For those who have been playing World of Warcraft since vanilla, you will remember how grand it was to have participated in an epic 40-man raid. I, for one, wish I could have been in something that was touted to be so awesome during the “golden age” of raiding. This isn’t to say that it was better back then as it is today; not by a longshot, but the grandness came from the idea of having 40-odd players to conquer an extremely powerful foe or foes, requiring the strength of many to overcome a force of reckoning. But of course, like everything else, there’s a downside to it, a hole just as grand as the raid size. As WoW grew, raids have scaled down, but tuned better, and thought out much better than simply relying on false entertainment of massive numbers to deliver content.
PvP isn’t for everyone, and subscribers mainly play MMOs like WoW to pursue a cutting-edge career in raiding, or just a casual one, playing the game to relax and have fun. With that said, raiding, as much as others would think of it as dead, is a still the highlight of any game for a lot of players.
Reduce, Reduce, Reduce
WoW has gone through great strides in creating more and more interesting raid mechanics that have evolved way past the standard tank and spank, and tank swaps. Not only did it emerge to from its chrysallis as a game almost completely different, but continues to get better with every expansion. However, that butterfly has been getting smaller and much more compact. Raid sizes, from a huge group, have become almost akin to a small party.
Well, that’s hyperbolic, of course, but the coming of Warlords of Draenor is advent to another raid size reduction though only in the form of Mythic raids. Reducing the capacity to the size of a solid 20 and only 20 have gotten everybody bunching up their panties. Apart from it, however, as was discussed in a past article, Raid Finder, Normal, and Heroic raids all sport the flexible raid system that all have seemingly done away with the hardcore mindset in favor of casual pliability. That isn’t a bad thing at all, but the significant decrease or even the need to have a fixed size from Vanilla detracts a lot from what the entire raiding environment offers, though mainly from the social interaction.
Since The Burning Crusade, players have gotten used to either 25 or 10 mans, and sometimes still reaching the original standard of 40 for the occassional world boss like the celestials. Guilds of varying degrees of commitment and sizes have found their own unique settings for raiding, and this re-emergence of a new raid setting threatens that well-established comfort.
Things Were/Are/Will Be Better
Certainly, as much as I’d like to believe that the golden age of raiding was just as amazing as those that remember it, it is just what it is, a memory. And just like any memory, it is easily influenced and perfected by nostalgia, with most people forgetting the hardships and shortcomings of the earlier raids, whether those are of social design or mechanic flaw. If you haven’t gone through it, planning for thirty nine other people isn’t exactly the most fantastic job to have, nor is having to cancel a raid due to the absence of two to three people and possibly angering the rest, or going through a horrendous amount of time at one boss due to a bunch of fools you unfortunately pugged that can’t seem to stop standing on bad stuff or not knowing how to play their class as well as they should. Crappy healing and dps parses everywhere are even scarier than filling a massive group. 40 man raids had the tendency for people to underperform as they subconsciously or even consciously realize that they’re not really making much of a difference. As is evident with the older generation of players, they too were mired by difficulties that, at the time, was something they would hardly ever call and exceptional experience.
The current raid setting and meta are no different. Sure, it is, from a practical point of view, an amazing upgrade from the 40 man horror, no longer requiring the intense dedication oft made fun of by the likes of Leeroy Jenkins, due to the arrival of more manageable raid sizes and requirements like the 10 man and 25 man split that started in BC, and then the arrival of the Raid Finder in Cataclysm. Even those have their ups and downs, like the horrible experiences in LFR with tanks geared as healers or idiots that can’t seem to understand the simplest of mechanics or instructions for that matter. The ease of the newfound technology of LFR and Flex raiding makes players take things for granted, perceiving as everything to be so easy that it doesn’t matter what they do, and even more so considering the cross-server capabilities of these raids. And, with all this, coupled with the same reasons of the 40 man raid, players still underperform due to still having a larger size and relatively easier content, as well as the impersonal relationship with these strangers. Ordos and Celestials; you know what I’m talking about. Best examples out there.
Though this can be true for 25 mans, 10 mans and flexes are a different story, since the interaction is between a smaller number of people and you possibly failing at your role is wholly noticeable all at once. The size does not really matter these days, and in fact, have not mattered for a very long time, as only a minimum is what is truly required. If you’ve found a 10 man group, then you’re all set.
Draenor is coming up soon, and all we can muse about is how better, or awful, raiding might become. The 40 man raids were wrong for reasons of the massive dedication requirements, along with the horrid encounter scaling, and many other things that recruiters of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and backgrounds know far too well. But, along with that, there was the wonders of its social aspect; getting to know people and getting close to them, creating bonds purely out of the love for the game, and during its apex, was far more powerful than those we can find and form today due to the then impossible cross server interactions. I imagine that those who think vanilla WoW to BC was best, despite all the criticism towards their supposed illusion of this is just the way it is because of this social aspect. Remember, this was a time when the rest of the world had no idea what an MMO was, and this was a strong form of exploration of the genre, thus people were less cynical. Yeah, sounds impossible, but it’s true.
The reduction from 25 to 20 in WoD in the Mythic difficulty and its lack of a 10 man setting could possibly replicate this social aspect. This is also because of the lack of cross-server instancing with the Mythic difficulty, forcing players back into the state older WoW was in. You seriously wouldn’t want to piss off possibly the only guild on your server that actually does Mythic. It might be a bit plastic because of how MMO communities are these days, but it can’t hurt to be nice every so often, and this offers the possibility of the olden days to make a come back, even if it is just a fragment of what it was. But as it was said before, like how BC had more or less caused a great mess for 40 man guilds, so too will this Mythic hubbub with already established hardcore guilds with the odd choice in fixed raid size.
Another aspect to it is that newer players will have a harder time accessing Mythic depending on where they’re looking. With already pre-established guilds and the incoming size confusion, some other players in guilds may not even see the light of day of a Mythic raid, akin to how difficult it was in the 40 man era where other wouldn’t have even experienced the raid. 10 man becomes an impossibility, so those guilds that don’t want or are unable to expand beyond that number will also feel left out in the cold by this decision on Blizzard’s part. I am in no way condoning the lack of adaptability, but it will never be completely accepted, regardless of how silly anyone may feel about it. In fact, it isn’t so silly at all; this again goes back to the dedication and commitment issues that players back in the heyday and could endanger end game raiding. However, it is clear that Blizzard wants to set a new standard with the strict 20 man, and removing the choice unlike in previous expansions to drop to 10 might not be the best method to introduce this standard. What could be better? I wouldn’t dare to presume to know.
It’s all up to how one perceives anything really. Some still latch onto the memories of the 40 man madness plus attunement, while some prefer the smaller, yet still quite large, 25 man, while some would rather not waste their time with the nitty gritty of dealing with internet strangers and just stay with their premade 10 man or pugging it out on flexibles. Whatever the case may be, raiding is evolving, discarding archaic concepts left and right, and introducing newer and newer ones to cater to how the industry works at present.
Personally, I find WoW’s current options for raiding great, and the future in Draenor looks bright now that they’ve decided to expand flex raiding to all save for Mythic. But, indeed, the fixed Mythic size reneges on what used to be an unwavering promise to ease raiding. Seriously, who likes shouting “LFG 8 Tanks, 7 DPS, and 9781 Heals for <Insert Tank and Spank Raid Here>”? No one. Nobody does. This might be one move that steps back a little, as high end raiding never really have issues with skill, well, they do, but it’s still mostly a game of numbers.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Raids, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday