The Flexible Raiding Conundrum

Given that I’ve been writing furiously about WoW for the last month or so, it only makes sense that I’m getting back into the swing of things in terms of keeping up with new information that’s coming out, so naturally, I have things to say about Flexible Raiding.

It was announced yesterday that Flexible Raids are being developed for the next major content update. In essence, they are bringing in a new level of raiding that fits snugly between LFR and normal raids, both in terms of people required and gear received. You can queue up for LFR solo or with 24 others or any number in between and the matchmaking system will put a full group together. Flex raids will require a minimum of 10 people (and a maximum of 25) and… will not matchmake for you. You’ll be able to walk into a raid with 10, 14, 17, 23 or 25 players or any number between 10 and 25 and the difficulty will scale.

Well, this is an interesting concept, but I have to say that my first thought was “thank God I’m no longer playing, because the idea of doing LFR, Flex Raids AND normal/heroic raiding might just kill me”. I’ll get to why that was my first thought in a minute, but let’s examine some of the other issues.

Rho and I were tweeting about this last night. In the case where, for example, on 10-man you have to kill two adds and on 25-man, you have to kill three adds, at what point does the third add show up? Wouldn’t it be smart to just have one person below that level to, as Rho put it, “game the system”? Doesn’t that go against the whole inclusionary idea behind flex raids? They clearly want you to be able to walk into raids with all the people you want to bring (up to 25 people), so say the cut-off between two or three adds is 18 people. Say you have 21 people coming in to raid and you’re having trouble making sure the third add dies. Where is the incentive NOT to drop to 17 people to overpower the two adds?

Of course, they may just remove extraneous mechanics that are difficult to scale. This isn’t normal raiding, after all. I strongly suspect we’ll see the change or removal of many normal-mode mechanics in flex raids the way we do in LFR today.

Still, the auto scaling itself is an interesting conundrum. Since there’s no matchmaking provided, you need to make sure the basic group configuration works. That means you can’t zone in with 8 DPS, 2 healers and no tanks. But can you zone in with 3 tanks, 2 healers and 12 DPS? What will the baseline numbers be for a decent ratio of tanks, healers and DPS? LFR gives you two tanks, six healers and 17 DPS. Will there be requirements in flex raids for a proper ratio of tanks to healers to DPS? I imagine that there must be, because you won’t be able to get anything done with 25 DPS. The fact that Blizzard hasn’t announced what these ratios are doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It just wouldn’t make any logical sense. The way WoW works is based on the holy trinity of tanks + healers + DPS. I imagine we’ll see something like the following:

10-14 people: 2 tanks, 3 healers, 5-9 DPS

15-19 people: 2 tanks, 4 healers, 9-13 DPS

20-25 people: 2-3 tanks, 5-6 healers, 13-17 DPS

Unless they have technology that is going to look at the specs of people as they zone in and then tailor encounters to the group (which I think is not only doubtful, but laughably so, due to it being far too dynamic), there’s going to have to be breakpoints. And what’s sad about those ratios is that it’ll still almost certainly be only two tanks required. I’ve mentioned this before, back in 4.1 with the introduction of satchels for in-demand roles in LFG, but there is a serious issue with only needing two tanks for 10 and most of 25-man raid content and I don’t see flex raiding changing that at all.

Anyhow, group composition will likely be less flexible than what the initial post led us to believe. By not mentioning anything about group composition, without adding any caveats, one can easily assume that flex raids aren’t going to have any issues with group comp. That’s reinforced by this little line: “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.” Of course, they’re talking about using the LFR loot system, not group composition here. My point is, there are going to have to be group composition-related restrictions and I’m interested to see what, exactly, they will look like.

And now, for something completely different: I actually like something about this flex raids thing.

I’ll let those of you who have fainted dead away in shock regain consciousness before I continue. You guys all right? Yeah? Okay, good. ;)

This is the part I like about the flex raids:

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.

You know what that means? That likely means no more skipping heroic bosses for a reset or two in order to go back and do achievements for the meta. Of course, it means taking extra time outside of one’s raiding week, so you might not enjoy that terribly much, but if you want the meta achievement, you’ll do it. Further, if it’s guild-organized, you’ll probably be able to do it fairly painlessly. If I were organizing a guild through Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider (and let’s be clear — I’m not!), here’s what I would do:

1) Work through normal modes as usual, maybe snagging an achievement or two on repeat normal kills, depending on how easy they are to incorporate into the strategy we use to kill the bosses anyway.

2) Clear normal modes, start working on heroic modes. Repeat any easy-to-do achievements, but focus on getting the heroic kills. (Which are, incidentally, usually part of the meta achievement.)

3) Once all heroic bosses are down (or at the very least, all the heroic bosses required for the meta), do a weekend flex run once a week to clear out all the achievements people might be missing from those bosses until everyone in the raid group has their meta.

We took two weeks in Firelands to work on the meta and two weeks in Dragon Soul to work on the meta. While Dragon Soul was the end of the expansion and all the loot would literally be reset just a couple of months later, it might have been beneficial for us to have another two resets of heroic gear from Firelands. If flex raids continue beyond the Orgrimmar raid into the next expansion (assuming there is one, and I’m guessing there will be), this will be really helpful in allowing heroic raiders to NOT miss out on any gear due to having to do bosses on normal. Not wasting 1-2 lockouts will be great.

That said, it will also suck for lots of players, because the gear will be better than LFR and, presumably, will share tier bonuses with drops in LFR and drops in normal/heroic. That means that flex raids will have a great number of heroic raiders seeking elusive tier pieces. And since flex raids are on a separate lockout from LFR, it means that these same heroic raiders will still be doing LFR to get those tier pieces. And even some trinkets, I’m sure. Even if the item level on these are 20 levels below the normal Tier 16 gear, sometimes the bonuses make it worth it.

So you have a subsection of raiders who will likely be doing the same content three times a week: once on LFR, once on flex and once on normal/heroic.

Know what that reminds me of? Trial of the Crusader 10, Trial of the Crusader 25, Trial of the Grand Crusader 10 and Trial of the Grand Crusader 25 in Wrath of the Lich King. I joined a new guild when I had completed TOC25 and was shocked and appalled to see how many people in my new guild were doing all four lockouts every week. I was like “are you guys freaking crazy???” Luckily, we were only “required” to participate in the guild-run TOC25 and TOGC25, but I know people looked down on me for not maximizing my drops and stuff from TOC 10/TOGC 10.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees it this way.

I know that a big concern for raiders has been “min-maxing” their gear and, for some people, that’s their game. I wasn’t always diligent about capping VP, but I am that kind of person who capped VP on alts to buy BOE epics from the VP vendor to give to my raiding character. I would do Dragon Soul’s LFR to VP cap, although not necessarily to get my tier bonuses quickly.

In order to help prevent raider burnout, I see three solutions:

1) Don’t have LFR drop tier gear/gear that would be useful to heroic raiders. This removes the need for heroic raiders to even look at LFR, but then all the casual raiders will get pissy that they have no access to tier gear. (To which, frankly, I say that’s how it was in my day!)

2) Have LFR/flex tier work together for bonuses and have normal/heroic tier work together for bonuses, but none of the normal/heroic tier work for bonuses with LFR/flex tier. But the problem there is that all these non-organized raiders have 4pc bonuses while the heroic raiders who need those bonuses are sitting there with 1 or 3 pieces, weeping every week when their missing pieces don’t drop. (Seriously, one of our ret pallies in Apotheosis had 23 heroic Ultraxion kills and never got the heroic T13 chest.)

3) Get rid of tier bonuses altogether. I’m not a fan of this because, well, that’s kind of the point of tier, no? Even from Tier 0, the original dungeon sets, we had set bonuses. They were craptastic, mind you. (Why does a hunter need +200 armor? Really?) But they were there. All through every bit of raid content, the reward for getting your tier was the set bonuses, some of which were fantastic and some of which were awful, but many of them were at least desireable.

I also agree 100% with Anafielle that, for many people, capping VP/maxing their gear is not a “choice”. They see the obstacles Blizzard puts in front of them and feel compelled to go through it to better aid their team. I wasn’t as hardcore as she is and Apotheosis (4/13 HM) isn’t as hardcore as Something Wicked (10/13) is. The game has a huge, diverse player base, from those who don’t know how to cast a spell on someone else (no, really, people like that exist!) to people in Method, Paragon and Blood Legion. Anafielle is on the higher end, where something like new tier bonuses are going to be very desirable, in addition to VP capping. I would VP cap (reluctantly, but I would do so until I was done buying what I needed). Others don’t VP cap and still others have LFR as their only exposure to raiding. There’s a lot of disparity and with that comes a lot of lack of understanding in terms of how other people approach things. For raiders at certain levels, there’s no choice if you want to play at your highest capabilities and, honestly, these people need to know that Blizzard isn’t going to throw them under the bus by adding something that is ostensibly for non-heroic raiders, but in which a lot of value is found for heroic raiders. (Like, you know, tier bonuses on LFR and flex gear, not to mention trinkets with amazing procs and such, even if the base stats aren’t fantastic.)

Obviously, flex raiding doesn’t affect me personally at the moment, which is great, but I still find myself thinking about how I would use (or not use) flex raiding if I were still playing at my previous level. I would probably run it for achievements for the meta so as to not waste my real raid lockouts, but that’s probably it. I have my own limits and, as I learned way back during T9 of Wrath of the Lich King, doing two (or more) lockouts a week of the same content is too much for me. Doing three a week would probably offset any satisfaction I’d get from anything I’d gain by doing so, so that’s my personal limit. It’s also why I only have one realm first to my name, it’s why I’ve only ever cleared a single full, heroic tier of raid content. If you want the extras, the realm firsts, to be in the race for world firsts, you have to put in more time and more energy, and if Blizzard still doesn’t recognize that, after all this time, then raider burnout is going to hit hard during the Orgrimmar raid.

5 Replies to “The Flexible Raiding Conundrum”

  1. Yeah, I get infuriated with Ghost Crawl, et al, insisting that things like Valor cap aren’t required. They don’t really get to make that determination. And VP cap is less to the point as charms of good fortune, which provide extra loot rolls. You’re more or less an awful teammate if you don’t secure bonus rolls. It is infuriating the things they try to spin as “optional”.

  2. I think the simple solution to the tier farming problem is to make tier tokens work similar to the items needed for the legendary questline. In other words, on any given week you only have a chance to get a tier token once per boss, regardless of the difficulty.

    Now that works fine for LFR and Flex. It wouldn’t work for Normal/Heroic because its a different loot system. At least this way players wouldn’t feel obligated to run content three times a week for tier pieces… they would still only “need” to do it twice.

  3. Verbosity – Right, I keep forgetting about these bonus roll things, since I haven’t experienced them, so I refer to VP capping. I guess you could take that as an umbrella term for “all the crap raiders feel they need to do to maximize their output”. If they really wanted things to be “optional”, they would make those things not worth the time of the raiders, IMHO. They’ve had eight and a half years to observe the high-end raiders. You would think they would know them by now.

    Rho – An interesting idea. Still, I think there’s something missing from the solution because, ideally, raiders wouldn’t feel obliged to do LFR. If a high-end raider feels compelled to do the easiest mode of raiding in the game, not because they enjoy it but because they feel they MUST do so, then there’s something wrong with the system. And saying it’s optional doesn’t fly with me — see above comment to Verbosity. :) Still, it’d be a stop-gap measure that would at least keep things at the same level as they are now.

  4. A guildie of mine suggested having everyone get two lockouts per week, and they can “spend” them on whichever raids they want. Top hardcore guilds can do Normal raids (which includes heroics) and then Flex, while on the other end of the spectrum, casual non-raid players can do LFR and Flex. And of course, players inbetween can do Normal + whatever other mode works best for their time/schedule. This way no one gets burned out by being forced to run three raids a week, and everyone has access to two modes which are useful/beneficial to them. And hey, even if that hardcore player couldn’t make their guild’s Flex run this week, they can still run LFR instead to try to get their 4th piece of tier or whatever.

    Obviously, no idea if it’s difficult to implement or whatnot, but the more I see of this discussion, the more I think a flexible – so to speak – lockout system like this would satisfy and not exclude anyone.

  5. Rades – That’s an interesting idea. “Two lockouts, use them as you will!” However, I still think using two lockouts is kind of silly. I don’t have a good solution to disincent raiders from running LFR/Flex for tier/trinkets, unfortunately, but I think this is going to be an ongoing problem. It’s certainly been happening since LFR showed up in Cata.

    What I think I find most befuddling about all this is how Blizzard has had the opportunity to watch hardcore raiders for over eight years and they still misjudge the lengths to which players will go to maximize their output. That’s just kind of sad and out of touch. :/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *