A choir. I shall use a choir to illustrate what raiding in an online gaming environment is like.
In any given choir, think Christmas Caroling if you may, there is usually one organist or a few guitarists who set the key and pace of the performance. The music draws attention but it alone does not entertain. We need the singers to sing the melody. And we need a few dedicated singers to sing the harmony. The audience seldom hums along with the music or sings along with the harmony. The audience sings along with the melody. Melody is at the forefront of the entertainment deliverance. Having said so, all three elements must co-exist in order to give forth one spectacular performance.
” They say things look different when you are dead. After my demise, I looked back upon my twenty odd fellow raiders, who fought alongside with the dragons on the island, who one by one got killed by the bits and pieces of Deathwing (the red blob on the right). It was a lost battle. Time for another attempt.”
Raiding in a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) works similarly to how a choir operates. 25 players are organized into a team to fulfill a set of objectives in accordance with the lore. One year ago, Blizzard has released a new expansion for World of Warcraft. A year after Cataclysm, the story has finally come to a conclusion when we have the opportunity to face the ultimate villain of this expansion – Deathwing. We have visited the future and changed it. We have visited the past and changed it. Armed with the artifact that may be the key in defeating the dragon Deathwing, we have escorted Thrall – our hero – to Wyrmrest Temple ready to have one final showdown with the villain and his waves of armed forces. It is dramatic. It is a lengthy expedition. And it is an epic battle that leads to an orgasmic ending. An ending that most of us has to experience again and again till the Pandas come home.
“Kalecgos has become a new Aspect for the Blue Dragonflight. He made a rare visit to one of our capitals, in Matrix style.”
Players in a 25-man raid setting are required to fulfill one of the three roles – tank, damage, or heal. Tank, to me, is like an organist in a choir. They are there to set the pace of the encounters and to hold the enemies at bay. The music continues so long as the organist keeps on playing. Similarly, in a raid, when the tanks die, it often means that the encounter would come to a premature end. That is, failure. We don’t need many to play a tank role. Two is sufficient in a 25-man raid. It is a role with a huge responsibility. It is also a role that I personally enjoy.
Then we have the heal role to replenish the team and neutralize the incoming damage. In a military context, heal is like the armed forces multiplier, the ones who refuel the planes or replenish the bombs. Heal is a support unit, much like the harmony singers in a choir. We need a sizable heal. And we need six in a 25-man raid.
Obvious as it sounds, those who take the damage role are responsible to lay damage to the enemy front. They are like the melody singers who feeds on the music and the harmony. In a raiding environment, they delivery the offensive blow to our enemies. We need tons of players to play this role. Seventeen to be exact.
“25 of us looks tiny compare to Deathwing. Are you ready?”
In the past, raids in World of Warcraft (or other MMO games I suppose) are organized manually. You need to put in heaps of commitment, get yourselves into a local community, stick to a timetable set by the majority, and you must have this mentality that each failure is one step closer to success. One Korean guild attempted one particular encounter 300 times that eventually earned them the World First achievement in defeating Deathwing, heroically. Proper raiding is no easy feat.
In reality, as recently revealed, only 2% of subscribers got to see the raiding contents. Blizzard – the creator of World of Warcraft – has done something innovative in a recent patch. They have created a LFR (Looking for Raid) tool to automatically assemble a raid group of 25 players across the servers. To compensate the fact that these 25 players do not know each other and have not worked with one another, the encounters (and rewards) are specially tuned down to be more causal friendly. All of a sudden, many get to experience end game contents, including Cynthia and I.
“[I suppose] Once Deathwing is heroically defeated in a realm (or server), a piece of him is displayed within the capital city to serve as a reminder that while many may falter, the ultimate villain has to be defeated at all cost.”
The LFR tool, wonderful as it seems, is not without its share of criticism. Elitists bundle up and attack the tool on the ground that some game contents have to be reserved for the cream of the crop. Some need to feel special and to serve as an inspiration for many to follow. While this has some philosophical merits, in an environment whereby every player pays the same subscription fees, there is little incentive to nurture elitism, especially with a 7-year old game that may have passed its peak. Another criticism is that not all these 25 random players contribute at a similar level. Do they deserve the reward? Do they even deserve to be there to experience the story in the first place? This leads back to my analogy.
Cynthia, my mother, and I have attended the Midnight Mass on Christmas. Before the Mass, the choir was singing the Christmas Carols. I observed that not every singer sang with full bodied vocal and devotion. Some went off key. It was as though some were there more for participation’s sake. If it was a caroling competition, this choir would have been out. But it was not a competition. Participation is rewarded instead of performance. I shared my observation with Cynthia and she could immediately relate. It is OK to have some under-perform in LFR. So long as we don’t have too many party fillers that makes it impossible to raid.
PS. Join us at Draenor server today! You can play for free, for the first 20 levels at least. Our guild has a presence in Alliance, as well as in Horde.