So when Ghostcrawler says that he doesn't like the current situation with 25s and that "Entropy will cause 25s to break down into 10s without strong counter force," all I have to say is we told you so.
I still think that the addition of 10man raids in WotLK was based upon false assumptions about what made Karazhan and Zul'Aman popular in TBC. I still think that the unequal design of WotLK could have worked if Blizzard had given more appropriate rewards to 10man raiders and limited access to both formats. Instead of trying to fix the problems they created, they tried create a new systems and end up creating new and bigger problems.
Yea, I'm little bitter, but you can't unring a bell. As much as I and many other people would love for Blizzard to revert some of the changes they made in WotLK and in Cata, I don't thing any of us are deluded enough to thing Blizzard would ever do that.
The question is how do we move forward? Are 25mans worth saving? If so, why? And finally, how do you save 25mans?
Why are 25s Worth Saving:
It shouldn't come as a surprise to any of my regular readers that I think 25s are worth saving. However, I will admit that I sometimes have a hard time articulating why. Let me try again.
Epicness: To be completely honest I don't find this to be a very strong argument. Though I have read all of the books I don't consider myself a lore nerd, and have considered WoW more of a puzzle game then a story that I'm playing through. That said, WoW is a very story driven game.
We are the solders on the front lines in a battle for the universe, and have had to fight forces of unimaginable strength. With that in mind it seems a little strange to me that 10 adventure's can band together and save Azeroth from demons, old gods, and elemental lords. If that's the case why wouldn't the faction leaders just form a raid team to take care of it?
I realize that this is just a game and you can't apply logic in a lot of these situations. I also realize that some of this is explained by having Thrall use the Dragon Soul or having Cenarius and the Archdruids help with Rag. Plus, 25 is just as arbitrary a number as 10 in this respect, but raids were designed to be the place where players get into the big fights and take down the big bosses. Therefore, I think you should need a big group to conquer these foes and 10 people just isn't a big group.
This is an MMO, not an RPG: When the Cross-Realm Zones were introduced with patch 5.0.4 quite a few players complained because they didn't like the increased competition. Blizzard responded by basically saying "tough, this is a multi-player game." I completely agree with that response. Blizzard should emphasize the Mulit-player part of MMO, but they should also emphasize the Massively part which they have done nothing but undermine since the first expansion.
There are plenty of game styles out there were you can get together with a small group of friends to fight bosses and complete challenge, but where else can you join 24 other people in the fight to the evils of a fictional world? I'm not a video game expert by any stretch of the imagination, but MMOs are the only place I know of where this is possible and it's one of the aspects that made MMOs so awesome in the first place. Without it, MMO's are just another RPG.
There is Demand for 25mans: I can't say this with scientific certainty, but there is a lot of demand for 25man raiding out there. Over the past two years I've been in a lot of guilds and talked to a lot of people. I have heard a lot of 10man raiders say they would prefer a 25man raid, but can't find one that fits their schedule or that is on their server. On the flip-side I have yet to hear a single 25man raider say they would prefer 10s, and have only heard of one new 25man guild
The problem is supply, not demand. People will take the path of least resistance everything else being equal. As a result players who prefer 25s stay with their guild now that it's 10s because it's easier not to move or they can't find a 25 guild that fits their needs. There are guild leaders who let there guild turn into a 10man guild because it's a lot easier to form a 10man team out of your remaining 20 then finding 5 new players.
The Free Market Solution:
If you know anything about free market economics then you know that you fix a supply problem by increasing the rewards for the supply. This is why Alaskan Crab fishermen get paid so much. We as a society really want the crab, but only few people are capable of supplying it and willing to accept the risks. Therefore they charge a lot of money for the crab and we pay it.
This is the big problem with 25mans currently. They require a lot of extra work to maintain because your roster is 3 times as big, but the only reward for leading a 25man raid is your own personal preference and a miniscule amount of extra gear. The question is how can Blizzard increase the rewards of 25man raiding without gutting 10man raiding and reintroducing some of the old problems.
How Not to Save 25mans:
I think it's clear that Blizzard really under estimated how significant of an advantage 10s have over 25s. To counter that advantage 25s need an incentive that is just as significant, but can't be so strong "that all the 10s players stampede back to 25s."
Gear is a Poor Motivator: This isn't to say that Blizzard can't motivate players with gear. They do it all the time. However, there are only two ways gear can motivate players and I don't think either is very good at balancing the additional logistical challenges of 25man raiding.
- Quality: This is the first way gear can motivate a player and it is extremely powerful. It is one of the key ways Blizzard has motivated players since the beginning of the game, but when they split 10s and 25s in WotLK it proved too strong. Players who were motivated by gear ran 25s and forced 10s into an inferior role.
- Quantity: The issue with Quantity is that it is too weak of a motivator. Sure, the players will get their gear a little sooner, but what happens after they get it? You can't equip helmets, so after you get the items you want Quantity is unimportant. This is how Blizzard tried to reward 25s in Cata, but it obviously didn't work that well. They are doubling down on it in MoP, but I expect it will work just as well.
The first problem I see is that it's too weak to fix the problem on its own. Realm firsts are only important if they are an actual achievement. If there's only one guild competing to be the first on the server, as is the case on many servers, then it's not really much of an achievement. It would also be diminished if it happens significantly after the 10man feat was achieved. Finally, it offers absolutely no incentive for the guild that comes in second, which is unfortunate because realm firsts are determined by time spent just as much as they are determined by skill.
The second problem is how do you prevent a 25man guild from getting the 10man achievement? Obviously, you can make the two achievements mutually exclusive and that would prevent the guild that got the 25man realm first from getting the 10man version. However, how do you prevent the #2 25man guild from getting the 10man achievement?
This isn't to say that I think there shouldn't be separate achieves for 10s and 25s. In fact I think 10s and 25s should be rewarded separately, and the fact that they weren't was the biggest problem with the system in WotLK in my opinion. However, creating a system that rewards them separately and fairly is going to be quite difficult now that 10s and 25s are treated equally.
How to Save 25mans:
It's right to point out that the "logistical" or "organizational" burden largely falls on the leaders and that the most effective incentives would be focused on them. If this were up to the free market the best raid leaders would find a way to get compensated with free gametime or something, but there are too many opportunities for abuse if Blizzard tried to reward guild leaders directly. So Blizzard needs to find indirect ways to reward them.
Give Players/Leaders a Tangible Reason to Prefer 25s: As I said before, people will generally take the path of least resistance. If a guild is faced with the choice of recruiting 5 new people and stay in 25s or downsize to 10s, it's pretty clear that downsizing is the easier option if everything else is fairly equal. Therefore making players/leaders give up something by converting to a 10man gives them an incentive to stick it out and preserve the format.
This would work for a couple of reasons. First, if the raid leader likes the reward they have more reason to recruit rather then give into the easier path. Second, if the players like the reward they are more likely to help the leaders recruit, relieving some of the burden on the leaders. Third, if players like the reward, then they are less likely to accept the downsizing and will be more willing to change guilds to gain the reward. As a result, there is a larger pull for 25s to recruit from which should make it easier.
At this point I wouldn't be surprised if there are a couple of 10man raiders who are fuming mad and asking why 25man raiders deserve perks that wouldn't be granted to 10mans. To be completely honest, I don't think that argument is without merit. I don't think that the average 25man raider does something more then the average 10man raider that makes him more worthy of perks. However, this entire post is based on the assumption that 25s are worth saving. You don't have to agree.
Give them Free Consumables: One of the best ways to motivate people is to give them stuff. In this case the trick is to give them something strong enough to cause them to make an effort to raid 25s, but not so strong that people feel like they have to raid 25s. In my opinion free consumables could come close to striking that balance.
What if when you walked into a 25man raid there was a guy standing there handing out flasks and food that could only be used in 25man raids. From the officers stand point this is a win because they no longer have to worry about Cauldrons and Feasts. They also don't have to deal with the questions about when they are going to be dropped or with waiting for everyone to arrive before dropping them. From, the players stand point this makes 25s slightly more attractive because they then know that they won't have to farm mats or buy them off the AH. Granted many guides do supply these things so there was little worry in the first place, but I do think it makes 25s more attractive for the player if only a little.
Yes, I believe that it is in Blizzards best interest and in the best interests of the game to save 25man raiding. If you disagree that's fine and I can understand why you may reject what I'm suggesting in that case. However, there are a lot of people that don't want 25s to die, and some of them are important people at Blizzard.
So if 25s are to be saved then Blizzard needs to take some bold steps. The first is to recognize and accept that the 10 and 25 man formats are inherently unequal and can't be treated as if they are equal if they want both formats to survive. The second step is to reward players, leaders, and builds in a way that tries to counter that inequity. I know 10man players won't like that but it is what is required if 25s are to survive. If Blizzard isn't willing to do that to save them, then they might as well go ahead and kill them now.