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It comes to something when you try to tell someone what is bothering you (and everyone else, let’s be fair) about their behaviour and they throw it back in your face. Actually it’s worse than that, they rant at you not for what you said (or wrote), but for telling everyone you’d written it and where to find it! What is the problem? Do you not want us talking to each other so that you can spin us all different stories? Or because you think some aspect of your behaviour is secret?

Is it that you’re drunk every Friday and behave like a prick? Is this the aspect of your private life you don’t want circulated? Don’t.Make.Me.Laugh. Everbody knows!

So, the first Friday after I published your last warning you were drunk long before we even started. So I’ve removed you from my Battle.net friends list. I know others have done this too. We just got tired of a) listening to your self generated drama or b) setting Battle.net so we appeared to be offline. Or playing alliance characters you don’t know about. I didn’t know if I was even going to bother to turn up last Friday, but circumstances made it difficult not to. Yes, you were muted in my Discord, I wasn’t alone. Others would simply mute you but they’re embarrassed that it would be obvious when they talked over you too. Too many ackward questions to answer.

You can blame me, everyone does, you can make me the ring leader if you like. However, it’s worth remembering that when I took all the flack for “Wine Night” it’s was mostly you people were bitching about and me they blamed because I was your “ring leader” then. You know how much truth there was in that…

Some people seem to be deliberately deaf to hints. Their special approach to the game slowly alienates friends and guildies alike, but they continue to plough their unappealing furrow. The only difference, remember, between a rut and a grave is depth. For one last time, for the sake of my sanity and others around me, I will try to make some earnest suggestions.

This is the mini-map. It’s in the top right hand corner of your screen. It’s a very valuable feature of the default Blizzard UI. It’s on the screen all the time and it’s centred right on you. It also has an indicator with a pointy end and rounded end. The pointy end points the way your character is facing. Using this UI object you can navigate, it will help you find team mates who have inconsiderately wandered out of your line of sight during one of your many announced, or unannounced, AFK moments. If they are further away than the circle of in-game environment that the mini-map shows then you can refer to the full sized map (default key for the Map is ‘M‘). This is how players avoid getting lost and, if they are separated from friends and team mates, can find their own way back.

If you are constantly getting lost, not setting out with flying mount or via a flight point to an in game location, claim all you like that it is because you will get lost. We all know it’s because you’re lazy. If you ask for help with dungeon quests and then argue with people, who all know better than you, that you cannot complete heroic dungeon quests at mythic difficulty with no keystone, then the very least you can do is track your own quest objectives. Don’t wait until the very end of the dungeon and force people to ask “Did you complete your quest?” “No.” “Why not? What are you missing?” “I don’t know.” It’s your quest, it’s the reason we came here with you, how can you not know? “Link the quest in party chat,”…so that we can look at the objectives for you and work out what you missed.

Then when we hand hold you out of the back door of the instance the idea is to follow us out of the cave to a point where we can all mount to fly back to the entrance. What did you think we were going to do? Magically pull the quest objective out of one of our arses so you suddenly WIN without doing anything? Then when we fly back to where you are, see you mount up and start flying with us, don’t get half way there and get bored and stop looking at map/mini-map and fly in exactly the opposite direction and then snap “Where did you go!” like it’s our fault you are ‘lost’ again.

Don’t ask us to Mythic+ with you either. A high level key can be hard enough in several dungeons, especially with some of the additional mechanics, without having to carry someone who can’t make their way to the dungeon, has to be summoned, can get lost between the summoning stone and the dungeon entrance and if they die cannot run back to the group from the start of the instance. If four of us get in, without at least one waiting to hand hold you inside someone will have to come out. Once inside, you make no effort not to stand in the fire, refuse to follow even rudimentary tactics. “Tactics! Oh fuck off. C’mon on.” Even if we’re wiping repeatedly to the same mechanic. It is not endearing to be constantly cackling “Balls of evil! Balls of evil!” Like most things in life it was funny the first time, second time less so. Now, that horse you’re flogging is not so much dead as completely decomposed.

Still we can look forward to the inevitable early bath. After one or maybe two excruciating, toe-curlingly frustrating dungeons we all know you’ll be too pissed to carry on. We then have to repeatedly explain, well pretty much everything, two or three times as you are not listening. Sometimes even though each of us has tried to explain, repeatedly, that you cannot be replaced you are still whining insistently that someone, who is actually in another group, in another dungeon, take your place. Despite their protests, you continue to encourage: “Oh c’mon!” or “Fuck you!”, they still decline, but you still tell your team to kick you and get your already occupied replacement in. Like completing heroic dungeons quests on mythic (without keystone) difficulty you also don’t seem to realise that no one can join a mythic+ run in progress. You cannot just leave and have your team carry on without you…especially if you’re the healer.

Battlegrounds (BGs) reveal more starkly your attitude to the game in general: “Help me I am getting attacked.” Yes you are, we all are, all of the time. A more dynamic role, involving, say, moving from one location to another, would leave you lost and riding blithely into the Stables in Arathi Basin…which is rarely not controlled by the Alliance, as it’s right next to their starting point and graveyard. So you’re the self appointed guardian of the Farm. You have to ride down the hill…and then camp. For the entire duration of the BG. In all BGs there’s the inevitable voice chatter “Incoming at Farm,” “Incoming at Farm,” “INCOMING AT FARM!” “I am dead where were you?” communicating that we’re clearly expected to answer every call and keep you alive at all costs. However, PvP is not an heroic raid, independence and the ability to use your own initiative is essential. In other Battlegrounds, that lack the simplicity of Farm camping, we get “Where are you? I am getting killed. I have died again. OMG! I am getting attacked in the graveyard, this is not fair. I’m dead again! Where are you? Help!”

This blog is testament to the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of PvP. I prefer raids and dungeons, my absolute favourite in game events are 5 man Mythic+ runs. Raiding has always been a long second to classic 5 mans like Stratholme, Blackrock Depths and Shadow Labyrinth. If anyone actually listens to anything I say they will also know that I do not hate PvP, as some do, with a passion. Top of my Christmas List of online malarkey ever year is Arathi Basin, my absolute all time favourite BG and Battle for Gilneas, now my second favourite. Alterac Valley is all riding…riding, riding. Warsong Gulch et al are the capture the flag gank fests. I hate capture the flag, like many, many other players I simple gave up, walked away, never came back, quit on the meta achievement for whatever that dragon was due to School of Hard Knocks. Look it up under achievements. Broke me. But since 2006, at Christmas you will usually find me doing some PvP with guildies, usually in Arathi Basin, usually camping “Fleety’s Farm“…like a lazy cun  git

If you ask for help with your heroic dungeon quests and then argue with people that you cannot complete heroic dungeon quests at mythic+0, we’re going to know you’re an idiot. We all know you don’t know anything about PvP, so if I’m excluding two from our list of random battlegrounds don’t tell me the last one we were in was Arathi Basin. “No. Arathi Basin is the one with the Lumber Mill, Blacksmiths, Gold Mine…and Farm.”, “No.” No, of course it isn’t Arathi Basin is a capture the flag battleground that looks suspiciously like Twin Peaks. Don’t make me raise my voice and slap you down again!

So shortly after this you’re going to pop up with another, perfectly reasonable excuse not to carry on. I predicted four minutes, but it was barely one. It’s just as well as you are starting to slur your words and disagree with people as you clearly have no idea what they are talking about, often when they aren’t actually talking to you. It’s not that your “explanation” for leaving can’t be genuine. It’s that the circumstances that trigger you leaving are always the same and you always have a perfectly reasonable explanation. Every time?

Sometimes being the huntard in-game can be funny. Sadly it’s a joke with limited life. When it starts to creep out of the game into your real life…that’s just not funny at all.

The Leader of my last guild has quit World of Warcraft. She’s still in touch, still socialising with the members of a guild she worked so hard to build into a friendly, social hub in game. She moved to Final Fantasy XIV for the story, because there’s more to do in game that isn’t raiding and for the player housing, a feature that allows Free Companies of players (Guilds) to have a (guild) Hall. The attraction is that this can be an in-game social space, much like a real life pub or community drop in centre.

After playing Warcraft for nearly twelve years myself I’ve always got an eye on games that could be my post-WoW MMO. It isn’t going to be Guild Wars 2, it wasn’t Elder Scrolls Online, maybe it will be Final Fantasy. After playing the game a few weeks I have some observations. Right down to the key-binds Final Fantasy is a very WoW-like MMO. It has combat classes, quests, professions, world quests (‘Fates’) Guild leve’s (more difficult, more rewarding quest content) instanced, scaling dungeons and raids. The differences seem superficial and skin deep.

Take professions for example, you level your professional skills and craft increasingly more complex items. The only discernable difference is that with wood working I understand I can craft furniture for the ‘Guild Hall’. The wood working animation is certainly more impressive than the rubbing hands together or anvil tapping of WoW. That does speak to early immersion in the game, but thankfully there is a ‘quick synthesis’ option so you don’t have to spend all day watching your character craft basic wood into usable lumber while you do something else…play solitaire, check email or twitter, eat lunch.

Go there kill things, or kill to loot things, come back, turn in quest, get another…so far so WoW. Depending on your point of view it’s a celebration or condemnation, but Final Fantasy is World of Warcraft with a less cartoony, better game engine. The story, the lore of the world is in many regards has less finesse and less sophistication than WoW. Each of the races in Warcraft have a rich back story and with any story of war one side’s tragic losses and atrocities are the other faction’s great victories.

Why is this place always empty…?

…Or like this?

So I reflect on why my friend has left a game in which she has friends for another that is essentially very similar to start again from scratch? A Guild Hall sounds like a great idea…chars hanging out in a shared in-game space while their players chat in voice chat. However, I’ve had fun and laughter with people on voice chat when I wasn’t even in the same game with people never mind in the same shared in-game space. It’s not like you’re actually face to face when all your chars are in the guild hall, we cannot smile, nod, roll eyes, wince, raise eyebrows, wink at one another…there is no real body language that so enriches face to face interactions.

There is plenty of quality content in WoW for non-raiders. In fact raiders have been whining forever about stupid shit in game for non-raiders that detracts and distracts from the serious business of raiding: pet battles; LFR; 5 mans; mythics; timewalking; flower picking; fishing; engineering; mounts; transmog; world quests…indeed the whole two days of ball ache, levelling through another ten levels at the beginning of a new expansion. Never mind having to wait for casual, guild slacktards to get max level for that first raid! Which brings me back to why she has quit on her guild.

I think my friend’s real issue with World of Warcraft was twofold. Firstly, I’m not sure MMORPG is really her thing. The killing mobs, clearing dungeons bit anyway. Essentially story is just an excuse for adventuring. Lore is simply a backdrop, a tapestry to give a shape and rationale for what is essentially a tedious and repetitive grind. Get quest, kill or collect, or kill and collect, or kill to collect, return, turn in, get rewarded, collect new quest, which is often to go back where you were and kill/collect something else. And repeat.

Cooperative play really brings this to life. Either in a 5 or 4 person configuration or larger groups, coming together and doing things cooperatively either against the AI (PvE) or other players (PvP) is what makes gaming rewarding. It can be casual and laid back, social and fun, but it has to be challenging and cooperative (or it’s just FPS). I don’t think my friend really enjoys or is enthused by challenging group content. More importantly, I also think that she found herself in a guild that was totally unsuited to her and what she wanted out of Warcraft. Essentially she found that she was somehow the Guild Leader in a semi-hardcore, raiding guild and slightly sidelined at that. I’m always saying not happy in your guild: move on. However, it’s not so easy when you’re the guild leader and founder. Sometimes it’s easier to blame the game and move to another.

The officers often don’t help. Some guild officers will just log on, lead a raid, log off. The same may also take a break eight weeks into ever raid tier when the team have cleared heroic the first time. One officer in your guild will burst a haemorrhoid trying to solo grind all the material required for the raid team and coax, cajole, bully everyone else to contribute to the guild in this way. They’re not contributing to the guild though, they’re not encouraging working together in some cooperative push for the good of the guild. What they’re doing is servicing the raid, many of whom, like the raid leader only log on to raid, but expect all their raiding mats and repairs. Why? Because without the raid and raid leader there is no guild, whatever the social snowflake nominally running the guild thinks.

This is the mistake she made right from the get go. The idea of having a nice, fluffy, friendly guild that has social nights where people play WoW-Bingo, go on treasure hunts and have puzzle nights and also raids hard and does PvP is an awful one. Yeah, on paper a jack-of-all-trades guild is awesome, in practive it’s master of none. Being master of none people will leave to find one of the better ones of which there are inevitably many. Or one side wins out and the other two aspects go to hell in a handbasket. In my friend’s guild the raiding won out. Because raiders. They flirted with selection, they even still do a measure of it. Only on heroic, progress nights. Any scrub casual can raid on the normal nights. I still say I can almost see the point of selection for Mythic progression…but even then…but a guild that tries to filter it’s best into a raid for heroic progression, I hate to sound elitist, but since they started it, what a bunch of scrub losers. Heroic?! LMFAO

I can see why you’d go to Final Fantasy frankly. You’re beating your head against a brick wall trying to get a guild predominantly made up of anti-social, semi-elitist raiders (I can name them if you like), to engage with other guildies in non-raiding socialising. They’re not interested in you beyond what your player power is a how valuable you will be in helping them get what they want out of the game.

Then there’s your officer team. The raid leader…he leads the raid and subtly manipulates you to make raiding decisions (something out of your remit and interest range anyway) than actively discourage the kind of people you want for the guild you’d like to have: social, friendly, sharing, cooperative. One officer is rabid brown nose who only got the rank for all the selfless work he did supplying the guild bank and servicing the raiders. He’s so rabid and enthused he can’t leave the Guild Message of the Day alone “Come on all guildies lets do the good thing for the good of all and be all positive!” or some shit. The guild bank seems to have cornered the market in Slabs of Bacon though.

Your only other officer, the Drama Queen, constantly complains you’re doing it wrong, won’t delegate and that he has no role and never wanted to be an officer, especially now that it’s clearly an honorary title and he cannot influence the way the guild is or how business is conducted and /ragequits after getting into a slapping girl fight with the rabid fanatic officer.

Yeah, I’d be tempted to quit and start another guild, perhaps in a new game. However, while you’re in the guild house planning the next social night and dusting the bookcase you crafted yourself be careful about what your co-guild leader / officers are doing with raiding. If you run raids, you should have a team that reflects the nature and composition of your guild. Or sooner or later you’ll be back where you started and maybe even considering returning to that other game that, despite it’s lack of guild housing, is pretty much the same really.

In the last post I covered the major elements of Legion and my reaction to them. This post ties up my overall impressions of the expansion before I look ahead to September and what I would like to see from the new expansion: Battle for Azeroth.

I should really start by commenting on the Artefact Weapon. I really enjoyed this new mini-game of empowering my weapon. I wasn’t overly impressed with getting a scythe as Affliction, always having preferred a one handed blade and off-hand, but transmog and the unlocked appearances mitigated this somewhat.

What has been great about the Artefact Weapon has been the talent tree, Artefact Power and measured process of empowering our weapon as the expansion has gone on. Essentially the Class Order Hall was built around the Artefact Weapon and “Mission Table“. With the Garrison Mission Table scale back in scope and fewer champions Blizzard have fixed most issues with this mechanic. Mission rewards actually included quests for your character (rather than minions) to complete. This has a good fantasy synergy: “Your minions were in this area and we think you should go take a look yourself commander.” Order Halls are not prisons trapping players the same way the Garrison could. A perfect example of less is more design.

Missions are now a fun aside, to complete and set going, before going out into the world. My only real issue with Order Halls is being forced to go there to spend Artefact Talent points…if there was anywhere else to do it I would hearth at the nearest inn. Hearthing to Dalaran and then riding down into the sewers to portal to Dreadscar Rift became mildly irritating across the expansion. Blizzard wisely separated profession trainers and the bank well away from the Order Hall and zone quest hubs: in the capital city. This is good design because concentrating amenities in one locale will have everyone hanging around there and empty world. Important facilities were in Order Halls and Dalaran and the only Auction Houses were still in Orgrimmar, Undercity and Burger King Thunder Bluff for Horde (I’m not counting the engineer only AH in the Dalaran Engineering Shop or Gadgetzan).

Pet Battles were a confused mess in Legion. I still hope for an event to rival the challenge and variety of the Pandaren Celestial Tournament, but I guess that’s never going to happen. In Tanaan we had a set of quite challenging pets and an achievement to kill them all. This was relatively straightforward and farming these pets for a random drop from the reward bag wasn’t so onerous. Blizzard tried two new approaches to pet battling in Legion.

The first the massively disappointing Pet Battle Dungeon. Instanced pet battle arena’s in first Wailing Caverns then the Deadmines. The pet rewards were secured by completing the dungeons without healing. So for every battle in the dungeon you needed a team and a backup and although the opponents were similar in sections you couldn’t use the same pets twice (as you couldn’t heal them up between fights). This could’ve been a spectacular challenge and for some I expect it was. Though you would have to be a pet battle casual and either you battle and collect or…you don’t pretty much. In Wailing Caverns you needed about twenty five pets all told and around fifteen unique ones. Once you worked out which of your pets were optimal you could farm more and / or grind to level 25. Until you had a perfect set. Or stroll in off the street with 800+ unique pets and throw them at the opposition and zerg your way through like I did. I did refine my selection on the second and third visit. After which I had all the pets and no desire to grind around again. The same proved to be equally true in the Deadmines. With over 1000 pets it was less a question of assessing family, breed and opposition attacks and finessing a team as trial and error from a bottomless pit of options. I lack two pets and the several tokens for them but more importantly I lack the motivation to even go into the Deadmines: pet battle dungeons are deathly boring with zero replay-ability.

Then we come to Argus and the Family Fighter achievement, building lazily on the actual fun of Family Familiar. “Yeah,” the devs thought (I’m not sure they did think too much about this, to be honest). “Family Familiar was fun: let’s do it again but more.” Sometimes more is less. Family Fighter was more infuriating and interminable grind and less fun. The difference is a crucial one of design and is illustrative, I think, of how an idea can be good when gated, and presented in a particular way and how people say they want no gating to content, but they really do.

Family Familiar was a achievement to defeat 12 Master Tamers in Broken Isles with all families of pet. So 3 Aquatic, 3 Undead and so on. What made this achievement challenging was only 2 – 3 of the 12 Tamers spawned each day and you could only fight them once. So if you beat one Tamer with Aquatic pets you would have to wait for them to spawn again so you defeat them with another family. 12 Tamers, beaten 12 times, random Tamer spawns. Great, eventually you completed it.

With Family Fighter you need to defeat the 18 corrupted pets of Argus with each family of pets. That’s 18 pets. 12 times, or 196 pet battles (if you win first time every time, and you certainly won’t on Gloamwing with Aquatic and Critter combos). The problem is that as all pets are up all the time and you can battle them as many times a day as you wish. There’s nothing to stop you say trying to do one pet per day with all 12 families…and burning out in 2 – 3 days. Just like I did. Only limit the number of victorious fights per day to one, or limit the number that spawn a day…or both! This paces the achievement nicely and it doesn’t feel like you’ve simply dumped 18 new pets down without much of a thought and walked away.

For an expansion that corrected so many of the mistakes of it’s predecessor Legion has so many obvious flaws and short-comings. Yes, the player-base is becoming much more discerning, we have been consuming this content for over a decade. However, with some polishing and minor tweaking Blizzard could’ve made this expansion truly spectacular. In retrospect it’s difficult not mark Legion’s Report Card: very good try, some great ideas, if only would show more attention detail. My next blog will be a crystallisation of these thoughts and suggestions for what I’d like to see going forward. I wish the devs were reading, this stuff is constructive.

 

Despite all the warnings I could give the social, online Friday Mythics Night I had enjoyed has imploded. Drunken snappiness, not understanding or listening, revelling in wiping, cackling “Balls of evil! Balls of evil!”  and sheer, bash head against wall, frustration has finished off an event people were already drifting away from. Who has come off worse from this failure? Well, what a shocker. Me again. Too many people have left Warcraft from my little circle recently. So I wasn’t sufficiently backed up to deal with this stupid drama. My old GM is also quitting the game, she’s fed up with whispers, drama and arse aching (not mine for change). So Legion splutters to a uninspiring end with me seriously looking for even a half decent guild again.

My guild status is a fitting metaphor for Legion in all honestly. Some things have been really good. The zone design and levelling experience has been, it’s usual, first class. However, the raid offerings in Legion have been…derivative and familiar. The frequency with which we’ve been treated to reused textures, fight mechanics and a general dearth of new or innovative ideas has been staggering. We know Warcraft is thirteen years old and the dev team is shrinking, but never has new blood more obviously been required.

This doesn’t help…withdrawing support for DX9 and no bug fixing.

Textures were lifted straight out of Ulduar and Hellfire Citadel, and particularly badly cobbled together in the case of the qqqw (EN). Kicking off the expansion, EN was one boss fight leading up to a portal hub with four zones pulled lazily from around Azeroth without one remarkable or noteworthy boss fight. My overriding memory of EN is ugly, disjointed, cut and shut, ordinary. The Nighthold was much better, however when you set the bar so low…I like the idea of introducing an interesting boss mechanic with the trash leading up to a boss. Why shouldn’t the associated trash demonstrate less powerful facets of the bosses in each wing…it adds flavour and immersion while training the raid how to deal with a boss on the way to them. However,  it’s becoming normal to describe every boss in terms of it’s recycled, ad nauseum, core mechanics. Like The Coven of Shivarra, (Tomb of Sargeras)  as new the Elisande (Nighthold): same noose tightening mechanic; balls slow in one section; get through incoming wave to outside. Or Garothi Worldbreaker’s (Burning Throne) Eradication is the new Fallen Avatar‘s (Tomb of Sergeras) Rupture Realities (different name same hokey cokey in, out, in, out). Every encounter has an element of deja vu. Not convinced? Then think about the number of fights in Antorus, the Burning Throne alone where you had move out of lines, green or red? Or what about an ‘area cast’ on the floor that you were drawn to, but had to avoid, before another ‘big cast’ came and you had to rush into the previous ‘area cast’ to avoid said ‘big cast’? Describes several fights? Red or green circles (spiked in the centre) that players needed to soak?

The less said about the Eonar the Life-Binder Event the better…shades of the Hellfire Assault Event, but incredibly, and well done Blizzard for pulling off the apparently impossible, worse.

Legendaries failed to engage again. This time around the items themselves were great, you got one or two and you were very happy, so 100% better than the Ring (that a lot people just could not be arsed with), it was the mechanism of acquiring them that sucked. The Legendary Cloak quest chain in Pandaria was long but rather epic and as you completed chapters it became empowered. That worked really well for my money, but someone will always bitch it took too long. Mostly it took time because the content was gated at each patch, increasing the efficacy of the cloak was linked to the progress of the campaign in Pandaria. From a story-telling, fantasy perspective that works just fine, some kids will always want it yesterday. We all got one…I got…a lot. At least four chars had one. Fleety had two: tank and DPS, Sakkara had two: DPS and healing, that’s at least six. I did lose count. The catchup was great so alts weren’t excluded and it was possible to switch ‘mains’ mid expansion and still progress an appropriate legendary.

Where Legion failed so spectacularly was in making them a random drop. OK everyone got at least one, but many people, who were able to play for many more hours a day, quickly got all of the legendaries available to multiple characters. I have 5 on my main and none of them are BiS. I don’t object to the democratisation, that horse has long bolted, it’s the inability to work for a really, really good item. You should not have three legendary items in the bank unused (!) because the two you have equipped are better. Redundant legendaries?

And grinding won. Those who could quest, dungeon and raid more got more legendaries, sooner or later the current BiS would drop for them, it was just a matter of time. It took until 7.3 and the end of the expansion for Blizzard to decide that Legendaries would be immaterial in a few months (post-Legion) so they could start selling them for easily grindable items. I was very pleased with this change and it would’ve been welcome from launch. Just as I celebrating I read the small print and discovered that you could grind a token that would generate a legendary. The legendary you got was still a random drop. You might never get your BiS in this expansion.

Transmog is awesome!

This is officially the expansion I stopped caring about gear. I loved early expansions where you could get a really good item from a specific place, so you went there and tried to get it. OK, having to run Shadow Labyrinth 41 times (after I started counting) was silly and Platinum Shield of the Valorous was a pretty good blue…that I replaced with the token shield two weeks laters…but gear lists were a thing and we all loved to work our way up them trying to hit stat targets (usually Hit to be honest). Now I don’t care…I don’t even care what the gear looks like. If I get new gear I pop to the Transmog in Dalaran and reapply my favourite appearances. I only care about one thing gear related: item level.

Blizzard have almost completely recreated the idea of Gear Score now.  Higher ilvl means more of any of the stats and more is more right? Right. OK, itemisation of lower ilvl items might make it deliver more DPS, but not significantly in most circumstances. As a rule of thumb higher ilvl is better is pretty solid. Even using our old friend Mr Robot I rarely encounter a situation when the lower level item is so much better optimised as to be worth opting for. Stat weights? No one cares. Not really. Sometimes you’ll hear some moron opine that Versatility is just crap and of no value to them and Haste, for example, is their best stat.

Let me help you. No stats decrease DPS output (unless you’ve equipped a tanking or healing piece while DPS-ing). All (DPS) stats increase DPS…it is only the degree to which they increase DPS. Versatility is a flat out DPS increase (incoming damage decrease) stat. More Vers. is more DPS. Haste, for example with warlocks, will speed up shard generation for casting more Unstable Affliction (our big meaty cast). “The amount of Shard generation per Haste rating is less efficient than the flat damage received from Mastery. The value of Mastery is even higher on multi target, making it…” our “best” stat (Icy Viens). However, by how much? Well, one point of intellect will equate to 1.0 point of damage. Mastery: one point will equate to about one and half points of damage, atually 1.55 to be precise. For an Affliction Warlock Haste and Crit. are pretty similar at 1.49 and 1.35 receptively. Versatility is worth about 1.06 damage per point. Valueless? Clearly not. 33% less valuable than Mastery? Well about that. 5 ilvls higher with Vers instead of Mastery? How much more? 33%-ish more points of Vers. than the lower ilvl item’s Mastery? Then the higher ilvl item will deliver more DPS(-ish).

The margins are tiny. Every point of Crit. is worth 1.35 damage (approx.) every point of Mastery is worth 0.2 damage more…

Gear? Legendaries? Raids? Meh.

So what has been good in Legion? Questing, levelling, the new zones were all top quality and scaling has made the game so much more accessible. We’ve all wondered where to go and slightly dreaded moving to a new area: mob levels go up and with it the difficulty of questing and our ability to cope with unfortunate multi-mob pulls goes down.

Friends at different character and item levels are naturally reluctant to play with us, for two reasons. Most don’t really want carrying through this game, I, for one, have always wanted to play. I have always hated being dragged through a 5 man with an overgeared tank boasting a friend. I can barely get a DoT on a mob before the tank has moved on and I am left behind. You just have to run to keep up and accept your XP for doing nothing. Nah, mate, no thanks. Secondly, in the case of this higher level, over-geared tank, there’s nothing in it for them. The XP is negligible, if anything, the gear useless.

Scaling addresses just this and lets friends who want play together do that, whatever their item levels are. The experience gained and difficulty of the mobs scale so everyone’s participation is required and value gained is equal. Plus pick a zone, any zone, and start questing there. After patch 7.3.5 that applies to all Azerothian zones. All ‘vanilla’ zones are now scaled 1 – 60. All Wrath zones are 70 – 80 zones, you can quest in Howling Fjord at level 70 or leave it until you’re 79 and still receive good XP levelling there and the mobs and gear will be appropriate to your level! Or go other places and come back later, in every zone, at whatever stage in your levelling process, completing quests yields about the same experience and the gear that drops is appropriate to you at your level / ilvl. Dynamic scaling is pukka.

After the snore-fest that challenge modes were in Pandaria I wasn’t hopeful about Mythic+. Challenge modes did up the difficulty in 5 mans, extending their longevity across an expansion. However, no one was doing them. They were just everything that was bad about 5 mans, condensed to it’s very essence: a speed tanking, drag-fest; kill everything; ASAP. Not working? Get more DPS.

Mythic+ offered a slightly different approach. OK there were timers, but even if you failed to beat the clock there was a (smaller) reward at the end of the dungeon. 5 mans continued to be a viable source of gear to the end of Legion. While in previous expansions the 5 mans became less challenging as the collective ilvl of groups over-geared the instances, Mythic+ keys upped the difficulty and added new, tricky mechanics and provided higher rewards. As your group’s ilvl (and skill) increased you could take on more and more difficult keys. The rewards scale with the keys genuinely extending the life cycle of 5 man content, making them both relevant and, just as importantly, fun. I’ve loved 5 man instances since vanilla, some of my best, most epic experiences were in Stratholme, Scholomance and Shadow Labs. I actually remember those dungeons more fondly than any raid (except Karazhan, of course). My overriding memories of Legion will be Mythic+ 5 man runs.

All in all Legion has been pretty hit and miss. I think I’ll remember the hits more than misses in retrospect, however as an expansion it has been far from perfect. I’d argue that in places the design has been tired, cut and paste, and lacking in real innovation. It’s easy to say that World of Warcraft is thirteen years old and there’s only so many way you can design boss encounters, but I would counter that a lot of really great pop music has been made with just three chords. If I do engage with all the content already available about the new and upcoming Battle for Azeroth Expansion content, I thought I would complete my reflections on Legion with a manifesto of things I would like to see in the next expansion. My next post will consider what could lift a good, but not great, expansion like Legion to the heights of Mists of Pandaria or even Wrath of the Lich King.

According to the NHS there is no conclusive link between stress or diet and gastric or duodenal ulcers. Bollocks, do more research. I once had a boss who said that stress was a good thing, he thrived under stress. He was a low grade moron. He probably meant pressure, we can all raise our game under pressure and it can bring a team together and the best out of individuals. Stress triggers the release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, into the body, speeding heartbeat and the circulation of blood, mobilizing fat and sugar for fast energy, focusing attention, preparing muscles for action, and more. It generally takes some time for the body to calm down after the stress response has been triggered. Lifesaving as the stress response is, it was meant to solve short-term, life-threatening problems, not extended difficulties such as daily traffic jams or marital problems.

Long term stress is not tolerated well by the body. Common symptoms include anxiety, which can in turn lead to sleeplessness, chronic need to pass urine and ulcers (so sue me!) It can trigger poor decision making due to constant over-thinking and second guessing yourself. Anxiety will cause you to fear future events that may not happen, dread what is “coming next” and fear making mistakes so much you make more. It can create an emotional paralysis that dis-empowers the sufferer from taking positive action. I have a gastric ulcer. I had my first, a duodenal, twenty five years ago at university. It’s fair to say I feel stressed. If this has not been obvious to you, thank you, I have been doing my best to struggle through it.

I find that people a) don’t listen and b) often hear what they want, or expect to hear. So even when you feel like you’ve explained yourself reasonably well you still hear people firing cannon across the bows of your problems, which sail on intact unscathed. If things are pretty good, but not quite right it, wouldn’t it be nice to just sit back accept the minor shortcomings in the situation and make do? When arguments are done to death, with no resolution, wouldn’t it be great to just agree to disagree and let it lie? Yes. I agree that it would, often…most of the time…be better just to let it go.

Getting this advice from people is just like them advising me not to snap back with replies. “Don’t rise to it,” “Just bite your tongue,” or “Count to ten before you answer…” Oh that is such good advice, advice I could never have possibly tried because I am an idiot. It wouldn’t be a problem if I could actually restrain myself. If I bite my tongue I end up with a piece of bitten off tongue, a mouthful of blood and if I waited ten seconds I will have thought of something much more vicious to respond with. Great advice. If I could just let it go and make the best of it then my life would be much happier than it is now. However, I am incapable of doing that – that is my problem. Not letting go is not my problem, not being able to let go is my problem.

I think this is a an essential reason for why people despair. They advise and advise and try to help and their help and advice doesn’t bear fruit. I apparently do not listen and cannot help myself. “You’re on your own.” Yes. I frequently am. I am painfully aware of that. It isn’t easy to be my friend and friendships rarely last as long as I would like. “We’ve all tried…” I know I appreciate the thought “…and all failed,” no one is more disappointed than me, I have been struggling to change, to mitigate, to control my thoughts and the words that boil out of me against my better judgement for more than thirty five years. Sometimes I make myself stressed just keeping the words inside, suppressed. Then they boil out of me anyway, in rage, anguish or despair. “We’re getting closer now to being apart, I kinda knew that people right from the start.”

While I’m on the subject of well worn, paint chipped, hobby horses…

Raiding. Raiding isn’t just for children. I’m 50, I love raiding. I love being part of a raid team. I love building unity and cooperation. Finding people’s strengths and building on them, finding their weaknesses, reassuring them and fostering overcoming them. I have a job, it is not raiding. I do raiding, like all my gaming, exclusively for fun. I don’t do it for gear (helps a bit), I don’t do it for progression (I do want to kill new things frequently though), I don’t do it for kudos (you cleared this tier on Mythic? Really…and what?) When I fuck up at work I don’t expect my boss shout, they’d be an arsehole, I don’t expect them to name and shame in front of the team, I do not expect a badge that mockingly proclaims I messed up – this isn’t motivating, this wouldn’t make me work better. It would make say “Fuck you, you fucking cunt, I’m fucking out of here.”

Given that I would quit a job in this fashion you should think yourself lucky I have never quit a raid like this…recently. I don’t tolerate that kind of bullying and aggression at work. You can bet your bottom dollar I do not tolerate it in a raid. Some people can tolerate it, they expect it in a raid. “Who fucked up?” or words to this affect. “We’ve done this a thousand times, does anyone not know what they should be doing?” you’re an idiot for messing up. “Put a nipple on the nipple. What, it’s a joke it’s for fun,” fuck you. “If we don’t do this we won’t progress, the raid will stagnate and we will lose raiders.” Are you sure? What evidence do you have for this? If this is how you lead your raid and you are not getting the results you want do you think that carrying on exactly as you are, but selecting only your best raiders and barring those that aren’t “pulling their weight” or doing as much HPS/DPS/TPS as you wanted is the answer?

What about trying something more inclusive and friendly that may deliver even better results? How about toning it down, actually no, how about cutting out all the shouty, disappointed, irritated, finger pointing, bullying behaviour? You are leading not dragging people through a raid, show some fucking leadership. Encourage an atmosphere of fun, laughter, mutual respect and camaraderie. People will want to be there, do their best, not because they’ll get shouted at or whispered or have someone crawling up their arse with raid logs telling them they’re doing it wrong, but because everyone else is. Everyone else is and they want to cooperate and get to the shared goal. You might find people are too embarrassed to slack and are consequently highly motivated to do their best with and for people they like and respect.

I’ll tell you something: in this soppy, casual utopia I’m describing people own their own mistakes, own up to them apologise and try harder. Others will commiserate, claim they messed up too, declare everyone could probably do a bit better, claim single individual mistakes could be worked through and we all make them so no big deal. People are less afraid to fail and those who are dispirited by fear of making mistakes and letting everyone down will make less, get better and thrive. If people are performing badly in your raid it may not be their rotation or talent build that is at fault. It may be the raid, the atmosphere and ethos you have created.

And another thing! I get together will friends on a Friday night and run Mythic+. We have chosen to call it Wine Night. The way we do things seems to confuse some people. We do Mythic+, sometimes with pretty high level keys and we do it for fun. We don’t care if we do it before the timer expires, we don’t really care if we get any loot. We.Do.It.For.Fun. I know! It’s difficult to comprehend. We play a game for fun and we do it together in our little group so we don’t have to deal with toxic arseholes who take gaming seriously and have nerd rage if there’s a wipe. Sometimes…we actually collapse into laughter if we fuck up. We usually Leeroy a dungeon, throw ourselves at bosses with gay abandon, run up multi-thousand gold repair bills and burn through runes and potions (we make ourselves) like they cost no money or effort to produc…(oh yeah).

Tactics!? Not on Wine Night. “Shut up Saby!” Well, not the first or second time. After a couple of wipes we will stop and ask “OK, what are the tactics here then?” Like everyone we do not want to wipe on one boss all night. No really balls of evil were funny once, but mostly we just want to have a relaxed fight though more challenging content, if we fail we fail, but we are not trying to wipe and we will revert to discussing tactics, organise and focus to slapping down a troublesome boss if we have to. Mostly we’ll just rock up, the warlock will pull and we muddle through it. Which works a lot more than you’d imagine. Wine is fine, any alcohol is a suitable alternative. However, like wiping and no tactics, drinking is optional. Swearing, however, is fucking compulsory. One of our crew’s superpower is swearing. Fucking A.

On a Friday Night anything goes. It’s chilled it’s relaxed. We do OK. Level 8 is about our level right now. We do do higher, but they can be a bit joyless. We like 8 because our gear has gotten better, we know the dungeons and it presents just enough of a challenge. We do Mythic+ because we like a challenge, we push higher keys all the time because we don’t want to do easy content. We like doing it in our group because no one rages or gives anyone shit for failing. If you don’t like this approach, that’s OK, don’t come along. If you do come along don’t impose your way on us. Vice versa if I come along to one of your runs I will focus hard, listen to tactics, try hard and not pull the boss with my infernal.

I’m too old to play with people who care more about the outcome than they do the people they’re playing with. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about the outcome, just that I only care because it’s a shared objective that we’re all working towards. I’d rather not get Ahead of the Curve if all of us can’t get it…together. If you read this and thought it might be about you, you’re wrong. It’s about me.

Well, in lieu of Ahead of the Curve here’s just Curve.

WoD Logo

Despite the fact that the blog clearly isn’t configured right and not restored fully I wanted to post this.

I have left the guild I was in. This cannot be a shock to anyone. Mostly because I have discussed it several times in the past. Now here is the thing, people have some strange assumptions. People often say of those threatening suicide “People who talk about it all the time never do it.” This simply isn’t true. You are more likely to commit suicide if you have talked about it at length and if you haven’t. That’s a fact, based on evidence. Yes truth is still a thing. This misconception is deep rooted and is a basic misunderstanding that psychologists have understood for decades. There is a strange correlation with my real life and gaming life here. I’ve been working a god awful, but thankfully short-term contract. I’ve been in a guild with some really great people and an officer in that guild since the start. In this job I signalled fairly early on to colleagues that I was pleased with the role (lie) but would be sanguine about the contract ending and moving on to something else (true), I would not seriously consider an extension and stay on longer than the initial three month term. In my guild several systemic things about how it operates have placed me a odds with the people who run it.

They are great people, don’t get me wrong, this is not a personality issue. To be a little more specific, the raid focus of the guild has always seemed to be at odds with the membership. We do want to progress and we do want to clear the tier while the tier is current content. I don’t think people are all happy with being driven through content in a serious and humourless way. It’s a question of emphasis, the goals: progressing, clearing content are the same. This is not the tired casual/hardcore debate as it’s been characterised. It is a question of whether adults with jobs and children really need to be driven through content, with an imposed discipline. Raiding, indeed any aspect of playing a game, is not a career, this is not my job! Someone who knows all the tactics, can shape and change the approach to cater for the group, make a decision between two options: that’s the raid leader’s job. Shouting at failure, marking someone who dies, pulls, makes a mistake, asking the question who caused that wiped/pulled/died? This is simply not necessary. There is another way. You recruit and encourage a group that self regulates and wants to do well, not for loot or progress, but for the rest of the people in the group.

I also never really understood what the hell I was for as an officer. Especially when you’re completely at odds with the other officers. “What do you think we should do about the raid, Steve?” “Er…what about it mate?” “Well, the wiping tonight and slow progress?” “Well, er…we’re progressing…people are learning the fight. Wipes are good at the start. The odd wipe is funny sometimes. Our group always pull themselves together, focuses, brings their A-game man. Booooooom! Game over man. Win. I don’t see any problem.” …is not the answer that was sought.

The last couple of weeks colleagues have said to me: “You’ll get offered an extension, you’ll take it won’t you.”, “Nah, I think I’ll just move on at the end,”, “No, you’ll accept the extension if it’s offered. You won’t leave.” Hmmm…”You won’t leave this guild Steve, you like all the people here too much.”, “I’ve talked about my problems with this guild (none of which are people) so if things do not change, I’m the only one who wants them to change so I am reluctant to fight to make them change because of that, then it’s better I just leave and find somewhere that operates in the way I like.”, “You won’t leave, you’re just being a drama queen.”, “I’ve always been a Drama Queen. Doesn’t mean that all this soul searching and discussion is just talk.” It means I’ve been considering. If I do leave, quietly one morning when no one else is online, or suddenly as difficulties come to a head and I decide, “You know what? Enough is enough,” I do not want drama or an argument, I just want to move on, the decision will not be rash, sudden or ill-considered. Quite the contrary. If my friends thought I needed to be in the same guild as them to chat, hang and do stuff on a Friday night, well, better we know that now than later.

Honestly, I stayed as long as I could. I tolerated being an officer and not being an officer, having the rank and not doing a damn thing with it or contributing to how the guild operated and was run. I tried to hand it in and step down and then it was too late. There is only so long I can sit under the bridge lobbing stones up at the goats trying to pass over before I tire and go find another bridge to sit under. There is a certain insipid brand of cultural relativism that says all points of view are equally valid. That extreme left and extreme right are equally bad and only a centrist position of balance is good. Respect should be accorded to all points of view even when they conflict and you should never cause offense if you can avoid it.

Well, fuck that idea right up the fucking arse and the fucking horse it rode in on. I reserve my right to offend.

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”

[I saw hate in a graveyard — Stephen Fry, The Guardian, 5 June 2005]”

Telling me you’re offended is simply telling me you can’t control your emotions. I don’t tolerate the intolerant. If someone is racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist or attacks people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health problems I will kick the fucking cunt out of the guild, if I’m an officer. Some whiny fuckwits find my language more offensive than some cunt saying “Homosexuals are all freaks. It’s against nature and a sin. All good Christians should shun them.”

If you think there is anything similar between the people who march and express hatred of, and solidarity with those who also hate other, often marginalised groups in society and those of us who stand in the road and fight them to prevent them freely expressing their hatred then you need to sit down and do some some very careful thinking, you fucking idiot. Freedom of speech is not an issue when white supremacists what to express their hatred for black people by marching through a predominantly black suburb. It’s not a question of free speech when the Orange Order assert their ‘right’ to parade through Catholic areas. Are you offended by these statements? So what?

We live in troubling times, but I have lost jobs and friends, been thrown out of pubs, guilds, clubs for standing up for the principles I believe in: tolerance, acceptance and fighting for the oppressed. I reserve my right to offend you if you tell me you hate homosexuality, believe women should be subservient to men and abortion should be banned. If you cite your Christianity for the root of your intolerance I hope it does offend you when I tell you Jesus always showed kindness and compassion for the weak and marginalised. He loved the sinner even if he did hate the sin. I won’t tolerate your intolerance on my manor, take it somewhere else. Many people don’t like my swearing: I do not give two fucks.

So my contracts ends in two weeks. In ten working days I will be finished. I have been offered an extension, I am good at what I do. I politely declined. I left my guild, without any real antipathy. I left because it was time for me. I left because in the end cultural relativists are so afraid of offending someone they usually end up offending everyone. Everyone wants you on their side and you can only pick one, get it right. By removing myself from the centre of the conflict I made it possible for people not to have to take a side. At the end of the day I am the only one who wants to stand on every single point of principle, however apparently trivial, and pay the price, however significant. I’ve lost jobs, friends and partners and yet I can still be rigid and inflexible after being pressed, bent and snapped so many times. Fortunately I can still laugh at myself.

“If you can’t laugh at yourself you have no business laughing at anyone else.”

[In many places – Fleetfoot, ad nauseum]

“When are you coming back to the guild, Steve?” I’m not. If that makes me a drama queen, if people think I’m just proud and can’t admit I’m wrong (after so much evidence to the contrary), if people think I’m foolish I don’t mind. After all they might be right.

Raiding Difficulty

I’m not always convinced that I explain things well. So there’s no substitute for a good picture in these circumstances. The one above isn’t a tedious explanation of how raiding was more difficult back in the day, it’s merely a comparison of the available raiding levels. We had normal raiding, which Blizzard presented as entry level, and heroic raiding which represented more of a challenge. It’s not my objective to try to judge how difficult Naxrammas 40 was relative to Siege of Orgrmmar or Tomb of Sargeras. I find that discussion tedious…since most of the people engaged in it never stepped into Naxx40 (3% of player base and they can’t all be in my guild!)

In Mists of Pandaria (MoP) Blizzard introduced a new level of raiding between the Looking For Raid ‘tourist mode’ (arguably making LFR obsolete) and the previous entry level raiding of normal. Originally there was no “normal” there was only raiding and heroic raiding (raiding with knobs on). Now we had three layers above LFR: Flex; normal; and heroic. In Legion the ranks got a makeover. The point of the bar chart is to emphasise that the levels were only renamed, essentially the difficulty remained the same.

In the bar chart you’ll see the dark blue colouring the bar representing LFR. In terms of raiding difficulty we can rank LFR as -2 and leave it out of the discussion. If you look at MoP, in yellow you’ll see an entry level of raiding, raiding = 1, labelled during this expansion flex(ible size). The next level of raiding up from flex, in terms of difficulty, we have the so-called “normal” mode of raiding, this is essentially of a very similar level of difficulty to the normal mode in (Cataclysm and) Wrath of the Lich King. The last MoP bar, in burgundy, represents the hardest level of raiding available, heroic, which is roughly similar to the heroic difficulty raiders encountered in Wrath. I’ve tossed Wrath heroic hard modes in for a laugh and to illustrate how top level raiders had an option to tune the difficulty of Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel dungeons to present more of a challenge, giving raids more longevity.

It won’t only be the geniuses amongst you that observe that the MoP and Legion bars look identical, except for colour. That’s not a coincidence. The difficulties levels have remained more or less consistent since Cataclysm, you can argue everything has been dumbed down and so everything is ladder rung, or more, easier since Wrath with each expansion bringing greater convenience and a slew of mechanic simplifying changes that all make the game easer. This is probably true and probably a good thing. The game is thirteen years old, accessibility was always at its heart, it began as the dumbed down RPG for people who don’t play RPGs. It’s rather amusing that some people get precious about it now.

Yes the colours have changed in Legion, that’s it though. The hardest level of raid difficulty is now called Mythic and it’s essentially the same difficulty level MoP raiders will recognise from their heroic raids. The common misconception of many casuals and casual raiders is that another tier was added above the top of raiding, heroic, and called mythic. Heroic has simply been renamed mythic, the raiding in mythic is no harder than heroic was in the last expansion. The same is equally true of Legion‘s heroic raid difficulty, it’s analogous to the raiding difficulty raiders in the last expansion experienced in “normal” raiding. Blizzard‘s renaming master-stroke, to make raiding more accessible, is appropriating the “normal” convention, enshrining it in the game, and inserting it at a lower difficulty level (i.e. the flexible, on rung up from LFR level). There are now raid quests that specify a raid difficulty of, for example, normal (or higher) stressing the quest must be completed at raiding entry level, rather than just in LFR. The old normal mode of raiding, the entry level of raiding since Wrath is now called heroic (talk it up!) in Legion. Raiding difficulty level 3 (on my bar chart), was conventionally referred to as normal in Wrath onwards through to the last expansion. Before Legion I would’ve marked normal difficulty level 1, but that now creates problems. We have a new entry level difficulty of raiding and Blizzard have called it normal. The new normal you all know and love in Legion is no more difficult than flex was when it was introduced in Mists of Pandaria.

There isn’t an argument to be made here, this is simply stating facts: there is a new normal, a new entry level of raiding in Legion. It’s a level of raiding that presents a genuine challenge compared to Looking For Raid, however it is much easier than the previous entry level to proper raiding, which in Legion is now called heroic raiding. Blizzard wants to get value for money for it’s development costs and getting more players to raid is the way to do this. Whichever way you cut it 3% of the player base accessing content you pay designers and developers to create is a massive failure. Making the skill requirements lower for entry level raiding makes the transition from LFR to working cooperatively with your guild, learning tactics and progressing your character easier. More people raiding is more people raiding. The only problem is for us old raiding lags who want to do mythics. All the new crop of raiders find the initial step up in proper raids much easier, normal mode is much easier now. However raiding doesn’t really start for us until the instance starts to get as difficult as we remember in normal…in Legion that clearly means in heroic mode. Once you’ve dragged your team through a raid twice they’ll be spent. No one is going to want to take it on a third time, “Cheers and all that. We cleared it on heroic and that’s enough, thanks, mythic is just one step too far.” Ironically some of the people saying this used to raid in previous expansions and after defeating the instance in normal mode used to have a good go at heroic before the next patch and new raid dropped. That is: they used to raid at mythic difficulty and didn’t want anyone patronising them or by suggesting that normal mode (heroic) was very hard.

Flex, sorry normal raiding does mean more raiders. They’re slack and lazy and don’t want to step up to the top level any more, but there are more of them…

The Voice of the Casuals

My place in the Warcraft player-base has been…up and down…post subscription-cancellation I seem to have become a scrub casual. More than that, I am now a guild officer who’s stated role is to be the voice of the scrub casual. Casual and hardcore have always been ill-defined categories. They’ve always been judgement laden and aggressive. So please bear with me as I recast these terms of abuse as two, equally valid ends of the game playing spectrum. At one end we have casual or not very serious and at the other serious and committed. Serious and committed to what? Well, not raiding any more, for a start, as Voice of the Casuals I am supposed to express the views and wishes of the casual raiders in our guild. Yes, you read that right Casual Raider. So this post will echo the last (Progression vs. Inclusion) in placing raiders on a spectrum spread from casual: placing fun over progress to hardcore: placing progress (and gear) over all. Of course I know, when you get to the World First Race, gear is not a significant issue. So let’s just leave them right out of the equation. I’m not addressing the World First Race, guilds at that level, or e-sport generally.

We immediately run face first into another often ill-defined category: fun. One person’s fun is…another person’s waste of time. Like fishing and pet battles. As with type and style of guild, there are increasingly disparate attitudes to fun. Indeed the definition has been hotly debated, by decreasingly less and less polarised positions, since vanilla. People tend to make a lot of assumptions too. Casual raiders do not want to wipe all night on one boss. Casual raiders do value the progress that is the graven idol of the hardcore. Hardcore gamers can, and often do, like a laugh and fun with their “serious” progression. Hardcore gamers are not all officious, elitist pricks who don’t want to give you a) a fair try, b) time to learn or c) the opportunity to properly gear and demonstrate what you can really do (very mediocre DPS). There’s a sweet spot somewhere between the two extremes that is perfect for the group of people you raid with, your guild. As a Guild Master and Raid Leader it is your job to define whereabouts the point should be and then locate it exactly. Good luck with that.

In my current guild they’ve struggled. Not just lately as some will say, but since inception. I love the old GM and she had all the right ideas to shape a guild that would’ve been just perfect for me. Sadly without 13 years experience of Warcraft (it’s not just me, a lot of people do) and no experience of guild or raid leading we were always a bit shaky in the link between what sort of guild we were and what sort of raid we ran. To the point that (even for a short time) an ‘elite’, selective raid group was formed in the guild to do heroic raiding with a view to progressing to mythic. There is nothing wrong with this desire, it simply has no place in the sort of guild we are. Some nice guys more interested in raid progress than our brand of fun have moved to pastures new. I wish them well, everyone needs a guild that is right for them. Sadly, if you are a GM or RL no one will tell you if you’re getting it wrong. They just leave and you still won’t know why. Even if you have the opportunity to question them, they probably won’t be bothered enough to really tell you why. It would a) take time and b) involve expressing a, perhaps, controversial opinion. And as we all know, say it with me, “The only thing worse than having an opinion (in WoW) is expressing it.”

Like it or not, most do not, the Raid Leader role in casual raiding guilds is more pastoral. If you want these guys to succeed and do their very best (which can be surprisingly good) you’ll need to do more hand holding than shouting. Here’s a suggestion. On a non-raid night plan a DRUNKEN RAIDING event and have a non-RL lead, for example your Voice of the Casuals officer. If the raid is better attended and penetrates almost as far as your normal raid group on focussed progress night then you’re doing it wrong. Your group probably responds very well to a very relaxed atmosphere and with the pressure off is just as motivated to do as well (if not actually a damn sight better) than they do on a night you’re cracking the whip. This is especially true if your raid group is made up of adults, some with kids, many with jobs. Shouting and being stern about wiping simply won’t wash. These people will simply run back, eat, rune up, summon their pet and filter you out, if not actually mute you as you berate them for slacking. They have to bend over and take it from their boss at work you, with the greatest respect, you’re nobody. They will focus more and try harder because they wiped and they want everyone to progress rather than you’re bitching at them.

You and everyone else will know if someone is not performing well or, more importantly, not trying. Wiping and failure are not a crime in casual raiding guilds they are part of the fun and a source of amusement. Not trying and not doing your level best for the group is a crime, I don’t care what you metered you died before the final phase when we actually needed that DPS or you failed to help soak being so focused on your personal DPS. Your DPS was abysmal but you didn’t miss a single interrupt. If you can get your DPS up too…WIN WIN WIN. Encouragement and hand holding reaps rewards with people who have to take shit all day at work. Knowing exactly when (and it’s rare) to lay the law out is the art of moving from being a great RL to being the best RL.

A RL should say nothing most of the time. If you’re duplicating the functions of DBM ask yourself why and what effect is that having on your raid team. If two things happen at once and you can only call out about one how many of your raid die? Would your breath be better spent explaining the key abilities to counter in each phase before the fight and focussing on each new mechanics that caused a wipe in the run back? Or is better telling people not to stand in the green so they don’t need DBM or GTFO? You know what I think. A good RL doesn’t have to tell people not to stand in the fel.

If your priority is progression: killing bosses quickly without wiping (or anyone dying on trash) you may find your raid’s a little light on fun. Surely the reverse is then true? If your priority is fun there with be little progress, people will wipe on trash (OMFG!) and we’ll never, ever progress. No. That’s simply deluded. For all of us: hardcore raider and scrub casual alike wiping all night on one boss and wiping repeatedly on trash is no fun. Fun involves progression. Fun does not involve carrying slackers, people who cannot or do not learn, tolerating the terminally inept. Scrub casuals like myself can tolerate some wiping as players adjust to higher difficulty and learn their own strategies to staying alive in challenging situations and then translating that survival into more polished tanking, healing and damage dealing. Scrub casuals will not find it a unforgivable waste of time of time wiping on trash. They will however come back more focussed, marshal themselves and slap the trash down and berate anyone who over-pulls and wipes them a second time. Fun involves a measure of progress and is reduced by repeated wipes on the same boss. The only difference here is degree. How many trash wipes are funny and when does it become a completely boring waste of time? You’re raid leader, you set the tone, the question to ask yourself is: “Am I setting the correct tone, the tone necessary for this team to progress? Or am I letting them goof off too much?” with the best will in the world, for most RL’s the better question is “Could I allow this team more slack to mess around, relax and get confident, trusting them them to bring their A Game when it’s needed?” Listen to the Voice of the Casuals

Well you may not be good looking but you haven’t got no faith
Sometimes you get a mouthful when I only want a taste
Sometimes you kick the devil out but angels smash your face
You can lay the law out baby but I don’t think I’ll behave…

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