Perspective, Decisions, Goals: A Raid Leader’s Dilemma

“Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective”-Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been away from the raiding game for exactly4 resets now. I’m a hardcore player that leads a guild with raid bosses left on the table to finish. At 11/12 Heroic Icecrown and normal mode Halion, we decided to go on a pre-Cataclysm raiding vacation.

  • Burn-out
  • Attendance
  • Lack of Skill
  • Frustration

None of those apply, actually. It’s a complicated topic that I decided not to write about until a month after because I felt like I lacked the perspective to really reflect on the decision made by myself and the officer corps just a short month and a half ago.

Decisions

There are so many things that played into it. In many ways, this decision has been six years  in the making.

When it comes to being an officer in a Warcraft Guild, bloggers talk about it, but they don’t really talk about it. If that doesn’t make sense (probably not), let me explain.

We are in one of the oddest positions in gaming. We make decisions that direct how people spend their leisure time. People come home from work or school, sit down at their computer, and then ask me what we’re going to be doing tonight. I remember, in vivid detail, the first time that I ever called a raid. It was Serpentshrine Cavern. We were short 3 or 4 people, and I had to send everyone away for the evening. I sat online for the rest of the night hating myself, and vowed to do everything I can to stop that from happening ever again.

As a person, you feel personally responsible for ruining someone’s fun (which is never fun for you, hopefully). You’re the one that’s in charge of getting people into the raid in the first place. There’s a reason I’ve devoted a lot of time to studying and writing about guild recruitment and roster management. It’s so important and yet so often overlooked that when you get down to it, there’s ~20 real people that are taking time out of their evening to sit down and kick it inside a raid instance. It’s also one of the reasons that I loathed the dependence on badge income for Tier 10: too much undue stress on raid leaders.

But we take it on gladly. Certain people with certain personalities. It all works.

We met as officers, and as friends, on more than one occasion to address the gorilla that weaseled its way into the room. This gorilla was aptly named Arthas, Heroic. While working on getting icebound frost wyrms, we skipped an end-wing boss or two to get achievements. This meant that the Ultimate Encounter was not available for us to try for a reset or two, but we never really sat down and talked about it.

Until we did.

Perspective

I listen to a lot of raiding podcasts, read a lot of raiding blogs, and talk to a lot of raiding people in real life. It’s a big extended family for me. As we were pushing for more drakes and more heroic kills, many of the members of the guilds attached to the aforementioned parties were just getting their first Kingslayer titles. It made me step back and say outloud: “Wow!” I wasn’t wow-ing in a “lol casuals!” way, it was a “wow, these guys are so happy!” reaction. Honestly, I was really happy for them. Hearing the shout-outs on The Instance of “Grats on killing Arthas!” made me smile a bit. I remember when we killed Arthas back when the buff had recently ticked to 10%, we were happy but not content.

Four months later we were ready to take on the second, more epic version, of Arthas. Or were we?

Summer is what summer is. I’ve been raid leading a long time, and I’ve planned for and dealt with the Summer lull many times including this expansion when we lead the server in progression through Tier 8. Something was different though. It’s one of those feelings that you know everyone is feeling, but are afraid to really address it straight up.

So we had our meeting. We talked about what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, and what was left to accomplish in this expansion. The short version: we decided to take the easy path on Vixsin’s Arthas, Heroic flow chart.

Was it burnout?

Did we plan poorly for the Summer and for further progression?

Are we good enough to even do the boss?

None of those came up because they didn’t apply. We were just done with the expansion.

The bottom line, like everything in WarCraft, came down to numbers. We have been playing this game for 6 years. Six. Years. (personally 4 and a half). The last 3 and a half years I’ve spent ~4 nights (and a lot of times 5, 6, and 7) in a raiding instance. During that time we managed to accomplish a lot of things from server firsts to high ranking US kills, to consistently solid progression instance to instance.

It was time to just step back. Reflect. Assess.

I’ve had that meeting that Wrathy talked about it in a recent post more times than I can even count. What can we do? How should we recruit? Let’s define some better officer roles. Do we have the proper raid comp? What classes do we target? This time we decided that after weighing all of that, the outcome would be too negative to justify the kill. Instead we decided that we would tie up a few loose ends, and give ourselves a long deserved raiding break before the next expansion.

Below is a snippet out of a nearly 1400 word post announcing this decision:

To those out there that were geeked to go for Heroic Lich King, and really wanted to trick their gear sets out to the max, I apologize again as both a raid leader and fellow teammate. In a way I feel like I let down those that really wanted to go all the way to the top and finish this off. The reason that I’m making this post now instead of after the above two goals are completed [is] because it is not in my nature to further mislead anyone as to our intentions.

In a way, this is harder for me to do than simply keep recruiting, keep pushing. It’s a burden that I’ve taken on in the past because I welcome the pressure. The problem this time around is that my actions affect gameplay in a much more negative fashion than in previous content. The break before Cataclysm will serve as a time for everyone to take a step back and reflect on what has been a truly amazing 17 months of raiding.

Reflecting is something that I’ve never been real good at doing. It’s always a battle of “what’s the next raid instance?” “what are the strats?” “what are we doing this week?” “what’s our server ranking?” and you never really take a step back and really look at what you’ve done, what your goals are, and your intentions.

Not deciding to recruit, avoiding the challenge, and stepping back away from raiding for a few months runs counter to almost everything I write about here. The world of the average raider, the soldier, the grunt, the line cook is unaffected by these changes. There will always be players out there that want to go after heroic lich king or raid in a 25 man raid or whatever challenging encounter comes next.

The trick is finding the raid leaders that want to tackle those challenges. For whatever reason, it just didn’t feel right this time. Twin Emperors, C’thun, Lady Vashj, Kael’thas, Archimonde, Sunwell, Anub’arak. Whenever we finally conquered Sindragosa and got those last hanging achievements for our drakes, it was time to tap out.

Uncle. You got me.

Before you break my arm and I can never fight again, let’s just stop now and I’ll be back for the next bout more prepared than ever.

Is that burnout? Maybe it is in the technical sense, but I’m not really burned out. I still play throughout the week on multiple toons. The difference this time was that I just wasn’t willing to sacrifice more of the players I raid with to actual burnout for just one.more.boss.

Goals & The Future

I left this expansion beyond satisfied for the first time in a long time despite not checking off the final two hard modes. I never got to do much in vanilla Naxx on my own and finished Sunwell post 3.0. Wrath of the Lich King feels complete. It ended sooner because, psychologically, it just started to feel like a big hustle to me.

Kill this boss. Ok, we added 2 mechanics and bumped the numbers. Kill it again. I dare you. Sorry, but one can only ignore the man behind the curtain for so long before the noise of the levers he’s pulling overtake the show in front of him.

“Waaaa, cry more, Borsk. Woe is you.”

So be it.

My final two goals of the expansion were to get a Halion kill and to get every last one of our raiders an Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher. With the help of every raider and numerous F&F members, we accomplished both of those goals. I was not going to leave this expansion with someone missing their 310 speed mount from this instance. It just wasn’t going to happen, and I’m glad that we knocked out all of the achievements while continuing to complete the instance on majority hard-mode.

When I log on to help out a 10 man, GDKP run, or just to shoot the shit in guild chat, players from other guilds ask what the deal is with . Are we dead? Why did we stop raiding? Are we starting up again in Cataclysm? The answer is yes, we are. Am I worried that players won’t return and will quit the game because of this layoff? Not really.

That sounds a little harsh/arrogant, but it’s just the truth. Is it right of me to keep scheduling raids just to obligate folks to show up and not quit? Shouldn’t people stick around just because they want to play? Because they like the game? If everyone decides in the months off that WoW was no longer the game for them, I would respect that decision. Just as they respected mine.

In the end we all have time now to pursue other hobbies. For me it’s been a lot of movies, hockey (finally back playing competitively), and StarCraft 2. For others it’s been raiding on horde or with other guilds. It’s a weird feeling not being tied to anything. The good thing is that everyone is getting to do what they want to do.

Cataclysm is going to be a big change and a new challenge for our officers and raiding crew. I’m looking forward to watching everyone continue on in Wrath of the Lich King and accomplish their personal goals, and continue to offer my commentary on shamans and healing as I wait for my beta key (*chuckle*). It’s been awhile between posts here and I definitely want to change that.

It turns out I always have too much to say. 😉

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7 Responses to Perspective, Decisions, Goals: A Raid Leader’s Dilemma

  1. Beruthiel says:

    This is an absolutely fantastic grouping of your thoughts.

    I am in a similar position to you, and I am certainly struggling with if/how hard to push HM LK. Right now we are focused on taking out HM Halion because I think that is 100% within our grasp, but from what I have seen/heard about HM LK – I am just not sure he is worth what he may do to our guild with a serious push at him.

    I have been debating with myself for some time now about putting up a post asking for the guilds thoughts on how to deal with him. And I think it might be close to a ripe time for the topic, with the top guild on our server folding under the pressure of that particular encounter.

    I think that you made some fabulous decisions as leadership here, and I applaud you for them. And as they are topics that are very close to my heart I 100% understand the flux of emotions that went through the process of making these decisions.

    This post has actually given me a lot of food for thought, and for that I sincerely thank you for sharing.

    Good Luck!

  2. Blacksen says:

    I was talking with some folks on Tankspot about this earlier today. There’s a real problem when you get a team of “disconnected” goals, and Heroic Lich King just has SOMETHING about the encounter that creates that disconnect. Personally, I think its his placement in the game – there’s nothing left to progress after him. He’s the end-all-and-be-all, and for a lot of people, it’s just not worth it. When Imperative walked in, we knew it was a guaranteed 50 wipes per week surmounting to over 300 wipes total, and to some people, that’s just not worth it for what basically amounts to a title. It’s just not fun.

    I’ve compared heroic Lich King to Yogg-0 back before ToC. A lot of guilds simply didn’t attempt Yogg-0. They would clear all the Ulduar hardmodes in one night, and just leave Yogg-0 to be. They didn’t feel the compulsion to do it: they’d already done all Ulduar hardmodes, they’d gotten their drakes, and that was it. They didn’t see Yogg-0 as progression because they achieved all progression, and they were content with that. Where-as when you look at Mimiron heroic, Lady Vashj, M’uru, Kael’thas: there was stuff on the other side. That “stuff” made the fights progression. That “stuff” gave people drive.

    Heroic Lich King, as an encounter, has two elements: The first is the duration. Yogg-Saron and the Lich King are the only 10+ minute fights in Cataclysm. It’s also no surprise that the hardest hardmodes in Icecrown are also the longest (Deathwhisperer, Sindragosa, and Putricide). The second element, however, is motivation.

    A lot of leaders face the question on a daily basis: “How do I motivate raiders to do X?” And that’s where the disconnect occurs: your raiders are either already motivated to do X, or they’re not motivated and there’s nothing you can do to attain it. The Imperative leadership hit that wall very early on, and for the first three weeks of having heroic Lich King unlocked, we never put in an attempt: the leadership had no motivation to try. Eventually, it took a lot of backlash from our members to start trying.

    You’re fortunate enough to recognize that the disconnect in goals existed, and to go with the cautious side. There are several hundred guilds right now that are having violent backlashes and collapses because of a split in motivation. The leadership continued to press, built up more stress, and would then burn out what would have been a fantastic raiding roster in Cataclysm.

    And that’s ultimately the problem now that a lot of leaders face: do you risk burning out the guild trying to get one more (largely insignificant) boss kill, or do you take a break and get off to a great start in Cataclysm? The correct answer is the latter, but a lot of leaders are choosing the former and paying for it.

    • Borsk says:

      Thanks for the comments, Blacksen.

      The divergent goals thing is one of the touchiest topics when it comes to the leader to raider relationship inside of a guild. The best that a guild can do is define where that line is and stick to it as consistently as possible.

      We were in that Yogg-0 camp (not attempting it). The thing is though, if Yogg had 3 modes: (4 lights, 1 light, no lights), we probably would have went for it, but after learning 4 lights, 3 lights, and 1 light, and getting a drake, you just say…”ok I think we’re done with this tentacle boss.”

      I feel like the meta-achievements/proto-drakes fall into the perfect place as far as raiding rewards go. It’s a tangible reward that is a complete instance achievement.

  3. Eiona says:

    As a member of the raiding core in our guild, and someone who has been raiding since Scholomance and UBRS were considering “raids”, i welcomed this.

    For me, and I know alot of people knew, it was complete burn out. And like I’ve mentioned to a few people, Each expansion of WoW has been like school… and now I’m finally getting my summer break WOOOHOOOO. It’s been nice, and yet at the same time its been awkward. At first it felt like the days were dragging on because there werent those 4-5 hours that were designated to *something* Its been a little over a month now no? and yet at 7pm and 8pm i always look at the clock and my first instinct is to grab my authenticator heh. Its nice to be able to focus on, and give enough time to things in my life outside of wow.
    Anyone who has ever been in BRM knows it’s more than just a guild… so i dont think this “break” will cause a significant amount of people not to return in Cataclysm. I’m sure I’ll be back, ready to go.

    and dont work Borsk, Once Cata comes, It’ll just be hopping back into the same routine of logging in and rebelling against everything you want me to do 😉

  4. Jen says:

    Interesting read… You’re definitely more hardcore than my guild, but I’ve been thinking about the same things. We’ve got two achievements to go and we’ve got drakes. Should we go for LK heroic? The RL says yes. I say no. It’s *hard*, we’re not that amazing, and what’s the point? A title? It would take us many weeks – if we even have a shot at it. We’re a 10-man guild with some 25-man gear; the guilds on my server who killed LK 10 hc were in ilvl 277 gear. I just don’t see the point…

    (By the way, love your spreadsheet!)

  5. Jagerbombz says:

    I was rather frustrated when I found out that we were not only not going for H LK, but not raiding anymore. I completely understood why (I love BRM with all my heart, but there ARE a few people who I know would have wiped us until we were at the point like we were at for reg LK, not getting even 20 people online for progression). H LK is the most bullshit fight i’ve ever faced in this game, with abilities that require the exact opposite actions aligning perfectly (IS IT DEFILE OR VALKS FUCKFUCKFUCK) where guessing wrong will cost you the attempt. Guessed defile? Gratz, it was valks, and you just lost a disc priest and a warrior. I have never been more annoyed with a fight since the brutallus gearwall, where myself and 24 others were literally throwing ourselves at a boss hoping for good enough crit RNG to kill the boss so we would get a new shiny purple, rather than giving up after 2 nights and going back and farming for a glaive set.

    If you get a key, let me know how it is. The beta is going to detirmine if im going to continue playing in cat or not and honestly, atm, im about 50/50 for quitting thanks to this game becoming something i thought was impossible: more dumbed down. Some people play games for fun (thats why I have console games like borderlands, MGS4, and generic brown shooter 3) and some for the challenge. i play this game for the challenge. I can only hope that blizzard sees the error in their ways and doesnt go through with some of the changes they are making. who knows? maybe ill see you guys in cat, maybe i wont.

    ❤ always,
    Autoshotftw / Jagerbombz

  6. Lazér says:

    When the decision was made to take a break, it was shortly after we had our Spring gathering. For me, I looked at the decision as “I would rather keep the close friendships that I have between the people that I love and the guild I serve.” I will openly admit that I am by no means an “elite raider”. I try my very best each night, I make the attempt to stand up and say “That was my fault, I caused that” when I make mistakes, so with that said I can honestly say I’m not sure if I would have been able to handle that encounter. Is it because of my lack of skill? My poor judgement? My lack of awareness? All of the above? Either answer I would welcome and accept for this simple reason: I have made close friends with almost every single one of the people I raid with. I have met them, shook their hands, gave them a hug, drank beers, played poker, and hell even sang karaoke with these guys and gals. These are not fictionial invididuals or folks behind monitors I’ll never see, these are my friends, and friendship cannot take a backseat to anything in this world. On top of that I have a wonderful job, a home that I own, responsibilities outside the game, and a relationship to boot. Are my priorities out of line? Am I not “leet” enough? Say what you want but I have more than most WoW players can possibly obtain from the folks I sit down with and raid. I’ll be back when the expansion hits, and I intend to stay with Borsk and the guild, because I enjoy BRM for more than the things we accomplish. The people. I look forward to the new raids, new friends and holding another gathering featuring all of the great amenities that came out of the last one.

    -Pew Pew

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