Blizzard releases raiding and emblem plans for Cataclysm

Blizzard released a bit of new news regarding raiding in Cataclysm yesterday, along with information about how “emblems” will be handled. After having digested the news regarding raiding I’m going to have to come down on the side of disappointment. Blizzard seems to be addressing in a roundabout way, problem with current 25-man raiding when you can’t gather enough people. But as the 10 and 25-man content will share raid lock outs what they’re actually doing is scuttling options and limiting the number of “emblems” you can earn in any given week. Here is the Blizzard plan regarding raid content:

We’re continuing to refine the raid progression paths in Cataclysm, and we’d like to share some of those changes with you today. Please enjoy!

The first of the refinements being made is that we’re combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. In other words, if you wanted to do both a 10- and 25-person raid in a single week, you’d need to do so on two different characters. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn’t apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.

We’re designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we’ll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They’ll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items. Choosing Heroic mode will drop a scaled-up version of those items. Our hope is that players will be able to associate bosses with their loot tables and even associate specific artwork with specific item names to a far greater extent than today.

Dungeon Difficulty and Rewards

  • 10 and 25-player (Normal difficulty) — Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop the exact same items as each other.
  • 10 and 25-player (Heroic difficulty) — Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop more powerful versions of the normal-difficulty items.

We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you’re able to gather the people. The raid designers are designing encounters with these changes in mind, and the class designers are making class changes to help make 10-person groups easier to build. Running 25-player raids will be a bit more lucrative, as should be expected, but if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation, you can do that and not suffer a dramatic loss to your ability to get the items you want.

We recognize that very long raids can be a barrier for some players, but we also want to provide enough encounters for the experience to feel epic. For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid. All of these bosses would drop the same item level gear, but the dungeons themselves being different environments will provide some variety in location and visual style, as well as separate raid lockouts. Think of how you could raid Serpent shrine Cavern and Tempest Keep separately, but you might still want to hit both every week.

We do like how gating bosses over time allows the community to focus on individual encounters instead of just racing to the end boss, so we’re likely to keep that design moving forward. We don’t plan to impose attempt limitations again though, except maybe in cases of rare optional bosses (like Algalon). Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.

In terms of tuning, we want groups to be able to jump into the first raids pretty quickly, but we also don’t want them to overshadow the Heroic 5-player dungeons and more powerful quest rewards. We’ll be designing the first few raid zones assuming that players have accumulated some blue gear from dungeons, crafted equipment, or quest rewards. In general, we want you and your guild members to participate in and enjoy the level up experience.

We design our raids to be accessible to a broad spectrum of players, so we want groups to be able to make the decision about whether to attempt the normal or Heroic versions of raids pretty quickly. The goal with all of these changes is to make it as much of a choice or effect of circumstance whether you raid as a group of 10 or as a group of 25 as possible. Whether you’re a big guild or a small guild the choice won’t be dependent on what items drop, but instead on what you enjoy the most.

We realize that with any changes to progression pathways there are going to be questions. We’re eagerly awaiting any that we may have left unanswered. To the comments!

Here are some clarifications to a few common questions we’re seeing.

Regarding how the raid dungeons will share the same lockout. This means that you cannot do separate instances in the same week. If you defeat an encounter in 10 player normal mode then you are locked to the 10 player mode of that dungeon for that week and can flip between 10 player normal and 10 player heroic on a per boss basis (assuming heroic is available). In this scenario you cannot do the 25 player version. Is this correct?

Correct. There should be no circumstances under which you kill a boss more than once per week on the same character. However, in the same way that you can decide on a per-boss basis whether to try normal vs. hard mode, we might allow you to change between 10 and 25 on a per-encounter basis for additional flexibility. If you started a raid in 25-player mode and then found that you couldn’t get everyone together later in the week, you might be able to downsize the next few bosses to 10-player.

Will legendary items be available through 10 player dungeons? How about special mounts like Invincible?

In some of these specific cases, the answer is that we just don’t know yet. We’re going to have to walk a fine line between dropping the same items in both 10- and 25-player modes, versus still offering something extra for the 25s. If we over-reward the 25s, then players who like 10-player raiding will still feel compelled to find more warm bodies. If we don’t provide any extra incentive for 25s, then some players may stop playing with their friends in order to avoid the extra organization required for a large raid.

Overall, our goal is that you make the decision between whether to raid with 10 players or 25 players based on what you find fun and not because of the reward structure.

For perspective, it might help to look back at how we changed lockouts and hard modes on every single raid tier of Wrath of the Lich King to see what felt right and try to fix problems that arose from previous tiers. After seeing the first tier of Cataclysm raiding, we may decide to adjust our design for the next tier.

How many pieces of loot will drop for 10 and 25 player modes respectively?

When we say “25 should drop more loot,” we’re just sharing a philosophy. You shouldn’t assume that this means that 10-player modes will drop 1 item or that 25-player modes will drop 6
items, or whatever. We haven’t finalized how much loot will drop, but our general goal is that 25s should drop more to help make up for some of the logistical cost.

Will achievements be broken down by 10/25 modes? Will realm first achievements/titles be only for 25s? Will meta-achievement mounts be available for both versions still?

There will just be raid achievements, not 10- vs. 25-player versions in most cases. The achievement won’t care if you complete it in 10s or 25s. If we do meta-achievement mounts, it’s possible we’d still have different colors of mounts, or maybe even different mounts; but for some players that might mean that 25s feels mandatory again, which would be a potential problem. This is the kind of thing we’re going to have to consider carefully, and again, we might try a few different implementations before sticking with something we like.

We’re also not sure about realm first achievements or titles. We don’t want to encourage, say, 25-player focused guilds to run a 10-player raid instead because they think that will get them the ream first title faster. One potential solution is you can earn a realm first title in 10 or 25, but not both. These types of achievements also serve as great content for guild achievements.

10 and 25-man content will share the same weekly lockout, meaning you could move back and forth between 25-man and 10-man raids and be at he same point. The intent seems to be to give options to guilds that might have trouble with raid attendance during the week. If you raid on a Tuesday night, but then are missing a few people on Thursday you’d have the option of continuing on in 10-man instead. The problem with this is two-fold – the excess players that were on the 25-man run would be saved and wouldn’t have the option of running a new 10-man that week. Their progression would effectively be over for the week. And secondly I believe the effect on raiding will be to kill 25-man raiding and make the new default the 10-man runs. Blizzard more or less acknowledged this by saying 25-man raids will be more “lucrative” than the 10-man raids as the bosses will drop more gold. The bosses in 25-man will drop more loot quantitatively, but not qualitatively. Depending on how much more loot they drop exactly, this may or may not be true in a real sense, but if it takes just as long in 25-man to obtain loot that isn’t much of an incentive to over come the problem regarding the lockout timers. In WotLK it’s become a normal activity to run a character through 10-man and 25-man runs each week, at least until the character gets to the point where they no longer need any additional emblems and have obtained enough 25-man loot. That will no longer be case in Cataclysm.

Of course the discussion regarding raiding would not be complete without also understanding Blizzard’s plan for emblems in Cataclysm:

We’re continuing to refine the badge/emblem and PvP point systems in Cataclysm and we’d like to share some of those changes with you today. Please enjoy!

Our primary goal when approaching badges in Cataclysm is to address a lot of the confusion that comes with these currency systems. To that end we’re changing badges to a more straightforward point system, similar to the ones we’ve used for a while for Arenas and Battlegrounds. There will be a total of four types of points you can earn in Cataclysm (two for PvE and two for PvP), and these will remain the same even as we introduce new content.

Here’s the breakdown:

PvE

* Hero Points — Low-tier, easier-to-get PVE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, but no cap to how quickly you can earn them. Earned from most dungeons. (most like the current Emblem of Triumph)
* Valor Points — High-tier, harder-to-get PvE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, as well as a cap to how many you can earn per week. Earned from Dungeon Finder daily Heroic and from raids. (most like the current Emblem of Frost)

PvP

* Honor Points — Low-tier, easier-to-get PVP points. There will be a maximum cap to how many you can own, but no cap to how quickly you can earn them. Earned from most PvP activities.
* Conquest Points — High-tier, harder-to-get PvP points. There will be a maximum cap to how many you can own, and a cap to how many you can earn per week. Earned from winning Rated Battlegrounds or Arenas. (currently called Arena Points)

When a new tier of raiding gear is released or a new PvP season begins, your higher tier of points will be converted into the lower tier. For instance, if a new tier of raid gear is released, your Valor points will be converted to Hero points, and similarly if a new PvP season begins your Conquest points will be converted to Honor points. Of course that means with these new releases you’ll always begin without any of the higher tier of points, and thus be unable to stockpile them.

As noted for Conquest points, the Rated Battlegrounds and Arenas will be sharing this same point type. Because of that, it will in fact be possible to get the best PvP items without setting foot in Arena; however, more powerful armor and weapons will of course require more Conquest points, so players who win their matches more often will still gear up faster. We’re removing personal rating requirements on almost all items; they’re definitely removed for weapons. We might offer a few items to the absolute best players based on personal rating, largely as cosmetic or ‘bragging rights’ type items. And you’ll have the option of purchasing the previous season’s gear with the more readily available Honor points.

We do plan to have a way to convert Honor points (PvP) into Hero points (PvE), and vice versa, at a loss. The conversions will be possible, but it won’t be a 1:1 rate, and you’ll have fewer points after the conversion process. We won’t allow the higher tiers to be exchanged for each other, however.

To explain the reasoning for the weekly cap on points for the higher tiers, this is to provide flexibility in how players choose to earn the points without feeling like they have to do all of the content as often as it is available. If your Valor income from raiding is sufficient, you may not feel the need to run Dungeon Finder every night, or perhaps even at all. Likewise, a PvP player could choose to participate in a lot of Rated Battlegrounds but no Arenas, or focus on both, and still be able to earn the points they want.

We realize that with any changes to progression pathways there are going to be questions. We’re eagerly awaiting any that we may have left unanswered. To the comments!

I’m happy to see that Blizzard is finally fixing the complicated emblem mess they created in WotLK, but the involuntary caps that are ostensibly being put into place for flexibilities sake are ridiculous. The end effect between the raid content changes and emblem changes is an additional level of gating that will occur on a progression based game. It will all act as a sea-anchor that will slow down completion of content. The problem is we don’t know what Blizzard will be introducing to replace that ability to access and complete content. As WoW has become a very regimented form of progression theme-park you can’t take away something without replacing it with something else. Otherwise the masses will grow even more restless than we see today and that would seemingly be the opposite of Blizzard’s intention with these changes to begin with.

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