A Cog in the Wheel

Over the years I have discussed with many people my likes and dislike as it regards the concept of “raiding” in MMOs. Back in the days of EverQuest, I was a raider. Not only did I follow other people into battle, but some times I lead them. And really, unless you done both, some of what follows may not make sense.

One thing I constantly say about the way raids are designed in many games is that I do not want to feel like a cog in someone else’s wheel. Finally though, I think I’ve come upon some examples that will really bring across how I feel…

Playing in a group, or small raid, is like a sports team. In basketball, five men take to the court at any one time, in baseball that number is nine, and I just don’t watch enough football to tell you how many are on the field, but I know its a relatively small number… not more than 20 for sure. Playing in a large raid is like being in a full orchestra. Now, let me explain…

We’ll take basketball first because it emulates a typical group size in most games. Five men, they practice together, there are rules and strategies, usually one of them is the captain or calling the ball… but ultimately, the man with the ball does what he does. If he wants to pass, he’ll pass, or if he wants to take the shot, he’ll take the shot. Any player who doesn’t have the ball is going to be trying to get open, or trying to appear that he’s trying to get open so as to distract the defending players. On the defensive side, each player will be covering a man or trying to block a shot. All this happens fairly independently for each man. Of course, as I said, they practice and have strategies, but those are prone to change on the fly in reaction to the situation, or be completely thrown out the window for improvisation when nothing seems to be working. This is like a group in a game… everyone has their role, their skills and abilities, and they do what they can, following the guidelines but ultimately their actions are their own and mutable from moment to moment.

Stepping upward, you put two to maybe four groups together for a small raid and like with larger team sports, the plays and strategies get more rigid, but still each person retains some control over their place in the game. Your healers still pick their own targets, people dealing damage do what they do to whoever they choose. Sometimes, full rigidity is called for on a boss fight, but every player, or at least every sub group of players, retains some autonomy.

Then we get to the big raids… I liken them to orchestras because really, if you are talking big raids like the old 72-man EQ days raids, individuality is really a hindrance. To get through the raid is almost a work of art. There are things that must be done in a certain order at certain timing by certain people… its like a symphony. Sure, you can drop one or your violins and add an extra cello, which will change the tone of the piece a bit, but in the end you play the same symphony. Large raids are run by one person, or a small subset of the people, conducted if you will, and if you aren’t one of those people then you are a piece in the orchestra. They need you to fill out the make up of their raid, and as long as you can do your part, things will be fine. But as gloriously demonstrated by the classic Leroy Jenkins clip, doing your own thing and breaking from formation can get everyone killed.

Some people don’t mind playing in the orchestra, letting someone else write the music and decide how its played and simply doing their own part to the best of their ability according to the plan at hand. Personally, I don’t like that. While I don’t mind giving up some control to the greater strategy, playing to the strengths of my team, I dislike giving up nearly all my control to focus on a single simple task… “Heal main tank”, “DPS”, “cure disease and spot heal”

Of course, by this point, with big raids having been so prevalent (and the fact that EQ often employed the “only one road to success” method of raid design) even as games like WoW’s Burning Crusade try to scale back raiding to smaller groups, many players continue to try to distill raids into single simple functions for their members to perform. Not to mention that the focus on item rewards and loot-centric design encourages frequent perfection causing them to desire getting the win as often and as simply as possible.

So, how can you tell if you are the cog in someone else’s wheel, if you are playing in someone else’s orchestra? Ask yourself about the last raid you went on… what did you do? how did it run? was it fun? If you weren’t the raid leader, and you are a cog, your answers will probably be whatever your class role dictates, smoothly and as for fun, well, that depends on if you enjoy the big raid life. All I know is, I don’t.

I hate thread

Specifically, I hate little balls of thread, the kind that come from my clothes and fall to the floor and lay there so patiently looking exactly like a dead bug, but that I know is not a dead bug, and when I reach down to pick it up makes me scream like a little girl because not only was is not a little ball of thread but it also was not a dead bug, and instead was a live bug which managed to skitter halfway up my arm before I managed to swat it to the ground and jump away doing the “Oogie Boogie” dance as the goosebumps form all up my arms and back.

I hate thread.

Thinking Back…

I don’t have alot of friends.

In the 6th Grade I knew every kid. We all talked and played at recess, we all invited each other to each other’s birthdays and pool parties, we all played little league ball. That summer, the one after 6th Grade, was great. We all would meet down by the creek, or in my yard, or over at Charlie’s house. G.I. Joe, Ghost in the Graveyard, tag, bikes, skateboards, Army, House (yes, there were a few girls in the neighborhood), exploring, it didn’t matter what, we just played.

The last day of summer it rained. And it rained bad enough to keep everyone at home.

The next day was the 7th Grade, junior high, and I went to school with a G.I. Joe figure in my pocket, just as I had done for as long as I could sneak it past my mother in the morning.

My friends came to school in jean jackets and styled hair, and some time during the day, around lunch I suppose (when all the tables seemed full), I realized that all my friends were gone. In a day, they had outgrown action figures, cartoons, games of tag, and riding bikes. In a day, they had outgrown me.

I spent the next 7 months mostly alone, trying to make new friends. I had some success, and by the end of the school year even some of my old friends had come back to me. 7 months of alot of pain and heartache, but it had paid off. I had friends again and I didn’t have to change who I was to get them.

And then my father got transferred to another branch of his company.

Since then, I’ve always had, at most, a half dozen close friends, and everyone else is always at arm’s length, or further. After the 7th Grade, spending time to have lots of friends just didn’t seem worth the effort if we were just going to move and blow it all. The irony here is that my father never got transferred again. 17 years later and I’m still in the same town.

17 years, and in some ways I’m still in the 7th Grade.

28 June 1998

Well, I missed a few days… but I have an excuse… My dog ate my employment application.
Actually, I now have a job… Seagull Software. I start that on July 6th, so next weekend is my last “free” weekend. Not that I’ll be working weekends, but it’ll be the last weekend that isn’t followed by getting up on Monday morning.
Now that job hunting is over, what am I gonna do now… I already decided that all my free time from here on out will be focusing on projects for North 5. First and foremost being the web page. Then I’ll start working on other things…
I’m not usually one to quote myself, but I said something that was actually pretty nifty the other night… while out drinking on Friday at the Ugly Mug Pub, I just casually said to a couple of fellow gamers from DoS, “You know that you have been spending too much time playing on-line games when you refer to being drunk as lag.” Friday night I didn’t get drunk… but on Saturday, hehe… I went to a party / pool tournament, what follows is a chronicle of the games last night:
First off, I playing some practice games against Frank.. nice guy, decent pool player, but he doesn’t play his shots with the next one in mind, meaning he doesn’t line up shots too well.. Anyhow, first game went to him when I scratched while trying to sink the 8, and the second game he still had 5 balls on the table when I dropped the 8 for the win. After that Derek and I started a game that was going pretty evenly, but we never finished because the tourney began.
I was told in the beginning of the evening that the man to beat was Austin, of the 5 tourneys they had held, he had won 3. So of course when we drew numbers for the games, he was in my bracket. Not my first game, but in my bracket. My first game was against Robby, and I almost lost. He was up with only the 14 left on the table and I had 5 balls out there. He missed a shot and I got lucky as hell by ending my turn everytime leaving him no shot on the 14. Slowly I worked down the table, and his last shot of the game, he left me set up to drop my last ball and then the 8. After almost losing it, I pulled back and won. I decided it was time to start drinking.
My next game, as luck would have it was against Pete, ForceTen of Clan DoS, and we were fighting out to see who would play Austin in the semi-final round. The game was going easy enough with Pete and I both sinking a ball or two, but I hadn’t drunk nearly enough to be good yet, so I was nervous. Then Pete dropped the 8 in by accident and took himself out of the game. At this point I think the last 3 or 4 games had ended that way.
Now was the semi-finals, me versus the legendary Austin, and I was on my 7th or 8th drink and fading fast, time to get nasty. = ) The game was normal enough, I took the break and we both traded off getting balls down, but then he took a lead and got about 3 balls ahead of me. With only the 6 on the table, he started chasing it around never quite getting it to drop in a pocket. In the end, he missed a shot on the 6 and set me up perfect for my last couple shots. The king is dead, long live the king. hehe. I’ll admit, I got lucky here. I really didn’t think I had a chance, but with the cops hangin’ around outside deciding whether or not to come in looking for minors drinking (of which their were none) and the hosts flipping out because I think they suspected a person or two to be holding (if you don’t know, don’t ask), I would guess that Austin was a little off his game. Besides, I have always been of the opinion that even when you know you can win, you should lose every now and then to keep the odds up. = )
For the finals, I was playing Scott. The game was going evenly when out of my drunken haze I had a moment of clarity and dropped 3 balls in a row and took the lead. We played back and forth a little but finally I whittled down the table and dropped my last ball. I had a nice setup on the 8, but it’s one of those shots where if you sink the 8, it’s great, but if you go a couple degrees off the mark, you scratch.
I got $43 for second place.
I must give out kudos to Kelly and Sean… they throw a kick-ass shindig.. I’m just a little upset that I missed the female, naked body-shots because I was playing pool. Next time I’ll know better and lose in the first round like Eric (D’oh!! hehehe).
I am also very glad that I am one of those people that just don’t get hang-overs…
Today’s Song: Hey Man Nice Shot by Filter for all the obvious reasons.. this song really needed to get played during the tourney.
Today’s Movie: The Outsiders. This was on TV during the party… I love this movie. See it.