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Azeroth Interrupted: Raiders have real lives too


Each week, Robin Torres contributes Azeroth Interrupted, a column about balancing real life with WoW.

At BlizzCon, Lead Designer Jeff Kaplan (Tigole) said a lot of interesting things. He called Arena gear "Welfare Epics" -- that raiders earn their gear. He censored himself after describing fun times when world bosses popped in EQ and the phone calls at 4:00AM to his buddies that resulted -- he didn't want to influence any kids in the audience. And he also said people who do the endgame raids have lives too.

There is a big rivalry between the casual player and the raider. Raiders don't want casuals in their guilds, raids and often groups because of their lack of experience. And casuals are contemptuous of the time raiders seem to spend in order to get as far as they've gone. The two biggest accusations made by casuals toward raiders:
  1. You are in the minority
  2. You don't have a life

The merits of the first argument aside (we outnumber you so we're right nyah nyah), I would like to address why Blizzard ignores it. If it is true that only 10% of the players see the endgame content -- and that is arguable since we probably still have a year before the expansion which is a lot of time for people to get there -- then that is 900,000 people. Everquest at its peak had 550,000 active subscribers and that is the game that made everyone else want to make MMOs to get in on the money. To neglect 900,000 paying customers, no matter what the percentage, is just stupid. And what about all of the people who want to get to the endgame content eventually? Neglecting the high end content makes the game less exciting for everyone. This is why they are spending development time on things like Archimonde as well as more easily accessible content.

On to the second accusation, do these 900,000 people have no lives? Only a very small percentage are like that griefer guy from that South Park episode. The fact is that successful raiders have just as much of a "real life" as the casual players, but they have one thing that wannabe raiders don't have: organization.

An organized raid that enforces some discipline actually spends a much smaller time in instances than casual guilds who are trying to raid. A casual guild attempting Molten Core pre-TBC would spend all weekend -- two 8 hour days -- and still not clear the instance. This led to the belief that only people who were willing to do that all day, every day were the ones who advanced in the content. But organized raiding guilds could clear Molten Core in 4 hours on one night (or more quickly). Raiders actually spend less time in instances, but get more accomplished. In fact, a lot of successful raiding guilds raid 4 to 5 hours a night, 4 weeknights a week (when most non-gamers are doing nothing other than watch TV). 20 hours a week playtime is often considered "casual". But better time management and other "professional" techniques can allow people to successfully raid with only a casual time commitment.

Here are a few differences between the casual raid attempts and successful raid attempts:

Raid Start Time:

In a casual guild, the players don't consider the start time very urgent. Some people do, but a lot of people think it's ok to show up pretty late. "It's only a game."

In a successful raiding guild, the players are expected to show up before the start time and they know if they are late, their status in the guild or their loot status will be affected.

Raid Preparation:

Casual players often log on at or after raid time without the necessary pots, reagents, etc. necessary to raid. The people who are prepared have to wait while unprepared players shop and craft. Some casual players show up empty-handed and expect fellow guildies to give them the necessary tools for raiding.

Raiders get all pots and reagents ahead of time or have the mats ready for the guild crafters to make on the spot.

Studying the Encounter:

Raiders are expected to have read the guild forums and other sources to know the strats being used so that the pre-boss explanations are short. They also are familiar with the loot tables so that if something for their class drops they can quickly declare need if necessary.

Casual players expect to be walked through every step and spend a much longer time making decisions after loot drops.

Noise Control:

Casual players are chatty. Raiders let the leaders talk and only speak when necessary.

Loot Drama:

Successful raid guild leaders have the loot rules clearly stated in the forums to reduce controversy after killing bosses. They also insist that any disputes after distribution be handled out of guildchat after completion of the raid.

Casual raiders are often pretty laissez faire about loot drops because they are often friends and family or friends of friends and family. This often results in a lot of time consuming loot drama that may end a raid prematurely -- and hurt some real life relationships.

Planned Flexibility:

When Casual raiders attempt to organize, they often setup things like extensive schedules and signups and rosters and other things that require a lot of out of game administration. Then, when people are late or are no-shows and the required number or class combinations for the raid are not present, the raid doesn't happen. This results in frustration and a complete waste of time except when everything happens to go as planned.

Just as in real world project management, a successful raiding guild will plan for the unplanned. Raids will be scheduled for a night (maybe a night or two ahead of time) and then the actual location of the raid will change according to who shows up. 28 people of the correct classes are on time? A 25 man raid is commenced with a waiting list for when people have to leave. Only 18 people show up? 10 people go to KZ, 5 people do a Heroic and the rest farm until needed. 25 people show up but not the right class combos? RAID IRONFORGE!

If you read Scott's excellent column, you'll see that he often uses business terminology and concepts to advise guild leaders. In general, successful raiders also use their professional skills and tools to maximize their raiding experience. Because they organize their play time so well, they actually have plenty of time to spend with their families, go to work, enjoy other pursuits: have real lives.

A large number of players -- probably the majority -- are playing WoW to escape from work/school and don't want to apply "real world" techniques to their hobby. This is completely understandable. But a go-with-the-flow attitude does make some content out of reach, no matter how much time you spend playing. Please don't hate on the people whose organizational efforts and memberships in guilds with like-minded players allow them to enjoy faster progress through the endgame content. Just beat up their Arena teams with your "welfare epics" and enjoy the leet skillz your casual PvP time has given you.

Update: I am a casual player. My intent in this article is to show how "hardcore raiders" can successfully balance real life with progressing through content. An organized guild that is not afraid to enforce discipline on friends and family does progress through content with less time invested than a guild for family and friends to play together when they can fit it into their schedule. Most successful raiders do in fact have real lives.

I also wanted to express the frustration of the casual player who does show up to raids on time and fully prepared, only to have their precious time wasted by other casual players who have signed up to raid but are actually not committed to the activity (often for valid reasons but poor planning) -- that is where I failed in this article. While trying to address the unfair prejudice Casuals have against Raiders, I have alienated some of my own people! Next week, instead of the internet romance column that I originally planned, I will address the unfair prejudice Raiders have against Casuals, probably titled: Casuals are good players, too. :)

Robin Torres juggles one level 70 Tauren Druid, multiple alts across multiple servers, two cats, one toddler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice or if you have a story you wish to share, please email Robin.Torres AT weblogsinc DOT com for a possible future column.

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