Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Feckless Liebster



Every year bloggers nominate other bloggers for the "Liebster Award," which serves to call attention to the blogging community. Bloggers are generally invited to step away from the subject(s) they normally cover and talk a bit more about themselves. Or at least that's how I've gathered it works. 

So thank you, Zeirah. I'm honored that you thought of me. Here goes!

What makes you smile?
A lot of things, but witnessing kindness will do it every time. 

Where do you see yourself in 50 years?
Not to get all morbid, but I see myself underground! Though if I'm alive fifty years from now it means the aging gene came from my mother's side. But more generally, if I'm around in 50 years I'm trying to make sure when I look back to survey the landscape I've crossed, I feel content. 

Is there one class in wow you haven’t been able to really gel with?
Hunters. I think a level 77 hunter is the highest character I've ever deleted. I've tried playing a hunter on multiple occasions---in fact, it was the class I first rolled---but it never sticks. At some point I become utterly bored. At this point I've learned to stay away from them.

What is your biggest problem/challenge when it comes to blogging?
Probably a cross between finding the time and determining content. This space is kind of an all-around blog, covering anything Blizzard but focusing on Warcraft, which often means I don't worry about developing any sort of content calendar or schedule. I generally have a half-dozen or more draft ideas sitting around, but aside from the larger postings here (the guides), most of my writing is done spur of the moment. 

What is your dream career?
I'm not sure, really. I think it's got to involve working for myself. I have a lot of auxiliary skills, but not a single strong one. I think whatever my dream career is, it's very niche. Maybe that's why I don't know what it is yet! That said, I've never viewed employment as an end, rather a means to an end. Rather than a career, I prefer a stable job that supports my hobbies.

What is the one thing in wow you love doing the most?
Guild raiding is hands down my favorite activity in Warcraft. You take a group made up of teachers, ER nurses, police officers, IT professionals, writers, developers, students., etc. and they all come together and align towards a specific goal. A goal they all need to work towards together in sync. Maybe it's the notion behind it: people from all walks of life setting aside their own personal bullshit in order to achieve something great together. 

What is your favourite book?
Too difficult for me to choose a specific book. Two of my favorite authors are Cormack McCarthy and Jonathan Carroll. 

If you could choose the next playable race, what would it be?
Ogre. To me, it just seems like it would make sense at this point. 

What is the most delicious food you have ever eaten?
Another tough one, but in the top five surely you'll find mushroom fritters with truffle oil. 

Who is your favourite wow character?
Probably Arthas. That whole rise and fall from grace story is a pretty common one, but that sort of character type fascinates me. Out of all the stories we've been told, that one seems to resonate the most with me. I was sad when we had to give him his end. 

What do you think the next expansion should be about?
Well, given that it'll have to tie somewhat with what all went down in Draenor...I'd guess that the next expansion will see the Burning Legion invading our Azeroth while we were off fighting in Draenor. Having said that I'm not sure how well that would hold up given that we surely won't be spending the next expansion on a new/old Azeroth ala Cataclysm. Either way, I'm confident we'll be seeing the Legion by the close of this expansion, and where the next expansion goes will have everything to do with what is revealed.

Either way, I'm expecting an expansion announcement at Blizzcon, with leaks likely happening in the summer, so we should know soon!

11 Facts
I have named a craft beer that is commercially available in the Midwest. The name itself contains clues to the "lore" behind the beer's creation and the cease & desist order the brewer received over the beer's original name. 

There is a craft beer from another brewer that is commercially available throughout the Midwest, and was named after a metal band I was in during my late teens. 

I love craft beer, though that had little to do with the facts above, curiously. 

Years ago I was fortunate enough to play a show with the band I was in at the largest music festival in the world

I am a self-taught multi-instrumentalist competent on drums, guitar, bass, and banjo as well as a variety of percussion instruments including the djembe, cuica, didjeridoo and stumpf fiddle. 

I correctly predicted the closing bands for Blizzcons 2011 and 2014. I have no inklings on this year, currently, like you cared.

I live with my long-term partner and her two children, one a fresh teenager, the other on his way. None of them are really into Warcraft. 

In the past 15 years I've moved nine times, but never very far from where I was prior. Of note, I've been in the same place for the last five years. 

My partner has Canadian citizenship, and we are looking to move north of the border once her children reach adulthood. 

I have a bachelor's degree that's so broad in scope it basically only proves that I attended and graduated college. 

I tell people my name is Ross when in fact it's not my legal name. 

Questions for the Nominees

I'm going to go ahead and nominate a handful of people: Zuulzilla, who nominated me last year but I never got around to actually doing it. Also, Hanzo, Alternative ChatSpacebard & Liopleurodon. Feel free to ignore this---just know that I thought of you folks largely based on the amount of respect I have for y'all. 

Why did you start blogging here? 

You win a million dollars. What do you do with it? 

What are some non-Blizzard games you'd recommend to folks out there? 

What's a piece of advice you've been given that's really resonated with you?

What's the one thing in WoW you enjoy doing the most?

What's your main character, and why?

If you could tell your early WoW-playing self one thing, what would it be?

You get to shadow a Warcraft character for a day. Who do you choose, and why?

What one thing would you change about WoW if you could?

If the servers go dark some day, which zone will your character "retire" in?

Have you looked in a mirror today and remembered how awesome you are? If not, go do it right now!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Help Request: WoW API Experts

Hi.

I need some help. I'm looking to pull some specific data from the WoW API, but I'm a complete noob. Essentially, I want to take a look at all of the members of a guild and identify which achievements they are missing. The purpose of this would be to identify potential areas for scheduled small group content/events.

For the experts out there: is targeting this specific set of information possible? If so, can you point me to a WoW API 101 crash course and any other tools I might need explore more?

Much appreciated!


Monday, March 9, 2015

Don't Be That Player: The Non-Conformist [Guild Ed.]

Many of us have been That Player at one time or another. From toxic players, oblivious raiders, elitist jerks and beyond, Don't Be That Player is a series that looks at different scenarios we've all encountered, and how they might be approached differently. 

This post really has to do with guilds and is written especially with guild leadership in mind.

Normally it's hip to follow the beat of your own Garrison Jukebox, but this concept doesn't really apply when it comes to player-to-player relations in Warcraft guilds. Many guilds have certain base expectations for their members (as they should): no stealing items from others; kill all opposing faction members on sight; no hate speech in guild chat; Pepe must be worn at all times, etc. While Non-Conformists in this setting may have many characteristics, the one they share is that they are actively working against the guild's tenets and goals.

Non-Conformists---as I've defined them---bring a certain flavor of toxicity designed to dismantle the very sub-community they've joined. They have little regard for the preferences of their fellow players and have little to no respect for leadership structure. They often have an inflated sense of their value as a player. And what's worse, they likely realize they're not a good fit for your community, yet they don't care.

Non-Conformists will openly voice their dissatisfaction with elements of the guild, whether their assessment is accurate or not. They will try to convince you the guild would be better off if it did certain things their way. They will try to steer the guild in a direction they find the most advantageous or desirable to them without remorse. They may threaten to not show up for events as if they believed success depended on their presence. They will project their concerns onto other members and try to recruit those members to their cause: to subtly or overtly, consciously or unconsciously destroy a guild.

For the love of god...do I really have to say "don't be that player?!"

Sadly, I do, because I've had to deal with this player-type in the past, and I will never, ever allow a Non-Conformist to take root in any group I help steer. For the Non-Conformists out there, if you can't play nice with others under a mutual charter, play by yourself. It must be possible to enjoy this game without inflicting misery on your in-game community.

Guild Leadership & Combating the Non-Conformist
There are a couple of steps a guild should take in general to help ensure their community isn't a breeding ground for Non-Conformists. Really, these are steps I'd recommend for any guild when establishing themselves. They can serve as an indication to the Non-Conformists out there that your home wouldn't be a good fit for them. If you find a Non-Conformist in your ranks, I also have suggestions on how to deal with them quickly and effectively.

Know Who You Are
Have a purpose. What is your guild all about? Do you expect everyone to be in character at all times? Do you forbid guild chat to contain anything but monosyllabic words? Do you raid two nights per week, no more, no less? As a leader and/or officer, you get to decide who you are as a guild, the things you'd like to accomplish and how you'd like to go about it. You get to set the tone and the feel, from an NC-17 oh god I'm going to hell for this environment, to family-friendly guilds.

The fact is, when you have these attributes nailed down---whether on your website, application, or recruitment notice---it can act as a deterrent to Non-Conformists. They can take a quick look at what makes your guild unique and decide whether or not it fits into their vision. Unfortunately, knowing who you are as a guild won't insulate you completely---but it will give you grounds to address the actions of the Non-Conformist through any method you deem fit, up to and including membership revocation.

Take Swift Action
It may be something simple, like using language in guild chat you've expressly forbidden. It could also be something more extreme, such as the Non-Conformist harassing other players in your guild. Or maybe they'll refuse to raid unless their friend(s) are guaranteed a spot, too. Whatever the signs of a Non-Conformist might be, they're generally revealed organically---you don't often have to keep a sharp eye to notice them.

When you have a player who regularly violates guild tenets and goals, they need to be addressed directly---mostly for the sake of the integrity of said goals and tenets. If your other players see the Non-Conformists shitting all over the guild's aims and you don't react swiftly, they may get the impression that the structure in place is in fact meaningless, that actions are without consequence.

The easiest thing to do is the approach the Non-Conformist privately, remind them of the guild tenets and goals, and explain how certain actions of theirs have been in direction conflict with them. They can either play by the rules and be part of the guild or find a better home. How many chances or warnings you issue is entirely up to you.

While guilds do rise and fall on a daily basis, there are steps to ensure your guild's foundation is strong. One of those steps is making sure Non-Conformists aren't taking root among your ranks.



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Feckless Leader's Guide on How to Lead a Raid

I believe that when a raid fails, even when fault can be assigned to multiple parties, the raid leader deserves a large share of the blame. Or, too often, there's is no leader to be found. I'd argue most of the issues raid groups experience that lead to a premature disbanding can be addressed before the raid even begins, early on in the planning and formation stages.

That's not to say raid leaders deserve extra credit when a raid does succeed. They don't. The only difference between the raid leader and another member of the raid is that the former is coordinating the raid. Really, that's all raid leaders are: coordinators. Most players in a raid should have a decent idea of what they need to do in their role. It's up to the raid leader to coordinate how they're going to function as a group.

If anyone needed evidence that even the easiest difficulty raids require coordination, MoP's Raid Finder and the latest incarnation of the Group Finder provide ample amounts. Most of us have joined raids where everyone seemed to know what they were doing, little communication took place, and bosses fell. But those instances are the rarer ones, and it's more often through successful communication and coordination that raids progress.

Things like strategy explanations, when to Bloodlust/Time Warp, which players will be handling a special task...even the best players on the planet employ a basic amount of planning when going into a fight, even if it's their fiftieth kill. If it would seem the players on the team could ace the fight in their sleep---even if you think the presence of a leader has no bearing whatsoever on the success of the raid---having a leader to coordinate these things saves time, bottom line.

What follows are some general guidelines I'd recommend to any aspiring raid leader. Much of this comes out of my own personal style, something I've continually honed since I began leading Normal and Heroic raids in Cataclysm. Some of these tips align closely with the suggestions I have for becoming a good raider, though as you can imagine, the raid leader goes above and beyond what's expected from the average raider, and also possesses the tools to successfully facilitate the raid experience.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend that a brand new raider assume the position of leader, though that's not to say a new raider couldn't also be a successful leader. I do feel that having spent time solely as a raider provides valuable experience through being exposed to different leadership styles. You'll be able to develop a method that works for you.

One last thing: these suggestions are very much geared towards raid leaders in Normal and Heroic difficulty. While some of these tips may help any given raid leader, they are more general in nature; Mythic can require a whole different level of coordination which I've not covered here.

I hope this guide helps you!

Must Love Dogs.

PRIOR TO FORMING


ADDONS
Before you think about forming a group, there are a few addons that will help you facilitate the raid more smoothly, as well as evaluate your raid's performance from fight to fight. There are alternatives to the suggestions below, so if these don't fit your style, do some additional research and find an addon that you like.

RBS: Provides you with a lot of raid info at a quick glance: buffs the raid is missing, who is flasked, who has their food buff, when players die, etc. It's heavily customizable, but it does quite a bit of work for you right out of the box.

Skada: Comprehensive combat logger that will keep track of all sorts of useful info for you to peek at, like damage per second, healing per second, damage taken, damage absorbed, interrupts, etc. Can help you evaluate whether or not players are pulling their weight.

Deadly Boss Mods: A must-have in my opinion, whereas the two above are just strong suggestions. Provides extra warning alerts for certain elements of the boss fight, including the ability to toggle timers so that you can see when the boss will use a certain ability, allowing you to better prepare for it.

RESEARCH THE FIGHTS
Chances are that if you're preparing yourself to lead a raid, you've already done your homework in this department. But I'm saying it regardless for the sake of being thorough and also because researching the fights as a raid leader is more intense than if you were researching only your class role.

In a perfect world, every member of the raid team would prepare as if they were the person leading the raid. They know what to do, and when. Some guilds require their raid team members to "sign off" on a boss strategy thread in order to prove they've done some research---but even then, the level of research from player to player may vary widely.

Your job here is especially important if you find yourself running pick-up groups (pugs) through the Group Finder, as all you can discern about a player you don't know is their class, item level, and if you want, whether or not they have been present for certain boss kills. You can't know how they'll actually perform on a given fight until you see it with our own eyes.

That's why, as raid leader, you need to know what everyone's supposed to be doing. Just in case they truly don't know (which is often the reality), or they forget. As the raid leader, you should be prepared to remind the tanks that x number of stacks is when they should taunt, for example. Sure, you can require that your raiders must know all fights; but even in the case that one of those players forgets a certain mechanic, or lies about their fight knowledge, it would take less time to remind them than it would to replace them.

My go-to resources for fight strategies are Wowhead (text & visuals) and Line of Sight Gaming (videos). Icy Veins is another popular site, though I find Wowhead's explanations to be better presented and more thorough. LoS's videos are the best I've ever seen.

DETERMINE THE RAID'S GOALS, DURATION, AND SIZE
Essentially, you're answering the following questions:

  • What do I want to get done? 
  • How much time have I set aside for this activity? 
  • What size of a group am I comfortable leading?

There really are no wrong answers here. As the group organizer, you have the ability to set the overall focus of the raid. Maybe you just want to hit the first two bosses and don't have a goal beyond that. You should still decide how long you're willing to go at it so that players who join your group at least know of the expectation and what they're getting into. Ideally, the raid will run for as long as you say it will. After all, this guide is specifically devised to avoid unexpected, early group dissolution due to wipes, frustration and a lack of communication!

"Anyone talking in Mumble? I hear nothing."

SETTING UP THE RAID


USING VOICE CHAT
The average group's chance of success tends to increase significantly when using voice chat---I don't have the data, but I feel there's a certain level of common sense that allows me to make that claim. I would never run a raid without it. There's too much that can happen in the course of a fight that requires instant, clear communication. If you need someone to switch to a specific task on the fly, text won't suffice. It takes too long to type out, and your raiders (hopefully) aren't reading chat frames during an encounter.

I strongly recommend requiring voice chat for raiding activities, and seldom join Group Finder raids who aren't requiring it. If you don't have access to a server of your own, there are quite a few free options out there.

When using a voice client, the channel should be kept free of chatter during an encounter---oftentimes, this happens by default since players are concentrating on the task at hand. This allows the raid leader and other key players* to communicate about the fight without risk of being talked over. There have been many times in past raids when a quick call meant the difference between a wipe and success---a call that may have been easily missed if voice chat was crowded.

*tanks, the raid leader and any other player(s) assigned a special task related to the encounter should be the only players talking during a fight

FIELD THE GROUP
With both Normal and Heroic modes being flexible in size, raid composition will vary. What won't change is the fact you'll need two tanks. Beyond that, it's up to you as a raid leader if you'd like every class to be represented, if you'd prefer equal balance between ranged and melee damage dealers, or if you'd like to run with only ten players.

When it comes to deciding how many healers to bring, I use a simple rule (and adjust if needed): one healer per group of five players in the raid. A ten-player raid will have two healers. A twenty-player raid has four, a thirty-player raid has six. At times I've added an additional healer on top of the one-per-group-of-five. In most cases, the one-per-five rule should serve well as long as your raiders aren't taking much avoidable damage.

The Group Finder tool allows the leader to select what role(s) they're looking to fill; specify a minimum item level and voice chat client; and add an additional note or instruction for those looking to apply. When searching for players, whether in public chat channels or Group Finder, it's a good idea to broadcast your goals/expectations, like "minimum 4/7 bosses" or even better "going til 9:30pm!" If you can get the group on board with your goals prior to starting, it's less likely you'll have people unexpectedly drop out mid-raid.

ASSIGN ASSISTS & SPECIAL ROLES
Generally, the two tanks should be given assist so they can set pull timers and raid warnings, if needed. I generally designate a main tank to handle pulling, but the tanks often work this out themselves. It's also a good idea to assign a healer to focus solely on the tanks. This should be a class with strong single-target heals.

SET LOOT RULES
Most guild-run groups will have this established well before getting into the raid, but if you're building your own raid on the fly, you have options. Most groups I've been in run either Personal Loot or Master Looter, with the Master Looter rules allowing players to roll on any items that their current spec can use.

Each method has its pros and cons. Personal Loot undoubtedly takes up less time, but you have no control over where the loot goes. For example, if the druid loots boots and realizes they are already wearing the pair, they can't give it to the rogue who could actually use it. On the flip side, Master Looter requires more time in that you'll have to physically hand out loot, but there is as greater chance that each item dropped will go to good use. To maximize raid time when running Master Loot, have the rest of the raid clear trash while the master looter awards loot.

I've seen a mix of both systems when using the Group Finder. For casual, non-guilded groups, I strongly recommend using Personal Loot. For guild groups, or groups where the same players are present week to week, Master Looter is the way to go. There are also some additional loot distribution options that may interest you, depending on your goals. Check them out for yourself.

Highmaul Normal cleared after 6 nights/15 hours spent.

DURING THE RAID

ESTABLISHING THE TONE
I tend to take the nice-guy approach. Respect all other players as human beings, and give them the benefit of the doubt when mistakes happen. I don't tolerate raiders ripping on each other. Granted, I haven't yet come across that sort of nasty behavior in pugs this expansion, but I'm sure it does happen.

However, I have come across raid leaders who, prior to the fight, say something like "Anyone who takes any damage from Berserker Rush is getting replaced." And that's perfectly fine. As the leader, you get to decide how you run the group. Personally, I don't say those sorts of things because I realize 1) the boss should still die even if you lose a player or two to x ability and 2) that one death probably isn't a completely accurate reflection of that player's skill. But that's me. You need to decide what you're most comfortable with and run with it.

REVIEWING FIGHT STRATEGIES
A good way to save time is to start explaining the fight during trash pulls. When I'm starting out fresh with our guild group and few or none of our members have seen the fight, I generally do the following:

1) Brief overview of the fight, including the number of phases and anything special to watch for.
2) Notes for the tanks, i.e. when to taunt swap, boss positioning, etc.
3) Specific notes for damage dealers, i.e. movement, debuffs to watch for, etc.
4) Specific notes for healers, i.e. high damage sections of the fight,* etc.
5) Assigning of specific tasks, i.e. which player(s) are handling x mechanic, etc.
6) When to Bloodlust/Time Warp.

*You should assign a specific healer focus on the tanks at all times and be prepared to coordinate healing cooldowns as the fight requires.

It's important that you have deep knowledge of the fight mechanics and each class's role within the fight so you can clearly and concisely explain what needs to happen. As raid leader, the other players should be following your instructions, and they most often do...even when you give them bad advice that leads to their death.

As the level of familiarity your players have with a fight increases, most of the points above can be skipped. For instance: in a seasoned group on Kargath Bladefist---a fight requiring positional awareness for damage dealers and healers, a simple taunt swap for tanks, and the assigning of a 5-person squad to head up into the stands---number five is likely all that is needed to facilitate success.

SPECIAL NOTE: BATTLE RESURRECTIONS
Battle resurrections are significantly more scarce than they were in the past, so you don't necessarily want to resurrect a player who dies (unless, of course, it's a tank). You'll want to say something to let the raid know before the first boss pull: do not resurrect a player unless A) they're a tank or B) the raid leader calls for it.

You almost never want to resurrect a damage dealer until you have two resurrections available; this ensures you'll always have one at the ready should a tank go down. Healers are trickier: you'll have to decide on the fly if your remaining healer(s) can handle the heavy lifting for a few minutes til another resurrection is available, or if you should use your sole resurrection and risk an all-but-guaranteed wipe should the tank drop in the next few minutes.

COORDINATION IN COMBAT
Now that you've engaged the boss, it's best to use the third eyeball you have right there in the middle of your forehead and focus it exclusively on what the rest of your raid is doing. Do the tanks have the boss positioned right? Are the ranged players standing where they should be? Oh my god did someone just die?

Oh, you don't have a third eyeball you can control independently? You're going to wish that you did.

In addition to respectably performing your role in the raid*, you need to keep your finger on the pulses of everyone else---literally. In order to call out adjustments that need to be made, you need to first be aware of any potential problems. And you won't be if you're tunneling the boss the whole time. Expert raid leaders will be aware of the entire encounter area in addition to performing their role well.

* I've found the difficulty of leading raids can vary depending on the role I'm in. In order of easiest to most difficult: Ranged DPS/Melee DPS/Healer/Tank. In my opinion, this is because healers and tanks have more focused roles, with ranged damage dealers having an advantage over melee, as they often possess a better vantage of the fight area.

WHEN WIPES HAPPEN
And they most certainly will.

Contrary to a seemingly popular belief, a wipe on a boss (or multiple wipes even) doesn't necessarily mean the group is fail, full of noobz, or that you're an inept raid leader. Though, at the same time, it might mean exactly one (or all) of those things---but not if you've used this guide to get to where you are!

The psychological effect of a wipe is steeped in the perception of what caused the wipe---and I deliberately say perception, not reality.

Too often I've been in raids where the group wipes and no one seems to know why. And that's not to say members of the raid won't offer their opinions on what they think happened, no matter how off-target they might be. Generally, a prepared raid leader will have a fairly good idea as to why the raid wiped as the wipe is happening, and will have begun to address the problem before the last dead player releases from their body. This is extremely important when it comes to controlling the perception of what the wipe means in terms of the raid's chance for success. It's too easy for a player to think fail group and leave after a wipe, especially if no one seems to know what went down.

This can be tough at times, especially when it isn't immediately clear why the wipe happened. Combat meters like Skada provide some good additional information on players that may help to identify the problem. If you cannot attribute the wipe to a failed execution of a mechanic, look to see how much damage people are taking (including tanks), and make sure healing output looks good. For instance, if the raid is hitting the encounter's enrage timer but performing well otherwise, there's likely something going on with DPS.

What you should try to avoid at all costs is being wrong about what caused the wipe. There will be times where you simply aren't sure what issue caused it. Don't guess; be honest instead. You run the risk of looking a lot worse if you guess incorrectly---because chances are there's someone in the raid who knows what happened, but isn't saying anything. Speaking of: when you truly aren't sure, draw on your raid members. Ask them if there's anything they noticed. Hell, maybe you overlooked one of the fight's mechanics. Even the most-prepared raid leader is not an infallible raid leader.

Assuming that healing and damage outputs aren't so low as to make the encounter impossible, all the raid needs to do is adjust to avoid the wipe-causing mistakes, and you'll be fine.

Keep in mind that no matter how well you prepare for and run the raid, some players have a one-wipe threshold. One failed attempt and they drop group. This is more of a risk in PUGs, as that sort of behavior is universally frowned upon in guild groups. When it happens, don't let it bum you out---it's not a reflection on you. Re-list the raid in the Group Finder, fill the role(s) you've lost, and forge ahead.

TAKING A BREAK
Depending on how long your raid will run, you may want to consider taking a 5-10 minute break. Raiding is an intense activity that can place stress on the body and mind. My guild takes a 10-minute break an hour and a half into the run---do what works for you. A break can also be beneficial after multiple wipes. If you're banging your head against a boss, but aren't ready to give up for the night, a short break can help players refocus. It can also decrease stress levels that have ratcheted up due to multiple wipes.

REPLACING UNDERPERFORMERS
This is the part I hate the most. If you enjoy helping people succeed versus seeing them fail, you probably will too. While it is your job as raid leader to coordinate things, it is not your job to teach a player how to optimally play their class. That is something they should have figured out before signing up for your raid. If raid wipes become a concern---and despite the effort you put into forming a raid-ready group of players---it might be time to make some roster changes. Underperformers are not restricted to class, spec or role---they're found everywhere. Identifying them isn't always a straight-forward process. But generally, performance between players in any given role should look similar.

Assuming you're not dealing with players who simply can't move out of fire, you'll need to look at the numbers. By taking a look at Skada, you can tell if a healer's or damage-dealer's output is cause for concern: with all else equal*, they'll be lagging significantly behind the pack of other healers/damage-dealers. Tanks are a bit trickier, as they should be using active mitigation to even out the damage they take. Compare Healing Taken between the tanks to see if there might be any issues there. If you wiped because a tank died and that tank required significantly more healing than their counterpart, and mechanics were executed correctly---that tells you something.

When I notice underperformers, I generally give them a warning before replacing them, though it's up to you as a leader how you want to handle that. What I do recommend is to be kind when removing someone from the group. No need for disparaging remarks or insults---they'll probably not feeling too hot about getting removed the way it is. Instead, consider explaining why they're being removed and what they might be able to do in order to better position themselves to pull their weight in a raid environment. Some of the best raiders currently in our guild were at one time on the bench.

Remember that while it might be easy to get angry over an avatar's performance, there is a live human being behind the keyboard, a human being that has the same desires as you: to have fun killing bosses.

*Certain fights require a group of players in the raid to perform a special task, which may contribute to lower output in terms of DPS/HPS. Make sure you're not calling someone out for doing their job!

WHEN IT'S TIME TO CALL IT
Ideally, the raid ends when you've hit your predetermined stop point, whether that's after a certain boss kill or at a specified time. However, sometimes---despite all the work and preparation you've done in learning the fights and fielding the group---it's just not going to happen. Hopefully this scenario only crops up later in the instance after your raid has earned a few kills.

It's often referred to as "hitting the wall." I don't know why it's called that---maybe because the wall is impenetrable, meaning your raid can't pass...OR maybe it's because the act of hitting a wall is rather pointless---either way it's not a good place to be. The wall can appear as a result of many different factors, but it's good to realize when you're there. Often times, the wall is met because the raid doesn't have the necessary healing or damage output the encounter requires---meaning even though everyone may be executing the fight correctly, probability favors the boss overwhelming the raid before success can be attained.

Another wall can come about via mental fatigue, though most pugs generally don't run long enough for players to get to that point. For my guild, players tend to start fizzling around the two-and-a-half hour mark (we raid for three hours with a ten-minute break). As a rule of thumb, if you've wiped a good number of times at the same place in the encounter and aren't seeing great overall improvement, you may have hit the wall.*

*The average progression guild will wipe on the final boss of a raid dozens of times before defeating the encounter, so don't mistake the wall for sub-par player performance on a highly difficult fight!



Drowning my sorrows while complaining to the other "patrons" after a particularly bad night in Siege of Orgrimmar.


When the Raid Ends

DISSOLVING THE PUG
It's always a good idea to thank everyone for coming to the raid. You may even want to invite them to add your Battle ID. Often times, if you perform your role as leader well, people will add you without you having to say anything. When this happens, take it as a gold star. You done good!

Take note of the players who performed well and ask them if it'd be all right to add them as a friend so you can reach out to them directly for future raids. The answer will unequivocally be "yes" if you've done your job well. If you plan to run a regularly-scheduled event, let the players in your raid know before they leave. Again, if they enjoyed their time under your leadership, you'll likely see Battle ID requests.

This is a great way to establish a regularly occurring cross-server raid group with mostly the same players attending each week.

DISSOLVING THE GUILD GROUP
Generally, guild groups have a designated raid night or nights, complete with start and stop times. Still, even with an established group, thank everyone for their time, and consider calling attention to the highlights of the raid, i.e. record kill times on bosses, new bosses killed, etc.

The next raid should be on the guild calendar, but it never hurts to remind people to sign up.

ASSESSING PERFORMANCE
Combat analytics provided Ask Mr. Robot (or World of Logs, if you prefer) will give you a plethora of information to sift through and help you see where your group can improve. These are more relevant to groups that host the same players from week to week, but still can be used on pugs if for no other reason than to analyze your own performance.

You'll get breakdowns on pretty much everything you'd want to know in the course of the fight: what healing and damage looked like, performance rankings by class and ilvl, who's not moving out of fire, etc. This is a great tool to help you determine who you do---and don't---want in your groups.

If you consider your raid successful---you're killing bosses at a pace that feels right to you---combat analytics aren't necessarily, well...necessary. They'll do more work for you on fights that aren't going right, like the 10 failed attempts you had on Imperator before the night was over.

That's not to say analytics aren't helpful for every group---just be sure you read them with nuance.

In Conclusion

Leading a raid can seem like a daunting job, but it's one most people can tackle with the right amount of preparation. Hopefully the suggestions I've included here will prove helpful to some aspiring raid leaders out there. Additionally, I'd love to here from other raiders and raid leaders out there and keep this guide as a living document that will change over time as I continue to develop my own raid leading style.

Thanks for reading.







Monday, March 2, 2015

How Much Gold Would You Drop on a Month of Game Time?

Buy game time and sell it for gold: The WoW Token is here! (img: Blizzard)
Well, World of Warcraft still shows no signs of abandoning the subscription-based model, but players will soon have another option to fund their game time: gold. Now that that cat's out of the bag, I can't help but ask the question I'm sure a million people are asking, or thinking about: how much is a month's game time worth in gold?

I can only imagine the answers will vary widely from player to player. Auctioneering experts (of which I've never claimed to be, just a dabbler) may be willing to part with a larger sum than say, someone whose reserves fill casually through PvE content. An interesting bit in all this is that prices will be set by Blizzard---not the player---based on a number of factors.

Currently, I'm sitting on about 230k in liquid gold across my account, a number I've pretty much been hovering at since the start of the expansion. My expenses, even when I splurge, have been offset by intake so far. I also have an untold number of material assets that can be converted to gold. Given this, I would gladly drop 20,000g for a month's game time. At 50,000g? I'd think about it. 100,000g? Perhaps if my reserves were two or three times what they are now. Perhaps.

Since Blizzard will be controlling the price and its fluctuation, what amount would be attractive enough to you?