Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Archive for March, 2012

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.

Shedding our “nerdy” mystique

March 08, 2012 By: Ladan Category: computer, World of Warcraft

So I am the last person to claim that there isn’t a well nurtured stigma attached to being called a gamer and that gaming isn’t sometimes viewed as a hobby that you might not want everyone knowing you enjoy. And I’m often quick to notice the subtle and sometimes overt insults to the sociality, lifestyle, and even romantic potential of a gamer. And this long-held stigma has even up and coming generations shying away from being identified as a gamer. Allow me to illustrate:

I have had the pleasure of helping teach on a course in my department here at Durham called about online geographies. I’ve usually been asked by the course’s professor, Mike Crang, to facilitate the workshop on “Virtual worlds and games”. It’s often been about exploring what something like Second Life or an MMO are like. This year, my third year helping with it, we realised the workshop material was a bit out of date so Mike generously gave me an opportunity to redesign the workshop and guide the students through a few more recent virtual environments, games, and MMOs. Due to Durham’s very conservative attitude toward games and some strict limitations on what we could access and play, I ended up having the students look at a free browser-based MMO called Glitch (kind of like a Farmville MMO, though that’s not quite right.. it’s fun for a while but it has its limits too) and we looked at other things like Plants vs. Zombies, Alphaworlds, Habbo Hotel, and Farmville/Cafeville on Facebook. We even tried Angry Birds on our smartphones!

Well, when we got into a discussion about gaming within the group, these well educated, cool, mostly 19- and 20-something third year Durham Geography students were very very reticent to admit (in that group setting) what, if any, games they might have played or be currently playing. As far as the cool factor goes in relation to games, I’d say FIFA is acceptable (if you want to admit you play games but remain cool with the non-gaming cool set), Mafia Wars *might* be ok… Angry Birds could cause a giggle but a knowing nod of acceptance. And that might be it. We’re still not quite there yet as far as people getting over this idea of gaming being uncool.

I mean we’ve gotten past other things that have been viewed as a stigma in the past. And I’d like to think that eventually we’re going to be ok with the idea of gaming and not relegate it to the “nerdy” or “no life” part of the shelf. But if university students are still finding it hard to relate to or even admit an affiliation with anything but the most mainstream of games, I think we’ve got a ways to go.

Even a couple weeks ago we had a story about a new research study about WoW that provides some promising health benefits in relation to gaming. They took a group of older adults (60-77) and had some learn how to play WoW while others did not and they were able to note an increase in focus and spatial orientation among those adults that had been playing WoW. Now this is a pretty good story, and I’m glad different media channels were reporting it, but like much else in the media these days, it had to start off with a subtle insult to the community before telling us something positive: “‘World of Warcraft’ isn’t just for nerds”. And I know, I know, you’re all going to tell me this is just par for the course, but isn’t it just getting a bit too predictable now?

Anyway, the academic paper can be accessed here, if you’re interested.

Nostalgia hits…!

March 02, 2012 By: Ladan Category: livestream, raiding, vanilla WoW, World of Warcraft

Picture this: It’s 2062 and Old Man Raider, resident of the Retirement Home for Raiders is relaxing on the porch, chatting with Old Lady Raider and Really Old Man Raider. They’re engaged in a debate.. which game was the best for raiding; which expansion was the best. When was raiding at its best. Things get heated; fingers are waggling. Inevitably the walking sticks are brandished and Really Old Man Raider summons his strength, pushes himself up against his walker and proclaims that Everquest was always the Granddaddy of raiding on the true scale of epicness and no game since has ever been able to capture the feeling of raiding with so many… Old Man Raider objects, noting that vanilla WoW was always where it was at and the rough-about-the-edges, new frontierness of raiding was its most authentic… and finally Old Lady Raider chimes in shrilly that The Burning Crusade was when raiding came into its own with the right level of complexity and newness reaping the benefits of a design team that had learned from vanilla.

The trio reach a stalemate. No one can agree. Even the Slightly Younger Old Man Raider sitting at the nearby table doesn’t dare chime into the debate to suggest that WoW’s Tier 42 and its perfection of 4D underwater raiding was truly the pinnacle of raiding–he doesn’t want to get ostracized on the golf course the next day, after all.

The group finally throws the towel in on the debate, saying they’d better head in and get naps before the 7 pm raid start that night for the Retirement Home Raiding team.

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In my various interviews with various raiders since I started my research a few years back, I often hear “well, things were better back in Vanilla or TBC.” And yes, maybe they were. Or maybe they weren’t. It’s all a matter of perspective, experience, and that tricky, hard-to-pinpoint emotion: nostalgia. Isn’t it?

Well this week, the guys at Manaflask are putting this idea to the test. Manaflask have opted to launch something new, what they are calling Project 60. I’m calling it a fascinating experiment into the experience of nostalgia. And this is being mixed into the experience of celebrity, making it even more compelling. The idea is to create a character on what was the famed vanilla/TBC raiding team Nihilum’s EU server Magtheridon. Then you level up to 60, lock yourself in, and then join the rest of the team in some “old school” raiding alongside members of the former guild.

If you’d like to actively engage in this trip down memory lane, or if you started raiding post-vanilla and have always wanted to get a taste of it, go over to the manaflask site and get signed up! As I understand it, they’re accepting members til they are full. And if you’re just curious about what this is like or might like to follow along, I’m participating in a livestream event with a few members from Nihilum and Manaflask tomorrow (Saturday, March 3rd) evening (6-7 pm EU game time–that’s GMT+1). There’s more information on the Manaflask site if you’re curious: http://www.manaflask.com/en/article/1635/streaming-event-for-project-60-on-saturday.

Naturally it’s impossible to create a completely authentic experience in relation to recreating the level 60 raiding period. Even if we could rewind the mechanics and game features, we still have a collective raiding memory that will impact how we see raiding several years on. But I think this is a brilliant idea and is probably the closest we can get to it in 2012. I can’t wait to talk about it with the guys tomorrow. Do chime in if you get a chance! I’ll be the confused Tauren priest named Nadala (looking and acting as confused as I was back in vanilla!) if you want to say hi to me in game. :)