Death of the Casual Raid

I ate lunch yesterday with a long time friend, one of the founders of House Stalwart, who has recently come back to the game.  I had originally crafted a long post in my head about the frustrations I have with the current state of 5 mans in general.  However when I checked the wow news feeds after lunch a much bigger topic had spawned.  My frustrations with the fact that 5 mans have been dumbed down to the point where a players performance can just be phoned in, was replaced by a brand new frustration. 

It was announced that in Cataclysm, 10 and 25 man raid loot would be equal.  This in itself is pretty great, gone will be the days of feeling behind the curve by raiding only the 10 man content.  The spiteful part however is the fact that 10 and 25 man raids would now share a lockout.  No longer will players be able to run 10s with one set of friends, and 25s with their normal raid group.

Guildpocalypse II: Poc Harder?

I had put out of my mind all the havoc and mayhem that was invoked by the first guildpocalypse, but now it is all rushing back in vivid technicolor.  Prior to the release of Burning Crusade it was leaked that the defacto raid size would be switching from the classic raiding 40 man construct, to a brand new 25 man size.  This unleashed a series of revisions that forever changed the guild landscape for Argent Dawn, the server I play on.  Guild after guild simply imploded as they attempted to pare down from the 50+ raiders it took to be able to maintain a working 40 man raid, to the 30+ raiders required to keep the new 25 man raid going.

The few groups that managed to weather the change, came out forever modified.  They were hardened and bitter for the hassle, and much more serious.  I watched personally as my raid group fell apart at the seams, causing our fearless leader to give up and transfer off the server.  The remainder of people left in the balance split into two communities.  The more hardcore raiders joined with the remnants of another raid, that suffered a similar death, and are now a successful 25 man raid on our server.  The more social/casual players for the most part got picked up by my guild House Stalwart.  The death of a raid is always a trying thing on all parties connected, and some players didn’t adjust well to the new roles. All in all, a good number of us stayed in contact and continued raiding together when Duranub was formed.

Same As It Ever Was

Having lived through the frustration and growing pains involved with a major raiding paradigm shift, I cringe at the thought of the impending storm on the horizon.  The key problem I see is that more than likely this is the death knell for casual 25 man raiding.  Attempting to keep a 25 man raid going every week is a constant battle.  A casual raid, more than any other is made up of players of vastly differing play styles and skill levels.  As a leader, you are always attempting to juggle the needs of your hardcore raiders, that are in truth the primary reason why you can down new content, with your more casual players who want to be able to show up and raid without much external work.  It is this constant tug of war that leads to endless torment and frustration for the officers. 

We suffer through, and try our best to make enough people happy to keep them showing up on a weekly basis.  The reason why we struggle, is because a casual raid like Duranub is based on longterm friendship, more than the progression.  The current raid construct allows for the more hardcore raiders to continue to do serious, focused progression at the 10 man level, while still rolling up into the larger 25 man raid.  It allows for both needs to be met, while not having to abandon your friends that you have struggled to be able to raid with.  As it stands now, I will have to choose between my 10 man raid, that is the high point of my week, and the 25 man raid that I have sacrificed my sanity to try and keep going.

The Great Sorting

Currently it is difficult to find the right kind of players for a casual raid.  Players who are socially motivated, and willing to accept the fact that we are going to progress slower than more serious raids, have always been a special breed.  Without benefit of at least getting better loot, I am not really sure if there are enough benefits to keep players struggling together.  I have to admit, it is a massive temptation to just say screw it, and leave 25 man raiding altogether.  It is far easier to balance a 10 player raid, and easier to find players who are willing to commit to showing up 99% of the time.  When someone can’t make it, it is easier to fill in that one slot for a 10 man, and if you have 9 seasoned players already the requirements are far more lax. 

So as I see it, casual 25 man raiding and 25 man raid alliances in general are going to die in the process.  It simply won’t be worth the struggle involved to try and keep them going.  Spinks mentioned in her blog post, that the temptation for the more hardcore members of your raid, to simply break off into a more stable 10 man will be far too great.  I helped to found our raid, and have been to many the figurehead… and I myself am struggling to find a reason why players SHOULD continue 25 man raiding.  Duranub makes up 3 different 10 man raids currently, and I believe given push to shove each of prefers the 10 man dynamic to the larger 25 man.  Out of those 30 players… how many are going to be willing to make the personal sacrifice, and give up the format they love for the good of the many?

The Personal Cost

When our raid formed, I made a personal sacrifice to make it happen.  Several of us had been raiding Tier 6 content, and out of the ashes of that raid, Duranub was founded.  However during the interim I myself was recruited by several different guilds on our server, all of which would have meant being able to continue progressing through Tier 6 content.  I made the choice to follow my friends, and signed onto to help lead the raid.  I have to admit however, that as we struggled to teach tier 4 and tier 5 content to a new group of players, more than a little bitterness set in. 

I knew that had I chosen the other path, I would be seeing new things, rather than wiping endlessly to content I was long bored running.  The sacrifice I made effected my attitude, and mental state for the rest of burning crusade and soured our victories.  I was unable to see the fact that we progressed through the content far faster than we had before.  I was unable to realize how fast the skill-sets of the various players were improving.  I felt like a child left out in the cold, looking through the window at the warm and dry table that was the path abandoned.

So now as raiders, we will be forced to abandon the fun we used to have in our 10 mans, for the good of the raid as a whole.  Knowing full well how stressful that decision was on me during burning crusade, I find it hard to willfully ask anyone to share the same personal toll.  So as I look forward, I am not sure what is the future of Duranub, and other casual raids like ours.  I think Blizzard has their hearts in the right place, but once again did not quite think through the ramifications this decision has on anyone who does not fit neatly into the "serious raid guild" mold.  This, coupled with the guild rewards changes, I fear signal the death of raid alliances that allow players to remain in their small family guilds.

It’s the End of an Era