World of Warcraft - Breaking into the World of Raiding
by Matthew Hibben
With Cataclysm (World of Warcraft's latest expansion) going live, a new journey of racing to the level cap and raiding awaits. New expansions are great points for old and new players to get into the swing of raiding. With most epic (raid quality gear) quickly becoming obsolete it provides a level playing field for those seeking to conquer the newest expansion.
World of Warcaft is a MMO (massive multiplayer online) focused around raiding. What is raiding though, and how does one get into this sometimes close knit circle of raiders? This week I wanted to share some experience from my many years as an end game raider and provide some insight into raiding and how to become one.
So what is raiding in the context or WOW? Well in WOW the real game for most players begins at the maximum level. Much of the game's content focuses not on the process of gaining levels, unlike other MMO's, but on what to do with this fully realized character (often called a toon). For WOW the main activity that level 80's (the maximum level currently) enjoy is what's called raiding. Raiding is generally any activity that requires a group larger than 5 players. Raids can range in size from 6 to 40 individual players. The purpose of raids varies from player vs. player (PVP), to purely social activities, to raiding dungeons. Raiding dungeons however is what this article will focus on.
Dungeon raids, often just called raids, are challenging often scripted encounters requiring at least 10 players. Raids can be either linear or lately Blizzard has been designing raids in a wing format (where players can tackle specific sections or wings), with fights becoming harder and more complex as the raid progresses. Raids appeal to players on many levels. They provide challenge, encourage at times teamwork, provide bragging rights, and of course loot (gear that the player can wear with unique styling signifying where it came from).
Raids or raiding in general often takes place in the social structure of what's called a guild. Raiding guilds are groups of individuals that are banded together to raid under the same name sake. Raiding guilds will have a structured raiding schedule for members of the guild and some sort of loot system (a reward system used for dividing the spoils of a raid encounter).
The main support a raiding guild provides to its members is the pooling of eager and knowledgeable players. Raids do exist outside the context of organized raiding guilds, but from my experience they can be a mix bag of quality and organization.
Understanding the vernacular of raiding is half the battle at times. Below you will see a short glossary of slang and acronyms associated with WOW and raiding specifically.
RL - raid leader, the person leading an encounter.
Vent - Ventrilo, a voice over IP players use to communicate during raids.
Inc. - Incoming, meaning a target is inbound.
DPS- acronym for Damage Per Second , but typically refers to your class being a damage dealer.
Tank- The defender role in WOW. The tank is a class that is dedicated to keeping enemy targets on them and on no one else. Also specifically defined as MT/OT or main tank/offtank.
GS- Gear score, the average item level of your character's gear. Some RL's use it hard and fast as a measure of who can join a raid while others do not. Either way its important to know what it means.
Healbot- Healbot has two meanings. Healbot is a external mod used by healer classes to optimize their healing. Also slang for any healer class.
Mod- Mods are helper programs used to optimize raiding. Popular mods deal with threat management, damage dealt, and encounter announcements.
Threat- Threat is the system Blizzard uses to determine what target an enemy will attack. Combat actions generate what is called threat. Enemies will attack the target generating the most.
TPS- Threat per second, also referred to tanks that generate higher then average threat levels.
DBM- Deadly Boss Mods, a very popular raid encounter mod. Most raid leaders will require this for raiding
Adds- Meaning additional enemies were engaged that were not intended.
Loot- The items a specific raid boss will drop once defeated.
Main Spec/Offspec- Main spec and off spec refer to what the character's focus is on. A healer might have a DPS off spec, or vice versa. Many raid leaders will want to know this information beforehand.
Spec- Spec refers to the characters specialization. A specialization is the distribution of what are called talent points and is what defines the role a player will encompass.
Wipe- End the encounter in progress. Wipes are usually called out by the RL when something unfavorable occurs during the encounter, greatly reducing the chance for success.
CC- Crowd Control. Many classes in WOW have some sort of ability that can incapacitate enemies briefly. Knowing your class's crowd control mechanics are important.
Legit- Meaning good. Most commonly used to describe someone's aptitude as a player, or the quality of a raid.
Breaking into the raiding community of a server can be an overwhelming task, and joining a raiding guild is a lot like interviewing for a job. There are many things that will help your chances when it comes to finding a guild to raid with. The first thing is knowing your class. Class mechanics can be complex and researching this is the first step in showing a level of mastery that raid leaders are looking for. Sites like Elitist Jerks have huge resources of class information that I recommend any new player investigate. Not only researching how to maximize your class's output but staying current on any class changes. Secondly, research the encounters, the specific raid bosses, or anything else associated to the dungeon you will be expected to know.
Sites like Wowhead are great for giving a brief synopsis of raid fights. So far this sounds like a lot of research and not much playing, which is true, since a large part of WOW is understanding the fight mechanics and scripted events. The importance of researching is so you do not waste 24 other people's time. Fights are designed to be unforgiving to those who do not know them, but fairly easy if a good understanding of what to expect is there. Raid leaders don't want people who aren't willing to put in the basic amount of time researching what a fight is about. Remember that raiding is like employment in the sense that there are a lot more people wanting to raid than spots in a raid. The best way to set yourself apart from the start is by basic understanding.
Raiding guilds are not just machines that plow through content defeating bosses endlessly, they are also social organisms. I don't want to go too far into behavior and what to do and what not to do. I mainly want people reading to be aware that this is a social activity and raid leaders love easy going and personable members. I found one of the best things to do when interacting with potential guilds is simply asking about their progression (what they have defeated), their raiding schedule, and what classes they are looking for currently. Another great social tactic that has worked for me is honesty. Honesty about lack of background (knowledge of a fight), or a blunder (wiping a raid for example). Raid leaders would much rather explain a bit more of specific details pertaining to fights then finding out the hard way through wiping that someone didn't know the mechanics.
I interviewed Raid Leaders and Guild Masters to get their input on what they look for and what they find most important in recruits. The general trend I found in their answers was a positive attitude, the ability to learn quickly from mistakes, and knowledge of game mechanics. Some that I spoke with also mentioned gear, but as a plus rather then a requirement. Meaning they were more concerned with potential then with current gearing, with one Raid Leader answering "Gear… not so much of an issue. If they have promise we will see that they get geared up quickly". Remember, people want to raid with someone that is both easy going and reliable. Reliable in both their performance as well as attendance.
In conclusion I would like to emphasize how much fun raiding can be, and also how feasible getting into raiding as a fresh from scratch player can be with the right preparation. With WOW subscribership in the tens of millions now, I don't see this game losing momentum anytime soon.