When LFR was announced, I was excited. Finally, a venue for folks who didn’t have regular schedules, who didn’t want to go through an application process, who wanted something that let them see all that content, from questing to heroics to raiding so they could enjoy the end of the sweeping storylines that define Azeroth.
While these reasons didn’t apply to me, I had a more personal and selfish reason for being excited: it gave me a place to go dungeoneering with friends whom, for whatever reason, I couldn’t raid with. I loved that LFR was going to be 25-man because I find 25’s to have less individual pressure (especially when you’re horribly overgeared) even though my computer doesn’t handle all those pixels and boss mechanics at the same time with that raid size.
So now LFR has arrived. I spent a couple weeks flirting with the idea of doing a clear. I was lucky enough to do a full clear on normal before I gave LFR a serious look–between my own finals, and grading others–because there just wasn’t enough time. But I have spent the last few weeks doing a partial or full clear for the reasons above, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of LFR.
In all honesty, I can’t speak for the developers over at Blizzard. But in the last and current expansion, there has definitely been a shift in how Blizzard views raiding, and in my mind, more importantly, how the universe unfolds to players. Competitive raiding–heroic raiding–is a very narrow sample of players. But even beyond that, what I think I myself fail to take into account, is that raiding at all is a very small proportion of players. While there are tons of blogs and sites dedicated to raiding in WoW, there’s plenty of folks who eschew raiding all-together or just dabble when they have the time.
Raiding, a major culmination in the story lines of WoW’s expansions, then, haven’t been enjoyed by most of those who play the game. While it’s possible they’re not interested in seeing how the story ends (I mean, they can always watch Youtube, ya?) I doubt that’s the case for all of them. There’s something different and satisfying about being “there.” It doesn’t matter how many trailers of the upcoming expansion I watch, I’m always glued to my monitor when enjoying the opening cinematic because it’s present, and seems very, very pertinent as I get ready to embark on new adventures.
In effect, LFR was intended for those players who don’t raid regularly, who don’t have a group of comrades to get through content with on a regular basis, but maybe, for some crazy reason, want to enjoy the culmination of the expansion. And Blizzard designed this instance specifically with these players in mind. From where I’m standing: they succeeded.
I think most of us have been to a Baradin Hold or Wintergrasp run. Folks PUG ‘em all the time–just show up at the door at the end of an epic PvP battle and find a group size you like–even though they’re a raid. The reason they’re so PUG friendly is because they’re not too challenging. There are some basic assumptions that can be made, oh this many years into WoW’s history:
1. Death Knights, Paladins & Druids
Why is that there is always a surfeit of these characters? I was in a BH run one week that had nothing but these three classes. Of course we got some cloth drops which no one could use.
2. Lo, and No One Shall Speak
PUG raids are notoriously bad about communicating information. If you don’t know the fight, you’re going to be winging it. If you’re really lucky there might be a skull for you to target.
3. Assignments? What Assignments?
Since no one is speaking, of course there won’t be any coordination among the masses. Just assume if you have a buff, you should cast it. Assignments accomplished!
4. Loot Distribution
If the raid/loot leader is especially good-natured, there will be a short explanation of how loot will be handled. If not, squabbling will be heard and everyone will leave in a very bad mood.
With this in mind, LFR offers several advantages to the traditional, on the fly, PUG raid:
- Composition is pre-determined.
- The Dungeon Journal!
- Need/Greed system by class/role
Is the system perfect? Nah. But it does work, and while it might not feel like a raid to those who run raids more regularly, for those who’ve never run, or those who have and don’t have the dedicated schedule anymore, it is something you can finish in a reasonable amount of time. It’s accessible. It’s fun. And even better, you don’t have to stand around your major city of choice reading through the trolling in trade chat to find a group.
These Guys Suck
I’ve only put one player on ignore so far in LFR, which is likely a record for me as I tend to liberally ignore players who annoy me. This player was having kittens over a mage who was having trouble understanding that, as a mage, his job was to blow up dragons on the boat. Since only the ground targets were being marked (and why they needed marks I never quite figured out) it was an honest noobie mistake. At least he knew to kill things with skulls!
When I go into a PUG, whether it be a random dungeon or LFR, my expectations are as follows:
I know it sounds pithy, but I try to minimize my expectations. When I join a raid group (usually a guild, although I’ve done raid groups that weren’t guild affiliated) then I expect more… a lot more. But for a random group thrown together based on their ability to reach a magic number, the class they play, and the role they think they can perform, I don’t let my hopes get away from me.
- I refuse to vote-kick people who stand back and auto-attack. I assume they’re auto-attacking anyway–I’m not quite sure how you stay under 10k dps otherwise.
- I have agreed to kick a couple of folks who have stood around /afk during boss fights–I guess I do have some standards.
- I ignore anyone who goes on a rampage about people who fail.
You know how many wipes I’ve had in LFR? Zero. None. Zilch. Even with the auto-attack guy. Even with the guy who was /afk an entire fight. Even with the mage who was attacking a totally random target. And the tank who didn’t know how to pick up oozes. The list goes on and on. LFR is obviously designed to be do-able even if you have some people who just plain aren’t good at raiding.
And you know what? While I can’t say that LFR was designed for players who aren’t very good at the game, I think it was designed for people randomly thrown together who hoped to succeed. Based on past observances, it is darn near required to be simple. It can’t take up too much time. And because of these things, even players who, perhaps, aren’t as skilled still have a chance to go pew pew a big raid boss and feel that same joy that the rest of us experience. To stand at the end of the raid as major lore characters discuss the fate of Azeroth.
The Expansion Is Over
I imagine that the players who are feeling the doldrums the most about the ability to push through LFR and see the “end” are guilds that focus primarily on normal-modes. They’re more likely to feel impelled to run LFR for upgrades. They’re more likely to see the last boss in a raid going down as the culmination, and the finish of their expansion aspirations.
But that’s not a given. Plenty of historically normal-mode only guilds went on to fight a heroic or two after Rag fell. I’m sure many others raid solely for the group activity, and not because of a specific in-game goal per se.
And for the heroic raiders? We’re not even getting started. We’ve got plenty of encounters to conquer and achievements to gain before Deathwing truly dies.
Which leaves the LFR only raiders. The players who have traditionally played because of something other than end-game raiding. It’s been awhile, but I was one of those players. I spent quite a bit of time in BG’s, but I was also an explorer, a collector of leather, and a farmer of rare mats. I enjoyed myself. What I didn’t enjoy is not experiencing the rest of the story I spent so much time working on. I simply can’t imagine that all the players who only LFR are going to suddenly decide the game has nothing left to offer because they killed a monster, that before LFR, they would never even aspire to see.
The expansion is only over if your entire reason for playing the game is killing the monster at the end of the most awesome dungeon. While I appreciate that I do play for that reason, it isn’t my sole reason. While it’s the end for some players it’s not the end for us all.
I know I keep talking about the story. The lore. The history and unfolding of Azeroth and its people.
WoW isn’t a game I’d play solely for the story, but it is why I started playing WoW. I’d already enjoyed the Warcraft series: from peons and soldiers to Sylvanas and Maiev. You gets lots of lore as you travel around completing quests. You get even more if you settle back and read a book or three on various topics scattered around the world. And you get a wonderful dose as you explore the multiple instances.
I remember my excitement the first time I stepped into the Hyjal entrance. Who cared if my job was to hit my consecration button and not die. I was standing in a setting that dripped lore. I was seeing characters that I had never thought I’d see again. It was awesome.
But I only got to do that because I worked my ass off getting into a raiding guild. I never did get to see Illidan. I missed Algalon. There are encounters, scenes, experiences, that I, even as a raider, never got to experience when it was fresh, new and exciting. And I think that sucks.
Even if you care less than a little about the story–I get not everyone wants to read flavor text–then you might appreciate the sheer amount of awesome that is contained within dungeons. Firelands, while fire, fire, and more fire, had the wickedly awesome Alysrazor and Ragnaros in a flashy new model. Other instances have this great architecture.
I think it’s ok to allow people to experience all that fun stuff without having to pass an entrance exam.
Sometimes I actually manage to get to the point.
I’m having fun in LFR. I enjoy it: me, a raider by nature. That doesn’t mean I never get frustrated, but all I need to do when that happens is remind myself that LFR was not designed for me. It wasn’t designed for the player who has the time and willingness to commit to a regular raiding schedule. There are other, more challenging avenues of raiding available to players up for that challenge.
I can’t imagine, if I went back in time, to my pre-raiding self, that I would discover LFR, clear a dungeon, and decide the game was over. I would go back to whatever I did before. I might run some more LFR’s, or even get seriously interested in raiding in a regularized group. For me, LFR wouldn’t be the goal, it’d be the activity I do in between, a hiatus of sorts.
If you’re watching the cinematic at the end of LFR, and you raid regularly, you don’t have to accept it’s the end either. LFR and normal modes are not the same. Imagine you’re watching that lovely cinematic on Youtube, or even better if you don’t want to ruin your big, conquering hero defeat of the dungeon on your normal mode: don’t watch it. Hit escape, divvy the loot, and escape. LFR isn’t required!
LFR wasn’t designed to satisfy the passions of players who are experienced raiders and want to test their skills. It’s not designed for the guy or gal who researches every detail of their class and a dungeon before they enter. It’s honestly not designed to kill a reasonably competent group.
I can’t find it within myself to call the system a failure. I can’t complain that it is ‘ruining’ the end-game experience. The only serious fault I can find is one that just seems to be part of the culture: the jerks who think it’s their duty to inform others that they suck. Maybe if I was feeling really vitriol I could complain about the loot system, but it works and is a lot more ‘fair’ to a bunch of strangers than some of the player-formed PUG’s I’ve been a part of.
I, for one, think it’s great that so many players have a chance to experience the epic experiences that, to me, define WoW. While a quest-line can be fun, ganking an enemy can be gleeful, nothing says epic like a dragon disappearing into the maelstrom, and I’m glad that anyone who wishes to enjoy that experience has the opportunity.