The long distinguished roll of pick up group disasters

This post marks the end of a long week of posts about WoW and particularly about the new random dungeon finder that came in with patch 3.3. What can I say? It’s been a jolt in the arm for an aging game. It’s been a reminder that the instanced content was always WoW’s strongest selling point. And it’s reminded a lot of people who thought they disliked grouping that what they mostly disliked was all the associated hassle in getting the group together.

The most brilliant thing about the dungeon finder from Blizzard’s point of view is that no one else running current gen games can copy it. In order to work, a tool like this needs a massive user base. For example, I woke up at 2am this morning and tried to get a group on my death knight out of morbid curiousity. 10 minutes later *BAM* smooth as silk Forge of Souls Heroic run. Now think about how many players you need active in order for there to be a 50% chance for any single person to only have to wait 10 mins to get a group at two in the morning.

My new Death Knight who conveniently hit 80 the day before the patch is also looking rather sleek in her new gear, thanks to some lucky drops.

In any case, we’ve all been running a lot more instances, and getting to grip with a lot more PUGs. I feel as though I’ve been in a permanent sugar rush when logged on. And it’s also not all perfect – what’s more, even those of us who are usually paragons of perfection occasionally make (say it in whispers) minor mistakes.

Here’s a list of some of the dumb things I have done this week:

  1. Ran a whole instance with my Death Knight in the wrong presence. I didn’t realise until right at the end when the tank asked why I kept getting aggro.
  2. While manoeuvring a mob in Forge of Souls, I fell off the platform.
  3. Told a death knight that it was fine for him to use Army of Souls on Loken, following which we immediately wiped.
  4. While trying an experimental short cut in The Nexus, I fell off the platform (incidentally, EVERYONE who has ever run Nexus has fallen off that platform at some point but it don’t half make you feel like a noob when it isn’t your first run.)
  5. Let far too many people die while healing on my druid because of being a bit out of practice.

By the way, every single one of those runs was actually successful (except for the Loken one because my friends logged on and I left the group). The only one that even caused a wipe was when I fell off Forge of Souls, because I was tanking at the time.

The oddest complaint I have had from another player was that I killed the bosses in the Nexus in the ‘wrong order.’ I told him I hadn’t received that memo.

I’m not the only person who has been cataloguing personal PUG failures (aka “I was THAT guy.”)

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Learning from Watching Others

I feel inspired to start today with a failure story.

My first MMO was Dark Age of Camelot and my first character was a minstrel. It’s a jack of all trades class with a bit of melee, a bit of buffing, some stealth, and some crowd control. The crowd control was a single target mez (it’s a sleep spell) with a short range, and you had to play a little song on your flute to make it work. When I first started playing, I tried this out and figured out very quickly that it was rubbish. I mean, the mez broke as soon as you hit the mob. Plus if anything hit you while you were playing your flute song, it didn’t complete.

So if people asked me to do it, I just explained that it wasn’t very good.

Later, I was in a group with another minstrel (this didn’t happen often, it wasn’t that common a class). And what do you know, he started tootling away on his flute and dancing around during the pull and sure enough, one mob got mezzed and stayed mezzed. It was a revelation to me.

He was actually even better than that because with all the dancing around, he could mez 3 mobs ON HIS OWN before they even got to us. And I was like “Um, I’m a bit shit, aren’t I?” (I didn’t say that though. I just thought it.) And sure enough, a couple of months  and a lot of practice later down the line saw me doing the same thing.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Now this is what emergent behaviour is all about. Someone thinks of something new and tries it, and finds that it’s cool. Other players either read about this, or see someone do it. Then they try it for themselves. The new tactic catches on. And it’s purely because of something that players learned from each other, not something the game instructions explicitly told them to do.

But for this to work, you do have to be willing to watch, to listen, to read, and to learn from other people. It’s also how you learned most things as a child.

And it’s more fun and immediate if you witness it first hand, just as I did with the uber minstrel in DaoC, than if you just read about it or see it on a Youtube tankspot video. Those things are good, but they don’t smack you in the face the same way as actually seeing someone else do something cool.

Things I learned about raid leading last week (from watching other people)

My quest to get more achievements for my alt without having to put any effort in continues. Last week I snagged For the Horde! and Heroic: Twilight Assist, both in pick up groups from trade chat.

PvP Raid Leading:

The guy who led the PvP raid would be a familiar name on my server and faction. He organises a lot of world PvP, city defenses, town defenses, attacks, RP PvP events, and so on. So he’s very used to grabbing a bunch of inexperienced PvPniks and steering them to some semblence of success, zerg-style. And to those who mock zerg PvP, that’s not as easy as it sounds. The raid itself was good fun, we met our goals, got to fight a few players on the way, and here’s a few tips I picked up on PvP raid leading:

  1. Make sure everyone knows where the raid is heading next. What’s the next objective?
  2. If people die, give clear instructions for what they should do. Should they res and run back? Should they res and wait for a summon?
  3. Keep the instructions basic. Keep the tactics simple.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go back for people who got lost, just make sure everyone knows what is going on.

I was especially impressed at how well he communicated the instructions for if people died. Everyone always knew whether they should run back or wait, and where the raid would next stop to summon people. It kept the momentum and stopped people from panicking about how they’d catch up with the rest (this tends to happen a lot with zerg raids – if people lose the zerg, they panic.)

It was a very relaxed, chilled out experience. And no small part of that was because the raid leader was relaxed and chilled out.

Oh, Sartharion! PvE Raid Leading:

Anyone who leads a PUG PvE raid has my greatest respect. I don’t make a habit of it, and as a result I’m really not used to leading a bunch of people of varying skill, experience, and who may or may not give a shit about the encounter. So I’m really bad at gauging the capabilities of a PUG. In this group, we were taking down Sarth+1. Our dps was not stellar. Our tank failed on all three basic jobs of “just keep its head and its tail away from the rest of the raid, and don’t get caught in the fire wall either.” But we got Sartharion on the second attempt. So here’s a few more tips:

  1. It’s not over till its over. Don’t give up too soon.
  2. This includes if someone makes a stupid pull. Just calmly call out the kill order and let the raid deal with the extra mobs. If you’re going to wipe, might as well die fighting. See rule 1.
  3. Trust your gut feel. If you know your raid can make the kill, don’t be dissuaded from trying again.

So this raid was pretty much a study in tenacity and the raid leader trusting the players to handle unexpected incidents like pulling an extra trash pack, or the dragon tail swiping the raid (although I am bitter about being tail swiped while I was about to get out of a void zone).

What have you learned recently from watching someone else play?