Thursday, February 25, 2016

4.61. Bless The Beasts and Children

One of the less offensive
exchanges I was able to find in
League of Legends chat

The Gamer Parent Dilemma

As a gamer parent, I struggled. While the balance between gaming and real life was much better now, the threat of setting an inappropriate example constantly loomed. I did not want to fall back into my old "yelly" ways. A patient yet headstrong wife kept my profanity in check when around the young. Guilt from auto-piloting through my kids' formative years kept my conscience perpetually stung. This, too, kept me on the straight-and-narrow. But the struggle was real, a greater test of will than any month long crusade wiping to a single raid boss.

I feared repeating my Mother's mistakes, walling me off from video games for the most trivial of infractions. Mom's militant methods and illogical reasoning made no sense to a child whose only wish was to drop another quarter in the machine. She held foolish, paranoid beliefs: kids in dark basements rolling D20s and succumbing to the "horrors" of a degenerate lifestyle. A high profile story hit the news in 1979, telling of a Dungeons and Dragons player that had killed himself; it didn't help. The stage was set for an entire era of misunderstandings around that culture, long before I was old enough to defend myself or my hobby. Years later, now a parent myself, I refused to take the path Mom took.

The tables turned. In some sort of crazy, alternate dimension, gaming culture appeared to be gaining mainstream acceptance, no longer seen as a dark underground of brooding teenagers. And with its rise in popularity came new studies proving what we suspected all along: video games don't cause violence, no more than a book or a film or a musician would. This was all the evidence I needed to defend my parental stance that video games were a perfectly healthy medium to expose kids to.

And yet, "problems" persisted.

Sociologists and psychologists didn't point at video games...they pointed past them. Years before Nintendo became a recognizable brand in North America, experiments performed in labs and on college campuses demonstrated that human problems manifested under the right conditions. Deindividuation bred with online anonymity granted a temporary pass to scathing, racist, sexist behavior. Already a group susceptible to wielding the binary logic of a button press to pass judgement, gamers cared little about their words and actions. They shamed newcomers and threatened opponents with physical violence. If they faced an impeding loss, their uncontrolled anger transformed them into profane beasts. Gaming was rich with children who never grew up, partaking of a enabling hobby. Patch notes were mechanisms of vitriolic entitlement baked directly into the system.

And so, I struggled. Because I wanted my kids to love and enjoy games without the restrictions I suffered through. I knew that games weren't the source of the world's malevolence, but was a medium that allowed it. Cruelty without consequence. Following the herd. A culture of not caring. As a gaming teenager, I rallied behind the notion that video games didn't cause bad behavior. As a gaming parent, I now wondered why video games did nothing to prevent it.

In-game screenshot of a match in action,
League of Legends

The League of Extraordinary Douchebags

"Dad, come check out this game! You need to install this and play with me, it's free!"

I wandered over to my son's monitor and glanced at the playing field. Although the artwork was different and the UI unfamiliar, I saw what this game was going for. A thick green grassland was represented in the minimap, with a home page constructed in both the lower left and upper right corners. Further inspection revealed the map was a mirror image of itself, divided horizontally along a river-based axis that drew from the upper left to lower right corners. The focal point of my son's screen reflected the area of the minimap currently outlined; a zoomed-in view of just a small portion of the entire playing field. Small, unremarkable minions departed each base at a steady but mild cadence, heading towards each other; an inevitable death march. The entire scene smacked of an alternate-reality Warcraft III.

"Whatcha got here?" I asked.

"This is League of Legends. It's so fun."

Synapses fired as I started making connections.

"Ah, yeah, yeah. I remember Cheeseus and Sixfold talking about this on Vent awhile back. It's DOTA, right? Like what that Swedish guy was singing about...crap, what's his name....Basshunter. That guy." 

I leaned down over Hunter's shoulder and looked closer at the units. He clicked the map and directed a creature into a thick brush, attacking some creatures which hid among the trees. The creature bore a resemblance to a troll with a severe drinking problem; his engorged, reddish facial attributes looked exaggerated, even by gaming standards, and the creature swung a large, wooden club. Another purplish creature headed towards him; it was unmistakably scorpion-like. Hunter pointed at the insect.

"That's Skarner. They just added him." His eyes were wide with excitement as his face drew near to the screen.

"And who's this guy you're playing?"

"This is Trundle."

"Got it, got it."

I watched in silence as my son clicked on the map while tapping keys in rapid succession. Trundle and Skarner engaged.

" will you download it?"

I glanced down to the lower left hand corner of the screen, my primal gamer instincts scanning for threats. Sure enough, a chat window displayed the last few lines communicated among the group. One line, typed by another player, caught my eye.

[08:20][All] kydex3 (Sion): your supposed to be fucking mid retard. uninstal and kill yourself

"Classy community you've got here."

The excitement melted away from Hunter's voice. "I just ignore that."

What to do? Ban him from the game because of someone else's bad behavior? Continue to expose him to this and risk dissolving any mature, respectful behavior we'd already trained him to demonstrate?

I put my hand on his head, "You know it's never ok to behave like that, right?"

"I know."

"If it ever gets to the point where you feel like typing something like that, I trust you'll step away for a breather, instead. It's just a game."


It's just a game.

I patted him on the back, then returned to my desk and downloaded the League of Legends installer. As the file progress filled up, a random thought of the TV show Dexter popped into my mind. I remembered Dexter's father, trying to guide his son through life, training him how to suppress his rage, how to deal with a diseased mind craving human blood. Thank God I didn't have to worry about taming homicidal instincts. All that weighed on my shoulders was teaching my son how to navigate life as a gamer without growing up to be a complete and total asshole.

Mature fields next-level trolling from a player whose
10-Man team was denied access into DoD,

The Young and the Worthless

We discussed the option of which heroic to pursue next: Beth'tilac or Lord Rhyolith. At initial glance, the choice seemed obvious. Raiding guilds knew the challenge Beth'tilac posed -- already a gear check in normal mode, the arachnid would most certainly be our undoing. Flawless execution would matter little if we couldn't hit our numbers.

Lord Rhyolith, by contrast, posed little risk. Already a gimmicky fight that the roster was consistently annihilating in normal mode, any concern for Rhyolith would likely fall into the realm of communication. If anything, Rhyolith would demand the DPS teams pay closer attention to which foot was receiving what percentage of damage. DPS, in short, would be (indirectly) responsible for tanking the volcano with legs. We made the decision to focus our attention on Lord Rhyolith beginning that Sunday, August 21st, less than two days after our first defeat of Heroic: Shannox.

After clearing past Beth'tilac, Baleroc, and Alysrazor, Blain flipped the raid lock difficulty from Normal to Heroic, and we sank our first two hours of work into Lord Rhyolith. This, like all bosses, started with getting a feel for the differences, polishing the strategy used on normal mode, and tweaking where needed. We made little progress that night. The heroic strategy demanded grace and finesse in positioning. A Romanian gymnast we were not. 

Eventually, we converted back to normal, to secure a kill w/ loot. The team's morale was good; they were un-phased by the loss. One shots were rare (especially heroic ones), and this was the same process we took with every boss: practice and refinement. We worked until we got it. Some bosses were more obstinate than others, none of this was a surprise. There was absolutely no cause for concern at this very early stage in learning the encounter. Spirits were high and the roster kept a positive outlook.


The second weekend of work on Heroic: Lord Rhyolith began on the weekend of Aug 26th. We reset the lock and first cleared Beth'tilac, Baleroc, Alysrazor and Shannox, all of which were executed in the first hour. This freed us for three hours of work.

It did not go well.

The count of attempts is now lost to a haze. What memory remains intact is not one of the rapidly accruing attempts, but of the outside distractions permeating their way into my raid roster and its morale.

It was standard DoD raid law to keep distractions to a bare minimum. We'd come a long way from having to berate Ouleg for watching Nip/Tuck while trying to do work on Morogrim Tidehunter, but never disappeared completely. I had to keep constant tabs on the risk of waning attention. The most notorious source of distraction, surprisingly, was not Ryan Murphy-produced television, but instead, something built directly into the game client: cross instance chat. 

Blizzard's chat infrastructure was designed such that, even if you were in a separate instance dedicated solely to you and your team of players, chat still extended out across all the instances, allowing for multiple raid groups (each in their own instance) to chat amongst one another in a shared lobby. These instance lobbies would not cross content instances; Discord raiding Bastion of Twilight could not chat with Pretty Pink Pwnies raiding Blackwing Descent. But...if both The ORLY Factor and Costa were raiding Firelands, you can bet that they were sharing /general chat.

I sent messages directly to guildies and ordered them out of /general if I caught them chatting up. This meant I had to be in /general -- it was the only way to monitor for the behavior, culling it as quickly as it appeared. Lucky me. In order to keep the peace, I had to wade in to the filth, forced to listen to other guilds rant and rave in there inimitable Deathwing-US style. I tuned it out, yet it was a distraction nonetheless, always catching my eye, causing me to look away from Mature's positioning, watching for a recognizable name and being forced to deal with it.

I did not expect what I saw next.

[2. General] [Drecca]: Woot! Heroic Lord Rhyolith down!!
[2. General] [Bheer]: Yay us

I have to admit, for a brief moment, I was shocked. But then, I wasn't. Not really.

[2. General] [Drecca]: Wow that boss is easy
[2. General] [Drecca]: Any guild struggling must be awful

In retrospect, that behavior did not surprise me at all. Not one bit.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

4.60. King of the Hill

The 25-Man progression team defeats Heroic: Shannox,

Shannox is as Shannox Does

At 3:25, I was the fourth to die. I don't take dying well.

With melee pressed up tightly against Shannox's behind, Amatsu carefully navigating the charred landscape, a mess of melee blocked my view of a freshly set Immolation Trap. In normal, the death knights would take turns activating the traps, absorbing the fire damage via Anti-Magic Shell. In heroic, a DPS death knight with AMS wasn't enough to withstand the inferno. A tank, certainly...but my days as a tank were over.

And so was my life.

Next to me lay Pollar, pulled in as a replacement rogue, to assist Bonechatters with trap disarming. His effectiveness at this responsibility could be measured by his health. Pollar, one of the youngest yet longest running members in DoD, carried a wealth of highs and lows in my guild. In Vanilla, he often led the B-team through Molten Core, raid leading well before the title was ever official in the roster. During the Wrath re-write of DoD, Pollar famously blew a gasket in guild chat, and soon found himself without a guild. And, being that he was below the age limit, could not be re-invited, dooming him to a permanent limbo where he wandered Deathwing-US without a guild for many months.

Come Cataclysm, the rules had changed. Recruitment was a barren wasteland. I ended his exile, restoring him to his original guild. Now, here he was, diligently offering to fill a role as needed. Until Shannox got the best of him. Pollar would be disarming no more traps on this day.

Goldenrod was the first to die, precisely at the one minute mark. Face Rage mangled the mage like a chew toy. Sarge (via his boomkin Arbour) rezzed him forty seconds later. But by the two minute twenty second mark, Pollar had been claimed. Twenty seconds later, our other rogue, Bonechatters, lost his life to Face Rage, putting trap disarmament into temporary hiatus. Two immolation traps later, Mature's life was forfeit. The cascade had begun. Dewgyd rezzing Bonechatters wasn't enough to save me.

I backed my camera out and watched as events unfolded. Twenty-three players remained alive, moving carefully, each action measured and executed with precision. A player was locked down with Face Rage, only to immediately be freed with focused fire. Shannox's spear slammed into the ground, and a spiral of fire drew up from its impact. The roster shifted in between the rings, moving only enough to ensure they remained well out of the flame.

As Jagged Tear stacked past eight, then past nine, on Amatsu, his health spiked uncontrollably. He desperately needed relief. He needed Shannox to play fetch with Riplimb, to give us a chance at freezing the dog in place. This, in turn, would extend the delay before Shannox's next Arcing Slash -- the intent of which was to let Amatsu's stacks drop off. But Riplimb was wary, having triggered an immolation trap moments earlier. Anyone hoping to trap Riplimb in the moments to come would be disappointed.

Larada's mage alt, Doja, was #5 to perish, right at the four minute mark, but battle rezzes were now on cooldown. Littlebear followed soon after, earning #6 on the death ladder. Both succumbed to the after-effects of immolation trap. Attrition was now in motion. Yet with half the fight still to go, and only twenty one players remaining, the raid continued its choreography with surprising grace and discipline.

I expected more hysterics. This was heroic, after all, it was supposed to be more outlandish. But in that tradition of Blizzard front-loading the raid content with its complexity, this had all been mastered already. The statue had already been carved, this was simply adding the polish. In retrospect, carving the statue was so much more chaotic and far more unpredictable. While I felt no rage in this attempt's death, our normal kill of Shannox gave the raid a taste of that famously inconsolable rage.

Lucky for me, the cameras were rolling.

Video: DoD defeats Shannox in 25-Man Normal,


Amatsu: "Pulling in 3...2...1."

Jungard: "Don' away when Rageface is on you, please."

Nothing says I know the raid strategy better than by failing on the pull.

Amatsu: "Immolation trap on top of that hill, watch that."

Amatsu tanks Shannox. He backpedals, slowly dragging the Salamander across the open playfield, stopping between casts of crystal prison.

Blain: "Lexxii."

Blain calls out crystal prison targets.

Blain: "Stimpi."

Amatsu backs up, sidestepping the danger. Behind me, ranged runs frantically from Rageface, ignoring the earlier directive.

Blackangus: "Stop running around!"

Impatience releases my emotional restraints. A burst of flame expands outward. A name and health bar flash on my screen: Xane. Under 5% health. I guess I do have to tell people to pay attention. Great.

Hanzo: "Blain is almost dead!"

Blain's health shoots back to full before my rant is finished transmitting over Vent. Moments of silence follow.

Blain: "Yeah, the only time you should be runnin' Rageface around is when its buff is gone and you need to bring it through a trap. Otherwise it's useless. Goldy, you almost blinked right into that trap."

Hanzo: "Immolation trap on melee!"

I am compelled to start announcing melee's own concerns. Honestly, I do not care if Blain doesn't want to hear it.

Amatsu: "When I get over here to this lil' area, y'all need to watch and not be left of the boss or you will get cleaved."

Over-communicating without Vent devolving into an incomprehensible hysteria must be what it feels like to disarm a bomb. You have to move quickly and do everything you need to...until you do too much.

Blain: "Melee help on dogs."

Riplimb and Rageface are across the map. It's a minefield dotted with metallic, jagged jaws.

Hanzo: "Watch, when you move...on dogs, melee, do not hit crystals. They're everywhere."

I direct Mature through the trap hazard and join Jungard, Bonechatters, Hells, Raina, and Aktauren, already burning through the demon dogs. A mage falls over, dead.

Amatsu: "Does immolation count to get rid of Rageface?"

Beefysupryme: "Do I bring Goldy up?"

Blain: "It's Doja."

Beefysupryme: "Do I bring him up?"

Blain: ".....yeah, go ahead."

Amatsu: "Do. not. be. in. front. of. dee. boss! Bring fire, get cleaved, and you're dead."

Blain: "Alright, hold DPS on Riplimb..."

Amatsu: "Boss is at 37%"

Blain: "Go ahead and kill Rageface. Kill Rageface."

Klocker: "Rageface is not getting picked up."

Blain: "Kill Rageface."

Amatsu is dead!!

Blain: "Get Amatsu up."

Hanzo: "Get ready, 3%. 2%."

Blain: "Do not hit Riplimb."

Amatsu: "k. Ardent Defender is off."

Hanzo: "DPS is now off."

Blain: "Run the boss way from the...go the other way. Go the other way."

Amatsu: "The other way?"

Hanzo: "All DPS is off!"

Blain: "Alright, kill Riplimb. He's got an immolation buff on him, too, so..."

Hanzo: "Riplimb is dead."

Amatsu: "k, heading clockwise now."

Amatsu begins meandering up across the broken rocks, now exposing magma along their faults. Protrusions along these faults make it difficult to navigate.

Blain: "Watch those immolation traps under the boss."

Hanzo: "Listen very carefully for Blain's call."

Jungard: "Crystal, melee."

Hanzo: "DON'T...STOP in the ROCKS, PLEASE!"

I die.

My mind fills with a vision of a thousand keyboards exploding into millions of black plastic fragments. The press-to-talk key is still jammed down. I have no words. An unintelligible grunt of heated frustration erupts. Blain laughs.

Jungard: "Let's...get him out of these rocks."

Amatsu: "Can't tell where everybody is."

Blain: "Dichotomy, get another battle rez out on..."

Jungard: "Rallying Cry's up."

Klocker: "Step to, Amatsu."

Blain: "Get Lexxii up."

Amatsu: "There's a trap to the left of the boss. Watch yourself."

[Arbour]: These fucking flames are pissin me off

Amatsu: "Amatsu needs a cooldown. Anything."

I take a deep breath. They need calm, not rage. I control myself once again.

Hanzo: "Just keep focused and you've got it."

Amatsu: "Gonna keep moving, so we don't get near any traps."

Shannox dies. Vent is quiet. No cheers or screams of victory.

Hanzo: "Yeah. Those...damn rocks again, eh?"

Blain laughs again. In the absence of celebration, some humor allows us to take away some semblance of accomplishment.

Video: DoD defeats Shannox in 25-Man Heroic,


And Then There Was One

That was normal. This was heroic. And we were falling behind.

At the five minute mark of Heroic: Shannox, we were still down to twenty-one players. Our first battle rez timer completed its cooldown, and up came Doja, thanks to Blackangus' Rebirth. The DPS needle moved back towards our favor. I panned the camera around and continued to observe the raid's execution. Now at twenty-two raiders strong, we might have a chance at closing the gap. Those chances dried up when Zedman was killed by a Face Rage at 6:16, negating Doja's resurrection.

The next death didn't occur until 6:30, arguably the most significant of the attempt. Blain, while leading Riplimp to a trap, was hit with an ill-timed AoE effect, via Shannox's Launch Spear. A mere second from safety, Blain succumbed to the damage and collapsed dead, just as Riplimp's body was encased in ice.

The battle rez that saved Bonechatters had not yet cooled down. With only one tank alive, Heroic: Shannox unwound. Riplimp freed itself from its ice block and rampaged toward Amatsu. Sarge intervened, but only briefly. His boomkin gear wasn't nearly sufficient for tanking as a bear. Another druid, Beefysupryme was next, followed by Klocker, and Goldenrod (for the second time).

Now at only sixteen raiders strong, Shannox and his dogs continued their feast. Gunsmokeco bit the dust next, only to burn his ankh and resurrect in a last ditch effort to spread heals among the survivors. Guns lived as Fred died, so Fred ankh'd as well, desperate to salvage the attempt. Megadoch died moments later, and Syphira lost her life just prior to another of Shannox's launched spears. The AoE caught Fred and Lexxii off guard, permanently ending their efforts. The last living druids, Blackangus and Dewgyd, fell after that...and joining them in defeat was our last living tank, Amatsu.

With no tanks and one healer running on empty, the inevitable wipe drew near. Bulwinkul (on his shadow priest Stimpi) dispersed as Cynergy pulled out an emergency misdirect, sending Shannox across the map to seek out a temporary tank, earning the attempt precious seconds of DPS. Turtleman and Doja let loose with the last remaining mana in their chamber, with Bonechatters and a nearly dead Gharghael following close behind as melee.

Rageface lept across the map and ate Gunsmokeco's face off, while Riplimp picked away at Doja until there was nothing recognizable left. Stimpi lasted a few seconds as a Shadow Priest tank, eventually collapsing under the weight of such pressure.

At the 7 minute 44 second mark, Shannox worked his way through all that remained, ripping apart Bonechatters and Garghael. Turtleman leashed one final Pyroblast as Riplimp finished him off.

It was then that "Heroic: Shannox" flashed up on all our screens. The encounter was complete. Only one player remained standing: Cynergy the hunter. Dying isn't terrible, if it means that others can live to win the day.

On August 19th, DoD earned its first heroic kill in Firelands, after only several nights of work. We were well on our way to returning to our former raiding glory, and put to bed any doubts that may have crept up during our lackluster Tier 11.

We just needed to maintain this pace.

Cynergy is the last player left standing
 at the defeat of Heroic: Shannox,

Thursday, February 11, 2016

4.59. High Time for Heroics

Mature and Mortalsend prepare to execute Lord Rhyolith,

Pokemon Trainers Are Lousy Humanitarians

The next raid weekend of August 5th and 7th gave us an opportunity to bask in the glory of a full Firelands clear. We took our time, relaxed, and raided with the intent on simply gearing. This was an opportunity for some guildies to take a break, if needed. Fred, Turtleman, and even Blain himself took a weekend off. I encouraged it, and appreciated that they were able to wait until getting over the hump before invoking vacation.

Jungard took on raid leadership in Blain's absence, and he, in turn, used the opportunity to boost Bonechatters' real-world experience as melee lead. Training your replacement seems depressing, but it is a necessary evil. You do it when you care about your group, even if it means you won't be a part of the group much longer. For as many virtual flips of the middle finger that guildies gave me over the years, I took comfort that the people I put in charge were the very ones who gave the most of themselves when there was no expectation of personal gain. They wanted DoD to be successful, even if they weren't a part of it.

I took this where I could get it; not all guildies shared the selflessness of Jungard. We didn't all create an account back in Nov. of 2004 and, going in for the first time, ask ourselves how much work can we put into someone else's guild? More likely, we hungered for exploration, killing monsters, doing quests. We found a class that was fun for us to play, and wished to play it the best we possibly could. And in doing so, we'd drape the rewards of our play across that character, adoring them with the weapons and armor acquired from each subsequent victory. Our motivations were entirely selfish, right out of the gate. That wasn't wrong -- that's gaming. When you fire up a game, you're doing it for you.

World of Warcraft is interesting. It starts like that, just like any other game. As time goes on, a potential alternate future emerges. Your efforts are no longer directed solely inward. What you do in-game has repercussions on the virtual community around you. And while it may be true that you are always following a subtle path of self-satisfaction, in growing your own prestige, others reap the benefits of your success, growing in kind. You login so that others may become powerful. 

This notion flies in the face of gaming in general. The first line of the Pokemon theme song is not "I want someone else to be the very best," and championship tournaments would be a laughing stock if the goal was to help your fellow player get the prize. Yet that is what WoW is. When you run a dungeon, other players reap the rewards. When you hop into a battleground, other players share in your victory. When you work with other players to defeat a boss, everyone benefits from the experience (and a few might even walk away with some loot). For a game built on an industry that is, by its very nature, self-serving, World of Warcraft is an extremely efficient medium to helping others.

Replacing them faster than they could leave was the real challenge.

We'd picked up new recruits: Megadoch the warrior, Gharghael the shaman, and they were eagerly welcomed to the roster. But both were DPS, and healing was the ever growing challenge to fill. The constant presence of Fred's holy paladin was interrupted by a weekly need for his resto shaman. And the demand for other healing classes continued to grow. Syphira was one such recruit. Hailing from northern Alberta, she brought priest heals to the table, and had raid experience ready to wield. There was no time to get people up-to-speed. She hit the ground running that lax Aug 5th weekend, and was ready to join progression the week after.

But I needed more than simply "a priest". We needed druids, priests and shamans. I needed a (Vanilla) Dalans, a Breginna, a Kadrok, a Haribo, a Neps. I needed another Kerulak. Not even my own tool,, was able to satisfy this request. Perhaps there was interest inside the roster? 

I put feelers out amongst the core, in the off-chance that any of them were considering a role flip. One such player was Mortalsend. Still new to the guild (relatively speaking) she'd held a dominant role in the roster pouring warlock dps into raids since the start of Cataclysm. But, she confided that she was considering working up a resto druid alt, feeling the tug of the healing meters drawing her in, compelling her to cast some life saving spells for a change. I encouraged her to pursue it, as I had plans for her to assist with another challenge I had to deal with -- a challenge that went beyond simply staving off attrition.

The Irony of Lexxii

Lexxii had grown to become a real problem. Since her demotion from healing lead, she was more obstinate and argumentative. Nearly every healing assignment Fred handed her was rebutted with disdain and a disgusted air of superiority. Every assignment was wrong, and none was good enough for her to not comment on.

It had been months since the "outing" -- the moment I chose to swap Lexxii for Fred. I'd taken great pains to ease that transition, being firm yet fair. The politically correct me spun the demotion with just enough clarity to give her something to think about. Perhaps Lexxii needed to hear a harder truth. Perhaps if I'd demoted her by telling her she hadn't fooled anyone, that her "skills" were manufactured, and that the most telling evidence of this was her staunch denial in the face of irrefutable evidence that she was spec'ing however the hell she damn well felt like, her behavior after the fact would have been a more...reserved. Perhaps a bit more controlled, even (dare I suggest it) mature.

I doubted it. For the secret was not that Lexxii had grown to become a real problem -- it was that she always was a problem; a problem protected by a thick gamer shell that had been slowly peeled back over the course of her stay. Whether it was discussing JavaScript library or holy priests specs, it wouldn't matter. Once her mind was made up, it became truth to her. And everyone else was full of shit.

The most recent protective tissue peeled from Lexxii revealed a fantastic new feature. For the first time since her induction into DoD, Lexxii was showing up late to progression with inexcusable reasons she didn't even bother trying to hide.

Late night partying. Drinking. Dates. Movies. Whatever.

I'm fine with guildies changing their priorities. I'm not fine with them leaving me out of the loop. Party animal or not, Lexxii had twenty-four other human beings relying on her. I guess its easy to forget that. After all, it's just a video game.

Lexxii was most certainly on her way out. Yet in an ironic twist, I forced myself to stick to the guild rule of three consistent lates as grounds for expulsion from the roster, even after I broke my own rules in order to accelerate her acceptance -- a choice that ultimately backfired, and one I regret. 

The Lexxii situation was rife with irony, in fact. A long standing guildy that suffered his own expulsion as a result of mistreating her, Bulwinkul, was now a model citizen, and diligently brought his shadow priest Stimpi to progression. He spoke not a word to Lexxii, which was probably for the best. Bul was simply a good guy with a bad temper (I could relate), and he'd cleaned up his act. 

For Lexxii, there was nothing to clean up. This is who she was.

I gave Mortalsend the green light to start gearing her resto druid, as it was very likely she may be called upon to replace a certain holy priest.

"But you're still looking for healers, too?" Mortal asked.

"Whatever I can find."

Mature poses next to newest recruit Gharghael the Shaman,

Doggy Daycare

Heroic: Firelands work officially began August 12th, starting with the very first boss, Shannox. In moving from normal to heroic, our attention shifted from dogs as ancillary annoyance, to dogs as the primary focus of the strategy.

Killing Shannox's twin devil dogs was no longer realistic. Rageface's health grew astronomically, and Riplimb gained the ability to self-rez if dispatched. Not only were the mutts perpetual thorns in our side for the duration of the heroic attempts, their attack methods changed. Now, they each gained a stack of Feeding Frenzy each time they sank their teeth into one of our players. Feeding Frenzy increased their damage by 5% per stack, lasting 20 seconds. Any viable strategy had to be constructed in such a way as to assume both dogs were constantly alive, yet still allow us a way to drop those stacks.

Twenty seconds, in raid time, feels like an eternity, so strategizing a way to avoid attacks for that amount of time meant bouncing the dogs from target-to-target -- easy when you are a tank, not so easy when you are a caster, and only have a thin layer of cloth between you and demonic fangs. There was another option, however: turning Shannox's own attacks against his pets.

As in the normal version, Shannox tossed Crystal Prison Traps across the play field. Arming in a mere two seconds, these traps would encase anything that touched them in a block of ice...friend or foe. More than one DoD raider found themselves frozen solid, forcing DPS to peel off and shatter the ice. But if we could somehow lure the dogs into the traps, we could move people away from Riplimb and/or Rageface long enough to allow the stacks of Feeding Frenzy to drop.

Trapping each dog required separate tactics. Blain handled Riplimb, ensuring he trapped his attacker by dragging the creature over Crystal Prisons that were called out throughout the fight. Timing was crucial: Blain had to trap Riplimb before Shannox tossed his spear across the terrain. During this hellish game of fetch, Riplimb was immune to traps during the return trip to its master. So, in preparing for a Launch Spear, Blain would find an ice trap and drag Riplimb into it. Success in this tactic allowed us to double-dip: Blain could drop his stacks of Feeding Frenzy, and Amatsu could similarly drop his Jagged Tear stacks (as Shannox would be unable to Arcing Slash without his spear).

As for trapping Rageface, the rest of the raid inherited dog duty. Untankable, unkillable, constantly moving and sewing pandemonium throughout the raid, he was the biggest threat to the unravelling of the strategy. Face Rage would pin and kill players in moments if DPS did not switch fast enough to break him loose from a target. Rageface could also trigger Shannox's other traps, and an accidentally triggered Immolation Trap granted Rageface the "wary" debuff, preventing him from being trapped in a crystal prison for a short amount of time. 

A raid strategy that carefully alternated between trapping each dog could quickly come apart when you discovered your dog was untrappable.

Suddenly, stacks of Feeding Frenzy metastasized across your roster. Exacerbated by any fire damage incurred from the spiraling death explosion with every Launched Spear, death was quick. A wipe was guaranteed, the most painful kind of wipe. You enjoyed the luxury of watching your raid unravel at the seven minute mark, as one mistake lead to another, eventually collapsing in on itself.

All four hours of August 12th's raid were sunk into learning the Heroic: Shannox encounter. Returning on Sunday, August 14th, We spent two more hours on Shannox, yet a kill remained just out of reach. After the bio break, we dumped the raid lock back to Normal, and cleared Shannox, Beth'tilac, Lord Rhyolith, Alysrazor, and Baleroc, to keep spirits up, and get a shot at gearing the new warrior.

We'd be back. The salamander's heroic days were numbered.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

State of the Union: Aug 2011

The 25-Man progression team celebrates their clear of
Firelands by returning to clean-up Heroic: Chimaeron,
Blackwing Descent
The following post was made to the "Descendants of Draenor - Announcements" forum on August 12th, 2011.


25-Man Progression: Update

I'd like to take a brief moment and acknowledge all the hard work and dedication that has gone into the 25m Progression at the start of 4.2. As you may or may not know, Blain laid out plans for our approach to the 25m Firelands work in his "Upcoming Plans" post. In a nutshell, he expressed concern about self-doubt and complacency that was inadvertently set in motion during WotLK, with players becoming "crybabies" about gear and not believing enough in their own skill and performance to pull off boss kills. The adjusted approach was that we would be pushing progression much harder, in lieu of weekly clears, so that we could get on to the real work: 25m Heroics. 

The result of that behavior shift was a full clear of 25m Firelands broken down by the following weeks:

Week 1: Shannox, Baleroc, Beth'tilac, Lord Rhyolith
Week 2: (Extended) Alysrazor
Week 3: Shannox, Baleroc, Beth'tilac, Lord Rhyolith, Alysrazor, Majordomo Fandral Staghelm
Week 4: (Extended) Ragnaros (attempts)
Week 5: Ragnaros defeated.

Without going back through the calendar and totaling everything up, I can say with reasonably good accuracy that our clears of 25m Blackwing Descent and 25m Bastion of Twilight took an order of magnitude longer...and an official 25m clear of Throne of the Four Winds didn't even happen until the last week before 4.2 was released!

You should not have to be a statistician to see that this is an improvement of astronomical proportions.

I'm very proud to see that the 25m Progression Team has buckled down, changed their attitudes regarding the "gear-crutch", and focused on what really allows us to be successful--taking personal responsibility for themselves, their play, their skill--and pushing each other to do the same. This has resulted in teamwork that only Fortune 500 companies could dream of having.

...but we're not done yet!

Mature successfully executes all
named targets in a bombing run,
Molten Fields
Now that the officers and I are comfortable that the team is on board and ready to dive into 25m Heroics without the gear excuse at their side, we are pushing our team-polishing direction toward the player him/herself, and more aggressively holding players accountable, not just for their play, but for their attitude and behaviors. I don't like dealing in abstracts; I'm more of a concrete thinker, so if you are the same, here are some real examples of things we're going to be looking at, and taking very seriously moving forward:

- Players with wonderfully positive attitudes and fiercely loyal dedications to the raid and guild...that are not improving their play. Attitude and Skill go hand-in-hand in team-based exercises. We need both at the top of their game, and as much as we love people who love to be here, we cannot handicap progression by poor performers who remain poor performers. Remember, this guild is about empowering you to improve. Do it, and problems are solved. Remain in denial -- and we will be benching you. This holds doubly true for players that disconnect a lot. In many cases you are at the whim of your ISP, but there are many settings on your computer and network can be tweaked, and most players do not realize this. Your DCs handicap progression so if you are DCing, take ownership! Make it a project to do what you can to research / resolve anything about your connection.

- Players who debate officers openly in public (Vent or Raid Chat) about strategy and decision-making. During a raid, it is inappropriate behavior. It slows our attempts and can serve to break your team rapport down--Remember, the officers are in their role for a reason: they have demonstrated sound knowledge regarding strategy and role management--and if you're not comfortable with their decisions, take it to them (or me) after the raid. If you think you can do a better job, maybe you should push for a promotion? Just...not during a raid. Keep in mind that you have 24 other individuals who are most often on the same page as the by you openly debating them, you only serve to alienate yourself...and that's the start of team breakdown.

Mature and fellow guild members try to
get a patch of nature to sprout,
Molten Fields
- Players who are defiant in taking suggestions / recommendations about adjustments to their specs / gear / UI / play. You are not a WoW God. If you were, you most likely would be in a world-first raiding guild. A perfect example of this is healers who insist on using default raid frames for healing, as opposed to investigating the wide-array of mods available to assist you in your duties. Yes, it is very true that there are extremely good healers who use the default raid frames, and you might even see that a lot in kill videos...'s because they are world first guilds. They have mind-numbingly FAST reflexes. Do you? Before you answer...check our WorldOfLogs guild reports. Have you ever died accidentally in the fire? If so, I don't believe you have lightning-fast reflexes. Consider an addon. Work smarter, not harder.

- Players who are not a part of the team. Signing up every week, being rotated in, doing your job and doing it well are all fantastic attributes...but they mean nothing, if you aren't respected by the rest of your team. Respect is earned, not granted via a rank in the guild. Respect comes from being credible. You are credible if you do what you say...and say what you do. It is not enough to say that you are respectful to your fellow have to prove it by your actions, and how you communicate with them. Demonstrating laziness, passive-aggressiveness and/or narcissism are all very fast ways of losing respect from your fellow guild. When that happens, the team has fractured and you need to be benched, even if you are a star player.

In summary, the officers and I are going to be actively looking into these issues more aggressively into 25m Heroics. As always, I am constantly recruiting and bringing new faces into the mix who are passionate about WoW and Raiding, and would love a shot at your spot. If you want to keep your spot, we want you to as well! And you can do eliminating the behaviors listed above.

-- Hanzo