I Love Hardmode Raiding

I was searching through my emails the other day for something from my raid leader. I never delete anything ever, so I spotted a really old one– it was entitled “Still need a prot paladin?” and dated 2/16/2011. Today is 2/16/2012. I was floored to realize that it’s been a year– a whole year! — exactly, since I first found my guild.

I can’t believe it’s been that long. A year is nothing compared to most people’s raid careers, and I have raided in general for a long longer than that, but it’s been a very happy year of raiding for me. It means a lot to me to realize that I have been with my guild for that long … and that I still like it just as much as the day that I joined.

A lot of people write and blog about their frustrations. I certainly do. But sometimes it’s more important to write about what you are actually happy with, and what you enjoy.

Well, I like raiding! I love it, and sometimes I feel like I’m the last of a dying breed. I have wanted to post for a long time about why — and I guess that starts with the story of how I found my guild.

High Expectations

I complain a lot. I sometimes feel like I’m one of those people who goes through life unhappy with everything. My twitter feed is full of complaint, I constantly and happily QQ about everything around me. I am sure I frustrate lots of the people I know with my inability to just plain be happy with whatever I am doing at the time. Raiding was like that for me, two years ago, when I was raiding with my casual raiding guild and just got too frustrated to stick around. I wanted to like it, but I just wasn’t happy. I resigned from the raiding core, and decided to search for something different.

After I had left, I got a little bit depressed about my inability to find satisfaction in this silly game. I figured it was a character flaw of mine– ye olde “It’s not you, it’s me.” A normal person playing World of Warcraft would be very happy to just hang out and joke around in raid. I took the game too seriously, or maybe I was mean and awful to other people around me, or I enjoyed calling people out for their mistakes or something. Maybe I got some kind of elitist pleasure out of telling people they were wrong. Because that is what hardcore raiders do, right? They enjoy yelling at the people around them, and troll anyone who is not gifted with the spare time to raid 5 nights a week for 5 hours a night. Oh, and the only difference was time, too. Hardcore raiders just spend a stupid amount of time on the game, they devote their whole life to it, and all they do is kill things a little bit faster and brag all the time to make lesser mortals feel bad.

Right.

I spent about six weeks not raiding in my old guild, just looking for a new home. I don’t think they missed me all that much, but I am pretty sure that they were very irritated with me leaving and talked about me quite a bit both behind my back & to my face. An officer in the guild told me flat out it was a shame I was leaving the most friendly guild ever to, basically, get screamed at by some nerd in the internet whenever I made the slightest mistake.

I was really afraid, deep down, that he was right. I wouldn’t be up for it. I would like to think of myself as a friendly person, and I’m also a female raider without a very thick skin… I imagined myself in some egotistical guild full of jerks who threw around racial epithets and made fun of each other meanly all the time. Was that what I wanted to do?

The Transition

I wanted to raid more, so I went looking for a 4 night guild that was not too crazy, but was reasonably progressed and focused. There are very few guilds like that, and even fewer that were recruiting a tank at the time. It was not a brief search.

Then I found a guild that looked about right, in a post on Maintankadin looking for a prot paladin. The crazy thing was that they only raided 3 nights a week, and yet they were like 2 bosses ahead of the 4 night guilds I’d been looking at. Obviously this was Something Wicked. I was pretty afraid of whether or not the raid leader would be a jerk (see: previous comments about what I was told to expect). So I asked him if he would get on vent and talk to me, so I could try to figure out what it would be like to raid with the person who was of course going to yell and scream at me a lot every time I messed up. To my surprise, he didn’t sound much like a jerk at all.

He asked me something like, “How are you going to respond to criticism? You’re a tank and that means your mistakes are going to wipe the raid a lot– and I am going to tell you when you make one. So I have to know how you are going to handle it.” What was I supposed to say? I think I told him honestly that I had no idea, but that I really prefer to know about my mistakes and would try my best to fix them. I had a vague idea though, from talking to him, that he this guild didn’t sound like a place where people were jerks. It just sounded like a place where people really, really wanted to kill very hard bosses and to do so efficiently. So I put in an app, was accepted, and went to my first raid.

My first raid was a mess.

It was the most terrifying, stressful, and crazy night I have ever had in World of Warcraft.

It was H Conclave and I joined right in the middle of stressful mid-progression on that fight, and to make matters worse, we (as we later found out) used a very stupid strategy that put the least geared tank (me) in an almost unsurvivable position. I cannot tell you how very, very, very nervous I was and how very scary it was. Probably 90% of those wipes that night were due to my death.

I will try to communicate my massive culture shock by picking out and describing the biggest change.

Wipe recovery. Something Wicked wipe recovers very, very fast. This is something typical of hard mode raids, and it is something we specifically hear even from people who come from other hard mode raids to join us. Coming from a very casual, very social guild, this was more jarring than you could possibly imagine. There was no time, barely any time at all between attempts. I was paniced, I had to focus hard, for 4 straight hours. I have a very clear memory of flying from the graveyard back into the instance, desperately fiddling with recount trying to access my own death log while the question came out over vent (again): “So… what killed you?” and I knew I only had the length of the flight to figure it out. I remember sitting down to the feast and then rewriting power auras in exactly 10 seconds while I ate. And I also remember realizing that– even though I felt the need to make sure I was ready fast– it was better to hold up the pull to ask a question if I really needed to ask, and better to clarify than to wipe us due to my own confusion. Time management, of our limited time in raid, that was the biggest thing to learn upon joining.

So in the midst of all this crazy newness and change, while I died over and over and over to my first real hard mode encounter… How did I feel? I was pretty scared, and I didn’t have time to think of anything except how not to die. There was no time to think, just to focus and to figure out what was going wrong.

But I remember the moment when I realized I was in the right place, that this guild was pretty good, and it happened in that very first raid. One of the warlocks commented on something he noticed out of recount, about someone else’s mistake or death. It was not mean, it was just a piece of information he thought would be helpful. A serious, brief conversation ensued about what mistake was made and how to avoid it next time.

I was floored. Now this… this was new. Somehow this raid was capable of identifying and addressing mistakes without anyone getting super defensive or running off in tears or getting offended.

I mean, it was a pretty frustrating night, and people were definitely frustrated on vent, and I’m not saying we were all cheerful people (I am definitely not cheerful, I whine and complain allllllllllll the time). It was probably one of the more frustrating raids I’d ever had. But at the same time, I got the feeling that we were all frustrated together… and that we were all working hard to fix it. And I loved it. Even though I was dying over and over and over.

So I knew, in that very first crazy raid, where I probably died and wiped the raid 50 times myself, that I had found the perfect place for me.

(Of course, then I had to stress out for a month about whether they would like me and accept me, but somehow I faked them all into thinking I am a good enough player that they did, and here I am, a year later, a veteran and even a mainspec DPS.)

The Skill Gap

The devs often say there is a very wide skill gap between HM raiders and pug raiders, and that HM raiders don’t really “get” the difference. I think that is true, but I think the gap is not skill at all. It’s attitude.

I don’t think that HM raiders have some kind of magic better skill at pushing buttons than most raiders. In fact I am pretty sure we all start off in this game making the same number of mistakes.

I am absolutely sure that HM raiders have a completely different attitude though towards error correction. Most players hate wiping, and failure. We see it as a challenge to overcome, and a challenge that doesn’t wipe us a lot is really no challenge at all. Most players see errors as frustrating blots. We see an error as an opportunity to improve. The important thing is to raid in a guild where you don’t just trust your fellow raiders to get it right… you want to raid with a bunch of people that you still trust when they get something wrong. Because the whole point of wiping to a HM boss is to get things less and less wrong until eventually everyone reaches a level of not-mistake-ness that is good enough to kill the boss dead.

It makes us crazy. I totally admit that it is reasonable for the vast majority of people who play this game to dislike wiping a whole lot on a boss, when wiping frustrates everyone and forces them to look at all the different ways that everyone made mistakes. The point of a game is to have fun, not to die all the time and spend 4 hours figuring out which mistake this time wiped the raid. It is truly crazy to enjoy this. But I am happy to be crazy when the people who I am hanging out with are crazy like me.

And then it feels pretty damn good to kill that boss after all that work. And who knew? I didn’t have to spend 5 nights a week or hang out with people who yell at each other all the time to do it.

I Still Love Raiding – No Really, I Do

So I’m just going to throw this out there.

I still love raiding. I like raiding mostly because I raid in a hardmode guild, and I have for the last year, and I am quite happy to continue to raid for the forseeable future with them.

Sometimes I will be sitting there, after 3 hours of frustration on something stupid — like, not even progression, sometimes we will be sitting there wiping on some farm boss that we’ve killed several times before… so frustrating … and suddenly I will remember what it was like before I found my guild. Back before when I raided with people who were afraid to admit mistakes, or got massively defensive every time they did something wrong. Back when I used to stress out and worry whether mentioning a mistake would piss someone off, or make them really stress out and flip out, and worry about whether I sounded like an awful and mean person… Back when I didn’t trust that we would all get frustrated together, when we are being stupid, and make a concerted effort together to overcome our own mistakes and to kill bosses neatly and cleanly.

So I still love raiding. That is the point of this post.

And I will be honest, I don’t like all raiding. I love hard mode raiding in particular. I think it’s really fun to spend my 12 hours a week doing it, and I think it’s really fun, and I do in fact brag about our cool kills on twitter. (I also note when we are silly noobs too).

I guess I just wanted to write this post because most of the time, people write blog posts about when they are unhappy or frustrated with things, myself included. Well, this isn’t one of those posts. This is a post about how much I LIKE raiding. Raiding is cool and hard mode raiding is really cool, and I like it.

I have liked it for a year, and I see no reason to stop anytime soon.

(Even though Pandaclysm is coming… I still plan to raid!)

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26 Responses to I Love Hardmode Raiding

  1. Saltycracker says:

    If only you and Theck were in a guild, he could carry you in the game just like he carries you in the blog

    <3 Salty

  2. You love more your guild mates, then raiding probably, but still what makes this game fun are the cool people we sometimes find.
    HA and I miss my raiding days,even if he never did HM.
    Very good read your post.

    • anafielle says:

      Thanks! I am glad you got that from this post. Each one of us should find what makes us happy in the game and raid with those people who share the same goals and want to play the same way, doesn’t matter if it’s HM or what. Thanks for the comment :D

  3. Pliers says:

    I like your post. As someone who usually comments on the negative rather than drawing attention to the positive, I think it’s great to have a positive post about liking where things are for you.

    I remember when you started looking for a new guild, and even tried to find a place for you in my old guild. I’m glad you decided not to settle and turned that opportunity down, because you eventually found a much better match. Little did I know that I’d find myself making a similar choice a few months later.

    You mentioned the “shaming” you had to deal with when you were looking for a new place. I think that is super common for people looking to try hardcore raiding for the first time. You’re saying “I’m unhappy”, and they hear “you guys aren’t good enough for me.” It’s a really rough situation, and I think a lot of people who leave without telling their guilds what’s going on is due to them trying to avoid the kind of conversation you talk about.

    If I had to say there was only one difference between casual and hardcore guilds, I’d say it’s what they’re trying to accomplish. At the risk of overgeneralizing:

    A casual guild tries to “make everyone happy”. That might mean clearing normal modes and stopping, or staying upbeat even if people don’t pull their weight, or playing with people you like regardless of how far that gets you, or not worrying about raids outside of raid time, or any number of other possibilities. The goal is happiness, and you get there using the tools at your disposal.

    A hardcore guild isn’t there to make you happy. It’s there to provide you with a group of other people capable of downing end game content, and leadership capable of guiding you there. Instead of having a goal of happiness and trying to find a path there, a hardcore guild already has the path outlined – minimize personal mistakes, maximize macro-performance – and makes you decide if that is what will make you happy or not. It has nothing to do with thinking you’re better than others.

    Hardcore raiding is not so different from the casual side of things, except that your happiness depends on other people doing their jobs as best they can, and their happiness depends on you doing the same. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s easy to see why a hardcore player would get frustrated with their casual guild, and why a casual player would struggle to understand why someone might want to leave their guild. Everyone wants to have fun, but people who match the personalities of one group are almost always going to be unhappy in the other. In the end, they’re just two different philosophies. Many casual players could do well in a hardcore guild. It isn’t that they’re not talented enough, but that they wouldn’t enjoy the process.

    • anafielle says:

      Thanks Pliers! Except now that you’ve commented what you emailed to me, I cannot copy it and shamelessly plagarize it for a blog post. The internet knows, IT KNOWS! :(

      I absolutely agree that there are tons and tons of people who would be fantastic hardcore raiders but who would not enjoy it, and have a lot more fun in a more casual environment. I am sure all HM guilds get apps like this who are very good players but who realize they simply enjoy the game more in a different environment.

      Where you raid is less about how skilled you are, and more about your attitude and whether your attitude fits in with the attitude of the people around you. People’s goals for happiness in the game change and raiding is, in the end, about doing what makes you happy. The trick is to find people with the same standards for happiness as you and hang out with them.

  4. Sunnier says:

    “[...] guild full of jerks who threw around racial epithets and made fun of each other meanly all the time.”

    Not gonna lie, this pretty much describes my guild, Rocket Surgery. Though they like to call it trolling. Sometimes I wish I could have found a guild with a friendlier culture. =/

    I like what you said about how there’s really a very small skill difference between “hardcore” and “casual”. It’s all attitude, consistency, ability to respond to criticism, and fast wipe recovery. And I love hardmode raiding, too. :)

    • anafielle says:

      Oh yes, I have met some of your more impressive characters. They are fun in small doses! Anyways I hear RS has a very nice bear tank.

      I like your list of four things there about HM raiding, because you mention one I did not — consistancy — and it’s a huge one, especially for a tank (my not-a-tank anymore is showing). Thanks for the response!!

  5. Matty says:

    This is a wonderful post: thank you so much! I thoroughly enjoy reading about anyone’s passions. People often think that to be passionate about something means no pain – but just the opposite. Well said, and appreciated!

  6. Ophelie says:

    Knowing your previous guild, it’s funny to see them referred to as “very casual, very social”. Compared to *my* previous guild, they are totally hardcore. ^_^ Goes to show how wide the spectrum is.

    I’ve never been in a guild as high end as yours, but I’ve played in guilds of different attitudes, and your observations are pretty similar to mine. I keep joking that the main difference between casual and progressive guilds are how fast they pull/recover from wipes.

    At the end of my time with TS, I felt a lot like what you described about your feelings toward your casual guild. I could *understand* my guildies, but the raids were torture. I got angry at my guildies for being too slow, or being distracted, or just not caring about raids. And they were confused as to why I’d rather concentrate on fights than talk about sports. Luckily, they were really supportive and even helped me find a new guild.

    I guess, at the end of the day, it all depends what you want to do with your 15$/month. There’s no “right” answer, except for choosing to play with people who like to play the way you do.

  7. Zaey says:

    “You’re all a bunch of jerks!” – Ana 2/16/12

  8. Miri says:

    Nice post Ana =) It’s true that we usually dwell on the bad and not highlight the good–which makes this post very nice and an enjoyable read!

    I too, like you, wonder if most people think that I am usually unhappy because of how I express myself. I’ve tried to migrate from being the “glass half empty” person and being the “there’s a glass with something in it” sort of mindset. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    I am the malcontent. I am the one to shake things up. It’s just my personality. I abhor stagnation and the lack of acknowledgement for effort (or lack thereof). By nature, I’m not usually confrontational (no matter what Twitter may lead you to believe! ;) ), but if something festers long enough, you’ll see me say my piece, not mince words, and probably not say what people want to hear. It’s not something I do heartlessly–it’s something I do because I think that as a whole, we can do better. I push because I know we can do better–not because I’m a jerk.

    And maybe that’s why I enjoy Hard-Mode raiding too. Not to triumphantly say “YOU SUCK,” but more of less that it isn’t stagnation–it’s making me actively think and change “the standard.” It engages my mind and my hands on the keyboard. It makes me sit back and think of ways to improve. And that’s why I like the randomness of my job outside of WoW. I never know what each day is going to bring, but the fact that I have to make split-second decisions that impact a group beyond myself makes me find comfort that I can continue to do that in WoW Hard Modes.

    Best of luck with your continued progression and congrats on your anniversary with SW!

  9. Derevka says:

    I R Disapoint that theres no “AND I GET TO RAID WITH MY FAVORITE PRIEST DEREVKA” in this post. D-:

  10. Masith says:

    As a HM raider I have to thank you for this post. A lot of the WoW community has had a fairly negative feel during Cataclysm and daft though it sounds its great to be reminded how much I actually enjoy HM raiding. It is somtimes easy to get lost in all the QQ..

    I think it is also important that hardmode raiders speak out and try and destroy the stereotype of the unpleasant environment where you will “get screamed at by some nerd in the internet whenever I made the slightest mistake”. This is certainly not true of my guild and yet as recruitment officer I am often asked about it by players making the step up to HM raiding one even straight out saying “it’s not going to be like the army is it?”.

    The sad thing about this stereotype is how many players with a hardmode mentality stay in casual guilds making themselves and their guild unhappy because of a fear of this stereotype.

  11. Roldarin says:

    Skill matters. Raid awareness is a skill. Keeping track of multiple things is a skill. Moving at the right time while picking one of your many skills at the right time is a skill. Although the basics of raiding CAN be picked up by almost anyone, not always as fast as some HM raiding guilds require.

    And I would have loved HM raiding SO much more if mistakes were an opportunity to learn. But that was never my experience. Mistakes were met with scorn from the leadership. The basic feeling I got in most of my raids could summed up in: “DPS MOAR! YOU SUCK!” If a particular fight went badly, they whipped out the damage meters, picked the lowest person on it (even if they were in the worst gear) and berated them in front of the entire raid. I guess the thinking was if they publicly shamed someone enough, that would magically make them better. Or make them quit.

    Asking questions was sometimes looked down upon. I actually had a class leader tell the raid “If you still have to ask questions at this point in the Tier, then you don’t belong here.” Clarifying minutiae to improve yourself was a BAD thing. Not surprisingly, hardly anyone asked questions.

    This what HM raiding sometimes is. And this is what the casuals probably think its like all the time, since their worst experiences in 5 mans looks just like that.

    • Esoth says:

      Two possibilities for your experience there I think

      1) Your guild was poorly managed. This isn’t necessarily a symptom of a corrosive raiding paradigm and even if you experienced this in a couple guilds I will still argue that anecdotal data isn’t particularly relevant. Anyway, poorly managed guilds can and do happen but it’s not something that game designers can design around. Hopefully the game is healthy enough that can players can leave dysfunctional guilds and try again with another guild, or create a new one.

      2) The guild in question was not an appropriate fit for you at your current skill level. I agree completely that most raiders should be able to make some mistakes on the condition that they learn from them. But this game is 7 years old, with the genre being older than that, and there are guilds that cater to all different skill levels. If someone is attempting a skill level that they just aren’t ready for, that guild is rightly not going to be tolerant of those mistakes. Hopefully the guild will be professional enough to cut off ties without being an asshole about it (“we don’t think you’re right for this guild” is certainly not the same as “you suck and should quit the game”!) and hopefully that player finds something more appropriate. The guild may also be #1 though, or the player might think he/she is better than they are and the guild is doing this out of some personal beef or whatever chauvinism. Also, all of our members make mistakes on occasion, but that reality is not going to stop the leaders or anyone else in the raid from identifying fixable problems. If mage #1 looks vastly different than mage #2 on DPS, one of them is probably doing something wrong and it is entirely appropriate to bring this up as soon as possible. It’s not about blaming one of those mages for the wipe (at least not at this stage), it is about getting them on the same page; about identifying/fixing problems asap.

  12. Cathmor says:

    I <3 Something Wicked

  13. Sil says:

    My first raid tryout with a 25-man HM guild was for Halfus HM.
    I was scared to death, completely understuffed compared to the other raiders.
    The guild was in fact doing its first tries on this boss and they took newbies like me!

    I was absolutely shocked at the quiet ts. No rants no shouting no panic no frustration. Each wipe was quickly analyzed, healers talking to healers on the healer channel, tanks with tanks on the tank channel and so forth.

    I was not evaluated on raw metrics such as dps but much more precisely on things like uptime and advice was given how to improve in which face.

    And we did down it on my first tryout day!

    To this day this was one of my best memories of raiding.

    To further your point I agree that the main difference between HM and casual guild is attitude, the willingness to do the right thing to down the boss – even if it means less toping of the dps / hps / whatever chart.

    Still, there are huge skill differences too. The most important one probably being raid and encounter awareness and the second one the speed (move out of the fire quickly, group quickly when needed, disband quickly when needed and so forth). And many more.

    • anafielle says:

      Hehe, that was a lot like my first raid. Totally shocked that they took apps to progression (my guild makes a point of it… some guilds don’t, yours and mine clearly do). People discussing the fight in different channels. Quiet vent, calm voices, total focus.

      I agree w/ all your comments. I did leave out raid awareness; HM raiders are probably better at multitasking (although I think they also take such things more seriously). Thanks for the commentary!

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