Thursday, August 22, 2013

3.27. Eating What You Order

Hanzo channels Jesse Pinkman as DoD wraps
up their first kill of General Vezax,

Abdominal Distention

May was a full plate, both in real life in and in WoW. On the tangible side of the screen, I had a handful of events to plan for. Both my wife and son would celebrate their birthday this month, sandwiched between the festivities of a Mother's Day and a High School reunion stretched over the Memorial Day long weekend. On top of these family related-events, a trip to Texas had been penciled in, as my company's team in the Dallas area was due for more training on our app. Two years ago it would have been far too much to digest. Late nights of doing too much in-game, ignoring my family back in the real world. In order to manage the guild and my time effectively, I had to be a picky eater. Not every situation or individual demanded hours of care and upkeep. The right tools allowed me to use my time efficiently, whether they were streamlining my raid signups, or keeping raiders honest in-game. The days of ordering everything on the menu were behind me.

Yogg-Saron was in the crosshairs, a complex nightmarish encounter that would have to be diced up into bite-sized chunks. Before him, however, we had to defeat General Vezax. The faceless one that guarded the entrance to Yogg was next on our list, and his ability to suppress mana regeneration was sure to give our healers some headaches. Again, Cheeseus called upon the (over) power of the Death Knight and put me to work tanking Vezax. Some raiding guilds had strategized around Surge of Darkness by kiting, but Cheeseus never once optioned the tactic. I stood and ate the entire Surge, thanks to Icebound Fortitude and a ridiculous amount of self-heals via Death Strike. Execution ultimately came down to mastering the Searing Flame interrupt, my Mind Freeze rotation quickly becoming muscle memory. It was on the Mother's Day weekend that we completed the Vezax encounter, and dove into his loot table for dessert.

The roster maintained a steady flow of Raiders and Elites throughout May. Week after week, they signed up, entered the queue, and I managed their rotations. Raiders would back out, their empty spots being filled by new folks waiting in the queue. This had been my intention from the start -- a new world order, free of stress and demanding only minutes of my attention a day. Thanks to our web-based signup sheet, phpRaider, I was able to prepare the rotations for the weekend in the same amount of time it took to get a cup of coffee. It was a proactive system, rather than a reactive one, enabling me to deal with players that had a tough time being consistent. So when Ben missed the Mother’s Day raid sign-up, it was inconvenient but manageable; it wasn't the end of the world. No more frantic last-minute fills, no more late nights in-game to the detriment of my family...because the tooling was right.

Unless, of course, the tools themselves were broken.

oRA2 returning a durability check


"She like the iPhone?"

"Oh yeah, fuckin' loved it." I typed back to Cheeseus, "Totally flipped out, had no idea she was getting one for her birthday."

"Nice. I assume we're going with oRA2 now that we're pushing for Yogg?"

I concurred. RDX had served us well, but it was time to retire the old beast. Over time it had grown cumbersome; the add-on had always been top-heavy, eating into the CPU cycles of our lesser equipped players in the computer hardware department. Cheeseus and I found oRA2 and were looking to use it as a replacement. We needed something to report back to us the status of players and their flasks, durability, etc. Sure, I could blindly trust players, but why give them an opportunity to lie, just to sate me? It was no longer appropriate to just take their word. Far better to just implement the right tool to deliver the truth, and deal with table scraps as they surfaced.

"Forget to finish the rotations?" Cheese asked.

"What? No! Who is missing?"

"Looks like Turtleman cancelled again."

Annoyed, I alt-tabbed over to phpRaider. But he was rotated in yesterday morning...I remember confirming after dinner. We had the roster accounted for by the time we were in our 24-hour lockout window. I hovered over the little note next to Turtleman's name, the place where players left their reason...their excuse...for cutting and running:

(Sorry, had a family dinner. Nothing I could do about it)

One of the changes I introduced in Wrath disallowed players from cancelling when there were less than 24 hours before a raid. It was a gentleman's handshake, an extension of good faith: I'll give you the flexibility of coming and going as you pleased, and in return, you needed to commit when the clock ticked down to the final day before the raid. Only emergencies would get you out at the 11th hour, and that required you to phone or text me (or an officer). If you could manage it, I wanted the name of the person who was replacing you. It wasn't the officers' jobs to play Mommy and Daddy to spoiled brats wanting to change their schedules on a whim. If you left us high-and-dry, it was your responsibility to find a replacement. Failure to do so would ensure reduced rotations.

Outside of the 24 hour window, you were free to queue and de-queue as you pleased. I agreed to eat that. I would perform rotations as late as possible (generally Thursday morning), and even let you sign up weeks in advance. As long as it was a day before the raid, you could still change your sign-up.

This Friday morning, hours before the raid, someone had found a loophole and exploited it.

"This wasn't an emergency," I typed back to Cheeseus.

"So what happened?"

"He cancelled inside the window. There's a bug in phpRaider. I'm going to have to fix it before more people think this is allowed."

So while Turtleman enjoyed his family dinner and evening off, I took care of business. I made the calls that day. I got his replacement. After going through the motions of working on Yogg-Saron, I stayed up late and fixed phpRaider. And long after my wife and kids where already asleep, I climbed upstairs, and went to bed.

And dreamed of standing in fire.

Mature earns "Heroic: In His House He Waits
Dreaming" during an attempt on Yogg-Saron,


"I'll let you answer his PM," said Cheeseus.

Divineseal had sent a message to myself, Cheeseus, and Dalans, asking how he could start bringing his Druid. I took it off of their hands. People management was starting to get a little easier for me, no doubt as a result of the practice I was getting. The early days of Ekasra and Wyse were warm-ups, and Kurst's harsh truths gave me the basic foundation to work with. Thanks to a more balanced schedule, I could make quicker assessments -- a huge win during this packed month. If it wasn't worth the effort, they'd get the short-and-sweet answer. You're not working out. Sorry. I no longer had the time to cater to everyone. And that was OK. Not everyone is savable.

"7th place overall, with only 66% of a DISC priest, and on Freya placing 9th, BARELY beating the PROT pali, while losing to the enhance and elemental shammy?"

I winced.

"Yeah...not the greatest coverage in the book."

Cheeseus was clearly not a fan of Divineseal. I thought it would be reasonable to give him a shot, even after the warning, the I specifically detailed to him the fact that he was quoted in the red flag forum post. He knew all eyes would be on him and that this would be his opportunity to improve. I suggested healing as a role only because I knew he had been healing in an arena team. That was the deal: don't tell people how to spec just to get them on the roster. I told myself this would fly because he was already a healer in another capacity.

When your roster is comprised of half casual, half hardcore raiders, catering to both, you'll come to discover that some players will be unable to play any role well. It's a sad fact. I looked at my newly fixed phpRaider, saw Divineseal signed up well into the months ahead, and sighed.

Paladins were going to be the death of me.

"I'll be watching Ben tonight to make sure he's doing what he needs to. He wasn't switching off of Hodir again last week."

Ah yes, Ben. Rarely a day went by that Cheeseus didn't bring up this distaste. Since as far back as The Burning Crusade, Ben had driven me to the brink of madness, a mini-Yogg stealing sanity stacks as his random drunken outbursts and failure to show up left a crater in our progression team. It would be so much easier to just pop the guild roster open, scroll to the priests, and boot the entry named "Aeden" from the guild. My finger hovered over the guild kick button. But I didn't press it. Empathy and ownership bled out. Maybe I could work with him, teach him how to be more respectful of the other players' time -- more amenable to raid direction. But why not simply kick him to the curb? This would be so much easier. Because he was a good player. He was popular.

I was still having a tough time making unpopular decisions.

The good of the guild is what rung in my ears when I reached for that "Remove Member" button. The biggest impact Ben had on us was that he was friends with Neps, my newest second-in-command -- the same one accumulating Fragments of Val'anyr. Neps brought too much to the table to risk sacrificing over an occasional drunken rant from Ben. I could manage this. Neps was one of the most valuable players and officers in the guild. Jeopardizing him would be like standing in Ominous Clouds while guardians tore us apart in madness. No, it wasn't worth it. Far better for me to take Ben on as a personal responsibility than to cut him and lose Neps in the process.

"If he keeps that shit up, can you talk to him or remove him from raids?"

"Yeah", I replied, "I'll look after Ben."


I came to a stop at a red light in Flagstaff, the long weekend coming to a close. Julie turned to me and stared a moment; she had that look a person gets when something isn't quite right. The kids in the back of the Civic poked and prodded each other, giggling. She cut them off as she tried to listen, turning the radio down.

"What?" I asked.

"...there's something wrong with your transmission."

I tried to pinpoint the sound she was referring to. The light turned green and I pressed on the gas. There. 

"You hear that?"

"Yeah...I did." For a brief moment, I caught the sound of a light vibration, as if two gears were grinding together.


Bonechatters said...

I love the mix of IRL and in-game cliffhangers.

Ekasra said...

The Eh Team suspense is killing me.

Mandakins said...

What do your guild mates think of you posting them in this light?

Shawn Holmes said...


Hindsight is, as they say, 20-20. I'm trying to be honest and accurate without being derogatory.

Anonymous said...

"while losing to the enhance and elemental shammy"

Hey, offspec shaman heals weren't a joke! AoE healing-intensive fights were easy to contribute to with Healing Rain.