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Archive for the ‘Raiding’ Category

On the building of statics

A belated update post today simply because work has been utter madness and since I usually do most of blogging while drinking my first coffee at work it got kind of tricky this week. But here we are and there are a few things to talk about, most of them about raiding.

I spoke before of my efforts to get a static off the ground and yesterday it finally felt like things are starting to fall into place. There’s still a lot of work to be done I feel and I want us to be better at starting on time, have a full roster get people settled into their roles and a lot of other small details but it’s hard not to be positive this morning. We cleared Turn 7 and 8 in a single night with over half the group who had not cleared those fights before. Plus we had a few attempts on Turn 9 to get people situated. It was an awesome raid night, people had fun and it feels like we’re headed into the right direction.

It’s also a big relief after last week where we hit a small bump in the road. It’s not that last week was awful but you always wonder if it’s just a bump or if it’s a sign of deeper issues. Thankfully after last night I think it’s the former.

So now we’re headed firmly into the dreaded Turn 9 and I can’t wait to see how it goes.

Building

And this is where I’m going to shock everyone by saying I’m not especially interested in clearing Turn 9, I’m way more interested in doing Turn 9. The ultimate goal of the static I’m building is to have a good team to attempt harder content with. I want it to be a group where I don’t have to do a lot of handholding and where people are pretty good at raid awareness and thinking on their feet.

But between here and there, there’s a lot of ground to go over and I know it’s not going to happen overnight. There’s going to be though nights, some drama, people moving on cause of real life or interests some will want to switch classes, we’re going to have fights that will be the nemesis of someone in the group and I’m sure a ton of things I haven’t even thought about yet. At this moment, we’re not even a full group yet so like I said, lots of road ahead.

So why again am I not that interested I clearing Turn 9? Because I see more team building value in practicing the fight than in clearing it. If ever there was a raiding exam this is it and I think it’s going to do wonders to help us practice working as a well-oiled team. Eventually the end result should be a kill but I treasure more the experience we’re going to gain doing it.

Being thankful and paying it forward

I want to take a moment to thank my FC, Greysky Armada for making this possible. Tamrielo, Belghast, Ashgar, Solaria, Tyauv, Cylladora and many others have helped us over the weeks get things off the ground and without them I wouldn’t even have gotten started. So a big thank you everyone. Also, a special thank you to the guild as whole for having such a great atmosphere and having this focus on being helpful to one another.

It’s a rare thing to find a guild that says they want to help their members and actually mean it. It’s something I treasure greatly and something I want to bring over to my static. Yes I want us to be efficient and clear hard content but I also want us to be doing it while having fun and being helpful to others when we can. It’s why whenever we’re missing someone I’ll always favor picking someone from the guild no matter their experience and it’s also why on Mondays I do my best to be online when the other static starts raiding just in case they need extra hands.

Ultimately, once the static gets rolling I’m hoping people in it will keep logging and helping out the other members of the guild with their own raids and dungeons and not become one of these groups that only show up at raid night and that you never see the rest of the week. Just as clearing a hard fight is fun, it can also be fun to just carry someone who’s been struggling to clear a hard fight and I’m hoping this is something we’ll be able to do in the future.

This post is running long so I’ll end by saying thank you everyone. There’s still a lot of work to do but I think we can do it.

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Yesterday, our budding static group got to go to the second coil of Bahamut: turn 1, more commonly known as Turn 6.  The Rafflesia Reaper, a giant flower is one of those bosses that are part of a group that I consider the “not fun but essential” bosses in the sense that it sucks but it teaches important raid skills. In this case, this fight is all about reacting to everything the bosses do. Deal with debuffs, deal with changing posisiting, deal with boss casts, just be on your toes. It’s not that hard once you master it but it can be really frustrating getting there since the tiniest mistake will make everything spin out of control.

As a raid leader however I was dreading it because I knew it was one these fights that can get people on edge. I was also really looking forward to it because it was our first fight in the second tier of content and I wanted to see how it how group would handle the increased difficulty. In the end we killed the flower a bit under 90 minutes, including replacing a pug, which is blinding fast considering the fight but in the process tensions rose a bit and the evening turned out to be not so great for everyone, a point that does not sit well with me considering that Belghast has been real helpful to us.

That said, people did not start screaming at one another and I think that by the time we started turn 7 everyone was in a much better mood so it might end up just being a tiny bump on the road but it’s something I’ll watch out for going forward.

The one thing that really made me happy however was not the killing of the boss itself but two very important behaviors I saw displayed yesterday that I feel are necessary for successful raids. First, at one point we stopped calling the vines in order to clear up Teamspeak so it was up to everyone to be on point on that aspect of the fight. It worked like a charm and everyone was breaking their vines without having to be told so. Second, and this one happened all by itself, when someone would get caught in a bad position due to devour, the rest of the group would react accordingly and move out of the way even if that wasn’t part of the normal fight dance.

More than the killing of the actual boss, seeing that raid awareness in action was the real victory for me and it gives me great motivation to keep moving forward.

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Let’s have blitz LFR

Remember a few days ago when I said I’d try to be more positive? I still want to do that but today I’ll criticize.

The last wing of Highmaul has been released and with it the last boss Imperator Mar’gok which I had the displeasure of facing using the dreaded LFR. To be fair, LFR is not a fault here, it does a fine job of finding a group and getting them going which is after all its purpose. Don’t blame the tool, blame the one using the tool I suppose.  Which leads to the first question, why make a wing with a single boss in it? Seems a bit wasteful in terms of queue time, especially for DPS classes.

So Imperator Mar’gok in its LFR state is a pretty boring fight. It’s about 12-15 of button mashing and hoping your group is smart enough to switch to adds whenever they show up. My group wasn’t that smart so the place ended up taking nearly an hour to complete. A long and painful hour.  I had to fight falling asleep fighting a boss I met for the first time and resist the temptation of going afk and watch Youtube while the rest of the group was killing the boss. I have a nagging suspicion though that some of my fellow puggers didn’t resist that temptation.

I’d like to blame Mar’gok for being boring but the truth is that LFR has been that way for me since Pandaria.  Bosses takes too long, fights are boring and I have to fight off falling asleep. I know I’m not the only one feeling that way. We do LFR to round out gear, complete our legendary quest but we’re not in there for the fun factor.

It’s not big surprise either that it’s so boring. There’s no challenge involved in it. As long as you have one or two decent healers and at least one good tank, the fights become tank and spank and most if not all mechanics can be ignored.  In the worst cases they literally become the same as fighting a practice dummy. I don’t any players who find fighting practice dummies exciting and even less who find that fighting multiple dummies for over half an hour to be a productive endeavor.

Dear Blizzard, I understand the reason why we have LFR difficulty raids. It allows even the most casual players to see content and it’s a great catch-up mechanism for gear. I also get that you need to put incentives (Legendary quests) to get the more experienced players to go in there to help out. I think we’re not that far from perfection… except that it’s boring as hell.

I’m going to offer a simple solution. Make the fights go faster, a lot faster.  Why not aim for 5 minutes per boss and another 5 for the trash leading up to it. Every ten minutes, a dead boss. If you want to add mechanics to the boss because there needs to be a bit of challenge go for it but keep the fight short. Either the group masters the mechanic and is done within 5 minutes or they don’t and wipe.

If you want to steal this idea, I allow Blizzard Entertainment to use any suggestion contained in this post.

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The Molten Core Syndrome

rag

The other night I went with the guild back to Molten Core so we could all score some sweet mounts and 640 ilevel headgears.  There was a bit of excitement in the air before the raid with the old raiders wondering how it would be to go back after all these years.

For the record I raided MC with varying intensity for over a year back in the day. Every guild that raided back then kept going there again and again as there was always someone who needed something out of there. With over 40 people to gear up including backups, normal guild turnover and getting all those eyes of divinity for the priest Benedictions… even the guilds claiming they were not doing it were still going in there every so often.

For many MC was also the only raid they did for the whole of vanilla WoW. Back then you could divide raiding guilds according to whether or not they could clear Molten Core and then whether or not they could clear Vael the guildbreaker. If your guild could kill Vael then you were considered a true hardcore raiding guild and nothing could stop you. Guilds that had cleared MC but not Vael yet were on probationary status, they would either come through and become a top end guild or fail and the raiders would move to new homes to try again. For the rest of the raiders it was MC until the end of times or until you finally lucked out and found the guild that could clear it.

I’m getting off topic here a bit but I want to drive home is that in Vanilla, for the vast majority of players, being a raider meant doing Molten Core over and over until Burning Crusade came out.

Mcbosses

Learning to love the burn

It’s 2005, you are a raider and doomed to run MC, a raid that took about a week to make according to the recent Looking for Group documentary. Your weekly raid nights, usually three, might consist of casting remove curse over and over, applying sunders or doing the same simple rotation over and over.

You are a hostage to Molten Core and sooner and later you will come to love it, the videogame equivalent of the Stockholm syndrome. You come to crave Majordomo speech, you secretly hope that someone will blow up the raid with the Bomb, bets are made on who will get punted in the lava by a Surger and you down your beer every time a hunter pulls a pack and cause the raid to wipe.

The other night we were reminiscing about these little moments that helped us back then not go completely batshit insane. We were not celebrating Molten Core good design, we were a bunch of old soldiers swapping war stories, remembering that time a mortar shell landed in our foxhole but didn’t go off. We were remembering how our raid leaders would go insane and start discussion with themselves on the guild forums, about how Emo-tank would quit every so often and about that time when we could hear the rogue pork his girlfriend over teamspeak because he had left his mic on.

So to the people who will experience this for the first time and wonder how we can have fun with this piece of bad design, please bear with us for a little while. We know that it’s horrible, that there’s too much trash and that there’s nothing fun about decursing 40 people every 5 minutes.  You are right, it’s utter garbage.

But for all it issues, I will always have fond memories of Molten Core because it brings back the memories of all the awesome people that I’ve met back then, that I suffered with, and that I wish I was still in touch with today.

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Read part 1 here

Yesterday post and the discussion that followed in the comments made me realize that there’s more to this topic than just “is this good for Wildstar or no”. Gunboat in particular was making a lot of the same arguments that were floating around in 2005-2006 surrounding WoW raiding, namely that hard doesn’t equate with good or engaging content, that it leaves out a large number of players and that players/guild that won’t succeed in this environment will get frustrated and leave.

He’s pretty much right with all his points and the fact that WoW softened its raiding endgame and that there was a lot of talks about these very issues back then does indicate that players were getting frustrated. We’re getting here into interesting topics here namely quality of life improvements, player frustration and player retention.

But for me the real core topic behind all of these is: Is it okay to let players and guilds fail, be frustrated and even leave?

Think about it for a moment, think about other games that you liked in the past and try to remember how failure was presented and its consequences. The answer to this question is not that simple.

Myself I have changed my stance since 2005 when I was reading and shouting the case for casual players who had lives and needed to be included and lots of other things. Now I think back on that time and I realize that despite the moaning this was probably when I was the most motivated and engaged by an MMO. So let’s dig into this juicy topic today.

Quality of life and casual content

I want to get the Quality of life and casual content arguments out of the way first. 40 man raiding and a more difficult raid set-up does not mean that a game should not have quality of life improvements and content for casuals. Quite the opposite in fact, it should have as much casual content as it can shove in there besides raiding. In the case of Wildstar, I truly believe they have hit a goldmine with player housing and that many people might stick to the game only for that.

Same goes for dungeon finder, flight paths, better laid out questing, multi-spec , resources marked on the map and tons of other improvements WoW made to its game need to be included and improved upon. Lack of these features does not make a game better or bring people together, they are just frustrations.

But what about casual raids? 10 mans and the like? Having multiple raid difficulty doesn’t prevent the hardcore crowd from raiding and everyone is happy right?

I think that’s the reasoning Blizzard had with Wotlk and at first glance I would agree that casual raids and hardcore raids should be able to co-exist… but the reality is that once you go that road, the majority of players will choose the path of less resistance which is the smaller, casual raids. Smaller raids equal smaller guilds, which weakens the community and then you solved nothing.

If we’re being smart, we can look at WoW raid set-ups from Wotlk to Pandaria and how it affected the player community. It did not get better, only progressively worst to the point now that very few solid guilds exists and a good number of players just go solo, do LFR for a while and unsub.

To summarize, quality of life: yes! , casual content: absolutely as long as it is not smaller raids. Now that these two are out of the way, let’s get to the main event.

Is it okay to fail?

There’s a saying somewhere that goes along the lines of: adversity unites communities. Real-world disasters have often, but not always, brought people together. If you have raids that are harder and require more players it would stand to reason that this will bring more players together and for longer amount of time.

The downside of course is that not everyone can and will succeed in that kind of set-up. Prolonged failure builds frustration and inevitably, it will cause people to quit the game. You can’t have hard content without generating some frustration. Alternate activities like player housing, pvp or other kinds of content can help alleviate the frustration but in the end, you’re bound to lose players.

On the other end, very easy and casual content won’t retain players either. I know of many players who quit after completing a few raids in LFR figuring that they had seen what the game had to offer. With no guilds, communities or common goals to pursue in game they stopped playing quickly.

So here’s an interesting question that I wish I had the answer to. If we go by numbers alone, does harder, longer lasting content keep players in the game longer than easy content that you can complete all by yourself?

I believe the answer is the former because that type of content creates bond between players that last beyond the game itself. I have met friends thanks to raiding that I still keep in contact with regularly. I even followed some of them in Wildstar! So just by the virtue of their presence, a good group of friends can get someone playing a game and the best way of meeting these people is through guilds. What is the strongest common activity that a guild can set itself? Raiding of course and bigger raids means bigger guilds.

So to get back to the original answer, is it okay to let some players and guilds fail? I believe so. Yes it generates frustration but I think that is offset by the stronger communities ties it create and that will mitigate frustration. The opposite, make everything casual and accessible, just means that people will quit once they complete content because they won’t have incentive to remain in game.

Well, this has dragged on long enough so on that note, I am curious to get your opinions on the matter.

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If I had to lead a 40 person raid…

Keeping with the theme of 40 man person (go listen to Justice Points ep.47 to get this one) raids, I started thinking about what it would be like to lead one of those these days. I did it way back in 2005 for a few months in Molten Core but back then raiding was a different beast and you could beat most encounters even with half the raid half asleep. As long as you had a few key players in each role, you were good. Plus, people were willing to put up with more militaristic style leadership and I had more time on my hands.

I don’t think I’ll be leading a 40 person anytime soon but I was curious to see what I’d come up with the considerable amount of raid leading I’ve done in WoW in various formats as well as other games since then. Plus, I’ve had to give training to others as part of my job so I’m hoping I learned something out of it that I can apply here.

This post has been going through a few revisions. At first I wanted to explain in detail the ins and outs but it turned into a 2000 words monster and I wasn’t halfway done. So, instead here it is in hopefully way shorter version.

  • Sit down with the leadership and have a good talk about expectations. This has killed me in the past. Before I take charge of any large raid, I want to know how and what the guild leadership and guild at large expects and is ready to do to reach said expectations. I don’t want to make decisions about raid policies without first knowing what is expected of me and the raid.
  • Inside the raid, I am king. With 40 people, I don’t want to have to debate during raids.
  • Have helpers for the invites and for the loot. There’s a surprisingly huge amount of work that goes only into the loot and invites. I don’t want to have to deal with those on top of having to direct a raid.
  • Instructions will be minimal. This is the most important to me. I believe in raid awareness. I believe that raiders should be able to play by themselves without hand holding. They should dodge fires by themselves. Some people like a more detailed plan but it’s not how I learned to play and I believe that raid awareness builds better raiders over time. Plus with 40 people, don’t want to spend 30 minutes explaining stuff before every raid.
  • Raids will start on time! I swear, I will invite pugs over guildies if people are not on time. It was hell with only 10… don’t want to think about 40…

So it’s heavily summarized, but here we are…

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Funny how things line up sometimes as if you tell you “You have to talk about this!!”. What caused me to slow way down on WoW was my wanting to raid but not being able to because I did not have the required gear to make it happen. Sure I could have gotten lucky over time and with OpenRaid but it was just downright painful and my guild made it clear that for the moment I was mostly on my own to get my ass geared.

Then I got back to FF14 and quickly got back into the endgame part. While FF14 is more forgiving in how to ramp up your gear in endgame it’s also more grindy and having a guild helps a lot. I did find a guild to help me and it’s been going great and I think I’m getting over the gear hump but here too, a similar problem is creeping up where the old faithfuls are getting tired of running the same stuff over and over just to gear new people while they have nothing to gain from it.

And then Navimie put up this post which gives a great perspective of the dilemma those in leadership positions face and the pains raid groups go through. How do you get to gear new people and give them experience while getting kills and not burning out everyone. How do you manage everyone’s feelings in those circumstances. Having been there myself, it’s a pretty crazy stress on guilds. And even then, some fights just need to be learned the hard way and even if you bring someone geared, they will need  a few tries to get it right. Which means that a one shot boss becomes a learning event every time someone new joins.

lionking

Lion king to break the wall of text

 

The circle of guild life

Unless you are one of the few remaining super elite hardcore guilds left in the world who gets daily applications from hardcore raiders your guild probably looks like this if you’re doing any kind of endgame. You have a core group, usually friends either real life or old raiding buddies along with the initial people you picked up creating the guild. Then you have the regular members who contribute to the raids and are decent players but never quite get in with the core group. Then you add social members, the non-raiders due talent or other reasons and finally the new guys with various levels of gear and experience.

If we are blunt, your guild will live as long as your core group does. The core group is the one making the raids be succesful, it’s responsible for guild life and is generaly the group having the most fun. But nothing is eternal and gradually, every core tends to shrink. Real life will happen and people will get tired of the game, will start families, change jobs and a ton of other reasons. This is inevitable and how long your guild lives is directly related to how good it is at adding people to the core group.

How easy that is depends on your type of guild. If you have a super close-knit group of friends and don’t really include new members into the inner circle chances are that as soon as that group of friends lose interest the guild dies. If raiding ability is the criteria for inclusion then you need to be either really good at recruiting quality players or have a way to train your members.

Let’s be blunt again. You and I both know that most of the time the core group ends up being most of the raid group. So if you want your guild to survive you have to replace people who quit with new members that are roughly at the point in their raiding progression. Since most raiding guilds are usually more progressed that what LFR or easily puggable content offers it means that new players are often behind on gear and/or raid experience.

All of this leads us to the age-old problem of guild life. People are going to leave, you need new people to replace them. However new people are most often less advanced than what you need so you have to gear them. But gearing them is boring for already geared people who may cause them to leave and then the circle begins anew.

Gear up or die

I took a long while to explain all of the above because I wanted to make it clear that there’s no real choice here. If you take the approach of not gearing up new members and only recruiting people who fit your exact specifications you are bound to die sooner or later. In all the guilds I’ve been, hardcore or casual, the influx of new members at the appropriate level was always less than the number of core members who stopped playing or slowed down too much. The potential for less geared and advanced players is always there however, especially if you’re making progress. There’s no shortage of talented players who are not yet burned out of the game and who could make great additions if only you take the time to gear them and give them fight experience.

Do you risk burning the old player base? Yes, you can and some guilds do. What makes a good core group is not only gear or skill dependant and some guilds still fail to add to that critical group even if they gear new players. Hell, if you keep gearing new players but never make progress chances are you’ll have trouble there too. You can’t ask older players to always be helping and never have anything in return for them.

Is it tricky? Of course it is! MMO endgame is littered with the bodies of guilds who failed at finding the right balance. Is it bad design that it’s real hard for advanced guilds to recruit players at the right level of progression? I believe it is. It’s also bad design that newer/late players have to face such an uphill battle to catch the main curve of progression of the player base. Making the jump from LFR to Flex to Regular raids in WoW by yourself right now is nothing short of a nightmare. If you have no guild to help you are at the mercy of strangers willing to help you and RNG giving you drops on those rare runs you do get in.

All of this boils down to the issues related to vertical progression in MMOs endgame that many bloggers have talked about. This will also segue nicely into my next series of posts that I hope to publish by the end of this week.

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