“Ok wipe it” are three words I hate to utter. Most of the time that’s said as a direct result of something that should have happened but didn’t on content that’s known and should be cake. When the wipe is called for its not a happy moment. Sometimes there is yelling, sometimes there is QQ’ing, and occasionally there are harsh consequences.
But recently in one of two guild Naxx10 runs, we were working on that beauty in the Plague wing known as Grobbulus.
We had minimal information–just what was available to us through WoWwiki and Wowhead, and some videos of the 25man version.
We had a strategy, we started in on the boss and did fairly well, then as happens sometimes, it all just fell apart. Quickly.
All the healers died or the raid went from full health to half and then six ppl were down. We wiped, ran back, reset, and tweaked something.
“OK let’s try melee on the add and ranged on the boss.” Nope. “Wipe it.” Run, reset, reassess. And this went on for a few attempts until we laid out a strategy that we knew would (should!) work and we stuck by it.
Bear in mind as all this is going on we were wiping. It was not in the double digits but it was quite a few. Normally me or a fellow officer would be turning up the heat on the raid to get their heads out of places that are not mentioned in polite dinner conversation. But instead of being angry, I was actually enjoying it. I was enjoying the unknown, the discovery, the problem solving.
It was different than knowing “X, Y, and Z are the only way to beat this encounter.” Instead it was not knowing for sure what was the right way to do it, working with with limited information, playing smart, and learning from mistakes.
Steven Johnson in Everything Bad is Good for You wrote about this process in modern video games (working with limited information to solve difficult problems) and how that makes today’s games far more worthwhile than the tired axiom of “they improve hand-eye coordination.” I read his book just recently this summer and that was the first thing that popped into my head as we finally took down Grobbulus: we were challenged by the game to solve a problem and we took iterative steps to understand it, tackle it, and then overcome it.
And when it all clicked, when that last piece of the puzzle fell into place, when we figured out what was wrong and how to “solve it” with our group–and then did–I was genuinely excited. At that moment we accomplished something as a team, as a guild. It was something new, not just the same-ol’ boss kill w00t.
I’ve experienced raid boss kills since the days of Molten Core and screamed like a crazy person during triumphant victories over just-won’t-die-guild-first-kills. The vast majority of those were just a matter of 1) getting everyone to do what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it and 2) being well enough geared to survive the base damage output. While #1 is hard enough, what was different with this Grobbulus encounter was that we had to figure out #1 first, and then do it. By the time we get to content (along with 99.99% of other people in the game) the strategies are written, the diagrams clarified, and the videos posted. All a raider has to do is read and exectute.
It was the challenge of limited information that made Grobbulus so much fun.
Of course that enjoyment will be short-lived. As guild leaders we have a responsibility to our guild to fill in those gaps of limited information, to understand the encounter and know what is going to happen before it happens so that we wipe less and loot more. But for one night I understood the enjoyment of beta testers and hard core progression guilds. There really is something to be said for that learning process.