Another tier gear discussion

After several weeks of hints, Blizz confirms that Legion LFR will in fact award tier gear, probably more or less on the model of Mists. At least I think they are confirming this, it’s sometimes hard to tell with their obtuse I’ve-got-a-secret corporate mentality. Check out the predictably-enraged forum here, or the abridged MMO-C summary here.

If true, I think this is generally a good move. The WoD “tier” gear from LFR is nearly worthless except possibly for a brand new level 100. Worse, it in no way ties in with the “real” tier gear from Normal and beyond. So even if someone assembles a 4-piece LFR set, it does them no good at all if they decide to start raiding at the Normal level. For some classes/specs, for example MM hunter, the actual 4-piece tier significantly affects play style as well as performance. This means that, without the tier, many pug raid groups are reluctant to bring in players who need to get into such groups in order to get the tier gear. This is clearly a self-perpetuating handicap of the you-need-experience-to-get-a-job-and-you-need-a-job-to-get-experience type. Some guilds still working through progression part way into a raid tier are even reluctant to bring in a new player who does not have tier gear if most of the rest of the team already has it. (I think they are the exception, but I have run across them in the last year.)

So I like the Mists model for tier gear more than the WoD one — it’s the same gear, but with decremented stats/set effects and oh of course we must have a different color to satisfy the special snowflakes in the game. It actually gives people a reason to run LFR, beyond a few valor points. On the flip side of this argument, naturally, are the self-styled elite players who were the driving force behind the WoD approach, because they howled that having “real” tier gear “given out like candy” in LFR meant they themselves had to run LFR — oh, the horror, the ignominy of it all, how they suffered because of it. I am getting all teary-eyed just thinking about their tribulations….

Look. The problem was not that the gear was in LFR, the problem was that Blizz designed the raid levels so poorly that many progression teams could not feasibly complete Normal level without LFR gear, nor Heroic without Normal gear. Somewhere along the line, the designers completely abandoned their stated goals for raiding going forward from Mists: namely that LFR was for tourists, Normal was for friends-and-family type teams, Heroic was implied to be where progression teams would start, and Mythic was for hard-core raiding guilds. As a result, in WoD there is really no place for the casual different-members-every-week raid team, at least not until the very end of the expansion after the “real” raid team has cleared the raid tier and is into alt mode. At one time, Blizz thought this type of group was integral to the WoW raiding community:

Raid Difficulty and Raid Groups—An Aside

In broad strokes, there are three distinct types of groups that participate in organized raiding:

  • Friends and Family groups: These are social groups that exist for reasons besides raiding, but whose players would like to venture into raid content together. This type of group is inherently inclusive, and will not organize its roster according to specific class needs, nor is the group likely to criticize or remove players based on performance. Members of this type of group prioritize playing together.
  • Raiding guilds: These are groups that have formed for the purpose of raiding. These are the majority of guilds that you’ll see recruiting in Trade chat or on realm forums. These groups will generally look for specific classes based on roster needs, and will expect a certain level of attendance or performance. Members of this type of group prioritize experiencing and learning the content.
  • Hardcore raiding guilds: An extreme subset of the previous category, these are the guilds of players whose ethos drives them to be the best at games they play, and who are willing to dedicate time and energy to maximize their results. Guilds of this type will recruit and maintain a roster based primarily on performance, and will expect raiders to optimize their characters. Members of this type of group prioritize competition and success.

It is a shame that Blizz no longer considers the first group to be worth designing for. I say this because it really is not possible, in my opinion, for a group with dynamic membership to clear Normal HFC in anything approaching timely fashion. This is because the mechanics require a pretty sophisticated amount of choreographed teamwork, and it is definitely possible for a mistake on the part of one player to wipe the group. Rotating players every week means that every week there are almost always those one or two or three new players who will make the same mistakes that the rest of the members did when they were new to the boss, and it will almost certainly cause wipes. Add in the fact that bad tuning means there frequently is in fact an optimal number of players for any given boss, and the concept of a “casual” raid team pretty much becomes a myth.

(Please note that by “casual” I do not mean “bad” or “incompetent”, I just mean what Blizz laid out in the quote above.)

Anyway, I have strayed from my original topic of tier gear in LFR. I see no down side to having it. And for those who want to stomp their feet and throw a tantrum over how doing this means Blizz is giving away gear that should be reserved only for people such as themselves who “earn” it, or at the very least if this must be, then LFR absolutely has to be made “harder”, I say this:

Whether or not you believe it, it is a fact that for some people LFR is challenging. Just because it is a joke to you does not mean it is to others. You would not find a kindergarten curriculum challenging, either, but it is not designed for your 20-or 30- or 40-something self, it is designed for 5-year-olds, who do actually find it challenging and engaging. When people who think LFR is a joke go into it with the intent to mock it and screw it up for others, that is pretty much the same as walking into a kindergarten class and making fun of it, dumping the goldfish on the floor and letting the class gerbil out of the cage, all because they think the class is too easy and they themselves are bored and want to have some fun.

So, no, there is no need to make LFR harder in order to “justify” tier gear being awarded as drops. The fact that some people have low level but functional tier gear in no way takes away from others who have higher level tier gear. In this aspect, WoW is not a zero sum game.

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.

6 Responses to Another tier gear discussion

  1. Bodhi Rana says:

    My thoughts exactly. I was pretty annoyed at the LFR fake gear this xpack. Except for my Prot Pally who’s never stepping foot in a current tier Normal+. For some reason the synergy of the Demonbreaker set bonuses (or whatever it’s called) worked quite well with how my Pally build was setup.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, it was of marginal use to some classes/specs at some point in their gear progression, but the window for that was pretty narrow.

  2. In a broad generalization, the tier gear is good for everyone in that it usually will focus on the spells that you need to be using. If you get a bonus from Kill Command, you’ll learn to use Kill Command as often as possible and it is teaching you to play better even when you’ve moved on to another raid with different tier bonuses.
    Not always, but typically the tier sets reinforce the use of the most powerful spells — in this everyone benefits from getting sets, especially in the LFR.

  3. gnomecore says:

    I didn’t like gear system in WoD.
    I must assume that I am an LFR-only player.

    First, the design was awful and it’s the first expansion when I learnt how to transmog and used it heavily. There’s not a single toon among my alts who wears LFR looks now.

    Second, it’s Baleful Gear. In MoP the gear from Timeless Isle was preparing your alts for Throne of Thunder and Siege. In WoD baleful gear could be collected by killing mobs in a week and improved to 695 which exceeds even improved LFR gear. That’s what i call not well earned and I hate it.

    LFR raids are by all means the hardest content than any outdoor stuff and require nice group skills. During the first 6 weeks when a new LFR is introduced, people wipe multiple times because they don’t have gear, they don’t know the fights and they lose. And it’s harder than with pre-arranged friend/family groups, because the group is always new in every next wing. Now Mannoroth or even Archimonde are mastered with one tank and 3 healers.

    What I’m trying to say is that LFR is excellent for single players like me who don’t want to schedule any game activity and put it in front of IRL. Who want to play when they have time and when they want to actually play the game. But when they do, they want to put some effort, face some challenge and see the lore which ends in raids. And as this content is harder than any content we could meet outdoors, it deserves some nice gear and of the current raid design. Not the grey rugs we got in WoD.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, you make a very good point. It is extremely challenging to take a group of strangers, who all have varying skill and gear levels, and more importantly who are in no way accountable to each other after the fight is over, to take a group such as this and be successful in LFR fights. It is almost equivalent to recruiting people at random from a shopping mall to bring their baseball gear, whatever they have, and all meet in an hour to play a single baseball game in an intramural league.

      Forum invective aside, Blizz in my opinion is in fact making LFR harder each iteration, just by virtue of the increasingly complex mechanics for every fight. Compare some of the boss fights in Vanilla to Archimonde or Iskar, and I think there is no question but what the mechanics now are far more intricate and demanding. We are at the end of an expansion, and yesterday I was in LFR groups that wiped on Killrogg, Xhul, Archimonde, and one even wiped on Iron Reaver (!). Only one of the wipes was due to an ass hat deliberately sabotaging the group, the rest were due to people either not knowing or not caring that even in LFR a few basic mechanics (kill adds first, don’t drop your fire in the middle of the group) still have to be paid attention to.

      But if you take a fight like Archimonde, there is A LOT going on in it, even in LFR, and the sheer number of visuals and mechanics can overwhelm some players. Target multiple different adds, stay out of what seems to be a huge amount of fire, dodge the mountains that spring up, stretch out the purple chains to get rid of them, run out of those purple puppy circles, dodge the barrage in the last phase, deal with the big add and the orb in the Twisting Nether, and all the while keep doing your damage or tanking or healing job. Many of us do these things now almost automatically, but we forget how really complex it is, and how it can be overwhelming to someone who has not done it before or for someone who does not often deal with these things all at once in their game play. One mistake can kill you, and if just a few people make one mistake, the raid will wipe.

      There are a lot of people like you, who choose to do LFR not because they can’t do higher levels (they certainly can), but because it fits their busy IRL schedules and play styles. These people take LFR seriously, they try to improve experience for others, despite the sometimes-toxic atmosphere, the inexperienced players, the players who expect to be carried while they tab out, the jerks that deliberately sabotage the group.

      Yes, LFR should have better gear than it had in WoD. And no, it does not need to be made more difficult.