Why I’m in a Shrunken Raid Group

I was reading Gazimoff this morning (afternoon, whatever, it was morning for me) and stopped to comment on his Incredible Shrinking Raid Group.  However, I never quite made it to the publish button, because I realized that I had such a LONG comment, that it was going to ridiculous in that little comment box that is available at the bottom of a blog.  I’m not going to summarize his entire discussion here, but I was particularly caught by a couple of lines in his summary:

But in doing so have we lost that feeling of what raiding is? Is it just the experience of playing the game with other people to a schedule, talking over voice chat and sharing great experiences? Or is it something more – being part of a large group of people all working to achieve the same thing together? Have we diluted the raiding experience so much that it doesn’t feel like raiding any more?

I think it’s fair to say that the 10-player raids we have to day have replaced the role of Stratholme and Scholomance in Vanilla WoW. These don’t “feel” like raids to veteran players, just fancy dressed up dungeons that have the difficulty tuned to 5-man heroic plus a little bit. They’re becoming popular because players treat them as exactly that – harder than normal heroics that you prepare for.

I’m a WoW 1.0 player as well. However, I’ve played from within and without of the raiding system. Hell, I didn’t even know what raiding when I began playing the game–I spent my first character’s days spent in Battlegrounds, vying for control of AV. My first raid-like experience was Stratholme and Scholomance–but it took a lot of fast talking to get into my first serious group. PuGing these instances often led to long and frustrating runs that never quite finished. The first time I lucked my way into a core guild group, my entire view of dungeon running changed forever as we quickly nipped through in a 5-man run. I was hooked on dungeoning.

However, I never joined a guild. I never raided. I joined my first raiding guild on a brand new server with a random invite outside the Crossroads Inn. The server was so new, that as players dinged 60, every guild ponied up players for the great outdoor raids since no one had enough raiders to tackle it in a solo setting. Although we did 40-man raiding in MC, I probably couldn’t name more than 10 of my fellow players. I could name every rogue in the guild and my fellow class leads, but that’s about it. I remember being frustrated with the amount of time it took to do everything–wipes easily ate up a half-hour or raid time.  My fondest raiding memories didn’t occur in the raid–they happened outside in the smaller 10 and 15-man dungeons, particularly Blackrock Spire which remains one of my favorite instances.

I wanted to raid because it opened a whole new level of content up to me. I had burned myself out with BG’s. I had just finished leveling for the Horde and Alliance. I had seen what the game had to offer, and raiding offered a whole new vista of new things to do, new experiences to have. When Burning Crusade released, I wasn’t disappointed by the smaller raid sizes, although I was known to bemoan the lack of outdoor raid bosses. I even spent my early days in a 10-man casual raiding guild. However, I ran into the same problem I had experienced before: to open up those new vistas, I needed to be part of a larger group. Not being a class lead this time around, I found myself connecting with maybe 5-7 of my fellow members, and we formed a small cadre of dungeon running idiots outside of the raid.

Ok, Wrath I did 10 and 25 man raiding. I won’t bore you with all that, since I think everyone’s gotten a good glimpse of my mistakes and experiences. I even went for a while without a raiding guild altogether. And let me tell you, after having gone through 40 to 10, I’ll pick the 10-man group every time, if I have access to the same content.

I was a noob without a guild. I was an ok player standing outside in the cold pounding on guild’s doors looking for entry. I joined guilds that I loved but didn’t want to raid with and guilds I loved to raid with but couldn’t stand. And the reason I kept joining those guilds, the reason I kept raiding was to see the content. The number of people is irrelevant to me. I cannot personally connect with more than 10 people in any meaningful way.

Once a raid increases past 10 raid members, I’m already out of touch. At the 25+ mark, I’m raiding with complete strangers. To me, the large raid sized feel more like cooperative BG’s. Ya, you might know the guy who invited you and a couple other peeps that you BG with every week, but the rest is a rotating blur of nameplates and funny names. Huge raids make perfect sense to me in an outdoor setting. There’s a big ol’ meanie threatening to torch the town, and so everyone with an axe or waggling fingers comes running to put down the threat. However, today’s raids aren’t outdoors. We band together and enter the boss’ lair. In that case, I want my closest associates, people I can trust to not turn tail and run back to the entrance, or people who know when to be werry werry quiet as we sneak up on the wascally wabbit.

As another long time player who’s seen the raid size constantly retract, I can understand the nostalgia, but I cannot understand the definition. Bigger does not always equal better. More people doesn’t equate to more fun. If you’re one of those people who can meaningfully connect with a large demographic of players, than I could understand how disconcerting the shrinking raid sizes could be–it forces you to disconnect and leave some fellow raiders’ behind. However, as someone who can’t, I find it hard to adjust to larger raids–I feel lost in a sea of “humanity” that cares more for the experience than for the sharing of that experience.

Maybe it’s because the experience is fresher, but I feel more challenged in a smaller raid setting. My every arm flail and lazer beam has an appreciable and noticeable effect within my raid environment. I make a difference. Every single person I play with makes a difference. And it’s one I can see without scrolling through a bunch of funny numbers on some website.

The first time I ran Strat/Scholo, it WAS a raid to me. My experiences since then have led me to expect something different from that as a raid, and later in vanilla, the 10 and 15-man raids became more like dungeons as I found other players with whom I could clear that content with in a smaller (5-man) setting. However, everyone’s experience isn’t going to be the same. A 10-man raid instance feels still feels like a raid to me. I actually appreciate them more because a raid team that is conscientious about their time generally spends less time prepping and recovering in the smaller setting than in the larger, which as my time has become more and more restricted gains greater and greater importance for me.

For myself, and I’m sure many other players, the epic feel was not so much the size as it was the experience of being able to tackle content that is not available as a solo player. Raiding, for most players, requires joining a guild and becoming a part of a social network outside of the PuG experience. A raid almost inevitably requires a long-term plan for downing bosses — I have yet to see a guild that clears an entire dungeon of content the first day it’s released, much less the first week. Raiding requires players to reset their goal expectations to a longer world-view than a ten minute quest or an hour long dungeon. It requires us to become more embedded within the game, as goals keep bringing us back night after night, week after week.

I have nothing against a larger raid. I’ve been trying to re-tweet, re-post, and generally spread the word about recruiting in a number of different settings, because I can understand how the connection gets made between large size and epic experience. However, I feel that in this post, the experience for people who prefer smaller raids was questioned as being a “true” raiding experience. I define my raid experience by the goals I achieve, the structure I take a part in, and how it makes me feel. By my barometer, the smaller raiding experience is just as, if not more, gratifying than larger raid experiences I’ve had.

TL:DR: My experiences and definition of raiding are quite different, even though we’ve played a similar amount of time. 10-mans are a completely viable raiding model, and just as “real” as their larger cousins.

From another old-timer.

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8 thoughts on “Why I’m in a Shrunken Raid Group

  1. Wow, I have to say, it's interesting to read your experiences and history with raiding and know that even though mine is different than yours, we've come to the same conclusion! 10mans are a viable option as long as we have access to the same raid content. In some cases, I find them more challenging because there's so little room for error.

    Never would have thought I'd feel this way. I was always such a die-hard 10man raider before.

    btw- I discussed some of my own thought processes and realizations about this in a post just recently!
    http://muradinmusings.blogspot.com/2011/01/consid

    Thanks for writing this great post!

    • I've been a cynic myself, and I might even have conflicting posts on the subject, but I'll be darned if I'm gonna go check :P I liked big raids when I was doing them, but I think if the option opened tomorrow with a great 25-40 raid man guild that raided at my time and was downing content at a pace I was comfortable with, I wouldn't choose it. I've been there, done that, and really, can't find a reason (other than size) that makes it more fun than what I'm doing now.

  2. You're spot on with the qualification of "as long as they have access to the same content". That's really all that matters, but the 10m is more intimate in my opinion.
    I was a TBC baby, so 40 mans were "old" to me, and I never experienced them outside of BGs. I just looked at raids with the release of Wrath, so it was either 10 or 25. My experience with the 25s is they were a bit more impersonal with a focus on just get it done. The 10s seem more personal to me with chatting in between the fights. The more people, the more herding the RL needs to do. I like less herding.
    Interesting post!

    • As a raid leader, I'd require some kind of class/raid lead assist type peeps, because I am just not qualified or patient enough to herd 25 cats through content week after week. I know I really missed this aspect of raids when they were pared down to 25-man style because class leads seem semi-irrelevant when you may only have one of a class in your raid, but I know I built a number of strong bonds with my "crew" in 40's, and I missed the intimacy to be found within the larger group who were on the whole, faceless to me.

      Intimacy definitely depends on the group and the level of comfort, but knowing how my team-mates is going to twitch makes me a lot more comfortable, and flare-ups over misunderstandings have, on the whole, been easier to maintain in the 10-man groups I've been involved with.

  3. I raided 25-mans in TBC and both sizes in Wrath… and I'm not going back to 25s if I can help it. I like progressing and killing bosses, but I like doing it in a social environment. In my guild and raids, I know that the warrior makes "that's what she said jokes", the rogue stealthes ahead just see me follow him and facepull, one of the priests makes German porn noises on Vent and the other priest is crazy about them… and so on. In my 25-mans, even the best ones, there just wasn't enough Vent time for everyone to talk, so there's people I never heard after months of raiding together. There were good times too, and it was more relaxing to know that one dead healer didn't equal a wipe… but I like getting to know my raiders. And, like you said, I can see myself making a difference. My epeen grows :D (Weirdly, I feel more a part of the "healing team" now, when there's 3 of us, than I felt when there were 6 or 7.)

  4. TBH, I hated the old 40 man raids and wasn't over enamoured of the 25 mans either, I still think Kara was one of the most fun time's I had in WoW.

    In 10 mans I know everyone i'm doing them with and I know that if I make a mistake and die, roughly 15% of our total DPS dies with me.

    In a 25 man I barely know half the people and if I die, meh, it's only about 4% of our DPS so it's not going to make a huge dfifference.

    They just feel a lot more impersonal and more like you're there to fill 'Generic DPS spot number 7' than in 10 mans where you make a real difference.

    • Some teams are better at making a large team feel friendly and personal, but I definitely understand where you're coming from. It's hard to feel like a cog in a big wheel when there's only 10 of ya!

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