25 Kingslayers

30 October 2010 § 2 Comments

The 25-man raid run by Dawn Vigil, my guild, managed to kill Lich King tonight, after a fairly remarkable progression. We extended once again, dispatched Sindy in 3-4 tries (last week she was pwning us), and then proceeded to go poke at the Lich King. Now, keep in mind that I am not sure we had ever got to P3 (I’m pretty sure *I* never got to P3 with the 25-man, but I know I missed a couple of progression nights), and the last we had seen LK was ages ago, as we focused on doing Heroics and getting a Shadowmourne done (we had a couple of Kingslayers from another raid who had kindly taken some of us along).

The raid proceeded to work incredibly well, to work out the MANY problems that were there at the start (from people not focusing on valkyrs to people not spreading out correctly, to defiles…) and steadily progressed to P3. With 30 mins of raid time to go, we got to P3 and 25%, and the following pull, the last pull of the night, everything came together and we managed to get through the whole fight. It wasn’t pretty, our tank died and got b-rezzed because of a failed Soul Harvest management (he may in fact have died twice – soulstone + b-rez – but I’m not sure, I may be mixing attempts up), but in the end, with about 10 people up, we wiped, rezzed, and pwned.

I know I normally just focus on 10-man achievements on this blog, but I want to recognise the effort of everyone in that raid: because of our relatively casual style, the “flexible raid lockouts” (please note the inverted commas of sarcasm) hit us fairly hard, as people were forced to choose whether their main and best characters were going to the 10 or 25-man version of ICC. So, 3 weeks ago we found ourselves with a third of a raid in 264s and 277s, and a third barely in 251s as some of the alts were not exactly the top geared ones. Mad props to Malicent, who since April has managed to lead this ragtag band, and to keep both the “hardcore progression” people and the “social/casual/farm content” people happy.

Personally, I know it took me a long time to stop trying to “backseat raid lead”: this is not my 25-man, and it will not always do what I would like to do. In the beginning, I think I tried to have the advantages of raid leadership (influence, deciding what to do, choosing strategies) without the hassle, and it just didn’t work. After a couple of tense moments with Malicent (which we fortunately solved through tells, posts and other relatively private channels), I’d like to think I’m a much more positive contributor to that raid now. I appreciate the fact that Mali took the the time to answer every time I wrote a /rant post, and I think in the end I’ve become a better raider for it.

Going forward, I think I’ll put my weight behind trying to keep the 25-man going in Cataclysm. My “hardcore fix” will always come from the 10-man: the team we have is likely to go further, and we can push towards hard modes, achievements and all the things that frustrate me to no end, but also get my adrenaline going. I believe however that a 25-man raid serves an important function in a guild as a glue that keeps the community going. Once Cata is released, there will be a flurry of activity as people level their mains and alts, gear up in dungeons, do quests and achievements and grinds. After a few months, though, all though will run dry, as it always does, and the main focus will be on raiding. People will log on during different times, because of time differences and schedule and life styles (and the fact we have people in Europe, Australia, and the US…). Without a 25-man to hold us together, I think we will go back to being effectively a group of smaller communities, and this will make us lose something. Beru posted a great collection of ideas about preparing your guild for Cataclysm, and while we are certainly nowhere close to Monolith’s size, I think her post started me thinking about what we can start doing now, so that Cataclysm doesn’t catch us unawares.

Cataclysmic raids

27 April 2010 § 2 Comments

Shhhhh! Can you hear that? No? Listen harder!

*WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

That’s the sound of me jumping up and down with joy at the announcements Blizz made about raid changes. On the very low chance that you haven’t heard about it yet, you can find the original posts here (about raiding and tiers) and here (about badges). Let me give you the main points and my reactions to them – including how that is going to impact my own raid in particular, and some mumblings about raids in general.

10-man and 25-man will drop (almost) the same loot

This is above and beyond what I could ever hope. If you check my previous posts on loot and gear and raids, I always kept as a given the fact that 25-man would drop better quality loot. Now Blizzard, basically out of the blue, tells us that no, really, they will now drop (almost) the same loot. I keep saying almost, because 25-man would drop more loot than 10 – more gold, more items and probably more badges. I assume that is more gold per person, and not just more gold in absolute terms or it would make no sense. The trick here will be balancing how many more items – my estimate is that bosses in 25 should drop about twice as many items as in 10. A straight mathematical equivalence would suggest 2.5 times, but more items become more beneficial also because of more chances to drop the specific item you need, so that should encourage a slight discount. I really don’t care about gold, so I cannot be bothered with more gold going to the 25-man raiders. Badges… eh, I’d prefer if we had an even playing field, but as long as the difference is not TOO big (e.g. the 2 vs 3 badges of ToC), it will be fine – if the difference is 2 vs 5, that may become a problem.

From Blizzard’s point of view, this change means they will need to design a lot less items – in fact, in one fell swoop they cut down in half the number of items they need to design, both in terms of stats and in terms of art. I hope that means we will be getting items with unique art, because let me tell you: it sucks to have a staff off the Lich King 10-man look EXACTLY THE SAME as one from the second boss in 25.

It also means that they can drastically reduce the gear scaling issues through an expansion. During Wrath, we had 9 tiers of gear, in 4 tiers of raiding: 200, 213, 219, 226, 232, 245, 251, 264, 277. Although Blizzard could have reduced that (having Ulduar give 219/226/232, then ToC give 226/232/238 and ICC 232/238/245 would have cut three whole tiers), having each tier of raiding drop one tier of gear means the Cataclysm progression will be something like (normal/hardmode): 300/313 for tier 11, 313/326 for tier 12, 326/339 for tier 13, 339/352 for tier 14, or 5 tiers of gear for 4 tiers of raids (assuming we will still get 4 tiers of raiding). This should make designing Cataclysm easier, as it reduces the inflation of stats we currently witness (my priest is hovering around 40% crit rating self-buffed…)

10-man and 25-man will share lockout

The counterweight to that change is that the two raid formats will share a lockout. Not suprising, given otherwise the double-dipping would make gearing up a breeze for people with time to run both 10-man and 25-man (and we will note later that Blizz seems to be discouraging playing more than a limited amount of time per character).

The obvious consequence is that people will have to choose whether they want to do 10-man or 25-man. Personally, I think I will simply designate my main, Tsark, as a 10-man raider, to keep going with my current group, and then use all my alts to attend the various raids that need me and I can afford to attend. If anything, this may wreck my levelling plans for Cataclysm, as I will probably level a second healer after Tsark to be able to heal in the guild 25-man raid (healing being clearly the role I am better at/enjoy the most). Up until now, I was thinking to do the traditional Tsark – Parocles (miner, needed for too many things) – Torjin – Alteria – Kleraton – Gramlor. I may switch around Alteria and Parocles now, which would mean getting a paladin tank/healer geared up quickly after Tsark. I suspect this change will encourage more people to level multiple alts, to be able to go with different raid groups.

Badges will become point, and decay with each tier

Instead of getting badges, we will get Hero (lower tier) and Valor (higher tier) points – roughly equivalent to the current Triumph and Frost badges respectively. Once a new tier of raiding comes out, your Valor points will get converted to Hero points, and you’ll restart accumulating Valor points. This is an accounting change, if anything – and it will actually make lowest badge/points more valuable as the tiers progress. Currently Emblems of Valor are basically worthless, but with this system, they would (effectively) become as valuable as Emblems of Triumph at our current status. A  minor change, but hey, a very slight improvement.

Top points are capped weekly

Blizzard has been stating for a while that they are unhappy with the current system, where the Dungeon Finder daily feels like something people NEED to do, given Frost Emblems are so scarce. Capping the amount of points you can earn per week would mean that you would not want to run Heroics with your raiding toon, as he’s getting his points somewhere else. The devil here is in the amount of the cap: let’s say that a full clear of the 25-man raid gives you 10k points, and a full clear of the 10-man 7k. A limit set below 10k would mean that a raid clearing the current tier of content would have no incentive to even do the raid weekly. At the same time, a raid clearing 10-man content would still want to run Heroics, and still feel like they HAVE to (or, in other words, no change) – so I suspect the limit will be even below that. In other words, we may well go back to the Karazhan days, where badges (or points) are a nice cherry on top, but not really the goal of raiding (sometimes, it feels like the purpose of raiding is much more to get emblems than loot, currently)

Of course, the numbers are totally fictitious, though I do think that the 25-man premium will be around 50%. I think however that this is a place where seeing the actual numbers will change the actual mechanics of the system. I do like the idea that I will not feel like I have to run the weekly, Vault, and the Heroic dailies on all my alts – and can instead spread my attention across characters.

Gating will still be there – but no limited attempts

In principle, I don’t mind this too much – in fact, I like having no limited attempts, though I admit we never used up all our attempts in Icecrown Citadel. They apparently also want to keep the “Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.” Please please please, make this a “per-boss” or “per-wing” limitation – in other words, I would have had no problem with having to defeat Saurfang twice before opening up the hardmodes of Lower Spire. I just think that having to clear the WHOLE instance once (or twice!) may frustrate some guilds needlessly. This may be what they have in mind anyway, given their stated preference for more (and smaller) raids per tier, instead of one big one (so the TK+SSC model, rather than ICC).

I can see the value of keeping limited attempts for optional bosses, à la Algalon – brag bosses can have that allure. Again, I would prefer to see a system of limited time or limited attempts but with no additional reward for no wipes/killing the boss in a shorter time frame: the Algalon/ICC model instead of the ToC one, basically.

Raiding consequences

Where will that leave us? 10-man raiders are rejoicing all over – mostly, because we won’t feel like the bastard child of big raids anymore. Balancing encounters will be easier for Blizzards, given that they can correctly predict what gear people will be in (as opposed to having to think about people being in 10-man or 25-man gear). Also, assuming Blizzard will manage the closer balancing of difficulty, we may finally have an end to the pointless debate of which is harder.

Blizzard has stated that they have not taken a decision about Legendaries/special mounts (e.g. Invincible) yet. It would be nice if 10-man got those too, but I’m trying not to get my hopes too high, and just be happy with what we got.

Our 10-man may see some changing of roster, as some of our raiders will need to choose which alt to bring to 25-man and which to 10-man. I don’t think we will necessarily lose people: assuming they will still play come Cataclysm, it’s not as if their time use would be very different if they play both raids with both character or with 2 characters (admittedly, there is a higher set-up cost to get both alts to level cap, and to keep all sets gemmed/enchanted/etc, but honestly, that seems a very minor issue).

I’ve seen some people predicting that this will spell the end of 25-man raiding. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I tend not to like these doomsday predictions, and this is no exception. I know very few people who raid both 10-man and 25-man that doesn’t have an alt at max level – so all that it’s going to happen is that people will have two characters, and do both raids in different formats. Will 25-man lose some people? Possibly, but it would be the people who only go there for the easy loot – because let’s admit it, it’s far, FAR easier to carry someone in 25-man than in 10-man (let alone in our 10-man, where Lyshai keeps us all on our toes!). I suspect that by encouraging people to only do what they like most (be that 10-man, 25-man, Heroics, or PvP), we may end up with better players, less stress, and thus a more enjoyable experience.

A modest proposal

3 December 2009 § 5 Comments

Next week, we will have a new tier of raiding available – and I can only add my voice to the choir saying that it’s about time. I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy to leave a raid instance behind. I’m also quite excited by the information and videos I’ve seen about Icecrown Citadel – the potential for a great instance is definitely there, although (as you know) I have my doubts about the gating system.

I want to make a modest proposal, regarding the structure of 10-man vs 25-man raid instances. I know it’s too late to change Icecrown, but Cataclysm is not that far off. That, and I need a new post for my blog, so hey, here goes.

The Current Situation

The way I see it, the split between 10-man and 25-man was one of the smartest moves Blizzard made. Talking to my friends, some prefer the 25-man challenges (more epic fights, more people to socialise with, more leeway to change specs/roles, less stress if one person dies), and some the 10-man ones (tighter commnunication and organisation, no deadweight raiders, more multi-tasking). That, right there, is the definition of success, where the choice between one or the other is purely up to personal taste, and not self-evident superiority. While I may get into heated discussions with my 25-man friends about the fact that 10-man is harder, I think we’re moving to the point where the hardmodes of both raid sizes are comparable – and some are harder in 25 (Thorim, with his placement issues, is easier in 10), and some are harder in 10 (Sarth 3D is the poster child here – or was, when you actually had to fight it and not zerg it). Blizzard decided the 25-man will have better loot. Basically, they are giving 25-man a loot bonus to reflect the organisational challenge of getting 25 showing up on time, with their gear and consumables and specs and glyphs at the ready, and then keeping those same 25 people out of fire patches for the entire duration of the raid.

The second big novelty of Wrath raiding were hardmodes. They were introduced with Sartharion, then extended to most Ulduar bosses. I think this has been a bit more of an unexpected change, i.e. something Blizzard introduced with one encounter because they thought it was fun, and then realised it could easily extend to become much bigger. So, there’s been a bit more experimentation on hardmodes. Hardmodes normally drop loot one full tier above the normal mode bosses. With Trial of the Crusader, it was decided to make the hardmode loot the same as the normal mode loot – just one tier level higher, so basically with more stats/gem slots.

So, let’s take a simple example. Let’s look at Northrend Beasts and one piece of loot from 10-man and 25-man both.

10-man 25-man
Normal Icehowl Bindings – ilvl 232 Belt of the Tenebrous Mists – ilvl 245
Hardmode Icehowl Bindings – ilvl 245 Belt of the Tenebrous Mists – ilvl 258

The proposal

I’d like Blizzard to move to a system where the direct upgrade of normal, 10-man loot is in normal, 25-man – and the upgrade of hardmode, 10-man is in hardmode, 25-man. In other words, to go back to the Northrend Beasts example, I would like loot to look like this:

10-man 25-man
Normal Icehowl Bindings – ilvl 232 Icehowl Bindings – ilvl 245
Hardmode Belt of the Tenebrous Mists – ilvl 245 Belt of the Tenebrous Mists – ilvl 258

The ilvl of the various drops won’t change, and neither will the number of items Blizzard has to create – so both game-balance and development time issues should be unaffected by the change. So, what would be the advantages of this system?

  1. More focus from the player’s perspective.  I suspect players are much more polarised on the 10 vs. 25 debate than the normal vs. heroic one. I’ve heard a fair amount of players complain that Blizzard is “forcing” them to do 10-man to get a specific item, when they would rather focus on 25-man (and viceversa, of course). This way, the loot tables will be more independent, and players would spend more time playing however they like.
  2. More encouragement to conquer hardmodes: right now, the incentive to kill something in hardmode is relatively small. Improving the items you already have by one tier is relatively less interesting, to me, than tapping into a whole new loot table with items that cover different slots/stats combinations.
  3. More fundamentally, it would make 10 and 25 man a lot more equal – to the point where even legendary weapons could be itemised for 10-man raids, too. I’m extremely sad that even though we have conquered Ulduar and killed Algalon we never had a chance at crafting a Val’anyr – and the same is going to happen for Shadowmourne for Icecrown Citadel. I’m not complaining about the actual item or its stats – I’m sure Icecrown weapons are going to be better than Val’anyr (so much so that some people are destroying Val’anyr on fairly trivial bets). However, creating weapons like that is a fantastic goal, and gives a sense of accomplishment like very little else in this game. It’s a raid achievement, and an incredible morale booster. As my last post showed, I still consider my Benediction quest as one of the pinnacles of my career, and I can remember still the excitement our raid felt as we all pitched in to create our Sulfuras, or our Thunderfury. This new system would allow for the presence of a Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings in 25-man hardmodes, and of a Mallet of Younger Princes in 10-man hardmodes – lower ilvl, same idea, similar quests.

The biggest objection I see is that 25-man bosses drop more loot than 10-man – and so often have a bigger loot table. However, looking up the ToC bosses, the difference doesn’t seem enormous: Beasts have 12 items in 10, 15 in 25; Jaraxxus has 13 vs. 15; Champions 10 vs. 15; Val’kyrs 13 vs. 15; Anub’Arak 17 vs. 20. I’m not sure if having 3 items drop from a loot table of 15 vs a loot table of 13 really increases that much loot repetition (and by the way, why is the Champions loot table in 10-man so much smaller?) – I could calculate that, but I’m too lazy :-D.

Ultimately, I think the choice between the current system depends very much on what is the distribution of the population among the 4 possible combinations (10N, 10H, 25N, 25H). Most players act in more than one case of that table – so if the overlap is more 10N-25N, then the current system is probably preferable. If instead the overlap is more 10N-10H and 25N-25H, then moving to what I suggest would increase the enjoyment of this game on everyone’s part.

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