Friday, September 25, 2009

The Illusion of Success

Let me know if this situation sounds a little familiar.
Your guild is working on a difficult boss that you have not downed before. You put a few attempts in, discover a few issues, and refine your strategy to correct for the issues. You're making good attempts and doing better than you expected. It feels like you're very close to downing the boss.

Then your progress stalls. You had an attempt where you got to the final phase of the fight very cleanly, but now you can't get there at all. Your raid ends in frustration because you were so close, but your progress backslid in the end.
I've been thinking a lot lately about guild progression. What makes a guild progress, and what prevents a guild from progressing? The situation above is something I've experienced many times over the past 2 years of raiding, and it can derail your guild's progression if you don't look at it from the right perspective.

Why Attempts Fail:

In my experience there are two factors that cause raid attempts to fail.

  1. Lack of Focus and Execution: I think we all know what I'm talking about here. Your raid knows what to do, but they're just not doing it. Your attempt fails because half the DPS stand in the fire or a boss ability is not interrupted.

    These types of wipes are very frustrating and how you address them really depends on the personality of your guild. However, the solution is always the same. Your raiders have to play better.

  2. Lack of Knowledge and Experience: I am a firm believer that you have to make attempts to learn a boss. Reading strats and watching videos are a great way to prepare you for the general mechanics of the fight, but they will never be able to prepare you for every nuance of the fight. You have to do the actual fight to figure that out.

    For example, when my guild was working on IC hard mode, some of our early attempts wiped because we hadn't worked out where the tank should die with Meltdown. The tanks needed to find the balance of being far enough away not to damage the raid, but close enough so that they can be rezzed quickly. It may take a couple of attempts to figure out but those attempts are not failures. They are valuable learning experiences that will help you in the future.

The Illusion of Success:

It is not uncommon for an attempt failure to be blamed on RNG, but it is rarely credited for your successes. It stands to reason that if you can have bad RNG that makes your attempt harder then you can also have good RNG that makes your attempt easier. Therefore not all of your successes are due to a full understanding of the situation or proper execution. Sometimes you get lucky and do better than you should.

Now, go back and look at the scenario I started this post with from this perspective. After you've had a couple of very successful attempts, it's easy to think that you've got the fight in the bag. Then when you don't kill the boss or even match your progress in later attempts it can be very frustrating. That is completely understandable, but I also think it is important to step back and ask yourself a question. Did your later attempts backslide or did your earlier attempt overachieve?

The answer doesn't really change how you prepare for the next attempt, but I think it is very important when dealing with personal and guild morale. It is important to try and keep your guild morale level in the face of both successes and failures. If your guild over values its successes the impact of your failures will be more significant and hurt your progress. Therefore, I think your best attempt is the one where you learn something to make your next attempt more successful.

(Edited by Flamedor)


Boukev said...

Spot on! Spot on! I am not in a real raiding guild since we are really casual in the raiding, but now we are working on Yogg-Saron and boy that is a hard fight for very casual players. There is so much going on that it is hard to focus and make the right decisions constantly. At the moment we have phase 1 fully under control (with the exception of some sleepers walking in clouds) but phase 2 is really killing us. I feel there is progress since more people learn the fight and we get more and more tentacles etcetera down. But some people are complaining since we never get any extra percentage of the boss and they don't see the progress. I try to remind them that if we get the hang of it the boss will go down. But sometimes it is hard to see the bright light.

Boize said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your statements about RNG.

You might be getting so close on some fights, but just lacking that tiny amount. Sometimes you might just need that extra bit of luck to push you over the edge of success.

For example, my guild recently killed Hodir 25 HM after about 3 nights of constant wiping. We got some lucky NPC positioning, and actually downed him as he was shattering his cache. Everyone agreed we got the luck of the draw with RNG there.

Maestro said...

Yes, a good attempt, in my mind, is an attempt where something was learned and then properly executed in the following attempt. An example would be Hodir and the Storm Power Buff. Seeing the mechanic for the Storm Power and then seeing a player run around the next turn passing the buff around really made me feel like we made progress, regardless of the relative percentage of the bosses health before the wipe.

I also believe that a guild that doesn't use failure as a building block of success will eventually be torn apart. Recently, content has not exactly reinforced that idea, but I hope to see a return of difficult encounters requiring guilds to put in a great deal of effort and planning instead of just showing up on game day and collecting whatever falls out of the pinata!

Dendrius said...

There's also what I like to call RL RNG... you spill something on the keyboard, the power goes out, you lag in a fire or when you should use an important ability... I think those kind of things wipe our raid just as much as in-game mistakes. TOGC seems to be built around helping a raid diagnose the problem though.... You know who fails on Icehowl charge, when incinerate flesh blows people up, or why someone died during a twins vortex. And knowing is better than having no clue.

Also, the later into the night it gets, the more you can bet that factors like frustration and fatigue (or possibly alcohol consumption in the case of certain members) will play a role in helping you wipe.

We start the week with the most challenging content. If (when) we start to wipe to things we shouldn't we get taken down into easier stuff. We just started doing this recently but I can already tell that people are performing better and being more motivated to make steady progress. We've got much less of a bang your head against the encounter feel than we did a few weeks ago.

This actually coincides with some of the theories about memory and learning.... Make a few attempts at something challenging, then let that short-term memory be digested into long-term memory that will help you more in the encounter.

Neirin said...

You just described - word for word - what happened when my guild came up against Mimiron the 1st week of 3.1. We learned each phase through hours of wipes (we all agreed to go in blind, without reading ptr strats so we had no idea what was going on each time we got to a new phase). Finally we got to phase 4 and saw Voltron and thought we must be getting close, only to end up spending probably 20 hours of play time wiping to phase 4 before we finally downed him.

It's hard to imagine now that he ever gave us trouble, but I suppose there was a time when even Sarth+0 was progression.

Mîk said...

Wow, I was just thinking about this last night on our 25-man heroic Anub'arak attempts. It's extremely frustrating to know the strategy, and have the skill to execute it, but still fail many, many times.

At this point in raiding wiping on this too many times can have terrible consequences. Since by this time in the week we have most everything cleared and nothing left to do but these attempts, it leaves everyone very frustrated. However, out guild leaders are good at realizing our mood and will throw us some extra EP and mail us flasks for the hard fought (but unsuccessful) attempts.

Anonymous said...

Has our DPS decreased? or did others get buffed.

Doing Council Hard Mode - Ulduar

I'm popping everything, rng not a big issue, perfect sequence, rotation, etc, and average 5600 DPS. Am I happy?

No, I'm 11th on the DPS chart. Hunters, Rogues, Mages all in the 6500 - 7000 range.

Are moonkins falling behind again?

Anonymous said...

I believe that mages, hunters and rogues (pure classes) are meant to outdps boomkins. (This is assuming similar ilvl gear / skill).

Anonymous said...

northrend beast 1st phase on gormok ( total single target nuke like patchwerk) pushed out 7,3k :) but ussualy like 6,7-7k

Parasha - Aszune EU

Ballerkin said...

@ Anonymous --

I don't think moonkin DPS is falling behind just yet. Sure, on Heroic Anub 25 I am definitely near the bottom, but there are just certain fights that certain classes excel at more.

On Council HM, however, you probably could be hitting more -- its all about placement, hitting all three targets with Starfall, and DPSing properly while you are in the Rune of Power.