Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture

Archive for January, 2011

Can games ease pain?

January 31, 2011 By: Ladan Category: computer, health impacts of gaming, new media

BBC Two will air an episode of Horizon tonight about the topic of “Pain.” Included is a discussion about a game designed to help patients cope with the excruciating pain that can come with the prolonged recovery from severe burn injuries. The immersive virtual game called “SnowWorld” allows the patient to “escape from their pain”, according to the accompanying BBC article.

I think this is yet another powerful proof that we have still barely scratched the surface of the positive impact that games can have. In the case of a game like WoW, I have spoken to quite a few families who have used games like WoW as a beneficial learning/focusing/development tool to help their child who struggles with something like dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, or ADD. I am not sure how many of them have been involved in something like raiding, but I have been told, at least anecdotally by a few hard core raiders, that the social interaction of raiding has had a positive impact on their long term social development.

The poll where I asked you to tell me if you’d paid to raid

January 31, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Polls, progress raiding

So I will admit I’m a bit surprised by the results here. I honestly thought more of us had spent money to change our races or servers in the pursuit of improved raiding performance or experience. But, this was how we responded:

Have you paid (beyond your subscription) to change your main raiding character’s race to improve raid performance and/or changed servers for better raiding opportunities?
    • No. (46%)
    • Yes. I’ve changed servers for better raiding opportunities. (20%)
    • Yes. I’ve changed both servers and my race for raiding. (20%)
    • Yes. I’ve changed my race to help my raiding performance. (14%)

But a modest majority of us, 54%, have spent money above and beyond our subscription rates to improve raiding performances or experiences. And 20% have actually spent money to change servers and races. I am curious, of that 20%, how many have done it more than once, too. I also wonder whether the 46% of us who have never paid out money would be willing to pay to move servers if their raiding guild fell apart and the only way to continue raiding was to change servers.

I think this tells me that for raiders, paying to move servers or change races is a small price to pay if it results in a better raiding experience.

Call for papers, 2011 RGS Conference

January 31, 2011 By: Ladan Category: computer, conference papers, new media, play space

Just so you guys don’t think I sit around space-barring in WoW all the time, I thought I ought to cross-post the call for papers for the session I’m convening titled

“Getting lost on the way to Farmville” Virtual, mobile and online spaces of interaction: Exploring the emerging geography and culture of new media technologies

for the 2011 RGS (Royal Geographical Society) conference taking place in London, 31 August-2 September. The deadline to submit an abstract is February 11. The RGS is one of the major geography conferences and I’m thrilled to be able to convene an entire session dedicated to the “new media” agenda. I think it’s not always seen as a natural connection, geography and new media, but since I view geography in its more fundamental meaning as “writing the earth” (not just a specialty that reads and makes maps; very few of us actually do that!), I think it’s nonsensical not to see the impact that new media like MMOs, social networks, mobile technology, and so on are having on our geography and our perception of geography. If you’re an academic or student and interested in attending or presenting at this conference, please check it out! It’s a fantastic conference and in one of the nicest locations in London.

Back in the early 1990s, the new media of the time–the Internet–was viewed as this fascinating new phenomenon that seemed to function above and beyond “normal life”. That’s just not the case anymore. Many of us rely on new media to do everything we might otherwise consider mundane. Let me list a few things I did with my laptop yesterday that we might consider unremarkable and commonplace:

  • Check a news site, roam around reading for a  bit
  • Listen to the radio on my BBC iPlayer while making brunch; watch BBC iPlayer in the evening before bed
  • Double check my recipe (housed on my laptop) for banana bread (you’d think I’ve have it memorised by now, but I don’t)
  • Check my three email addresses
  • Log into WoW to space bar a bit (actually it was to herb, God I feel like a slave to the game sometimes) and check sign-ups for the raid
  • Check the hours that the bank is open on Monday, after checking bank balances
  • Check my blog and a few other WoW related sites

This is utterly unremarkable. I imagine many of us do things like this–the computer being these portals to information and functionality. And this is stuff most of us do without even thinking about it.

So does it even matter anymore? Or, shall I say, can we comfortably make it through a day now without the Internet and our related new media? Of course we can, but we prefer not to. And it’s not because we’re “addicted” to it. We’re just used to the way that it helps us get through the day.

Winning: Is it an exploit or just working around bugs?

January 18, 2011 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, Cataclysm, progress raiding, raiding bugs

As you can imagine, when you research raiding and raiders, the idea of competition has to take centre stage. We’re a community driven by outcomes. We want to be best at something, even if it’s just a personal best DPS output or seeing our team complete a flawless boss kill. This makes us quite competitive by nature. And the competition is nowhere as contested as at our elite levels. And boy do we get passionate about it! Even if we aren’t elite raiders ourselves, we have an opinion about what “they” should be doing or should not be doing and we especially have a heightened sense of right and wrong when it comes about what type of behaviour we consider acceptable in relation to raiding progress.

If you’re following any of the discussion forums on any of our major community sites out there, the issue of fairness in play has been coming up. And we’re all drawn into the discussion. This doesn’t directly impact the vast majority of us raiders as most of us aren’t even doing heroic raids yet. By the time the rest of us get there, the playing field will probably be more level (though inevitably there are always going to be problems–lag, player-related bugs, server crashes–that never make the playing field feel perfectly level) and we just focus on our own performance problems learning a particular boss fight strategy.

But for this tiny percentage of us–the elite raiders–it’s a tumultuous time. One particular guild managed a world first kill on a boss that is now being viewed as controversial. Some have viewed their successful kill as an exploit of a bug that Blizzard hotfixed immediately after their kill, making the fight “harder” for subsequent guilds. I put harder in quotes there on purpose. Harder is up to interpretation, of course. From a post I just read by a Paragon member, his description of the fight in question still sounded quite complicated to me! So was it an exploit? Unfair? Is it their fault? Did they get there too fast? If we were in their shoes, would we do the same thing? It’s a “win or nothing” race, after all. Do we let all the other raiding guilds do things the same way? Or do we just accept that people will try to down a boss in any way possible. Being armchair raiders it’s easy for us to tell “them” what they should do…. what if it’s you vs. that boss and this is the bag of tricks you’ve been given to play with. And what if you don’t know it’s a bug? I have to quote Manni (from Paragon here) from his post from mmo-champion, where he speaks about their realisation that the Ascendent Council fight was anti-melee (which was subsequently addressed by Blizzard):

When we were closing in on the kill our retpala himself said that he was being completely useless there and that we should have a hunter spec BM instead of having him in the raid. So as much as he wanted to be there killing the boss, he had to point it out himself that having him there was pointless. So overall the options we had there were to sit around and whine about the boss imbalance, or just try to take our ranged alts and see if we could kill it with the gear they had. So we overcame this design flaw and killed the boss, managed to get the attention of Blizzard so they hotfixed it a day after, and got portrayed as “stackers.”

Riddle me this: If you had a bug in the game that let you (and only you!) do something unique and special (your horse could suddenly fly!), would you report it right away or would you enjoy the benefit? Hell, it’s not hurting anyone, is it?… although maybe it is, especially if it gives you an unfair advantage over everyone else. I think it’s hard for any of us to know what we’d do if faced with a similar issue, especially if it’s not something we tried to create or figure out on our own. And keep in mind, maybe we don’t even know we’re “exploiting” something–we’re just using the resources we have available. So when is it an exploit and when is it us being resourceful?

So there we are with these pesky, annoying, hard to eradicate things we like to call “bugs”. Or as others like to say, “bug exploits”. Bugs are interesting things–at least from the perspective of a game like WoW. They are both an excuse and reason for failure and a constant companion; maybe it’s impossible to have a living and breathing game like an MMO with no bugs at all. We don’t always know that we’ve been infested. And we don’t necessarily know how to get rid of them. Sometimes we have to do something more difficult to “work around” a bug. Does that somehow make it more acceptable? If the workaround to deal with a bug requires an almost impossible strategy (which can feel unfair) that makes the fight harder, does that make the bug “worked around’ versus “exploited”? (“Yes, if you all stand there and hop on one leg for 63 seconds EXACTLY, the adds will despawn….”)

This is all relevant to our raiding experience because it really does pervade our culture and attitudes about ourselves. A lot of times we form opinions (both negative and positive) about the game and our fellow raiders based on how we approach and respond to these unplanned problems in the game. But for better or worse, bugs are probably here to stay. No planning and design process is perfect and perhaps it’s inevitable that the first among us to encounter the bosses will encounter the bugs first–I suppose what our subculture seems to be grappling with is not so much the fact that we have bugs, but HOW we deal with the bugs. And we’re hardly on the same page about it.

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! :)

Happy new year and personality test, part 2 posted!

January 01, 2011 By: Ladan Category: personality tests, raiding research

Happy new year, everyone! I hope you had a nice holiday season and had a great new year. I also trust you got some rest and relaxation in the midst of Cataclysm action!

Well I’m finally getting caught up on some important WoW related work after being blown out by some deadlines and Christmas-related activity. I’ve posted part 2 of our personality test results, my analysis and discussion. It’s a long post and I ended up cutting it down because it could go on forever at that rate! Anyways, feel free to go check it out on the Paragon site:

More posts and a new poll are coming up soon too!