Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Countering the Goblin: Personal Relationships and Success

Gevlon recently wrote:

Commenters of the previous article suggested that guilds are superior to PuGs because they are social groups and a person would not slack at the expense of his friends. Notice that there are many social guilds where slacking is rampart, to the point of boosting, where the slacker is the only one who receive reward, the others not. So social connections has nothing to do with stopping of slacking.

However the solution has nothing to do with social groups, the solution is in the guild leadership who either punish or remove the slackers. This also mean that PuGs can be just as successful as guilds as long as they have effective leadership to make sure that no one exploits the common resource.

Many commenters don't understand why do I stay away from guilds? Because I want to prove the above. I want to prove that success - even group success - has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of social effects. You don't need friends to be successful, you need business partners and you don't need to be friendly, social, moral, noble, just economically effective. My goal is to prove this point by PuGging the whole content.

PS: I don't claim that having friends among your partners does not increase your well-being, or friendship is any way wrong. I just say that friendship has nothing to do with success, just as the color of a car has nothing to do with its speed. Pink and brown stripes can decrease your fun during driving, but not the speed or turning capacity of the car.
Larisa loves to go back-and-forth with Gevlon, which creates a nice warm-and-fuzzy feeling contrasted on the cold, hard, give-me-my-money-biatch attitude of the aforementioned goblin. I'm going to fight fire with fire - organizational theory vs goblin capitalist theory. The bold is mine, and is that with which I take issue.

Saying that friendship has nothing to do with success is taking a very pure and objective view of the current state of the raiding environment on any particular server. Yes, it is true - a PUG can clear through Kel'Thuzad in Naxx-25. However, what is not mentioned in that statement is who comprises the PUG. Is this PUG comprised of raiders from successful raiding guilds with Gevlon at the head? Or is this PUG formed from people who are in greens and blues? Or is this PUG comprised of Ebay'ed know-nothings?

The way the raiding game in WoW works, there is a once-a-week reset/lockout which requires that a character can only plunder a raid instance once a week, with the cutoff being Tuesday maintenance (in the US). Focusing on a single raid lockout period, regardless of the number of raiders available on any server during the week, that turns every single one of those raiders into a limited resource - a raid leader can use a raider once and then that raider is expended. No matter how we view other people in terms of social interaction, each raid-available player on a server has a skill level (intangible) and a gear level (quantifiable) which combine to create a raider's overall effectiveness. Players will need a certain minimum effectiveness, relative to the raid group, to be able to clear content. To this point, I think that Gevlon would agree.

If it is agreed upon that each raider has an inherent effectiveness rating and that a minimum effectivness is necessary to kill bosses, then given the raid lockout period, there is a limited number of available raiders "worthy" of raiding, and that number decreases steadily over the lockout period. Each of these worthy raiders have the potential contract with a raid group and then be unavailable to other groups. In order to amass enough effective raiders to clear content, the independent raid leader will need to have enough pull in the market to convince available raiding resources that they should commit to his raid rather than others. There must be a reason for the worthy raider to join one raid group rather than another - I propose that one of the reasons is interpersonal relationship. If 2 raid leaders approach me, one with which I've run and clear Naxx before, and one with which I've never spoken, I would join the known rather than the unknown.

Even though Gevlon is a singular entity, his entrepeneurial raid leading composes an organization - a tool used by people to coordinate their actions to obtain something they desire or value (source). Organizations large and small require resources to achieve their goal. In this case, the Gevlon Raiding Corporation, Ltd., requires contract raiders to input their raiding effectiveness into boss fights, which will convert into an output of badges and epics.

Resource Dependence Theory - the theory that argues that the goal of an organization is to minimize its dependence on other organizations for the supply of scarce resources in its environment and to find ways of influencing them to make resources available (source) - provides further insight into the situation. Every free agent raider is an organization unto him or herself in possession of his or her raid effectiveness, which is the resource each free agent raider organization possesses. Gevlon's position is that he does not need relationships with other raiders at all - I argue that he does need relationships, and that there is no way around it because of the scarcity of the raider effectiveness resource. He should instead seek to minimize his dependence on such relationships to achieve his goal (badges/epics) more simply. Consider the following:

Gevlon is seeking to separate social relationship from raid success. However, to have raid success, Gevlon requires a minimum raid effectiveness output under his organization's umbrella. To acquire that minimum effectiveness, Gevlon must have enough social pull with those in possession of that raid effectiveness to convince them that they should commit their resources to his organization rather than his competitors (other PUGs). If he were to expand his organization (form a capitalist raiding guild or raiding network), he would have guaranteed commitment of resources to his organization, and therefore would not have to re-acquire these resources every week.

Now, I'm not saying that Gevlon can't achieve success without forming a resource network, either via a forum post, guild creation, or otherwise. What I'm claiming is that repeatable, sustainable, and consistent success requires a stable resource pool, with which Gevlon is not operating at current. To acquire a stable resource pool, he either needs to form informal social ties with effective PUG'ers through friendships or shared experience, or form a formal network. Like it or not, the social environment is a part of the raiding experience, and interpersonal relations are inseparable from a raid organization's success.

Want it summed up in a sentence? Friendship is essential to sustainable success in raiding. No matter how hard a capitalist free agent raid leader tries, he needs to form some sort of ties with raider resources to achieve on a regular basis, otherwise he is at the mercy of the raider resource market, and therefore does not control his output.

9 comments:

kyrilean said...

So if I understand you correctly, you've boiled it all down to how one defines "friendship"?

I agree with your post here btw.

Josh said...

@kyrilean
Well, sorta. If you utilize Merriam Webster's 1a definition of "one attached to another by affection or esteem," then no, Gevlon doesn't need friends to achieve. He needs acquaintances.

HOWEVER, definition 1b from M-W is "acquaintance," which is the state of knowing personally or being familiar. I'm arguing that a raiders need to be acquainted with the raid leader to achieve sustainable/predictable success.

If Gevlon is just out for short-term success, then he can do it with whomever he wants. I'd say that's a short-sighted business plan, though.

Honors Code said...

I submit that as content becomes more challenging the minimum effectiveness needed to clear content will increase and the amount of available resource (raiders possessing the neccessary minimum effectiveness) will decrease.

The reduction in supply will create greater competition among the consumers of the resource (guilds and PuGs). It may only be when the resource is sufficiently scarce that the neccessity of interpersonal relationships to the resoruce aquisition process will become clear.

Josh said...

@Honors
You're operating under the assumption that effective raiders will need to commit to guilds for Ulduar and therefore will be unavailable to PUG. HOWEVER, just because a raider contracts with a guild to raid Ulduar does NOT mean that they will be contracted for Naxxramas as well. Some guilds allow their members to PUG lower level raid content, much like my guild released SSC/TK from their raid schedule once we were sufficiently deep in BT/Hyjal.

Gevlon said...

The answer will be in my tomorrow post (was written independently as I found this article just now, the post is already done).

About Ulduar: there are lot of skilled players who are locked into social guilds for several reasons. These guilds have no hope or even motive to go Ulduar, so these good players will be on the market for me.

Sojourner said...

@Josh
I agree with your comments. Maybe if I could change the setting slightly so that some others may understand. Equate this to a team sport, be it Baseball, Basketball, Soccer etc, there is a fundamental bond with all the players. Yes there is the transfer of players etc but at the core there are a group of people who need to work together to achieve a certain goal. I purposely used the word people and not players as a team is comprised of more than the players themselves.
If for example the New York Yankee's changed there team every week with different players there is a good chance they would not win anything as the goals would be selfish, i.e. going for their own achievement and not the teams goals .
The team works together, understands each others moves to the point that it becomes instinctive, the learning curves are less

LarĂ­sa said...

Thank you for some support there! You use another kind of language and puts it in a much more logical way, which probably is more convicing than my emotional ramblings.

It will be intersting to follow Gevlon's further ventures. He usually proves his point by doing things practically, like rolling at an "impossible" server, still making money.

So I'm looking forward to see some screenshots, achivements and stories from his successful PUG runs, proving that his model works. I don't mind being proofed that I'm wrong.

Honors Code said...

@Josh,

What I was getting at was that the pool of Raid capable players for Gevlon pugging Ulduar itself would be much smaller than the pool capable of Naxx. Therefore there is much more competition for those capable players.

Perhaps my own servers is a poor example, but I don't expect more than a half dozen guilds alliance side to kill more than 4 or 5 bosses in Ulduar anytime soon.

Stabs said...

The semantics of the word "friendship" are open to debate but there's no question that Gevlon has to be intensely social at the same time he claims not to be.

Strong players need to be convinced it's going to be a successful run, weaker players need to understand they need to play above their usual level of focus.

At the tougher end of raiding (currently Sarth 3 is the only real example of this) the main quality needed is the ability to multi-task. You need to perform your class function AND watch for void zones AND dodge lava walls AND not get in front of a dragon AND use your cooldowns effectively. Your class roles may be stretched to the limit - at one point as a Holy Pally I was healing a drake tank, using Beacon to help keep an add tank up, targetting Sarth to see when he casts Flame Breath and using bubble and HoSac on our main tank all while dodging void zones and lava walls.

I think it's at this level that Gevlon may find his project begins to unravel. We only killed the boss after horrible all-night wipefests. The wipefests got us used to the fight so that many of these little tasks (none hard in themselves) became second nature.

Random pugs will simply have too many people who lack this intense practice.

On the other hand the skillsets are transferrable to alts. It's very possible that a raid guild may have several members who know the fight and who will be able to multitask but who for some reason have a character not locked to their guild's raid ID. Could be a well-geared alt or a main who didn't get a raid invite because he was surplus to requirements.

I think identifying and using these players is the only hope of beating intensively multitasking wipefest fights like Sarth 3 and in earlier versions of the game Kael'Thas, Kil'Jaeden, C'thun and so on.

Good luck Gevlon!