Life in Group 5 – A Resto Shaman Blog
A resto shaman perspective on raiding


April 6, 2010

The Double-Edged Sword of LFD

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Written by: Vixsin
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When the revamped LFD (Looking for Dungeon) system was re-introduced with patch 3.3, it unleashed a wave of stories from players everywhere about the ups and downs of pugging. Horror stories became a common theme of blogs, forums, and guild sites, and I fear everyones’ noses drifted slightly higher in the air as we described our foray into heroics with the unwashed masses (which, of course, was no one we knew, just all those random baddies.) Appropriately timed with the release of ICC, the new random LFD was the portal to increased Emblems of Frost and accordingly, a new set of shinies. To some, the new system is a roaring success, allowing them more freedom for groups on demand, while to others, it is an example of all that is wrong with raiding. But in hindsight, I think one thing is clear—be careful what you wish for.


Give credit where credit is due

If asked about the greatest addition to the game during WotLK, I will answer, hands down: the LFD tool. Ulduar was an amazing instance, and Resto Shaman t10 is brilliant in every possible way, but nothing has done more to advance WoW’s community as the automated grouping system. It has single-handedly turned rotting dungeons and heroics into populated zones. There’s a reason that I’ve completed a significant majority of the raiding achievements and none of the Glory of the Heroic Raider ones; since a month after WotLK release there was simply no motivation for me to set foot in a Heroic other than beneficence.

At the release of ToC, yes, I tried to complete the daily when I could, but it definitely wasn’t a priority. I could get cheaper tier sets just by keeping 100% attendance in my guild’s ToC/ToGC runs. But when Blizzard tightened the emblem flow in ICC by forcing me to go through a linear tier upgrade system (and not simply leapfrog the entry-level items), and denying me distinct normal and heroic instances, I found myself hurting for badges once again. (And let’s not even talk about the strain of building a tier offset.) So, with no other option to up my badge count I, and a significant number of my colleagues I’d venture, made a concerted effort to get myself into a Heroic every single day I could.

So let’s please give credit where it’s due–the influx of raiders pursuing frost badges, regardless of the attitude they bring with them, is still an influx of raiders into what was a dungeon system bereft of players. The result of this injection of players into the dungeon pool is that “LFG” tool is actually a viable way to form groups (on some servers more than others). And as heinous as the connotation is, “farming” badges for new 80s has become substantially easier than it was pre-ICC. Now groups can’t reject my DK alt for a 15-min heroic clear because she isn’t in top-shelf gear.

In addition, not only has it made lvl80 dungeons more active, it’s completely altered the leveling process as well. How many people ran BFD, Gnomer, DM or Scholo or  before the new LFD went into place? Yeah, no one. This weekend on my baby warrior, I actually ran Stockades; being horde tried and true, it was a delightfully perplexing moment as I thought … “uhhhh, where the heck am I?” Now you can spend the majority of your time to 80 in dungeons and do quests in your downtime, instead of the other way around. Hell, you can even level, by yourself, as a healing class. You mean practice healing before I hit 80? Whu?!

Beyond the influx of players, by associating LFD with improved loot, Blizzard is actually providing an effort-and-reward system to gear people up to see the last instance of the expansion. Would that they had done this during Sunwell, where the gear gap between puggable content and raiding content was so extreme that players not in the top end guilds were left running ZA and Heroic Magisters ad nauseum until xpac. New players coming into the game, and players rolling alts, now have a means to equip themselves to be able to raid or to PVP through largely their own efforts. And while Emblems of Triumph may flow easily, Emblems of Frost (and access to that gear level) are still somewhat hard to come by for anyone other than the 25-man raider with way too much time on his hands and plenty of geared alts (shifty eyes).


The Other Side of the Coin

The downside, unfortunately, is the sense of entitlement that I think this system has encouraged in raiders of all levels. By providing exactly what so many players have been asking for–on demand raiding (albeit heroics raiding) with no pre-planning required–we now expect it to be exactly that. Players expect everyone to be of equal skill level, equal gear level, and equal mindset (hence achievement and Gearscore requirements). Add to this the “raiding ennui” that players seem compelled to project (regardless of how progressed the player actually is), and it becomes a recipe for prime douchbaggery.

As Blizzard has finally found a way to interconnect the WoW community and encourage us to abandon our sacred guild enclaves to meet new people, we push back and try ever harder to redraw the lines of the raiding hierarchy. (The irony of a social game where people cultivate antisocial skills is particularly poignant here.) Grouping with players of equal gear level is portrayed as requisite to success, and on some servers like Mal’Ganis, passworded “elite” channels are utilized to separate top guilds’ LFG efforts from trade chat untouchables.

So it seems the more we are offered in terms of efficiency, the more we crave it. The faster we are allowed to group (with no effort on our own parts, natch), the faster we expect to be able to do so in the future. The easier it is to obtain good loot, the more we feel we are entitled to it. And the more Blizzard opens up raiding, the more we (raiders) want them to cordon it back off. The more level the playing field, the more we want an added edge.


The Fix?

As to the solution, I definitely find myself in the camp of “I have no idea”. In fact, I’m not even sure the WoW community could come to a consensus about what the real problems of LFD are, or if they did, that there would be any “solutions” powerful enough to shift community behavior and/or perspective. And I can’t help but wonder if maybe the general community sentiment is more a function of the fact that we’re at the end of an xpac, where the gap between entry-level 80 and end-game is much more broad than it was when we were all tumbling around Naxx. (Maybe tolerance is much easier to practice when we’re closer to the level of the tolerated.)

Do I think that there are some tweaks that Blizzard could implement to make the LFD experience more enjoyable? Yes. But that doesn’t mean those adjustments would be enjoyable for everyone, or would be without consequences. For example—if they increased the complexity or length of the dungeon to discourage chain pulling (I’d gladly welcome the re-introduction of large-scale CC or complex tactics), queue times would increase accordingly. If Blizzard segmented the system so that players of equal gearlevel would be grouped together (ohai gearscore-nazi PuG leaders), then the community would lose out on interaction between various types of players. If they removed the ability for players to gain some access to the top level of gear through their own efforts, then your dungeon system goes back to being the wasteland it was. Conversely, if more rewards were incorporated into the system to encourage participation and shorter queue times (hooray no more 20min queue times for double dps parties!) then you can bet that any raider looking for an advantage would be farming his heart out. You get the point.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that the LFD tool was a prime case of “be careful what you wish for”, and hopefully I’ve demonstrated why that’s the case. With the good, comes the bad. In the automatic grouping system we’ve been handed the possibility to have the group we want, when we want it (within reasonable queue tolerances, of course), but there is an opportunity cost associated with it.  And while it’s not “on-demand” raiding, it’s a lot closer than I ever thought Blizzard could make it. If that comes at the price of a slight bit of frustration, I’m still going to be thankful that I no longer have to deal with the alternative.

/2 Healer, LFG.


  1. I agree, LFD is absolutely fantastic for all the reasons you said. And I also enjoy the chance to meet new people just by pressing a button and waiting a few minutes. It’s just sad that so often the people you meet have no interest in anything except getting their emblems as fast as possible, and even when you do meet genuinely great guys they’re normally on another server in your battlegroup.

    Some of my present-day best WoW friends were people I joined PUGs with for 5-mans. Would we have met and become friends in the present LFD environment? Would I have put them on my friends list and whispered them when I was a few short of a 5-man group?

    Blizzard have hinted recently that the *daily* heroic is a bit too extreme and that they plan on changing – but not removing – the way top-end rewards are handed out for doing lower end content. I presume this is a change planned for Cataclysm, but considering how young LFD is it’s amazing how well it’s been implemented already and how much data they must have to base planned changes off of. And what’s more, Blizzard clearly do feel like they know what the “problems” are even if we don’t, and are actively working to solve them.

    At this stage, LFD is one of the few things in WoW that I feel unambiguously optimistic about. (Not that I’m especially pessimistic about other things, it’s just very easy for the game to change in a way that a particular individual does not appreciate when it’s being balanced for 11 million other dudes!)
    .-= Charles´s last blog ..Cathedral Street =-.

  2. Alexis

    I LOVE the LFD tool–it has made it so easy to gear up. I levelled my main to 80 around Christmas and was raiding ICC 2 or 3 weeks later. My guild was dreading having to ‘run me through’ stuff left and right–they did give me a TON of help (Black Chitin Bracers… Ensorcelled Nerubian Breastplate… LOVE being spoiled by our rich resto shaman friend) but after the first couple days I was brave enough to venture out on my own, and heal *full PuGs.* Whoa!

    Did have to deal with some jerks, like a feral druid who pulls aggro and dies painfully in PoS and then brags about pulling aggro with his 9k DPS (…for the first 2 seconds of the fight) and then gives me crap about my green trinkets. Trinkets are HARD to find, man.

    The side-product of my LFD running is my overflow of triumph badges… my alts are all SUPER spoiled and I’ve probably made about 2k gold from buying gems with them and selling them. And I’ve bought every t9 piece for my offspec possible. I’m just running out of stuff to buy.

  3. Kaliiaa

    The fix? Simple. Know how players are asking that similar ilvl people are grouped?

    Do the opposite.

    1) Introduce a system to gauge how new the player is, by encounters done, specific encounters, atls, etc.
    2) Gauge the gear, put them on a scale. Weight different slots as required(such as trinkets or relics).
    3) Attempt to monitor for “OH MY” moments – such as when everyone is in the red, and the healer saves it, or some stupid dps pulls three groups, all at different parts of the room and as far away from tankable as possible, and the tank stops people from getting hit to a man. Obviously, this is secret and never really mentioned(Though they could use it for some nifty achivements). I think this kind of thing may feature in the new bg system, but that has no factual grounding so salt, pinch, etc.

    With these elements, you form a group. Say you need 20k dps to finish heroic large-tree-in-crystal-song. That’s 2k from the tank, 6k from the 3 dps. Assume 5k is the norm entry level for heroics at this point, so 6k is somewhere between entry raids for this cycle, and heroic.

    Dps2, probably a hunter or dk, is only doing 4k dps, but you have a mage, with some of the bis from these early raids, doing 8k. That’s a combined 12k, which with the third dps’ 6k, reaches the 18k requirement of the dungeon for the dps players.

    Why is that dk in there? Well, he’s judge by the system as a player in need of polishing, and is thus grouped with players capable of teaching, helping or otherwise pushing this player along.

    Now, not everyone *wants* to help, which is sad, really, but I see no reason why we can’t introduce a system for the learner to rate the tutors(which would be similar to party guide in selection). Open to trolling? Sure, but I think on average, the players will be appreciative. As far as rewards for this go, it’s hard to exclude those who “tutor” players who already know what’s going on, like their friends, but still make it fun for those who do help. Maybe guild exp, old(wotlk, bc or vanilla) random rep additions, reach an average of x rating, get a pet? Personally I wouldn’t have more than a rating viewed but I doubt that blizzard will find that enough.

    On the whole, the only downside to LFD is the players, so hats off to blizzard on this one; they could not of launched this better.

  4. I like LFD tool as well, despite what I blog about it. But I really do hate the morons in it, most of the time.

    I can appreciate the good sides the LFD tool has – atomatizing things works well in reducing downtime and whatnot, however it really hurts the community sense and brings the worst out of people. Okay, that is not firsthand fault of LFD tool, but still.

    I think there is a fix – you could tie the heroic entry not only to gear score as it is counted now, but maybe to even some sort of achievment for clocking X dps on dummy, not grouped? I mean if there were attunements before, they could as well be now. That being said – dropping group should give you very long debuff at any time, not just the first few minutes.
    .-= Rahana´s last blog ..Cataclysm dispel mechanics, being carried and guest posters? =-.

  5. Monsieur

    Funny, I just read some stuff about government spending and pension plans that fits for the LFG tool as well :) The thing with the government, is that it will promise benefits in the future, like very nice pension plans, and leave it to whoever is in charge in 40 years to fund it. 40 years later the politicians figure; hey! We can’t pay for this, a lot has changed since back then. inflation, less exports, lower population etc. But they can’t change it, because the people are used to it, and what we’re used to we demand.

    I lost track! what was my point again? 😀 oh yeah! The issue is we grow fat and lazy, and we won’t go back, because that makes things harder. Humans are built to collect food and make life as simple and easy as possible. That works great for an animal living in nature, but not so much for modern society or games. It works when your power is limited to your arms and a rock, not so much when your power is the finances of a million people and the lives of a million cows. It’s in our instincts, but it forces us to want to remove the thing that makes games fun, and that’s challenge. And yes, grinding, traveling and knitting are challenges too. There’s a reason great movies aren’t all about explosions and closeups, and there’s a reason the WoW I love has a flightpaths and a real world and not teleports and instanced grinding spots.

    Work is actually rewarding you know 😀 Doooh, that was ranty. I love the LFG tool, but I hate it for making me not fly around and feel like Azeroth is a real world anymore. Theoretically I would remove it, but I could never actually make myself want to remove it.

  6. Monsieur

    Jim Collins 5 stages of decline

    Stage 1: Hubris born of success
    Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant” … insiders see “success virtually as an entitlement” … like Wall Street banks today … they “lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place”

    Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of ‘More
    “leaps into areas where they cannot be great or growing faster than they can achieve with excellence … investing heavily in new arenas where you cannot attain distinctive capability …
    “Greed is Good”

    Stage 3: Denial of risk and peril
    … those in power begin to imperil the enterprise by taking outsize risks and acting in a way that denies the consequences”

    Stage 4: Grasping for salvation
    ” Quick fixes … a charismatic visionary leader … a bold but untested strategy … a radical transformation … dramatic cultural revolution … hoped-for blockbuster product … game-changing acquisition … other silver-bullet solutions. Initial results … may appear positive … do not last.”

    Stage 5: Capitalization to irrelevance … or death
    “The longer a company,” bank or nation “remains in Stage 4, repeatedly grasping for silver bullets, the more likely it will spiral downward. In Stage 5, accumulated setbacks and expensive false starts erode financial strength and individual spirit to such an extent that leaders abandon all hope of building a great future. In some cases the company’s leader just sells out; in other cases the institution atrophies into utter insignificance; and in the most extreme cases the enterprise simply dies outright.”

    Scissored straight(but shortened down) from an article at automatic earth, but I thought it was funny how you can take economic theory and apply it to WoW :)

  7. Excellent reference on the economic theory! I can easily see the parallels on the first 3 stages, but I’m not sure the last two exist in the current dungeon system. At the moment, there is no compelling reason for players to reform our perspective/attitudes because there are no consequences for the risks we take or the abuses we practice. Thus, I think one of the challenges that Blizzard faces when making incentive changes to LFD is the fine line of imposing real consequences which don’t feel too much like a parent scolding a child for not playing nice.

    This ties into the suggestion that Kaliiaa put forth–would it be too heavy-handed of Blizzard to introduce something akin to a community reputation ranking (like faction rep only where the faction is comprised of your fellow players)? Moreover, *should* Blizzard attempt to compel players to make LFD a more positive experience?

    Personally, I’m really excited for the onset of Cata because I think the LFD experience, at least in the beginning, will provide a startling contrast to current status quo, simply by virtue of the fact that the gear divide will be so much smaller.

  8. Bodoth

    I’ve seen the good, bad, and the ugly part of LFD. The bad and the ugly times have had more to do with the egos/mindset of the other people. Regardless of the negative experiences, I think LFD has been a huge success.

    If I could tweak the system it would be to not allow someone to do a heroic version of a level 80 instance without running it on normal mode first. I have no issues when someone tells the group that they just hit level 80 recently so their dps won’t be stellar ( I run my resto shammy with my gf who is a prot pally- even if we ran with 3 new lev 80’s we would not have a problem with exception of the ICC heroics ). However I do have an issue with stopping to explain fights when people say they have never stepped foot inside the instance before. Maybe its just a pet peeve of mine but I would like people to have had some knowledge of the fights. So I would like LFD to limit the random heroics to instance that a toon has already completed on normal. This will help increase people doing regular HoL and HoS- these are usually skipped since the levels for them being 78-80 are so close to a toon hitting 80, i’ve seen people skip the normal version only to run them on heroic.

  9. It might sound strange, but I think the solution, if there is one, is to use the automated group tool and make the runs go on LONGER.

    I loved meeting new people in Dungeon groups. I loved learning to work together, and trying to find that point of connection “oh do you know so-and-so? they used to be in your guild”. The cross-realm dungeon finder sometimes loses that feeling.

    I’d prefer it if the Dungeon Finder didn’t reward the latest Emblem of Whatever. I’m happy for alts and new players to use it to run back to back heroics, but I don’t think anyone who is geared enough for the current tier of raiding should be running heroics too. Most of the time we don’t enjoy it. And having played an alt through heroics, I absolutely hate it when I’m paired up with 1 DPS that can deliver 7-9k DPS. Doesn’t give me a chance to learn anything.

    More teamwork. Longer runs. Make my groups mean something. Something sociable.
    .-= Cassandri´s last blog ..The Future of Raiding =-.

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