Posted tagged ‘pugs’

WoW and The Social Contract

May 28, 2011

I dated a guy once who claimed he conceived this great explanation of the reasoning behind governments, cultures and social norms:

See, at the beginning of time there were no rules or laws and it was anarchy. But then people realized that if they felt like surviving they had to come together. And to come together, they needed to trade in some of their freedoms for rules. Rules that would be enforced by a neutral party, a State or Government. The sum of those rules would be like a Social Contract.

To which I rolled my eyes and informed him that I too had studied John Locke’s Second Treaty of the Civil Government. If he wanted to appropriate someone else’s ideas, he should aim for something a tad more obscure.

I’m reminded of that ex whenever WoW blogs debate the necessity of optimization, argue whether or not raiding or heroics are for “everyone” and discuss douchebags in PuGs. Not of his arrogance (he actually wasn’t arrogant at all when it came to WoW, which you’d find rather surprising if you knew the guy) but rather of his definition of the term “Social Contract“.

What it all comes down to is Social Contracts.

Optimization Depends on Your Social Contract

When you join a group of players, you’re expected to abide by certain rules, the, OMG plug, “Social Contract”.

Each group has its contract. The contract will always include, officially or unofficially, a section of the “attitude toward end game” spectrum and some “resource sharing” rules (loot/bank rules) . Sometimes it’ll include language norms, international relations policies (or how to act around non-guildies) and more.

If you follow the Contract, you’ll fit in. If you don’t follow the Contract at all you’ll be exiled (in the form of the traditional /gkick). If you partially follow the Contract, you’ll be a reject and have Cookie‘s rotten food thrown at you.

Whether or not you should optimize your character depends on that “attitude toward end game” clause. If you’re playing (and I mean, really playing, not just socializing) with people adopting a strict wring-the-most-out-of-it attitude, then yes, optimize or get out.

If you’re playing with a group who’s unwritten clause states “we’re here to hang out with more than 5 people and if we happen to get a purple while doing so, then all the better“, optimizing will cause you so much stress that you’ll cry yourself to sleep at night, burn out from WoW and never want to play again. (Slight exaggeration.)

Since most groups are somewhere between those two attitudes, you’re best associating with those whose social contracts include an attitude similar to your own.

But…but what about those who don’t want to optimize and who want to be in groups who do?

Well, every society has its deviants. Bottom line is, you can’t have your cake and eat it too (unless you bend the rules by sleeping with the head of State, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Doesn’t foster much self-respect). Play the way you want to play with those who also play the way you want to play.

Raiding and Heroics for All?

This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the Social Contract for now, so lets forget our friend Locke for a second.

Whether or not Raiding and Heroics are for all depends on your definitions of “Raiding” and “Running Heroics“.

To me, Raiding and Running Heroics are broad terms. Raiding means being in a WoW group of more than 5 people (like an actually group, not just more than 5 people standing together) and engaging in combat. Running Heroics means being in a 5 man group with the difficulty arrow pointing to “Heroic“. And as far as I’m concerned, anyone who’s able to operate a computer is capable of doing that (well, the heroic option requires being over level 70).

Now, your definitions may include something along the lines of, you know, actually killing something your level. Or even more scandalous: killing something your level somewhat efficiently. In those cases, well, yeah, those activities have certain attitude and dedication requirements.

And back to the Locke, your definition of Raiding and your definition of Running Heroics will determine your sanity level while straying into no-Social Contract zones – aka the Dungeon Finder.

PuGs are taxing because of the lack of Social Contracts

PuGs don’t have Social Contracts. Well. If you consider the TOS, they do, but the TOS doesn’t cover much and most people don’t ask for it to be enforced very often.

The key to avoiding turning into a raging beast in PuGs is to accept that there is no Social Contract. People are going to act as they please. Sometimes it pleases them to fight efficiently, be polite and have a smooth run. Sometimes it pleases them to ignore fight mechanics, show up without preparing their character and be total douchebags.

If you’re lucky enough to get a couple of like-minded players in the group, you might end up with makeshift Social Contract. If 3 or more of you agree that this dps just isn’t going to cut it, then this dps will end up in exile. But if you end up with players that agree with each other but not you, you’ll be the one exiled.

Battlegrounds and the Social Contract

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about Battlegrounds is that there is a loose Social Contract beyond the TOS. It’s a zone of violence, a zone of letting off steam and zone of letting normally offensive things go. There are limits and the State (aka Blizzard) will act on TOS violations, but, really, it’s generally accepted that battleground chat will be full of colourful language, of whining and of frustration. It’s part of the Social Contract, of the unwritten agreement we sign by hitting the “Enter Battleground” button.

Those who don’t know of or who don’t like the Battleground Social Contract, however, don’t usually enjoy their Battleground experience.

At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, playing happily with others in WoW means finding a group that shares your ideals, a group that will have a Social Contract that you want to follow.

And playing happily with strangers in WoW means accepting that the Social Contract may be loose or non-existent. At those times, you might have to focus on yourself to keep your spirits up, or, in extreme cases, know when to head into exile.

ZG, ZA and Wouldn’t it be Cool if there were 5 Mans that Felt like Raids

April 30, 2011

WoW is buzzing with folk talking about the two revamped instances, Zul’Garub and Zul’Aman.

“Too recycled!”
“Too long!”
“Too hard!”

And, of course, the occasional show off: “Too easy!”

Lissanna did a good post on the topic, rounding up some thoughts and getting some substantial discussion going.

I’ve done ZG. I haven’t gotten around to ZA yet.

I loved ZG. It was awesome. I know the recycled material offends purists who are too good for “lazy content”, but not me. I really enjoy the theme of Cataclysm, where I can go back to all those places near and dear to (or strongly despised by) my heart and see what they look like a couple of years after my services.

ZG was no exception. I didn’t have time to read up on the story, but I was very interested to know that more evil trolls invoking spirits have moved in since I cleared the place in hopes of achievements and tiger mounts.

I’m told ZA is a copy-paste of the original, which is a little disappointing (dudes…dudes! I killed you people years ago! What are you doing back here?), but at the same time, ZA was a brilliant instance. I loved the complexity and creativity of the fights. Especially the fire egg boss that took me so long to figure out and that made me so proud when I finally understood. I’m sort of glad I’ll get to re-experience those fights.

Now let’s look at the complaints surrounding the instances:

Too Long

It took my group a little over 2 hours to complete ZG, and we had a patient, kick-ass tank in heroics gear talking us through. We had a group simultaneously do ZA, without an experienced guide, and it took them barely a few minutes more than us.

Contrarily to what Lissanna says, ZG has very little trash. Much less than the other Cataclysm 5 mans. I also don’t recall doing much in terms of CC. The instance has a feel of a modern raid, with just enough trash to avoid falling back into the Trial of the Crusader trap.

What took up our 2 hours, were the wipes as we struggled to grasp the novel mechanics of the fights. Without wiping, I think we could have easily gotten through the instance in 45 minutes, which is pretty much the same time as the other Cataclysm heroics.

I can’t speak for ZA.

How do these line up with the other heroics from Cataclysm? Well. I remember pugging them during the week of their release. Once the hardcore, now-Sinestra killers were finished with them (I loved those runs!), Cataclysm heroics took well over 3 hours to pug with an average group. As the instances became better known, the players got better geared and the fights themselves were nerfed, the average pug run was shortened to about 45 minutes, with Deadmines still taking the better part of an hour.

Too Hard

I recall a tweet saying: “Don’t bring your alt to the new 5 mans!”.

I’d like to make a correction: “Don’t bring your alt to the new 5 mans yet!”

The fights are actually perfect for gearing alts…once you know them on your main. These fights aren’t gear checks. They’re all mechanics. Do the right thing at the right time and they’re a breeze. Trust me. Our DK soloed the better part of the first ZG fight.

But prepare to die a lot learning the fights. The mechanics are more complex (and interesting) than “pick up adds and don’t stand in the fire”. Think Stonecore, but less shitty.

Once you’ve mastered being at the right place at the right time, though? This is the perfect place to gear your alt.

5 mans should be accessible to anyone!

While I don’t necessarily agree with this statement (I think regulars should be accessible to anyone, heroics should involve a minimal effort), I’d like to point out that my guild had two teams complete the instances Thursday night. And we are your casual, chilling, social raiding guild. At 6/12, with anywhere from 0 to 2 raids a week, we’re not Sinestra killers.

And we did ZG and ZA. We wiped, we ran back, we adjusted our tactics, but at no point did we feel like we were banging our heads against a wall.

Which is actually better than Stonecore and Grim Batol the week those instances were released.

Could an average Pug do the instance? Probably not. Not yet. The instances take too much communication and, as social bloggers everywhere constantly moan, communication is difficult in PuGs. But once people run the instances with their guilds a few time and learn the fights, I think ZG and ZA will totally be puggable, and will be comparable to the other Cataclysm heroics in length.

Conclusion: I’d sort of like a raid-style 5 man

I like fights that make me think. I like having a really small team to think with. So I like hard 5 mans.

I thoroughly enjoyed running ZG with the fantastic people in my Thursday group (I was even very tempted to ask our DK out on a date. He was HAWT.). It felt like a raid, except there were only 5 of us and the fights took slightly less wipes than a raid to learn.

The whole time I was thinking, what if there was an epic 5 man designed like a raid? One instance you don’t do often, that you save for an afternoon where you have 5 hours to yourself. A huge instances with twists and turns, Original Stratholme or Blackrock Depths style. A fight were you really need to think before engaging the bosses.

And really, sure, I think 5 man heroics should be accessible to anyone. Anyone with a brain, instead of only a face for rolling.

Cataclysm Heroics Sanity Preservation Guide for Healers

December 28, 2010

You’re pugging heroics? What are you? A sadist?
– Guildie upon discovering that I PuG my heroics more often than not.

I think he meant masochist (my guildies a tough time keeping their fetishes straight)… unless he knows me better than I thought.

Once I got over my initial feeling of being left out (dissolved when other healers got tired of running heroics causing me to receive 3 whispers asking for heroic heals every time I log in), I fell in love with pugging. I’ve also learned to handle myself in PuGs, which has turned me into quite the slave driver, and yes, has really helped developed my sadistic side.

Introduction: What to expect

There are beliefs of varying levels of truth to the rumours going around about PuGs. Let me attempt to clarify them by drawing from my own experience.

Belief #1 – Heroics are too long for casual players.
Answer: Apparently the official forums are overrun with players accusing Blizzard of ruining casual play. Unfortunately, if you’re going to PuG heroics, you need to be prepared to spend at least 2 hours in there. At least. Most people are getting pretty good with the fights now, but during the first week of Cataclysm, I could easily spend 4 hours with a group in a heroic.

Belief #2
– People are jerks in heroics.
Answer: You always run the chance of being paired with the scum of humanity. Stories like this one tell of things you have to be prepared to face. But fortunately, they’re pretty rare. Most of the time, the people you’ll be paired with are just like you: looking to get their valor points and leave.

Belief #3 – Heroics are too hard to PuG.
Answer: They’re not. I pug a lot. And I mean, a lot. It’s only happened to me twice that I didn’t make it to the end: first group tried Corborus in Stonecore a few times then fell apart, second group wiped on Corla in Blackrock Caverns a few times, until I had to leave to run something with my guild. With every other PuG I’ve done, even my very first ones, where I cheated to get a 329ilvl, the final boss went down. Now maybe I’m on the ultimate battlegroup of excellence, but maybe a strategic approach paired with a lot of patience goes a long way.

So how does a healer cope with, as a guildie of mine puts it, “playing Russian Roulette with 5 bullets“? Let me tell you.

Players love the Random Dungeon Finder, the Random Dungeon Finder loves me

December 18, 2009

I was being a bit too efficient in my work, so I figured I’d screw it all up by putting it back on /ignore for some time. After all, reading blog post after blog post about how random PuGs will show up with grey bows, drag you through mud, smack you around and ruin your self esteem, I was getting antsy. I haven’t had some good drama in ages and there’s nothing like strangers making me cry to wake me up after spending hours sorting through and answering pages of school-related emails.

And this is me in HoS, not healing.

I have run a few random dungeons already, but I’ve always been under the warm, fuzzy security blanket provided by my caring guildies. This time I was flying with my own wings. I excitedly queued up. I barely had time to close the tool that a “your group is ready!” message pops up. OMG OMG OMG! I hope that they’re mean and I hope they suck!


The group greets each other with some hi!s. Not starting off well for a mean group. I mouse over my PuGmates. Oh look, the druid tank has the Starcaller title. Oh look, so does the ret pally. And the rogue has the Undying title.

15 minutes of not having to heal anyone later, they’re warmly thanking each other as we receive our frost emblems.

So much for a mean, sucky group.

I still had loads of time to procrastinate, so I queued up again. This time it took me a little longer. 3 whole minutes of my time wasted as I browsed the Auction House for something to do.

Utgard Pinnacle!

I’m teleported inside the instance and I’m….alone.

Me: Um, where is everyone?
Tank: We’re on the last boss, hang on, we’ll summon you.

Two minutes later, I finally got the King’s Bane achievement I had missed every other run, received some triumph badges and made off with some gold.

No matter how hard I tried, the worst I could find were the one-night-stand PuGs where everyone goes matter-of-factly about their business and doesn’t make you breakfast the next day. Oh, there was this one tank who quit after needing a ring off of Maiden of Grief in Halls of Stone. That was annoying. The 3 seconds it took to replace him were excruciatingly long.

Next instance, Gundrak!

Someone says something about my GS. Embarrassing amounts of cooing follow. Oh finally!, I think, A potentially sucky group!

The tank held aggro.

Stuff died at a decent pace.

The dps didn’t stand in crap.

And the entire time, they’re singing my praise, complimenting my heals, stroking my epeen with both hands. Seriously. It was awkward as heck. I don’t know how to respond to strangers being overly nice to me. What happened to these nasty, ruthless PuGs?

So apparently, RDF an’ I are best kind. Gonna have a time on George and everything. And I just have to rub in your faces. I’m the luckiest pugger ever. (But I am missing out on that authentic, homemade PuGing experience.)

EDIT: I just got the Make It Count achievement. With a PuG. I’ve never even been able to get that with guildies.

On completely different and happily festive note

Yay male naked dancers!

Gnomeaggedon came up with an idea to have some WoW Blogger Kris Kringle/Christmas blogging fun over the holidays, Secret Santa style. Going by who’s signed up so far, it’s bound to be quite a time. The more, the merrier so everyone head over to the thread on Blog Azeroth and join in on the festivities!


September 22, 2009


It’s always exciting to come across the project of a guildie being advertised on I say “always” as if it happens all the time…It doesn’t. In fact, just having something come out of Moonrunner is a cause for celebration.

But yes,

I remember when Puggable was an idea posted by an innovative warrior on our guild forums… I had pretty much forgotten about it until seeing the article at

Basically, Puggable is a site with information on the characters you PUG with and, more excitedly, voice chat service. The advantages Puggable has over Ventrilo and other voice chat services is that its free and you don’t have to share your private server information.

I haven’t participated in the beta yet so I can’t speak from experience, but Vivox, the company behind Puggable, has an excellent track record for providing voice chat in MMOs. If any of you random passerbys reading this blog would like to know more, signups for the beta are still open on the Puggable site. I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Grats Vetali! And I hope your experience of 3-manning an HoL PuG with a level 70 rogue, a healing warrior and a tanking priest was exceptional. ;D