Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for the ‘Gameplay’ Category

Worgen Frustration (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Night Elf)

After leveling to 85 and spending some time on instances and reps to gear my main, I thought I’d set some time aside for a little lowbie alt. I’ve come to accept this about myself – I like leveling. Whether it’s through instancing, questing, exploring – or lately, herbing – it’s a relaxing process for me. Some people are one character people, and I respect that. But I wanted to see the new zones.

I’ve even come to accept that I’ll never have “one 85 of each class,” because there are honestly some classes I don’t want. So instead I have multiples. That means two warriors (81 and 28), two mages (85 and 80) and most recently, two druids (80 and 27). But this druid has assumed two different incarnations.

What Big Teeth You Have, Grandmother

I was excited to make a worgen druid. Originally the plan had been to make a warlock, but as I mentioned, I accepted that I don’t necessarily want one of each class. I had cloth/caster heirlooms that would serve as well for a druid, and I’d love to have a power-gathering character. (She mines! She herbs! She is the incredible flying druid!) I was a bit torn on the gender; the odd, foxy features of the females didn’t immediately appeal, but I figured they’d grow on me.

Looking despondent - probably because when they put her in the stocks they wedged her staff into the wood. I'd be bummed too.

So here’s Francisca, worgen druid. I played her to level thirteen. My impressions of the starting zone were mostly positive. I liked how quickly the action moved and the quests were organized in a logical manner. The flow was very nice, and the point at which the quests shout back to previous Kaldorei lore were great. I enjoyed the eerie feeling of the zone, the little things (like mastiffs and foxes!) and the accents of the NPCs. They’re a bit over the top but they still give strong flavour. You know you’re definitely not in Stormwind any more.

What I wasn’t feeling as attached to was my worgen herself. She lumbered everywhere, wrathing and moonfaring, but I just wasn’t feeling it. No matter, I thought – she can always remain human most of the time. The only problem with this is using the worgen racial, Darkflight – means that you are, naturally, transformed back into a worgen. And I use things like that on cooldown – it makes you faster! But despite that, I liked her as a human and ultimately intended for her to spend most of her time in flight form – so it didn’t really matter. I probably would have kept playing her, until I reached a pivotal point in the quest progression.

I’m trying not to give spoilers here for folks who want to do this, but essentially it’s a series of quests that make heavy use of phasing. You take one quest, proceed to accomplish it, and pick up the next quest afterwards. The next part has you following an NPC with an aggravating habit of dashing off in an unseen direction. I happened to get this quest just as it was time for us to head out for the evening (and I’d failed it). So, no problem (I thought) I’ll just drop the quest and park myself in front of the NPC that gives it, so that I can pick it up the next time I play.

The next day, I logged in to continue with my druid – the NPC didn’t have a quest for me. I was sure it was the correct NPC; but she had nothing. I tried moving around the phased zone by myself to see if I’d missed something. I went back to the beginning of the chain, thinking perhaps it had bugged out and I needed to start all over again. Nothing. I checked the Wowhead comments – I wasn’t the only one who’d had this happen.

I thought about my willingness to open a ticket and wait a very long time to have this one quest fixed. I thought about how this is a pretty major bug to have made it into a game, especially since it’s happened to other people, and I was frustrated by it. I thought about my lumbering druid with the interesting, albeit bugged zone.

Then I logged out, deleted her and made another night elf druid instead.

No Place Like Home

The world's stealthiest night elf. No, really!

I quite like the changes to the night elf starting area. They’ve streamlined things like silly gathering quests. When you go to kill spiders you bring the NPC with you so that you don’t have to run back and tell her, “I found this big, evil boss spider!” only to have her tell you, “Please go and kill the head honcho spider!” and then get lost in the cave again…although maybe that’s just me.

It is still a slower experience than the worgen starting area, possibly simply because of zone size. Shadowglen is a large zone – and I think the sole building needs an entrance at either end, because every night elf character I’ve ever leveled has circled that building at some time or another to find the front.

Other positive improvements include: putting the tree with the strange fruit along the shore of Lake Al’Ameth instead of wayyy on the other side of the zone, and also the escort NPC that accompanies you into the barrow dens is stupendous. She comes with a “we’ll point the way” green mist orb thing, incidentally my new favourite thing in the game. If I had a mist like that for running instances I’d never hesitate to tank them!

The Darkshore experience is definitely improved. My only regret (note, regret, not complaint) is that the combination of guild experience gains along with my heirlooms means I am outleveling my quests ridiculously fast. I haven’t done a single instance (although I am herbing and mining like a fiend) but all of my quests turn green and even grey before I have had a chance to hand them in. I’ve had to skip entire quest hubs for this reason. I’m a bit torn about it because I like to do every single quest possible, but my primary goal is to get this character high level so that she can start herbing and mining for me simultaneously. So I realize I could take off the heirlooms and slow the process down, but I’m unwilling to do that.

I had a tear in my eye as I ran through Ashenvale. I imagine I can hear all the Kaldorei characters I’ve ever known crying their outrage. Unfortunately, again I’ve out-leveled it and I may have to hop over to Stonetalon. I do really appreciate the new “Hero’s Board!” quests in the major cities. I know that I’ve often heard people ask, “Where am I supposed to go at level x?” These conveniently answer this question at any level, and they mean that you can pick up the quest there instead of having to find a breadcrumb in a lower zone before you can move on.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying leveling my new druid – apparently, since she’s now double the level my worgen was when I dropped her. My other unspoken goal for her is that I’d like her to cover her own expenses – epic flying, possibly even the faster-than-epic-flying if that seems possible. I often level characters that end up draining my main character’s resources. If this one can be self-sufficient I’ll consider her quite a success.

 

…I’m on a seahorse.

Voss and I were in line last night at 11:30 along with other hapless Canadians, shuffling in place and freezing our feet to the ground. It was actually not ridiculously cold – about 17 degrees Fahrenheit, for you US folks – which was cold enough by the time midnight hit! Fortunately this year (unlike the Wrath release) the game store folks let us wait in line inside. This was greatly appreciated by all.

I retrieved my Collector’s Edition (the only real reason to be standing in line instead of downloading it digitally) and then came home to get ready to play!

One of the things I love about a new expansion is that there are so many different possible approaches. For me, primary goal is to get Millya to 85. That is top priority. Other folks were rolling a worgen or a goblin or trying for a realm first with professions or other things. I know some folks had trouble logging in, for us it wasn’t bad and we were online at about 1:20 AM.

We started leveling through Vashj’ir initially and it was a mess. There were creatures and people everywhere – and the quests unfortunately (while interesting and fun) have a heavy focus on gathering or finding specific mobs or items. It was not a recipe for success. I stopped playing at 4:30, only a single bar away from level 81 but unable to push on.

Today we quested for a very short time before deciding to give Hyjal a try instead. As a leveling experience it’s much easier; it’s more linear and there are fewer gathering quests so far. I recommend it. Especially if you’re leveling with a partner or friend, the gathering quests in Vashj’ir are a killer and it’s easy to lose track of your buddy once you get this fellow:

Now look at your mount. Now back to me. I have a copy of that game you love! This is the mount your mount COULD be if you were questing in Vashj'ir. I'm on a seahorse.

Just for that, Vashj’ir was worth it. I have this reaction with some things in WoW – perhaps because others are difficult to attain or require a long grind… It’s like, “You’re going to give this to me? You’re just… you’ll just give it to me. Right here? …What’s the catch?”

I felt that way about Withers when I first got him. “They give you a pet!? Just for doing the quests? …But why?”

Not that I’m complaining.

My impressions of the expansion so far are immensely positive. I have professions to level, zones and quests to see, and I’m loving the new instances. I’ll try to keep posts fairly free of spoilers, but I can’t make any guarantees. I am loving the content and I want to talk about it!

What have you loved about Cataclysm so far (or not loved, if you prefer!). What was the first thing you did?

 

The Hybrid’s Dilemma

With Wrath winding down and Cataclysm just on the horizon, everyone’s mind is on the future – fresh new raids, leveling, and this strange broken Azeroth we all inhabit now. We’ve been focused on making sure our roster is “set,” and it pretty much is. We have some player shuffle; no one is leaving but several folks have switched characters. We have a druid migrating to a warrior, a hunter becoming a shaman, a paladin becoming a rogue, and a moonkin becoming a mage (that’s me).

What you might observe there is a distinct lessening of hybrid classes. We’ll lose a healer who could also DPS, and a DPS who could also heal. Especially in a ten-man setting, these hybrids can be crucial. Being able to off-heal for our group was the major motivating factor behind my switch to Moonkin – I’d actually planned to be more or less full-time resto, but it so happened that we recruited an awesome resto druid that week. Three resto druids isn’t exactly a stellar combination, so mostly I was an owlbear. And it was okay. (I did enjoy the “forest for the trees” jokes, though). But there were many things that were less fun about it, and I’ve been thinking about why I’m more or less okay with our group losing some hybrids.

"What, there's a dragon behind us? Never noticed."

Jack Of All Trades, Master of None…

For some people, not excelling at any one role wouldn’t really be a problem. They embrace their versatility (and it’s wonderful). Don’t get me wrong, I flatter myself to think I was a decent hybrid player. When I healed, I wasn’t standing in fire. I did the best I could. But I could never quite match our “regular” healers. Even though they didn’t think so, I always felt that I was a handicap and that we’d do better if we had a “real” healer for that night. I know, it’s a mental obstacle – but it was there.

Likewise, when you are a hybrid that plays both your hybrid specs, it can start to affect your play in either role. I felt that my DPS always lagged behind where it could be on many encounters. It was just never quite there. Keep in mind, I’m talking about raiding when it was actually still tough (before the thirty percent buff was finished rolling out, and while we were still working on heroic modes we hadn’t yet downed). Every point of DPS counted, every HPS could be crucial. I was actually healing for our guild’s first Sindragosa kill, and that was pretty fun. I healed it for a few weeks – and the first time I DPSed it I didn’t know exactly what I was doing.

Yes, I knew my rotation – but it’s the subtle nuances of a fight that are hard to remember when you aren’t in it that make the difference. Can I use my Treants at the very beginning and have them ready again by the time we use Heroism? Should I put a DoT on the iceblock while I’m dodging (the answer, by the way, is no… At least it was that time we narrowly avoided being blasted into oblivion by a block that broke a bit early). It turns out I was also meleeing it with my staff. Don’t judge me.

The Landscape of an Encounter

I was trying to explain this to Voss the other day and I hit upon a metaphor that really works for me. Imagine that each encounter is a landscape with specific challenges. Perhaps they are hurdles you have to jump over. As a DPS player, you approach that encounter from the perspective of: “Anything that causes me to stop casting at any moment is the enemy.” So movement is your hurdle, as well as other mechanics. Depending on the encounter, you might have specific tasks, and there are things that will force you to move. Let’s take heroic Blood Queen Lana’thel as an example.

DPS: We arrange ourselves in a loose circle, with the center area being reserved for folks who are linked. Don’t stand too close to someone else because of the proximity damage. Perform your rotation as hard and fast as you can because this is a DPS race. Your obstacles are:

  • Movement: Plan ahead for what you can cast while running to another player if you’re linked. Make sure you have an eye for where your shadow flames will go if you get the debuff for those (if you’re a druid, keep a cat-dash macro handy).
  • Planning: If you are the first DPS bitten, you’ll need to make sure you know where the next DPS is standing and not be too far from them. If you are to be bitten, try to get near (but not too near) to the bitten person.
  • Be ready to scatter when she flies up in the air and casts her fear. Don’t be near anyone else. Hit it like you mean it.

That’s the fight from the perspective of a DPS player. If you’re following along with my simile, picture it as a tophographical map with mountains you have to jump over, and valleys you have to avoid stumbling in. You’re running over the ground and those mountains and valleys fall at fairly predictable places. You know them. You don’t have to look to keep your footing. Suddenly, the healer is unavailable for that night. Guess what, hybrid with the gear to do it? You’re healing! Here’s the fight from that perspective:

Healers: We still arrange ourselves in a loose circle and don’t stand too close to anyone. Depending on your assigned role (are you tank healing? raid healing? HoT spamming?) your focus will be different. Let’s assume you are a raid healer. AoE damage is crazy in this fight – something I really didn’t know until the first time I healed it. So you have your own topographical map… Let’s say the healing version has boulders being thrown at you from above, which is really what it feels like the first time you heal a fight you don’t know. I knew there would be boulders hurting the raid. Did I have any idea where they’d come from? Not a clue.

  • Movement. You still have to run to linked players, but you also have to heal yourself while you’re doing it, or hope another healer is covering you. Likewise, if you are tank healing and you get the shadow flame debuff… nobody is healing those tanks while you’re running unless the other healers know to do so (they’re dropping boulders on the taaanks!)
  • Planning: Like the DPS, you will always be casting, but you’ll be HoTing the heck out of the raid. Suddenly, you can’t just ignore the people who are linked if they aren’t you – they need healing now!
  • Still be ready to scatter when she flies, but also be ready to heal everyone because damage from this phase is heavy.

The first time I healed this fight to fill in for a missing healer was, to say the least, intense. I don’t know how the healers were doing it with just two at that gear level, and I understood why it was so hit-and-miss. We pulled it off, I’m not saying “I wiped the raid!” The learning curve was steep. That’s just one fight, and yet the mechanics affecting a DPS or healer are in some respects completely different. It’s a different mindset – a different landscape, if you don’t mind my tortured metaphor. You can learn to navigate both landscapes and even switch mindsets if need be, but it’s a rare player who can pull each one off seamlessly or as well as someone who knows that landscape intimately. I’ve caught myself bracing to throw HoTs in a heavy-damage phase only to remember “Duh, you’re DPSing right now,” or preparing for heroism only to think, “…You don’t do anything special for heroism, you’re healing. Keep healing.”

You will have players who thrive on this challenge – the multifaceted challenge of knowing an encounter from more than one perspective, but it’s not easy. Some fights present less of a challenge than others, but switching mental gears (at least for me) was the largest obstacle.

This was the second largest obstacle.

Can I Have That For Offspec?

In our raid, everyone is expected to have and gear a respectable offspec. Even the pure players have two viable PvE specs that might be better suited to different encounters. I know our other mage is itching to go Frost for Cataclysm, and that’s fine. He’ll probably keep another spec. There are some differences between spec gear priorities that can crop up for pures, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be like for hybrids. We’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out for hybrid classes in the expansion, with spirit to hit conversions and etcetera. Even with that in mind, though, hybrids will still have a “main” spec, and it takes time and many drops to adequately gear up an offspec properly. I have teased Voss because the one night he had to possibly switch from tanking to DPS he was “not prepared.”

Later that night, he shamefacedly admit that he hadn’t gemmed his DPS gear for a pretty good reason. He needed nearly twenty cardinal rubies to do it! As someone who has kept two sets of gear “raid ready” I sympathize with this wholly. Having plenty of alchemists and jewelcrafters I could afford it, but it’s still a considerable expense that other folks might not incur to the same extent. By the end of Wrath, my moonkin’s two gear sets were equally awesome – more or less equivalent to other folks in either role – but of course I was never going to take gear from “main” spec healers in order to do that. (Our healers were very generous with me, though, and so this is no gear complaint. They’d say, “It’s a sidegrade for me, give it to Shae,” and the cooperative spirit was a big part of the reason I was able to be so well-geared for when we needed it.) Still, things like trinkets are rare enough for main specs – it takes a long time and great fortune for an off-spec to even sniff them, which is as it should be. But it’s part of the hybrid handicap that prevents us from being as good as main healers when we need to be. Your gear can be “the best you’re able to get,” but it will probably still fall a bit short in one spec or the other until the content has been on farm for quite a long time.

Neither Fish, Nor Flesh, Nor Good Red Herring

Ultimately, the burdens and rewards of being an excellent hybrid player depend on the individual. Some people might thrive on the challenge and not mind the confusion and gear lag. In my case, I loved being a resto druid, and I loved being able to help the raid when it was needed. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love being a moonkin. It was tough for me to admit that to myself (and my fellow raiders, who had put the time and effort into gearing a character I no longer wanted to play at the end of the expansion). I still regret that and worry that folks may have seen it as selfishness on my part or a desire to gear a character then move onto another. I had concern that two mages was less useful for the raid than a moonkin and a mage – and in a way, that’s true, but what is most useful for the raid is people playing what they love. I’d rather have ten people truly passionate about their class and role – with less raid flexibility – than a few hybrids who really don’t want to be where they are but will do it “for the good of the raid.”

So we’re going to be a bit less flexible when we start raiding in Cataclysm, and we’re going to have to lean more heavily on our full-time healers. I hope that it turns out fine – and if we’re coming up short, we’ll recruit, because I’m confident in my character choice. I could be a hybrid, but at the end of the day I just don’t want to – and I think that’s okay.

Whenever I'm tempted to be a hybrid "for the good of the raid" Voss yells, "NO. Now, we're short on healers, what do you do?" "Well, I have a paladin that..." "NO!"

Team Building Exercise ’99: Fostering A Sense of Teamwork For Tens

This is a post I’ve been working on off and on for the better part of a year – I’d always pick it up, poke at it a bit, and then set it back down. After a year of being in a dedicated ten man raiding guild, I feel finally qualified to post it. Especially with the changes to raid lockouts and item level in Cataclysm, I expect that the ten man scene is only going to grow and more people are going to be raiding in ten person groups! This expands on some of the philosophies we have that I think have set a solid foundation for our success in Wrath of the Lich King.

The opportunity to experience group play at the end-game of WoW is one of the strongest draws for many players. I believe this to be true, because otherwise – we’d be playing a game solo (and some people do!). We wouldn’t be trying to band together to kill internet dragons. There’s a particular rush that comes from being part of a group of people accomplishing something together. You can liken it to a sports team scoring that winning goal, or a group of professionals finally completing a project they’ve been working on. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle – we’re accomplishing things together, but we’re not physically together; in many cases we’ve never even met each other.

Many raiders who opt to focus exclusively on ten person content do so because they want an intimate atmosphere. When you have just nine other people counting on you, and you spend twelve or more hours with them every week – you get to know each other pretty well. You’re there for the high points and the low; you share that tough kill you finally pulled off and the Vent channel erupts in cheers, or the boss you can’t down and so people rally around the forums to talk strategy, and figure out a way to make it happen.

This is your team, and it’s an awesome feeling. When it’s going well, it’s amazing. Every guild has rockier parts, and those are tougher to deal with. But many issues that arise are best dealt with a long time before they even crop up, by making sure to nurture and tend to the team. If a team is solid and committed, they can shrug off difficulties easily. If there are already weak points – applying pressure will cause them to start to crack. So how can officers, raid leaders and guild leaders help their raid team to feel like a team?

I could pretend I chose this screenshot to be somehow metaphorical, but really I just think it's a cool screenshot. Also, do you see how straight a line we stand in? We're so DISCIPLINED.

1. Encourage Input.

I can’t stress this enough. When people feel like their ideas are not just heard, but listened to, they’ll know that they’re a valuable part of the group. This comes into play in several different ways.

  • A guild’s forums can be an excellent venue for contribution from all members. Keep in mind that not everyone has an equal amount of time to devote to these, so your mileage may vary. Some are heavily into strategies and might post all the time, others may prefer to hang back until they have something to say. It’s particularly important to listen up when someone who is usually quiet does say something. Try and encourage an atmosphere where people feel free to speak their minds, or at least contact an officer or raid leader privately.
  • Most raiders use some form of verbal contact during raids. This is where much of the ‘in-the-moment’ strategies occur, and it’s important to give people the opportunity to chime in. The freedom of a ten-man group is that there’s room for different folks to speak up. Within reason – it can be detrimental to have a flurry of voices always talking at the same time on the channel. Raid leaders and officers can help direct the flow a little bit by asking for clarification, or asking someone to repeat what they said if it was lost in the fray.
  • Don’t think this means you are obligated to always listen to every idea, or give everyone equal stage time – most people don’t want it. Again pay particular attention to contributions from those who don’t speak up often, listen when any member has an idea – and then make the final call. This only works if you are truly sincere and consider alternative ideas. Remember there’s a time and a place – it’s okay to say, “Let’s talk about this on the forums later,” rather than spending twenty minutes debating strats and eating up valuable raid time. This only works if you really will talk about it on the forums later!

2. Foster an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes.

In a ten-person raid, many times there isn’t much margin for error. When it comes to tough progression content, a single blunder could spell a wipe and mean everyone is corpse-running again. People are going to make mistakes, so try and foster an environment in which it’s okay to make them – at least once – and more importantly: people are encouraged to admit it.

  • This can be best accomplished leading by example. No one should ever be allowed to berate or belittle another raid member for making a mistake. Even if it was a dumb mistake, and even if they’ve done it before. Quickly and firmly call out anyone who does this, and let it be known that it isn’t acceptable behaviour, while shifting attention back to the task at hand.
    “Oh, come on, Squishy Healer, why can’t you get out of void zones fast enough?” can easily be met with,
    “Mistakes happen, Hunterly. Now, does everyone have their graphics settings high enough that they can easily see these void zones?”
  • Not making people feel like a heel for messing up will make the next step easier, and that is: when you make a mistake, be the first to admit it, don’t make excuses, and don’t shift blame. You aren’t saying, “I guess that was my fault, if only SO AND SO hadn’t dropped that shadow trap right underneath me.” Keep it simple and direct. “That was my mistake, guys. I was too slow to polymorph the person who was MCed. Sorry about that.” It never feels awesome to know that you wiped the raid, but it’s better than the ominous vent silence. Everyone usually knows who messed up anyway, trust me. They’ll respect you more, not less.
  • Soon, hopefully, a magical thing will happen. Everyone will own up to their own mistakes without hesitation! Rather than feeling like a group of individuals who has to defend their individual performance at all costs to protect and make themselves look best, hopefully everyone will be more forgiving of the mistakes of others, and unafraid to admit their own. It’s worth noting that sometimes mistakes might be more chronic and indicative of someone who just isn’t performing. If the same mistakes are happening over and over again, it’s another matter and should be dealt with privately.

"Look at this pretty totem here!... hey, you know, trolls aren't so bad! Maybe I should stay here in Zul'Gurub with them...This is a great idea!"

3. Make sure to relate outside of a raiding situation.

  • If you’re focused on ten-person raiding, chances are your guild will be small enough that the members will get to know each other pretty well. Help to make the guild a friendly place to be by chatting in the guild channel, asking people questions about themselves, and doing things with other members outside of raid times. I know this sounds hopelessly managerial – and I don’t mean “pretend to be friends with people.” It’s just that sometimes all of the tasks of an RL, officer, or GL can blind you to the reason you’re really here and why you are with these specific, awesome people.
  • The value of this is that when it’s raid time, when everyone knows the other people quite well they won’t feel that their only value to the guild is their DPS or healing numbers or how many hit-points they have. Stronger friendships make for stronger teams! This may not every one’s strong suit; some people are naturally more quiet than others. This leads directly into the fourth point, which can apply in both a high-stress raiding environment and otherwise.

4. Play to people’s strengths.

  • A team is only as strong as its weakest member, but weakest is subjective in this point. Learn to identify who excels at what in your group, let them contribute and then value their contributions. Does one person really enjoy fishing in their off-hours? Use their help to supply your raid with some consumables. Some people are natural leaders with tactical minds; these are the ones that you can lean on during raids, or talk strategy with in-between. Others may not have much to contribute tactically, but they can always pick others up when the mood starts to drop. Everyone has things that they are good at, and letting them show it will help keep everything rolling smoothly.
  • Raids would actually be pretty boring if everyone was focused on the same things. Some people can learn more quickly than others, especially when unique fight mechanics are involved. If your uber-DPS player is bored, give him or her a special task. Pull them off the boring, stand-alone boss and set them to add duty, or have them calling out timers if the fight requires it. Just because the raid has a raid leader doesn’t mean other people can’t be crucial to leading the group to success.
  • People will always excel at the role they most want to play. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? Don’t force your healers to DPS if they don’t want to – and if you have to do so, make sure it’s a responsibility shared among all the healers equally. If one person is constantly having to step outside their comfort zone while the others get off scot-free, they’re liable to grow resentful (and who could blame them)?

5. Help your team grow its skills.

  • Nobody is perfect, and no team is ever perfect. You may have excellent players individually, but they may not do things as well together. This last point is broad for a reason – it could apply to so many things. I remember when we first started working on the heroic Lich King encounter – all of the ranged DPS and healers had to clump up as part of the phase one strategy. At first it was tough; we weren’t used to paying such close attention to where the other team members were. By the time we’d practiced it, we were like one living organism strafing to the right and left together. It was fabulous.
  • “Skills” in this sense doesn’t have to mean raiding skills. Running five-mans together, PvPing together – all of these hone the reflexes and group communication necessary for good raiding. Even playing a character I had no idea how to play, I’ve never felt so indestructible in PvP as I did when I was doing it with my guildies and we had instant Vent communication. PvP is good practice for movement, situational awareness, and quick communication. You don’t have to PvP to be a good raider, but anywhere you’re working with your guild is going to benefit you all in the long run.

"Tirion, why are you gigantic? And what are all these fish feasts doing here?"

Finally, but not unimportantly:

6. Stay positive no matter what.

  • I’m not writing this from the perspective of Ms. Perfect, believe me! Some of this I’ve observed from my own mistakes, and I don’t always do all of these things or remember them as often as I should. But the last (and possibly the most important thing) is to remember that if you are in a position of leadership in a guild, people look to you to set the tone.Your attitude can impact success more than you ever suspect, not necessarily because of things you say but things that you don’t say – or the way that you say them.
  • Look for solutions, remember that things aren’t up to you alone – you have built a team of great people for a reason. Don’t be afraid to seek solutions from them if you are stumped. Keeping in contact with how your guildies feel can help you know where to focus your energies and avert any problems before they begin.

Incidentally, I wrote this based on a ten-person environment because that’s what I know, but many of the same principles could apply equally to a larger group. If you feel moved to write something similar or more expansive for a twenty-five man team, or you have anything you’d like to add – feel free to contribute in the comments or send me a link!

I hope this is even remotely useful to read. Raiding with Business Time has been such a rewarding and humbling experience for me – I know that we owe all of our success to each and every guild-member. I’m just the one who likes to talk too much.

p.s. – Yes, it’s a Flight of the Conchords joke, and I’m not ashamed.

Guide to Getting Withers

It sounds like some kind of crippling disease, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. The first place I went after the world shattered was Darkshore. I’d quested through here so many times on my various draenei and night elves. The changes the Cataclysm has wrought are devastating. Once I found out there was a pet associated with a quest in the zone, well – my path was clear. I had to have it. His name is Withers, and he’s similar to the Teldrassil Sproutling with a few key differences. Here’s how you can get one of your own, whether you are Horde or Alliance.

D'aww.

Horde

For Horde characters, Withers is actually a vendored pet. You can buy him from Apothecary Furrows. He’s located in the cave behind Cliffspring Falls (you can see it on the map). He’s down at the bottom of the cave in his own little room. Be aware that to Alliance he is hostile so he may have been killed recently if you don’t see him but you see apothecary stuff. Wait for him to respawn, he should be back.

This is the entrance to the cave. If you are uncertain how to get up here, look for the torches that line the path at the bottom.

Alliance

For those of us who are Alliance, it’s a little more complicated. Withers is awarded from completing the quest “Remembrance of Auberdine,” but you can’t unlock that quest until you do many, many more. I made a map that outlines generally what I did. Keep in mind that it’s hard to tell exactly what was required. I suspect that the quests to the far south (marked on the map) were not required, but they are awesome quests and I recommend you do them regardless! If anyone does this and tries to proceed without first doing those quests at Eye of the Maelstrom, please let me know if you were able to get Withers regardless. *Edit: I had a helpful reader let me know – the quests at the Eye of the Vortex are definitely not required to open the Remembrance of Auberdine quest, so you can skip them over if your only goal is to get Withers.

Quest hubs are marked in blue.

You will begin by questing in Lor’danel. When I wrote this last night this wasn’t there, but a helpful person on Wowhead has listed precisely all of the required quests here. You can refer to that list as you proceed, or just take a more casual approach as you go!

Lor’danel is where the flight point from Darnassus goes now, so it’s easy enough to get here. Some of the quests don’t seem immediately related, but are. There’s a worgen who has a fishing quest that used to be offered by a dwarf – I doubt it’s necessary to get Withers, but if you do it you do get 250 Gilneas rep. Do the rescuing and provisions quests and continue on to the Buzzbox quests. Unlike the previous Buzzbox quests, they don’t take forever and lead you all over the map. This chain will have you wind up in the same cave that the Horde access just to buy Withers.

Another breadcrumb quest will lead you down to the Ruins of Auberdine and outside the ruins to do some quests relating to Grimclaw. Continue doing all of these quests (do the Auberdine ones while you are nearby) before completing them and heading back to Lor’danel. A hint: if you complete the Grimclaw quest chain first it will end up helping you throughout the rest of Darkshore. I don’t want to give away any spoilers except to say that I chose the stag – and it gives a 10% speed boost in the entire zone. Not “for an hour,” or “while you’re on this quest chain” – it gives you a speed boost anytime you are in Darkshore from then on. It was useful for the rest of my questing!

I don’t want to give away any more of the happenings in Darkshore. These quests are amazing, in some cases heart-wrenching and definitely hit home for me given how much I liked Darkshore. Don’t just rush through to get Withers, take your time and enjoy them. Ultimately your efforts to aid the citizens of Darkshore and uncover some mysteries will lead you to the Ruins of Mathystra where you will be challenging the Shatterspear trolls. When you’re at this point you’re near the end! Continue along with these quests and once you are finished with them, Cerrellean Whiteclaw will have the Remembrance of Auberdine quest for you, and one of the rewards is Withers.

I’ll probably be going through these quests again with my druid and hope to add some clarification about which quests are mandatory and which are not – but until then, this gives a rough guide of what’s necessary to get the little guy. Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll answer them as best I can!

His name is Withers because he starts out HUGE – up to my hips as a draenei – and he will slowly shrink to “normal” non-combat pet size if he is away from water. Re summoning him returns him to his original large size, and if you take him near any body of water he will drink it and grow. More importantly than any of that, though, is that he’s a reminder of Auberdine for me. Every time I look at his sad little face, I’ll remember the Kaldorei of Auberdine and Lor’danel, trying to maintain an outpost in their dark and foreboding ancestral land.

I Am A Damage Dealer

 

That's why I wear a hood, because it makes me look mysterious and dangerous.

We are the “bad boys” of Warcraft, the mavericks, the devil-may-care, aggro-stealing, reckless ne’er do wells.

Everyone knows we only ever look at our damage meters. Threat? What’s that? Oh, you are threatening me if I don’t stop pulling aggro. I understand that, but I can’t take my eyes off the “two” key long enough to listen, sorry.

I know that I should beg pardon of the tanks and healers because they are the ones with the important role.

DPS are a dime a dozen. Replacing a DPS takes three seconds. Any mouth breather can DPS!

I am not buying it.

Perhaps it’s because these attitudes perpetuate from 5-mans and random pugs with strangers that they seem so prevalent, but anyone who actually believes this BS is missing a key concept in the notion of a team.

As a DPS player, I and my compatriots research our classes tirelessly. We practice on target dummies, we adjust our gemming, our gear, our talents – so that we can do the most damage possible. Yes, there is pride in doing “the most” damage. There is pride in beating your personal best. Without someone damaging bosses (and I’m talking challenging raid content, here) they wouldn’t die.

I have been in guilds where the prevailing attitude was “If we are failing, we need more healers.” They did treat DPS as interchangeable cogs in the wheel. And to an extent, we are. After all, yellow numbers are universal, right? Damage is damage. Incidentally, the “add another healer” approach didn’t really work out for that guild. What they needed was better DPS. Sometimes a boss fight goes on so long and people start to die and it’s easy to misdiagnose this. “People have died,” becomes “Let us find a way to keep them from dying,” leads to, “We need more healers to heal them.”

I am fortunate enough to be in a guild where I feel that all members have the mutual respect of their team-mates. Don’t mistake this declaration as being opposed to tanks and healers. I have played all roles in this game. I didn’t choose to be a damage-dealing class because I’m lazy, or because I’m dumb, or simple, or can’t handle the responsibility of the other roles. I started playing the game as a healer. Around level forty we fell into a regular group of dungeon runners (long before the days of LFD).

In our little group, we had: two holy priests, one protection paladin, one protection warrior, and an arms warrior. I kid you not when I say we spent more than four hours in Sunken Temple. It was ridiculous. We had more people who wanted to tank and heal than who wanted to actually kill things. I re-rolled as a mage, and I set out to be the best damn mage I could be. First I had to level to catch up with my group. I had a lot to learn, and I have been learning it for years.

It’s easy to assume that because many classes can re-spec and do respectable damage with their off-spec gear that “DPS is easy.” Sure, in a sense, it’s easy. You target a creature (hopefully the same one as the tank is targeting) and you kill it. But you might compare an off-spec player with someone playing the same class and spec and see a huge a discrepancy. Why? Because the DPS player practices all the time. He or she knows what they are doing. They have read strats, they know how to maximize their damage for a particular encounter. Believe me, they do, and they think these things all the time. Not because it makes our “e-peen” grow, or because we think that it really makes a huge difference if we cast just one more instant spell as we’re moving instead of just moving. We do it because it’s our job and we are going to do it WELL.

My fellow damage-dealers: there’s a notion floating around that we should be pathetically grateful when a tank deigns to tank for us, and when a healer throws us a pity heal. Receive these boons humbly, but don’t forget that you are also important. We are greater in number because more of us are needed. We are three parts of a five-man, and at least five parts of a ten man, possibly more. Take pride in the work that you do and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter to the success of a group. You often matter more than they know.

Healers: I have the utmost respect for you and the difficult role that you play. I will gladly receive your heals when you see fit to give them to me. In addition, I will try not to take them for granted. I will do my best to survive on my own – through my self-heal, through bandages, through the tools of my class. Please remember and appreciate that I would take a hit for you if I had to – that I keep an eye on you and would frost nova to help you in a pinch, crowd control an angry creature, or kite it away from you. I think of you often and love you when you BoP or shield me, or give me Blessing of Salvation. Without you, there would be no group.

Tanks: I recognize your very difficult job. You are patient when we are overzealous, and we have a back-and-forth power struggle we can’t really escape. When you are doing well, I can unleash the full powers of my devastation. If you are newer, it is my responsibility to hold those powers back so as to not make your life difficult. I thank you for every taunt and all the aggro that you generate. I’m proud to stand beside you when we have killed things together.

We overcome the challenges in this game as a team, for a reason. Whether a group acknowledges it or not, we all have some say in how group play is conducted. DPS may follow along meekly because the tank and healer have a stranglehold on the group, but we aren’t your pissing boys; we are not an endless parade of replaceable cronies.

Perhaps we’ll gain some respect if we claim it for ourselves and show it to each other.

I am a damage dealer, and I’m proud of it.

Everyday I Wipe The Raid Because Of A Book

There are some things that only die-hard fellow achievement hunters will understand.

"Oh yay I got an achievement for /hugging all the murlocs of Azeroth! I get a Slimy Arms title and a new murloc pet - which I already have, but this one is cyan, and my other one is kind of an aqua..."

Or, as Ghostcrawler put it, “We’ve found that if we put ridiculous things in the game, players will do them.”

That’s why I’m still trying to get the rare drop mounts that are going away. Note, not all of these ARE going away, they are mounts I’m trying to get.

For the record:

  • Raptor mounts – 0
  • Tiger mounts – 0
  • Anzu mounts – 1 (ages ago with my druid when it required a druid)
  • Rivendare’s mount – 0
  • White Hawkstriders – 0
  • ZG, Sethekk Halls, Stratholme and Magister’s Terrace runs: I don’t want to think about it

It’s also why I have been slowly chipping away at the Grand List of Things To Do. Some of them I have crossed off the list, like Loremaster. Others, well…

Let’s just say that sometimes an achievement gets under my skin. I just want to get it done. So it is with the Higher Learning achievement. For those who may not be familiar with the achievement, it requires that you read a series of rare books around Dalaran. They spawn at specific spots, but at any given time there is no guarantee of the “right” book spawning. You are much more likely to be reading an issue of Kirin Tor monthly (back issues, sadly) or any other of a number of flavour books. Most of them are pretty funny! But most of them also won’t reward me with an incredibly magely pet.

Who knew he was so into books?

The pursuit of this achievement is well-documented and a lot of people want it, so there are even channels dedicated to people sharing book info. On most servers it’s “bookclub.” The bookclub channel on Moonrunner has proven incredibly helpful to me – I’ve found at least two books because of it and have dutifully reported the books when I find them, too. I’ve been working on this achievement since I knew that it existed, but perhaps I lacked the singleminded dedication I have recently found.

I just need one last book. It’s the one above the Threads of Fate shop. There’s a cute water elemental and a gnome there who are washing clothes, and it’s just out on the balcony from the shoe shine fellow. I had rarely even seen a junk book spawn here when I was running between spawn points. Now it is the only book I need, and it vexes me. You can imagine my consternation the other night when a call went out in the bookclub channel:

“Enchantment book up above tailoring shop.” He didn’t mean the tailoring shop, really. He meant the Threads of Fate. My book! Guess where I was? The FROZEN THRONE.

I may or may not have burst out into Vent, “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.” Whether it was a consequence of my distraction or not, the raid wiped within the next twenty seconds or so. It’s impossible to prove causality, here. Just that my achievement may or may not have been involved. I ported to Dalaran as soon as we HAD wiped…but I was too late. The book was gone.

I'm a mage. Being a bibliophile is practically in the job description!

Voss thinks my book was directly involved. “How could you wipe the raid because of a book?!” he says at our next break, waving his arms.

“I did not wipe the raid because of a book!” I tell him.

“You distracted everyone with your book!”

“Look, some people wipe the raid by standing in fire, surely I get one LITERARY FREEBIE.”

Finishing off this achievement hasn’t been all bad. I’m often one of a crowd of people waiting… usually all of them mages. Yesterday a troll mage said something to me that I obviously didn’t understand, so I had Voss log onto his Horde warrior to ask what he’d said. It turned out that he had been singing Business Time to me. We got to chatting a little bit. I’m sure we would be friends, except that he’s a troll. In summary: searching for this last book is bringing me closer to random strangers, but wiping the raid.

My priorities are absolutely in line, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

My...precious?!

Been Waiting A Long Time For This…

I don’t often blow my horn about my guild. (I don’t think I do, anyhow, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I do write about my guild’s experiences where they intersect with something I want to talk about. Every now and then, though, I just really want to go on about something significant.

Many thanks to Draos from my guild for a number of screenshots used in this post.

Six months ago we were finishing up our last heroic ICC kill. Things didn’t look promising from there – heroic Lich King is a fight that was highly tuned for a strict ten guild. That’s not to say that none have done it (I know of at least two and one is an awesome blogger)!

As the months went on, it began to look like an H LK kill would slip through our fingers. We were plagued by personnel issues as we flailed against the Summer Boss. There were vacations (including Voss and I going on vacation in October). We were demoralized. We actually decided to stop working on H LK, period.

Longtime readers will remember how we discussed and wavered about whether or not we would keep our strict ten ranking. Ultimately, we decided to drop it. It was more important to us to have all our guildies in one place. Many of us “stricters” went out and tried ICC 25 in the weeks that followed. Most of us didn’t get any loot, anyhow. We no longer “ranked.” We’d decided to let H LK go. It gnawed at me a little bit, but I wasn’t going to force the guild to do something that they didn’t want to do.

One night, I was flying around Icecrown with Voss doing Argent Tournament dailies. He told me he was whispering with one of our paladin tanks, Meraxis. Mer had gotten a whisper from a guy in a 25-man guild on our server. They’d been armory stalking us and wanted to know if Mer, Voss, and Pan (our discipline priest) would like to join their H LK attempts. I remember sitting silently for a few minutes and then turning to Voss.

We should be doing that fight,” I said to him. “We shouldn’t be doing it with some other people. We should be doing it together. Do you think anyone else still wants to do it? That is so wrong.”

“Let’s ask,” he said, and we asked in guildchat. My visceral reaction was one of simple wrongness – that our guildies should be working on such a tough achievement with some other random people, instead of their raiding guild. Everyone who was online at the time (some six or seven of us) wanted to do it. We made a forum post. Nine out of fourteen people responded with a resounding yes and two more told me later they didn’t realize they had to post for it to be understood that they wanted to do it. We wanted to do it. We started working on it again.

It was not easy to get the team together. Scheduling hated us. Vacations and timing hated us, but we kept at it, extending our lockout, re-clearing for more chances at gear that might make an infinitesimal difference on the fight. As the weeks ticked by we increasingly felt the crunch – there was a hard deadline for this achievement and we were staring it down. Last week’s attempts ended on a high note – we got him to thirty-eight percent, our best attempt yet.

This week, we got him to thirty-three percent. On our next best attempt…

I am not sure I breathed for the last five minutes of the encounter. It was all a blur of desperate, focused intensity. Our first Harvest Soul went without a hitch. We followed our paladin tank and danced the dance and our healers were incredible and we came through. Everything was going fine until the second Harvest Soul. Even that went fine – we came out, but our paladin tank dropped quickly.

“Can we get a battle rez on him?!” I blurted into Vent. Ulla got him up but then we went back into Shadowmourne and this time lost our holy priest. No one said anything in the tension but you could FEEL us all focusing. It was getting down to the crunch. As we came out, our poor unbuffed paladin ate another Soul Reaper and went down again.

“HANG IN THERE,” I yelped as Voss quickly picked up the big bad.

“Two percent left, come on guys,” our paladin said.

Living Bomb, Scorch, don’t get hit by Vile Spirits, yesss pyroblast, fireball, fireball, come on, come on…

Yes, you heard me. DEAD.

DEAD. The sound was deafening. We annoyed everyone by sitting and watching the cinematic again. No, there is no heroic version. But the incredible feeling of succeeding at this lent it extra emotion to me.

I have never been prouder of our guild. We didn’t get this kill earlier, and that’s OK. We didn’t even get it while we were “ranked” strict ten. But there is no one who has 277 gear (aside from our rings, naturally). We’re all dressed pretty much exactly as we were when we were still as strict as can be. In our hearts we’ve never been anything but a tens guild, and this is a great triumph. I’m immensely happy. I’m excited to go back and do it again since everyone was not there.

It also bears mentioning that this kill holds significant personal significance for me, for one very good reason:

I did it with my main. Not a single member ever complained to me that I swapped moonkin for mage post-4.0. Originally the intent was for people to “try out” new specs and classes, I’ll admit that I seized the opportunity to play the character I have missed since January. It was selfish of me. Millya’s gear isn’t quite as good as Shae’s was. But damn it, she is my Millya. She is Bane of the Fallen King, and I know who my true main always will be, and I couldn’t have done that without my generous and uncomplaining guildies. I don’t think I was holding us back in the final kill (for any WoL nerds, like me). But this story doesn’t have a star. Everyone tonight was awesome and essential to our success. I am so proud I could burst!

Congratulations, Business Time! Tonight you were all down to just your socks.

Oh, he's fallen all right.

Why MMOs Are Good For Your Children

These aren't actually my kids. Especially the pale one.

In a society where headlines tend to favour the sensational, you don’t hear much about the good things video games can do. We’ve all seen news articles and television features about the negative effects of video games. A search on Google for just that yields no shortage of results. As an avid gamer (and someone who has been an avid gamer from a very young age) I think it should come as no surprise that I’m going to go the other way with this.

First of all, I feel I should explain my point of view. I’ve been playing video games since Frogger was a big thing. I saved my money from my paper route to fund our first Super Nintendo. The plain old NES belonged to my brother – and I hated that he got to keep it in his room! I had to get his permission before I could play Bubble Bobble with my Mom. I spent hours watching him play Zelda. Later, I owned a Playstation, a Playstation II, and then a Playstation III. I played the old Sierra Games (So You Want To Be A Hero?) I don’t believe that playing video games has made me a violent person. It has made me a more imaginative person, and it definitely helped my hand eye coordination.

Criticism of people who play video games goes hand in hand with other tropes about loners, nerds, geeks – social deviants, aberrant, homely people sitting in basements because they can’t interact with “the real world.” At its core, most gaming is a solitary pursuit, instinctively mistrusted by folks who think you’d be better off joining the local bowling league or “getting some fresh air.” I don’t subscribe to the notion that some hobbies are “better” than others. They are just different. Obviously moderation is the key, here. When it comes to children, one criticism leveled against video games is that kids should be engaged in more physically active pursuits. On the one hand, I agree. Game systems like the Wii that involve movement are well-suited to kids and can help combine those two goals. But don’t forget, I grew up in an extremely Northern climate. When it’s minus fifty degrees Celsius outside, you don’t send the kids out to play. Winter lasts a really long time.  My brother and I fostered a lifelong love of video games, and I’m going to tell you why that’s not a bad thing.

Socializing

Obviously this is dependent on the age of your children. You don’t just want to set your kids free to talk to any stranger they meet on the internet! Game responsibly, people. But socializing, as you know, is a major aspect of any MMO. I have known people who played WoW with their appropriate-aged children, and either joined or created a family-oriented guild. There’s a story on the Warcraft site about a grandmother who plays with her kids, and her grandkids too. This touches on a recent Breakfast Topic over at WoW Insider about using WoW to keep in touch. I know that I read recently about a grandmother who was playing with her grandkids over a long distance. Speaking as someone whose grandparents lived on the other side of the country, I know it can be tough when you don’t get to see them and really, it’s as if they are strangers. As long as parents are keeping an eye on how the game is being used, I can absolutely see it as being a great tool to interact and spend time with family and friends. It’s cheaper than a phonecall and cooperative, too.

Sharing

Anyone who has read some of my pug horror stories knows that some people playing this game aren’t necessarily poster children for Ms. Manners. However, think of the last time you encountered someone who you thought exhibited bad manners. I’m a firm believer that most social behaviours are learned ones, whether you’re learning them in real-life or in a virtual world. If someone rudely Needs on loot or makes an unsavory remark and the rest of the group reacts in a civil but disapproving manner, there’s a message being sent. Even though you might think the teenagers playing this game don’t pay attention or don’t care, I might be a hopeless optimist to think that some do care, and some do notice. I meet many more polite and friendly people than I do real jerks. I’m not even convinced that the jerks I meet are actually young people.

Especially if you play along with your child and demonstrate these positive behaviours, MMOs like WoW are constantly providing opportunities to learn about fairness and sharing. Jimmy lost the roll on that sword? Well, better luck next time, but that’s fair. Everyone in the group worked to earn that loot. Another time he will win something that he wanted – and the group will congratulate him and he can thank them, graciously. Hey, it’s not just reading and math games that teach lessons!

This one isn't mine either. They're a bit gawky when they're young, aren't they?

Teamwork

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t much of an athlete when I was growing up. I grew tall very quickly and it took me a few years to coordinate everything. (Read: stop tripping over my own feet). I did eventually participate in some sports – mostly track and field.  My point is, while I’m sure WoW has its share of natural athletes that play – it might be fair to say that on average most players might not be. (Notice there’s many qualifiers, because I’m sure Awesome Paladin Tank who is ALSO nearly a pro football player will comment! Of course, I’m generalizing.) The point is, that many kids who might be drawn to MMOs may not be naturally inclined to team sports. Like me, they may have had an awkward stage. Or, to be perfectly honest, just not be much “into” sports.
I wasn’t even good at group projects or any other kind of group work. They always frustrated me. I wanted to do things by myself – this held true even into my college years. I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration at all to say that end-game experience in Warcraft has given me a new found appreciation and facility for working with others. Other people may eventually get this of necessity from a job or other task. Perhaps I just came to this understanding late in life – but I have found that working with a group of other people can be a great deal of fun. It was a skill I had to learn – and I think that it’s a valuable one. I wish I’d figured it out at a younger age – maybe if I’d been playing more social-based video games, I would have!

Organization and Leadership

I remember reading about Tam’s guild in Never Never Land. The majority of the guild was between the ages of 16-19, generally. I don’t remember what I was doing at that age (err I was on the yearbook committee?) but that’d be the closest thing I ever came to the elaborate HR Resource Management game that is running an (apparently successful) guild in WoW. Whether or not Tam actually stuck around, I think it’s still a pretty amazing testament to what a positive thing the game can be. These are teens who were scheduling raids, making sure everyone showed up to raids, leading those same raids. I think that’s fabulous! Whether you are leading them in a game or elsewhere,  that’s a valuable experience. Tam also mentioned that these folks had some of the strictest rules about respecting other people in the guild and not making belittling, racist, or sexist jokes. Even better.
At one point in our raiding career, Voss and I were raiding with a paladin and his two young brothers, a rogue and a mage. They were very much younger brothers to the paladin’s twenty-something, being eleven and thirteen. They  seldom spoke in Vent at all, and he helped make sure that they knew what their jobs were. His whole family played Warcraft so his mother would listen in on our raids from time to time. (Initially, to make sure that we weren’t crazy people). I’ve never known raiders more polite and appreciative than those two fellows. They were never greedy about loot. They were always on time. They never failed to thank us at the end of the raid. For the time we raided with them I think they were afforded an opportunity to raid with adults and their brother in a respectful environment – and they definitely proved that they’d earned the right to be there.

Accomplishment

There are some who might scoff at “accomplishments” in a video game. I don’t think any of them are reading here, though. Just recently I wrote about how thrilled I was to finally down Firefighter with my guild. We all had a rush of happiness and pride after killing The Lich King. That sense of setting a goal, and achieving it – whether it’s a holiday achievement, killing a rare spawn, or even just to hit max level is something that people of any age can appreciate and take pride in. Setting a goal and then figuring out the steps that will lead you to it is another valuable life skill. Obviously it isn’t one you can learn only from video games or MMOs, but it’s definitely a powerful incentive. The same young men I mentioned previously, who raided with their older brother – I remember one of them had more pets than anyone I’d met previously. He was especially proud of his Kirin Tor Familiar. This is a pet that takes a significant investment of time and planning to get! I still don’t have it with my own main! (I am just one book away, though. Just one…more…book!) I don’t think anyone held his hand through that achievement. He must have looked it up on Wowhead or perhaps Warcraftpets.com. to find out where the books would spawn. Maybe he discovered the Bookclub channel on his server and joined it to coordinate with others. In any case he was definitely taking initiative to meet that specific goal, and he was rightfully proud when he did. I like to think that he applies the same spirit to school projects or finding ways to raise money for a new bike.

You Kids Get Offa My Lawn

Kids that play video games are clearly violent malcontents who will amount to nothing in society. Or, it could be that they are learning things about team work, research, setting goals, and social interactions through interacting with their peers and adults in a cooperative environment. Who’s to say? I’m sure that many “studies” have “proven” the negative effects of video games time and time again, but until then, society at large will forgive me while I remain politely skeptical! What do you think?

Flee, flee, little ones!

When the going gets tough

Kae wrote a really fantastic post about Heroic Lich King. It’s worth reading even if your guild isn’t necessarily working on Heroic Lich King because it applies to any tough raid encounter that’s going to take your raid group a long time to beat successfully. Since I’ve been in Business Time, we’ve had a few of these albatrosses. In a funny way, when you overcome an encounter like this through perseverance over a period of time – your raid is that much more prepared for the next to come. Perhaps to make myself more clear, I need to get retrospective:

Firefighter

When I first joined the guild, they had done quite a bit of hardmode Ulduar. They had completed the hard modes for every encounter – up to Mimiron, and Yogg-Saron. If you aren’t familiar with Firefighter, I’ll lay it out fast and dirty for you. On his normal difficulty, Mim is a Four-phase fight. When you push that red button, he becomes a four-phase fight of WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN. The hard mode adds the mechanic of spreading fire on the ground that is being put out by robots that can and will kill you or knock you into something that will kill you, along with heavier damage from all of his abilities, and targeted abilities on the raid members that could nearly one-shot us if we didn’t get urgent triage from a healer. But despite all of that – the frustration of a grueling and unforgiving encounter, it’s not what I remember most about Mimiron.

Firefighter was like a marathon. We started running it together and night after night we’d be in there listening to his screechy voice, just happy to have made it that much closer to phase three, that much closer to phase four. I kid you not, I dreamed about Firefighter. We learned the dance, we learned the positioning, we learned how to manage the fires, and eventually it all came together. But before it did, we had some casualties. No, they didn’t die to Mimiron’s fire.

It was the only fire I had access to, okay? It's dramatic.

One

We caught one of the guild’s tanks standing at the Ulduar summoning stone on an unguilded alt, heading into Ulduar after he’d set himself unavailable for our raid. (Incidentally, we were also short people that night). When we whispered him to ask him what was going on, his reply basically amounted to: “Going to Ulduar with my alt’s guild, have fun with Firefighter lololol.” Our guild leader at the time booted him on the spot. Obviously he didn’t want to spend the time with us working on hard content. Firefighter had claimed its first victim. He lacked the commitment.

Two

Healer tension between a Holy paladin and our then-Holy priest came to a head that culminated in the paladin leaving. He felt that we were not going to improve at the fight as long as she was there. Granted, she did have a tendency to die to situational things, which was the kiss of death for that encounter. We had our second Firefighter casualty.

Three, Four

The other thing holding us back with Firefighter was overall DPS was low and some people had a tendency to stand in the fire. The next two losses were a bit uglier, because we had a warlock who just… wasn’t getting it. His DPS was low. He claimed it was because he was taking utility talents, but I was routinely leaving him in my dust (by a large margin) and his gear was significantly better than mine. (I recognize this sounds very “Look at me, I’m so awesome,” I’m not a jerk; I was actually embarrassed to be in the position of making him look bad as “the new kid.” I really wanted him to improve, too.) He proved resistant to any suggestions as to how to improve his DPS. His friend (the aforementioned priest) was very protective of him. The unfortunate combination: They both ended up leaving. I don’t want to get into the messy, dramatic aspect of this. It’s all water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned. I think they probably found a place where they are happier. But statistically, they are important.

Five

The last raider was someone who just didn’t see the point in hard modes. He didn’t leave the guild (then) but he did later. He just didn’t want to do them, felt they were a waste of his time – he came to Firefighter once, but hadn’t watched the videos and was a giant liability. I was just as happy when he stopped coming.

Didn’t You See The Sign…

So that’s five raiders broken by the challenge of Firefighter with our guild that opted to go elsewhere. I discuss them not because I mean to say “Haha, we beat this encounter, even after they left,” but because I want to highlight just how intense this kind of progression can be. I think some people thought we’d never successfully complete Firefighter. We all got tired of it. Conversations I’ve had since included talk about how boring it was, how tiring it was to do it for hours, night after night – to always know it was there, waiting. But those conversations also include the awesome, inimitable feeling of FINALLY DOWNING HIM. When we killed Firefighter we screaaaamed. The sound in Vent was overwhelming and awesome. It’s that feeling that makes your hair stand on end. It’s the reason why Firefighter was the single most satisfying encounter of Wrath for me. If you ask me what my most memorable kill was, it’s going to be that one every time, without hesitation. We worked so hard for it, and we earned it.

In the end, it took us one hundred and twenty-one wipes before we beat Firefighter. That’s only times I was there for, since Voss and I joined. In the course of beating it, we lost five raiders (actually seven, if you count spouses/friends who left with various people). With a roster of fifteen, that’s more than a third of our total fighting strength. That’s huge. Its significance was more than just being short-staffed, though. It marked a turning point, if you will. A schism. Those who stayed were  people who were willing to really throw themselves against a brick wall until it was the wall that gave, and not them. Those who left were people who, for whatever reason, didn’t think we were the team to do it with, or didn’t want to do it at all.

From then on, when we were recruiting people we emphasized attitude and willingness to wipe on hard content to learn it – for weeks, yes, months at a time. In a way, it doesn’t matter what encounter specifically you are facing down. Let’s face it, they are all somewhat interchangeable pixels. You dance out of this fire, and you target that thing – those are the mechanics that stand in the way of success. But what really can prove to be the greatest obstacle is the attitude of the group. We’ve been fortunate to assemble a really awesome group of people – dedicated people who have stuck with us through fire and youurrr pathetic magic will betraaayyyy youuu. The summer boss hit us pretty hard so we were set-back, but we’ve been resuming H LK with a vengeance and seeing some tremendous success since the patch changes. More than ever I know this fight is within our grasp. Our best attempt was 38%, which means we’ve SEEN Phase 3, previously we hadn’t. I know that we can do this because I believe in our people. They are the team that came through the fire and were strengthened by it, not broken. We don’t stand in the fire, though. Never that.

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