The Raiding Bubble

29 March, 2011

Can nobody save us? Will anyone try? The pyre is burning, the severance is dying. And all along they say it. Help is on the way.” – Rise Against

Housing crisis! Gas prices! Unemployment! Tsunamis! Urban cobras!

This is about none of those. Despite the above topics not receiving nearly enough coverage in today’s reserved media climate, I’m going to leave them alone and focus on what is quickly becoming the latest hot topic in the World of Warcraft: recruitment, guild disbandment, and guild culture change.

Cataclysm’s Tier 11 and it’s consequences for guilds has resulted in the bursting of a “Raiding Bubble” that has grown and expanded like any other economic bubble. Let me take you on a quick journey through the history of raiding, and we’ll see how we’ve come to this point.

In the Beginning

From the perspective of a “lifetime” MMO gamer, and a player of this particular one since 2005, what has become of the raiding scene is unsurprising.

I tend to have long discussions with some of my fellow raiders about where we’ve come from, and what we’ve done in the long history of this game. Memories of spending hours and days and weeks inside of Ahn’Qiraj. Memories of spending hours and days inside of Tempest Keep. The list goes on and on.

Everything I do in this game is built on a foundation made of those experiences. Raiding on Zul’jin in the Molten Core days was different than it is now. You had about 6 or 7 serious Alliance guilds and 6 or 7 serious Horde guilds. All were doing 40 man raids, so everyone was ostensibly on the same “level” in a world where there were no heroic modes.

From Tier 1 to Tier 2 to Tier 3, those same guilds existed. Some fell only to see their remaining members take up with someone else, continuing on. They grew together and their cultures became established. Everything that runs Blood Red Moon today was the work of Guild Leaders 4 years before I ever came to be a part of it.

With the release of The Burning Crusade, we saw 10 man raiding appear, as well as the reduction of raid teams to 25. The transition was jarring but it was handled. The game grew in popularity, not surprisingly, and as a result more guilds appeared.

Blizzard’s internal goal as Burning Crusade went on was to make raiding a little less time consuming. It was clear that an extremely small percentage of their player base was participating in the lore-driving content of their game. Attunement quests were removed, the badge vendor appeared, and the use of tokens was expanded. Consumable use was drastically altered. Sunwell was the most hardcore raid anyone had ever seen and even it had the ability to trade spec-specific pieces (the beginnings of a reduced reliance on drops).

Raiding began it’s final evolution in Wrath of the Lich King. The second expansion was Blizzard’s two year long beta testing of raid content. Each tier of content presented a different feature to raiders.

  • Tier 7: 10 and 25 man raids, raiding meta achievements, activated hard mode available for one encounter, badge vendor as source of tier gear
  • Tier 8: Full instance of activated hard modes, essentially creating a Tier 8.5
  • Tier 9: Separate raid lockouts for hard mode vs. normal mode. Tier gear “trade up”.
  • Tier 10: Single raid lockout with hard mode vs. normal mode switch capability. Requirement of badges to get tier gear to start the “trade up” system.

The changes to the difficulty and creating so many incremental goals for players caused raiding to explode. All of the barriers of entry to raiding were removed. I had a different alt in each tier of this expansion complete the “Glory” achievements because it took no effort to make them “raid ready.” The arduous process of progressing through all the content no longer existed. Some may say that was a good thing. Some will say that it was a big mistake.

(Where you fall on the progression curve will determine your opinion)

Blizzard achieved their goal. Raiding guilds were popping up everywhere. Everyone was trying to get into a 25 or 10 man, even if it was a pug, to check out the big bad bosses. Whether you were cheering on vent for grabbing a server first Heroic: Anub’arak kill or elated that your new 10 man group killed Lord Marrowgarr and Lady Deathwhisper in one night, you got to experience the true greatness of MMOs: achieving success in a game as a team.

That rapid growth of raiding would not come without consequences.

Bait and Switch?

No one can really argue, even if you’re a so-called “Wrath Baby” that raiding has never been easier than it was at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. Including knowledge of the game, mechanics, and encounter difficulty. More people were running around in raiding gear than ever before.

The confidence of those raiders, some helped by the gradually increasing Icecrown Citadel buff, were enthusiastic about Cataclysm. Only one raid lockout. Same gear for everyone. Oodles of changes to the game such as guild perks, achievements, and a further simplification of gear? Bring it on!

What none of them (or me, or anyone) could have anticipated was how much Blizzard was going to ratchet up the difficulty of the introductory tier of content. “It must be just the gear and healing changes, we’ll work it out.” But it never got worked out, it stayed hard.

The difficulty focus in Tier 11 is on each and every player to play their class to the best of their ability. The strategies aren’t very complicated despite a large number of mechanics. This isn’t the difficulty I started my 10 man (or even 25 man in some cases) guild with!

The result? LOTS of guilds raiding. LOTS of guilds blocked and not progressing as fast as they think they should be. I know that we felt it in Blood Red Moon. It caused some significant changes internally that we’re finally starting to see come to fruition and help us out.

Whether you’re an established guild or one who just picked up in the recent expansion(s), you’ve felt the bubble, and now you’re feeling it start to burst.

Feel the Burn

For the newer players that didn’t have more experienced members to fall back on for support, they realize that maybe this isn’t what they signed up for. Bosses that die quickly and then get noticeably easier from week to week aren’t there. Each one takes execution until you over-gear. That means you are going to fill up a lot of raid days and spend (potentially) many hours inside a dimly lit castle staring at a smirking dragon that repeatedly smashes your face into the cold, stone floor.

How do you react to that? This isn’t fun. If I’m a raid leader do I know what I’m doing? If I’m just a raider does my raid know what they’re doing? This World of Logs thing says Duder the Mage should be doing 18k damage and he’s only doing 11k!

As a new guild, you may have never seen what happens when suddenly you lose a main tank or a main healer. Now you have to go looking for players. Lots of players. But you don’t find them, people get impatient because you just called another raid. Folks start to look else ware to raid or just give up and go back to watching every movie on the AFI Top 100 or some other hobby (I’m only at 51/100 by the way).

What had once been a rollicking good time is now you fighting with people to log in or hoping that someone decides to apply to your guild. You get your rogue to try tanking on his neglected DK, but it doesn’t really work out. You’re screwed.

Maybe you’ve been playing this game for 3 years, maybe even 6 years. Sitting around and waiting for folks to log on just isn’t something you’re interested in doing anymore. The recruitment crunch has hit you and your guild. You have no healing priests, and sometimes you are even running with less healers than you really should. The extra wipes are taking their toll.

This isn’t the first time that you’ve gone through this, but now it just seems like there is literally no one out there that is going to step in and be the tank, healer, or DPS you need right now. Your raiding core is starting to look at newer games like Rift, the latest console craze, or competitive games like StarCraft or League of Legends.

Not Enough Cooks

The refrain pre-4.0 in response to the 25 and 10 player shared lockout was that it would likely be the death of 25 man raiding. Who would put in that extra logistical effort when you can get the same loot from a smaller raid? Everyone has 9 pro-level friends right? Just take them, stop carrying the bads.

I feel the same now then as I did then: for guilds that have everything in place and have leadership that want to raid at the 25 man level, there will be 25 man guilds. I don’t have to raid 10 mans for better gear along with my 25 man raid. The raid week is 3 days, giving me tons of time to plan, administrate, and take some time to myself. WoW’s footprint on my calendar is ridiculously small compared to my 7-day Vanilla raid week (40 mans 5 days, 20 mans 2 days).

Blood Red Moon has players that are only interested in 25 man raiding. Whether it’s because of friendships, preference for the format, or just because it’s what we’ve always done, it doesn’t matter. We ran into the problems I detailed above, and we responded to them. The guild put the time in, and we’re starting to turn the corner back towards steady, consistent progression.

I’m in a unique situation in that sense. People want to raid and they have fun doing it. Most, if not all of them, have seen the down times that come with every raid group. This time around, recruitment is a completely different animal.

Going three weeks with literally no applications makes you seriously question everything that you do. Is it the website? What do I say in my recruitment thread that will make people want to come here? Applicants aren’t knocking on my door, hat in hand, looking for a home. They’re giving me notice that I’m one of four guilds that they’re looking at. You go from recruiter to salesman.

“Join Blood Red Moon, we have punch, pie, ginger ale, and marshmallows.”

It forced a significant overhaul in our approach to recruitment and our guild’s image. On Zul’jin, people know who we are, but folks that think Zul’jin is a weird drink based on a Ghostbuster’s character might think differently. They notice that bit of dust in the corner, and the typos in your responses. Are the other guild’s bad mouthing mine? Paranoia. Paranoia. Paranoia.

We’ve done innumerable things to help our guild image and recruitment:

  • Trade chat recruitment. Not too many apps directly from this, but it gets the word out.
  • Recruitment forums: Well worded posts with consistent bumping to keep them visible
  • Realm forums: Likewise. Same post, just bumped constantly
  • Social media: From Facebook to Twitter to just asking around to see if anyone knows anyone looking for a guild.
  • Overhaul of our application forums. We dumped all our old applications into an archive and are strict about who posts there/what is posted to keep it as on topic as possible.
  • Clear/updated posting of recruitment needs
  • Quick responses to apps with in-game interviews, vent interviews, and trial runs. Show me what ya got.

And many others that I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Recruitment is suddenly in favor of the applicant with literally dozens of guilds at various progression levels vying for your services. This is coming from someone that in the past has been asked “no one is recruiting, what do I do?” Full 180 degree turn from that. I’ve had recruits from 25 man teams and 10 man teams. All gave the same reason for leaving: we just stopped raiding.

What you are seeing is raiding scene bounce back to where it always was meant to be: for those dedicated to raiding and not just playing. I don’t think Blizzard wants it to be easy enough to pug everything, and they saw that at the end of WotLK. Guilds and the community they foster are very important to them. Needing a team that can work together and support each other in difficult content is not a bad thing and not a hardcore vs. casual thing.

It’s a team thing.

The Aftermath

Does your guild’s dissolution mean you aren’t a dedicated player? Probably not. In fact, I don’t blame folks that like playing the game, but want something else out of it. Guild and raid leading are not easy. Again, 90% of everything that runs my guild now is the result of over 6 years of progress. Nothing good happens without growing pains.

This expansion is very young, with raiding content just under 4 months old. Many of the guilds that have been created in the past year will likely go by the wayside. Those that do stick around through this content and continue to grow will be among the next class of, what Blizzard hopes are, long-term raiders.

What we have learned is that if WoW wants to have a competitive and difficult end-game, it cannot support an unlimited number of guilds. A lack of guilds with strong cores and dedicated leadership groups is bad for the game. However, raiding is a completely player driven feature. Blizzard can’t dictate how many guilds can be on a server or who or who should not be raid leading.

A balance will naturally occur between number of guilds vs. number of raiders. As more people realize guild leading is more than just asking folks to show up, less guilds will exist. When those in charge of some of the best guilds in this game decide that it’s time to hang up the guild tabard, less guilds will exist.

Blizzard claims that they are “ok’” with the current pace of raiding progression. The end of Tier 11 and Tier 12 will tell the true story about how they really feel. For now, 25 man raiding isn’t dying, 10 man raiding isn’t dying, and raiding as a whole isn’t dying. It’s simply balancing itself back inline with the difficulty of the current content.

Just keep on raiding. As Andy Dufresne said, get busy living or get busy dying.


Cataclysm’s Fantastic Four

1 February, 2011

Don’t think. FEEL. It’s like a finger-pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory! — Bruce Lee

With a day off to literally do nothing in-game, I had a little bit of time to reflect on normal mode Tier 11. We still have plenty of farming time on it to go as we progress through heroic mode Tier 11, but we’re done with it.

There have been a lot of Negative Neds and Nancys out there hating on Wow 4.0, but I want to put a different spin on it.

In these past four weeks, there has been a lot of time to explore the newness of Cataclysm and settle into the 4th era of WarCraft. With so much content, some might find it hard to pick out the best parts of the expansion just one month in, but I’m selfish and 99% right, 100% of the time, so let’s have at it!

Let’s see how random we can mark these points

1. Guild Leveling/Perks/Reputation/Achievements

I’m doing this one first because I want to state up front how wrong I was about this feature  (I said 99% right, don’t judge me). Before Cataclysm, guilds were simply an angle-bracketed Ominous Latin Name or Abstract Noun. The only significant source of togetherness was a cropped screenshot after a boss-kill with that same guild name on it.

Now with guild leveling and reputation, all the players in the guild (from officer to friends & family) can contribute to the progression of the guild. Raiders in the guild contribute inside of the instance, but the quests, dungeons, and battlegrounds that the more casual members complete also contribute to the guild experience pool.

Giving a tangible goal to everyone in a guild grants ownership of that goal to every member. The guild rewards are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Most of them are just another pet or mount, but there are others that everyone can benefit from. Gold from looting put into the bank which can then be used for repairs (we have guild repairs turned on for everyone, all the time).

Remote access to the guild bank, experience and reputation boosts, and honor bonuses. If you contribute something, anything, you will reap the rewards.It encourages folks to stick with a guild and build it into something meaningful. The bonuses to reputation/experience given to guild instance groups help build camaraderie through cooperation.

As a friends and family member or retired raider, the fact that guild status was previously only tied to raid progression had you feeling like a passenger. Now you can give something as well, and that can only mean good things.

Read the rest of this entry »

[Healing] Are you quitting on me?

23 December, 2010

Coming up a little rant on healing and then a quick blurb on Halfus Wyrmbreaker

A quick excerpt from one of my first blog posts here at Borsked:

Without [these qualities]: confidence, the ability to work without thanks, adaptability; you are doomed as a healer.  Accepting that you can’t heal and continuing to do so is a disservice to those you play with.  It’s ok, healing is a deceptively hard job.  It is one where mediocrity is celebrated and greatness is rarely noticed.  You know you just saved the raid, but nobody cared, and nobody is really going to care when you say “we wouldn’t have won if I didn’t…” No.  That is your job.  If you aren’t making 3 to 4 raid saving heals a pull then you are not properly utilizing your ability.

DPSing and beating an enrage timer is acknowledged as a group failure.  Seventeen players couldn’t get it done.  Healing is nearly always boiled down to 1 or 2 individuals.  If you cannot handle the blame of a wipe being placed on your shoulders then healing is not your game.

We aren’t the guys putting up the high scores, we’re the ones keeping the machine running.

It would be a moderate understatement to proclaim the current healing model is drastically different than previous expansions. More than ever healers are placed in a difficult position in heroics and raids. A sub-standard DPS or mishandling of mechanics can lead to a significant amount of damage that is (sometimes) un-healable.

But I’m not letting any of you off the hook.

This is what you signed up for. I’m not sure exactly when you clicked through and applied a healing spec to your favorite class, but depending on when that was probably has a lot to do with your current feelings toward the healing game in Cataclysm. It isn’t easy and it isn’t supposed to be easy.

As I had hoped and prayed for on this blog was that Blizzard would force me to intelligently use my global cooldowns. At this gear level, they have done that. If I mis-place a healing rain or cast too many chain heals on single targets, I will pay for it. If I cleanse the wrong players or double-cleanse when I don’t need to, I will pay for it. Every decision affects your mana bar. Choosing the right tool for the moment is exactly what healing is about and always will be about.

I’ve received tells from various players asking why healing is so hard and expressing that they might just go back to DPS after-all (some already have). Good. Wrath of the Lich King healing was too easy and now we’re all are suffering for it. Growing pains and adjustment are always a big part of a significant mechanics change.

I’ll admit that I’ve played poorly in some of our first few raids. Everything from over-healing to healing the wrong thing or simply just not casting enough. What’s good is that we’ve been successful and I can see some room for improvement. Playing a healer is no longer about how fast you can push those buttons but if you can push them quickly while using the correct spells.

To the players out there that are truly dedicated to healing and want to get better: stick with it. Just one week of heroic gear gave me a gigantic boost in my ability to heal through some of the worst situations. Now if a tank mis-pulls or breaks a CC early, I won’t have to scream for cooldowns. If you thought being a good healer before Cataclysm was an indispensable role, the need for solid healing is off the charts right now. You’ll get it, I have faith, but if you’re only going to complain about how hard it is and let groups wipe because you “can’t do it” then just roll a rogue and be done with it.

Rant off.

(editor’s note:  this is not directed at you. maybe you, but definitely not you or anyone in particular)

Halfus Wyrmbreaker

I can still fondly remember those moments before pulling Chromaggus when we sat in anticipation; waiting to find out what combination of colors the server gods had graced us with this week. It’s now the same feeling I get as I round the corner to Halfus’ balcony in the Bastion of Twilight. There are some drakes that both grant Halfus an ability, but also hold their own ability to take it away should you set them free. You get 3 per reset and there are 5 total (2 deactivated for the week).

(editor’s note: this is all for the normal version. The priorities could be completely different on heroic)

Storm Rider: Grants Halfus Shadow Nova. Release the Storm Rider to make the Shadow Nova interruptable.

This is the “Bronze Aspect” (to borrow a Chromaggus phrase) of Halfus. It requires a melee kick rotation to prevent a large amount of shadow damage/knockback.

Time-Warden: Grants Halfus’ proto-drake a buffed version of his fireballs. Release the Time Warden to slow the fireballs (a puff of red fire will appear where a fireball will eventually land).

While this is actually a bronze dragon, it is an easy mechanic to deal with: just move. It will reduce your dps and healing because of the movement, but it’s only a little annoying.

Slate Dragon: Grant’s Halfus the ability Malevolent Strikes (stacking debuff reducing healing done, 30 second duration, 15 stacks =90% reduction).

Let it stack, switch tanks, tanks will swap when their debuff fades

Nether Scion: Increases Halfus’ attack speed by 100%. Releasing the dragon will debuff Halfus to negate the attack speed.

Whelp Cage: Contains several green whelps. Release them to reduce the damage done by the proto-drake’s fire breath (raid-wide AOE).

  • Generally speaking, if we have 2 drakes, we release them both at the same time to nerf Halfus as much as possible
  • Each drake is burned down and then the whelp cage is opened. Kill the whelps, burn down Halfus
  • At 50% Halfus will gain a shout that will hit you 3 times in a row dealing physical damage on each hit (30 second cooldown).
  • If you need to interrupt Shadow Nova (Storm Rider was active), you’ll need to either heal through it, have a mage blink through the 3rd shout tick, or have a paladin HoP an interrupter of some sort.
  • Keep in mind the berserk timer. We lucked out out this week and the Slate Dragon’s debuff stunned Halfus as he enraged (giving us a kill over 30 seconds after).

(note: I’ve only ever seen 2 Drakes + Whelp Cage. I’m not entirely sure if you can get 3 drakes and no whelp cage)

And to sign off, Happy Festivus, everyone! Festivus:Yes. Bagels: No.

Cataclysm Raiding: Do It Right, The First Time

13 December, 2010

You know, as I lie here, I can’t help but notice… the reason I am out of nine millimeter rounds is that I was not properly briefed. And the reason for that is that this mission was not properly researched. If certain people had bothered to gather intelligence on the creatures before bumbling into the situation…-Burt Gummer, Tremors II

By now you’ve likely experienced the rush of leveling. The grind out of the gate when you hit the floor in Hyjal and were knee-deep in dead NPCs. Dozens of random cut-scenes, hundreds of quests (and maybe a dungeon or 2 later), you are 85 and ready to enter heroics.

The most likely outcome? Your group crashed and burned by the second trash pack while your healer sat gasping for mana. This was the case for me, and it was one of those “we’re doing something HORRIBLY wrong” situations. What you’re doing wrong is ignoring the individual abilities of the trash mobs (or bosses). Not standing in cleaves, avoiding aoe damage, interrupting, and over-CC’ing willl make your heroic dungeon experience infinitely easier. Do you need to CC 3/4 mobs in pack? Probably not, but better safe than sorry on your first trip.

It’s no mystery that the first foray for our a group through a particular dungeon was painful. Figuring out the nuance in each trash pack and what makes a certain boss simple as opposed to a healing nightmare is a refreshing change. You need to learn what is going on and actually deal with it correctly.

Saying Hello With a Punch to the Face

This leads me directly into a discussion on Cataclysm Raiding. I decided to schedule a quick impromptu 10-man raid on Sunday (12/12/10). The usual process followed for brand new content: look and see which starting boss was killed the most and go for that one. That boss was Omnotron Defense System. A pseudo-council boss sitting in the right-hand wing upon entering Blackwing Descent. For those who haven’t traveled there, BWD opens with two bosses (think Ignis and Razorscale). Each boss has has 1 (Omnotron) and 2 (Magmaw) trash pulls respectively.

I immediately say to myself: “SELF! Only one trash pull, this will save tons of time.” A crazy zerg shit-storm later and we have it down…the trash pull.


Trash mobs with 6.5M hit-points using abilities that will two shot anyone and put tanks in constant danger? Where are the AoE flowers and robots that I can ride? Maybe they are found deeper in the dungeon but they certainly are not present in the front of the instance. Assigned healing, something that floated out of existence for an entire expansion, has returned. The two sentinels standing guard in front of Omnotron were merely an introduction; a sample of what was to come.

Mr. Obvious Gives You Advice

A one sentence overview of Omnotron Defense System: It will punish you severely when you do it wrong, and will become simple to execute when done correctly.

“I know, Mr. Obvious, of course if you do the fight correctly it will be simple.”

This has not always been the case. Having only one in-combat rez and a disadvantage in the gear department compounds the above statement. Omnotron has abilities that directly (and serverely) punish the raid if they are not properly handled. Travel to wowwiki and read up on the fight if you aren’t intricately familiar, but here is the basic idea. A robot activates and fights you. After a certain amount of time he will put up a shield which turns on a new robot. When a robot runs out of mana he shuts down (post-shield). This rotates around until their shared 32.5 million hp bar is depleted and you can collect your epics. By their names you can guess what they do (kind of).

Arcanotron. Magmatron. Toxitron. Electron. Not always in that order.

1) Don’t DPS the Shield

With a few attempts under our belts we decided to adopt a “Don’t DPS the shield” strategy. Nothing good can come of damaging the shield. The difference in raid damage is immediately noticeable. This made it easy for us to debug problems in the strategy in regards to positioning and how folks are handling the other RSTS abilities. We placed all of the trust in our tanks to pick up the newly activated robots on time and told the DPS to start immediately.

2) Identify When to Group Up

The only robot that is sensitive to raid positioning is Electron (chain lighting). While all of the others are active, be closely grouped to make it easier on your healers. My default command was to call group on Arcanotron” when he was active. The pool he drops will be on the raid immediately and it will allow your healers to sustain this ~9 minute fight. The team of Arcanotron and Magmatron plays very nicely with this strategy.

The hardest combination to heal is Magmatron and Electron since they have conflicting abilities (chain lighting, raid wide fire area of effect). Healing Stream Totem glyph is handy.

3) Tank Cooldowns When New Robots Activate

There will be a small window of time when all 3 robots will be active. As a tank is changing from his shielded robot to the newly activated one, have them pop a cooldown to buffer the damage. Magmatron, in particular, hits hard and getting behind can cost you some vital mana reserves right as an ability is about to be used. If the tank is out of cooldowns, throw on an external one. Since our healing crew was druid-shaman-shaman, we didn’t have that option but did ok nonetheless.

4) Handle the Abilities

If you don’t put Magmatron’s laser away from the raid, kite Toxitrons slimes, or interrupt (most of) Arcanotron’s bolts, you will pay. It’s not a “woops get the next one” situation at this gear level. Each player needs to know how to react when things target them or the robots do certain things. It is not the most complicated fight I’ve ever done, but it will test your abilities and give you a quick introductory course on what to expect this expansion. The closest fight it resembles from WotLK is a slightly easier Mimiron.

Everyone but the tanks were working under completely new rules when it comes to playing their characters in a raid. We all had our toons geared through heroics, but amping it up and doing full (correct) dps rotations or properly healing to sustain a fight of this length is a test. If you can do this fight, you’re ready to go. All of the elements to a raid encounter are present.

  • Don’t stand in the Bad
  • Identify the Good, stand in it
  • Listen for vent calls on positioning
  • Switch targets on time
  • Keep your DPS/Healing up while moving/handling abilities

Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to take a step back and see why you keep wiping. Have your tank look at his death log. It might be something as simple as an interrupt or mob-facing. Be sure that you are accounting for each ability (heroic, raid, or otherwise) and over-compensate for them. One thing is certain: you will waste far more time wiping to blissful ignorancethan searching wowhead for the abilities and some tips to help out.

So far, so good. On to Magmaw.

I’m not comfortable giving a complete breakdown of our strategy (and my healing strategy) yet; not for “secrecy’s” sake, but for correctness. I think there’s a few things I can do better to improve my output and make the most out of my mana bar.

11th Hour Speed Leveling Tips: Dispeling Myths

6 December, 2010

Speed Kills – Al Davis

Before we start, that is probably the first and last time I’ll ever quote Al Davis, but it’s apt to the discussion. The hot topic swirling around twitter and the blogosphere is on leveling to 85. Do I go with no sleep? Do I go without food? What zones do I level in? How do I get a realm first?

Speed leveling, or to bring it down a notch, leveling quickly, is not the same as Realm First! leveling. I was able to achieve a double realm first on a relatively high population realm doing nothing crazy. To be fair, my competition wasn’t nearly as steep as it will be tomorrow.

A lot of folks are spitting rumors and talking crazy so I’m going to dispel a few myths about getting back to the leveling cap efficiently to get back to raiding as soon as possible. Your guild leader wants you to get back to cap in a week. What do you do? It seems like a tall order unless you go without sleep and chain chug Red Bull! Again, this isn’t about getting a realm first, just getting the grind done.

  1. It’s too crowded! The first goal of new expansion leveling is getting a level or two and getting out of those starting zones (make sure you finish them, I hope you collecting dailies to turn in). If you can climb out of a starting area early, you’ll run into less and less players. If you’ve taken time off work or don’t have class, take the time and move away from the pack.
  2. A Daily Boost. Collect quests and fill your quest log. You might have already missed out on this, so I hope you’ve already done it. Twenty-five quests is a nice little boost for about 2 minutes of work turning them in.
  3. I need to chain Red Bull to stay awake! The most common whisper I got when I dinged 80 in WotLK was: “Now you can sleep!” What they didn’t know was, over the two and half days it took me to get to the level cap, I slept ~9 hours (which is just slightly below average for me, I’m a 6 hour a night person on a good day).
  4. Can’t shower. How long does it take you to shower? Three hours? Hop in and rinse the morning stink off. It’s a nice wake up call.
  5. Can’t make real food. Trail mix or bust!If you’re worried about something good to eat, make a pot of soup or cook a nice pot roast. You don’t know how to cook? Not my problem. This is one of those times when being able to make some good high volume comfort food comes in handy.
  6. I want to enjoy the leveling experience. If you’re concerned about getting to the cap and want to save time, read the quest text on an alt. Enjoy the scenery and dungeons after you get your main up and ready to go.
  7. What about professions? Unless you have gathering professions (wait I thought you were a raider :P), start them when you’re done leveling. You’ll save travel time and all the time you’ll spend making things and getting materials.

Focusing on questing and only questing will get you to your goal in plenty of time and ahead of most folks. The time you save will pay off and you can start collecting gear from heroics!

Best of luck to everyone on their grind. I’ll see you at 3 + Augh-Server-Down-Time a.m.

Months Later, Questions Remain For 25 Man Raiders.

10 November, 2010

This topic was prompted by Beru, so all the credit goes to her. I was going to leave this in the comments section, but I want to share her article as well as my comments/response. Here’s a brief excerpt.

Exactly How Are These Raids Going To Be Equal?

As I was ranting a bit to Brade, one of the biggest points I was making was that I honestly see no way that these two raid sizes are going to be equal in difficulty. I just don’t think it’s even remotely close to being in the realm of possibility. I mean let’s take a simple mechanic like needing to spread out. Unless they shrink the size of the room – a 10 man raid is going to have a significant advantage and greater ease with this solely based on the fact that there are only 10 of them. How are they going to equal that out in a 25 man setting?

Let’s take a look next at some of the healing spells available – such as WG, Echo of Light (new priest version of effloresce), CoH, Efflorescence, Holy Radiance. All of which apparently now only hit 6 targets at full strength. Now let’s take a fight with constant raid AE damage, and oh yes…they still exist, and a 10 man raid now has another significant advantage over a 25 man raid. Those spells will heal 60% of their raid while in a 25 man raid those spells will only heal 24% of the raid. How is that remotely close to being equal? How can you design an encounter with those mechanics that is “equal”? Sure a 25 man raid will have more healers, but the difference a single healer will be able to make in a 10 man raid vs a 25 man raid is hugely disparaging.


These are questions that I approached some months ago when the changes were announced. Those in my guild were not very optimistic and neither was I (frankly). There are so many points that are left unanswered and glossed over that it’s almost negligent at this point.

A) The “split into two raids” hand-waving. It’s not that easy: on a logistical and “attitude” level. The chance of having 6 capable healers and 4 capable tanks in a raid that is already “short players” is 0%. Compound this with the A/B team and what happens if one of the team fails or stops or doesn’t do as well as the other team.

B) Blizzard’s other fallback of “people who like 25 man raids can still do them!” The drive for most players is the reward of raiding along with the social interaction. It’s a delicate balance.

If there’s no reward, social interaction starts to mean less. If you’re put on the bench for a few bosses, their lockouts will remain open but it puts the onus on you to seek out a PUG to kill that boss at some later date. Let’s not even start on the heroic mode restrictions.

The further “ahead” you are, the more trying to “makeup” a boss kill becomes a problem. How often do you see trade chat advertisements for ICC25 with the last 3 bosses up? My guess is “every day.”

C) Connected to B: there are droves of players, good players, that like 25 man raiding. Hell, I love 40 man raiding! I love 72 man EverQuest raiding! But…do I want to raid lead a 72 or 40 man raid. Hell no.

The death of the 25 man format will not come from the raiders. It will come from officers and raid leaders of 25 man raiding guilds that just don’t find the effort:reward ratio no longer worth it. There is a dedication investment that players in leadership roles make. You become responsible for the rest of the raid and are in control (somewhat) of their leisure time.

10 man raiding requires no loot system (/roll), it requires no (formal) attendance tracking, little/casual recruitment, and no rigid guild structure. Is that a put down? No, it’s just a simple fact of numbers. Identifying a problem, a weak link, or trying a new strategy is simpler. Players that end up on the fringe of your respective raiding skill level (get swapped or sat often) will drop off and it will be difficult to keep that extra player buffer.

Do you get geared up a little faster? Certainly, but at some point both raid options will become gear-saturated and that advantage disappears. Speed of gearing means nothing. More gear helps with farming, it doesn’t really help with progression anymore, especially when the difference is so tiny (one or two pieces of gear).

It is far more likely that you will clear the tier before becoming gear saturated (either mode/both difficulties).

Put the rope down…step away from the railing…

Let’s not keep it all doom and gloom, there is a very large positive in all of this for 25 man raiders. The fact that you can only take your main character to one type of raid per week means that your raiders will be hungrier to get back in the saddle every Tuesday. The pressure to run extra 10 mans for more gear to keep up will be eliminated.

The players that do raid on off days with alts are the ones that want to do that and can control their “burnout” level. If they raid too much on an alt, it’s easy to dial it back with no impact to their guild’s raids. That is what is keeping me the most optimistic heading into Cataclysm, and I hope it works out for the better. A larger group generally means better group think and a larger group to rally around. Older guilds are built to handle the rigors and logistic of large-scale raiding.

Only time will tell.

Over the Hills and Far Away: Back to the blog

17 October, 2010

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need…roads. — Dr. Emmett Brown

10 August 2010 – The last blog entry I posted

12 Jul 2010 – The last official raid I attended

It’s been interesting sitting back and reading the exploits of fellow bloggers and tweeps as they finish off the last stretch of this expansion. While some are continuing through the 4.0.1 patch, it is the signal for the bell lap on Wrath of the Lich King. This is part expansion recap and part words of encouragement for all raid leaders starting out in Cataclysm.

Blogs of Reflection

A short twenty-three months ago,this is where I stood. Looking out over Naxxaramas from above the alliance fortress nearby, I wondered what my first full expansion as raid leader would bring. Everyone was on even footing. It was like a new sports season. Everyone made their offseason moves and made adjustments that they think made them stand out this time around.

Our goal was to lead alliance progression and at the same time pick off a server first or two. I’m happy that we managed to do that through 90% of the expansion and held our ground as upstart guilds such as Imperative made their mark on both the server and US raiding scene. I would be fibbing if I said I wasn’t upset to be passed and finished out of first place, but all the credit goes to those guys. They stepped up and played their asses off to score a server first Heroic Lich King and high ranking US kill.

What advice can I give to raid leaders at the starting gate?

Set an expectation for when you want to start raiding. For us it was two weeks after release for WotLK. It will likely be similar for Cataclysm though this expansion is releasing late in the year and will butt up against the Christmas/New Years holiday nicely. We were able to complete Tier 7 content just before Christmas with a little over a month to do so. When setting the date, be sure to communicate what that date means.

Does it mean a loss of rank? How are players that pace their leveling and want to take in more of the content viewed against those that hammer out those 5 levels and get to max level in two days? The more you communicate these expectations/terms, the more fair it is to everyone involved. My terms have always been:

  • We’re starting on dd/mm
  • You won’t lose your rank, but we’re starting on that date. If I need to recruit to fill spots, I will.
  • Be ready! (Proper hit/exp caps, etc).
TL;DR: Communicate!
Census Taker

As a raid leader, it’s good to take a quick census of who is coming back for the expansion. No matter what you do, players will quit, players will move on, and some will just like to go full-casual and not raid. Ask for sure responses, and (here’s that word again) communicate that it’s ok if they don’t want to continue. An expansion transition is the easiest time for players to step away (and also the best). Rally those that return, and thank those that move on for the
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