This PUG will self destruct in five seconds. The first whiff of a short, lit fuse? A group leader spamming the beastly phrase “link achiev or no inv”. I believe it’s a doom knell for any PUG. It makes Dalaran and trade chat more dangerous places for a group than a fire breathing dragon with left-side whelps.
Perhaps you’ve not heard the phrase. It’s often used as a recruitment method by PUG leaders. They are demanding that potential group members whisper them with a link to their completed achievement for the relevant instance. It does seem to have benefits for both group leader and applicant – call them Lichknig and Armand:
- Lichknig can suppose that Armand knows tactics for the encounters
- Lichknig can suppose that Armand is well-geared enough to do the instance, having done it before
- Lichknig can suppose that Armand doesn’t have the attention span of a concussed goldfish, as shown by his completed achievement and the fact that he bothered to link it
- Armand can suppose that the PUG has a good chance of completing the instance as everyone is being vetted
- Armand can suppose that the PUG has a good chance of filling up and starting quickly as Lichknig is regularly singing out on trade and recruitment channels
Lichknig’s request of players to link an achievement and then Armand’s linking of the achievement is like a negotiation. It gets both players what they want. It also creates a sort of trust between Lichknig and Armand, and an identical bond is created between Lichknig and each player that joins the raid group. The group’s parameters of teamwork, or safety nets, are set.
The terms are not necessarily fair, though. The unspoken subtext is that Lichknig is washing his hands of error – he’s looking for an easy raid with little input from him. He’s saying “you’ve done it before – you will just do it again” to his group members. He and others like him don’t want to put the effort in to lead or direct the group. Lichknig wants to be able to crack open a beer and sit back; the group should run like a machine for him. He can put in as little interaction as he likes – both with the instance, which he will be carried through by his mechanical group – and the players, whose questions he doesn’t necessarily need to answer.
This puts group under unfair pressure to perform. This is particularly hard without direction. Almost everyone recruited into a linky linky group will have slightly different tactics from their previous PUGs or guild runs for each encounter. Think about it. Without solid direction from the leader, the group will employ three to seven different essence tactics in the Twin’Valkyr encounter, merrily exploding itself and saving the bosses the hassle.
Armand and his fellow group members have little room or excuse for error during the run. The trust bonding the group is tenuous as it can be broken as soon as someone makes a mistake; players are almost absolved of having to be patient with their teammates by the terms of negotiation. Not so long ago I was in an Ulduar25 PUG – as soon as we wiped someone reacted with “WTF? I thought you invited people who knew tacts”. What linky linky group members are under strain to prove is their worth; why they should be included. This may result in such a chilled show of professionalism that the atmosphere is icy cold and no-one says a friendly word. It may also result in players pouncing on the chance to blame someone else as soon as anything goes wrong. I mean anything – whether a tail swipe in Onyxia leads to a brief but controllable flurry of whelps or a messy wipe, players may be ready to draw attention to it as long as it diverts attention from themselves.
This isn’t a problem if the run is successful – the group may even bond if the run is fun and there’s some good humour going round. Say that doesn’t happen or someone like Armand makes a mistake, though. The initial parameters of the group will be revealed to be superficially flimsy – not a real safety net. Lichknig and the rest of the group are not guaranteed to show any patience and so Armand may find himself insulted, chased down or simply kicked.
Armand being kicked may be a bad thing for the raid. He may be a great tank and was just using slightly different tactics or his own initiative to rescue a bad tactical situation – but who knows what’s right if Lichknig hasn’t spoken since trade chat? Now that Armand’s gone the group will spend a fun two hours sitting in LFG waiting for another tank who can linky linky. Meanwhile, Lichknig’s reputation may be on a slippery slope as Armand tells his friends and guildies about his experience. Not only that, Armand may have assembled another group and led them to victory over the same instance by the time Lichknig links up with a replacement.
That’s just one reason why a linky linky group could doom you to an evening of frustration.
- It damages recruitment chances by needlessly cutting out great chunks of potential recruits who may genuinely have the skill to learn the instance anew or the knowledge to do it from experience on another character. All because their toon doesn’t have the achievement.
- A friend of mine has a geared but unachieved alt who keeps getting declined for the last spot of linky linky Onyxia 25 runs, yet his main regularly main tanks and raid leads successful Onyxia 25 groups
- It’s all about ‘ez mode’. Linky linky groups want the run to be fast, almost mechanical, with as little difficulty as possible. It’s almost like expecting a group of strangers to boost you, and at level 80 end game content, for Pete’s sake
- It’s exclusive and Not Too Bright ™. If you teach more players the tactics or encounters then you personally will have a bigger pool of competent players from which to recruit. They’ll be used to your tactics and be grateful for the experience
- It’s prone to turn into a needlessly competitive environment in which players forget that their teammates are other people who they might enjoy chatting to, just as much as they forget that epics are just purple pixels. I’ve actually seen people insult other DPSers of their class in VoA runs, and have often wondered if they’re trying to reduce the competition for loot
- The longer term effect of ‘linky linky’. All of the above can combine into a solid mindset that seeps into a player and through a realm to produce a tendency to make snap judgements about other players’ skill based on very little information
So what am I talking about with the last point? I was recently PUGging on my restoration shaman Apeorsa alongside a tank friend of mine. We’d not long hit 80 but were both gearing fast and are experienced players. We’d had bad luck in PUGs that week but the ‘caek’ was really taken on the Friday evening when we joined a VoA25 group. The raid leader was not exactly Mr. Chatty (albeit hereby christened so) and when my tank friend asked who the MT was, she was unceremoniously kicked. Apparently this was payment for her asking stupid questions like who the tanks were and for having “pathetic” health.
All very sad but so what, I hear you cry. Well, I think Mr. Chatty’s attitude was partly born from the longer term linky linky effect that I mentioned. I’ve noticed an unpleasant tendency for some PUGgers to assume that everyone who wants to be ‘on their team’ will be kitted to the teeth with iLevel 245s – or at least they jolly well should be, by gosh. Anyone who isn’t so kitted is in danger of being automatically weighed, measured and found wanting before they’ve had a chance to prove they’re more than their gear. Indeed – it happens the moment they set foot in the raid or draw attention to themselves by asking the simplest of questions.
And once attention is on them – well, it’s too late. The other player will judge them based on mis-information, forget that different classes and players prioritize different stats, or just look at half a picture of their stats – such as Mr. Chatty looking at the tank’s health and drawing conclusions. Heaven forbid that he might look them up and get a full picture of composite stats. My tank friend wandered off after the disastrous and brief recruitment into Mr. Chatty’s VoA group to easily tank Ony25. Mr. Chatty, having lost a tank and main healer team, was still in LFG 25 minutes after the incident.
There also seems to be a nasty accompanying assumption by some players that basic group information doesn’t need to be shared and that anyone who asks questions is away with the fairies – or that possibly the fairies will sort everything out so they don’t have to. Not only that, there’s the simple fact that my tank friend felt thoroughly dejected after the response he got from Mr. Chatty. Why should we care? Simply because this is a social experience. Being an unfriendly twerp isn’t going to improve the game for anyone involved.
So all in all I firmly believe that the linky linky mindset is destructive and can be emotionally taxing – or even turns its players into machines. I agree that it can be important to vet PUGgers for some things – particularly higher end raids. Personally I favour an approach which allows anyone to apply for a group spot regardless of their knowledge of the encounter. It’s important to take a player’s gear into account to some extent. I check everyone on WoW-Heroes before deciding if they get an invite. This gives me a better indication of their overall gearing level and stat logic for an instance than does merely looking at their total health. And to be honest – the other thing they need is not to be our Mr. Chatty. I can teach someone tactics; I can’t teach them to be a Nice Person. That’s when their wheels fall off as far as I’m concerned.
So what do you think? Do tell, as I’d love to get a debate going on this one – it’s been a bee in my bonnet for a while now. All opinions welcome! Am I being too harsh on linky linky? Do you like the peace of mind the mindset conjures and look for raids which require you to compete and/or prove yourself? Have you had any really bad or good experiences in such a raid? What do you think the real effects of this particular – or other – types of PUG are?
And FYI – this week’s picture has been photo-shopped to remove trade spam and protect the identities of people involved.
This is a post by Mimetir, a boomkin of a raid leader. You can find my twitter feed here.