Archive for October, 2018

Entering the “Centre of the Storm” with Fleety

As a GM I think you need to have ESP. You certainly need to be a fucking mind-reader. Not that people’s motivations aren’t often transparent, but because sometimes they guild quit and you have no idea why. I think these people do need to learn that I stop caring about anything they think, say or do the moment they leave if they didn’t express that they had an issue before they left. That’s perhaps the worst kind of cowardice.

I’m always suspicious, whether I’m part of a guild’s hierarchy or not, of someone who tells me they aren’t appreciated by their guild. The more they tell me about everything they’ve done the more suspicious I get. Yeah, you did all that so you would be appreciated? What form would the appreciation need to take? A promotion? Can I ask is that the reason you did all this stuff? No! So why does the level of expressed appreciation matter? Maybe you were quietly appreciated. Or maybe what you are doing is simply what is expected of all members? Maybe the people not doing what you are doing are getting the guild hierarchy’s attention?

I think the worst people to be guild officers are universally those who want to be officers and GMs the most. If people are quietly getting on with their business, following their own agenda, which is also completely in line with that of the guild, people who do not want or need a higher guild rank to help people out, farm for materials and always be there at the right time with the right things to say, they are probably the best people to be officers.

The people I’m least likely to promote are the ones who are clearly looking for it. I don’t have ESP and I am not a mind-reader, but people do frequently give themselves away. Before our long gone “Mythic Clique” were ejected at the beginning of the expansion one of the ring leaders kept whispering me with “well intentioned, good advice”. Well he said it was good advice and I was insulted that he thought I needed any. That’s the thing with unsolicited advice it does tend to insult the recipient. After a while he got to be an irritant and I told him about unsolicited advice. He stopped whispering me and moved on to the other GM and when that was getting no traction he started in on the other officer, the only officer I’ve had to remove from the guild. That officer is now a GM of a guild he formed with my whispering friend. Seriously, if you think you can do a better job than I can go and try it for yourself.

Another guy whispered me about a drop in raid sign-ups when he hit Zek’voz. I just said this always happens when raiding gets difficult. Often the “best raiders” move to other guilds. This is because “best raiders” in this context means “best geared”. They think “If I moved to another more progressed guild I can get more gear without having to work hard on this boss.” They’re usually the worst raiders: the most reluctant DPS who won’t soak, enter the pod, push the button or off tank an add, complain most about “lack of progression” and decide to take their awesome metre scores to another guild. After they’ve gone you seem to carry on as well, if not better, than before.

This guy whispers me that “regardless of wipes” he’ll be there. “This week and every week. Wipe or no wipe.” Cheers mate, but why tell me? I will see you doing that. I told one of the other officers and heard “Oh, he said that to me today too!” So I primed the last officer that he should expect a whisper about raid sign-ups being down, but wipe or no wipes the whisperer would still be there! He told me a day or two later that he had had the whisper, almost word for word as I’d predicted, and he had pissed himself with laughter, fortunately it had been an in-game text conversation and not in voice chat.

Worse still is the guy that whispers the GM all the time and is always upbeat and positive. Always eager to tell that he is doing his best to do what the guild needs. Then /ragequits one afternoon feeling undervalued. Then you begin to find out how unhappy they have been for a long time about the lack of appreciation or not being able to play their preferred role in the raid. Having ESP or being a mind-reader would be very beneficial for discerning that the whispering cheerleader was actually really pissed off about something you will only find out about otherwise second hand, after they have left the guild. Don’t assume your GM has ESP or that the people you are whining to are going to run to the GM to champion your righteous cause. They won’t, they never do.

All officers and GMs have those people who are constantly whispering them when they’re online. Suggestions, advice, flag waving, cheerleading, talking about how good someone else is and how they’ve been helping them gear up. We all nod and smile and try to get on with our day as the whispers keep coming with little or no input from us. Mostly they’re well meaning, often they’re just attention seeking. If you ignore them for long enough they usually go away. Permanently. Then people ask why they left the guild, they did so much for it. We sigh and say, yes they made such a big investment in the guild, well, they said they made a big investment, in this guild they said they really liked, but have now left. Was it because they felt undervalued when everything they did was for the kudos or recognition they would get? All that stuff you were doing? Isn’t that the stuff everyone else is doing, or at least should be doing? Could it be that the guy who did it all quietly and didn’t want any kudos or praise is now…promoted or actually an officer? Is that ironic or…?

I’ve also noticed a man thing. Male gamers, of all ages seem to be afflicted with this problem: vagina blindness. This is not to be confused with vagina mining. Some women, and men pretending to be female, take advantage of vagina blindness to get “a lot of help” with everything they need in game. To the point where men are running multiple dungeons with them when they are online, buying them expensive BoE trinkets and levelling gear just to get them across the ilvl threshold into higher content and anything else for them that they need.

Vagina blindness is the yin to Vagina Mining‘s yang. Men (often, hilariously, grown men) will bend over backward to help one or two special guildies…they often justify this to themselves and everyone else as an expression of their desire to just help out. Help out everyone. As long as they have a vagina. Sometimes they become very narrow and focus on one vagina, sometimes they are more promiscuous and try to service two or three at time. Vagina Miners and the sad souls afflicted with Vagina Blindness are excellent fits for one another. However, as an officer or simply a concerned guildie I have to occasionally ask women “Is everything OK or do you need to take out a guild restraining order?” Only a tiny proportion of gamers are vagina miners and not all of them are even female. You find a few of the Vagina Blind in every guild, they’re mostly harmless and if you are the recipient of their attention it ranges from very friendly and really helpful to creepy and asphyxiating. A tiny minority of women will abuse vagina blindness and mine it for all it’s worth, some men pretending to be women will do this too. I’m not sure what the vagina blind are hoping to get out of it…

The very worst guildies for GMs to know how to deal with are usually a combination of all of the above. A whiny, vagina blind, perpetual victim of oversight and undervaluing is one of my all time favourites. Fortunately even men grow out of this sooner or later. Most men.

I’ll give you two examples of how people are in guilds. One person asks for a feast and a cauldron to be put down in a raid. With twenty minutes to go? No. Feasts and cauldrons are, in this expansion especially, prohibitively expensive. So with twenty minutes of the raid left? A cauldron? No! A cauldron requires 100 Anchor Weed, which two weeks ago was changing hands for 670Geach. Now it’s only 320G each. So cauldrons are approximately 32, 000G a pop. That’s only in Anchor Weed, there all the other herbs too, they just seem trivial next to the Anchor Weed. Compare with the guildie who, without asking what the mats are, without telling me they are going buy some because herbing for the is a ball-ache (and, of course, it is), turns up with 20 feasts and gives them to the officer that normally looks after feasts and cauldrons. The same guildie that has been constantly supplying the same officer with almost half million gold’s worth of Anchor Weed. One will get you promoted the other will get you sighed at. Which one are you?

If you’re offended and think I’m talking about you what makes you think that? There are plenty of examples around for me to draw on for these generic categories without even having to have a particular model in mind. Mind reading would be really helpful for any GM / officer, however, sometimes people’s behaviour is so transparent it really isn’t necessary.

“Some people that you see around you, tell you how devoted they are,
They tell you something on Sunday, come Monday they’ve changed their minds.”

I’m only human, I cannot stop musing on things, sometimes long after the event. This only happened 4 days ago as I write this. I still can’t get my head around it. Another guild officer /ragequit. He apparently left politely and without saying any more than “Just like to say goodbye..thank you for having me. Good luck :)” and then removed his two alts. However, if you know what went down and what the aftermath was this truly fits the bill for what we all know as a /ragequit.

What was the problem with this one? Well, there actually wasn’t a problem with this one. He was a good guy and we liked him, I think most of the guild did too. He was on the same page as us when it came to inclusion and tolerance, or so he said, and he was a valuable sounding board and third voice in officer meetings. So what went wrong? Nothing really went wrong we just wanted to discuss how we lead raids and he then he left. There has got to be more to it that that, what happened?

The only issues I had were small and easily fixed. Our Guild has some Raiding Rules, #2 is “Blamestorming and finger pointing after a wipe are not appropriate behaviour. We’re all adults here, we put ourselves out for the other people who have put themselves out to join the raid and make it work. The only behaviour that is unacceptable is not trying.” So when he called out a member of the raid for not following his instructions I needed to nip that in the bud. Also I had to enforce a change back to Push-To-Talk on our voice comms. The regular audible sighs during our encounters were dispiriting, but one outburst of “For fucks sake!” when things went badly was one too many. Small beer, easily fixed.

The main issue I had was the tediousness of his tactics explanations in raids. It’s basic human psychology that after a few minutes of droning people simply turn off. If you’re explaining things to them, giving them say directions how to get somewhere, if the directions are long people will only remember the first and second, the last and maybe something vague in the middle. So a long ramble is completely counter-productive. This goes for raid tactics too. The job of any good raid leader is two fold:

  1. Understand the details of the fight and have a working overview of everything that is going on.
  2. Summarise tactics for each raid group: tanks, healers, melee and ranged. Highlight (only) the most important things.

Our raid leader had 1. nailed…2. not so much. So we had a meeting. I deliberately avoided words like tedious, drone or lecture, focusing on synopsis, summary and nutshell. All I wanted I said was a bit less exposition, a bit more fighting. Playing the game rather than talking about playing the game. More wipe, more learn, less chat. However, we were at pains to emphasise how good a job we thought he was doing. Raid leading is not easy, can be stressful and raids are pretty chaotic at the best of times. All I wanted was a brief synopsis of the raid mechanics and pull! Even if you wipe (and you are going to wipe) you get to see the raid mechanics, what the adds and spells look like and what you need to be alive to.

Now I just asked for more of a synopsis of the bosses then quickly moving to pulling and seeing. He responded that the bosses in Uldir are difficult and complex, even on normal difficulty. Well, Zek’voz is a bit over-tuned and hard on healers, even on normal. But Taloc, Mother, Fetid Devour and Vectis are not complicated fights and once you get the basics sorted it is, as it is for pretty much every fight, executing it (near) correctly repeatedly through the cycling phases. After all this is easy mode. Simple. “No they’re not.” Sorry, I thought you were an ex-mythic raider? Even for a journeyman, heroic raider like myself these fights, even tier 1 BfA Uldir, are pretty easy. We certainly did not need or benefit from a 40 minute lecture on every boss move, debuff and mechanic of the Vectis fight! We would’ve downed Vectis that first Friday if we had had less talk more fight. In two and a half hours we engaged bosses 8, perhaps as many as 9, times. We reached Vectis at 22:00 ST and squeezed in a extra time pull and finished at 23:15. We pulled Vectis 3 times!


Razor-toothed arse-hole on a stick?

At one point an officer said they were starting to get a little bit confused and could we just try it and see? “You’ll all die.” Well, wiping is not a particularly bad thing in a raid, wiping is learning. Wiping is certainly not as bad as the five minute silence that followed this snappish remark. You should probably know the raid is getting restless when they prank pull the boss saying “Think fast.” You might take more notice when it’s the GM. 9 boss engagements? We spent more time on tactics than we did fighting that Friday night. Second pull we took Vectis to 9% and with another couple of tries we could easily have downed him, because Vectis is not a complex fight. I can absolutely assure you that we did not take Vectis to 9% thanks to the extremely detailed and rambling tactics and mechanics explanation that spanned and prank pull and lasted 40 minutes. It had everything to do with the tanks who simple disregarded the bad tactics we had focussing on too many unavoidable problems (Omega Vector) and distilled the fight down two two marks to alternate between when the add spawned in phase 1. In phase 2 soak all the red circles and kill any adds. Rince and repeat. Easy fight. None of which I said.

Our officer meeting lasted about 25 minutes. 5 mins of of AOB. Then 5 minutes of discussion then 15 minutes of mainly me trying to reassure the officer that I did think he was doing an excellent job (particularly of 1 above) and saying we just want to have shorter ‘nutshelled’ tactics and more pulling and wiping (if necessary). His only response to the guild calling-out was that he apologised. I know mate and it was a good, fulsome apology but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. We don’t do that, Rule 2! “It looked like he wasn’t following the raid leader’s instructions!” I know, but we still don’t do it. “I apologised!” Er…this has become cyclical. As for PTT in voice chat he had no recollection of swearing. Or sighing all the time? You do remember snapping “You’ll all die.” and sulking for almost 5 minutes though?

For 15 minutes he was almost silent, apart from the occasional big sigh. I think he went into a shutdown. He did say a couple of things. “Why have you saved all this up and not discussed it with me at the time?” This is the very first opportunity since the last raid for us to do this, all our work and familial responsibilities done we can now get together online. “I didn’t think I was doing a bad job.” You’re not, what could possibly make you think that, we’ve been at pains to praise, bolster and encourage while trying to hone your leading. We want you to continue. We can all improve this is just some support. We can all work together at making the tactics more precise and concise. We want to help. “I’m disappointed…” I am too, I don’t know why you’re taking it like this. “I feel undermined…I don’t think I have the confidence to continue,” Sorry now you’re being a fucking drama queen. I replied “OK you’ve got a lot to digest. We’ll leave you alone to make your decision.” The decision to leave, you’ve clearly already made. Made the moment anyone suggested your raid leading, though good, could possibly improve.

The truth is I think this /ragequit had it’s roots in me not offering to kick a guildie he didn’t like. What did this guildie do? Suggested the raid leader must be a tall skinny bloke. Was he Nicholas Lyndhurst and posted a picture of Lyndhurst on Discord and called the Raid Leader Rodney a couple of times. What? Yeah, I know that’s it. Oh, he was concerned that people were then “demanding” he post a real photo to prove he wasn’t Rodney Trotter. “Why didn’t he just post a picture of Rodney and say ‘See no resemblance whatsoever’?” That’s what I said! That and the tank doing raid tactics (especially when they were so goddamn effective: 9%!)

For the people that had him on their friend’s list and couldn’t even contact him to wish him good luck and ask him for his side on what went down…well he has left Draenor, sharded one level 120 character (effectively), his paladin alt. His main has been renamed and server and faction transferred to Silvermoon. No really. That’s what I call a fucking full fat /ragequit. A guild, a server, a faction and everyone who knew him.

Burn it! BURN IT! So Sylvanas attacked the city she called home before the Lich King raised her to be the Banshee Queen. In a stroke a genius and courage Blizzard had the Horde war chief burn down Teldrassil. Setting the tone for an entire expansion for Horde. It should’ve been a warning for Alliance players that their factions response would be a half-baked effort to retake Lordaeron ending in failure again.

For those who love lore the Horde‘s Zandalar zone are ambitious and detailed. Questing never takes you far from the central story line of securing the assistance of the Zandalari, the fleet Sylvanas so badly needs, by securing internal security for the Troll nation. Nazmir a gloomy and atmospheric swamp zone, it is dark in very good way and never becomes the oppressive and difficult grind of vanilla Duskwallow. The struggle to contain the Blood Troll threat and prevent them from summoning their Loa dominates the questing experience.

Voldun is a desert zone, but like none other. Where Tanaris is a featureless sand dune waste peppered with troll ruins, Voldun is a varied and multifarious zone…peppered with troll ruins. In the north, where the Tortollan Seekers have a base the zone is dark with dripping trees and Naga on the coast. Further south there are salt pans, dunes, rocky outcrops and Vulpera. I could talk about the Vulpera all day. These cute little fox people are fun and at the same time engaging and they weren’t enough with their adorable caravan mounts and alpacas then you get equally cute little snake people too. If these two are not playable races soon then Blizzard have missed a trick…Vulpera are all Horde Blizzard.

If I have one criticism of Battle for Azeroth (BfA) it has to be that the levelling is too quick. I started in Nazmir (the yellow zone), progressed to Vol’dun (the red zone) and dinged 120 in no time and had even reached Zuldazar (the green) zone. So much, so concerning…a three zone expansion with very fast levelling completed in two zones. There are another 3 zones on another island, but, trust me, I’m coming to that.

Sooner or later you’re going throw away those last legendaries and hung up you spend Artefact Weapon and reach the requisite item level for normal 5 man dungeons. This is probably where your first big shock is going to hit you. Blizzard have torn up their own rule book and gone back on many things they said they wouldn’t. Threat mechanics are back. This may seem like a retrograde step, but the advantages, if Blizzard stick to their guns (taking bets they won’t), are manifold.

Tanks are tanking again, this mean more emphasis on collecting up mobs, positioning them well and maintain aggro on them all. Less emphasis is now placed on active mitigation, which increasing became a synonym for self-healing. If tanks are tanking more, struggling to keep aggro, and self-healing less healers will be concentrating on the main task of keeping their tank alive. Think about it…tank healers will make a return in raids and with them raid healers. The best DPS in raids and 5 man content will not those with the flat-out highest metre numbers, but those that take the least damage, therefore require the least healing, and also put out good DPS. This adds complexity and depth to group compositions and reduces the tank/healer overlap.

The substantial nerf to threat for tanks has exposed some really dire practice and even worst tanks. I’m looking at you Demon Hunters. Demon Hunters have become the new Death Knights. You zone into a dungeon and see the tank is a DH and consider just leaving and waiting 30 minutes to queue again. Seriously. One good thing about the threat chances is it will make DPS think twice about switching into a tank spec, queuing as tank and think they can tank. Yeah queues for random dungeons may get longer, but the upside of even this downside is more Guild group are getting organised, even to complete a quest in an heroic 5 man. Hopefully as many real tanks will get rolled and levelled, we just want have to tolerate the shitfest of people who cannot tank, blithely tanking for an insta-queue. I’ll tolerate a slightly longer queue time for that. Some people are talking about the threat reduction, from the ludicrous 1700% (try ripping it off me bitch) for tanks in Legion, to around the 400% mark as being a return to vanilla tanking. You clearly were not there. 400% is a level more appropriate to Mists of Pandaria and no cried their, while I did as tanking was becoming derisory, but no one listens to people begging for more difficulty in pockets of the game.

Here’s another backtrack you will notice in 5 man content: dungeon size. Dungeons are bigger. Blizzard are putting the same 3 to 5 bosses in them so how do you fill the space? Trash, of course. Massive amounts of trash are back! I love big detailed rambling dungeons: Stratholme, old-Blackrock Depths, Zul’Farrak. I hate ramshackle messes: old Uldaman, Maraudon, Dire Maul. Sadly the MOTHERLODE! for one falls into the latter category…too many repetitive trash packs, simply stretching the run out to fill the available space. Take some trash out and put in another boss, it’ll take less time and be more fun, it’s not rocket science.

Picking up where Legion left off we have profession related quest chains. Now this was a potentially a great addition, I say potentially because in Legion it introduced discreet expansion profession levelling and RNG recipe drops. Professions now are discreet in the sense that you can level them in one expansion regardless of your progression in another. My Legion enchanting can be 1, but I can still level and max out enchanting in BfA. This plays heavily to the convenience and utility crowd. If they level an alt or any new character they want to barrel through to max level at max speed. Then they want their their professions to be ready to roll in current expansion content.

What is the downside of this change? Immersion and commitment to you character development. This is was a RPG after all. Yes I meant was. For those is a real rush there is a character boost, it takes you to the maximum level of the previous expansion, why not max-level of two professions with a basic set of recipes and training ready to start in the new expansion. Perfectly good solution. There should be a reward for those who put in all the work to grind out the profession levels and a sacrifice involved in throwing it all in and taking up new professions in a new expansion. If there isn’t where is the character progression…how is my 14 years character with max level professions and esoteric recipe back catalogue any more valuable than a character rolled and boosted yesterday?

Reputations are back with a Mists of Pandaria style vengeance. Why gate gear behind reputations? For most of us by the time we’ve reach revered with a faction we don’t want the gear they will now sell us. What the hell are pets doing behind all the reputation walls too. I now have to join the rep grind to access all the companion pets I want. While we’re on the subject some things do not need to bleed into the rest of the game. PvP can remain hermetically sealed from the PvE game, achievements and quest chains. So can Pet Battling…It beggars belief to see people not interested in Pet Battles doing them for Azerite Empowerment and reputation rewards!?

Speaking of PvP…War Mode? Never had it on. Island Scenarios a scenario with faux PvP. Need I say more…more than 25 pets drop randomly in Island Scenarios. I don’t know what Blizzard are trying to prove but it seems like they will incentivise all their bad content to get people to do it. Warfronts. Warfronts are just dogshit. It’s like a ramped up capture the flag faux PvP LFR. I’m not even sure it’s possible to lose. I’ve seen people riding around aimlessly or ignoring all the objectives and farming rares for loot. Again utilisation will be high as 340 loot can drop randomly and weekly reward for completing this time sink is 370 gear. Yeah that’s gear that’s better than the normal tier 1 raid gear. What is it for Heroic raiding? I’d like to say something positive about War Fronts.

This week it’s Monday and the War Front is 88% completed. I keep hearing the same arguments I dismissed for Timeless Isle in Mists of Pandaria. I said the island was dogshit and night and day compared to the Isle of Thunder. My Guild Master at the time disagreed and farmed Timeless for all he was worth. Sadly their were no powerups to player skill or a good person boost. I returned that if he was leveling through MoP the Timeless Isle would get no use whatsoever even if it does offer an ilvl boost into the next expansion. Once the gear is farmed out no one will ever go there.

I was wrong about that…there are random pet drops from the rarer spawns on Timeless Isle that ensure people (like me) keep revisiting. We don’t go there for any other reason and no one holds warm memories for the Timeless Isle which will always be remember as one of Blizzard‘s less subtle and well formed catchup, added area content zones. War Fronts are tedious and frustrating by the very fact it is impossible to lose. Just add a skip option to the loot and find out how much people actually like playing through a War Front. It will come as a surprise to no one that you can ride around a War Front doing nothing, engaging nothing, picking up no wood or iron and win and get a gear upgrade. If it can be done you know people already are.

Which brings us around finally to the raid…first impressions (5/8N) is that the raid is over-tuned. As a introductory raid in a new expansion it’s a very tough challenge and a poorly paced and scaled. the first two bosses are pretty good fights with some interesting mechanics and, although occasionally punishing for minor mistakes, pretty well designed. However, the apparently item level requirement to make an easy mode run comfortable, and not a complete ball ache, are way to high. The dungeon should be pitched to heroic dungeon graduates, perhaps taking their first steps into raiding, with an average item level of around 315 – 320. Experience suggests that a raid will struggle if most of their members are not somewhere around 340. This requires your new raider to have run Mythic and LFR arguably, neither of which should be necessary for a normal (easy mode) raid. Which begs the question is there is going to be a step between top level Mythic raid gear and next raid tier (not necessarily easy mode gear, but certainly heroic gear) how what is the gap between easy mode t1 and t2 gear going to be like and are we going have farm LFR and Mythic +6,7,8 to get a gear level to make us competitive against the second tier content? BLizzard have got off on the wrong foot and have created an issue when the y balance between tier the whole expansion going forward.

Raids should ramp up in diffuclty too. First boss has traditionally been a straight forward, almost tank and spank warm up. Second bosses introduce a new mechanic and a jump in difficulty. Four boss are usually tricky and sharpen up your team (Tortos, the raid breaker). The first boss in Uldir (Ulduar, no Uldir), Taloc, is an interesting fight. OK it’s not terribly challenging and Mother ramps up a notch in the difficult stakes. She’s pretty easy to overcome and quickly mastered however, we had her on farm (easy mode) the first night pretty much. The Fetid Devourer is ridiculously simple, much more of an expansion’s first boss encounter. Third? It’s as if you climb on the raid progress ladder with Taloc, climb to the second rung quite easily and hesitantly pull up another notch passed Mother. At Letid Devourer you climb up easily and then the rung snaps and you drop to rung two snapping that and taking rung one out as well. Climbing up from the ground to Zek’Voz look and feels like a giant step up now and it is. After three relatively easy bosses you laughingly cantor forward and faceplant the fourth boss. Echoes of Mists again as boss five, Vectis, is stupidly easy. Stand here on this mark until an add spawns, move to other mark, kill add. Back on the boss. Rince and repeat. Phase two, soak one (and only one) red circle each per round, but soak all red circles as a raid, and avoid the waves of spikes shouting out across the floor from the boss. Phase 1. Rince and repeat and boss dies. You wouldn’t want to spend 40 minutes talking tactics.

As much content as Legion if not more? True, but it’s not the PvE content I was looking for. Warlords of Draenor 2.0? Certainly not, well it’s too early to tell. The launch was as bad as WoD is some ways with more people crowded onto realm servers thanks to sharding and phasing tech, with no thought to the effect on trade systems, crippling mail, guild banks and Auction Houses. The Warcraft Devs laid down a good blueprint for content delivery in Legion and if BfA metes it out at a similar rate and doesn’t deliver the content drought of WoD then it will be a success, albeit a qualified one.


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