Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thunderforged Items and Loot Incentives

Blizzard unveiled their latest scheme for loot in 5.2, Thunderforged gear:

Each 5.2 raid boss will have a chance of dropping this new designation of a particular item that’s 6 item levels higher than their counterparts. These higher quality versions will be called “Thunderforged”. This means that there will be five variations of some items. You’ll now see a 5.2 raid item of LFR quality at item level 502, the same item in Normal quality at item level 522, the item in Normal Thunderforged quality at item level 528, the Heroic version of the item at level 535, and the Heroic Thunderforged version of the item at level 541.... 
We’re going to try having Thunderforged items drop more frequently in 25-player raids. They’ll be somewhat rare in both cases compared to the standard versions that’ll drop, but they’ll be even rarer in 10s. Overall, a 25-player group will be more likely to end up with a slightly higher item level after several weeks of raiding.

Basically, Blizzard is introducing rare pieces of loot that are about half a tier higher than regular loot. They will drop in both 10 and 25-man raids, but will have a higher drop chance in 25s.

The way I see it is that Blizzard has two objectives here. First, they want to make the path to Best-in-Slot (BiS) a lot longer and a lot more work than it was previously.  Normal BiS should be relatively easy to get, minus one or two pieces that never drop, like paladin healing weapons. But getting Thunderforged BiS will be very unlikely, so you'll be working on it until the next raid tier. However, the gap between Normal BiS and Thunderforged BiS should be small, so not having Thunderforged BiS should not be that big a deal.

(This is roughly analogous to Magic: the Gathering introducing Mythic Rares a few years ago. The higher rarity made it a lot harder to collect a full set.)

The second objective is to encourage people to do 25s. But here Blizzard runs into a contradiction.  Thunderforged BiS cannot be good enough to make significant difference to the raid. If it is a large difference, an unlucky guild will have a lot of issues, and there will be loot drama, and lots of strife. It will end up like Legendaries in previous expansions once again.

But the items also have to seem to be good enough that the mere possibility of a higher drop rate is enough to get people to sign up for 25s. Don't forget that the drop rate has to scale for the larger raid size. If a 10-man has a 10% chance of getting a Thunderforged item, the 25-man needs a 25% chance before the extra bonus kicks in. Then the expected amount of Thunderforged items per person will be equal.

I am not sure this is enough. The move to 10s was driven by guild leaders and officers, and I'm not sure that they will see a higher drop rate as enough to make up for the extra work. Sure, this change will probably encourage some regular raiders to apply to 25s, but they would not have extra work in either case.

As well, as I've mentioned before, raiders do not handle randomness well. A higher drop rate on a rare item will seem pretty rare anyways, and I'm not sure that simply increasing the drop rate would be enough.

To actually convince officers to shift back to 25s, you would have to guarantee the Thunderforged item, not simply play the odds. If each 25-man boss guaranteed that one Thunderforged item would drop, I think that would be enough to steady 25-mans.

But that's a fairly high expected value for something Blizzard is positioning as a "rare" item. However, without the guarantee, officers will weigh the chance of extra loot against the extra work of 25s, and find it lacking.

In conclusion, Blizzard will succeed on one of their aims, increasing the work and time required to obtain a true BiS set. But this gambit will fail to stop the bleeding of 25-man raiding.


  1. Separate lockouts between 10man and 25man would be sufficient to bring many players back to 25s, at least on a casual/pug basis once they've finished their 10man for the week.

    I suspect that only the most hardcore are going to switch for this because few guilds have 15 people on hold and ready to raid.

  2. So... Did Blizz contract with AC/DC to use Thunderstruck?

    Anyway, I suspect that raiding hasn't gone as well as Blizz has been hoping for this expac, so they're injecting Thunderforged items into the mix to bring back a bit of excitement. Kind of a carrot on a stick to get through all the dailies, but unlike a class-specific Legendary it is generic loot.

    It might work, but I do think it'll cause drama regardless; the more frequent drop rate for a 25-man raid simply offsets the raid size.

  3. I agree that it will not be fact the only real way to get people to go back to 25s is to give them straight up better gear ala ICC.

    The untold story here, though, is the massive item inflation. Normal is now 20 levels above LFR, and heroic thunderforged is around 80 levels above heroic dungeon gear. In Cataclysm, the best gear was 416 vs the heroic blue 346, a difference of 70, and we're not even to the last tier of MoP yet. Not to mention that now there are 5 different versions of the same item. And here I thought MoP would be the expansion in which this insanity would be reined in some.

  4. My guild went 25s at the start of this expansion after running multiple 10s last expansion. We switched back to two teams of 10s in the New Year after being stuck on Wind-Lord and not being able to put a full raid together for weeks.

    After we switched back to 10s, suddenly we have 100% attendance and the same players magically playing so much better that in one raid week we went from 10/16 to 14/16. (We were and still are a long way behind where I would expect us to be for our skill level.)

    I have been a 25s raider in BC and early MoP, and a 10s raiders in LK, Cata and now back to it in MoP and I am glad to be back in 10s. I don't think it's easier. I think the complexity that is added in 25s is the boring kind of complexity - things like spreading out, and working out and calling out complicated cooldown rotations. That stuff just isn't fun. In 10s, the challenge is working out how to do more with less, and I feel like a really good player can make more of a difference in 10s than in 25s. And healing is 10s is much more exciting than in 25s.

    I don't really see why Blizzard keeps trying to push people to 25s - it's a dying format for a reason. I don't think it's the logistics either - I'm an officer and a healing lead in my guild, and it is just as much work running 2-3 10s as it is running a 25s. You still need the same raid rules, loot rules, attendance, benching, strat threads, ongoing recruitment. The officers were all attending the 25s raids and doing the work to keep it running - the real pushback came from our players who voted with their feet.

  5. "Separate lockouts between 10man and 25man would be sufficient to bring many players back to 25s, at least on a casual/pug basis once they've finished their 10man for the week."

    And I'm not sure I've ever seen a heroic progression raider who actually wants to have to do the same raid a third time each week. Having to do it twice with LFR is bad enough.

    That said, the really weird thing about the Thunderstruck idea is that 25 mans already gear over 50% faster. Blizzard is just adding more of the same thing and hoping it works.

  6. It isn't really harder for officers to lead/organize a 25m raid than a 10m one.

    The reason so many 25m are dying is just that there aren't enough people to fill them, and recruting is really hard nowadays. So it could help if there are some incentive normal people to look more for 25m instead of 10m
    I really doubt it will make any difference, but whatever

    Imo 25m should just die. If no one wants to play them, why force it?

  7. "It isn't really harder for officers to lead/organize a 25m raid than a 10m one."

    Sure it is.

    I'm saying that as someone who was an officer in a 25 man guild in BC (and was in Sunwell well before the big nerfs). Now I lead a 10 man guild. We raid two nights a week and are 14/16H.

    And I'm happy with that because I don't find the slight increase in prestige and 50% faster gearing to be worth the extra hassle of 25 man.

    25 man isn't 2.5 times harder to run than 10 man, but it is definitely harder.

  8. I think a 10% "proc" rate for Thunderforged in 10-man is a pretty optimistic estimate. :)

    My thinking is it will be more in line with Crystallised Firestone [used to upgrade token gear back in Firelands]. The devs absolutely need to make sure that players aren't "expecting" Thunderforged gear to the point where anything non-Thunderforged is devalued in players' minds.