Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Archive for the ‘Dragon Soul’

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.

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!

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