It has only been a short while since Blizzard implemented the Looking for Raid tool in the World of Warcraft, so why has Blizzard already made it obsolete?
Before getting into why exactly it is obsolete already lets look at how LFR tool has faired since its implementation. Once we look back at how things have gone with it so far, we will look at why it is essentially killed already, and how Blizzard could have prevented it.
Looking for Raid Tool Positive effects
Many of us, myself included, were very negative about the prospects of the LFR tool, after all it is hard enough to find 5 players that can work together in a heroic instance, never mind 25 players for a raid.
The raid finder tool makes it very easy for anyone to jump into a raid.
However, all of us neigh-sayers were proved wrong as the tool actually works, and works very well for the most part. The fights are simplified just enough that a pug group stands a good chance on being able to finish them, while still providing some difficulty.
Dont get me wrong, players can still screw it up badly, for example the Ultraxion fight can cause problems, as can the Spine of Deathwing fight. In Ultraxion many times the tanks just cant get the whole taunt and fade thing right, which quickly wipes the raid. I was in one group the other day that the tank kept refusing to fade and died 5 times in the fight. As for the Spine of Deathwing fight, some hunter cant seem to get it through their head that just because the tentacles have health bars doesnt mean they should be killed. I pick on hunters here because they are the most common to screw this fight up, but I have seen a clueless player of each and every class joyfully ignore the whole raid screaming at them to stop killing tentacles, the most common just seems to be the good old faithful huntard and their pets.
Luckily for the few times that it goes horribly wrong, there are many more where everything just goes perfectly. Friends and I have geared up over 25 toons through the LFR tool and unanimously we feel we have had way more good runs than bad, which surprised all of us.
This positive experience has drawn many more players into the LFR tool to experiment with raids. Once there most players are enjoying it and looking forward to more, some are even joining raiding guilds to get into some heroic modes for more challenge. I can only see this as a pure win for the game and an overall positive for everyone involved.
Why is the LFR tool failing now?
While the LFR tool is still technically working, it is taking longer and longer each day to get into it as seeming fewer players are queuing for it. There are several reasons for this, but lets look at the biggest and most obvious one first.
Blizzard started putting debuffing the bosses in the Dragon Soul raid a few weeks ago, reducing the health and damage caused by bosses by 5%. Then this past week that debuff was boosted to 10%. That means that realistically the normal mode Dragon Soul raid is easier than it was before and potentially even easier than the LFR mode since you will have some control over the raid composition and membership.
The second issue that the LFR tool is failing now is that most of the players that were not in raiding guilds, or that were gearing up alts through the LFR tool are now done. Since those players are now through the LFR mode and are done gearing they no longer have a reason to queue for it. The players that are starting to queue now are all third and fourth tier alts, or players that are just now finally getting to level 85. Either way they are generally either not as skilled or not as skilled at that specific class. This means that groups have fewer competent players in general and are having more and more difficulty finishing the LFR raid.
These issues have made it harder and harder to jump into a LFR group and finish the raid in the last little while.
Lets face it, on any decently populated server LFR is now pretty much relegated to the absolute beginners now. Even those that want a piece of two more gear from the LFR level are abandoning it and pugging through the trade channel since the LFR tool is actually harder now than the normal mode.
What Could Blizzard have done differently?
The first thing that Blizzard could have done differently is either apply the debuff to the Dragon Soul raid across all versions of it. This would mean that as the LFR queue got players or characters that were less skilled or less geared over time that they would still be able to complete it. There would be no need to rush to the normal mode instead since the LFR mode would be much easier.
The fights are easier in normal mode now, meaning you don't really need the super simple LFR version.
Another option would have been to not apply any debuff at all. After all with three different difficulty levels, and pretty much everyone that wanted to see the content able to, there was no real reason for it. I think this would have been the best way since as long as you saw the content and beat it, does it really matter which level, story wise? For those that wanted to finish it in hard mode, now that it is nerfed and the achievements dont distinguish if you got it pre or post nerf the achievement doesnt mean as much (to me at least).
Another option, would be for Blizzard to open up the LFR tool to be able to queue for other raids. I know that this wouldnt solve the whole quest for gear issue, but it would allow players access to some of the past raids so we could easily get groups and play through some other awesome content and boss fights. While this wouldnt make everyone happy since it is not new content and higher level gear, it would be different content and fights for many players. I think most would be willing to go back and fight their way through the Firelands raid for example, I know many in my casual guild that would.
The Future of the LFR tool
Even though I feel the LFR tool is now pretty much dead in Cataclysm, I believe it was an overwhelming success. I think we should all assume that this will be in place for each and every raid in the Mists of Pandaria expansion when it is released, and I can not wait for that.
The tool opened up raiding to those that could not assign a set time, or could not find a guild that they liked, or any number of other factors. While I still far prefer raiding with a guild and other players that I know and like, the LFR tool allows me to jump into a raid any time I want. With busy work schedules, home schedules, social lives, and everything else going on in this busy age, it is awesome that I can jump on and raid any time I have some time free. Just because I am busy on a Tuesday night and cant get online for my guilds raid, doesnt mean I dont get to raid at all that week.
Despite its flaws and some obnoxious / unskilled players that you run into Blizzard has to be congratulated on a hugely successful addition to the game.
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