MMO Theorycrafting 11 Comments

40 Person Raids are not Necessarily Terrible (WildStar)

While WildStar has generally received praise from press and good hype from players, not everything is happy times in space. Probably the most divisive issue is the female character models and the lack of character customization in general, but close after that is the game’s plan to have 40 person raids.

(Don’t read the comments on that female character model link, by the way. Seriously. It is full of hyper-defensive dudes accusing the author of just trying to suck up to women and the usual “it’s not sexism, it’s marketing” argument and ahhhhh why did I read those comments why?!)

For good or for ill, 40 person raids make people think of Vanilla World of Warcraft, and apparently some people really did not enjoy those days. And that’s fine — my guild was pretty awesome and friendly and laid-back when we were raiding 40s bosses so I had an awesome time, but I realize not everyone had such a great experience and would prefer to not go through those times again.

My guild and our first Ragnaros kill, 2006

My guild and our first Ragnaros kill, 2006

I think, though, that it’s putting the cart before the horse to assume that WildStar’s big raids will be exactly like WoW’s classic big raids. I mean, they could be! But personally I think it’s unlikely, and we don’t really know how that content will play.

For example, after Molten Core a lot of the big raid content in classic WoW required quite a bit of gear and concentration to complete. Naxx #1 and Ahn’Qiraj in particular were extremely difficult when they launched, and had crazy requirements like weird nature resist sets and having 8 well-geared tanks available. I’m just guessing, but I would be very surprised if the bulk of WildStar’s big raid content was that punishing.

MMOs have also vastly improved their group management tools since Vanilla WoW. There are automated group finders, cross-server teams, lockout extensions, and WildStar’s relatively new idea of friend “circles”. Outside of the game, players use social media much more frequently now to coordinate activites, and things like oQueue and Open Raid make it easier than ever to find a spot in a big group on a flexible schedule.

Imagine that WildStar’s initial tier of 40 person raid content, for example, had an automated grouping feature along with it. Or, what if it was tuned to accommodate a more casual zerg style of play? Or some flexibility in difficulty, through group size or triggers like Ulduar?

I honestly don’t know exactly how their big raids will work. Maybe they will be serious-business-hardcore-only right out of the gate! But I think making the assumption that the content will be terrible (or amazing, really) simply based on the maximum group size is a mistake. One of the great things about the post-WoW MMO landscape is its diversity, and I’ll be interested to see how WildStar is planning on updating the now disused 40 person raid concept for a modern audience.

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  • Reply
    January 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Well, I’m not certain how the social aspects will play out. I do think that 40-mans have a lot more room for “grunts”, which can keep more players involved with the game.

    However, the one thing I do like is that 40-mans demand a focus on technical performance. The game engine has to be strong enough to handle a 40-man raid. That performance usually improves the rest of the game, where the demands are much lighter.
    RohanV´s last post: Heart’s Desire

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      January 15, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Huh, that’s a really great point Rohan. I have long contended that WoW is just the technically smoothest MMO out there by far (with TERA being the runner up, oddly enough), and perhaps that is in part because of its legacy of big raids.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    My concern with 40 man raids has always been around logistics. The name of your blog was our guild’s issue for years.

    Coordinating 40 people, for 2 hours, is next to impossible in today’s reality. I am really curious as to what tools they are going to put in to fix that problem.

    I personally don’t see the value in it anymore. WoW’s flex raid system is just about perfect. Bring your friends, content scales.

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      January 15, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Heh, when I started the blog I was guild/raid leader of a 40 person raid guild so the name was entirely suitable. :)

      I like WoW’s flex raids a lot, but sometimes I do miss the epic encounters that are more easily possible with more people. I won’t say that I was missing 40 person raids from my life, but I’m interested to see them now they’re back.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I’ll echo sentiments of logistics, but my issue is more with design.

    The problem with 40-mans, even when you did them right, was that they had to be tuned to allow for some extra weight to be carried along. You might happen to have a solid core of players, but in most guilds, you still filled a signifcant amount of your roster with, frankly, whatever you could get.

    That’s nice if you want more people to feel included, but it kills a lot of potential for complexity in the content. At least it does if you expect the average guild to be able to accomplish it. The intense gear grind, along with massive amounts of trash, and too much reliance on attunement/resist gear/DPS checks to gate content, also didn’t help.

    I think the 25-man content of early TBC struck a better balance. Every individual had to participate, and you could tune the fights a lot more specifically. It also happened to be easier to maintain 25 people and a bench, than 40 people ever would.

    I personally feel the smaller (yet still epically large) raid size also helped more guilds concentrate and become even more tight knit. You still had people who didn’t carry their weight (you always will), but since fights were tuned tighter, the median skill needed to rise as well. Smaller raiding guilds meant there was more opportunity to have more than a couple big raiding guilds per server. More guilds competing for server firsts or top dog reputation fostered more competition, and helped reinforce guild culture in an ‘us vs them’ sort of way. It also gave fringe players (those who weren’t quite core, but not quite bench either) more places to prove themselves rather than be regulated to the back end of the roster.

    I am not against 40 mans. I love them for a very specific amount of content, namely, world bosses and largely zerg-based encounters. I just prefer a much tighter and leaner raid experience for the core of the game’s raiding progression.

    WildStar’s telegraphing approach and streamlined combat design may prove me wrong. It is certainly possible that their game will be able to deliver 40-mans that are just as tightly tuned and innovative as 25-mans in WoW ever managed to do.

    From my past experience, however, I am forced to remain doubtful.
    Murf´s last post: Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather work for Riot too.

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      January 15, 2014 at 11:05 am

      TBC 25s are my favorite raid content as well! I agree with just about everything you said except “It also gave fringe players […] more places to prove themselves rather than be regulated to the back end of the roster.”

      In my experience as someone who rostered both 40s and 25s, it was waaaaaaaaaay easier to slide in people you knew were mediocre in a 40 person raid. I’d feel comfortable bringing 5-10 non-core raiders in a 40 (new level 60s, people who weren’t able to raid that much and so didn’t know the fight, less skilled family members of core raiders, etc), whereas in a 25 we’d start to feel it if I had more than 3 or so fringe players.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    “Imagine that WildStar’s initial tier of 40 person raid content, for example, had an automated grouping feature along with it. Or, what if it was tuned to accommodate a more casual zerg style of play?”

    HOORAY! LFR all over again! Because I enjoy LFR oh so, so much.

    Apologies for the blatant sarcasm, and I really don’t begrudge others their LFR-style of zerg play, but I don’t find it engaging or fun. I participate in LFR because, as Ghostcrawler was wont to say, it was an efficient means of gearing early on in a patch cycle, not because is was engaging or fun.

    And we’ve seen the casual zerg style of play: Guild Wars 2. I also did not find that remotely fun. It was largely chaos, most people fending for themselves in a big pile of people. Realistic, perhaps, of an actual melee, but there’s a certain amount of fun in being able to coordinate with your fellow raiders.

    Zerg play, and LFR-style raids, do serve an important part in MMOs today. I certainly wouldn’t advocate removing LFR, or world bosses, or other styles of massive scale/zerging, but I’m still not sold on 40-man raids in Wildstar. The logistics alone are just too much work for me.

    I can’t deal with 25-man raids, let alone 40 people. Heck, when our flex raid started hitting 18 people I was just, “Hell to the no!” I’ll watch with some curiosity, because they have an opportunity to prove me wrong and really put out something cool and innovative, but I’m also not holding my breath.
    Talarian´s last post: WoW: Talents, GearScore, Proving Grounds. Heuristics for the Time-Pressed Raid Leader

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      January 15, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Your and Murf’s comments (thanks for commenting, by the way!) made me chuckle because I actually agree with you both about LFR and zerg tactics and issues keeping a good complexity with that many people.

      My inspiration to write this post was seeing a loooooot of folks say, essentially, “Wildstar has 40 man raids, I hate 40 man raids because they are always hardcore and unfun, therefore WildStar is going to be hardcore and unfun, I HATE WILDSTAR NOW”. It’s advising the more modern school of MMO gamer to relax and realize that WildStar does not have to do things just like the Vanilla WoW that “casuals” hate.

      That being said, I can totally dig not enjoying larger groups. I did back in the day, but that was 8 years ago (!!) so I’ll be interested to see how I feel about herding, or even just running with, that many cats now.

  • Reply
    January 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    The first I heard of the 40 man returning I immediately thought it will be successful for Wildstar :) i think we’ve come full circle in MMO raiding: 40 man is seen as such an outrageous proposition that only the best will do it, thus making it popular and novel once again.

    Wildstar will succeed here if the content is great and challenging enough for 40 *raiders* to want to do it.
    Doone´s last post: The Digital Frontier

  • Reply
    January 29, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Here is a dev comment that you might want to take to heart and understand that they aren’t trying to ensure that everyone gets to do this stuff. They aren’t copying Wow’s or any other games easy access and friendly end game.

    “The joke is that you guys seem to think we don’t know that 40-mans are inaccessible to most players, difficult to organize/run, only for the top raiders, etc.

    We know. That’s the point.

    Exclusivity is not necessarily a bad thing.”

    This is going to be a big wake up call for the current MMO generation, Wildstar is different and if they don’t like it, then there are other games out there to play.

  • Reply
    Conversation Leftovers for January | XP Chronicles
    January 30, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    […] not so sure 40-mans are a great thing. You can follow his confusion here. Liore appears to be on the same ship, as she argues that Wildstar‘s implementation of the feature won’t necessarily have the […]

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