Lock Hits Level 70!

Kandira was 2 bars away from 70 last night when I got pulled in to ICC 10, filling in for a raider’s no show (our three standby folks had also not turned up.) Raid time was followed by dinner, then back to the Outland salt mines to finish up for the big ding.

I dinged turning in a quest in Shadowmoon Valley, just a few minutes after completing my Outland exploration achievement. My first pit stop was my bank vault, to pullout the materials I’d been saving up for my turbo charged flyer. I was pretty close except in one area — Khorium. Despite having mined a few nodes over the course of leveling, I had only 17 ores and had to buy the rest. OUCH! That’s all we’ll say about that.

So now the little lock is almost grown up. I suspect that these last 10 levels in Northrend will take a while. I hope she won’t sit out here a year like the poor neglected Alliance toons…

I Think I Smell a Giant Rat

shadow priest with bone pole fished up a giant rat

Just moments after my mage got a strand crawler pet in her fishing rewards bag, my main finally got her sewer rat!

After tons of fishing across 7 fisherwomen, this is my first rat. To say that I thought I’d never fish one up is an understatement.

Does this mean I should spend a day going after the even more elusive Mister Pinchy?

Creating Benchmarks for Raid Performance

How can you assess a raid’s performance if you haven’t identified and agreed upon the criteria for success? You can’t, beyond “Did we kill the bosses?” And that’s simply not enough when dealing with progression content you’re learning.

In my non-WoW life, once per month, I analyze a number of metrics to determine how successful a variety of communication campaigns were over the course of the month. Then I report out to my team to let them know what worked and what didn’t, and we set about revising tactics as necessary. We’re able to engage in this constructive dialogue thanks to having clearly defined benchmarks and performance expectations identified that we all agree upon.

Frequently, the same can not be said for raider performance evaluations. If you’ve ever tried to nail down a set of criteria in a group setting, you may have found it impossible between healers saying their effectiveness could not be measured by data, DPS complaining about certain fights leaving them at a disadvantage, and the Off Tanks arguing that their role gimped their TPS. No one wants to be measured! Because we are all uniquely awesome snowflakes who want to measure and discuss how everyone else is doing.

But as long as you are logging your raids (simply type /combatlog at the start of your raid and /combatlog after to have a log generated and saved into your World of Warcraft Logs folder), and uploading their results into a reporting tool like World of Logs or WoW Meter Online, you can set and measure against benchmarks.

WWS

Although it has largely fallen out of favor due to it not being actively updated and maintained, I still upload a log each night to WWS because it has a lot it can tell you at-a-glance about your DPSers and help focus your attention for perusing the other logs.

WWS

Your key takeaways from the main screen:

  • Your top overall damage dealers/DPS
  • The percent of active time (lower numbers mean the person was dead/AFK/not DPSing)
  • How close each DPS was to the other in terms of their output percentages — you want to see folks within a couple of percent of each other.
  • You don’t want to see your top DPS doing 14% of the damage and the rest doing 7%.
  • And you would expect similarly geared players of the same spec to be close to each other in output. If they are not, those are the folks for you to deep dive into with the other logs.

WoW Meter Online (WMO)

Although some folks are put off by its gratuitous use of Engrish, I am still a fan of WoW Meter Online for its ease of use and a few features that are exclusive to it as of this writing. My first stop in a WMO log is the All Bosses link.

WMO1

From here you can check each players’ presence (amount of time active in the raid), their DPS and overall damage, and their number of interrupts. Next, I pick whichever player I want to drill down on and click their name. This takes me to a control panel where I can see their damage and healing done and taken, plus all the debuffs and buffs they applied over the course of the evening. I typically drill down on that last tab. It allows you to see who was buffing the raid, how many flasks the person used, if they were in someway incapacitated during the raid (mind control, impale) which might account for a performance decrease on a fight, and if they were applying the requested slows/stuns/debuffs on any given boss fight.

After checking out that tab, I head back to the main window, and pick a fight I want to analyze. From there, I click on an individual player’s name. And this is where WMO excels at helping you determine whether or not the performance you are looking at is good, in line with the player’s previous performance, and how it compares to others. Up at the top next to the person’s name, is a link to Historical Report. Clicking on that link brings you to a summary page that graphs that individual player’s performance against that boss over time. From here you can see:

  • How many times has the player fought this boss in 10/25
  • Their DPS/HPS/TPS charted over time in the 10 and 25-man settings.
  • What you want to see here is a line moving upwards to the right. That shows consistent improvement over time.
  • If you see a more erratic performance output graph, you need to determine if it is due to your raid being inconsistent with the available buffs from week-to-week, or if the player is not always as focused and prepared for some raid nights.

Going back to the previous window with one character’s performance showing, you can access the other unique feature — Compare with Other. Clicking that link will bring up a page showing other performance logs for players of the same class and spec on that same fight. Pick a person to compare to. You’ll generate a page that will allow you to see, side-by-side, how many casts of which spells that player performed in that boss fight, which can help you give players feedback about how their rotation might be improved. If you click on one of the actors names, you get brought to their homepage which includes a link out to their armory so you can also compare gear/spec to ensure you were comparing apples to apples.

WMO_Boss_Individual_Perf_Compare2

I personally consider these two WMO features to be some of your best tools for setting individual class/player benchmarks and coaching your raid members on their performance.

World of Logs (WoL)

World of Logs has been the favored combat log parser for the past year or so, and for good reason. It provides a lot of easy to digest information for raid leaders to digest.

WoL_Survivability

My first checkpoint on WoL is the survivability report. Dead raiders can’t do their jobs. And although it is understandable if someone dies early from time-to-time, if you have a player sitting at 50% for the night, while the rest of your raid is in the 80s and 90s, that says someone needs to work on their moving-out-of-crap-that-can-kill-me skills.

Picking a DPS and drilling down, I like to take a look at the Damage By Actor report tab. This is also known as the “proof you switched to the adds” check. If someone has no damage done to the Bone Spikes or the Blood Beasts or the Web Wraps, they need to receive the chat about meter humping not assisting the raid in being successful and that when the Raid Leader says Everyone switches to the adds, this means them as well. Like WMO, buffs gained and cast are shown as sub reports here as well so you can determine if a player has been coming to the raid prepared and staying focused on what they can do to maximize their performance.

Now heading back to the main report page and choosing Healing Done as my report from the pulldown, I pick out a healer to drill down on. Note that the main healing page labels the HPS as DPS. You can again see how much of the player’s healing done came from which spell as well as whom they were healing, which can help check if they were on their assigned targets.

WoL_Rankings

The final piece of benchmarking data you can glean from WoL is the data from their Ranking Info report. Based upon their compiling the top performers by DPS and healing on each fight uploaded to their website, this report shows you how close each of your players were to the max recorded #s for their spec on the fight, as expressed by a percentage. Depending upon your level of experience with the bosses, you may want to set your bar higher or lower. But again, overall, you’d want to see your players performing at similar percentages on the bosses.

If you are seeing a significant percentage gap amongst your team, especially between 2 players of the same spec, you should take that as a coaching opportunity and suggest that the player with the performance gap might want to receive some coaching from the higher-performing player, or at a minimum, go and look at their armory and at the logs of the attempts to see what they were doing differently.

The nice thing about this data is that it is, by its aggregated nature, neutral. If you have a player who maintains a specific fight is just impossible for their spec, it gives you a benchmark against which they can compare themselves to see if that’s actually the case or if they have some room for improvement.

Getting Started

The absolute first step for evaluating your raid’s performance and getting on the road to performance benchmarks is to make sure your raid team runs and uploads combat logs for every raid. Try not to get overwhelmed with the amount of data available to you, and start small, such as by setting overall HPS/DPS or overall healing and damage benchmarks for specific fights. This WMO Raid History report for a boss is a great starting place for setting your benchmark for what it takes to be successful for a boss.

WMO_Boss_History_Raid

Avoid temptation to over-analyze your raid data, and drill down to individual-level benchmarking data only when you need
to solve a problem you are having with a specific fight, or with a
specific under-performing player. And encourage personal accountability
— challenge your raiders to keep an eye on how they are ding, and to
strive to exceed their previous performance, and to experiment with
small tweaks that can give themselves a boost.

So Close…But Still Some Work Remains

We are on our third raiding week of our Lich King 10 raid ID. We have been alternating weeks with this ID and a clear ID for one of our two 10 man teams.

We’ve gotten phase 1 down (although last night we did bring a new healer into the mix, which meant some ramp up time, as to be expected), and are usually pretty solid for Phase 2, but typically have a defile-soaked meltdown right at the edge of transitioning into Phase 3. We have seen the special fight within the fight mechanic that shall remained undescribed to avoid the spoilers, but we have only gotten to that point once.

Last night, as we chipped away on perfecting our LK attempts, our second 10-man raid team downed Putricide, earning a couple of folks their Plagueworks achievement. This leaves them open to work on the Blood Princes and BQL this Saturday, which will be a first peek at those bosses for many folks. Huzzah!

It’s a great feeling to see the little raid team that could keep chugging up this hill.

It’s hard to believe the guild did not get through SSC in BC. Or that they started out WotLK with ad hoc Naxxramas runs without the ability for the guild at large to sign up and participate in. Now, we have a fully transparent to everyone process, public signups and schedules. It is in fact one of the most above board raid processes I’ve ever particiapted in.

It is awesome what putting some structure around raiding, having a committed core of folks who really wanted to see the content of the expansion, plus the hard work and dedication of the many raid schedulers and raid leaders helped make happen.

GO PIRATES!!

Our Victory is Your Victory

As those of you who read here regularly know, we've been making slow but
sure progress through ICC10 on one ID. We typically run two 10 teams
per week, but really only have enough top performing players to have 1
that's working on LK.

But starting with the night we killed Blood
Princes
I've noticed something disheartening: the sour grapes. Not even as much
in the realm of people complaining to Officers about not being included
in the progression team (only had a handful of that.) And not a ton of folks, mind you. But enough that you take notice.

More along the lines of peeps not saying grats when G chat lights up with an achievement for completing
the wing. Or not giving a cheer in the kill thread on the
forums. People who only have something positive to say if their nameplate is in the boss kill screenshot.

I know it sucks to be sat, or to not be able to attend on
the nights we are working on progression fights. I sat a lot in my
first 4 months as a pirate. (I barely eeked out a solitary Vezax kill as
a matter of fact.) And I still sit every few weeks now so we can cycle
in other DPS on weeks we have a signups overflow.

I feel like folks can forget we are a
team. And the guild's success is OUR success as a whole. It's their $15, and I know I can't expect everyone to share my passion for the guild and our progress, but I would prefer to see all of our raiders enthusiastic and supportive of each other when one of our teams hits a milestone. Instead of just looking at what's in it for them.

I am
going to miss ICC 25, and a night of 10s for vacation week. It
is entirely possible that there will be some new boss kills I miss out
on. And I will be right there cheerleading for the guild if we are so
lucky as to get to see some kill shots on the forum.

Because the guild's success is MY success.

Yarrrgh!

P.S. Naie, I am looking at *YOU* to be in charge of nekkid screenshots in my absence.

Thoughts on End of the Expansion Cycle Raiding

Right around the time BETA starts for a WoW expansion, I've watched the seams and cracks start to show in my raiding teams, and in those of the folks I read in the blogosphere and on twitter. It was the same pre-Burning Crusade as pre-Wrath as it's starting to seem now pre-Cataclysm.

You go from folks pitching a fit for cycling out on a raid night, positive this means they won't get that piece of gear they're coveting that would make their gearscore hit that magic number to those same folks no showing for raids, or not even signing up.

You have officers and raid leaders burning out, and taking out their frustrations on their raid members and each other. Tempers flare in raids, leaving folks who were previously friends wishing each other would go die in a circle of fire somewhere already. Raids that had previously been fun and full of chit chat and joking around, are mostly silent other than a tank or raid leader yelling at someone else. Healers/Tanks/Ranged DPS or whatever your guild's weak link was become impossible to recruit for raids, and inspire frequent pleas for help online. Frustrated raiders leave casual guilds en masse to start their own
raiders only guilds. Key members of raiding teams pack up and server transfer, looking for greener grass, all too often finding out it was astroturf.

For every squee post I've seen on Kingslayer titles in hand, I've seen one on an imploded guild, plus one on a gquit and LFG ICC25/ICC10. And a third about an impending hiatus from WoW til Cataclysm lands.

Have we reached the point of no return for Wrath of the Lich King? Are we doomed to frittering away our time (as we pine for an elusive BETA invite) in 5-man RDHs, watching GOGOGO tanks chain pull while we're out of mana, then complaining at us if we stop for a second to take a drink?

If that's what I have to look forward to for the next 6 months, then that's certainly not a good use of my $15/mo.

Luckily, I have a vacation week coming up soon, which will be low on the WoW and heavy on the getting out to enjoy the many fabulous cultural and scenic features of the city I live in. And there is always plenty to do outside of game, so I don't feel compelled to fritter away time online when the mojo isn't there.

In-game, our progression 10 man is working on Arthas again this week. This puts the SO's soul gathering on hold for another week (he's only up to 300 or so souls since we've had a prior week of just Arthas, and a canceled 25 in the mix), but for a good cause. Making a valiant effort to save Bolvar Fodragon and defeating the Lich King is my primary driving goal in the game right now. I wants him dead. I wants him dead nao.

I'm also working towards getting my warlock to 80 before the expansion, and to getting my gnome mage to 80 so she can help liberate Gnomeregan eventually. And I feel like I am finally getting a little traction with convincing my favorite druid to roll horde (or faction change) on our server once she heads back into the workforce and can't raid on my vanilla raiding guild's schedule.

But I know for sure, having been here and done this before, that once any of it stops being fun, it's coming off the must-do list. I don't want to raid with burnt out, cranky people any more than they want to raid with me if I become one of said people either. It's important to keep pulse-checking yourself to make sure you're still having fun. And that you're enjoying playing with your team. Because having fun — and working together to accomplish raid goals is the whole point of the raiding. It's not about ePeen as measure via Recount. Or achievement points. Or by your gear score. It's about having a good time playing with your friends and getting to the Frozen throne, together.

Safe travels, adventurers.

Friday Five: 5 Things to Keep in Mind on a Progression Raid Night

We extended our raid ID this week, and hopped into ICC 10 on Wednesday night, easily 1-shotting the Dreamwalker encounter, then running back over to BQL, whom we dispatched in our second try. And then it was on to Sindragosa, whom most of those in attendance had not seen before, and whom we took down at the tail end of our extra Thursday night raid. And thus, I bring you my list of 5 things folks need to keep in mind when taking part in a progression night, fighting against a boss your raid team has not killed:

  1. Don’t run off after the boss kill. We want screenshots! (See above for a screenshot of not 10 people as a case in point.)
  2. Do not start complaining/whining/sighing when you don’t kill a new boss on the second attempt. News flash: progression bosses take more than 1 attempt for folks to figure things out on. Especially when you are talking about the boss before the Lich King. Buy some patience already! Or I will bore you with the story of how it took my old guild 3 weeks of non stop work to kill Lady Vashj back in the day.
  3. Keep quiet on vent if you’re not the raid leader if you are calling out placements. 5 people talking at once, over the raid leader, leads to confusion and usually to someone dying. Save the chit chat for the run back.
  4. Ask questions early and often. If you are having a problem remembering what an ability is called or what you are supposed to do in a certain part of the fight, ask your raid leader.
  5. Be nice. If a member of your raid team asks the same question more than once, or has the same issue twice in a row, cut them some slack. They’re not an idiot, or a loser, or a dumb ass or they wouldn’t being there with you learning that new boss (unless your raid leader is a masochist). They are clearly grappling with something and need the assistance of the raid team. And thus you need to cut them some slack and try to be helpful, not rude. And if you don’t, you may find a raid leader’s foot coming into contact with your butt.

Killing a progression boss is a major rush. And that rush is the reward for the hard work it took each member of your team to put in to get there. Keep your chin up, and a positive attitude, and you will succeed — with a little help from your friends.

Happy Friday! And congratulations Pirates for an amazing week of teamwork!