What we thought of as raids, now, may be undergoing some drastic changes in the very near future. Don't expect to be doing any WoW raiding in Blizzard's new IP.
From a predominantly non-raiding MMORPG player's point of view, I was interested in World of Warcraft's new raids. I was also a bit surprised I didn't see the news thrown in my face, as I thought such a change would surely create upheaval on that scale with the player base. Instead it looked like, more than anything, Blizzard was doing a lot toward helping facilitate players shifting their perspectives.
The way I'm looking at these new additions, in WoW's raids, are as "seamless mini-games". You go about your traditional raid gameplay except for part of it you actually jump in vehicles and have to drive around fighting or blowing something up, or jumping on the backs of drakes to drop bombs. It hearkens back to a kind of Bomberman type gameplay that's less dependent on your players role or characteristics, and more on player skill.
In light of the approaching Cataclysm, and the news that Blizzard is developing a new IP, I think we are being shown clearly that raids, among other types of gameplay, are evolving.
Blizzard didn't start this, but thanks to them it is more apparent to the masses. Long before the news of Cataclysm or Blizzard's new IP, Free-to-Play games have been experimenting with a multitude of new grouping systems. Fiesta, a cartoon-ish MMORPG, always had an easy raid-type grouping feature, that shares similarities with the purpose of WoW's new Dungeon Finder, called King's Quests. While the way it worked may have changed since I tried it, it was a system that ran special large group raids every hour for different level groups. If you were level 20, you were eligible to join in on that level ranges particular King's Quest. All you had to do was find one of the NPC's, sign up if there were empty slots open, and wait for it to start. No matter where in the world you were, you'd be teleported to the instance and a timed raid would start. While King's quests never delineate from how raids always operated, once you were in, they did add to what today is becoming a shift in player perspectives. That is what we are seeing Blizzard doing now, and then some. There's been many F2P MMORPGs on the market for years, each with their own unique systems and changes in gameplay. There's also other more recent changes in F2P and subscription based MMORPGs that add to this push in perspective.
LotRO's new skirmish system, while I know next to nothing about the details of it, offers a change up on group play, providing more options for people who want raid-like experiences. Runes of Magic offers min-games, some in the form of solo-instances where the enemies are scripted to match your characters level, and the new F2P Allods is offering high level players group fighting through a ship battle system. These are just a few examples of the way we are seeing a change in raids-even if traditional raids can still be found.
It all leads me to speculate that Blizzard's new IP is going to be very different. I highly suspect that we will not see any form of WoW raiding in it. My opinion is that it will be jammed with a variety of seamless mini-games that run the gamut of gameplay- including some evolution of raiding. Anyone can speculate and take current trends and look a step or two ahead, but the folks at Blizzard have proven that they are very smart. They have the brains, access to information, numbers, and the money to have a strong grasp on how many steps ahead in raid evolution they can go. I continue to only speculate, but I would say it's less looking a few steps ahead, and more akin to being a professional chess player and being able to see 20 or 30 moves ahead. That is where I think Blizzard is setting their sites on what raiding will be in their new IP. Well then, just what the heck would that be? Well, of course I don't know specifically, but I think it will offer two things in abundance: an unprecedented amount of choices, as this seems to be a good constant in many new MMORPG features, and Blizzards phasing technology.
By the time all this comes to pass, we will all be basking in the glow of a new definition of what "Raid" means, and I personally don't think it's too far down the road.