This is a wall of text. Though I might break things up with some images of cats—everyone loves sending me images of cats doing silly things… I think that’s because there is this idea that we of the fairer sex like seeing images of cats doing funny things; I think it’s also because images of cats doing funny things represents about 83% of the Internet. But before I launch into my (epic) wall of text here, let me just offer a thank you to Method. They are a classy bunch of guys (I bet they never thought they’d be referred to as such!) to let me write up about them, particularly about a somewhat touchy subject.. the idea of coming in “second”. Of course if you consider the fact that we have thousands of groups completing the raiding content, coming in second in the world is actually pretty good. But when you’re so close to being first, second just feels like you missed the party entirely. Will Method come in second during the next content patch? That’s anyone’s guess, but I do know that they are as determined as ever and I look forward to following the race during the next tier of raiding content.. which should start very soon!
I’m also really grateful to all of the guilds like Method for being really active participants in my research. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to talk to raiders from lots of different backgrounds and they’ve really contributed a lot to my work. You may have read the earlier article I wrote back in May where I documented some highlights from my first group discussion with Method. One thing I appreciated about them, and about most of the guilds I’ve spoken to, is their openness. Sure some of us posture a bit, and there’s a fair amount of ego and grandstanding in some, but for the most part, we’re quite honest (I’d even say quite bluntly honest) about how we perform and what our challenges might be. I think as a community, raiders can be quite reflective and self-critical. I think this is due, in part, to the constant stream of data that we have available to help us see how we’ve done: fraps, DPS meters, logging sites. In a way, being open is thrust upon us by our own design. You can’t really pretend your DPS was great when DPS tracking software is telling you (and everyone else!) that it was subpar.
But whatever the reason for this openness and reflectiveness, raiders have been quite willing to be recorded and documented talking about their experiences. And sometimes it also means that the raiders themselves have collected data for me. This was Method. And I think what we did over the summer is historic in nature. During their few weeks of progress raiding in Firelands, the guys recorded hours of TeamSpeak audio for me. Now I did not get the actual recordings until long after the race was over (not until September) so there would never be a concern or any worries that I’d somehow compromise the race by getting access to information that is usually quite fiercely protected.
We are all drawn to raiding for similar reasons, though how important those reasons are will often depend on the raider and the guild to which they belong. I’d say some of the top reasons we get into raiding might be the raiding content itself, personal performance, competition, social interaction, and team play. But the way that we might rank these reasons as far as importance goes differs between raiders based on our own priorities for raiding. If, for example, we want to blow off some steam with a group of good friends, social interaction or team play might outrank competition. Well, in the case of the top ranked guilds that I’ve spoken with (and I’ve had a chance to talk to about a dozen of them), competition seems to be the primary driving factor. This piece explores how competition functions for a guild like Method and how they felt, in the end, about being the 2nd in the world. Again. And now, before we begin, here is the world’s most insulted cat:
Really? I mean… really?
Intermission over. Shall we continue? Let’s….
“The saddest world second ever”
Second place is just the first place loser. –Dale Earnhardt
I’m not jealous, I’m just tired of being in second place. –Unknown
These quotes may evoke that cynicism that sometimes accompanies a reaction from a competitor who’s come in second place. For the second place “loser”, there is no other aspiration than coming in first. This experience of the anti-climax of finishing second is well expressed through the progress race.
Like other competitive raiding guilds, Method was formed by WoW raiders that wanted to be the first to defeat the raiding content ahead of other guilds. This assertion is made clear on the guild’s promotional material, where they solicit new members, the goal being, “to be among the first to witness, participate in, and down new raid boss encounters.” Method’s success as a world-ranked progression guild began in 2007 when it had the world second kill of Lady Vashj in a level 70 ranked raiding area called Serpentshrine Cavern. Its success continued off and on until it reached a more consistent level of prominence in 2009. It has sustained a world #2 ranking since December 2010. In fact, its history of being second seems to be quite predominant for Method. On its self-written guild description posted on wowprogress.com, it lists 31 achievements of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place finishes on specific important game achievements over the past four years. Out of those 31 achievements, 22 (or 71%) are listed as second place finishes. This notion of seemingly perpetual runner-up-dom has not been lost on the guild or its members, best expressed through Rogerbrown’s (officer and raider in Method) statements in May and July, respectively:
On not achieving first place: “It’s the one thing Method hasn’t done yet.” (Rogerbrown, May 2011)
On losing the Majordomo (the penultimate boss in Firelands) kill to DREAM Paragon by 45 minutes: “The saddest world second ever.” (Rogerbrown, July 2011,)
Progression racing is seen as challenging, both by design and circumstance. It requires a lot of time, focus and speed. For example, over the 26 days in Firelands that Method was clearing the raiding content, Valiane, one of the raiding members of Method, estimated that the raiding group spent approximately 200 hours working on clearing the content, with about 180 of those hours spent on the final raid boss, Ragnaros. This works out as an average of 7.3 hours being spent per day. While this kind of speed and concentrated time spent in raiding can contribute toward success in the progress race, it can also often present a series of unexpected events for the groups involved. One example is the situation where most of the top raiding guilds—due to the speed at which they progress through the content—face the raiding content while Blizzard’s game designers are still fixing bugs in the gameplay.
In July, like everyone else, Method began its pursuit of the world first completion of the newest raiding content in Firelands. During the discussion of how the Firelands race had gone, Trekkie, a raiding member of Method, indicated that the primary area of concern was the perceived race between their guild and Paragon, “Yes, pretty much only cared about Paragon’s progress in the race.” This could piss off other guilds that are also hot in pursuit of a world #1, but I think I can understand the logic. Paragon was #1 going into the race and that makes them, by default, the team to “beat.” It’s very likely that most of the other guilds in the top 10 or 20 were just as oriented toward beating Paragon.
My research has led me to define the types and forms of competition that exist in raiding. I’ll outline them briefly here: Gamic competition (this is the competition we experience against the game and the game designed challenges); External competition (competition between raiding guilds); and Internal competition (this is represented by how we compete with or against each other in our own raiding guilds). An example of Gamic competition would be how a group competes against a raid boss’ tactics and mechanics to down the boss; an example of External would be how guilds race against each other to complete raiding content ahead of everyone else; and Internal could be represented by the friendly rivalry to see who tops the DPS meters during any given raid.
Time for another cat photo:
“Don’t you people have anything better to do?”
And onwards we must march….
Method is highly focused toward External competition. This is indicated by their desire to “win the race” and surpass their long-held 2nd place spot. In fact, even during the 3 weeks of the contested Firelands race (until Paragon defeated Ragnaros on July 19, 2011), while Method’s interest was in their own raiding performance and tactics against the raiding challenges they were also oriented toward how they fared against Paragon. Shakaroz, another member of Method, made that clear in his statement:
You asked if what we knew about Paragon at that point [during the raiding progress] was affecting our raid? Yes, we knew their set up on Majordomo and I’m thinking it might have given us a feeling of security because we thought we knew what they were doing because at some point they swapped in like 7 to 9 rogues trying some weird strategy. So we were thinking they didn’t really know what to do with this boss and they were trying all sorts of weird things and they are not close and that gives us that sense of security so that personal mistakes and poor play isn’t really looked on as harshly because we think that we were further along than we were. With [Major]domo we could have taken the world first. We had some silly wipes and some time wasting.
So in effect here, while Shakaroz concedes that Method was externally oriented toward the progress and activity of Paragon, he felt it could have adversely affected their own guild’s performance. Perhaps this highlights the ways in which a network and series of events within it can conspire to negatively impact its attributes depending on how the network’s entities (in this case a raiding guild) react or respond to the dispersal of information. But this close focus on Paragon’s progress is understandable considering how easily accessible data and information was for raiding guilds. In the table below, you can see how close the race was and why it made sense that Method (and Paragon too) were so oriented toward the external competition.
|DREAM Paragon (with dates and times of kills)
|H: Ragnaros–Jul 19, 2011 20:50
H: Majordomo–Jul 8, 2011 01:17
H: Baleroc–Jul 7, 2011 14:52
H: Alysrazor–Jul 6, 2011 15:54
H: Lord Rhyolith–Jul 6, 2011 13:51
H: Beth’tilac–Jul 6, 2011 12:15
H: Shannox–Jul 6, 2011 10:11
|H: Ragnaros–Jul 26, 2011 21:52
H: Majordomo–Jul 8, 2011 02:06
H: Baleroc–Jul 7, 2011 04:42
H: Alysrazor–Jul 6, 2011 13:37
H: Lord Rhyolith–Jul 6, 2011 11:07
H: Beth’tilac–Jul 6, 2011 10:04
H: Shannox–Jul 6, 2011 08:52
Access to information like this, available to any raider or interested party, can help spur on the race and also motivate the teams involve to either pick up their pace or, possibly, relax with a false sense of security, such as what Shakaroz indicated above. While the significant part of the race did not come until the attempts on Ragnaros started, the momentum gained from speedily killing the earlier bosses did allow the teams to focus on that final boss. A careful review of the dates and times of the boss kills shows a very close race. Mere hours separate the successful kills of the earlier bosses, with Method ahead of Paragon’s progress until Majordomo. But the Majordomo fight was the first indicator of a change in the race between the two guilds. It’s worth pointing out here, however, that for guilds like Method and Paragon the race is not so much about the earlier six bosses but more about the final one. As North American servers get access to the game a day before European servers, for example, all of the first four heroic bosses had already been killed for the first time by the time Method and Paragon logged on. But Method and Paragon quickly succeeded those early kills and began to progress to the last bosses. It seemed too close to tell.
So what happened at Majordomo? Well, the race seemed to shift. Part 2 looks more closely at that experience and the impact it had, at the time, on Method. In some cases, it was more significant (at least from the standpoint of the “race”) than the Ragnaros race. Stay tuned!
Oh and here’s another cat image. Someone please send me nomz too….