On ‘Flex’ Raiding and Being Forced to Do Things

I came across this post today and it made me want to write a (tangential) response to it. I’ve been wanting to discuss the issue of certain aspects of the game feeling mandatory to raiders since the start of the expansion, but I never did get around to it. Luckily for me, the announcement of ‘Flex’ raids just made this discussion relevant again. So here’s my take.

Firstly, I should say that I’m precisely the sort of person who grinds LFR and valor caps every week. I’m not a super high-end raider. My current guild just downed Lei Shen this week, and this is probably the most progressive guild I’ve ever been a part of. Regardless of this, PvE progression has always been one of my personal goals while playing this game. By saying this, I mean I want to progress as much as I can within certain constraints I’ve come to accept limit my potential overall progression (things like the time I’m willing to raid, my own skill, the sort of people I want to raid with, etc.) This is why I do dailies at the beginning of patches, and run the LFR version of Horridon every week to see if I can get a half-decent trinket. I know if more gear translates to me putting out more healing, my guild has a better chance of success on every attempt and that, in my mind, means faster progression.

One of the points Rossi made in the article I linked is that guilds that enforce a ‘run all the LFRs, all the weeks!’ policy are mistaking gear as a substitute for skill. I disagree. I mean, obviously, gear is no substitute for skill. It doesn’t matter how many ilvls you have on your character sheet if you can’t get out of that sand trap. But I find this a simplistic argument precisely because gear has no bearing on skill. You’re not comparing higher skilled, crappily geared you with unskilled, heroically geared you; you’re comparing your perfomance at the same level of skill with slightly more gear. And more gear does translate into more output, which can be a deciding factor when getting new kills.

I’m going to give you a small example of why this argument makes no sense to me. I have a friend whom I raided with at the end of Cata. He is an amazing priest, much better than me. Yet, he never enchanted his gear. He still did better than me on meters, but he would’ve been an overall better asset to the raid if he’d gotten off his butt and gotten his gear enchanted, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. (I understand that LFR and ‘flex’ aren’t comparable to enchants given that it takes a minute to enchant your stuff, which is why I was much more frustrated with him than I’ve ever been with someone who would not run LFR.) Sure, enchants are not a substitute for skill, but they’re a nice addition to it. And so it goes with extra gear. And, sure, it’s debatable how much you getting a single piece of gear will impact the overall performance of your raid, but if everyone in your group makes a point to accelerate their own gear progression it will make an impact eventually.

On the other hand, you could certainly make the argument that the time spent doing LFRs, dailies and ‘flex’ raids would be better spent working on your skill. I agree, to a point. I find that, after a certain point, skill is something that improves very slowly and with plenty of practise. After all, just because I know that I should be keeping my rapture on cooldown, doesn’t mean that I’m very good at doing it in actual raids. The most I can do is look at my rapture gains and how many shields I used in a fight and try to do better next time. Theoretical knowledge does not translate to practical skill. There are obviously things you can do to improve your practical skill. Funnily enough, LFR is one of them. I use it occasionally to practise my DPS’ing or mechanics I’m doing poorly at (*waves at Iron Qon’s whirlwinds and Blade Lord’s whirlwinds and all whirlwindy mechanics in general*). It’s not very good for practising healing, but there you go.

But is the impact worth the time invested?

Honestly, I think that’s for every guild and raider to decide. I think I’ve seen it make a difference, but it’s nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

So, yes, I acknowledge it’s a choice.

The thing about choices, though, is that some times one of the options is so unpleasant or unthinkable, it doesn’t really feel like a choice. This is the real reason people feel forced to do it. They know no one is holding a gun to their head. They might find running the same raid three times in a week about as pleasant as scooping their own eyes with a spoon, but letting their guilds or themselves down is the equivalent of having to eat them as well.

What people want when they ask Blizz to stop ‘forcing’ unpleasant activities on them is for Blizzard to not give them the choice, and -in my opinion- this is a perfectly valid thing to want. There’s also the matter that sometimes people faced with a choice that’s tough -either because they don’t like either option, or because they’re both awesome- will just refuse to make it. And in WoW, there’s a very simple way of doing that: just don’t log in.

What about Blizzard, though? Why should Blizzard baby us and make sure we don’t overwhelm ourselves?

In an ideal world, they wouldn’t have to. The problem is they are a company, and giving us the choice might drive people who feel compelled to do something they hate (for any reason) away. This is not good business, unless giving us the choice in the first place makes up for it.

In the case of both ‘flex’ raids and ‘LFR’, I think they’re absolutely worth it. I think it fulfills a need for a portion of the population that is bigger than the people who will be  negatively affected by it.

Personally, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when we get ‘flex’ raids. I’m not sure if I’m going to run them in addition to LFR or instead of LFR. I can’t really say until I know how hard they will be and how long they will take. What I can say is that the main reason I’m glad they don’t share a lockout is it’ll let me experience something close to a current content raid with some of my former, off-server guildies, with a lot less pressure than actually levelling an alt and raiding with them also would involve.

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