This is an open letter to the devs responsible for the design of the upcoming new raids. I am leaving it open as I am sure other players have much to add to this topic. Rather than follow our typically inelegant development format of: create something crappy --> upload to lamannia --> deal with the player backlash, I am hoping that this thread will point out the favorable points of an excellent raid using the Update 13 (pre-MOTU) Epic Lord of Blades as a framework, and hopefully help the devs get ahead of the game. U13 ELOB is not a perfect raid, but I choose it to illustrate the main points, as it lends itself nicely to this. Furthermore, I do not claim to possess the ability to de novo generate a great raid. It sounds like an extremely challenging task and one fraught with difficulties. However, I think from the player side we have a lot to offer in terms of identifying favorable aspects of raids.
Loot: The loot must scale to difficulty of the raid, and be better than much more easily acquired items (see lootgen). Before the epic lob loot scheme was broken after U14, its loot was supreme and it was necessary to run the hardest difficulty to obtain the most supreme loot. The EN versions should be useful, but not easily convertable to EE versions as in FOT, and there should be a portion of loot that is both GOOD and exclusively attainable in EE. Furthermore, loot acquired in this raid would benefit from being cumulative. Maybe you play it on epic normal and get a small amount of sub-optimal crafting materials like in LoB, and as you learn the raid and graduate to EH, EE, you get either higher amounts or better quality loot, and as such you can build on what you gathered while first learning the quest. This both encourages pursuance of easier difficulties by all players and then generates great replay value at higher difficulties, extending the lifetime of the raid. People will be discouraged that they can't quickly obtain the best loot in the first week (as in the case of FOT), however, that's a good thing, as it gives players something to aspire to, and lends staying power to a raid. Players will continue to invest time and money into it.
Difficulty: The raid should not be easily completable on launch. Epic LoB required weeks to months before it began to be widely and reliably completable. In fact it never really reached the stage of shroud-proportions of being widely puggable until post-MOTU when everyone became OP from a relative standpoint. This was not because the devs nerfed it to be easier, but because the player base learned from their mistakes and developed better strategies to achieve completion. FOT and CITW both suffered greatly from this problem in that they were being taken down by underleveled, underpowered, undergeared toons without regard to party composition on the day of launch. FOT was particularly bad, with people ransacking the quest using 8x raid timer bypasses for the first few weeks until boom was fixed because it was just that ridiculously easy. I know in the past there has been a concern that if a raid is too difficult, nobody will want to run it. First, this problem can be mitigated by the tiered difficulty system, and the loot system described above. Secondly, hard is not a bad thing. This is where the staying power of your player base comes from. Hard raids unite players, requiring cooperation and regular contact with each other to repeatedly and reliably accomplish difficult feats. This builds inter-player relationships that leads to player retention. Easy raids don't require anything, and are quickly boring and do not invest the player base.
Make Coordination and Skill-Specific Roles Required: This is the biggest shortcoming of not just post U13 raids, but all post U13 quests. In Epic LoB, certain roles needed to be filled by certain classes/builds. This not only increased the difficulty, but it did so in a way that wasn't utterly mind-numbing. Players needed to not only know the raid, but also know how to WORK AS PART OF A TEAM to fill an important role. This also creates a great source of replay value, once players master a certain role, for example tank in epic lob, they can experience the raid from another perspective such as CC caster, or healer, or kiter, each time having to spend lots of time and maybe money on the game to create or modify a character to these roles. FOT took us back slightly with some role-specific action required (suddenly we needed at least 1 tank and at least 1 healer!), however most post-U13 content is otherwise just a matter of pick-up whoever and roll in there with whatever, doing whatever. It doesn't even matter what the leader does to try and coordinate party action now.
Story: I never read the story but apparently a lot of people care about this, so this should be a consideration .
Variation: The quest should not repeat itself. LoB ran you through a succession of very different challenges - lead up dealing with CCing artificers and hard-hitting high HP mobs, forge area dealing with a raid boss with unique attacks that increased in variation as the fight progressed, and a post-boss frenzy of quori that needed to be controlled while pillars were taken down. On the other hand, CITW is essentially two identical fights, repeated twice for a total of four fights, interspersed with some annoying trash fights that differ only in the terrain over which they occur, and the supremely annoying final simultaenous-take-down trash fight which oddly enough poses a much bigger obstacle in the uncoordinated group than any of the actual "boss fights".
Novelty: Give us something we haven't seen before. Somewhat the case in LoB, but a really good example of this is abbot. Sometimes things like the ascension chamber are not a bad thing. Not all raids need to be surround-and-pound. I know novelty was hard to achieve with FOT since GH has been out forever, so you get a free pass there, but very few people would complain if you threw something completely new at us.
Bug Free: I don't care if it has a few bugs here or there. This is DDO after all. But no raid-disabling reform bugs like CITW lag or abbot asteroids. When I play this game I want to be working against monsters and puzzles at least 50% of the time, not bugs.
UPDATES SECTION: The discussion in this thread has expanded beyond anything I could have imagined. I wanted to highlight some very good ideas that subsequent posters have raised, so that devs who refer to this post can see them on post #1:
1) Avoid long walks to raids, as in LOB. Along the same lines, avoid 6-man pre-raids, as it creates an unnecessary logistical chore
2) Avoid straight up auto-attack + surround-and-pound
3) Please avoid SP drain
4) Please avoid NPC escorting, as the programming is just simply not up to par
5) Avoid excessive flagging, for example Ascension Chamber
RESPONSES SECTION: Many of the responses have changed my mind about how things should be structured. I have made those changes above. Some of the responses I think are misunderstandings of my original intention. I address them below.
1) I am not asking for raids to be across-the-board more difficult to complete, I am asking for them to be tiered in such a way as to both cater to the ability of the player as well as to encourage players to pursue harder and harder difficulties. A good point was raised that this should be done NOT by simply boosting stats for each difficulty, but also requiring more teamwork, coordination, cooperation, and possibly even unique mobs at higher difficulties.
2) I can see that there are a number of players who would like there to be a system where EE loot can be acquired by running EN more times. I am opposed to this, because I think EE needs to offer some unique reward for the effort invested. It's true that this may prevent the casual player from acquiring top-end loot, however it is also true that this is how the casual player evolves into the hardcore player: promoting player investment is definitely in turbine's best interest. This is the crux of my argument, we need to encourage character development with our raids. Furthermore, as it stands the vast majority of EE loot is barely marginally better than EH, so the clamoring for EE loot to be available on EN is clearly not a matter of necessity. Instead, it serves some other psychological need which I don't quite understand and therefore won't comment on.