Tuesday, September 3, 2013

3.29. Entropy

Mature aids a group of players from
DoD to defeat Keristrasza without gaining
more than two stacks of Biting Cold,
The Nexus

Too Lean a Mixture

Elites were making things difficult.

As originally designed, my newly promoted "cream of the crop" players had been guaranteed a spot in the weekly progression raid. The side-effect to this should be obvious: the more spots that were locked-down each week, the less flexibility I had to rotate lesser-ranked players (Raiders) through. My two-cycle raiding engine only ran at 100% efficiency if I maintained a healthy mixture of both Raiders and Elite. If the fuel-to-oil mix was too one-sided, eventually things would seize up. Part of what went along with this understanding of my need for a balanced ratio of Raiders-to-Elites was the hard truth: As I promoted more Elites, fewer Raiders would get in. Every promotion had to be thoughtful. What role was I locking down? What did the pool look like? Who would be squeezed out by this promotion, and would those floating Raiders be necessary to keep the engine humming at idle?

"There is no reason for Crasian to not be Elite" popped the message into my IM window. I sipped my coffee. We'd been over this already. I typed back to Cheeseus.

"I'm still not comfortable locking down all the melee spots."

Six melee is what we were taking to Ulduar. The Warriors Jungard and Abrinis were Elite. Sir Klocker still held the Old God rank, which carried with it no expectation to raid, but he and I had an understanding. He was raiding every week, the rank was for show. Cheeseus was the Raid Leader, so for obvious reasons, he would be in attendance every week. Bheer was our fifth and final locked-down melee spot, bringing Enhancement Shamanism to the raid. That left a single floating melee spot from week-to-week, an already oil-thick mixture. Promoting Crasian meant a full lock-down of melee, all gears being greased...with no fuel to drive the engine long-term. Promoting him meant no contingency plan when emergencies arose. Take only Elites week-to-week, and the Raiders will feel neglected and leave. No more Riskers. No more Bonechatters.

I stuck to my guns on Crasian's promotion. Cheeseus was annoyed. He stated the obvious, "Ensuring Elites raid every week is gimping us. What happens when we lock down all roles? New amazing players just get left behind?"

"Which is exactly why I can't promote them."

He pressed further.

"We have 1 elite tank, 1 gm tank, and 1 whatever rank Dalans is tank, yet we're able to rotate in Bretthew, while still knowing we have access to Dalans / Omaric, as we saw when Taba had that family emergency 2-4 weeks ago and let me know last minute. This is what Elites should be. Sign up for every raid, do their job professionally, sit out on occasion to allow new people the opportunity to run/get loot, but always at the end of the day, be available for the raid."

I pointed out the flaw in the his logic, "Sitting out on occasion is what the Raiders do," I replied, "that's the difference between a Raider and an Elite."

"No, the difference is that you choose when the Raiders sit out. When the Elites sit out, it's their choice. Sort of."

I got what he was trying to say. The question was how to make it work without making Elites feel like I was stripping them of their permanent spot. I was going to have to give it thought. I added it to my mental to-do list -- a list Cheeseus had become quite adept at piling things on to.

Mature hams it up for the camera with his
newly acquired Chef's Hat and title,

In Flux

When not struggling with what to do about looming Elite promotions that would lock out an entire slot of players, I had many other items on my list to keep me on my toes. Yogg-Saron, of course, was the primary target. Our speed-burn through Ulduar had ground to a dead halt at Yogg, as we transitioned back to our age-old plan of slowly picking away at the boss, baby-step by baby-step. I was also fielding changes in the roster. Ekasra, finally achieving a sense of accomplishment through his Warlock Nestonia, had decided to throw in the towel. He surprised me by this move, after having put so much energy into a Warlock and making a lasting, memorable contribution in Wrath. Alas, the journey has to end for every player at some point. Ekasra's exit was tough because his absence not only ate into the 25-Man roster, it was sure to affect The Eh Team as well. Cheeseus was certain to have a load of fun looking for a qualified replacement -- and with his rigid expectations on perfection, it would not come easily.

Another loss came in by way of Lix, a long-term Resto Druid who diligently filled the role of a Raider, rotating in and out week-to-week. Lix came to me one evening and confessed that she'd made the life-changing decision to join the Navy. I applauded her courage and nobility to serve her country, but would have preferred that she remained serving me. Damage dealers were a dime a dozen, but quality healers were always hard to come by; the loss of Lix would be another blow I'd have to take in stride.

Other fluctuations in the lineup continued to remind me of the Elite problem. Mcflurrie's schedule was changing and he came to me requesting a demotion, unable to maintain the consistency I asked of Elites. In an alternate dimension where Elites weren't required to be at every raid, but still enjoyed the luxury of taking a priority spot, this demotion could have been avoided. 

The Elite problem manifested in the other direction as well, as players lobbied for promotions...as was the case with Turtleman. I had grave reservations about him. He may have dominated the Mage DPS charts unequivocally during his tenure in DoD, but Turtleman had red flagged himself on numerous occasions -- the most recent offense being the cancellation of his signups mere hours before a raid. This was a behavior he'd beeen warned about; it was not representative of one who was striving for Elite. Still, he was one of the longest running guild members, and had never given me a moment of doubt when the loyalty of the guild was in question. Even in our darker days when the guild hemorrhaged away quality players, Turtleman remained steadfast in DoD. I took a risk with Turtle and gave him the promotion to Elite, with my gut screaming at me the entire time. Too many red flags. People don't change. This is a mistake. I get it, gut...I get it. I'll work with Turtleman just as I have with Ben. He is worth the effort.

When the dust settled, I was down a Lock, a Shaman, and a Druid, but managed to limp away with a locked-down ranged DPS. Bouncing back and forth between our queue of applications and WoW Lemmings, I was able to pick up a new Hunter named Cenadar, and a Paladin named Aetherknight, both of whom I knew little about, but that seemed like a good a start as any.

A start at staving off the entropy.

After juggling the problems of the fluctuating raid roster, pondering the conundrum of my Elite rank, and trying to remain focused on Yogg-Saron, I couldn't wait to see what was in store for me next.

Mature scores his 10,000th honorable kill while
Ben (via Fluffykitten) points out how behind
the curve he actually is,
Alterac Valley

Dunning-Kruger in Full Effect

Cheeseus brought it to my attention one morning, linking me to one of our World of Logs reports.

"This is where he does his best. Notice anything suspicious about it?"

I glanced at the logs, scanning down the list of healers' performances.

"It's subtle", he added.

Cheeseus was pointing me to the trash pre-Mimiron, a festive group of mechanical spider-like miniature tanks called Arachnopods which sprayed us with napalm while we struggled to mitigate the burning damage. Arachnopods had a clever gimmick: As they reached low health, they ejected their pilot allowing us to jump in and control the Tank ourselves, turning the tables on the clockwork gnomes. I wasn't seeing it. This is why I didn't lead raids, but delegated the responsibility to people who could read between the World of Logs lines.

"Something more closely related to deaths", Cheeseus continued with his clues.

A group of players were dead from massive flame spray coming in from the Arachnopod Destroyers. Meanwhile, massive healing had been put on to the Destroyers themselves. So much healing, in fact, that it had pushed an inconsequential Paladin into the number one healing spot.

"Healing done on the Destroyers is incredibly high," I typed back to Cheeseus, "about 64% vs. 10% on Omaric and ~1% on everyone else."

Divineseal was casting Beacon of Light on the Main Tank and spamming heals on the person driving the Destroyer, catapulting his overall healing done in an attempt to not look like the worst healer on the team. Other healers did this as a joke to see what they could inflate their numbers to. Divineseal was using it as a legitimate tactic...and failing.

"I like the deaths during his high healing area," Cheeseus concluded, "clearly his priorities are straight."

I have to admit, it was an impressive attempt to try to sate Cheeseus. Our raid leader had been complaining about Divine's numbers as long as the pants-looter had been raiding Ulduar with us. Impressive...and dumb. I wasn't even sure if I could consider this manipulation. How can one purposefully cheat if one still doesn't fundamentally understand the rules of the game? It's the sort of behavior you'd see from a player that was trying to confirm what they already believed to be true: that they were right and the rest of the world was wrong. But as players like my ex-Warrior officer Annihilation spelled out plainly,

"Divine is only bad because he thinks he is better than he really is."

Psychologists call this the Dunning-Kruger effect. It grants people an inflated assessment of their own skills, while at the same time, preventing them from understanding how truly unskilled they really are. A vicious cycle of ignorance that protects oneself from one's own incompetence, perpetuating never-ending mediocrity.

It was an all too familiar scene. Players that didn't like to take advice, that got defensive when it was suggested they didn't know what they were doing...would specifically seek out information from other skewed sources that backed up their own false claims. You seek out the "truths" that make you feel better, rather than face the fact that you may not know anything at all. It happens every day to people that have never even heard of World of Warcraft. So Divineseal sought to find ways to improve his own skewed poor healing strategies, and all it served was to point out how exploitative his techniques were. It wasn't that he didn't care -- he wanted to be a successful healer. He just didn't know that he wasn't one.

In his mind, Divineseal's job was to fulfill Cheeseus's request: stop being at the bottom of the meters.


I logged in and scanned for Kelden to see if he was available to chat about the Divineseal issue. Kelden whispered me first.

"Hey", he shot over to me, "Got a sec?"

"Actually I do, let's hop in vent."

The news he had was not good.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I cannot handle this suspense!

"The news he had was not good."

Aubiece said...

I say he took moar pants

Mandakins said...

Not that it matters anymore, but I would think withholding someone from an elite rank just because of their role is rather unfair

Shawn Holmes said...


It was unfair. Hopefully you've seen through the story that it wasn't as black-and-white as I had hoped it could be.

In the coming posts, you'll see what I did to resolve it -- and whether or not it worked.

Ryley Foshaug said...

The anticipation of hearing your side of events is far worse than the cliff hangers you're leaving others with.

In my mind Ulduar has only just begun and DoD isn't yet at it's peak (for my duration in the guild)

The decision not to lock down all the melee spots was reasonable too though, Crasian was an amazing player but he had the advantage of Eh Team 10 man HM loot and people need to see an opportunity to join the raids if you can expect them to stick around. Keeping a 25 man raid filled is harder than people think.


Kelden said...

I love you Ryley. /dryhump

Anonymous said...

you really should get this published, its a fantastic read. I had the pleasure of running into jungard in a guild I was in recently, I was very surprised I found out he was the same one from this blog :)

~ luluha, of Emerald Dream

Shawn Holmes said...


Thank you for your generous praise. I hope to wrap it all up in an eBook by the story's end. It sounds like a number of folks might enjoy it in this fashion.

Moorawr said...

Yay! I show up in the blog.. even if its as someone doing poorly in a screenshot. =x