The Raid Observer: Week 1, The Day it Hit the Fan
So... things went a bit pear-shaped today. And I'm talking pears the size of 8-days!
And I will reveal the spookiest fact of this raiding race so far... read on to find out!
The LFR Exploit: Straw That Broke the Camel's Back?
I was supposed to be minding my own business, writing up my thesis, and adding a few wee raid observations every day on how things were going. It was supposed to be calm. But noooooo, it went all Titanic on me.
The drama started on Thursday night and Friday morning (really) when forum threads went up alleging an exploit of the LFR and came to a head last night and today when official action was taked by Blizzard to respond to those players who had engaged in this exploit. Lockouts appear to range from 72-hours to 8-days and item removal appears total in scope, meaning that any items gained through the LFR will be confiscated. The response was strong, to say the least, which may be due to the scope of what happened or just because enough was finally enough. Many raiders (including many from top guilds) had long complained that other exploits had gone ignored in previous tiers, so maybe this was just the time to take a punitive stand.
I'd say, anecdotally, that the reactions on the part of the raiders I've been speaking with has run the gamut.
- Some have felt relieved and happy to see what they felt was an obvious and blatant abuse of the game (aka "cheating") being dealt with in a forceful manner.
- Some have felt vindicated in their own decision not to engage in the exploit, despite knowing it was there and feeling tempted to try it.
- Some have seemed surprised or taken aback by the severity of the punishment, particularly the duration and the fact that it had to start last night/today rather than a few days ago, when news of the exploit first came out.
- Some have been philosophical, accepting the fact that they made a mistake and considering how they and their guild will regroup and get past this handicap once they can rejoin the race.
Naturally some are wavering between a couple of these feelings and will probably continue to feel mixed emotions as the days wear on, particularly those who need to come up with a Plan B as a guild now that the heroic race is starting in the US. For me (and remember, I write here with my own opinions and not the opinions of Paragon or any other raiding guild), I think the timing and duration reflect something very important and compelling. I think it's a clear message that this particular infraction was not taken lightly and that the punishment needed to impact those individuals to whom the actual progress race means the most. If, for example, the guilds involved had received a 3-day suspension on, say, Saturday, that would mean that they'd be done with a ban by today and their handicap would be minimal, at best. Or if, for example, Blizzard had simply removed extraneous items, well a hard-working group would have at least regained some of that gear (using the creative, albeit legitimate method that other non-banned guilds had used, for example). But to time this suspension to begin the day BEFORE the reset happens AND to bleed into the next week AND remove all LFR items... well that can hurt even the most innovative and resilient guilds out there.
So what does this mean? Well, as folks (the ones who were not trolling or overreacting to this whole situation) have been saying all along, not all of the top ten globally-ranked chose to pursue this particular line of action, which means we still have some of the most talented guilds in the world starting off on time today/tomorrow. They will likely lead the pack the first reset and even into the next week. This will all depend on how things transpire as the guilds move into the latter half of the instance. There is always a point where the so-called cake walk (don't you love these guys? it's ok, I'll just challenge them to bake a cake and then we'll see who's epic) of a raiding instance starts to challenge even the most prepared and skilled guilds and the progress slows down. The question is will that be at 4/8, 6/8, or at the final encounter itself? All of these walls will present a possible chance for the guilds who may be watching from the sidelines for 8 days to catch up once they are back in the race, or they may not be enough of an opportunity for these handicapped guilds to break through and reclaim or improve on their Firelands ranking.
Oh something else. This LFR situation may have adversely impacted the banned guilds most directly, but the impact is more far-reaching than just those who got into trouble. While those involved are able to hold their heads high knowing their decision not to exploit the bug paid off, some of them are cynically predicting that even if they manage to down every single boss first and with justifiable skill, people will always say "oh that's just because the 'best' guilds were banned". This has a tainting affect on the race. We may never feel resolved about the race, no matter what happens in the end. Questions and "would have"/"should haves" may accompany anything we might say or think, regardless of where we stand on the issue. Even if the banned guilds that come back into the race and manage to pull off an amazing feat by catching up and even pulling off the ultimate World First, there may be those naysayers who question if they exploited any bugs or applied any "creative mechanics" to succeed, no matter how cleanly they finished the race. I can promise you that no one wanted the race to end up this way and on reflection I think most would prefer a clean, fair, bug free race without the temptations and perceived rewards that such a exploit provided. Talk about the ultimate Siren. I think we have to have some serious discussions about what we can do to avoid this in the future because I think the world first race is a great element of our raiding culture and I'd hate to see us stuck in this moment.
So... I wonder if anyone thought about the fact that this is Tier 13.
And my usual disclaimer: I am not a member of DREAM Paragon, I have just been asked to provide a regular update on my observations of the raiding race for Patch 4.3 as it unfolds. All typos, misunderstandings, and opinions are my own (though my cat may cause the typos if she walks on my keyboard) and may or may not represent the views of Paragon and its actual members. Please do go and visit my research blog that has more information about my doctoral research into raiding, raiding culture, and WoW, http://www.raidingresearch.co.uk.