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Thursday, May 1, 2014

[WoW] WoD LFR changes, it's Montague and Capulet all over again

This past week WatcherDev has released three blog posts explaining the history and forward vision of raiding. In the third entry he threw a bloody morsel into the pool of piranhas they call a playerbase. While we’ve known about the changes to raid structure for a while, this was the first confirmation of lockouts and rewards. Needless to say, feathers were ruffled, jimmies were rustled, and the WoW-ternet exploded.
The main point of disagreement as I saw it was the change to LFR rewards. As it stands, in Warlords of Draenor, the LFR raids will drop their own set of loot separate from the regular raids. In other words LFR will not drop the raid trinkets, rare pets, or class sets. Unsurprisingly, players for whom LFR is the primary form of endgame gear acquisition were not pleased. On the other side of the debate, players who felt forced to run LFR to complete set bonuses or get specific trinkets were overjoyed.

Both took to the interwebs to tell the other side about why they were having fun wrong, harsh words ensued. Each forgot that it’s actually possible for both sides to be “right” and both to have legitimate concerns because in the end we’re talking about subjective enjoyment of a game.

Let them do Flex

A common argument I saw yesterday from overjoyed side side was that LFR players who want the sets, trinkets, and pets should just do Flex using the new raid-finder tool, Blizzard’s adaptation of OQueue. The problem is that this misses the point; there already is an OQueue so if those players wanted to do Flex they would use it. They don’t. For various reasons, whether due to skill or gear deficiencies, social anxiety, time constraints, or something else a number of players find LFR more enjoyable than Flex. There is something to be said for the ability to hit a button and wind up in a raid some time later. It doesn’t require organizing a group, doesn’t require meeting some arbitrary player-set item level, and really LFR requires almost no social interaction. We can debate whether that is good for the game until the cows come home, but clearly enough people enjoy it for LFR to be sustainable. Yes, we can talk about how people in LFR play about as well as a bucket of apples, or that more often than not you wipe on easy bosses, but those are the costs of not having to worry about raid schedules, flasks, food, item level beyond the minimum requirements, enchants, gems, reforging, hit-caps, guild drama, and so on. For some people, it’s worth it.

Flex is a fantastic addition to the game, but to assume that it’s an easy hop from LFR to Flex is to fundamentally misunderstand the reasons people prefer it. Flex comes with stricter requirements on gear and time. For all the safeguards Blizzard wants to build in, like preventing item level requirements, they won’t ever be as simple as “press button, receive raid group.” Blizzard has even told us that group leaders won’t be able to require higher item levels than they already have, but presuming the grouping follows traditional rules (at-will kicking) then there is really nothing to prevent people from demanding X iLevel or being capricious about kicking.

We can characterize the players that prefer LFR as anti-social, lazy, or whiners but that can just as easily be turned around to characterize the “happy” crowd as elitist, greedy, and entitled. For the LFR crowd, it might be their only enjoyable avenue to the interesting trinkets, sets, and pets, so they are right to be disappointed and that does not make them entitled. So rather than flinging insults, lets understand that there are legitimate interests at stake for both sides because this is a GAME.

You don’t HAVE to run LFR

On the other side a common argument I saw was that there is no in-game requirement for higher level players to be doing LFR. They are choosing to do it for the extra chances at loot. This misunderstands the mentality of raiding just as badly as the “let them do Flex” one misunderstands the LFR player’s motivations.

When your group wipes on a boss at 1%, you can’t help but think to yourself “If my gear was just a LITTLE better...” and it’s true, a little better gear might have tipped the balance. On average MMO players are risk averse; we might take risks but we do everything in our power to tip the scales in our favor. Raiders will hunt LFR for a set bonus or specific trinket for the same reason they use flasks and food, it helps minimize the risk of failure. We can tell ourselves that we raid for fun, but part of that fun is the success. I am not saying that raiders ONLY do it for loot and boss kills, but I think it’s fair to say that those are on their mind, and for reasons besides showing off. So why leave an avenue of improvement untapped? As a result, if there is a set bonus they need to complete or a trinket that is significantly more powerful for their class (I’m looking at you Purified Bindings of Immerseus) there is a great deal of pressure to get it.

So that player ends up running the same content on varying difficulties over and over again and burns out all that much faster. If you’re running only LFR and are bored of seeing Siege of Ogrimmar, how do you think the raider whose doing Dark Shamans for the second/third time this week for a shot at the trinket feels?
So yes, it is fair to say it is a “choice” but in the same way that not taking your car in for maintenance is a choice; you might not need to, but you’ll probably regret it if you don’t and most people will not have much sympathy if you don’t.

As an aside the idea that an LFR trinket is better than a Flex/Normal/Heroic one suggests a failure by Blizzard to adequately balance trinkets, but that is a whole different discussion.


Can we for once stop dismissing each other’s concerns as whining or entitlement? There are good reasons on both sides for why the raiding paradigm should be one way or another. For me, I am ambivalent because I am not even sure if I will play WoD, but if I did I am among that set of players that is sitting comfortably in the “Flex” niche and won’t see much impact. 

Just because you are happy with the change doesn't mean that someone else's sadness is unwarranted because raid design, especially where decisions can affect many different types of players, is an endless string of compromises. To borrow another tweet from WatcherDev:

1 comment:

  1. "to assume that it’s an easy hop from LFR to Flex is to fundamentally misunderstand the reasons people prefer it"

    Right! Exactly. I like LFR at this stage in my WoW life because it's relaxing -- I can put on a movie and run it with my insta-90 paladin. Queues are short if you're a healer, and in 20-60 minutes I have earned Valor and some bits for my Legendary quest. My guild is almost entirely retired, burned out hardcore raiders, and none of us have the gumption at this point to invest routinely in Flex.

    That being said, I am also so casual that I don't really care about tier set pieces or cool pets. I'll be pretty peeved if there's another Legendary questline like the cloak and they don't drop bits in LFR, but otherwise whatever.

    In conclusion.. be excellent to each other. And stuff.