Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Archive for September, 2010

A quick addendum to my last post

September 20, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Uncategorized

When Leonking shared my blog post with the rest of Stars earlier today one of the female raiders in the RF-1A team, Noonmoon, wanted me to state that Muqq (a former raider with Ensidia) is her favourite raider of all time. I’m not sure if I’m getting caught up in match making here or just the messenger of cross-guild admiration, but I promised I’d share the message!

But never mind that, I’m very happy to hear from more female raiders–keep up the great work, Noonmoon, and I’m sure if Muqq ever read this he’d be very happy to know you are a fan. :)

Talking with Stars: Considering raiding in China

September 20, 2010 By: Ladan Category: Icecrown Citadel, progress raiding, raid leader, raiding, raiding guild

I’ve been fortunate enough to chat with Stars recently, the top-ranked Chinese raiding guild and world #6. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here (because I said this about Paragon and Adept), but they were delightful to speak with. Very approachable and accessible. Despite the fact that I did study Chinese at university and taught English in the Sichuan province (in Chengdu, to be more exact), my Chinese is a bit rusty (especially my written Chinese!). Fortunately for me, Stars member Leonking is fluent in English and worked with me on our email “interview” along with input from the guild leader, 憂郁的風. Gan xie, Leonking! I hope you didn’t mind talking to this waiguoren!

Sadly I think many Western MMO gamers have had a narrow and incorrect perception of Chinese gamers–namely that they are all “gold farmers”. In fact, even non-gamers who are somewhat aware of online games and MMOs will often point out the “Chinese gold farmer” issue to me, as though it’s the only thing Chinese gamers do. I try, politely, to explain that while, yes, there have been some cases of studios in China that do support the somewhat dubious industry that has emerged around game gold sales and eBay characters, this is not a practice that is unique to China by any means nor is it the only thing they do. We have these “farmers” all over the place. Perhaps the real question about this practice should be directed to the companies (often Western-based) that outsource this work and sell the products to mostly Western gamers. But I digress…. This is not the topic of my blog post!

I only brought this up so that I could point out that Chinese gamers are so much more than this narrow misconception. In fact, talking to Stars has shown me how competitive raiders share some of the same traits regardless of their country or region of origin.

Chinese gamers have a unique benefit over gamers in other countries. Did you know that the Chinese government has designated playing online games as a sport? (Yang and Downing, 2008) A recent study by the Chinese government learned that for 25.4% of young (under 18) urban Chinese, playing videogames was preferable to watching the television (Yang et al, 2004). You see, games are a large industry, popular and an accepted form of entertainment in China. And WoW comprises just one of many games that are very popular there. Most of these games have been designed specifically for the Chinese market while some, like WoW, have been introduced from elsewhere.

And the Chinese raider–at least through the eyes of Stars–is passionate about their effort to excel at the games they play. As Stars puts it, “We hold the belief that ‘a man can be destroyed, but not defeated’”. And like many of their elite raiding counterparts, working until it “gets done” is typical: “We usually keep working on things until it gets done,” explains Leonking on behalf of Stars. “4-5 hours a night is typical during progression time.”

For Stars, the following qualities were mentioned as being important in their raiders:

  • Having a good raid attitude and personality
  • Being able to prove themselves and show good skill
  • Having enough time to commit
  • The right equipment

So, not so different from any serious raiding guild looking for new recruits. They also mentioned that they are very proud of their “drama control” .

Like Adept in Australia and other guilds in countries where lag can be an issue at prime time, overnight raiding seems the order of the day for elite raiders in China. “[Lag is] a major issue we have to face during completing. We have to change our raid time to the middle of the night (11 pm-4 am) to avoid huge lag and drops,” says Leonking.

While we all like to whinge about our lag and connection issues (is it our version of complaining about the weather?), but from Stars’ perspective, an EU or US raid guild complaining about it is a bit unreasonable. 200-300 ms seems standard for them and they have just had to adapt around it. I suspect that for Stars, reaching these important achievements while grappling with the unreasonable “lag monster” has made their success even more significant.

When Leonking and Stars’ guild leader, 憂郁的風 (Youyude feng) shared a bit about their organisational structure, I was intrigued by how regimented it is. They have four major raiding teams, all given acronyms that suggest something more akin to a military structure than a game: RF1-A, their progress team (which has four guild officers managing it); RF-B is the 2nd progress team; RF-2 is the  3rd and back-up progress team; and there is also a casual raiding team for those who “want to take a break”. Each team has designated leaders and, it appears, ranking in skill and achievement. RF1-A is the team that has achieved the most for the guild, including their recent world #2 at the heroic lich king “no buff” kill (evidently the thing the elite guilds are doing out of boredom while waiting for Cataclysm, according to general chatter). I will say that this four team structure is different from the other elite guilds (and the regular raiding guilds) that I’ve spoken with. Most prefer a smaller group structure and tend to rely on the same 25-30 individuals for the progress raiding. The fact that Stars has the depth of talent and raiders to fill extra slots and raid teams actually reflects the large number of Chinese gamers (including WoW gamers) that there are. MMOdata (http://www.mmodata.net/) notes in its tracking of WoW subscriptions (in an attempt for us industry outsiders to get a sense of how many people are playing, or at least how many subscriptions there are) that WoW Asia held over 6 million of the estimated 11.5 million subscriptions for WoW. This represents all of Asia (including Taiwan and Korea, among others), but it’s an interesting factoid all the same.

Another difference I did note from my discussion with Stars was that they estimate their average raider age at about 25 and, according to the 2009 article by Hancu (http://frostshock.eu/2009/09/11/dancing-talking-with-the-stars/), they have approximately 400 members (though a large percentage of those are social members). The other guilds tend to have more homogeneity amongst their ranks and a tighter group. Another difference reported in the interview with Hancu was the varied representation of professionals and students in  Stars, as Pennie (another officer in Stars) reports, “Our guild members have a variety of professions in real life, students, technicians, businessmen, doctors, teachers, so on and so forth.”

While Leonking did not have specifics, he did note that there are women (plural!) in their ranks and that they are represented on the RF-1A team. I did not get to ask you, Leonking, if you had a more specific number, but I’m guessing at least two. As he said (and it reflects my discussion with Paragon), “They are as good as males.”

A final thing I wanted to share (as I can’t make this too long, though there is so much more I’d like to say!) is the sheer amount of determination, passion, and concern that I gleaned from speaking with Stars. As a Chinese guild raiding on a Taiwanese server, having to contend with lag issues, coping with the snide remarks about “Chinese gold farmers”, and being on the receiving end of Blizzard’s inadvertant disregard for their important holidays (like releasing ICC during Spring Festival–that’s like unlocking major game content on Christmas Day for us Westerners), my guess is that this has helped fuel their determination and desire to be seen and appreciated. As Leonking said, “We are one of the toughest guilds in the world who works hard and with heart.”

Raiders have a lot to learn from each other and a lot to share. I for one am very happy to see our world’s elite guilds being represented by guilds from all over the world–doesn’t that just make us a better and more legitimate gaming community in the long run?

References:

Yang X, X. Mao, and L. Zhou (2004). Survey of Media Usage among Young People under 18 in Shanghai (in Chinese), presented at China Youth Extracurricular Education Forum, Shanghai, China, 12-13 December (2004).

Yong Cao and Downing, John D.H (2008). The realities of virtual play: video games and their industry in China. Media, Culture and Society. 30:4, 515-529.

New poll

September 04, 2010 By: Ladan Category: clothing and kit, Polls, subculture

I’m interested in talking about clothing + kit (AKA gear) next in my gentle wander down the raider subculture map…

So in honour of that, here is a poll that lets you share a thought or two. As always, do feel free to comment if you’d like!

Hours spent raiding

September 04, 2010 By: Ladan Category: progress raiding, raiding, raiding content, raiding guild

Thus concludes another (admittedly) scientifically inexact poll. But the micro-results are still interesting, even so, and may point to a broader trend–if we had a broader pool of respondents, that is. I suppose it’s not entirely surprising that the highest percentage respondents (29%) spend an average of 20 odd hours during progress raiding. That would work to 3-4 nights at 4 hours each (12-16 hours) plus the 6-8 hours spent farming for mats, prepping for raid, and other things such as weekly runs, rep grinds, etc. Pretty typical for your standard active raiding guilds.

I was surprised that the next highest percentage (26%) lists 10-15 hours. I would have thought the higher amounts would have been mentioned here. 10-15 hours is probably what we’d call casual or social raiding, at least anecdotally. Although perhaps I should not be surprised. Together with the 16-25 hour group, this represents 54% of raiders–the general majority of people who like to raid at least semi-actively. They would like to complete the game content as quickly as their skill, schedule, and guild allows them to.  You can even take it up to 72% if you add in the under 10 hours a week raiders. I imagine the 10 hours/week raiders are those individuals who do like to raid but just don’t have the time (or preference) for raiding more than once or twice a week. So, again, a solid indicator of the majority of people who subscribe to WoW.

Keep in mind that I was curious about activity levels during progress raiding times. This activity may change signficantly (and some of those I’ve interviewed confirm this) when there is no progress raiding.

While working on progress raiding, how many hours on average do you spend raiding (including preparation time) each week?

  • 16-25 hours a week (29%)
  • Around 10-15 hours a week (26%)
  • More than 40 hours (as long as it takes!) (21%)
  • Less than 10 hours a week (18%)
  • 26-40 hours a week (6%)