Tuesday, September 10, 2013

3.31. The Descent Into Madness

Descendants of Draenor defeats Yogg-Saron,
earning "Heroic: The Secrets of Ulduar",

By Omission

I laid the situation out on the forums for Dalans and Neps to ponder. Who would be the most appropriate replacement for Kelden? Options were limited to either Sixfold, Arterea or Gunsmokeco. Sixfold was an excellent healer, both in PvE and PvP, and had consistently rocked the meters in both Ulduar and my obscenity-laced arenas. But there was a concern that he cared little for management. I got the vibe from Six, much like I did with Larada, that he was here to play a game and have fun, not chase after children that needed their asses wiped and their snotty noses blown. Arterea also demonstrated prowess in the duality of raiding and player-killing. After taking Ekasra's spot in The Eh Team, his recent claim to fame was a reworking of the healing strategy for hard-mode Vezax -- a strategy we'd reuse in the 25-Man. Sadly, Art's schedule was all over the board. He'd approached me for Elite, but was concerned that his school schedule would wreak havoc on his in-game hours. Sadly, the best-and-brightest also had to maintain the online hours necessary to survey and mediate on my behalf. This turned my attention to Gunsmokeco, the prime candidate, and best suited for the task.

Guns, like Kelden before him, was very good at doing things his own way. For as far back as I can remember, Guns was one of the first PvE Shamans in DoD that ran with no add-ons. For him, it was the default UI or bust. I'd experienced resistance from officers in the past; Annihilation famously shit on the concept when he held the Warrior officer title. It was always his balls we were breaking when it came time to bring up the subject. He made no secret about his hatred of modding the UI, so it was out in the open and common knowledge to all. I let it slide with Annihilation because he was just that good. Expert players like him do exist in WoW; so finely attuned to the game's minutia that add-ons simply encumber their performance, shifting the signal-to-noise ratio far to the extreme.

It is my humble opinion that this is the exception far more than it is the rule.

Far too many players gave me grief on running add-ons, claiming they weren't necessary, only to turn around make horrible mistakes, act like amateurs, then throw their arms up in denial, blaming something else for their shitty performance. With Gunsmokeco, I wasn't concerned. He delivered top performance with every raid he set foot into -- a trait which helped play a role in his recruitment into The Eh Team. So I was fine with Guns letting the use of add-ons fall to the wayside.

What I wasn't fine with was his approach.

Unlike Annihilation's outward, public stance on his disgust with add-ons, Guns would simply choose to keep that info to himself. I made it clear, public knowledge what mods were to be loaded, and expected the best and brightest to lead by example. Only after running oRA2 or DBM version checks would the truth come seeping out -- he hadn't loaded any. In the face of the report, it was "Sorry, forgot", and no big deal -- case closed. Until the next time. Then, I'd have to remind him to turn them back on all over again. Did you think I wouldn't notice? Or were you just not paying attention?

Players that are skilled enough to run without add-ons -- especially healers -- can't perform at the top of their game without paying attention. The only other option left my gut screaming red flag after I pressed the promotion button.

After all...it was no big deal. Case closed. Right?

Mature and the 25-Man Progression Team
stand before a defeated Yogg-Saron,


It was a picture of what had been, what is, and what was to come. Maneuvering through tentacles while the four Keepers kept watch on us from the balcony. Faceless Horrors leapt out of murky greenish clouds as I scrambled to gain control of them, lest they turn and begin killing raiders made of softer material. Cheeseus called out to the groups going into the mind of Yogg-Saron, pulling visions apart by their fabric, turning away from the nightmarish skulls that used every opportunity to sap each player's sanity. With these visions driven back into the recesses of Yogg's mind, the raiders poured their damage into the ganglia below the Old God's brainstem. Meanwhile, I waited outside, doing what I could to deal with tentacles, spinning my camera away in preparation to avoid gazing into the mouth of madness.

Each attempt that got us to the final phase was an exercise in Tank Endurance. Juggling between myself, Omaric, and Bretthew, we struggled to stay alive as the faceless ones continued to spawn, moving quickly towards our casters and healers. They struck the hardest when they first spawned; it was imperative we gained control as quickly as possible. One-shotting our highest damage dealers or strongest healers would turn the final phase into a bleak game of attrition, watching the nightmare slowly unfold as we were overrun. Meanwhile, panic-stricken players lost sight of their sanity, staring blindly at Yogg-Saron like deer in the headlights while they focused on damage. In a hypnotic trance they turned upon one other, cutting into the flesh of fellow raiders rather than the real enemy. The tanks and I held on to our calls.

"Mature picking up. Omaric next."

Then Omaric.

"Omaric has this, Taba, you're next."

Then Bretthew.

"I got it, I got it. Mature, you're next."

We continued on, trying to call out which tank was next on which taunt, who would be responsible for turning the faceless horrors toward us, praying that we had one last cooldown to blow to stay alive. DPS worked through the final bit of health remaining on the Old God -- averting our gaze from the hundred mouths, desperate to sink their teeth in.

We awoke.

The nightmare ended.

Heroic: The Descent into Madness was finished.

On the evening of June 14th, 2009, the fifth weekend of work on Yogg-Saron, with only one person dead, Descendants of Draenor slew the Old God in his lair. Far beneath Ulduar, his mad whisperings were silenced, and he bled out into the Saronite earth. It was a proud day to finally wrap up Ulduar and stand with the guild in the final kill-shot, but our work had only just begun. For this new design of raiding in Wrath meant that we were only through normal modes, bosses slain in their most simplistic manifestations. The true forms of the bosses had yet to be revealed, challenges that would await in bizarre new abilities, or executions under duress. The forms we'd witnessed thus far were meant only for the broad masses of raiders in Wrath, folks wishing only to experience the encounters, but lacking the dedication and focus necessary to clear raids with a degree of difficulty more reminiscent to the early days of WoW.

The kind of stuff we had cut our teeth on.

Grandma is not on Fire

Our priorities quickly shifted to what remained of these "hard-modes". Some we completed by accident, the pleasant side-effect of running a tight ship by default: encounters are completed as they should be. Others we chipped away at as the initial weeks passed by, growing in experience, augmented by the stats of newly acquired armor and weaponry. Yet for all the progress we made and achievements that spammed guild chat, three months had passed and nerfs continued to flow in, a subtle reminder that Blizzard's end-goal was to get more folks to raid. More folks to raid.

More folks to raid.

Our pool was rock solid, comprising a healthy balance of both Raiders and Elites, all itching to chisel away at what remained for Heroic: Glory of the Ulduar Raider. They coveted that Iron-Bound Proto Drake, and did whatever they could to claw up to an Elite rank, solidifying their spot in the roster. My hesitance lingered. I didn't want to disrupt that balance of Raider-to-Elite; both were needed and neither could dominate an entire role. This hesitancy, coupled with the looming Summer months, began to manifest in hefty cancellations on our signup sheet. But these cancellations weren't emergencies like "Grandma is on Fire". I mean cancelling for reasons that should have been scheduled around.

One weekend it would be:

"Birthday weekend, be busy all weekend."

Understandable, I'm sure, though I usually only need one day to celebrate a birthday. After becoming so caught up in WoW activities as to forget my own, time off around the event seemed perfectly reasonable. But then the very next weekend,

"Family Gathering."

And the weekend after that:


Each week I read the excuses reasons people gave to step out, I wondered if they really did want a shot at the Proto-Drake, or were just happy to have us carry them through on our backs. But what could I do? This was the setup, after all. Raiders would flow in and out as needed, and I would rotate in whomever was left. I expected that from Raiders. Besides, the Elites and Officers would be the rock that I'd lean on when Raiders wished for too much freedom.

Yet the players that were one step away from Elite were playing a very touchy game of cat-and-mouse with me when it came to cancellations. They didn't have the rank, so pushed it to the limit -- taking off as much time as they could squeeze out of me, because they could. But they always had very good reasons to legitimize their time away...

...reasons that just happened to come right off of my "Emergencies" forum topic.


Ryley Foshaug said...

I reworked the healing for Vezax? I don't even remember that, probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Also, I don't wipe asses, I kick them out the door. Baddies, baddies everywhere.

I probably would have turned down heal officer anyways and Guns did a great job, as it stood between the Eh Team raiding 5 days a week, late night arenas with Omaric and Beercow, and the 24/7 partying at my house I didn't need any extra responsibilities. Around this time I was raiding 35+ hours a week probably but it paid off in the end.


Shawn Holmes said...


You have Cheeseus to thank for verification on your healing re-work. And as we know, if he says it, THAT MAKES IT TRUE.

Kelden said...

I suspect that in this context the phrase "did a great job," roughly translates to "let me do whatever I wanted."

Cheeseus said...

Turns out I fucked up and it was Art who made the strat.

STOP STEALING ART'S THUNDER, SIX. It's bad enough he's blind.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Cheeseus, @Sixfold

I've updated the post to reflect Art taking command of that strat.

Striving for accuracy!

Brett Easley said...

While you are posting for accuracy you should probably mention the fun game I had with Guns during Phase 3 of Yogg. You know the one where I'd let him pee his pants before taunting?

Shawn Holmes said...


He wasn't the only one pissin' his pants!!

Josh Bee said...

One of my worst memories with the people who refused to do add-ons were actually current content. We had been working on Elrethe Renferal in M:EN at the start of Legion, and I had a shadow priest say that the reason he ran the tornado to the venom, spraying it EVERYEHERE, was due to spriest spell animations making him look like purple normally, so he didn't see the tell. I had advised him that any kind of Boss Mods tells when he's been debuffed, and he told me that World First raiders didn't need Boss Mods (which they definitely use).

Nightstar said...

Allot of this 'no showing' around 3.1 sounds familiar actually. And I do believe some of it came down to the changes Blizzard made to raiding. I can appreciate thought out game design. But the changes in Wrath came with some side effects. Before the 2nd expansion achieving a 'cleared' raid dungeon could encompass weeks, months if you weren't in a hardcore guild. Everyone's motivation was laser focused on this one goal of killing the bosses.

If they weren't downed yet the motivations would remain the same. Unless you 1) were contemplating switching guilds or 2) quiting PvE or 3) quiting the game. In Wrath peoples motivations in PvE were split up. And they would continue to split as people found out what type of person they truly were. Some people just enjoyed the team work and were happy to skip hard modes. Others enjoyed the challenge and would raid a super hard boss for weeks without no reward or being distinguished for his/her accomplishment. And of-course you would have your collectors, people who felt rewarded by collecting ultra rare items in game whom nobody else possessed.

All these raiders would have some overlap but eventually one side would win out over the others. And this caused the splitting to occur at around 3.1 and onward. People had cleared the content, summer was around the corner, offering it's many distractions. And the reward for busting your ass in Ulduar for a semi-cool mount just felt 'less'. I cleared much of Wrath in a top 50 guild. Getting server firsts, every possible achievement, every title every mount every item. And it just felt empty. Me and my fellow raiders did the content to set ourselves apart from the rest. To do something that few others could manage to do. But in the end we had little to show for it. Eventually all I could put on was a fancy 'Grand Crusader' title. A title reward which they removed for our inevitable Lich King heroic kill. All this effort to be the first of our server, to finish the clear without the gradual 'buff' making the fight trivial. And not even a cool unique title. Why? Probably because they felt it was unfair to only award 25 players on a server with something menial.

This has become Blizzards thought process. A couple of letters forming a unique title held by just 25 players, is now considered to be an unfair award. I was tired, I felt deflated after the initial rush of adrenaline. Which lingered way shorter as I had nothing tangible to remind me of my accomplishment. I had seen the raid dungeon inside out for more than half a year thanks to it's abismal gating. I went from caring more about this game than anything else to not giving two shits and closing my account as if I were deleting a spam email.

And I wasn't the only one who did some soul searching at around that time.