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      NEWS: The Baffling Popularity of Looking for Raid
      LFR Menu
      World of Warcraft

      In most circles, Looking for Raid in World of Warcraft is something of a joke. Considered a means to serve the lowest common denominator, this pick up group style raiding commands little respect from the community. To add even more fuel to the fires of disdain, LFR can be directly linked to the current and pressing issue of what may be the eventual extinction of the guild.

      Despite the seemingly general consensus that LFR is nothing more than a rather large in-game joke; it manages to remain one of the biggest and most popular ways players choose to take on the raiding scene. With community opinion of this raiding form seemingly so low, how does LFR manage to flourish? We took a long look at LFR and the players that use it and came up with five major reasons that LFR is still thriving and why it has become an essential part of the game.

      Time Constraints

      Raiding has always been a time consuming adventure. Most guilds dedicate at a minimum 2-3 hours a night, 2-3 nights a week. This does not include time to farm materials for consumables or learning new strategies. While this doesn't seem like much, for players with family, jobs, and other real life obligations; it can be nearly impossible to commit to such a schedule.

      This is where LFR comes in. Any player, at any time of the day, can log into the game and instantly be in a raid instance with a raid group. That player can choose to stay for 1 boss only or kill all the bosses in the instance, with no consequences for either option. Even more appealing to those on a limited time schedule, you are fairly likely to kill any and all bosses you attempt, giving you seemingly more value for the meager time you have to offer to the game.

      No Guild Required

      Long gone is the time of the mega guild. In fact, finding a guild in general these days has become a challenge. Finding one that will last the first few months you join it is even rarer. Besides the difficulties of locating and staying in an active guild, many players find they are unable to or unwilling to conform to the guild schedule.

      While LFR has been another nail in the coffin of the guild, it isn't the only thing to blame. The dissolution of guilds has been going on for quite some time and while LFR isn't helping, it is a boon for players who have found themselves cast out on the wind, guildless and alone. With no guild required, players can step into the world of raiding, defeat bosses, collect loot, and experience most of the end game content the game has to offer.

      Loot Assurance

      If you are doing more traditional raiding loot is not always guaranteed. You might not kill a boss and if you do, you might not receive any loot from that boss. Once a boss is killed, only so many pieces drop and those that do are typically divvied out using a DKP or loot council system. This means that it is quite common for many players to walk away from a raid instance with absolutely no new loot.

      For many players, this is just the way things are. Others are not so happy to walk away without a reward. For these players, LFR is a shining beacon of awesome. Like one giant loot pinata, players who take on LFR are likely to consistently kill the boss and collect some sort of loot from it.

      Burn Out

      Many players who are taking part in LFR these days were once hardcore raiders. They spent hours, days, weeks, farming and wiping on content. Unfortunately, this pace is not one that can easily be sustained. Most players find they can only take so many wipes, rage quits, /gquits, guild meltdowns, loot squabbles and other drama before you find yourself at your wits end. Call it progression PTSD if you will, but after years of taking on normal raiding, many players just can't stomach it anymore. LFR fills the void of raiding, without the stress.

      Aging Demographic

      World of Warcraft is over 10 years old and the fan base has aged with it. While new players come in, I think it is safe to say that most subscriptions belong to long term players. Back in the days of mega guilds and hard core raiding, most players were young with plenty of time on their hands. Fast forward to today and things have changed drastically.

      The fan base has gotten older and as we've aged we have collected a plethora of responsibilities. Family, full time jobs, and other similar commitments keep us from committing as much time to the game as we used to. Thus, many of us have turned to LFR to suit our schedules and time restraints. This way we still get to “raid”, without compromising any of our real life obligations. Unless a surge of fresh, young blood arrives on the scene, the aging fan base will continue to make LFR a popular and essential part of the game.

      Despite its part in the current dismal state of guilds and the overwhelming disdain being aimed at it from the community, LFR is here to stay. For the reasons above and many more, LFR is the chosen method of raiding for many players and, pending unforeseen circumstances, it is and will be an essential part of the game well into the future.

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      NEWS: RNG in Hearthstone Isn't Actually a Bad Thing
      RNG in Hearthstone Isn't Actually a Bad Thing
      Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

      For quite some time now, the debate around “RNG” has run rampant in the Hearthstone community. An acronym for “random number generation”, RNG simply refers to any action in game that has a component of randomness. This can be something like the Shaman’s hero power (which summons one of four random totems), or the infamous Boom Bots which randomly choose a target, and randomly deal between 1-4 damage to that target.

      There will always be complaints about RNG in the game, especially after a player loses a match in a fairly spectacular way thanks to “bad luck.” However, the flip side of that is that their opponent experienced a huge thrill by winning a game they thought was all but lost. This brings us to our first point:


      Experiencing the rush

      If you’ve played Hearthstone for any significant amount of time, you’ve had that game. The game where the situation looks almost hopeless, where any chance for a comeback seems like a pipe dream. You play your last possible card, hoping that the Hearthstone gods will smile down upon you. Suddenly, the (almost) impossible happens: your random effect hits exactly as you need it to, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat! You’re ecstatic, your heart is racing, and you can’t help but have a huge smile as you stare at the victory screen, unable to believe your luck. The sensation is incredible, and it’s that kind of adrenaline rush that will ensure you keep coming back.


      If a seasoned vet like Brian Kibler can get this excited, the rest of us can (and will) feel it too


      Maintaining a huge player base

      That brings us to our second point. The vast majority of Hearthstone players will never compete in a single tournament, and it’s important for the long-term health of the game that these players stick around. Randomness ensures two things: 1) A less-skilled player will at least have a chance against a player with greater skill, and 2) There’s always something, aside from our own shortcomings, that we can blame a loss on. That last point could be expanded on greatly, and likely warrants its own article. Basically, it’s important for players to be able to blame losses on some external factor, so that they keep coming back to play. If they feel that losses are their own fault and they’re just a bad player, many will simply stop playing a game they feel they have no chance in.


      This is a spectator-friendly game

      One of the huge draws of Hearthstone is how much fun it is to watch. It’s consistently one of the most-viewed games on Twitch, and large tournaments tend to pull in a large viewer base. The layout is beautiful, and the visual effects are fantastic to watch, even for a casual fan. Part of what makes the game enjoyable to spectate to a large audience is the unpredictability of the game. Having those “NO WAY, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT HAPPENED!” moments goes a long way towards keeping spectators engaged over the long run. Again, one of the most appealing qualities to Hearthstone is how easy it is for new players/spectators to become engaged with the game. Those moments go a long way towards not only drawing people in, but keeping them interested.


      It’s actually not as bad for eSports as you think

      There are those that will agree with my above points, but believe that there’s too much RNG for Hearthstone to be taken seriously as an eSport. While I understand that viewpoint, I must respectfully disagree. First of all, Hearthstone is already making its name in the eSports community. It’s currently happening, it’s only getting bigger, and it’s doing it despite the presence of random effects.

      2014 champion Firebat is still a top-tier player. That's not just luck.


      Secondly, the fact is, the most successful tournament decks typically try to eliminate randomness as effectively as possible. The top deck over the last 6 months has been Patron Warrior, which uses exactly 0 RNG-based effects. One of the biggest counter-picks to this deck has been Mid-range Druid, whose only random effects come from Piloted Shredder. One of the other most popular picks has been Demon Handlock, who only get randomness from Voidcaller. Even then, that level of randomness is somewhat controllable.

      Do we sometimes see random effects have a large effect on an important tournament game? Yes, it has happened, and it will happen again in the future. However, on average, RNG-based effects are rarely the deciding factor in top-level matches. The pros generally go out of their way to avoid decks that are extremely RNG-dependent, as seen by the fact that Tempo Mage, generally considered a strong deck, is a pretty niche pick in tournament play.

      I’ll close this part out with a quote from Senior Game Designer Ben Brode:

      “You know actually I think the randomness can increase the skill required to play a game. If you imagine a game of Hearthstone except you ordered all the cards in your deck, then you could learn every game you play your 1 drop, you play your 2 drop, your 3 drop, your 4 drop, etc...but because it's random, the order you get your cards, you often see game situations that you've seen before or that no one's ever seen before. Really great players can figure out what to do in new situations better than other players. And so cards that increase randomness into the game state actually can increase the amount of skill required to solve novel game states. So I think randomness adds exciting new stories and suspense and it can make the game more skillful if you do it right.”


      Card games always involve some level of randomness

      While Hearthstone may take the idea of RNG a bit further than we’re used to, card games always have randomness attached to them. The most common form is simple: Did you draw the cards you needed to win? It can go beyond that, as if you spend any time with Magic: The Gathering players, you’ll hear complaints about “mana screw” or “mana flood.” Different card games might be affected by randomness in various ways, but it’s always there. Heck, even poker players deal with randomness, and sometimes lose to inferior players because of it, but there are still people who play for a living. The reason for that is simple, and it’s the final thought I’ll leave you with:


      Even with randomness present, the most skilled players will always find a way to be successful in the long run

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      NEWS: Let's Talk Monetization

      WildStar is now free-to-play and is probably one of the most talked about games amongst my friends, who so far from me asking around, don't mind the F2P model and rather like it. This brings us back to the age ‘ol question about what is the right way to monetize an MMO, or also known as, how humanity’s desire for static environments equates to archaic models constantly being used because of a fear of rejection of new technology and the exploitation that can come with it, along with the inherent natural filtration that a monthly fee brings.

      That’s a run-on sentence, I think, but that doesn’t discredit the idea that monetization is the most important topic one could have to the success of an MMO. We’re now at the point now where monetization has reached crazy new levels of insanity, with players prepaying for content years in advance of game launches while other players snub their nose at the idea of giving a specific game literally any money for anything.

      Once we left the world of a monthly subscription fee, we’ve entered into some bizarro world where there is so many different payment models, and a few that work well.  WildStar, SWTOR, and TESO all share about the same model – the game works if you don’t pay, but you’ll probably want to subscribe not to have to buy all of the subscription features if you’re playing a long time, otherwise you can load it up and play whenever you want.

      Yet there is a bazillion other schemes, games like Guild Wars 2 bring you in with a box fee (that’s now waived) and charge you for currency bought in their store and other various knick-knacks that make life a bit easier.

      All of the games usually involve lockboxes, even though it’s a stupid idea and does nothing but make people upset, sad, or feel as if whatever is contained within those boxes will never be theirs.

      Meanwhile, games like Marvel Heroes let you pretty much earn anything in the game you want, but if you want something specific right now then you pay up.

      Daybreak lets you pay one subscription fee for all of the games. All of them.

      Wait a minute, what? Daybreak lets you pay a subscription fee for all of the games? Woah? Who knew? Well, I mean, everyone since it’s been forever but that’s a novel idea. Wouldn’t it be cool for like $20 you got subscriber level benefits to several MMOs? If the studios could come together on something like that, that’d be really cool – you get all of the perks, expect like the monthly rewards, for several titles.

      Moving on, we’re pretty much at a point now where it’s obvious free-to-play is a requirement of any future titles. The bigger question, and one I even keep asking, is what do we do from here? What’s the best flavor of free-to-pay?

      I personally enjoy buy it and forget it, but there are dangers with that. If I buy Elite Dangerous right now, I’ll have to rebuy the game again when the expansion launches (although there are some specific perks to doing that). So I’m stuck between not buying it now and saving some money, or buying it now and just eating the cost to play in the short term.

      No matter which way it goes, when money enters the equation people feel bad, but it’s okay because I think it’s something the entire industry is working on. Considering it’s what makes the developers bank to keep the lights on and the employees gainfully employed. At the end of the day, we all must remember that developers and game studios have one purpose: make money. Without this goal in mind, they will not keep the lights on.

      This is often why indie developers are often looked up to and praised, because they don’t have the urgency to make money off of literally every second of time spent developing the game, assuming they’re doing so as a passion.

      I think, one thing to note is that anything kickstarted or crowdfunded should include how they plan to monetize the game and some insurance policy on the duration of those plans. So if it’s going to be free-to-play with no gimmicks, say “we’re keeping it F2P for this long at which point we may keep the option to monetize” or just outline what the store will be like once the game goes live.

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      NEWS: Don't Count on Patron Warrior Nerfs Coming Any Time Soon
      Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

      On any given day, a casual browsing of the Hearthstone subreddit will often immediately result in at least one or two threads either complaining about, or defending, the power of the Grim Patron Warrior deck. Despite the fact that it's overall win rate in both ladder and tournament play is actually pretty reasonable, there never seems to be a shortage of discussion on whether or not the deck needs a nerf (I even weighed in on the topic!)

      It seems almost certain that no changes will be made before BlizzCon, and even then, it would be unwise to count on any nerfs. In a Japanese interview with 4Gamer, Blizzard developer commented on the actual and perceived power level of Patron Warrior. Below is a translation of his comment, provided by Reddit user suejak (who identifies themselves as the owner and operator of a translation company):

      I don't think that the Patron Warrior deck is as powerful as players believe it to be. The deck is exceedingly popular, but a deck's strength is not always proportional to its popularity. It's also often used in tournaments, so I think that people who watch tournaments might come away with a sense that the deck is very powerful.

      At any rate, we certainly find community opinion about Patron Warrior to be very important, and we will continue to keep a close eye on the deck as we decide what to do in the future.

      Based on this comment, we can see that Blizzard is still keeping an eye on the deck, and has not ruled out any changes. However, it's clear they're hesitant to take action, and it seems the deck's win rate would likely need to spike up before they truly feel something needs to be done about it.

      So, be prepared to continue to play against Patron Warrior, or at least continue to watch it in tournament play.

      View the full article


      NEWS: SK Gaming's League of Legends Squad Could Be About to Collapse
      SK Gaming's League of Legends Squad Could Be About to Collapse
      League of Legends

      SK Gaming's League of Legends team has fallen on some hard times, most recently being booted out of the European League Championship Series after losing to Gamers2 in the promotion tournament. Now, there are questions surrounding whether the organization will even continue to field a LoL squad.

      Back in July, we reported that the players were extremely unhappy with the SK organization, particularly after support player Christoph "nRated" Seitz was replaced on the roster. According to The Daily Dot, sources close to both Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and mid laner Hampus “Fox” Myhre state that both players intend to leave the team after their contracts expire on November 15th. There is talk that top laner Simon “fredy112” Payne might simply choose to retire altogether, and there has been no real word on what AD Carry Adrian “CandyPanda” Wübbelman plans to do.

      Reportedly, there was also unrest in the players' camp regarding their compensation. On top of the salary provided by Riot Games, SK Gaming paid their players €600 a month, which is one of the lowest salaries offered by EU LCS teams. The team had asked owner Alex Müller about receiving raises, but they were told the organization could not afford to pay them more than what they were already receiving.

      With at least 4 out of the 5 SK players appearing to be ready to move on from the team, the future of this squad is certainly murky. Now, we'll just have to wait for an announcement from the organization regarding what comes next.

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