In this Geek Week special, there's so much going on in World of Warcraft Patch 5.4 that we thought we would put together a brief summary of all the new features we know about so far. We've got the in-game store, virtual realms, the timeless isle, cross-realm arenas, flexible raiding and the proving grounds... and we haven't even talked about the new raid!
If you want more information on any of the content discussed in the video, WoW Insider has a ton of material for you to peruse, just check out the links below:
Players participating in patch 5.4's new Flexible Raids have noticed that the ilvl for Siege of Orgrimmar loot is set to 540 -- just below the 541 ilvl of current Heroic Thunderforged gear, but above current heroic gear from Throne of Thunder, which is set at 535 before any valor point upgrades are applied. To some players, it may seem as though Blizzard is now encouraging the same kind of multiple-instance running that occurred with the Trial of the Crusader raid and its many, many difficulties.
A thread on the official forums points out that if Flexible Raid gear is better than heroic gear from the previous tier, players will be obligated to run both Flexible and Normal difficulty along with LFR in order to gear up more quickly -- since Flex difficulty doesn't share a lockout with normal modes, it's entirely possible to do so. While the arguments for and against have been both fast and furious, Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas stepped in to clarify just what the reasoning was behind the different ilvls for the different difficulties, as well as the purpose of Flexible Raids.
We had some discussion last week here at WoW Insider regarding the proposed roll-out of the new Flexible Raiding system coming with patch 5.4. If you weren't aware, it was previously proposed that Flex would roll out in phases similar to what we've become used to with Raid Finder, meaning that at the initial release of the tier Flex wouldn't be available, and would come in week-by-week, wing by wing. Blizzard Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street commented on this on Twitter:
@Xinek Not sure yet. We'd like for it to be sooner though. We want flex to seem more attractive to someone on the fence.
Ghostcrawler's approach certainly seems to make sense. By pushing the new difficulty out sooner, more players will be enticed to give it a go, and hopefully more will like it. However, the downside for this is of course the hardcore players, who might feel even more obliged to take on the new difficulty for gear if it's rolled out sooner. However, they are such a minute percentage of the player base that it seems illogical to excessively punish the rest for their benefit!
What's your take on this? When should Flex appear? Personally, I think I'd like to see the first wing release at roughly the same time as heroic, and then a wing per week until it's all out. I think Raid Finder should probably follow about a week behind that. But this is really just personal, and maybe you feel differently? If you do, then why?
As with any new feature, confusion abounds around Flexible Raiding and just how it will work. Blizzard Community Manager Taepsilum took to the forums to clarify various aspects, including lockouts.
Right now, the idea is to have FR lockouts work very similarly to lockouts in LFR.
You will be able to repeat bosses, and that will actually still be somewhat rewarding, you'll be able to use additional bonus rolls, earn Valor Points, and potentially loot some shinnies from trash...
There's something unique about FRs though, I'll explain it with an example:
Let's say you join a 12man and kill the first boss, leave the raid, and join a 20man, you might have to repeat the first boss.
"Might", so how does that work?
If everyone in the new 20man raid has already killed the first boss just like you did, then that boss will not spawn.
But even if only 1 of the players in that 20man has not killed the first boss, he will spawn again and everyone else will have to repeat the encounter.
Welcome back to episode three of the WoW Insider Round Table! This week, we had Olivia Grace, Dawn Moore, Matt Low and Sarah Pine, and new panelist Joe Perez, and our topic of discussion was, inevitably, flexible raiding. We started off, selfishly, by giving our own opinions, the panel runs teh gamut from the hardcore end to the casual, so we had most perspectives covered. We discussed whether this would cause or contribute to burnout among hardcore raiders, as well as wondering what the impact on casual guilds would be.
We then moved on to consider the new tier's impact on the Raid Finder, whether players would choose to run this new content instead of the Raid Finder, particularly tanks, and while the panel concluded that a good number of them would, they were fairly sure that, while queue times were likely to increase, the Raid Finder would not die an untimely death.
As far as other considerations for the new raid system, the panel discussed some of the issues inherent with flexible raid sizes, particularly the numbers and how abilities would scale, before moving on to talk about the looting system chosen -- the same as the system for Raid Finder. We concluded, just as we began, that this was a system that would have a positive impact, far more so than the Raid Finder. One panelist even asserted that this was what they always should have done, instead of LFR. We hope you enjoyed this panel, and if you have any ideas for future topics, do let us know!
Just when I think I have Blizzard figured out, they throw us a curveball. Only a month ago, I made the case on the Starting Zone podcast that raiding had evolved into three difficulty levels, and those levels could be compared to the easy, normal, and hard modes that most single-player games offer. I wrote in a column that normal mode raiding should now be labeled "guild raiding," because it took a certain level of coordination to succeed at that level. Normal raiding is no longer PUG friendly.
I said on the podcast that Blizzard is still figuring out just where the difficulty of normal modes should lie on the curve. It seemed that once their encounter designers figured out the appropriate tuning for the three modes, that is what raiding would look like for all foreseeable upcoming tiers and expansions.
As it turned out, Blizzard had a new raiding system hidden up their sleeve the entire time -- a system that few could have predicted. Let's look at the potential impact of this new way to raid and how your guild might need to adjust.
With the introduction of flexible raiding a certain conversation is cropping up again. It's a conversation about raid lockouts. Back when LFR was first introduced during Dragon Soul, quite a few players began to argue that they felt forced to run LFR in addition to the raid itself. Then, as we moved into Mists of Pandaria raiding, this discussion intensified. I had my own opinion on the issue, which was basically that no, raid finder should not share a lockout with normal mode raiding. Luckily, Blizzard didn't do that, coming up with other ways to reduce LFR's desirability for people who run normal/heroic raids.
Now, with flexible raiding, the argument that it should share a lockout with normal/heroic raids is being resurrected because again players are afraid they will be forced to run it. I'm opposed to this idea for a variety of reasons.
Sharing the lockout between flexible raiding and normal/heroic raiding means that if you choose to step down to flex for a night because you were short people, you'll either be locked into flex or you'll need to be able to switch back and forth between them. Either players will be punished for going flex, or they'll be using it to bypass encounters that are 'too hard' on normal. This isn't meant to be a means to game raid difficulty.
Sharing the lockout between 10 and 25 man raiding nearly killed 25 man raiding. A shared lockout between flexible raiding and normal raids would probably be enough to finish the job, because as 25 man guilds lost members and made use of the flexible raid to keep running, there would be very little incentive to recruit and less incentive for new players to join.
Flex raiding is being rolled out to test the waters - we have no idea how the final implementation will shake out. Burdening it with a shared lockout adds a further complication which isn't needed at this time. For all we know, flexible raiding will be how all raids work in the next expansion. Even if it isn't, we need to give it time before we make it jump through more hoops.
People need to stop begging Blizzard to keep them from playing the game.
Number five is probably the most controversial point, and it's also the most important to my eyes. I don't know where certain players came up with this idea that Blizzard needs to save them from doing things but it needs to stop. If you're not in a guild that's pushing content in the first week or two of its existence, you will not need to run flexible raids for gear to push that content faster any more than you need to run LFR for that.