Monday, June 29, 2009

Heaven and Hell

The raid bosses may be scripted, but the players aren’t, that’s for sure.

For a while our guild has been doing a sort of pendulum movement between failure and success, it’s been like Heaven and Hell, with a bit too much emphasis on the hell part to be honest.

This frustrating experience has shattered our self image quite a bit. We’ve always seen ourselves as a very good guild. We can’t compete for the top five positions on the server, but considering we’re just raiding three nights a week, with modest attendance requirements, we’ve been doing really, really well and we’ve always taken pride in our serious, at least half-pro approach to raiding.

Going backwards
This was until a couple of weeks ago, when our progress didn’t just halt, but even started to go backwards. The worst moment of humiliation was probably one night when we wiped several times on Kologarn, in a mess that looked worse than my work desk (and that is bad, trust me.). Our poor raid leader was so frustrated that he didn’t even come around to give a harsh speech. And I think that silence on vent was even worse than anything he could have said. The air was dense with frustration and disappointment.

Then our guild anniversary came, a blast for everyone. Maybe the break from the routine would help up a bit and make people get back on track? Disappointingly enough it didn’t. Last week we had some really bad wiping on General Vezax, far below our normal standard, which ended up in a prematurely ended raid night.

What was the problem? This was the same players who had killed him without too much effort a few weeks earlier, so it couldn’t really be about lack of knowledge of tactics or skill. It was rather an issue connected to mentality and focus, and the question was how to deal with it.

An intense discussion on our forums followed where we honestly and straightforwardly vented the situation and what to do about it. Not only the officers, but everyone participated. The question was: what’s up? What’s our problem? Do we really want to do this or have we for some reason lost a bit of our focus and interest in the game? Would we be better off taking a break from our 25 man raiding, reloading our batteries, getting our energy and focus back again? Were people getting burned out from running Ulduar 10 man in the offnights as well? Maybe we should take it a bit cooler with those optional offnight activities, making sure we’re in top shape for our 25-man raids?

The discussion ended up in the conclusion that we really did want to go on. And if people got a bit fed up with Ulduar, they should be mature and responsible enough to recognize the signs of burnout, sticking to our 25 man raids, which is the focus of our guild.

Raid resets
So came the new week and the raid instance reset.

The resets always make me think about the wonderful movie Groundhog Day, where the main character has gotten into some kind of time loop, living through the same day over and over again. After experiencing it enough many times he’s slowly starting to learn from it, seeing that the outcome and experience of the day will be quite different, depending on his decisions. The day may be scripted, but he isn’t.

Sometimes the raid resets feel like a nuisance. You’ve been working so hard the whole week to get to the end boss, and if you only could have gotten a couple of hours more, you’re sure you would have gotten him. Now it’s all in vain and you’re starting the long uphill struggle again.

But sometimes it’s the opposite, a blessing. It’s a fresh start. The disaster from the raid the week before is forgotten. It’s a new situation – yet another opportunity to get it right from the beginning.

And this week was one of those blessed moments. As we approached our vehicles to start the long climb, I could hear the Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe", which wakes up Bill Murray every day in that movie. “Here we go again” I thought. “I wonder how it will go”.

Back on track
And soon I knew. It was the same bosses, but it was all different. There were no silly mistakes. We were once again transformed into a raiding machine, efficiently making its way through Ulduar, oneshotting more or less every boss we encountered. We grabbed the chance to prove to ourselves that we deserve to be where we are progression wise. We came back from Hell and went straight to Heaven.

And this trend continued the next raid. The very same guild that wiped for hours on Vezax last week oneshotted him now without any problem whatsoever, with several minutes to spare on the enrage timer, which means that we’ll have an entire night at our hands dedicated for Yogg the next raid.

How come? I have no idea. The discussions on our forums following the defeats last week didn’t offer any rocket science solution, any new strategy or shortcut. We hadn’t kicked or benched any players due to poor performance.

But suddenly the focus was there that wasn’t before. If you ask me I think it’s all about what’s happening in our heads. To succeed in raiding you need to know basics about the gameplay, about your class, the strategies in encounter, raid mechanics and so on. But it can only take you so far. Without the right mentality and mindset you can still lose it all.

And that, my friends, is what makes raiding so fascinating to me. It’s not about “seeing the bosses”. They’re all there at YouTube to be seen for anyone who’s curious. It’s not about the epic drops. That’s just pixels and will be exchanged at next content patch anyway.

No, it’s about the never-ending learning of how to make a group perform at its full potential. Every raid reset gives us another chance to deal with it better than the one before.

And who knows, when we’ve done it perfectly maybe the raid won’t reset, but something else will come? At least in my imagination. A brand new day would dawn, just like in Groundhog Day. I wonder what it would bring to us.


Carra said...

It happens with tbe best of guilds. Content that is on farm one week suddenly becomes a huge obstacle.

I remember how we suddenly couldn't pass Vaelastrasz anymore. We had killed the endboss in BWL a few times but suddenly we couldn't pass the second boss anymore. We lacked focus. It took a few weeks to get us back on track again.

If you know you can do much better, it's frustrating to hit a wall again and again. But with some patience and hard work you eventually get there again.

Dw-redux said...

Great link to a great movie. I've sure felt like that w/o having any words to put on it. You nailed it!

Honestly I think the problem lies in player mentality - I guess the same pleace where the solution and all the goodness come from. A lot of people suddenly stop seeing endgame bosses as just that, but instead as farm content, so they slack. First evidence is usually in a)raid dps b)tanks dying for no good reason or c)half the raid doesnt flask/eat/buff up.
Then you wipe, and those same people think "what is wrong with everybody tonight, how come we cant do this?" -yet they themselves don't change anything. After a couple of wipes, the other mentallity kicks in:


Thats where you will see hunters trying to kite the boss in order to try and save the situation. You will see 3 tanks taunting the same mob, you will see all the healers switching from their assignments and "helping" out on one tank that gets a little low, causing their own targets to die, and you will wipe continuesly.

-Thats why resets are a blessing :)

Eaten by a Grue said...

Lack of focus usually comes from lack of interest. So some people maybe got burned out? Taking a break from raiding usually solves that problem.

One thing I have found is that gear improvements get really marginal after a while, so it's not even that worth it to raid. And when gear is a motivation, which I understand it's not for everyone, but for some, focus fades.

I think a good thing to do is to sit out a patch or two until something substantially new comes out. Maybe even just cancel subscription until next expansion.

That's what I usually do - play 3 or 4 months after each expansion, and then quit and wait for next one.

firespirit said...

I am blessed with what I think is quite possibly one of the best raid groups ever assembled. I honestly think that any one of our team could sit on ensidia if they had the desire/time/money to do it.

But, instead of hammering out Ulduar like no tomorrow, we are all a bit goofy, play around, learn the fights, wipe on trash (once in a while, LOL) and have a grand old time. This helps prevent the kind of burnout that we are seeing over all of our server (the top guilds greatly reduced their hard mode attempts because of general burnout).

There comes a point at which everyone just wants to focus and get the boss down. And when we do that, the boss drops 9 times out of 10.

Sometimes you don't need to have a reset to reset the raid mentality. Sometimes you just need to decide - "That's it, I'm done with this boss." and take it down.

Elnia said...

I've developed a new internet acronym just for you Larisa. GOOMH.

Dorgol said...

My guild is going through a bit of setback right now. Keep in mind that we only raid two nights a week:

- 5 weeks ago, raid night 2, we got to Vezax and killed him that night. We proceded to wipe on Yogg phase-1 for awhile.
- 4 weeks ago, raid night 2, we got to Vezax, wiped a few times, but killed him. We then went a wiped on Yogg phase-1 over and over.
- 3 weeks ago, raid night 2, we go to Vezax, and proceeded to wipe on him for the rest of the night.
- 2 weeks ago we cleared up to Vezax on night 1. Then spent 4 hours of night 2 wiping on him.
- This last week we got to Vezax (night 1) and wiped on him over and over. I think we would have taken him down, but we had respawns and decided to just go kill the optional bosses (which we have cleared a half-dozen times each, but still wiped on Ignis).

Hopefully people will remember that we got Vezax to his enrage twice last week, hopefully they will remember that we have killed him in the past and can kill him again.

But man is it annoying to wipe to a boss we killed on our first night.

Fitz said...

@ Elnia: GOOMH indeed, Larisa is always right on top of what I'm thinking.

I've actually stopped raiding with my guild for the past 2 months. While I have been busy with real life stuff and was never attending more than 1 out of 2-3 raid nights per week anyways, I've been really annoyed with the lack of focus in our raiding crew. We get something down and then we struggle every time we do it for months, never getting truly harder encounters on full one-shot farm status (Gluth in Naxx, Malygos, Sarth+1/2, etc.). And don't even get me started on slow loot distribution and Ulduar bosses.

Thanks for another good entry Larisa. Is it better to stick with a social guild who is annoying to raid with but has great personality, or should I ditch for greener pastures and try to take my IRL friends with me?

Larísa said...

@Carra: yeah, we've been there before and we've come through it, so I know it's just a temporary thing. And thank's God my guildies do to. Being patient is really a virtue and it's one of the reasons why our guild is comparatively stable and successful. It lasts in the long run.

@Dw-redux: oh, I think I can recognize that scenario... And yes, that movie is great indeed, one of my absolute faves. I've seen it several times and I wouldn't mind seeing it again. Then I'm a big fan of Bill Murray as well and in this movie he's brilliant.

@Eaten by a Grue: yes, there are definitely signs of burnout with a few players. I don't think most of us are gear driven though. We're more into it for the feeling of accomplisment when we get the bosses down I think. For the sweetness of conquering new content.

@Firespirit: yeah, to do things a bit differently helps as well. This successful week we started to do FL on a hardmode with a couple of towers up. This made everyone alert and in a good mood and with that start we were into an upgoing spiral.

@Elnia: haha, I had to look up that one. And no, I refuse... Too many good ideas there to suck up and present as my own. :)

@Dorgol: that's good progress for just doing two nights a week, be proud! And seeing how things are for us I think you should be hopeful. Sometimes progression is a bit like the dance jenka if you know about it. A couple of steps forward, a few backwards, but then foarward again, slowly making progress overall.

@Fitz: thank you Fitz! I can't really give you any advice on this. I can only say that I really enjoy the more serious kind of raiding we have (where loot distribution is quick and smoot), ultra-quick recovery from wipes, silence on vent etc. I like the casual social stuff, but not very much in raids. But that is much a personal choice, what kind of raiding style you enjoy most.

Klepsacovic said...

This reminds me of what was happening in my guild a week ago for a few weeks: We'd just go back and forth between one-shotting everything and like you said, wiping on Kologarn. Some of it was due to new roles (I'd not add-tanked before and mobs like attacking healers between consecrate ticks) and new recuits, but none of those should have been enough to cause such trouble.

It's frustrating, but that what happens when PvE is 95% PvP.

Eishen said...

Annoying, you just celebrate the weekly reset and they introduce...

"Patch 3.2 Raid Lockout Extension
A new feature has been introduced in this build, you can now extend your raid lockout to make them last one more week. This is probably very useful if your guild is trying to get a specific boss down and doesn't really need any other loot in the instance, you can just get one more weeks of tries without having to clean everything in the way."

In fact I like this new feture, as it is an option that will made more accesible "deep bosses" (as yogg) for a medium guild like mine.

Larísa said...

@Klepsacovic: "It's frustrating, but that what happens when PvE is 95% PvP."
Hm... what do you mean by that? Please develop the thought a bit further. Here or in a blog post of your own. I'm curious.

@Eishen: I think the change is for the good. Really. No forced-upon badge farming on the first, easier bosses. Freedom to have fewer raid nights a week and yet be able to reach the challenging end bosses. It's very good. And after all, there will still be a reset, although it may be postponed.

Klepsacovic said...

@Larisa: How often is the obstacle to progression you? The boss? Now look at the raid. You have to fill the raid, get people there, they must learn the fight and have stable connections. The rest of the raid is expected to account for 96% of mistakes while any single player, such as yourself, is only 4%. Guild organization and management, drama, these can destroy an attempt before you even zone in.

Most problems in life are caused by other people. This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them (more than you or I), just that the vast majority of people are other people.

Management is PvP.