Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another Look at 10 vs 25

The 10 vs 25 debate is nothing new to me or this blog. I've been talking about it for years and have gotten called names for having my opinions. When Blizzard announced that 10s and 25s would be equal in Cataclysm, I like many bloggers and players predicted that it would destabilize the 25man format and raiding as a whole even before the expansion was released. I've used numbers to show that the number of people participating in 25mans has dropped dramatically with each new content patch since 10s and 25s were made equal.

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.
Separate Achievements has Problems: A common suggestion from this past week is that there should be separate realm first 10s and 25s. While Ghostcrawler seemed to be interested in the idea, I have a couple of issues with it.

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.


Anonymous said...

There's also the fact that a lot of the "ideal 25's" that people are looking for are on another server/faction, which incurs additional costs. I'd say that this has a bigger impact on the number of 25 man raiding guilds than not having much of an incentive to run those raids.

If transferring is made cheaper (or free) then there wouldn't be the need for niche raiding guilds on every server. Most of the NZT based raiding guilds have gone to 10 man because they can't get enough people on their server, and there are few cross server applicants.

Improve the flow of people and 25's will pick back up again.

Anonymous said...

excactly - the whole point of this blog entry is flawed by the fact that you havent talked once about "why have so many guilds changed from 25 to 10 man" wich is because of the loose of players.

For Example Kul Tiras - Horde side.
We allways were in small numbers but in the start of Cata we had 5 25man raiding Guilds now MoP is about to start and we have only 2 cause most of the existing Guilds have crumbled to dust, changed server or just quit.

PS: greets to Vengeance :D

Tinderhoof said...

He did in fact mention why 25's have been dying. Folks go for the path of least resistance. If your 25 man roster only has 23 people show up, its easier to run a 10, or 2 10's. If that happens 2 weeeks in a row folks start to leave to find greener pastures, and then swaping to 10's becomes a forgone conclusion. I personally saw it happen 3 times in Firelands alone.

Like he said, "Path of least resistance". 10 man raids are easier in every facet save 3-4 poorly tuned encounters (Hagara, Magmaw pre fix jump to mind). I know I will get flammed for this. The first argument I usually see is the "Each person contributes more in a 10 man. If one person dies it's a wipe. 25's get more leaway cause you can lose a few before its a wipe". As a very well progressed 25 raider I can call Bull on this. Gray can back me up here as we raided together. During progression losing even 1 dps on 25 Yor'Sahj, or Zon'Ozz was a wipe. Same with Ultrax. On 10 man all 3 were a joke. I know because during the xmas holidays when only 10 people were available we cleared up to Hagara in 2 days. Again we were a good progression 25 guild, we wern't carrying anyone. It was simply harder in 25.

Xaktsaroth said...

Tinderhoof it really boils down to personal experience.

My guild had cleared DS and we teamed up with another guild that was slightly behind us on progress+ we had to take a few trade randoms. On that night we managed to clear 7/8 hc bosses on 25.
We kept pushing a few weeks with pugging together with our friends guild but keeping that amount of people together from 2 guilds + the need to pug was simply to much but the content was really not a problem for us to clear, apart from DW.
So examples like yours that I often see from 25 man raiders me personally see little value in since it´s a lot easier for a 25 man guild to gather 10 great people then a 10 man guild + arranging the best possible setup.

That said I do agree with Graylo it is a big problem the communities is dying out in wow. Mmo part of the game is very much on the decline.

But from my view the biggest problem is that raids overall is getting thinner. It´s less lore around them,less epic settings (ds had 90% of it´s graphics made alredy), less bosses and much easier content overall.

My prefered solution is that they stop this nonsence of keeping 2 roads open.
Go with either 10 or 25, or imo 15 or 20 people, and take all the time needed to tune and balance 2 settings to make epic raids like BT,MH and Sunwell again.

Lastly I think this games need brick walls to keep guilds together. Now you have no incentive to stick together and really fight if you are not chasing top ranks since you can just wait on blizz to nerf content.
I really think they should stop nerfing heroic mode and keep normals/lfr to those who don´t want to put as much commitment into the game

Abyori said...

Would like to add some other barriers that could be lifted that I've heard others complain about.

Graphically, 25s are a mess. I know several people with somewhat older computers say they were just tired of raiding at 8 fps. A way to cut down on other players spell effects/sounds( for melee) without making raid mechanics difficult to see would be nice.

Recruitment is a pita, with cross server more so. It would be nice if there was a way to 'visa' a potential candidate to a meaningful raid before you have them switch servers. Perhaps have them raid but unable to receive loot from it (but still get the lock). This would allow guilds to 'try out' people that otherwise would seem too risky.

Megami said...

For some, downsizing to 10 mans is an option. For many 25 man raiders like myself, they are just not interested in 10 man raiding full time. I do it on alts or to help friends but I do not want to raid 10s full time even if it is easier.

At the end of T11, my guild was struggling to find just a few more talented people. After months of fruitless recruiting and called raids because of only 21 or so people showing up, the decision was made to suspend raiding. Several members decided to quit altogether, others transferred off to new guilds (our server is dead and our guild was the only 25 man on either faction consistently raiding).

I think another very serious problem is that WoW could be losing highly skilled raiders faster than they are replaced. As a recruiter for my guild for almost 3 years, I have definitely noticed a sharp decrease in not only the quantity but the quality of apps. A large amount of them have no heroic experience before Cataclysm. Seeing an app who has been around since Vanilla or TBC is a rare sight. How many well-known 25 man guilds have disbanded since WotLK? The good 25 man raiders are just not sticking around.

mushu said...

I complained loudly on every blog back in the day when they were screwing 25's and told everyone it would spell the end of 25's as we know them. Now I stand (well, sit) vindicated!!

25's *ARE* (and always will be) harder than 10's for a very simple fact: the area/room sizes are fixed!! AOE is much more difficult to get out of the way quickly and harder to fall back into place properly, there are always more adds, and everything just hits harder!

I agree with prev poster that lack of players was most difficult thing at keeping 25's alive because of the problem of 1 or 2 on the raid team not showing up, regardless of reason. Logistics however were not part of the equation since it always boiled down to 15 dps, 2/3 tanks, 7/8 healers. No biggie. And every 25-man guild farmed mats so that wasn't an issue either.

This truly is Blizz' fault and was completely caused by them. It is appropriate to reward higher ilvl gear to 25's and the Blizz QQ that "then everyone will feel necessary to run 25's" is BS--certain players, a small minority, may choose to do everything in their power to get the very best gear. SO FREAKIN WHAT BLIZZ!! LET THEM!

Ok, I'm calm now.. :)

oggy said...

I'm the gm/rl of a mediocre social guild on a very popular server. we have plenty of people, easily enough to go 25. We don't want to. Reasons are simple and ordered in importance

- 25 is a stress to raiders hardware. The number of our raiders/friends who would have to quit just because 25 is a clusterfuck of spell effects is more than one. That's wholly unacceptable

- To play 25 you need to carry some players unless you're aiming really high. We prefer to play with friends driving for one goal all around the same level

- I play this game for fun. Properly managing a 10m guild takes up enough of my life; a 25 would be chaos. Too many cliques, too much drama, too much effort.

It'd same something really serious to force me, and many players back into 25m raiding. And yes the word is force. Because most people don't want to raid at 5fps with half a team who know nothing and simply create crap. We could do it, we don't want to.

And for those saying 25 is almost unilaterally harder than 10s, please... magmaw, v&t, cho'gall, sinestra, MALORIAK, gunship, madness.

John said...

Xaktsaroth said:

But from my view the biggest problem is that raids overall is getting thinner. It´s less lore around them,less epic settings (ds had 90% of it´s graphics made alredy), less bosses and much easier content overall.

Lastly I think this games need brick walls to keep guilds together. Now you have no incentive to stick together and really fight if you are not chasing top ranks since you can just wait on blizz to nerf content.
I really think they should stop nerfing heroic mode and keep normals/lfr to those who don´t want to put as much commitment into the game.

I think this sums it up pretty well. WoW nowadays simple requires hardly any commitment since almost all content is fairly easily accessible. This may come as a blessing for individual players but it certainly came at the cost of the "MMO part" of WoW.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the way to save 25 raids... is to change them to 20 man raids?

Jabari said...

Well, you just got your wish Graylo...

25s are now going to give higher ilvl than 10s.