Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cataclysm Raiding and Badges

Blizzard released some info today on changes to raiding and badges in Cataclysm.

Essentially, 10 and 25 man raids will offer the same item level for rewards, and badges (or points, as has been proposed) is a distillation of what has been happening with WotLK.

Since I don't raid anymore, and have participated in exactly one 25 man raid in TBC, and have participated in exactly one 10 man raid in WotLK, my opinion is based on what I've heard from people I know directly, or what I've read about.  But it's an opinion, so I'll spout away.

On the forums, there's been quite alot of sad people heralding the doom of the 25 man raid, even amongst those who apparently prefer to raid in 25 mans.  This is where I get to sit back and point, and laugh, and giggle at the hypocrites QQing about their game that they've been participants in, going down the drain.

My thoughts:

  • Blizzard are making the change so that they don't have to deal with 4 levels of gear for each raid level that is released during the lifetime of the Cataclysm expansion.  They'll only have to deal with 2.  One for normal modes, and one for hard modes.  Alot of the complaints seem to be about 25 man raiders loosing an entitlement to better gear than 10 man raiders, simply because there are more of them.  This might be a legitimate complaint, if Blizzard were to introduce this change right now, but the current situation is that none of these people have played a Cataclysm raid, and it's highly likely that 10man and 25man raids will offer the same difficulty, as is appropriate for the number of players in the raid. 

Anecdotally (?), I always thought the 40man raids were slightly more forgiving than the 15 or 20man raids in vanilla.  You could have 2 or 3 people die because they did something slightly silly, and the whole raid didn't have to bite the dust.  Similarly, I would have thought that a similar thing might have occurred with 25man raiding.  However, with slightly better gear being offered as a reward, perhaps not.  With Cataclysm, and raids that have not yet been implemented, or nobody has actually played yet, you'd think Blizzard will be taking this into account.

So how do you compare a 10man raid with a 25man raid, and how can you find parity?  My guess is the DPS check.  Bosses usually have a health pool, and an enrage timer.  The simple math says you have to do this much damage per second before the enrage timer hits, or the raid wipes.

For a 10man raid, you'll have 2 tanks (one being off-tank for adds), 3 healers and 5 DPS.  Therefore, raid DPS will be calculated by the 5 DPS and 2 tanks doing damage on the boss.  The 2 tanks don't quite add up to two full DPS slots, because they only need to scale for threat, but Blizzard probably expect a certain percentage of damage (I believe it's now called Vengeance, but only applied to the main tank).

I've got no idea how many tanks, healers and DPS you have for a 25 man.  I might guess 3 tanks (2 are off tanking for adds), 4 healers (1 tank healer, and 3 looking after specific groups or the raid in general), and the rest are DPS (which would come to 18 DPS in my fictional group).

Now, to find parity between the two raids, Blizzard would need to tune it so that the each contributing DPS member would have to output the same DPS, regardless of the 10 or 25 man format.  To tune this, Blizzard would adjust the health pool of the Boss.

Of course, it doesn't stop there.  They would need to tune and find parity on a whole bunch of factors, like threat generation, damage mitigation, damage avoidance, adds, debuffs, buffs and whatever interesting effect that makes the raid fun to participate in.  In the end, DPS will heal the same amount of damage, and healers will be doing the same amount of healing, and tanks will be generating the same amount of threat, and everyone will be doing the same amount of fire dancing.

On the surface, I might say that the people in the 25man raid who may deserve something more are the raid leaders and officers who end up herding the few waste-of-spacers who just turn up each raid slot, expecting to get their phat lootz, just because there are 17 other DPS, or 3 other healers capable of hauling their slack.  But in reality, when you're taking on a raid encounter, at level, everyone has a role to play, regardless of raid size.

  • Blizzard are making the change so over geared 25 man raiders don't render 10 man raid content pointless.

The 10man raid format is good for guilds that want to keep things intimate, or can't or don't want to make up the numbers with randoms just to get some warm bodies filling spots.  However, what happened in WotLK is 25 man raiders taking their shiny 25man loot into 10man raids, blitzing it, then calling on Blizzard to produce more content because they're suddenly bored.  By having the same gear rewards for both size raids, and having a shared lockout, you're less likely to see 10 man content beaten so quickly.  You'll also allow an equal footing for 10 man raiders breaking into the 25 man scene.  The player wanting to trade for a bigger group to raid with can rely on their skill, not their gear, because the same gear is available in both raids.

  • Blizzard will still offer incentive for run 25man raids.

Somewhere in the post, they did state that 25 man raids will drop additional rewards, and that these rewards would be more gear in a single lockout, more badges and perhaps more gold.  They still want people to run 25 man raids, and the trade off for spending more time in a 25 man raid will be less time spent trying to hit the Valor points cap for the week.  They want 25 raids to be the more efficient method of gearing up.  I think those that currently run 25 man raids, do min-maxing and want to spend more time raiding and less time running heroic PUGs will cotton on to this and stick with the 25man format.

Now, points. Heroic points, Valor points, Honor points and Conquest points.  This is what Blizzard will be using to present the concepts of Badges, Emblems, Honor and Arena points in Cataclysm.

Conceptually, it's not so different from what we have at the moment.  When each new raid tier is introduced, the currently top emblem gets down graded a little, and a new emblem is introduced to buy the latest gear to fill the gaps until you can get drops that may or may not trump.  Though instead of having a collection of 4 or 5 badge types at the end of the expansion, you'll just have Heroic and Valor points.  With Valor points, you can buy the latest gear, and with Heroic points, you can buy gear from the last tier.  This should make gearing alts for raiding a bit easier, and you won't have to deal with lower denominations of emblems that you can't do anything with. 

I like the idea.. however, the representation is a little bleagh.

We've been dealing with Honor for so long, and we're comfortable with Arena points, because Arena is a little like a sport.  But settling for the "points" system for PvE rewards seems a little boring.  I'd rather having something with a tangible name, even if it's going to be represented virtually on a Currency Tab.  I'd like to see some sort of stone, shard, crystal, gem, powder or even just dirt.  Magic beans are a more imaginative in game representation that points.  And for PvP, perhaps scalps, clasps, hilts, ears, swatches of dried skin or gladiator molars and canines.  It's hard to come up with something that hasn't been used before, but points, while easy to read in a currency UI frame, are just a little dry for the imagination and palette.  Even tokens, though tried and tired, strike up a bit more enthusiasm than points.

The next transmutation material for alchemy will be interesting.  In Vanilla, we simply had enchanted leather, or converted iron to gold, and mithril to truesilver.  In TBC, we had Primals and Motes.  In WotLK, we have Eternals and Crystalized thingies.  In Cataclysm, the elements will be playing a bigger role and elementals everywhere will be spilling earth, fire, water, air, shadow, life and combinations therefore quicker than you can calculate just how many you'll need to farm to max any given profession.  Lets hope they come up with something better than Chunks and Lumps and points.

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