Dec 14 2011

LFR Tool: Raiding Lite™

The new Looking for Raid (LFR) tool is a new avenue of advancement introduced in 4.3 for characters.  Out for a few weeks, the feature has had enormous popularity with players.  For those of you who haven’t experienced it yet, here is an overview based on my experiences using it.

LFR is raiding with training wheels.  To compensate for throwing a bunch of strangers together, many of whom will be inexperienced or underskilled or just bad as following directions, the fights are stripped down and tuned to be very, very easy.   They are designed to be successfully done provided at least half the raid is conscious and capable of following basic instructions, a difficulty level that is arguably necessary to ever get anything killed in such an environment.  As a result of their ease, they offer low quality loot — just slightly better than the new heroics — and lack the perks of regular raiding like achievements, epic gems and Valor-points-per-boss (LFR awards VP only for completion), or the ability to work on the tier’s legendary.

To use it, one queues through an icon on the menu bar like with random dungeons, and is automatically matched up with 24 other players.  It can be done multiple times a week (although you only have one chance at loot), and will not lock you from doing the raid on normal mode.

Organisation

The group is composed of two tanks, six healers and seventeen DPS.  The fights are designed to always use this same comp, so there is no need for dual spec or talent switching during the raid.

Raid leadership is on a volunteer basis.  To queue as a potential leader, one must check the box on the queuing window along with their usual role – same as is done for the LFD tool.  If the raid leader leaves, a new one is assigned from amongst the other volunteers.  Raid leaders get no special perks or powers and mainly exists as a way of saying “yes I will give any new people instructions if they want them.”  Unlike with a real raid group, here the leadership rarely is required to do anything different than any other raid member, although you shouldn’t volunteer for the job if you’re not interested in explaining the fight mechanics.

Players are in and out of the raid group constantly.  It is not uncommon for people to leave mid-fight, or to start a boss down a few people.  The tool is very efficient about replacing these people the instant a group leaves combat, but the fights as also easy enough that the empty spots are rarely a problem.  For this reason, no player should feel intimidated about having to bow out before a run is finished; it is possible no one would even notice.

Niche

LFR has such a huge scope of utility across all spectrum of players, that it’s hard to just pin as “raiding for casuals,” although this is the thing it is typically billed as.

However incomplete that statement might be, though, it is still very much true.  With the difficulty level so low, even someone who has never played in a raid environment can stumble through it successfully.  The tool is an amazing way to let players see the raiding content they might have not otherwise dared to try.  The DPS checks are minimal, and even a few stronger players can balance out a handful of inexperienced ones.

Additionally, with the [currently] very short queues for DPS and healers, players who don’t raid due to lack of time may also find LFR to be an exceptional tool.  Not longer do forays into raiding content require regularly scheduled groups and hours and hours of attempts learning new bosses and farming old ones.  Instead, these players can opt for a limited “demo” version of the raid instance on their own schedule as an alternative to seeing nothing at all.  Currently, both wings of Dragonsoul in LFR take about an hour each and with so many players in and out constantly, it is not harmful to your teammates if you need to bow out even earlier.

Another advantage is that LFR provides a way for all players, serious or casual, to have an opportunity to try raiding on an alt that they wouldn’t have otherwise raided on.   Whether you just want to get more familiar with that class, or take a break from your main, or practice with them for a potential re-roll, the tool can fulfill this niche.

The LFR tool can also be extremely helpful as a tool to help seasoned raiders become familiar with the fights in advance.  Although the stripped down nature make it nearly useless for learning the mechanics themselves, seeing even the basic version of the fight can be helpful in figuring out position, learning spawn points for adds, what that special mob or ability looks like visually, and getting a general feel for the way the particular fight works.  Instead of just watching that tankspot video, now you’re immersed in it, and you can control the camera angle and zoom yourself. Paired with a written guide or a video, I’ve found the LFR tool to be immeasurably helpful in understanding a fight.

Finally, let’s not discount the huge advantage LFR provides for gearing up new players, alts and rerolls and for filling in gearing holes on raiding characters.  It also allows for main raiders to get their set bonuses faster and get small upgrades more often, and the nerfed tier pieces will still work towards completing a set bonus.  Lastly, as a source of Valor Points, you might choose to get the currency to buy those VP items through LFR rather than LFD.  Although its steeper item level requirement means you can’t just waltz in as a fresh 85, the requirements can still be met by doing the new heroics rather than raiding.

Success Ratio

Queuing at least once weekly on four characters, I’ve had very good luck in terms of success with my LFR groups.   Most bosses take just one or two tries to down, with ample forgiveness for mistakes.  Trash wipes typically only occur when someone facepulls several packs or the boss itself (or both in the case of the slime boss).  The worst group I’ve encountered spent 45 minutes just on the first boss of part 2, which is still a good deal faster than a real raid might take, and they still went one to one shot every following boss.  In the best group, I’ve cleared part 1 of Dragonsoul in just over a half an hour on my lunch break.  The raid is definitely succeeding it its goal to be painless and easy.

Loot

You can roll on loot for each boss in LFR once per week. Once you’ve already beaten that boss, you will be ineligible to roll on loot from that boss again during the week if you continue to queue.  Many of the items are now limited to particular appropriate classes (ie, a rogue cannot roll on a strength sword).  Roll bonuses are given if you are ‘need’ rolling on an item for the spec you are queued as, so if a piece of intel/spirit mail drops, the resto and elem shaman will have an advantage on it over the enhance spec’d one, but the enhancement shaman may still roll for their offset without worrying about the item getting dusted.

The system is far from perfect and is still peppered with bugs and oversights, but overall it is a large improvement over LFD.

Attitudes

Just as any environment in which anonymous strangers are thrown together and forced to interact, LFR certainly contains its share of jerks.  Every group has the one DPS who spams Recount after every attempt to brag about his numbers, and the other guy who spends more time bitching about the weaker DPS than he does doing his own job.  You do encounter those two people who get in a fight over something petty and insist on holding up the entire raid so they can bicker over it.  And yes, there is the guy who tries to publicly shame anyone who makes a mistake or taunt everyone who dies with “newb!”   There are also people who are abusing the system by joining then going AFK, and those lazy people that don’t want to help with trash or run back after a wipe.

However, I have been largely impressed by the bulk of groups.  For every asshole throwing a tantrum, there are three people telling him to shut up.  I have encountered players who have made special effort to explain the fights to the people that ask, who give helpful call outs and reminders, who present solutions instead of complaints.  There are those people who are cheerleaders and in the face of others bitching can say, “we were really close, we can do it, we just need to be a little more disciplined.”   There have been people who win duplicate loot and gracefully hand it out to the second highest roller.  I have seen more people booted for being a jerk than I have for making mistakes or doing low DPS.

Overall, I’ve found it to be a smoother and more enjoyable experience than doing PuG five mans.  The jerks are diluted in a sea of people, and the bad players don’t hurt the raid’s success and there are always at least a couple good and patient players to help teach the inexperienced what to do.

My conclusion on LFR is that it is a wonderful tool that many people will find useful and/or enjoyable.  Since it is only a few weeks old, I suspect that once the novelty wears off and people are capped on valor goodies, the demand for running it will decrease and queue times will grow.  Nevertheless, it is reasonable to believe it will still be one of the most popular game features Blizzard has ever implemented in WoW.   Love it or hate it, the thing is clearly a hit.

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