirts versus Green shirts
I often draw upon my psychology background for thinking about game mechanics. In some research labs, they split people in a room into two groups, and have them wear different colored shirts. For this example, lets say that these were the “brown” and “green” shirt groups. What actually happens in that community is that you get a division where people in the various shirt groups may actually grow to dislike each other over time, because you will grown an affinity with your “in-group” and discriminate against your “out-group”.
Why does this matter for the discussion of raid sizes? Well, being in a 25-man or 10-man guild is basically as meaningful right now as wearing a green or brown shirt – they are supposed to be the same. There is no meaningful reward for being in one raid size or another, there is no meaningful reason for two raid sizes to still exist, and all it does is create problems for the community because green shirts don’t want to join brown shirt guilds, and vice versa. Even if they are “the same” and all we do is come up with reasons for why one shirt is better or worse than the other. This is largely why “separate but equal” as a concept for creating our own social groups is fundamentally flawed and bad for the game, especially when one group is always going to feel like a minority. In WotLK, 10-mans were the minority, and that has swung the other way where now 25-mans are the minority.
Why 25-man raiding will eventually die at the current trajectory
People will largely take the easier path to get the best rewards. If LFR and Heroic modes offered the same exact ilevel rewards, no one would raid Heroic Modes, we’d all just run LFR. That’s why LFR and Heroic Modes have to offer different gear rewards – because if the only reward from doing Heroic Modes was an achievement that said “Congratulations on killing this harder boss” and handed you the same gear rewards, you wouldn’t do it.
There is one big difference that Blizzard couldn’t equalize for 10-mans versus 25-mans when they equalized the rewards by giving 10s and 25s the same ilevel loot rewards (ilevel is the only tangible loot reward indicator, so all other differences in loot rewards are essentially meaningless – and so I’m not going to talk about them here). That one big elephant in the room is about how easy or hard it is to form a brand new raiding guild. Regardless of the raid size, groups are always going to fall apart. People are always going to burn out of one raid group and join another. New guilds always have to form to take their place, and how those guilds form will always be driven by a number of factors, but in the end, people will form the guilds that are the easiest to form. Here are some “facts”, keeping in mind that this is coming from the perspective of a 25-man raider, and that I have at least some sort of bias against 10-man guilds for the reasons I explained above:
- Many guild leaders eventually get tired of leading the guild, and guilds often fall apart when their guild masters and officers burn out. Some guilds across the world stop raiding and fall apart every month, though the number of guilds falling apart varies, the fact is that there is an almost constant churn of old groups disbanding and new groups forming.
- It is easier to form a brand new 10-man guild and start raiding than it is to form a 25-man guild and start raiding.
- It is easy for a 25-man guild to down-size to a 10-man guild when your recruitment can’t keep up with your need for raiders.
- It is easy for a 25-man guild to turn into a 10-man guild.
- There are plenty of new 10-man guilds forming to keep up with the loss of 10-man guilds. There are NOT enough 25-man guilds to keep up with the loss of 10-man guilds.
- If 25-man raids keep falling apart faster than new 25-man raids form, then eventually there won’t be any new 25-man raids. There is no incentive for an inspiring Guild Master to form a 25-man raiding guild, and there isn’t any way to reward 25-man guild masters that won’t piss off all the people who want to raid 10-mans (because any meaningful incentives given to green shirts are seen as discrimination against brown shirts, and vice versa).
Why moving to 15-man raids is better than this death-spiral for 25-mans.
On one hand, there are a lot of people who are really attached to their 25-man raid size and hates 10-man raids, and so they want to see their raid size continue on in Mists of Pandaria. On the other hand, we are quickly reaching the point where there won’t be enough people willing to lead new 25-man guilds to keep that raiding size alive. Within 2 years, I don’t expect there to be enough 25-man raiding guilds running for Blizzard to be able to justify keeping the raid size on life-support. Each raid size requires development time and money to sustain. That slow death of 25-man normal/HM raids sucks for this game and hurts the community. The death of 25-mans is slow and painful, and feels like death by a thousand paper cuts. Just dissolving 25-mans and making everyone raid 10-mans sucks because there is still clearly a demand for the larger raid sizes even if no one is willing to lead the guilds necessary to support the raiding size.
We need to move to a one raid size to bring the community back to life again. With one raid size, you don’t have to choose between joining the brown shirt or green shirt team – everyone is on the same team! We can get more interesting content when Blizzard doesn’t have to worry about it being “equal” for the two raid sizes, so the players win by getting better quality and quantity of content. If difficulty of the encounters is the only dimension we need to be worried about, that makes recruitment easier for everyone, it makes the community more cohesive, and everyone wins.
I have written about wanting 15-man (one size fits all) raids in the past. I have always pushed for 15-mans as the compromise raid size for two reasons: 1) ten people used to be able to enter the 5-man content in Vanilla, making 10-man equivalent in “epic scale” to me as 5-mans, and 2) they capitalize on the class makeup flexibility of the larger raid sizes while having lower demands on the officers from an organizational standpoint than the 25’s. With Mists of Pandaria, 15-mans would allow for one of each class (once we have 11 classes) plus some growing room to have more than one of a few classes.