LFR and raid creep

(No, “raid creep” is not That Guy, it’s the other meaning of creep, but I see where you could get confused.)

Yesterday the final wing — Archimonde — opened for LFR. It was a mess, there is no other way to characterize it. For several hours, the boss would not even spawn, then an emergency hotfix was applied and at least that problem was solved. Only to give rise to another one. LFR groups were wiping 10-12 or even more times on him. And this was Tuesday not to mention the first time the final boss was available, so probably the groups were the best possible you would ever get in LFR. My theory is that the hotfix was a quick and dirty one, and that the devs either forgot or did not have time to trot out the LFR version of difficulty, so LFR got the Normal version. At least I hope that is what happened, and that there will be yet another hotfix to remedy it.

And not for nothin’ Blizz, but have you heard of the concept of software testing? Just spitballing here, but what if you actually tried out your software roll-outs before they go live? I know it’s a radical thought, but I am guessing that just possibly if you had done so in this case, your crack dev team might have noticed a few minor bugs, such as the fact that there was no boss.

Anyway, that is not the point of this post. I am getting to the point in my usual roundabout way.

While wiping over and over (and finally deciding it was too costly to continue), I started to think about the whole idea of LFR.

What is its purpose in the game?

This is not a lets-get-rid-of-LFR post. Although I tend to avoid it if at all possible, I am actually a fan of it in principle. (In practice, especially towards the end of an expansion, the groups get too toxic for me, but that is not really the fault of the genre. I don’t think so, anyway.) I think LFR has been a good addition to the game, but I think Blizz has failed to consistently articulate its purpose to the raid dev staff.

A while back, maybe a year ago or so (I can’t find the dev interview now), Blizz explained that the purpose of LFR was to provide a kind of “tourist mode” version of raid content. It would give players a quick and easy look at raid geography and introduce them to the basic mechanics for each boss. Kind of a kindergarten raid. It would award some gear that could either be the end state for your character if you were not a raider, or be your baseline gear for entry into Normal raiding. According to this explanation, LFR was not intended to be especially challenging, it was supposed to be easy. Blizz recognized that a large pug group just would never be able to defeat difficult mechanics.

I thought this was an excellent approach. And for once Blizz seemed to be following through on its stated goal, because Highmaul — at least the first couple of wings — was ridiculously easy. Of course, there was a good deal of whining about this from the professional whiners and self-defined “elitists” out there, but they were missing the point that it was supposed to be ridiculously easy. It was a guided tour through a nasty wilderness, and the tour guides were there to ensure nothing ate you, to set up your tent for you, and to fix gourmet meals for you. If you wanted to go back later in Survivorman mode, that was up to you — this was just basic terrain familiarization. Highmaul LFR let me practice the mechanics for Normal and Heroic, and both I and a fellow raider spent a few short minutes there each week doing just that. It also let a great many players who would not otherwise have experienced the raid do so in a way that might encourage them to try “real” raiding.

Highmaul LFR was a home run, in my opinion.

But starting with BRF, Blizz quickly lost the bubble on raid difficulty in general and on LFR and Normal in particular. Suddenly LFR got not only more difficult, but much more time consuming even if your group one-shotted everything. At the same time, Normal and Heroic got much harder. It as if Blizz decided to bump all raid levels up one level. In the process, they completely abandoned the whole “tourist mode” concept of LFR.

I don’t know why they did this. Maybe it was an oversight, maybe it became impossible to make the mechanics tourist mode friendly, maybe they just got lazy, maybe the raid snobs at Blizz won out, I don’t know. But I would love to hear an explanation from Blizz. I would love to hear them explain what their current goal is for LFR. I would love to find out why they think what used to be “friends and family” mode Normal should be so difficult. I would love to know why they veered so much from the Highmaul LFR model. What changed to make them do that?

Here’s the thing. If Blizz is going to define its entire end game as raiding, then they owe it to their player base to make that end game accessible to the majority of players. Accessibility does not necessarily mean easy, but it does mean that Blizz has a responsibility to provide a graduated path to the higher raid levels. LFR should be fun and quick as an introduction to higher raid levels, it should not be frustrating, long, and expensive. It should make people want to try the next level, not sour them on the whole experience. Normal should be challenging to the average player, not to highly skilled players, and it should scale as well for 10 as for 15-20. Heroic should be challenging for skilled, cohesive teams. Mythic should be challenging for elite teams.

Such a plan makes the end game accessible to all who want to do it, yet preserves the all-important ability for “133t” players to look down their noses at the great unwashed dirty casuals. Even the ivory tower raid snobs at Blizz should be able to get on board with that.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

7 Responses to LFR and raid creep

  1. Casually Odd says:

    I generally agree with what you wrote here. I am pretty much an exclusive LFR person and then only to finish the various Legendary quest lines and, most importantly, see the whole story of the expansion.

    I know I’ve harped on this before (just today in my own post in fact) but prior to LFR I never really got to see the denouement of the entire expansion, at least not while it was current content. So I like LFR for that reason. I hate it for all of the other reasons you mention – elitism, difficulty for what it is, etc.

    I am also disappointed that there are not lesser rewards for LFR (the statue, some mounts, the fully upgraded legendary ring) compared to Normal and Heroic and Mythic. I am not going to argue about those higher levels and their rewards but by not having much reward at LFR they are again trying to entice people to “real” raiding to get those things. Instead of just making a good quality thing that attracts people by its own merits, they have to bribe people that are only somewhat interested.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, the gear and reward system needs to be reworked a lot in my opinion, but I fear that is just not going to happen any time soon. I don’t think the gear rewards are too bad in LFR, given the level it is — most of my alts only get as far as LFR gear and I am fine with that. But they certainly could award some mounts and other cool things, as you say. It would entice more people to queue up for it.

      What you said about seeing all current content is just what I mean about LFR being a good thing. There are many players like yourself that for one reason or another only do LFR, and without it they would be completely shut out of end game content.

  2. Hydra says:

    I was trying to find an email to invite you onto Twisted Nether. But your ABOUT page doesn’t have ways to contact you. /sad Email me so we can talk.

  3. Grumsta says:

    One of the changes Blizz made to LFR that also baffles is me is putting in totally different gear rather than lower ilevel versions of that Tier. In SoO it was possible to get a LFR version of a BiS trinket, and often they really helped with DPS. You could mix-and-match Tier set pieces too, it all helped. Now you can’t mix and match at all, no wonder the gear drop rate feels even lower.

    Now the only reason for skilled players to run LFR is to collect the Ring tokens (e.g. Tomes of Chaos). I’d like to be running the whole thing to try to get LFR T18 tier pieces to help with the earlier bosses on Normal. As it is that’s not worth doing: the LFR tier sets are hopeless.

    I also don’t understand why LFR is phased in slowly well after all other levels of raiding are available. Who is that supposed to help or placate? I assume it’s simply to gate the collection of tokens for LFR level players? The true elite players will be finishing Mythic HFC right now (if they haven’t already). If the idea was for more testing and tuning of LFR content I think it’s safe to assess that one a failure.

    We trained up another new set of Raiders last night and got them through to Kilrogg. On the way a few pieces of dropped gear did get used, but too many went for DE because even new starters on Normal had equipped some 695 Tanaan gear.

    I’ve been a big supporter of T2 gear, but that was because I saw it as filling gaps in my own gear, or for my alts who will hardly ever raid. But it’s too high ilevel. Compared to the Timeless gear in terms of gear progression it’s not working or helping casual progression teams like ours. There isn’t the “yay” factor as the Normal gear is just about on par with the T2 catch-up gear. Normal raiding level is really tough, and the rewards don’t match the time and effort you have to put in for casual players. For most of us it’s only set pieces we’re after off the first 6 bosses now.

    Blizz have made Raiding the only end-game in town, so they have a duty to get it right for their entire player base. Right now they have the balance badly wrong. I have no issue with the content, I have enjoyed every fight I’ve done so far (we’re up to Iskar) but they need to look at the tuning and flex scaling and make some big changes. Don’t make it easy, but for goodness sake make it reasonably achievable, and by all means keep it where it is for Heroic and Mythic.

    • Fiannor says:

      I couldn’t agree more, especially about the tier gear. I have written (a lot) about my bad luck with tier gear, and if I have a difficult — if not impossible — time of collecting one set per expansion, no way in hell I can hope to get more than one. The mix and match approach was great, as you point out, and I cannot for the life of me understand why they changed it. My suspicion, once again, is that they listened to the tiny vocal minority of players who felt dissed by the idea that LFR players (/spit) could get anything even remotely similar to what Big Strong Real Raiders could get.

      One other major problem with the tier structure now is that, for several classes, rotations and spec balance are not complete without the non-LFR tier gear. MM hunters are a great example. They just are clunky and incomplete without at least the additional Rapid Fire proc from 2 pieces, and they truly only reach decent rotational balance with instant Aimed Shot from 4 pieces. This is terrible class design, and it means that no one can even hope to play a MM hunter well unless they a) raid above the LFR level on a frequent basis and b) are lucky enough to win the 4 pieces.

      It just makes me scratch my head in befuddlement, what can they possibly be thinking when they design this stuff?

  4. gnomecore says:

    I think that Pandarian LFR system was good.

    1. It gave you Tier tokens. It was fun to exchange them for your spec set. Now it’s just “some” loot.

    2. It gave me an opportunity to see the story and be a casual raider, killing 3 bosses in 40 minutes which I couldn’t appreciate more. I cannot and don’t want to devote a special evening(s) to the game for “progress”. I have life, I may and do have IRL plans which won’t be put aside because of some “RT” where I must be. If I suddenly want to watch a movie with my wife, I can finish the raid wing and do it, no harm to anyone. I won’t be able to do that with “RT Thursday 20:00-1:00”. But I have many alts of different classes with whom I enjoy raiding and I want to see the story as lore is the major attraction in WoW for me. Looking for group is an excellent tool. Works for Draenor as well.

    3. Free gear from Timeless Isle was the thing to get into LFR, not overcome it. Free gear from Tanaan which can be upgraded to 695 in a week and exceed LFR’s 685 – it’s the worst decision ever. That must be fixed.

    4. LFR raids in Pandaria were actually HARD. They nerfed them to “What trash have we just killed?” only at the last 2 or 3 months before Draenor. Highmaul proceeded with this approach, but BRF and HFC returned this feeling – to an extent, but not like it was in Pandaria. They stay challenging enough to wipe groups who fail to complete their tasks, and still not initially hard SoO LFRs.

    5. So, current LFRs are just exactly what they must be for casual raider, except for loot.

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