Thespius’s State of the Dungeon/Raid

There’s been a lot of great conversation about how things are tuned in regards to Cataclysm Heroics and Raids (meaning normal Raids, I haven’t seen Hardmodes yet). This is starting to dip into the usual “Casual vs. Hardcore” debate, which I think is not what this entire argument is about. This game has made leaps and bounds toward making the game challenging for all. There are definite challenges for the people at the edge of blistering progression as well as for the family man/woman that can only log on once/twice a week, if that. I’d like everyone to take a look at a few different things, including adapting to change, the nature of challenge within the game, and the mindset of the “average” WoW player.

Know Where You’re Going, Know Where You’ve Been

Vanilla WoW – I was never a Vanilla WoW player. I understand that there was a very clear delineation between the casual player (questing and alts) and the hardcore player (40-man guild raiding). It’s very daunting to play a game when you know you have no chance of getting into any of the endgame content, stocked full of lore and goodies. This definitely took things too far in segregating the community. Casual players wanted to see the content, and Hardcore players loved feeling entitled to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Holy Grail of the game.

Burning CrusadeThis is where I stepped into the ring. I started as a very casual player, barely being able to throw a Karazhan run together with friends. It was ridiculously hard to climb up the progression ladder to see higher content, but it was doable. Sadly, I had to leave some friends behind because of it. Guilds operated as “stepping stones” to the next level. There existed the “KZ” guilds, the Gruul/Magtheridon guilds, the “SSC/TK” guilds, and the “BT/Sunwell” guilds, meaning the highest those guilds could accomplish. With the release of Zul’Aman, we now had harder 10-man content that my ~9 friends and I could hammer through. Granted, I was single and working as an actor at the time, so I had lots of extra time to play. That would definitely change soon. Still, not being able to see Illidan really sucked.

Wrath of the Lich King – Ahh, the release of 10- and 25-man raiding, but things got easy REALLY quick. So much so that I found multiple PuG 25-man ICC Hardmode Runs. Hardmodes were supposed to be the culmination of progression, really only reserved for the highest of raiders. I was fine with that. I wanted to give them a shot but didn’t have any grand visions of getting my HM Lich King kill. The gameplay was such that mechanics could be avoided. Phrases like “just heal through it” were peppered in boss explanations. DPS started to complain if they had to stop their rotation, tanks screamed at healers if they couldn’t/wouldn’t heal through a mechanic that wasn’t being interacted with properly. Entire mechanics were being glazed over, and the general WoW community got lazy (that’s right, I said it). Although PuG raiders were in Hardmodes, they really didn’t know what to do, and had forgotten entire pieces of their class/spec. Mages decursing? Druids CCing? Hunters trapping? Unheard of!! The bonus part: people got to see the content. My opinion, it became trivial too quickly.

Cataclysm – 10-man and 25-man raiding becomes equalized as much as it can be. 25’s only slightly hold the advantage of being the “truer form of raiding”. Blizzard realized that people were completely ignoring fight mechanics and made them less forgiving (if you let Dragha’s Invocation of Flame get to its target, you’re dead). Justice/Valor Points from your Daily Heroic are no longer things you’re “entitled to”. They must be earned and fought for. With changes to healing and fight mechanics, players are forced to actually look at their spellbooks once again (any Dwarves looking at Stoneform again?). Encounters now begin to feel like a group effort, rather than 5 individuals who wish they could just solo the content so they don’t have to be around other people. Raids feel more daunting for most of the player base, and guilds are back to trying to beef up their own team rather than PuG’ing from Trade Chat. It takes longer to gear up, but the gear is obtainable. Epic gear is actually epic again! Even without running Heroics, it’s possible to get 346 gear for your character. People don’t want to PuG, thus forcing the player base to look for guilds of people they get along with.

I look at all of these as good things. With my guild being called “Team Sport”, it’s no wonder that I long for a gaming world where it feels more team-oriented and not so individually cut throat. If I had the time to run things more, I’m sure I would be geared to the teeth at this point, but I’m not. It’s taking me a little while, but that’s always giving me something to strive for. A trinket I need from Archaeology, or the rep from Baradin’s Wardens, all of which give me something to shoot for that takes time and dedication. I don’t expect it to come easy.

Challenge Yourself

Ever work out? Ever have that great feeling when you finally get your jogging route under your target time? What about finally getting able to lift some weights heavier than the 5-lb ones you’d find in an aerobic class? It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? It’s a high, a rush of endorphins. Did it come easy? Probably not.

Think of any hobby the same way. If you start out knitting, don’t expect yourself to whip out a complicated Afghan in a day. You start out with ‘easy’, and when you’ve mastered ‘easy’, you move to the next level. Look at model building, sports, or anything you do for fun. You can’t expect to be the best at it before you even pick it up. Just about any hobby is worth putting the work in, because without the work the payoff isn’t as good.

Now look at dungeons and raids. If you can face-roll Heroic Stonecore, then that one piece of gear that drops off of Ozruk doesn’t mean as much. You don’t value it the same way you would if you had to work as a team to get it done. That piece you now wear has a story behind it. Working hard to defeat that Heroic Ozruk has brought you close to your gear, and to the 4 other people that help you beat him.

When you find yourself in a group that is struggling with a Heroic Dungeon, ask yourself if you’re using everything in your power to make it go smoothly. Do you have some ability that would make the rest of the team’s job easier? Maybe you can step out of your normal role to help someone that’s struggling. I’ve seen Hunters that have issue frost-trapping a mob. My DK friend Aaron loves to Death Grip that mob back to the frost trap. It’s something that in WotLK a DK wasn’t expected to do, but Aaron does it because it helps the group. Is it easy to do? No, but it’s certainly not back-breaking. However, it’s more rewarding when we down bosses after thinking outside the box. It becomes an accomplishment to finish the encounter, rather than the accomplishment being the addition of a few Justice/Valor Points to your pool. That should be the reward for the accomplishment, not the accomplishment itself. Again, you value the prize more when you worked for it.

The Average WoW Player

A lot of complaints have come from the community (especially on the Official Forums) about the quality of the average LFD group. Rogues get instantly kicked for “not having reliable CC”, a Tank gets kicked for “one pull going awry”. I’ve been kicked from a group as a Resto Shaman simply for suggesting CC be used in Grim Batol. The quote: “Only bads use CC.” The forums are cluttered with threads such as these, and it makes it a really bleak outlook.

As stated above, we come from a Wrath mentality. The population both surged and got lazy in the last expansion. Mass pulling and AOE fests were more plentiful than senseless slander in American politics. Now we’re changing in Cataclysm, and change doesn’t come easy to most. It’s difficult for people to adapt to having to do more to get the same results.

Look at Trade Chat. Outside of gold and profession spammers, Trade Chat is pretty gross. I rarely am ever in it. Same goes for the official forums. Those that are the most unhappy or feel “scammed” talk the loudest. Anyone trying to be a voice of reason is usually shouted down, and good productive discussions are few and far between. This is no different than the LFD situation. There are a lot of people in that system that are bitter, jaded, and hate change. Rather than encouraging a nurturing environment, they’ll curse up a storm and belittle everyone else around them.

Where are all the nice players? They run with their guild, or have a friends list of people they’ve found that value a fun environment over the prospect of running a “boot camp dungeon”. They are out there, I promise. You just have to be patient and look.

I know the 45-minute queues are unbearable. It’s how I built up my Resto set–by queuing as Enhancement. It’s a total roll of the dice, and you may completely bottom out with your luck if you queue alone. Lodur posted a great article about being a teacher within the LFD. Strongly recommend checking it out, as it may give you a glimmer of hope.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you’re one of the people who feels like you’ve been wronged by Blizzard, I ask you this: What is it you really want out of this game?

  • “I want to be able to log in, get my badges/epics, and log off.” I’m sorry, but those days are gone. People very quickly were behaving like drones. Those players in the game looked at dungeons and badges as “tasks” or “chores”, instead of events and rewards for those events.
  • “I want to see the lore and the content.” The normal dungeons provide all the same lore that the Heroics do, as far as I know. Heroic Deadmines and Heroic Shadowfang Keep offer their own lore but aren’t really in line with the Deathwing plot line. They’re great little side stories. As for raids, think of the storyline as Mt. Everest. I would love to see the top one day, however, I know that it will take work and dedication to get there. I don’t expect to just stroll up to the top.
  • “I want it to go faster! It takes too long!” You lose the journey this way. The struggle. Anything worth getting is worth the fight. Take Lord of the Rings for example. If Frodo just flew over the mountain and dropped the ring in from the start, it’d be a short movie, and not very gratifying.

If you want to find enjoyment in the game with people that are like-minded, you have to work for it. Blizzard stated before this expansion that they wanted to encourage more group- and community-oriented game play. It’s time for us as players to adjust to this shift in ideology.

Perhaps you’re in a guild that doesn’t really offer itself up to run dungeons with you. Maybe the group you’ve found yourself in isn’t really supportive when it comes to learning your class mechanics. Everyone starts somewhere, right? To me, both situations mean it’s time to start looking to surround yourself with people you share a mindset with. That’s what this particular MMO is built around, and that’s how Blizzard wants it. If you want to be solo and do your own thing, it’s going to be tougher and cause you more headaches. Start looking for a guild of people that you actually get along with. There are guilds out there that can get through the content and not belittle their members along the way. Whatever your schedule is, whatever your goals are, I promise there is a guild out there for you.

Focus on the journey and the challenge, rather than whining that you can’t have it all right here and right now.

I’m Thespius, and I approve this message.

Matticast Episode 4

Welcome to Episode 4 of The Matticast. This week Matt, Borsk, Kat, and Brian discuss:

  • How to keep your raid team intact when progression stalls.
  • How to motivate raiders to be better than average
  • The listener topic this week tackles difficult boss encounters

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topic, and be sure to checkout and participate in the listener topic every Wednesday.

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

Two Applicant Paths Diverged in an Azerothian Wood

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Once you decide you’ve reached the raid-ready threshold, it’s time to find a place to do that.  Aside from the risky and unpredictable nature of PUGs, the most plausable option is a raiding guild.  Whether casual, progression, or hardcore elite, you’re bound to encounter some form of an application process.

The process always varies from guild to guild.  Each one is slightly different, but I’ve always seen three common practices:

  1. (Trade Chat) “Lvl 80 LF Raiding Guild” -> “So-and-so has invited you to join the guild: Such-and-such”
  2. An application of varying length, seemingly focused on gear, skill, and experience.
  3. The Applicant Period -> Includes a formal application, and a “waiting period” or “trial period”.

The first of the three is relatively self-explanatory, and is usually frowned upon.  I don’t take raiders seriously that look for guilds that way, and I don’t instill a lot of confidence in raiding guilds that subscribe to that method.  This is all just from personal experience.

Just like I’d apply for a job to pay my bills, I’m applying to a guild to fulfill my raiding passion.  I want to know that the guild I’m vying to be a part of isn’t accepting just any ol’ package of pixels.  I’d be really worried about credibility if the guild just said “Yes!” without screening me or requiring any sort of “test drive.”

My personal preference is the 3rd option.  Every guild leader has their own preference, and that’s absolutely encouraged.  Each guild is obviously different.  My choice is based on permanence and personality.

I’m hugely averted to what are known as “guild hoppers”.  I’ve never been one, and I get a pit in my stomach anytime I come across someone that might be one.  I look at my guild as a family–people who work together to achieve a common goal because they enjoy that camaraderie and team work.  I invest in you, you invest in me.  Someone that sees guilds as stepping stones to higher echelons don’t interest me.  I feel it’s selfish and takes away from the “community” that I’m so fond of.

Secondly, if we are going to be spending large amounts of time together, I have to get along with you.  We have to be able to crack jokes, share stories, and simply enjoy each other’s company.  I’m not too keen on running with someone that is demeaning to other players or constantly fluffs their own ego at the expense of others.  Admittedly, if I don’t wanna hang out with you, I’m probably not going to jump up and down at the chance to raid with you.

As you know, I’m one of the Discipline Priests on Lodur’s healing team in Unpossible.  Their application process is a rather complex one, but its payoff is knowing they’re a great fit for me, and I’m a good fit for them.  It was because of their application process that I got excited, because it’s near identical to my casual guild, Team Sport.

To summarize, an interested Applicant must acquire a Sponsor.  This is done through gaming and socializing via a chat channel made specifically for the guild.  It is the Sponsor’s job to get the Applicant invited to off-night raids and bring them along on heroics or other guild activities.  This is designed to get the guild acquainted with the Applicant.

The Sponsor then solicits enough votes from the guild (along with the Applicant’s Class Lead) to invite the Applicant into the guild on a trial basis.  This begins a month period where the the guild and the Applicant get to know each other.  The Applicant can be invited into raids and has access to loot drops.  At the end of the month, the guild votes again whether the Applicant becomes a full member or not.

At any point, I can withdraw.  If I don’t feel like this guild is what I want, then I can move on.

What an application process like this does is allows me to know what I’m getting myself into before I’m fully in the mix.  It lets them sniff me out and make sure that I’m not a “guild hopper” or someone there to grab gear and run.  Like I said, I’m into the family-style guilds.  This, I feel, promotes that.

What about you?  What kind of guild process you feel best fits your style?  Are there certain styles that attract or deter you from joining a guild?

ThespiusSig

SYTYCB: The Dark Side: Expansion Syndrome

darkside

tulani-postThis is a SYTYCB submission from Tulani who made it into the top 7.

I remember back in September of last year, I was talking to a friend of mine. He had raided through Naxx pre-BC, and at the time resided in my hardcore progression guild. We were discussing the unnamed expansion, and he warned me of something that at the time, I didn’t – nay, couldn’t – believe, in my limited BC-only raiding experience. Now, however, it’s more than a reality; it’s an epidemic.

Expansionitus.

That’s right, I said it. I said what so many of us in our “expansion craze” refuse to acknowledge.

There is absolutely nothing that makes me want to scream more than pre-expansion lull. The length of time to get five people together increases to unbearable standards, and god forbid you try to slap a raid into a cohesive class balance. Recruitment slows to a crawl, and the only sign of life in your previously loudmouth guild is the discussion of what’s to come. Everyone turns to the future while shunning the present.

I’m talking to you. You, who’s read everything you can on the new expansion, and now you’re biding your time, leveling alts, and saving up your money, ready to sprint right up to the top all over again. In the meantime though, you’ve grown bored of this version, and you’ve started showing up less and less, and when you do, you couldn’t be more uninterested. And your attitude drags everyone else down with you.

Oh, you thought the quitters were the worst? No, it’s you – the player who’s far too lazy to put in the effort they did a few months ago, but still hang around anyway. You, the member who, had you acted like this before, would have been kicked without a second thought. These members litter raiding guilds as the expansion nears; as an officer, you won’t believe how infuriating it is to deal with the victims of this plague. Well, I’m here to administer the vaccine, and a swift kick to the behind:

Expansion isn’t for months. That’s months of new raids, months of new content, months of new kills.

Allow me to backtrack a second here: I am every bit as eager for a new haircut as the next girl, and there is nothing wrong with preparing and being excited. Expansion will surely be great, and with all the buzz, it doesn’t take an analyst to see how much it dwarfs what we currently play. However, I have goals which I need to see accomplished before I can enjoy something new.

My aspiration? To /dance on Kil’Jaeden’s corpse, plain and simple. I mean, it seems easy enough. You’d think with guilds who have cleared the majority of the game, the only way to go is forward, right? Wrong. Let me tell you my abbreviated story: the looming expansion has hit my guild smack in the face, right after we killed Mu’ru, the “hardest boss in the game.” And I’m not alone. I’m not the only guild experiencing the all-too-common symptoms: the sudden disappearances, the lack of concentration, the endless burnout… but one boss from the end? Your attitude, Mr. Waiting-For-Expansion, is a slap in the face not only to current members, but to everyone who’s given all they have to get us where we are today.

“But Lani, it’s all for nothing anyway. In a few short months, everything you do now won’t matter.”

Allow me to read this for what it really is: in a few months, all that nice gear, and your top dog reputation, will be insignificant, and you can’t handle that. Did you not join your guild saying that the joy is in the journey, not in the epics? It’s another reminder of how a lot of people lie on that question, and unfortunately, it’s those very people that see that the physical gain is going to be worthless, and they’re jumping ship quick. But me, I have a need to kill this big stinking Eredar, for pride, for completion. I don’t want to be “That Guild,” who we’ve all heard about when we’re clearing trash. The “yeah, we almost killed C’Thun, then Beta came out” guild.

We all know Expansionitus isn’t a real disease. It’s simply people who choose to lose sight of the world around them as they sit on their thumbs and wait for a new one. Maybe you’re already sneaking off from raids or your arena teams, or just showing up and watching some ESPN until it’s over. Maybe, like me listening to my guildmate long ago, you just don’t believe it. Wise up. If you want to have anything to come back to in Wrath, then when it comes time for your daily dose of raiding, do those 24 other people who rely on you a favor and pay attention.

So come on. This is the current game. Let’s finish it.