Question: Will Tier15 be the same ilvl as Thunderforged? If not... that makes this post even more applicable.
This must surely be among one of the worst solutions to provide incentive to 25-player raiding. (I) There's an already-existing itemization "problem," but it's honestly okay as-is. Arguably, not even a problem. (II) The proposed model for Thunderforged items exacerbates that problem. (III) There's an easy fix to eliminate that problem and simultaneously make 25-player raiding more appealing. Will Blizzard do it?
TLDR version of below: This hinders 25-player groups in an attempt to help them because of BiS and relative upgrades in itemization
(I) The "Problem" As-Is, i.e. Not Really a Problem
Itemization problems arise at the 10-player raid already, but they're really not that bad. It's more mosquito-bite level of nuisance in that a player's BiS list can be affected by a single world-drop item (e.g., a zone-wide drop in a raid or Galleon loot). In turn, a raider doesn't always look for the "relative" upgrade in gearing toward that BiS list based on any number of other factors, such as whether the raid is using FFA(main spec, that is) rolling, some DKP system, loot council, loot policy, whatever. The trouble stems from the nature of RNG, but has minimal impact on gearing choices as the game currently exists.
The issue usually takes the form of an ilvl difference. For example, Shaman has 489 ring that isn't his BiS, and a 496 ring that isn't his BiS drops. Additionally, the ring is still a relative upgrade for Shaman, but the ring is BiS for Priest. Assuming there's some incentive not to just grab every upgrade (whether it's just being cordial with fellow raiders in a random system like my guild uses, or some "cost" such as DKP), Shaman will likely feel some pressure (whether internal or external) to pass on the ring to Priest.
Less often, for players making a BiS list that excludes world drops, other items in the BiS list can change by including a world drop. Although excluding these types of items is the most pragmatic way to gear yourself (unless you already have one of them), secondary stat differences can make a significant enough difference to even warrant using different tier items. For example, a warrior on a heavily populated server would be hard-pressed to reasonably believe he would obtain 2x Strength DPS rings from Galleon, despite it being BiS pre-heroic.
(I experienced something similar to this myself by winning a heroic 502 wrist in MV that someone else could have used. It was an upgrade for me at the time relative to my 489, yet a regular 496 HoF zonewide drop was better than the 502. When the 496 finally dropped, I won it and now have a useless 502 wrist someone else could be using.)
The "problem" is that the raiding group may less efficiently gear itself, but that inefficiency is offset by whatever degree of relative upgrade someone acquires (especially in the case of the player reaching the final BiS piece). So the "problems" are de minimis and arguably not even a problem, whether 10 or 25-player. Of course, a 25-player raiding group will still experience them more (then shrug them off).
(II) Exacerbating the Problem such that the Problem Becomes a "Real" Problem
Without a certain degree of expectation to see a Thunderforged item drop, the proposed system will create more uncertainty in player gearing. In turn, it will also create more uncertainty in the raid group's gearing.
If pragmatic players are already dancing around multiple BiS lists from the existence of a single world boss (or some zone drop), what happens when there's a whole additional level in the hierarchy of items? The system becomes unwieldy for even these lowest-of-expectations players. Although the dream might be to have, for example, everything thunderforged besides Tier15 (as it will not be), that's simply not going to be a realistic expectation for gearing for a 25-player group. From the limited amount of information in the blue post, I'm suspect of it to some degree for a 10-player group.
For example, if Hunter wins Not-Thunderforged Bow, should he then pass Thunderforged Bow to the other hunters in his 25-player group when it drops? That doesn't seem likely if it's his BiS. The raid is basically "out" one Non-Thunderforged Bow. This example is intentionally clear-cut as a non-problem (or is at least arguably not an issue), so I'm going to shift things to the other extreme.
5 people in a raid use 2H Strength Weapons, 1 of which is TankDK. TankDK is nice and thinks the DPS should get their weapons first, or he's lucked out and gotten one from a coin. Whatever the reason, now the raid is looking at 4 people it needs a 2H strength weapon for. Dps-A wins Not-Thunderforged 2H Axe. Then the Thunderforged version drops. From the Hunter & Bow example, it seems an easy case for Dps-A to either be permitted to pursue the item again or feels no reason not to do so. (I tried to keep it simple and overlook the TG Warrior who would want 2 of them.)
But then we're left with 3 people pursuing the 2H Axe. The same process continues and the inefficiency has the potential to exponentially skyrocket. We're all aware of unfortunate RNG situations. Sometimes, them's the bones.
But here, Blizzard is proposing to add an additional RNG (emphasis on additional: another way in which you might get screwed-by-RNG on top of bad luck just because an item doesn't drop; it is an additional item that might not drop and might shuffle around the rest of your BiS gear).
So it's not just messing with an individual's thought process about how to gear themselves. It's messing with the raid's ability to effectively gear itself along the way, borderline necessitating some loot policy to juggle participation/worthiness/gearing specifically for acquiring "Thunderforged v. Non-Thunderforged Items".
The proposed model encourages individuals to join 25-player guilds, but it doesn't address additional considerations that go into an guild's decision to raid at the 10-player level, including itemization. (I'm setting aside entirely the issue of "recruiting more smart people," and focusing entirely on itemization.) Getting upgrades may single-handedly provide incentive to raid at the 10-player level for players that share none-to-few others for competition.
For example, a lone hunter in a successful 10-person raid with no other agility DPS has little incentive to jump up to 25-player raiding with 4 other agility DPS. Currently, the 25-player raid's "extra" chance at loot, subject to a 1/5 chance of winning that loot, does not outweigh the 100% guarantee that if the loot drops, the hunter will win it.
I think the issue boils down to this demonstration: would a less-than-statistically savvy hunter make that switch because of the "increased" chance for an item to be Thunderforged in 25-player? I think going from "all the loot" to "1/5 chance at loot" would make even this kind of person at least give pause before agreeing. (The supporters of the proposed Thunderforged system in this thread leave me much room to ponder that, though.)
I've typed too much by this point, but the same ilvl difference issue that currently exists (but is rare in practice and not actually that bad) is also made into a serious problem. What happens when an item would give one person a huge jump up 2 "levels" of ilvl (in current terms, say 476 to 496) against a person who has that item in their BiS list but is only a minor upgrade (say 489 to 496 minor upgrade, or 496 to 496 sidegrade)? More importantly, what if the item impacts someone's BiS list with its inclusion/exclusion? The gray area that is raid gearing widens unnecessarily.
(III) The Easy Fix, or Sending a Snake to Catch a Mouse
(Credit to Caffeen on this solution)
The solution is quite simple. If a player has a Non-Thunderforged item, then acquires a Thunderforged version of that item, provide them some way to allow the rest of the raid to roll on a Non-Thunderforged version of the item.
Example: Shaman receives Club of Spellmagix. Then Thunderforged Club of Spellmagix drops.
Example Solution: Thunderforged Club of Spellmagix has a clickable effect that is usable for the duration that the item is tradeable (i.e. 2 hours from boss kill, only to other members of raid group). This click prompts a confirmation window. The player confirms. Badabing-badaboom. He now has a soulbound Thunderforged Club with a tradeable Non-Thunderforged version that the raid can roll on/distribute/bid on/whatever. (at the risk of being obvious: only tradeable to the players in the raid that were present at the recent kill which dropped the thunderforged version)
In effect, this provides exactly the incentive Blizzard wants RE: 25-player raids, without the newly created problems (or to be more accurate, formerly-okay problems that now raise serious concern).
Edit: (To be even more accurate, it's not really "without" these problems as much as it is trying to minimize their emergence)
I personally think a different scheme altogether is best. It makes much more sense to me (and would be more entertaining) to allow a player to "Thunderforge" an already existing item (subject to whatever restrictions they want on the items that may be thunderforged, so not Tier15). By creating some kind of token to accomplish this task or start a quest for it (simple turn in? somewhat substantive quest? etc. = concerns), the player would know what his BiS list is without the thunderforged items. The player thus has more control over his fate and his raid's. As to how to start the process, that really depends on how often Blizzard would want us having thunderforged items, so they could just look at the drop rate of these items and weigh them against others, then magical formulae to determine the drop rate (concerning both frequency of drop and which boss drops it). E.g. it could be a high/guaranteed chance off some specific boss(es) or a much lower chance off lots of bosses. It could be a cool/fun lengthy process involving doing things in raid zones, or just some minimal turn-in step, or something in between.
Bottom line? I'm not opposed to the idea. It's a worthwhile effort to balance the 10 v. 25 raid problem. But it's fundamentally (statistically and logically) flawed without more fine-tuning than exists in OP.
Edited by Nevski on 1/23/2013 8:53 PM PST