So here we are on a Tuesday, stuck at work, eagerly awaiting the start of a new raid week. It is an awkward time right now with the expansion looming off in the horizon and the summer slump still going strong for at least a little while longer. This all wouldn’t be so bad except that many guilds, like mine, are still fighting to kill Lich King 25 man heroic up until the bitter end. Taking a few days off every month to hit up achievements and get some drakes for those that don’t have them yet has served to break the monotony some but in general I’m sure people have been fighting off the burnout demons that live just beyond the shadows.
I would love to know what people out there are doing or playing (be it wow related stuff or other games/activities) to beat the burnout. I know for our household it has meant a lot more non-wow related stuff. If your significant other doesn’t play warcraft but still enjoys side-by-side gaming like my girlfriend does, I highly recommend the Sam and Max games for the PC on STEAM. There is a certain enjoyment to tackling challenging and often zany puzzles together for sure.
Anatomy of a Raid Night
Do you ever go through a raid night and find that the productivity level ebbs and flows from one moment to the next? A raid generally seems to have two different “modes” that it be at any one point in time. Farm content tends to switch some raids in the “casual” mode even if the encounters on farm are still very challenging to most guilds. There are obviously many pitfalls associated with this that we will get into that. The second mode is “progression” mode, the far more mentally taxing one (and prone to burnout and anger) but a necessity when it comes to pushing forward.
The start of a raid will almost always tell you a little bit about what you have in store for you that night. If your raid is dead quiet with no raid chat activity or vent communication off the bat then you could be looking at a hyper focused group of people or a tired cranky group of people. If your raid is bubbly with chat (usually non wow related) and lots of vent chatter then you could be looking at a positive upbeat raid or a completely unfocused sloppy raid. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t guilty of all of those things at one point or another. This is less about me trying to criticize any one person, but more understanding how people interact with each other in a group like this.
For the casual material or farm content it is really tough to gage where your raid is going to go. Almost all of the types of raid starts listed above can apply to this and where the night goes is anyone’s guess. Farm content is more segmented and divided as you are killing multiple bosses and there is the possibility of focus loss or gain from encounter to encounter. If your have a strong raid leader, and in my case I am glad that we do, more often than not you can reign in a group of talented players while clearing prerequisite bosses and get things going smoothly. This is the sign of a good raiding group.
For serious progression bosses the raid night is a completely different animal. There is no variation over the course of the night, you are literally bashing yourself into the same wall over and over hoping for better results each time. (If you were to describe that to anyone outside of the gaming world they might define it as “insanity”, I remember my girlfriend walking by my computer asking why I was always fighting that giant ugly spider, in this case 10 or 25 man heroic Anub). Here is where the resilience of the raid will really start to play a part. At the start of the raid you need to gauge how much focus there is:
Joviality – people being in a really good/friendly mood and chatting about all things wow and non wow related can have a different effect on each individual’s focus levels. Some players might have a difficult time switching from “having a good time” mode to “shut off the outside world and kill boss” mode. Some players need the friendly moments to unwind and let the serious out of them. I consider myself a hardcore-ish raider but after a really bad/tough day at work going into a “raiding is super serious business” night can actually make me more tired and worn out. I’m not advocating people. Back when I had the stupidity to be in a top 100 guild the mantra of “lock your doors, unplug your telephone, and pull the shades because you are 100% here tonight, I don’t care if your mother or father or girlfriend need to get in touch with you, you are 100% here tonight” was not unheard of…this doesn’t play well with stress.
Anger/Unrest – if some players evidently don’t get along and there are small guild disputes or tells flying around at or before raid time you could be staring down the loose thread to unravel your raid night. While this has not happened in my current guild, I have been in situations in the past where someone rage-logged just prior to raid and the frustration and tension left behind after the argument bled into the raid night.
Tiredness/Stress/RL Issues – Everyone has bad weeks at work, long days with family or at the office, or genuine personal issues going on that affect their gameplay. It is increasingly tough for officers, raid leaders, and class leaders (should you have them) as their mood will inadvertently affect that of the players in the raid. There isn’t anything you can really do about this though, and honestly your raid leader can’t be happy ALL the time, no human being can do that. It is up to the players in the raid to not take things personally and work to perform to the best of their abilities. If you are a raid member who is tired, stressed, or depressed and think that will impede your ability to work on a demanding fight, ask to be seated for the evening and let the people in charge know. A dps failing at his rotation because he is staring blankly at the monitor thinking about the girl who just dumped him is no help to anyone else.
So now the night is underway and you are working on that really nasty boss (perhaps 25 man heroic Halion or LK?) and you’ve had some really bad wipes and some progress when suddenly you have the best attempt you’ve had all night…by FAR. This is always super rewarding and everyone will generally get really pumped up about it. While I am not advocating that people be completely neutral about progress, I think it is important to understand that it is more important to identify “why” that attempt was so successful as opposed to just using it as a benchmark to compare the rest of the night to. As we all know there is always that terrible frustration after a great attempt when you have a string of terrible failures….that the raid is slipping or regressing. A lot of fights have nasty RNG that can swing in and out of your favor and you need to know if it was just a matter of the stars aligning in your favor for one attempt or completely out of line for another. A long time ago when I was working on 40 man Kel Thuzad, we had nights where some attempts would go so much better than others and it did have some people getting really mad/frustrated especially at the healers…asking why was there such a variation. What was really happening was that some fights had far more Frost Blast’s hitting the melee than others and since there were other deaths in the ranged it wasn’t always entirely evident to everyone what was happening. Similarly, in BC there were Mother attempts that had really easy Fatal Attractions and times where people were repeatedly teleported onto the tanks or in other awkward positions.
As the night wears on, some people will become disheartened or frustrated. You’ll see some players who were only making one mistake every so often make significantly more. Focus is such a hard thing to maintain over the course of an evening especially on a super challenging boss. Raid breaks are critical to people blowing off steam and genuine discussion about strategy in the respective channels brings about a positive outlook on the fight. Curb any nasty blaming or infighting going on quickly and if people get tells they need to report them. Once you lose the focus of the raid you might as well just call it for the night.
This brings me to the last…phenomenon if you will. Much like the movie A.I. there is a point in the raid where you’ll reach a premature conclusion…a point where you will have done the best you will ever do for the night. In A.I. there is a point where the main character is frozen solid at the bottom of the body of water and closes his eyes seeing the angel for the last time. The movie could end there, but no there is like 10 more minutes of agonizing Steven Spielberg B.S. thrown on the back. If your raid is like ours from 8-12 at night, there is sometimes a point at like 11:30 when things start to collapse. You have had the best attempts you’ll have for the night and things are just turning ugly. I don’t know what it is about the tail ends of raids but fairly often people have expended as much focus/attention/’awakedness’ (don’t think that’s a word) as they’ll be able to give. I’m not sure there is any solution to this other than some last minute motivation on the part of your raid leader and sometime it is successful…however if at 11:45 people are just mailing it in then the chord must be cut.
It is difficult to know what Raid you will be bringing to the dungeon on any given night, but it is up to the players to identify problems before they blossom into a real obstacle. It is the responsibility for each member to get themselves into the healthiest mindset possible or take a break for the night if they cannot. Focus is the most important thing you can have and once it is lost getting it back is that much harder. If you’re reading this and thinking “My guild never has any of those issues” then kudos to you for sure. I wish everyone a happy and productive raid week and may the summer slump not affect you too badly!