There are some changes coming with the next patch and those changes might effect some of the things we have become used to, like them or not, like last tier 5 mans, the CRZ and the LFR. I've been pondering them and figured I would do what I always do and share some of my opinions on them.
Will Flex Raiding Destroy the LFR?
If I had to make a quick jump decision I would answer, yes I hope it does. If I were to think it out a little bit I would say, it won't but it will change the face of it as we know it now. At least that is how I see it.
I have often said that the LFR is too hard for the average player and I stand by that. It really is way too hard for the average player. With the addition of flex raiding I feel it will shorten the life of the LFR for those people that are, for lack of a better term, above average. The players that are decent in their own right but are not really great.
Those people are the heart and soul of the LFR. They are the one that make it possible for the average player to actually finish the LFR. I've been in some awesome groups, some great groups, some average groups and some horrible groups. All of them however would be the exact same group, a horrible group, if you removed the above average players.
Those above average players are the ones that dictate which group you are in. Get a group with more than 18 above average players and it is an awesome group. 13 above average players can mean it is a great group, 10 might be a good group, while 5 or 6 might only be doable. Get to the point where there are only 1 or 2 or even 3 above average players that are not in one of the control roles and it could very well be a horrible run.
While I can still see many above average players, the ones that make the LFR possible, running the random raids I don't see them doing it as long as they are right now. Lets just take where we are for example. Myself and many others like me do not need anything from the LFR, have not needed anything for a very long time, but we still run it for runstones because we are not downing all 6 of those end bosses each week. Or any in my case now that I am doing 25s and only getting 3 bosses in per week, not downing much of anything each week. So I really have no choice but to run it. There are a great deal of above average players in that same boat and those people are the ones that make an LFR run nice and smooth. Whenever you are in a smooth run, thank them, or yourself if you are one of them. But what if they were gone?
Then you would have groups like I talk about sometimes. Nightmares that seem to never end. LFRs filled with the average player. The average player is bad. Really bad.
I did my LFRs last night, the last 2 looking for runestones. Once again, if it were not for the guaranteed drop I would have gotten none again. I swear I will never get that cloak, but that is another story. It was nice and smooth and super fast. I was able to get both parts done in less than an hour run time. Even adding queue time, 8 minutes for the last part and 34 minutes for the second to last part, it still took less than 2 hours total. My weekend runs, when those better players looking for their runestones are not there, take 2 hours just to do them while in them. Sometimes 3 hours. And the wait times are doubled, tripled, even quadrupled on occasion.
When flex raiding comes people will be more likely to do that to get their runestones (if there is something like that, just using it as an example). Better gear, no queue, self assembled, any number of people, the ability to get achievements, collect quest items, and you still get valor.
Is there really a comparison to be made? They are two different types of things. One is randomly grouped content that becomes too hard for most while the other is assembled content that becomes easier than normal because you can communicate.
Being flex raiding does not lock you to bosses either you can actually help your buddies if you wanted to. You ran your flex raid and downed the first 5 but on the weekend your buddies want to go but do not have a tank. Well, you can tank, you can not get loot off the first 5, but you can help your friends down them. Holy freaking awesome batman. When are they adding this to the real raid. Lock people to bosses so they can only loot them once a week. We need that.
This means that the pug society will return. Not saying the pug world was much better than the LFR world. I remember assembling pug raids that took an hour plus to get going, similar to some LFR queue times. But if you are going to wait for an hour why not wait for better gear. I also remember joining pugs that failed on trash. So there are bad pugs too, it is not all rosy in pug world, but at least it is assembled.
But all this is assuming the difficulty is such that a pug can do it. The last time the pug community on my server had any decent success, or even existed, was in wrath when your worst pug would at least do 3/12, most would do 6/12 and many could do 10/12. You would need a much better hand picked group to get a full clear which still was extremely rare on my server, but it could be done. And either way, lets face it, if you could even do 6/12 pugs at a moments notice because pugs are always running, it would not be so bad would it?
If the new flex raids are slightly easier than 30% ICC or at least close to it then you very will might have a return to pugs running 24/7 and if that is the case then my main can get his runestones in flex, my alts can gear up through flex, and I could drag my friends that really aren't that great through flex to hopefully teach them. Something I have tried but really can not do in the LFR unless I can get a mostly guild group to queue up for it.
Speaking of that, our guild always did weekly LFR runs. We would test out new people there just to get to see them, gear up some alts knowing we had some mains there to cover for our doing 60K instead of more, basically bring the whole crew and have a little fun. LFR was always easy when you had at least 15 in guild with you.
Now we have flex raid for that. If we can get 15 together, or 18, or 12, we will just run a flex raid. Again, better gear, just us, ability to communicate, learn, teach, and have some fun with our guild mates and perhaps a few pug friends from our server or others as we can cross server flex, and you have a winner all the way around.
So what does all this mean?
If there will be pugs running 24/7. And flex raiding will be very pug friendly by allowing people to do the same bosses again, by being easier content for an organized, even if not great group, and it offers so much more than the LFR can in terms of gear, special loot, achievements and the such, why do the LFR?
Would this mean that only the worst of the worst will be left in the LFR after the first few weeks? I can see the above average players still doing it those early weeks. After all, what I always say, an upgrade is an upgrade is an upgrade. And if the new weapon, trinket, or tier set is so good that even the LFR version is worth getting I will run all three modes, LFR, flex and normal to increase my chances of getting one of them. But with that comes three times more likely for me to get it (or not get it knowing me) and that will shorten the time I feel I need to do the LFR.
Once I do not need anything from it I will drop it like its hot. Just like once you do not need valor any longer you stop grinding it. I keep myself at 3K all the time now and if I get an upgrade I use 500 on it to get my 8 extra item levels and recap my 3K instantly. But it is human nature to try to remove the need to do things. And if I can remove the need to do LFR like I have removed the need to valor cap, I will do so. In a heartbeat. Heck, I have been actively avoiding it on my alts even if they do need a lot of gear from there and rep.
But I would still run flex with my friends and fellow raiders. Flex will take the place that LFR once had. The place where I felt I needed to do it. Like I need to do it for runestones now. If flex were out now and we were clearing flex I would just get my runestones there and so would anyone else that was a halfway decent player which leaves who for the LFR groups? The average or worse, less than average, players.
If I already call the LFR too hard sometimes for the masses what do you think it will be like when the above average players have absolutely no reason to do them. And even those people that love the LFR because it fits their raid whenever schedule, if flex raiding is anything like wrath raiding where there are pugs going 24/7 what do you think those people will choose? A possibly very hard LFR with trolls galore or a flex raid with better rewards? I don't think I need to tell you what my answer would be.
LFR is not going anywhere, at least for now. But it will need to be adjusted to the new denizens that will be in it. And if blizzard does not adapt to it fast and realize that only the worst of the worst are there, it can implode on itself and become completely worthless.
If they do not considerably lower the difficulty of the LFR I can see flex raiding destroying it. This is of course with the hope that flex raiding is indeed easy enough for the masses and brings back the 24/7 pug community. And with my next section it shows why I believe the return of the 24/7 pug community is possible.
Will there still be a CRZ when we get Virtual Realms?
The CRZ was added because blizzard did not want to admit they needed to merge servers. The CRZ showed everything wrong with how it should be done. It was quite possibly the worst addition to the game ever.
I've always argued that if I wanted to be on a small server I should have that right. But that was only one tiny part of why I hated the CRZ. Server merges would have been better but it was not going to happen. For that to happen blizzard would need to admit it was not as big as it once was. Not like they need to, we all know that, but they wanted to save face.
So along comes server merges without using the word server merges. Call it virtual realms. Don't let the name deceive you. This is not something new and interesting, it is just a server merge system without actually having to merge servers. All this effort to save face really.
Will I complain about the same things I did with CRZ? Nope. Not at all and not in the slightest. While my one big complaint was if I wanted to play on a small server I should have that right, this is difference. CRZ was putting me with people on other servers, virtual realms are merging servers. Sure, I do not like that I don't have my quiet rare farming world that I used to, but a merge is a merge. I can still have a choice. I can still move to another server that is a smaller merged server, if I choose. I can still escape it some whereas I had no opt out from the CRZ. So virtual realms are better already. They will offer choice. Sure that choice comes at the cost of a server transfer, but it is still a choice like it or not. Now the ball is in my court should I want to move. Not like with the CRZ when I had no choice what so ever.
Virtual realms also address a lot of the other issues I had with CRZ. I'll go over a few.
When someone from Thrall (for example) would mine ore, it effectively gets removed from my server. If there were people from other servers, larger ones, farming, there was less available for my server. This meant higher prices, stress of not being able to find any resources, and competition with someone that you could not even buy it off of if you needed it.
Now with virtual realms you are not only grouped with the realms you are with, but you share an auction house. So if some guy from Thrall is clearing out all the silver ore and I can not find any, at least it will be on my auction house from him instead of disappearing from my servers balance.
While the guy you are competing with is still the enemy in a sense because you want those nodes, at least what he gets is not being removed from your server. I used to be that everyone that minded something was basically stealing it from your server for his. He will be using it on your virtual realm or selling it on your virtual realm. It is no longer some other server taking your stuff, so to speak.
You can not trade someone in the CRZ. Even if you met up with someone while leveling and decided to quest with them and you each added one another to your friends list. If some green shoulders dropped that you both hit greed on and you won and then he said, wait I can use those, you were screwed. You could not trade the shoulders to him. Even if you both had rights to it. Even if you both rolled on it. It is no longer tradable. Another reason the CRZ sucked. With virtual realms that other person you met from another server is actually linked to your server which means you can pass the shoulders along to him freely. Nice.
Being you could not trade you could not buy. Someone wanted to sell some nice BoE drop at a reasonable price. He wanted 10K and on your server it was usually 25K on the AH. But being he can not trade it to you, you could not put gold in the window to pay him for it. He could not even put it on the AH for you to buy and trade it that way. CRZ really sucked for many things and that was one of them. Now with virtual realms you can trade or use the AH, either way, you are on the same realm effectively thanks to the server merge.
You could meet someone while running around a CRZ and become friends with them. Your guild could need a holy paladin and he just happens to be a holy paladin without a guild. Sorry CRZ will not allow you to raid current content with him. Sorry CRZ will not allow you to invite him to your guild. Seriously, what was the use of CRZ if you could meet people, become friends with them, and then can't do anything with them? One of the myriad of reasons that made the CRZ the worst addition to the game ever. With virtual reams who cares if the guy is on another server. He can tag along in the current raid or he can even join your guild. Now if the CRZ allowed that to begin with, as it should have, there would be no need for virtual realms.
There are lots of things that will benefit from the server merge but shhhh, don't call it that. If blizzard knew we knew what it really was they might cancel it. They really seem to fear merging servers. That is why they gave us the biggest pile of dog crap ever introduced to the game, the CRZ. Because they figured it would be better to shit on their player base than to admit they needed to merge servers.
But with that in mind, with virtual servers, will CRZ still be needed? Will they still be attempting to over populate dead zones that are only dead because there is really no reason to be there and you level through it in 30 minutes? Come on people, zones you spend 30 minutes in do not need life, spend your time and resources on things that matter. Not making it seem like there are 5 people in feralas instead of 2.
If you really want to fill out those lower level areas then reduce leveling speed to a crawl again and watch the zones fill up. That is why it always felt like they were full, because people actually spent time there. They only seem empty because the game has changed, accept it and move on, leveling zones are fine if they are not full, the CRZ was never needed to give leveling zones life because leveling zones do not need life.
I wonder if the CRZ will go the way of the dodo once the virtual realms come out. I doubt it because they will still want to give those leveling zones life for some odd reason, but would we really still need it?
Are dungeons really dead?
I know a great deal of people love five mans and I do in some case as well. I can live with or without them. I do agree with the sentiment that it felt like they were really lacking this expansion. Having the last raid patch of the expansion come out without a three pack of new dungeons is contrary to what we have seen the last two expansions. We have, as a community, kind of gotten used to that quick catch up mechanic that was the late expansion five mans.
People have been asking all expansion if there would be any more five man dungeons and they said no. They went the way of the scenario this expansion for better or worse depending on who you ask. Some love the holy trinity and others like the need for nothing special, just queue and go type of groups. Both have their advantages of course.
But if dungeons were really dying out and losing favor with the designers we would see when the last raid patch came out wouldn't we? The ICC 3 and the Twilight 3 show us we should have the Org 3 this expansion right? Nope, because it does seem like 5 mans have lost their place in the hearts of the designers.
I must say I always liked those last raid patch dungeons. They worked as the perfect catch up for my alts that had been neglected all expansion really. I also have some fond memories of them. Halls of reflection might have been one of the biggest tear inducing dungeons of all time but I loved getting [We're not retreating; We're advancing in a different direction] my first time in there because it has to be one of the greatest achievement names ever and it was a pretty fun race against the clock. But for random groups, it was surely a nightmare sometimes.
Having something become part of wow culture is one thing but losing it is another. We lost the nessingwary quest line in cataclysm and I even made a post about it. It would be nice to think that post, in some part, helped ensure his return this expansion but perhaps it was just an oversight last expansion like the many of other things they forgot to include.
No dungeons at the end of this expansion can not be chalked up to an oversight. It would be a clear decision on the part of the game makers to move away from five man content and to move away from the end of the expansion catch up mechanic that they were so good for.
I think not having any new 5 man dungeons at the end of this expansion might be very telling as to what we can expect the next expansion. The possible moving away from dungeon content as the predominant catch up and random content filler to something more complete including scenarios and LFR. But with LFR being such the joke it is and scenarios not exactly being a reasonable way to gear up because you only get a shot a decent piece of gear once a day instead of once a run means neither of them are in the position to replace dungeons.
So the removal of dungeons and no addition of anything that can take their place in the grand scheme of things makes you wonder if they really are dead. Not adding them AND not replacing them with something else might just mean they are phasing them out completely as content for anything other than release. And even as someone that can give or take them I think that is the wrong move. I might not be one of the people that love them and scream to get them back but I am also not someone that is going to say don't waste your time on them and make something else. I am perfectly neutral about them and I think abandoning them, even more so from the last raid patch, is a huge mistake. The question is, what should we read into it. If anything.
Bonus topic: Random Grouping
Do you think the trend against random grouping will continue?
When the LFD was first introduced I loved the idea of it. Even if I was in a guild, and that guild I found because of having to assemble groups by hand, I still had a hard time getting my dungeons done each day. Most days I never did.
As anyone that played before the days of the LFD will tell you group content was time consuming to assemble for. It was a choice to spend the day in trade or to go out and do things. Couldn't have it both ways. Of course in time once I made a name for myself and was getting invited to groups a little more often it did free me up to go out in the world and do stuff and still occasionally get my dungeon in. I could just wait for a whisper while doing my dailies and if one did not come I would head back to the city and try to spam until I could find a group. Most days I never did. On a good week I ran my dungeon 3 times, maybe, just maybe, 4. I don't think I ever ran my daily dungeon each day. Ever.
Then everything become random groups. Even raids did later on. And the communities started to fall apart after wrath when the merged 10 and 25 man raiding into one thing and pugs stopped. Between lack of pugs, lack of community, lack of assembly, the game started to become automated.
Log in, do random content, cap, wait for raid night.
But recently we have been seeing more and more of a push to self assembly. It started a bit ago with rated battlegrounds and now it has extended to PvE with heroic scenarios last patch and flex raiding next patch.
I have to give blizzard some props here. Nice work on attempting, albeit slowly, to build community again. Adding virtual realms is also a huge step in that direction even if most people do not notice it as such. By merging servers, oops, don't tell them I said that, they are making it possible for even what was once a small server to have more people for non-random content. By adding flex raiding and more so the ability to do the same bosses again, they are stepping up the ability to pug.
They are making a solid push forward into returning us to where we came from, but in a better position than we were when we were there. The days of assembled groups are returning, or might be returning, we will see. But it is clear, at least in my mind, that blizzard is trying to let the community help itself again by adding some things to the game that will allow us to be a community again and step away from the "log in, do random content, cap, wait for raid night" that cataclysm basically became and mists expanded on at first.
With two patches in a row having content that needs to be assembled instead of randomed into, do you think this is a trend that will continue? Do you think it is a trend that should continue?
The one thing I worry about is the absence of random content in place of this assembled content. They need to work a balance. And if they had given us our 3 pack of dungeons this last raid tier and if they do make LFR a lot easier for the people that will be left in it, with those and the addition of flex raiding and server merged virtual realms, we could have the perfect balance of community and ease all in one nice bundle.
The balance is close to where I think it would be perfect but at the moment they are pushing assembled content so hard as the flex raiding and virtual realms support it, that they are forgetting the random content completely. How long do you think they will push it and how much should they before it is too much? That is something worth thinking about.
Either way, I am looking forward to once again trying to develop into a community again. I guess it is time for me to shrug off my anti-social tendencies and once again enter the world so to speak. It has been so long since I only ran with guild or in random content. I don't even know if I remember how to pug in trade like I used to do every single day of my gaming life before the introduction of the LFD. Well hello there community, welcome back. I've missed you.