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Archive for the ‘raiding group size’

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.

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!

The 10/25 Debate and Tragedy in Norway

July 26, 2011 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, Firelands, raiding group size

My sincere apologies for the delay in a new blog post. I’ve been quite busy of late with some personal matters. Also while I had prepared a nice blog about the progress race, it seems to need updating now with the changes of last week. If you’ve followed the raid progress, you know that Paragon downed the 25-man heroic Ragnaros on July 19th and went on to down heroic 10-man Ragnaros on the subsequent Friday (July 22nd). So until we have more completion in the progress race (with only Paragon having cleared all of the heroic content so far), I think I’ll hold off on my post about the progress race until more of it is said and done.

So there are couple things on my mind that I wanted to write about: recent events in Norway and the 10-man/25-man difficulty debate.

The Challenge of Difficulty and Comparing the 10- and 25-man raid

This issue seems alive and well, doesn’t it? I think as long as we have raiding instances that are identical in boss names, geography, and graphic design with their only variation being the scale of the fight as intended for 10 raiders or 25 raiders, we’ll feel compelled to compare. And looking at the fight’s difficulty level is the primary way in which we prefer to make that comparison.

As you can imagine (or may have read for yourself), Paragon’s decision to tackle both the 25-man and 10-man heroic content (and clear it all before anyone else) made an impact and prompted some reaction (mainly on mmo-champion but also on other community sites as well). Comments seemed to range from ‘wow, Paragon is awesome!’ to ‘why did they have to take it from the 10-man guilds’ to ‘Paragon was overgeared anyway so it doesn’t prove anything’.

Paragon claims they did it to gauge difficulty between the two raid group sizes. I think their decision to attempt both raid sizes was not just about gauging difficulty, however, but also about proving they can do both before anyone else (so perhaps others can’t claim down the road that Paragon’s world first was on the ‘easier’ version of the end boss?), and this appears to be a valid and understandable approach from a competitive standpoint. But when it comes to using what’s happened here to validly or objectively compare difficulty between Firelands-10 and Firelands-25 I think it becomes problematic. Without a doubt, what has happened lends important insight and perspective into the differences between the 10 and 25 versions, but as Paragon admitted, they had an advantage going into the 10-man fight having spent so much time learning Ragnaros on the 25-man version—so it could never be perfectly objective (nor am I convinced that Paragon is claiming that). They also, from what I can read, have avoided trying to suggest that they thought one fight was ‘better’ than another one or that a 25-man raiding group is ‘better’ than the smaller group–but like any boss fights, the mechanics will lend themselves better (or worse) with the different raid group sizes. Ahh doesn’t it feel a little bit like language (English, in this case) fails us? “Easier/harder”, “Different/different”–what best describes the difference without us falling into the trap of what’s better or worse and thus triggering these contentious responses? These are their posts:

http://www.paragon.fi/articles/10-vs-25-comparison
http://www.paragon.fi/news/10-man-vs-25-man-debate
http://www.paragon.fi/blogs/what-difficulty

So how do you gauge difficulty and how can you compare two completely different raid group sizes? Well I am not convinced we can ever really do this properly. Imagine, if you will, trying to compare the 800 metre and 3000 metre races in the track and field events:

  • They are both running events. (Same.)
  • They will require similar running gear. (Same.)
  • While each race has a strategy, how and when the runner applies that strategy varies significantly. (Not same.)
  • Often a runner’s training process for these events is quite different. (Not same.)

So yes, while these track and field events are both running events and both will often take place around the exact same track, how long they take, the strategies of the runners involved, and the ways in which runners prepare for these races differs greatly. I’m quite certain that most of us would not sit and have a big debate about whether the 3000m race is ‘harder’ or ‘more important’ than the 800m race. Of course we have preferences about what we might watch or prefer to follow and if we’re runners ourselves, we may think about what we could actually viably achieve and prefer doing, but I’m quite confident that a multi-page thread on ‘the 800m vs 3000m debate’ on a random runners’ Web site just would not happen (and please, don’t any of you go and start a thread like this just to be cheeky). What we’d probably more likely find is a discussion about whether the indoor/outdoor debate is valid or if certain training or running strategies are more valid. And if we want to get nitpicky about the ‘but some raiders are just better than others’, well the same thing applies in running. The simple fact that I am physically capable of running 800m or even 3000m does not mean you’ll be seeing me at the Olympics any time soon. There are great runners in both events, after all, and only the best will win.

So we turn back to the 10/25 raiding comparison debate. Can we actually set up an unbiased, measurable experiment to truly gauge difficulty? Can we really ever know perfectly what’s more or less difficult? Well, I’m not sure I can even sort out the problematics of the methodology, but here goes:

  • Blizzard would have to buy into this. We’d need them to help set up and design the test as it would need to involve certain game mechanics like allowing the same group of players to do two versions of the fight during the same period (to help minimise the ‘they had 500 wipes on the boss in 25-man but only 32 wipes on the 10-man version’ disparity).
  • We’d need the same group of players, or at least as closely similar as possible. This relates to a lesser extent to class, spec, and gear, and to a greater extent to skill set.
  • We’d need to run the test concurrently, or as close to concurrently as possible. To keep things fair (and avoid a stacking of wipes or attempts on one raid size) the test should be run simultaneously, which makes the previous element difficult to achieve unless we have…
  • Cloning. Yes, we’d probably need to clone the raid group.

I don’t mean to be a smarty pants here but I think ascertaining complete, unquestioned parity that everyone will be happy with may require cloning. And that may take a while for us to develop. But maybe one of you programming geniuses out there can design a simulation of the fights using virtual raiders… that could work. But I’d rather we invented teleportation first, honestly…

So from where I sit I believe this debate about ‘what raid size is more difficult or worthwhile’ seems like a somewhat futile endeavour. It will always come up as long as Blizzard opts to use this financially prudent approach to raid instance/boss design. Having to face the exact ‘same’ (sameness here referring to the fact that the boss does look the same and have the same name, but ‘same’ also hinting at the fact that it’s been adjusted to accommodate the two raid sizes and thus not exactly the same) boss in the exact same location but with two different raid size groups will always cause us to wonder what’s more legitimate or important as far as the difficulty issue goes. Comparison appears inevitable. And after all, difficulty is paramount when it comes to valuing the raid bosses. The competitive core of raiding wants to ‘win’ the race on what is considered the more difficult version of the most difficult fight. I believe that’s viewed as more satisfying. And for all intensive purposes, the more ‘difficult’ way to do it appears to be viewed as the 25-man raid composition. Whether that’s true or not is impossible to determine, but we do make a lot of decisions based on what we think about something versus what is actually happening. I think another reason this debate is alive and well is due to how Blizzard has opted to give achievements and, as a result, how player-run ranking sites lump together the 25-man and 10-man raiding guilds. And while the latter can be addressed by these sites to some extent, the former issue is really up to Blizzard and I honestly have no idea if they’d put any priority into resolving that particular issue.

And what we’re not even factoring into the ‘difficulty’ debate are things like skill, experience, play schedule preference, social commitments, raid composition, and other ‘messy’, intangible, and unpredictable details. Certainly something may seem a lot harder to master if I spend maybe 5 hours a month devoted to it versus if I spend 5 hours a night on it.

I would rather not engage in the heavy debate here about the 25- vs. 10-man raid but I think it’s interesting and probably inevitable that it will keep coming up for us–which is why I’ve posted all of this here. I did like what Synti wrote in one of the Paragon blogs over the 10/25 man debate in relation to how 10-man raiding keeps being regarded: “The competition in that bracket… is still in its infancy.” Maybe we just need to settle down and let 10-man raiding be 10-man raiding and 25-man be 25-man and stop trying to compare them or debate them. But… that’s too easy, isn’t it?

I’ll probably post more about this, but wanted to just get these initial thoughts down.

Tragedy in Norway and An Unwelcome Link to Gaming

First of all whenever a human being chooses to perpetuate acts of such violence such as what occurred on Friday in Norway, it is deeply saddening. I’ve spent quite some time in Norway myself and its calm and beauty are notable, as well as its good-natured and down-to-earth people. (My profile photo above was taken there.) It feels particularly disappointing that in a place that is regarded as so developed and advanced (according to the UN, Norway had the top-ranked Human Development Index in the world in 2010: http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/NOR.html), something like this could happen. I suppose it just proves (as many would remind me) that nowhere is immune. And add to this the fact that I’ve spent my time in recent years studying a fun and uplifting thing like a game—with its environment that is all about community, game play, skill, competition, and teamwork—and when I learned that the suspect in custody had manipulated (in his rambling ‘manifesto’) WoW gameplay and even suggested using it as a kind of ‘cover’ while planning his activities, well I admit I was disheartened. We have a hard enough time providing the non-gaming world with a realistic picture of what the gaming community is really like (with its pros and cons, not just the cons), and this kind of madness could potentially just reinforce the anti-gaming sentiment that’s alive and well out there. Of course, the attack suspect made other equally outrageous suggestions—like pretending you are questioning your sexual identity as a way to get people to ‘leave you alone’ or investing in a farm in order to acquire goods in an allegedly legitimate way—so I ought not to be overly disturbed by his links to gaming, but it is still disappointing. I’m sure the media will spend more time on it at some point, but so far the bigger, more troubling elements of his actions appear to be taking centre stage. What a horrible, sad thing. :(

The gender mix-up in raiding

February 10, 2011 By: Ladan Category: gender issues, Polls, raiding group size, raiding guild

We’ve all seen it before… a 25-man Horde raid with about 19 female blood elf characters… or a 10-man Alliance raid group with 6 female draenei and 3 female night elves… but that’s not a demographic correlation with who are actually playing those characters. We don’t have more female players than male. We just seem to like playing female characters. I remember this one time in my guild (Alliance). Over the course of one week about six of the guys (and I knew they were guys from talking to them on vent or knowing them in RL) had suddenly changed their previously very male character to a female character. Of course I had no idea until I took 5 seconds to look at them during a raid and then had to do a double take. “Weren’t you a guy last week?,” I wondered, alarmed at this sudden decision of quite a few guys to head to the gender reassignment clinic and get certain things snipped off while adding other parts…

Of course, changing gender isn’t a painful and prolonged surgical procedure in World of Warcraft (unless parting with cold, hard cash is painful to you) and from my chats with raiders it’s almost never done because the person has a deep need to explore their issues of gender identity through an online game. It’s usually far more practical or aesthetic in origin. Here represents a composite of comments I’ve heard from male players about why they’ve changed their character from male to female or why they prefer to play female characters:

  • A shapely female draenei is nicer looking than a male draenei. [Many raiders have commented that they think male draenei look like unattractive bricks; kinda feel sorry for them.]
  • Male blood elves look lame. [Actually some players use a more derogatory word here but I won't include it myself. :P ]
  • They would rather stare at a female character’s posterior while they play.
  • Their gear looks better on a female character.
  • They heard that female characters get more help. [This is an intriguing one, because it can also carry through to female players--to controversial effect.]

In my informal discussions with female players, it is rarer that they will intentionally create or roll up male characters. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but I will say that I have one male character (a death knight) and I am not as comfortable when I play him. It does not feel like a kind of virtual extension of myself. I wonder if the gender character choice is less important for some players because they have a more detached relationship with their character. They look at it as a kind of conduit, a conduit that connects them to the game world and is merely the means by which the player does his or her actions inside the game. As a result, there is no great deep thoughts (like what I showed you above) as to why they pick a female character over a male one. But then again, I do know quite a few raiders (myself included) who do put thought into their character’s look and name, so I’d not say we’re all completely arbitrary about it. I just think it’s not as important as, say, how we like to set up our UI for raiding or what spec we’re using.

So we like the look of a female character, apparently, but that’s not who’s sitting behind the computer. Based on the informal results of the poll (with almost 200 participating), it’s extremely rare that female raiders (that’s the player, not the character!)  are equal to or exceed the number of male players in their raid groups. Anecdotally, and after almost 4 years of raiding, I have to agree with this. Before the poll I actually posited that most raid groups would include 10-20% female players. I’d say 39% is not a majority, but it’s a significant amount, and it gets even more significant when you add the less than 5% to 33% results as well. Let’s look at the results:

What is your estimated average male/female player (not your characters!) ratio on your raids?

  • Between 10% and 20% female players. (39%)
  • An average of 20% to one third are female raiders. (22%)
  • Less than 5% female in our raid groups. (22%)
  • No female players raid with us at this time. (11%)
  • We’ve got an even split (50/50) of men and women. (3%)
  • We have more female than male raiders in our group! (3%)

If you exclude the extremes (even split of male/female players, more female than male raiders, and no female raiders at all), 83% of respondents have at least 1 female player raiding with them. And this can go up as high as 22% of respondents having as many as 8 female raiders in a 25-man raid group or approximately 3 (I can’t really say 3.33, as that would require slicing up raiders.. unless 1/3 of a raider is a gnome?) in 10-man raiding groups.

What I’d love to break down further are roles and responsibilities of male and female raiders next. Of those women in your raid group, what percentage are healers? Ranged DPS? Do you have any as tanks or melee DPS? Again, speaking here from my own observations, it’s less common (though it definitely does exist!) to have female players playing tanks or melee DPS. I seem to be quite stereotypical: I’ve only ever raided as a healer or ranged DPS.

And what about roles on the raid team. Do you have a male or female raid leader? What about class leaders? Who hands out things like loot? Calls out commands? Maybe you find it easier to hear commands from a female voice, if it’s less common? I myself have been in a raiding guild with a female raid leader and I thought she was excellent. There’s at least one other highly ranked raiding guild on my server that has a female raid leader and a couple of the world’s best guilds have female raid leadership. But you may find it more common to have female raiders in your guild taking on the role of GM or other administrative jobs (the Web site, social gatherings, etc). Often viewed as a job that requires intense people skills (especially if you have a really big guild with a raider/social member mix) and management ability, it may be a more natural draw for a female player. Also, a 2008 study of EQ players found that  female players tended to spend more time in the game, (Williams et al, 2008)  maybe making it more feasible for them to manage the house, as it were. The same study, incidentally, said that about 80% of EQ players were male, while 20% were female. I believe we may have a slightly higher percentage of female players in WoW (maybe 25%?), but I think, on average, we have less female raiders. The EQ study did not look at raiders, just MMO players in general.

Also, if any of you are in or know of an all-female raiding guild, I’d love to hear about that. I know there are some all-female competitive gaming teams out there, but I wasn’t sure how many were represented among MMO raiding. I do believe that part of the reason we have fewer female raiders than male are practical reasons: time and skill. Despite the fact that female MMO gamers may spend more time in an MMO (or in EQ at least), we don’t know when they are in game. Evenings (when raiding happens) may not be as feasible for them to participate, especially if they have household or family obligations–or feel more guilt if they don’t tend to them, at least. And with less available time, it may be harder to develop their characters to be raid ready, along with learning the fights. But this also correlates to busy guys who aren’t raiding. Some of us just don’t have the time to commit to raiding.

As far as females being excluded from raiding, I really can’t find any evidence of that. Even when I spoke to the world’s best guilds–who generally, though not always, have fewer females than the lower ranked guilds–they were emphatic about not caring if the raider is male or female. They worried more about performance. If a female raider can carry her weight, she’s more than welcome, is what I’ve been told time and time again. In my interviews with some of the guys from Paragon they have been almost forceful in their emphasis that when they raid, Xenophics (their only female member at present) is never even looked at as a girl, just as a raider. Some have pointed out those cases where a female player has tried to use her status as a woman (see the last bulleted item above, too) to get preferential treatment or attention. That is viewed as extremely offensive to players who have seen that in action. Often called the ‘tittie ticket’, there has been a practice reported of some female players who flirt their way into a high performing guild to secure valued raid spots and gear, despite their inability to perform. And often this causes a lot of tension amongst the raiders in the guild. It’s an ironic manifestation of the “sleeping with the casting director” problem that has many of us cynical over why a physically gorgeous woman who can’t act might get a part in a movie, when an ordinary looking woman who acts as well as Meryl Streep never gets a chance.

But this is where it always confuses me. We don’t judge raiders by looks. Often we may not even know what they look like (can you really trust that pic you were sent?). We judge on performance. So how can we allow a poor performing raider (of any gender) to stay in the group. Well, I suppose that’s our overall performance and forgiving nature coming into play. We can (especially in 25-man raiding) tolerate one really poor performer as long as everyone (or some of the group) exceed the average. And we do it a lot. And we usually do it for social reasons; they are a friend, they are family, they are the partner of one of the raiders, they are just a nice person with just crappy lag/gear/computer.

But at the end of the day, while elite guilds may have had the problem of the gender card being manipulated for personal gain, I think in general, a female player–as long as she can perform at the same level as everyone else–is as welcome on a raid as any other player.

Reference

Williams, Yee and Caplan (2008) Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (2008), 993-1018.

Is there a more ‘valuable’ raiding experience?

January 11, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, raiding content, raiding group size

Well, seems the numbers are in:

I asked you:

Do you think there exists a general opinion among raiders that kills in a 25-man raid are more “valid” than those in a 10-man raid?

And you responded:

  • Yes. I think it’s a common opinion among many raiders. (76%)
  • I don’t know. I think there are opinions on either side. (14%)
  • No. I’ve not seen any opinion that suggests that. (10%)

The vast majority of respondents observe that there appears to be a tier system in relation to how we view accomplishments in 10-man raiding versus 25-man raiding. I suppose on some level this is understandable. Logistically it can be harder to coordinate 25 people during a raid. But you could also argue that it can be harder to balance the group and class mix in 10-man raiding. Though if Paragon’s recent statement about current raiding is any indication, maybe we just need to all reroll as druids? Regardless of what raid size we are? :)

I wonder if this opinion will change or if we’ll always feel this way as long as we have two sizes of raid groups.  I also wonder if it matters much on a personal level: I  mean as long as we get the thrill of a raid and we get some nice rewards after a hard-won boss kill, do we really care if we did it in 10-man or 25-man?

Does it matter if you progress on 25-man or 10-man?

January 04, 2011 By: Ladan Category: progress raiding, raiding group size

There’s been a bit of a storm brewing lately on some of the big forum/community sites. As the top guilds are making their way through the progress, there have been comments like the following:

1. Oh well they used an exploit. So it’s not a legitimate kill.

2. They are killing bosses on 10-man or a combo or 25-/10-man, so it’s not as good as the guilds who are doing it all in 25-man. That’s more difficult.

Are these things true? Does it really matter how we get a kill down or what kind of group size we’re using? The game mechanics are designed to say “no” but I don’t think that correlates with our own opinions about what’s considered legitimate.

So what are you hearing out there? Are people buzzing about the rank of 10- or 25-man? Is 10-man too easy? Does complexity in group size (and the complexity involved with getting the numbers to do the bigger group) translate to a more significant accomplishment? Do you have your own biases about this?

Please participate in the vote! :)