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Regional FlagRescuing 25-man raiding.Source
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Zellviren
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#1 - 2012/09/12 11:24:00 AM
If you follow raiding at all, it’s unlikely to have escaped your attention that the best progression raiding guild in the world between Icecrown and Firelands, Paragon, have been forced into biting the bullet and downsizing to a 10-man raid for Mists of Pandaria. Essentially, many of their players have ditched after Dragon Soul with a bad taste in their mouths for both the content itself, and the LFR looting farce that they got involved in.

While this wasn’t their first bout of exploiting, I do feel that a certain amount of frustration on their part is legitimate; the LFR bug was reported during the PTR, it still made it to live, and Blizzard then ruined the world first race by banning several of the competing guilds. I’m not condoning exploiting at all, but Blizzard really shouldn’t have been remotely surprised that the top guilds would use any advantage they could get their pixels on.

Suffice it to say, Paragon’s demands that you devote all your time to the guild during progression and that you’re a Finnish national don’t help with recruitment. That said, the game is now seeing the death throes of 25-man raiding across the board with WoW Progress suggesting that less than 8% of all raiding guilds run the 25-man format. With numbers like that, I’m forced to consider if there’s anyone raiding 25-man if they’re not trying to be internationally competitive.

You can practically hear the bell tolling.

So where’d the 25-man guilds go?

Essentially, the answer to that is pretty simple; why run a 25-man raid?

For every person who argues that they prefer it (and many, many players do), they have to fight through the current negatives:

    1. There are fewer 25-man guilds than 10-man.
    2. 25-man is logistically far harder to manage.
    3. 25-man has bigger reliance on attendees.
    4. 25-man has no additional benefits to offer.

I’ve deliberately avoided the “25-man encounters are harder” argument because it’s not universally true, but we’re still in an uncomfortable situation – there’s simply no incentive to put in the extra work for running a 25-man guild when you can get far less stress running a 10-man set up for identical rewards.

The biggest problem is that, eventually, Blizzard are going to have to weigh up the development cost of 25-man raids the same way they weigh up the development costs of everything else. And unless there’s a significant shift upwards in the percentage of 25-man guilds, it’s reasonable to expect that the format will be ditched altogether or, worse, left purely in the LFR format.

But the question isn’t “what’s wrong with 25-man raiding” – I mean really, who cares?

The question is how do we fix 25-man raiding?

The first thing to be borne in mind when trying to find a solution is the WoW Progress number I quoted above. Less than 8% is a dire situation, but it also means that 92% of players are running 10-man raids; it would be monumentally silly to do something that would upset that particular apple cart. Having said that, we don’t know how many of that 92% are actually guilds that would rather play 25-man but aren’t currently able to for any reason.

Alas, while that’s a consideration, we can do no better than speculate – it’s shaky ground.

Fortunately, if we can identify the issues, we can try and identify some solutions. This post will make its way to the official forums in one shape or form, but I want to promote a community debate on a subject that, when all’s said and done, is a community issue.

So, let’s start off.

Solution 1: Make 25-man have specific rewards.

Let there be no doubt that rewards are the ultimate motivator in WoW. If there is something to chase after, players will go for it assuming it’s reasonable to do so. In WotLK, 10-man raiding wasn’t even considered legitimate raiding for many because the best gear was in 25-man content and it was deliberately designed to be harder. If we attached better gear, vanity items, titles or legendary acquisition to 25-man raiding, you’d see it shoot back up in popularity again.

Viability: Next to zero.

Truthfully, I don’t see this ever happening. Blizzard were quite deliberate in their shift from people feeling like they had to do 25-man raiding for “real” progression, and a large dollop of the 92% erstwhile mentioned would be extremely upset if they were suddenly compelled to raid 25-man content again. I don’t think Blizzard would really want to lose another 2 million subscribers or more, and I honestly feel that’s what would happen if they went down this route.

Solution 2: Make 25-man have specific achievements.

Clearly, there’s a feeling that individual Feats of Strength for clearing content that hasn’t seen the nerfbat will be enticing; would it work for 25-man kills? It’s hard to say, but it might be one part of a bigger solution to make 25-man raid clears (and heroic bosses) into Feats of Strength or achievements in and of themselves. We could even suggest making individual titles for each raid size, rather than one-size-fits-all. Essentially, this is providing recognition for being a 25-man raider.

Viability: High.

Providing 25-man raiders with an incentive not related to rewards, progression or accomplishment is challenging, but an individual Feat of Strength has no downside. It’s a simple UI addition, it provides recognition for the extra effort required to run 25-man content and it doesn’t rob 10-man guilds of anything other than access to 10 points (at most). I also like the individual title concept, but I think it would probably be a step too far. It’s too close to a “reward”, I think.

Solution 3: Creating “guild alliances”.

I still recall the first kill of Malygos back on Kilrogg, as it appeared as if it was two guilds that did it (it was two guilds, but one was the “proving ground” for the main guild). If Blizzard significantly lowered the guild member percentage requirement for 25-man kills, you could potentially have up to three guilds getting together for 25-man raiding content without any of those guilds having to give up their identity, achievement or levelling perks. In fact, maybe a bonus to these (or individual Feat of Strength) could even promote the practice.

Viability: High.

Like the individual Feat of Strength, there’s no real downside to this and the development requirement is negligible; just a number tweak. It’s hard to know if this would be an incentive in and of itself, or even if it would allow certain guilds whose members don’t get along to see past personal differences. My guild during Trial of the Crusader set this up with another guild ran by chums of mine, and it worked beautifully but lacked the “guild progression” aspect that I think it would probably need via the achievement pane.

Solution 4: The 25-man raiding “pool”.

While queues aren’t always ideal, there may be some mileage in providing a 25-man raiding queue that lets a guild set itself up, join the queue with prerequisites set for what they’re after to fill in blank spots, then let the queue add in cross-realm players that are needed. So, for example, if a guild can only manage 22 players one evening, they can join the queue and use a UI addition to stipulate that they want another healer and two ranged DPS players. On the other end, individual players can elect to join the “pool” with their preferred role, and they’ll be added to guild runs that require them.

Viability: Medium to low.

While this could solve the issue of people not showing up, it still doesn’t really address the lack of incentive on either side. I also happen to think that the development time for this feature would be inhibitive; not least due to the potential for their to be loot based drama, or some other reason why a guild might not necessarily want to PuG a raid member. Perhaps the guild could get their normal loot, while the pool player would work with the LFR system AND the potential of being handed something the guild doesn’t want.

Now, this isn’t an exhaustive list.

I’m going to wrap up to avoid going on too long, but you can see the idea. We want to promote 25-man raiding without making it mandatory, and do it in a way that doesn’t introduce more problems than it solves. I reckon there are issues with the four solutions I’ve mentioned that I haven’t even considered, while other players will undoubtedly have their own ideas on how the problem could be solved.

For my part, I like the idea of the raiding pool as well as individual Feats of Strength and making guild alliances less punitive (you’re actively encouraged to AVOID doing that at the moment), but I’m just not sure how much mileage there would be in chasing this if it can be proven that 25-man raiding simply isn’t that popular.

But considering the fact that I know of occasions when two separate guilds haven’t raided due to numbers, but both had around 20 people online, I hold the opinion that too much massaging isn’t actually needed in order to revitalize the format.

What do you guys think?

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#72 - 2012/09/19 02:47:00 PM
This thread is a very good read, so a blue-tag is definitely in order :-)

We totally acknowledge that 25 man raiding is not in a good place right now, in fact the developers recently answered several questions involving the issue of 25 man raiding needing more love.

Here is what the developers had to say on this topic in the recent Reddit AMA Developer Q&A:
Q: What are Blizzards views on 25-man raiding? - Can anything be done to save 25-man raiding or make it more appealing? (Does Blizzard have something up their sleeves?) - What has caused 25-man raids to fade away?
A: In short, we're not satisfied with the current status of 25-player raids. There are clear logistical challenges to sustaining a 25-player raiding group. It's inherently 2.5 times as much churn, and thus 2.5 times as much recruitment needed. In terms of actual encounter difficulty, while we haven't always succeeded, we feel that we can deliver on a comparable experience between the two modes: 10-player raiding often involves greater personal responsibility, while 25-player raiding is more complex on a macro level (more moving pieces). Even perfect tuning doesn't compensate for the logistical difficulties, though.

Our hope and intent when introducing the parallel 10/25 structure in Cataclysm was that people would be free to pick the raid size that they prefer, but I'll admit that in light of the organizational challenges of maintaining a 25-player roster, we may need a slightly larger incentive to make that choice a truly free and fair one. When you're the guild leader of a 25-player raid group, and you realize that you only have 21 people regularly showing up, it's much easier to just forge ahead in 10-player mode than it is to go through a fresh recruitment cycle to bolster your ranks. And if Mechanar taught us anything, it's that players will always take the path of least resistance when the rewards are equal. (Note that this doesn't mean that it's necessarily the most fun path or what players would choose in the absence of any outside forces pulling them one way or another.)

A small step we've taken to that end has been to increase the amount of loot dropped in 25-player Normal mode in 5.0 to 6 pieces per boss, matching the Heroic loot rate as it has stood in Cataclysm. That's something. But it's not a true solution to the problem. It's something we continue to discuss on a regular basis.


The developers had more to say on this topic in the recent Best Buy Developer Q&A:
Q: Nobody I know is impressed with the promise of an extra piece of loot for normal 25 mans. What we would be impressed with is separate realm first achievements for each raid format. Any chance of seeing something like this?
A: Possibly. On several servers that have one top 25-player guild that's far above the rest of the server in progression, that might turn into incentivizing them to split up the week after their 25-player Realm First to snag the 10-player one. Not sure that's great gameplay for anyone. That said, we recognize that there's interest in making it a bit easier to distinguish between 10-player and 25-player kills in statistics or achievements.

Q: I am wondering about the incentives to 25 man. This game is a social game so why does it seem that 25 man guilds are dieing off and they are going to 10 mans. Paragon recently posted that they were going to 10 man. Is there any other way to fix it so that people are drawn to do 25 mans because they want to raid with friends and get the good gear?
A: In Paragon's specific case, I suspect they'd find no lack of capable people more than willing to raid with them, but maintaining a Finnish-speaking roster is a core part of their guild culture, and they've made what was no doubt a very difficult decision to scale down to 10-player raiding rather than compromise that culture. As I noted in the Reddit AMA, ultimately there are heavier logistical burdens, particularly placed on the officers and raid leaders, in sustaining a 25-player roster versus only needing 10 players. We're actively discussing ways of ensuring that 25-player raiders feel properly incentivized and rewarded without necessarily elevating one raid size over the other. We definitely welcome ongoing community discussion and feedback on that topic.

Q: Greg just said on twitter that the 25s versus 10s situation was handled in the AMA a lot, but nothing came from that apart from an understanding that 25s do have it harder now and could use some more compensation, Don't you have concrete plans for that, more than the tiny bit of extra loot 25s will have? The issue will only get even more pronounced the next weeks during progression.
A: It's something we discuss frequently internally. We don't have anything final to announce just yet, but we love 25-player raiding and intend to do what we can to preserve it.

Q: Ok, I am going to be the one to ask the dreaded question, mainly because my guild members know that I continue to fight for them and have asked me to still chase this question. 25 mans - GC you have said it would be a good topic for a Watercooler, which is good, and recent tweets say not enough is being done for them.The only change we know about is the loot change and that is onl 1 item different for Normals from the majority of Cata which, excuse the sentiment here, seems a little underwhelming
A: Sadly, we don't have any details to announce yet, but we have a couple of ideas that should make the 25 players happy. We'll talk about them when we're confident that they are good ideas. Remember, the result can't be that all the 10 players stampede back to 25.