What is it like to be a "former raider"?
Caution: podcasts like Convert to Raid will make you want to do it again. What is it that causes a WoW player, former or present, to miss raiding? The sense of achievement, the thrill of a hard-earned victory, and the addictive elements of gear progression. Also, inevitably, with consistent raiding will necessarily come a sense of community and personal connection. If you stop raiding, you will absolutely miss the conversations on teamspeak/ventrilo, you will inspect high level raiders and feel an acute sense of envy, and you will find yourself underwhelmed by less challenging forms of gameplay. Some people are treating "raiding withdrawals" by starting up new games, such as Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. Others quit the entire MMO scene cold turkey. They will literally find themselves missing it so much they dream about it for a while. Some people seem to shuffle around guilds in an effort to find a raid team that meets the fun quota without the time obligation. Those folks might find it by raiding at lower difficulty, but at the expense of some of the sense of achievement.
I found myself in the "cold turkey" category when I started pilot training in late 2006. Earlier that summer, I had been the top priest of a successful 40 man raiding guild that claimed a US 3rd kill of the final boss in AQ40. When pilot training began, needless to say, I had almost no free time during the week, and often I was too tired on weekends to play at all. They call this "RL," real life, which should always be a priority over hobbies. From 2006 on, I made a conscious effort to prioritize my RL career responsibilities, then my family responsibilities when I later met my wife in 2008. I do not regret that one bit! Now, we have a daughter, and I'm learning how to be a husband, a dad, and an Air Force pilot and officer all at the same time. I have continually reinstalled WoW after various leaves of absence, and I dabbled in other games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, miscellaneous RTS games including SC2, Hearthstone, Clash of Clans, and others such as Borderlands and Skyrim. Bottom line: nothing had me like WoW. I would miss every aspect of the game that I wasted time on over the years...farming mobs, leveling, gathering professions, PVP, 5-mans, and of course, raiding.
How, then, do you do what you like and prioritize what's more important?
My hypothesis is that you outthink the problem. What are my limitations? Money? No. Skill? No. Hardware? No, although my rig is aging. My limitation is time. I do not have the quantity nor the consistency required to raid by most standards. Heck, I have trouble finding time to even level my toons. But, before I outthink the time problem, I must define with what I really want out of WoW now.
So, what do I want?
I want to have that sense of achievement and challenge, to have a group of people that I can get to know and enjoy in game, and to have at least one character that is clearly geared due to skill and effort over time. That last part means this: a set of gear that is at least above average, which indicates a level of progression and achievement in relevant raid zones. I would like to fill a niche in some community, but I can not have a group of people depending on me to log in before they can raid.
Why do I want these things? The sense of achievement is that basic addiction...it's called fun in non-gamer vernacular. It's the reason people play any game, start any craft, or play any sport.
The group of people is important to me because the community of players provided a substantial addition to the fun I had during my first years playing WoW. I played with actual friends often over the years, and made new ones. These people were constantly engaging me in conversation, linking sites and videos online, developed a unique and exclusive common ground for humor, and even helped form my experience as a user of the internet as a form of networking and communication.
The actual character development is important because every piece of gear you work hard for will carry great memories. I can relate stories for almost every piece of the Tier 2 Transcendence gear I acquired during Vanilla. The shoulders took me 3 or more months to get, raiding 3 nights a week. The staff Benediction was a huge accomplishment. Etc, etc. It is hard to describe this to a non-gamer, but there is a sense of pride when you log in to an MMO and see your character at the initial screen wearing exclusive gear. WoW players get this...a hard-to-earn set, or an exclusive title or mount, says, "I am good at this, I am above average." It's a point of pride. It's something I miss.
Ok, we started with why...but HOW do I do it? I'm not sacrificing meaningful time with my wife or daughter, nor am I going to slack off as an instructor pilot in the Air Force. I am still going to work out and run and stay in shape, and I am still going to prioritize my faith. That's a lot of stuff on my plate that comes before hobbies.
I doubt anybody will ever read this far, but we have just drilled down to the meat of what this blog was intended to be. I suspect that there are a lot of people who will fit in this category, or at least should.
So, here we go...maybe I should make this a podcast.
Problem #1: How to raid with little overall time in small increments.
LFR is the simplest answer, but it's worth noting that LFR contradicts Problem #2 (developing and playing with a group of friends). The newest option available to WoW players is the revamped LFG feature which allows a player to search for a specific group as a certain role. I will likely heal, but might choose to tank some too, because the DPS role is not in demand and I have no time to waste waiting for a group to form.
LFG will allow a player to plug into groups that are pre-formed, and if you look for a "custom group," you are not necessarily just joining a complete pug (pickup group made entirely of strangers). Instead, you might be the one person who is augmenting a guild raid night.
Before I go into Problem #2, however, I still need to solve #1. How do I find time to raid?
I can not realistically set the same time aside on a schedule, because that does not fit with the way my family works. I need to be available to hop up and help with our kid during most evenings, and my wife deserves my time and attention, especially on those weeknights when I've been at work all day. What about late night hours? Maybe in the future, but not right now. Our daughter wakes up at night and sleep is currently at a premium, especially during the week. I can squeeze in some mindless garrison work or some AH time (if I learn how to AH in WoD), but I can not level (much), quest, or raid.
That means I basically have weekends when I wouldn't automatically feel like I was compromising as a husband and dad.
How, then, do I arrange a raid "block" on the weekend, and what will it look like? I think my best bet is probably late Friday night, Saturday afternoon, or Saturday late night. If I can set aside some time, how much do I need, what do I need to do when I log in, and what can I do throughout the week to prepare?
Those questions can be answered later, but the simple solution to Problem #1 is: plan a few hours of hobby time late on Friday/Saturday and raid.