I was reading Kotaku a couple weeks ago and came across an interesting article about the upcoming Cross-Server Raid Finder in World of Warcraft. This is big news, why aren’t bloggers talking about it?! I read that article and I couldn’t help feeling like this might be WoW’s last big game-changing move in the MMO genre. And frankly, if it takes off anything like the 5-man tool, it will affect all of us. And it will… take off that is.
Because this opens the door to a whole new array of players. Not only will the time-constrained finally be able to raid, but the skill-short will too. Though the article doesn’t explicitly say so, it sure sounds like Blizzard is planning a whole new tier of raid content just past the level of heroics. Right now, players can choose 10- and 25-man raiding, the former being distinctly less forgiving than the last. Except, the new tool will automatically assign players 10-man groups, so how far down does that difficulty level need to drop?
Probably pretty darn far if you consider players won’t expect to actually speak while completing them. Voice chat? Nah, bro, I don’t talk to people on the internet. Cut out the communication and you cut out 90% of the need for organization. Players who don’t talk simply cannot complete raid content in today’s WoW. In patch 4.3, I give it three weeks before players are running things silently.
The gear, though they say will be lesser-quality than what normal- or heroic-mode raiders get, will still have to be fairly weighty. Otherwise, why bother with something that takes so much extra time? Then again, will these raids require that much time in the first place? If there’s no weekly save timer, you’ve got to be able to complete them fairly quickly.
How do they do that, you ask? I say that they drastically cut back on trash pulls and give bosses a fraction of their normal health.
All of these things might combine to create a new expectation of raiding. New games coming out better take note of how well this does because players sure will. And let’s face it, Blizzard would have to really screw up to make players not like this thing. Opening the doors to raiding was one of the last big things they could do to make MMOs “accessible” to the masses. Prepare to have people clamoring for this feature in MMO cut-and-pastes to come.
Despite how this might sound, I’m not totally opposed to the idea. WoW is a raiding game and gating that off was always doomed to fail. Once they decided that post-heroic gameplay boiled down to “raid, re-roll, or re-subscribe to another game,” they ensured it would never last, especially not after making MMO players out of a lot of people who used to thumb their nose at us. And getting to see the best and brightest of what WoW has to offer is a very good thing. Patch 4.3 will mean never having to miss seeing how a story ends again.
The thing is, depending on how much this takes off, it could re-define raiding as we know it. If your average raider turns into a LFR-tool devotee, meaning that tool-users outnumber guild groups, the then the market raid content in WoW, and by proxy every game that follows suit, will be serving a different audience than they ever have. What say you?