Looking For Raid-ish

On Monday, Preach Gaming posted a new video in a series about major changes he hopes to see in Legion.  This video covered the topic of the highly controversial Looking For Raid (LFR) system.  I highly suggest watching the video beforehand, but I’ll cover most of the salient points here as well.

The first point that Preach makes is an analogy about how LFR is similar to Random Battlegrounds in that both are a facsimile for the real challenge, but we don’t cry about BGs because it’s been in the game since Vanilla.  I don’t think this analogy is really that great because anything that involves Player vs. Player interaction can be a challenge depending on the skill level of whoever you’re playing against, but I think the underlying point he’s trying to make is this: we’re fine with having aspects of the game be “casual” as long as they don’t infringe on our sense of meaningful or rewarding progression.  I wholeheartedly agree, BUT this leads to his next point: LFR does affect the way players acquire gear.

Preach explains the problematic cycle that LFR creates by referring to what he calls, “The Circlejerk”.  For a more casual player trying to find better gear or get into a raiding guild, the cycle looks something like this:

  1. Craft gear, run LFR, and do World Bosses
  2. Find PUGs through the Group Finder
  3. Try to find a guild
  4. Become discouraged and end up waiting for the next tier of LFR

Preach’s main point is that each new advent of a raid tier brings with it a newer version of LFR that trumps any previous need to run PUGs or try to find a guild, so players choose to wait for the next LFR and repeat the cycle again rather than attempt to join a raiding guild.  Preach does a good job explaining this in his video, so I won’t ramble about it too much.

The immediacy of which LFR overtakes previous raid tiers actually creates two problems.  The first is creating this cycle where people choose to wait for the next tier’s LFR rather than find a guild for the current tier. The second is that it trivializes any previous raid tiers.  The current Hellfire Citadel LFR has gear in it that is equal in item level to the gear in Heroic Blackrock Foundry. According to Wowprogress, less than 50% of guilds killed even a single boss in Heroic BRF.  Only 20% of all guilds killed Blackhand on Heroic difficulty.  This means that more than 50% of actively raiding players were guaranteed to be able to find upgrades in the LFR for Hellfire Citadel when it was released. You only need item level 650 to get into Hellfire Citadel LFR so there’s now absolutely no point to run BRF anymore.  A legitimate path of progression for almost half of all raiders was to stop trying to kill bosses in Heroic BRF and go do LFR in HFC.  There is a real concern with how fast players consume content and immediately shoving raiders into a new tier when they haven’t even finished the most recent tier is very counter intuitive to me.  It feels like Blizzard is scared that people will fail, get left behind, give up, and stop playing the game instead of allowing players to feel the reward of accomplishing something after failing at it.

Preach’s solution to the Circljerk is simple: waiting for a full patch cycle to release the LFR of a current raid tier, e.g.: the LFR version of Blackrock Foundry would not come out until Hellfire Citadel was released.  If LFR is designed to be the “tourist” mode of a raid, then it shouldn’t matter when a player gets to see the content as long as they’re able to see it all before the entire expansion is over. I think this is a fantastic solution to the problem.  There needs to be a gap between tiers to encourage people to find a guild to raid with.  LFR is too easy of an alternative to progression. The Circlejerk is too easy to get trapped in because the next tier of LFR will boost your gear back up again and make players feel semi-current.  I’m perfectly fine with adding catch-up mechanics to later parts of an expansion, but there has to be a reason for players to want to raid and find a guild.

A few weeks ago, Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas made a post on the official forums about some recent hotfixes to the Normal difficulty of Hellfire Citadel in which they removed a lot of abilities from certain bosses rather than nerfing the amount of damage they deal. This is the first time Blizzard has chosen this approach for difficult mechanics in lower difficulties and might be an indication of their intentions for the Normal difficulty in Legion. I would love to see the Normal difficulty replace LFR. I think it’s a viable option to treat Normal difficulty raids similarly to Heroic dungeons. Both would require completing a task like the Proving Grounds for entry, but are still difficult enough to require at least some communication and coordination, just like Heroic dungeons do at the beginning of an expansion. LFR could still be the way for incredibly casual players to see content as long as there aren’t rewards that would be valuable to players who are currently trying to progress or it could just be gone altogether.

I would be fine with either solution, but I think it’s clear that something about Looking For Raid needs to change.

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