What Did You Want? Future of Healing Assignments – Part 1

What Did You Want? Future of Healing Assignments – Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I gave you all a quest – what did you want me to write about. A fair number of you responded to the quest and Jooles completed it by way of winning my RNG ingame /roll. So now here I am, a giant oversized owl ready to hand over the quest reward with a yellow question mark ruffling my ear feathers. Which, let me tell you, does nothing to help the usually-aggrieved furrow of a boomkin’s brow.

Joole’s question was this:

The future of healing assignments. Have they gone the way of crowd control due to smart heals and class pigeon-holing? Is it Paladins heal tanks, Shammy’s heal melee, Priests + Druids heal raid forever or is this going to change in Cataclysm? Which way are Disc priests going to go?

With four healing classes to look at and changes happening all the time in beta it’s taken a brief spell to get going on this. This ‘ere is the first of a two-post answer. I’m not stumping up precisely calculated answers; with things not nailed down in beta I’d have to be a physic owl to do so. Which I’m really not, given I can’t remember what I had for dinner tonight and I’m not playing in the beta.

I am looking at the beta information for healing classes and talking about the picture it gives me of their healing style. I’ll look at two classes a week and include a summary of my predictions for healing assignments at the end of the second post.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at Cataclysmic druids and paladins.

Druids:

Anyone got an axe? Tree druids are going to be split into two camps. Blizzard have said they want the difference between a druid’s direct healing spells and their HoTs to be more noticeable, and boy, are we going to notice it.

Tree druids are losing the permanence of tree form but gaining the ability to tank-heal more seriously. At least that’s what Blizzard want: according to blue posts they want trees to be capable tank healers who can spot heal when the going gets tough. But I foresee it not quite playing out like that in healing assignments.

Sure, druids are going to be able to keep tanks up.

But they’re also going to be your “oh nitwibble” guy when things go wrong. Given that we know there’s going to be more damage flying around affecting everyone in the group and that druids’ tree form is going to be the “it’s all gone wrong and I need to pump out extra healing for a bit” cooldown, you’re going to need someone who waits for those “oh nitwibble we’re all dying” times and reacts the second it hits.

Your tree druid is the guy breaking out the roots for the extra healing when everyone’s taking more damage. He’ll stand there (with the current speed penalty to tree form he’s not going anywhere if things are that bad) madly spamming HoTs, the effectiveness of which now scales the more injured the target is, on the group when things go wrong. Not to mention the new talent “efflorescence” which spawns a patch of healing flowers underneath the recipient of a critical-hit Regrowth. So while your druid’s standing there setting his limbs on fire spamming HoTs, the rest of the group could be running madly to stand in the good stuff on the floor. I can hear it now – raid leaders yelling “things are going to piffle! Go stand in the healing fauna!”

Which is a little worrying to my mind. I have a feeling trees won’t be able to be both your tank healer and your “oh nitwibble guy” given healers are going to have less mana. You’re going to have to choose between the tree who heals your tank and the tree who stems the mass-damage spike. Given that Blizzard are trying to homogenize the healers so we can all handle 10 and 25 man content, I’m a little worried that tree druids are going to be irreplaceable.

Paladins:

I can see the paladin running around. Groans from paladins, eh? Hear me out.

First of all, holy paladins are going to need to accrue globules of this new ‘Holy Power’ combo-point like thing. Holy paladins can do this three ways; their primary is by healing (duh). Specifically, by using Holy Shock or healing their Beacon of Light target if they’re talented into Tower of Radience.

Sure they can stand anywhere to use this, but Holy Shock has a 6 second cooldown and healing their beacon target might not always be the smartest move. Maybe the beacon target doesn’t need healing, or maybe it’s more mana efficient to get Holy Power another way rather than casting a heal right this second. So a a secondary Holy Power gatherer they can also stick Crusader Strike up on something, which requires Mr. Holy to be doing the hokee-kokee into melee range.

Now, Blizzard have said flat out they’re trying to remove the “tank healer” label from paladins, though it’s stuck so well they’ve had to scrape it off with new tools in the holy toolbox. So how to make the paladins less like a tank healer?

They’ve given them AoE capability. What with the new “Healing Hands” and talent-based “Light of Dawn” AoE cone/wave heal, paladins could find themselves on their toes. Popping Healing Hands will allow paladins to act like a sparkly version of Healing Spring totem, giving out a short range aura-like AoE heal and “Light of Dawn” could be useful for both clusters of melee and slightly more spread out ranged, depending on your positioning relative to them.

So holy paladins might be donning the headless chicken suit to run around and AoE/aura heal. They’ll need to be spacially aware at all times of who’s standing where so that if they want to use “Light of Dawn” on a few ranged they have to stand a distance away to catch everyone in the cone. Want to use “Healing hands”? Go near the people who need it. Need more Holy Power but can’t heal to get it? Run into melee and stick up Crusader Strike.

 

To my mind druids and paladins are going to be shaken up. Possibly even mixed up, as if we put on the over-generalization goggles for a moment it looks like they’re swapping some of their current iconic roles of trees running around, paladins being the big healers.

Having recently started playing a paladin I’m somewhere between excitement and terror that they’re getting yet more bells and whistles. Druids might not getting that much, but it looks like they don’t need new spells for their role to be flexible. That’s either quite admirable or a tad worrying.

What do you think? Do you see druids and paladins completely differently, or has this opened up new ideas for what Cataclysm will look like?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my website MMO Melting Pot here and my twitter feed here.

Article image courtesy of Chris Campbell @ flickr

Introducing A New Site For Your Reading Pleasure…

Introducing A New Site For Your Reading Pleasure…

Melting Pot

I mentioned yesterday that I’d be posting some happy MMO news. I said it’s all hush hush – you know – toodle pip wot-wot, under your hat old chap. …Yep,I know you’re all looking at me a bit oddly now. Anyway, the news has been a tightly kept secret all right – until now.

A few months ago I put out a call asking you folks to lend me your brains. Thanks to everyone who responded! Since then I’ve been beavering away on designing a website. Originally it was going to be a purely WoW based blog doin’ things my way; then the idea grew. It grew to include a wide range of MMOs, and have a community side too.

A couple of weeks ago it split into two projects and the primary site morphed into something different again. Doh. Flexibility for the win.

The Melting Pot is a manual aggregation site for MMO blogs. We actively look for interesting, witty or intelligent opinion-based articles from around the blogosphere – currently from mostly WoW blogs. We then link what we find to let you guys know they’re there. We also give some thoughts of our own to get the discussion started, ‘cos hey – we’re bloggers too, and find these discussions genuinely interesting.

Now, it’s still a lil’ site and adapting daily but it’s ready for general perusal. So without further ado as its Editor in Chief I’d like to invite you to have a gander at MMO Melting Pot.

Feel free to add its feeds to your RSS filters – we’ll be posting daily, from a ever wider selection of sites and games. Prod the shiny comments system with your own opinions – it won’t eat your children. Tip us off about interesting articles you’ve stumbled upon – we’re open to suggestions. And, when you least expect it, community bits n’ bobs might shuffle onto the menu bar too.

So. Drop in, say hi, grab a cup of coffee from the Pot – you might not know what’s in it, but it’s good stuff, mon.

What Do You Want?

What Do You Want?

<The results are in! Scroll down>

Imagine an oversized owl with a golden exclamation mark over her head.

Her clawed feet are a’tappin’. Her head’s swaying round, beak held high. She clearly expects people to stop and listen to her woes. People regularly socialize with oversized owls, after all. Especially any that look like they’re damsels in distress. Maybe not damsels, but distress.

Yep. that thar owl be giving you a quest.

Your quest, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me what you’d like me to write about on World of Matticus early next week. I’ve decided to put my own bonnet with a beehive inside it aside, to ask you guys if there’s anything you’re curious about, want answers to, or generally want to challenge me to make a fool of myself. No catches and few rules. To whit, the rules are:

  • You can submit one idea for an article by posting in the comments of this thread
  • You can suggest any genre of idea but as World of Matticus is focused on healing and leading, I’d suggest going for something heal/lead related
  • You can decide what sort of post it is – whether it’s something you want my opinion on, something you want me to fact-check and answer, or something you want to know how to do. whatever it is, I’ll do my best to answer the winning idea
  • You have until midnight PST on Friday 16th July to post a comment.

On Saturday I’ll do an in game /roll of however many comments this post gets. The number I get in the roll will be the winning comment, and therefore article idea.

For example, if I get 8 replies with a suggestion each, I’ll /roll 1-8. If the roll result is 5, I’ll write an article based on commenter #5’s suggestion. And just to put the icing on the quest I’ll update this post with a screenshot of the roll, so you guys know I’m not pulling some funky owl magic.

So. Let the ideas and challenges begin! What do you want me to write this week? Post before Friday, as this article will self destruct… all right, not really. But the owl will stop peering questioningly at you, then.

By the way… keep this under your hat, hush hush and all… but I’ll also be putting up another brief post later today with some small but happy MMO related news. Keep checking!

Saturday Edit:

So it’s Saturday and the results are in. I took a roll of 1-12 as we got 12 replies (if the result had been a post that was a chat comment rather than an idea submission i’d just have re-rolled). So, without further ado, this is the result:

Image (c) Blizzard Entertainment

Ignore the “X is already being ignored” lines – that’s just what I get when I login. The important bit’s the roll; comment #9 won. So next week, on Jooles’ suggestion, I’ll be writing a WoM article based round this:

The future of healing assignments. Have they gone the way of crowd control due to smart heals and class pigeon-holing? Is it Paladins heal tanks, Shammy’s heal melee, Priests + Druids heal raid forever or is this going to change in Cataclysm? Which way are Disc priests going to go?

See you then!
Making Dungeons Fun Again

Making Dungeons Fun Again

notank

Want to know a secret? There’s a simple way to make WoW more fun.

Last night I had more fun in a random dungeon than I have for a long time. I was in Stockades, of all places. A Stockades run is usually a pedestrian half hour filled with enemies which aren’t challenging but have vaguely annoying abilities and no loot to make up for it.

The dungeon didn’t magically morph into a Lernean Hydra spitting epics at us. What changed was the group. The tank suddenly left. We were left with a lowish level party of three mages and a priest healer. We also had prison cells full of bad guys cracking their knuckles and asking whether our relatives could stitch this.

We carried on. The three mages had fun using every trick to play mage tennis and help the healer ensure we didn’t become wallpaper paste. The priestie sat there cheerfully swearing as he healed and cackling maniacally every time he physic screamed because he could it saved our clothie hides. Lots of conjured water later we finished the dungeon, all in great spirits.

What does that mean? We don’t need tanks. Nope. Not in 5 man instances.

Right now WoW is based on the ‘holy trinity’ of three roles; tank, healer, DPS. It’s a tradition going back through the MMO and RPG genres. The nay-sayer in me mutters that removing one of the roles would shake the very foundations of the games industry. It wouldn’t; it’s already happening.

The complexity of the roles has been simplified over time. Back in the day groups had to be pristinely organised. Each person performed challenging tasks. Support classes were necessary. Contingency plans were useful if the battle went awry.

It was the case for WoW as much as any other game. It wasn’t long ago tanks alone were juggling single-target tanking on four monsters whilst anxiously watching the one nursing a headache and herding the battle round the confused sheep. Before TBC, I gather, it was more tricky. That type of game play taught players to be creative strategists. It’s in that kind of situation that I met and bonded with my guildmates over hours of wipes and brainstorming.

Things are more straightforward now. More generalised; each of the roles is cut-and-dry in WoW. Tanks are there to hold the monsters’ attention. DPS are there to take them down, usually with little mind of what dies first. Healers are there to keep everyone topped off with heals so huge I’d not be surprised if characters feel like they’ve been dunked in the fountain of youth. Of course, there are fights where there are exceptions – sometimes healers get to top the boss’ health off instead, The roles are plain and appear interdependent.

But the roles don’t need each other to function. Last night my group’s DPS did its job – to deal damage – perfectly fine without a tank regulating us. We just had to be a bit more creative, versatile, and able to think on our feet. These are qualities which haven’t really been challenged in Wrath’s standard system but I’d go as far to say that the creative strategist in me opened one drowsy eye while my mana’ed out mage watched the cooldown on frost nova with her robed back to the wall.

Dare I say it, we also had to work as a team, rather than just have the tank glue everything to himself and everyone else sedately press the usual buttons to floor the next pack. We functioned much better as a social group. Usually the members of a group each have a set task and if something untoward – or just unexpected – happens it’s easy for a group of strangers to feel justified in laying blame on a person who failed or made a mistake with their individual task.

Last night, without a tank and with the group’s tasks shared equally, the potential for blame was removed. Everyone could contribute to everything. Even the healing! Us mages didn’t just sit in the fire expecting the healer to keep us all, four clothies, up AoEing 10 mobs at once. I don’t know if any of us would do that under the standard roles but with that jot of creativity and freedom allowed to us, we did what we could to help tank and heal. And when we did wipe? We all laughed and congratulated each other on a good fight.

So there we go. The roles already look a whole lot different to how they did when they were originally conceived in EverQuest or even Breath of Fire. We just need to take the plunge and get rid of one of the canonical roles. Not much to ask, right?

We’re only talking as regards 5 man groups, here, but just think of the ramifications for raids. What would they be? More creative players graduating from instances and more chaos and raids unlike anything we’ve ever known – I wonder if the outcomes would offset one another. I wonder if WoW could even support such a change, or if it would require a whole level playing field.

What do you think – is this a terrible idea which would do irrevocable damage to WoW, or a great one, with modifications?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Article image originally on flickr, by id-iom.

Why Role Balancing Isn’t Your Average Tentacled Monster

Why Role Balancing Isn’t Your Average Tentacled Monster

tentacle unicorn

Tobold’s post today is a refreshing look at how the holy trinity of tanks, healers and DPSers might be re-balanced. His basic concept is that it should be made more rewarding – more useful – to players to play a tank or a healer, for their own interest. Rather than developers assuming that the laws of odds and sods means that some players will play them because – well, someone has to.

Tobold’s correct in that tanks and healers could benefit from their ability to mitigate being more useful in solo combat. I’m not sure that in order to achieve this it would be necessary to make DPS classes “feel more like the proverbial glass cannon”. Combat could be customizable so that DPSers can still enjoy doing what they do best but tanks and healers can make their mitigation work for them.

Without giving it too serious thought early on a Monday I can think of some brief examples; there could be a mechanic whereby tanks reflect an increasing or scalable amount of monsters’ damage back at them (RPS – reflect per second?). The irritation here is that those monsters who are less damage oriented themselves would take longer to kill. Or there could be an improved “thorns” like mechanic – the idea behind thorns at present being that it does damage when thorns’ beneficiary is hit. The improved version (and the mechanic could be given to any class) could mean that effective use of a tank’s abilities gives him a stacking buff which then accordingly deals damage to the monster – which would stack all the more (and slightly insanely) in aoe/quest situations, probably making it great fun for tanks to quest by gathering all of the monsters on the continent at once. I exaggerate. Slightly.

But what are us healers going to do with our mitigation abilities? Ours is not so much mitigation as reparation. So what, we’d heal ourselves at monsters? Now we get to a deeper layer of difficulty for balancing the roles.

This is where the aforementioned concept of “their own interest” comes under scrutiny. In my mind a fighter’s – therefore a tank’s – interest in surviving battle is entirely different to a healer’s. The fighter charegs into battle wanting to smash those monsters in. Those fighters who are tanks also happen not to mind being smashed back by the monsters. A healer’s interest on the other hand is to hoppity-skip around the battlefield amidst volleys of arrows and magic from both sides in order to patch up their teammates.

The point at which their interest intersects is in doing what they are good at; and, trickily, those skillsets shine most in group situations when there are other people around to benefit from them. Not everyone can get hit over the head with as much class as a tank; and fighters going into battle alone traditionally aim to kill the betentacled unicorn quicksmart rather than let it try to tear their guts out for longer than is comfortable. As to healers – how many rogues do you see prancing around with happy light beams streaming from their fingertips? Healers like stapling peoples’ guts back in, and not just their own.

The difficulty here is reconciling two different experience types. First, redressing the game mechanic practicalities of playing a tank or healer to make it intrinsically self-rewarding for players choosing to play a tank or healer. And secondly, not amputating the traditional ideology behind the role types. The ideology which makes roles what they are; antecedents of cultural mythology celebrated through oral story telling, written classics, and role playing.

One way to approach this may be to remember that it’s not all about the roles. You can take the mechanic to the water but to make it drink from it – make the water more interesting. Perhaps the quest system could be overhauled – it’s overdue anyway.

Instead of quest givers parroting the a-typical “kill fish because I want their feathers to make a pair of sandals”, they could have a wider, more imaginative range of ways we can help them. Something like, “get from here to there in <insert arbitrary time limit> because, er, I dunno, how do you feel about couriering misunderstood baby murlocs? And do it the way that best suits you. You look healery, maybe hoppity-skip along and do your nature thing. You don’t have to slowly attack/tickle everything to death.”

Tell you what though. I remember several RPGs where us healers were the big guns when our band of heroes were wading through undead. Back in my day, undead monsters really didn’t like being healed at.

What do you think? How do you think class/role mechanics should be rebalanced on the ‘experience type’ graph, and why?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Article images originally on flickr, by Don Solo and merwing little dear.

Dear Ruby Sanctum: How Not To Be A Raid Encounter

Dear Ruby Sanctum: How Not To Be A Raid Encounter

Failraid

Last week I talked about what I thought the Ruby Sanctum had to live up to. I reminisced about the encounters that made Wrath’s raiding scene fun for me. Thanks for chipping in with your thoughts too folks – feel free to keep them coming and do the same this week. I’ll never forget my own favourites and if the Ruby Sanctum manages to come close to them then it’s on fire.

… Sorry about that one.

Anyway. This week I’m intrepidly heading back down memory lane to the dark alleys where the worst encounters lurk. The ones that caused me to daydream about throwing the computer out of the window whilst we recovered from yet another wipe. Or the ones that encouraged me to try taping my cat’s paw to the keyboard while I put the kettle on, because we just had to get through the encounter to get to the Fun Stuff ™. Worst of all, the encounters that should be truly inspiring but one design flaw let it – and me – down.

Beware, Ruby Sanctum. Here there be monsters. Quite literally. If you find yourself amongst them you’ve Done It Wrong.

 

5. Faction Champions – Let me make one thing clear: if I want to PvP I’ll go to a battleground or do some arenas. It’s great that they took the Priestess Delrissa fight from TBC a step further. That was chaotic fun. The ‘fun’ part translated badly into a situation involving 10-25 people, many of whom (including myself) are not ardent PvPers with a desire to hone PvP tactics. I’ve found that trying to organise (or be organised for) PvP-style opponent management when the 9-24 people you’re working with are either loyal PvEr’s or PUGers is just a headache. Don’t do it again, Blizz.

4. Lich King – I know I know. It’s the last fight of the expansion, of course it’s special, right? Special isn’t always good. First oversight: the quality of the dialogue between Arthas and Tirion before the fight. It’s frankly shoddy. If I’m being crude, most of it also has homoerotic undertones that I’m sure Blizzard didn’t intend. Go and read it if you don’t believe me. A ‘skip intro’ button as with Deathbringer Saurfang would have been really useful here. And if I’m being picky – might as well be – Arthas’s girth makes me think he’s only really a threat to pies.

But my main problem with this encounter was its mechanics. If you ask for tactics in any Wrath encounter at least one person will say “Don’t stand in the fire”. It is a joke but people say it through pursed lips. They’re tired of it being the basic tactic for most fights. The Lich King encounter is just that: you’ll be fine if you don’t stand in the fire black goo and move at the right times. Sadly, this really makes it the fight designed to finish Wrath off.

3. Sindragosa – I included Sapphiron in my top five last week because when the fight mechanics were fresh when we first edged into his lair. That didn’t mean I wanted a near-identical fight later in the game. Not only are the mechanics a rip-off but the boss looks the same (though has undergone a gender change since we saw him in Naxx). Sindragosa’s fight mechanics do have a different twist to Sapphiron’s. I just resent peddling the wheel like a good guinea pig to get through phases 1 and 2 in order to reach that fun part of the fight which would probably kill my group so I could do it all again. I can’t understand why having players repeat two long phases full of easy mechanics because the fun, difficult and adrenaline-inducing stuff is squeezed into a mad 30 seconds at the end got past – or to – the PTR.

2. Malygos – This encounter has a lot going for it. I quite enjoyed the large blue dragon flying around the room taunting during wipe recovery. I mean, for an arrogant dragon, it sounded believable. The fight mechanics were interesting up to a point – working with sparks provided an extra layer of challenge and the whole of phase 2 was particularly fun given the first character I took to Malygos was a melee DPS.

What? I’ve just praised it to the heavens? But wait, this encounter does deserve to be high on this list. Why? Phase 3. Partly because whilst being dropped on to a dragon looks cool, I don’t appreciate a game effectively saying “right! Quick time event. You need to already know and/or mind-read which dragon abilities to use while moving in 3d space – and we mean moving, ‘cos there are fires to not stand in!” But even that isn’t the real problem. That’d be the lights. There are too many in phase 3. They flash. They move. The pretty colours aren’t pretty so much as neon. I know people who get headaches from them and I’ve been in raids which have wiped shortly after the healer said “arghargh the lights.”

1. Razuvious“Bring the player not the class” was Blizzard’s tagline regarding raiding in WotLK. A raid with any composition of classes can defeat any encounter? Great idea. So why did I often spend hours fishing whilst waiting for my Naxx25 groups to try to find two shadow priests for Insdtructor Razuvious? And then why did many of those groups collapse like a pie on Arthas’ plate after we wiped once on Razuvious? Because the hidden clause was that not just that we need two priests – and until it was hotfixed you need two with +hit gear – but to narrow it down further any group needed two who know how to mindcontrol-juggle-tank. Razuvious was an interesting fight mechanic spoiled by a deviation from Wrath’s goals, which would have just been more fun for everyone if any class could have stepped up to the orb in 10 and 25 man.

So providing the Ruby Sanctum doesn’t force us to PvP under a disco ball as a raid composed of 10 paladins – after a dodgy scene we’ll cringe at fifty times – it should be fine. Bring on the fire.

What do you think – what are your very worst memories of any WoW encounters, and why?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Will Ruby Sanctum Compare To Wrath’s Best Bosses?

Will Ruby Sanctum Compare To Wrath’s Best Bosses?

shrine

I’m one of these weird people who doesn’t read up on content before it’s released. I like a surprise. So the Ruby Sanctum’s got me thinking: is it going to be a patch on my favourite bosses from Wrath? What are my favourite bosses?

After all, I am looking forward to the Sanctum. In about the same way one might look forward to a shopping centre opening up nearby.

I’m vaguely aware it’ll open sometime in the near future and when it does I’ll probably make plans to go trundle round it immediately. But I’m expecting it to be just like any other local Sanctum/raid shopping centre. There’ll be modern lighting trying to hide the fact that the decor is all too familiar. The staff will breath smoke at you as soon as look at you, and their uniforms will look like they’ve been stolen from another shopping centre and dyed a different colour. Oh, and the wares will be updates of last month’s fashion, alluring only inasmuch as being on buy-one-get-one-free and so must be good offers.

The Sanctum’s got a lot to live up to compared to my favourite bosses in Wrath – let me show you.

5. Thaddius. For those who met him when TBC wasn’t yet a distant memory, Thaddius was a well-timed and comforting reassurance that it wasn’t all Big Change. That some fight mechanics had been passed down through the expansion; Mechano Lord Capacitus’ polarity charges could be a fun challenge back in TBC days and here they were again. Better yet, with a twist that put an emphasis on teamwork and introduced raiders to the idea that no, bosses now really do have that much health – and by the way: if you get it wrong you kill your group. Besides, it’s a good sign for a fight mechanic when PUGers regularly spend half a raid session arguing that their nigh-identical method of doing it is better. I was grateful that this wasn’t one of the many tactics dragged out time and again through Wrath – it gave me memories of a unique fight in Naxx.

4. Sapphiron. Bones rising from the floor to amass into a huge nitwibble-off dragon in your way. What better start to showing players the shape of future mechanics? Sapphiron was a really well constructed fight, and well placed within Naxx’s structure. He effectively compiled individual basics which raiders had encountered in earlier bosses in Naxx. Tactics such as moving to the correct place when targeted, a’la Grobbulus, or moving out of the nasty AoE, like Anub’s Insect Swarm. Back when it was a new encounter, moving around – for a long, endurance fight – was quite refreshing to me. I also have fond memories attached to Sapphiron: the first time my guild raided was at our first HerdMoot when we headed into Naxx. It was Sapphiron we found ourselves wiping on at 5 AM.

3. Mimiron. When we hit Mimiron he had a reputation which preceded him, and he didn’t let us down. He was the first four-phase fight in Wrath in which everyone had multiple roles, or at least different tasks to do. He also shared the responsibilities out a bit more evenly. Suddenly tanks had different things to tank at different times. Melee had responsibility past stabbing and kicking things. For many raid groups, he gave a ranged DPS the chance to prove that they’re not all paper (so long as they have a good healer behind them). And for us healers, he gave us the chance to prove we can be flexible. For better or worse, Mimiron was one of the first fights in which healing on the run with twitch-reflexes was showcased. Its originality made it fun.

2. Valithria. I’d not considered as a healer that I rarely had a direct combat role with a boss, nor how this affected my fulfilment as a raider. I’m a healer – therefore my fulfilment should come from making sure other people stay alive so they can do the dirty work, right? So I thought. Until my healers and I were lumped with the responsibility of dealing with Valithria’s health – even if that was to make it go up rather than down. It’s a long deserved fight mechanic and is balanced perfectly: no-one feels left out, as the tanks and DPS have an increasingly manic (and as I understand it, fun) time of keeping the adds in control, and the healer roles are not only varied but accessible for any healing class.

1. Yogg Saron. Tentacles. Many-eyed blob in the floor. Sanity loss. Need I say more? This is the most unique fight in WoW. Yes, in terms of fight mechanics, it’s a “this is your final test, what have you learnt up to now?” There were fires clouds to not stand in, there were adds to control in a certain way, there were target priorities for DPS. But it didn’t feel like a final test: every wipe felt like a few minutes of unbridled, chaotic fun. Even going into the brain room and coming out before going mad, while a ‘do this before X time’ mechanic, wasn’t as annoying if someone failed; it was almost funny for people to miss the chance to come out of the brain room and so go mad. No other fight has had my Herd raiding to the sound of “Tentacles!” and “If I were a Deep One“. A pure stroke of genius to incorporate Cthulhu mythos into WoW without it feeling forced or misplaced.

 

My main metric here was how much fun I had in a fight, regardless of how long it took to best. But most of these also did something unique or at least were the first of their type. The Ruby Sanctum has a tall order. We’ll see! Perhaps I’ll have a pleasant surprise when I’m panicking that the fire’s getting away and I should be standing in it or be lost in time and space.

I am amused that those bosses aren’t a fair representation of all of Wrath – I’ve left the bosses from Trial of the Crusader out in the cold, and there they can stay. While I was whittling this list down I was also compiling a list of the worst bosses. I have a feeling those will be harder to choose between … though I certainly know which luridly-lit fight tops that list. Perhaps I’ll share that list at a future date!

What do you think? What fights in Wrath have you particularly enjoyed – and why? They don’t have to be raid bosses, any encounter you remember having fun whilst redecorating the walls with your character’s innards – let us know. Do you agree with my choices – or are you sitting there asking why on earth anyone enjoyed Mimiron? Which encounters would you like to see a variant of in Catacylsm?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Article image originally by hawk684 @ Flickr
10 Tips: How To Organise A Guild Meet

10 Tips: How To Organise A Guild Meet

Last week I Herded Cats.

Well, all right, not really cats. I’m not a crazy cat lady and my guild members aren’t felines with string addictions. But our annual guild meet up – or Herd Moot as we call it – finished last week. But what does this mean to you?

I know a lot of guilds meet up. I know some would like to and aren’t sure where to begin. I figured I might share a few pointers with you in case it’s something you might ever consider organising with your guild, whatever game you play. Pointers you wouldn’t necessarily think of immediately, and which I’ve learnt both during this Moot and through organising similar knees-up in the past.

It really is worth it. More’s the point, it really isn’t impossible.

We had folks travel from other parts of the UK, and from Finland and Norway. I deduce from the fact that everyone said they didn’t want to leave and some have made a point of saying they’re now actively looking to move here that everyone had a good time. Heck, we’re vaguely considering through the post-Moot recovery haze that we might organise another Moot for later in the year.

So, a few things to keep in mind for you as an organiser – or you as a participant supporting your organiser – to help your own Moot go smoothly.

1. Flexible plans. You’ll select precise times/dates. Be prepared for participants to either choose to travel on slightly different times/days which best suit themselves and their finances, or simply get it wrong, without checking with you first. For example, I organised our Moot for Friday-Monday; it ended up being Thursday-Wednesday due to peoples’ flights. You don’t need to stress if this happens, or worry if you have obligations like work on ‘extra’ days – the group can look after itself for a bit! Stay on top of travel details and keep in mind how many of the group are around at any one time.

2. Intensity. Think about how important it is that your group spends all of the meet together. Think about how long your meet is; if it’s quite short – 24 hours – you might well spend the whole day together as a group. if the meet is a few days then it’s likely to be part-meet part-holiday for anyone who’s travelled. Leaving them some time to themselves over the few days for exploring a new place on holiday might be just what both them and you need!

3. Health. Always ask anyone you’re ‘overseeing’ if they have medical conditions you should be aware of. Reassure them that you won’t make a big deal of it and it’s for your reference in case anything goes wrong or they fall ill. It’s highly likely everyone will have niggling little issues that they won’t think it worth telling you about when you ask, but which will probably come out during your meet when they suddenly remember their bad knee doesn’t like the long walk the group’s halfway through. Give them plenty of opportunity to think of telling you anything pertinent; if you’re planning a walk, tell them in advance, and how far, and if there are options to stop halfway through. For ‘active’ pursuits it’s also useful to have an idea of your group’s general (and lowest) fitness level. We found that half our group weren’t as up for long, pretty walks as others were.

Also, get basic health supplies in. I believe a first aid kit is vital if hopefully unnecessary, and last week found me handing out painkillers to various Cats for migraines to hangovers to general aches.

4. Finances. Your group will probably reflect a range of financial situations. Try to get an idea of the range of your group’s finances early on by talking to individuals quietly and in confidence. Then plan a spread of activities accordingly. Remember that money is a sensitive thing for everyone, whatever their position – don’t blather publicly about who can afford which activities. if necessary plan a couple of options for any one time that differ financially; people can decide for themselves which they want to do.

5. Gaming. You do want to spend some time together playing the game you all have in common – it’s great fun to all be in the same physical space playing it. Even so, strike a balance between ‘real life’ activities which don’t involve WoW/whatever MMO you play, and playing the MMO. For us, that balance was one main evening session and a smaller, less organised session, over 6 days.

6. Booking responsibility. Everyone participating is responsible for booking something. For you that’s ensuring there are arrangements for a place to game. That might be a LAN in someone’s residence, which requires cables and technical equipment, or booking an internet cafe or hotel conference room.

Any participants travelling to the meet need to take responsibility for their own travel and accommodation; unless they really really want to give you their credit card details (big nono for so many reasons). The only help you should give them is to encourage them to book early and have either yourself or someone with knowledge of the area research/suggest some affordable accommodation options and travel sites. Bear in mind some people may not have travelled much and may need more help organising themselves than others.

7. Communication. As the organiser you need to be approachable. Maintain a dialogue with participants in the run-up to the meet. Less intrusive/immediate forms of contact like Facebook are ideal as it gives others the opportunity to reply in their own time, and you the ability to chase them up if they take too long to keep you posted. IM services such as Skype or MSN also work well, particularly the closer the meet is, and particularly if you are having to chase particular individuals for details.

On a more specific note, if your group doesn’t often use voice software while gaming and you have people coming from other countries, they may be worried about speaking English (or whatever language). One of our guild members was particularly worried about his spoken English; we reassured him as much as possible and I also offered to talk to him on a voice skype chat before the Moot as a ‘practice’/’soft’ speaking run before he got here.

8. Recognition. You’re all about to do something scary: go out of your way to Meet Faceless People Off The Internet. Most people in your group will be nervous to some degree. You should share your details with participants to help them see you’re not a betentacled monster and so that you can stay abreast of travel details on the first day. Mobile/cell phone number exchange is crucial, as is a picture of yourself.  Hopefully by setting this good example you’ll inspire them to share theirs back with you.

9. Visibility. Buy sticky labels. Have everyone wear one with their character name and real name for the first day or two. Sounds geeky, right? Mayhap, but it’s also practical and puts folks at ease with remembering real names and using them. You could commission individual t-shirts or hats displaying names and character information or pictures too, if you really want to push the boat out and add a memorable touch given that labels are easily lost and not much of a fashion accessory,

10. Age range. Some guilds have people of a range of ages playing. Be aware of the youngest and oldest ages you have. You may need to generally think round activities that all age groups can enjoy. On a more specific note – don’t make alcohol a part of your meet if you have folks under the legal drinking age (doh!). If you have really young folks, keep a general eye on them. This all may not be a problem for you; it wasn’t for us as we’re one of many guilds of a similar age range. But it’s easy for age differences to slip your mind when you’ve known people online for so long without actually ‘seeing’ them.

 

I hope some of that is useful to you and your guildies. It might look like a lot of work or a scary concept when laid out in practical tidbits but fear ye not. Guild meets can be really special events creating long-lasting memories and deeper relationships. Particularly if you keep an open mind for practical details!

What about you – are you considering doing something as crazy as this? If so, do you have any questions/worries? Have you organised meets, and have tidbits to add or any stories to share? Or do you think the idea of meeting up with the pixels you adventure is weird and wrong?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook, Mimetir Perspective

Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook, Mimetir Perspective

“Because it takes a village to slay a dragon.”

You might look askance at me for getting excited about that sentence. I wouldn’t blame you. It’s the blurb on the back of the Scott F. Andrew’s Guild Leader’s Handbook.

I admit I got quite excited when the opportunity to get a copy crossed my inbox. I’ve been involved in leading online communities in games for near on 10 years now, but I know I’m still learning about leadership and communities all the time; the nature of the games and roles within them is one of constant change. I figured that I might well learn  from Andrews’ book and at the least it’d be an interesting read.

I know Lodur’s already shared his thoughts on it here but I’m going to, too. Not because I know Scott Andrews (I’m not affiliated with him or WoW.com in any way, convoluted or otherwise) but because if you visit this site you and I may well have something in common: an interest in guild leadership. And if that’s the case, you could do with getting yourself a copy of this book. And, to be on the safe side, a pinch of salt.

First and foremost I must salute Andrews. Guild or online leadership is a topic which many people would consider frivolous; Andrews approaches it with the solemnity and respect it deserves. His writing style manages to convey that all the way through the book.

At every turn we’re reminded – no really, guild leading is Serious Business, no joke. Players are real people: so are you. That’s something I respect and it’s something I’m continually harping on about as a misunderstood fact of online communities. Another tune I regularly pluck is that these games are meant to be fun – again, Andrews keeps ‘fun’ as one of the integral principles throughout the book, constantly reminding his readers that having fun is one of the main aims for both themselves and their charges in the communities they’re building.

Saying that, his writing style isn’t *too* serious. The Handbook’s very readable thanks to a style which flows well, explains concepts immediately and simply, and gets to the point in short and understandable sentences. In this way the Handbook is very accessible to anyone from new or prospective guild leader to old hand, or even a player with no intention of leading. Andrews also cross-references his material between sections, enabling you to flick back and forth as your interest takes you.

The Handbook’s carefully thought out sub-sections also aids its accessibility – they help split up the text, as do the regular diagrams and tables dotted throughout the book neatly reinforce his points. All of this helps Andrews to mint his topic as one not to be snorted at.

As to the material itself – there’s no doubt that Andrews is a veteran of leading online communities. I was impressed right from the introduction as Andrews goes straight for the jugular, calmly asserting the dichotomic challenge that guilds pose for their leaders. After all, guilds may be part of a virtual or ‘unreal’ realm but they are populated by real people, whom, as Andrews points out, guild leaders can’t physically see. I’d not often considered this or its ramifications before, but he’s right – not being able to see your members face to face, and able to gauge whether their body language is trying to tell you something, or if they’re only smiling with their mouth – these are things which make online leadership at once both more personal and more impersonal. As Andrews rightly recognises – a unique challenge, but not one impossible to get right.

There’s a lot of his wisdom I both like and wholeheartedly agree with. As a bit of a ruffled-feathers veteran myself I recognise that I – and others – can become entrenched in views on the game, playstyles and player expectations. So I was pleasantly relieved to see that Andrews expertly manages to keep an objective and unbiased voice throughout. His comparison of the machinations of guilds of different sizes is well explained – but then he moves on to a potentially volatile definition – that of ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’. I’d disagree to some extent with his definitions – by his definition my own Kingslayer raiding group would be casuals – but the topic’s a good example of where he manages to tread a minefield without putting a foot wrong.

Andrews successfully illustrates most of his points with examples. He talks about player types and gives examples of how different types might interact. Crucially he also underlines the fact that players – again, as real people – aren’t as simple as to be a single player type, but rather composites. It might have been easy to forego this point in the name of generalisation: happily Andrews notes it. It’s a good example of little details that guild leaders have to watch out for and which might not cross our minds until it’s pointed out, possibly quite sharply. The Handbook rescues us from being thrown in at the deep end in numerous murky ponds.

Saying that, there are a few points where Andrews’ advice appears clunky. When talking about how to prepare for raids as a raid leader he basically recommends that one tell the group everything about the fight. Personally I’ve found that breaking down a fight into what each role (tanks, healers, DPSers) need to know is popular both in my active raid group and PUGs. In my opinion dumping all the information on people just drowns them in it, but giving them the bit that pertains to them makes it bite-size. He then goes on to talk about the importance of morale and constructive communication in post-combat raid leading, which I thoroughly agree with.

My biggest qualm with the Handbook is that it generalises a tad much. Sure, Andrews is presenting a guide applicable to all types of communities in all types of MMOs – he has to generalise a bit. But if you’re using the book in relation to a specific game you may well need a pinch of salt. For example, Andrews’ recommendation to be recruit by going out among strangers and recruiting is all very well and good, and worked brilliantly for me in WoW a year ago. Nowadays if you showcase your leadership abilities in a LFD PUG in WoW many people will think you’re being weird or pushy – and tell you that. Regardless of peoples’ reactions to a stranger from another server being social at them, the game simply doesn’t facilitate re-grouping with prospective recruits cross-server at present.

He also goes into some depth about the differences between raid and guild leading. This is the only time that I wholly disagreed with his expertise. He suggests raid leading and guild leading are a completely different kettle of fish (who puts fish in a kettle anyway?); in the former role you need to be prepared to shout at your raiders. Whether it’s due to different experiences or just his need to generalise, in my opinion Andrews’ wisdom fails him here, as my Kingslayer group stands as at least one example of a raiding style which succeeds at endgame content without screaming at or chewing over my raiders, which he seems to suggest all raid leaders will have to be prepared to do. If this is what he meant I believe him wrong – if not, I believe the text misleading. I’d quite like to hear Andrews’ take on that!

All in all, sodium chloride taken into consideration, I think Andrews’ book is a timely addition to the MMO world – and to my own bookshelf. His closing thoughts are as grounded as his opening ones and underline the fact that MMOs are a reality; whether or not individual MMOs can keep up or fall by the wayside, MMOs as a genre will be around for a long while. They provide something for us as players – the chance to partake in, create and resolve conflict situations – which ties them, as a platform, to us as real individuals.

Lodur gave publication details for the Handbook in his post but just in case you missed them;

The Handbook retails for $24.95 US ($31.95 CDN). It can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

Bah Humbug! PUGers, Use My Name

Bah Humbug! PUGers, Use My Name

Hello, my name’s druid and I’m a PUGger.

That might as well be my name – or yours. We’ve all been privvy to it: “Druid go tank” “warrior u nub pala tank” “priest dead other priest heal”. Addressing someone by their class rather than their character’s name is rude, it’s lazy, and it’s adding to the stagnation in WoW’s pond.

We give our characters names for a reason. It helps us differentiate our character from the millions of other blue-haired and glowy-eyed sacks of muscle. Everyone has a different method for choosing names – I know some people just mash the keyboard until something looks good. For me, choosing a character’s name is an involved process requiring an etymological dictionary, babynames sites and a chunk of time staring at the character creation screen.

A name is part of an identity. In WoW it’s the only thing that we can tailor to be completely unique. It’s more important for some players; for role players names are part of an entire personality. But we all name our characters and I’d bet it’s not just role players who agonize over hitting the Right Name. I do and it’s just because I like to give my lil’uns a starting point, like a header for a clean slate starting at level 1.

It’s disrespectful to not acknowledge the thought and identity we put into naming characters. Yet in WoW I rarely see people use names in social situations where they have no attachment to people. I’m talking about random groups; it’s painfully obvious that anyone inclined to call by class name will do so in a group full of strangers. But why?

Imagine a paladin named Spongebob. He runs 5 to 25 man PUGs and uses character names as little as possible. The first and most obvious reason is that he doesn’t have time to check a name. Things can get hairy in group content; if the death knight is about to become a bubbling heap on the floor it’s reasonable for Spongebob to yell “DK move out of fire”. But if the death knight is in no more imminent danger than getting toasty-warm toes, Spongebob doesn’t really have any excuse not to check and type his name.

Granted, the Death Knight might have a long and well considered name like “Enginescannae”. You know, one that’s a mile long. But that’s where just typing the first few letters of the name works wonders. Just a quick “Hey Takeitjim Engi, fire move!” acknowledges the death knight’s name and communicates clearly.

Ah, communication. That is why using names is practically crucial. If someone needs to do something right the nitwibble now then letting them know using their character name gets that across perfectly. Using a class name can come across as confusing, particularly if it’s spelt wrong – the amount of times I’ve read “durid do X” and thought “which one is durid? can’t see anyone by that nam… oh! Me!” Not to mention the fun to be had by saying “shaman go heal” when there are multiples of that class in the party.

Of course, at the dark, murky heart of the issue is the fact that PUGs mean strangers. Spongebob’ll probably never see the party or raid members again, particularly in 5 mans. He can afford to be lazy; why bother putting the effort in to be social? He might even occasionally look at other players like they’re the local armour repair vendor.

Being with strangers also means there can be what I call a Pecking Order Issue. Chaos can ensue unless boundaries and/or hierarchy are stated and accepted. The tank is traditionally top of the pecking order in 5 mans, but frankly that hierarchy is obselete and most players ignore it. In 10 and 25 man PUGs the hierarchy can be shaky or non-existent if the raid leader isn’t capable of holding things together or setting boundaries.

Now, Spongebob may be a player who needs a Pecking Order; perhaps that’s what he’s used to with his guild or in real life. He may also be a player who likes to be at the top of that Pecking Order and perhaps doesn’t feel he gets to be often enough. Telling the priest to “go heal” removes the priest’s choices in playstyle and identity, lumping them into a faceless group. It also asserts Spoongebob as the authority or arbiter. It’s like saying “oi black haired person go play the violin cos I say so.” Quite often it’s meant as a challenge, and if no-one speaks out against it then it becomes status-quo for the run. Spongebob will take it as freedom to act and talk how he likes – and no-one likes a bully.

I’m not going to spend hours saying that random dungeons or PUGs are a good or bad thing and they’re making the social aspect of the game worse. What I have said, and I stand by like a hairdresser with a maniacal glint and blue hairspray, is that making a statement using names wouldn’t kill us. It might just remove some of the ridiculous schoolyard-like standoffs and get WoW’s social pond flowing freely.

What do you think? Do you get annoyed by class names being used, and if so how do you react? Or do you think it’s fine, perhaps use class names often yourself? Do you think it matters in the name of ettiquette, or do you think it’s just an unimportant habit in a game?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.