Miri’s Thoughts on Flexible Raiding
It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on an upcoming feature in WoW and my thoughts on it, but based on the discussions I had with guildmates last night and the flurry of activity on Twitter, now seems like as good of a time as ever to jump back in to blogging. I can spout of excuses as to why there haven’t been many updates, but pretty much the best thing I can say is that the experiences that have kept me from blogging lately are going to result in blog posts in the future. I’ve been lax on communicating Paladin news and even more lax on my general opinion pieces. That changes now!
The Flexible Raiding Announcement
Last night I was sitting in Mumble bumbling my way through a heroic scenario on my Warlock with guildmates (who knew that clothies don’t have the armor that a Paladin does?!) when suddenly a message flashed up on my screen from guild chat from another member who basically said “One of the 5.4 features is going to be flexible raiding!” Instantly intrigued, and probably almost as instantly killed (man, I HATE that boat scenario. HATE IT), I alt-tabbed to Twitter to see Tweets scrolling by faster than I could read; all discussing this new flexible raiding feature. We rolled through the heroic (haha, there were 2 monks in the group, get it? Roll? Hahaha…never mind) and I immediately pulled up the entire announcement on Blizzard‘s website.
Here’s what it said:
Raids in World of Warcraft have a long history of not just challenging players, but changing and evolving as the years and expansions go by. As with everything in the game, we’re always thinking about what more we can bring to raiding to improve the experience for an even wider range of players. While Normal and Heroic Raids are a great fit for many, we feel there’s another gap worth filling—and to that end, we’re currently working on the development of a new type of Raid for the next major content update: Flexible Raiding.
One Size Does Not Fit All
While it’s impossible to fit every player into a neat, tidy archetype, we recognize that we could be providing a better experience to one broad category of raider: social groups comprised predominantly of friends and family, and smaller guilds that do their best to include as many members in their Raid outings possible.
During the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, the 10-player Normal difficulty served these groups of players pretty well, but the unification of 10-player and 25-player into a single difficulty effectively eliminated that niche. While Raid Finder mode is extremely accessible, it doesn’t provide smaller groups with a tight-knit social experience while progressing through the content. In Patch 5.4, we’re planning to introduce a new mode of raiding that allows us to deliver the sort of experience that we think these players are looking for.
To fill this void, we’re in the process of developing a new Flexible Raid system, which includes a new difficulty that sits between Raid Finder and Normal difficulty, while still allowing friends, family, or pick-up groups to play together. This difficulty will be available for premade groups of 10–25 players, including any number in between. That means whether you have 11, 14, or 23 friends available for a Raid, they’ll all be able to participate.
The Flexible Raid system is designed so that the challenge level will scale depending on how many players you have in the Raid. So if you switch between 14 players one week and 22 the next, the difficulty will adjust automatically. Keep in mind that unlike Raid Finder, no matchmaking is available, so you’ll need to make sure you invite people to attend—but if some can’t make it, it’s not the end of the world (or the Raid). You’ll also still be able to invite Real ID or Battle.net friends cross-realm. Who you choose to bring and what Item Level gear they’ll need to join your merry band is up to you, too—there’s no Item Level requirement for this Raid difficulty.
Dressed to Kill
A new Raid difficulty also means a new Item Level. Flexible mode will award loot with an Item Level that falls between Raid Finder and Normal quality, and will use the Raid Finder’s “per person” loot system, specialization choices, and bonus rolls, so you won’t need to worry about bringing the “wrong” person and having them win that piece of gear you’ve long been waiting for.
You Have the Keys
We plan to unlock the Flexible Raid difficulty in wings, similar to Raid Finder, but on an accelerated timetable. This new difficulty also has a separate Raid lockout from Raid Finder and Normal difficulty, allowing you to take part in all three if you so desire. You’ll also be able to complete portions of your “Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider” raid meta- achievement in Flexible mode as well as in Normal or Heroic to earn cosmetic rewards such as an epic mount. This will allow Raid groups the opportunity to switch off nights between raids to complete achievements. Finally, taking part in Flexible, Normal, or Heroic difficulty will provide access to additional rewards that won’t be available in Raid Finder.
Getting Down to Brass Tacks
As with any in-development feature, we’re continuing to refine how the Flexible Raid system will work, and we look forward to hearing your constructive feedback from your experiences on the Public Test Realm when the new system goes live.
I read the entire post to the 2 guildmates in Mumble and we vacillated between excitement and dread. And let me explain why…
Flexible Raid Excitement
The concept of having an adjustable slider to scale a raid dependent on the number of members is a great step forward in WoW’s future. I’d love to be able to bring my raid team every night to down bosses as a team and not put anyone on standby. The ability to group up with RealID friends who are off-realm for current content is also a great step forward and will benefit many of my WoW friends. Not to mention being able to say “hey everyone, let’s get together and bash some bosses as a group!” This appeals to me because of how we do LFR in my guild. We do an open invite for all the members and raiders, plus we extend invites to friends off realm and even go as far as opening it up to our realm for a weekly standing invite. LFR for Enigma is a big, crazy, sometimes drunken, fun night. We go in to parts 3 and 4 and explain fights, steamroll bosses, and laugh and tease each other in Mumble. We listen to the fun competition between our guildmates and friends in another guild. We wait for the poorly timed Time Warps because our Mage’s trinkets procc’ed and he goes “I NEED ALL THE MAD DEEPS.” It’s fun! But being able to do that specifically with friends? Even more fun.
Flexible Raid Dread
Flexible raid dread will probably be more likely to apply to players who play at the level of intensity that I do. Right now, there’s no real need for me to be running LFR, aside from a chance at the non-existent Runes I need to finish out the current stage of the Legendary. I need no loot from LFR, but I religiously do parts 3 and 4 because until last week, my guild hadn’t gotten that far in our content clearing, so I needed to make sure I was getting Runes from somewhere. But let’s assume I was trying to Valor cap (because I do this for gear upgrading), or I was still looking for Off Spec gear, so I’m running all 4 parts of LFR. And because it’s LFR and I usually only sign into WoW around 9p and log by midnight, I’m going to get through 2 LFR segments a night. Well there’s 2 nights in LFR. I also raid lead my 10-man team through Throne of Thunder right now, 2 days a week. So there’s 4 nights already in the same content. Flexible raiding has a chance to give better loot than LFR, so why wouldn’t I jump at the possibility to get items better than what drops in LFR? Even with friends, I don’t think it’s going to be possible to clear all of the flex raid bosses in one night, so let’s slot 2 nights for the flex raid content. That puts me back up to raiding the same content 6 nights a week. The last time I raided 6 nights a week AND managed a guild was in BC, and I had significant burn-out. But this is even worse! In BC I was only raiding 25-man progression content 4 nights a week and then we had 2 nights devoted to Karazhan and Zul’Aman. Now I’m looking at 6 nights? There is not enough alcohol in the world to make that realization go down smoothly.
One of the positive sides to LFR is that it gives your group what you need. If you need tanks, you get them. Same for healers or DPS. But for a flex raid, you have to handle the group comp yourself. This isn’t a huge deal, but some weeks we only bring 1 healer to LFR. One healer isn’t going to cut it in a flex raid. You still need to bring 2 tanks and 2-3 healers, at a minimum. So what happens if I can’t scrounge up healers? I guess I can pug it, but then I might as well do LFR.
Then there’s the gearing concept. Some of my fellow raiders go to the extremes to make sure they have the best possible gear they can get their hands on. That means running LFR for upgrades, that means raiding. LFR is my fallback for pieces I don’t get in normal raids. Flexible raiding would be another fallback that I’d work into my rotation. It’s not that I love the content so much I want to run it every night (and sometimes I run it on multiple alts) on my main just for a chance that one of the 3 raid settings available to me could get me upgrades. So I should take advantage of them. It would be foolish of me to NOT.
Oh yea, and then there’s the alt Army. Right now I have 3 characters who can run ToT LFR. My main, a DPS alt, and a healing alt. My second tank and second healer are just a few points shy of ToT. I like keeping my alts somewhat current if I enjoy playing them. And I love my warlock, and my shaman, and my priest, and my DK…I want to be able to keep playing them, as well as my other alts I’m still leveling. I had 12 characters at level 80 when Wrath ended, so it’s not like I’m leveling characters from 1-90. They don’t have a TON of leveling to do, but I still want to level them. And that’s time that I have to pull away from gearing my main character. My brain won’t let me NOT try to make my main the best that I can be for my raid team. It just doesn’t work that way for me.
My fellow guildmates are wrestling with some of the same concerns. When we sign on to play, we hammer through the content so we have time to do other things. We are excellent time managers. But 6 nights a week devoted to 1 raid? Right now we have some challenges getting people to come to raid and LFR. As a raid leader, I now have to figure out how to make all the pieces come together. Do I tell everyone that LFR is off the calendar and if you want to run it, you’re on your own? I can put flex raid dates up on the guild calendar without issue, but what happens if I don’t get enough healers for the run? I guess then I’m off to RealID, once again, not a huge issue. But then we’re trying to jive schedules and time zones and other people’s raid calendars. WILL THEY BLEND?!? It basically becomes a scheduling nightmare…
What I’d Love to See…
When I heard the name “Flexible Raiding,” I honestly thought we were going to see a melding of 10 and 25-man raiding. There wasn’t going to be a 10-man or a 25-man raiding option, it was going to be flexible and it was going to scale with what you brought. If you brought 15 people, you could still raid. If you only had 23, well, still raiding! I didn’t want it to be yet another lockout to make sure I took advantage of.
Blizzard made a comment that it will help small friends and family guilds raid. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it will. Setting the starting point at 10 seems too high to me. Lowering it to 8 makes more sense, because usually one of the limitations to for a small guild is finding those last couple people so they can start raiding. Someone on WoW Insider even mentioned scaling a raid size to 40, in case people wanted to feel the epicness of a large scale raid. I’m all for this!
I don’t need more lockouts to juggle. Give me LFR and give me a scaling raid size that I can take advantage of for my raid team. So I can help out friends if they need it, and even form up for large scale raid fun with friends, if we so chose. But please Blizzard, another raid lockout to juggle, another ilvl to calculate, another raid schedule to manage. Give me the flexibility to play on a varying scale, but allow me to have the time to enjoy the other aspects of the game you’ve made available. Please don’t make me clear content for a third time so I can stay competitive for myself and my team.