Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Praising or blaming – different approaches to train your raiders

Some guilds love it; others think it poisons the atmosphere and should be banished.

I’m referring to the Failbot addon (nowadays replaced by EnsidiaFails), which mercilessly will point out the poor player who hasn’t moved out of fire, shadow crashes or failed otherwise during a boss fight that is designed to test the individual performance of a raider. Everyone in the raid will know who is to blame for the failure, not after reading the wws report later on, but instantly in the raid chat. It’s shame and blame in its purest form.

Big Brother helper
We don’t use it in my guild. We do use Big Brother though, which is somewhat related. This addon will announce in the raid chat any player who hasn’t used a flask or two elixirs or eaten buff food. After some initial annoyance when we first started using it a couple of months ago, it has been accepted and is now a natural part of our raiding environment. We don’t see it as a blaming tool, but rather as a helper to remind us to renew our flasks. It’s well needed now that they only last for an hour for non alchemists.

However, so far no one has seriously suggested that we should start using a fail announcing addon. This doesn’t mean that people who make critical errors during a fight won’t get to know about it. They certainly will, publicly, in a class chat channel or in whispers, depending on what kind of error it was and how it affects the rest of the raid.

When negative feedback is given, it’s in a more mannered way and often in general terms, telling mages to shape up their counterspelling, hunters to keep better track of their pets, or whatever issue we’re currently struggling with. But we don’t have it as a standard procedure to call out errors of individual players, addressing it publicly by the means of an addon, and I think this is a wise approach.

Positive reinforcement
I know there are many ideas about how to best train a dog or for that case raise a child (not that I claim it’s the same thing). I can only speak for myself, and I haven’t trained any dogs, but from my experience as a parent and as a group leader at work, I’ve always succeeded much better using a positive approach. Of course there are moments when you have to be very straightforward and give negative feedback about an unacceptable behaviour or lousy performance. But my focus has always been on reinforcing the good things I see. Without having any specific numbers, I figure the proportion of my praising compared to my criticizing is 80/20, if not more.

This isn’t any exceptional management approach; in fact it’s rather common practice in real life. (I probably should at: “where I live”. The styles of leading seem to vary quite a bit between different countries as well as business sectors.) But in Azeroth it seems to me as if it’s quite the opposite. It’s somewhat expected that the more hardcore and successful a guild is, the more abuse and negative shout outs will there be in the raid channel. The question is: is it really an effective way to make people perform better? Do those outbursts really help you reach your goals quicker? Do the players who have failed suddenly improve just because you tell the world that they suck? Will you really achieve quicker bosskills at a lower cost in repairbills and time spent on corpse runs? I doubt it.

Actually I think the effect can become the opposite. A fail announcing addon is likely to make more of your raiders miserable and annoyed with each other. Some players can even become nervous and tense about it, thus making more mistakes, and this can be the beginning of a spiral heading downwards.

How to feedback
Negative feedback should in my opinion preferably be given in a smaller context and be directed to the ones that are concerned.

Positive feedback on the other hand could be sprinkled generously. Of course it must be relevant, true and not taken out of the blue. If you praise people that are just performing at their expected basic level they’ll look right through you, wondering what you’re getting at. But what you should do is to notice when people are assigned to a new, challenging task for the first time and succeed reasonably well. You should point out players who look more to the outcome of an encounter than their position on the dps chart. You should direct the attention towards players who act responsibly, who can read the situation and dare to take independent and wise decisions on the fly when it’s necessary.

Put the spotlight on whatever kind of action you’d like to see more of in your raid. People don’t necessarily need extra dkp or loot to feel appreciated and motivated to perform better. Just a little bit of attention works remarkably well as incentive.

A praisebot addon?
The reason why I came to think about this topic was a little post by Swiftmend, whose guild is running Failbot in raids. They finally became tired of constantly listening to the negative messages, so they changed it into the opposite: “Player X is incredibly awesome at Shadow Crash”. Of course everyone still knew that it was a blame addon, but it gave them a laugh and hopefully took out a bit of the potential drama in it, so it’s probably a good thing to do if you insist on running it. “Fail in style”, as their raid leader stated it.

I couldn’t help start thinking about it seriously though. How come that there isn’t (as far as I know of) any Praisebot addon, spitting out positive messages about things that are done exceptionally successful in the raid? And if there was one, what kind of things should it inform about? Would it have any effect?


Klepsacovic said...

Good things are the standard, automatically praising them would lead to a lot of spam "Great heal! Great heal! Great heal!" That said, praise is important.

Criticism is important as well. People need to know what went wrong.

It's not a one or the other, it's both. Picking only one will lead to inferior learning.

Lantana said...

I would completely agree if most fail announcements were acutally to the end of learning. But so many - not the add-on types, but the players who announce - are just plain nasty.

Why in the world do people get so cranky? I know, I know, some are j ust that way, or are immature, or are even there to vent.

I love the idea of the gentle ribbing - it really does help to know what I've done wrong sometimes. It's darn hard to keep track in those more chaotic fights.

A praisebot, though, might combine the two? "Lan only stepped in the killing glyph 2 times!" Or, "Lan managed 10 charge shifts succesfully!"

It's all in the delivery. Me, I want to know my mistakes, for sure, but really only in wipes, or when I die. So maybe the failbot should only activate then...

rapidresponceunit said...

There are too many flaws to this fail-bot that are not taken into account. A few I can think of are...

OS: A tank failed to pick up an add, it knocked me back and I hit the flame wall, everyone sees I have failed, but in reality, the tank failed.

Ulduar boss with arms and eyes: (Only been once don't know his name :P) I got picked up and thrown back down into the laser, everyone can see that I have failed, yet I had no control over the situation.

It would be a good system if it didn't say you failed. It would be a good system as a raid informer, for example. "[Name] has been caught in the flame wall" then the raid can adjust, help and fix the problem. Then, reoccurrences can be picked up by the RL and he/she can whisper that said person and find out the problem. Public shaming has only one road, resentment.

However, a praise-bot has flaws too. You're only praised by a statistic, you become a number rather than a player. Praise by a RL would be because your good playing is clearly visible to the other players, not the computer.

We already have too many add-ons playing the game for us, what we don't need is to replace the good RL's with automated systems.

Carra said...

I like those failbot addons. Mostly because it's always the same people who make the mistakes. And even though everyone knows who they are, these addons give statistics. You can't argue with math.

rapidresponceunit said...

@ Carra

While you can’t argue with math, you can argue with hasty generalisation. That's the only thing this bot can do is generalise, because it's too simple.

Great for Naxx bad for any instance that has so many variables.

Dizzy said...

I think it is mostly up to people themselves how to react or respond to a Big Brother announcement, a Failmessage or anything thelike. And ofc not totally up to that single person, but also to the others around it.
Yes I am the one in Larísa's guild that is the annoying spammer of BigBrother for each boss pull. In the beginning people really serious thought I had that addon to annoy them, to tease them and to point a finger at them to say they fail. However it is meant as a pure reminder. "hour past by and a few peeps forgot to refresh the flask, this is your time to do so before we pull the boss" and I am happy people are taking it now the way it's meant. BB has more stuff like that, who breaks a sap/ sheep/ hex etc. and you can take it either way: ah oopsie my mistake or you can have people yelling and shouting and swearing cause you broke a sheep.
It's about the reaction of the fellow raiders more then your own reaction.
It's about how mature they are basically. They could yell "OMG why did you do that?" and you will feel smaller then a gnome or everyone can be quiet or say nps and know that you realise what has happend and learn from it.
Nevertheless, it will be great if more people will tell each other they did something good to get some confidence up, but like in real life, you'll always hear it when you made a mistake and barely hear it when something went good. It's up to each one of us how to act and react with that.
A praisebot will turn people to the other side, everyone acts different on a compliment, some get shy and say thank you and are getting red cheaks adn a smile, others get obsessed and brag about how good they are.
Acceptating and trying to find your way into a fail or compliment starts with our selves :)

and OMG can't believe I wrote a long long wall of text like this!

/hug Larísa

Lerbic said...

I'm also in Larisa's guild, and i can say without doubt that the Big Brother addon is great, in fact in the last raid, I forgot to take my flask until after we'd already killed 2 bosses ...not because i was intentionally slacking or I thought I didnt need it, just that I pure forgot

Had "Dizzy" been there spamming the messgae before the pull, I would have realised my mistake and taken one

Failbot...well I;m not sure I'd like that announcing as much, but I'm sure it has an option to output to a channel other than raid chat/warning ?
perhaps it could be good for raid leaders/officers to use, so they can see who the persistent offenders are and deal with it in /w.....hell, for all I know our raid leaders perhaps ARE doing this !!

As for praise...well thats difficult for an addon to handle....good play goes unnoticed....even if sometimes its something good that isnt planned (like pally healer stunning a loose add before a tank picks it up etc)....for an addon to know if this was a good or bad move is near impossible, and for raid leaders to notice with all thats going on is also very difficult...

Captain The First said...

It's much more difficult to define succesful actions as opposed to direct failures. What defines a good healer/tank/dps and in what way can this be 'measured'?

You cannot display what you cannot measure and since it's easy to define what is a 'failure' you get a failbot and not a praisebot.

In the end I would definitely make the failbot a raid leader only application whose responsibility it should then be to inform whomever made a mistake.

Being constantly publicly criticised can be hard on a person that cares and does nothing to a person who doesn't care.

In the end the tool doesn't provide a solution. The problem isn't 'get out of the fire' but knowing when the fires come and what to do when they do.

Larísa said...

@Klepsacovic: yeah, I think you're right. An addon probably won't cut it. But I think it's worth thinking the thought at least. Overly focusing on just negative stuff can damage the morale badly.

@Lantana: It's possible that you can do that, as some people suggest - activate failbot more restrictivly. Maybe it's just something in the settings.

And I really think it could be worth mentioning somehow when people succeed very well. If nothing else - if we get to know who excels in different manners, we can ask them how they do it and learn from their example...

@Rapidrespounceunit: oh I agree. A real RL probably does this much better than an addon. But isn't it interesting that there is no such addon, but several addons focusing on fail...

@Carra: but do you deal with the consequences? If it's the same people that are announced, what do you do about it? Kick them from the raid? From the guild? It isn't a pug were' talking about...

@Dizzy: I think you have some very valid obeservations there. The more stable and mature the group is, the more trust we put into each other, the better can we take criticism, from real people or an addon. We know that failing to escape a shadow crash won't mean the end of a the world or your raiding career. It's rather a reminder to look out a bit better next time. But I'm afraid that many raid groups aren't quite that tightly knitted. But it certainly is something to strive for. Lovely wall of text by the way! /cheers

@Lerbic: yeah, it's hard to notice good deeds - somehow our minds are set on default to look for errors. But I think we have something to win if we activly try to see things with those glasses on. Of course we'll miss most opportunities. But sometimes we'll be able to catch the good example and point it out to others - and that's worth a great deal in the learning process.

@Captain the first: "Being constantly publicly criticised can be hard on a person that cares and does nothing to a person who doesn't care.". You said it much better than I did. /salute!

Lance said...

Bad things are easier to identify. Good things can become a matter of further discussion, like which flask is best for a try or who did the highest dps etc. But they are subject to interpretation and discussion. A dead tank with no heal, someone not moving our of fire, or indeed moving into clouds and spawning adds... Easier to identify and point a finger at.

What it eventually comes down in my book is the leadership of the raid. If its unquestionable and delivers, nobody should (or ideally would) question what the RL says. Not during the raid anyway. If his comments are augmented by the use of an add-on that clearly depicts an error... well, I am sure his comments will be more to the point.

Whether people like it or not raiding is about teamwork. And 90% of the time that means rectifying errors of the raiders. Any tool that assist that is useful.

However, only (and I can not emphasize that enough) when its used by the guild's raid leadership and not by random members. RLs can say anything (well, not swear at your mother :-p) within the tolerance levels governed by a guilds ethics. Normal raiders must not ever ever `taunt' their comrades in that way.

Keep a guild tight and praise will come through the acceptance of your guildmates. Well, the occasional kudos from your RL can be a rare perk.

fallingleavesandwings said...

We do run failbot.

The addon itself has the option on where to announce it. So, if your leadership wants to know where people are screwing up without feeling like they are berating their raiders, you can have it announce in officer chat instead of in raid chat. I believe that it even has an option to announce in tells, but I am not positive about that.

One thing that I like about failbot, a lot, is that it really encourages situational awareness. A lot of times you will query someone on "how did you die" and they honestly couldn't tell you what happened to them.

It also tells you who is making the same error over and over.

You asked "what do you do, kick them?", well, sometimes, yes. We do on occasion remove people from the raid that aren't grasping a concept for whatever reason and their failures are causing the raid's failure. It's not a permanent ban, and it's generally just for that fight or that particular raid, until they have a better understanding of what needs to be done or their head is more in the game.

I know that may seem like a really harsh thing to do, but would a coach keep in the guy that just broke his foot and can barely walk onto the field, more or less play ball?

I have never really looked at failbot negatively, but more as a tool to help people understand their errors, and then hopefully learn from them.

Although, I can certainly see how some people would find it overly negative.

Carra said...

If it's the same people that are announced, what do you do about it? Kick them from the raid? From the guild?

It all depends on your guild. And of course, you need enough data to make valid assumptions.

But if you see a trend, have a talk with the bad players. Give them a few pointers, see if they improve. And if they still fail to meet your guilds requirements kick them yes.

Jormundgard said...

I don't think the Angry Raid Leader is good for raiding. Rather, it's a very powerful filter for the people who can handle it (because they don't make mistakes) and the people who can't.

It creates a great raiding team, as long as the personnel is available.