Friday, July 30, 2010

Raiding Courtesy

Raiding is not a solo activity.

I can see you now:  you're saying, "No kidding, Ana!"

Seriously, though, I think there are some people who forget this.  They seem to think that they can mosey in and do whatever they want, and it is all right.  But the fact of the matter is that there are 9 or 24 other people in your raid.

Again, you're saying, "Really?  No kidding!"

Bear with me.  Those 9 or 24 other people have made time in their schedules to meet with you and kill Internet dragons, mad professors, possessed Orcs, or vampire queens.  Perhaps they put off seeing the movie which came out, they made the effort to make sure dinner was ready for their spouse before raid time or they skipped stopping at that new deli on the way home from work because the traffic would make them miss the start of raid.  Perhaps they spent some time during the previous weekend fishing or searching out the mats for their flasks, they spammed Trade chat to sell the gems they had cut so they would have money for repairs, or they ran a random Heroic every night, even when they were busy, so they would have enough Frost badges for that belt which was such a large upgrade to their raiding gear.

The point is this:  people make efforts to be at raid and to be ready to perform their best.

Now imagine this:  after someone has taken the time and made the effort to be ready for raid and to fulfill their commitment to be there on time, how do you think they feel when you (or someone else) says, at the start of raid, "Hey, does anyone have a flask I could buy?"  How about when someone spends all their time joking in raid chat and doesn't seem to be listening to the raid leaders (and then dies at not just the first pull of the boss, but the second and third, as well)?  How about when someone just doesn't seem to be giving their best to the effort, or when someone perpetually says negative things about the abilities of the raid in general and the probability that whatever strategy being used is a waste of time?

And you wonder why, sometimes, raiding morale seems to be less than its best . . .

Each member of the raid contributes to the success of the raid.  (Here we go again:  "No kidding, Ana!")  And that means you.  So show the members of your raid a little courtesy by doing some basic things.

Come prepared to raids.  Bring a good supply of consumables, including flasks, any reagents you might need, and your own stock of food, even if you expect that the raid will be dropping Fish Feasts.  (If they do drop Feasts, your food will last you a long time, so it's not a big expense.  And it helps to keep you in top form if, for some reason, a Feast is not dropped when you need it.)  Being prepared shows that you value the raid enough to put in the effort to be ready, instead of being dependent on your fellow raiders who took their own time to prepare.

Be mindful of the time and effort other people have invested in the raid by paying attention and not wasting time.  Listen to the raid leader the first time, so you don't cause a wipe because you didn't hear that the plan had been slightly changed from previous attempts.  Ask questions if you need clarification.  Be careful when you feel the urge to play pranks--will the person appreciate it, or will it end up annoying the recipient of the prank?  Does it have the chance to delay the raid as a whole?

And be cheerful.  Even if you are not feeling cheerful on your side of the keyboard, you can control your fingers so they do not type negative things.  This is a lesson I learned when I was working a summer job at a fast-food drive-through while a college student.  Even if I was absolutely cranky inside, as long as I kept a lilt in my voice when talking over the intercom, none of the customers was ever the wiser.  (And I had a loyal clientele who said, "Thank Goodness you're back!" after my days off.)  It's even easier as a raider, because if you don't want to talk in Vent, you don't usually have to do so, and nobody can see your face.  Type in basic, courteous sentences, and you will be doing your part to maintain good raiding morale for the entire group.

Show the members of your raid that you value their time and efforts to come play with you by treating them with courtesy and consideration, and you will be welcome in whatever raid you choose.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Slightly Clueless

The other day, a former co-worker came to lunch at the local grill.  He is one of the few people I know in real life who plays WoW.

As I have had much more experience in the game than he has, I have tried to be helpful when he has had questions.  I have pointed him in the direction of guides, I have helped him understand basic game mechanics, and I have given him tips on class abilities . . . or I have tried to do so.

He is one of those people who does not believe he needs a lot of help.  The obvious corollary to that is, of course, that he does not know when he simply does not know something.

Not too long ago, he found himself a guild which actually raids.  (He plays on a different server, thank Goodness . . .)  I was happy for him, because he really did want to try his hand at raiding.  Every so often, he would make some sort of comment which reminded me that he really needed to read a guide or two, but, hey, you can lead a horse to water, as they say . . .

He had recently told me his guild was working on Rotface (regular) and asked how we did it.  I explained the fight to him, and he said, "Great! That sounds like what we are doing."  I reassured him that some time, it would just click, and they would be wondering why they ever thought it was hard.  The other day, at the grill, he told me with shining eyes that last night, they finally got down Rotface.

"But that Professor Putricide," he continued, "wiped us all over the ground."

"Yea," I said, sympathetically, "That fight takes a little learning.  But it is fun once you get the hang of it."

"The real problem we had," he said, "was the skeleton dudes which do all that aoe."

/blink.  Huh?  "Skeleton dudes?  Do you mean the abom?"  Perhaps he was confusing skeleton dudes with the raid member who drinks potion and turns into an abomination, although the abom doesn't do any harm to the raid.

"Well, we have the aboms down, but the skeleton dudes and all those other adds were giving us a lot of trouble."

The more I tried to clarify the situation, the more he insisted that, yes, the Professor Putricide fight included one member of the raid becoming an abomination, but it also included large amounts of undead adds.  I asked him if he was really talking about Valithria.  No, he insisted, it was Professor Putricide.  I actually went so far as to remind him that I had killed Professor Putricide in 10-man Heroic mode, and there were no skeleton adds doing area effect damage, but he simply refused to believe me.

I finally gave up, realizing that there was no point to arguing about it.  Either he had entered some other Professor Putricide fight, his mind had become so mixed up he was confusing the two fights, or he had thought he was fighting Professor Putricide when his raid really headed to the Frost Wing.

Now if my raid heads tonight to Professor Putricide, and skeleton adds come out of the walls, I will be prepared to apologize.  But I suspect that in the future, I will simply offer reflective words of encouragement and not try to correct any of his misconceptions.  He doesn't want it, anyway.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Little Courtesy

The other day, I decided to join a group heading out to do the weekly raid.  I figured it would not be a big deal because, after all, I seriously overgeared the raid content, which was Sartharian.  But then I noticed the raid leader asking a few interesting questions in Raid chat.

"So, how many tanks are we going to need?  How many healers?"

My Trouble Detector immediately started dinging.  Nobody was really answering the raid leader (another indication of potential trouble.)  I went ahead and typed in Raid chat the answer that it would be best to have two tanks--one for Sarth, one for adds--and 2-3 healers, depending on how well people knew to avoid damage.  Then someone else typed a statement in Raid chat:

"My friend showed me a video about it once."

Uh oh.  First, the raid leader doesn't sound like he knows what he is doing.  Then the people joining the raid don't sound like they know what they are doing.  Instead of being a really quick run, this could turn out to be a run taking more time and costing more repair gold than I really wanted to do.

I mentioned this to some of my guildies, and the response one gave me was, "Run, Ana, run."

I decided to run, especially when I noticed that a few other people were getting the same idea I was and dropping raid.

Instead of just dropping the raid, I decided to whisper the raid leader to let him know why I was leaving, thinking it would be the courteous thing to do.

I told him, basically, that his questions were not instilling confidence in the raid, so I was going to leave.

He responded something to the effect of, "I've run this about 50 times, you ^&*#in' prick!  I just don't normally lead the raids!"

I replied, "Thank you for confirming my decision as correct."

Might this story have ended differently?  Well, sure.  If the raid leader had said, "Actually, I have run this fight several times, but I don't normally lead the raids.  Thank you for your help, and good luck," I might have reconsidered the decision to leave.

After all, as the old saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  And you can catch more healers with kind words--for, generally speaking, healers are the type of people who really do like helping people--than you will by calling them names.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have just dropped the raid.  Or I could have, as at least one person did, said, "My guild is calling me," and left.  (Except that it would have been a lie in my case.)  But I have usually lived by the principle that a little courtesy is not wasted.

I may have to revise that idea, for it certainly seemed to be wasted on that guy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rambling Thoughts on Healer Turnover

Lately, our raid has been experiencing a high healer turnover.

Most people have reasons. (There’s always a reason, when you think of one . . .)

Most healers have had to leave because of school or job changes. That is understandable, but why this trend seems to be affecting my healers more than the dps, I have no idea. Hey, real life happens, and when it does, raiding takes second place.

Some healers gave the raid notice that things were going to change for them. This is the courteous thing to do, when you know people are depending on you. It gives the leaders time to think of alternate plans—get someone to fill in as off-spec or recruit a back-up.

But some of the healers just sort of disappeared . . . leaving the officers wondering what happened. Did they get in a car accident and die? (Well, probably not, as they were on during the afternoon.) Did they get held up at work? (It happens, but it would have been nice if they would have texted someone or posted on the forums that they might be late.) Was there an emergency? (Possibly, but three days in a row?)

We generally try to contact the ones who drop off the face of the earth to figure out what is going on. Can we expect them to return? Have they decided to quit and simply didn’t tell us? At least it lets us know how to plan for the future, so the raid can continue to run.

Sometimes when I look at the healer turnover, I wonder if I am doing something wrong. But the more I read, the more I’ve realized the problem is not unique to our raid.

Of all the roles, it seems people burn out more frequently as healers. When I mentioned this to my husband, who has played tank, dps, and healer at one point or another, he said, “Of course. Healing is boring, and you get blamed for everything.”

I protested that healing wasn’t boring, at least not for me and for some of the more dedicated healers in the raid. There’s always a new challenge to be met and overcome. Sometimes we think and discuss strategies and possibilities for quite a while before we decide on a course of action. (Sometimes the raid leaders aren’t sure our ideas are going to work, but to their credit, they let us try, anyway. We usually manage to succeed with the strategies the healing group has worked out together.)

And our raid leaders and healers are smart enough to know when something is and isn’t a healing problem. If someone wants to blame the healers for a wipe when it was really a dps-didn’t-avoid-unnecessary-damage problem, the healers simply do not accept the blame, even if it is only in healer chat. We have meters, too, and we can make reasonable judgments on whether or not we are doing an adequate job. (It really makes no sense to run around assigning blame. Just point out improvements, buff up, and try again.)

But I realize that healing isn’t for everyone, just like tanking isn’t for everyone. <*ahem*> It takes a certain personality to enjoy the type of challenge which healing presents.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that we need healers—again. And so our guild leader will advertise—again—and hope we can find a holy priest and a resto shaman (do they exist . . .) Perhaps these ones will stay a while.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Welcome Development

Hello everyone,

I'd like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We've been constantly monitoring the feedback you've given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we've decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

It's important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as the ability to rate posts up or down, post highlighting based on rating, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

I want to make sure it's clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you'll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard's success from the beginning.

Mike Morhaime
CEO & Cofounder
Blizzard Entertainment

This appeared this morning on the WoW forums.  I will still be keeping an eye on things; trust isn't usually rebuilt in an instant.

Someone suggested that everyone who posted in the epic thread should go make their own achievement on MMOCluster called "David vs. Goliath."  I just might.

Thank You, Lissanna

Reading Lissanna's blog entry from last night inspired me.  I immediately went down to her comments section and started writing.  But the more I wrote, the more I realized this was something I needed to say on my own blog, in an expanded version, of course.

For years, I have had on-line friends.  All the way back in 2000, when I was living in a 12x20 shed and a drop-in truck camper with three small children under the age of 6 in the middle of nowhere, while my husband traveled to large cities for his job, my refuge was my dial-up Internet connection.  I had forums I would frequent, where I "met" people and had meaningful conversations.  On Tuesday evenings, we would meet in chat and play Taboo or such games.  I knew their backgrounds; I knew their opinions on a good many matters; I knew to whom I could send e-mail if I had something extra to say; etc.  What I did not know, in the vast majority of the cases, were their real life names.

Later on, as people moved on with their lives, I moved on to different forums.  (This was no different than a good deal of my life, where I moved from place to place.)  I also started playing World of Warcraft, where I had the chance to meet other people.  Again, I formed friendships based upon the substance of conversations and shared experiences, rather than names and faces.  And I found myself no less attached to these people than I would have been to any other friend I met.  I chattered to my husband about how so-and-so's son was EOD or soberly spoke of so-and-so's four-year-old granddaughter who was fighting cancer.  I prayed for people who were looking for jobs or facing major examinations, figuring that, while I did not know their real names, the Lord did, so the prayers would be just as effective.

My husband used to tell me that my on-line friends weren't "real friends." I contested that viewpoint, telling him that as far as I was concerned, yes, they were "real friends." He told me I had some sort of mental disorder about reality, seeing things as I wanted to see them. /rolleyes

As the Bard says, "What's in a name?" So I know these people by the names of their characters or avatars--that doesn't make them any less real. They each have their identities. They each have their days when they are in good or bad moods. They each have feelings which can be hurt and joys for which to celebrate. When someone finally passes their bar exam or receives their certification as a minister, the entire forum or guild cheers for them. When someone's grandmother dies, everyone sends their condolences.  We can laugh about jokes together or talk seriously about life issues.  Young people might ask for advice on dating, or I might ask for advice on a computer issue.

Knowing their real names would change nothing about how I view them. They are my friends.

This is what Blizzard-Activision is not "getting."  We do not need to know real names to have a social gaming experience.  World of Warcraft is already a social gaming experience.  I have been playing with some of the people in my guild for over two years now, which is longer than I have known many of my out-of-game friends.  The more our real names are exposed, however, the greater our security risk becomes.  Let us give our real names to those whom we choose; do not force the requirement upon us to give our real names to those we do not really know.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Forum Privacy

Yes, I know my title is boring.  I also know my post here is a bit disjointed.  Bear with me.

Blizzard has sounded the death knell to its official World of Warcraft forums by announcing that they will be changing them to require that posters display their real names.

Do you know what will happen to the forums? They will be dominated by those who have nothing to lose--no money, no reputation, no career--and those with more experienced (and usually more civil) voices will stay away. People who work in PR, people who hold security clearances, single mothers, etc., will not want others to be able to do a search on them and find out they were posting on the relative merits of various spell rotations. Many people who have maintained stickies have stated they will no longer be maintaining them. And there will still be trolls, just as there are still bullies in real life--people who do not care that they are being silly or rude, even when you look them in the face. People with real questions will move to unofficial forums, where they can ask questions in relative anonymity and not be embarrassed because of their supposed ignorance.

I learned long ago that trolls are a part of forums, whatever forums they are. You just ignore them. Recognize them for who they are and put them mentally in the appropriate slot. Remember that your main audience on a forum is the large amount of people silently reading. You will never be able to change the mind of the person arguing and baiting you, so you present your argument to the ones who are really thinking about what is being said. This is the advantage of having a low-level, cross-server alt on which to post. You can present your arguments without ramifications in-game, and those whose opinions are worth having will consider your arguments on their merit and not base them upon the level of your avatar.

I find that the majority of the people who seem to support the change, by and large, are those who do not believe anyone will be able to pinpoint them by their names (too common) or who do not have much to lose (college students). Basically, they do not think they can be hurt by having their name plastered about in a gaming forum searchable by the public. They do not consider those who are vulnerable.

Someone on the WoW forums stated the following:  "The bad community of WOW now have a tool that is realid to harass the good members with."

I have to agree with this poster, poor grammar notwithstanding.  By requiring people to post using their real life names, Blizzard is, in essence, enforcing civility by the implied possiblity the poster could be looked up and harrassed in real life.

Blizzard posters say they realize that many people may quit the forums and they do not care.  If this proposed change goes live, I will be one of them.  I contributed, not prolifically, but fairly regularly, to the Guild Relations Forum and the Druid Forum.  I was probably the one really consistently civil person on the Gorgonnash forums.  I used other forums for convenient guides on other healing classes and answers to nitnoid questions.  But if I cannot post, I will not read, and this is a change I cannot tolerate.