Archive for April, 2009

21
Apr
09

The triad of raiding, part 2

Yesterday, we looked at the first two legs of the triad of raiding, cohesion and planning. Today we’ll look at the third leg, momentum.

Momentum

I listed this point on top, since it is also the most important one of the three. It relates directly to the two other points. You cannot, however, influence it directly in a positive way. Unfortunately, you can very directly influence it in a negative way.

So what is momentum then? Like its physical counterpart, raid momentum is the amount of impetus a raid has. Picture the raid as a lorry…when it’s going, it really goes, but it can be stopped eventually, and it will take a while to gain back its lost speed. Especially if the ground it travels on is slippery or treacherous.

To translate it to WoW terms, picture two situations:
1) A raid who has oneshotted three bosses and are rapidly clearing trash towards the fourth.
2) A raid who has wiped four times on boss one, had to wait ten minutes for an afk at the second boss, and are now spending ten more minutes at the briefing of boss three.

Raid one has momentum working for it, whereas raid two is struggling to gain momentum. It’s not hard to imagine both situations, including which situation you’d rather be in. Raid momentum is that magical combination of concentration, feeling of “win”, progress through an instance and peoples self confidence. None of these factors can be directly changed by the RL, but you can indirectly affect them.

At its simplest: keep things moving along at all times, if you can. If it gets too choppy, or it starts heading towards a bad situation, stop for a moment, just long enough for the raid to right itself, then continue.

If you’ve just taken a wing of Naxx, dont call a 15 minute break before the next, and harder, wing. If you have to, call the shortest possible break, to avoid people losing their concentration. And yes, it’ll happen quicker than you think, so instead of 15 minutes, consider a 4-5 minute break. Conversely, if you’ve wiped 4 times on Kel’Thuzad, it might be an idea to take five minutes, for people to break out of their current mindset. In short, you want people to “lose” their current concentration, which is negative.

When you’re on a roll, people will be more upbeat, more positive, more concentrated and they will perform better as aresult. And the effect can amplify itself.

However, be mindful. Momentum is lost very quickly. Too long breaks will do it (as mentioned above), as will DC’s and AFK’s. Perhaps worst of all is the endless briefing.

While you, the RL, may have narrowed the incredibly complicated tactics of boss X down to what you think is a very short list, its still likely to be too long. Google have a point about their 28 words on a page policy. Peoples attention span when faced with many instructions is very short. Keep it concise, keep it precise, keep it simple.

Essentially, you want to describe a boss in the fewest possible words without the essential bits getting lost. Compare these Kel’Thuzad briefings:

“Phase 1: Kill things inbound. Abominations: melee, banshees: ranged, skellies: free for all.”

“In phase 1, we will stand in the circle. Ranged will kill banshees at a distance, since they do a huge knockback. The abominations need to be tanked or they will kill our healers. Tanks and melee will engage them. Skellies need to be killed before they reach the centre of the circle, where they will explode and damage the raid. So they are a free for all. If you see one, kill it.”

It may be a silly example, but the latter briefing will very likely kill your raids momentum, especially if the players know that two more blocks of text that size awaits them. The tank is already surfing the net, and the main healer went for coffee.The former doesn’t say why things need to die like they do, it just says “do stuff to things”, which essentially is the important bit. Leave all the abilities, that aren’t really important, for forums.

Another example of the right and wrong thing to do is the handling of trash by the tanks. Again, two situations that relate to planning (partially) and momentum:

  1. RL marks targets, says “go” before every pull
  2. Tanks mark and pull at their own pace

Situation 1 is, quite frankly, the worst possible thing you can do to your tanks. You stifle them to no end, remove any initiative that they have, and as a result you will at some point kill the momentum of the raid. A tank, a good tank, lives and breathes initiative. Since they are the ones who hold aggro, they are the ones controlling the engagements, period. They shouldn’t be held on a too short leash.

Let’s look at situation 2 to clarify. Here, the tanks are able to mark the targets they consider priority, and they can pull whenever they think it best. So, they can evaluate the situation, most likely quicker than the RL, and they will retain their control and initiative of the engagements. Initiative is, as said, vital, since it governs how well tanks respond to panic or unforeseen situations. The last thing you want is a tank who is too scared to act when a mob patrol appears.

So to put it simply: If you micromanage your tanks, you take away their ability to act independently. And by doing that, you open the door for every mishap to break the momentum of the raid.

Conclusion

A raid leader is like a captain of a ship. You steer the general direction, point out the obvious (“Avoid those bridge pylons”), and try to make sure that people are having a good time. Beyond that, you get your fingers off the controls. You are here to make sure that everybody is on the same page of the chart, not to decide whether the cook aboard serves rice or pasta.

It’s a lot easier to keep a snowball rolling than it is to get it moving after you let it stop. Keep it moving, keep the momentum up whenever possible. Most of all: know when to pull the brakes on a raid. Learn to recognise when momentum would just lead to a very quick wipe. There are exceptions to any rule.

If you’ve made it this far, there’s always the chance you think “gosh, what a load of rubbish!” And it may well be! If I’m dead wrong, please do let me know about it. Any other comments are of course happily accepted as well.

20
Apr
09

The triad of raiding

Most of us raid. Yup, you, me, that other guy. And we all know what a good raid is, and what a bad raid is. But if we want to quantify and describe what makes a good raid, how exactly do we do that? It’s quite simple to list things that we see as “good”, for example:

  • No deaths on trash
  • No deaths on bosses
  • Quick pulling
  • No excess damage taken from AOE
  • Achievements pop up for every boss
  • Loot drops
  • No waiting periods
  • No DC’s

Most of these are effects, symptoms if you want to compare to medecin. They are the “what”, rather than the “why”. The “why” is what the raid builds up over time, hopefully spurred on by the raid leader(s). It’s the “more than the sum of its parts” stuff. A raid can have spectacular theoretical numbers, but if it doesn’t come together, most people are going to be frustrated in the end, none more than the raid leader (RL in the following).

The RL has the best and worst of jobs. They get praise when things work out, but they are also the person to feel how cold it is on top when things go badly. The RL has the dubious honour of being responsible for everybodies good time, more or less. Essentially, the RL has to manipulate things, so as to create the “more than the sum of its parts” stuff and the “come together”ness of a raid.

How?

How does a person do that? How does a person manipulate the “why” of a “good raid”? And what does the “why” even contain?

  • Momentum
  • Planning
  • Cohesion

The triad of a raid, which a RL must know about, and must be able to manipulate to cause a raid to be successful. Most of them rely directly on the rank and file, and are only indirectly affectable. Let’s continue by examining what these three words, pulled out of the blue, mean. So, in the following, imagine that you are a raid leader.

Cohesion

A raid group is a team, with numerous small subteams. To be successful, a team needs to have a certain familiarity with itself. It’s not a strict requirement (or pugs would never work), but it helps. Furthermore, a team must feel like a team, have an esprit de corps. This is where the RL comes in…make people feel like part of a unit, rather than just some bunch of people hobbled together in a dank and dark place.

Essentially, building unit cohesion is the task of the RL’s people skills. Some have it, while others don’t. Much has been written, in many places, about leading raids, about officers in raids…I wont go into details here, since it’s a subject for a lengthy debate. There are as many ways of doing it as there are RL’s, and I can’t generalise, much less give any advice.

In general though, I find it pays off to be civil, nice, respectful and most of all, never let yourself get overtly annoyed or angry. It pays off down the line, even if it is at times hard.

Planning

Planning is a two edged sword. Too much of it will stifle freedom and creativity, and too little will result in 10 or 25 headless chickens. How much planning is needed? Just enough to be able to avoid chickens, which to many may seem like “not enough”, but “too much” information will suck the life and joy out of the people who prefer to wing it.

Again, much has been written in many places about it, so I’ll offer you a very general outlook on it all.

Planning is, in my mind, best done outside of raids. Post strategies on fora, link to other strategies or videos. Post the raid composition ahead of time, so that people, if they don’t already, know what they are doing. Use the pre-raid time, when people are getting fired up and waiting in the instance, for group dispositions. Let people with special jobs know, including pulling and tanking. Let them know about special mobs, if applicable. This is also the time to reiterate marking strategies, and to elect a marker.

However, too much of the above will be a point of annoyance as well as spam in an already busy raid chat (or Vent channel). Most hunters will use their mark without you saying. Many mages are able to figure out amongst themselves who needs to sheep which marks. Same for rogues, same for warlocks…same for people applying shouts or blessings. As a RL, you aren’t supposed to micromanage.

Let me say that again: Hands off the micromanaging.

As an overall leader, its your responsibility to say what needs doing. NOT to say who needs to do it, nor to do it all yourself. Yes, this needs raiders to be on the ball, but these are live people. Trust in their abilities as much as your own.

Now, some of you will say “yeah, that’s all well and good, but it’s a hippielike rosy-red description of utopia, real people are stupid and inanely so. So it wont work like that guv.” Correct, it wont work like that in every case. Some people do need handholding or pushing with a cattleprod. However, get one of their classmates or role-colleagues to do it rather than yourself. Or one of the officers. Or the tank. Just don’t micromanage it all.

So far so good, or not (depending on your views). If your views don’t match mine, and I’m not saying that they should, please feel free to comment. I’m by no means perfect, so healthy criticism is always welcome.

Tomorrow we will look at the last leg of the triad, and come to some sort of conclusion.

08
Apr
09

On theorycrafted DPS versus ingame DPS

Theorycrafting. Reverse engineering the mechanics of WoW, unravelling what Ghostcrawler & co. have “ravelled”. At the heart of it all is a desire to better our game, to progress faster through the content.

For many, however, this is not an interesting pastime. So, enter the gear guides and performance simulators (spreadsheets, applets, webpages, you name it). There is a whole forest full of helpful sites you can go to, and depending on where you go, you’ll end up utterly confused because none of them really agree.

The reason is simple really. DPS output depends on a combination of gear and abilities (also known as playstyle). It is the interaction of these two factors with the mechanics of the game that produce the DPS. We as players control the two former, but not the latter. We can only guess at the exact mechanics, and therefore we end up with models, based on the creators analysis of observed phenomena. Yes, empirism at work.

More often than not, two models will not agree on the value of certain bits of kit, which doesn’t really help the poor raider who is trying to make sense of it all while desperately looking up the epic that dropped just now. The all important, but underlying, question is this:

Which model should I base my gearing choices on? Which model is more precise?

Big topic, as you can probably guess. And one which does not have a final and inherently correct answer. Sorry to disappoint you, there’s no big revel at the end here. There will be lots of my (probably biased) opinions however. I’ll look at the topicĀ in three ways:

  • Comparing various DPS simulators found on the net
  • Comparing simulated DPS to real DPS
  • Discussing the above, with input from all you people

Why the last point? It’s a question of available data material, which forms the basis of any empirical analysis. I might have a lucky day, or a bad day, and I might have a different playing style than others. So, if you have data, information or other material of relevance, bring it forward and let’s take it from there.

In the next installment, I’ll get down to the nitty gritty and compare two DPS calculators: MaxDPS.com and Landsouls spreadsheet from Elitist Jerks.

Note: With 3.1 upcoming, there will be some hefty changes to theorycrafting for warriors, due to the changes to several of our talents. As such, you can argue that analysing current DPS calculation tools is a waste of time. To that I reply: You’re the one who made it all the way to the end of this article.