After my last post about my positive experience with the LFR tool, some of my twitter friends had a discussion about the LFR tool and issues that tend to arise with being grouped with random people. Random people, mind you, who may not have your intentions in mind, who may not care about you or your feelings or needs, who is only looking to satisfy their own desires for E-Glory, loot, etc. People, as fortune usually would tell us, who can be downright mean, rude, demanding, or any other myriad of undesirable personalities, and who aren't afraid to let us know where we mess up.
Without giving too many details away in respect to their privacy, this friend had an incident in a Well of Eternity group, and since then is unable to go back into said group for many reasons. This inability to do the instance could prevent my friend from being able to do LFR. This would prevent my friend from seeing the end of the game that I talked about a bit in my last post. Eventually, as we discussed, my friend will get to see the final battle with Deathwing, in all it's fiery glory. But it may not be until Pandaria is being explored, or if that item squish thing happens, maybe further depending on what happens with the older raids. I told my friend that I would be there for them if they needed help with grouping, but after our conversation, I got to thinking.
My wife is the same way as my friend in some respects. She doesn't like getting yelled at, doesn't like being told what she is doing is wrong, that sort of thing. My wife isn't dumb, she knows what she needs to do. She just has no desire to do research for a video game (I think I talked about that a few posts ago). In all likelihood, my wife will not get to experience the final battle with Deathwing either. So that's two people in my circle who may not see the dragon beastly thing fall. How many more could be out there, unable to participate in LFR, and for whatever reason, is unable to participate in the final act in a meaningful way?
The truth is, we don't know. We may never know. I assume that there are a good amount of people that ARE doing LFR. I don't have numbers to back that up, however. But beyond them, you have the 85s that aren't interested in raiding at all, and only want to beat each other up in Arena's or Battlegrounds. I assume that leaves a fair amount of max level characters that could participate in LFR, but for whatever reason, they just can't or don't. So how do we include them in the story?
There's a couple of things WoW has done in the past to accomplish this. In Vanilla, you had the AQ events to unlock that place, and I'm not sure if there was an event to lead up to Naxxramas. In Burning Crusade, you had the Isle of Quel'danas dailies, as well as Magister's Terrace, that gave a slight level of involvement. But Magister's Terrace was a heroic, and a hard one at that, that had little to do with Sunwell in my opinion. Wrath had a fairly decent lead-up to ICC, again, in my opinion, with the three dungeons with the nice gear upgrades. The final boss of the final dungeon had you running from the main antagonist, however. Not very heroic of our heroes to be running alongside Jaina or Sylvanas for our very lives. Still, we got to see Arthas at least. But again, these were heroics with potentially complicating mechanics and moderate risk encounters. And while, yes, both the Terrace and ICC heroics also had normal modes, nobody ran them, because everyone wanted the higher gear upgrades. Those that did run the normal versions dropped group if their one item upgrade didn't drop.
Cataclysm took a step back here, surprise, in my opinion. The gear gap from the heroics gives you a better chance to participate in raids, however the final story doesn't really feature the main antagonist in any way. Rather, it has you jumping through hoops to acquire the only thing that could destroy Deathwing. This is similar to the Magister's Terrace encounter, which featured a reborn Kael'Thas as the end boss (which led to a phenomenon I shan't reconstruct). While interesting, I think Blizzard missed an opportunity to have Deathwing pop in and try to stop our heroes, or something. Not only that, but Cataclysm end game heroics don't have a normal option, a shift that Blizzard intends to take with them in Pandaria; why run normals when you can run heroics instead? Well, because not everyone can handle heroics. Some people couldn't even handle normals in Wrath or BC.
All of these end game encounters share something, though. Despite their differences, they all featured boss mechanics that asked much of the players compared to heroics from earlier in the expansion. This is also becoming a trend in the game in general, where players adapt to mechanics and don't feel challenged. In return, Blizzard has to step up the difficulty, often by throwing stuff on the ground, adding AoE packs, making us move, avoiding moving walls, etc, and while they have said before they would never do an other Oculus type encounter, I'm sure they could improve upon the mechanic and implement it in a different way. This does nothing to ease the fears of a gun-shy healer, like myself, or a pull-shy tank such as my spouse. This creates more stress, and stress isn't very fun. I play this game to avoid stress, not experience it.
Can Blizzard realistically implement something for non-raiders, or for that matter, non-dungeoneers, that gives us a feeling of immersion? Can they give us a taste; a real, honestly, good sized portion of the final act? Could Blizzard implement a way for every player to experience the story while it's still current, in a low stress/decent reward scenario? I believe they can, and if you saw the Blizzcon coverage a while back, I bet you know where I'm going with this.
Scenarios! Remember them? Remember when they said that they would implement a way for us to group up and take on story lines without necessarily needing a dedicated 5 man group? Remember the speculation that came with this announcement? It's still there, on the Pandaria features page. It's not filled in yet, but it's there, and with it lay infinite possibilities. I know that at Blizzcon they had a picture of a Kobold and something about the Jangolode Mine or something like that. But what's to stop them from keeping them away from end game content? Imagine, if you will, a scenario like this for current time. Deathwing, in human form, is torturing Thrall while imbedded in the earth, as in The Charge of the Aspects short story from a while back. Imagine that we heroes are trying to distract Human form Deathwing while Thrall is trying to free himself. Yes, you'd have to change that story up a bit, but the possibility is there. While I'm sure Blizzard could come up with something cooler, they can do it in a more friendly, welcoming, relaxed way. A way that everyone could experience. However, it's never that easy with Blizzard is it?
Look on that page I linked about Pandaria's features. The LAST thing on that page, that is yet to be filled in, is scenarios themselves. What if scenarios become Path of the Titans or the Dance Studio or the Helicopters of Wintergrasp? There are other issues, too. For example, if you implement a cool story in scenarios, how do you make those encounters more epic for the dungeons, and the dungeons to the raids? What kind of rewards would scenarios yield to encourage players to take the leap to the next level if they so desire? How do you make an encounter exciting without making it overly complicated or hard to manage?
These are questions Blizzard will have to answer. These are also reasons why I, as much as I hate to say it, feel that ultimately, scenarios WILL become the dance studio of Pandaria. It's unfortunate, but I am not sure if making a short window to the end story is really a priority of Blizzard. Prove me wrong guys. Please. I want a fast pass to the end game. I want access to a low stress, epic encounter that won't be a huge time sink, such as an LFR raid (because it still takes a couple hours to do LFR). I want something that could break the mold of Tank-Healer-3 DPS, something me and a couple Real ID friends could take on. Just 3 of us or so. I want to see what Blizzard could do with that. I think many of us do.
I would love to learn to be a better tank in a scenario. I would love to refresh my healing skills in a scenario. I would love to teach my wife to tank in a scenario. I would love to just have fun or goof around in a scenario. Not everyone can handle heroics, as easy as they may be to others. Not everyone can handle LFR raids, as easy as that may be for others. Sometimes I can't handle criticism in game, as constructive as it may seem. Especially on the internet, when it's hard to pick up on inflection, you only have text to rely on. If I read the text with the wrong intent in mind, I might take it as an attack and start to shut down. I did that yesterday at work. For no good reason I started to amp myself up, preparing for an attack that never came. It ruined my day. It's stupid that words or the actions of others could have such an impact on us. But we're out here. We exist. I exist.
That's why I think scenarios would be a great addition. Low pressure, moderate reward, and a sense of immersion and contribution to the end game, when it's still relevant. Could Blizzard do it? Sure. Will they? We'll find out in a week or so at the press release. Until then, it's business as usual, with crossed fingers that you don't end up with a jerk face in your group talking down to you because you can't keep up with him. Because, unfortunately in today's end game formula, there are still more of them then there are of me.