Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Archive for the ‘Cataclysm’

Are we on the verge of something new all over again?

May 11, 2012 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, competition, Dragon Soul, raiding, speed race

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s do-or-die time for me with my PhD thesis writing and to add to that I’ve had a lot of side projects, a slowly recovering hand injury, and even a recent bout with pneumonia slowing me down. Something had to give and it was my own beloved blog. Even my interviews with raiders on youtube have slowed down (though I’m excited to be doing an interview soon with vodka, so keep an eye on that!)… but anyway, I have something on my mind (and in my thesis) that I wanted to put up on the blog.. it’s about the ways in which we ‘own’ the game (WoW in this case) to the degree that we influence new changes and developments in the game itself.

Henry Jenkins, in his 2006 book about new media technologies called Convergence Culture, wrote about how the design and environment of MMOs allow a significant degree of intentionality (and content) created by the player population itself (what he refers to as ‘consumer-driven content’ [172]). He also shared insight from game designers (Raph Koster, in particular) about why an MMO thrives: it is the degree to which players can claim a form of ownership of the game itself (165). And when I look at the raiding component of an MMO like WoW, I can see ownership in the form of the specific ways that we choose to engage with the game and how we appropriate its elements to serve our own gaming purposes. When it comes to raiding, look at how we’ve shaped the game.  We wanted to make the raiding experience smoother? We wrote add-ons and modified our UIs. We wanted to figure out how to solve problems during a boss fight? We made and watched how-to videos. We wanted a competition to see who was the fastest to clear content? We made progress sites and publicised the news far and wide. Now competition is not new in raiding. We’ve been competing against the game and each other since raiding began, but the ways in which we manifest this competitive inclination keeps evolving and adapting.

The latest example of this ‘ownership’ in competitive raiding is the recent trend for top raiding guilds to organise (amongst themselves for the most part) speed races. A raiding speed race (if you’ve not heard of this before) is when two guilds race against each other (starting at the same time) to be the first to clear the content of the agreed upon raid instance. And in the case of these raiding guilds we have had a recent race in April with the US guild vodka and EU guild Method racing each other.  Of course we’ve got Blizzard to thank for the earliest examples of these races, whereby they’d have a staged spectacle of two top-ranked guilds during a hyped up Blizzcon event (oftentimes American guilds, for the logistical ease of it) battle each other for supremacy.

The 30-some thousand viewers logged on to watch the race mostly via Athene’s livestream as he, and Kina (retired vodka raider and one of the minds behind Learn2Raid), commentated.  I think it’s safe to say that none of us really knew what to expect. I myself sat down to what I thought might be a predictable race with little drama (since these guys are superplayers who never make mistakes, right?), expecting to watch it out of loyalty to two guilds I know and like  and wanting to contribute my part to the opsharecraft charity drive (aimed at raising US$1 million for Save the Children), which was the motivation for the two guilds to participate. Method won that race against vodka, but only by a small margin. Method’s execution was flawless, bordering on poetry in motion at times, but vodka’s attempt to regain the time lost (from an early wipe) was heroic. It was actually an exciting race in the end. Perhaps the amazement in Athene’s own voice gave it away. Maybe none of us thought it would be as dramatic and fun to watch as it ended up being.

So now we’ve decided to ‘own’ this type of event and stage them ourselves. Yes that first one was was set up for charity but we’re starting to see how it can be a fun way to actually transform an element of the raiding race into a spectator experience of competitive raiding. We aren’t just refreshing the raiding tracking sites (wowprogress or wowtrack, for example) to see if anyone’s downed a new boss, we’re able to see for ourselves a version of that race.  Sure it’s not the starting point of the raiding race of a particular tier, but it’s a raiding race of a new form, repurposing the same content and displaying it (and performing it) in a new way. It’s raiding recycling in action.

And apparently we want more of this. This Saturday (May 12), four raiding guilds—this time Paragon (EU), STARS (China), Exorsus (Russia), and Blood Legion (US)—are engaging in a speed race with US$2000 at stake and more benefits to the same charity drive.  Read up about it here. So yes, built on vodka and Method’s trailblazing race in April but offering something more: more guilds involved and more money at stake. Will this make the race more exciting? And are we seeing the first steps toward a new way to engage in the competitive in raiding?

For more reading:

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. NYU Press: New York.

The 25-man decline… a new round table discussion

March 14, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, podcast, raiding, raiding group size, raiding guild

So the poll I put up a couple weeks ago seems to be confirming that from where raiders are sitting, we’re seeing a drop in 25-man raiding on servers. Where there used to be 15-20 active 25-man raiding guilds, we might now have 5. The shift seems to have come from a couple things, from my observation: a shift toward 10-man raiding, a drop in subscriptions, and a general shift toward casualness. No one has ever doubted the fact that the logistics of 25-man raiding can seem more complex than 10-man raiding, though I dispute the assertion that 10-man raiding is always going to be easier to organize or arrange. Missing 1 player or spec from a 25-man raid may not impair the guild’s ability to actually raid, while that can be the difference between being able to go or not in a 10-man guild with a lean roster. So at the end, I’d say the issue is about scale more than an actual ability to assert which raid size is “harder” or “more complex.” I think it starts to fall into the category of the easy/difficult debate that we’ve gotten into over 10 vs 25 raiding difficulty: it’s a pretty pointless endeavour. So I’m not entirely convinced that the decline in 25-man raiding is simply due to the assertion that “10-mans are easier”. It could other factors as well.

But the fact of the matter is that we’re not raiding at the 25-man level that we were 18 months ago. Looking at guilds on the US and EU servers alone, during Tier 10 we had a 2.9:1 ratio of 10-man to 25-man guilds; in Tier 13 we’re seeing an 8.9:1 ratio. That’s an almost 3 fold increase. And it’s not to say that 10-man raiding isn’t dropping as well, in comparison to what we were doing 18 months ago, it’s just not dropping as quickly or noticeably as 25-man raiding.

Anyway! I assembled a few raiders together from different backgrounds to discuss this issue with me and I wanted to share the round table (in two parts) with you. Participants were Arx from DREAM Paragon, Celeus (guild and raid leader) and  Olog (raid leader) from Bridgeburners, and Maarten (retired guild leader Daenon from Bridgeburners and currently a master’s research student studying WoW from the Netherlands). I’d say we just skimmed the surface of an admittedly complex issue but I was particularly happy to have such diverse voices and insights in the discussion. Plus this marks the first time I’ve been able to include people in the round table discussion that don’t just come from the top tier of raiding, which is a good step for my aims of this Raid Observer series! The invitation remains open for anyone who’d like to do a podcast as we move toward spring… hint, hint.

New poll and audio interview with members of DREAM Paragon

February 17, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, elite, podcast, raiding, raiding guild

New poll about 25-man raiding guilds

I’ve put a new poll up for you to weigh in on. I’m trying to get an idea how what we’re observing/thinking about what I see as a dwindling in the 25-man raiding numbers. Is this true? What are you noticing about your own server?

New interview with members of Paragon

I just completed an audio interview with some of the guys from Paragon. We talked about Tier 13, membership changes, class disadvantages, the dwindling state of 25-man raiding, and the future of the raiding scene with MoP on the horizon.

And I do get into some fun personal stuff too! Anyway, it’s in two parts and also housed on my youtube channel. Do enjoy. :)

Looking for participants and the alarm bells with 25-man raiding…

February 06, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, podcast, progress raiding, raiding, raiding group size

Good day to everyone.

I’m typing using voice recognition software! What a trip. I managed to hurt my hand some time ago and since I don’t seem to understand the meaning of “rest your hand”, it is still in bad shape. I’ve had to resort to more extremes means to get me to stop insisting on using it, including VSR. I have a new-found respect for people who have to use technology to support a disability or mobility needs. I always knew it was a challenge, but I had no realised how much patience it requires as well. It’s ironic since we always talk about how technology and its widespread use (in the global north at least… yet another First World Problem) seems to result in our not moving at a natural, slower pace, and yet here I am having to patiently dictate to a program that so easily thinks I said “ingot” when I said “I’ve got”. And I tend to speak quite clearly too!

Anyway, that’s why the walls of text have been in hibernation lately. They will come back.. promise!

Since talking is easier than typing right now, I’ve been enjoying doing my interviews/round table discussions with various guilds and raiders. And I want to keep going! I think it’s been fairly well received so far. And now I want to put out a “call for participation”. I also want your ideas for topics to cover. What do you want the discussions to focus on?

Basically… I want to expand my pool of potential interviewees for my Raid Observer recordings. I know I’m known (publicly at least) for being the “researcher who talks to elite raiding guilds” and while that’s definitely true, that’s not where my own research has been limited. I have spoken to casual raiders, semi-hardcore, hardcore, semi-casual.. you name it. And I think their perspective on the raiding scene is also very important. And it needs to be recorded and shared as well.

Since I want to rotate between interviews with specific guilds and discussions on specific raid topics, if you’re interested in being involved or think you have an opinion to share, do let me know. You can speak from your own individual perspective in a group discussion or you can participate as a guild. I’m particularly interested in having folks from casual and hardcore/semi-hardcore backgrounds participate. Since raiding is currently enjoyed–even at its most casual level–by almost 50,000 guilds around the world, we’ve got a lot of us out there trying our hand at raiding and, inevitably, developing an opinion about it, particularly as things have changed or developed over the years. So get in touch–message me here or send an email to t.l.cockshut[at]durham.ac.uk. Depending on the response or interest, I’m not sure I can interview everyone, but I’ll do my best. :)

What’s happening to 25-man raiding?

An area of particular interest to me right now, that I’m following quite closely, is the shifting winds of raiding group composition. While the numbers clearly indicate that groups prefer to raid at the 10-man size, elite raiding at the top has, generally, remained consistent to its originally conceived raiding size. So why has this happened? Does it really indicate the 10/25 split or is it more about the issues of difficulty in relation to raid group logistics and coordination. We like to talk about the raids themselves being difficult (or not) but we often have to win the battle against the notorious Raid Logistics Boss to even get to the raid encounters themselves. Though less complained about than the Lag Boss, the Raid Logistics Boss has a far deadlier impact in that a prolonged problem with raid logistics can actually wipe a guild rather than the Lag Boss’s potential to simply wipe the raid  because Bobraider DCed during the fight (unless it’s a constant, guildwide problem with lag, of course). Is raid logistics killing 25-man raiding? Or is this just where we’re heading? After all Blizzard ultimately has the power to alter the face of raiding–remember when we had 40-man raiding?

Anyway, more to come on this, probably in the form of a roundtable discussion. If you’re interested in participating or have a solid opinion about this, let me know!

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.

Latest Raid Observer interview posted!

January 30, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, podcast, progress raiding

So I’ve just completed another “for the public” interview with a raiding guild for my “Raid Observer” channel on YouTube, this time with the US raiding guild Exodus. (Feel free to head over to my YouTube channel to see my other interviews, which I started doing back in December.)

It’s been an interesting experience to say the least, asking questions that are both interesting and relevant to the study of raiding while not veering into areas that fascinate only me and might make the ears of listeners bleed…. to call me a noob is an understatement. But suffice to say I am particularly happy with the latest interview. The members from Exodus that I did interview were remarkably direct and unapologetic in their views on elements of raiding and I  hope you’ll appreciate their point of view, even if you don’t share it.

The following is the first part in the series. I’ll be posting the next two parts in the next few days. If you’d like to be kept informed of my podcast/youtube interviews, please do subscribe to my channel on YouTube, “TheRaidObserver”.

also, do let me know if you like this format and if you have any other suggestions for interviews. I’m going to rotate between doing interviews with a particular raiding guild (and this is not limited to elite guilds only!) and interviews with a group of raiders on a particular topic (like the quality of raiding in Cataclysm or whether achievements really matter for raiders).

Enjoy!

So who spends the most time raiding, on average?

January 17, 2012 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, raiding, raiding guild, time

I’ve been thinking about this, and with some helpful input, I’ve got a bit of preliminary data…. but I realised this is a fascinating topic area that I intend to spend a bit more time trying to study–in fact, I may even come to more of you for help!

The question always pops up about who spends the most time raiding: 10-man guilds, 25-man guilds? Casual guilds? Hard core? Elite? Something in-between those?

We looked at the top 600 ranked raiding guilds from Tier 12 (Firelands) and we did find something interesting: US guilds spend 3.9 days a week raiding, as compared to the European server guilds at 4.5 and the Taiwan server guilds at 5.2. Now this was based purely on self-reported information in the “info” posted on a site like wowprogress, so there could be some inaccuracies, but I thought it was interesting.

Another area I’d have to work on in relation to these data is to see how do these guilds self identify (elite, hard core, casual, etc.) and does that result in a variation in days spent. Also, looking at just the top 600 is a bit of a problem as that’s a higher ratio of competitive progress raiding guilds as compared to, say, the bottom 600 which might represent a wider range of casually oriented raiding guilds.

So… I’m just letting you guys know that I’ll be digging into this soon and would love to hear from any raiding guilds–of *any* ranking level or guild type–who’d like to help me with this. Let’s resolve this question once and for all. What type of raiding guild tends to spend the most time (over the course of a tier) raiding?

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.

Unlucky Tier 13 and the Christmas Raid-Themed Musical Medley

December 22, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, competition, Dragon Soul, raiding

Seasons Greetings! I hope you have a happy Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and have a great New Year! Apparently the world is ending next year so make the coming year count, guys!

Unlucky Tier 13

It’s been quite a Tier so far and if you’ve not had a chance to view any of the content I’ve been covering over at the Paragon community site, please do feel free to check it out at The Raid Observer. So far we’ve had a number of events that have made the current tier one of the most contentious, unexpected, and confusing to date. I’ve been joking around about this being an unlucky tier due to its number (13), but maybe I’ve not been too far off. It’s definitely been very unlucky for some guilds. What we’ll have at the end of the race is honestly anyone’s guess. Anyway, a few highlights of what I’ve been seeing so far, in no particular order (and things anonymized for obvious reasons):

  • A bug around the LFR is exploited by certain top guilds and a large number of temporary suspensions are handed out for up to 8 days.
  • The heroic race begins without a significant number of the longstanding top-ranked raiding guilds involved. They’ve either opted to wait until the bans are lifted or reform as 10-man teams.
  • A higher than usual amount of jabs, jokes, and accusations are pointed at those involved in the “scandal” and some begin to predict a US-dominated top based on the fact that the majority of top ranked US guilds did not engage in the LFR exploit. Some suggest that even if the US can win the race, it will be meaningless since the “real competition” was excluded from the race.
  • The bans are lifted at the 2nd week of heroic runs and guilds appear stuck at 6/8, with Spine being described as a very unforgiving DPS-driven fight. Gear appears to be the deciding factor and many predict that the following week will result in improved gear to allow for a greater chance at moving ahead.
  • By this time the top EU guilds are all caught up with the US guilds at 6/8 and you can see a smattering of Korean and Taiwan server guilds in the mix as well. But the ongoing banter by onlookers remains focused on whether the US can beat the EU for the first time in many tiers. I guess they forgot to look in the rear view mirror….
  • Kin Raiders, a Korean server guild, gets the first Spine kill. All the comments about the “US having a chance to win this” and “will the EU catch up and take over the race again” seem moot at this point.
  • While some claim that the double resets that the Korean and Taiwan servers had each week from late October helped the guild improve their overall gear and deepen their viable roster, others claim that this is just the lamentation of “fanboys” disappointed that their own guilds did not down the boss before. While it’s true that Kin Raiders do have a very deep roster and may have access to more legendary weapons than other guilds, this is also being identified as good planning and preparation. Could it just be–many ask–that Kin Raiders just outplayed the other guilds?
  • Within a couple days Kin Raiders has also killed Madness, giving them the world first ranking and giving a Korean guild the world’s #1 spot among 25-man raiding guilds for the first time in WoW raiding. Frustration is expressed, not so much because Kin Raiders got the world first but because the final boss in the encounter may be far easier than the penultimate one.
  • By the end of Week 3, only 3 other guilds (Korean, Chinese, and French) have reached 7/8, with a 50/50 split between 10-man and 25-man. The previously top 5 ranked raiding guilds appear stuck at 6/8. Many claim that Spine is impassable without more gear, hoping that the next reset will give them that edge that they need to break down the wall.
  • The Week 4 reset on the EU servers takes place, which brings with it endless disconnects at earlier bosses while guilds attempt to quickly clear earlier heroic content so they resume work on Spine. But these server and instance DCs really slow down normal progress. Any plan to regain any lost ground appears even more challenging to guilds that are probably already struggling to maintain morale and focus in the wake of bans, negativity, and a loss of the top prize in the raiding race. At best the remaining guilds can hope for a 2nd place spot and honestly, considering how many competitive gamers/players feel about coming in second, that racing for World 2nd just may not sound quite as sweet.

Christmas is just a couple days away and for many raiders this means time away from the game. If they can’t get past Spine in the next day or so, it could be days before they can move ahead. The previous problems combined with server connection problems and the impending arrival of Christmas could make this the unluckiest tier of all for some guilds. How they navigate these difficulties could prove to be the trickiest Boss Fight they’ve ever faced.

Christmas Raid-Themed Musical Medley

So, in the spirit of Christmas, raiding, and Tier 13, here are some Christmassy songs for a musical medley. And I admit these are a bit of a stretch…!

First is a classic by Elvis Presley, dedicated to those raiders who’ve made their family/friends blue by raiding a wee bit too much this holiday season…. ;)

And here’s a song by The Killers. I wanted to include it because it’s about boots and other stuff, but also because it reminds me of the wish that some players have out there to get some special gear or item from that special boss this special time of year. And ok, the video made me cry.

And finally, for all those cuddly trolls out there, for which Tier 13 has been particularly enjoyable:

And because I just love this particular Christmas song….(sorry the sound quality is so poor, but I wanted to show some video from the original version). :)

Have a good one, everyone! xox