Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 02, 2006
Success ≠ Fun

What a strange weekend. My Horde priest participated in two BWL raids, which were a smashing success, experiencing his first kills of Razorgore, and my guilds first kills of Vael and the Broodlord. I also went on the first part of a MC raid with him, effortlessly killing the 4 first bosses in an hour and a half. But then I switched to my Alliance priest, because they had planned their very first expedition to Zul'Gurub and really needed a priest. And although this ZG raid failed to even kill a single boss, it ended up being more fun. Success does not equal fun, it seems.

I think it has mainly to do with atmosphere. My Horde guild on a 40-man raid is by necessity very concentrated on the job. There isn't much talk in the raid channel. Teamspeak is dominated by commands like "Go dps now!". The sheer size of the group makes chatting difficult, be it typed or voiced. And as we like to go fast and the main tank is permanently pulling, everybody is too busy holding aggro, dealing damage, or healing, to have much time for idle banter anyway. Blackwing Lair of course had some discussion on tactics, but Molten Core is just routine farming, with no surprises. Raiding with my Horde guild is a very serious affair.

My Alliance guild's Zul'Gurub raid was a totally different animal. Right from the start it was obvious that we didn't have enough people to succeed, starting with only 14 players, going up to 15 later, and ending up with 12 when some had to leave. Not everybody was level 60, we had a couple of players from level 55 to 58. And only 3 raid members had ever been to ZG before, all the others were playing their first high-level character. So for the guild ZG was a very new experience, full of surprises. Lots of chatting in the raid channel and on Teamspeak about "Hey, look at this!", or "Wow, I can see Hakkar, lets pull him :)".

I did my best to warn everybody of the most dangerous pitfalls, but we made a number of blunders. First berzerker we met was pulled onto a narrow bridge, where he used his knock-back attack to hurl some players into a bunch of crocodiles. And of course the exploding bat riders killed a couple of people in spite of my warnings.

Nevertheless we were happy with what we achieved. We wiped several times on the easiest ZG boss, Venoxis, but at the end we at least had the tactics down pat, and had him down to 25% life with just 15 people. It was obvious that we just needed more players in the raid. We got a couple of green items, a couple of coins and bijous (which since patch 1.11 are only useful to hand in for reputation), and even one voodoo doll (which is completely useless unless you master ZG a lot better). But more importantly we were having fun, chatting and laughing on Teamspeak all the time. It was a party of friends having fun on some excursion into the unknown. Achieving anything was only of secondary importance.

I don't think it is a difference in the guilds that makes these raids so different. My Horde guild isn't serious because they are all so serious people, but because the game forces you to be concentrated to the max if you want to succeed in places like Blackwing Lair. An exploration raid to just have a look around in Zul'Gurub is not something you can do repeatedly. Sooner or later my Alliance guild as well won't be satisfied unless there are bosses killed and loot gained. And that will force us to become more efficient, and less relaxed. A pity.
If you can, you might want to try some instance-runs with people in the same physical location as you.

I play once a week with two other guys, playing in the Strange Company offices. We're very serious about our WoW, and (I think) very good - we cleared Gnomegeran yesterday going in with two 31s and a 29 - but we have a hell of a lot of fun because we're in the same physical location, and can easily laugh, joke and relax based not only on situation but also body language.

I'm intending to organise a 20-man LAN raid up here some time later in the year - I think we'll absolutely destroy whatever instances we attempt, and have a lot of fun doing it.
Where else but in a video game can you have a great time getting your ass kicked? Too many people refuse to take pleasure in a crushing defeat. To me, it's when everything goes totally to hell that a game becomes most surprising and frightening? And when it comes, victory is sweeter because you've got a score to settle.
I would point out that you can still have a lot of fun being serious. It doesn't seem possible in a 40-man raid unfortunately though. I remember the one time a group of friends and I did Stratholme Dead Side in 45 minutes. We tried several times and felt very successful when we did it. Not only that, but most importantly, I still look back on that as one of the most fun experiences I've had in WoW. Sure the whole run was very tense, and we didn't chat much, but we were working together so well, like a team. It's a different kind of fun, not socializing fun, but still social in another sense, kind of like what basketball players call being "in the zone."
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