Gaming the LFR

Last night felt like a very, very long night.

I raided for what felt like hours.

Hold on, it really was hours. It really only felt like minutes. The time just sped away on the wings of angels.

Evil little raiding angels with black wings taking delight in the death of online baddies, but angels nonetheless.

After my last post about the LFR difficulty issues, I had some thoughts on how someone who wasn’t a raider could try to take advantage of the fluctuating skill situation.

My thinking was pure speculation, but it went kinda like this;

If I was a raider, then I would know my scheduled raids were coming up. I’d want to be as powerful as I could for the raid. Therefore, I’d want to get my mains into the LFR as soon as I could after a reset, so that I could get my first shot at any ‘free’ upgrades, and get them all gemmed and enchanted and reforged (and transmogrified) before raid time, whenever that may be. 

Some guilds do raid on Tuesday night right after the reset. Those folks might have changed to using the LFR Tuesday night, or they might not.

Why change to an LFR Tuesday? If they raided Dragon Soul normal before the LFR, they might send a good upgrade to a person that proceeded to get a comparable item (at a slightly lower level) the very next night, a wasted opportunity to benefit the team as a whole.

If tank A just got a 384 tier shoulder, do you give a tier shoulder from normal mode to the same tank the very next night, or do you spread it to the other tank instead who is still wearing 378s?

The way I figure it, however the guilds are raiding, the majority of leading-edge progression gamers would probably try to get in on the LFR Tuesday night after the reset to get their ‘free’ upgrades, maybe Wednesday, and be as powerful as possible going into their ‘real’ raiding for the week.

Now, more pure speculation, those same raiding guilds would probably end up queueing as groups instead of piecemeal, since they don’t like idiots any more than casual players do, and bringing your own tank/healers has always been a time-honored method of reducing the chances of failure. Or annoyance that affects performance, anyway. I’m not saying an entire raid team would queue as one, just that the likelihood seems high to me that folks that raid together and know each other well would probably be able to find five buddies online at a given moment to queue with.

Plus, it’s more fun to scoff at other players when you’ve got a group of like-minded friends to hear your snarkiness. I know that’s how I roll.

That was my thinking.

How to put it into action?

If I, as a non-raider, wanted my best chance at playing with serious, talented people in LFR instead of idiots and offensive asshats that spend more time typing hate than targeting adds, then I would want to queue up Tuesday night.

A theory is just a theory until it gets tested. Accordingly, I went into LFR last night to see what it would be like.

I ran the Dragon Soul LFR three times last night, back to back. I played on my Warrior for the first wing, and then on my Hunter for the first and second wings.

Every group went smooth. Every group had complete success. Through the entire night, there was only one wipe.

The first run of the evening had myself, Cassie and two fellow guildies. The rest of the group was composed of non-guilded random people.

There was a little confusion on colors, the whole “green ooze does not aoe in LFR, you don’t have to prioritize it” thing that keeps throwing people used to studying normal mode. Our one wipe came from haste. In the future, mister strange tank, please try not to pull the boss while you rush across the big open space to get to the next trash pull. Shortcuts are fine, shortcuts THROUGH the big boss-circle-area on the floor, not so much. ‘kay?

Even with that, it was a far cry from the runs of just the night before, where everyone had a chip on their shoulder and felt the need to belittle everyone else rather than, oh, you know, do their own part. Unless typing a lot of bullshit equates to skill. /sarcasm.

There were two more runs for me that night, and on each run more members of our guild’s raid teams joined in. Or drove it forward, as the case may be.

I felt some of the raiders out a little, and got some comments along the lines of, “I want to knock the LFR out now so I have any loot before we raid.”

Anecdotal evidence, granted, but clearly there are some raiders right in my own guild that were certainly thinking, “Get in, get it done, get gone.”

Those last two runs?

The first one was the first wing again, smooth and clean. About ten guildies, plus random scattered people. At one point, Baddmojo the guild figurehead and raiding Rogue from Team Wanda broke over 52k DPS. Intentionally. Yes, that is a five and a two, followed by ‘k’, and it doesn’t stand for karat. Yes, I do feel that any character breaking 52,000 DPS on a single boss fight is overpowered and ridiculous. What frightens me is the idea that once raiders really get cooking in Dragon Soul Heroic, 52k might seem… quaint.

The second wing raid was more interesting. We were now in Azuremyst evening prime time for gaming, and we queued with about twelve guildies all together for it, including one tank and three healers.

The raid group we got was forged of just three guild groups.

Seriously. There were three guilds represented in the raid, almost no solo players.

The run was so smooth it went even easier than the first wing.

It became clear early on that the entire raid was formed of experienced raiders knocking the LFR out early.

It was my first time completing the entire second wing from start to finish as one raid. I have seen the middle two encounters a few times, but that was always as a replacement for people bailing in a failing group.

The tone of the discussion in vent was mostly amazement and disbelief that nobody did x stupid, or died to y from not moving out of the fire, or targeted the wrong mob, or ran the wrong way, or whatever.

It was one night, and maybe it was a fluke. But I have to compare the runs last night with the ones scattered over the last week and weekend, and there is no comparison in quality.

Last night just was… nicer, and far FAR more professional.

Not serious, just… no stupid bullshit.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a story that Yalani shared in guild chat the other night, a story about Yalani’s Priest and LFR. The name of Yalani’s Priest has been concealed to ensure the story will continue to have a happy, repeatable, ending.

Turns out, Yalani was in the LFR, doing the first wing.

There was this asshat in the raid, I’m sure that comes as a complete surprise to you, who kept typing elitist smack during the run. You know the kind of thing only too well, I’m sure. Constant criticism and offensive bullshit heaped on others. 

The raid progresses through the bosses until they are on the last boss of the wing, Hagara the Stormbinder.

For those of you that haven’t done the encounter yet, at one point Hagara will stand in the middle of the vast circular platform and channel the Frozen Tempest. Hagara hides in a Watery Bubble, four pylons form at equidistant staitionary intervals along the outskirts of the platform, and four equidistant lines form that transform into Waves of Ice that travel in a clockwise direction around the platform.

If you get hit by an Ice Wave, you take a shitload of damage and, generally, you die. 

Ice Waves are considered extremely easy to avoid. Before the waves form Hagara shoots red beams out to clearly show where they’re gonna be. At that point, you’ve got lots of warning to move your ass to a point in between any two lines.

No, really. When the Ice Waves form and begin moving, you can easily stay right in the middle of two waves, running around the rim of the platform. If you have some form of run speed enchant on your boots, it’s extremely easy. Just run around, destroying pylons as you come across them, and when the last pylon falls the Ice Waves vanish.

It is SO easy for someone prepared for the fight to avoid the Ice Waves that whenever someone new to the run dies by being hit by one, the asshats in the raid WILL mock them and call them stupid, noobs, morons, and all that other stuff. It’s one of those things people like to use to show disgust, as if they were born already knowing to avoid the Ice Waves, and as if it wasn’t the responsiblity of the experienced to make sure the raid is prepared for the encounter and questions are answered before pulling.

So, back to the story.

The raid is fighting Hagara, the Ice Waves form, and the raid starts running around the circle.

Yalani hangs back near an Ice Wave and Life Grips the asshat to her.

Asshat gets hit by Ice Wave and instantly dies.

Said death by Ice Wave is noticed by all, but not why. Immediately, all the OTHER elitists that like to mock people (but not nearly to the extent this one asshat did) just tear him a new one for being a stupid noob dying to the Ice Wave.

Asshat descends into frothy-mouthed nerdrage.

I like to actually picture the asshat seated at his (or her) computer (in his or her mom’s basement, of course), literally frothing in rage.

Well done. Well done indeed.

This is officially my favorite thing of the expansion.  Not the patch, the expansion.

Thank you, Yalani. Thank you OH so much for that. May you continue to bring swift internet justice to asshats on Hagara, and cause them to tread oh-so-lightly in the presence of any Priest they encounter from that point forward.

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Fun with Advertising, Part the Second

I picked up a PC World magazine this month, and in it I found a big colorful ad displaying a character that I knew right away was either drawn by Gabe of Penny Arcade, or was a direct rip-off of his art style.

I looked at the picture. Excellent, very evocative of a distinct pair of personalities. The image told a strong story just with a glance.

Nice picture, but is this an ad? Where was the message?

Oh, there it is, words wrapped lovingly around each rich curve and lush swooping angle.

I read the message and wondered aloud, “WTF?”

Turns out, I wasn’t the only one to wonder the same. No, a quick search on the internet showed me that “Penny Arcade ESRB” gets plenty of hits dating from 2006.

Well, I never pretended to be a relevant bear.

Kotaku and Joystiq both had interesting things to say at the time.

I do want to look at the design of the ad, and wonder aloud again, “WTF?”

Let’s take a look at the ad I saw in the magazine, a magazine printed for the 2011 November or December issue of PC World, I might add. It’s still a current ad. Apparently, they’re proud of it. And if you got Gabe to draw your ad, wouldn’t YOU want to show it off?

This is the Penny Arcade ad done for the ESRB called ‘The Andersons”.

Now, long time readers here know I love me some Penny Arcade. Just search, you’ll find Child’s Play drives and all that stuff on my website. And I love the images they did, I do. THis one speaks directly of a gamer and his willing but struggling dad. And it’s sweet, rather than snarky.

It’s the message of this as an advertisement I’m scorning. /scorn.

Riddle me this, Batman. Who is the target audience for ESRB ads in PC World?

Is it the young gamer looking for guidance from a rating on content? 

No. This is PC World magazine, and young gamers aren’t going to be interested in the opinions of anyone other than their peers.

The target audience is, really, slightly out-of-touch parents that know enough about technology to have some grasp of where a clue might be found, cool enough to take in interest in what games their kids play and maybe even play with them, without being so reactionary that they ban all games as ‘The devil’s work”.

This person looks at that ad, sees that image, and the art of Penny Arcade compels you.

You should chant that as if you are a priest, banishing demons from kids stuck playing Sega Saturn while their friends are rocking Xbox 360’s;

“The Art of Penny Arcade Compels You!”

“The Art of Penny Arcade Compels You!”

You zoom in closer, entranced, and your eyes spy the text wrapped around the image.

Then you follow it back until you find the beginning of the sentence, because the bold face type first draws your eye but that’s not where the sentence starts, “Where the hell is the start of this thing? Oh, there it is.”

Not an auspicious beginning.

Then you read this message;

Because the Andersons play games, theres a system in place to make sure they bring home the right ones. This is how that system works; First, Mom and Dad select games using the ratings on the box. Step two, (continued on the other side of the image) everyone gets a controller. Step three, the kids win. This quality time is presented by the ESRB.

I gotta say, that’s just amazing to me, after 5 years that ad is still flying? 

I don’t even want to dissect the message itself, but I have to say one thing.

Step one: Mom and Dad select games using the ratings on the box?

Really? Who out there initiates the game-buying event by going to the store, picking up the box, and selecting which ones to consider based on the ESRB rating?

Are we really supposed to be that clueless?

No. No, you either heard one was good, or you were asked by your kid to buy the game.

Or, you’re trying to get a gift for someone else’s kids and have no bloody idea if Wonder Pets Save The Amazon Rainforest has nudity or mature language.

I’m saying, your kid knows if they want to try it or not. You’re not flying completely blind, unless you are Grandma, in which case you don’t care who the ESRB is, you’re gonna do what they tell ya.

Your kid wants to play a game. They ask you to buy it for them, ’cause you’ve got the cash. Or the game has an ESRB rating that prevents the clerk from selling to your kids age bracket. Either way, you are the gateway to video game happiness.

You are entering this scenario as the parent, the responsible adult, asked to make an informed decision as to whether this game is appropriate for your children based on your own personal standards.

Pop quiz, hot shot. You know nothing of this game.  Your smartphone has no reception, so you can’t look up reviews on your favorite gaming sites like an intelligent adult.

What do you do? What do you do?

You could say no, it’s always a viable alternative.

You could say yes, hoping for the best.

You could just buy it, play it yourself, and once you beat it decide if it’s acceptable for your kids.

Or, and this is a wild thought, you could check out the ESRB rating to get details on what you can expect to see in the game. 

So, think about it. Did their message give you enough info to understand what they’re all about without actively looking at the back of a game box?

I don’t think so. When viewed without preconceived ideas of what the ESRB is, it came across to me a little threatening. If viewed a certain way, it almost seems to make a case that the ESRB wants to decide what your choices should be, incidentally giving them great power over game designers and publishers. “Do what we say, or we will bury your game with a bad rating, and parents won’t buy it.”

To my way of thinking, an advertisement should answer the following questions;

Who are you, what do you do, and why should I care/buy your product or service?

can we do any better?

I think we can. In a millisecond.

Just a thought, but how about this?

“ESRB: we play the games your kids want to play so you don’t have to.”

Who are you? The ESRB. What do you do? You play all the games and know what is in them. Why do I even care that you exist? Because with an ESRB rating on a box I can make an informed decision on the fly without having to play the game myself first.

I can just say, “Nope! The ratings on the box says this one has bad language and visceral decapitations, and I hate bad language. Hey Marge, what does visceral mean? Is that like my goddamn Crown Royal? Is there booze in this f’ing game?”

I love the image, but it takes more than great art to get your point across, and if you’re not clearly articulating your point with your ad, why the bloody heck are you running it in the first place?

WTF, Over

I like webcomics.

I like WoW.

I like webcomics about WoW. Duh.

I like The Daily Blink. Great stuff. (loved loved LOVED todays strip.)

All that aside, The Daily Blink has sidebar advertisements.

So what, so does most gaming-related sites, if only to make enough moola to cover server costs.

But The Daily Blink is special, in that they are firmly in the “webcomic + MMO + video game” demographic.

And so, as I enjoyed todays cartoon, I got to see this on the side of the screen;

I have to ask.

WHAT F’ING GAME ARE THEY RUNNING OVER THERE?

I mean, I had to read it a few times to get the idea that this wasn’t an ad for porn, this was an MMO teaser. For an assassin character.

The Silent Assassin? What, you “can’t hear her coming”?

Okay, that was low, even for me.

Hows about, you won’t be prepared for the ganking you’ll get when she slides down off that pole?

Sorry, I know the trend is ridiculous fantasy female portrayals to grab the eye, but does it work when the art blows past interesting and slides right into satire?

Hmm. I detect a subliminal trend here. Better stop, and go take a shower.

Seriously, though. WTF?!?

It Takes All Kinds, Thankfully

I had an email last week from a reader named Theo that really made me step back and re-evaluate what I do and how I look at the game.

It was a very kind email from someone that actually took time out of his day to let me know he appreciated reading the meanderings of someone else just like him that played the game to have a fun time, and who generally tried to keep a cheerful attitude about it.

He told me a bit about himself, his gaming situation, and what his experiences had been playing the game with his wife and, at least part of the time, with his best friend.

His story resonated very strongly with me, and as I read his words I felt like I was reading about my own experiences when I first started playing the game.

Here is an excerpt from Theo’s email so you can see what I mean;

Anyway I had this whole other world to explore, I was introduced by a friend and I started out with a Paladin. On a european pvp server, Trollbane. I remember my first death due to a horde at level 60. After months of hard work, not having a clue about talent points until I was level 38. Someone pointed it out to me 🙂

I was ready to go with that friend through the Portal from the outlands.
We made a big thing out of it and stood in front of that portal and he walked through first. I had him on Skype and he tried to warn me but on the other side of the portal stood a level 80 Orc who smashed me with one stroke 😛

I was really like…can he do that and why? Oh well, it was a funny situation and I loved every minute of that first time experience.

After I hit 80, my wife saw me play the game and was always watching along with me. I asked her to join but because she never ever played a computer game, with the size of Azeroth and all it made her hesistant. But together with another friend who also played WoW for the first time, we leveled our chars. I got me a druid, my wife a hunter and a friend a warlock. That friend also started new at WoW but had years of Guild Wars experience so he knew the basics of these sort of games.

Again, after months of playing like the three musketeers, they did all the killing and I tried to heal them, and we quested all over the world together with an occasional dungeon. Was fun.

In the end when I hit 80 I could dual spec, and thought about tanking a bit. I was horrified to try it but it tickled. I never ever thought about reading about the game online, so it struck me hard all the info there was. Ha ha, I hated myself for not trying and looking up stuff earlier coz that would have made my first 9 months a lot easier, I think. On the other hand, I’ve seen the whole world and though sometimes frustrating I am glad I did it like that.

Reading about Theo’s experiences took me back to when I first played the game, in the era of vanilla WoW.

Websites? I discovered Thottbot around level 40 or so. That and Allakhazam. When I reached 60 and began preparing to raid, websites for guidance were the furthest thing from my mind. Websites for games were about databases, reviews of upcoming games, and ASCII faqs like Gamefaqs.

Petopia? Ah, blessed Petopia. My best friend Manny played his Dwarf Hunter all the way to level 60, never knowing that you had to tame new pets in order to learn higher level skills from them, skills you could then teach your favorite pet. His level 60 cat stayed with him from 10 to 60, never ever being put away for another. That Claw was a bit wimpy, though. Yes, this was when pets had skills to train. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it, ancient history, move along now. 🙂

There was no commentary. There was no dialogue, except what could be found in the cesspool that was the original forums, and really, aside from Alamo teaching me how to be a durid, I didn’t spend much time there.

I’m not ashamed to admit that Alamo taught me all that I know. He made me the bare I am today!

When I wanted to figure out what gear upgrades there were, I had Kaliban’s Class Loot Lists. Wowhead? What was that? Searcheable gear database by class, iLevel and stat weights? Dream on, my friend, dream on.

There was the video game we played, and that was almost the entirety of the experience.

For them, just as for me, the video game was the thing and the whole of the thing. Everything there was that could be learned was found within the game itself. If I couldn’t figure it out on my own, well, then I struggled through.

I had to try stuff and see how it worked for myself, trial and error, “I wonder what would happen if…” and error WAS a part of the whole thing. Without risk there was no reward of that new talent arrangement that let me get an instant-cast Natures Swiftness Healing Touch on a swift-shift cast while soloing an army of mobs as a Bear.

The game allowed me to do that, to a certain extent. Without website tools to tell people the ‘right’ way to do something, content had to be designed for a lot of trial and error, and a looser interpretation of ‘optimal build and gear’.

It was good times. Sloppy fights, but good times.

Are those times come and gone, and have we lost something along the way?

I love the community that has grown on the internet, I really do. Lots of people have come together to share their experiences, their opinions and their advice on the game of World of Warcraft. I douubt I’d still be playing the game if it wasn’t for the force enhancement that the online community provides me.

But part of there being an online community comes a desire to help, to guide, to mentor and teach.

What have all these addons, talent guides, gear guides and mathy stuffs brought with them?

When players have online tools available to them to optimize their build and gear, and even have pre-made modeling spreadsheets to determine theoretically perfect rotations and gear reforging based on current stats, do the developers have any choice but to refine the content to challenge those players?

And the backside of the blade, if the content is designed with the assumption we all take full advantage of the community assets out there… where does that leave Theo, his wife and friends, and any other player that walks into World of Warcraft seeing a video game, not expecting they were entering a long-established world of very, very, VERY judgmental players that will be watching them like a hawk?

Apparently, having a damn good time for most of it, and that brings a huge smile to my face.

Right up until I think about the reception he and his wife would have in the current Looking For Raid.

A happy, fun-loving couple that plays the game to explore Azeroth and find adventure. A couple that loves the world, and the story, and sees all the aftermath of Deathwing, and maybe knows they’re not going to be part of some huge hardcore raiding group, but sees in the patch notes there is a new LFR option designed just for them… right?

Well, I’ll let Theo tell you;

Always fun to read about players who have the intention to play for fun without raging, and have kinda the same intention of playing as me. Try to have as much fun as possible. My wife hardly ever plays anymore because she is kinda shy and ran into people too often bitching and moaning. So I would like to say keep up that positive spirit and playstyle, and I will do my small share. Luckily there are often instances with others who have the same intentions. 🙂

As I said, this really resonated with me. This is exactly where Cassie and I are, as well.

Cassie tried some raiding off and on in the old days, and really enjoyed it when done with friends. She rarely plays in groups anymore because she’s tired of, if not bitching and moaning, then let’s say the immaturity and selfishness so often seen over pixels and performance.

For myself, yes, I am trying to hang in there with you, Theo. I’m in ur LFR, killing ur oozes. I’m in ur LFD, running those Twilights. I’m having a great time.

Community has a two-edged blade, and along with knowing what we ‘should’ do, comes the flip side of people who only know what a website told them.

You know what’s funny? For a long time now, gear upgrades and drops have not excited me.

Each new piece of loot has represented an increased possibility that I will not suffer abuse for my performance at the hands of complete strangers in a random group using specs and gear builds they read off the internet, pulling for me or on the wrong target, assuming any mistake is the fault of anyone but them.

And along the way I have had to remember that, if my choice of upgrade is not the approved item “as seen on TV”, I can get shit for that as well, and I have to be prepared to justify my choice with reason and logic.

And be ready to take shit for it anyhow. /ignore is your friend, until it is full.

Patch 4.3 returned to me a sense of excitement at loot drops for the sake of the new and unusual. Seeing how it looks, matching it’s appearance to the vision in my head, imagining what I could do with it as a transmogrified item. It’s brought back some of the innocent joy of “oh, that looks COOL!”

For good or bad, the community is in the World of Warcraft, and has affected most aspects of the game, from what the other players think to how the content is designed.

What I find myself wondering is, since 4.3 renewed my sense of wonder when I get a piece of gear to drop, will there ever be some other new and magical way to help me recapture that same innocense I feel has been lost forever? That sense that the World of Warcraft was mine to explore as I saw fit, played my way, without having to put the entire world on /ignore to keep from having people ask why I am ‘doing it wrong’.

Looking for Project Management assistance

I’m managing my Maintenance Department, and getting it under control. But I’ve got an issue I hope someone can help me with.

The situation;

I’ve got the week of 26 – 30 December slated as a maintenance shutdown period in the foundry, and I’ve coordinated events so that I have a list of projects, parts ordered, contractors and specialists arranged to be on site at various intervals, and estimated times.

The issue;

My boss, the President of the company, had an outside contractor once give him a project timeline in the form of a Gantt Chart.

The President is now enamored of Gantt Charts, thinks that is just the cat’s meow, and just sent an email to me telling me that I need to provide a Gantt Chart, tomorrow, of my project management plan for the shutdown week.

The mission;

Create a pretty Gantt Chart with the information I already have, WITHOUT Microsoft Project (which is the only software I’ve ever used in the past to make them), and hopefully without hard-coding the entire thing from scratch in Excel like a moron.

The plea for help;

Can someone, anyone please tell me if they know of freeware software, Excel templates, or anything I can use where I can take my project lists, my time estimates, my pre-reqs of “Project C cannot be started until Project A is complete”, and all that and plug it in so that a pretty Gantt Chart is the output?

Seriously, I ain’t gonna spend $400 on MS Project just so I can meet his expectation by tomorrow, but the idea of making pretty little charts and graphs by hand in Excel is, oh hell no.

Help me Obi Wan Managerio, you’re my only hope!

Oh, and for those of you who don’t do project management, who don’t know what a Gantt Chart is… God bless you, each and every one, and cherish your innocense while you can.

LFR Too Easy? A Self-Correcting Problem

I’ve read a lot about how easy Looking For Raid is, and the fears people have that it will continue that way.

I’m thinking it’s a self-correcting problem, but I’m hopeful it’ll all work out  as we go.

I’ll put this as simply as I can.

When LFR was released for the patch, it had a requirement of iLevel 372 gear to queue.

For the first week of LFR, the only people capable of entering were those who had been able to get to an average ilevel of 372 or higher without the benefits of 378 Valor gear suddenly being purchaseable from justice Points, and 378 gear dropping from streamlined 5 person dungeons.

I want to be clear about what I AM saying, and what I and am NOT saying.

I AM saying that for the first week at least, the people able to queue for LFR were experienced in raiding Firelands content in large groups, and had done so enough to be reasonably well geared from it.

I AM saying that I think frequent successful raiding experience translates to people generally knowing how to handle current content design concepts in a group.

So, I think that it is not surprising to find that the LFR as it stands was considered easy for the first week.

Seeing new content look absurdly easy the first week it was released is nothing new to us.

Think back to when Burning Crusade was first released. All those folks in their high level raiding purples blew through the zone, and were already hitting raids and succeeding in the first week. One thing that was changed for Wrath was making such a power discrepancy between BC level 70 and WotLK level 80 that it wasn’t supposed to happen that way again.

It did anyway. There were Sunwell raiding groups that were clearing WotLK raids in Sunwell gear early on.

My point here is, having the iLevel requirement for the first week be high enough that it limited the raid queueing to current well-geared raiders at the top of their game, people that had been consistently clearing Firelands content and hard modes, means that you’ve got the same situation now.

The big difference is, these are the folks you’re raiding right alongside with.

If the starting iLevel requirement had been 365, it probably wouldn’t have been as easy-peasy seeming the first week.

I think what we’re going to see happen is, all non-raiding folks (just like me!) people who are excited at raiding but never had the regimented, predictable time in their schedules to raid consistently, are now going to rapidly finish gearing their characters by running the new 5 person instances, getting massive upgrades, and spending JP and Valor on great stuff.

Those folks will have heard how easy LFR is, and, just like me, be excited to get in there and see it themselves. These folks who are in guilds or situations that limit their ability to raid will get their characters geared well enough to run it, but they will not be experienced in raiding within a 25 person environment. They will be having to perform at a level they are not familiar with. There will be learning opportunities. There will be mistakes. There will be confusion.

On the flip side, I anticipate most raiders doing it now will have gotten what they can for upgrades out of LFR within a month, and will stop chain-running it because they will be working on content progression in normal and hard modes of the real Dragon Soul. They may keep running it a few times a week for the quick 250 Valor Point reward, but not to the extent they are now.

The result?

For the next month, those players new to the logistics of 25 person raiding will have the opportunity to learn from the raiders that are experts already, but gradually leaving for the main raid.

I think the LFR will gradually get more difficult to clear, wipes will become more frequent, and overall it will become more of a challenge as the average dps level drops from 20K+ down to the 16k range, and healer throughput dips as well.

What am I NOT saying?

I’m not saying that the hardcore raiders are intrinsically better players better than those who haven’t had the opportunity to raid a lot in large groups. I’m saying that dedicated raiders have had more experience recently, and went in geared to succeed and apply their experience immediately.

But if you’re doing the LFR right now, and wondering in amazement at how awesome it is that it’s so easy, and even complaining that you wish it was more challenging…

Keep in mind, it’s likely never going to be so easy ever again. And since each group is thrown together from scratch each time, you are only as good as the average experience level of each individual player. You will never see overall improvement as a group, because your group will never have the chance to work together again to improve coordination, communication or teamwork.

So suck it up, buttercups. Enjoy the ride while it lasts. It’s gonna get harder soon enough, and you will find that challenge we all love.

If there is a downside, it will be the people who base their expectations on the LFR for the next year on how it’s gone the last week, and who will grow ever louder in rage about how everyone suddenly ‘sucks’ because there are actual wipes as people learn the encounters.

On the Subject of Legendary Abilities

A little while ago I brought up the awesomeness of the proposed Hunter Stampede ability in Mists of Pandaria. An ability that would unleash all five of my pets on the enemy at once? Really? Holy crap!

I asked for your ideas on something equally as awesome for all classes.

Giltharak made a comment there that actually came pretty close to what Blizzard is reportedly doing.

Oh wait, I didn’t say what I’m talking about yet.

MMO Champion just published this;

From the new Mists of Pandaria Talent Calculator

Druid

Incarnation – Several changes, now reads: Activates a superior shapeshifting form appropriate to your specialization for 30 sec. You may freely shapeshift in and out of this form for its duration.

Balance: Chosen of Elune
Improved Moonkin Form that also halves Lunar and Solar Power generation while in an Eclipse, and doubles it while not in an Eclipse.

Feral: King of the Jungle
Improved Cat Form that allows the use of all abilities which normally require stealth, and allows use of Prowl while in combat.

Guardian: Son of Ursoc
Improved Bear Form that reduces the cooldown on all melee abilities to 1.5 sec.

Restoration: Tree of Life
Tree of Life Form that increases healing done by 15%, increases armor by 120%, and enhances Lifebloom, Wild Growth, Regrowth, Entangling Roots, and Wrath spellcasts.

Now….

Is that bloody well epic or what?

No no no, I’m not talking about the actual abilities themselves, who knows what those might actually end up as after months of tweaking.

No, I mean that the ability will give us superior forms for all specs!

I know that it could be easy to interpret that to think we might be gettting all new forms for the activation. If you stop to think about how many variables and options to customize we have with our forms now, and also to take into account that every race has different versions of the forms, I think that is highly unlikely.

But even so, I can easily see this to mean that when we activate our Incarnation, we grow larger in size and assume a full-body-aura spell effect of some type.

I could also see them making one new legendary version of each form, much like the Fandral Staghelm flamecat from the staff, and then applying that as the ‘superior’ form look.

Whatever they do, I am sooo looking forward to this!

Why? Dear lord, why when it is so far out?

I love the idea of taking the core of what a class is, and enhancing that.

I love that they are taking into account that Druids love all their different playstyles, and are giving all of us something new that will be equally cool for all of us.

Nobody is getting a rock.

Isn’t that a nice way to start the morning?