Pitfalls of LFR and Ideas for Improvement
So patch 4.3 dropped about 4 weeks ago and I’ve been mucking around with my guild in the raid two nights a week. On off-nights some of us get together and step into LFR, hoping that our unity and skill can power us through what is admittedly the most painful experience I’ve had since Ret Paladins got buffed in the Pre-Wrath patch and farmed us in BGs.
I’ve stepped into LFR in every role (tanking on Raz, healing on Gabby,and DPSing on Azzy) and each time a little part of me dies inside. I’ve encountered good players, bad players, and everything in between. I’ve referred to LFR as “Looking for Retards” and “Looking for Regrets,” and sadly, they are both still spot on. Let’s discuss why:
You can lead a horse to water…
…but you can’t force them to drink. Welcome to LFR:
- 1/3 of your raid will have a clue
- 1/3 of your raid can’t bother to read mechanics and then dies on everything
- 1/3 of your raid thinks they know what’s going on but in reality they are as lost as the previous 1/3
You have a 50/50 chance of your tanks:
- Actually knowing how to tank
- Having a health pool that isn’t comparable to a plate healer
- Actually knowing the fight
Your goal is to find a tank who has at least 1 of the above skills and has the ability to learn. If you can find a tank with all 3 qualities, sacrifice something to the gods for giving you a lucky day.
You hope that your healers:
- Actually have healing spells bound to keys
- Actually heal the raid and not themselves full time
- Do more than 4000 HPS overall
- Are comprised of at least 3 who will do 80% of the healing, hopefully doing it well enough to carry the rest of the heal team
Your only prayers regarding your DPS team:
- Please out-DPS the tanks
- Please do more than 7K DPS based on the ilvl required to get into the raid
- Can understand simple directions
Sadly, I have experienced each and every one of the things listed above in LFR. I have carried players who can’t out DPS a tank to watch them win tier tokens, or the people who can’t avoid standing in something or attack the right target walk away with loot from Deathwing.
LFR does a great job of allowing people to experience the content, but it rewards mediocrity and asshole behavior.
My Raiding Hang Up
I’m old-school. I won’t lie. I may not have raided in Vanilla, but I kept up a 6-day a week raid schedule through BC only to watch 25s also be opened to 10s teams and more casual play.
I watched people get emo if a boss didn’t die in the first night of attempts. I watched people rage quit if a boss didn’t die in a week of attempts. Yea, I will get frustrated if something won’t die, but I spent a month (if not more) of working on Vashj 3 nights a week before she died. A week is a farking joke to me. Kills usually are delayed because people are perpetuating stupid mistakes, lacking raid awareness or communication skills, or are just downright bad. I benched people for this in BC. I was ruthless in my pursuit of kills, but people were always aware as to why their slot was negated–my team isn’t here to carry you–devote the time to improve your gear, your attitude, and your abilities, and then come talk to me again.
Raiding is business to me, plain and simple. If I see you fuck up repeatedly, I will call you out. I’m aggressive. I’m an asshole. I won’t deny this in the least. I raid to win and to succeed. Outside of raiding, WoW is fun. But in a raid? I’m going to be sometimes coldly professional. The shorter my responses are? The more pissed I am. I’m here for 3 or more hours, don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours.
There were nights in BC that I would have benched myself because I fucked up. The challenge was that we only ran 2 hunters, and we both needed to be there with Misdirects. In Wrath I would have benched myself when I was tired, but I wasn’t RL and my GM wouldn’t have any of it. In Cata, well, sometimes it’s hard to bench one of the tanks when you only have 2. I’d like to say that I’m a thousand times better as a tank than a healer (usually), so there are nights (looking at you Heroic Alys) where I would have preferred to have been benched when I was performing badly in the healing department.
In a normal raid set, this made sense. You were a good player and thus you got to reap the rewards of your effort. Your dedication to developing yourself to be a dependable raider was highlighted by the shiny epics you earned. The raid finder just gives you the opportunity to go into Dragon Soul, be as good or as bad as you want, and still have an equal chance to roll against everyone else in the raid, no matter if they were better or worse than you were. We’re at the point where we’re now rewarding mediocrity (and in the process leaving out/screwing over the people who DO play their class well but don’t have the time for a dedicated raid team) with shiny, abeit lower ilvl (but who the hell really cares honestly), epics.
Why I LFR
In all honesty, I LFR for the same reason that a guild like Paragon did it. I want to grab pieces that will allow me to perform better for my raid team. Whether or not they are tiny upgrades, there are tier set bonuses and more gem sockets in play, things that I want so that I can push more heals or take more hits. I’m sure there are many raiders who do the same. In fact, until last night, my first pieces of tier on Raz came from LFR. My priest, who I will never raid on as a main, has 2 pieces, and amazingly, my DK picked up 3 on Monday before server resets. I’d like to say that I play each of those classes well in the role I play them in, so I am thrilled to be able to pick up pieces for my effort.
For some, LFR is the only chance they will have at seeing the content, and honestly, I can’t fault them for that. They pay just as much as I do to play this game, and they should have the chance to see all the content that is made.
But that doesn’t mean…
I like grouping with them. The good players, the players who can’t devote the time but stay current on their class and know how to use their abilities, sign me right up. I’m more than willing to explain a fight, to help someone if they want to be helped. This has always been my theory in LFD. I’m not expecting you to out-DPS me in normal heroics. I know that I out-gear you, and I honestly don’t mind carrying you and getting you some loot. This is why I never have an issue tanking for guildies’ alts. It’s something I can do for them and I hope that I get the same back in return.
I had the world’s worst shadow priest in one of my entry level heroics a couple weeks ago. Instead of demeaning him or kicking him from the group, I kept him for the next 3 runs I did. Why? Why not? I needed nothing through there, he wasn’t standing in fire or being an asshole in /p. So he stayed. The jackasses? Don’t worry, I have a /votekick lined up and waiting for you.
But the bad players? There’s a reason I’m in a guild and I run stuff in guild groups. It’s to avoid these players. You know, the ones who stand in fire, the ones who talk back, the ones who wait for a rez while everyone runs back. The players who are only there to grief the rest of the group.
Unfortunately, LFR dumps those good players who want to see the content in with the bad players who have no other plans but to make 24 other people’s lives miserable.
Improving LFR to Improve the Player
Why reward mediocrity? We see it today in the rearing of children–everyone has to be a winner. Everyone needs a participation ribbon. In my mind, it devalues the achievements of others who put forth the effort to be the best at what they do.
I know that Blizzard has admitted that there are some fallacies with the current configuration of LFR and I know that they are trying to improve it. So far they’ve set restrictions on some of the items (though if I recall correctly there were some BiS type items that now some classes can’t get out of LFR because it wasn’t locked to their class–I think it was a weapons and warriors thing), and have stated that they want it to be even more specific, as in, a Ret Paladin can’t roll and win a 1H sword off Deathwing (seen it happen).
The first step is admitting that you have a problem, and Blizzard has done that–and I applaud them for their honesty in saying that the design of LFR is a work-in-progress. But what are other ways we can improve it?
Setting a Performance Check
Right now, in order to get into LFR, you need to have an ilvl of at least 372. We don’t care if it’s equipped, we don’t care if it’s even your armor type, we don’t care if it’s PvP gear. If you have an overall ilvl of 372, you can go play in LFR. So we have this nebulous “gear check.” There’s so many ways to game the system, that people forget why it’s in place.
Only once have I had an LFR where every single DPS was above me as a tank. Half the DPS were guild mates, and the other have were quality PuGgers that we picked up in the LFR system. I’ve seen DPS as low as 7K, and I’ve seen them win loot over someone who did 30K. Does this frustrate me? Hell yes it does. There’s 2 sides to the coin though; with the loot win, could the 7K DPS improve themselves to be a valuable contributor to the raid? Or do you reward the person who has a solid grasp of their class and is basically carrying other members of the raid? I can see both sides of it. On Raz, I feel like I’m carrying because I know the correct way to handle the boss mechanics; I go in and deliver a smooth run. On my priest, I feel like I deserve the tokens and loot because it will make me a better player (Gabby’s gear was never great until this Tier, and it still needs work, but I do usually try to top the absorbs meter in LFR)–I’m not a bad healer, I just don’t have the output because I don’t have the gear to push the numbers to be as respectable as I’d like.
I’d love to see a DPS/HPS check. Blizzard has all the data from our combat logs. They know what the expected output of a class is, and if it needs to be buffed or nerfed. What if they set a range with a high and a low and an average expectation? In order to roll on loot, you need to fall between the two points. This would require players to better themselves in order to benefit from LFR–improving themselves helps to improve the overall raid experience, making them a better team player and more willing to not AFK and be carried.
Same for healing, though I know that some people will do meter padding just to up their chances for loot. Healing will always be a sort of gray area, so I’m not quite sure how I’d handle it–I’d love to hear suggestions though!
Performance Based Loot Weights
When bonuses roll around in my company, we are weighed and measured against everyone else in our role. Our performance weights for the year versus our coworkers is what sets our bonus ranking. The process is called “Weighting and Ranking.” The better you do, the higher chance you are to get rewarded. The best contributors walk away with a 1.5 modifier on the company bonus amount, which nets them some additional cash for their effort. What it the same thing was in play in LFR? If you fall within the DPS/HPS scale, you get a better chance at loot? If you hit the median expected for your class, your role maintains the +100 modifier. But if you are close to top, you get a +150 modifier or something. And this is an adjusting scale–you don’t want to pass a lot of loot to someone in all Heroic Firelands gear, or maybe even in some Heroic Dragon Soul gear! Percentile based roll modifiers could be an interesting mechanic, though probably more of a headache to code than it’s worth.
My first weeks in LFR were plagued with people winning multiple tokens in one run. And let me say, I was really annoyed when 2 healing trinkets dropped off one boss and went to the same damn player. And then last week, I got lucky. I took my DK in for the first 4 bosses and picked up 3 Tier tokens and a BiS waist for him. Someone commented after we finished up Hagara, “Wait, did Azrael get 3 Tier tokens this run?!?” And honestly? I was rejoicing. I said in Mumble to guildies, “Well, I earned these.” And in some ways, I did. I maintained #4 on the Damage Done list for the entire raid. But then I thought back to the argument that I had made on Twitter early in 4.3: Once you win a token, your roll should be halved for any other class token that drops for you that run. If that was the case, I probably wouldn’t have made out like a bandit like I did on Azzy. Do I think it’s fair? Yes and no. I look at my performance (this was the run with the 7K DPS shadow priest) and say “I kicked ass and I’ve earned these tokens,” but how many other good performers lost out to me? RNG is a finicky mistress indeed.
Part of me thinks that this could be addressed with the performance modifiers I noted above, but I’m still unsure. One person shouldn’t walk away from LFR with 4 pieces of loot in 4 bosses, but there’s got to be a way to spread the wealth.
There needs to be a way to allow people who want to see the content on their own time, without a raid team, if they so choose. There needs to be a better way to police the ever growing list of griefers who are entering the LFR system specifically to mess with players. There needs to be a way to reward those who put forth effort. The old saying of “It’s my $15, I can play how I want!” can be easily refuted (in my mind) with the response of “Well, it’s the raid’s $360 so STFU and L2Play.” For progression, I have a raid team to run with. For my alts, I have LFR. I try to be a contributor not a hindrance.
I think LFR is a good concept, but it definitely needs work. I implore the WoW community to come up with creative ideas and share them with Blizzard so together, we can provide feedback from all different play styles to make the tool something we don’t think twice about using!
UPDATE: By the time I got around to publishing this, I’ve picked up 5 pieces of Tier on Raz in LFR: 2 pieces for Holy, and 3 pieces for Prot. I now run a 4pc Prot set and a 2pc Holy set for raids.