Wednesday, April 8, 2009

10-man versus 25-man rewards: GC gets smacked around on the forums.

Poor Ghostcrawler. He's appointed himself (or been appointed? I don't know) the liaison between the playerbase (who one could liken to a very large pack of ravenous dogs) and the Blizzard developers. Which is basically like volunteering to get spat on, considering the normal caliber of debate on the WoW forums (though I've got to say, it has been improving in some of the more serious threads, like the one I'm going to talk about today, which is almost exlusively a reasoned debate amongst polite adults. What the hell?!?)

I went sooo totally crazy with parenthesis there! [raises hand] Parenthesis-five!

Anywhoodle, I'm not a GC hater. He's just a guy trying to do his job the best he can. He's generally quite nice, reasonable, and clearly very smart. But this time he and his team have made a bad decision (yeah, I said it!), and now he's stuck defending it to an increasingly angry mob. An angry mob who hasn't been fed (a new raid instance or any new content or the promised class balance changes or even new freaking dances!!) in a loooong time, and their collective belly rumbles for fresh meat at the smell of GC's drawn (metaphorical) blood.

The thread I'm talking about can be found here. C'mon, you knew I was going to get into this debate.

Don't be fooled by the initial post. This thread doesn't turn into a debate about whether 10 or 25 mans are harder than the other, despite appearances. That ship has already sailed with Naxx. What this thread is really about is the investment/reward equation between the two styles. Ghostcrawler makes a valiant attempt to defend the path Blizzard has already locked into (they aren't going to delay 3.1 another 2 months to retune everything), but I gotta say that it looks like he's getting battered in this debate. From my perspective, it looks like he's forced to defend a weaker position, and after all of the responses in that thread, he must realize now that they've made a mistake.

What is this weaker position? Here are the choice quotes:

"We have positioned our 25-player content as more difficult and therefore capable of generating better rewards. Managing a group of that size requires a little more effort and we figured if the rewards were the same, we'd steer pretty much everyone towards 10-player raiding. At this point we don't want to do that. "
"I understand your point on the 25 loot being of higher item level. However we explored this issue quite a bit and I still believe that some non-trivial number of players just prefer the larger raids. How can that be?
[lists some ways 25 man raids are more epic]
So for those reasons, and a few others, we think the smartest design is still just to let players decide if they prefer 10 player raiding or 25 player raiding. Some have a small group of friends and want to not have to put up with the weak links or undependables. They like the pressure it puts on every player to perform. Others have large, social guilds and like to assemble 25 players together. They may be more tolerant of being able to bring the 25th player along even if he isn't stellar. They may like all of the reasons I mentioned above. It's just a preference, just like Horde vs. Alliance is a preference. "

Is it just me, or did he just completely contradict himself there? One side of his mouth is saying "no one would do 25s if they had the same loot as 10s", while the other side is saying, at the same time, "many prefer 25s because they are more epic and will do them anyway". Which is it, GC? You seriously can't have it both ways on this one. There is no wriggling out. Maybe his left hand should tell the right what it's typing.

To illustrate, here are some of the key responses. Believe me, there are literally hundreds more in this vein, and I have yet to see a strong rebuttal to the thrust of these claims.

"So if this is true (i.e. a non-trivial number of players prefer 25-man) then why would giving out the same loot in 10-man as 25-man "kill 25-man"? If people like 25-man for the reasons you listed above, they'd do just fine. "


The conceptual basis you're describing is great - people should be choosing the path they actually want to play - but instituting a charity tier in 25s makes appropriate risk/reward tuning for 10s extremely hard to do. If you want to put anything nice in the 10-man path, you get the choice of making the encounter trivialized by 25-man gear or out of tune for 10-man gear."


"If you make it easy for 25-man gear, you can't put in a decent reward. Because it's easy. If you make it a challenge for 25-man gear, you can provide a cool/rare reward, but you're making the encounter too hard for the gear in the 10-man path - it's effectively additional 25-man content. "


"I really like this idea. Yes, 25 man raids recquire more organization, but why can't the reward simply be more of the same loot? Give a 25 man instance 3x or 3.5x the loot drops of a 10 man, but make it all the same loot.

Right now, I'm in a 10-man guild. We don't have the players for more. We're all RL friends. And I'm chafing. I know there is better loot out there, and that we could have that better loot easily, but it means breaking the core purpose of the guild: all RL friends. And the only reason it is 'better' is because someone decided the challenges involved with organizing 15 more people is worth an entire tier of loot. In the first tier, it's the differance between having Heroic gear and real Raid gear. "


"So by following this line of logic wouldn't it make sense to allow equal gear to drop in both sets of content since, as you have stated, people who prefer to raid in a 25 man setting would continue to do so for the reasons listed above and equality of gear would not be a detrimental factor.

I'm not a huge fan of the notion that the determining factor in whether or not I can access better loot is the number of people I can bribe to log in on any given night. "


"[difficulty of organizing 25 people is ]Often mentioned by raiding guilds for why they deserve better loot. But the flaw with it? It only applies to their officers, their key members, the ones who have to do the right thing. Much of the rest? Clockpunchers, who merely have to not do the wrong thing.

If anything, 25 man raids result in a greater amount of loot in the hands of less deserving individuals than the reverse. "


"So correct me if I'm wrong, but does this mean that the only reason for 25mans dropping way better gear is because it's harder to get 25 people together? because honestly, it's much harder to get 10 players that are capable of doing the encounters properly than it is to get a successful 25man going. a loss in dps for a 10man is much more significant than a loss of a dps in a 25man.

So really, the higher level loot is justified by the "difficulty" of getting 25 players together? "


And that Batman-style pounding of GC's concepts and contradictions was just the first 2 pages of the thread after he posted.

Poor guy.


I can't tell GC how to dig out of this hole immediately, because frankly it's too deep for this patch. But next patch is going to be a big opportunity to get this right.

It seems that if GC and his team want to keep raiding tiers the way they are, but the only reason 25s are a tier higher is because of organizational challenges, then the only way for him to be logically consistent (rather than hypocritical) is to only reward the raid leaders for the extra organizational challenges. So raid leadership gets gear a tier higher, while the other 21 people in the raid get gear a tier lower. At least that one isn't a self-contradiction.

Another suggestion thrown out there is: if the only reason loot is a tier higher is because of organizational difficulties, then why not give both instances the same loot, but make 10-mans slightly harder than 25-mans to compensate for the organizational challenges? This would work OK, but would probably be a nightmare to balance and actually implement.

From my perspective, the best solution is to have the same loot drop in both 10 and 25 man versions of the instance, but allow 25-man groups to gear up faster overall as compensation for the organizational difficulties. If 10-man bosses drop 2 items per kill, 25-man bosses should drop at least 6.

Problem solved. Everyone is happy. No one is getting anything handed to them that they don't earn, and no one is being left out as a second-class citizen just because of the size of raid they prefer.


nbc said...

GC taking a beating on the forums?

Working as intended :)

Brent Michael Krupp said...

Right on!

I totally agree. The way they do loot now is silly.

Your point about raid leaders is especially on target. Yes, raid leaders work harder in 25-man with that organizational challenge. But the other 20+ people do NOTHING different in a 25-man raid, they just get better loot while sitting back and letting the raid leaders work hard. This "harder organizationally" excuse is so damn stupid because of this.

This reminds me of meeting stones. They were always a stupid idea but Blizzard stubbornly stuck to them for years for no reason anyone outside the company could fathom. They just get some really moronic ideas fixed in their heads and become immune to reason or persuasion. Their tiered loot seems like this now.

Maybe they'll see the light on this faster than they did on meeting stones (aka retard rocks).

Hatch said...

Oh here's another good one from later in the thread! The first part is a quote from GC, the rest is the response from a poster named Kiserai:

Q u o t e:
"Others have large, social guilds and like to assemble 25 players together. They may be more tolerant of being able to bring the 25th player along even if he isn't stellar."

"This is a little disturbing, in that it seems to state that it is intended that 10-mans need every member to be on their game, while 25-mans are designed to let you have dead weight without consequences. This rather contradicts the idea that 25-man is a harder raid for better loot. This contradiction in design--where 25 can have dead weight while 10 cannot, but somehow 25 is supposed to be harder--really seems like it's going to make naxx 10 vs 25 happen again and again.

If you can bring dead weight, it's not as hard."

Stabs said...

I don't think it's a contradiction, Hatch.

He's saying people like 25s but no one would bother if they gave the same loot. That doesn't mean people don't like 25s it just means they're lazy.

It is an issue where clearly things are unsatisfactory. Before WotLK launched I think most of us assumed 25s would be plain harder. That seemed to be what Blizzard were saying.

That would work well I think.

One of the issues Blizzard face is that they tune their game to spoil their rivals. When WotLK launched WAR had been out a month. So they had to give people immediate gratification and characters with such imba gear people couldn't bear to part with them. Otherwise people would have hit 80, failed to get into a raid guild and cancelled to try WAR.

Now WoW is looking very shaky because of that. Most people are not excited by Naxx now. If Ulduar 25 is just better loot because they are more of you that will get very easy and non-challenging once people have gear. Semi-hardcore guilds struggle to do achievements and hardmodes because you need every guild member to buy into them so if 20 of their normal 25 raiders show up they can't do hardmodes.

I think the best solution is 10 mans should be at the current tuning (ie anyone who wants to raid can go), 25s should be harder (exclude dead weight or you can't kill the boss), hardmodes should be for Bleeding edge guilds to wipe on.

Hatch said...

I'm on board with the "spoiling competitors" explanation. Making raiding easy has definitely inflated their subscription numbers, and I'm betting it had a hand in WAR's current status.

I'm less interested in the difficulty level by itself, and more interested in the investment/reward ratio.

I know I wasn't totally clear in the post but:

I don't think just organizing 15 more people is enough to justify:

-a tier higher loot
-profession patterns
-legendary item questline
-only one with realm-first achievements

I am aware that the HP and damage of Ulduar bosses is ratcheted up in 25 man. But in reality this doesn't make 25-mans any "harder" because you have 2.5 times the people and they are tuned for a raid in a tier higher gear. The actual difficulty experienced by a naxx 25-geared player in uld 25 won't be any higher than that experienced by a naxx 10 -geared player in uld 10.

Instead of tuning 25-mans UP to create a larger difficulty disparity (drive away more players to competitors' games?), just increase the rewards for 10-mans to be more comparable. The thing that really chafes is the treatment as 2nd-class citizens because we don't get the legendary, or patterns, or world first achieves (I'm aware of the ability to trivialize it with uld 25 gear, I just think that problem should be solved instead of brushed away), AND their gear is a tier lower for a similar difficulty of the actual instance.

If the only difference is difficulty of organization, either ONLY reward the raid leaders, or shorten the gap between the rewards for 10 and 25 man. The CURRENT IMPLEMENTATION DOES NOT WORK. You can't make the rewards for 10 man such a pathetic shadow of 25 man and then say "hey we gave you a 10 man option!" Actually, you didn't really give a 10 man option in that case.

Like I said, a more legitimate difference would be to give exactly the same loot in both instances (and perks like patterns and legendary shards), but just allow 25 man groups to gear up twice as fast (ie 2 epics per boss in 10s, 6-7 per boss in 25s, you can get a legendary 3x faster in 25s, etc). That's a nice incentive without relegating 10s to 2nd class status, and it solves the "trivializing world firsts" problem.

I've organized plenty of 25 man and 10 man raids (my rogue is in damn near full BiS from naxx 25, maly 25, and sarth+1s that I've personally organized). Organizing a 25 man run is not THAT much harder. If the organization alone is enough to stop people from raiding 25s, then they are doing it JUST for the gear, not for the other reasons GC listed. All of those benefits should outwiegh the hassle of organizing.

Stabs said...

It comes down to subscriber numbers. I don't think (and presumably Blizzard agree) that many players are so agrieved by the situation of being punished for choosing 10s. I think they feel that people who are frustrated at being locked out of 25 rewards will generally keep their sub running and hope for the opportunity to do 25s (change in RL situation or change in guild in-game).

They might be wrong. If they are, it will cost them money.

If they upped 10s loot to match 25s and the result was 25s collapsing they certainly would lose some players to games with a big raid end-game like EQ2 and LotR. Is the number of those guys who will cancel greater than the number of unhappy 10s players who will cancel because they cannot conceive of ever being able to do 25s? I think so

It's all about dollars :-)

Stabs said...

Here's my take on an additional aspect as to why 10s simply work better

Ixobelle said...

GC is the first to point out that the 25 man content in game right now (aka naxx25) is horrendously undertuned, and that that is (was?) a huge mistake.

I'm not sure why they didn't just run in there and retune it after they realized it, but probably 'because then everyone who hadn't done it while it was EZ mode would cry' is up there on the list somewhere.


no wait.

**SUPPOSEDLY** Ulduar 25 is going to be light years beyond Uld10, but we'll just have to see, won't we?

glee, tomorrow = patch and I = no job!