After two years of soft camping and forcibly putting it off, I’ve finally given in to the burning need to attempt The Camp for the Time-Lost Protodrake. (On that note, if it’s not a burning need for you, don’t try it. Even with all my perfectionist compulsions tying me to the Storm Peaks, I am finding this one fairly trying.)

My server is essentially dead, so it’s not been going too badly. With my handy F2P Alliance alt running regular /who Storm Peaks for sign of competition and my main doing the same Horde-side, I have encountered maybe three people soft-camping, and they cleared off after I’d melted their faces a few times. I heard of a corpse sighting at 13.48 the other day and caught Vyragosa at 0.55 that same evening, then again the following morning at 11.42, again that evening at 20.43, and again this morning at 3.16. So all the kills have been mine. I own the Storm Peaks.

Only, after that kill at three in the morning, I may have gone to sleep. I may have gone to sleep for ten hours. When I finally stumbled out of bed, perplexed because my watch was surely lying, surely it was lying, why are all the other clocks in on this damn plot? there was no sign of Vyra, and no sign of the Time-Lost. So I buggered off to do my dailies. And then I came back.

I get a certain satisfaction in camping effectively. Even if nothing spawns for three hours after I arrive (which has happened – I return to Storm Peaks six hours after each kill. You know, up until this morning) at least I know I have it covered. When it gets here, I will kill it. It will be mine. Only now… now I have no sense of when the spawn is going to happen. None at all. It is getting to me, to the point at which I don’t want to tab out and watch something on the iPlayer, or do some writing because I must watch eagle-eyed. I must regain domination of this spawn.

So I downloaded Mogit.

Yes, that follows logically. Why do you ask?
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It starts, really, with the cat. Skinny thing, tufted, feral: it poses regally enough, but swipes at him like a desperate vagrant whenever he gets too close. He apologises to it, a simple ‘I’m sorry’ to start with, building into a rambling explanation of the whys and wherefores when he takes note of the way its big, pointed ears swivel about at the sound of his voice.

‘Really it’s nothing personal, and I’d sooner learn from a textbook than go poking at you, but you know how tutors are – do you know how tutors are? Stuffy mostly, and much too set on things being done their own way every time, if you ask me.’

This isn’t exactly a task set by a tutor, but the prefects whose ranks he hopes to join. He’s young for it at twenty-seven, a full three exams away from the average magical aptitude level of the others, but his father’s stern assertions have made Baelmyrr Alvantaris well aware that he’s not doing the family proud just yet, and this seems as sound a way as any to claw his way back into Haelmyrr’s good books, a task he has become familiar with over the years.

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Today I ran The Oculus as Lydon.

That is to say, I tried to. As per usual, there was some mixup with drakes. Less usually, one member of the group was not willing to tolerate the fact that the retridin had taken a red drake. For the next fifteen minutes of instance, as we cleared trash, downed bosses and generally moved ever closer to facing Eregos himself, this party member implored the retridin to swap his drake in party chat and in whisper. And, when all of his attempts fell on deaf ears, he lost his temper.

This was only problematic for the rest of us because this guy was the tank, and tanks have more power than the average disposable boomkin in cloth. He raged that he was sick of people who didn’t listen. He was sick of people who expected him to tolerate poor play. If someone is trying to help you play better, he ranted, you had better pay attention. And then he refused to pull anything until the retridin did as he was told.

As a result, the group fell apart, and Lydon got a cold arse sitting around on a focusing ring in the snow. It was, on the whole, a bad time, but Lydon considers existence on the whole to be a bad time, so it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.

More importantly, though, I feel for that tank. I do. I understand a lot of his concerns. I run into people who underperform pretty much every instance whether I’m tanking or otherwise.

LFD refinedBut that’s the thing. I run into these people so very frequently. You could say the incompetent type has become a staple party member. The instancing experience would not be much changed if the LFD tool looked something more like this:

(Of course I’ve clicked to queue as group derpface, I’ve had plenty of chances to learn from the great, and one day it will be my time to shine. Though I’d kick up a fuss if derpfaces started to get satchels, mark my words.)

And it’s not all about my fantastic skills with Photoshop, though I forgive you if you’re still recovering from that dazzling bit of artwork. My point is that you’re going to run into people who don’t perform to the level you would prefer, and some of them are going to be dumb in both senses of the word. You can’t fix ’em.

And that’s a right bugger to tolerate if you’ve something of the typical tanking mindset: I am Group Leader and I will Lead. But if you want to make it as a tank you have to strike a balance. Finding enjoyment in steering your group to victory is great, but fighting people who cannot change is going to burn you out in record speed. (And you need to be careful about that. I hear burnt out tanks can become pretty derpy DPS, and you don’t want to lose your satchel.)

As a tank I have some basic advice for you, but first I must pause and note that I just glimpsed the top portion of my new and (un)improved LFD and jumped to click accept. So that’s the sort of addict I am. Anyway, moving on…

1) Do not work out a particular amount of crap you will tolerate. Rules like ‘you yank it, you tank it’ may seem like good ways to reassure yourself that you’re not overreacting when you sit down and let that moron die horribly, and sure, throw them into party chat if such an occasion occurs and said moron turns to whining, as though that will somehow patch up their broken gear.

However, what happens when someone persistently does something silly and you just can’t deal with it today, but it’s not really on the ‘instant kick’ side of your usual guidelines, eh? The problem with rules is that they are unbending, while your mood is fluid. That means they can drop-kick you in the squishies from time to time.

Perhaps you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, so you pick mobs up when other people pull them, you don’t really care that you’re the only one interrupting, you take some fine, fine ego points from the fact that you’re top on DPS. But what? You just broke all your rules. You are a bad tank because you are encouraging bad DPS! For shame.

Obviously that’s the… less likely, less important side of it. What’s more likely to hurt is when you find yourself enjoying an instance less and less, but you said at some other date that you were going to put up with people ignoring your marks a while ago, so you’re being sensitive if you go back on it now.

Alternatively, what if, like Lydon’s Oculus tank, you’re dead set on educating everyone in the group? You want everyone on the right drakes, you want everyone to let you pull, and you’re going to lecture them until it happens. Sometimes teaching is fun, but sometimes it isn’t. And generally, you just need to decode what is happening at the very moment you get annoyed. Don’t hold yourself to standards of tolerance you puzzled out at some irrelevant date. Respecting your present state of mind is what matters.

And that honestly goes for everyone in a damaging or healing role, too.

2) Vote kick. Take joy in it. They have been butts, and so they must be kicked. Thus sayeth the manual of MMO success.

3) Mock the weak. But be classy, and keep that stuff out of party chat, eh? While tanking Twilight heroics with my fine healing friend Ellusias, I came across this fine warlock.

I know, I know, that data is from just one fight, but that doesn’t make a bit of difference, guys. For the entirety of the run, he never broke ten thousand DPS. Meanwhile, the shaman and the rogue were doing so much better than every other damage dealer we had run into that day (which perhaps says something about the quality of our PuG members that day). And so, Ellusias and I indulged in this most enjoyable of rules.

(I left Daelythir’s face in this picture because that is roughly the face I was making when I first took note of Recount. Relevance.)

Truth is, having someone to casually complain to is fun. In the absence of such a person, I find talking to myself aloud similarly appeasing. It only occasionally causes other people in my household to question my sanity. Venting is a fairly useful tool – and turning that would-be pest into a joke before you even get to venting stage, well, that’s even better.

But what I’m really getting at is that a tank needs to be adaptable and aware of their own needs. See things off with pre-emptive humour strikes. Let a poor player pootle along at their own level if it’s not going to be a major inconvenience – or boot them out before they really get to grind on you. That tank in Lydon’s group – in some ways, he was doing the right thing. He was speaking out to make sure the group did things in a way he was comfortable with. What he failed to do was take a moment to think alright, this is spiralling, how do I fix it: and either tolerate the bad retridin, remove the bad retridin, or remove himself.

Decisions and mind frames! They are important, if you want to survive as a tank.

Zinn at Jinxed Thoughts wrote an insightful post that goes through the trials of tanking, and one of the comments on it got me thinking.

It wasn’t an especially unusual riposte to the stress some groups lump on tanks. You’ve probably heard it a lot already.


Because this is more about the general mentality than the struggles of any one particular role, modify ‘tanks’ to ‘players’. So. If you’re having a stressful time in LFG, because other people don’t know their jobs or are being abusive, just pull the hell out of there. Run with people you know.

I am all for comfortable environments. I believe everyone deserves to play in a way that they enjoy. I don’t for a moment think anyone should have to endure bad treatment;I do not have any less respect for those players who withdraw from the unnecessary adversity of LFG. But I do not feel this oft-chanted response to PuG issues deserves anything like the weight the forum community gives it.

Firstly, this argument has issues to do with privilege.

I’m going to say this right out: if someone tells a player to run with people they know and honestly believes that’s one big problem sorted, that person probably has friends or a guild who are willing to run heroics with them. There are some very important things these people have clearly forgotten.

  • Not everyone has a guild. Neither should they have to search for a guild if they don’t want one.
  • Not everyone’s guild members want to run heroics. Neither should a player feel they’re pressuring people, nor the guildies feel they have to take pity on that player.
  • Not everyone’s guild members act or play better than your average PuG player. Trading one stressful situation for another does not help. Whether the player should be looking for a new guild at this point is not the main thrust of this discussion, but I may come back to it in a future post.
  • Not everyone wants to run with people they know all the time. It’s personal preference. I like to learn a new role in PuGs. They’re usually more objective when I ask how I’m doing, and I avoid the anxiety I sometimes feel when people I know are seeing me out of my comfort zone. Frankly, no-one needs to explain why they don’t always want to play with friends to give this point validity; if they don’t want to, they don’t want to, so it’s not going to help boost their enjoyment.

Just because some people have the option of sticking to a hand-picked group of good players does not mean everyone else does too. A ‘solution’ to bad LFG experiences that rests on the existence of a convenience not everyone has access to is not a solution.

Secondly, this argument puts pressure on the victims rather than the perpetrators.

Okay, I need to stop for a second. The point applies to PuGs that are abusive. You know the sort – they throw insults, they pitch hissy fits, they ninja-pull groups, and they purposefully make the run hell. My rage isn’t aimed at groups that are poor because the players don’t know their roles. Frankly, I think some players are rude in the amount they expect others to carry them, especially if they shoot down constructive criticism, but having to learn your class is not a crime and it’s not abusive. The aggressive behaviour is.

So, aside aside, what ‘run with your guild’ does is ask the victim to change their ways, not the unmitigated asshats who are tormenting them.

Think of it this way. It’s like seeing a group of bullies beating up a kid in the playground. Instead of setting the bullies straight, this mentality would have you turn on the kid and demand, ‘What were you doing in the playground in the first place? You knew the bullies were out there.’

What were you doing in LFG? Trying to get some badges, enjoy a dungeon run, generally have fun? FOOL. You knew you might land in a stressful group!

It’s bloody illogical. Clearly the person who zones in and starts spamming triggering emotes is the one who needs dealing with. Clearly the player blazing ahead, pulling multiple packs without the tank and causing wipes, is the one who needs to stop. There’s this short-sighted notion flying about that it’s up to each player to guard themselves, but you cannot play a massively multiplayer game to its full extent without other players, and every single player has the potential to be an utter turd to you.

Insulting that person mouthing off in trade might be baiting, but playing the game as Blizzard intended is not. No one should be shamed into feeling stupid for making use of the LFG tool.

I suppose that title makes it look like I’m about to rant on about which class/role deserves loot over another, but that’s just the title being tricksy. Instead, let me talk about the much-maligned friendly /roll system my guild is presently using, and the lack of understanding that had it faceplanting in yesterday’s raid.

The system is this: loot drops, people who want it /roll. As we’re a small, community-focused guild, people for whom the loot is a minor upgrade, or people who have already won a piece of loot, tend to pass pieces on to others. It’s not a requirement, though, and there’s no sense of pressure. I can say this with confidence because I have been opting to pass on Incineratus when it has dropped every week. While making that decision I’ve never felt pressured either way.

Lately, though, we’ve had a few incidents.

Incineratus did not go to a roll. Our lootmaster presumed our shadow priest was the only one who needed it. He looted it directly to the shadow priest without even linking it in chat first.

X-Tron Duct Tape was immediately looted to me when I did not need it. After realising his mistake with the dagger, the lootmaster saw the belt drop and immediately leapt on the supposed chance to curry favour with me. He looted it directly to me without asking if I needed it and without putting it to a roll.

Legwraps of the Greatest Son were looted to me despite the fact that I did not want them. I told the raid that I did not want them, that they were a downgrade. The lootmaster looted them to me anyway.

Though each incident has some unique issues, I believe all three are the product of one mistaken view: the friendly /roll system is friendly because everybody gets loot. This assumes that:

  • the point of raiding is to gear up;
  • giving loot is inherently a friendly action;
  • discussion of who needs what more is a minor part of the system.

To tackle these in order, every raid member may have different reasons for raiding. They could be raiding for rep, to play with a friend, to enjoy the content, to involve themselves with the guild, to judge their abilities as a player, to improve their abilities as a player… the list is extensive and should be irrelevant. Why? Because the lootmaster’s role is not to judge why a player is raiding. The lootmaster’s roll is to hand over loot.

Meanwhile, giving loot is not inherently friendly because loot should be a treated as a reward, not a gift. The players earn the drop as soon as they down the boss. Therefore, the lootmaster’s action of handing over the spoils is not kindness but a simple conveyance of what they have already earned.

Essentially, when running the /roll system, the lootmaster is no friendlier than the need/greed/pass box that pops up when you PuG. (Just to clarify, I’m not saying the lootmaster is some apathetic nobody either. They could well be a close friend, but their role as lootmaster is distinct from their role as friend and fellow player.)

The friendliness, in fact, has much more to do with the third bullet point. It’s tied up in the fact that players are aware of one another and able to act on that awareness. Passing to someone is a friendly gesture; both players have already earned the gear, so passing is about making the choice to defer that piece to another player. Being able to choose to roll instead without fearing judgement, meanwhile, is something that only happens when the raid community is friendly.

The crux of this is choice. Friendliness is about choosing to do something nice. The system can only be referred to as friendly when it allows choice; when the final say on the allocation of loot goes to the people eligible to take it. In all three cases I outlined before, the lootmaster ignored this basic principle. He went over the heads of his raiders. Even if I was going to pass on Incineratus so that it went to the shadow priest; even if I needed and would have won the X-Tron Duct Tape; even if I had wanted the Legwraps of the Greatest Son, his actions were fundamentally incorrect.

I feel I have a fair understanding of the guy. I don’t doubt that he has the best of intentions. When he forgot me on the first roll, he sounded honestly flustered and apologetic. What he needed to do was see it as a reminder to keep himself out of the process as anything other than a facilitator and let us raiding minions puzzle it out between us.

PS – having now endured the third situation, where I told the raid I did not want Legwraps of the Greatest Son and several people immediately replied that ‘loot is always better than a shard’ and ‘it has more intellect and stamina!’ and ‘it’s yours’, I can say with experience that pushing someone to take something is the same as pressuring them to pass. It feels like a group of people you like rearing up and stomping on your opinion, and it sucks. Don’t do it.

Hey there archaeology, after a few weeks spent prowling around the world with you I think we know each other well enough for me to say: fuck you and everything about you.

Not that I’m a crass, angry, vulgar and entitled pustule on the face of perfect Azeroth, but I hate you more every day and it’s all your fault. The evidence:

Scandalous Nightgowns. Night elf kink, presumably buried in mud and fossilised. The scent of sweat, sex and shame has never been more stale than now, whole millennia later. Why would I be interested, archaeology? Why?

Trees. Send me to Ashenvale again, archaeology, and I will whine on the forums every time a bloody tree trunk looms out of nowhere and cocks me in the face. Never mind the ridiculous branches and mid-air invisible walls. Your fault, archaeology.

Every fossil digsite in the world. No one cares about dead dinosaurs and ferns made of rock, archaeology. They don’t give stats, archaeology. Stats matter, archaeology. Numbers. The only numbers you have are the steadily increasing values of hatred stored up in my black dwarven soul.

The red blinky light.
This is your idiot son, archaeology, and you are already an utter moron, so you have to realise how much of a unthinkable idiot he is to stand out. Archaeology, the red blinky light doesn’t know where any of the underground rubbish even is. So he just points, blindly. You need better staff, archaeology. You need them now.

Tyrande’s Favourite Doll.
Why. I could have avoided this. I COULD HAVE AVOIDED-

In all seriousness, what could I have avoided? A profession that requires hours of attention, that is largely luck-based, that involves flying the length of the continent just to clear out unwanted nodes, and contains some of the most powerful items currently available.

Let me just expand on why those things combine to create something honestly terrible.

Hours of attention.
It’s a time sink. More importantly, there’s no way around that: you can’t throw money at it to speed things up. There’s no cash-based power-levelling of archaeology: you can’t gather money in a way you enjoy and work around the grind. This is unlike every other profession, and gives archaeology the uniquely ridiculous position of providing epics to casuals… if they invest hardcore amounts of time.

Luck based. There is no skill involved in archaeology. Everyone flies around, everyone smacks the survey button, everyone locates the item, everyone has the same chance of getting a fantastic sword/trinket or a bag full of worthless grey tat. This means there’s no sense of personal success when you finally get what you wanted. Just the knowledge that you blew that much time on something that is utterly mind-numbing.

Flight time. This, of course, is the primary contributor to my previous point of hours of attention, but it deserves its own section. The easier flights are largely dealt with thusly: aim character at the next node. Hit auto-run. Space out. It reminds me intensely of such non-games as EVE, where the player is rewarded for leaving his character unattended. Further irritation, though, can be found in archaeology because of invisible barriers in the air that stop you from actually alt-tabbing out or doing something productive as you fly. Coming down from Mount Hyjal, you can’t set yourself to fly at a decreasing angle, you have to fly downward and then level off sharply when you hit the treetops in Ashenvale. Archaeology can’t make up its mind in this respect.

Powerful items.
The sort of player who wants the best they can get is going to feel compelled to work at this abhorrent profession. Tyrande’s Favourite Doll was the item that suckered me in. I was not content to let one of my blue trinkets survive while there was a replacement theoretically available. Honestly, I would feel like a bad player if I didn’t pursue it – but the profession is so poorly done that the grind gives me no grand sense of satisfaction either.

It needs a rethink, but it won’t be getting one.