As I sit here writing this, especially in the afterglow of the new year, I can’t help but marvel at how much my life has changed in just these past three or four years. It’s easy to get retrospective and, sometimes, introspective about these things.
Last month, I caught a thread on the official forums touting the merits of the LFR. What struck me the most was when he said, “I’m no longer an 18 year old college student with time and money to spare. […] I’m now a married parent of one.” While I’m an active raider— albeit a casual one with very set times and schedules, two nights a week— I couldn’t help but nod and think that this person’s assessment was spot-on.
Warcraft, in its MMO form, has been around for seven years. It doesn’t seem like a long time but it’s a fair bit of temporal real estate for things to take place. Someone who was a college freshman at WoW’s start would be in their mid-20s today. That’s a big deal. For myself, in the past seven years I’ve gone from awkward student to college graduate to married mother of one.
For those who were older at Warcraft’s initial launch, they may have had career changes, gotten married, had kids, gotten a divorce, moved across the country, moved to a different country, gone back to school… The possibilities are endless. Even though the game has never responded to players personally in gameplay, the development has certainly responded to these changes in the playerbase.
Of course, talk about the LFR roused two types of common responses in the thread: agreements and “catering to casuals” posts. It’s no secret that Blizzard has had a shift in paradigm when it comes to Warcraft’s development. Vanilla was a time of 40-man raids that took hours to put together and even more time to execute, all before you got to the first boss. TBC saw 10- and 25-man raids with heroic dungeons. Wrath gave us 10/25 raids and heroic raids. Cataclysm has given us all of that and, now, the LFR.
Arguments about skill, effort, time spent in game, etc aside, I’m of a mind that this is Blizzard opening up content to more players. Even though a lot of lore happens in the books and comics, there’s still a fair bit that happens throughout the game via questing, dungeons, and, of course, raids and large-scale endgame content.
Let’s take Burning Crusade for example, since it is one of my favorites and when I started raiding. Hellfire Citadel was one of my favorite places to take out. You started out in the Ramparts and took out the outer defenses. Then you discovered exactly how the fel orcs get juiced in Blood Furnace. But before you could take away their source of power, you had to take out the fel orc leader in Shattered Halls. Finally, you could take out the demon in the basement, eliminating the threat for once and for all.
There was a method to the madness. You had a reason for being where you were and killing whatever it was you were killing. Of course, I didn’t get to kill Magtheridon until I was taken along with some friends whose 25-man team was short a couple of people one day; my own guild never got to the point of supporting 25 active raiders. If not for the graces of those friends, I never would have gotten to see the resolution to that portion of the expansion’s story. I would be stuck hearing about it second-hand or from the Wiki sources.
Believe it or not, there are some people who just want to go into content so they can see it. They don’t care about loot or even achievements. They just want the experience of seeing it for themselves because even the best written article on the subject can’t compare to witnessing the fall of Kil’jaeden at Sunwell Plateau or the death of Illidan the Betrayer in person.
Couple this thinking with seven years of game development, I tend to think of ideas like the LFR as, “Why not?” Regardless of what individuals use the LFR for— whether it’s to see content, get loot for normal and heroic raids, or whatnot— it’s not hurting anyone; being an insufferable jerk does, however.
From a lore-nerd perspective, content shouldn’t be restricted to the people who spend a lot of time in-game, grinding out the hardcore stuff. It would be very much like a book refusing to give you the next chapter until you’ve written a 100-page thesis on the character development of the protagonist as related to modern American feminism, the Apartheid, and Middle Eastern politics. Yes, it’s hyperbole but the point remains the same.
Save the “just rewards” argument for the more tangible things like loot or even titles and mounts. But getting the resolution to your virtual struggle shouldn’t be part of that package.