Blizzard’s been delving into World of Warcraft’s almost decade-long history of raids to put changes that Warlords of Draenor will bring to raiding into context. In part 2, Blizzard looks at the era of Catacylsm and Mists of Pandaria, which saw some significant changes.
During this four year period Blizzard removed multiple difficulties from the equation, then added Raid Finder, which split difficulty up again, into three categories, and then added Flexible Raid mode, adapting raids to various sizes. It’s been quite a meandering journey.
The journey from Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria was one where new solutions caused brand new problems, ending in Flexible Raid mode. This came out of the realisation that World of Warcraft once again had difficulty tiers.
“We knew that the Cataclysm changes had effectively removed a difficulty level from our game by raising the challenge of 10-player Normal to match 25-player, and that this change had left a group of players without suitable raid content,” said Blizzard. “By adding Raid Finder, we had returned to three effective difficulties, and given the popularity of the feature, we assumed that this largely solved the problem. We were mistaken.”
By Mists, there were three distinct raiding groups: friends and family (social raiders), raiding guilds and hardcore raiding guilds. But the first group didn’t have content tailored for them. Raiding guilds had Normal modes and hardcore raiders had Heroic modes, but social raiders were left out in the cold. Even the raid finder wasn’t helping.
“Running Raid Finder could have helped them get better gear to overcome these challenges, but that often simply wasn’t enjoyable,” said Blizzard. “For the player who just wants to play with his or her friends in a tight-knit environment, solo-queuing was not a satisfying experience; even queuing for Raid Finder as a group wasn’t much better, since the presence of a dozen or more strangers transformed the nature of the activity. Besides, Raid Finder was tuned for randomly matched groups and generally lacked sufficient challenge for even the most casual of organized raid groups.”
Flexible Raid mode was the solution. Launching with Siege of Orgrimmar, it was 20 - 25 percent easier than Normal mode, and could adapt to raids of any size between 10 and 25. “Why limit which friends they can play with to those on the same realm? We made Flexible Raids have their own lockout, and we allowed players to kill the same boss multiple times per week—but only loot it once,” Blizzard said. “In general, our aim was to remove as many obstacles as possible that might get in the way of friends who just want to be able to raid together in WoW.”
In part 3, Blizzard will reveal the future of raiding in Warlords of Draenor. Do you have a wish list?