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Nov 20, 2006



Dan Hunter wrote:

"Please, can we not have a discussion about whether being kitted out in Tier 3 and raiding every night is "successful". Can we leave the sophmoric "Hardcore Raiders vs Get-a-Life-You-Sad-People" Punch-and-Judy Show for the WoW forums, ok?"

Is that even possible though, especially when referencing WoW? What I mean is that the gameplay in WoW is remarkably friendly to soloing and small groups up until level 60. After that however the end game for gear involves huge raid groups. If Blizzard really does intend to downsize end game raids I have to wonder why. Are 40 person raids somehow game breaking? Or is there another explanation.

Blizz claims they have over 7 million subscribers world wide, but from what I understand their counting methodology includes a whole bunch of abandoned toons created and then thrown away in gaming cafes on the Asian continent. I haven't been keeping track, but I haven't heard of any Blizz press releases touting their rising numbers of North American subscribers, and the lack of such announcements seems suspicious to me. It's pure speculation, but if WoW is seeing declining subscription numbers in NA and the pattern Blizz is seeing is people leveling to 60 and then dropping out then it might be plausible that a reduction in the size of raids for end game content is Blizzard's response to that phenomenon.


I can't tell you why 40-mans are considered "real raiding" but I can tell you why, as a guild CL, I prefer the large 40-mans. In 4-group runs like AQ20 a single player really affects the outcome of encounters, if one person doesn't know what's going on it can really be the death of you on almost every boss. In 40-mans this is toned down, and only a few fights (outside of naxx at least, I don't have any experience there) depend on every single person knowing every facet of what's going on and concentrating to the fullest. I find I get annoyed with the players under me a lot more in AQ20 than in AQ40, god knows ossirian is hell if people don't listen. Basically I prefer 40-mans because they allow me to be nicer and less "elitist" towards players who may not be up to snuff in gear and skills.

As for current raids in the expansion, I at least hope the Molten Bore is abandoned, and AQ40 with it's technical fights would need to be drastically redone for smaller groups. But I can definitally see BWL being run by small raids of level 70s, the loot wouldn't even have to be improved that much (and god knows all current raiders would be ecstatic to see t2 buffed for the expansion). If Blizz wants to keep people running the current raid instances, and appease lvl 60 raiders, the best course of action would be to buff current epics. Although sadly I can't see that happening.


The reason is that social interactions are impacted by game code, and not always for the better. This is Lessig meets McLuhan in game space.

Past a certain number (5? 10?) humans subdivide into smaller groups for efficient information transactions and for better affinity. We can work in large numbers, but there is a rate of diminishing returns. Pass 10 and you need a certain kind of leadership. Pass 20 and you need a hierarchy. Pass 30 and you need another tier in that hierarchy. Get to 40 and you need a fairly complex political and social system to organize the members and maintain harmony. Higher numbers also mean a larger chance for conflicts. Teamwork and team bonds drop. For analogy's sake, who remembers a 100-person team (work, sport, anything) with fondness? Humans don't work that way. Google Dunbar's number for some potential biological restraints.

I don't know how much game designers really think about these issues. I used to think it must be a lot because they've succeeded, but I've come to think that they've been succeeding in spite of themselves. Constance has written about this, too.

Taking WoW as one case, their social support tools are teh suck. Nearly all of the coordination that is required to maintain a fun and competitive group takes place outside of Blizzard's tools: VoIP, websites, raid signups, etc. Yes, there is guildchat and a roster. Thanks a lot.

Blizzard is possibly realizing that they've hamstrung their groups. No doubt they have some kind of introspection on the social traffic of their game. Their attmepted fix will be to spruce up the LFG function (it's a nice improvement) and to lower the group sizes.

The outcome will be smaller guilds (game code impacts social interactions). Smaller guilds will be comprised of more like-minded players. They'll be easier to organize and run.

It's the transition that might be a bitch for many groups who find themselves "too big." Do we form sub-teams? Fracture into multiple guilds? Run raids more often? Or just go smaller by weeding the ranks or allowing for atrophy? I predict that many big guilds will splinter and that the flux will cause some small number of players to quit.

Regardless, Blizz will still cater to the uber-est of the uber by eventually remaking one or two 40-person raids that will throw all of this back into chaos. They'll take a beating from the hard-core if they don't, and that hard core is comprised of influential opinion leaders.

PS The old 40-person raids will be run by smaller groups for the odd drop, disenchanting materials, and for a few prerequisites. For example, there is already one BC raid that requires an item from Naxaxaxaxaramadingdong to enter. That makes their "old" content still matter, which in a way is good since such a small % of the player base has been able to experience it.


For analogy's sake, who remembers a 100-person team (work, sport, anything) with fondness?

People who like classical music? Very expensive, but worthwhile.

Maybe the developer thinks 40-man raid goodies establish a firm line between the (casual) "haves" and the (hardcore) "have-nots"...

What is the average guild size in WoW?


(err... misplaced "hardcore" and "casual"...)


You know, an orchestra is a great analogy. But I wonder how many 100-person guilds make great social music together. And I wonder what orchestra has 100 members who actually like each other. My guess is that it's the same seething pit of politics, affairs, enemies and alliances that any large group has. Maybe they can perform well together, but maybe they'd actually be happier in a hand-picked half-orchestra comprised of their friends.

You are right, of course, about the firm line between the hard and casual via goodies. That often keeps those groups together. But it's not the healthiest, happiest social dynamic.

As to guild sizes in WoW, the PlayOn guys have the goods. You might also read the article I wrote with them, as it gets into the social ramifications of guilds as impacted by game code and has some guild size data.

Dmitri Williams, Nicolas Ducheneaut, Li Xiong, Yuanyuan Zhang, Nick Yee, and Eric Nickell
From Tree House to Barracks: The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft
Games and Culture 2006 1: 338-361
http://gac.sagepub.com/current.dtl for those with subscriptions.


"``For analogy's sake, who remembers a 100-person team (work, sport, anything) with fondness?''

People who like classical music? Very expensive, but worthwhile."

A friend of mine plays in one of the major symphony orchestras. He tells me that symphony players (excepting stars such as the concertmaster) are chronically unhappy. And every one of them would love to be able to make their living in quartets.


Like Drac said, smaller groups are better from a gameplay standpoint. It's always been the case in the larger dungeons that a small core group of people who are on the ball can drag some dead weight through--depending on the fight, of course. But he has a point: better gameplay might not be what players want.

In my circle the cries of "where are the *real* raid dungeons?" have mostly died down; I think people will adapt pretty quick. Most guilds will probably dwindle by attrition, as people toward the end of the old 40-man rosters get fewer and fewer invites and leave on their own.

The current 20 mans have all sorts of cues that say they're not full dungeons: shorter timers and worse loot, mainly; and if you're actively running BWL or higher they're trivial--you knock 'em down with brute force instead of strategy.

They won't need to actually change any of the old raid instances to nerf them, at least; ten more levels and ten levels worth of gear is huge.


"If Blizzard really does intend to downsize end game raids I have to wonder why. Are 40 person raids somehow game breaking? Or is there another explanation."

- Raiding is less fun, and the bigger it gets, the less fun it gets.
- There is less sense of personal achievement/fun/exploration/socialization if you are one of, say, 10 rogues on your MC raid...
- There is less skill involved when there are 4 people people on the raid who fill your same exact role.
- In fact, with 40, your class skills and gameplay skills become irrelevant, and you just are marginalized into roles of "tank," "heals," "dps," etc...
- There is skill involved in raiding. Timing. Coordination. But those organizational skills generally give no sense of "fun" to those being organized.
- Roughly 10% or less of players raid. Smaller raid sizes make raiding more accessible to the gross majority of subscribers.
- People can maintain roughly 40 close friendships. Given the reality of flesh world responsibilities, time zone differences, etc. online attendance is generally 50% membership of a large guild during peak hours. The percentage shifts more radically with smaller guilds. A close-knit 40 person guild will be able to field a 25 man raid, while finding it next to impossible to realistically fill a 40 man raid without pugging.

And as another note, they've already stated they will repopulate the current raid dungeons with a "hard mode" and equivalent loot, in addition to the current "easy mode." Old zones will still be utilized.


"Get to 40 and you need a fairly complex political and social system to organize the members and maintain harmony."

To continue that thought, I'd like to point out that coordinating this kind of organization (or being coordinated by it) is not fun. Maybe there's a way it could be made to be fun, but right now large raids in WOW are a trial in patience, and withstanding challenges to one's patience is not fun. See: waiting for a bus, watching paint dry, waiting to be called at the DMV, watching the grass grow, etc.

The more people you add to the raid cap, the more overhead you add to the raid, and the less actual playing you do. This means you're waiting, usually for late arrivals, summons, regrouping, AFKs, disconnects, reboots, hunting for replacements, full-on drama meltdowns, and 15-minute strategy preambles. Small raids enjoy the benefits of less overhead. In addition, if someone were to disconnect, it's easier to keep the attention of 4 people than it is to keep the attention of 39.

Put simply, more people means less playing, more waiting, and ultimately less fun.


Bill:A friend of mine plays in one of the major symphony orchestras. He tells me that symphony players (excepting stars such as the concertmaster) are chronically unhappy. And every one of them would love to be able to make their living in quartets.

Hmm, yes, my ideal social group size is 2-3. Still, I played in a brass orchestra as a kid and if kids can enjoy being on a very large team creating amazing sounds then there must be something satisfying about it. They do this for years in their spare time, right?

For raids or massive battles, perhaps the crazieness and chaos gives a particular feeling you don't get with small teams. The sense of being part of something which has "it's own mind".


The only explanation that matters is that although 40 man raids are very enjoyable for the people who do them repeatedly, esp later content such as Naxx etc. They just don't make any money.

Are 40 or 25 man raids better than each other? Depends on what style of gameplay you like.


Dmitri: Dmitri Williams, Nicolas Ducheneaut, Li Xiong, Yuanyuan Zhang, Nick Yee, and Eric Nickell
From Tree House to Barracks: The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft
Games and Culture 2006 1: 338-361
http://gac.sagepub.com/current.dtl for those with subscriptions.

Thanks, it is available for others too. Apparently. The guild sizes appear to be quite large, but the sampling process thing doesn't seem to weed out alts? I am not sure what can be said about raid capability then.


There's a quiet but strong current in recent patches to reduce the dependence of players on 3rd-party add-ons by folding in useful functions to the base UI, certainly. The target-of-target display option, for instance, is insanely useful for group healers (and tanks, and also others, but I click it most often when playing a healer). The expanded options for event message text likewise put a lot of diagnostic info at players' eyeball level with a minimum of fuss. I would guess that Blizzard is downscaling raids partly to reduce the extent to which endgame play depends on providers other than Blizzard - I've never seen this discussed as a concern, but it strikes me as a sensible one.

And to add to what others are saying about group dynamics, I've heard from a guildmate who works in part of Blizzard's support network that large guilds do indeed generate more drama than smaller ones, including the sort of drama that results in GM tickets and the like. 200 people organized into two large guilds will fight more with each other than the same 200 people organized into five to seven smaller guilds. The good large guilds can be good indeed, to be sure and some run year after year with no more hassle than anyone at random may stumble into. But the bad ones are apparently a real blight on the support landscape.


@Ola. No, we can't differentiate between characters and accounts on the client side, so it's all guesswork. What is the ratio of accounts to characters? 3:1? No one knows. Unlike Sony, Blizzard has not gone that extra step to help outside analysts. All these tell you is the rough proportion of guild sizes compared to one another.


When I play WoW in my guild, I always compare it to the other MMOs I've played: Earth and Beyond, Eve-Online, Saga of Ryzom. My guild, from what I can tell, is fairly large (120+ players). It's hard to know for sure since a lot of the statistics are unknown in-game. I think Dmitri's point is well taken: "Nearly all of the coordination that is required to maintain a fun and competitive group takes place outside of Blizzard's tools: VoIP, websites, raid signups, etc." Without these support tools in-game, Blizzard may be seeing fewer and fewer people staying in-game to experience the end-game content.

In contrast, The Merchant Marines in Earth and Beyond had 1200 members working together within the game. Ascendant Frontier Alliance in Eve-Online has over 4000 members in the same world. Both of those games had expanded social tools integrated with the client. This allowed charismatic, social people to lead large numbers of their fellow players. Eve-Online is actually greatly expanding the social tools in their next expansion, by adding in new gang tools and corporation management.

If the raid sizes are getting smaller, it might be because Blizzard recognizes that a lack of tools means fewer people playing together. In that case, it would amke perfect sense to create smaller dungeons, since the barrier to entry would be lower and you'd have more people staying for the end-game.


This is a bit off-topic and should probably be obvious to me, but it's not, so I need to ask:

This usage of "toon"... does it refer to "cartoon" or "platoon"? The number "40" feels like a reference to Ender's Game.


"If the raid sizes are getting smaller, it might be because Blizzard recognizes that a lack of tools means fewer people playing together. In that case, it would amke perfect sense to create smaller dungeons, since the barrier to entry would be lower and you'd have more people staying for the end-game."

Interesting post. It would also seem, however, that improving the group tools in the ways that you describe would also make the game stickier. Why don't they provide better tools?


I have been wondering about raid sizes a bit recently. I played EQ with large raids and enjoyed them. The loot system was based on points from raid attendance, etc. But this is when I didn't have a baby, and could basically make every raid the guild went on.

Now, a have a child, and that (fortunately) takes priority over a scheduled raid. I find at level 60, there really isn't anything worthwhile (to me) to do other than 40man raids. Unfortunately, 40man raids are 'stricter', scheduled, sometimes take longer, require you to show up on time, and going afk is frowned upon. I find myself wishing for more 5-10-15 man content since it can be done ad-hoc, even if the drop rates are lower.

I agree on the other points. There are people that feel larger raids make each individual less important. This is somewhat true. Easily one person can wipe the whole raid, but its rare for one person to save the whole raid. On the other hand, I've heard many people say that larger raids bring a sense of importance to the gameplay experience, that something significant is happening.

Either way, these are secondary issues to me, and I'm guessing, many other people who dont live their lives around a posted guild raiding schedule. I, for one, look forward to more accessible content even if it is watered down.

A game should have its goals and player demographics clear. Thats what I thought was strange about WoW, that its easy and casual until level 60, then it turns into another game with large group raiding. Even the battlegrounds are strange with 1.5 hour queues. Guild Wars seems to implement this much better.



@Ola: the average guild size in WoW is 17 (median 9). The largest guild we observed had 257 members. The 90th percentile of the size distribution is 35. With numbers like these it's not hard to understand why Blizzard won't put more 40-man instances in the game...


If we assume that Blizzard sees the value of doing a detail analysis of "quest" design, we can conclude that they are improving upon the current designs.

I don't know why they came to their design decisions, but let me speculate and forecast regarding team composition for raids:

Raid size was reduced from 40 to 25, a ratio of 0.625. Raid size will be reduced again in the future to 15. As raids take the place of organized sport leagues in the social framework, raid composition will trend toward the current sweetspot of team size. MMO raids are the new softball.

Further adjustment to team composition will likely be focused on the team composition of quests. 15 is probably the sweetspot for raid, so Blizzard will likely focus on creating mini-raids/maxi-quests, which will drop to around 9-10 (the median guild size). Think of these teams as "special teams" with very define mini-raids or maxi-quests. Mini-raids will focused on smaller team and skill coordination while maxi-quests will focus on social and "character" development. Adjustment to battlegrounds is likely.

In reducing the size from 40 to 25, Blizzard initiated a "pruning" of teams that could see up to 25% grow in subscriptions. Teams that could easily coordinate a 40-raid now can easily coordinate two 25-raids (hopefully with twice the amount of rewards). Teams that could not easily coordinate a 40-raid will find it easier to coordinate a 25-raid. Moreover, with the team shuffle recruitment of new players will spur growth (new nodes) and recuitment of existing player will enhance social networks (more new connections). Moreover, this "pruning" will increase the number of people in leadership roles (more super nodes).

In regards to the possible nerfing of current 40-raids, I think Blizzard will keep the status quo. This means that WoW will now have three content stages: The level 1-59 quest game, the level 60 40-raid inflection point, and the level 61-70 25-raid. This mean that new players reaching level 60 will still have to go through the current level 60 raids in order to prepare for the 61-70 content in which the elders will take the newbies through a few time (like an elder-game training ground).



I talked about this with a friend in one of the big Alliance raiding guilds on Silver Hand; he has (as nearly as he knows) the best-geared paladin on the server. He had several things to say I thought might be of interest:

#1. Guild leaders are apparently talking a lot about it but only to each other. Members at large speculate a lot but hear very little solid. He has the impression this is pretty comon right now.

#2. His guild, like other groups now regularly whomping on Naxxramas, is well-disciplined. Their raids don't take a super long time to run, and they usually only raid three nights a week. Many of their members can't play a whole lot each week. Others can. When the expansion pack comes out, those with more time will be advancing more quickly, and among those who'll get left behind in leveling are many of the guild's leaders. They don't yet know what this'll do to their existing chain of command or what sort of response they'll want to make.

#3. My friend is really, really looking forward to Burning Crusade. He comments that he loves raiding with his guild, but has gotten more and more of a yearning for questing, for discovery and soloing and doing things with small groups that are new and move his characters and his knowledge of the world along.


Michael Chui said: "This is a bit off-topic and should probably be obvious to me, but it's not, so I need to ask:

This usage of "toon"... does it refer to "cartoon" or "platoon"? The number "40" feels like a reference to Ender's Game."
"The enemy's gate is down?"

Toon is usually in reference to a single avatar, so in your case, cartoon. I haven't heard it used to reference a platoon in any game I've played.


Everyone else covered the issue of the social structure of raiding groups well enough. I'll only add one point, which is that expert raiders who seek challenge keep moving up to demand more complexity and more challenge. A higher need for coordination is one of those axes, so there is a pressure towards more complex raids and possibly larger ones. But these players are more likely to prefer a really well-knit team over a large uncoordinated one...

On the second question, what happens to content that is no longer at the pinnacle? Well, the pinnacle is very much dependent on how important the rewards a given chunk of content provides, but if something like Molten Core is truly superseded, you should expect it to be as deserted or populated as a level 40 area might be. Inflationary game designs like Diku, EQ, WoW, etc, always end up with a hollow "core" -- today's badass new content is tomorrow's old hat deserted zone.


Michael Chui>This usage of "toon"... does it refer to "cartoon" or "platoon"?

It's "cartoon", as in Toon Town.

People started using it to refer to what we used to refer to as an "avatar", once people started using "avatar" to refer to what we used to refer to as a "character".



40-man Raids is one of those "It sounded cool but in practice, sucked" things. Much like Alterac Valley and the PVP Honor System. Raids of this size sound epic by virtue of the fact that it requires 40 people. However, creating challenging content for a group that size, internally testing it, and having players form a consistent group of skilled people with similar play times, and devote at least 25+ hours a week to raiding is difficult.

EQ2, sequel to EQ1 and the ~75 man raids, probably realized something of this sort early on, which is why their Raids have a limit of ~26 people. WoW raids were at their conception 40-man, and was probably too late to change the size once the original beta ended. Tigole (WoW Raid Designer) has said they wanted to change the size of raids for a while, and figured the expansion was the best time to do it.

I was previously a GM of a successful raiding guild, and stepped down just before Naxxaramas came out. The guild originally was small, tightly knit with 10-15 people. I turned it into a large guild that could support raiding full time. Looking back, I would never want to do anything like running a 40-man Raid Guild again. Constantly having to worry about keeping 40+ people happy, looking for new people before the next person quit, playing judicator and drama nanny is not fun, and certainly not something most people pay $15/month for.

The new 5/10/25 player limit content is a great change. It's nice to be able to participate in challenging content, and not have to worry about things like finding 39 other people. It's also much easier identify who is playing their class to the fullest, instead of having 10-15 top notch players who are carrying 30-35 people that are mediocre at best. Gameplay is also much more compelling, since you don't have 39 people to pick up your slack. :)

I am in TBC Beta right now, and starting to do 10-man raids. It's quite challenging, as challenging as any of the 40 man stuff in the past. It's great to be able to log on, get together with a few friends, maybe find some extra people to fill those last few spots, and tackle a challenging instance. 25-man stuff should be a blast as well, especially if 2-3 small guilds can easily work together to form a raid. If you want to check out a movie someone made of some of the Karazhan encounters check out:

As for the conversions of 40-man guilds to 25-man guilds, if the guild leadership was smart, they started planning for this as soon as TBC was announced, or at the very latest when the 25-man Raid Cap was announced. As some people have said above, raiding guilds could slow recruitment below their rate of attrition, so they would have a lean guild at the start of the Expansion. There are plenty draconian measures to take as well, such as forming raids with certain people, and letting people left out leave on their own. Instituting a Level Requirement like "You much be 70 within 2 weeks after TBC is released or you are kicked." Drama related to this is inevitable, and guilds that planned for it early will likely see less of it.

With pre-expansion vs post-expansion content/gear comparisons, that's just the way expansions work...the way they have to work to make the expansion compelling from a playing and business perspective. People will treat old content the way we treat low level content now...run them occasionally for friends, for fun, or with a skeleton crew for giggles (Google: 6-man Onyxia). Old, unused, low level content is often retuned for higher level players as a quick and easy way to have "new" content.


Nicholas: The 90th percentile of the size distribution is 35. With numbers like these it's not hard to understand why Blizzard won't put more 40-man instances in the game...

Yes, that is a plausible explanation. Still, having greater challenges forces the creation of Alliances. (Planetarion, EVE?) Alliances create opportunities for political games. Grooming inter-guild relations is a good move, people make more friends that way.

Raph: But these players are more likely to prefer a really well-knit team over a large uncoordinated one...

Well. You need activities which are inclusive in order to "groom" the "we feeling". Being left out is no fun. What's wrong with having raidzones that scales to the team entering? Like the space ships in AO.


You know, in the real world- or at least the real world according to Tom Clancy and Jerry Bruckheimer, the cool kids with the best toys in the armies etc go around in small tight knit elite units (in fabulous black fetishwear), and the lowly grunts charge into the gunfire in their dozens.

Someone explain to me why MMOs have this all backwards? You leave boot camp, you team up with a small group running guerilla missions and as a reward for all that, when you're the swingingest swordswinger your town ever made, you get to be Private Stubbs hacking away in the line.


Doesn't it make sense to do all the meatgrinder stuff at lower levels, and leave the "end game" hacking to small elite units? Political infrastructure should be in place to encourage guilds to use these teams to further their agendas, as well as the swarming masses of level 5-59s.


Todd wrote: "I'd like to point out that coordinating this kind of organization (or being coordinated by it) is not fun."

True. This where we might need to look more closely at squad games and RTS games. Both of those are fun.


A MMO real time strategy game would be a ton of fun. Not necessarily Command and Conquer style, but controlling a variable-sized group that could accomplish things under your direction. For instance, you're a small village in a huge world, and you push for your village to become superior over neighbors and such. Since the game's core would be PvP (not just griefing, but competition) there wouldn't need to be a coded endgame; instead, players compete among each other to create new content at all levels. You could even add in procedural techniques to allow customization of buildings, weapons, and society (a la Spore). I'd play it!


Some comments from the designer himself:



As a developer and a guild/raid leader (of some of the people posting in this message none-the-less hehe) I have a number of different and opposing opinions on the subject of 40->25 person raid switching.
The first being I'm not sure if it's a good idea for long term content balancing. The reason being that 25 person encounters are much more constrained on group makeup then their 40 person counterpart. From this I mean, If you bring 10 healers or 12 healers to a 25 man encounter vs bringing 13 or 15 healers to a 40 man encounter, the difference is huge. Thus lets say my guild have only 2 active druids and your guild has 6, yet both of our guilds have 25 active members. You need to be just as successful as I am in theory. This is much easier to balance in the 40 man content. Therefore 25 man content will evidently be easier to master and have a lower long term impact on the game.
The next issue I see is that the games mechanic and grouping system allows for 40 man raid groups. This feature can't be phased out over time due to the 4 already existing 40 man raid dungeons, which require at least ~30 bodies in the instance to simply perform certain aspects of the encounters. For example, Sheeping Domo's Adds requires 4 mages, Tanking the 4 horsemen takes 6 tanks in rotation, 5 tanking Vael, Healing Patchwerk requires at least 10 healers for mana and agro reasons, etc. So to allow players to continue to see this content they would either need to rescale the encounters to work with 25 people, or, leave the options open.
That all said, as a developer, there is often a lot of push to utilize each feature to it's fullest extent. As well, many guilds, such as the wonderful group I lead, are built on the premise of 40 man raiding. So we have a slightly larger base then required by the content now. But too small of a base to balance doing the new 25 man content twice. So this leaves us with an issue as to how to plan for this new content. Splitting the guild is not a viable option as many guilds, ours included, involves "Meat Space" (excuse the term, just one I hadn't heard in some time and still find funny) or extra-game world bonds that don't break easily. Also, more then 30 of the members of this guild have been together for many years. My only really viable recourse is to grow and tier the guild into "Raid Team 1" and "Raid Team 2" with groups of about 35 members in each.
My last issue is that given that we know 20/25 man content is easier to master then 40 man content due to group makeup constraints and other logic constraints, we know that the tight knit raiding group will plow through content at a very fast rate. So we need to worry about delivering content fast enough to the public to keep people interested in the game. AQ40 and AQ20 are good examples of this, where barring technical issues with the C'thun fight, AQ20 was mastered the first night it came out, while AQ40 took over 3 months before C'thun died. Vicidious and Ouru even later. While the AQ20 content is no where near as difficult as AQ40, the early stages of trash and bosses in AQ40 can be mastered by just about anyone who has 40 members in the raid.
So they are left with the complex decision as to how to fill the gap between the technological allowances and social needs. While at the same time delivering content fast enough to satisfy the raiding community's hunger. My guess, is they will go back to 40 man content before too long. The return on investment is just too high in my most humble opinion. And Status Quo always wins out.

-Jesse / GTez


There are two mutually-reinforcing problems that make 25 man raids preferable- at least in some instances- to 40 man raids:

a) Time Differences (raid organization/coordination)- Right now, people from across the world play. Setting a raid time for 8:00 means raiding at 9:00Am for some players in my guild. Ensuring that 40 well-equipped, informed players are online requires a level of organization only large, dedicated guilds can manage. Finding 25 people in your time zone (+ or - 3 hours) is much easier than finding 40.

b) Guild Monopoly- Right now, several servers have only 2 or 3 guilds farming lvl 60 instances (BWL, AQ40) on a regular schedule, making the epic/rare distibution extremely skewed: to get into one of these guilds, you need good gear/experience- to get experience/gear you need to get into one of these guilds and spend at least one month building your dkp before you can expect to get your tier 2 head. 25-man raiding will allow for smaller guilds to form and the epic/rare ratio to become more uniform.


Lowering the raid cap to 25 also allows blizzard to design more stable encounters, while still being able to up the complexity of the encounter. There are many fights like Heigan and C'thun where, if 3-4 people die due to lag or go link dead, it can cause the entire raid to wipe. Now, i'm sure the consequence of one person going link dead in a 25-man could be much greater, but you also have the ability to weed out people with poor internet connections or poor hardware.

In any event, a lot of guilds have trouble getting 15-20 people online at once who can dedicate all of their focus on a raid encounter. Smaller raid caps will reduce the amount of baggage that the better players have to pull with them.

I have also began finding 40-man raids very boring and stagnant. I have a much bigger challenge healing 4 random people in greens through a Strat Live run than i do healing through BWL/AQ40/Naxx. So in the end, i see these 25-man instances as a huge plus, once the whole guild drama and such settles down to where people can actually focus on the new end-game.


"I have a much bigger challenge healing 4 random people in greens through a Strat Live run than i do healing through BWL/AQ40/Naxx."

Funny you should mention Strat Live. A few months ago I did a Strat Live run with 2 Mages, a Druid, a Warlock, and me on my Paladin. Neither the Druid or I were specced for tanking, if I remember correctly, so it was a real challenge. Everyone played extremely well, and each of us had a save-the-day moment. One of my favorite WOW memories, and I not something I ever felt in a big raid.


C'thun took 3 months to beat because of cockblocks that were "part" of the encounter. I put part in quotes because generally, players can only speculate if the encounter is designed as such to be toned down, or are bugged.

With C'thun, things like Tentacles spawning in the stomach at Stage2 or the Flayers having too much HP made the encounter nearly impossible. It was the same with BWL. Ebonroc/Flamegor/Firemaw had a random deaggro and would wipe the raid. Vael would BA the Tank ensuring a wipe.

I'm not a dev or anything, but it seems to me its possible to prolong content regardless of whether or not its for a 25 or 40 man raid. :P


I am always surprised to see that the two biggest raidgame changes are almost never discussed in relation to each other.

The 40-25 change is a big deal, and it has huge implications on which payers can access content and fine-tuning of that content. But these implications are no larger than the effects of adding selectable difficulty levels.

Both changes have the same goal. I believe Blizzard wants EVERYONE to eventually beat Arthas (or whoever). But no matter how easy the 'easy' setting is, 39 other folks was still a barrier.


Coming from a guild that was raiding Naxxggbbq, Dimitri's comments on organization explain a guild mentality very well. Let me add my insight:

The announcement of a 25-person cap affected the 40 man raids almost immediately, in my experience. Right away, it became common knowledge that any weak links leading up to the release would be cut from the guild, and that there would be an official 25 person A-team (that would get priority).

One thing that I might add, Raph - I've observed 3 major reasons that hardcore players spelunk into old dungeons.
-Get Gold
-Get special (eg. +resistance) gear
-Gear Alts/Recruits

They'd do this with Evil PUGs and Alt PUGs - Hardcore raiders need LOTS of gold in order to pay for endgame raiding. Between repairs and flasks, it's expensive. They run Evil PUGs in order to charge ungeared players and alts for good gear. Say Askandi's drops. Nobody in guild needs it - for 2000 gold it's yours. Many guilds also do this exclusively in order to gear out their alts, their friend's alts, and new recruits. At the MC/Ony end most of the gear is free, and the PUGs are run by alts with connections. At the BWL/AQ end it was mandatory guild attendance, and it all added to the guild leader's potential ebay price. Er, I mean it bought us flasks.


I'd like to step back and ask, 'Why is raiding the default endgame?'

Perhaps its because there is nothing after you 'peak' in a MMO. In real life there is a normal life cycle. You're born, you get bigger and stronger, you slow down, and then you die.

I wonder how it would play if a MMO said, 'The more you level the stronger you get, but eventually, your character will start to weaken and die.'

Then it would be time to roll a new toon and the entire raiding issue would be moot.


Ah, the 25 raid cap. A few points to consider.

Very very few guilds ever managed to run 2 seperate raid groups. Maybe a dozen in all of WoW. The raid cap reduction will cause almost every current raiding group to either split or downsize. Guilds that split into 2 raiding groups will almost inevitably split into two guilds. One group will have 'dominance' over the other, and eventually one will poach members to stack/fill their raid group at the other's detriment (read missed raid due to insufficient people).

Next, anybody who raids regularly has the 'omg, 40 people! It's so epic!' beaten out of them quickly. A lot of people feel rather lost in a 40 man raid, especially weak classes and healers. If they win regardless of what you do, why do anything? The cap change will reduce that. Less people, so each is more important. Unfortnately, it will create more class pressures. Certain encounters are all but impossible without the requisite number of a particular class. Gothik, Vael, and Sapphiron take 7-8 priests. The Horsemen REQUIRE 6 warriors, and I'd never do it with less than 8. If raids continue to be designed in this format, in a 25 man you have less room to play around with 'extra' people.

There will be no lvl 60 raid inflection point. Nobody raids under the level cap for a reason. The easiest and most powerful way to make an instance easier is to outlevel it. This is why you tended to see people hit 5 man content when the boss was yellow or less. If people go to Naxx, they'll go at 70. Raids are the hardest encounters, so almost everybody will exhaust the easy option first.

Fights won't get easier because of the 25 man cap change. It will just make the guild size as compared to the available pool of raiders smaller, meaning less people left out in the cold without a raiding guild. If your server has a 120 man raiding population, then it's very likely you can only support 2 guilds with a lot of people left out. 25 makes that somewhat easier, the same principle they applied to BG queues.

The default endgame is raiding because nobody has come up with a better or more efficient idea for PvE endgame play, and players expect raids. Raids are hard, long, glamourous to the outsider, and most importantly slow. The key point of raids is not the size, but the artificial clock regulating them. This slows content consumption.


Silverfang Keep? Don't you mean Shadowfang?


Just read this in Rheingold's "Smart Mobs"

"In the 1950s, economist Mancur Olson found that small groups are more likely to exhibit voluntary cooperation ...than larger groups, and that cooperative behaviors increase when the games are repeated over and over with the same groups and when communication is permitted among the participants."

Seems obvious, but I sense that devs don't always remember. Or maybe lowering the cap to 25 is tacit acknowledgment...


Maybe -- I personally think that the higher, faster, stronger (larger) mandate of modernity underwrote the large raid idea in MMORPGs. That is, as a part of cultural imagination it was unlikely for folks to question the idea that 40 is better than 20. Who knows what they thought at Blizzard as they contemplated the departure, but I would speculate that the degree to which large raid instances (the task) generated large and powerful guilds (durable institutions) may have surprised them a little, and made them think twice about whether to continue to support a structure that made raid content (largely) inaccessible to the mortal man ;-).


(NB: that was supposed to be a "maybe" of "that seems right", rather than a skeptical "maybe" :-D .)


As I approached 60 on my first toon, I was pumped about 'endgame,' as my guildmates discussed it. Then as they hit 60, before me, they jumped to a new guild, a 'raiding guild,' i.e., one that could regularly field a 90% or better in-guild raid group. When I hit 60 I jumped that toon over too, to experience raiding. Raids were regularly scheduled events, there was a scaled developmental order for newbie 60s to work through, DKP had particular rules that reinforced raiding norms, etc etc......and suddenly I was playing a different game. The first 5 or 6 experiences were exhiliarting partly because they were new experiences, then partly because they were, well exciting. Sometimes I just love the controlled chaos of a zerg. Now, however, I find them a chore. I've become a caricature of my class. I can only do what I am asked to do which is to use a particular power in a particular way at a particular time. WTF, sigh.

Meanwhile, as my second toon approaches 60 (59, and crawling forward), in my old guild, I find many 'friends' also approaching 60. We have explicitly decided we are NOT jumping to a new guild to do raids. We are really looking forward to the smaller game in TBC, AS A GROUP OF FRIENDS. When we wipe, it's in a sea of sarcasm and wit, not vitriolic threats. When Kaelen has to pause to pick up the kids from soccer practice or Sage has to deal with a pissy cat who wants to go out, we're all just fine with that. (And...when we went to vent, we were all charmed to discover accents and twangs and inflections of everyone. It wasn't just listen to the raider leader and do as he says or risk being booted.)

Anyhow...I post this to counter generalizations that I'm not comfortable with. I think there are many games going on inside any game, certainly inside WoW. I do think it would be worth knowing more about the behavior (and churn) in top level players. The leader of the big raiding guild my first 60 is in, just stepped down from leading, creating much guild angst and causing at least one other guild leader to go too. I don't know why. He is, however, still guilded and I see them both in BGs a lot. I think he's just burned out from the burden of guild management. He is playing a different game now...in WoW.

And hey, are we gonna talk about the BG twink guilds? I'm a member of one of those too, and we're all a twitter about the rumors around changes coming to BGs. We really, really, really, really hated the Blizz decision to group servers for BG play. I liked the rivalry between our guild and a particular other guild we ran into a lot on the HOrde side. I like the trash talk in the server forum between us. I like getting and giving props across the line in the sand. Now we play a random collection of opponents. It's not like the change has reduced the wait time for BGs. =sigh=

I would hate to be Blizz right now, especially with games like Vanguard's Saga of Heroes on the event horizon.


I was quite excited about your link to the Saga, so went to check it out and register, then I saw that SOE were involved...It is my humble opinion that in relation to MMOs SOE seems to have some sort of reverse Midas touch.


Hey Linda, I'm just wondering what it is about Vanguard that makes you think that it'll cause Blizzard any problems.

What I've seen so far don't suggest it'll pull any substantial numbers away from WoW.

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