Lately it has been challenging for me to come up with decent topics to write about in this blog. (Read the one from Wednesday and you will say something like “That’s for sure!”) We are pretty deep into summer game mode, I suppose — Patch 7.2.5 is old news, and 7.3 is months away. People are spending more of their leisure time in pursuits other than WoW, and I suspect a lot of Blizz devs are off on vacation or at least in a vacation mindset. This is a good thing, and I love summer, but it does make it tough to remain creative and thoughtful on a steady basis.

Thus, today I’ll do some housekeeping and clear out a few unrelated — and mostly undeveloped — topics that have been rattling around in my drafts folder.

Group finder for world quests/bosses. This is one of the best quality of life improvements Blizz has made in Legion, in my opinion. Except for the weekly world boss, I don’t often use it on my hunter because I can solo nearly everything, but I use it a lot on my alts, especially my squishier ones. I love that it is so easy, just hit a button on the quest tracker and you are good to go. The groups form quickly, do their thing, then disband immediately. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. The only improvement I might suggest is that there be a clearer labeling of PvP and PvE realms, but that is minor. Good job, Blizz.

Argus innovations. As a disclaimer, I have not yet logged on to the PTR, so honestly I am writing in complete ignorance, but when has that ever stopped me? I am hoping to log on sometime this weekend, but meanwhile, based entirely on 7.3 notes, I have a couple of questions.

  • Does the concept of portals put players into even more restrictive cattle-chute type play? Will it compartmentalize new areas in such a way as to preclude meaningful exploration and — Blizz’s favorite word — “immersion”? Are the Argus portals a precursor to the main mode of transportation in the next expansion?
  • Does the lack of flying on Argus portend anything more sinister for the future of flying, or is Argus just a Timeless Isle kind of zone?
  • Will the requirement to complete quest lines in order to unlock new portalled mini-zones become yet another endless grind, all in the name of “content”? Will those quest lines themselves become as onerous as the profession ones are now, especially for alts?

Will we ever be free of garrisons? In WoD, a significant number of players (at least the active ones) expressed hatred of garrisons, almost from the start. The backlash was strong, yet Blizz responded by doubling down on them as WoD progressed. They repeatedly lied to us about the role of garrisons, at first saying they would be completely optional, then saying everyone had to have one but only the basic level, then requiring an advanced level garrison in order to experience the new Tanaan Jungle content.

And then, given this very strongly expressed player dislike of garrisons, Blizz slightly repackaged them as class halls for Legion — pretty much removing the WoD perks and leaving the crap parts. Each patch has introduced extensions to them, and apparently there will be more such extensions in 7.3.

I would love to see an absolute end to this concept in the next expansion, but I am not hopeful. Someone at Blizz loves them, and I predict they will continue to be crammed down our throats. And, even though they appear to be the perfect technical mechanism for something like player housing or guild halls, Blizz will never bow to these popular requests. We will continue to have the worst of all worlds.

Monetization of WoW PvE. A few days ago Blizz announced a Mythic Dungeon Invitational. This is an open competition for teams to go through a series of gates to be able to compete publicly for prize money by achieving top speeds on a Mythic+ dungeon. Ultimately the winning team will receive $50,000, and other finalists will share lesser amounts of prize money. Oh, and of course the races will be covered on Twitch for esports fans to follow.

We’ve all known this kind of competition was coming, it was only a matter of time before Blizz tried to capitalize on more than the PvP aspects of WoW as a spectator sport. And honestly, the handwriting was on the wall when they introduced the whole Mythic+ idea in Legion.

I am not sure I have any strong feelings one way or another about this. I am not fundamentally opposed to the whole esports phenomenon — it’s not really so different from any other spectator sport when you come down to it. It holds zero interest for me, but I can see where others might enjoy it.

The part that gives me pause is how it might affect the game I love to play. I say this because of a conversation we had last night in raid. Someone picked up a really awesome piece of gear using a bonus roll, but they could not use it. Of course, since it had been a bonus roll, they could not offer it up to the others on the team who could absolutely have used it, and they expressed frustration about this seemingly arbitrary rule. The reason Blizz has given for this rule is that “some” teams might abuse it and require everyone to use up bonus rolls in order to gear up others.

The thing is, the only teams likely to engage in this kind of behavior are elite teams who gear up their rosters through the (somewhat gray area) method of split runs. No normal guild team engages in this kind of activity. So basically Blizz has implemented a rule that prevents abuse by less than 1% of the player base, and the other 99% are disadvantaged because of it.

This is the kind of thing I worry about happening more often as a result of expanding professional competition in the form of the game I play. People competing for real money will inevitably push the envelope as much as possible in that pursuit. Blizz’s response to such pushing has often been to apply a bandaid rule designed to prevent the specific perceived infraction, regardless of the consequences to the vast majority of players who would never even consider such action.

And with that, my drafts folder is clean, and it is time for the weekend to begin. See you on the other side of it.

Oh, and Happy Bastille Day.


Doubling down on LFR

I spent my first couple of hours with 6.2.3 last night, and here is my main impression:

If you hate LFR, you are not going to like this patch.

Now granted we did not have the new Timewalking dungeons last night, and I am looking forward to trying them tonight, but last night for the first time in a couple of months I ran chained LFRs on my main. Why? Because I wanted to get a good start on my valor for upgrading, and the queues for LFR were short even for DPS, whereas the queues for dungeons were very long. Also, valor is awarded at the max amount (150 for HFC, somewhat less for the other two tiers) for every wing once a week. This means that last night, even just running LFR, I was able to easily fully upgrade two pieces of gear — my weapon and a trinket. (Of course, most of what I did not upgrade is crap gear that I have little chance of improving, but that is a different subject.)

I did not attempt any Mythics, either, not because I don’t like them but because the Group Finder experience is so frustrating and time-consuming. Maybe I am too picky, because I avoid the ones where the group leader has specified a long list of “requirements” accompanied by a complex list of set-asides for gear, and the ones where the comments are along the lines of “Don’t be a dick,” because I figure it takes one to know one. But even when I do spend the time to apply for groups I seem to have all the stated qualifications for, it is often rejection after rejection for an hour or more. No thank you. Too tedious not to mention too demoralizing.

I don’t know how long it will last, but my server and my guild had more people on last night than I have seen in weeks. And people seemed to be energized, with renewed interest in the game. I am sure this will only last a couple of weeks, but it is nice for now. We may even be able to get some valor farming groups together in my guild, which would be awesome.

Anyway, back to LFR. Certainly at least last night the valor incentive seemed to bring back masses of people who really knew the fights and had them overgeared to boot. This was good and bad. It was good because as I mentioned it made the queues very short, raid time was minimal because of the speed with which bosses and trash were dispatched, and having a couple incompetent and/or afk people was of no consequence. But it was bad because raid mechanics — even the ones requiring LFR attention — were almost universally ignored (reinforcing bad habits among less experienced players), and because people were frequently left behind even when starting boss fights.

I was in one run of Wing 2 of HFC where the tank ran, literally, straight through all trash to every boss, stopping just before the boss fight to dispatch what were dozens of mobs, and leaving trash mobs scattered throughout so that anyone who died and had to run back could not do so because they kept running into leftover trash all along the route. A couple people asked, politely, for the tank to slow down a bit, only to be treated to rude comments about their “incompetence” from the tank and some of the self-appointed “elites” in the group, arrogantly letting everyone know how much LFR was beneath them but they needed the valor. It was ugly.

A couple of weeks ago there was a rash of online speculation about the future of LFR in the game. Patch 6.2.3 tells me  that Blizz, far from considering its elimination, is doubling down on it, pulling out all the stops to repopulate it with a wide range of players. Now, they may be doing this as an experiment to see what happens, or they may see it as one of the few mechanisms they have in WoD to re-engage players, but at least for the present, and for better or for worse, LFR has been re-energized.

It remains to be seen how much — if any — staying power this patch has, but it is difficult to imagine it filling the void until Legion.

LFR, Group Finder, and Arrogance

Some observations and thoughts on LFR and Group Finder.

Archimonde and LFR. I see where there are a “few nerfs” in the works for LFR Archimonde. This is a good thing in my opinion, but of course the announcement brought out the forum ragers in force. You know, the arrogant bastards who insist that LFR is dumbing down the game, that it should be much harder than it is, that you should not be queuing for it if you are not a skilled raider, that it is a loot giveaway, that filthy casuals are nothing but whiners, etc.

Not going to rehash the whole LFR-should-be-easy vs LFR-should-be-impossible “debate”, but I will say this one thing: If LFR is going to be so difficult that it consumes hours and hours for one boss, not to mention hundreds in repair costs, and if it requires precise team-level skills for success, then it absolutely must drop way better gear than it currently does, for example actual tier gear. If it is tuned to be as hard as Normal, then it should give similar loot.

OK, I lied, I will say two things. When a regular raid team wipes over and over on a boss, it usually makes both the team and the individual players more skilled. The team as a whole improves. Even though multiple wipes can be frustrating, in the long run the team that sticks with it becomes better and stronger. Leadership and team loyalty make a difference. But multiple wipes with an LFR group just means that there is effectively a different team after every wipe, because people quit and are replaced. The people that stick with it are usually the ones who know — or want to learn — the mechanics, and essentially they are waiting to get lucky with a group that can succeed.

In essence, this is RNG for group composition. You keep rolling the dice until you get the right combination of players.  So anyone who claims that “it should be hard” does not understand that LFR groups are not raid teams, and the rules for raid teams do not apply. Yes, final bosses should be hard for actual raid teams. They should not be hard for a random group of players.

Listen up, arrogant mouth-breathers: If you want to do difficult content, the game still has plenty of it.  Go find a Mythic team that will have you. Commit to a progression team. But stop trying to impose your elitist illusions on a large group of people who just want to have some fun and think they should not have to suffer through hours of frustration in order to do so.

Group Finder. Last night, as usual, we were a few people short for our guild raid team, so the RL went the Group Finder route to fill in the gaps. As we have just started raiding again after a 4-month hiatus and having cleared the first wing of HFC last week on Normal, we were doing our first run through of the second wing on Normal. We wiped twice on Council before we downed them.

The wipes were not terrible ones, we were pretty close both times, mostly a matter of tweaking some timing and positioning. After the first wipe, we lost two of the four pugs. No whispered explanations to the RL, no raid chat announcements — not even so much as a “Screw you losers!” — just quit. One guy, a warrior, had begged and pleaded with the RL to let him in. As soon as he got in, he began to dictate raid strategy to the RL, complain about how long it was taking us to get started, and generally engage in ass-like behavior. He was adequately geared, but he was doing embarrassingly low DPS. At any rate, he quit after the first wipe.

We replaced the quitters, but the same thing happened after the second wipe. (Two of our original pugs stuck with us though, a couple of healers.)

We replaced the second group of quitters and proceeded to down the boss. Immediately one of the pugs quit — again, no explanations, nothing. He had topped the damage meters, so our best guess was that he found our team to be beneath his elite status, but we will never know since he just quit with no explanation.

I have mentioned a few times my frustration with the apparent arrogance of raid leaders who use the Group Finder, but last night I saw a lot of rude, arrogant behavior from those seeking teams as well. It makes me want to don my codger hat and wonder what is becoming of this upstart generation of players with their entitlement attitude.

Maybe the pugs who quit were short on time and had to leave for good reasons. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. But if that is the case, would it have killed them to whisper a quick apology to the RL and thank him for the invite? Or maybe — heaven forbid — they might have mentioned their time constraints when first invited. Our RL always whispers pugs before he invites them, has a short conversation with them mainly to let them feel like they are part of a team and not some random spare part to be used then discarded. We are always considerate of them, and even if they eventually have to be booted because they are not working out, it is only after several gentle whispered suggestions from the RL, and an opportunity for them to drop group on their own. We joke with them, we praise them when they do well, we congratulate them on loot, we give them food. We adopt our pugs into our team for the night. If they tell us they have to leave early, we thank them for helping us out and wish them well.

But, really, how big of an arrogant jackass do you have to be to beg to be taken on to a team, then immediately proceed to bitch about the pace, and argue in raid chat about the strategy with the guy who brought you on?

When we downed the boss, we ended up doing so mainly because we just powered through it without any sort of finesse or teamwork. This was because the pugs simply ignored the RL’s strategy, even though he had explained it in raid chat, marked the targets clearly, and even announced when it was time to switch targets. They just flat out ignored him, assuming they were far superior to all of us and had no need of working as part of a team.

I don’t get it. Group Finder is not LFR. Group Finder is designed to augment real raid teams, and if you are selected as such an augmentee, common courtesy would suggest you listen politely and try your best to fit in with the group. Even if you do not agree with the strategy, the well-mannered way to express that is to whisper the RL, not start an argument in raid chat. And if you feel the need to leave the group, a quick “Sorry guys, gtg” is a lot better than just precipitously quitting.

Arrogance and rudeness all around. It’s depressing. Time for me to go into weekend mode.