Its no secret that one of my driving factors to play World of Warcraft or any other MMOG is to get at the raid content in the game. For me raiding in an MMOG is one of the things that separates MMOGs from almost any other type of game out there. It brings a large group of players together to try to accomplish a sometimes Herculean task as a group. The enemies and challenges that you face in a typical raid are far larger, harder, and more complicated than anything you could accomplish alone. You need to learn to cooperate, communicate, and rely upon a fellow group of adventurers.
Raids are also where companies end up putting most of the end-game storyline and the biggest enemies. This means that if you want to see how the storyline in a game is evolving you generally have to participate in raids. For example in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, players got to meet and interact with Arthas throughout the expansion, but no where do you actually get a chance to defeat him and find out how the story line concludes until you get into Icecrown Citadel, nor should you.
Currently, most raids are still reserved for a limited number of players in the game, since they require a large amount of time to commit to them. There are some that can be accomplished in a short amount of time such as VOA, Onyxia, and even ToGC. However, players that have busy lives and schedules could not previously devote 4-6 hours a few times a week to have a shot at progression content such as Naxxramas, Ulduar, or Icecrown Citadel. Very shortly these players will be able to get in on the action that is progression raiding.
Blizzard has said that the new raids in Cataclysm will be shorter than the current raids in the game. No word on exactly how short, but 4-6 bosses plus trash would be a likely guess. In addition the tiers of raid loot will be split between raids much like it was in early Burning Crusade where the tiers were split between several smaller raids.
One of the driving factors for Blizzard has got to be that shorter, faster raids means that potentially far more players can get in on raiding. Raids are not easy to create and it has long been bemoaned by the casual player that too much time and effort went into creating content for a small percentage of the WoW player base.
Stats are mainly made up anyway, so Ill make some up and pull some vague numbers from memory. In vanilla WoW probably less than 1% of all players saw the end of Naxxramas before BC was released, in fact probably less than 10% of all players ever entered a raid at all. In BC it got better, with probably over 20% entering a raid thanks to Karazhan, but still less than 2 or 3% saw the end of Sunwell before WotLK was released. In the new raid environment that Blizzard has created in WotLK probably over 50% of players have entered a raid at some point and at least 5% have finished ICC and the next expansion isnt even out yet.
This means far more players are getting into the raiding portion of the game. When they do they learn all sorts of things that they never would have been exposed to if they stayed playing only solo. This means that in general players get better than they would have been without raiding.
The Hardcore Raiders Take on Shorter Raids
Many hardcore raiders really do not like the fact that new players are entering raids as it does bring down the overall quality of raider available to grab from when you are short a few players for a raid. Something raiders should remember though is that as you practice something you get better at it. When players are first exposed to something they generally do poorly. They learn and improve as they practice though.
Many hardcore raiders are also already complaining that shorter raids will end up being like ToGC, which is widely considered way too simple and easy to beat. Hard core raiders raid for the challenge of it and are worried that by shortening the raid time you lessen the challenge.
Other hardcore raiders are looking at this change as a potential boom for raiding. If raids are shorter and easier to produce, instead of seeing as few as we currently do in an expansion cycle maybe we will see many more. Wouldnt it be nice to see a new 4-5 boss raid every 4-8 weeks instead of a single 10-12 boss raid every 6 months? That is the dream that many hardcore players have; continuous new content.
The Casual Raiders Take on Shorter Raids
One of the big challenges for players in smaller guilds is getting enough players to agree to be online for one long time period a week, never mind multiple times a week. Players in these small guilds are now cheering. Instead of trying to get 10 or 25 players together for 4-6 hours 2-3 times a week, they will be able to jump in a 2 hour raid when enough people are on, then into another later as different people filter on and offline. Not everyone will need to be saved to a single raid, they can be in many different ones.
Players that have busy lives are also cheering, as they can now get home after work, play with the kids, help with home work, make dinner, spend some time with the wife, and then still have an hour or two to just online and can feel like theyve accomplished something. No more need to avoid the family like the plague on certain nights just to get 4 hours of time all alone to work on a raid. I know raid night may become less of a curse word around many households, and that is a good thing.
Messiahs Take on Shorter Raids
While I am right on board with many hardcore raiders and often complaining about players that do not even understand their class, I think that getting more players into raiding does a lot to improve both the player base and the game overall.
For me MMOGs are all about raids and social play. Currently, still not enough players raid for my liking. Because they dont raid they dont learn in game social skills nor do they learn the requirement to play as best as humanly possible because they have never seen that every person matters in a raid.
As a semi-hardcore raider I have some issues with the whole raiding made easier bit, but that isnt exactly what Blizzard is selling it as. Blizzard states more accessible, not easier, and for now we have to take them at their word.
For all the Hard core raiders out there, maybe we should count WotLK as the new raiders practice expansion. More new raiders got in, got to raid, learned a bit, improved and will now go level and be anxious to raid again. When they get back into raids they will have hopefully closed the skill gap a little and be closer in skill level to long term raiders.
Also, something key to remember is that as more and more players raid, the demand for new content goes up. It was always argued in the past by casual players that Blizzard shouldnt waste the lions share of development on raids when less than 5% of players ever saw the content. However, when Cataclysm launches and potentially more players are raiding than not, those same players will be joining the call for more raid content.
Another change that may bring even more players into raiding is the loot being the same for 10 and 25 player raids. In the past I had heard many players say they didnt raid because they could only get 10 players and why compete for gear when it was sub par right off the bat? While I dont agree with that, as you should raid for the enjoyment, socialization, and sense of achievement rather than just for gear, players will now earn the same rewards whether in a small or large group.
Even if some of the content is too simple, raid content is always what drives the story line in a game, and Blizzard has done fairly well in giving hardcore raiders some challenge through hard modes. More content means more hard modes to try to finish.
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