388 pulls. That was the final number. It included every pull that someone face pulled Rag. It included every pull someone was in the wrong gear. That included every pull that we took before the Great Firelands Nerf (roughly half of them). Most of the kill was a blur to me, partly from the cold I had been fighting all weekend, but partly from the shock of realizing that it was finally over. I had to pinch myself this morning just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming again.
I’m sure there are those of you who are thinking “thank fucking christ, she will finally start talking about something else”. And you are right, I likely will. But before I get there, I do want to take a minute to reflect on things from the other side of the fence.
But, before we get into that I want to offer out some deep felt thank yous. First, to my guild. Has it really been seven years? Regardless of our struggles and our shortcomings, you guys are part of what makes kills like this worth fighting for, and victory taste so sweet. The experience wouldn’t be the same without you. Next I’d like to give a huge thank you to Vixsin and Derwent. You both offered strength and advice when I needed it most, and there aren’t words to express my gratitude or to thank you enough. And lastly to everyone here who stayed along for the ride and offered kind words and encouragement. Every bit of it helped, even if I didn’t tell you at the time.
Let’s move onto those reflections, before I have to grab a tissue.
Let’s start with honesty.
For those who haven’t followed my blog from the day I opened the doors, you may not know that one of the key reasons I started a blog was specifically to have a venue to put my frustrations and feelings so that they didn’t stay pent up until I exploded at my raid. Over the past few years it’s been a haven for me in that regard. One of the things that I’ve always prided myself on was being upfront and honest. I’ve never sugar coated anything, or tried to cover up the grit. I’ve opened it up and put it all out there for both review and criticism.
I don’t know that there are a lot of people out there who do that. But for me, knowing that I have somewhere to just let my brain release is cathartic. I don’t regret that I’ve put my emotions out there, because the truth is that those emotions happen, and people will deal with them different ways. In my opinion, being honest about your frustrations or fears and recognizing them is the best way to confront them. Perhaps you disagree.
For me, being able to say “this is how I feel” empowered me to move past those things. And, I’d like to think that my honesty in that helped empower other people to push past similar feelings. My brand of up-frontness isn’t for everyone, and I get that. I don’t fault anyone who didn’t care to follow my struggles or disagreed with my feelings. But, that doesn’t change the roller coaster I rode getting here, and it doesn’t change my reactions to the ride.
Was it worth it?
I suppose the next reflection that I should share from the other side was “was it worth it?”. This is a bit of a loaded question. The short answer is “yes”. But there are a lot of qualifiers to that answer. I am so incredibly happy that as a team we persevered through this challenge. I feel so blessed to be part of a team that made it to the end of a long road in a time where so many others do not. To be able to say “I did it” was worth the frustrations and the struggles, it was like finally crossing the finish line after running a marathon and being able to collapse at the end.
But that isn’t to say that there weren’t a lot of things I regretted along the way.
As I said above, there were regrets along the way. We have a progression team of 35 people. Some old, some new. All who have put in time on this fight. My biggest regret was that only 25 people were in for a kill that 35 people earned – and the night of the kill, all but two of them were online at some point in our three pulls. There is no way to reconcile that, there is no condolence adequate enough to offer those who weren’t in for that one pull where everything just worked. All I have to offer is that we’ll do it again. Until everyone has had the satisfaction of seeing this guy go down – which seems kind of, well, insufficient.
I think the other major regret that I have is that through the long course of this push, people started to lose patience, and in doing so lost sight of some of the key values and foundations of what we built our guild upon. And at times, that made me incredibly sad. I understood the frustration, and I understood that a lot of times being faced with challenges can bring out the worst in everyone. It’s human nature, and if it was easy to control, we’d all be Mother Teresa. Which we aren’t. But sometimes I felt like I was constantly reminding people that letting your frustration rule your actions is rarely productive, and that really wore on me more than I think I let anyone know. In fact, I think that might have worn me down more than the fight in and of itself and in the end was ultimately the underlying source of a lot of my frustrations.
No great battle is without casualties. We lost some people along the way, some to burn out, some to better things (I strongly suspect becoming a papa > seeing Rag die!), and that makes me sad as well. To those who couldn’t push through, for whatever reason, I understand.
Was it “fun”?
As far as this point goes, I don’t really think that I’ve changed my opinion on the matter since my post addressing this very issue. I think the fight was too long. I think underlying mechanics were fine, I just think that the progression flow of the encounter were poorly done. I don’t think wiping to phase 1 387 times was “fun”, I don’t really think it taught us anything of value and I still think having to spend 10 minutes to get to the newest “progression” phase, which some would argue was the hardest part of the fight, was poorly planned out.
As I watched everything pass by in chat, and heard the cheers in vent, I looked at Brade and said “oh thank god”.
Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled we finally got him down. It was monumentous for a number of reasons. But when push comes to shove, I felt more relieved that it was finally over than anything else. And I’m a bit conflicted on that, as I don’t know that should be the feeling that overwhelms triumph.
What about the healers?!
Having to cut our healing team in half for this fight still fucking blows. We stuck with four healers, but we have a roster of eight. Which meant that we asked half of our healers to either list or play their off-spec for the majority of our raid time over the past six weeks or so. I really, truly hope that Blizzard takes a good look at this going into the next content tier.
This was one of the hardest things, by far. Keeping people focused on the right things, and motivated after hundreds of pulls was very hard. We used a number of things, most of which I’d like to think were at least moderately successful, so I thought I’d go ahead and share.
- Stayin’ Alive! Towards the end (the last 3-4 weeks), we started running a contest for people who didn’t kill themselves to anything avoidable. Those that won would get the option of bringing an alt to farm night, 10k gold or adding points to their “mount” total (explained more below). It ended up being pretty popular, and those that won almost always opted to bring in an alt to soak up some gear. I’d like to think that this motivated at least some people to stay focused on survival.
- The great mount roll off. One of the other things that we did was give everyone 100 points towards Rag’s mount. Each time you died to something avoidable, 1 point was subtracted off of that total. Anyone that dropped below 75 points became ineligible to roll on the mount and anyone that missed 3 progression raid nights became ineligible to roll. We intend to carry this forward for each repeat kill – but I am happy to say that I think our first mount went to the right person.
- The Bounty. Something we hadn’t felt the need to employ since Archimonde. Basically, if you died to something you could have prevented you owed money into the pot. As time went on, we offered the option to “bard” your bounty, meaning that you could sing a song and entertain us rather than pay. Of everything, I think the positive reinforcers worked better, but this one certainly highlighted where peopel were struggling each pull.
- The Payout. If people had to pay in for making mistakes, we thought the guild could pay out for doing things right as well. We started simple – every time we made it through phase 2 with no deaths, everyone in the raid got 100 gold back. As we got better, we upped the anty to everyone making it through phase 3 with no deaths.
- Beru-personations. So, I’m not entirely sure how this one started. I think it was one night when someone speculated that our current “doesn’t speak in vent” person was really Sean Connery in real life. And, well, who am I to not let loose with my very own Sean? I mean, really? Well, from there we went on with “if we do x,y,z Beru will do an impersonation”. Mostly it was good for a few laughs. I’m pretty sure some people thought I’d cracked.
- Random acts of kindness. Through the kindness of a friends and family member we came into some choppers. So we’ve been giving them out to people with the best survival on any given night. “Don’t die, and get a chance to win this shiny new chopper!” (Imagine that in my best game show announcer voice).
All in all, it meant that we had to do a lot of tracking. It meant that we had to do a healthy amount of log diving after each raid. But I think it was helpful for a few reasons. It really highlighted what mechanics certain people were struggling with. It also put a sense of accountability out there for people, as we’d just highlighted all of your avoidable mistakes, and we were pretty blunt with folks at the end – if you couldn’t keep yourself alive we’d bring in someone that could. It may seem heartless, and at times that is how I felt, but when push comes to shove it was the right decision for the raid as a whole. And that was educational for me, as a leader.
If you made it this far through my ramblings, I figure you deserve a little something extra. Through the past couple of weeks, there was a thread on our forums full of motivational things from YouTube. Songs, speeches, bizarre Nutrigrain commercials. Well, finding the right music for videos is always hard. Partly because WMG blocks so much on YouTube, but partly because finding just the right song is pretty much impossible.
When I asked last night what music I should put up with the video I got a midi from a game called “Firelord” (I looked for a copy of it to use, but couldn’t find it!) and the request that it not be classical. As I pondered, I went back to that thread and I pulled out songs from there for the video. I had wanted to add in that Al Pacino speech that was linked several times…but couldn’t find an easy way to snag that for use either. But, in the end, I thougt the video turned out well, and the music was fun and appropriate :)
At the end of the day – I’m glad it’s over. I will certainly have many memories of the journey in the years to come.