Thursday, February 5, 2015

4.26. All Good Things

What a Ride

It wasn't entirely clear what went wrong. Some things couldn't be said on-the-record, piles of signed confidentiality documents attested to that fact. Legalese buried who was at fault or why; I'd certainly never be cleared to know it. Gossip and speculation were the only options, words muttered behind closed doors and under bated breath. While the details of how things spiraled out of control so quickly would remain left to guesses, one thing was perfectly clear by the end of it...

I was unemployed.

Dust collected up into random piles on Jerry's desk in an otherwise empty office. Jerry ran the show, took a gamble on me three years earlier, instantly ending my career rut, my six years of hell. He was my boss's boss, the one who had final say, and who also happened to share an interest in a certain MMO. I'd catch the occasional glimpse of him, winding his undead rogue through Azeroth between conference calls, and think, that's a pretty sweet gig. Calling the shots at the office, setting up a team, and getting them to make some magic happen. All with enough time left over to check on your auctions before punching out. Jerry was king of the castle and a gamer to boot. They do exist!

I remember a few weeks after getting the job, firing up our then-recent kill video of Archimonde, taken from the point of view of a shaky shadow-priest. Jerry gave a nod of acknowledgement. He saw the raid flung up into air, a few of my guild coming close to cratering -- he knew the stakes. The other folks at the office paid no attention, but Jerry leaned in and watched closely. For a brief moment, the guy that could hire and fire all day long and a simple ColdFusion developer, were on the same level. "Got some computer games goin' on over there?" came a gibe from across the cubes, "Don't look work related to me!" Jerry and I looked at each other. They'll never understand.

One year in, Jerry was gone. His work was done, the team was self-sufficient, and he was off to solve bigger problems elsewhere. I resumed my role of "the only WoW addict in the office", but was lucky enough to build a kinship with my immediate superior, "the boss" Dave. Not a gamer, but definitely a down-to-earth manager that held his team in high regard, fighting to protect us from high drama and distraction whenever it surfaced. Dave mentored and guided me those next two years, helped me take pride in what I did, told me when my work was good enough, and gave me a place to vent when I didn't see the quality I wanted from others.

The respect and trust I'd earned in him made this process all the more difficult to digest.

Negotiations between the buying company and ours had broken down. Rather than give it another go, the company chose to call it a day with some shred of dignity intact, and leave those who helped build it with a bit of severance. The team I'd grown close to over the past three years, who'd come to learn of my WoW addiction, forever branding me as the guy with the Time-Lost Proto Drake, were now divvying up the office supplies and random hardware. The trunk of the civic was crammed with so many reams of printer paper that I am still, to this day, using up the last of it. Once clear of any valuables, Dave flicked the switch on the lights for the last time, locked the office, and shook my hand.

"Well, this is it," his eyes got wide as he shifted from professional to comedian, "Relatively sucks!"

I laughed, "Yeah. Sucks a lot." I reminded him to let me know if he found anything I'd be good at. "Keep me privy, would ya?"

He waved his hand in a motion of comfort, "Aaaah, it'll be fiiiiiiiiiiiiine."

I about lost it on the drive home.

They'll never understand, Jerry

The Worst Job in the World

You'd better be damn thankful for any job you ever get. There is a lineup of people outside the door just waiting to take it from you. Mom's programming was a double-edged sword in adult life. While employed, I gave it my all, did everything I could to impress (perhaps a bit too much), and was constantly striving for recognition and approval. The downside? When unemployed, I was a mess. Distraught, unable to think straight, I barely processed the day-to-day responsibilities. "Unemployment" was a swear word growing up -- another example of Mom's tendency to bucket things with such polarity. When Jul asked if I submitted my unemployment paperwork, I lied and said I had, desperately avoiding it, pouring that energy into finding work instead.

The uncertainty of it all is what makes looking for work the worst job in the world. The knowledge of coming home to a wife and two kids that rely solely on you as the breadwinner. What if finances dry up? What if I never work again? Are we going to lose the house? Be out on the street? Fear was not an alien concept as a motivator. Fear kept me at a job for six years, trapped by self-doubt. Fear kept decent, well-played gamers returning to raid leaders that shredded their confidence and self-esteem, turning them into a joke for all to point and laugh at, living on in infamy on sites like You're The Man Now, Dog-dot-com.

Fear works, but it's no way to live.

The weeks to follow were spent with WoW on one screen and on the other. I cared for a recovering wife, toiled over kids, and tried to focus on the biggest problems facing the guild, while images of unemployment lines danced through my mind. Resumes went out the door while I refreshed my email, waiting for applicants to respond to my questions about their ability to tank, their experience in previous guilds, and whether or not they were selfish human beings.

More than once, I wavered -- the mouse cursor dangling above the "Delete Email" button, but never actually killing the idiotic applicant. I caught myself letting some slip through, the poorly written and the badly sold -- the kind of guild applicant I'd end on sight. With my own resumes out the door and being judged somewhere else, it became increasingly difficult to axe a potential guildy for a typo or some other trivial infraction. By the evenings, I was a zombified mess, exhausted from the constant second-guessing of the very rules I swore to uphold. Where once sat a full plate fit for a king, there now lay a crusted dish of rotten food overflowing to the floor.

For weeks it bore down on my shoulders, yet I still had time to show up to raids. Every Friday, every Sunday. Like clockwork, I was online and overseeing invites, ensuring spots were filled on time and by-the-book. I kept it together, because the 25 was the life blood of the guild, and no amount of inconveniences IRL were going to put a stop to that. I kept it together because it mattered.

But I wasn't coming out unscathed.

The 25-Man team waits patiently for the
lava to drain from Nefarian's arena,
Blackwing Descent


Two full nights of work had gone into Nefarian, ending in depressing wipes and no perceptible progress. The hunger to clear Blackwing Descent intensified. The last encounter of the instance, in which we did battle with both Nefarian and his dead sister Onyxia simultaneously, was rough. Each of the three phases floated DoD's baggage back to the surface, mechanics long dormant were now plaguing us, long after we'd emerged from WoTLK as champions. Aggro between the two dragons in phase one, while swimming through lava to pillars of safety in phase two presented their own challenges. The structure of the encounter had an unfortunate tendency to isolate the mouth breathers, and make it very easy to point the finger at the biggest offenders.

Perhaps too easy.

Ultimately, the Nefarian encounter hinged on a player that wasn't entirely representative of the type of player I wished the roster would emulate. It hinged on a player lacking the intended proficiency, a known offender guilty of making poor judgement calls under duress, a person very good at spamming buttons, rather than staying calm under pressure. In short, a spaz.

Nefarian hinged on me. And I was blowing it.

Things went south during the transition from phase two to three. In a nod to the original Nefarian 40-man encounter, the great dragon would raise an army of dead minions that required an off-tank to collect up and kite. A meticulous orchestration was necessary. Various players did what they could to create as tight a pile of death as possible. The goal: have the minions collapse into a single spot in Nefarian's circular arena, dying in a clump, which was vital for the OT -- it meant an easy pick-up, once rezzed by Nefarian's blue flame.

Controlling them was so textbook, so understanding the mechanic was a non-issue. Nefarian's blue flame, if under their feet, would bring them to life -- and in order to ease the pain of phase three, an OT was to drag them away from said flame, keep them moving, forcing their life essence to expire. Without the blue flame, they would eventually collapse as lifeless bones, giving the healers some breathing room for a few moments. Then, the blue flame would alight once more, and the process would repeat. Textbook...especially for a tank that, at one point, was the envy of all other tanks in the game, thanks to an outrageous toolkit that excelled in AoE situations.

The minions were incorrigible. Random ones would flake off, wack healers, and kill DPS. When they weren't getting away from me, I was tripping over my own feet, not moving far enough to avoid blankets of blue flame. Every misstep, every accidental drag through fire reconstituted their undeath, and our healers were granted no reprieve.

Insayno was right. The warrior's AoE stun, Shockwave, trivialized phase three, and kiting the undead minions was cake for them. Shockwave was godly, and every raid in their right mind with a warrior tank on staff leveraged them for this particular role.

We had no warrior tank. We had me.

So, I struggled like the spaz I was, switching between Death and Decay, Blood Boil, and Heart Strike, keeping as many on me as I could, backpedaling like a cripple in my attempts to stay alive and keep them out of blue flame. My play was lackluster and rife with mistakes. Ending so many attempts in defeat gave me flashbacks to those first TBC raids I thrust Zanjina into. Dying. Failing. Contributing nothing to the damage meters. If my strategy was to lead by example, I was undoubtedly creating a raid rich with sadness and despair.


Aedilhild said...

Fantastic fight, if memorable for the stress every bit as much as the mechanics. Nefarian was the first and last time I benched players mid-raid.

I loved parading adds around in Phase 3, but then — I had Shockwave.

Anonymous said...

no Shawn they will never understand! :)