On Sunday we went rifting, doing Expert Rifts and for once I had the rather delightful experience of being able to simply add anyone who logged on to the raid. As a raid leader it was wonderfully liberating.
Recent posts from Nils, Tobold, Green Armadillo about efficiency and leveling have got me thinking about the structure of end game raiding. (Most of the thoughts in this post were originally posted as comments on those blogs).
Raids originally were aimed at the hardest of the hardcore but supported large numbers. If your dragon spawned at midday on a Wednesday it was a matter of grabbing everyone you could to go kill it.
I think this is an area of game design where the cart has led the horse.
No one sat down and designed a two tier leveling then end game system deliberately. Raids were tacked on the end of Everquest to occupy the astonishingly hardcore few who cleared that game but the game wasn't designed for raiding, it was designed for leveling. It was an accident that they underestimated and people finished.
Once raids were in and became established in the culture as the thing the Awesome Players do then more and more people wanted to be an Awesome Player. So raiding got progressively more accessible.
Now this gimmick busywork tacked on the end of the game has become the game. Without anyone at any stage sitting down and deciding this would be a good idea, then implementing that decision.
This incidentally is why a separate raid-only game with no leveling would not work. People who raid believe they are Awesome Players and enjoy feeling accomplished. You need the lowbies in there for them to have someone they feel better than even if the only requirement to be an Awesome Player is that you show up often and press your one button rotation.
Even in WoW Vanilla the struggle to find 40 people made raid leaders broad-minded. Your best player was probably leagues ahead of your 40th best player, especially if you weren't a server first type guild. The stereotype of the afk autoshotting hunter arose because we knew those guys were in our raids not pulling their weight but it was hard to replace them and we still got the job done.
A 10 man raid is the antithesis of this and, with Cata, is where WoW has gone. 25 mans are dying out because of the phobia of inefficiency. Raid leaders know they can find 5 good dps, but finding 15? That's a big ask.
I'd like to see raiding that isn't number capped. So we can solve the problem of low dps by adding players not improving players.
It's very fun for the raid leader, and might encourage more people to raid lead if they get to enable fun rather than being fun's gatekeepers.