Monday, April 21, 2008

The fun of trash wiping

I rarely read the official forums of Blizzard. There's just too much crap to wade through before you found the gold nuggets. One of the few threads that I follow though is the guild relations forum on the American site. For some reason the discussions there are so much more interesting then the ones on the European one. One topic that keeps coming up is the difficulty of motivating people to sign up for progress nights. "They only come for farming. But when we're going for a new boss they just disappear. What should I do?". I've read it so many times, and it puzzles my mind. How do those people who won't show up think? What is their reason for raiding at all?

I came to think of it after another lovely raiding night yesterday. It offered the two different aspects of raiding: farming and progression. First the farming part: we started out on Gruul, and this was the smoothest run ever. Now we really can claim that we've got him on farm. HKM went down so easily, and I hardly think anyone died at all. And Gruul himself was almost just as easy, just one wipe out of some obscure accident, the next time he was nailed. Of course it was fun, feeling that we performed well, it gave us all a boost of confidence (and I got my T4 trousers as well). But really, we were very well geared, we'd done it before, so I guess the accomplishment wasn't so much to brag about.

I was completely taken by surprise when it turned out that we next would head to Tempest Keep. Actually it wasn't anything I had planned for - as a matter of fact we had intended to go to Zul Aman this night, but plans were changed in the last moment. Anyway, I didn't object at all, it was just as getting a surprise gift.

This part of the night was just the opposite to Gruul. Most of us were absolutely beginners in this instance, and since it wasn't announced before, we hadn't done any research on it at all. And of course we wiped - not on the bosses, because we never reached them, but on the trash mobs.

"This was such a waste, absolutely useless, what's the point?" a guildie of mine, less than half of my age and therefore probably a bit less patient then me complained after the run.

"You should have seen our speedrun in Kara the other night. THAT's fun," he continued.

Actually I couldn't have disagreed more. I simply loved Tempest Keep. OK we were wiping, but we were making progress! For every wipe we made, we learned something and we did it better next time. Step by step we were knocking down the walls, building new grounds, just the way as the Sunwell island is conquered right now (they started building the alchemy lab yesterday).

It was a brand new instance, with the same beautiful bright setting as for instance Botanica, that I love so much. It was all so exciting, I had no idea what to expect behind the next corner, since I hadn't prepared (next time I will, I promise). And even the trash mobs were fun! Like the flocks of birds that made us bounce around in the corridor just like popcorn. It was hilarious, and I wiped with a smile on my face. One or two more tries and we knew how to do them, and the popcorn era had come to an end.

I wouldn't have missed this part of the evening for anything in the world. The Gruul-on-farm-part was nice as well, but taking up a new mission, going for progress is better. No offence, but if you just stay with the farm bosses, where's the challenge? Eventually it turns into something that resembles to the picking-mana-berries-cooking-quest. Just go and pick the boss and get your loot... It's only fun if you've learned the fight by wiping, if you still remember the bank account draining nights, and know that you've actually improved.

Now we've got Gruul on farm and are starting to work our way through SSC and TK. I expect nothing but a lot of corpse runs in the next few weeks, unless we keep farming Gruul, which I guess we'll do until people got most of the gear they want from him.

And I'm so happy about it. With all those new daily quests you can't really say it's hard to get the money you need for the repairs. It's just as my blogging friend Consentire use to say: "I love a high repair bill. It's a sign of that you've been out for some mischief".

But back to the initial question: how do you motivate people to come to progress nights and not only to farming nights? The usual answer is to reward the faithful players, the ones that have been there all the way. Reward them with DKP, reward them with guaranteed raid spots even when the boss is on farm. And I guess that's fair, an obvious thing to do. Still I can't help thinking it's a bit sad it should be necessary.

In my world, if you've got the heart and soul of a raider, you're not just interested in picking mana berries, you also actually enjoy the learning process in itself. It's reward enough to have been there from the beginning, to have gone through all of the phases, from first encounter (Oh, shit, what's this about? Seems kind of impossible), via the first-kill (yes! We finally did it!) to farming.

Will we ever get to the stage that we have at least a few bosses in SSC and TK on farm? I don't know. Maybe, it depends on how fast the expansion hits. But I know one thing for sure: there will be more nights when we'll wipe on trash. And I'm really looking forward to it.


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