While this post responds to some particular events, I’d like to thank Matticus for his post which tied everything together. It was while reading his blog that I got inspired to add my own commentary about the state of competitive WoW.
A few days ago, Paragon announced that they will be switching from 25-player to 10-player raiding as of Mists of Pandaria. Arguably the greatest raiding guild in the world has said goodbye to what has always been regarded as the pinnacle of competitive raiding setups in WoW.
Indeed, what makes WoW the most competitive and difficult MMO ever is not the individual mechanics of the bosses, nor the coordination of 25 players – it’s the competition at the top level. It’s the race to be the first.
So, does Paragon’s shift from 25-player to 10-player raiding indicate a failing or dwindling competitiveness in WoW?
Yes and no.
Yes in one respect, that it certainly takes one very major contender out of the race to the big world first. The race which thanks to the explosion of accessibility of streaming has brought a great deal of attention to the competitive potential of WoW PvE.
In another respect, I feel that this might be just in time. There will be a potential influx of people to a game with a great deal more (and better quality) end-game content than we saw in Cataclysm. With the introduction of Challenge Modes, there is a variety of ways people can be competitive. And I think Paragon being competitive in the 10-player realm, while the Methods, Blood Legions, Vodkas and so forth keep going with 25-player content creates more opportunity for competition. It might provide a link between 25-player content and challenge mode content.
New expansions bring in new players and bring back the old – it’s my hope that we see the return of many players from the glory days of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King up to and including Ulduar. There’s a great deal of lost talent there, and perhaps a better end-game in Mists of Pandaria, coupled with a more competitive and accessible raiding scene (thanks in part but not exclusively to Paragon’s shift to tens) will bring some back.
Finally, I absolutely think that Challenge Modes are poised to be the most competitive content ever introduced into the game. It actually has a ladder. Every player in the game can see where they sit relative to the best players. All of a sudden there is a true official ranking of groups inside the game, instead of exclusive to 3rd party sites. It also gets past the problem of different regions having different unlock times – I think that Athene took out World First Level 85 before Cataclysm had even launched in the US. What Challenge Modes bring is a way for everyone, regardless of their location, to compete on a level playing field (minus the latency, which as always Australians such as myself will be shafted by!).
25-player raids just feel more epic. For me personally, I can exist quite happily in a 10-player guild while getting my 25-player fix of epicness from LFR. I don’t think this is the end of the 25-player raid. I think this is the beginning of a more competitive 10-player scene, and I think that is a much-needed link between 25-player raiding and 5-player challenge modes.