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This is a bone. I am picking it. Perhaps unwisely.

Can somebody please define “progression” for me? In the context of guilds and raiding, I mean.

Google shows me “a series with a definite pattern of advance.”

So is a “progression guild” a guild that regularly advances, or is it enough that regular advancement is simply one of your goals? Does actual advancement matter? If your primary concern is dropping bosses and moving onto the next in line, but you kind of suck and the bosses don’t drop, can you still call yourself a Progression Guild?

Who gets to decide what is and isn’t a Progression Guild? Who gets to make that call?

I see the two phrases (“progression” and “progression guild”) thrown around a lot, but I’ve never gotten a really solid sense of what they actually mean, short of progression seems to refer to moving through content, and I assume a progression guild is one for whom moving through content is their main goal.

Are there any other kinds of progression that could be considered valid?

We have a very casual guild, and a very casual 10-man raid group outside of the requirement that all members show up on the designated nights. We don’t even make them read strats (to be perfectly honest, it’s almost easier that way. Less argument over the best way to do X). I get snarly any time anyone brings up the word “progression” in relation to our raid group – not because I don’t think we can “progress”, but because I don’t fully understand the meaning and because the word does strange things to people’s brains.

Half our raid group started out as newbies – they joined the game itself just before Wrath dropped (or after). Half of them had never really even grouped or instanced. Ninety five percent of us had never raided before. We started with and eventually cleared Naxx. We’ve done the first half of ULD. We’ve killed all the dragons currently available. We’ve cleared TotC. We haven’t tried ICC as a group yet, but will soon enough once we’ve drained TotC of its goodies.

Is this progression? Does it count? Does speed matter? It took us a long time to do it, in large part because there’s only so much time we can commit to this shit in a week and Blizz only recently gave us the option to extend lockouts, but it’s still a series with a definite pattern of advance. We’ll get into ICC before Cataclysm drops, and if we never drop the Lich King, oh well. It’s still advancement, right? Do you have to be able to drop the Lich King for it to be considered “progression”?

Raiding has taught me a lot about tanking I simply couldn’t learn from questing and heroics. I’m a better player for it – quicker on my CDs, greater understanding of my class, easier time with positioning and movement. I’ve learned, I’ve improved. And I’m not the only one. Our DPS have clawed their way up from 1.5K way, way back in Naxx, to 3-5K now in TotC – and it’s not just gear. I can’t count how many times a given DPS has had a sudden jump, or even a slight incline, after they’ve gone out, done their research, and learned a better way to play their class. One of our DPS switched to healing and seems to have found their niche. They’re improving well, learning the rhythm and getting better every raid. As a group we’ve learned how to move, how to predict each other. We’ve learned strats, learned where we need to mod them to suit us, and how to execute them. We have an easier time learning new encounters, and people have improved in their understanding of raid mechanics.

Again…a series with a definite pattern of advancement. Does this count as progression? We’re learning, improving, growing as players and as a group. Even if a boss doesn’t drop and we spend a whole night wiping, we’ve still progressed, haven’t we? A few more “don’t”s to add to the strat. A few more people looking up their class to figure out where they’re going wrong. A few others finding alternate ways to do a common activity to make it work in a new context.

I’m okay with progression as I suspect it’s currently defined – the act of dropping bosses and advancing through content as quickly and efficiently as possible, irrespective of gear or skill advancement (though obviously these are a big part of being able to move through content). Under these circumstances, no we’re not a Progression Guild, nor would I want to be. The fact that we’re a casual group with limited time means our priorities lie elsewhere. If we advance we are ecstatic, but the primary goal is not that kind of progression. It’s assumed official progression will happen as a consequence of a gentler type of progression.

What I’m not okay with is when individuals inside or outside of our casual guild/raid group hold up the idea of “official progression” as the only valid indicator of win or fail. Their goal is official progression, irrespective of the guild/raid’s goal. The group’s goal is supposed to be a more informal type of progression – a gradual increasing of skill, ability, and gear, while simultaneously having a good time, free of the pressure of trying to be the first guild evar to drop the Lich King.

But these things mean little to those members for whom advancement through content trumps skill advancement and personal improvement. If we wipe a couple times, even if we improve each time, they are quick to get frustrated and start throwing around words like “never” and “fail” and “on my other server.” Even though they know – and have been told multiple times – the effect this has on the rest of us who are content to play our game at our own pace and whatever happens happens. And because they carry themselves as though they are somehow above the rest of us, a few of our members have an unfortunate respect for them and their words carry weight, regardless of their validity in the current context. If they say we’ll never be able to do it and we’re just not good enough, they’re believed. And it’s very hard to combat this.

We do advance. We do progress. We get through content. We drop bosses. We move on to other bosses. We one-shot some stuff (half of TotC, for Christ’s sake, including the faction champs and the Val’kyr). We ten-shot other stuff. But eventually it all goes down, we get our gear, and we move on.

It’s not fast enough for some people, and they hold this golden cow of “progression” up and compare us against it and find us wanting. As though we’re not progressing. As though we’re not moving forward.

To me, the word “progression” implies a line between two points, moving in a generally upward direction.

To them, the word “progression” simply refers to the highest point on the graph and to be considered successful and capable and worthy, you have to start at that point on the graph. The idea of starting at point A and working your way up to point B is anathema to these people.

If you’re a progression guild, it means you’re cool now. For whatever reason it doesn’t seem to occur to them that even the best raiding guild on the server had to work at clearing Naxx at one point or another. They had to grind heroics for gear. They had to wipe a million times at ULD.

They didn’t quit after two and a half wipes. They didn’t rob the group of joy in whatever they’ve managed to achieve to date. They didn’t belittle the efforts and improvements of their members.

“Progression” means a lot more than just advancing through content – progression through content requires progression in terms of skill, gear, and experience. It requires wiping. We’re going to have to suck before we can learn to rock.

Comparing a beginner against a professional, or a child against an adult, or a casual raid group against a hardcore progression guild, and naming them fail is a good way to halt progression entirely.

Just because it’s a gradual upwards line with a few peaks and valleys doesn’t make it any less progression than a steep upward slope with no ticks downward. It’s still a series with a definite pattern of advancement.

Nothing quite so defeating as watching your group improve and advance in their own time, in their own way, and knowing it’s never going to be good enough for some of them, and they will forever try to devalue it for the rest of us.

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The World of Warcraft is a very broad game.

I don’t just mean in terms of the size of the world, which is ridiculously expansive, or the scope of the gameplay, which encompasses everything from PvP to PvE to solo play. I speak in terms of the mind-boggling number of things any given person may want to (and can) get out of it, even within a single “branch” of the game.

We here at Aggro Management live almost exclusively in the solo and PvE branches of the game. I had a brief, unfortunate brush with Warsong Gulch back in the days of 2 hour queues and douchebaggery. Blizzard has since solved one of these problems, but I was scarred badly enough by the other that I’m unlikely to return any time soon.

Besides, the PvE game has come a long way, and there’s not much use for a tank in PvP, is there? There’s still plenty of douchebags in my home branch, but at least I can taunt shit.

So let’s focus on PvE. Even within our own guild/raid group there are many different people, who are after very different things. Sometimes – most of the time, probably – these things, if not exactly complementary, are certainly not mutually exclusive. Gear, for example. Lots of people want gear. Lots of people want lots of gear. And by definition, if you play the game, you will get gear. So really, that’s not mutually exclusive with anything.

But gear is a “physical” reward, more of a mechanic than anything else. It happens by itself. It can’t not happen. It’s almost more of a consequence of playing than anything else. I would imagine that those people for whom gear is a goal unto itself lead a relatively stress-free WoW life, as they probably don’t care how they achieve that goal, just that is achieved. As long as the epics flow and repairs don’t exceed income, they’re happy.

But what about some of the more ephemeral things?

Let’s whittle our PvE branch down to one of its many leaves – raiding (and, to a lesser extent, instancing. Maybe instancing could be a seed? I’m losing my own analogy, here). Outside of gear-mongers, there are roughly three other classifications for the more common “desired outcomes” of raiding (note that a person is not necessarily limited to any single item in this list):

  1. Nazis (in the colloquial sense, not the historical one)
  2. Lorewhores
  3. Braggarts

Ultimately, all of the above (even the gear-mongers) comes down to a simple question: what is your definition of success?

I, myself, am a Nazi (colloquially!), with a smattering of lorewhorishness. I’m a part-time lorewhore. I want it as long as I don’t have to look up six different WoWWiki articles to get it, you know? Or read the Arthas book. Please don’t make me read the Arthas book. I think I would rather wipe eternally on Hodir.

But anyway…

What I mean by a Nazi is someone for whom “success” is defined by a clean, orderly run. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you never wipe. It means that if you wipe, you wipe in a clean, orderly fashion. It means that targets are marked, kill orders respected, strats followed, and wipes analyzed. The raid group is a tiny army that operates as a single unit. Success is wrapped up in the smoothness of the run, not in whether the bosses go down or not. Did everyone perform at their maximum potential? Were the strats followed and altered (if necessary) effectively? Did things remain cohesive and in control at all times? Then the run was a success.

A lorewhore is, I like to think, self-explanatory. These are the folks who have actually read the Arthas book (and probably (hopefully?) cried the whole way through it). They’re the ones who write WoWWiki articles. They never skip the dialogue in Halls of Stone at the somebody-get-the-fucking-adds-off-Bronzebeard-fight. They raid because raiding is, by and large, where the lore is. They want to see the story play out. They want to know why things are the way they are. They want to fight the guys they’ve been reading about for the last fifteen years. Success, for these people, is simply seeing the content, and being a part of the evolving lore of the game.

The braggarts come in many flavours – from harmless and kind of endearing, to homicidal-rage-inducing. They care primarily about progression, because there is a certain degree of prestige and epeen involved in being able to say that you killed Arthas (bonus douche-points if you can add “before he was nerfed” to the end of the sentence). What these people want is to be able to say that. Success for them is defined as dropping as many bosses – the bigger, badder, and harder, the better. They’re after bragging rights, ideally with achievements they can flash around in the Trade chat.

Everyone who raids, I’m pretty sure, has some degree of all of the above (except maybe lorewhore…but would the encounters honestly be as fun if you had no idea who or what the last boss is? What epicness is there in beating Illidan if you don’t know anything about him? He’d just be a big purple bat-winged thing. He doesn’t even really look cool). After all, who doesn’t want to be able to brag about dropping Yogg-Saron (say it with me: “before he was nerfed”)? Who hasn’t fantasized, if you’re lucky enough to have an uber achievement, about “mistelling” a link of it to the general? And, by the same token, I think most people would prefer a clean, orderly run, to a chaotic, panicked run, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their goals. None of these things are bad, in and of themselves. And none of them are necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, you would think that they’re all actually quite complementary. If you have clean orderly runs, even on hard bosses you’ll eventually improve to the point where you can drop the bosses, see the lore, and flash your achievements all over the Trade.

Warning: From here on in, I drop any attempt at being unbiased.

Where things fall apart tends to be between the (colloquial) Nazis and approximately everyone else in the game. The prevailing philosophy seems to be that nothing is worth doing, unless you do it at a speed of 300 km/h, with an abundance of “just pull”, “lololololololol”, “wtf y i die”, and not nearly enough “/readycheck”. Oh, and don’t forget to vastly overgear whatever content you’re doing.

I’m just saying.

The vast bulk of people I’ve met who fall into category three – those who are after the bragging rights – tend to be obsessed with this mythical thing called progression, but seem to think that it’s something that absolutely must happen over night. A single wipe is enough to send these people into apoplectic fits because it’s taking too long, and the group is obviously shit, and we’re never going to get anywhere. To my view, progression happens as a natural consequence of getting your shit in order and learning to fucking play. Do a thing enough times, get everyone operating at peak efficiency, and the next thing you know, bosses will start dropping.

But this requires a time investment. And I’m not even talking “you must raid at least 30 hours a week”. I mean that sometimes you have to stop to let the casters drink. Sometimes you might want to take three minutes to go over a strat again to make sure everyone remembers all the pieces. Sometimes it’s preferable to stop after a wipe and look back at what went wrong so it can be fixed (as opposed to, say, rezzing and running in again immediately, before you’re even rebuffed).

It means acknowledging that there’s a learning curve to be overcome, and taking the time to do so. The answer to this is to (*shudder*) L2P – not to go get boosted through higher content, to overgear the encounters, and let numerical superiority carry you through (honest question to anyone out there who does this: I don’t understand the value of an achievement you did not make a full contribution toward getting. How does something someone else got you make you any cooler? What is the attraction?).

Sometimes you have new players who aren’t entirely comfortable with their class or role and are still getting their raid-legs. Those who are obsessed with progression and bragging rights over anything else can’t stand these people. Their solution is to remove them from the group entirely. Failing that, they’ll remove themselves from the group and find one that “actually has a chance of getting somewhere.”

Alternatively, you could take the time to help these people learn what they need to do and induct a new generation of raiders into the game we all know and love – in the process earning yourself what will (hopefully) become a competent raider, contributing member to your progression, and an appreciative friend. But hey, what do I know? Burn the noobs, guys. Burn them all. They’re holding you back.

On a slightly less biased note, I pose a legitimate question: what do you do when you’ve got two or more people in your raid who have taken mutually exclusive stances on the definition of success? If one is impatient to progress, whatever the cost (repairs, reagents, morale), and one is simply not interested in moving faster if it means sacrificing skill and learning (the downside of which is slower progression (or none at all if any of your raiders have hit their plateau and are unlikely to surpass it))? How do resolve the dispute? How do you cross the gulf between?

Is there really no compromise?

It depends on the group, I suppose, and the personalities at play. A conflict is rarely so simple that is has a single root cause. There’s usually more than one thing at work. Maybe there are raid groups out there that have a couple of people like this and, in the absence of other factors, they get along just fine. A bit of bitching, a bit of moaning, but nothing cataclysmic (ha ha! Get it? Cataclysm? …sorry).

I maintain that even though it may take longer to get ahead as a Nazi (depending on the skill and experience of your group), doing so will ultimately give you the rest of it. You’ll get the gear, you’ll get the lore, you’ll get the achievements – and more importantly, you’ll get them through skill instead of blind luck, which means you will be able to enjoy repeat performances.

Becoming a better player, becoming a better raid group, can only be achieved through practice, and that means taking the time to learn your class, learn your role, and learn the encounters. It means wiping. It might mean wiping a lot. It can’t be done by rushing through a raid. It can’t be done by overgearing.

There are some fights gear can’t mechanically compensate for. I don’t care how many pieces of T10 your group’s in – the 4-Horseman are still going to kick your ass if you can’t get your shit together and move like you’re supposed to. Where’s your numerical superiority now, bitch? It’s a shame you never bothered to learn how to follow a strat.

I can understand the desire to progress – acutely, in fact – and I understand how frustrating it can be when half your raid is up to snuff, and the other half is sort of…not. The game will only let you carry weak members for so long; sooner or later they need to start carrying their own weight. But does that mean you have to drop them entirely? Does that mean you need to lay into them for what basically amounts to a lack of experience? Especially if you’re partially responsible for that lack due to your own over-gearing and impatience?

It’s not really a question of right or wrong, I guess, just what you want out of the game and what you’re willing to pay for it.

WoW is a broad game indeed.

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