Saturday, March 1, 2008

In the country of pugs

PUG - pick up group. The very combination of letters gives many players shivers, because of memories that they'd rather repress.

Most annoying are the pug groups that never ever starts. You've joined a LFG channel and suddenly you turn up in an "almost ready" group. You "only" miss a healer. A druid comes around, yippee! Ready to go? Noooo... turned out to be dps. New impatient waiting - eventually you manage to get a healer. Yes! Whereafter the tank bursts: "soz gtg, bye". And that's how it continues, like in a sort of eternal dance, one step forward, one backwards, why time passes and fewer and fewer seem to feel like going for an instance, until you finally have to resign, realize that you're screwed, it has all turned into nothing. In worst case you've spent two or three hours doing... nothing!

Actually I prefer any kind of lousy pug, as long as it at least manages to get to the starting point and goes ahead in some kind of direction. You just have accept the sources if irritation. Like all those players who seems to have taken it as a life mission to torture mages. You know the tank that happily rushes into the next room, pulling in spite of the fact that you've only got ¼ of your mana pool left. Or trigger happy hunters, that time after time break your sheep, not realizing they did it themselves, starting to yell at you when you don't resheep fast enough.

I let it pass, as long as the pace is decent and we're getting somewhere, I'm all happy. It's those sudden exits and the non time limited AFK:s that make me furious, swearing promising myself: never ever a pug again.

There was a time when I pugged myself through the game. I belonged to a guild that was huge, but so loosely connected that it from time to time mostly worked as an extra chat. There rarely was any organized instance playing. So I had to pug, not the least my Kara attunement. I ddin't think much about it - it became a habit for me to play in English, without access to any TS, and constantly getting those small surprises. Sometimes it was like wine, sometimes like water. That was normal to me. Later I've been spoiled running instances with my Swedish guild, communicating through TS, except for some "r" or "brb" in the party chat. That's why I rarely pug these days. Which actually isn't only a good thing.

You see, the pugs have some advantages as well! If nothing else it's a brilliant possibility to see new players, to make your friends list grow. To get new impulses, maybe seeing a mage colleague to exchange ideas with, to test how it is to party with some kind of class or spec that you're missing in your guild or in your normal circles. And it also gives you so many memories! Fun ones like less fun ones.

One of the worse memories I have is from a veritable horror pug that I experienced when I was looking for the kara key part in Arcatraz. I should have known something was bad right from the start. The self appointed leader in the group, a rogue from a quite well known raiding guild on our server, showed his attitude right from the start. During the first pull someone died (a non mob). Without any mercy he kicked the poor priest, claiming he couldn't heal. Quick pick of a new one from the LFG channel. During the rest of the run we all went anxiously, tipping on our toes. Sometimes we comforted each other in whispers. We all felt like the slightest mistake could result in a kick from the group (a sort of insecurity that normally won't make you perform any better, rather the opposite). And surprise, surprise. When we came to the last boss he kicked the tank. Not that he had done any major mistake (what I could see), but the rogue simply thought that the fight was too hard, that the tank didn't have the required gear. Instead he took in a guildie. This rogue was actually a real big ass and now and then I was wondering if I shouldn't have left the group, protesting against his unethical behaviour. On the other hand -he evidently knew what he was doing. He's marking was good, he gave clear and wise instructions. Efficient. He wanted this instance cleared in the smoothest, quickest way. And he actually wasn't picking on me, on the contrary, he asked me if I was interested in raiding, since I wanted the key part, and encouraged me to make an application to his guild, in which case he would put a good word for me. So I stayed along the whole way, but I didn't have any attention to apply to that guild. I don't feel like playing with bullies no matter how successful they are.

But I've also experienced the opposite, in a quite special run in heroic Botanica. I've never ever done such a cosy, but looking to the accomplishments, terrible run. The whole group, consisting of people from Finland, Denmark, Turkey and Sweden, was sort of shimmering out of love. Everything was SO cute. If someone made a mistake everybody was full of understanding. We were constantly comforting, praising and hugging each other. And in one way that's nice, but it turned out impossible to accomplish anything. We got stuck on boss number two, the one that is healed by the small flowers, and didn't get anywhere further. Wipe after wipe after wipe. And all the time this lovely, understanding atmosphere. We kept doing this for a few of hours until a couple of parents gave up, since their babies were about to have their first morning meal in a couple of hours. It was expensive, fun in one aspect, but not the kind of run I want to do daily.

Then there are pugs that aren't real pugs, but rather guild runs, with one or two added strangers. Normally it works out very fine. I've seen it from both sides. If you're four people that are used to play together, it usually isn't hard to get the fifth one to become a good team member. It's hard for pugged player to start making a fuss, going his own way, if he has four against him.

To be that extra person yourself isn't bad either, usually there's a solidness in an almost full group, you don't have to face the trouble with people that suddenly leave. The only thing is that the communication can become a bit troublesome. If the ones that are in the same guild are speaking to each other on TS or Ventrilo, it's easily done that they miss to give essential information to the fifth party member, that becomes somewhat of a side wagon, that has to try to come along on the ride the best he can.

If the guild isn't English speaking it can become really troublesome. I saw that doing the Durnhold quest in my attunement. I was pugging as usual and turned up in a group with four players, all belonging to the same polish guild. Good, I thought, thinking that this would be easy - it was almost as good as a guild run. But I was dead wrong. Those Polish players obviously didn't have any TS. Instead they kept using the party chat. In Polish. I really had to look carefully to find the english words, the instructions, and mostly I had to guess what they actually were planning to do. Finally I understood that they didn't talk much about the instance at all. They were having a quarrel. There's a saying for it in Swedish, "Polish parliament", when everybody is trying to talk at the same time. Sometimes they said a few words in English, so I too could see how the quarrel developed. I some strange way we actually managed to get through the instance, but the last word from the tank was that he never ever would tank another instance with the other guys. Suddenly they were all gone, taking HS each one of them and I was wondering how they ever would manage to get that guild to stick together. But then I shrugged, happy to at last have gotten access to BM. This was just another one of all those pug stories to put into my memory bank slot.

Yesterday it was time to have a pug again, for the first time in a very long time. We were only a few guild members online and I was desperate to run an instance. I joined the LFG channel. Karazhan, Zul Aman or heroic Slave Pens. I went for the latter, that seemed to be the most realistic choice. The hour that passed before we got away made me swear - we had the worst kind of "suddenly-finds-out-that-you-can't-go-fuss". Worst was a rogue that joined who suddenly realized he didn't have the key. When he was away to buy it, he found out he couldn't afford it, he ony had 6g. Thanks and goodbye. But at last we took off, and it turned out to be the best pug ever. Only players that actually knew what they were doing. Like the hunter, who happily and willingly kidded a naga, so elegantly and confidently that you had tears in your eyes out of admiration. Not a wipe. Total agreement about loot. The only bad thing was, of course, that it ended too quickly.

To pug is to gamble, but among all those blanks and almost-blanks there also are some winners. After the first prize yesterday I'm committed to do some pug gambling again. A decision that I'll probably stick to until I draw the next blank lot....

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