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Does WoW need variable raid scaling?

Matthew Rossi

If you've ever played a game of Diablo III and had a friend join you, you've heard the message "The minions of hell grow stronger." When you play DIII in a group, the monsters you're stepping on either grow in number or power and sometimes both. When you or your friends leave, the game tunes itself back downwards, so that while there are fewer of you, there are also fewer of the monsters or they have less punishing abilities.

I bring this up because I wonder if just such a system would help address or perhaps even destroy the 10/25-man raid debate in World of Warcraft. What is there was no fixed raid size? What if raids were any group up to 25 players, and the trash and bosses simply scaled themselves for the size of the group?

You see threads on the forums constantly debating the back and forth on 10- vs. 25-man raiding, exclaiming how 25-man raids are dying out, which I find undeniably true purely based on the logistics of each size of raid, and so on. I'm sure we've all been in a situation where we wanted to raid but we were a few short. Now, imagine if you could always raid, as long as you had the two tanks and three or four healers ready to go, because the raid would scale itself based on how many people you brought.

The best place to experiment with this kind of thing would be the Raid Finder, with its ability to select a role before queuing so that the raid would "know" how many of the pivotal tanking/healing specialists it had to work with. Once you had enough tanks and healers (letting the raid know how much damage it could dole out), you could just fill the rest of the slots with DPS players, letting the raid know benchmarks for DPS checks, enrage timers, etc.

A scaling raid like this would have several advantages.

  • You would never be forced to call a raid because you were two or three players short. Only 22 people online? No problem. 17? Sure. 9? Good to go. As long as the roles you need are filled, you can raid.
  • If your 10-man raiding guild has 13 or 14 players who are raid-ready, you don't have to sit them. Bring them along. Variable raid scaling would mean the end of dedicated X number raid guilds -- you'd simply be a raiding guild, and you'd bring as many raiders as you could afford to.
  • Schedules could be adjusted more easily. If you have an excellent raider but she or he can only come for the first two hours or last two of a raid night, bring him or her. Once said person has to leave, the raid just adjusts itself to the new number of players.
  • Guilds with unconventional rosters (you, your friends from work, and a few buddies you made in game) can just go. No more "we need one more" for an hour before resigning yourself to the inevitable. The same for PUG raids.
There would of course be pitfalls to attend to. For one thing, heroic modes might have to be locked to strict 10/25-man sizes due to the difficulty of tuning challenging content and then trying to make it scale for variable group size. Gear drop rates and the amount of gear would have to scale for size as well (perhaps every five people in for a kill increases the amount of loot that drops by one piece) so that you don't have 18 people in for two pieces of gear.

With the logistical slow death of 25-mans well under way and Blizzard repeatedly saying they want people to choose the kind of raid that they find more fun, why not free up raid size to this kind of democratization? While admitting that yes, it would be challenging, it could also finally bring players together instead of dividing them over how many other players they kill dragons on the internet with.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.

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