Friday, January 11, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

Seemed vaguely appropriate... :D

When I first started this blog I made a promise: I wouldn't talk directly about my Guild. A lot of this is to do with the fact that I've never been a great fan of dirty laundry in public, and the rest is wrapped up in the fact that most of the people I play with are the same people I began my Warcraft career with, 'back in the day.' As a result, it would be like dissing friends in public, and as this isn't Facebook, that simply wouldn't do. However, this week's Guild activity has been interesting enough to warrant more than a mention in passing. Consider this a reflection on my job as GM, and some thoughts on that most thorny of issues: approaching that tricky boss fight.

Last week the Guild had a bit of bother with the second boss in Heart of Fear. The biggest single issue was the difficulty in accurately predicting how Unseen Strike's damage component would affect the raid, which would occasionally manage to wipe people who weren't standing in EXACTLY the right place. We spent a night faffing with positions and options: we made P2 once by which time the stacking debuff was enough to kill most of us, because we'd spent too long fighting beforehand. Faffing is exactly the right word too: lots of people giving an opinion on TS and (it was decided) no firm leadership voice to give the evening the sense of direction it needed. At the end of the night we were no further forward so something happened that doesn't normally: we simply threw the tactic we'd used since we began away and started again. As it transpires that gave us by far the smoothest and most manageable attempt of the evening, but it left the Raid exhausted and ultimately demoralised.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was back in Karazhan by an ex-guildie who I still remember with fondness. Pick a strategy and stick with it until the boss is dead. This has always been the way I've viewed fights: the learning curve is so different for individuals that you need to try and get everyone first to simply to be able to replicate the same actions as a group. After that can come the finesse and the tweaking, but to begin with there must be a plan that everyone sticks to. Despite the issues with that fight (and the fact we were 0/6 to start with and 1/6 when we finished) we now have a solid plan of attack. The mechanics are doable, and tonight (I hope) we will have enough people a) to give it another go and b) to actually make P2 consistently. That, however, is not my real concern.

There's been a lot of muttering this week: I sense too much focus on individual accountability and not enough of a grasp of the major problem, that we have 10 people to teach a new strategy to. Ultimately some noses seem to have been put out of joint, and that's where (with my GM hat) I tend to get a tad frustrated. See, the thing is that I can guarantee if Person A has an issue with person B, F or Y I'll be the one who gets the arse-end of the conversations. As GM it is pretty much my door people pitch up on in such circumstances, and really I shouldn't have to remind people that this is a game. You play your own way, to a point, and when you allow individual prejudices to start colouring your outlook, it is never going to end well. In the end I know the people who'll suck it up and learn, those who'll get the hump that we're not doing it their way but go along for the kill, and those people who will not move fast enough when they get Unseen Strike and kill us. I'm really glad I'm not raid-leading progression as a result.

It is a precarious balance to strike in progression raiding, to keep momentum constant but at the same time not to allow individual issues to hold the whole back. It requires a level of selflessness that many people are simply unwilling to give, and often a grasp of technicalities that some simply can't attain. Having done a Heroic Run of Dragon Soul last night (bonus title ftw) I find myself again in awe of any team of 10 that did it when current and completed it without at least one major personnel fall out. There is so much that can still go wrong, even in content that is no longer considered a challenge. It's great to be able to cheese it now, but it does seem unfair to those who earned titles that they are devalued over time as older content becomes trivialised. I never really grasped the significance of that until this Expansion, but I think it matters, perhaps more than it has at any other point.

Ultimately, if you sign up for a progression raid, it is your task to come prepared, in every sense of the word. There are those who are happy to wait until content is on farm before throwing themselves into the picture, and although I have absolutely no problem with that, these people need to understand and accept the knowledge they owe an enormous debt to those who blaze the trails on their behalf. It's not a lot of fun sometimes at the sharp end, especially if your nights are spent with your face on the floor. Don't try and pretend you're anything that you're not, however, because that's just asking for trouble and ultimately will mean that things WILL end in tears. Come do a job and well, to the best of your ability, and the results truly can be glorious. Don't get stuck in the the middle of 10 disparate individuals: become part of a team.

Now if you'll excuse me I'll be off to LFR to practice not being eaten by Attenuation... ^^


Jonathan said...

I don't normally comment on guild matters either here, and can't in this case as I haven't been able to sign up for progression raid nights for a while (but I can tonight, RL permitting). But I've done enough progression raiding in our guild to know that getting 10 people to do the same thing consistently is always the biggest hurdle. Ultraxion is a classic example of this; we wiped consistently until we could get 10 people to hit The Damn Button (tm) at the right time, after which it was a piece of cake.

I'm going to have to disagree slightly with the ex-guildie's advice from the Karazhan days, if for no other reason than I remember the awful awful Kara raid that's seared into my memory from back then. We wiped and wiped and wiped trying the same tactic over and over again, and said ex-guildee (I'm assuimng we're talking about the same one) pointedly ignored and shouted down a tactic suggestion from me and the druid sat to my left... until we finally tried said tactic after the umpteenth wipe and it worked first time.

So I've learned that rigidity in tactic is not necessarily a good thing, which possibly also comes from watching football and seeing a team (usually the one I support!) unable to change its tactics for a different situation and being overrun as a result.

The best teams really are the ones that are greater than the sum of their individuals, and are also the ones where the leader sets the tone and brings everyone else along with him/her.

PE said...

I think its a little bit of both, to be honest. I think the raid leader has to have an open mind and be willing to take on board new tactics, but also be able to just know if something isn't happening simply because a tactic is still in the process of becoming second nature to people, as opposed to being unworkable. It's also a matter of working out if the tactic isn't working because of the actual tactic, or because its late, or one or more of the raid team are tired, or ill, or distracted. Bit of a balancing act :P I often find that you can do the same thing over and over again one night, then go back the next time and, with exactly the same tactics, breeze it. Sometimes it takes having a "sleep on it" to get it to click :P

Anonymous said...

"Pick a strategy and stick with it until the boss is dead." is possibly the worst piece of advice you could get. If something isn't working, you need to look at why it isn't working and what you can do to fix it. Yes, sometimes it's people getting used to the fight and in that case it's right to stick to the method you're using and let them get the hang of it. Other times however, either it's a poor strategy, a more difficult strategy due to raid comp/awareness/ability or even a completely wrong strategy that will never work.

Good raid leaders will watch what's going on and consider whether they need to change the approach. Any with the slightest sense of responsibility will have done their research beforehand, but, heretical as it may sound, a strategy you see a top world progression use might not be the best for YOU. Not only does raid comp have to be considered for some things, but also coordination and individual's abilities. A top guild dealing with a mechanic by moving around in perfect harmony like synchronized swimmers looks awesome, but most average guilds are going to be more like a game of chase with everybody following the guy with the raid marker on his head like a pack of demented yet loyal puppies! ;p

For attenuation btw, assuming you have DBM which gives you an arrow showing which way to circle, I find the easiest way is to put the camera to a top-down viewpoint so I can see the circles clearly and just run around the spiral like that.

Katzbalger-Arthas (US)

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing, and it's the same in business as it is in game and to be honest in life as well.

Some of the very smartest people you'll meet, and some of the best businesspeople are opinionated, risk taking and argumentative. They will put a point forward forcefully and expect debate. Not sulking or argument, but heated debate. In my experience, the very BEST results I've had in business have been as a result of some pretty heated discussions.

Fortunately, not everyone is like this, otherwise we'd be full of leaders fighting each other, and no one left to do the phenomenal hard work that turns the vision into reality.

In a raid environment, you do need a clear designated raid leader. The one thing that they should not apologise for, and something I'm slowly learning to do in game (oddly, it's something that I've been doing in real life a lot for years), is to choose a tactic and get on with it, even if it's not the best one. You can make a bad idea work just as easily as you can ruin a good idea.

They should listen to opinions, evaluate them and then LEAD. Unfortunately (and this isn't a dig at GM's, raid leaders etc), it also means that when it comes to personnel issues, they have to take it on the chin, issue big brotherly/sisterly advice and work out how to maintain cohesiveness amongst their team.

Having bold, opinionated and strong people in a guild is a positive bonus, but it takes a firm hand and sometimes an understanding (and mildly patronising) "there there dear" to make sure that it all works out ok.

Lastly, there's one simple reminder to everyone reading this blog, and using the Internet and online communities in general - be wary of how you come across in the digital divide. The written word is open to worse interpretation than face to face communication and "getting the hump" happens more online than it does IRL.

It's a lesson I need to teach myself and even though the immortal words "it's just a game" are often spoken by the wise and elderly (*cough), it's as hard a tactic as Phase 2 of the Blade Lord.