Another Dungeon Finder story

19 March 2010 § 6 Comments

Admit it: we want Dungeon Finder stories to be about the  underdog proving he can tank/heal/dps way above his/her gear, and thus teaching the elitist pricks that doubted his/her ability a valuable lesson. We want them to be something like this, or like all the story that are popping up in the new Classified column at wow.com – a feel-good tale that Hollywood would like. I guess I’m just not that lucky, and get stuck with more traditional stories.

The time: yesterday. The place: Halls of Lightning PuG. I zone in with Tsark, and see a warlock in T10, a rogue in ICC gear, a hunter and a DK. Now, clearly, the tank has to be the DK, except he’s sporting 22k health with Fortitude. No problem, I think, he must be in dps gear. Then he says: “Ready?” and moves for the pull, and his health is still in the 24k region. Oh well, it’s HoL, I’m certainly geared enough to keep a new tank up, let’s see how it goes. I choose not to say anything, mostly because I don’t want people to leave group – I want to be able to finish this run and tell them: “See? You don’t need 40k health and ICC epics to do Heroics”. Of course, the dps have not even looked at the tank’s gear, and open up immediately with their AoE attacks on the first big group. I heal all of them, except the rogue that gets to help Loken redecorate the floor of his instance. As I rez him, I try the cautious approach, stating something like “if you haven’t noticed, our tank is a bit undergeared, so maybe we can wait a bit before unloading dps, and help him all the way we could?”.

The reaction is actually encouraging – a few grumbles, but mostly acceptance. So we keep going, get the first boss down and move to the Slag room. Throughout this time, the warlock has more healing received than the tank – it seems his entire action bar is nothing but seed of corruption, and our tank must have forgot to train D&D, so the mix is quite explosive. I don’t mind too much – if nothing else, it spices up a run that is normally quite dull. After that first rogue death, no-one else dies. We’re going a bit more slowly, but hey, that’s fine. In the meantime, I inspect the tank, and discover that his gear is worse than I thought: quest reward blues (with one green) and a weapon out of Forge of Souls. The gear is also ungemmed and unenchanted. I don’t know whether he’s def capped – he may well be, or at least he doesn’t get insta-gibbed by bosses. At the same time, enchants, even cheap ones, can add some considerable amount of stats – as do gems (although, in fairness, it was only a couple of gem slots anyway). Let’s not even talk about low-level craftables (Titansteel, how long I used thee).

So anyway – slag room. I brace myself for pain suppressing the tank, and hope that the rogue can survive with his own tricks (Cloak and whatever). However, I’m surprised to see the tank stop in the middle of the room and move to a side alcove. While I hang back and heal, some of the dps moves forward to the stairs, and gets more mobs. So the tank now has to run to get the new ones, ends up on the stairs, and promptly explodes when all the slags die on him. I pick him up, and watch in increasing astonishment as: a. the tank gives crap to the dps , because they didn’t “stop where he did”; b. the dps retorts that he should have gone “to the right spot” (which I presume is the stairs, arguably the right spot because a Titan came down one day and decreed “thou shalt tank the slags on the stairs and on the stairs only”); c. a window pops up, announcing someone started a vote to kick the tank.

I vote no, the vote passes anyway. As we queue again for another tank, I question the dps and of course, the excuse is “we were going too slow, we couldn’t reach our dps potential”. The possibility of not needing 6k+ dps in Halls of Lightning is not, apparently something that was considered.

So why am I blogging about this? Mostly, because the whole run left me with a strange feeling. I don’t think I personally could have done things differently: I tried to heal the tank and the group, and on average, did a decent job at it. I also voted “no” to the kick – because I’m stubborn, and want to finish stuff I start. Was the dps to blame? Yes, because they all voted yes to kicking a tank who was, in the end, not worse than the average DF tank – they were just looking at gear, and lamenting the fact that they had to push more than one button to get through a Heroic. Was the tank the victim? Not really – no crafted gear, no enchants and no gems really is asking for it, when you already are a fresh 80. Money to get the crafted gear is really not much of an issue these days, or shouldn’t be at least. Also, his tanking was less than spectacular: more often than not he would miss mobs in groups, which would proceed towards me until the first seed of corruption popped, or I faded, when they would go towards the warlock.

All in all, I think it’s the same old story: mismatched expectations, very different levels of interest in doing things in a slightly more difficult way – and a lot of miscommunication. If the tank had recognised that his gear wasn’t very good, and that he hadn’t had the time/money/inclination to gem and enchant it, we all might have laughed with him and kept going. If the dps had been a bit more mature about spending 5 mins more in the instance (which we ended up doing anyway, while we waited for the new tank), we could have gone through the rest fairly easily. Alas, we all reverted to easier schemas of communication – and the consequences might be minor, but it still disappoints me…

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Sex, talk and videogames

11 January 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s now more than a month since 3.3 is released, so I guess it’s time for me to talk a bit about the Dungeon Finder. To start, kudos to Blizzard for turning what was always an awkward system that they tinkered with several times (LFG channel, meeting stones/innkeepers, global LFG channel, LFG tool) into a fantastic addition to the game. Even more interestingly, they took two pieces of infrastructure that they put in place for other reasons (the cross-realm queueing for BGs and the cross-realm instances to solve the “additional instances cannot be launched” issue) and combined them in a new way (with a new algorythm to match roles and gear etc) – nice example of emergent strategy and tinkering.

So then, the LFG tool. I want to make two comments that partly echo what others have said – and then add my own perspective to a third issue. First is that I’m surprised at how well things are working out. Sure, you have the occasional douchebags: from the people who are asleep at the wheel and pulling 1k dps (sorry, was doing that at 70, you MUST do better at 80 – no gear excuse), to the assholes that like to blame the others (especially prevalent in Halls of Reflection – but the Douche award goes to this guy), to the idiots who leave group if it’s Oculus, to the tanks who leave group if it’s not the exact instance they want (clearly they prefer waiting 15 mins for the debuff to clear – and I agree tanks are the new prima donnas). But I also met some great people, from the rogue who tanked Skadi from 60% to 0% when the tank and the other 2 dps failed to move out of whirlwind (sorry, only so many miracles I can do) to the guys that are thankful if I try to explain the bosses in the new instances if they say they are seeing them for the first time.

Second, many people have compared this to casual sex. Now, I don’t know what kind of casual sex you guys have had, and maybe I’ve been lucky but… no, just no comparison. Casual sex still beats LFG tool, sorry. I guess I’m not enough of a WoW junkie (or maybe I’m too much of a dirty slut IRL? One of the two…). For once, you actually talk MORE during casual sex than the average Dungeon Finder PUG. There’s this “code of silence” that really drives me nuts: not as if people cannot spare 2 mins to say “hello” and a couple of other one-liners. In fact, this silence is, as I hope to show, one of the biggest problems of the Dungeon Finder tool.

The biggest snag in the Dungeon Finder system (and so we get to the REAL topic of today’s post) is that there’s five people in that instance. They don’t know each other. Chances are, they haven’t played with each other before. In a best case scenario, they all want the same thing (2 Emblems of Frost in the shortest time), and have the gear that makes this goal attainable. The worst thing to do, however, is to assume precisely that- because no matter what we think, people are different and there’s different options for each instance. Some people may want to kill all possible bosses to get as many Emblems of Triumph as possible: Gundrak, Old Kingdom and Halls of Stone allow you to skip bosses, so it’s important to know where people stand on this issue if you have one of these three instances (I think theoretically you can skip the Commander boss in Nexus, but he’s in the way if you take the shortest route through the bosses anyway). Some people don’t have the gear to keep up with a whirlwind-pace run: not a big problem if it’s a dps (it will just take a smidge of times longer), a bit more of a problem if it’s a healer or (worse) the tank. Some people may actually have other priorities in the instance, too: witness this conversation I had with my druid:

DF Tank: druid, u lagging? y u not w/ us?
Me: I’m skinning
DF Tank: wtf? i’m chain pulling

Me: and I’m skinning….

Aside from the surrealist character of the conversation, the point I was making is, I think, a valid one: my druid still values the leathers, and dungeons are a good source (my only source, since I don’t much quest with him anymore, and I’m not gonna grind mobs to get leather). If the tank wants to pull without a healer, that’s his problem (as long as I’m not taking 15-mins tea breaks between pulls, obviously).

Differences in pace preferences can lead to cans of worms all over the place. The tank may pull ahead of the healer and die – or viceversa, the dps (or the healer!) may get impatient and “help” tanks pull. This doesn’t go down well with our plate queens. Before Linedan and the other tanks start cursing my name and blacklisting me, let me qualify that. I think tanks are control freaks: they want every little thing under control, so that mobs die in a certain order, they are all attacking them, and nothing bad happens. DPS, for the most part, are chaos kids: they jump into groups of mobs and start AoEing everything, and you can almost hear them over the game shouting: “Wheeeeeee!” as they spam their AoE moves. (I’ll refrain from saying what healers are: as far as I’m concerned they are Saints purging the sins of the world with nary a recognition – and this is the version I’ll be sticking with, even if it’s irrelevant for today’s post). The problem is: to chain pull an instance (or, worse, a raid) and keep perfect control, you need an inordinate amount of skill. The other problem: total control is boring if you’re outgearing an instance, as a dps or a healer.

I’ve been in both situations (yay alts!): the reason for this post in fact was reading the post by Linedan and then, the following day, tanking an HoL run with a stellar team of dps from my guild, and a PUG resto druid in ToTC25 gear. Everyone was really trying their best to make my job easier: the druid was innervating me, the tank, every two minutes; all the dps was handling the easier mobs (the casters, basically) without me; we completed it in just above 15 mins; and it was still a run I thoroughly hated. Tanking doesn’t come natural to me, and having to do it at twice the speed I’d be choosing on my own was too much stress for a game. I like being pushed outside my comfort zone: that’s the main reason I play an enhancement shaman and a paladin tank, neither of which role is a natural for me. But that’s exactly the problem: baseline, normal speed tanking is pushing me already. Doing it at breakneck speed is turning “pushing outside comfort zone and improving my game” into “pure stress”.

The solution is pretty simple: communicate. If you, as a tank, want to try to go fast, say so at the beginning. If, as a healer, you outgear Heroics so much you hardly need to drink, make it clear to the tank. If, on the other hand, you want to go a bit more slowly, let everyone know. If you want to skip bosses and just get to the end one, ask if everyone is ok with it.  I really think these 2 mins of communication would make everyone’s life a lot easier, at the very least by aligning everyone’s expectation. Who knows? Maybe we’ll manage to make people realise that they 1 min they lose by stating out their preferences for that run would really help everyone (themselves included) avoid any undue stress. Or at least once they do have some casual sex, they’ll know that they’ll still need to talk to their partner, or just turn it into bad sex.

Learning and whining – the two faces of wiping

15 September 2009 § 2 Comments

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been leveling a druid to 80. He was the last alt I had got to 70 before Wrath hit, and after about a level as Feral, I decided I didn’t like that, and switched over to Balance. Fast forward to 76, when I made the big step of buying dual spec, and went Resto. Then yesterday, at 78, I see a call in a chat channel for a healer for Trial of the Champion. Given the quality of loot in there, I decided to go. Turns out the tank, an 80 warrior, was not very experienced (his first time in there) nor very well geared (26k health with Mark of the Wild). And of course, my Resto experience is quite limited, having healed only two instance runs formerly.

So we wiped. A lot. About 4-5 times on the Champions, once on Paletress, 3 times on the Black Knight. And at first, I thought it was my fault for not keeping up the tank, or the tank’s fault for not grabbing the mage (who proceeded to annihilate me), or use his cooldowns, etc. Then I started asking more questions: “Was Grounding Totem down?”; “Can we interrupt the mage?”; “Please Purge the Renews”; “Any chance we can Frost Trap the Ghoul?”; “Was Cleansing Totem down?”

In all cases, I pointed out stuff that hadn’t been happening before, and that did improve our next attempts. The tank had a fantastic attitude, trying to figure out what went wrong and to improve the next attempt. I was figuring out what to do with all my HoTs, and learning how to handle situations of tank at 50% health, with 3 HoTs on him, Swiftmend and NS on cooldown…

One of the group members started complaining about the tank to me in whispers – he and I had known each other for a long time, so I think he assumed he would find a sympathetic ear. He was complaining that he was “tired of training tanks, that they should know what to do”. In other words, he was blaming the tank for all the wipes, and whining about it. That’s when I started asking about the various things DPS could have done to improve the situation, and had not – and whispered back to him I was tired of training the DPS.

This however made me think. Aside from my snarky comment, I actually wasn’t frustrated. Sure, I would have preferred one-shotting everything and completing the instance in 15 mins, but all in all, I thought it was ok. It’s not that I enjoyed the wiping, but I enjoyed learning more about druid healing, from using Nature’s Grasp, to Barkskin, to Dash, to all the more normal healing spells – and the wiping was a mild side effect to it. Instances are easy when we go with our ultra-geared alts, but I think they’re also a LOT of fun to do when we’re pushing the envelope of our abilities, when we not only have to do max dps, but also interrupt, cleanse, off-heal, off-tank, kite, etc. These are all playing skills that will become useful in other contexts, when we will be faced with difficult encounters, like raids. I think too often we blame other people, instead of thinking about what WE could have done to help. If the tank is undergeared, reducing incoming damage through interrupts is even more important. If the healer has 13k health, we need to kill the ghouls quickly, and make sure they are not on him. In other words, people need to adapt, and learn how to use ALL their abilities, and not just the three in the max-dps rotation.

Whining and learning are really the two possible answers to wiping – neither changes what happened before, but learning tries to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to always learn from my wipes, and never get frustrated. But it’s good to rationalize why some wipes with some groups are so frustrating, while other times I can wipe with no end in sight, and still feel like I’ve accomplished something.

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