Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why Big is Beautiful

Tessy at Reflections from the pond (by the way a wonderful blog, which should appear in many more blogrolls – go check it out if you haven’t already – it’s an order from your innkeeper!) had an interesting post about how she’s changed her mind about raiding.

When Tessy’s guild announced that their focus in WotLK would rather be 10 man raiding than 25 man, she was disappointed to begin with. Now she appreciates it, and she gives several reasons why the 10 man raiding is more fun. Tessy argues that it’s more challenging since you don’t have access to every single possible raid buff and utility. You have fewer people to rely on, meaning that there’s less room to screw up. She also finds it much more relaxed and social, since the smaller scale allows you to have some banter on Vent or in the raid chat in a way that would be unthinkable in 25 man raiding where you need keep those channels as clear as possible to avoid chaos.

In some ways I can give Tessy right. Especially on the social side, 10 man raiding is clearly superior to 25 man raiding. I’ve never ever encountered a management expert saying that 25 people is the optimal size of a unit. On the contrary, they generally recommend you to gather 8-12 people if you want to build a well working team. And looking at that, about 10 people should be quite ideal.

Just like Tessy I enjoy the coziness of the 10 man raids and I really love run them at offnights. But they don’t feel quite as indispensable as the bigger raids; I would be rather disappointed if my guild for some reason decided to scale down. And Tessie’s post made me start to think about why. What is it in the 25 man raids that attracts me so much that they’re the very core, the ultimate reason for me to play WoW at all?

The epicness
There must be something in the very size of them that gives them an aura of epicness that the smaller raids never will get, no matter how challenging the content may be if you go for the achievements.

Yeah, yeah, I hear that the WoW veterans among you are muttering over there by the bar disk, pointing out that the raids were much more epic when you did it on 40 man in Vanilla WoW. I believe you, but I wasn’t there. I’ve only got experience from 25 man raids (except for some nostalgic trips to AQ 40, which hardly gives the right impression), so that’s all I can talk about. But those raids are epic enough to me.

It’s true that 25 man raids aren’t good for smalltalking. While you can joke around to keep spirits up during corpse runs or during a scheduled break, at least my raiding guild guild will expect you to not talk more than necessary, since there’s so much information that needs to be exchanged about roles and tactics that there isn’t room for anything irrelevant.
With a bigger group the leading must be performed in a more military like style, with simple order giving rather than dialogues. It comes with the size of the group. This may seem a little bit frightening the first time you experience it. I have to admit the silence freaked me off a little bit to begin with. But I’ve learned to love it. I like to be a foot soldier, to adapt to the given orders, while still keeping my eyes open and thinking for myself if the situation requires me to improvise.

The silence and the focus on the task in the bigger raids have somewhat of a cleansing effect on my mind. This is probably as close to meditation as I’ll ever come. I know it isn’t the case for everyone. There are imba players who can manage to watch a football game or chat on MSN with friends while raiding. I can’t. I’ve got to concentrate on what I’m supposed to do or I’ll cause a major disaster, which is rather embarrassing when there are 24 other people who will suffer from it. It’s as if the outer world ceases to exist, whenever I’m in a big raid. I get a tunnel vision, where there only thing I know of is “here and now” and the real life worries can’t touch me or distract me anymore.

The challenges
What about the challenge then? Do 10 man raids give you more resistance than the overpowered 25 man raids with an abundance of buffs? Well, that depends on the group composition and if you’re going to go for achievements or not. Generally I think the 25 man raids are more difficult, at least from a managing perspective, since there are so many more people to keep track on, organize, motivate and evaluate. Easy content or not, you can always do daft things, take the wrong turn and get an additional pack of trash mob, pull aggro from the tank and such. If you’re 25 people instead of 10, there are another 15 people who can cause a wipe by accident. The human error factor shouldn’t be neglected.

The fact that you don’t want to mess up the raid for 24 other people also put a lot of pressure on the individual, more than in a 10 man raid where people generally are more forgiving. The mental challenge shouldn’t be underestimated. Sometimes you can be given a central task that you’re not sure you can perform and yet you have to pull yourself together and to it. What a triumph it is when you succeed!

The adrenaline rush
On the screen there’s a ton of things going on to keep track on. More mobs, more players, more spells, more curses, more of everything. It’s easy to panic and lose track of what’s going on if you’re for instance doing Sartharion with dragons up. The whole experience with firewalls, dragons, portals, whelps and elements in combination with 24 other players running around performing different roles can be quite overwhelming. But at the same time it gives an adrenaline rush that I rarely can get from a 10 man raid.

Now, since I’ve been raiding in the 25 man format now for a while, about a year by now, I’ve started to get more used to it and take it a little bit more for granted. I see it much as the natural way to raid than as something extraordinary. But a little while ago I got a letter from Woulfie, a friend on my old server. He’s a veteran player compared to me, but hasn’t been as much into raiding and now he shared his impressions from his first 25 man raid. Reading his recount of it I can recall my first, confused and thrilled steps in a bigger raid.

Although I am running Naxx with our casual guild, we are making only moderate progress. We are almost finished the last quarter, but it is a struggle to get a group of people of mixed languages, ages and abilities (not to mention drinking habits) to understand and obey tactics.

I had sort of lost my confidence in being competent to heal the top end of the game. I had an idea that I am too old and too slow. I had stopped doing 5 mans when I dinged 80 and would have been obliged to do them on heroic mode. Bit by bit I have retreated into the crafting and levelling trades end of the game.

I was good at healing in earlier levels, I knew that. I did nothing except five man instances from 55 to 70.............. not a single quest except instance quests. God bless Death Knights levelling through Outlands I made friends with lots of nice tanks. But then went solo pretty much all the way from 70 to 80.

Then last night a very well organised guildie who runs Naxx with me asked me to come along as healer for OS 25. I told him I was nervous but he told me not to worry and to go on team speak with the other guild members running it too and all would be fine.

I can admit to you that I was simply terrified. Literally shaking. Got my flask and buff food together, made sure healbot was configured properly, cleared out my ui a little, and took a very quick look at Matticus for healing tips on the encounter. I was to heal a pretty newly dinged 80 warrior from my guild who is an off tank.

Meanwhile Draco had been utterly ruthless in organising the group. Fascinating to be in on the process. Anybody whose stats did not pass muster was not let in, or if they got in, kicked when the deficiency was discovered. The Gevlon principle.

We assembled, I stayed right beside my warrior, making sure he had a big diamond
over his head so I could find him in the crowd characters milling everywhere, raid chat full of buffing and communication among players, who will buff who with what, a few seconds shuffling into position and we charged...............................

The air explodes with spells going off. It was a beautiful sight. I upgraded my computer screen and graphics card recently and have never seen such colours, patterns and light on a pc screen before.

It was soooooooooooo easy. We tore down the three drakes, and then demolished the boss. Healing everybody through the lava waves that appeared unexpectedly....................... Off then to Voa where we did 25 and 10 man. In 10 man my warrior main tanked, and I healed................. Healed him, and anybody else who needed healing. No wipes, and my tank only died once all evening; when I did not expect an aoe and could not get out of it in time to get heals off...................

AND I got that trinket from os 25 that basically increases your spell power by 200 all the time. Illustration of the Dragon Soul.............

I did not think that wow still had the power to leave me trembling with excitement, exultation and triumph, but it has. It was probably my best night ever in the game.

And maybe, just maybe, I am a better healer than I thought. Why do we (or me at least) not believe in ourselves more?
Woulfie, my friend, I’m afraid you’ve just been caught by the 25 man raiding bug. There’s no cure for it, as far as I know of (well, joining a terribly bad PUG raid might help). I hope you can find a way to taste more of it in the future.

Big is Beautiful. That’s how it is. Not for everyone, but for me.


Isisxotic said...

This is simply beautiful, as is the rest of your writing. Since I've been out of the raiding scene since WotLK hit, I've thought about 10 vs 25 man raiding. The 10 just didn't seem like it would satisfy the "raiding itch."

You've captured the "why" of it perfectly. Bravo.

Gevlon said...

Loving the silence? Focusing on content instead of people? You almost sounded like me! :-)

Larísa said...

@Isixotic: thank you!

@Gevlon: I've said it before and I tell you again: Larísa and Gevlon aren't poles with oopposite charges. We disagree sometimes, but we're also somewhat alike.

*vlad* said...

I think 10 mans are great for small guilds or even pugs.

Back in BC, I was in a very small Horde guild, and we could scrape enough players together to run Zul Aman and Karazhan once or twice a week. It was great fun, and very doable even with the casual nature of our guild.
At the same time, I was raiding T5/T6 content on my Alliance character in a more conventional 25 man raids.

My only complaint about the current 10/25s in Wrath, is that they are not different enough from each other.
If you are already running in a 25 man raid, there is very little incentive to also be doing it at 10man level.

Daria said...

I've been in a 10-man raiding guild and recently moved to a 25-man guild and I can see the value in both types.

10-mans in my opinion are way more challenging. Everyone really does have to be on top of their game. I felt as though the members of my 10-man guild were pretty good players, but we still would wipe quite a bit in Naxx.

In 25s there isn't quite the same amount of pressure to perform, at least from my healing experience. With 7-8 healers there are times where I simply have nothing much to do.
But I do feel the same pressure not to screw up in front of 24 other people!

I'm looking forward to Ulduar so I can experience 25-man raiding when it is still a challenge for us. Perhaps then our vent will be silent :)

Clifdog said...

I agree.. orginally I was just a casual player never entered a dungeon until I was 70 after several months... then.. finally went to kara.. then a few 25s.. now.. most definitely hooked on the thrills of the big raid..


Kromus said...

Big IS beautiful-- but this is why 10 man and 25 man is awesome:

You like a close-knit bunch of friends, 10 man-- you want madness and a bigger scale, 25 man.
If your a lover of both like myself and the way you explained it so are you Larisa(but bit more 25 sided) then you can love both :D.

Fantastic post, really intresting too-- I love doing molten core but sometimes i wish i could have one day just to see what it was like properly at 60-- unfornatly i didnt get to 60 quick enough for Molten Core days..


Rhii said...

I really love your friend's description of his first raid. :) It really does sound like he's going to get hooked.

Larísa said...

@Vlad: oh yes, it's not one or the other, I love both. But if I really really had to chose, it would be the 25 man raid I can't live without.

@Daria: we've just started sarth+3 dragons (had our first wipe night there) and it certainly is challenging for us and I'm sure it will be for a while. Chaotic and great fun!

@Cliffdog: the funny thing is that the 10 man raid was VERY impressive to me when I did my first Karazhan. I had hard to get an overview of the fight and follow what happened at that time. But as time went by it sort of shrank.

@Kromus: I've never stepped into Molten Core (though I think I'm attuned for it). I'd really like to do it at some point. Even though it's not the real thing at all.

@Rhii: Yeah, I loved his description, it made me remember my first impressions and what I love so much about 25 man raiding.

Tessy said...

Thank you Larísa! :-DDD

The 25-mans are a bit more "powerful" just because there are more people and more things happening on the screen, but to me that is not enough to make up for missing out on all the other stuff I feel is much better in 10-mans.

I think had the difference between 10 and 25 been greater and not just basically the same fights, I might have had a different opinion.

I am really curious about what Ulduar will be like :-)

Jacx said...

Great post and I can just agree that there is something special with the 25-man. And it is not easier. I was far less busy in our Naxx 10-man the other day, than when I go 25 (playing as healer). Even though I'm lazy, I like being busy and PLAY the game, not only sleep through it and chat about this and that. I like the idea that there is more of everything :)

Zetter said...

One thing I tend to find in 10 mans is that there is a lot more presonal resonsibility as a healer. Running with two of us generally if I drop the ball "splat" dead tank and then dead raid.
In 25 mans at the moment there is a lot of redundancy and if you scew up generally there is cover on the healing front to pick up the slack for a bit. This could be just due to Naxx being a lot easier as I do recall being busier in TK and SSC.

Now doing the dedicated few the other night in Naxx 10 man was a rush and if people are feeling underused on the healing front I would recommend this to get the pulse going!


Akiosama said...

Good words, though I would have to say that bigger is not always better...

Ever try to run in a 72 man raid in EverQuest? I've seen those being executed before, and it's the most stressful gaming experience I've ever witnessed, to the point where the exercise didn't even look like a game.

(The instance I saw was from the point of view of a raid cleric, who spent a good deal of the raid in a corner healing in rotation, with more chat boxes up to monitor the situation on the screen than graphical view of the raid. Not my idea of fun, mind you, but the person playing loved it.)

6 hrs a day, 7 days a week raiding...? Certainly not my idea of fun.

3 month guild trial period? Not my idea of fun.

Though, I will admit, I've never had as much pride in my guild as that cleric did. Top 5 guild across all servers will do that to you, I guess, especially on a game as established as EQ.

Each to their own. I don't think I'll ever have the pride of accomplishment that cleric had, but I certainly enjoy WoW more than I could enjoy EQ and that's all right by me.

My 2 yen,


HP said...

It's funny but 10 mans are for friends while 25 mans are all business for me as well... It's like 10 mans are practice sessions for the 25 man raids where you get to perform at the maximum potential of your character. It is just so different. 10 mans only give a taste of real raiding but 25 mans are the big boy leagues. That's just how I always felt about it... Wonderful post (both by you and your friend) =)

Gold Guide for World of Warcraft said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.