Friday, 5 April 2013

Heaven And Hell


The topic of the week appears to be an old favourite, coming back to haunt. Just in case you have been in a coma since Tuesday, the hot topic is of course Looking for Raid. The current issue is with the new wing of the Throne of Thunder (Halls of Flesh-Shaping),  and it's current difficulty levels.

The Grumpy Elf has written 3 posts recently The ROI of LFR, Dear Blizzard, I Quit, and the recently WoW Insider featured Where are the Healers? I will attempt to gather all the issues and summarise in this article. The WoW Insider post Why Aren't More Healers Queueing for Raid Finder, comments will feature heavily.

Historically


Raid Finder was first introduced during the last patch of Cataclysm for the Raid, Dragon Soul. It was implemented in 2 parts Siege of Wyrmrest and The Fall of Deathwing. The whole Raid was tuned down from the previous very high difficulty of Firelands. Anybody who had geared up through Firelands was in a position to complete LFR within the first week of release, and in fact several guilds were able to do the Normal 10 man version within a few weeks.

The Siege of Wrymrest LFR was a ROFLstomp, but the Fall of Deathwing actually required a degree of Raid competence, that many in the LFR were unable to achieve. This brought into sharp focus who and what the LFR was designed for. Blizzard, always maintained that the primary focus was to allow everybody to witness and partake in the End Game content whilst it was still current. Previously a large amount of developers time was taken up by content that only 5% of the player base would see, and in the spirit of a more inclusive game the LFR was introduced.

The first incarnation was marked by Loot drama, Off spec needing, Guild controlling loot, Robin Hood style loot distribution (given to the most deserving) and on Spine of Deathwing we witnessed dickheads deliberately wiping Raids for the fun of it.

Mist of Pandaria initially introduced Mogu-shan Vaults (in 2 parts). Later they added Terrace of Endless Spring and Heart of Fear (in 2 parts)  The hardest part of these raids was obtaining the iLevel required to enter them, which involved extensive reputation grinds and collecting the required amount of valor up to 1000 a week.


Mogu'shan Vaults - Part 1
[Guardians of Mogu'shan]90460None09-Oct-12
Mogu'shan Vaults - Part 2[The Vault of Mysteries]90460Guardians of Mogu'shan16-Oct-12
Heart of Fear - Part 1[The Dread Approach]90470None06-Nov-12
Heart of Fear - Part 2[Nightmare of Shek'zeer]90470The Dread Approach13-Nov-12
Terrace of Endless Spring[Terrace of Endless Spring]90470Nightmare of Shek'zeer20-Nov-12
Throne of Thunder - Part 1[Last Stand of the Zandalari]90480None12-Mar-13
Throne of Thunder - Part 2[Forgotten Depths]90480Last Stand of the Zandalari19-Mar-13
Throne of Thunder - Part 3[Halls of Flesh-Shaping]90480Forgotten Depths02-Apr-13
Throne of Thunder - Part 4[Pinnacle of Storms]90480Halls of Flesh-Shaping16-Apr-13

From the table above it shows that the first LFR - Mogu'shan Vaults required iLevel 460. On attaining level 90 it was possible to acquire an iLevel of 450 by doing a Scenario for the weapon, Jewelcrafter for rings, and puchasing a full set of PvP gear. This then required people to find another 10 ilevels from Rep grinds and Heroics. Heroics offered a chance at Blue iLevel 463 and Reputation grinds like the Golden Lotus offered an Epic necklace at iLevel 489 and a Blue Chest piece at iLevel 463. The pace of gearing was slow to say the least.

Once Mogu'shan was available, the loot table increased to include iLevel 476 Epics, but the droprate was poor even with the Elder Charms of Good Fortune. In order to achieve an average iLevel of 470 you would need several gear drops from LFR Mogu'shan Vaults.

The Throne of Thunder requires iLevel 480 and the 2 previous LFR's Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring only providing iLevel 483 Epic gear. This is off-set by the higher level gear available from Operation Shieldwall, Shado Pan Assault  and the Kirin Tor Offensive Quartermasters.

At this stage of the Expansion, there is no reason to into Mogu'shan Vaults if your aim is to go to LFR Throne of Thunder, unless this is you chosen method for obtaining valor, or you are looking to use up that huge supply of Elder Charms of Good Fortune that drop from the Island of Thunder.

The gear has been tuned up for all 5 of the original LFR's unless you are called the Grumpy Elf, but the gear drops from the 3 new Throne of Thunder LFR's appears to be very poor, I personally am on 0 from 14 and other people are on worse stats than that.

Current Situation


The tuning of the new raids is considerably higher on the Throne of Thunder than any previous LFR, and they appear to be getting even harder. The early bosses are easily overcome once the fight is known but the newly released Halls of Flesh-Shaping is proving to be beyond the skills of the average LFR (non-raider) and there are issues with some of the fight designs which I am guessing are going to be hotfixed very soon.

Compounding this problem is the shortage of healers. This is a simple issue of mathematics and of course other much more complexed issues thrown in. The mathematics section is as follows:


  Tank Healer DPS'er
Scenario any any any
5 Man Heroic 1 1 3
10 Man Raid 2 2.5 5.5
25 Man LFR 2 6 17

 In general the DPS'er are the ones with the queue times, because they are by far the largest population of players. At 5 and 10 man level the ratio is the same and the role in shortage demand is the Tank. If the 10 man Raid takes 3 Healers and only 5 DPS'ers then it is Healers in short supply and DPS'ers get squeezed for another position, but in LFR Tanks are plentiful, DPS'ers get statistically more places available to them but the number of Healers required is quite high. It can be argued that by making the LFR easier (reduce the damage taken by the Raid) and reduce the number of Healers to 5 the issue will almost disappear.

The counter argument to this, is that DPS'ers are not currently moving out of the bad, so if you reduce the likelihood of death, the bad players will just keep doing these things and not learning from the situation.

The Healers are expected to power over these issues of Players standing in the bad stuff, and as consequence shoulder the blame and the stress.

Another problem with the current design philosophy from Blizzard is that this expansion as been Alt unfriendly, with a situation that only a Raid Healer would level as a main character, and casuals would normally have a damage dealer as their main character. Any Alt would therefore have to gear up with one set of gear to do the Reputation grinds and then work on creating a second set just to the LFR's. The only solution to this is to stop the need for carrying 2 sets of gear and to remove spirit as the Mana regeneration stat and to convert Intellect or in the case of Paladins Strength  into a useful stat or Agility in the case of Enhancement Shaman.

The mana pools in Mists of Pandaria are not bottomless pits and any fight with significant raid damage is leaving Healers short of mana at some point during the fight. With my fledgling Shaman, I am often required to hurl a lightning bolt or two just to keep the mana at a sensible level.

Any increases to the power of healers or an increase mana pools will just result in Healers having to over power DPS'ers standing in the bad stuff, so yet again the same problem is re-curring.

Blizzard have the difficult task of making every encounter different from any previous encounters, but the LFR still needs to be easier to overcome them, due to the lack of team communication available. Can you imagine the scenario if LFR had to fight an up-to-date Heigan the Unclean. 20 People would be dead before you got to the other side of the room.

I am curious to see what would happen if DPS'ers lost DPS from standing in the bad instead of huge amounts of Hit Points. Most damage dealers pride themselves on their recount numbers so if you hit them in the pocket and slow down their spell speeds, or would they not care because it is only LFR. Maybe Blizzard could finally use the April Fools joke about Epeen, and a bright coloured phallus could grow on the head of any idiot who stands in the bad for longer than a few seconds.

The next point might be slightly controversial, but I am of the understanding that female players are more likely to play Healers than Tanks. This might lead to less Healers in the LFR's due to Females deliberately avoiding the foul mouthed and abusive cesspits that LFR's sometime turn into. In general I am far too busy trying to fulfil my role that read the drivel that appears in Raid Chat, beside I am a man, and as every woman knows we cannot multi-task.

Another issue that seems to occupy peoples thoughts is that of incentives. Maybe Tanks and Healers deserve more Valor, Reputation or perhaps a choice of gear if for some miraculous reason that something does drop they get a choice of 2 items, Healer or Tank and the DPS equivalent. Maybe tokens that then allow you choose your gear at your own leisure.

The queue times for LFR are heavily stacked in the favour of Healers, but this means very often coming into a struggling group already, and from experience the counter always seem to be stuck at 4/6 healers, I am not sure why 4 Healers choose to be so stubborn.

During Dragon Soul people used to jump the queues by selecting Healing and DPS'ing for the entire Raid. This does not help the healers in any way shape or form who have to make up the numbers. The fights are designed to be done with 6 Healers, and every attempt with less, always seems to turn out badly.

Summary


In summary, LFR as always been a problem area. The original issues centred around loot and loot drama. The new LFR's are difficult and unrewarding. Queue times are long and Healers are in short supply.

Something needs to change, but nobody has a panacea to the LFR ills. Right now I am taking a break away from the LFR and plan to return when Blizzard makes some changes.

2 or 3 Hours spent to do 3 bosses was the biggest problem with the Zul Heroics in Cataclysm. Nobody seems to have that kind of time to spend in game with little or no reward, this is what Grumpy calls the Return on Investment. Socialist will see this as "A fair day's pay for a fair day's work", right now it is too much work for not enough pay (plenty of gold, but no bloody loot).

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