Last night Michael and I finally gave in and went to LFR on alts. One of our guildies, a man I have grown rather fond of in the past few months, convinced me that it was worth the amusement to attend – specifically if we all went together and there was maybe some alcohol involved. “This isn’t serious raiding,” he assured me, “It’s just so ridiculous that you have to experience it.” Since we’re at the tail end of an expansion and not gunning for heroic modes, I gave in at last. With a little bit of a buzz even *I* am capable of abiding pug raiders. Maybe. Heh.
I’ve been gearing up a paladin for the past two weeks and learning to tank, so this was the toon I chose to take along. I tanked a bit in Wrath, but mostly I’m exclusively a healer: I have 5 level 85 healers, this pally included, though she has been sitting idle on another server since shortly after she hit cap. My prot gear is pretty much already in order to begin tanking Dragon Soul, but my tanking reflexes are not what I’d consider “ready to raid” so deciding to actually tank a raid at this point is so far beyond what I view as acceptable that I figured it’d be just right for LFR considering what I’ve heard about it. That conclusion itself is a complete compromise of my values, but, whatever… I’m not responsible for the situation that LFR has created and Blizzard doesn’t care about my suggestions, so I’ll just go with the flow. ‘When in Rome’ and all that. I made it a full-on drunken raid and put it on the schedule.
Eight guildies gathered for the adventure. Several sounded pretty buzzed by the end of the hour or so that it took to run LFR. I was apprised of the rules as we revved up for it: don’t ever disconnect or go noticeably AFK (be auto-attacking at least), roll on every single thing you can roll on, vote-kick anyone who is disconnected or noticeably AFK. We zoned in… and I will tell you that even though I was already somewhat tipsy, this experience was nothing like real raiding. This was more like Rollerball, except without the dystopian political environment (though maybe that’s why we’re all there in the first place?) or vehicles. With barely a moment given to buff up, we were instantly off and pulling the first trash – which meant I needed to get myself together posthaste, since I was supposed to be leading this charge. This is all content I know well, of course, – and even teach to others – but I’m definitely not used to the lack of communication in a raid environment. To me, raiding is about working together as a team. There was no teamwork here, just button-mashing.
No one paused between fights, nor questioned whether anyone else knew anything at all – or needed to know anything. I was advised of the differences between LFR and normal boss mechanics in Vent as I was actually hitting the bosses. The other tank and I cheerfully (and intentionally) battled over threat the entire time, completely disdainful of our target’s abilities and any debuffs thrown on us. “The DPS won’t move, so don’t try to plan for it or worry about helping them with positioning, “ I was informed, and this is true. They stood in one spot and swung/shot mindlessly at the boss the entire time. Once the boss was down, the entire group rolled like an organic steam engine on to the next room, racing into combat without assuring themselves of either tank or healer presence, and certainly without any regard to the “content” around them. This was as easy as it gets. When you hear the word “faceroll”, LFR is the absolute definition of it. Players came, pressed some buttons, gobbled up the loot, and left, with nary a word. Now I know why those people we run into in pug heroics have no clue about how to actually play, despite the fact that they’re decked out in full tier sets and weapons from LFR.
That said, I had a great deal of fun. I mean, I’m an experienced player, I know the content, I had more than a little alcohol in me, and I was bolstered on by my very silly and competent guildmates. And I will probably put drunken LFR raids on the schedule a couple of times a month for awhile, just because it’s a fast way to get freebie gear for new alts, without much effort at all. But there’s another side to this too, of course – the reason I’m writing about LFR here.
LFR was implemented to increase accessibility for people who are unable to experience any end content for whatever various reasons – lack of gear, lack of time, lack of guild, lack of skills. Or so it was advertised, anyway. There are a fair number of players who never get to see the end content because of those myriad reasons, and, given that WoW is a massively popular game with a strong and well-established development mechanism supporting it, Blizzard created a way for them to enjoy it. And the intent is certainly admirable. But then they made a mistake: they offered a decent gear upgrade reward for killing LFR bosses. And that gave whole new meaning to the LFR. Few who enter LFR are interested in actually “experiencing” end content, they’re just there to kill easy bosses for freebie gear – even hardcore guilds were using LFR to get faster tier sets in order to move on to heroic modes competitively. As such, any who might be interested in learning mechanics or playing correctly (marking trash targets, moving to avoid things, you know – actual raiding) are overruled and outvoted by those that are there for their fast loot.
Experience the content? Ha! In LFR I didn’t see much of anything but combat text since we were moving so fast from fight to fight. I barely saw the next target even (and I was tanking!), buzz notwithstanding; in reality I just tab-targeted and then threw my frisbee (uh, my shield. It looks like a frisbee when you throw it. It’s a pally thing, don’t ask.). The vote-kicks go out so fast, God forbid you actually stop to look at anything. I wonder how much of a “grand experience” this is for anyone new to the place? What a sad introduction to an otherwise graphically-rich and lore-rich environment. Don’t stop moving! Spam buttons! Click Need if you can! Next! This was really fun for our drunken raid – and we were all certainly guilty of bad playing and fast vote-kicks – but I hardly think this is what the designers intended. Yet… what else did they actually expect? Are they really so naïve as to believe that people value things they don’t have to work for?
Having had LFR in our game for three months and having finally experienced it myself for the first time – after griping heavily about it for the entirety of that three months – my position hasn’t changed at all. In contrast, it’s been affirmed: LFR, as it stands, is poorly planned out and fails at its design objective. Rather than giving inexperienced or time/gear/skill-constricted players a safe and easier environment in which to enjoy the pinnacle of the game’s content, the LFR is merely a loot wagon that rolls pell-mell through the bosses with no care for the content at all. Sure, everyone got to kill the bosses, but did they even know what they were killing? Or were they just mashing their buttons? Is that “experiencing the content”?
Further, LFR teaches no raiding skills whatsoever and, in fact, encourages really dreadful skills – raiders need to be responsive and reactive and work together as a team. They need to pay attention to mechanics, because that’s what makes the boss “content” rather than just pixels. But in LFR, taking the time to play properly will probably get you yelled at, if it’s noticed at all. And I firmly believe that it is the loot reward that makes this happen. The fact that you get a higher ilvl gear and tier tokens from LFR gives it an entirely new purpose and meaning – one that diminishes WoW, rather than encouraging player skill and inspiring new raiders.
So, anyway, while I am fine with using LFR for hosting outrageously silly drunken guild raids, I feel that LFR in its current manifestation weakens and devalues WoW. And I think that’s just really unfortunate.