Monday, April 26, 2010

Cataclysm Raid Changes

Blizzard dropped a bombshell today in their release of changes to how they are planning to handle both loot and raid progression in at least the first portion of Cataclysm.
combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn't apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.
In other words you will only be able to do a raid once a week per toon and will need to decide if you want to do it in 10 or 25. This is going to KILL the 25 man pugs we are seeing today and also greatly limit the amount of gear and badge framing we see in more progressed guilds.

We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we'll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They'll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items. Choosing Heroic mode will drop a scaled-up version of those items. Our hope is that players will be able to associate bosses with their loot tables and even associate specific artwork with specific item names to a far greater extent than today.
Dungeon Difficulty and Rewards
10- and 25-player (normal difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop the exact same items as each other.
10- and 25-player (Heroic difficulty) -- Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop more powerful versions of the normal-difficulty items. 
Not that long ago there was a huge debate on regarding just this issue. Eliah Hecht brought forth the premise that 25 man raids should not drop better loot than 10 mans. Well he is getting his wish. Now we have to see if the response is as predicted. The end of 25 man raiding. There reason for this change is as follows:

We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people. The raid designers are designing encounters with these changes in mind, and the class designers are making class changes to help make 10-person groups easier to build. Running 25-player raids will be a bit more lucrative, as should be expected, but if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation, you can do that and not suffer a dramatic loss to your ability to get the items you want.

It is this next bit that has me holding out for hope though.

We recognize that very long raids can be a barrier for some players, but we also want to provide enough encounters for the experience to feel epic. For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid. All of these bosses would drop the same item level gear, but the dungeons themselves being different environments will provide some variety in location and visual style, as well as separate raid lockouts. Think of how you could raid Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep separately, but you might still want to hit both every week.
It sounds like when Cata hits we will have several SMALLER raids available to us. So you could potentially do one each night OR if you were like some guilds I know, clear all of them in a single night then run alt nights the rest of the week.
We do like how gating bosses over time allows the community to focus on individual encounters instead of just racing to the end boss, so we're likely to keep that design moving forward. We don't plan to impose attempt limitations again though, except maybe in cases of rare optional bosses (like Algalon). Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.
Not exactly clear on what they are going for here. They like gated encounters but not the limits? I am guessing they are going for like they did with ICC, you can't hit heroic until you have cleared it on normal.
In terms of tuning, we want groups to be able to jump into the first raids pretty quickly, but we also don't want them to overshadow the Heroic 5-player dungeons and more powerful quest rewards. We'll be designing the first few raid zones assuming that players have accumulated some blue gear from dungeons, crafted equipment, or quest rewards. In general, we want you and your guild members to participate in and enjoy the level up experience.
This bit sounds like the "introductory raids" are going to play out like Nax did. Those who hit 85 will be able to step right in wearing their higher level raiding gear and whatever crafted or Heroic items they pick up on the way. The big question is going to be: Are guilds going to even bother trying to form up 25 mans and the headaches those can produce when they can get the same items with fewer players?

The response of course has been a similar to what Mr Hecht encountered. For smaller guilds this could be a blessing. Larger progression guilds may find themselves in trouble and even worse the unguilded. At this point I can't see how you will be able to raid WITHOUT being a part of a guild. Perhaps this is part of the point as they are also reworking the ways guilds function in Cata as well.

If you haven't taken the time to check out the original post by Blizzard and the ensuing responses it is located here.

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