Thursday, September 26, 2013

We are the Champions

Work 'in progress'

Planning sometimes isn't everything.

I'd hoped this morning to have the above Certificate of Faffery done and dusted for a big reveal, but Real Life has yet again conspired against me. Needless to say, if you listen into the Podcast on Sunday I will announce the inaugural recipient of the finished product, which will look as if I didn't spend five minutes rush-completing it in a mad hurry. For now however, I would like to take a moment to consider the benefits of preparation, and the notion of gaming self-confidence. Someone do a Ready Check, will you?

Always the DPS. *sigh*

I've noticed of late that Ready Checks in LFR aren't actually an indication of people *being prepared or even at their keyboards,* they're telling you when the Tank is pulling, which frankly sends a lot of contradictory signals. The basic problem with playing with strangers is the (often very wayward) assumption that everyone is reading the same set of rules. You know, the ones that say that if you mark a skull, it dies first, that mana users need to die before melee.. that sort of thing. The subsequent stumbling block is then what era the people you are playing from come from, because the rules from Vanilla are not the rules of Pandaria, or indeed of any point in between. Frankly, on some days it is a wonder anything ever gets done at all and that is, I suspect, only down to the Internet's ability to provide boss kill and strat guides in a cohesive format. However much Blizzard might think the Dungeon Guide helps, it is fan sites that ultimately keep the wheels of social raiding greased and smooth. I for one am very grateful.

However, with the quite deliberate move by Blizzard to encourage people into what I am now going to call 'smart casual raiding' (because that's how we've referred to it in Guild for as long as I can remember) there is one more ready check to consider. Are YOU prepared?

Seriously, Illidan. NICK OFF.

I watched an interesting exchange on Twitter last night: how one person's enjoyment of an evening's raiding was compromised when other people, *in their deliberately organised purely social group*, didn't take things quite as seriously as they did. This one factor was always going to be the Elephant in the Room for Flex: just because you are able to decide who you raid with, even with the ability to pick and choose who comes and who doesn't, you cannot guarantee the quality of the experience. There are, like it or not, possibly MORE factors to consider with Flex than would be an issue with LFR. After all, you can do a random and pretty much guarantee you'll not have to see any of the other 24 people again. For every brilliant and well-executed idea there is inevitably a skeleton somewhere, but at least with LFR it could remain locked away. Not so with Flex.

I was asked what I thought of the new raid difficulty yesterday, but I can't answer objectively until I've actually done one. As I announced in this here parish, I have one planned for Saturday, and once that happens you can be sure that you'll get only the honest truth from me on how they work. I am aware however of people in my Guild who feel already they're not good enough for what might be being asked of them. This is where I feel I need to make my major point: everyone who takes the chance to walk outside their comfort zone and do something that scares or frightens them is a champion, pure and simple. If you can say in your own mind that you did your best, that you brought everything you could to the experience and you gave the best you were capable of... really, NOBODY has the right to do anything but applaud your effort. Raiding works best when everyone is on the same sheet, thinking the same way... but there also has to be a notion of realistic expectation.

We have an Offtank with two young kids, the second only new to this world in the last few months. I can't reasonably expect him to give 110% if on the day we raid his wife's not well or one of the kids has a problem, that's just unfair. There needs to be a dialogue between people, an understanding of how people work away from the screen, and that's why I am inevitably so emotionally involved in how the Guild works, because without that I can't understand how to get the best out of the people within it. I know that's not how many GM's work, but for me and the very distinct nature of the people who play with us, it pays dividends. On the flipside, therefore, I have very little time for anyone who feels it is our job to accommodate them when they don't give the same courtesy in return. I am aware after many years that if you try and raid like that there will be short shrift if you not only come unprepared, but unwilling. If you want to be part of a Guild, then you need to give something back in return. Oh, and enthusiastically returning once we start making progress because you suddenly decide that's the main reason for playing again? Please, I'm not that dumb, and neither are you.

Winning for most is a simple black and white switch: you beat it, or it beats you. However, if you look at your own individual ability and expectation... well, for me at least, winning becomes a lot less about a big finish line to sprint triumphantly over, and a lot more about small and realistically attainable goals. We have 12 people signed for Saturday. Four are tentative, so my next achievement is to see if any of those feel confident enough to switch their position. Then there is the chance that other people might appear, that players will start hassling me to help them complete LFR's for the legendary cloak, that I'll see more people online simply playing the game. Sometimes, the goals may seem petty and insignificant to some, but they are the world to others. It is at that moment that you need to remember that attainment may be judged in game with websites and statistics, but progress is always immeasurable until you want to play. That's the biggest step of all when you're on one side of a divide and someone else is on the other: do you expect them to want to come to you, or do you convince them it's more fun where you stand?

Sometimes the hardest move at all is to just get someone to believe they're good enough.


Dahakha said...

Hear hear! I wish we were in the same region/timezone, because I am finding it harder and harder to stumble on a guild built on that premise of a social contract since mine dissolved (sadly, due to the kinds of RL responsibilities you mentioned). I wonder how many people secretly wish for that kind of guild atmosphere but are too afraid of being a pariah should they do something about it. Or are too shy/busy/unprepared to start the ball rolling themselves.

Cassandri said...

I thought this was particularly well said "However much Blizzard might think the Dungeon Guide helps, it is fan sites that ultimately keep the wheels of social raiding greased and smooth."

For me and my guild Flex is a godsend in terms of difficulty. We would never bench someone because they need the occasional night off or keep failing to 1 boss ability. However, we do expect people to notify us if they are not available.

We only raid 2 nights, 3.5 hours each night. That's not a lot of raid time. And frankly ToT 10 man was very challenging for us. We only completed half the zone before end of patch and we supplemented our gear heavily from LFR.

Flex is achievable for us. However we find that when we do need to pug 1 person, they leave on the first wipe - as if it was LFR.

I would argue that for adult, time poor raiders, flex is actually a good difficulty level.

R said...

As Cass mentioned above, the biggest issues I've seen with Flex so far (I've run with... 4 different groups now, I think) are pug/fill-ins/"extra bodies"... not so much in the execution department (although nearly invariably they carry less than the weight they add just for being there) but more in the attitude department. Players putting up 50K dps and then complaining on the first wipe. "It's only Flex!"

Yeah, skippy, it's only Flex and Flex only has a ~120K average dps requirement that you're not even doing half of vs normal which probably requires 160K-200K to accomplish the same thing. The least you could do is be a QUIET 50K dps.

My feedback on the difficulty... it's doable with a group of competent, reasonably well geared players but it won't be a walkover for many raids despite what some people seem to expect. I'm treating it like progression content more than I anticipated. I'm eating, I'm flasking, I'm changing talents for fights, I'm refining my strat from attempt to attempt even when we have success.

Also, just realize that everyone you bring in who can't perform to that average level will need someone performing equivalently higher than average to compensate. This is entirely doable if your group supports it, though, and the nice thing about individual loot is that as long as bosses die, bringing more people means more loot for the group as a whole... those folks with lack of confidence WILL still get some gear with boss kills and WILL as a result perform better the next time they get up the nerve to come. It's a good thing and as long as the bosses die, they won't be taking loot from anyone else who "deserves it more."

And as a somewhat perma-pug these days, I *love* individual loot in Flex... I've always had a policy where I won't roll against main-spec regulars when I'm filling in which obviously slows my gear progression down, now that isn't even an issue. It's fantastic.

All considered, I'm a big fan of Flex, both the general implementation as well as the difficulty level.