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.


Morn said...

You left off Suicide Moonkin :(

Anonymous said...

While I am very familiar with the problem of top-spot camping, I am not sure about the re-shuffling the SK list every 2 months. It would be better to use some sort of decay mechanic.

What will end up happening is someone who is not camping has slowly moved up from the bottom after winning loot. Now they've just moved up to spot #3 and are the top physical dps in the list. They've already lost the bid on sweet AP trinket before and know it's their's if it drops this week. Oops, 2 months is up, now they're reshuffled to the 20th spot and that hunter that just scored T7 shoulders is now in 2nd place on the list

The SK FAQ also makes the suggestion that if someone passes on an item they can never take it, unless something like a re-spec (BM to SV hunter perhaps) or drastic class mechanic changes that make a formerly undesirable item desireable.

Jezrael said...

Thanks for the comments guys - Anon, I wish you'd left a name though :) I'd be interested to hear suggestions for a decay mechanic.

Morn said...

Tracking individual player vs. item bids is too much micromanagement.

A decay mechanism is sort of hard with SK; it's much easier with points-based systems. And I think that decaying after not bidding for a few weeks (or decaying after passing on trivial upgrades) would annoy me more than a known reset.

Jezrael said...

What if decay was based on attendance/sign up points though? I wonder if it would be possible to set up some kind of formula in the spreadsheet to reposition based on points within a range at the end of the 2 month period rather than randomly reshuffling? Hrmmm. Food for thought although we won't change anything when we've just got started.

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