Saturday, April 18, 2015

Diaries of a Ganker, Part XII - Confessions of a Waterboy

Now that all my toons are Conquest geared I'm finding myself at a bit of a loss at what to do. My original plan was to push for rating at the end of the season, but I'm finding that I lack the drive (or the team mates) to do so. I returned to WoW because of friends and family, and now those same people have abandoned WoW again, leaving me marooned in Azeroth. Lelle has her baby, Rykester is back at university completing his Masters, Ratsac is building his new house, Corona has foregone WoW in favour of a 3rd person MOBA called Smite, and Sorgon - who the hell knows what he is doing, apart from getting high somewhere. Of the active people I do know, none of them are viable team mates. Greyscorn, Odie and Hazeraxe are great guys, but they're just not very good I'm afraid - it's fun to cap with them, or to do world PvP with them, but as partners for rating all I can say is been there and done that, and don't want to do it again. Odie is a prime example of someone who was "good" in the grindy vanilla WoW PvP system, but couldn't make the transition to the more skill-based era of Arenas and Rated BGs. He earned the Field Marshal title back in vanilla - for those unfamiliar with the vanilla WoW PvP system the best thing that can be said about it is that it rewarded bloody single-minded determination to accumulate as many HKs as possible on a weekly basis. You couldn't take a week off, because your ranking would decay - apart from this consideration, it was all about farming HKs to maintain your position on the player distribution curve. The Field Marshal rank nowadays translates to a 2300+ rating in Rated BGs - in modern day Arena though Odie is simply terrible, and he doesn't even have the most basic Arena achievement of 1550+.

Of all my remaining active WoW friends, only Ratsac and Tamati are left - as I said, however, Ratsac is spending less and less time online as his house takes shape over in Western Australia. Tamati is unavailable as a team mate, because he is sitting on his rating of 2.2k in 3s and is on the cusp of getting the Arena Master (2.2k in all brackets) achievement. I have to admit to pangs of jealousy when I heard this - Tamati and I started out together with no rating, and while I have run headlong into the 2k wall, he has gone and crushed it on multiple toons. He's better than me, but I don't think that the gulf between us is that great - if he can get 2k I should be able to as well. Of course I could just be deluding myself, but oh well, we all need our illusions.

The last time I'll be paying for a WoW sub with real money. I bought a pile of tokens using my stockpiled gold for 21,428 gold apiece, and will leisurely earn my gold back in the interval to keep the sub going if I keep playing.

Since everyone else seems to have moved on I was to about to unsub, but the advent of the WoW token has given me a reason to extend my stay in Azeroth. I have a ridiculous amount of gold stockpiled, just under half a million or so, so I'm thinking that this month will be the last month I pay for a subscription. I used to have more, but WoW has a rule that each toon can only transfer 50,000 gold with them, and so the most I could take when I migrated my 10 toons to Gundrak during the free Oceanic transfer window was 500,000. The rest I ended up depositing to my old guild on Thorium Brotherhood. I don't need gold for anything - my toons are self-sufficient. PvP gear has no gem slots nor do we use consumables like flasks or food, so the only real expense comes from providing enchants for all the relevant pieces on all my active toons. Apart from this gold has no use for me - I'm not interested in mounts or vanity pets, so it makes sense to use the gold to offset real money subscription costs. I'm not going to "work" for my subscription either - with a 10 month head start I can easily re-make the gold doing garrison quests and selling crafted gear at a leisurely pace. If the gold price of the WoW token does inflate to ridiculous amounts which make it necessary for me to "work" for my monthly gold subscription cost then I just won't bother. I'll just resub. That is a conundrum at least 10 months further down the track, however. The WoW token will have an interesting effect on assessing subscription numbers, because who knows how many subscribers will be real money subscriptions as opposed to those financed by gold. By the same "token" however, it's easy to forget that every WoW token I buy with gold has been bought and paid for by someone with real money, so does it all even out revenue wise for Blizzard? I'll leave that for better minds than mine to puzzle out.

Being the miserly bastard that I am, I'm going to extend my sub in two month bursts - I'll reassess at the end of this period if I want to keep my sub going. My sub no longer costs me real money, but no sense wasting tokens if I don't feel like playing either.

So now that I am here to stay, I've been looking around for a Rated BG team to join in the hopes of finding one which can take me all the way to 2k. Since coming to Gundrak my toons have joined three guilds (four, if you count Ratsac's holding guild called <Unique Snowflakes>) - <Zero Style>, <Next Level> and finally <Jim's Mowing>. <Zero Style> and <Next Level> have died quiet ignominious deaths and have been abandoned and deserted. <Jim's Mowing> on the other hand, is perhaps the most organized PvP guild I've been a member of despite its unfortunate name. Ranks are determined purely on your PvP achievements, and they hold four to five PvP events on a weekly basis catering to differing levels of achievement. They hold Rated BG events, world PvP events, and unique events like Royal Rumble style eliminations and duelling tournaments. I've somehow snagged a spot on their core team which plays on Monday nights, and I've convinced Ratsac to join as well. I'm surrounded by awesome players on paper, and they all hold lots of shiny Arena and Rated BG achievements, which makes me a very sad panda. I also realised that I may have the lowest level of achievement on the team - my guild rank corresponds to my highest Arena achievement, which is 1750+, while the rest of them are rocking 2k or above - which makes me an even sadder panda, and also designates me as the "waterboy" of the team. To cap it all, one of their best players is a 13 year old kid named Chubbydruid, who is an Arena Master and Lieutenant-Commander (2.2k in Rated BGs) which makes me the saddest panda of all, and makes me wonder why I bother chasing rating at all. Self-determination theory ascribes three rationales for intrinsically driven behaviour - competence, autonomy, and relatedness - and I guess I must fall in the first and last categories - because according to my way of thinking, if I don't try to better myself (i.e. push for higher and higher rating) there is no real point in continuing to play at all. Even if 13 year olds can kick my ass without even really trying. It's amazing how much deference Chubby gets by virtue of his achievements, but the young tacker is a WoW prodigy - in Rated BGs he heals, dispels, CCs, and moves like lightning all around the battlefield, being Johny on the spot in crisis situations and always communicating effectively over Skype. You remember that he is just a little boy though, when someone cracks a stupid joke and he bursts out in in high pitched pre-pubescent laughter. I worry about the kind of influence this team is exerting on his development as a young adult, but at the very least it must be empowering in some way. In this field, at least, he is the equal or the better of his adult compatriots.

Life on a PvP server - while buying up tokens, a group of three Hordies blow through and slaughter the helpless NPCs, including the auctioneers. Sitting on my AH toon all I could do is watch. Those bastards. How dare they interfere with my game time. Wait a minute, is that hypocrisy I'm feeling?

All these shiny achievements don't hide the dysfunctionality which exists within this team however. For starters, the raid is led by a paladin called Pallypwnftw who tries to do his job, but is consistently undercut and undermined by the guild leader (a.k.a. Jim of <Jim's Mowing>) who occasionally butts in and contradicts him on strategy and composition. Jim insists on playing but lurks in the corners of the raid without speaking, but then chiming in whenever it suits him if he disagrees with something Pally says. On one occasion Jim demanded raid lead and used it to kick a priest who was irritating him, then asked Pally to find a replacement. To make matters worse, Jim usually refuses to play with a microphone, and spams his demands either on guild chat or raid chat. This kind of behaviour wouldn't be tolerated on any other team but because he is the GM his guild somehow just puts up with it. What's even worse is that he plays a hunter most of the time, which means he is allocated guard duty on node maps. Without a microphone. This is just bizarre, and has led to predictable results, in which the node Jim is guarding is overrun because no one saw Jim's call for help on raid chat. Since I am the newest and lowest member I just shut my mouth and roll with it, even though it drives me up the wall. I even started putting Jim on focus so I could see when he takes damage and then call for him (i.e. "Jim's being attacked at ST, he needs help."). Lately however he has begun using a mike reluctantly, and that's because he had a minor mutiny from some of his guildies who rightfully called him out on his behaviour. Jim is like the hated uncle in family reunions - we have to invite him because he is family, but nobody likes the old geezer because he's an asshole.

The guild master isn't the only thing dysfunctional about this team. Pally talks himself up constantly, and traditionally this has been a part of "leetbro" culture which annoyed me the least. Yes, yes, I saw it. Yes, that was a great play. Yup, yup, you owned that DK. Yeah, buddy, you are awesome. I feel like someone faking an orgasm. Nonetheless, I do it as it's all part of my Machiavellian plan to integrate myself into the team. Unfortunately Pally can go beyond self-praise and go into the realm of sniping at others to make himself look better. If I'm the target I stand my ground, and I link Recount statistics to defend myself if necessary. "Why are your heals so low, monk?" "Well, next time let me heal offence and you can sit with the FC." "Why didn't you dispel me, monk?" "My dispel was on CD, but if you like I can link overall Dispel count, in which I doubled yours. I can even link you how many times I have dispelled you in the game, which is - let me see - 13? Now how many times have you dispelled me - oh. Once. You dispelled Frost Fever. Cheers, bro." There's a fine balance of being an ass kisser and someone who stands up for themselves, and it's walking this tightrope that is the essence of realpolitik, albeit on the micro level of computer games. I want to be part of the team, but I'm not willing to be a punching bag either.

The other healer in the team, Asheboyswag, is also an Arena Master but is a reluctant healer, much preferring to play shadow in Rateds. Ash constantly whinges about how much he hates healing, and in one game was so bored that he broke from strategy and just started running the flag himself instead of handing it off to our designated FC (flag carrier). We still won, but this type of retarded selfish play wouldn't fly in normal teams, and is somehow tolerated for whatever reason. This team really needs a strong leader to sort them out. As it stands we're stuck in the 1700-1800 bracket despite having a team filled with great individual players with much higher achievements. Even my team of neophytes, filled with people with no achievements (at that time), managed to get 1900+ in Season 13 simply because we were a great team and we worked together as a unit. If this was a PuG team I would have been out of here long ago, but the fact is that this guild represents the best opportunity for me to play in a stable team filled with good players. At least these guys have trials and regular events, unlike other guilds out there. Despite Ash's whinging, Chubby's youth and Pally's self-promotion they are all awesome PvP healers. Chubby is like the Flash - he is everywhere, and invariably always the first to any node in trouble. Pally is a decent raid leader but has problems overriding Jim or other established players. Ash is always nagging his fellow healers for dispels, but whenever I get CCed and I'm near him he dispels it almost instantaneously so what he asks for he also gives back in return. In a Silvershards Mine game I once rolled off the side of the track and fell in the water by accident in the middle of a big fight. I didn't tell anyone out of embarrassment, and started swimming for the shore to get back to the fight above. Without missing a beat Ash pulled me back up with Lifegrip (a.k.a. Leap of Faith). So OK, he's occasionally annoying - but the dude can play, and as I've said before, competence trumps good manners for me up to a certain point.

Having spent over a decade living in Japan, I've had to assimilate the conventions of aisatsu (ritualised greetings) and learn the inflections of keigo (formal speech) in work and casual situations. You don't really know a Japanese person from first impressions. The day they actually start bitching and complaining to you is the day you know you have penetrated past the layers of socially conditioned politeness and have started to meet the real person underneath. This is the case for most cultures - we all have our public and private personas - but the difference in Japan is so stark that they have words for it. Tatemae (public facade) and honne (true feelings and desires). This is a gross generalisation of course, and I have met Japanese people who eschew this type of public persona. The reverse is also true - I've met quite a few two-faced bastards back home in Australia back when I was practicing as a solicitor (my scumbag clients, mainly). No culture has a monopoly on good people, or bad people. There are two types of drinking parties in Japan - the ones where everyone really lets their hair down (I call them honne parties), and the ones where it's really just an extension of the hierarchical stratification that characterises Japanese culture. Last week I had to pour beer for my boss, my bosses' boss, and finally pour beer for the mayor, who being the highest ranked dignitary in the room was the focus of obeisance for the whole function. Of course, as a concession to egalitarianism you're also supposed to pour beer for everyone else, which leads to the situation in which everyone is standing up with a bottle of beer in hand trying to pour beer for people who also have bottles to pour. No one is sitting down, no one is having fun (but they're pretending to), and I find the whole ritual exceedingly painful. There was a time when I got a kick out of having a pretty young intern pour my beer for me, but since Yuri passed I don't think that way anymore. It just makes me sad, and reminds me of the day we first met. She hated those stupid functions, too. Sometimes I get the irrational impulse during these functions to strip and run around naked and do star jumps in front of everyone with my junk flopping around in people's faces. One day I might snap and this day may come to pass - unfortunately that will also be the day when I get fired from my company and get my ass sent home on a plane with the proviso "Never To Return" stamped on my passport.

In short, if I can put up with navigating honne and tatemae in my working life then integrating into this Rated team should be a piece of piss by comparison. Much in the same way you have to wade through the layers of tatemae and formality in Japan to find the real person beneath, you have to do the same when you are trying to establish yourself in a Rated BG team. Beyond the "leetbro" culture and the posturing there are real people underneath, and I just want to dispense with the BS and start becoming part of a real team and kicking some real ass. The true beauty of team play in Rateds is when you start being able to rely on your team to have your back, and we are so far from this point at the moment it's laughable. There are moments during Rateds where you are literally helpless to do anything - silenced, stunned and rooted, with five, six, or seven DPS on you trying to rip your face off - and your life is completely in the hands of your fellow healers and team mates who can peel for you. I'm not comfortable yet putting my virtual life in the hands of these strangers - but this is the point I would like to get to. The point in which you know you actually belong to a team rather than a group of individuals is when you are able to call out mea culpa, or admit your mistakes, without fear of being of given excessive grief for it. Light hearted ridicule or friendly sledging is par for the course, and is a given. A real team however, is able to freely admit their mistakes while at the same time exhibiting a willingness to learn and improve from them. For now, however, I'll simply have to observe the rituals of male bonding (akin to aisatsu), use the lexicon of "leetbro" speech (akin to keigo), and hope that one day we actually pierce the veil of tatemae and start forging some real team bonds.



Addendum - above is a video of one of our better matches against a 1600+ team. We still won comfortably thanks to the vicious efficiency of our DPS who chewed through the enemy every time they made contact, but the problems besetting the team are apparent. In this game Ash decides to run the flag by himself after the first cap, leading to a sub-optimal situation where all three healers are stuck on defence. You can see me dithering in the flag room not sure what to do - our opening strategy called for Pally and I to drop back to support the FC with a hunter, but when Ash took the flag it left our offence without heals, who wiped as a result. Jim the GM is on his mage and as per usual is refusing to talk on Skype, instead opting to spam chat with his demands. He also inexplicably drops the flag for no reason in our flag room, either because he was getting pissed at people telling him to give the flag to our DK FC, or he just cocked up a transfer. Without a mike no one knew what the hell he was thinking, and the end result was that the opposition scored a cap. Pally was doing a great job raid leading I thought, but he had problems putting his foot down with Ash, who outranks him, or was getting drowned out by Mpsmash, our target caller (TC). We still won, but It was far from the kind of performance one would expect for a team filled with 2k+ players.

5 comments:

  1. I shit you not. All his toons have either Jim or Gene or variations thereof in their names - i.e. Jimsimmons or Genesimmons - so I'm guessing he is a KISS fan as well.

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  2. That's just too bizarre for words.

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  3. Great read as usual. I too have felt the staleness of the season, and the lack of similar skilled players to play with has provided an excuse to take a break. Also the latest preview of patch 6.2 with the Timewalking feature has really disheartened me regarding Blizzard's aim for this game. Plus their response when they were called out for churning out old content, pretending it was new was both so arrogant and laughable. If they think this is what players want, then they really have no respect for their customers.

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    1. I've been thinking about the dearth of content as well, and it's kind of ironic that WoD has been pretty sparse despite it being Blizzard's big return to form in terms of subscription numbers. TBH it doesn't really affect me because I only play WoW to PvP, but even 6.2 doesn't promise to bring a new season to bring back all the players who have either gone on sabbatical or are just sitting on their rating waiting for the end of the season.

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