Why Slacking Helps You Raid

Why Slacking Helps You Raid

I confess. My raiders and I have been bashing our heads against a brick wall for a couple of weeks. Our heads have been filled by the red mist ‘o wrath. We’d got the first wing of Icecrown Citadel on farm but our next focus, Rotface, ‘brokseded’ us time and again.

The brick wall suddenly came down on Sunday night. We had an experimental snipe at the Princes and then marched into the Plagueworks to slaughter Festergut and have a positive pop at Rotface. So what happened to stop us seeing red?

Change.

What change has that effect, I hear you cry? Did we change players? Did we somehow plunder a trove of 277 gear? Did we hardwire exact playing requirements into our members while they slept? Not at all. We merely tweaked one of our raiding practices: breaks.

I’ve always said they’re important in raids – it gives your raiders a chance to breathe. Sunday night taught us that organised breaks are even better.

Really regular breaks. We announced to our band of brigands at the start of the evening that we’d be calling a three minute break every 30 minutes, and that we’d like them to be sure to wait until then for quick AFKs for drinks and the like.

Wow, every 30 minutes? Those are a lot of breaks, I hear you cry. It’s a wonder we got anything done, right? Wrong.

Give yourselves regular chances to slack – that is, relax – and you’ll come back after the break more focused than had you pushed on and sat for an hour, two hours, wiping. Your head won’t be full of red mists so there’ll be room for useful things like remembering to move out of slime spray.

Movin’ n’ shaking. Several of my guild play in the same room on raid nights. Usually during a break we stare at the computer screens and brainstorm tactics in increasingly stressed tones.

Instead we decided to test out a terrifying concept during breaks: moving away from the computers and out of the room. We strongly recommended to our raiders that they do the same. We found that the simple change in space and environment again helped us to feel fresh and focused when the break was over. Even just moving about and stretching helped relax some tension. If you have time and inclination to fit in a few actual exercises, you’ll feel all the more responsive in the raid.

Time, gentlemen. After each break we announced the time of the next one. Sounds simple, but I think this was the key to the whole break renovation. Raiders need their creature comforts, right? And if they don’t know when a break’s coming then they’ll slide off after wipe 20 and get the drink they desperately need or the smoke to relieve stress. Meanwhile the rest of the group grumbles while waiting for them to return from their unannounced break.

By announcing break times, we’re allowing raiders to plan ahead. It means they don’t need to feel guilty about making the group wait on them. importantly it also gives them some control back over their own comfort. Our lock wants coffee? He knows the next break is in 10 minutes and can hang on until then.

Content breaks. I don’t mean a break in gameplay. I mean mix your encounters up to get the balance right between learning the fights and actually still having fun. You’re sick to the back teeth of bouncing on Festergut? Right, about time you take your raid to meet the Princes. Perhaps later on go to pay Rotface a visit.

You’re not being inefficient by not forcing yourselves to sit there and practice a fight: quite the opposite. Cut yourselves some slack if you’re working hard and not getting anywhere; you might find you slaughter the next encounter you head to and earn yourselves a morale boost. That’s efficiency.

 

These are small changes but could be useful to any raid group out there. You’re a 3 year-old guild running your A team? Or perhaps you’re running a PUG (breaks are not a PUG killer any more than giving your raid a little bit of trust, but such PUG raid myths is a topic for a future post). In my opinion these changes are crucial for any sort of raid group. Why? Let me explain what I think a well-run raid group is:

  • It’s a social activity. If someone in our group is not having fun for some reason we get uncomfortable and more stressed. Then Rotface smashes us more easily, morale plummets, stress goes up. Vicious circle. Having a break allows us to peel ourselves away from the stressful game environment and remember that it’s a social occasion, too.
  • It’s a team sport. Sure, we don’t leave the comfort of our computer desks and run up and down a pitch for several hours. We do work together using tactics, formations and roles to achieve a common aim. Sports benefit from breaks; think of the oft touted stories of football players eating oranges at halftime, or a weight-lifter taking breaks between sets so they can achieve their best for longer.
  • It’s a company. Wait, that sounds a little mercenary – try ‘organisation’. Either work. Like most companies, we expect our members to perform a certain job and they’re paid for successful tasks with emblems – and occasional epic perks. We invest time and effort to skill-up our members so that they can achieve goals, and improve all the time. We provide a safe (and because it’s a game, fun) environment for them to perform their tasks. All of these are good practices for a company, at least according to a particular book (see below) on company organisation. And like any good company in accordance with this book, we’re flexible enough to cut them a little slack to give them room to be their best.

A person will work better, be more focused, if they feel they are trusted and have some space to relax. Running around like a headless chicken or battering your head against one encounter is not healthy. The benefits extend to groups of people, too.

“The difference between the time it takes you to [achieve your next progression] at ‘all prudent speed’ and time it would take you ‘at breakneck speed’ is your slack. Slack is what helps you arrive quickly but with an unbroken neck.”

– Slack, T. Demarco, page 208 (and a book I thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting to change their raiding style)

What do you think? Does this sound like a useful nugget for your raid setup? Have you been wanting to try something like this for a while and been worried that you’d not cover as much ground? Do you think I’m completely wrong and sticking on one encounter until you’ve got it is best? Or, possibly, do you think the wisdom of this vs. encounter battering is dependent on how many nights your group raids?

 

This is a post by Mimetir, a boomkin and restorman of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU). You can find my twitter feed here.

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Comments

  1. My guild also employs breaks to great effect. Our schedule is a Ten minute break every hour. Works well to keep people focused and refreshed.

  2. I’d show this to our RLs if I didn’t think it added to the drama… I agree with you, but we recently had an officer quit the raid because someone *gasp* needed to use the toilet between breaks.

    That aside – yay, you’re on the same battlegroup I transferred my baby priest to!
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..A holy paladin walks into Icecrown… =-.

  3. Absolutely – Just like anything else, quick breaks refresh the mind.

    With limited attempt bosses being already putting on the “pressure to perform”, quick breaks actually serve to better focus our (and probably your) raid.

    It helped last night on Dreamwalker to organize everything after the various “Do this, now do that, now do this”, that can come with learning a new fight. We took a 2 minute break, called last attempt, and downed (or upped?) her. 🙂

    As both a raid leader, and a GM, I recommend it!

  4. Organized breaks are fine. Stopping for 10 minutes between every attempt is when the whole thing starts to go bad. 😉
    .-= Lissanna´s last blog ..Patch 3.3.2 – Moonkin fixes =-.

  5. Raiding is no different from any other team based activity, be it work or spare time. It’s a known fact that you work more efficiently if you take regular short breaks with intervals no greater than an hour.
    I’ve been in pugs where the RL thought the best thing was to keep bashing your head against the wiping boss over and over when a simple 5 minute breathing woud probably do more then 2 hours of mashing.
    If I need a smoke I need a smoke, you dont want a grumpy healer. Simpel as 🙂
    .-= Uskan´s last blog ..Bah Humbug =-.

  6. I disagree. Whether to take a break or not is a judgment call. Sometimes people are focused and motivated and it’s best to keep going, and sometimes they need a few moments to replenish their concentration and be able to start anew with a clear head. To properly call breaks you should try to gauge the mood of the raid and make the decision on the spot, not ahead of time.

  7. @Tarqon. I disagree slightly. People are MORE focussed if they know when they go get coffee/have a pee/have a smoke/etc. They know without any doubt that the next break will be at a specific time and can organise themselves mentally to fit that timeframe. If there is no specific time available, people will be focussed on worrying when they can ask for a break as opposed to that dispel opportunity they need to watch for or pre-empting the need for that PW:S on the MT.

    Planned breaks are far more structured and really will cause better morale and focus.

  8. My guild have 15-20 mi break @ 2 hours timers, we raid 4 hours so in the mid they get big break where I insist that they actualy get up from chairs and walk arround.

  9. I agree to the break timings. In our raid (4 hours) we apply a policy of 5 minutes breaks after 1 and 3 hours and a 10 minutes break at the 2 hours mark. Since we announced these break times kind of a labour (raider) union way people tend to be more focussed inbetween.

    I however slightly disagree on the content breaks. It may be fine with fights like Festergut and Blood Princes but it’s no good switching between Putricide and Bloodqueen. Since the tries are limited its best to try and get the most training on one of these encounters instead of trying them both a little.
    .-= Lowtec´s last blog ..The Tester =-.

  10. Thanks for the responses everyone! Interesting to see that the majority seem to agree so far. Any others to pitch in agreeing or disagreeing?

    @Jen – Welcome, to your baby priest! And erm… the officer’s quitting sounds a little off. I hope your guild is able to chill a bit if the atmosphere gets uncomfortable!

    @Lissanna – Aye, quite right. Got to time the breaks right to get enough playing in – and timing around trash kills/respawns helps too. How does your guild manage breaks?

    Tarqon – Fair point. We used to use judgement-call breaks right up until last week. However – this new break system really does seem to be working out for us. I think one of the basic problems with judgement breaks is that by the time you decide to call a break your raiders are, to varying degrees, already miffed with the encounter and by then you’ve already wasted time by not giving them a break (this is another concept which the book ‘Slack’ tackles, in the guise of risk management).

    Keep em coming folks – what works for your guild, or what do you wish was the norm?
    .-= Mimetir´s last blog ..Juddr: #WoM #WoW Slacking helps you raid. No really – read my post over at WoM if you don’t believe me! http://bit.ly/d2CBhO =-.

  11. @Lowtec – agreed, with the limited-attempt bosses you’re probably better exhausting your attempts. There’s a built-in content break right there.

    @Tarqon – The feature that we’ve gotten the most praise and thanks from our raiders for out of this entire policy has been announcing the time of the next break. People REALLY like knowing when they’ll next get a cup of coffee without keeping the entire raid waiting. We should really stick to it more closely 🙂

  12. Intriguing concept. In my guild we’ve found plummeting focus levels a definite problem on 25s. I’ll consider doing it on the main runs on a trial basis because at the end of a raid you can tell that people are tired and not at their best.

    As an aside I’m impressed to see someone else from TVC EU posting on the intarwebs! If you use trade chat on TVC as a barometer of what the server is like I wouldn’t have expected it.

    <- Echosnare on TVC EU
    /wave
    .-= Echo´s last blog ..The new LFG system =-.

  13. That’s very interesting indeed.
    .-= Gravity´s last blog ..Woo more stamina for us! =-.

  14. I definitely agree with this. Our 25 man has been coming up against a brick wall with Rotface as well, so Sunday, since we were down some key people for the Super Bowl, we ducked into the dragon wing.

    I left the raid feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, when usually I just feel drained and ready to take a break. And all we did was wipe on the Dreamwalker encounter for an hour!
    .-= Dristanel´s last blog ..Secret Admirer Project =-.

  15. We also schedule breaks into our raids. We take a 5 min break 1 hour in, a 10 min break 2 hours in, and one last 5 minute break 3 hours in. Because we raid for 4 hours 3 days a week, this means that we can expect our raiders to stay at keyboard for the designated time and we do not have nearly as many challenges with misc afks and holding up the raid for one or two people.

    Regarding content breaks … as long as we’re still making progress, we’ll keep working on the same content. If, however, we’re bashing our heads against the wall and making the same mistakes over and over, it’s time for a change. None of us are in there to accumulate repair bills and broken gear.

    Good luck implementing your breaks … we’ve found it does greatly improve our productivity and environment while raiding.

  16. I wish more guilds would approach raiding with more of a business minded manner – regular breaks and strategic non-confrontational problem solving when things go wrong. My guild is no better or worse than any other one I have been in so far. And, to be fair, they try to give breaks and conduct impartial problem solving – it happens to a certain extent. But too often I have seen guild and raid leaders fall short on calling regular breaks due to worry that it will be stretched out, or they cite that ‘one time they lost raiders to a long break’. One time i even heard that we couldn’t have a break because a tank fell asleep at the computer the night before. i know.. i don’t get it either. FWIW, I *know* that regular quick breaks are more efficient and probably would have kept that tank awake as well.

    In a Utopian guild, you would have motivated achievers who WANT to kill bosses and get phat lewt. And they want to do so in a timely manner with as little fuss as possible. In reality, we have people of varying temperaments, with varying political issues, having good days and bad days and are all trying to get along long enough to do the job at hand.

    Maybe i am just getting old and playing the geezer card, but I encourage a certain amount of reciprocity from my guild leaders in exchange for the raiding experience I bring to my role and the quality of time I put in both before a fight and during it. Being able to count on getting a hall pass to go potty and grab a soda is part of that exchange of respect – payback, if you will, for doing a good job, bringing my own top-notch consumables and showing up on time well researched in the various strategies for that night. But most of the time things just don’t seem to connect. Here is hoping this very positive blog you wrote helps change things in the raiding scene a little bit. Would be awesome to see normal, every-day guild raids run just as efficiently and drama-free as the best sports teams and hobby clubs.

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