Monday, August 12, 2013

Musings on the Bench

Everything seems to be moving along steadily. My guild in The Old Republic is trying to move into Nightmare Modes. We've killed Writhing Horror on NiM, but absences have delayed attempts on Dread Guards.

The thing is that we have exactly 8 players on the team, all with solid performance and excellent attendance. This is great most of the time, as we move through content at a steady pace. But when one person is out, we fall to pieces.

I dunno, it's the same pattern I saw in WoW at this level. Progress is so good with a consistent core that everyone tries for that instead of maintaining a bench. Then absences cause significant setback. I just can't convince anyone that preparing for those absences is a good idea.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the increased performance from a smaller team is worth infrequent chaos around an absence.

This was also the problem with 25s and 10s. The performance gain from simply taking the 10 best and most consistent raiders was too high for many 25 guilds to ignore.


  1. The idea of raiding with exactly the amount of people has always been a terrible idea. All it takes is one person to have a bad storm or someone to have a funeral or something to attend and you're hosed. In WoW I aim for 12-13 people and rotate them - so most people get 60-70% playtime (more when people have to miss a night which is fairly common).

    Yes, it might be *slightly* slower than exactly 10 or maybe even 11, but it's far more stable and prevents catastrophes.

  2. Interestingly enough, I run or help run two different raids with 2 different policies. One has a rotating bench, similar to Balkoth's, and the other just has a core 10 people that we don't really have a bench for. I'm going to copy/paste something I threw together for a 3rd raid in my guild when they were trying to figure out benches:

    1) You have a core 10 people, and if they cannot make it, you grab folks from the bench.

    The pros to that are the core folks gear up faster and get more time practicing bosses and such, which is a massive benefit. You also get a chance to mesh pretty effectively, and intuitively understand who's better at what.

    The cons are that your bench eventually moves onto greener pastures if they can't ever play, meaning you effectively have no bench, which means lots of last minute scrambling to fill in those 1 or 2 slots that almost always seem to come up missing. It also means that your bench also doesn't get geared up or get practice, so if you have attendance issues (ie: some folks are missing somewhat often, often being as little as once a month), then this means you're pretty much 7 - 8 manning all of your raids.

    This method works extremely well if you have a group that's super focused and at the raid every single time. Our Wednesday group follows this model, and it works very well because we rarely have folks missing nights. More often than not, we have our core 10 people.

    2) You have more than a core 10 people, and so you have a rotating bench.

    The pros are that attendance issues become easier to smooth out because if someone needs to miss an evening, you have a moderately geared and practiced bench to grab from. You basically just rotate that person out early and so there's no last minute scramble if folks are good about communicating their required time off. It also gives people time off, which I know some raiders need and appreciate. It also allows more people to raid.

    The cons are that it requires a lot more up front planning from the raid leadership, planning a rotating bench, keeping it up to date as folks require nights off, etc, is actually a lot of work. It also means that those folks who want to raid every single time end up getting forced to the bench like once a month. This implies that you have more raiders to keep geared, and more folks to teach, so progression will be slower than with a more focused core 10.

    This method works extremely well if you have a group of folks who have a lot of external competing interests and cannot commit to being at the raid every single time. Spouses, plays, sports events, etc. can require you to take time off, and a rotating bench enables you to do that because you'll be covered rather than leaving your team in the lurch. Our Sunday group follows this model, and it works very well because we have people who communicate their absences in advance when possible and we can compensate for that immediately rather than scrambling at the last second or always searching for random folks to shove into the roster.

    Both methods have their pros and cons, and they both work quite well for the groups of people that I lead, but if you're having trouble fielding teams because of a non-existent bench, I'd suggest going with the rotating bench model. It requires a bit more proactivity by raid leadership, but as Balkoth suggests, it also helps you weather absences quite well.

  3. You guys are speaking to the choir. ;)

    Check out the Pods: A Raid Force Management System link on the right side of my site.

    My problem is that I cannot convince anyone that I raid with that this is true.

  4. Well, you could always go the passive-aggressive route and every time you have an off day because of attendance issues just say, "Well, we'd have been fine if we had a rotating bench..."

    Otherwise, well, bleh :(

  5. First, quick note: that 60-70% playtime was an absolute worst case scenario for a few people (mainly melee if there are a lot of 2 tank and 3 heal fights which are melee unfriendly). Most people are in 80%+ of the time without even factoring in absences.

    "My problem is that I cannot convince anyone that I raid with that this is true."

    Have you simply asked them what they plan to do if someone, say, has to move and loses internet for a week? I'd be curious what they say.

  6. I would agree your right.

    Moves, Work, family,Holidays internet. Even the most consistent of raiders can suddenly be unavailable for 1 or more raids.

    I have played raids from pubs and airport lounges while working out of state. But even then as someone who tends to take my holidays in places with either lots of sun or snow I probably raid about 49/52 weeks of the year.

  7. @Balkoth, they say we'll just PuG a tank, and maybe take it easy that week. But the immediate short term benefit of faster progression always seems to win the day.

  8. "@Balkoth, they say we'll just PuG a tank, and maybe take it easy that week. But the immediate short term benefit of faster progression always seems to win the day."


    I admit I also wonder whether the faster progression is even true. Having 12+ people means we can bring the best ten characters to a fight out of a wider pool. Maybe each person in the raid is doing 2-3% less DPS or something but I think we both know that is rarely, rarely the issue on a wipe.

    So you could actually progress faster with more people.