Monday, March 15, 2010

Kicking Goals in the World of Warcraft

Is a member of your family or close friend crazy about a game called World of Warcraft? Do they lock themselves in their room, playing the game for hours and refusing to take phone calls or talk to you? It's time to investigate this seemingly strange behavior by drawing parallels to the universal sport of soccer/football.

What is the World of Warcraft?

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a highly popular multi-player online game with over 11 million subscribers. Unlike traditional stand-alone computer games, online games feature interaction with hundreds and sometimes thousands of other real human players. In WoW, these players form 'raid groups' of up to 25 players to tackle an in-game dungeon.

What exactly is a WoW raid group?

Think of a raid group as a soccer team and think of an dungeon as a series of matches where the team plays against computer controlled opponents, also known as "bosses". The raid group works as a team to win these matches - there is a nominated raid leader (the coach and captain) who gives instructions and coordinates the team. The team consists of attackers (DPS members) which are assigned to attack and damage the boss and defenders (tanks and healers) which aim to distract the boss and heal up the team so that the attackers can do their job. Each team member is assigned a specific role and, like any sporting match, all players need to be present for the full game time and perform their assigned duties to the best of their ability. Many raid groups also have reserve players that sit on the bench, waiting to be called in to replace players.

Team members will communicate with each other via a microphone and headphones connected to the PC - you may see your partner sporting a very ugly set of headphones, looking something like a submarine commander. This is the equivalent of the on field communication that happens between players, the captain and the coach.

Each of the matches takes typically between 5-10 mins. During this time, there is no way to pause the game - all raiding takes place in real time. After each match, the raid leader will analyse the performance of the team, make adjustments and then re-engage until the "boss" is defeated - just like any good soccer coach.

A full raid session may consist of many boss kills and can easily go for several hours. Raids are typically scheduled at specific times each week.

So why won't they come and have dinner when they are called?

Players are required to be present for the full duration of the raid. Like any sporting match, you cannot just leave the game whenever you decide. Many of the matches require all members of the raid to play at their best - any single member that steps away from a match and goes 'away from keyboard - AFK' without pre-warning the raid leader will very likely cause the match to be lost - upsetting the other 24 players in the raid.

Why can't I talk to them for 5 mins during a raid?

Players will either be participating in the match or will be listening to the raid leader, taking instructions before the next match. Either way, the player needs to give the raid his/her full attention.

It is best to wait for a "bio" break to speak with them. Bio breaks are scheduled breaks where the player can get a coffee or visit the bathroom.

What happens when all of the bosses are defeated

This only occurs for the very elite teams and only for certain periods of the year. The creators of WoW are constantly adding new bosses and content to the game to keep players entertained. Most raiding groups always have something bigger to aim for.

I asked them to go out this weekend but they claim they are rostered. What's the deal?

Just like your weekend soccer games, players announce their availability to play typically 1-2 weeks ahead of the scheduled raid. A team roster is usually published by the raid leader a few days before the raid. Players that made themselves available and subsequently get rostered are expected to play.

Why bother raiding - it's just a computer game? Why don't they go outside and kick a ball instead?

The real thrill of raiding is the feeling of progression, team work and accomplishment - just like the feeling you get after winning a sporting final.

Each completed boss encounter awards the group with several items of equipment, otherwise known as 'loot'. This loot comes in the form of items that the player can wear and may be a new piece of armor, weapon or other similar item. Loot items increase the power of individual players and are highly sought after. Winning loot in a raid is a significant achievement - very similar to that sporting trophy you display with pride on the mantle piece.

So if I have to engage in conversation with my WoW gamer, what should I be asking?

Stun your WoW gamer by asking them any of the following questions:
  • What role do you play in WoW raids? A tank, healer or DPS? Why did you chose that role?
  • What new loot did you get from your raid today? Show me your character.
  • What boss are you currently working on? How did you go?
  • Your dinner is almost ready, when can you take your next extended bio break?
Ask these and your fellow raider is bound to be most impressed with your understanding of their gaming world.

Finally, just remember that calling your WoW player for dinner or asking them to do chores in the middle of the raid is likely to be met with some serious resistance. Would David Beckham or Ronaldo leave the field mid-game to put the trash out? At least wait for half-time.

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