This topic is actually something that has been on my mind quite awhile, and in fact was something I brought up back in November when I was chatting on the Blessing of Frost podcast with Vidyala and Kurn. Back in November I questioned why Blizzard felt so strongly that they needed 10 and 25 man raiding to be considered “equal”. Which, frankly, has caused almost insurmountable problems as they’ve struggled with tuning and class/role balancing trying to meet this seemingly unobtainable goal – often times to the detriment of the player and their enjoyment in the game.
Put your torches away, and let me explain what I mean before you decide to torch me.
WoW has changed significantly since I first pulled those five CDs from the vanilla box and installed the game on my computer. One of the things that have changed for the worse, at least in my opinion, has become this focus on the progression “race” – which is heavily perpetrated by guild ranking sites like WoW Progress and GuildOx. But I’ve opined on that previously, and I don’t really want to go into a rant on my thoughts here as I’ve done that previously. However, I do think it’s important to acknowledge this change because it plays into what I do what to discuss: The “equality” of 10 man and 25 man raiding, or more specifically why there is such a push to make them equal.
When Blizzard announced that they were going to share raid lockouts between 10 and 25 man raids, that they were going to share loot and that they were going to “equalize” the difficulty between the two raids, a lot of eyebrows were raised. The question asked was how, exactly, was it going to be possible to tune these two versions “equally”. And as we sit in the final instance of this expansion the answer is clear – it’s not possible. In looking through the three progression tiers of this expansion, Blizzard’s failure to deliver on this equality is written all over the history of each tier. The back half of T11 was significantly more difficult on 10s, where the back half of T12 was significantly more difficult (and killed many guilds) on 25s. And to date, this trend seems to carry through T13 where a good number of the encounters can be cleared with greater ease with significantly less strict requirements in their 10 man iterations - yes, I’m looking at you Yor’shaj, Ultraxion and Spine.
And while this probably wouldn’t have been a huge deal, it became one when Blizzard in no uncertain terms indicated that these raids would be of equal difficulty and did everything in their power to try to hammer that home to the playerbase.
The illusive server first.
In an effort to prove that they were serious about tens being a viable option for progression raiding and that they were going to be of an “equal” difficulty when compared to 25s, Blizzard removed the distinction between clearing zones based on your raid size, and included 10 man kills into “server first” feats of strength. Which probably would have been fine – had 10s and 25s truly been of an equal difficulty. But they weren’t. What happened is that many 10s never had an opportunity to snag the titles in T11 due to strict class requirements and mechanics that were more challenging to overcome with only 10 players, and many 25s dropped down to 10s in T12 just so they didn’t miss out on the achievement due to a significantly more challenging end encounter. And the raiding community blew up as those running the “race” bickered at who had “legitimate” kills and who “cheated” by taking the easier road to see faster/smoother progress.
Sadly, those aren’t the only consequences of the changes. The community watched long standing guilds crumble under the pressure of the oversaturation of guilds, and the lack of skilled, dedicated and driven players to fill seamlessly never ending holes in all of those progression rosters – something that burned out leadership teams of both raid sizes. Tensions mounted in guilds (including mine) as arguments over progression vs community arose - and whether one should take the “easy road” when it presented itself rather than burning out on more difficult content offering the same rewards. And to be fair, it’s really hard to say “we are not going to bench 2/3 of our raid roster just to ‘win’ faster” when you look at the significant differences seen in some of the encounters. And the larger the differences were/are, the harder it is to justify.
What is wrong with just having different options?
I honestly don’t know what Blizzard was thinking when they were sitting down in the dev meeting where the thought they could effectively make two raid sizes “equal”. While I’m sure their intentions must have been in the right place, the technicalities involved in undertaking such a feat should have been seemingly impossible, even on paper. There are just too many differences and challenges to overcome to realize true equality. In the end one raid size simply receives overtuned bosses while another receives undertuned bosses (and this varies between the two raids) – and in the end it’s the player that suffers from the attempt to find “equality”.
Honestly, I think the 10/25 experiment was one of the worst things Blizzard did to the game for a myriad of reasons (some of which are listed above). I was very much hoping that they’d just settle on one raid size moving forward and spend their time developing quality content for that one raid, rather than splitting it between trying to make one equal raid for two sizes. A task that still daunts them after an entire expansion. However, since that is not something that is coming down the pike, I do have some thoughts on how to smooth things out a little bit.
- Give up on equal. It’s never going to happen. It’s just not possible – there are too many moving pieces and parts. Just acknowledge that there are going to be two raid sizes and that they are both viable progression options, offering difficulty appropriate to challenge players. Keep loot the same, who cares, just focus on making fun encounters for each respective raid size and stop worrying about equalizing them. Just make them an appropriate challenge for a raid of 10 people or a raid of 25 people.
- Get rid of server firsts; alternatively offer them for each raid size. If server competition is so important, make a 10s and a 25s version of this achievement. Having one server first available when all things are not equal is just folly and causes nothing but stress and drama for guilds who are vying for this achievement for whatever reason. Either can the idea entirely, or create a representative achievement for each raid size so there is an equal opportunity for guilds to compete for them.
- Either give up on homogenization or give into it completely…and then design encounters accordingly. While this is something far more apparently in 10 man raiding, it’s certainly not absent in 25 man raiding. How many people have bemoaned not having a barrier, or a beacon of light, or this buff or that buff? Encounters either need to have an equal chance at success without such tools, or all DPS should have bloodlust and every healer should offer a barrier. I understand that class tuning is a challenge – but I have a really hard time believing that the devs didn’t know that raids lacking a BL or a barrier, as an example, wouldn’t struggle more than raids that had them available.
- Stop making legendaries. Sure, orange is cool, but they have caused nothing but trouble since the first Thunderfury was crafted. I mean, they had to nerf TF at the start of TBC because it was still the most powerful tanking weapon. And, I mean, honestly, how many Dragonwrath’s does one need to kill Spine of Deathwing on 25s? If you can’t balance around the weapons, just stop putting the damn things in the game. Or make them trivial items like tabards.
In the end, I’m OK with just being different. I mean, everyone in the community already looks at 10s and 25s differently, why shouldn’t Blizzard acknowledge that and work harder at making better encounters for everyone involved, rather than continue to attempt making equal encounters when it’s clear that it’s just not possible to achieve such a feat? Let people pick what they’d like to do based solely on what raid size they prefer, and not on the false presumption that the challenges that they face will be the same.