Category Archives: Raiding

The Raid Review: Better Late Than Never

After a very eventful and work-filled week (read: preparing for my vacation, and playing games), I finally had the time to re-watch The Raid and now feel somewhat able to give a review.

First of all: I think it has its shortcomings, but overall is a decent documentary. The film focuses on one specific raid group (Lore et al.’s “Double Dragon” 10-man group from their guild “Months Behind”), which I think is a good thing. More is not always better, especially if your budget is limited. It then tries to extend this very specific view by interviews with “experts” (I use this term loosely, I will come to that later). It also limits its time to about 45 minutes, which I guess is also fair enough. I personally wouldn’t have minded a longer film, let’s say 90 minutes, with more topics and/or details, but long documentaries generally aren’t considered very “hot”.

Second: What the fuck is up with all the beeping? I sure hope I will be able to watch one without this stupid beeping at some point. At times, it was hard to make out what people were saying.

Third: The film is cut very fast at times. That is especially noticeable in the beginning, when you get second-long one-sentence comments by a bunch of people you’ll see again later, but there isn’t even enough time to give them a caption. I would like to know who is talking at some point. If there isn’t enough time to show the caption, maybe the cuts are too fast for a documentary. But that’s just my opinion, I’m old-fashioned when it comes to cutting.

Alright, enough with the general comments. Let’s move to the film itself. One of the most important sentences that describes the scope of the film is said early on by Prof. Castronova: [some] people seek out gaming to achieve. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing how raiding, especially raiding in World of Warcraft, is an achiever’s game. I have yet to hear of socializer or explorer raids. It’s still something you should keep in mind while watching the film. Complaining that the view is too achiever-heavy is like watching an Ingmar Bergman movie and complaining that there’s no explosions.

After the short introduction (what is an MMO? How to describe an MMO to someone who has no idea what it is?), we’re treated to some scenes from Icecrown. The remaining 40 minutes will basically be interviews about certain topics, seperated from each other by short boss fight excerpts. I’ll talk about a couple of those topics in a separate post; I had them here originally, but it got too voluminous.

The problem with the fight excerpts is that they overemphasize success over failure. Yes, there’s a segment of the film talking about failure and frustration, complete with wipe scenes, but overall, a lot of the boss fights seemed short and easy. That doesn’t go well with what is said in the interview parts, where they talk about difficulty in raiding, and how boss fights (plus preparation etc) can take a long time every attempt. Maybe they should’ve tried to show a graphical tactic for at least one boss, with spawn points, move paths for different players, etc. Not an in-detail description, just as some sort of clipart to show that a lot of stuff can be going on at any point in time.

For the interview parts, I think overall, the choice of interview partners was pretty good. Prof. Castronova knows what he’s talking about, though I have the feeling that at times, the cutting wasn’t all in his favor. The only complaint I have is about Jesse Schell, who comes across as someone as a self-important idiot. (Again, it might have to do with what parts of the certainly much longer interviews made it into the film.) Raiding being based on prehistoric human behavior? Yeah right. The Guild members of “Double Dragon” were obviously set for interviews, though it seems they didn’t interview all of them, why ever that would be. The way they’re presented shows them in a light that neither glorifies nor condemns. Especially when it comes to questions such as media usage and addiction, some of them give insightful and non-stereotypical answers. I liked that.

They also stress the importance of friendship, or at least social bonds, in MMO’s, especially in raiding. Several times, you hear them say “I wouldn’t be playing any more if it wasn’t for the other people and for my commitment to this group.” They also talked about burnout and how groups can keep people interested, but ultimately, they might leave. Lore says, The future of Double Dragon is uncertain. With the film being in post-production for a year, I would’ve liked to see a short “and then” for each member. Are they all still playing? Is Double Dragon still kicking? I could probably go and look it up on the armory, but that would’ve given the film nice closure.

Sadly, I think the film fails on its self-imposed goal of describing raiding to complete outsiders. It starts very low-level, even describing in short what an MMORPG is, but from there, it just goes too fast. Bonnie Nardi mentions how she started playing WoW, and originally didn’t understand anything people said because of the sheer amount of jargon. I’m afraid this will also happen to viewers of the film who have no prior knowledge in MMOs and raiding.

Ultimately, the film is a nice work of documentation. It is, to my knowledge, the first one to document raiding in detail (even outside of the focus of WoW), and will therefore, even for its shortcomings, be an interesting point of reference in the future.

The Raid – First impression

Yeah, I watched it, because I wasn’t very tired at that time. Guess even tiny web streams these days go with the big movie theaters, though. They didn’t start until almost a quarter past. This is not a lecture that is entitled to academic quarters!

Anyway, they said after the screening that they will make the film available for download (or at least re-streaming) for 3 days starting from now. I might give it a second view tomorrow, because I missed a couple of things, like who some of the people actually were that they interviewed.

Now I’m tired. More tomorrow. T out.

Watch “The Raid” Tonight

MMO-Champion announced today that the WoW documentary “The Raid” will have a live online screening tonight. Actually, it is a reminder, but I missed the original message, so to me, it’s as good as an initial announcement.

I haven’t heard much about the film yet; most was somewhat silly arguments about how “the film was out of date” because it focused on ICC. I guess some people are not aware of post-production (although, depending on when they shot the footage, they should’ve had one year by now – that would be ample). There were also some complaints that it made look every raider like a basement dweller. The short trailer doesn’t tell you much in that respect.

The main problem to me is that they chose a quite ridiculous time for their stream, from a European point of view. Seriously, half of those interested, easily, will be here, and you chose 6PM PST? That’s 3AM CEST. And that translates to “aww come on”. Why not 6PM EST? That would have been a decent time for everbody. (Except the Aussies. Sorry, but you are not quite as many over there.)

Nevertheless, if I stay up that long (and I intend to), I’ll watch it to get some first-hand impressions, and I’ll report them here.

Off to New Shores

I quit raiding with my WoW guild last week. It was a decision that took its time to come to fruition, but the bottom line is, I wasn’t enjoying it any more. There’s two factors that contributed to this state: Blizzard, and my current guild.

The Guild

They’re good people, and we had a lot of fun, even though I have only been with them for about 8 months now, which for me, is a very short time. But come raid time, the gloves would come off. Increasingly over the last few months, atmosphere in the raid got more and more tense. Failure in any way was frowned upon. There was a strong expectation that the learning had to be done offline via reading and videos. Now, I think offline preparation is a good thing, but at least for me (and I am sure for some others), this only gets me so far. I need to actually do things to find out how to do things. No video in the world gets me to the point that a couple of wipes do.

Our guild was successful. Very successful, in my eyes. When I joined in the late-Lich-King-slump, the guild was one of the better ones on the server, but it had never been anywhere near a high rank. We peaked out this year in May at a ranking of around 850 worldwide, 400 EU. Things went well, maybe I ignored the early signs of me not feeling so happy. But then we hit our first brick walls, the end bosses on Heroic. We did get down Nefarian and Cho’gall in the end, but it felt like the magic had gone. There was a lot of finger-pointing and blaming. It went to the point where I had the impression that there were distinct scapegoats that the blame went to by default unless there was an obvious other choice. Truth to be told, some people did own up to mistakes they did to take blame off those people, but I still felt uneasy about it. Sinestra didn’t fall to us at all, after some close encounters and about 200 wipes.

Progression was an important driving force of this guild, but as of late, it seems to have become the conditio sine qua non. Fun has taken the back seat. It’s en vogue to play the blame game. Healers blame tanks for their (the tanks’) deaths. DPS blames tanks and healers because the guild enforces a Tank>Healer>DPS priority on contested gear. Officers blame everybody that appears to be performing suboptimally. It’s one thing to call out if something goes wrong time after time. But this is just over the top. I realized today I’m not the only one who feels like this. In the four days since I announced my resignation, two more people have decided to quit, for similar reasons to me.

Enough of my guild though, I’m not on a crusade against them. It was fun while it lasted. Why don’t I just apply to a different raiding guild? A tank with 9/13 kills and 11/13 experience (I wasn’t there on the night of the Nefarian kill) should be able to find a new home somewhere? And this is where Blizzard ties in.


Many people have complained about the way Blizzard has been setting up their raids since Lich King, and I have to agree. They removed raid tiering and went with “the current raid” which was designed for challenge, and “everything before that” which was nerfed down into oblivion. Their goals were actually very understandable. They want to tell a story, and their game setup is geared to raids as the final challenge. Therefore, raids form an integral part and pinnacle of many of their story lines. But in Vanilla and TBC, most people did not get to see raids, let alone the end bosses. How many guilds went and defeated C’thun, or the Four Horsemen? Or, in TBC, Illidan (even after the 3.0 pre-patch nerfs!) or Kil’Jaeden? It makes sense to funnel as many people as possible through this content they laboriously created. They also still want to cater to the more hardcore crowd. So they came up with the very simple tiering of “as soon as new content arrives, the old content gets nerfed so everybody and their grandmother can see it”. The problem with this approach is that everybody playing the current tier is now effectively racing against time. If you don’t kill the menacing boss on time, you’ll be too late and only find his drooling, retarded cousin when you log on after the next patch. Talk about achievement when, instead of a heroic defeat, you realize that Cha’gill, not-as-famous little nephew of the more well-known Cho’gall, died to a double neck fracture he suffered when storming towards you and slipping on the puddle of drool he had left on the ground.

While this succeeds in making content accessible to more people, it comes with two major drawbacks. The first one is that killing the “dumbed down” version of a boss can feel empty. Knowing that this boss used to be hard, but they made it easier so that you, too, could have a shot at him, makes a kill worth much less. It’s like those worthless runner-up medals they used to hand out at running events for children, so “everybody is a winner”. The second is that, because old content gets cheapened that way, it is left behind fast. When ICC came out, how many people still ran ToC? And ToC was a poor stopgap instance anyway. How about Ulduar? All that work that went into one of the better dungeons Blizzard designed became obsolete the moment ICC released. So in the pursuit to make content more accessible, Blizzard reduced the worthwhile content – an unintended (I sure hope) side effect, seeing how there is never enough original content in an MMO.

There’s also my pet peeve, PvP. I never liked PvP, even outside MMOs. Quite frankly, I suck at them, because I’m missing the speed for this twitch gameplay. I was always towards the bottom of the ranking on FPS shootouts with friends; the only time I somewhat enjoyed PvP was back in Vanilla when we ran 15-people guild Arathi Basins. And before they revamped Alterac Valley in Patch 1.7 – because it felt more like a PvE game back then. WoW has this obsession with a unified rule set for PvP and PvE. Very few abilities work differently against players than against non-players. This leads to an unhealthy obsession with “balance”. If one class dominate another class or classes in PvP, expect to see a change incoming that then also changes how PvE works. One of the easiest way to strive towards balance is to distribute abilities among classes. Interrupts? Everybody should have them. Self-dispells of different types? Same, why not? The obsession with balance has recently (since Lich King) also seeped over into PvE, where “bring the player, not the class” is similar to the “accessible raids” slogan: a good idea on paper, but it comes with annoying side effects. Class identity is more and more on its way towards the dodo. Just recently, in their regular “Ask the Devs” column, I found this gem:

A great recipe for class homogenization is to go down the list of every ability and make sure that every class has their own version of that ability.

Of course, technically this is true. Making sure everybody is the same is the definition of “homogeneous”. The text makes it sound like they consider this a good idea, though. And in my eyes, it most definitely is not. I actually enjoy having classes that are distinct from each other, and I’ve seen how our current classes move away from that more and more. If this actually is Blizzard’s design philosophy these days, I fear for the worst.

The New Shores

So, my decision for now is to not raid any more. I’m not sure I will continue to play much WoW for the time being, either. I might reroll on another server where I have some friends from a previous guild (of European players on a US realm – but that is another story I will tell another day) that folded due to attrition. My plan, however, is to diversify the games I play. At the time of writing, I play EQ2 and LOTRO. I also tried out DDO some time ago and might pick it up again to play together with a friend. Over time, I might come across other games I’ll try out, not necessarily MMOs. The purpose of this blog is twofold:

  1. Document my experiences and journeys in various games. This is reflected in the blog’s title: I expect this to be a rather random walk towards whatever waypoint I choose any given week. One of my role models for these kinds of posts is Wilhelm Arcturus from The Ancient Gaming Noob blog, and to a lesser extent Stargrace from
  2. Occasionally, I will have the feeling that I have something worthwhile to say about more general gaming-related aspects. These posts will take the form of more discourse-oriented texts, like typical posts by Nils in his MMO blog, or to a lesser extent Tobold in his MMORPG blog.

In addition, I might occasionally divert from the topic of games altogether for some more general remarks. So, let’s see how this great experiment in writing will unfold. Most posts will probably be not nearly as long as this one. I’ll be happy if I can publish an article at least once to twice a week, no matter the length. New shores are awaiting, let’s set sail and see where the wind will take us.