Thursday, November 29, 2012

2.18. Decay

Hanzo's alt Uld digs into Bael Modan with Neurcrotic,
The Barrens

The Weight of the World

I woke up screaming.

It was 2:00 a.m., and my jaw ached as if I had been struck by a drunken biker. The pain from an impacted wisdom tooth seeped through the barrier separating the woken from the asleep. Although video games had been my life for the better part of thirty-six years, I rarely had dreams of them. This night was different. Concerns had been weighing heavily on my mind. The exit of Kadrok. A roster of players unable to stay out of the fire. My responsibility to play a restoration druid while the owner was away; my own shaman collecting cobwebs in the process. Feelings of guilt about our lack of progression. My wanting Ekasra to excel, to be accepted by his peers, only to see him continually ridiculed while he played at a sub-par level. Ater becoming more focused at work, putting extra hours in on projects I wasn't involved with, spending less time in-game, less time mentoring me in management and leadership. And now, a new threat loomed: players were starting to check-out.

I dragged myself out of bed and went downstairs to the computer room. I needed painkillers, the best I could hope for was a handful of Advil to keep me going until the Dentist's office opened. I wasn't going back to sleep with my jaw ablaze in agony, so I sat down at the keyboard, logged on, and began leveling my rogue Uld in Hellfire Penninsula. In solitude, mindlessly jumping through the hoops that Thrallmar sent my way, I couldn't escape the problems of the guild. My mind continued to dart back to them. We'd defeated The Lurker Below weeks before and had yet to secure another kill. Of course, any sort of work on any other bosses was laughable at best. Initial attempts on Hydross the Unstable had been complete and total failures. The threat wipe between transitions was so incredibly touchy that even the slightest bit of aggro at the wrong time meant Ater would lose his grip on the Corrupted Water Elemental. Ekasra struggled here, and managed to drop his totems at the wrong time, causing a double set of Water Elemental minions to spawn. The attempt was a wash.

I flew Uld over to Zeth'gor, trying to keep my mind occupied, keep it from drifting back to the pain in the recesses of my jaw. The guild's problems continued to be my dental relief. When Breginna returned from her work project, resuming control of her druid, I hopped back onto Kerulak to try to show Ekasra the ropes as best I could, keeping close tabs on those transitions and being mindful of threat. Yet we stagnated on Hydross and lost whatever temporary gusto was present during The Lurker's defeat. Once again, we were wiping to farmed content. Volitar became a no-show, absent from the signups and missing-in-action come raid time. The load then fell back onto Ater's shoulders, who remained silent in Vent as he carried the weight of a failing raid while his work piled up at the office. And like the pain in my jaw, I could do nothing. Just sit back and watch the tower crumbling.

A player swooped down out of the sky to mine some ore near Uld and I glanced up the guild tag; the pain resonated deeper into my head, throbbing and aching.


PPP prepares for an Illidan kill, boasting
various ex-DoD members in their roster,
Black Temple

Management By Fear

The furthest progressed Horde raiding guild on Deathwing-US was Pretty Pink Pwnies. They raided twice as long as us each week (4 nights, minimum), and destroyed us in terms of progression. They had a colorful roster of players who wouldn't think twice about tossing some racial slurs your way. Led by a blowhard named Bru, they were difficult to keep up with. I never had the luxury of speaking to him myself, but whenever I asked for people's opinions, players lavished him with praise:

"He's a genius."

"Superb raid leader."

"Doesn't take a lot of shit."

"I've heard the guy make people cry in Vent."

"Only speaks in a steady stream of curses and insults."

Bru was famously recorded tearing a guild member to pieces during an Archimonde attempt -- a boss we wouldn't see for months. I listened to this clip and was astounded. All I could think of was how am I losing players to this guy?

My aversion to such disgusting treatment of people was entirely the reason I had folks like Ater in place, preferring kindness over abuse. Ater knew how to call people out while keeping the belittling in check. Derogatory name-calling had no place in our guild. That was, after all, one of our selling points in Descendants of Draenor: a tiny bit of humanity, as opposed to the standard guilds where the underlying rule was "If you fuck up, you're out."

But all the touchy-feely mutual respect we preached in our ideals did nothing to prevent DoD from hemorrhaging players to guilds like Pretty Pink Pwnie. I stood in the dark, unaware of what motivated them, what drove them to blindly follow a person that was devoid of any real people skills. Annihilation shared his opinions with me on this bizarre tendency of human nature.

"He's not a bad guy, Kerulak. Bru's actually cool, once you get to know him. His management technique just happens to be different than what you're used to."

"How can you say that? I mean, the guy has made people cry in raids. That is some stellar people management!"

"Some people need that. People flock to what gives them a sense of comfort. A sense of being part of a family. He runs it like a business, but that isn't what everyone strives for."

"Yeah, but a boss doesn't yell at people and make them cry like babies. What's the point of being such a d-bag to your people?"

"Every leader is a d-bag to someone down the chain. Doesn't matter how nice you are. Someone is eventually going to think you're a tyrant. Bru's just cut-to-the-chase and gotten it over with early. Result? He can focus on what he does best: Get a raid going and get shit done."

I didn't like Anni's answer. He was touching on something deep in the recesses of the human psyche, but I remained doubtful. There had to be more to this condition that simply "they feel like they belong". Would I get to meat of this mystery?

Eventually.

Elephantine examines Xplotos of Depraved, getting a
first glimpse at what raid rewards lay in Molten Core,
Orgrimmar

Own Up

I couldn't waste time worrying about other guild's management techniques, no matter how much of the douchebag quota they fulfilled. Like the impacted wisdom tooth, I continued to ignore problems until they reared their head, out of fear and ignorance. If I ignored them, someone else might take over and handle them on my behalf. That may have worked to a degree in Vanilla when my guild was bursting with officers and people-friendly role models; folks with natural leadership qualities. But I didn't know the first thing about dealing with people, about encouraging or motivating them. I didn't want to have to manage by fear, but my passive, family-friendly way wasn't working. And the longer I sat on my heels, the faster my guild would float to the surface, belly up.

Sooner or later, I had to take control. I had to own up to my responsibility in leading the guild, as opposed to taking a passive approach on the sidelines. Continuing in this manner would lead me down a path destined for failure. Members chose their own path, used their own interpretations of my unwritten rules to excuse inappropriate behavior toward one another -- and their laziness upon setting foot in our raids. The order of execution was as follows: Find out why our guild wasn't taking raids seriously enough -- find out the root cause of their myriad of excuses. Find a way to get a hold of the stagnation of our progression, flatten the slump, and get us focused again on a schedule that would lead us to Illidan.

The most important tasks on my to-do list was to put a stop to the endless "woe-is-me" perception of the brutality in these raids. Guilds like Depraved and Pretty Pink Pwnies didn't boast successful raid histories because they were experts at whining and complaining. Yes, raiding was hard, but not impossible It only felt that way because we weren't exploring every option, weren't looking at the minutia that we once held as gospel: those tiny bits of theorycrafting that would reveal great secrets in performance gains. These fine details should have been the focus of our research in the off-hours, like a change in keybindings or adherence to the 5-second rule. Utilizing all available tools is what turned the tables on bosses previously immune to our many charms. There had to be an explanation to the practically nil margin of error that we continually faced. What was the secret? What was the thing that we were missing that would turn our weekly raids from depressing 1% wipes to consistent executions?

---

I glanced up from my monitor, noting that the sun was starting to rise. Thank God. In a few short hours, the Dentist's office would be open, and I could at last get some relief for the pain. In my half-asleep, semi-distracted state, I failed to notice an Alliance Shadow Priest close the distance on me. The priest sent out a bolt of dark blue energy and proceeded to melt Uld's face off into the dirt, finishing her health bar off with dark tendrils swooping downward into her skull.

Shadow Priest, I thought to myself. What I wouldn't give for a few more of those in the roster.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read the next chapter

Anonymous said...

Disc priests could be used in Vanilla! One of my RL friends back then was disc from MC through BWL. I don't remember what he did after that. We were in the top Horde guild on our server and I remember one MC raid where he did over 50% of the total healing on a boss. I still don't know how....
However I do think all the other priests were Holy.

Anonymous said...

We also had a shadow priest through Vanilla named Beckon, so I guess we weren't the normal raiding guild with priests.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

As your comment came in, I've been furiously drilling the guild trying to remember if they can recall any disc/shadow priests from Vanilla -- we'd definitely like to hear more, as they would've been extremely rare, and hardcore guilds would most likely have balked at the idea.

Anonymous said...

Leveling up from scratch at that time was a feat in itself: hats off to you for doing it in such a short time on your priest.

Myself, I started in TBC in April. I wasn't at 70 until about 6 months later. But I was a complete newb.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

Zanjina was 60 from Vanilla, so I actually only had to take her the 10 levels to prep her for raids.

Well, that and the whole Tailoring/Frozen Shadoweave fiasco.

Anonymous said...

There were several shadow priests that raided on Deathwing in vanilla. Xantim is the only name I can remember offhand, but there were also a couple in The Raging Fist / Unleashed Fury. Geared and specced properly they actually did decent DPS.

Also, it's hysterical you included that YTMND, I'm friends with the guy who made it.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

Vanilla or TBC? I'd be very surprised to hear about any shadow priests during Vanilla (anything is possible!)

For us, the TBC shadow priests in DoD were Melkezadek, Huudini, Aeden/Ben and myself via Zanjina. Any others have slipped away from the memory banks.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was talking about vanilla. I raided with them in the guilds mentioned before. TRF/UF and PPP.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

That is impressive? My question to you is: how well did they actually work?

Anonymous said...

It was fine. Their DPS was competitive enough to where no one thought it was wasted space. They just had to be careful with threat, mostly. But, our tanks were good enough.

It definitely wasn't the norm, but it was fine to roll with.

Anonymous said...

The vanilla class role thing always annoyed me. Druids could raid tank perfectly well, just they had to work very, very hard to get the necessary gear for it. Before AQ the only route for a Druid to get proper raid-worth Feral gear was to do PvP. I spent months in battlegrounds to get the epic PvP set and many attempts to get the Nat Pagle staff from Zul Gurub (which luckily the other druid at the time turn his nose up at because it had strangth on it!). We must have been an unusual server becuase there were 3-4 druids on Moonglade that followed this path, one was even in the only guild that ever made any progress into Naxx.

Willow Moonglade-EU

Johanna said...

@Shawn Holmes
You reading the comment from one now, I've always been a shadowpriest taken a respecc only if we missed a healer for a raid. Was costly so eventually I said NO! I'm a Sahdowpriest and that's what I'm gonna play as from now on. My mainspec has always been shadow, and I've always had the same maincharacter. Human spriest Alakina. Started on AQ, moved to TM, to DB and now on AD. We owned in PvP and left Pala's crying in ditches, who can ever forget Shield+Manaburn. I miss Vanilla days and t the same time I do not.

Johanna said...

Have to add tho that original Alakina started on another account, tht of my x-boyfriend, we broke up and she got deleted ofc back in 2006 Bought my own acc and created her again, same hairstyle, same color, same everything. Alakina v2.