Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On preparing the raid for Wotlk and loot systems in particular

The Drunken Badgers raid had a successful run of Burning Crusade raiding. By no means leaders we managed to come from behind to end our TBC raiding era as one of the top 20 raids on the server although sadly we never made it to Sunwell, and after the pre lich content nerf patch it didn't seem worth it.

For a guild that formed and began raiding during TBC I like to think this is no mean feat. We certainly learned some lessons along the way and as a result evolved our raiding management in order to achieve the goals that we had set for ourselves. As far as I can tell we also ended TBC with a good reputation on our server as a fun group who know what they are about, which can only stand us in good stead for the future...

So enter the Lich King, and Drunken Badgers are preparing to take on the 25 man content available in the new expansion starting with 25 man Naxx. It was decided that we would commence 25 man raiding in the new year, giving everyone the opportunity to level up at a leisurely pace if they so desired and to also account for the disruptions of the holiday period.

Unsuprisingly most, if not all, of the core raiders of the group hit 80 pretty quickly and started working on gearing up through heroics, 10 man Naxx and various guests spots in other 25 man raids in order to be in tip top readiness for the official commencement of Badger raiding.

During this period the drunken officers have been working on some further changes to raid management, mainly to do with sharing duties to decrease the load previously on the shoulders of only a few individuals. We now have several different raid 'offices' that are shared across 2 to 3 officers. How these officers manage their particular areas in terms of sharing duties is up to them. The offices are loot management, raid leadership, DPS performance, healing performance, tanking performance and recruitment.

I put my hand up to be a loot officer and have been learning how to use the loot mod of choice and with the other raid officers working on refining our loot system still further. Lively discussion took place from near the end of TBC raiding onwards whether we should stay with the current system or look to moving to another. Although generally happy with the way Suicide Kings was working for us we had encountered a couple of specific problems: top spot camping and bottom dwellers.

Top spot camping occurs when a person chooses not to bid on items that would be an upgrade for them in order to hold onto their position in the list so as to be guaranteed their holy grail item should it drop - we like to refer to this within the group as the 'DST' - ie Dragonspine trophy - something many people were after during our Gruul's raiding period. Although it is the individual's choice to hold out for their grail the decision to pass on upgrade loot is seen as detrimental to raid progression on the whole.

Bottom dwelling is where people on the bottom of the list have no hesitation in bidding on items due to their having no guarantee of other loot. Often the bottom dwellers would be subs. Bottom dwelling was further exacerbated by the top spot campers, who were generally regulars.

So we end up with a situation where our regulars are not improving their gear and our subs are making out like bandits.

Personally I never had a problem with the way our use of Suicice Kings functioned, I geared up at a reasonable pace, but I also never held out for a particular item.

The discussions concerning our loot system to me essentially speak to what kind of raid we want to be. In our earlier days we had been concerned with keeping it simple, encouraging a roster of regulars but retaining some fairness to subs - since subs when in attendance helped us achieve success as much as the other attendees. We were initially quite casual, not thinking particularly of progression as our main focus - but rather fun with hopefully some success.

As we have succeeded, so too has our focus evolved. We are now definitely more focused on progression. Therefore in order to achieve progression we have had to look at tightening up performance requirements even further, stepping up recruitment and tweaking the loot system to support progression.

As the passionate discussions have demonstrated progression does not necessarily equate with a loot system that is equable to all. We are trying to arrive at something in the middle. Also, an opinion which I stand by, is that the loot system is not *the* answer to successful progression - that all areas of raid management need to be considered holistically. That said we are doing our best to develop a loot system that gives subs a reasonable chance of receiving loots whilst at the same time rewarding regulars and discouraging camping at either the top or the bottom of the list. Other goals are keeping it relatively simple to explain and manage for the loot officers. We considered DKP and loot council, but both systems have inherent issues which we were not happy with collectively. The problem of a growing point spread in DKP and the lack of transparency and risks of alienation with Loot Council respectively were the main issues. We even considered just going with the in game rolling system but the RNG is RNG factor put people off, myself included.

The system which we will use as we begin 25 man raiding is as follows, naturally if it doesn't work we will make changes, we're certainly not inflexible.

We use Raid Ninja as a sign up tool and it is now mandatory for all raiders to indicate their attendance status for the raid by Tuesday each week (we raid once a week on Fridays). This will net each raider 1/8th of a point whether they attend the raid or not. Attendance at the raid having signed up correctly will net each raider 1 point, if they did not sign up they will earn no points. By the end of a 2 month period each raider must have a point total equal to or greater than 3 to remain a regular. The benefits of being a regular? Only regulars will be on the SK list. The process when a piece of loot drops will be bidding from people on the list (main roles only) then if no bids open need roll to everyone at the raid (again main roles only) and then if no need rolls open greed for offsets etc. Additionally every 2 months the SK list order will be randomly reshuffled to discourage camping.

We're hopeful that this system will be reasonably equitable for all and not too difficult to maintain. The most cumbersome part will be tracking attendance and point awarding - but I'm crafting a google spreadsheet with nifty forumlas with the help of a certain tanky person.

After the system has been in play for a while I'll be sure to post about how it's going.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Opplyse the gentle

Opplyse wandered forlornly across the marshy terrain of the wetlands. Having only recently left the Ebon strongold and ventured into the outside world after the disturbing events at Light's Hope Chapel she found herself at a loss, uncertain what action to take next.

Her life before becoming a death knight was lost to her except in the disquiet of her dreams, where unsettling images would rise in her mind as though seen through a murky pool. None of it seemed as though it could possibly be real.

What was she supposed to do now? She felt the powers of the death knight still within her, a bubbling rage waiting to be unleashed, but her spirit was broken. No doubt she should take ship to Northrend and start the journey towards exacting revenge on Arthas. Yet she could not, not yet. A time of reflection, of looking inward was required. Time to clear her mind and settle her spirit. Prepare for the bloodshed ahead. Bloodshed where she would be a willing conscious participant, no longer driven by the will of the Lich King. She found she had little taste for it. Had she not witnessed and delivered enough pain? She would spend some time wandering the lands and gathering flowers, a pastime she had discovered to be a soothing one.

The time for vengeance would arrive soon enough.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Loving the lore

Although not actively engaged in it I definitely have role playing tendencies. At least to the extent where I enjoy thinking about how my characters feel about the world, their personalities and their reactions to events in game, even if I don't actively play these things out in the game itself.

One of the things I very much enjoy about playing Warcraft is the lore and in Wrath I am enjoying the quest lines and story involvement more than ever. Blizzard have really stepped it up a notch with Wrath in my opinion and for several reasons. Firstly, there are DRAGONS! Lots of dragons! As a long time fan of these mythic beasts it's exciting to see them in game and from a lore perspective it's definitely great to get back to the main Azerothian story line started so long ago in the early stand alone games. Secondly, the amount of flavour and detail Blizzard has imbued into the world really adds to the immersion, and thirdly and perhaps most compellingly, the introduction of phasing technology means you feel as though you are actually having an impact on the story.

The battle of the Wrath Gate quest line is simply THE best, most epic, quest line ever and some of the most fun I have ever had in the game - especially in solo play. The long Marshal Windsor chain in vanilla WoW was certainly great and I'm glad I was able to experience it on Jez, but in my opinion the Wrath Gate sequence has taken it a step further. I won't go into details in case anyone reading this has not yet done the quest since I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone, but if you haven't done it yet I exhort you to go do so. Now.

I have dabbled in the past (several years ago now) in writing role play fiction through a forum based community and I did a fair bit of reading about writing fantasy fiction. One of the tenets I most clearly remember is in order for a fantasy fiction environment to succeed it must be clearly imagined and consistent. The community I was involved with wrote role play fiction based within Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time world and I had a massive guide I would refer to when writing to ensure authenticity with the world.

It's this incredible depth and richness of detail which I love about the World of Warcraft and think contributes strongly to it's ongoing popularity. There are of course other important aspects of the game that cause it to stand out from the crowd but for me the lore itself, and it's exposition within the game, is what anchors me in.

A new dawn

I first started writing this blog during Burning Crusade and my blog banner image was a lovely shot of Jez against the back drop of the Nagrand sky. It seems only fitting therefore that as I begin writing about the new world of Northrend and my adventures there my blog banner should change to reflect the dawning of this new world.

I took the screenshot I used in the image on the northernmost cliffs of Icecrown. Perhaps if (when!) I get a proto-drake I will update the image again *grin*

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I am a terrible, terrible blogger and I apologise to anyone who still checks in with me *ashamed face*. I have lots of ideas for posts, some great screen shots I've been collecting and have found absolutely no time to write *sad face*. With the holidays almost upon us I hope, intend even, to remedy the dire lack of content around here!