Vortex's Latest Kill!

Vortex's Latest Kill!
Heroic Yor'sahj

Friday, July 30, 2010

Raiding, Past, Present, and Future

As defined by Wikipedia: "A raid is a type of mission in a video game, where the objective is to use a very large number of people, relative to a normal team size set by the game, to defeat a boss monster. This type of objective is most common in Massively multiplayer online role-playing game, where the servers are designed to handle the number of users while not significantly impacting performance, thereby reducing server lag. In RTS games like StarCraft, the term is used differently, see Raid (military)." In and of it's essence, this definition is more or less correct, however raiding is much more than "a mission to defeat the boss monster, or internet dargon".

Raiding encompasses many additional challenges along with the up-front difficulty (or lack of) of the boss dargon. Players are more often then not, required to work alongside 9 to 71 other players, in order to achieve the common goal of the group, success. This adds a social aspect to every MMORPG that is widely different from the 1 - max level solo experience. A majority of MMORPG's don't do much to try and familiarize players with group game play before hitting max level, therefore many players are unable to be competitive in a raiding environment until they learn how to play the game further. Thus, this leads into the technical difficulty of raids. Raids today can have any number of complicated mechanics that can and will lead the raid to failure. Players are expected to be at the top of their game, and utilize the skills that their individual classes bring to help the raid succeed.

Some of the types of classes in MMORPG's include:
  1. Buffers- augment allies' stats and abilities
  2. Crowd controllers- render one or more enemies harmless or reduce their effectiveness.
  3. DPS- reduce enemies' hp by doing damage.
  4. Debuffers- reduce enemies' stats and weaken their abilities.
  5. Healers- restore allies' hp.
  6. Tanks- hold off particularly aggressive enemies and absorb damage, effectively shielding weaker allies from attack.
All of these classes are integral to the raid's success, thus bringing the ultimate strategical challenge to raids. Raids are almost nearly required to have a "Raid Leader", whom is important in leading a raid to victory. The raid leader is in charge of keeping the raid together, and leading them in the direction of success.

The Evolution of Raiding:

Raiding was most notably started in Everquest. At the time, Everquest was probably the greatest and most played MMORPG. Millions of players would log in to the virtual world, in order to interact with one another, embark on quests, and, once they reached the final level, raid boss dargons. Now, when raiding was first introduced, it was only for the most hardcore players to enjoy, as it required a tremendous amount of time and effort, both inside and outside of the instance walls. Add this to the 72 person raid limit and, you have achieved probably the most grand and socially involving mission gaming activity known to man. To this day, Everquest still holds the record for the largest amount of players required for a raid.
Soon, other games were picking up the raiding banner, including:

As graphics and games became more and more advanced, raids too began to get more and more advanced. Boss dargons evolved from simple "Tank and Spank Fights", to complex fights with multiple boss mechanics firing off at different times, all the while requiring raid members to play at the top of their games. After a few years, World of Warcraft (WoW) came onto the scene, drastically changing the raiding world forever.

The Evolution of Raiding in the World of Warcraft:

To begin with this segment, I would like to show you two screenshots. The first, is from Ragnaros' Lair, in Molten Core. The second, is from Ice Crown Citadel, at the Lich King's throne. The pictures represent the whole of WoW raiding, from the first raid, to the last current raid.

As you can see, Blizzard entertainment has done an amazing job of keeping up the visual aspects of raiding. If you can count on one thing, you can count on stunning and beautiful raiding environments, which help you immerse yourself in the expansive lore behind the game. WoW raiding began at level 60, in Molten Core. Molten Core was a 40 man raid, requiring guilds and groups to organize many different people to achieve success. However, 40 man raids more likely than not had very simplistic mechanics. Any particular boss in Molten Core had 3-4 core mechanics. Aggro dumps, mind controls, dispels and interrupts were the most common things raiders has to watch out for. Most of the time, certain classes were assigned to specifically do a certain thing during a fight, such as priests dispelling, or rogues interrupting. This was mainly due to the horrible issue of balancing during the early stages of WoW raiding. Every class had 3 talent trees, but only a few could utilize more than one of them. Warriors were always tank, druids and paladins were always healers. Because of this, Blizzard was able to make completely homogenized gear, usually having every single major stat on a certain piece of gear. Gear was limited to one set per class, and individual pieces dropped off of certain bosses, or certain trash packs. Each class had 8 pieces of set gear they could, and would gain special bonuses for wearing more than 1 piece of their set gear. Unlike in today's WoW, there were no non-tier set pieces of gear for most slots. You were required to use your tier set, lest you raid naked.

With the release of the Burning Crusade expansion, Blizzard began to improve upon their raiding environments. They maintained their elquent scenery, but dwindled their raid size from 40, to 10 or 25. Karahzan was the first 10 man raid instance released by Blizzard, and was a huge success, proclaimed by the general public. Karahzan was also Blizzard's first step towards better gear itemization. They reduced their tier set size from 8 to 5, and began having tier tokens drop off special bosses within the raid instance. The tokens could then be exchanged for spec specific tier gear. This received mixed reactions from the public, but was all in all a great success. With the release of bigger 25 man instances, Blizzard took a bigger move towards more casual raiding. Only the best of the best guilds were able to kill some bosses, such as Muru, but most guilds were able to clear through Black Temple. Sunwell brought back a little taste of the 8 piece tier sets, but was generally met with a lack of enthusiasm, thus Blizzard decided to close that idea out completely.

With the release of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard moved on to their current method of raid content, 10 and 25 versions of raid content. With the release of Ulduar, Blizzard also introduced their "Hardmode" versions of boss fights, in order to appease to the more hardcore of their player base. With the release of The Trial of The Crusader, came Blizzards newest method of letting players acquire tier gear, through the badge system. Players are able to receive badges whenever they run certain instances and raids, and once they have enough, they can buy their tier gear. This method of gearing has carried into Ice Crown Citadel, and is projected to carry into the new Expansion of Blizzard, Cataclysm.

Now, when you stop and think, what makes raiding truly special, I think everyone can agree that it is in fact the player base. I asked a few key members of my guild why the raided, and these are the responses I got:

Nazantia, a warlock in Vortex, is quoted as saying: "The motivation to raid is the same as it was to enter that first 5-man instance when I started WoW. We are social mammals, and this game does cooperative gameplay consistently better than just about anything out there. Teamwork, at its core, is quite rewarding. I don't know the precise brain chemical released when you overcome an obstacle as a group that you could never approach as an individual, but it is potent stuff."

Scythe, the resident raid leading feral kitty in Vortex, is quoted as saying: " I raid because, at the end of the day, it's fun. I enjoy building a close, high-performing team. I enjoy troubleshooting and figuring out a way to get 10-15 folks to work together better than nearly anyone else in the world. I enjoy doing more with less and doing it better than people who play more and have better gear. I enjoy immersing myself in the lore of the game. After all, if it's not fun, why would we do it?"

And finally, Malicave, who has recently undergone a main change to fit Vortex's raiding needs, and is also an award wining novelist, is reported as saying: "Why I raid:

Clearly, it's about increasing the item-level of my gear. The higher the item-level, the better I feel, because that number directly reflects how good I am at playing this game. My life has always been about showing people how good I am, after all; Blizzard has simply provided me an outlet for showcasing my skill in the virtual world.

End sarcasm.

Raiding is a project I undertake for three primary reasons: the lore of Warcraft, the logistic and performance challenges, and the social environment. To be more specific, I raid because I enjoy the experience; the reasons above are the best way for me to articulate why I enjoy the experience.

First, the lore: Blizzard has hidden many, many story arcs throughout WoW. Many of those arcs are restricted to the world of raiders, though: PvP-oriented players never have the opportunity to see why big baddies do what they do, or what happens to them as a result of their assault against Azeroth. Similarly, many of the quest lines and 5-man dungeons have burgeoning storylines that point players to raids to see "the real ending." I'm a fan of seeing things through to the end, and raiding is the main way that Blizzard relates the end of their stories to the players. As a glutton for good stories, I find myself chasing down lots of plotlines in lots of games. The quest text of WoW loses some of its impact after the first dozen "kill 10 rats" quests, but their raid-oriented dialogues raise that bar up to really showcase the story weaving its way through the game.

Second, the challenges: New add-ons, theorycraft, and increased computer strength constantly empower players to perform better in WoW. Blizzard responds to these new strengths in players through the difficulty imposed by raid bosses. Bosses invoke more mechanics, transition through more phases, and require more co-ordination from raiders with each passing tier of content (Tier 7 aside, arguably). Hard modes on these same encounters are yet another way to add layers of complexity for players to overcome. Because these challenges keep rising, I'm compelled to defeat them. I'm definitely a fan of strategy games, and so planning strategies for engaging raid bosses is a natural and fun leap for me to make. Once the logistics are laid out, I am just as excited to execute those tactics. Performing my role as best I can keeps me mentally engaged, which is one of the biggest selling points of any game for me. Mindless shooters lose my attention pretty quickly, but titles like Fire Emblem and Disgaea held my attention for many more hours than they took to complete. I love challenges, especially from a tactical standpoint, and Blizzard does their best work on delivering these challenges through their PvE content. The only up-to-date content is Raids, and thus raiding becomes my outlet.

Lastly, the social network: As I said, I loved games like Disgaea and Fire Emblem. Tactics games can invoke a lot of strategy, and they definitely have good storylines that keep me engaged (usually). But I find that I can't keep playing those games because I get lonely. It's fun for a couple hours after work, maybe, but they won't do for a whole Saturday off. I'm big on connecting with other people, and MMOs have provided a great way to facilitate that kind of interaction. We can chat and make jokes and do whatever else we might do over a phone or instant messenger. But then, I'll get bored of just idly talking unless there's some important discussion going on, or some other underlying activity. Playing cards with friends while chatting? Great. Trading snide remarks while duelling in an FPS? Perfect. Chatting through IM without something else to do? I burn out pretty quickly. But then there's WoW: same chat interfaces with a game attached directly. Suddenly, we're talking about that awesome kill we just pulled off in PvP, or that epic save that made a boss fall over in a raid. Raiding definitely emphasizes the need for social interaction, too: you don't stand a chance against current big bads when running solo.

So, that's my story: I love stories, I love the feeling of being challenged, and I love interacting with similarly-minded people. Stories I can get from anywhere, I can be challenged by lots of things inside and outside of games, and I can interact with people at work or through my friends; There are stories with challenges in many single-player strategy titles, Social stories I build with friends through role-playing campaigns in D&D and Shadowrun, and challenging social settings come up with many FPS duels or through WoW's PvP engine. Blizzard has provided one of the few avenues that actually synthesizes all three of these qualities for me, though, and is therefore one of my favorite things to do. WoW raiding provides a story-driven, mentally-challenging, and socially-involved experience that very few, if any other titles can parallel.

Put simply: WoW Raids are three great tastes that taste great together. Unlike so many other combinations (I still can't stand spicy chocolate, while I'm definitely a fan of each spicy food and chocolate in its own time), this particular synthesis is one that keeps me coming back."

As for me? Why do I raid?

I raid because I'm a creature of habit. I've raided all through Wrath, and I honestly feel like I should continue. Raiding is what I excel at. I've dabbled in PVP and it's just not my thing. I've tried playing First Person Shooters, I've tried playing RTS's, and I've failed miserably at all of them. I guess it seems like a continue with raiding because I enjoy doing something I'm good at. I'm a competitive player, as you can tell by the location of my Skada. I like to be the best, thus I try and do that with whatever I do. Raiding lets me do just that, compete against others in a controlled environment. However, at the end of the day, I love the social aspect. No matter how bad things may seem, I love the social closeness you get in a raiding guild. You meet those special people, whom you can talk about real life problems with. It's honestly a great thing, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love my guild, and the closeness that we have together. Plus I enjoy carrying Malicave in 3's.



Friday, July 23, 2010

And Down She Goes!


The past few weeks I've been holding off on posting on Thursdays and Mondays, in hopes of being able to say this: We've finally downed Sindragosa!

As some of you may or may not know, I semi-raid lead a 10 man progression group on my off-nights. This group is co-lead by my uncle and I, and it is pretty successful. Now, this group is basically strict-10, but they do do some 25 mans, but they are by no means over geared for the content. We have 2 Shadow's Edge ret paladins and a warlock with DFO, but other than that, everyone is in run-of-the-mill 251/264's.

The group did great in the first week, downing everything up to Sindragosa, however the Queen gave us quite a bit of trouble, requiring 4 weeks, and 2 extended lock-outs to kill. However, through our valiant effort, and my awesome raid leading, we downed her. On the first attempt of the night might I add. GOGO 30% buff.

In other news:

  • I've reached level 20 in LoL (league of legends). For those who don't know what that is, they should really check it out. It's a really fun and free game, and I enjoy playing it in my off time, which I have none of since I raid 6 nights a week -.-.
  • Grommsol of Vortex has completed his Thunderfury. Grom and I have been running MC for weeks, trying to get my T1 set. 2 weeks ago we got the binding off of Garr, and this past week we got the binding from Baron AND the Eye of Sulfurus. All I need to do now is collect the Sulfuron Ignots and I'll have myself a nice hammer to go along with my Tranq spam set.
  • Vortex is making great progress on Halion 10 HC. I expect a kill coming soon.
  • Malicave's computer spontaneously combusted during our raid Wednesday Night. He needs to fix it so we can play 3's. Our 3v3 SpellCleave team is very close to hitting 1400, and I feel like we can make it to at least 1900 by the end of the season.
  • Vortex is still recruiting a Ret/Holy paladin or an Enhance/Resto shaman. If you're interested, please have a greatly maintained off-set as well as your main set. The healing set is a requirement, as it will make me not have to heal anymore <3.>
  • I have a date Saturday, with a real girl. =S

That's all for now. Expect a video or me healing a heroic with just Tranquility soon. I just need to get with Bobbyobyoby and get some free time. But, Gooood-bye for now!



Saturday, July 17, 2010

I haz new UI

So, since my guildies all think my UI is complete mess, I decided to build my own. What I came up with seems to please most of them, especially the 50 female raiders we have.

Oh, and to kill two birds with one stone. I got my full t1 set today =D. TRANQ SPAM FTW



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Get on the Bus!!

So, I was sitting on vent complaining about how I haven't updated in like a week. We were discussing what I should blog about, when Bobby yells, GET ON THE BUS. Now, Get On The Bus is a recurring joke in Vortex. When I transfered over I was originaly Rolarda, but I changed to Beranabus after being threatened with the nickname Lard. So, Bus has stuck, and now Get on The Bus is said quite often.

Get on the Bus.