Thursday, March 20, 2014

3.59. Strychten

Artwork by Nooblar

Taking a Hot Shot

The Olympic Volleyball team, players finely honed, muscles sculpted and senses heightened to near superhuman levels, has just made a startling announcement: they will be dropping out of the Olympics to pursue a spot in this year's San Bernardino International "Spike That Drink" Pee-Wee Tournament.

I'm going to guess that one of two thoughts just entered your mind:

"Wow, the rest of the kids in that tournament are about to get a serious beating."

...or was it closer to:

"Uh, why is an Olympic team competing at a Little League level?"

Well, which was it? I have to confess that, for me, it was both. To the relief of amateur and professional athletes the world over, my particular experience had nothing to do with the fictional account of Olympians choosing to put the smack down on a bunch of high school kids.

For me, it was something that hit closer to home, but was no less absurd.


"This doesn't make any sense," I spoke into the mic as we headed back to the instance, riding on the back of a ghostly wyvern.

"We must be missing some key mechanic," added Klocker.

"Possible we don't have the deeps," said Blain.

I found that hard to believe, "How is our DPS any different than Eh Team? Seriously?"

"Could just be the mix and match of their particular group..."

I stopped him, "OK, two years ago maybe that would've been an excuse. But it goes against every game design Blizzard's preached throughout Wrath this entire expansion. 'Bring the player, not the class', remember? It can't possibly be tuned that tightly to favor their makeup over ours. This is normal mode, for God's sake!"

Si Team's steamrolling had come to an abrupt halt in the Plagueworks: Rotface. Wipe after wipe after wipe, we came within mere percentages of closing the deal. The fundamentals of raiding weren't even a consideration at this point: every weapon had been enchanted, every food buff and flask consumed. DPS rotations were as tight as they could possibly be...yet we were continually coming up short. Again, with a 3% wipe. And another at 2%. A gut wrenching wipe at 1%. Then, back to 2%, and back to 3%. A cloud of asphyxiating frustration swept in; my breath tightened. I swore I felt my blood pressure rising as easily as one could feel the burn of a hot stove element searing flesh.

Suddenly, a flood of spam filled guild chat with players typing "ROTFACE DOWN!!!1!1". The torrent of exclamations that followed read of "FINALLY" and "JESUS" and "FUCK THAT BOSS".

I fired off a response, addressed to those Eh Team members that were on, "WTF"”, I typed, "How in the hell did you guys do this?"

The first response came from Bretthew, "Rotface sucks serious ass."

Bulwinkul added in his two cents, "Something is seriously wrong with that fight."

Wrong or not, Eh Team stuck the proverbial fork into the leather faced abomination. Why couldn't Si Team?

"Maybe the encounter is just...broken."


We dispersed that evening, battered. The fight invaded my dreams and distracted my thoughts the next day. I struggled to focus on my work, as images of the abomination darted across the synaptic darkness. A slime here, a pool of poison there...fuck. Unexplained mysteries were the worst. Not knowing the answer was a thousand nails dragged down a chalkboard. My IM window shot open. A person I rarely heard from over instant messenger would deliver the drug that relaxed my veins and got the blood flowing again: Jungard.

"This just in: Rotface 10-Man nerfed"

Called it. "Well, well, well..."

"Yup. He's down a chunk of health, people are reporting it on the forums. Here's a link."

"I knew something wasn't right. Have they made an official statement yet?"

"No blue posts that I can tell, looks to be a stealth nerf."

As with all changes to the game that weren't immediately followed by announcements from Blizzard, theories began to circulate. Players were quick to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon, never once stopping to consider that, sometimes, companies don't always get everything right all the time. Having spent most of my professional career in software development, I could relate. Communication between those doing the work and those keeping the public informed wasn't as easy as lighting a stove, but more akin to cracking rocks of flint together in the hopes of sending out some smoke signals. It was possible the community managers simply didn't have the information from the dev team. I did my best to keep a level head during situations like this, giving Blizzard the benefit of the doubt.

Still, Ghostcrawler had done more this expansion than any in the history of World of Warcraft to keep the public in-the-know. Was there, perhaps, even the tiniest of possibilities, that something larger was afoot? It bore questioning, at the least.

"GC hasn't said anything? Eh, he's probably still drafting it up."

"My guess is it has something to do with the Strict 10 guilds. Probably bent out of shape because they can't supplement upgrades from the 25."

The what now?

The "Strict 10" categories as they appeared
on GuildOx during Wrath of the Lich King

The Fall of Alexander

"Strict 10s?"

"Yeah, you've seen 'em on GuildOx, right? Maybe Blizz is trying to make them uber competitive or something, and the 10s end up overtuned as a result."

I pulled up GuildOx, filtered down to the Deathwing-US server and began scanning the categories. Sure enough, sandwiched between the 10-Man and 25-Man achievements sat a new category: 10M Strict, with its own subset of filters to measure progression and ranks. Out of the primordial soup that was this expansion emerged a new, self-proclaimed "competitive" raider. Still dripping from the evolutionary mass, these guilds burned with all the hardcore intensity of the oldest and wisest raiding guilds ever to set foot in WoW, bearing a solitary, subtle difference. These raiders purposefully remained within the tight confines of a small guild, never growing above a dozen or so players...and certainly never reaching the size that a 25-Man raiding guild demanded. Yet, unlike the 10-Man guilds which had been casually consuming raid content in Wrath thus far, these newly evolved players climbed up the food chain to demand recognition as competitive raiders. 10-Man raids in "heroic" mode most certainly came as close as they could to deliver such demands, but of everything we'd experienced thus far, even the most difficult 10-Man heroics didn't hold a candle to the challenge demanded of in the traditional 25-Man.

Most surprising of all was that this new class of raider took themselves seriously enough to warrant their own server-first/world-first rankings. What fumes had these players been breathing in?

It boggled the mind. To me, Strict 10 guilds competing for world dominance made about as much sense as a team of Olympians demanding a spot in a Little League tournament. Again, the Not-Knowing infected my mind as I wrestled with the concept. Just as frustrating as it was to be missing the key to solving Rotface's oppressive difficulty (in 10-Man normal mode, no less), I struggled to wrap my head around this new raiding paradigm. Why would anyone that considered themselves a competitive player purposefully handicap the playing field in which they did battle? And all at once, the situation reminded me of another community in World of Warcraft:

The twink.

Without question, the twink was a horse of a different color. They were an eclectic crew that played by their own bizarre rules, the hipsters of WoW, driven by an internal desire to reshape the game to suit their own needs. If PvP was a bucket that collected the majority of WoW's liberal anarchists, then the twinks most certainly made up the radical left-wing of this party. Bucking the trend (or core mechanic, based on your perspective) of striving to reach a character's max level facilitating the acquisition of end-game content and its appropriate rewards, twinks derived orgasmic satisfaction by doing the exact opposite. Twinks refrained from leveling past the top of the decuple, favoring numbers like 29, 39, 49, and so on. Once arriving at this magical yet seemingly arbitrary number, twinks then dove deep into any and all available gear for that chosen "cap".

To explain this concept to the layman is like trying to explain why a professional race car driver diverting all of their time and energy into old beat-up Monte Carlos, Chevelles, Novas, and Power Gates from the 70's. People point and laugh at these relics of an ancient era as they cruise down main street, but hobbyists know the truth: they may not win any races, but are some of the most resilient automobiles when pitted against one another in a destruction derby. So when a professional race car driver chooses to funnel his interests into something a hobbyist does as a goof, one has to wonder: what's the motive? "It's just for fun", "I enjoy it!", and "It's a matter of preference" are all perfectly acceptable responses...none of which answer the question. Why? What benefit comes from changing the playing field?

The twink, much like the larger PvP culture it spawned from, cares little about public opinion. They answer to no one and feel no obligation to explain themselves. As a result of this obstinacy, we're forced to look at any data available and come to our own conclusions. Many different drivers could act as possible motives for this style of play. For one, it favors the extreme geek who loves to research and theory out various "greens" and their potential for max damage. It's also explored by a small fraction of the community, so perhaps it favors those who thrive in smaller groups of players, especially ones whose expertise will become apparent much more easily. After all, everyone needs to feel like they're good at something, right? But these are all still personal preferences and opinions, which can vary from player to player. We need harder data, something that doesn't change from player to player, when trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. The answer to that is quite simple, a fact that could quite possibly be the single driving factor for the existence of twinks in their entierety:

At levels below the current cap, World of Warcraft becomes a severely unbalanced game.

The game was never meant to be played permanently at levels below max. As a result, Blizzard simply has never put the time nor energy into balancing the game at those levels. Twinks know this fact well, whether they like to admit it or not. "Competition", therefore, is vastly skewed out of proportion at those less-than-max levels, and it is this drug that keeps them coming back to the dealer. They love that the balance is out-of-control at those levels, and don't care. It keeps them coming back to Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, fueling the junkies as their opponents explode in a mess of flesh and bone. Their enemies never had a chance.

...just like they themselves never had a chance, back when they attempted real competition at max level, and proceeded to have their asses handed back to them by players wielding true skill. Now, they leaned on the imbalance of lower levels to skew things in their favor. They couldn't compete on the field, so they changed the field.

The exact same thing that the 10-Man Strict guilds were doing.

"WoW Weekly 1: Rotface",
Artwork by Aleana

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

As I glanced at the Strict 10 categories on GuildOx, I thought of the twinks and how they shared a similar apathy towards both public opinion and the shape of the game itself. These so-called hardcore raiders seemed driven to compete against one another in their race to dominate PvE. But, the math fell apart at their size. Players that cut their teeth in guilds so large they could hold off an attack on their home city...were now settling for "keeping it small", uninterested in the raid machine of their former years. What was it that drove them to this bizarre frontier? Publicly, they said the same thing: "Preference. It's purely a matter of preference." The answer was a cop-out. I wanted to know why they preferred it small. Were these the rejects of larger, 25-Man hardcore raiding guilds who were unable to work with others, unable to get over their petty, personal issues? Was it because they told themselves they couldn't put forth a little effort into rearranging their lives around a larger guild's scheduling demands...when, in many cases, all it would take is a little planning on their part? Was it because they knew that the majority of guilds running 10-Man only raids were mostly comprised of players approaching content with a casual, laid-back attitude, so competing against these guilds would come off as impressive by comparison?

...or was it because they, like their twink cousins, knew the truth: 10-Man raids could never be balanced competitively against their larger 25-Man raids cousins.

Remember: this was primarily a hardcore crowd. They weren't stupid; the had done the math. Each and every way they laid it out on the table, a 10-Man raid's mechanics could never provide the difficulty of a 25-Man. Not unless Blizzard decided to bend the rules. If this Strict 10 crowd could evolve into something significant, perhaps Blizzard saw it as a boon, a way to make encounters appeal to an even broader range of player. For a split second, in that moment of space and time when the mystery of Rotface's difficulty remained unanswered, I had to question the possibility. Competitive 10-Man raiding? And the very first thought I had sent a chill down my spine colder than any Howling Blast a death knight could hope to deliver:

If it existed, why would anyone ever set foot in a 25-Man again?


Five days after the "stealth" nerf, one of Blizzard's community managers Crygil confirmed the hotfix, simultaneously confirming my suspicion and banishing all conspiracy theories out into the void. But the research into "Strict 10s" got me thinking...was it possible that Blizzard would take note of their efforts? It was a real possibility. After all, when the twinks yelled loudly enough, Blizzard added an option in-game to "toggle off" experience gains, which made the twinks' lives much easier, and validated their style of play.

What changes would Blizzard make to accommodate this unusual new type of raider?

At the end of the day, did it matter how people chose to play WoW? Not at all. What other players did to entertain themselves in game had no impact on my own enjoyment...

...that is, unless, their advocacy of this unorthodox experience helped shift Blizzard's design team into a new mode of thinking, perhaps even to favor it, poisoning our own experience in the process.


R said...

I'm curious... how much of this analysis were you actually doing at the time and how much is you looking back and trying to recreate your action?

Reason I ask... in ICC especially I thought 10s and 25s were pretty evenly balanced, some fights favoured one or the other but it wasn't conclusively easier in 10s in every case.

I ran with a core 10-man group for the second half of Wrath (very late Ulduar, running fully in ToC and ICC) that had some good success, including some server-first achievements in ToC.

That same group, all 10, most on their mains, ran in a guild 25... we were some of the best players in that 25, too, yet our 25 progress was generally in line with our 10 progress, especially in ICC... typically we were a boss behind in 25s due to player swapping and having a lower average skill level in that group. Still, it's not like our 10 group was destroying the 25 group... I, seriously, never noticed a significant difference in difficulty and that even factors in that our 10 group had access to 25 gear (I didn't personally, I ran a different toon in each, but most ran the same in both).

Stonebreath said...

One reason to have a "personal preference" for 10s is that the social environment is different. I like hanging out with smaller numbers of people in real life rather than going to a larger party. It's the same in WoW for me and has nothing to do with game difficulty.

Shawn Holmes said...


10/25 balance was something we increasingly scrutinized as WotLK progressed. The biggest paradox surrounding it was the nearly constant claim by the community at large (re: forums) that 10s were balanced against 25s, yet 10-Man raids/achievements were *always* completed first. Not just sometimes...*everytime*.

Until the emergence of the Strict 10s, we also saw a huge percentage of 10-Man guilds struggling with content that baffled us: All of the 10-Man teams that ran in DoD (comprised of players from the 25) completed the content without struggle.

Also, I (and others in DoD) would agree that there were definitely a few achievements here and there that were quite a bit more challenging in 10 than in 25 (a thorim one and a freya one come to mind), but that observation adds to the argument of imbalance, rather than take away.


Completely understand. As I've stated in many of the blog posts near the start of Part III, I have always (and will always) advocate *for* personal preference -- everyone absolutely deserves a shot at experiencing content, whether large or small in size.

It is at this point in the story that the community begins to shift its mindset from "we deserve a chance to experience content" to "we deserve THE SAME REWARDS". And while I am all for everyone getting a shot, what I'm *not* for is different levels of effort reaping the same rewards.

The seeds of that are being planted at this part of the story.

Haines-Zul'jin said...

What a throwback. In the first thread you linked - the one where the Rotface nerf was still a stealth nerf - I see myself posting there, post #14. Thanks for that.

Shawn Holmes said...



My favorite part of that is if you scroll down, you see a bit of that 10 v 25 mentality from the day (re: Shelaris).

...Oh, how the mentality has shifted.

Anonymous said...

10 man content was more difficult in the sense that you could not carry an underperforming player. In 25 man you had enough people to make up the difference. Not saying either one is better but definitely some selective memory going on here.

Shawn Holmes said...


That point came up a lot as a means to grant some credibility to 10s, but was offset by the fact that -- at the start of wrath -- 10s didn't deliver enough of a difficulty for it to be a barrier. True, losing someone early was much more punishing, but it was equally as difficult (if not more so) to *actually lose people*. I'm not talking about simple little "whoops, sorry everyone, lagged and died" issues...

I'm talking you're on the same boss over and over and over for weeks and weeks and weeks, a la TBC/Vanilla raiding. Deaths like that...just didn't happen.

It was only when Blizzard decided to start twisting the dials on this, however, that the perception of 10s' difficulty began to skew (and I'll get into those new factors as well).

Oronarr said...

It sounds like you're trying to bait twinks and 10 man players with your analysis and conclusions. I'll give my perspective as someone who has been both at different times.

I played a warrior twink in my spare time during the last half of 2006 along with a real life friend who made a matching paladin. There were several reasons behind our decision to do this:

1) The Arms Race - On my server and, later on, my battlegroup, the horde dominated us in part because they had many more twinks than we did. I can only speculate why alliance twinks weren't as popular but I would guess that our players just didn't care as much about winning in pvp or playing strategically. Generally they only seemed interested in the number of KB they racked up. To anyone who wanted to actually win this was pretty disheartening. Having a few twinks on our side evened the playing field a bit (we were still almost always the only two on our team) and made it possible for just a few players to turn the tide in our favor at crucial moments.

2) Legacy vs. Standard - Another rationale for twinking can be likened to the different formats that have sprung up over the years in the Magic: the Gathering TCG. In Magic, Standard is a format which rotates new cards in and out constantly. The Metagame is always changing and adapting, sometimes radically shifting from week to week. Its unpredictable nature and constant refreshes are attractive to a large crowd.

Legacy, on the other hand, includes almost every card ever made and, as such, drastic shifts in the Metagame are fairly uncommon. It is difficult for a single new card or block of cards to unbalance the entire format when there are so many more options available for countering their strengths. After your initial buy-in you can just play without having to constantly worry about buying new cards or an entire new deck, unlike in standard where your cards are intentionally obsoleted after a given time, or a hot new deck archetype shows up to blow yours out of the water. The stability of legacy is a selling point for those who like it.

I viewed the twink vs. max level end game in WoW in similar terms. After a relatively small investment into your twink you were good to go forever. PvP endgame was pretty much out (in terms of character progression) unless you were willing to play 12+ hours a day for the actually good gear. The raiding end game with its constant gear treadmill was also appealing but it's the sort of thing that wears you down over time. My main was a rogue that raided part way through aq40 before my guild disintegrated and most of the people on my server decided to quit and wait out TBC, so I had experience with both at the time.

With regards to the 10man issue, I raided 25s with gusto during TBC, eventually landing in SWP with a Kalecgos kill just before the 3.0 nerfs made everything a faceroll. I had a really good time during that period of my life but when I look back on all the years I've played WoW, I've personally had the best experiences in 10man raiding. I found 25mans always a bit more impersonal and prone to attracting the kind of asshole personalities that just kill enjoyment of the game. When I raided strictly 10man in WotLK, it was more an issue of my computer being a PoS that couldn't do better than 3 fps in 25man raids and having a smaller group of friends that I enjoyed playing with than wanting to be the big fish in a small pond.

I could go into much greater depth on the 10v25 debate but I've already written more than I expected to. While I doubt it will change your opinions, perhaps my rambling can provide a little insight into the thought processes that go into making decisions that seem so alien to you. Cheers, and keep up the entertaining storytelling.

Anonymous said...

For me, raiding was raiding, regardless of size or mode (I just went where they told me to go, signed up when they told me to sign up XD). I wasn't hardcore, it was just a game to me. I liked each new mode they added, each new method they implemented. Because for me, the end goal was not the gear, not the "prestige", the goal was simply to see the content.

That's it. Down the boss? I got what I came for, I'll keep playing with my friends, but I don't really need anything else from here now. XD

"But the staff drops off this boss!"

Pffft, and it'll be obsolete next patch/expansion! But the memory of seeing the story involved play out and the content when it was relevant will be with me for longer than that staff. :D

Unless it's a priest on a stick, still want one of those.

Catelina - KT Alliance Holy Priest

Shawn Holmes said...


Excellent write-up, thanks very much for this. Definitely helps add more context to the twink.


Everybody wanted
Staff of Immaculate Recovery! Hell, even my daughter managed to go back and get it before me. :) For now, I remain cursing Gurtogg's name.

Anonymous said...

Curiously enough. The changes to the game that 'validated' the Twink play style more or less destroyed it as well.

Previously no one gained experience in battlegrounds, but to actually acquire the gear prospective twinks had to run low level dungeons. Without the ability to turn off experience gain it was legitimately difficult to acquire all the best pieces without overshooting your intended level.

When Blizzard implemented experience in battlegrounds and the ability to toggle experience on and off, it also forced players who turned off experience gain to be placed in battleground queues that only included other players who had turned off experience as well.

The result was that the wait time to play in one of those battlegrounds was exhausting since no on was using the feature.

Despite the protestations from the Twink community that they liked playing in games where everyone was equally geared and thus based upon skill at those particular level. It quickly became obvious that most of them really wanted to effortlessly murder the poor under-geared players who had decided to play warsong gulch that day.

These days, heirlooms are the real culprits, they're more or less effortless to obtain compared to the original challenge and because they scale with level a player doesn't have to worry about moving outside of his original bracket. If they level too high, they can simply make a new toon, mail all their heirlooms to them and start over again with very little loss.

While the behavior that often led to people wanting to make Twinks was often pretty toxic, there definitely was a challenge and a reward to doing so that isn't present anymore. Certainly a lot of the players who spent the time and effort acquiring what for them was best in slot gear, that they could keep and use perpetually were quite disappointed that the characters they had used for years had a very real possibility of becoming obsolete in a couple games when they suddenly hit that next level.

As for tens and twenty fives...From what I recall during that time there was a significant portion of the population that felt that in some cases the twenty five man raids were actually more forgiving then the ten man raids. That having less people meant that each player was proportionately more responsible for dealing with the mechanics of a fight while the twenty five mans often times imposed more strict dps requirements.

I'm not sure how much I agree or disagree with that statement. I do recall its prevalence though.

Virya said...

I hated Rotface. Hated that fight. My 10 man group wiped and wiped and wiped on him. Those damn oozes. The kiting… the slime puddles…. /shudder. I think my personal name for him was RotF*cker. It was so gratifying to go in there @ 90 and roflstomp that SOB. ;)

I may have missed it in your post - but I think part of the strict-10 mentality was based on the idea of downing bosses without the boost of 25-man ilvl gear.

Of course this is based on the theory that true "progression" means the group doesn't outgear the content - must have current tier and current ilvl gear.

I wasn't a strict-10 raider in Wrath, so I have no dog in this fight. Just wanted to bring up that observation. I kind of admired those folks, and I think that's where some of their pride comes from.

As a counterpoint to your mention of class balance and lower vs high levels - I would argue that the beginning of each raiding tier in Wrath was accompanied by class balance changes. Which were of course required each tier because of the unforeseen results of the previous class changes combined with the gear upgrades from the previous tier. It's arguable that class balance in end game would be greater at the beginning of a tier than at the end. Witness disc bubble spam fully decked out in full sanctified gear, if you will.

My guild was a 10-man group, but we had an alliance with a larger guild on my server to run 25's to fill out their 2nd group. I healed ICC on my shaman and a disc priest & always found the 25's boring. Maybe we should've switched out a healer and added another dps lol. ;) The 25 man gear provided my 10 man group with a small boost that was helpful in some fights. We cleared everything thru Sindragosa on ICC10-H but mechanic heavy fights always gave some of us trouble. Extra healing power helped to cover up some of those mistakes lol.

I am glad that Blizz had decided to go with Mythic raiding in WoD and set out having it tuned for 20 players based on a balanced comp. Will be nice to finally see an end to the 10/25 debates - and I'm eager to see what they come up with mechanic wise. :)


Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous (Curiously enough..),

This was some excellent insight into the twink situation, and what changed as a result, and sheds a lot of light into that community. It is tremendously amusing to see similar behaviors across multiple "niches", wherein the demand x and state it for reasons x, yet there is always a "real" reason y that nobody wants to fess up and own.

They won't admit y because it selfish, and demands presented in that way are usually laughed at. So they have to fabricate colorful justifications for it instead.

Shawn Holmes said...


Another great bit of commentary, thanks very much for contributing your thoughts.

The 25s were rarely boring on our end because leadership attempted to navigate way from normal as quickly as possible, and 25H was on a completely different level. Much more representative of stuff we saw in TBC and Vanilla. I understand that many guilds just swallowed 25N, and that's fine...but yeah, it would've been easy and boring for that handful of hardcore raiders clearing it.

I, too, am excited to see the upcoming Mythic changes! Once and for all, the 10/25 argument can be put to rest.

Moorawr said...

I feel this more of a matter of perception and the answer is already in your original metaphor. Imagine how the Little Leaguers feel when the Olympians are playing against them.

Remember the 10/25 were meant to be alternate methods of raiding. To 10-man raiders who couldn't/wouldn't do 25s back then (for social/logistical/time reasons), then the guilds ranking in the 10-man category because they do both 10/25 would appear to be ringers, dopers, etc.

Regardless of different rulesets - do Little Leaguers, college students, AAAers, Major Leaguers, etc. not deserve to have a way to compete among themselves? Sure the Olympians might be considered the "elites" and those that decide to stomp their way all the way to the bottom for practice/fun might even consider themselves "hardcore" for going through all that effort, but that should not be what defines a competitor.

Virya said...

@ Shawn

re: BC era raiding

I started playing halfway thru BC and the only raiding I did was Kara stuff.

As I was going thru the 25man BC raids at 85 and 90 for xmog gear and rep (and to see the content that I missed out on) I was struck by how fight mechanics in those days would have *required* a certain class in the raid comp.

I can't think of the particular fights off the top of my head - but I remember at least one that would have been impossible without a rogue to kick/interrupt. I think it was that multi-face boss in the Black Temple.... but again- not sure.

I'm hoping that mythic raids will incorporate some of that level of planning and teamwork. From the blue posts talking about tuning based on raid comp and 20 players it seems like it may be so... but I guess the proof is in the pudding.



Anonymous said...

Moorawr has a good point, but can be expanded upon further. Rankings serve another purpose other than prestige. They allow us to benchmark ourselves against our peers. It's incredibly hard to do so with a data set with guilds, that at the time, could come in with additional, higher iLvl gear from 25-mans. Without a way to remove those outliers, it's difficult to gauge my guilds performance against those in similar situations. It doesn't just become a question of group makeup as in your story but also if it was only possible because gear was brought in from 25s.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shawn! I've been reading through all of your blog posts and only just caught up to where you are now. It's pretty awesome and I see some of my guild's experiences in there.

We weren't particularly successful, and I wish we had the kind of leadership qualities you discuss as we made some terrible decisions and had real trouble with some bosses. Which is a shame, because some of our players were great but we (and I include myself) did a terrible job managing them.

On 10 man vs 25 man.
-In theory, the encounters in 10 man are balanced around players wearing only 10 man gear. The reason you found them so easy was because you were in full 25 man gear. 10 mans weren't for you, they weren't designed for guilds like yours.

Whether Blizz has been successful in this balance is debatable, but that's the rationale at least.

Shawn Holmes said...


Gratz on getting caught up!

Re: Being in full 25m gear making the 10m easy...

...refer the quote at the top of the very first blog post. :)

Anonymous said...

"Gear doesn't make a bad player good."

Ok you're right about that, but it can make good players great and if you have a well disciplined team that happens to be overgeared then the challenges presented are trivial.

As I've also been away from the game for a while (been back a few months and it's been great) I've found that while good gear doesn't make a bad player good, there is the assumption that bad gear still makes a good player bad. This makes it very difficult to get access to any of the meaningful raid content, and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

BTW I was wondering if you're going to at the end do a round up of where everyone is now.

Dalans said...

INB4 Blain with Ogre Pocket knives...

Shawn Holmes said...


I agree that gear can make good players great, and it was the combination of that, plus perfecting the management of additional mechanics that reflected transitions from normal modes to heroic modes.

This, in contrast, to players clearing 10m/25m normal, vs. wiping in 10m/25m normal. Those were almost exclusively reflections of bad play, and it was a very wide berth to fit through during Wrath. Yet the gear crutch persisted...

Things change later, of course, but I'm not there yet!

Re: Where are players now? Yes, absolutely. I think a good chunk of readers would like to know where the celebrities of DoD ended up.

R said...


They were generally completed first because you often had a core, talented group of 10 from the group of 25 who were somewhat kitted out in 25-man gear.

I submit that if you'd had a group of "strict 10" running 10s and a separate, equally talented group of "strict 25" running 25s you'd have had roughly similar progression. That my group of 10 was generally a boss ahead of our 25s is because our group of 10 was, on average, BETTER than our group of 25 even with us in it, we had the advantage of some 25-man gear and we had the benefit of a ridiculously democratic loot system... it basically went to whoever needed it most, full stop. Nothing official, nothing in writing, that's just generally how it worked out. We were all roughly equally-well geared. Our 25 used an EPGP system that was more "fair" to individual players but less optimal to the group as a whole.

So, our 10 was more accomplished... but not significantly and I'm not sure at all if we hadn't had those benefits.

Note - I only care about boss kills, achievements are a whole other thing entirely.

As for struggling 10s, yeah, you were (and are) going to see entire groups of sub-par players running 10s who wouldn't even consider 25s. 25s can handle a few slackers but you'll never see a raid full of them. 10s are where the "well, we have 2 groups doing 5-mans, why not combine and kill some raid bosses?!" folks go.

Ryley Foshaug said...

"Each and every way they laid it out on the table, a 10-Man raid's mechanics could never provide the difficulty of a 25-Man."

I'll glady agree this is completely true 9 times out of 10 that last time it is HORRIBLY opposite.

Example: Malygos 3 drake 10 man.

Splitting the raid into pieces is cripplingly difficult with only 10 people because you have to maintain 2 solid groups of 5 people, or 6/4.

That particular fight was a disaster for 10 mans but in 25 it was much less of a problem.

Example 2: That complex Freya Achievement (Lumberjacked?)

Split the raid 3 ways. Enough said. I know it's not exactly a boss but that achievement was a complicated hot mess to manage with only 10 people.

Example 3: Twin Valks

You couldn't afford to sacrifice as many people to catch deadly orbs so fewer people (just myself in my case) had to catch nearly all of them in a full 360 degree circle around the raid.

Example 4: Mimi HM (Firefighter?)

One person had to kite all the fires and heal/dps at the same time. Whereas with 25 man you could once again afford to have more people doing strange positional based objectives and do their roles at the same time while letting the extra people pick up your slack.

Example 5: MALYGOS 3 DRAKE 10 MAN

I think we get the point here...


Ryley Foshaug said...

I also strongly believe that the success of a 10 man over 25 man is heavily because it's easier to have 10 people working as a single solid unit than 25.

Less downtime between wipes because fewer people need to be on the ball.

Less time required to gain an instict of what all your teammates are going to do at any moment.

Less VOIP chatter.

Faster and easier transition into new strategies because fewer people need to be taught and understand.

Heavier weight on each persons shoulders to the success of the team. You felt more important and therefore pushed yourself harder.


Sorry for the double post.

Max0r847 said...

Max-level PvP is the ultimate twink bracket. The only difference is the never ending grind to maintain top-end gear.

Perfect example in WoTLK is the countless legions of PvPers in relentless/wrathful who made shitting on people in crafted ilvl 187 PvP gear an industrial-scale conveyor belt operation.

Twinking was a way of maintaining a relatively stable and long lasting end-game.

Many twink brackets didn't have enough twinks on each side to pop full twink games, so the non-twinks were a necessary filler. Exp BGs killed this and experience based BGs lost any form of flavor. Losing teams didn't even bother competing because they just wanted their quick McExp, not a real game.

Alterac Valley went from the most epic to the most epicly farmed BG, always lasting mere minutes, not even 10 minutes, for the quickest powerlevelling experience to 80 as soon as a character was high enough level to join it.

Twinking went from being casual where you could que up any time and get a relatively quick pop and not requiring much time investment to having to transfer servers and schedule games just to get anything going at all. Half the fun of these random BG pops was never knowing what other twinks you'd be up against. Thanks to the exp change, it forced the twink community to be much more incestuous and contrived than it ever had to be before. Twinking was done to avoid making WoW a job, but it had to become a job to get activity in my favorite brackets. Yes, it required lots of getting to know people, and talking, and all that other horrible stuff ;) Online socializing being what it is...

Of course most twink players loved shitting on people with bad gear... just like max level players. I was more a twink hunter myself, but the truth is the truth.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak to 10-mans, but twinking was my favorite part of the game in classic and BC, because...

(1) The "tinkerer urge" - Shawn hit the nail on the head with the comparison to car aficionados who spend years tinkering on classic cars. Twinking fills the same desire to tweak a character to the absolute edge of possibility, while only relying on yourself or a single friend.

I spent god-knows-how-many hours scouring wowhead to compare different blue and green rings and capes for that extra +2 stam, and running obscure bosses (Hello, Scarlet Monastery Graveyard) for that one perfect drop. I leveled tradeskills and healing up to their max to equip 1 tier better bandages or grenades. Hell, I maxed out the 'staff' melee skill on my priest, for those satisfying moments when you are running behind a flag carrier and slam the Crescent Staff into their backs in-between SW: Pain.

With such limited skill points to spend in the 29s bracket, every single point was critical to a build. It might be the 'kiddie pool' but damn it, you could tweak a character to an extent that most raiders could only dream of.

(2) Solo-able play: Twinking was something I could do on my own time, in-between arena teams and dungeons with guildmates.

(3) Enjoying the fruits of your labor: Once a character was 'finished', it was deeply satisfying to put it to work. I mained a disc priest, one of the rarest twink classes, because it let me support the rest of the team to victory, healing flag carriers and non-twinks as they battled, or going flag carrier and endlessly sending rogues running from my fear spells. For me, the most fun came from being a 'twink hunter' who played to win games, but it is fun to go into a game knowing that you are at the top of the tier already.

(3) The "limited makes it better" play style: Omamarr's 'limited vs. standard' comparison is right on here. I played in the 29's and 39's brackets because those had the best communities on my server, but also because they were the last brackets before mounts became part of pvp, and in my experience, BGs like Warsong Gulch were much more fun _without_ mounts, because suddenly the middle of the map became a veritable graveyard that took 45 seconds to cross, instead of a 10-second trip. It meant that skills like druids' animal form became an important part of the 'meta': yes, hunters and rogues had the best damage, but druids were the best all-around flag carriers. Likewise, twink brackets avoided some high level "OP" content that was designed for PVE and imbalanced for pvp.

There were imbalanced brackets too where some classes were crazy OP. 19's were too low level for me, 59's were dominated by Death Knights.

(4) The tight-knit community of players: At high levels, BGs were dominated by players who just sign in for the rewards and are either AFK or slamming their faces into the keyboards. In twink games, the 'regulars' are either (A) farming lowbies or (B) dedicated to pvp (aka 'twink hunters': the ones farming the twinks). When you get two regular groups of twinks in a match, the battles between two teams of expert twinks are down-to-the-wire, no-holds-barred fights that were some of my favorite pvp memories. There were about a half-dozen of us on Kil'Jaeden Horde-side in the 29's bracket and we quickly banded together on a private chat channel to que together. We knew the 3-4 twink guilds on other servers by name, and BS'd on the server boards with them.

Zanshin, Kil'Jaeden (also known as Wakkawakka in the 29's bracket!)