Being a long-time fan of the MMO blog Epic Slant, when Adam “Ferrel” Trzonkowski mentioned he was starting a Kickstarter project for his next book, The Raider’s Companion, my ears perked up. And when he offered review copies it, I couldn’t type the email fast enough.
As a long-time MMO vet and raider, I wondered what The Raider’s Companion could offer me. Having raided in World of Warcraft since Tier 1 was the hotness because there was nothing else available, I thought I was old-school. But no! I actually fall into what Ferrel calls the second generation of raiders, so from the very outset, I knew that The Raider’s Companion wasn’t going to be a few hours of my life reading the same old stuff I get from Epic Slant and countless other MMO blogs.
In fact, The Raider’s Companion feels very fresh because it is written from the perspective of someone who loves raiding. The emphasis in the book is not on getting phat lewt, nor is it on how to best gear your specific character in a specific game. Ferrel instead angles the book from beginning to end around the idea raiding is something you should actively enjoy the vast majority of the time you’re doing it.
Rather than doing a typical review where I talk about the strengths and weaknesses of a book and how the author balances them all, I thought I’d go a different way with this. I thought I would take the three most stand-out quotes in the book and discuss them a bit.
Quote the First: “The Good Ole Days”
Regarding the original EverQuest:
Groups are formed once more and the strategy is explained in text. “The healers will sit on the stairs and heal the main tank. Everyone else will charge the dragon and do the best they can.” These are simple instructions for a very daunting task, but they are enough. The planning was quite clear in those days. Kill the dragon before you all die.
Doesn’t that just sound fantastic? It does! No raid videos, no addons, no DDR-like movements for your characters. Just you, a hundred other people, and a dragon. Mano a mano a mano a mano…you get the picture.
The example above is from Ferrel’s own EQ guild. Nowadays, even PuG raids have adds to watch for, phases to switch, whatever. He talks about a time when the games were not about numbers or parses. The Raider’s Companion discusses the evolution of the MMO raiding game, and actually does a fine job of making it all feel epic. I could see why raiding became a thing based solely on the book.
Quote the Second: “Are We Having Fun Yet?”
Regarding strategy and banging your head against a wall:
If all else fails, always remember that you can change your mind and try something else later on. Nothing is set in stone, so try to remember to keep your eye on the end goal: enjoying yourself and having a good time.
I am guilty of playing MMOs to win and not to have fun. Sometimes, that boss just has too much fire, and I stand in all of it. My raid leader tells me not to, but I do. Sometimes, there’s that one person in the raid who you know is barely looking at the screen during the fight. Sometimes, your raid leader just might not be able to tell you all how to get from Point A to Point Z by way of all the ridiculous points in-between.
When that happens, just chill out. It’s okay. Remember that you’re playing a game you enjoy with people you like. The end result of MMO raiding is not all the shiny purple items you can use to deck your character out. Those bird shoulders on your druid are awesome, but what good are they if you hated every second of time you spent getting them?
It’s all too easy to forget that we’re actually playing a game. We treat MMOs like work so often that the raids become a second job. Ferrel does a fantastic job keeping the reader aware that these encounters are supposed to be fun.
Quote the Third: “Storytime”
Regarding how intense the content can be:
It is fine to enjoy receiving a new item. It is perfectly acceptable to lust after a particular piece of gear. Just remember that as a raider, if you make gear your focus, you are on a quick road to burnout. No piece of gear will satisfy you the same way a last-second victory squeaked out against all odds can.
Stories. MMOs are about stories to me, and not the kind of stories that BioWare is telling in Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’m talking stories about you and your friends doing something so stupid, so ridiculous, that it shouldn’t have even been possible. And how it got you from a 3% wipe to a first kill.
All I have to say to my friends is “Hey, remember that time in Wetlands?” and they immediately know what I mean. I had a Warlock in 2004 right after WoW was released, and the game glitched. Instead of letting me run away from the eight-ish oozes chasing me, my gnome was punted all the way across the zone for everyone to see. It wasn’t monumental, and it wasn’t important. But it was funny, so we remembered it.
Each game is different in the kinds of stories you get to tell, but I can’t honestly say that I remember getting very many individual pieces of gear. I remember tons of raids, though. I remember Drewbie calling out Team Retard on Garr. I remember the Priest-call on Nef and how I killed the guildmaster with it. I remember when I finally stood in one too many fires and earned the nickname Professor Stands-in-all-the-fire.
But I have no idea what gear I got any of those nights. I do remember the stories.
The Raider’s Companion could have been just another hack job, wannabe book. Instead, Adam Trzonkowski put together a fantastic little volume here that reads quickly, and honestly, opened my 14-year-veteran eyes to how other kinds of raiders do what they do.
More than anything, the book puts things in perspective. If you’re a new raider, I suggest picking it up so that you can learn what’s going on and gain some perspective. And if you’re an old, grizzled, dragon-slaying veteran, I suggest picking it up so that you can learn what’s going on and gain some perspective.