Performance Parabola

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last night FIST came within 2000 hit points of downing Razorscale. It was our first night on the encounter and, as with all new fights, the learning curve was as steep as the repair bills. After a few abortive tries, the group hit its stride and we grounded him twice, coming as close as 36% HP. The decision was made to give it one last try then call it a night (after all Ulduar was making a second appearance on the raid calendar later in the week).

This "last" attempt went like clockwork. The adds were burned quickly, Razorscale was permanently grounded mere minutes into the fight, and things were looking good. Then, we wiped. Our ranks had been attired throughout the fight and we just couldn't hold on. We watched helplessly from our face-down-on-the-floor positions as the evil dragon ran around with next to no health left, devouring the NPCs who were left, cursing ourselves all the while for what we might have done to live just one second longer.

So, our "last" attempt then became our second to last attempt as we could not just walk away after having come so close. In what proved to be our real last attempt we did terrible. Comparing the 2 tries side by side you would not think it was the same group. I don't even know if we grounded Razorscale once. Mercifully it was over quickly and we picked ourselves up, dusted off, and resolved to return later in the week.

This brings me to the meat of this post: the "performance parabola". I have experienced this phenomena more than once on fights. The general flow goes somewhat like this:

1st attempt-terrible, 2nd attempt-better, 3rd attempt-oh so close, 4th attempt-wha happened?, 5th attempt-screw it.

While the example is a bit contrived, it helps to illustrate what I am hypothesizing to be a raid performance trend that closely mirrors the mathematical properties of a parabola.

For those of you who don't remember back to those high school Trig days:
A parabola is the set of all points in the plane equidistant from a given line (the conic section directrix) and a given point not on the line (the focus). The focal parameter (i.e., the distance between the directrix and focus) is therefore given by , where is the distance from the vertex to the directrix or focus.

Translating this to WoW terms, the parabolic arc= overall raid performance in the fight, the directrix= progression, and for simplicity's sake, the focus=player focus (ie. how in tune he/she is with the fight).

  • Taking the start point of the parabola as attempt 1 (A1), notice the distance between the focus and the start point. The distance is large and the attempt fails. (O1) This reflects the lack of knowledge and experience with the fight, it is new and necessarily harder than familiar fights.
  • Like wise, attempt 2 would be a point midway between the start point and the vertex (A2), thus distance is smaller but still significant- a reflection of incomplete knowledge/experience gain (ie. progressing further into the fight and being exposed to new mechanics. (O2)
  • Attempt 3 would be just short of the vertex of the parabola on the ascending arm (A3) , the shortest distance possible between the focus and parabola, and as such the attempt with the best success (O3). By now players would be full exposed to all aspects of the fight, be focused on what to do when and how to manage their abilities, etc. (For the sake of this illustration, they must necessarily fail, however in some future attempt success would follow thus cutting the parabola and forming an arc.)

  • Attempts 4 and 5 move back down the descending arm of the parabola, increasing in distance from the focus. In raiding terms, this can be reflective of: loss of cool-downs, expiration of flasks, player fatigue, etc.

And so, that is what I am calling the Performance Parabola of Raiding. I think it is a natural and unavoidable product of progression fights and as such is not necessarily bad. The key is to be able to identify when the vertex has been passed and the raid is on the descending arm of the parabola. Once the vertex has been passed it is time to disengage, study what lessons were learned on the ascending arm, and close the gap between the focus and vertex when the next attempt is made. Last night we did a great job of that and did not allow ourselves to devolve into a wipe fest, just because we came so close on that "vertex attempt".


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