Of course, what becomes clear is that raid leaders are given a monumental task of coordinating the actions of a large number of people in performing an intricate, stressful and well-coordinated task over a period of several hours. Also clear is that expertise and experience in leading raids becomes highly valued by the community because it is so hard to be successful in raids.
I've been on some medium raids. Never as leader. I'm most impressed the with organizational skills of the raid leaders. They form balanced sub-groups and assign primary and secondary tasks to groups. They also give structure to what the objectives are for the raids. When they occasionally have to ask for sacrifices from the raid members it is done by volunteer (and I'm proud to say I'm frequently the sacrificial lamb to make sure the raid is successful). [EQ, M, 35]
The most difficult part of a large raid, in my opinion, is the ability of a raid leader to exercise patience. Good raid leaders are a rare thing these days. However, a good leader will exhibit positive traits such as reporting often to the raid of his intentions, waiting for those that have gone linkdead, listening to suggestions from others, treating the players in the raid with respect and not losing his/her temper, etc. The person leading the raid must understand that the other players participating in his raid are there for their own enjoyment and it is his/her responsibility to accentuate the experience as much as possible and still accomplish the objective. I have been on many large scale raids have failed and/or players leaving with a disgruntled feeling about the way it was run simply because the raid leader was either rude, dishonest or acted in some other unsavory manor toward his/her raid companions. [DAOC, M, 47]
The most successful raids that I have been on (in DAoC) have been led by well known and knowledgeable people. People who had built up a reputation on the server. This one particular person was very strong minded and commanded respect. It was easy to follow him since he had 'paid his dues' and was always certain of what he was doing and what he needed everyone else to do. The worst raids I have been on , have been led by people who technically knew what they were doing but lacked the charisma to lead a large number of people. You always know when it's going to turn out bad when people start questioning the raid leaders judgment and he starts defending himself/herself. IMO, it is always better on a big raid to show them how to disband if they create too much discord. Seasoned raid leaders know this and practice it. New raid leaders don't....usually. [DAOC, F, 32]
Successful raids are the culmination of many different skills: leadership, team management, logistical management, crisis management, conflict resolution, strategy planning, delegation, and good communication. Moreover, the problems that often arise during raids are not trivial problems with simple solutions. Factor in random problems like lag, disconnections and power outages and these raids begin to appear to be impossible to accomplish. And yet, every day, these large raids occur in every MMO.
Many provocative questions come to mind. Have our virtual jobs become more complex and intense than our everyday jobs? If so, are they still games? Do leadership and management skills from MMOs transfer to the real world? How close are we to a time when leading an MMO raid is something you can put on the resume for a management job? Could we imagine a time when businesses screen MMO players for management or leadership talent for recruitment?
For in-depth stories about raids in a variety of current MMOs, refer to the companion article - Dragon Slaying 102: Unsung Heroes.
In our EQ guild branch we have gone thru a tremendous change in how we handle loot since the start of our raiding. The first couple of years of raiding we tried to use a need before greed system, and asked that people volunteer to back off from rolling on loot if someone else in the guild could use that loot more. This system resulted in many flame wars on our boards because of the difficulties in getting agreement during looting on who could use the item more.
We had heard that some guilds have officers decide who should get the choice bits, but that strikes our guild members as too easy to disintigrate into favoritism, and in fact we can cite examples where even the need before greed was swayed towards a favorite person on occsion by the loot officer.
What we finally did was set up a loot point system, where each major mob we succeed on gives each participant a loot point. Only mobs that drop good loot count, and there is a cap both on how many points can be gotten on any given night, and how many points each player can stockpile. This system has stopped all our flame wars. People know what they need to do in order to get loot, and participation is rewarded.
I ran many raids in UO factions as the minax faction was always motivated for a raid in the old days but it has slumped the main reason being that the team spirtit was lost and raiding other factions who used bugs, cheets and questionable game mechanics to make raiding not worth the time.
I was in the top clan in a mud called Medievia for about 2 years. We did all our high level group runs for gear with a point system, our leader stated that the "Need before Greed" system never worked as even folk who like each other will argue over crunchy bits, I didn't agree with him back then ('98). Now after quitting Lineage 2, were my guild tried that, I can say he was 100% right. Items will splinter a friendship faster then him hitting on your woman.
Ack I didn't finish my post. We usually did runs on zones with 9-18 people depending on difficulty and who wanted to, usually 9 and we were all exceptionally focused. Had to be, one person flakes out and everybody dies. There by the end of my mud career I knew the ways as well as the leader and had free will to run around out of group. Then Dragonlairs came along and you couldn't do it with just 9 ppl, had to take at least 27 sometimes more, that was a logistics nightmare. Only two guys on the whole game could lead that many people well and they demanded strict obedience or nothing would get accomplished.
Recently my guild quit rolling on all items from high level mobs in exchange for a raid point system. This has worked exceptionally well, people receive three raid points for every raid attended and one raid point for helping others on quests. After killing the mob all in attendance bid our accumulated raid points (rps) on the items that our class of character can use. If no one bids on an item it becomes fair game to all classes present at the raid to bid on regardless to whether they can equip it or not. If still no one bids on the item, it is held on a bank character for anyone in the guild to bid on over the next few days. This is by far the best system for distributing items and rewards players who raid often with the best gear.
You did not mention an important point with the complexities of raid leading; dealing with the balance between people's real lives and their game lives.
How ethical is it to persuade certain players to show up more often via some sort of reward system when you know they would have to sacrifice something important in their real lives for it?
As you have properly shown in this article, the complexities of raid execution requires a serious, focused, and scheduled mindset. The big issue is when the focus of an individuals development switches from their real lives to their recreational activity which is the game.
The requirements of raid success incline people to focus their day to day energy in succeeding in their game world over their real life world.
This research project is very great. You are welcome to contact me, as I would be happy to contribute to your research in any way through my experience.