Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the truth about pugs

More Warcraft talk, as it seems that certain readers who would never be caught playing the online sensation can't get enough of reading about it!

I've written before that for years I was frustrated in Warcraft because I couldn't reliably find other players to help me do things which require more than one person to work together. I usually quested in those days, and it was a red letter day when I'd find a stranger or two who worked well with me. Whenever this did happen and I was able to get a lot of group quests done, I was very happy indeed. In the early years I never did belong to guilds who had it together enough to run high-level dungeons as a guild (which requires five high level players), but I did belong for a long time to a guild where a player would run our lower level characters through dungeons. This fellow had an amazingly powerful Warcraft character but was himself really lacking in social graces. I didn't care, though, because while I was leveling Chlonnaa, a draenei mage, he'd take me through Zul'Farrak and the Scarlet Monastery, and all Chlonnaa had to do was scuttle behind him picking up loot from all the corpses in his wake. Later he was kicked out of our guild, and I complained fruitlessly. "Who else will run the lower levels? Who?" I said in guild chat, and of course, the answer turned out to be nobody.

Once Blizzard created the "find group" tool, enabling players to get matched up with others and put into dungeons appropriate for their skill level, I was happy not to have to beg for runs on any of my characters. It was much more interesting, after all, to fight the elite monsters on your own, rather than just pick through their remains. But a problem remains, which is beyond Blizzard's ability to solve: a lot of Warcraft players are really awful human beings. There is nothing like a pug (a group of strangers is a "pick up group" or "pug" for short) to make you have sorrow for humanity.

Many players enjoy insulting their fellow players as much as completing a dungeon run. It used to be that the word "noob" was the most common insult, but currently the adjective "fail" is the most popular, as in "fail tank pulled the whole room", "fail healer sucks", "fail shammy doesn't know how to rez", etc.., etc...

And there's the equipment snobbery. This has become worse and more ubiquitous since Cataclysm came out. There's some underlying justification: a character's powers are largely determined by their armor and weapons. As you run more and more dungeons, you can get better equipment, but the catch 22 is that if you aren't geared very well, no one wants to run a heroic with you, and thus it's hard for you to get geared. When I was just-geared-enough to run dungeons in Cataclysm on heroic setting (harder than normal and with better loot to be had), I sat them out after a couple rough ones. I waited until I was mediocrely geared. Now the character I play most is really well-geared, and I don't get any criticism, but it was a rough haul getting there.

In order to prevent groups from being stuck with a truly awful player, pugs can vote a player out. This, however, can be really disheartening and disorienting. You don't have a chance to argue your case; you simply find yourself outside the dungeon, alone, with no warning. I remember the first time I was voted out. I was stunned. Another time I found it crazily maddening: I waited for an hour to get a pug, and then the pug took two hours to complete the Lost City of the Tol'vir. It was a fractious group, and we were having a rough time, but we were finally on the last boss. We wiped (all the players died) due to the mistakes made by the worst player, a hunter who didn't speak English and didn't know the dungeon. Then, for reasons which were completely mysterious to me, I found myself out of the dungeon. I was so angry at having spent an entire afternoon trying to get this damn dungeon run, only to get thrown out in the last few minutes. It was profoundly unfair to boot, because the recounts proved I'd been playing much more effectively than the hunter. It was extra maddening because while the others had been squabbling, I'd kept a shut mouth and stayed out of the fighting.

Studies show that everyone considers themself to be a better than average driver, and likewise Warcraft players tend to think they are all more fabulous than the rest. I, however, will admit that I am an extremely uneven player. I have my moments of brilliance (for example, in one pug everyone died but me on the boss, but I pulled out my earth elemental and got that boss down by myself when no one expected it. "So epic!!" typed the other players). I also have moments of stupidity. The one pug where I most truly should have been booted I wasn't. I logged on to do a daily random pug after a boozy dinner party I'd hosted, and I landed in Deadmines. I was so inebriated that my character could not make her way up the series of rickety gangplanks onto the ship coming back from Vanessa's nightmare. So the other four players had to kill the final boss without me, while enjoying a laugh at my expense (which I freely admitted to them was their right). I shouldn't have gotten the credit for that run, but then again, I shouldn't have been booted from that Lost City run, either.

Sometimes a player wants more people out than he can vote out or he can't get the others to agree on voting someone out. Once a tank [a tank is a player who has the strongest kind of armor and who knows protective spells. This player's role is to draw the attention of all the enemies, so they will focus their efforts on attacking the tank, while the other players attack the monsters with impunity and the healer tries to keep them all alive] threw a giant hissy fit. He didn't think the rest of us were up to his standard, and there was a particular bit of loot likely to drop on the next boss which he wanted. He sat his character down and said that if the rest of us had any decency, we'd each and every one of us leave the group voluntarily so he could get new players in and win that trinket he wanted. Of course we voted him out instead and had a good laugh at his expense.

In another pug, a pair of players were rude and obnoxious. One kept saying "I'm a god! I've downed Cho'Gall! You are all fail!" and trying to get everyone but his friend voted out. The group instead voted that player out after we'd wiped, and he childishly refused to resurrect his character and leave the dungeon. The other player in that horrible group with whom I'd bonded purposely sat his character down upon the bones of the rude, voted-out character, and we laughed with each other in little typed whispers. Finishing that pug felt like a triumph of the human spirit (and yes, I realize I should get outside more often).

Lately pugs are usually a joy for me, because my character is well-geared, powerful, and I've put a lot of work into refining her equipment. It's been a very long time since anyone ever voted me out. I've done a lot of reading online about my character's class, and I've put so much time into reforging her gear, changing her glyphs, getting the right enchants, etc.. Even a particularly immature stranger can't normally find something to complain about with me. However, I hear my guildmates complaining constantly about their rude pugs, being rejected for being insufficiently geared, etc.. "There, there," I type to them. "Don't listen to those idiots. There, there."


trish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quandarius said...

Aw, darn. And here your last Warcraft post had almost convinced me to try pick up groups, but I deal with enough pricks in my day job.
It seems the ideal is still a good casual guild (with people you might actually enjoy hanging with in real life), but that's very hard to find in my experience. Let us know if you hear of one that's recruiting. (I'm on Doomhammer, but I'd be willing to switch servers for that!)
Still enjoying the WOW posts. And I'm glad you got your birdie back.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Aww, Trish, I didn't see anything incendiary in that comment. I wonder what went over my (stupid) head.

Quandarius, shoot me an email at Drunkenhousewife@gmail.com and I'll give you some guild info.

And incidentally I found pugs to be lovely when I was leveling up, then sucky at 85, then good again once I was geared fairly well.

hughman said...

i have to admit when i read the WOW posts, it's like hearing the teacher's voice in Peanuts cartoons.

the Drunken Housewife said...

See, Hugh, that's what I always thought it would be, but my own husband asked me to write about what I see in WoW, and he has said several times he likes it when I do. Other people i know in real life have said, "I like it when you write about Warcraft; you should write more about Warcraft." And then there are some readers who play Warcraft. So unlike most of the stuff I write about, this actually gets requested (whereas no one ever says, "Can you write some more about being depressed? I like it when you explain about being depressed").

Deborah said...

Hey just came across your blog. I am not a WOW player but my kids are. I'm sure they would totally understand what you are talking about!
BTW, i love your comment back to Hughman...lol "can you write some more about being depressed?" haha :)

M said...

UGH, I could write a novel on the PUG horror stories I have. The time that our tank and his friend in our group insisted that I was a terrible 'lock and terrorized me before booting me from the group. Or the time that while waiting in a que after part of our group left, the other two people left in the dungeon sexually harassed me and demanded that I give them my real name so they could look me up on Facebook. I declined but before I left the dungeon, they said I was probably fat and ugly anyway. Those are just a few stories. Sometimes I put up with the BS because I need to finish the instance but most of the time I'll grit my teeth and leave the group. Very frustrating especially because the ques are so long for DPS.

KnittyBron said...

I so miss being in a guild that ran dungeons together and helped each other! It seems that just as me and DH got into a groove with a well run guild, some weird drama would happen that we didn't was happening behind the scenes and everything would just go to hell! The last fun one we were in got taken over by IRL (job losses, home losses, illnesses, offspring illnesses etc) Right now, I'm really wanting to play, but DH is kind of over it. So I've been soloing it and am still scared of PUGs. I know I will have to sooner or later, but I don't know... But I'm loving reading your thoughts on it!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Welcome, Deborah, M, and Knitty! Please share PUG horror stories whenever you like; I always enjoy these.

NonymousGoatsePants said...

I am SOOO signing you up for meat-a-tarian newslists.

Davi said...

If you want to see the worst of humanity, online gaming is where you'll find it. My fiance plays games like Call of Duty and Halo online, and he plays with/against some real a**holes. These guys are the sorest losers you'll ever encounter. And the children playing? I thought I had a potty mouth! A former roommate was once cussed out in a Halo match by an 11-yr-old! I stay as far away from online gaming as possible.