There is a lot of debate and acrimony over casuals versus raiders in WoW. "Casual" players feel that Blizzard inordinately caters to the raiding players, rewarding them with better gear and interesting content. Raiding players, meanwhile, think that casual players just want epics handed to them, and are unwilling to put in the work. As someone who was a casual player for many months, before finally becoming a raider, I feel I have an interesting perspective on things.
Here are some points that I'd like to discuss:
1. Raiding looks harder than it is.
For a casual player, raiding is very intimidating. The raiding guilds force you to apply, almost like applying for a job. You hear horror stories of guilds expecting people to commit 12 hours a day. You can no longer just log on and do stuff. Instead, activities are formally scheduled. You don't get loot in a run, instead earning DKP which you exchange in some fashion for loot. The system used to give out DKP can be insanely baroque. The guild may demand that you spec a certain way, or play your character in an very specific way. You may be forced to download and install mods and accessories such as Teamspeak. The attitude of some raiding guilds is also very arrogant, as if Molten Core is incredibly hard, and you have to be an awesome player to even think of going inside.
Here's a big secret: raiding is not that hard. You go in, and you do what you've always done. If you can follow orders, you can raid. Most raiding guilds don't raid that much, and usually only in 3-5 hour increments. Molten Core is not very hard. If you can 5-man the endgame instances like Scholomance, Stratholme, and Dire Maul, you're more than competent enough to handle Molten Core. Raiding is not really about raw skill, it's about strategy. Coming up with the correct strategy for the raid as a whole, and then executing it well are the key points of raiding.
Scheduled runs are also more beneficial to the casual player than you think. If you know that MC is on Thursday nights, you can clear your schedule on that night. A hardcore player, on the other hand, is always online and really has no schedule to clear.
A lot of the problems with raiding stem from the player base. In many ways, raiders are extremely conservative in their approach. They are often unwilling to consider doing something in a different manner than the "established" strategy. You first encounter this when raiding Scholomance, etc. Often times, people looking for Scholo raids will demand a very precise make-up of the raid. You *must* have two priests, you *need* a mage, etc. Newsflash: You're already going in with twice as much firepower as you need. As long as you have the basics covered (tank, healer, dps), you'll probably do just fine.
Similarly, you don't need mods. Decursive is just laziness. The global cooldown gives you more than enough time to manually select your next target to be cleansed. CT_RaidAssist is nice, but is not really absolutely necessary. But the conservative nature of a lot of raiders insists that such extras be download and used.
Personally, I think that if casual players just gather enough courage to apply to the raiding guilds--especially ones that are just starting out--I think that they will find that they can raid just as well as the hardcore players. They may not be able to make every single raid that the guild does, but they will be more than able to contribute, see all the cool content in WoW, and get epic loot.
2. Raiding Scholo, Strath, etc. is an aberration.
I think the ability to raid a 5-man instance is a mistake for WoW. If the 5-mans were capped, people would be forced to do the instances properly. They would learn the skills appropriately, and be able to complete quests. The endgame content would last much longer, and you could properly bridge to the raiding content. I've been a 60 for months, and I still have a ton of unfinished quests.
In addition, I think the "raids" are a bad introduction to raiding in general. They really bring out the "loot" side in people. People raid just to get loot. These small raids aren't that fun, and are very easy. Real raid instances are more interesting and challenging. One of the great joys in raiding is having a plan and executing it well, something which is just not present in a Strath/Scholo raid. Instead it's pretty much pure firepower.
So a casual player who gets to 60 has a very distorted idea of what raiding is like. Small raids are an aberration, that really hurts the casual player's view of the end game in WoW.
3. Converting a casual guild to a raiding guild is hard.
A teaser for my next post. :)