First: I almost completely agree. I think "Crippled" is a bit harsh, and I think they're making great strides to fix a lot of their mistakes, but I would like to sort of expand upon some of your analysis.
LFR - LFR is an interesting idea. It's a way to just casually queue up and be able to do content on your own time without having to be sociable. It's the "ultra PUG". It's how you do raiding content in single player mode and you can go all League of Legends style and just lambaste anyone you want because you'll never seen them again, so whatever!
The problem is that LFR falls to the same fates that LFD did - it takes away the MM part of an MMORPG - massively multiplayer. I think there could/SHOULD be fun solo content. I'm not sure LFR was the right answer, but it happened anyways. And like most quality of life improvements, even if it takes away some major aspect of the game (socializing, realm identity and communities, etc. etc.), it's not going away.
Let's face it. Flex is what Blizzard SHOULD have done, and probably would have liked to have done, and never had LFR be a thing in general. Too late now, all they can really do is make flex as bamf as possible to try and get people out of LFR and in to "real" raiding where... you know you have to coordinate with people and do mechanics and not be a douche bag.
On to the next thing I want to talk about: LFD/Heroic 5 man aoe fests.
I agree with you here, but I don't think LFD/AEFest was the REAL culprit here.
The REAL culprit - valor.
DUN DUN DUUUNNNNN. Now hang in there with me a second. At the end of TBC you had was it justice points then? Or... it was something else and then justice points, i don't even remember what it was called. The point is it was a BOP currency used to buy gear. The problem becomes that farming that currency becomes quite a chore. So what blizzard did in WotLK was make it so that the content previously used to farm that currency (5 mans) was now HYPER easy... so you could just farm/grind. If the instances were too difficult then it would take far too long to farm that currency.
What is it taking a long time a problem? Well at the beginning of WotLK the philosophy of WoW changed. The creators no longer wanted to spend vast amounts of time on content only a small portion would get to see (SWP). They wanted a game where you could log in for 30 minutes of a lunch break and accomplish something. They wanted you to not have to spend all your free time finding a group to do something. EQ started to suffer very poorly from this towards the end of my stent playing. You sat in trade just "Ranger LFG" for hours then just logging off. It's not fun, you're not DOING anything. They also wanted to make it so all people could raid. Instances were subsequently easier (naxx) or had multiple difficulties catering to a broad range of players (ToC), or had an incremental buff that allowed people to progress through the instance faster than normal gear upgrades (ICC). The only raid that really nailed it was Ulduar, imo.
But I digress... back to valor. Blizzard needed a way for people to grind the much needed in game currency (because let's face it, the rewards in WotLK/Cata were much better overall for valor than in TBC) TBC, as I recall, was sort of "last tier's consolation gear". Valor in WotLK was needed for TIER GEAR. Like WTF? You had to grind this stuff and blizzard didn't want you to have to spend 2 hours finding a group that would take 3 hours to clear the instance. So... AOE Fest ensues.
Now Reev and I have argued a lot about this actually, and I think the reason for the argument, now that I'm typing this out, is that the purpose of those 5 mans was different from TBC to WotLK. In WotLK it was to farm valor. In TBC it was to have fun and farm your intro raid gear. TBC was much more continuous. You hit 70, you did 5 mans until you had the gear for Kara which you did until you could do 25 man content then you really needed to complete each tier to get to the next (btw, I love this model, because as you say it always gives casual players something to work towards, in Cata especially there was almost zero reason to do previous tiers once the next one came out). In WotLK you needed 5 mans to quickly farm your weekly valor.
So... blizzard did what they did for 2-3 or so expansions - they changed an aspect of the game that was difficult, removed the social aspect from it, and turned it in to an LOLgrindfest to farm shit. Now... for farming... I LOVE AoE Fests. I love being able to walk in and just destroy shit. Feels kinda like Diablo. "I'M HERE AND I AM THE SLAYER OF GOODS, MUWAHAHHA DIE YOU PUNY EVIL MINIONS!!!" That's fun every now and then. Even today sometimes I queue as tank in my heroic fury gear and just roll through the instance laughing my ass off.
So... here's my HOPES for WOD - 5 mans become hard again and scenarios are the "here grind your currency you grindmonkey that only has 15 minutes" format. 5 mans, imo, should NOT drop valor. Or maybe only from the last boss and it's just way more efficient to farm scenarios, like it is now. But 5 mans SHOULD drop epic entry-raid level gear. There needs to be a reason to do them, they need to be at least somewhat challenging - perhaps requiring CC *gasp* - the bosses need to have real mechanics, and the reward for that difficulty needs to be justified. Or maybe they could drop an item that gives you a random tertiary stat to a piece of gear if you collect so many, or maybe only 1 drops per instance or something like that. I would love for 5 mans to be a viable, difficult, challenging format, and now that there's something you can do to be all grindy and farm your gearscorecurrencyvalorshits from (heroic scenarios), maybe blizzard will stop shitting on 5 mans.
My FEARS for WOD - and hang on with me on this one and let me explain - OQueue destroys WoW.
Apparently the blizz devs are working with the folks that made OQueue in order to make their new flex raid searching tools for WoD. I am scared scared scared SHITLESS that this is going to turn into LFR with more bickering and and wipes and people just getting frustrated and saying fuck it because they're never going to see these people in a queue again so whatever. I see that starting to happen already and it's really frustrating. Flex raid is amazing because it brings BACK the social aspects of the game in a capacity that has never been seen before. It allows people to be more casual with the game and is just perfect. I love it... but I love it because there ISN'T a built in autoqueue option that rips the social aspect right out of the game again. Oqueue does that.
Is this really what we, as WoW players and really... gamers in general have turned in to? Do we really just want a fucking queue lobby for everything we do regardless of if we're playing Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, or whatever? AS LONG AS IT IS MULTIPLAYER WE MUST HAVE QUEUE LOBBIES.
"If the world is something you accept rather than interpret, then you're susceptible to the influence of charismatic idiots." -Neil deGrasee Tyson
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