Evolution of the Warcraft Player and the LFR

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.

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About Toriah the Mom

Mom, quasi-librarian, gamer, writer
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6 Responses to Evolution of the Warcraft Player and the LFR

  1. hayfayfay says:

    Great article! Unfortunately, the last part about being a jerk is what is ruining it for EVERYONE lately.

    I enjoy LFR for the loots and to see the content while I’m on a crap computer and can’t raid with my guild and the number of verbally abusive and rude people in it is kinda silly. Plus the newest trend is joining as a group with a tank or healer and dropping group, much like the heroics que trick. Not a problem, until its a fight that gets insta-pulled once the group is full and its a 2 tank fight. *sigh*

    • Thank you!!

      We (and I use the royal “we” to refer to myself and my guildmates) have run into some bad eggs but have, on the whole, had a good time. The upside to running with a portion of our core team is we can kick the people who are disruptive, rude, unhelpful, etc. And that’s the ONLY time we’ll ever discuss kicking someone and then initiate the motion. Hopefully, there haven’t been people being jerks in herds in the LFR, though I don’t doubt it. I don’t know if it’s just an anomaly but we seem to see more jerks in the second half (Fall of Deathwing) than the first. Or, at least the jerks are more vocal in the second half.

      Also, “Jerks in Herds” sounds like it would be an awesome band name.

      • hayfayfay says:

        Maybe that’s my problem. I usually que solo because I don’t like waiting around for indecisive guildies :3 But yeah, second half of LFR makes me insane. Heck just the other day I was stuck on Deathwing for about an hour or so! Oh why you ask? Because some idiot rogue and his guildmates (about six of them_would start the fight before the group was full.

      • “I usually que solo because I don’t like waiting around for indecisive guildies”
        Hmm, you’re not one of my guildies in disguise are you?? -suspicious eyes- lol

        But the situation with the rogue and his guildies sounds terrible… Hope the LFR is kinder to you in the future. Or maybe… we’ll even bump into one another (if you’re Horde, that is)!! :D

  2. Tesh says:

    “Believe it or not, there are some people who just want to go into content so they can see it. ”

    Absolutely, and this is why I’ve argued for a long time that hiding content in dungeons and raids is a very poor way to treat the playerbase. In fact, I’ve argued for soloable raids for a long time, purely to let *anyone* see the content first-hand. Kill the loot and even XP from them, maybe, but let players see the dang content already.

    • Probably because of my background as a dungeon crawler (both in video games and PnP RPGs), I love instances. I don’t know what I’d do without ’em. There’s a sense of epicness to raids like Ulduar and Karazhan, and, in a way, it feels more personal. I go from nameless random adventurer #54297 to a member of an elite, specialized task force. Instances have a way of placing focus on aspects of the lore that can otherwise get lost if left in the open world. That’s just my personal feeling, though.

      Soloable raids might be something to consider, but I love the community I’ve found and helped build because of raids and dungeons– stuff I can’t solo. And I still hold to the idea of keeping things like dungeons and raids in the game for the sake of building a community.

      The LFR is a definite step in the right direction and, honestly, the happy medium we’ve been looking for all this time.

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