The second installment of Blizzard's three-part developer blog on World of Warcraft, "Raiding Azeroth," examines the game's changes from its 2010 expansion, Cataclysm, to present day with Mists of Pandaria.
The dev blog is intended to "retrace the twists and turns of our raid design philosophy" as a way to put WoW's upcoming expansion, Warlords of Draenor, into context. When the developer began work on Cataclysm, it had two major concerns it wanted to address: 10-person raids not providing players with a chance to "prove themselves," and burnout from players feeling obligated to optimize characters by running the same instances.
"Guided by these concerns, we decided to consolidate 10-player and 25-player modes into a single difficulty, single reward tier and single raid lockout," the post reads. "So in Cataclysm, we allowed raiders to choose their preferred raid size and experience the content as they saw fit."
However, changes made had unintended side effects, including difficulty and logistically impossible raid sizes.
"We got better at balancing the two modes over the course of the expansion, but the social consequences of the change continued to reverberate," the post reads. "In particular, raiding had become inaccessible to players who previously had enjoyed playing with their friends or pickup groups, and that was a problem."
When it came to Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard made "fewer changes to our raid structure than in any prior expansion." However, this too was a miscalculation, the developer said. The expansion left "friends-and-family" groups without much content to enjoy, while hardcore guilds were sufficiently challenged. Solo-queuing for raids wasn't satisfying. To fix this, Blizzard introduced Flexible Raid mode.
"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," the post reads. "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.
"We're tremendously happy with how players have received the new Flexible Raid mode, and we wish we'd implemented something like this sooner. We're now back to three tiers of difficulty that cover all of the different kinds of organized raiders, while preserving Raid Finder for those who just want to experience the content on their own schedule."
Part one of the blog, which was posted yesterday, started with the launch of World of Warcraft. The post touches on the game's first expansion pack, The Burning Crusade, as well as its following patches. In the final part of Raiding Azeroth, Blizzard will discuss Warlords of Draenor, due out this fall.