29 January 2011

Why I'm a Part-Time Progression Raider

You know how when you go to the beach on a really hot day, all you can sometimes think about is the water? So you head down and sometimes just standing and letting the waves wash up around your feet is enough? If getting your feet wet isn’t satisfying enough, you edge out a bit deeper into the surf and bob about in the waves. Sometimes you can duck under them, and other times you can just kinda jump and float right over top. For the true seekers, that’s not enough, either. They need to venture out past where you can stand looking for waves to tame. Catching that wave requires some work, and sometimes the wave is going to spit you out in glorious wipe out. But, when you do it right... when you ride that sucker until it’s out of juice, there is nothing like it. It’s pure Win!
WoW is like that water for me.

The Wader

Sometimes I’m content to log in and just hang out, letting the game wash over my feet. I might run a few dailies while I spend time chatting in guild, vent or evenTwitter. I may farm some rep through low level daily quests. Perhaps indulge my inner goblin and tinker about with the Auction House. Despite barely scratching the surface of the content, I still experience the smells and sounds of the game.

The Swimmer

Most of the time, I’m not content with just standing on the shore getting my feet wet. Oh no! I’ll want to charge into the surf to hang out. I’ve been known run all 25 possible daily quests as I farm for rep or rep-based tokens (think Champion’s Seals). I’m guilty of spending absolutely slaughtering lowbie mobs 2 - 5 points (like those dreaded Pirates for the Steamwheedle Cartel) at a time. I’ll run a few heroics, hit random battlegrounds to farm honor and pad the HK's or, if nothing else, farm some old achievements. These kind of nights are my normal. In this mode, I’m happily experiencing more of the games content, but there’s still a whole other level that exists.

The Surfer

To see that other level, that’s when it’s step it up and swim out past the breakers. In other words, I am talking about progression raiding. This is more serious and much less forgiving. Now you’re part of a team, not just you and your pet. I'm a 10m raider, meaning that nine other people (who are also busy in their own lives) are counting on me: they expect me to be there, aware, and on doing my job. That also means I’m on time, I’m prepared, and I’m bringing ranged DPS and situational awareness to the party. Because when I'm not all of those things, I'm not only wasting my time but their time.

A Willingness to Raid

So far, I’ve talked about three levels of play: the pure social dabbler, the little bit of everything, and the progression raider. There seems to be an endless discussion both in the blogosphere and in trade chat about being Casual or being Hard Core, and often casual players are derided or disrespected. Despite being a member of a guild and a member of a 10m progression team, I’m still Casual. I disagree that I’m still not a progression raider even though I’m Casual. I’m just a part-time progression raider.

Progression Raiding is the end-game (at least for me), and it requires some extra effort on a player to actually be successful. You have to actually work for it (i.e. fine tune DPS, review strategies, communicate with your team, etc). At times, it feels like actual work and it can cause burnout. You also need to be willing to fail (frequently at first with improvement as the encounter starts to gel). Failing sucks. Eventually, however, you’ll pull it together and kill the sucker! That feeling of beating a fight, especially a challenging fight, and seeing the epics drop or achievements pop up is one of the best.

I raid two nights a week for about four hours in each session. I can plan around it -- yes, I actually need to plan to play video games on progression nights. I want to get the kids in bed, kiss my wife good night, wrap up work, and the switch over to Peashooter mode.

I enjoy raiding. It’s the game’s pinnacle, and to play at the end-game level you need to have some focus. Chat is present, but not during raid rules or strategizing, and certainly not during the fight! The players are still friendly, but more businesslike. The game is more intense, more exciting, and sometimes a bit stressful. It’s fun, but it’s different that mucking about in Stormwind collecting crabs.

Sounds stressful, right? Sure, but when you Win.... ahh.... it’s all worth it!

Due to that intensity, I won’t commit to 5 or 6 raid nights a week. That’s just not me. That leaves me with no downtime to actually just hang out diving under waves or floating over top of them when I feel like it. Other times, I’m merely content to walk along the edge and watch the others ride the waves.  See, I play WoW because I simply enjoy playing the game at each of these levels.

So what about you? Can you raid all week long? How do you balance more casual down time?