Posted by: Makakai | July 16, 2010

Raid Design in Cataclysm

In going through and catching up on my blog reading I came across a couple of well articulated articles by Vixsin on Raid Design and by Graylo on Raid Equity with an analogy that I want to build on to give readers a better idea of the constraints imposed on 10-man raiders in the current raid design and why the new design will be a great improvement.

In Vixsin’s analogy, the  comparison was of raiding to a marathon, I will extend this analogy to the loot being equivalent to athletic shoes. While Vixsin breaks the argument into three categories of accessibility & longevity; cost & reward; and challenge & sizing, I’m going to concentrate more on cost & reward and sizing as they contain the meat of the matter.

In looking at the current design of raiding I’m going to provide a scenario that describes the challenge that 10-man raiders face every time they raid. I will also try to touch on the two questions that many raiders face with the new Cataclysm raiding design:

  1. How do you tune an instance so that it is equally challenging for small and large teams?
  2. How do you provide motivation for players used to a better reward for larger formats to stay with the larger format?

The Size Challenge

What if you only had 15 friends/runners in your country that could even compete in the “marathon”? Should this group be penalized for being smaller than a country with 100s of runners? The small friends group of runners can only enter the “straight” course, yet they only get the reward equivalent of Converse™ shoes. Whereas the larger group can enter both the “straight” and the “hilly” course, getting the equivalent of Nike™ Air Jordans and filling in with the Converse™ shoes in those spots where Air Jordans aren’t available yet.

Furthermore, due to this disparity in shoes available to run the marathon constrains the friends country to make a treaty with another friends country in the hopes of fielding enough runners to enter the “hilly” course to get a chance at their Air Jordans. This leads to a new organizational challenge that the larger groups don’t even face.

The concept that organizing a group of 25 runners as being more difficult and thereby entitling them to better shoe rewards doesn’t seem like a significant enough argument in my opinion. When you have a small country of 15 friends, trying to organize a group of 10 runners is just as difficult.  Is the difficulty of organizing 25 runners out of 30-50 eligible runners any more difficult than organizing 10 runners out of 10- 15 eligible runners?

Just a couple of the challenges that a 10-man group faces organizationally include: (1) getting enough players online at the same time (assuming they don’t pug empty spots), (2) getting enough of the right types roles (e.g., tanks, heals, ranged dps, and melee dps), and (3) making sure everyone in the run can execute their role in the fight. Compare this to a couple of the challenges I’ve read and noticed that 25-man groups face organziationally: (1) getting enough players online at the same time (assuming they don’t pug empty spots), (2) getting enough of the right types of roles, and (3) distributing loot fairly and equitably.

From these two lists, it certainly looks like the 10-man organizational challenges are more likely to be a basis for a better reward; the significant difference is item number 3.  It seems to me that the challenge of the effect of a single death in 10 being a catastrophic situation, whereas in 25 (as many 10-man devotees are quick to point out) you benefitted from the cushion of your teammates because tuning is not nearly as exact  is more of a challenge than distribution of loot. Can anyone suggest a 25-man organizational challenge that would be a basis for a better reward?

As a note, one of the points they’ve brought up to motivate 25-man raiders with the new raid design is that more loot would drop and more points would be available. This should certainly meet the challenge of loot distribution for 25-mans.

The Reward Challenge

One example of a particularly difficult 10-man vs. 25-man gearing issue is caster/healer shields. The only way I can upgrade my 219ilvl shield on my paladin is in 25-man ICC off of Lord  Marrowgar. My 10-man guild is still working on the fights leading up to Sindragosa which is where the shield is for a 10-man player. Should casters and holy paladins feel penalized because their strict 10-man shield is on a boss that they haven’t taken down yet, when any pug can go and take down the boss with the 25-man shield? As one commenter on those initial articles put it “not being able to get your BiS because you like the wrong raid format just sucks.”

Now I will mention the infamous Sartharion 3D for 10-man groups. Do you recall that when it was first released it was difficult even for 25-man groups to complete the 10-man version of this fight? Now, have you seen the 10-man zerg runs for Sartharion 3D that have recently started becoming popular? Why do you think this is possible compared to the sheer difficulty it presented upon first release? I’ll give you one difference from those intitial tries; because everyone, even 10-man geared players have the equivalent of Air Jordans on for a race in which only Coverse™ are needed.

Back to the original analogy, the  reason the larger groups may find  the “hilly” course to seem so much more difficult than the “straight” course is because these larger country’s runners on the “straight” course are running on the equivalent of Air Jordans which are the appropriate entry for the “hilly” course. Whereas the smaller country is running that same “straight” course with the appropriate and expected Converse™ shoes. This is especially poignent since a lot of the encounters aren’t all that much easier (if at all) if you do them without any 25-man gear.

My opinion is that the ease with which the current Air Jordan wearers are defeating the competition of the Converse wearers on the “straight” course is going to see a sharp change and will be it’s own reward.

The Final Challenge

So how difficult will the tuning be if both the “hilly” race and the “straight” course both get the equivalent of adidas™ shoe rewards? I think Blizzard will be able to accomplish this as demonstrated by the way some 10-man encounters are more difficult than the 25-man encounters and other 25-man encounters are more difficult than their 10-man counterparts. It will just require more testing to make sure that the balance is present.

Now for the meat of the problem: “How do you provide motivation for players used to a better reward for larger formats to stay with the larger format?” I’m not entirely sure how to balance this problem, other than how Blizzard is attempting to do so; by providing more loot and more points. Although, as described above penalizing the smaller format folks while providing a reward for larger format folks isn’t the answer either.

The least the designers could do would be to provide exactly equivalent gear for the 10-man groups as they do for the 25-man groups. Having to run a 25-man to get gear that I can’t physically get (e.g., shield or trinket)  in a 10-man raid format (or vice-versa)  is certainly not equivalent.


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