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A Year (or so) Later, We Revisit LFR Killed the Part-Core Raid Star

January 28, 2013

Dear Reader,

During my recent discussions on the value of LFR, I was reminded that I wrote a post on my expectations about LFR’s effects on the game.  I wanted to go back and see what I’d written and see how right or, more likely, wrong I was.  I dug through my old posts (read: used the search bar) and found it, and lo and behold, it was almost exactly a year ago.  I thought it would be neat to repost it today in pieces with some commentary “from the future” (imagine future being said in that drawn out wobbly way it is in old sci-fi movies).  You can view the post in its entirety here.

Dear Reader,

Ive come to mourn.  I’ve had three pretty big “revelations” (though probably they only warrant the word “realizations”) recently regarding (unintentional alliteration; accept my apology) my relationship with WoW and MMOs in general.  First, though, I promised a tale of a struggle versus dastardly foes, and I’m happy to report that on Monday night, my guild downed the second boss…

…in Ulduar.  That’s right.  We didn’t even attempt Dragon Soul.  The raid comp and signups were garbage, the raid leader had had a legitimately bad day with her dog becoming emergency-room sick, and we couldn’t get the two PvPers (one of which is the good druid healer/dpser) to join us.  Right as I was throwing in the towel someone said, “Let’s do Ulduar!” which I grumbled about but agreed to do.

Seems like nothing’s changed…

We had 11 interested, so we decided to do 25 man.  We blew through FL and XT and decided to go right and visit Algalon, who I’d personally never even seen.  He was awesome looking, and the encounter was really fun – except we couldn’t down him.  We couldn’t down a level 80 raid boss.  Our dps was stupidly low – I as a tank was about two dpsers (out of 7).  We had two healers – my wife and the bad shammy – and the bad shammy died to literally every single big bang.  He simply COULD NOT get into a black hole.  Many of the dpsers were standing in the cosmic slash like it was no big deal, though falling damage is percent based, so they’d still get whammied upon hitting the ground.

It was, honestly, embarrassing.  It was also a sign.  I’m going out of town tomorrow, and I think when I get back that’s going to be it for this guild, and probably for WoW until the next expansion.  We’ll see; I’ll have a clearer head in a week.

And I did.  I didn’t raid for a year.  I did nothing but the 10×85 and avoided the guild almost entirely.  I’d given up, you see.  I’d server and guild hopped, looking for my perfect guild, having long discussions about philosophy and practice with guild leaders before deciding to give it a chance or not, and every single one of them had turned out to be a dud.  Every single one.  The “good at raiding” part-core guilds became more and more hardcore.  The more part-core but okay at raiding guilds stopped raiding.  The middle ground disappeared under my feet over and over, and I finally just settled in this terrible guild that couldn’t down a level 80 boss in level 85 raid-ready gear.

Now, the revelations:

1: I don’t enjoy playing games by myself any more, even single player games.

I’ve bought a lot of single player games during steam sales.  A shameful amount.  I’ve always had a tendency that, when I’m sure I can beat a game, I just lose interest and, eventually if I don’t finish quickly enough, stop playing it.  It’s happened over and over; eventually, I get curious and return and finish some of them, but less and less recently.  It struck me with Mass Effect 2, then Civ 5.  I’ve played so many co-op shooters and great Civ 5 games with my wife that I just don’t enjoy playing alone any more.  This is pretty much in line with Koster and McGonigal’s game theory, who state (respectively) that once you learn a game’s pattern, it gets boring (so I lose interest) and that playing with people makes most games more fun.

So that’s a problem, since I don’t really like strangers, because I’m becoming co-dependent on my buddy and my wife for entertainment (or my brother-in-law in Portal 2′s case – finished in 2 nights).  I’m not certain if it’s a genre issue in that I’m just sick and tired of shooters and (mmo)rpgs, which may be the case since I did play all the way through Limbo and Bastion, but I don’t know.

This is still basically true.  I’ve had a small resurgence of single-player games in the form of Mark of the Ninja, but for the most part they just bore me.  It’s become a sick routine that every month or so my buddy and I have a 3 or 4 hour conversation about “what to play next” while pouring through Co-optimus and MMOHut (or whatever the newest incarnation thereof is).  We play a disposable game, dispose of it, and then have the conversation again.  Nothing’s stuck – until recently where we’ve done pretty well maintaining a balance between League of Legends and Magic: The Gathering Online while I also play WoW alone or with my wife.  Things may be looking up there.

It started when I finally said to my buddy, “Maybe our (his) problem is that you get tired of games precisely because you haven’t invested anything in them.  I said this after Planetside 2, which was our 4th or 5th game in as many weeks.  We’d played a Vindictus-like free MMO, Atlantica Online, a counterstrike-like shooter, Planetside 2, and LoL, each of which he’d complained about and quit pretty quickly.  I’d seen the quitting coming with LoL from him burning himself out, so I suggested we put some money into MtG:O, and so far it’s worked out.

Additionally, since I’m not really familiar with PvP games nor LoL in particular nor with MtG:O (anymore), I certainly am not in danger of running into boredom from mastery of a genre, so I’m dodging that bullet, too.  Hooray!  Things are looking up!

2: Many of the things that used to entertain me now frustrate me.

WoW and Civ 5 are great examples of this.  I used to take failure in stride, but recently I’ve become very annoyed by various types of failure.  My theory is that since I’m not doing satisfying work (I’m taking from McG again here) in my “real” life, I’m more invested in my “play” life and thus feel it’s higher stakes.  In NY, I didn’t care about wiping for hours or letting my first settler get killed by goddamn barbarians (I may have restarted anyway, but I wasn’t upset about it, just a bit self-peeved at my arrogance of sending them out undefended).  Now, though, I find myself feeling enraged over things that I can intellectually see are trivial but emotionally feel like major losses.

I don’t know if any full-time job would solve this, either, since I’d obviously prefer to work in a job I enjoy (teaching).  This situation worries me because at the moment I’m apparently (by local school district’s definition) over-qualified for public school, but (by University’s definition) under-qualified to teach full time at a college.  Stuck in the middle, I have few options but accepting my part-time condition or dumping tens of thousands of dollars into getting a PhD that may or may not actually help me in this geographical area.

Problem resolved.  I got a full time job.  Still, some game genres still basically bore me.  I bought Endless Space and really enjoyed the first few games, then just haven’t been back.  So the frustration was probably job (or lack thereof) oriented, but the genre boredom wasn’t.

3: I think I may not be part-core any more, but actually just be casual.

Though I’m fully aware that it may be tied to any of the above situations, I just don’t have it in me any more to raid seriously.  In the past, it was easier to find like-minded individuals (and here comes the relevance to the title of the post), but nowadays, it seems harder than ever.  I think, and the few people I’ve run this past feel it’s a sound theory, that LFR did this unintentionally.  Before I go further, let me say that I have no problem with LFR; I’ve never done it myself (and won’t) and have heard mostly good reports, so unlike my comments on LFD (which I abhor), I’m not complaining about the LFR design or implementation.  However, I think its existence has mortally wounded part-core raiding.

Everyone raids for a variety of reasons, but let me oversimplify to keep from making an exhaustively long list.  Hard core raiders do it for the achievement (not in the game sense, but in the worldly sense).  They do it to overcome a difficult obstacle; to be among the few who could.  Casual raiders do it for fun, to pass the time, and to spend time with friends.  Part-core raiders were somewhere in between.  My and my buddy’s primary reasons for raiding were to see the content, to experience the fights.  With LFR, a player can do that without batting an eye; how many people have downed Deathwing already in LFR?  Many, I’m sure, since even some of the most baffling bad players in my guild have done so (as well as all of the good ones).

Why struggle?  If you can see the content, get the gear (not mentioned above but surely a motivation for people of all raiding classes), and overcome the challenges (as low a bar as they may set in LFR), then why try to do it the hard way in real 10 man or 25 man?  There really isn’t a reason, and there you go.  I might as well just queue my 10 man raids up for LFR (and it’s been suggested before); we’d get to see the content, we’d be playing together, and we’d have fun and success.

So like video and radio, it seems that LFR has killed Part Core in WoW.

This, of course, was the core of my point then as well as the reason to bring this back up now.  I was both right and wrong.  I was wrong about myself.  I’m not casual.  I never will be.  Windsoar wrote beautifully on exactly how I was feeling while I was trying to pretend to be casual.  I just couldn’t.  I was frustrated all the time, and I knew I was lying to myself.  So I was quite wrong about that, but I’m taking steps to resolve that as we speak.

I was right, though, about LFR.  I attribute that disappearing middle ground directly to LFR.  My old “good” guild was done with normal modes in a week or two from release.  They were raiding all the time.  Their performance expectations were much higher.  They weren’t the part-core guild they used to be.  Part of the reason was they were now #1 on the server, as the two guilds above them fell apart or moved elsewhere.  When we were third, being part-core was okay, but once they tasted #1, they got more and more hardcore.

The part-core guilds I’d come to look for were harder and harder to find.  More and more vanished entirely, were “trying to put together a raid team,” or were raiding very badly (like my current guild).  I hadn’t done LFR when I wrote the old post, and it took me more than a year to try it, but I can now say that I do have a problem with LFR.  It destroyed a niche that was precisely for people like me while providing a far inferior opportunity in return.  Others may disagree with me, and that’s fine; I understand that people from different backgrounds who raid for different reasons will appreciate LFR in different ways.  But it’s not for me, and, frankly, very little of WoW is, anymore.  They’ve catered to the extremes instead of those of us in the middle.  Really, that might have been good business sense; the hardcore raiders are probably a pretty stable bunch and the casuals are certainly a majority of the population, so both demographics are very appealing from a business sense.

I guess I just don’t like feeling left out.  But at least now I’m willing to try to find a new part-core guild.


Stubborn (and, again, searching)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2013 12:29 pm

    You and your gaming friends may want to try World of Tanks. You can invest as much or as little as you want and it does support a very interesting “friends among the masses” approach.

    As to the decline of “part-core” I’d say it has more to do with the dearth of options before Cata and MoP than it does with anything else. Even if something is annoying, like scheduling your life to a guild or the drama between the high and low achievers, some people will do it just to participate. Things have evolved and people have more options. I expect you would see more of your type guild if Blizz would just permit a free server transfers every month or six weeks.

    Once your characters are raid-ready it will be interesting to read your take on the new guild.

    • January 28, 2013 8:18 pm

      I did, actually, a while ago. I enjoyed it, and I though the variety of opportunities within the game – scouts, heavy tanks, artillery, etc – would be a good opportunity for long-term diversion.

      My buddy couldn’t get it to run on his computer; it crashed each time the game loaded. He’s in no way computer savvy, so after a few attempts at long-distance computer diagnosis that failed, we gave up.

      The issues that you mention – scheduling and drama – have to be handled differently. I cannot schedule my life around my guild; I have to go to class when it’s time for class well rested and prepared. I can’t stay up late if they want to or play on nights when I’m not free. So “doing it just to participate” really isn’t an option.

      And I’ve never left due to drama. Drama may have been a contributing factor, but every time I’ve left – which is only three times compared to as many times the guild crumbling – were due to myself, my wife, or my buddy being marginalized or made uncomfortable. No leisure activity is worth people you care about being mistreated.

      That said, I don’t really think you meant it that way, either, I’m just making my point in regards to those issues.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Samus permalink
    January 28, 2013 6:30 pm

    I am curious if what you reject is being “casual,” or if it is more to do with challenge and the skill level of those around you. You still do not seem particularly interested in any of the things associated with “hardcore” playstyle, other than the fact that nothing else offers any level of challenge at all.

    • January 28, 2013 8:49 pm

      I suppose what I reject is my own definition of casual being applied to myself. I thought perhaps I was a year ago, but it turned out I wasn’t. What I reject about my definition is the attitude towards which I perceive “casual” raiders approach a raid. From my experience, people I’d label as “casual” approach raiding with a very ambivalent attitude. They might show up late. They might not have gear gemmed, enchanted, or reforged. They might not be willing to even learn the most basic mechanics of the raid encounter. They might have no willingness to persist after several wipes. These are just a few qualities off the top of my head.

      I have all of those qualities, but have limited time in which to practice them, so I’m not useful in a guild with ANY kind of attendance requirements. Even if I somehow could make 4 or 5 raids a week this semester, my schedule changes every 5 or 6 months, so next semester I might not be able to. Hardcore guilds, thus, aren’t an option, either.

      So at some level, it’s both. I want more challenge than LFR, and the people around me (at the moment) are too ambivalent.

      Thanks for the question and comment!

    • Samus permalink
      January 29, 2013 6:10 pm

      Then I would say the problem is you (and I, and a LOT of people I’d wager) don’t fit nicely into the stereotype for either “hardcore” or “casual.” I think there are a few characteristics which I would say are totally independent of each other (if you can think of more, by all means):

      -Free time (strict schedule vs play when you want)
      -Challenge (success not guaranteed vs achievement for effort)
      -Preparation (expectations from allies vs no “homework”)
      -Group size (large scale coordination vs logistical difficulties)

      While different people will have different feelings about these things, they are obviously tied together. The coordination involved in a raid group size requires either a strict schedule, or abandoning your expectations from allies. Challenge is tied in with preparation and group size because the larger your group, the less you can expect from your allies (unless they are carefully screened), making challenge much less feasible.

      So, it’s easy to see why we have the current setup, and why it is so hard to fix…unless you abandon large group sizes. You don’t really need a raid schedule to coordinate 5 people who are all skilled and prepared, and thus can tackle a challenge when their schedules permit.

      I dislike groups larger than around 5, so it wouldn’t be a problem for me if they simply offered 5 man raids. I would even enjoy 3-man or solo content, but that essentially stops being offered at level cap. I have had some success soloing previous expansion heroics (the difficulty in this varies wildly) and doing 2-man or 3-man regular instances. But this, of course, means not getting any worthwhile reward in the current setup. Still quite fun though.

    • January 30, 2013 8:46 pm

      I think we agree on a lot of points, but I don’t know that any axis runs from “strict schedule” to “no expectations,” and I think that’s where I get rubbed raw by a lot of guilds out there, as they seem to believe something similar. I think you can have a few nights a week with a somewhat rotating roster but still expect everyone who wants to go to be on time, geared properly, etc.

      That attitude is precisely where I’ve run into problems with some of the supposed part-core guilds I joined (which were far more casual than part-core), and I have been told directly that I shouldn’t expect people to be on time for raids by some of these people precisely because it was a “casual” guild. That made me insane because in no way do casual and punctual have anything to do with one another.

      Regardless, I realize that your point is that on a sliding scale it’s likely you’ll find people who think that way, and I agree with that as I do your other points.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. January 29, 2013 11:57 am

    Have you looked into OpenRaid? That may be the best solution if you can’t commit to a regular raiding schedule and want something other than LFR. You might even find a guild that is a better fit for you.

    • January 29, 2013 12:19 pm

      I have, and I’ve actually sent a couple of friends there because I know they’re really interested in that sort of thing. Once 5.2 drops and the 5.1 raids are available there, I may give it another try, but there’s been precious little “old” content I’ve wanted to do since cross-realm raiding became available. That’s mostly because I was doing the content – at least to some extent. Still, I really appreciate the suggestion, and it may motivate me to give it another try when 5.1 becomes available there.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. January 30, 2013 6:07 pm

    “I was right, though, about LFR. I attribute that disappearing middle ground directly to LFR.”

    Blizzard has acknowledged this somewhat. They’ve stated that with the introduction of LFR, they decided to tune normals higher – figuring that people who wanted to see the raids and get loot would be happy with LFR while normals would provide an adequate challenge.

    However, I’m not sure the middle group is as gone as you think, for a few reasons.

    There are a lot more guilds raiding only a night or two per week – as you may recall, my guild only raids two night a week and is 14/16H. Finding one on your server may be more difficult, but you could consider trying to find a 1-2 night guild that’s at least decent and applying to them on another server if you have no luck on yours.

    Speaking of servers, how populated was your old one (I saw you apparently recently rerolled again)? I made a Horde alt on Area 52, and within two weeks of hitting 90 I managed to have 490 ilvl and 15/16 normal modes through PUGs. Last night, in fact, I PUGed two heroic bosses in MSV with a guild looking for a person. You could consider trying to put together a raid each week, MSV should be pretty easy to clear at this point. The last few bosses in HoF and ToES (especially Sha who has a fairly high DPS requirement) are harder to PUG, but if you got a decent group going I could see it happening.

    Obviously you still need to level up and gear up now on a new character, but you have some options.

    “My old “good” guild was done with normal modes in a week or two from release. They were raiding all the time. Their performance expectations were much higher. They weren’t the part-core guild they used to be. Part of the reason was they were now #1 on the server, as the two guilds above them fell apart or moved elsewhere. When we were third, being part-core was okay, but once they tasted #1, they got more and more hardcore.”

    This somewhat rang a bell with me. We started at the very beginning of Cataclysm with 5 people raiding one night a week. A few months later we had ten people and started pushing in Heroics. We wound up adding a second raid and recruited better and better people – and we had to let a few people go who had joined along the way because they couldn’t keep up anymore.

    We wound up being third on the server (behind a pair of four night a week guilds) and then got the server first Heroic Ragnaros kill. Since then I think we’ve sort of expected to be server first despite raiding half as much, which we’ve managed to do…but I wonder how people will react if an equally skilled guild who raids more transfers to our server at this point. One of the people who we had to cut a few months after we formed commented that ever since we started doing Heroic modes at the start of Cataclysm we had changed from “1 night a week, have a clue what you’re doing” to “2 nights a week, and you need to be really good.” Gone from “seeing the content” to “actively doing heroic progression, though on a limited schedule.”

    Still, if your goal is clearing all normal content by the next patch, you should be able to do that in one or two nights a week – even if you have to make a new guild yourself on your new server.

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