It came from the PUG: Do you want cheese with that?

Unfortunately(?), all my random groups this week have been pretty good so instead of pointing the finger at outrageous behaviour, this week we’ll have to settle for mildly annoying.

Achievements are not the Marmite of WoW, very few people actively hate them with the passion of a billion blazing suns. They are more like  Nutella. Everyone likes Nutella. (Oh no, I missed World Nutella Day! How is that even possible?)

But most of us like it in moderation, and not with every single meal. I reserve the option to say, “No thanks, I respect that your tastes differ from mine but I’ll have my steak without Nutella today.” Frankly, Nutella with steak is an experience you want to share only with very close and special friends, who will put up with experimental cooking techniques and later forgive you if it turns out to be disgusting. Now, imagine Nutella if you also won a special prize for eating a whole jar without throwing up. And if you ate every meal with people who insisted on slathering it over everything and forcing you to do that too.

Yeah, you might go off it after awhile too.

So, back to achievements. A poster on the EU boards this week suggested that the LFD tool could have an option for people to select if they wanted to do achievements on their random run.

This is actually the worst idea ever for the players who do want to do achievements on their random runs.

  • Everyone who just wants some quick badges will not select achievements.
  • Every experienced player who already has finished their dungeon achievements will not select achievements (at least not on their main).
  • Every player who hates achievements will not select achievements.
  • Every player who does not feel like talking a random group through one of the more complex achievements will not select achievements.
  • Anyone bored who wants to grief people WILL select achievements.

Nope, the best way to get dungeon achievements sorted out is either to assemble a group on your home server, or bully/ cajole a random group into doing them. Guess which of those options is easiest for most players?

Now, I don’t actually mind being asked if I want to do an achievement in a dungeon run. But I expect people to give up on it gracefully when I say no. Naturally in random groups, this often does not happen.

I was called a noob this week when I declined to attempt Oculus with 5 bronze drakes. No, the reason I don’t want to do that is because I am NOT a noob and I just want my quick and easy badges without having to care whether a random group can sort out drake cooldown rotations.

Given the reluctance of people in the group to speak up or show any other behaviour that would distinguish them in any way from a doormat, I should not have been surprised to see 4 obedient little bronze drakes, and then me on my red. I left. Perhaps they got a tank who’d put up with those demands and got the achievements for them. But I still wonder if the silent members really cared about the achievement or were just falling into line with the most shouty person in the group.

As a basic rule of politeness, I go this way:

  • If even one person in the group wants to kill an extra boss, then we go kill it.
  • If even one person in the group does not want to do the achievement, then we don’t do it.

To me, the basic assumption of LFD is that the group will clear the instance with no special achievements involved. So I think anything that differs from that needs group buy-in.

But achievement junkies are often not polite. They try to bully groups into doing their achievements. They harass and abuse anyone who does not fall into line. So I save everyone the bother these days and just leave as soon as the question even gets asked (unless it’s the sort of achievement that we were going to do just by completing the instance anyway.) No, I am not interested in helping Joe Random get his achievement. I don’t like Nutella THAT much.

It came from the PUG: Move it, slackers!

As part of the tank sampling project, I’ve spent a bit of time on levelling a paladin alt. I ran a couple of Scarlet Monastery instances, courtesy of the random group finder, while retribution specced. Now, low level retribution is fairly hands off. You put up some buffs, judge from time to time, and throw in the occasional Exorcism and stun if you are feeling frisky.

But what struck me about these two runs was that I was playing pretty much similarly in both but had two very different reactions. In the first, the paladin healer berated me continuously for slacking and said she could have pulled more dps in her healing gear. In the second, the whole group was practically worshipping at my feet because of my insane damage.

oppally(Paladin with Bladestorm!)

So what changed? Well, this one is pretty obvious. As part of the first run, I got a really nice weapon upgrade. In fact, if you believe that the purpose of a retribution paladin is to annoy tanks, it may be the best weapon in the entire game, because it randomly procs a bladestorm, as per the screenshot.

Which begs the question: Why did the player in the first group accuse me of slacking? Answer: Because there are some things you just can’t tell from a damage meter.

But still, it’s quite insulting to be accused of slacking when you weren’t. Maybe I was slacking because I didn’t get an heirloom weapon for my alt? But if I had, I never would have gotten to the awesomeness that is the Ravager.

What if you were slacking?

Another slacker moment was had while running my daily for frost badges on my warlock alt. In this case, it was another paladin making the accusations (not sure if they’re more likely to be uppity or if I’ve just been unlucky with paladins this week).

So imagine that the tank is using some dps gear and pulling about 4k dps, and then starts accusing the damage dealers in the group of slacking because she’s top of the damage meter. But all the dps in the group were over 3k, even my alt who forgot to train up chaos bolt past level 1.

Well Ms Uppity Palatank, some of us are mere Saronite Slaves and if you expect us to turn up with full raid consumables and a progression mindset on your random 5 man heroic, then you are doomed to a life filled with disappointment.

Or rather, I might be a slacker but I’ll pull my socks up when it comes to raiding with my mates tomorrow, you however will always be a twat.

Thought of the Day: Fighting for Control of a Group

While the vast majority of groups I have found using the dungeon tool have been great, the annoying minority stress me out far more when tanking than in any other role. This is because in annoying groups, lots of players are fighting for control. In relaxed groups, people offer leadership or guidance if needed but they aren’t actually trying to fight about it.

Everyone who pulls randomly? They’re trying to control the group. And they are doing it passive-aggressively rather than just saying, ‘Can we go faster?’

Now this becomes more of an issue when you are tanking, because the traditional tanking role in instances DOES involve having more control. The person doing the pulling in the instance controls the pace of the run. And by convention, that is the tank because s/he will get initial threat on the mobs that are pulled. In the workplace, if you are assigned a job to do, you will wonder what’s going on when you find that other people are doing that job instead of you. It’s demoralising. You will also wonder why you are there in the first place.

Or in other words, there is a social contract in groups where the roles are understood. For example, as a tank:

- I will try to control the monsters so that I take all the hits.

- I will have good enough tanking gear/ talents to be able to do this without folding instantly like a paper doily.

- I will try to keep an eye on the rest of the group so that I can pull monsters off them.

- I won’t do anything to make my healer’s job harder.

- I won’t pull a boss before everyone is present and ready.

- I will know any tank-specific tactics for the fights, if I don’t know then I will ask before we pull.

So what do you do when some group members seem hell bent on forcing you to break that social contract? For example, I had a pair of jokers who kept stealthing ahead and pulling the bosses in Drak’theron before I got there. I can hardly stop my group getting hurt when they sneak off deliberately into danger, knowing I can’t see them.

Short form: I don’t want to have to fight with my own group. It isn’t fun. I don’t know why some people feel they must lead via doing silly things but if it keeps happening, the shortage of tanks will continue. Because a lot of players don’t want to fight with their own group.

Walking in a linking wonderland

Here are some of the posts and threads that caught my eye over the last couple of weeks.

  1. Kurt Vonnegut explains why people become drama queens
  2. tankspot dares to ask, “Has tanking made you mean?” Obviously not in my case, and I’ll boot anyone who disagrees.
  3. Tobold has an interesting theory about the different players who are attracted to different payment models. If all the players who really want games to be free go with free to play then how can that model make money? Similarly, if all the hardcore 40 hours a week guys flock to subscription models which depend on having lots of casual players, can those thrive too?
  4. Cassandri at HoTs and DoTs wants to know how much you’d pay for a battered hilt (leads to a quest which results in the best non raiding weapon in WoW). Does knowing that it has a high value affect whether you’d roll need on it?
  5. We get a lot of gaming genre blending in CRPGs. Some puzzle solving, squad based combat, exploring, maybe even FPS segments. Rampant Coypte wonders if players enjoy the mix of genres. For me, only if I like BOTH genres. I never forgave Prince of Persia for including stupid fighty bits when I just wanted a platform game.
  6. Mike Schramm has an intriguing post on wow.com asking whether Facebook might count as an MMO. After all, ‘players’ have avatars, homes, and can interact with others virtually. This is also his last week on wow.com so good luck to him in the future, I know I’ve enjoyed his writing.
  7. Larisa has some thoughts on how to take command over the random PUG. I’m hoping she will later address the question of whether or not anyone should be taking command.
  8. Hawley loves healers and says we’ll all miss them when they’re gone. He also wonders about Blizzard’s decision not to have a crowd control class; funnily enough I remember at the time thinking that it was inspired to spread the crowd control between different classes, but it’s true that in practice they weren’t all treated as equal.
  9. Jason Henniger writes the ultimate dear john letter, “Nyarlahotep, I’m breaking up with you.”
  10. Megan at Forbearance and the Drama Mammas (sorry but that column name makes me want to spit nails) at wow.com both think that everyone should chill and welcome the poorly performing players into PUGs.

Harnessing the desire to show off in front of noobs

If there is one thing that all human beings share, it’s the desire to show off in front of other people. If we’ve picked up useful skills, knowledge, gear, or achievements, they just seem more meaningful after they have been paraded in front of other people. We imagine the awed silence as the pecking order rearranges itself around us — just as well we imagine it because the actual reaction may be less enthusiastic.

For all that, this happens any time a group of people with similar interests get together. We showed off in front of each other in school, our parents showed off in front of each other at parent-teacher meetings, we show off at work, we show off in our hobby groups, we show off in our games. It isn’t always a negative trait. In fact, one way to show someone else that you know more than they do is to offer to help them.

I ran a couple of PUGs this week and I was thinking about this phenomenon.

At this phase of my WoW playing, I’m way overgeared and experienced to run heroics. They are trivial. There is no challenge there that really interests me. They’re just ‘stuff to do to get badges’, as easy as falling off a log. And sometimes it makes the runs more interesting if I get to show off a bit, which means running with people who aren’t as well geared and showing them how much easier things get with a really good tank.

So with that as background, here’s how my PUGs went.

In which I take a day off from tanking

I was knocking around Dalaran late in the evening, feeling as though I ought to have a crack at the daily instance (because it was Violet Hold and was located approximately 30s from where I was standing) but also feeling too lazy to put a group together. So I hopped onto LFG and immediately heard someone asking for dps for that instance.

I thought – fine, I have a dps spec. So I paged the guy, who was another warrior. He asked about my stats. I said ‘It’s violet hold heroic.’ (this implies ‘don’t be stupid’).  He laughed and invited me. We rolled into the instance and things didn’t go so well. The tank wasn’t familiar with the minibosses we randomly were assigned so we wiped a couple of times on the ethereal boss. I normally don’t step in when someone else is tanking, it just seems rude. But after two of the mouthier dps split, I suggested I’d grab a couple of guildies and maybe I would tank and he could dps so he could see how to kite the boss around the top balcony.

In a vision from bizarro world, it turns out that he had awesome dps gear and had only been tanking to get the badges (which is funny because I have great tanking gear and had been dpsing in my offspec for the same reason). Much hilarity was had and we knocked out the instance fairly swiftly after that.

In which easy mode is not that easy

The second instance group wasn’t actually a PUG although it felt like one in some ways. I was invited to come tank the daily heroic by a guildie and noticed that it was a guild group, but also contained two of our less experienced/ competent/ geared dps. (Fortunately not THAT GUY who always grabs aggro off the tank in every instance or raid or city or … actually any time he’s even in the same zone;  I suspect every guild has a version of their own. If you are THAT GUY, don’t take this personally but all the tanks hate you and try to avoid grouping with you whenever they can.)

So we pick up a healer who is someone’s inexperienced alt and head off to the Halls of Lightning. I eye the group and decide that in order to get a smooth run, we won’t try anything fancy. The last member of the group, who is a raider, asks if we can get the achievement on the first boss. I say no, and whisper him to explain that I don’t think the group will handle it well. He doesn’t agree but goes with me anyway.

All goes well. A few rooms further in, after various people have pulled adds with their arses or forgotten to turn off growl, he whispers me again to say that I am a tanking goddess and he should have had himself flayed with knotted ropes for ever thinking to disagree with my judgement. OK, he actually said ‘lol I see what you mean.’ But that’s what he meant.

The point of this is not to have a go at my guildies, who are nice people who pay attention and just happen not to play as much or as hardcore. What actually happened is that we had a clear run through the instance, everyone got their badges, and we did (somehow?) manage to get the speed kill on Loken for the achievement at the end despite the fact that two of the dps were showing lower on the damage meters than I was.

Nope. My point is that regardless of how uber I am, I cannot solo that instance. Taking less hardcore players along cost us a few minutes (I’ll say we could maaaybe have saved 15 mins if we had speed pulled HoL with a geared group, because I paused to explain the boss fights) and some achievements that no one cared about. That was the only cost.

There’s really no reason to be nasty about people’s gear for heroics. Even if someone is low on the damage meters, they’re still helping you get badges. And if you decide to spend 15 mins waiting around in chat to find better geared people then congratulations, you probably would have got through it at about the same time if you’d taken the first guys in the list.

On another note, I totally nailed the annoying HoL pull with the two runecasters. I was quite proud. No one else probably appreciated it. But I think this does prove the point that in games, just as in life, by the time you have the experience to ace all the challenges, you probably don’t need it any more.