Friday, February 27, 2009

By the conveyor belt

Larísa wrote an article about group dynamics. She recalled her real life group management training, and expressed her surprise that there are so many game mechanics information available, yet there are few group/guild management information, although in the real world they are considered very important.

Tobold responds with similar ideas, but expresses that "The third phase of group dynamics ... is rarely reached in WoW, because it is a stage which isn't absolutely necessary to succeed." He also mention that other, mostly PvP games like EVE has stronger groups.

I've got countless comments that I cannot raid serious content without guilds and 99% of the population are in guilds. Everyone talk about guilds and everyone find them neccessary, yet they are extremely volatile, they form and brake very fast.

So on the one hand everyone believes (from real life experiences) that groups are important in WoW, on the other hand, they don't behave so. After all, I managed to PuG Naxx, and this weekend I'll make my first try on Malygos.

I think the solution is extremely simple. On the one hand, our real world groups are working on some professional tasks. I depend on the mechanical engineer of my group since that's not my profession, but also I cannot replace him quickly. A new, equally trained mechanical engineer would need months to read all the plans, learn all the necessary information about the plant we design to be able to contribute. So my current mechanical engineer is the mechanical engineer for me. I have to know him as a person, not just as a random "mechanical engineer", I have to notice when he has problems, I have to handle the drama between him and the enviromentalist engineer he does not really like, because I need them both since replacing any of them would delay the plant with at least a month.

On the other hand I don't think that a McDonalds employee has such problems with the rest of the "want some fries with that?" crew. They are easily replaceable random people. If there is problem with one, the manager can make a call to the local job agency and by tomorrow another guy will do the same job without any customer (or coworker) would notice. Group management is only necessary if the person is needed, not just one random worker with appropriate skills.

We may believe that in this game we are granted the position of World-Saving Heroes. But that's a lie or at least a huge mistake. We are taking the position of grunts of a World-saving army. We are are blue-collar workers standing by the conveyor belt in the factory producing "saving the world".

The task (bossfight) is completely repetitive, does not need any intelligent thinking. No one expects more from you than the McDonalds manager expect from the workers: read the not so complicated user's manual, stick to it, do what your direct manager says, have your uniform on, don't be late, don't be drunk, don't slack. Doing such a job for the first time can be interesting since it's something you've never done. New machinery, new tasks, new tastes, smells, lights. I've heard of a recreational company that offered "tours" into blue-collar jobs to rich people. They pay to be stone miners, open-sea fisherman, building destruction workers, cowboys for a day, because it's fun... for one day.

For the second time it's just a repetitive conveyor work you do for pitiful $ ... err ... DKP 200/week.

Any player with proper gear, knowledge about the boss and proper "work ethic" can take your place. He does not even has to be in the same class. A prot paladin can be replaced by any prot paladin, bear, protwarri or tank-DK, assuming they have the required skills, gear and focus. I don't have to know anything about my tank, just like I don't have to know anything about the mail-boy who brings my samples to the lab, except that he is a mail-boy found able and reliable by the HR department.

The only group-management needed at this level of working is screening for the basic skills. The servers crawl with M&S who do not have even remotely acceptabe gear, have no idea about the boss and AFK all the time. But after someone is found "work-able", and got into the large pool of "acceptable players", he is identical and replacable by any other member of the same pool.

To change that, to make group-work necessary the game must have been much harder, and above all, not repetitive. If the bosses would adapt quickly, for example drawing a shield when see a melee-heavy raid coming, or throwing down a fire resistance totem when the raid is crawling with hot-streak mages, things would be different. If he would use different CC abilities randomly, and people would have to adapt fast, plan intelligently, than having a group would be important. In a PvP game, where the challenge comes from other players with evolving skills, the group is also important.

However as long as WoW is just as easy and repetitive as it is, the groups are nothing more than social flavors over a simple blue-collar job. There is no need for any kind of group management. If I find a player useless or annoying, I simply replace him with one of the plenty available. Granted that I have to work hard to filter out the M&S scum, but I have to do this work only once/content. It took me 6+5 hours to clear Naxx. But I've done it and never will do it again. It was exciting once, both content and management-wise, but repeating it would be boring and pointless.

When will WoW change for such game? Never. The reason will be the post for Monday.


Feist said...

A proposal for pugging malygos Gevlon.

Don't ask your puggers about their gear.

Ask them what their rotation is during Phase 3.

It's a much more reliable way of ensuring you get people who know the fight.

Gevlon said...

@Feist: the problem with that is it would exclude everyone who have not done the fight before. If I PuG with people who already done that with a guild, got experience and gear from that guild, I would simply leech on those guilds.

My point is NOT to prove that guilds can be leeched (it's obvious, you shall just lie a lot, get in, gear up and /gquit)

My point is to prove that one can clear the content without (even remote) help from guilds.

Feist said...

I don't think it excludes those who haven't done the fight, it merely excludes those who haven't done their homework and researched it.

Alternately, have them do the Aces High! daily outside in your presence before going in.

Daniel said...

I agree with Feist. It's not just people who have done it. It's people who did their homework. Those who took the time to do the daily.

And pugging existing content is one thing. It's like Gruul's or Karazhan of LK. But Ulduar won't be pugged till long after it's been clear. Look how log it took for people to PUG SSC.

But that's not saying guilds are not volatile things. I know this.

chaoskas said...

"If he would use different CC abilities randomly, and people would have to adapt fast, plan intelligently, than having a group would be important."

We have a mage in our guild who does a great job at Noth (dispelling) and Kel (sheeping) but once you enter a boss unknown to him (or worse: pvp) these skills are completly forgotten.

If WoW would focus more on the ability to react, many casuals would be helpless. Just because they hardly how to play their class. In fact, I think many of the hardcore raider would be helpless, too (remembering the fury warrior who noticed in AQ40, that he could use Heroic Strike in berserker stance ...).

I would like to play bosses, who would adapt but two-shotting every healer and then take care of the group is not an option for fun ;)

Graargh said...

Your post is interesting. You are completely right that as long as a person knows how to play their class ("knows how to make burgers") they are completely replaceable.

Clearly you have no interest in collecting all of the epics that are available to you in Naxx. That's one of the main reasons people run it again and again, along with boosting freindly helpfull ppl.

If you don't want to collect the best gear for your character, and you don't enjoy the social interaction that raiding content brings, there's not much point in killing the same bosses again and again.

Tarrke said...

Guild may, and may not. Some guilds stayed on servers since wow launched, some get there, some disapeared. Some will be created, and some will crash.
This is the same for companies, some go bankrupt, and some are still there. You can't say a guild is volatile just by judging on the comment Gevlon made.

To me, and for my guildies as well, a guild is something more than a raid. We got our guild and our raid. The guild si here for more than 4 years I think, and the raid for a little less than 4 years. The ones there at the beginning are still there for some, other went in and out. The guild lives with chat and coffe machine discutions. We're all in a big familly there, and no one is complaigning about this.
Will we be able to clean Naxx & all with a less friendly raid ? Definitly yes. Will we be able to down Sart 3D sooner ? Maybe, maybe not. Are we having fun ? That's a big yes too. While making money on the AH, I can be heatless, while raiding, I can't. I'm not just an other tank to my guildies, I'm THAT other guy here that can do things for them.

Guilds are more than mere raids for some of us. Raiding is boring, so having fun with friends and not bots is something I definitly pay for.

Carra said...

[quote]The task (bossfight) is completely repetitive, does not need any intelligent thinking.

A prot paladin can be replaced by any prot paladin, bear, protwarri or tank-DK, assuming they have the required skills, gear and focus.[/quote]

So on the one hand you say they don't need any intelligent thinking, on the other hand that they require the same skills and focus. I'd say the latter contradicts the first.

Yes, someone is replacable if they have similar gear and skills. But it'll take some time before they have the same experience, something you mentioned. So it's a good idea to keep your experienced raiders and group them in a a guild.

Besides that, naxx is easy now. Although I'm curious how you'll down Malygos or Sarth with two drakes with a pug.

Anonymous said...

There is a reason to clear Naxx10 at least 10 times with the same people, and 25 times Naxx25: its the key for malygos. Everyone wants the key, since you don't want to depend on others forever. And if you drop out of your raid as soon as you have your key you make it even harder for the others since your replacement can roll on that damn key too.
Normal Key = check
Heroic Key = lost the roll twice so far

Anonymous said...

Hi Gevlon,

your blog is really great. Thanks to your hints I completely stopped farming (except for personal stuff, e.g. reptutation) and dropped herbalism. I can't say I make more money than the hardcore farmers, but it's certainly more enjoyable.
And, well... whenever I sell crystallized fire for twice the cost, it kind of cheers me up.

Now, what is your definition of pugging content? Is it still pugging, when some of the players already did the fight? Or is it sufficient, when the people don't know each other, never raided together?

Gevlon said...

@carra: being able to follow instructions, reading some material and pressing the appropriate buttons does not make one "intelligent", just "more intelligent than a piece of rock". Anyone who is capable to work a shift in a McDonalds is capable to raid all content in WoW.

@Anonymous: PuG is a Pick up Group. People who are randomly online when I want to raid and join my raid. Of course some of them done the instance, others have not. There is only one requirements to get in: have an acceptable gear. There are two requirements to stay in: be able to do press the proper buttons (see above) and don't AFK, ninjapull, spam nonsense, so don't be M&S.

Anonymous said...

Ah, how delightfully surprising: I fully agree with Gevlon.

There seem to be a lot of people who are simply in denial about what kind of game WoW is and fantasise about it requiring (other than 'blue-collar') skills.

The one exception here might (I'm not really sure) be WoW PvP. PvE is too predictable to require continuous adaptation or creativity (actually, on the contrary).

*vlad* said...

"Anyone who is capable to work a shift in a McDonalds is capable to raid all content in WoW."

Then there must be a lot of people playing WoW who can't get a job in McDonalds, otherwise why do you insist in weeding 'm&s' out of your raids?

As for Malygos, if you can get to Phase 3 then you should be able to get him down without any problem.
Phase 3 is a bit like Phase 3 in Vashj; get through Phase 2 with enough players and it's cake.

Good luck finding healers who have never raided before to heal this encounter. I guarantee you that it will fail without raid healers.

Sydera said...

If you only do Naxx once, how are you going to get the gear to do Ulduar?

Just asking.

This game rewards repetition, and you need to do a certain amount of it to progress between encounters and tiers.

phoenixboy said...

I think that what Gevlon is saying is that you dont need a raid group of mostly the same people, that you can pick anybody of the pool of players that can do it and still have sucess, that you dont need a tight-knit group to suceed.

Yes raiding with friends its nice but IS NOT NECCESARY. You just need someone skilled enough for doing the job, but you dont have to like them, just that they know what they are doing.

The "pool of skilled players" can be organized of any way , either a guild or your friends list, with the guild is that you can relationate with people (both good and bad) just as the pick up groups.

A closed guild of just a handful of people raiding it is going to burnout unless they got a lot more skilled people in the pool, and in a guld you need organize the rotation and most of the time thats going to lead to drama and guilt for being responsable for the guild. That can suck out the fun of a game.

When you PUG the rotation happens naturally and is a lot more relaxing you just put rules and checks, kick people who dont dut it and you are golden.

In not saying that beating content with friends isnt fun, but is harder enforce rules instead of just kicking anybody that doesnt cut it.

Anonymous said...

My guild is a family and real-friends only group that started with a core of people playing EQ. We can't get rid of the poorer players, but social helpfulness and/or pressure tends to favor the better skilled for raiding. We haven't gotten Sarth+2 yet, but we're close. Just another type of group to consider.

Gevlon said...

@Sydera: are you serious?

depa said...

One thing that people often overlook in that whole guild/not guild discussion is time optimization. A very striking aspect of raiding with people who are used to play together is that peoples' time is valued and measured. Trash is chain pulled, wipe recovery is faster and people are careful enough with their AFK time so as not to trouble the group. And, of course, less wipes.

The reason this is important is that the issue just isn't as simple as being able to finish a certain raid by pugging or not. How long it takes for you to do it is just as important. You say you took 6+5 hours to finish Naxx? That's taxing to one's available time and patience, to say the least.

My guild clears Naxx 25 in 2.5 hours. If the only way I could complete the same raid was spending 11 hours on it, then I most certainly wouldn't be doing it. That's the beautiful thing about committed raiding: you do more in less time.

Many people think the hardcore players are the ones that spend more time in the game. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm friends with some people in one of the top US guilds, and I see them getting online close to their raiding time and logging out when it's over. On the other hand, I know a lot of casual players who are online the entire afternoon and nights almost every day.

I know you want to prove you don't need friends to be successful. But if taking 11 hours to finish Naxx fits your definition of successful, then I'm left wondering what possibly could we have in common.

Larísa said...

I've got the feeling we've been through this before and I don't expect us to come to any shared conclusion. But I have a few comments. I may make another blogpost about it. No promises, but probably it will turn up monday as well.

Elleiras said...

"If you only do Naxx once, how are you going to get the gear to do Ulduar?"

This was my question, too.

Naxx is an incredibly forgiving instance when it comes to gear. The first time my guild cleared it, we were in level 70 epics and a smattering of Northrend blues. Your crafted epics, reputation rewards and AH'd BoE's will get you through all of the current content ... but the developers have repeatedly said that Uldaur will be tuned to players in Naxx-level gear.

So what happens when you try to PuG Uldaur, or Icecrown -- and suddenly find that you're the "S" who couldn't be bothered to farm raid instances for tier-appropriate gear?

The quality of crafted epics and available BoE's will increase with 3.1, but since the runed orbs to craft them and the BoE's themselves will come from raids, raiding guilds will get them first, and then they'll trickle down to the PuG population.

You'll end up either "months behind" (which is where you are now; guilds and even PuGs have been farming EoE for a while), or leeching off of guilds -- neither of which serves to prove your point.

depa said...

I join the choir of people who say Ulduar won't be puggable. But we don't even need to go that far. Hyjal and BT weren't puggable (lol Archimonde), and just the idea of pugging Sunwell makes my eyes bleed. So I don't even know how all of this even got started in the first place.

csdx said...

Hmm, I agree fighting the boss the n-th time is significantly less fun than that first time. However, the issue is that Blizzard balances raid loot around the idea that it'll be run multiple times, so you may find yourself somewhat under geared for later tiers.

Also I agree, reading the boss strat, then following through with it isn't something overly technical or complicated. However, the fun part I've had with my guild was actually learning dungeon/raid bosses (we purposely all didn't read up on any strategies). That requires a sort of masochistic sense of fun, as well as much more dedication than is likely to be found in people willing to hop into a PuG.

Sydera said...


I'm quite serious. I am looking at Ghostboci's armory page and your gear is fine for Naxx and Maly 10 and, if you're as good as you say you are, Naxx 25, but it's definitely not optimized. It wouldn't get you a very good performance in Maly 25 or Sarth 3D of either raid size.

From blue comments and what we know of the PTR, Ulduar has some gear checks, and your current kit won't cut it.

Most serious raiders try to be as close to best-in-slot as they can be for every slot. It's possible to be more optimized than you are in the 10-man options available.

I'd say you're not done with Naxx, or else you risk being one of those woefully undergeared players that you so often criticize in the next tier.

I guess I just assumed you wanted to clear Ulduar (at least once) too!

Oh, and you should put your considerable gold toward buying a Je'Tze's Bell to replace your Futuresight Rune. There's a best-in-slot that you can actually buy!

Pzychotix said...

The analogy you make in your post seems heavily flawed.

The professional skills that allow one to do such professional tasks in real life doesn't correlate to skill in WoW. It correlates to the gear.

At this point in time, Naxx is the McDonalds of WoW. You can pretty much pick up anyone off the sidewalk and he'll probably be good enough to do the job. But what about Ulduar, and the next dungeon and the next? Suddenly, the average joe off the sidewalk isn't going to have the gear capable of doing his job well enough. He's going to take weeks of proper regearing before he's good enough to take the job.

Now, the guy that you have on hand, already geared up, isn't looking too bad.

Russell said...

I think you are far too scornful of the "blue-collar" jobs you mention, and forget that many white-collar or other types of jobs involve more or less the same kind of easy, grinding, mind-numbing repetition as a conveyor belt job. Business accounting, anyone?

I also think that you are far too impressed with the salary attached to a job: "For the second time it's just a repetitive conveyor work you do for pitiful $ ... err ... DKP 200/week."

One of my good friends builds wooden whitewater dories for a living. Each one takes him about three months, and he sells them for about $17,000. Less materials, he clears about $9000. That's $3000 a month, much less than the average cubicle farmer.

But my friend wouldn't change his job for a 10x increase in salary. He finds the work challenging, interesting, and rewarding. Blue-collar, but a dream job for some nonetheless.

Monkeytree said...

Eh, I played chess once. It was exciting. But I will NEVER play it again, because I've done it now - it would just be boring.

That was a false statement, of course - I quite enjoy chess. But I also quite enjoy running a good Naxx group.

It's interesting to analyse why I enjoy running instances and raids multiple times, while I don't enjoy reading the same books over and over, or watching the same movies repeatedly:

1. interaction with people, meeting new people and messing around a bit
2. a feeling of ability and acceptance by peers (being able to do a good "job")
3. loot rewards (and emblems)
4. a therapeutic comfort from the repetetive (like enjoying ironing the clothes or something)

Of course I also enjoy the storytelling of the actual content, and the art of the game, etc. (which is why it's fun to go and visit old raids like ZG that I didn't do much of previously)

Anyone else have similar motivations?

me said...

as of now, you can pug everything in the endgame content without being in a guild.
I don't LIKE guilds. You end up having to commit a lot of asskissing in roder to just receive the same chance of roling on loot or going to a raid as everyone else, plus YOU ahve to obey THEIR time and pass on loot you need because of some shit loot system like dkp.

On my current server, I can pug whatever I want, and if I pick a good group, we will clear everything. It DOES depend on teh server quality though.

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