Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to fix LFR beyond 5.3

Wait, what? There's something wrong with LFR?

Kind of, maybe. There's something wrong with it from where I'm standing. For a while, I thought it was my aversion to the most recent slog, the Throne of Thunder. But then I thought about Mogu'shan Vaults, the Heart of Fear, and Terrace of Endless Springs, and realized I pretty much have the same attitude towards them. As a novelty, they were great. I ran each twice or thrice immediately after their release, but didn't spend a great deal of time pursuing gear in the weeks following. Exactly the opposite of what I did in Dragon Soul. I ran that thing every week well past the time our guild raid had Deathwing on farm.

I've found MoP's LFRs to be time-consuming, sometimes confusing, and seemingly averse to rewarding players for running them. Please don't assume I'm complaining about "never getting loot" under the new personal loot system. In fact, I feel I've done pretty well. So what the hell am I talking about?

For starters, certain boss mechanics should be more clearly spelled out for players to increase the likelihood of group success. While the Determination buff is nice, I'd argue it's giving players the wrong tools for success. Secondly, at some point in each raid, there's tedious trash that should be reduced in number. Also, players should be given more flexibility when it comes to what wings and bosses they queue for. Lastly, players should also see -- and the key word here is 'see' -- more loot per run than they currently do. One suggestion I'd include here is so common amongst the player base, and coincidentally already slated to go live in 5.3, but ultimately doesn't address any of the issues I'm about to raise. So I'll touch on that last.

More Mechanic Direction and a Smaller Penalty for Failing

A guildie said it best: you'd be amazed at the power of a whisper in LFR. He was referring to a recent Durumu fight. He'd whispered a player who had been targeted by the red beam but clearly didn't know what to do. The short directive -- run in a circle around the boss to reveals mobs -- turned a likely wipe into a successful attempt.

Take my own experience: I had the pleasure of visiting Durumu with 24 similarly foolhardy folks on the day of his debut. By the time the group had accumulated eight stacks of Determination, at least some players in the raid had figured out where to stand and run during the maze phase. Kinda. Even though half the raid was dead by the time Durumu fell, we were jacked up so hard on the fail buff that there was no way we could, well, fail. To me, an hour's worth of wiping is acceptable---on normal and hard modes. In LFR, it's a bit ridiculous.

While Blizzard sometimes includes fairly blatant cues on what a player should be doing at any given time, not everyone sees them. There's a fine balance between ensuring a fight's mechanics aren't too punishing while preventing the fight from becoming an outright trivial button-masher, I get that. However, for better or worse, Dragon Soul's LFR -- and to an extent many of the fights from 5.0 raids -- taught players that most mechanics are safe to be ignored, and fights face-rolled.

Had a greater number of players been able to properly execute Durumu's mechanics, he she the thing would've died much sooner. The dungeon journal is a great resource to those who bother to look at it, but I'd bet most players don't. At the end of the day, LFR should be about one thing: experiencing the content. Most LFR groups aren't going at it with any semblance of coordinated strategy, so let's not make them do so. The players who want a challenge beyond LFR will naturally gravitate towards normal mode 10- or 25-player groups. What if the act of failing at mechanics was less penalizing, but players were granted a bonus to their Valor Point earnings on a given boss fight when they avoided a certain % of damaging mechanics? I'm not sure of the answer, but I don't like how the current system is shaping up.

I say a fight runs the risk of being trivial if objectively deemed 'too easy.' But that's not entirely true, is it? As long as players are still choosing to run the content, it won't be trivial. And if fights were tuned so that most groups saw boss kills within 1-3 attempts in LFR, that wouldn't be the end of the world.

Less Trash

Halve the amount of mobs players need to cut through in Throne of Thunder. MV? Do the same to the trash leading up to Gara'jal. Get rid of the group of mobs that sit directly in front of the console at Elegon. HoF? Garalon's trash could be reduced, though I'll admit it's not too bad. ToES is kind of an anomaly here, with its teeny-tiny amount of trash.

No trash isn't the answer, but less trash definitely is. Give players more boss time, since that's what we're there for. It shouldn't take a group longer than the average length of a boss fight to get from one encounter to the next. Granted, a large factor is the skill of the group. Still, Blizzard can design LFRs so trash isn't as taxing. Unless dealing with trash is made to be much more appealing than it currently is.

Queue for One, Queue for All

A 45-minute queue for Last Stand of the Zandalari with the goal of landing an item off of Jin'rokh is one thing. The prospect of another 45-minute queue after you've been dropped into an in-progress raid that has already killed Jin'rokh is mind-numbingly frustrating. While the system is supposed to prioritize players so that should they have to re-queue for a wing they've already completed, they're likely to see the bosses they haven't already, I've heard too many horror stories about players being consecutively dropped into in-progress raids. If you're unlucky enough to start at the Council fight four times in a row, I can't blame you when you say you're not convinced that the system is working as intended.

Solution? Allow players to queue for entire wings like they can now, or if they desire, for an individual boss. Yes, just one. The boss dies and you're given the option to stay (if bosses remain) or leave. There's already an incentive system in place in LFD's: players who can fill a role with low representation are encouraged, via extra loot, to enter the queue. The LFR system could function in the exact same way to avoid bottlenecks and ridiculously long queues.

More Loot

I'd argue that there's inherent value in seeing loot drop, even if you aren't the recipient of said loot. Even if someone else who doesn't actually need the loot rolls and wins it. At least you know the boss dropped something, and someone benefited. It's obvious many players still aren't happy with the way individual loot works in LFR. Tell me you don't see this happen in every LFR you run: boss dies and immediately a handful of players say something along the lines of, "Yay! I got gold!" Hint: they're not actually excited about getting gold.

Maybe returning to the old LFR loot system is the answer, though I'm not saying it is. But what I will say is that the negative psychological effect--at least initially--is greater when a player sees no potential reward vs. seeing a potential reward but not receiving it. The value is in the fact that there was a tangible reward to be had, one that could be seen. While with the new system your chances for receiving loot are actually greater -- given that you're not competing against other players for the same drop -- it feels like you're chances are much, much worse simply because you don't see loot after every single boss kill like you did before.

Maybe the middle ground is world drops in LFR. BoE blues or purples, raid mats, etc. Something to make the experience feel more worthwhile. While I mostly agree with how loot works in MoP's LFR, its negative psychological effect on players is too great to ignore. It needs some tweaking.

Queue to Receive Loot as X Spec - Incoming 5.3

This one tiny change might alleviate some of the issues I have with LFR, but I feel it doesn't change the core of the problem. Being able to queue in the healer role, yet still receive the gear I need for my main spec (enhancement) is a change I welcome. I get shorter queue times, and though I'll forfeit playing the role I'd prefer to play in doing so, the consolation is that at least I get gear for the spec I prefer to use outside of LFR. At this point, I'd really just like to get through all four ToT wings in a week without it encompassing 75% of my play time. But even this change doesn't guarantee that, as I've tried to outline above.

This could mean that, overall, more traditionally-DPS players will select the roles of tank or healer for the attractiveness of shorter queues, since they still receive loot for their off-spec. The risk, of course, is that players who traditionally choose the tank or healer role may now opt to DPS, electing to receive loot for their tank or healer spec. So while the change has the potential to help some players at the individual level, no part of this change is guaranteed to positively effect the overall LFR experience.

I was once part of the school of thought that decried the nerfing of this game. Not anymore. While this game is vastly different than what launched eight years ago, this argument isn't about the game being made easier. It's about there being more content options in game, and yes, some of that content is a ridiculously simplified version of normal mode raids. And that's OK. Get me in, get me a chance at some purples and valor, and get me out. 

But you don't deserve that piece, you didn't work for it. Blizzard might as well let you create a level 90 decked out in full purples.

No. Shut up. Shut. Up. I did work for that gear. If I want to spend 30-45 minutes of my time face-rolling content for a miniscule chance at one or two pieces of epic gear that will very marginally improve the likelihood of success in content of greater difficulty, that's my choice, and that's still working for it. If that doesn't please you, I would love to hear about how well your guild is doing on normal modes, or heck, maybe even heroics...and then I'll ask you why you give a damn about LFR, and how other players choose to play.

How has LFR treated you this expansion? Is it working well, and if not, what would you change?

No comments:

Post a Comment