Why You Should Be Playing Rift: 01 – The Map

wysbpr_logo

Over the last few weeks I have become some what of a “Rift Evangelist”, as I have spent hours preaching to my friends why they should come over and play this new game.  It is not something I have really consciously done, but I seem to have a constant stream of “isn’t this cool” moments to share.  This series is devoted to these little sometimes overlooked features of the game, that all help to add up to such a rich experience.

Episode 01:  The Map

wysbpr_01_mapshowinginvasionsOne of the running themes with Rift seems to be taking the best features of other titles, improving on them and presenting them in a very solid interface.  The in game mapping system is a perfect example of this.  Above is an example of the main map during a Freemarch Death Invasion.  It gives you a nice live heads up on what is going on with the world.

In the above example I have hovered over one of the invasion units represented by the crossed swords icon, you will come to be familiar with.  When doing so, the map highlights the trajectories of all the current invasion forces that are on the move.  This lets the players quickly see where these forces are converging upon, so you can cut ahead of the push and be ready to present a defense.  In the above example it appears that all of the enemy units are converging on Eliam Fields and Kelari Refuge.

In addition to the invasion tracking there are numerous other things being shown on the big map.  You can see there are a number of purple death rifts that have popped up.  The player can mouse over any of them and get the status, level and whether they are major or minor.  Each of the NPC towns is marked with a star icon, and each enemy fortress with an icon denoting the faction, dungeons marked with a green jewel and each major mob center marked with a castle like icon.  I’ve not seen another game that gives the player this much information without having to rely on add-ons.

Waypoints

wysbpr_01_minimap_waypoint All of the above is nice, but where the system truly shines is in the waypoint system.  The player has the ability to right click the map and set a waypoint.  On the main map this is shown with a line drawn between you and that location.  If you noticed on the image of the main map, at the bottom there is a simple and clean coordinate system.  The addition of being able to set a waypoint makes it extremely easy for you to travel to a precise location in the world.

In addition to it making it easier for you to travel to specific locations, waypoints work while grouping.  If you notice on the minimap I have highlighted the X> icon of the waypoint, and it pops up various information.  In a party or raid you receive the waypoint of your party members.  For traveling from rift to rift or coordinating defenses, this is a super simple way of letting folks know where you will be heading.

You can also see in the tooltip shown in the screenshot you are given a distance away.  The most amazing thing about this is that while tracking quest objectives, it also denotes whether or not the location is above or below you.  How much time have you spent in other games roaming around on the wrong floor of a dungeon looking for the quest mob that just isn’t there?  I will probably cover the quest tracking system in another post, but the mapping system makes it simple to figure out exactly where you need to be to complete an objective.

But Wait There’s More!

Every so often in this game, there is an idea that just makes you think “why didn’t anyone else think of this?”.  In the 1.01 patch Trion added in an extremely powerful feature without much fanfare.  By opening a chat window, and holding shift as you right click the map to set a waypoint, it now sends that waypoint as a link over chat.  When other players click on your link, the waypoint is set on their map as well.  Take a step back for a moment and ponder the power of this.

How many times have you been sitting in guild chat, as a new player is leveling through an area and asks where a hard to find mob is located?  Instead of having to do the “its by” dance, as you clumsily try and explain where it is, you can simply open up your map, from anywhere in the world and link to them a close approximation.  Since this went in last week I have already used it a dozen or more times in guild chat and zone chat to answer folks questions.  I find this kind of attention to detail simply refreshing.

Tracking

wysbpr_01_minimap_tracking While not as sexy as the waypoint system, the tracking system in this game is everything you would expect it to be.  If you click the magnifying glass icon on the side of the mini-map you are given a clean checkbox list of available tracking options.  While tracking these appear both on the mini-map, and on a zoomed in view of the main map.

For the most part these are the standard set of options that were presented with games like Warhammer and in WoW with the Cataclysm expansion.  It is just expected that at this point any game on the market will allow for tracking of multiple items, and this does it well.

One thing you will notice missing from the list is professions.  Profession resource tracking is handled a little bit differently in this game than that of WoW.  When you learn a profession you get spells that toggle on and off the tracking for that gathering profession.  This was a little weird to get used to, but I appreciate it in the long run. There are various kinds of conditional tracking like the Reaver “Track Death Creatures”, that if included in the checkbox list would make it extremely cluttered.  Trion has done a great job of presenting lots of information in a very clean interface.

I mentioned this feature for waypoints and quest objectives, but the above or below tracking works for resource nodes as well.  How many times in other games you have spent tracking to figure out where exactly that node was, only to find it that it is in a cave you didn’t know existed?  If you simply mouse over the mini-map icon you can tell immediately whether or not the node is aboveground or not.

Wrapping Up

The Mapping system is one of those things players just expect to work.  When it doesn’t work, it is one of the first things players try to augment with addons (Cartographer / EQ2map project etc).  Why is the Rift mapping system so amazing?  Well mostly that it gives you all this functionality, in a clean, easy to use form factor… and completely out of the box without any user modification.  It is functions like this that make me think Trion actually plays its own game, which is a point I question about many MMOs.  It is this attention to detail that really has me so enthralled with this game.

Sidenote

Since this is the first one of these features, please let me know what you think.  Was this useful?  What would you like to see in the future?  What overlooked features really have impressed you?  Comment below and I will respond.

A New Challenger Awaits…

Hadouken! Forgive me father for I have sinned, it has been forever and a day since I have last blogged.  I’ve been tied up with all the tasks and responsibilities that come with being the guild master of a 600 character guild.  Honestly for me, that has been a major adjustment.  We have always been a small tight knit family of raiders, and with the release of cataclysm some massive changes happened in House Stalwart.

In the past, by choice, we had shunned the concept of guild based raiding.  Throughout our history as a guild we have been the core of several different non-guild raid groups, and at the tail end of Burning Crusade we struck out on our own and build one known as the Duranub Raiding Company.  If you’ve read much of my posts in the past, you’ve followed some of our adventures.

Cataclysm however brought into line several things that rocked the core of this group.  Namely the guild rewards changes, and the guild based achievement system lead us to collapse Duranub and begin to look at raiding as a guild.  As a result, many of the smaller satellite guilds that had raided with us in the past made the choice to go ahead and collapse into House Stalwart.  As a result we have grown leaps and bounds, from having 10-15 players on any given night, to having upwards of 40 players online. 

This could have lead to some major schisms, but for the most part it has been a fairly natural progression.  The majority of the players that now are in the guild were in the greater “guild ecosystem” beforehand.  While we have as a result added in a lot of friends and family in the process of these new members, the result has somehow managed to maintain the same atmosphere we have always had.  Primary difference being, instead of being small and flexible, we are now the 5th largest guild on the server.

The Doldrum Returns

Skull Drudgery Towards the tail end of Wrath, I struggled greatly with trying to find a desire to play the game at all.  With the release of Cataclysm, I had an influx of new things to do that pushed this aside.  However as I sit with 3 85s, all of which are geared I am starting to feel the same familiar tug of not really wanting to play.  In the past, I was fine to dink around on alts but it was the raiding that I really was not enjoying.  This time around, with the switch to 10 man raiding, I am enjoying that aspect immensely.  I just find myself not knowing what to do with the rest of my time.

I’ve been known to wander off and disappear for weeks at a time, exploring various games.  I’ve taken vacations to play all manner of games such as Warhammer, EQ2, LoTRO, and most recently the creation of the House Stalwart minecraft server.  Each time a vacation winds up with me back in WoW, refreshed and ready to level something else.  The problem is, I find myself getting “toasted” a little quicker each time.  The digital blood transfusion, seems to be rejected more quickly.

Where’s the Beef

Where's the Beef! As a whole, I blame this most recent “funk” on Cataclysm itself.  I had been in since the friends and family alpha, and to quote an 80’s commercial, I kept wondering “where’s the beef”.  While the revamp of the oldworld is nice, when you are like me with 3 85s, 4 80s, and 7 characters between 60 and 80…  the prospect of going back and doing the old content seems to lack meaning.  So when you remove all of the oldworld content, that I agree needed to be updated, you are left with 5 outdoor zones, 7 dungeons, and enough raid bosses to make 1 Icecrown sized instance.

Cataclysm just lacks the same epic feeling that the other expansions have had.  In so many ways to me, it feels half done.  As I sat in Alpha, and eventually Beta I kept feeling that surely there was a major update they were holding out until live.  For an expansion that I had been anxiously awaiting for two years, everything just felt incomplete.  As a developer I have been here before, gotten into a project that was too massive to get done by release time.  As a result you start trimming back, cutting everything that isn’t essential, so that you can meet your release schedule.

I feel that Blizzard bit off far more than they were prepared to chew when it came to revamping the classic world.  As a result, you have this banquet of experience for new players, but for us veterans it feels like we are stuck eating budget gourmet.  We as players simply expected more at this point.  Yes we knew going into it that we only had 5 new levels of content, but I had experienced this same drop in leveling in Everquest without getting gimped on the content.

Lets look at the previous expansions, which should underline why I am overall unsatisfied with Cataclysm two months in.  With the release of Burning Crusade it gave us plenty of content to chew on: 8 Outdoor Zones, 16 Dungeons and the introduction of heroic modes, and 15 total Raid Bosses.  With Wrath blizzard kicked it up a notch and delivered even more content:  12 Outdoor Zones, 16 Dungeons, and 18 Raid Bosses.  So to restate, when we look at Cataclysm that as veteran players only gives us 5 outdoor zones, 7 dungeons, and 14 raid bosses it just seems like we got cheated.

Stick a Fork In It

Belghast the Bahmi So at this point, two and a half months into cataclysm, I have leveled through the 1-60 experience twice, leveled through the 80-85 experience three times, and ground enough heroics to gear up those same three characters in 346 or better items.  I am still in the process of raiding through the content, and am enjoying it greatly.  However for the rest of the time spent in game, I am out of things I actually care to do.

This post has developed a life of its own at this point.  Originally I had planned on writing about Rift, as during this doldrum I have managed to get myself hooked on this new MMO.  At this point, that will have to be saved for another blog post.  Apparently I as a player, had more than a few things to say about my disappointment in Cataclysm.  I find myself greatly looking forward to the Rift head start this week on Thursday, and I plan on playing it furiously before and after my schedule raid times. 

One of the cool features of the game is the in-game twitter client.  Towards the end of beta I set up a separate twitter account @BelghastRift, and began tweeting various in game screenshots.  I was initially afraid that the game would end up being pretty spammy, but overall it seems to be manageable, so I might end up switching back to tweeting from @Belghast.  I think part of the problem with my blogging has been, that I’ve barely had the excitement about WoW to keep playing it on a weekly basis, let alone write compelling posts regarding it.  You the readers, if I have any left, should expect to start seeing some rifts content as I explore this new game.

Onwards and Upwards

Ghostcrawler Does Not Owe You a Pony

Last week Ghostcrawler released an article entitled “Wow, Dungeons are Hard!” in which he outlined some of the complaints players have made about the steep learning curve of the Cataclysm dungeon content, and outlining the fact that it was very much on purpose.  I found the article a very well thought out and well written discussion piece about what the folks over at blizzard were thinking about the way dungeons should fit into the entire gaming process.  I expected that this would have helped to quiet some of the discussion over whether or not these zones needed a nerf, however it seems to have caused the opposite effect.  There seems to be a large conflagration of posts both on the wow forums and around the wow blogosphere about that the dungeons are in fact too hard.

A Privilege Not a Right

One of the sticking points I have as I read through these complaints is the general sense of entitlement that the community has developed over the years.  The ability to run heroics, and the ability to raid for that matter is a privilege not a right.  Getting to the point where you can reliably contribute requires a bit of dedication and work from the player.  it should require that the player spend time gearing up, and preparing for the fights.

I guess I just find it odd that folks generally have a problem with that.  I am a very serious about gearing my characters, and make checklists of the various items I need from each of the dungeons.  It is just something I have done since the beginning of wow, and has helped me keep things organized.  I feel a big part of my job in this game, especially as a tank, is to be as well geared as possible so I am the least drag on my fellow players as possible.  I’ve even developed little OCDs about this, to the point that I cannot log for the night without upgrades being enchanted and gemmed.

However it seems to many players the art of gearing, is a chore they would rather not do.  In wrath we would limp into certain heroics straight from quested greens, and I assume that is the expectation that players have had as we entered cataclysm.  When I saw that there were strict limits on the dungeon queuing I applauded them, as I have always been well over the whatever the specific number was.  However as my guild leveled I noticed a number of players lagging behind, and barely keeping up with this cutoff point.  As we neared 85 each and ever player had this 329 number in their heads, as soon as they found out that was the magic number that unlocked heroics in the dungeon tool.

329 is Not a Magic Number

The biggest problem I am seeing is the fact that the target number of 329 seems to be a resting place and “good enough” for most players.  As though they pushed to that number and then are somehow done.  Truth be told this figure is way too low to be effective in heroics on a wide scale.  If you are walking in there as a tank at that level you will be struggling.  I think I was probably 332 or so, when I finally walked into my first heroic.  I had been waiting for one of my healer friends to finish leveling, and at that point it was very much an eye opening experience.

What the 329 number reminds me of is the way heroics worked in Burning Crusade.  If you remember back to that era, in order to get into a heroic you had to gain revered with the specific faction that controlled that dungeon hub.  So in order to run heroic Steamvaults, you had to run enough normal dungeons to be able to grind up your faction with the Cenarion Expedition and purchase the Reservoir Key

This quickly became a pain in the ass, since as a guild you had to coordinate getting all your players to revered faction.  However, as a result running enough dungeons to get to revered generally meant you had fairly decent level 70 dungeon gear when you were done.  However due to the complaints of the community, this faction requirement was lowered to honored.

You could get to honored with almost all of the factions in question through simply running quest chains in the same region.  The big issue at hand became the fact that having the heroic key, became a sense of entitlement.  I functionally CAN run heroics, therefore I SHOULD BE ABLE to run heroics.  The pug community on my server went completely to pot, as it was flooded with players completely unprepared and ungeared to be doing the heroic dungeons.

Raise the Bar

Setting the requirement for running heroics in Cataclysm at 329 is much like starting off the expansion with the bar set down to the honored requirement.  Just from doing quests in twilight highlands and Uldum, it is extremely easy to reach a ilevel of 329.  The problem being, without getting those critical upgrades from normal mode level 85 instances, you are completely unprepared for the step up that heroics are.  A much more realistic number would have been 333-340, meaning that the player would have at least had to have spent some time running normal mode instances and raising their factions enough to start getting those 346 faction rewards.

If the heroic requirement would have been set to a higher requirement, the normal dungeon running would have several effects.  The most obvious is of course with better gear, comes better stats, and more ability to dish out whatever it is your class/spec combo does.  The normal mode dungeons are for the most part 90% the same as the heroic mode dungeons, with the boss fights being the big difference.  The more time a player spends in these dungeons, the more they understand about how each of the various trash mobs reacts and how the normal abilities of the bosses function.  With this firm understanding, moving to heroics becomes a much more iterative step.

So my only suggestion for making things more smoothly is to make it HARDER for players to zone into heroics.  This is likely to be an even less popular opinion than that of the heroic dungeon difficulty being just fine as it is.  However, if players are not willing to do the work on their own in order to ensure they are able to be effective group members, then the only way to make sure things move smoothly is to ensure that the requirement for the heroics is higher.  If you come into a heroic with the bare minimum you are guaranteeing that the rest of the party will have to carry you through the instance in order for it to be successful.

The big problem with raising the cap, is that it is VERY easy to bring a character who is 329 along with a group of players who are in the 350s.  We often do this as a guild, grab a geared tank and healer, and at least 1 geared dps in order to help out players with less than stellar gear.  Raising the cap would lock this practice out.  The only way I can see to bypass this problem, and still keep the players out who have no business being in heroics would be to evaluate a party when queuing based on the average score of the group.  In this case, 3 players that are 350 geared, dragging along 2 players that are 329 would evaluate out to an average party gear score of 341.

The Master Plan

I honestly feel like Blizzard has realized exactly what the various decision they made during the wrath cycle have cost the community.  As I said earlier, it has built a very entitled player base that leveled through an era of easy epics.  When I was gearing my shaman, I had him fully outfitted in epics and and ready to participate in ICC10 only 4 days after dinging 80.  Run the right instances, get a little luck, and it felt you were handed epics on a platter.  An environment with no risk and constant reward is simply not sustainable.

So in turn they’ve turned the virtual screws to our characters, making us fight hard to earn those 346 level items.  The ramp up in difficulty between normal and heroic is like stepping off a cliff if you are not prepared for it.  However, if you go into the dungeon with your brains and a balanced group it is very much accomplishable.  We are having to relearn the community how to play the game as a whole.

As I have said before, Wrath caused us to get soft as players.  The easy train was fun while it lasted, but now it is time to buckle down and work for it.  Wouldn’t you rather feel like you had earned your gear, and had to fight your way through a dungeon rather than steamrolling it and getting free loot?  I found the roflstomp era of dungeon running to be boring and completely without skill.  Now we as players are getting to stretch those muscles we have let atrophy for so long, and honestly for me at least it feels good.

I think with this expansion, Blizzard is trying to retrain it’s community and make them better players.  I applaud that they have the courage to do so, and not simply kowtow to the complaints.  Only time will see if they stick by this new mission. For the sake of the game and its future I hope they do.  While Wolfshead Online called Cataclysm the worst expansion of MMO History, I think its more a matter of this is the most ambitious.  They set out not only to change their game world, but at the same time their gaming community.

I hope for the sake of WoW they Succeed

Heirlooms and JP: A Random Complaint

It has been just shy of a month since the release of Cataclysm, and I have already reached that stage where Justice Points are now completely meaningless on my current main, Belgrave.  I’ve run up an additional character to 85, my shaman, and he is nearing the point of being fully heroic geared as well.  So as a result, rather than race changing my druid Loamis, I rerolled a brand new baby worgen Belgarou.

Papa Needs his Medicine

F5A1205B808F4FE5C0DC80CDBF5638EF I am a fairly lazy person, so if there is a way to level a character faster without the hassle of constantly swapping gear then by all means I am going to do it that way.  So obviously my first thought was… grab some heirlooms.  I had a set of shoulders, chest, and trinket over on my 70 dwarf rogue, so I stripped them off for the time being. 

Being melee centric, the most important heirloom to me has always been the weapon.  Always having a weapon with the stats of a blue at your level is the most game changing item you can get for a character.  While a feral druid doesn’t rely on their weapon nearly as much as traditional melee, it was still something I definitely wanted to lock down.  Even in the brand new Worgen starter zone, and repopulated night elf zones the starter weapons have generally been crap.  So I quickly browsed out to wowhead to find out how many of those JP daddy warbucks (Belgrave), would have to spend on the new member of the tribe.

OMGWTFLOL

wtf Yeah, I know that is not the most intelligible heading but that is exactly what I felt.  I really had not paid attention to heirloom prices since the swap from a tier based token economy to the new point based one.  Needless to say I was completely shocked at the insane price gouging going on to get your alts some gear.  Primarily when contrasted with the price of heroic level blues (346) it is just truly insane.  Let me give you some examples of the prices.

Heroic Level Blues (346)

  • Offhand Item / Shield – 950 JP
  • Neck – 1250 JP
  • Gloves – 1650 JP
  • Belt – 1650 JP
  • Shoulders – 1650 JP
  • Chest – 2200 JP
  • Helm – 2200 JP
  • Legs – 2200 JP

Heirloom Items (1-80 Range)

  • Shoulders – 2175 JP
  • Chest – 2175 JP
  • One Handed Weapons – 2175 JP
  • Trinket – 2725 JP
  • Two Handed Weapon – 3500 JP

Seeing the disconnect? I think you do.  The cheapest heirlooms (that cap out at level 80 mind you) are just 25 JP cheaper than the most expensive heroic level blues.  So we are supposed to be paying way more per item than we pay for the gear that allows our characters to raid?  I realize, that I said at the beginning of this post that my justice points are meaningless at this point, and as one of the most geared tanks in my guild I will be running the hell out of instances for a long long while to assist in gearing everyone else.

However, not everyone will be having that dilemma.  We have a good number of players in our guild that are not near as focused on gearing up a “main” first, and as a result spend a good deal of time playing around on lower level alts.  While I am not expecting blizzard to hand us heirlooms in a silver envelope in the mailbox, I just think the pricing currently is way out of line.

Fear for the Future

47746-bigthumbnail One of the things I really enjoyed during the wrath era is the fact that as the life span of the expansion extended, it became easier to catch players up enough to be useful in raids.  With a few weeks worth of work, you could take a green level 80 and get them enough gear to be able to survive in Icecrown.  I’ve enjoyed the fact that upgrades so far have been hard to come by, and require actual work to get, however I am starting to feel the echo of burning crusade.

During the burning crusade era, with the various gating mechanics (attunements), and difficulty to gear up, it became very difficult to replace vacancies in your raid.  We for example are a group of mostly 30 somethings, with families, and jobs, and real life that sometimes intervenes in our game time.  As a result sometimes a player has to leave the active raid through no real fault of their own. 

During the Burning Crusade era, once we moved past tier 4 content, this was a massive tragedy as it meant we either had to step back and spend time running lower level raid content or try and steal a member of another raid that was already at our gear level.  Due to these problems, the raid climate on my server was very back biting and vicious.  Every raid leader was forced to steal from others to survive and keep the home fires burning.  Wrath thankfully made it much easier to find a player with a good attitude, but lacking gear and catch them up enough to start contributing to the whole.

Enough Beating Around the Bush

coyote-bush1 My big fear is that as blizzard decommissions the 359 gear, and moves on to the next tier that based on the current heroic blue prices, the justice point cost will be astronomically high.  We will be right back to Burning Crusade, an expansion where I ran Karazhan every Sunday for literally 2 years just to get players enough gear to begin raiding.  The gearing grind is fun to do once, but not much fun when you have to keep dragging your friends through it.  I came out of the Burning Crusade era very bitter about all the things I had to do on a regular basis just to keep raiding functional.

I Really Hope Blizzard Knows What They are Doing

Fear and Loathing in Heroics

It has been nearly a month since the release of cataclysm, and one thing is certain… we aren’t in Kansas anymore.  Long gone is the wrath era of brute forcing instances with easy AOE tanking.  Long gone is the era of healers being able to spam the tank through anything.  What is left in its wake is a series of instances that require actual forethought and planning to complete them successfully.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a real reluctance in my guild at least, to run heroics.  There is a certain amount of fear surrounding them, so this has created a divide between the haves and have-nots.  There is a group of stubborn individuals that have waded waist deep in the heroic madness and as a result have come out extremely well geared replacing every slot with heroic level items or at best epics.

The other group of players, has timidly stuck their feet in the water only to get them chopped off.  During the wrath era we as a player base were used to steamrolling content without really trying.  Instead we have returned to the burning crusade style of dungeon running, where even in great gear you can wipe quickly if you don’t keep focused.  I come to tell you all there is hope, so long as you approach these instances with patience and understanding that you will be wiping, you can walk away with upgrades and more importantly experience.

Forming the Party

Back in June of 2009, I created a series of blog posts that I titled Groupcraft 101.  It covered the key skills needed to successfully form groups, and for the most part everything I said then applies today.  However during the wrath era, crowd control was an unneeded hindrance to generating threat on multiple targets.  So as a result we pushed hard through the instances, tanking them by the seat of our pants.  Today, party balance is more important than it ever was.

Get the Tank and Healer First

The key to forming a group fast is to lock down your tank and healer roles first.  Generally speaking as a tank, I have a good working relationship with all the guild healers and many of the server community ones.  As a result it becomes trivial for me to find a healer willing to run an instance.  As a DPS however you need to keep lists of both tanks and healers. 

What I find works best is to message the healers and tanks directly.  In general, your tanks and healers stay busy the majority of the time.  I know personally I am unlikely to notice a request in open guild chat or chat channels.  When I am not tanking an instance, I am furiously working on dailies.  As a result it tends to work best to message the tanks and healers directly.

Get Balanced DPS

Now that you have your tank and healer, its time to move onto picking out some dps.  In general once you have the core of your group locked down, picking up a few dps goes quickly.  There are definitely some things you need to think about while forming your party.  Firstly try and make as balanced a group as possible.

Pointers for a Balanced Group
  • Choose a good mixture of both ranged and melee
  • Make sure you have at least 2 forms of crowd control
  • Try and choose 3 different classes for your dps
  • Try and choose a mix of plate, mail, leather and cloth classes to limit loot contention
  • Make sure you state what you are expecting out of the players up front

Know your Crowd Control

Now that you have a well balanced group formed it is important that you understand what each of the classes brings to the table.  In wrath, our dps were essentially big dumb cannons and all that we really cared about was how much raw damage they could push.  In cataclysm, a player needs to be able to master all of the abilities of their class.  Interrupts need to be applied often, enrage effects need to be tranquilized and most importantly all of the crowd control methods need to be mastered.  Here is a quick rundown of various classes and what kinds of crowd control they can bring to the table.

Deathknight

  • Chains of Ice – While not a solid form of crowd control, can be used to help kite mobs for the party.  Kiting a hard hitting mob has become a very viable way to help break up the damage being dealt to the tank.

Druid

  • Entangling Roots – Rooting melee mobs is a very effective way of locking something down.  Breaks unpredictably, so druid will need to watch it and be prepared to reapply.
  • Hibernate – Very effective way of keeping a beast or dragonkin locked down for 40 seconds.
  • Cyclone – Locks target down for 6 seconds, mana intensive and needs to be reapplied often.  Very susceptible to diminishing returns.

Hunter

  • Freezing Trap – One of the most versatile means of locking down a target, with the right talents a hunter can even keep two targets trapped at once.
  • Wyvern Sting – Puts target to sleep for 30 seconds, however the cool down is 1 minute.  Good to use as a CC for when something breaks unexpectedly.

Mage

  • Polymorph – The traditional pinnacle of crowd control.  Stable, can be reapplied quickly, and works on both beasts and humanoids.
  • Frost Nova – Freezes all targets near caster for 8 seconds.  Not stable CC, but great for stopping incoming damage in a pinch.
  • Ring of Frost – Improved version of frost nova, places target on ground and freezes everything in it for 10 seconds.  Again handy for stopping damage from unexpected adds and giving time for more stable cc to be applied.

Paladin

  • Repentance – Retribution paladins can lock down demons, dragonkin, giants, humanoids and undead for 1 minute.  Negative is that the cool down is also 1 minute, so it cannot be reapplied early to keep a target locked down.
  • Hammer of Justice – Stuns target for 6 seconds.  Great for stopping incoming damage and buying time to lock the target down with another form of crowd control.
  • Turn Evil – Fears a demon or undead for up to 20 seconds.  Not the most stable crowd control but great in a pinch, and in areas without large number of adds.  Remember using this one alot on the Moroes fight in Karazhan.

Priest

  • Shackle Undead – definitive undead crowd control.  Shackles a target for 50 seconds, can be repplied early to keep a mob locked down for longer.
  • Mind Control – For dps priest, this is a great way to keep the most annoying mob in the pack locked down. Lasts up to 30 seconds, cannot be reapplied early so a stun or similar short term CC might be needed to allow priest to reacquire.
  • Psychic Scream – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds.  Great way to get targets off of the priest temporarily, or scatter unexpected adds long enough to allow dps to finish off a current target.
  • Psychic Horror – Causes target to tremble in fear for 3 seconds, and disarms them for 10 seconds.  Another short term crowd control.

Rogue

  • Sap – Incapacitates a beast, demon, dragonkin or humanoid for 1 minute.  Negative is that it cannot be reapplied.
  • Blind – Incapacitates a target for 10 seconds.  Great short term crowd control.
  • Gouge – Incapacitates a target for 4 seconds.  Another good short term stun.
  • Kidney Shot – Stuns a target for up to 6 seconds (dependant on combo points).
  • Cheap Shot – Stuns a target for 4 seconds.  Not extremely useful as it is an opener from stealth, but if desperate to buy the party a few seconds of time this paired with a vanish can help separate a pack.

Shaman

  • Bind Elemental – New to Cataclysm, works like Shackle Undead but for Elementals. Binds target elemental for 50 seconds, can be reapplied early.
  • Hex – The Sturdy "sheep".  Transforms target Humanoid or Beast into a frog for 1 minute.  45 second cool down so if you are careful you can reapply early.  Fairly resistant to occasional AOE damage.
  • Earthbind Totem – Falls into the same category as chains of frost, useful for slowing mobs while kiting.

Warlock

  • Fear – When glyphed this because a great crowd control.  Causes target to be feared in place for 20 seconds.
  • Enslave Demon – Controls a demon for up to 5 minutes.  Great way to remove a mob from the pack and turn it into a pet.
  • Banish – Banishes a Demon or Elemental for up to 30 seconds.
  • Death Coil – Fears target for 3 seconds, great way to temporarily reduce damage to the party.
  • Seduction – Succubus is able to seduce a target humanoid for 30 seconds.

Warrior

  • Intimidating Shout – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds.  Short term crowd control.
  • Intercept – Charges to target and stuns them for 3 seconds.  Short term crowd control/interrupt.
  • Hamstring – Slows target movement by 50%, useful for letting a warrior kite a mob away.

Sheep the Moon

Now that you are comfortable with all the possible crowd control options at your disposal, it is time to think about how you plan on marking the targets.  Its important to set up a scheme, and assign certain players certain symbols.  I’ve been in groups that randomly mark targets with no real semblance of order.  The problem with this is that each pull you end up having to explain what the targets mean, which slows down the run.

If you choose a stable symbology, it allows you to mark the targets quickly, and the crowd control to know immediately which target they should focus on.  For example, I always mark sheep or hex with the moon and I always use square for the trap.  This allows players in the guild to have an understanding of how I will always mark the targets.

Equally as important as is to agree on some method of pulling.  When on ventrilo I usually give my CC a countdown of “pulling in 3, 2, 1”.  When running with a hunter, since trapping takes some setup time, we often agree CC on hunter trap.  Regardless of what you choose, it is important to explain to your party what methodology you plan on using, and stick to it from pull to pull.

Pass the Prozac

With all of the above taken care of we move on to the final and most important thing to a successful heroic.  Stay calm, be patient, and understand that more than likely you will be wiping more than once during the course of your heroic.  My first time in Stonecore, we wiped 3-4 times per boss while we were getting used to it, and I still considered it a very successful run.  So long as everyone stays calm and focused on the fights you will recover quickly from any mishaps and keep progressing forward.

Cataclysm has been a return to the core fundamentals of instancing, and with it there have been alot of growing pains especially for those who never spent time wiping in burning crusade heroics.  Truth be told, wrath was an extremely easy expansion, and as a whole it made even us veteran players soft.  There is alot of things we all will have to unlearn and or relearn.  I know personally I have to stay in contact with my healer and watch my cool downs anytime unexpected bursts of damage come in, or the healer runs into mana shortages.  Likewise the DPS needs to do everything they can to reduce the damage they are potentially taking, and stay in communication with the group as a whole to make sure crowd control targets are covered and kept locked down.

So long as your group is able to keep a level head, and is willing to constantly keep adapting and learning you will quickly get used to the ramped up difficulty.  Last night I gathered a group of guild members and managed to run 3 heroics in a row with only one wipe due to a bad pull.  Each of us have been running heroics on a daily basis, and as a result we are used to the ebb and flow of the instances, and now know which mobs to crowd control, which to kill first, and which to try and avoid.  Before long your own groups will move as smoothly, and your gear score will improve with the influx of new heroic items.

Stay Calm, Be Patient, and Stay Focused on the Objectives

Enter the Nub

Lately we have been prepping for this audit at work.  Preparing the type of reports that basically say, please oh please don’t find justification to try and outsource the department.  So all the writing and wrangling of words has left me pretty unwilling to write anything on my blog.  We’ve been beating our faces against Blood Queen 25, while fighting the traditional "it’s pretty outside" attendance breaks.  All of my game time outside of raiding has been devoted to pushing up my shaman.  I managed to cross the finish line this Wednesday, and have been working on gearing up since.  I cheated and got a few pieces of gear crafted, which allowed me to instantly begin queuing for heroics.

Things I Learned in Randoms

Over the course of 5 characters I have gotten pretty good and pushing them up quickly, but this time I kept taking breaks in order to run random dungeons.  I found them entertaining diversions from the quest grind.  All of my friends and guild-mates can attest to the fact that when I start seriously leveling I am dead to the world.  I zone out and stop paying attention to chat, tells, and the outside world.  These groups helped to pull me out of this bubble every now and then and wake me up, as well as keep feeding me a ready source of much needed upgrades.

Problem is, I found it really hard to wrap my head around the idea that I was playing beside folks who you were honestly experiencing the content for the first time.  Being a tank, I have ground these instances into the ground for various members of my guild.  It feels like I have run all of these dungeons, be it old world, burning crusade, or Northrend, hundreds of times between my various characters.  Having geared several different tank characters, it feels like I can pull most of them in my sleep. 

So I was just floored the other day, while sitting in Halls of Stone normal, and I realized that I was the only player who had ever been in the zone.  We all started out as nubs once, it had to happen, but for most of us that time was so long ago we can barely remember it.  I talked about the Veteran handicap, a few posts back, and honestly it was smacking me in the face once more.  I sat there trying not to get frustrated as the players stopped to smell the "granite", as it were.  Instead of being frustrated at the slow pace, and how hard I was having to work to make up the low collective dps of the players, I forced myself to take a different approach.  I could have been an elitist jerk, like so many players are these days in randoms, pushing the inexperienced out of the way for the safety of a fast run.  Instead I offered suggestions, explaining how to tank the bosses, how to keep from getting too many mobs on the various pulls.  I chose to take the role of the mentor, rather than the brat.

Kindness Repaid with Indifference

One of the nasty side effects of the random system is that players are nameless and faceless commodities.  Before the group matching system, we had to actually make connections on our server to real living players, and our actions had consequences on whether or not we got groups again.  Now we know, there is always an endless supply of more players to be abused.  If we don’t like something about a DPS, punt them, because we know that DPS are literally a dime a dozen.  I personally don’t run alot of randoms as any of my tanks, because I don’t enjoy being pushed to skip bosses, skip packs, and generally do whatever it takes to complete the zone and get those players their frost badges as fast as humanly possible.  I’ve always found this detracts from the game.  Which is highly ironic considering I have always been known within my guild and circles for my fast pulls.

The part of the anonymity that I dislike the most is the fact that no one communicates at all.  Wednesday night I was running Forge of Souls normal mode, with a decent group.  Since I had just dinged 80 a few hours beforehand I was obviously not dishing out a ton of damage.  I was charting in around 2000 dps, which in my mind is more than enough for normal mode FoS.  I was johnny on the spot, dropping the right totems at the right moment, doing as much to support the team as I could.  Shortly after Bronjahm I was kicked from the group without warning, or notice.  The only reason I could possibly think, was that my dps was lower than the rest of the party.  What is distasteful, is that me being punted from the party was just a meaningless transaction to the rest of the party, who didn’t even bother to give a reason why.

Gearscore is Lazy

The growing apathy created by the random system, and the prevalence of addons like Gearscore has lead to a weird environment on most servers.  Players in general have unrealistic requirements in their head as to what is really required to do something.  On Argent Dawn for example, the requirement to get into any raid seems to be 5000 GearScore regardless of what the raid is from ICC 10 to the Weekly.  Granted you can get to this made up number of 5000 pretty easily, with a certain amount of time spent gearing, but it doesn’t actually mean anything.  I know personally I regularly have players fill in on my ICC 10 on their alts with GearScores of 4500 or less and do just fine, still being able to clear everything we have been able to clear in the past.

The worst thing is when I see people talking about Gearscores in heroics.  This honestly makes my bile rise a little bit.  We have arrived at a point where we expect to overgear the content so much, that it requires no effort at all.  Storming through the instance, killing everything so fast that it doesn’t actually need to be tanked, isn’t really doing the content "as intended".  I am not sure where these requirements have come from either.  I remember tanking all of the heroics that were available at the release of wrath, in nothing but blues…  why?  Because we didn’t have access to anything better yet a week or two after the game released.  Each of the dungeons has been nerfed a good deal since then, so if we could do them in blues back then, its certain that a player with 1500 dps is more than sufficient.  I laughed at a guy the other day in a heroic, that said it required 35k hp to tank a heroic instance.

We’ve become Lazy

I think basically we as player population have become lazy.  Many of the constructs we have now, were done for our benefit, and taken alone have been great things.  I have applauded how easy it is to gear players currently.  As a raid leader its great that we can grow up players from within our circle of friends and family rather than recruiting from outside.  I have applauded at how easy it is to get a group, but it has caused us to stop relying on our social ties as much.  I have applauded all of the AOE tanking changes in the game, because it is fun to pull entire rooms of mobs, but it has caused a generation of players who do not know how to CC, and more so NOT BREAK CC.  Most simply put, all these nice features that Blizzard gave us have caused us to forget how to play the game.

As I look forward to Cataclysm I am hoping beyond hope that we return to dungeons that require thought.  I want pulls that I have to reason with.  I want to have to know what abilities the different mobs do, and which one to kill first and which to sheep, which to trap and which to shackle.  I want us to have to think our way through a dungeon even if it takes a little longer to do so.  We have these constructs in the game, like the raid target system, that served so well in burning crusade, that really are optional other than marking whatever we want to avoid these days.  I don’t want things to be brutally stupid, and punishing.  I am not one of those Everquest fanbois that longs for the return of the corpse run.  I just want a reason to think again, and I want AOE tanking to be something that only the truly skilled could manage to pull off without killing their party.

Raid Grub: Boneless Wings

It’s been a crazy week for me so far.  My sister in law was rushed back to the emergency room on Monday, and my allergies are going haywire and irritating my asthma to no end.  So I am barely here, however I wanted to get a post up regardless.  Today is the first of what I hope will be a series of occasional posts related to tasty, easy to prepare and most importantly fast food ideal for raid nights.

Every raider has been in the situation of getting home late from work, with only a few minutes left until raid time.  Without the time to prepare a full meal you are left with a few options.  Do you nuke a hot pocket or similar convenience food, or do you grab some chips or something to tide you over until after the raid.  My hope in these posts is to present you with additional fast options.

RaidGrubLogo

Boneless Wings

For years I have been a fan of the various wing restaurants, be it Buffalo Wild Wings, Wing Stop or Wings to Go.  They are great for lunch specials, but when you are craving boneless wings during primetime it quickly becomes cost prohibitive to go there often.  I am not sure exactly when it hit me, maybe it was watching the guy at the wing place I used to frequent every Tuesday prepare our order, but it dawned on me that I could recreate this experience at home.  Through trial and error I come to a technique that produces very similar results, or at least close enough on a limited budget.

Ingredients

  • 8-10 Microwave Chicken Chunks (Store Brand, Tyson, etc)
  • Bottled Marinade or Wing Sauce (Lawry’s, various Wing Sauces, BBQ sauce etc)
  • 1 Quart Sized Freezer Bag (Store Brand, anything with a zipper seal)

Make the Chicken

Wal-mart brand Chicken Chunks Okay the first step in the process is to acquire a bag of microwave chicken chunks.  There are various brands on the market that will do nicely.  I personally prefer Wal-mart’s Great Value brand, just for price and ease…  but I know in my local area Tyson is very common and works equally well.  If you want a slightly different effect popcorn chicken works equally well, as do chicken strips.

Now cooking your chicken chunks a bit of an inexact science.  Basically what you are wanting to do is cook your chicken enough to make sure your breading is firm enough not to flake off, but not all the way as to not allow your chicken to dry out in later phases.  Closest estimate is for the 8-10 chunks mentioned in the list, you need to microwave them on high for 2 1/2 minutes.  This starts to crisp up the breading but leave the chicken still very juicy inside.

Marinate The Chicken

Wide Selection of Marinades Now comes the time where you grab the marinade you have chosen.  I have found that any of the pre-bottled steak marinades work extremely well, as do the various bottled wing sauce mixtures.  I personally am fond of Lawry’s Ginger Sesame marinade as it gives a great Sesame Chicken flavor.  For buffalo flavor, I am fond of Budweiser Hot Wing Sauce, but it will vary to what is available in your area.

Take the quart freezer bag mentioned in the ingredient list and place the hot chicken in it.  Into the bag you will pour enough marinade to adequately coat the chicken, but it is best to be sparing unless you like extremely saucy boneless wings.  In general pouring a thick coat to the top of all exposed wings will be plenty to coat all the pieces.  As soon as the sauce is applied seal the bag up tight as to not let too much of the heat escape.  You also want to make sure you have a good amount of air in the bag, so that the chicken can move freely.

Shake the Chicken

Freezer Baggage Now comes the fun part.  Shake the hell out of the bag you just stuffed the chicken in.  You want to make sure all of the boneless pieces get completely coated with your sauce.  If any of the marinade pools up in the corner of the bag, you might have to squeeze it out with your fingers and continue shaking to ensure a thorough glaze.  Once everything is coated lay the bag flat on the counter top.  This helps to let the chicken soak up any excess glaze.

Caramelize the Chicken

Shake and Bake Baby! This is the key step that makes your boneless wings start to taste like the real deal.  After your chicken has sat in the bag for a few moments, and we are literally talking 30 seconds at the most is needed, empty the contents of the storage bag onto your final plate.  Make sure to spread the chicken out, as it will now be clumped together from the shaking.  We will be microwaving the chicken again, and making sure it is in a evenly spaced will assure it receives even cooking.

Place the plate in the microwave and let it cook on high for a minute and a half to two minutes depending on how much sauce was used.  This extra cooking helps to “bake in” the sauce and will start to caramelize it a bit.  This is the step that gives your boneless wings the finished quality as though they came from one of the professional wing restaurants.  If you used one of the steak marinades or a thick wing sauce, it will give it a slight crispness to the texture of the sauce.

TLDR: The Summary

  • Microwave Chicken 2.5 Minutes on High
  • Place Chicken in Quart Freezer Bag
  • Pour Sauce to Cover in Bag
  • Shake Vigorously
  • Lay Bag on Flat Surface and let sit 30 seconds
  • Place Chicken on Plate
  • Microwave Chicken 1.5 Minutes on High
  • Let Cool
  • Om Nom Nom Nom

Let Me Know What You Think

The Sky Isn’t Falling

So Tuesday I posted what seemed to be a rather grim pronouncement that the Cataclysm raiding changes were going to signal the death of casual 25 man raiding as we know it.  On the day the announcements came it, it most certainly felt that way.  So like always I blog what I am feeling, and I felt fear and dread.  So after some time, and much talking amongst friends and confidants.  I have come to the conclusion that the sky really isn’t falling…  it is just changing colors.

Everything Will Change

This is just one more in a long line of game changing events that Blizzard has sprung upon us, and it honestly will change the way everything happens in game for the hardcore and casual alike.  However I am trying my best to adopt a "wait and see" attitude.  There have been so many times in the past that a blizzard pre-beta pronouncement never actually makes it into the final draft.  Do I think this is one of those cases?  Honestly probably not, this seems like a fundamental shift in design that could be happening for one of many reasons. 

My honest believe if that blizzard is trying to condense the raid experience and make it simpler to design and manage.  Right now we have so many raiding options, and as a whole the raiding content is more open to the masses than it ever has been at any point in the past.  However there are so many variants of raiding, and Blizzard has been attempting to make the game viable for all of them.  It has to be hard to balance encounters so they are challenging but doable in a 10 man strict guild, but at the same time offering a bit of challenge to players who are fully 25 man geared.  I think they have been disheartened by seeing all their un-gated content steamrolled in a matter of weeks.

When the designers asked themselves how these players are able to burn through content so fast, it is pretty obvious that they came to the conclusion that it was due to being able to run both 10 and 25 man raids.  You can see the evidence of this decision in the outrageous jump in price between t9 and t10 badge items.  The base prices for tier 9 were 30 badges for shoulders/gauntlets and 50 badges for helm/chest/legs.  We have an extreme jump when you go to frost badge loot to 60 and 95 badges respectively, when there are fewer zones actively dropping frost badges.  The designers obviously were expecting all serious players to be clearing both 10 and 25 man in order to get badges to purchase their gear.

Is it really a problem?

I pose the question… is it really a problem that players who are able to run both 10 and 25 man raids will accumulate gear faster?  I personally have never had a problem with the fact that more time spent in game equates to more rewards.  I am not jealous of the players who have racked up a full suit of heroic mode gear, nor am I jealous of the players who geared out their t10 before me.  Not everyone in this game can be equal, and since I am not on the hardcore track I am obviously going to be a little less equal than others.  Is it really worth the impending schism in order to fix a perceived problem?

I know it has to suck as a developer to spend 6 months of your life working on what you believe to be the ultimate dungeon, only to have to decimated by the most serious players within the first week.  But that is life, people are going to do things you didn’t expect, use tactics you never thought of, and literally throw themselves at the content over and over until it falls down.  I feel their heart is in the right place, in trying to make the entry level of content less confusing to players and make it so they don’t have to "mudflate" the prices of gear so badly as the expansion goes on.  However I honestly feel the current model creates far more opportunity for the casual players, than the proposed model would.

How things are now, it is relatively easy for a newer player to work their way into one of the many successful 10 and 25 man casual raids that form every week on my server.  If you show up at the right time, show the right amount of effort, and listen to the right things…  you can get a regular invite back.  All raid leaders are constantly looking for fillers, especially during the spring doldrums that we are going through.  Leaders often times use their 10 man as a more controlled environment to check a player out before unleashing them onto the bigger raid as a whole.  These changes will blow all of this away and resign 10s to "alt" raids, where they currently rely heavily on seasoned veterans to push through the content at a decent pace.

Positive Changes

While I am still not happy about the changes and the implications they are having, it has had at least one positive effect.  I have come to the decision that the future is far from certain right now.  With the changes to the raid structure and the impending guild rewards system looming on the horizon.  These things might very well spell the doom of casual raid alliances like Duranub.  This got me to thinking, much like when someone gets a dread disease.  If tonight were going to be the last raid we had together, how would I want it to be?

I’ve come to the conclusion that  regardless of our future, I want to make sure we make the most of the tail end of wrath.  By this I don’t mean burn through all the content, I mean really enjoy the most of our time together.  I have been trying to really relax and enjoy the raiding experience, and hopefully my changed attitude will trickle down to the raid members.  The last thing I want to do is go out stressed, agitated and frustrated at what we aren’t doing.  I want to be able to enjoy the time at hand and relish all the things we already have.

I know this is a bit of a 360 from the attitude I had on Tuesday, but sometimes life does that.  It takes the realization that our time might be numbered to really be able to enjoy the time we do have.  So I challenge each of you, to really savor the friendships you have with your raid friends.  Cataclysm will be another bombshell like Burning Crusade, and we have no way of knowing right now how it may change each of us. 

So lets all enjoy what we have today.

Death of the Casual Raid

I ate lunch yesterday with a long time friend, one of the founders of House Stalwart, who has recently come back to the game.  I had originally crafted a long post in my head about the frustrations I have with the current state of 5 mans in general.  However when I checked the wow news feeds after lunch a much bigger topic had spawned.  My frustrations with the fact that 5 mans have been dumbed down to the point where a players performance can just be phoned in, was replaced by a brand new frustration. 

It was announced that in Cataclysm, 10 and 25 man raid loot would be equal.  This in itself is pretty great, gone will be the days of feeling behind the curve by raiding only the 10 man content.  The spiteful part however is the fact that 10 and 25 man raids would now share a lockout.  No longer will players be able to run 10s with one set of friends, and 25s with their normal raid group.

Guildpocalypse II: Poc Harder?

I had put out of my mind all the havoc and mayhem that was invoked by the first guildpocalypse, but now it is all rushing back in vivid technicolor.  Prior to the release of Burning Crusade it was leaked that the defacto raid size would be switching from the classic raiding 40 man construct, to a brand new 25 man size.  This unleashed a series of revisions that forever changed the guild landscape for Argent Dawn, the server I play on.  Guild after guild simply imploded as they attempted to pare down from the 50+ raiders it took to be able to maintain a working 40 man raid, to the 30+ raiders required to keep the new 25 man raid going.

The few groups that managed to weather the change, came out forever modified.  They were hardened and bitter for the hassle, and much more serious.  I watched personally as my raid group fell apart at the seams, causing our fearless leader to give up and transfer off the server.  The remainder of people left in the balance split into two communities.  The more hardcore raiders joined with the remnants of another raid, that suffered a similar death, and are now a successful 25 man raid on our server.  The more social/casual players for the most part got picked up by my guild House Stalwart.  The death of a raid is always a trying thing on all parties connected, and some players didn’t adjust well to the new roles. All in all, a good number of us stayed in contact and continued raiding together when Duranub was formed.

Same As It Ever Was

Having lived through the frustration and growing pains involved with a major raiding paradigm shift, I cringe at the thought of the impending storm on the horizon.  The key problem I see is that more than likely this is the death knell for casual 25 man raiding.  Attempting to keep a 25 man raid going every week is a constant battle.  A casual raid, more than any other is made up of players of vastly differing play styles and skill levels.  As a leader, you are always attempting to juggle the needs of your hardcore raiders, that are in truth the primary reason why you can down new content, with your more casual players who want to be able to show up and raid without much external work.  It is this constant tug of war that leads to endless torment and frustration for the officers. 

We suffer through, and try our best to make enough people happy to keep them showing up on a weekly basis.  The reason why we struggle, is because a casual raid like Duranub is based on longterm friendship, more than the progression.  The current raid construct allows for the more hardcore raiders to continue to do serious, focused progression at the 10 man level, while still rolling up into the larger 25 man raid.  It allows for both needs to be met, while not having to abandon your friends that you have struggled to be able to raid with.  As it stands now, I will have to choose between my 10 man raid, that is the high point of my week, and the 25 man raid that I have sacrificed my sanity to try and keep going.

The Great Sorting

Currently it is difficult to find the right kind of players for a casual raid.  Players who are socially motivated, and willing to accept the fact that we are going to progress slower than more serious raids, have always been a special breed.  Without benefit of at least getting better loot, I am not really sure if there are enough benefits to keep players struggling together.  I have to admit, it is a massive temptation to just say screw it, and leave 25 man raiding altogether.  It is far easier to balance a 10 player raid, and easier to find players who are willing to commit to showing up 99% of the time.  When someone can’t make it, it is easier to fill in that one slot for a 10 man, and if you have 9 seasoned players already the requirements are far more lax. 

So as I see it, casual 25 man raiding and 25 man raid alliances in general are going to die in the process.  It simply won’t be worth the struggle involved to try and keep them going.  Spinks mentioned in her blog post, that the temptation for the more hardcore members of your raid, to simply break off into a more stable 10 man will be far too great.  I helped to found our raid, and have been to many the figurehead… and I myself am struggling to find a reason why players SHOULD continue 25 man raiding.  Duranub makes up 3 different 10 man raids currently, and I believe given push to shove each of prefers the 10 man dynamic to the larger 25 man.  Out of those 30 players… how many are going to be willing to make the personal sacrifice, and give up the format they love for the good of the many?

The Personal Cost

When our raid formed, I made a personal sacrifice to make it happen.  Several of us had been raiding Tier 6 content, and out of the ashes of that raid, Duranub was founded.  However during the interim I myself was recruited by several different guilds on our server, all of which would have meant being able to continue progressing through Tier 6 content.  I made the choice to follow my friends, and signed onto to help lead the raid.  I have to admit however, that as we struggled to teach tier 4 and tier 5 content to a new group of players, more than a little bitterness set in. 

I knew that had I chosen the other path, I would be seeing new things, rather than wiping endlessly to content I was long bored running.  The sacrifice I made effected my attitude, and mental state for the rest of burning crusade and soured our victories.  I was unable to see the fact that we progressed through the content far faster than we had before.  I was unable to realize how fast the skill-sets of the various players were improving.  I felt like a child left out in the cold, looking through the window at the warm and dry table that was the path abandoned.

So now as raiders, we will be forced to abandon the fun we used to have in our 10 mans, for the good of the raid as a whole.  Knowing full well how stressful that decision was on me during burning crusade, I find it hard to willfully ask anyone to share the same personal toll.  So as I look forward, I am not sure what is the future of Duranub, and other casual raids like ours.  I think Blizzard has their hearts in the right place, but once again did not quite think through the ramifications this decision has on anyone who does not fit neatly into the "serious raid guild" mold.  This, coupled with the guild rewards changes, I fear signal the death of raid alliances that allow players to remain in their small family guilds.

It’s the End of an Era

The Danger of Down

Last night we went to Icecrown on our normal Thursday night raid, and as seems my tradition, here comes my “morning after” thread.  We are not nearly as far along in the instance as I might have hoped at this point, but we continue to make constant forward motion.  Problem is apparently I have been coming off as far more negative and downtrodden than I meant to be.  Much like a parent, I have been focusing on the things that have been going wrong, and trying to figure out ways to overcome those obstacles.

However to the raid apparently I have been sounding like XT and his refrain of no No NO NO NO!   One of my good friends in the raid told me that across the board we as officers have been very negative lately.  In our serious focus on attempting to tweak and fix all that was wrong, we were not taking the time to point out all the various things that were going right.  Stopping to think about it, the member was right.  We have become so zeroed in on the obstacles in our path that we had allowed our demeanor to start bringing the raid down.

The Darkside

The danger of down, is that once you start the path, your whole raid begins to mirror your feelings.  They stop noticing the little victories that are accomplished along the way.  At its very worst, they stop believing they can do better; that they really can succeed.  Negativity is like a feedback loop, the more there is of it the more it dominated the mood of any group.  If the officers allow themselves to indulge in these feelings, it is only a matter of time before the raid as a whole is a bitter and spiteful place.

When you are in the middle of face planting on new content it is really hard to see the positive side.  There will always be rough nights in raiding; nights when it seems like the fates themselves have conspired against you.  During these times is when you as a leader need to reflect upon the little things going right in the raid.  I am not an optimist by nature, and often times the optimism I have is hard fought to keep.  However there will always be something going right during any fight.

The Cure

I’ve brought up the concept of Legos before, when it comes to raiding.  If you approach a fight you can break it down into building blocks in your mind.  Last night for example we were working on the Blood Queen encounter and as we got our feet wet I started to notice the moving parts.  Breaking down the fight you can see it mostly falls into distinct categories that need to be handled:

  • Tanking – Keeping two tanks sharing the blood mirror
  • General Healing – dealing with the raid wide damage from vampires
  • Vampiric Bite – Making sure players are biting who they should be
  • Shadows – Making sure players are running the shadow trail to edge
  • Pact – making sure linked players meet at predetermined point
  • Fear – making sure priests fear ward to dispel/heal
  • Proximity – making sure everyone is far enough apart as not to splash damage

As you work your way through the fight, you can start to see how each of those elements is being handled and whether or not it needs tweaking.  While it is important to point out what is going wrong, it is every bit as important to point out the things that are going correctly.  While we did not down Blood Queen, we were getting very close.  Towards the end all of the elements were going extremely smoothly, except the biting.  So we as the leaders gave some positive feedback on those elements that were going well after the attempts.

I have been stuck in the rut of only looking at the bad things, so after each fight in my little synopsis of what happened, it started to sound like: “Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad”.  Where in truth, had I been more honest with myself and the raid the end result would have been a dialog that looked something like this:  “Bad Bad Good Good Good” highlighting the elements that were going well after delivering the items that were still going horribly.

As a leader last night, at the beginning of the night I had to force myself to be positive.  I fully admit it was a struggle for awhile.  We came into Icecrown and wiped on some farmed content, which only made the struggle to keep a positive spin going that much harder.  However as the night went on, the mood of the raid as a whole began to lift, and before long I myself was in a genuinely good mood.  It was almost like the curtains parting to let in the sunlight…  which is a cheesy metaphor I know.

I am not sure how much longer this new approach will last, as I am sure before long we will have an epically bad evening and my old patterns will begin to set in.  However I honestly believe that if we can manage to keep a positive outlook our “wipe” time will be all the more productive.  The cure I guess, is to change the attitude at the top of the raid.  We are the voices the members hear in their headsets, and if we are excited and positive… it certainly can’t hurt things.