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.