Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Archive for the ‘World of Warcraft’

Quick check-in

June 04, 2012 By: Ladan Category: raiding, World of Warcraft

So the PhD madness rages on and it will be some time yet before I can put up any proper content. I’m sorry for that, but we (well at least I) always knew this time would come. I’ll be back and posting just as soon as I can… in the meantime, feel free to send me any spare brain cells and wisdom you’d like! I’ll take all I can.

Before I dive back into my oh-too-long work here, here’s some stuff, first Dara O Briain talking about videogames and my personal fond recollection of Trololo Man, who passed away aged 77. Thanks for making me smile and keeping me sane, guys!

Shedding our “nerdy” mystique

March 08, 2012 By: Ladan Category: computer, World of Warcraft

So I am the last person to claim that there isn’t a well nurtured stigma attached to being called a gamer and that gaming isn’t sometimes viewed as a hobby that you might not want everyone knowing you enjoy. And I’m often quick to notice the subtle and sometimes overt insults to the sociality, lifestyle, and even romantic potential of a gamer. And this long-held stigma has even up and coming generations shying away from being identified as a gamer. Allow me to illustrate:

I have had the pleasure of helping teach on a course in my department here at Durham called about online geographies. I’ve usually been asked by the course’s professor, Mike Crang, to facilitate the workshop on “Virtual worlds and games”. It’s often been about exploring what something like Second Life or an MMO are like. This year, my third year helping with it, we realised the workshop material was a bit out of date so Mike generously gave me an opportunity to redesign the workshop and guide the students through a few more recent virtual environments, games, and MMOs. Due to Durham’s very conservative attitude toward games and some strict limitations on what we could access and play, I ended up having the students look at a free browser-based MMO called Glitch (kind of like a Farmville MMO, though that’s not quite right.. it’s fun for a while but it has its limits too) and we looked at other things like Plants vs. Zombies, Alphaworlds, Habbo Hotel, and Farmville/Cafeville on Facebook. We even tried Angry Birds on our smartphones!

Well, when we got into a discussion about gaming within the group, these well educated, cool, mostly 19- and 20-something third year Durham Geography students were very very reticent to admit (in that group setting) what, if any, games they might have played or be currently playing. As far as the cool factor goes in relation to games, I’d say FIFA is acceptable (if you want to admit you play games but remain cool with the non-gaming cool set), Mafia Wars *might* be ok… Angry Birds could cause a giggle but a knowing nod of acceptance. And that might be it. We’re still not quite there yet as far as people getting over this idea of gaming being uncool.

I mean we’ve gotten past other things that have been viewed as a stigma in the past. And I’d like to think that eventually we’re going to be ok with the idea of gaming and not relegate it to the “nerdy” or “no life” part of the shelf. But if university students are still finding it hard to relate to or even admit an affiliation with anything but the most mainstream of games, I think we’ve got a ways to go.

Even a couple weeks ago we had a story about a new research study about WoW that provides some promising health benefits in relation to gaming. They took a group of older adults (60-77) and had some learn how to play WoW while others did not and they were able to note an increase in focus and spatial orientation among those adults that had been playing WoW. Now this is a pretty good story, and I’m glad different media channels were reporting it, but like much else in the media these days, it had to start off with a subtle insult to the community before telling us something positive: “‘World of Warcraft’ isn’t just for nerds”. And I know, I know, you’re all going to tell me this is just par for the course, but isn’t it just getting a bit too predictable now?

Anyway, the academic paper can be accessed here, if you’re interested.

Nostalgia hits…!

March 02, 2012 By: Ladan Category: livestream, raiding, vanilla WoW, World of Warcraft

Picture this: It’s 2062 and Old Man Raider, resident of the Retirement Home for Raiders is relaxing on the porch, chatting with Old Lady Raider and Really Old Man Raider. They’re engaged in a debate.. which game was the best for raiding; which expansion was the best. When was raiding at its best. Things get heated; fingers are waggling. Inevitably the walking sticks are brandished and Really Old Man Raider summons his strength, pushes himself up against his walker and proclaims that Everquest was always the Granddaddy of raiding on the true scale of epicness and no game since has ever been able to capture the feeling of raiding with so many… Old Man Raider objects, noting that vanilla WoW was always where it was at and the rough-about-the-edges, new frontierness of raiding was its most authentic… and finally Old Lady Raider chimes in shrilly that The Burning Crusade was when raiding came into its own with the right level of complexity and newness reaping the benefits of a design team that had learned from vanilla.

The trio reach a stalemate. No one can agree. Even the Slightly Younger Old Man Raider sitting at the nearby table doesn’t dare chime into the debate to suggest that WoW’s Tier 42 and its perfection of 4D underwater raiding was truly the pinnacle of raiding–he doesn’t want to get ostracized on the golf course the next day, after all.

The group finally throws the towel in on the debate, saying they’d better head in and get naps before the 7 pm raid start that night for the Retirement Home Raiding team.

———————————————————————————

In my various interviews with various raiders since I started my research a few years back, I often hear “well, things were better back in Vanilla or TBC.” And yes, maybe they were. Or maybe they weren’t. It’s all a matter of perspective, experience, and that tricky, hard-to-pinpoint emotion: nostalgia. Isn’t it?

Well this week, the guys at Manaflask are putting this idea to the test. Manaflask have opted to launch something new, what they are calling Project 60. I’m calling it a fascinating experiment into the experience of nostalgia. And this is being mixed into the experience of celebrity, making it even more compelling. The idea is to create a character on what was the famed vanilla/TBC raiding team Nihilum’s EU server Magtheridon. Then you level up to 60, lock yourself in, and then join the rest of the team in some “old school” raiding alongside members of the former guild.

If you’d like to actively engage in this trip down memory lane, or if you started raiding post-vanilla and have always wanted to get a taste of it, go over to the manaflask site and get signed up! As I understand it, they’re accepting members til they are full. And if you’re just curious about what this is like or might like to follow along, I’m participating in a livestream event with a few members from Nihilum and Manaflask tomorrow (Saturday, March 3rd) evening (6-7 pm EU game time–that’s GMT+1). There’s more information on the Manaflask site if you’re curious: http://www.manaflask.com/en/article/1635/streaming-event-for-project-60-on-saturday.

Naturally it’s impossible to create a completely authentic experience in relation to recreating the level 60 raiding period. Even if we could rewind the mechanics and game features, we still have a collective raiding memory that will impact how we see raiding several years on. But I think this is a brilliant idea and is probably the closest we can get to it in 2012. I can’t wait to talk about it with the guys tomorrow. Do chime in if you get a chance! I’ll be the confused Tauren priest named Nadala (looking and acting as confused as I was back in vanilla!) if you want to say hi to me in game. :)

Exodus Interview, Part 2

February 01, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, elite, media, podcast, raiding, raiding guild, World of Warcraft

Hi again, everyone.. can you believe it’s February?

Anyways! I’ve posted the 2nd part of my interview with Exodus, the US raiding guild that ended up ranked 9th in the overall Tier 13 race and 7th in the 25-man race. I think this part of our interview is particularly interesting. I ask them about their past experiences with bug exploits and bans, and we talk about the ethics around the issue. The guys were remarkably open and unapologetic in their views, which I’m sure will trigger some debate but also just seems to highlight to me the complexity of the issue.

Enjoy and do chime in on your thoughts around the issues raised in the discussion.

Raiding Roundtable Discussion with Top Guilds

January 09, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, competition, Dragon Soul, patch 4.3, podcast, raiding, World of Warcraft

I had a chance to sit down tonight with seven of the world’s highest ranked raiding guilds to discuss a few things about the Tier 13 race:

  • the LFR ban
  • the current rankings and the shifts from previous tiers
  • the problems with content and raid encounters in the current tier of raiding
  • the state of the raiding race and its future
  • the emergence of Asian raiding guilds as dominant

Participants were:

  • Absalom from Blood Legion (US)
  • Arx from DREAM Paragon (EU)
  • Cika from Exodus (US)
  • Crusher from Stars (TW), via email
  • Dusk from Envy (EU)
  • Grafarion from vodka (US)
  • Sco from Method (EU)

I am very grateful to all seven participants for their time, perspective, and insight. I think we had an interesting discussion and quite a number of salient points were brought up about this challenging raiding tier. I did want to point out that I did try very hard to get in touch with KIN Raiders and some of the 10-man raiding guilds (like Silent) and was unable to get their participation in the call. I imagine language and time barriers contributed to that failure. I know that more perspectives would have resulted in an even better podcast and I can only say that I’ll try harder next time to get these additional perspectives to the table. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the wall of sound!

New poll for a new year!

January 04, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, competition, raiding, rankings, World of Warcraft

Hey everyone! Happy new year!  I hope 2012 is a great year for all of you. We’re on the verge of the Year of the Dragon, which could make it quite a dramatic year indeed!

So not much to report, though I did just put a new piece up on the Paragon site that should be of interest to my thinking readers. Also, if anyone out there has run across any other mainstream media pieces about the recent tier raiding race, please let me know? When I say “mainstream” I mean your national newspapers, the BBC, CNN, etc.

Right now I’m toying with a few ideas for expanding my site and hope to share those in the coming days and weeks, but for now I’ve got a new poll up and hope you’ll share your thoughts. We’ve definitely had some changes in interest in the raiding this tier (unlucky tier 13 anyone?) and I’m curious about how much of an impact the release of the new MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic has had on this tier. I realise other issues may be impacting the race such as the LFR ban or the Christmas holiday season, but I’m wondering if SW:TOR is signalling anything. I’ve often heard the prediction of the demise of WoW when a new and highly anticipated MMO is released but so far none have been able to knock WoW off of its pedestal.

The waiting game and Gnome chefs!

November 29, 2011 By: Ladan Category: addons, patch day

One thing that kill videos and slick ads by Blizzard don’t tell the unfamiliar is just how much waiting we seem to do while raiding in World of Warcraft. It’s a classic manifestation of the hurry up and wait syndrome that seems to happen a lot on things like airplanes and queues in the supermarket. It’s not surprising. Often trying to get 10 or 25 raiders back into the right spot in the raid instance and all ready to go on time can sometimes feel worse than herding cats and can probably be blamed for causing the mental breakdown of many a raid leader. During progression time we may wipe dozens of times. In fact, one night I was observing a raid group and I noted that during a 72 minute period of raiding, about 10 attempts/wipes took place equalling 28 minutes, while 44 minutes were spent recovering from being dead, flying back into the instance, gathering at the right spot, taking a short break, waiting on people to come back from disconnects or sudden “afks”, making sure everyone was ready to go, and then beginning again. I realise we don’t always spend the majority of our time waiting to start up again, but this can be a distinctive element of a raid and sometimes it’s nice to make the best of our time raiding, even if we’re just waiting around.

So in the spirit of fun and to help you get through those wait times with a little amusement, I thought I’d share this addon that was written especially by addon creator Olog. Olog has designed some other addons that are used by his own guild and has written others that have been more widely used by the gaming community at large. When I approached him with my idea, he found it quite an amusing concept and agreed to create something which he whipped out in an hour or two. This addon is called Gnome Chef Roulette and the idea is that you have a way to create esquisite gourmet dishes inspired by the “produce” available in the game itself! It’s a game of roulette as you’re going to have to trust your little Gnome chef pal to concoct something appropriate for the occasion. So get cooking and amaze your fellow raiders!

GnomeChefRoulette

Instructions: Just load it like any other addon and type /chef to open the window. It’s quite self-explanatory but people can either whisper to you or say !food and your chef will automatically produce something fabulous! (You can also just say !food yourself and you’ll broadcast what you’ve cooked as well.)

Enjoy and happy Patch 4.3!

Being on the other side of the desk…

April 16, 2011 By: Ladan Category: media, raiding research, World of Warcraft

I had an invaluable opportunity a few days ago to be interviewed by the guys at manaflask about my research–actually “RonBurgundy” interviewed me. It was really exciting; he’s dreamy. And while it may take me a long time to stop cringing at seeing my name in a media piece or hearing the sound of my own voice in an interview, I can only thank them for the chance to spread the word about the research I’m doing into raiding. Thanks, “Ron” and the lovely folks of manaflask!

In fact this experience has helped me in an unexpected way. This was the first time I’ve had a chance to really explain (without a time limit, even!) why I’m doing my research, how I’ve done it, what I’m finding out, and the impact I hope to make.  I think, as a researcher, I sometimes forget to really pause and elucidate–in terms that most can understand–what I am doing. The PhD process is challenging at best, soul-sapping at worst, but it’s so important to stop and reflect. And considering the multifaceted lives we lead with technology seeping out of our very pores, it can be easy to forget to stop and think about what we do and why. Of course, that’s something I’ve often felt is distinctive about raiders. Raiders are constantly reflecting. “Why did we wipe?” “What failed?” “What should we do differently this time?”

But anyway, this is a link to the interview. I hope you enjoy! And if anyone (or any raiding guild) wants to talk to me about their thoughts on raiding and the raiding culture, please do let me know. I’d be happy to speak with you. :) Contact me via the email address I provide on my “About” page.

BBC article and radio show about WoW Raiding

February 02, 2011 By: Ladan Category: new media, raiding, raiding content, raiding culture, World of Warcraft

Note: I put this post up at Paragon’s site as well, but am cross-posting for those who might not have seen this yet.

Yesterday the BBC posted an article about raiding, particularly in relation to hard core or elite raiding and I was interviewed for this article for my “thoughts” about raiding and what my research is telling me. They also spoke to Paragon to get the added perspective from an elite raiding guild. Here is the article, if you haven’t seen it yet:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12326825

(If you back up to the main technology page, they’ve got a pretty impressive image to advertise the article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology/, though I doubt that image will be up for too many days.)

The interview was also included in a radio show called Outriders, which is aired on BBC 5. I have no idea if folks outside of the UK can listen to it, but here’s that information if anyone is curious.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/outriders/2011/02/tracked_televised_taught_and_t.shtml

The segment on WoW raiding starts around 19 minutes into the show. Aside from the presenter mispronouncing my name, I think it’s a nice discussion about how raiding works. Kudos to the BBC for wanting to look beyond the alarmism that the media tends to prefer to focus on when it comes to games: addiction, obesity, antisocial behaviour.

I can’t say how much stock you can put into this, but my mother (who has very little understanding of video or computer games, let alone raiding in WoW) claims that she now understands raiding a lot better now having listened to my interview. Go Mum!

Patch day poll

October 17, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, class spec, patch day, Polls

I’ve not kept this poll up for long as we’re now, mostly, post-patch day and it’s quite a different experience to think about things after something has happened versus thinking about them in anticipation.

But the results are interesting, suffice it to say!

  • Figuring out the best spec, glyphs, new rotation I can before Cataclysm. (55%)
  • Keeping on top of the information and changes so I don’t lag behind. (34%)
  • Trying to relearn how to play my class. Again. (21%)
  • No concerns, it’s all good. (10%)
  • That the changes from patch could throw off our raiding or achievement progress. (0%)

At least more about what you did not vote for in comparison to what you did vote for. A whole whopping 0% of you voted for the following: “That the changes from patch could throw off our raiding or achievement progress.” I would imagine that’s partly due to the current state of game content, the removal of that throne debuff, and the fact that for most of us, I imagine patch day is a more personal experience. The idea of how we’re going to manage post-patch, what we need to redo and re-learn.

I, for one, did probably less than I should have in advance to understand what was going to happen to my main class and spec. And what a surprise when I logged in. My own prediction–that I’d have to do a lot to keep on top of these changes to my class and spec–came true for me. I think it feels like a game that’s had a makeover. It’s the same thing, but many details are very different. It’s also a very interesting pre-software release strategy by Blizzard. Global beta testing! But I digress. Let’s continue to review the results here.

The literal work of managing the details of one’s main character (and spec) was the leading response to the poll questions, with 55% of respondents. After that, keeping on top of information and changes was the second highest response (34%), with learning how to play your character again the third response (21%).  Only a few of you (10%) were completely unconcerned about the changes. Could that be because you were already well versed in the changes? Could it be because of your current attitude and perception of playing? And I wonder now how those responses would have shifted in the aftermath of the patch. Would that small minority still feel that the patch was no big deal and would the number of those who have felt they’ve had to relearn how to play rise?

Regardless, anticipation of a big patch like the one we’ve had this past week leads the majority of us to expect to have some work to do to navigate the game successfully. This often involves a sense of urgency so that we only have a short bump in the road. It also creates an interesting reaction amongst gamers. Not to say that those who were engaged in the dialogue are regular raiders, but I was amused when I logged into WoW after the patch went live and saw the annoyed responses to those people on general chat who were asking patch-related questions. “Check Google” was the common response. That being said, no one likes an unprepared gamer. We have little patience for ignorance.