Whether it was playing StarCraft 2, Dota, or even a pick-up game of basketball, I have always lived and died by my own calls. Regardless of how things turned out, I lived with the results. Yet while playing Final Fantasy XIV, instead of an actual living opponent, I’m up against an algorithm, a sequence, an elaborate dance with others in tune with an AI that wants nothing more than for all of us to fail horribly. It’s this challenge that is alluring to me, not the grind for the best gear or the fastest time, but to take on the developer’s challenge and emerge victorious. Being aware of the raid conditions, the boss mechanics, my allys’ classes, cooldowns, positioning, the game unfolded with every choice and command I made. What will be chronicled is my experiences with listening to shot callers as well as doing the calling, raid groups, and developing players.
Alexander Gordias was interesting in the sense that it actually destroyed a lot of groups just because of how the DPS checks were tuned. What I could never understand at the time was why people transferred servers because as they were transferring. A lot of the people who transferred told me about how they lacked a real in-game leader. They transferred because they needed to find more people who could fit that roles that were needed, but never really looked for in my server. It all seemed like excuses to me. Regardless of the mass migration of players I knew, I decided to try raiding with my guild to see how I would like it.
The free company (FC) I joined (and am still currently in) is Rule of Rose. To describe it best, Rule of Rose is what would happen if the popular kids in high school ran a video game guild that focused on clearing content as well as creating a unique social experience amongst the members. When I first joined, the guild was transitioning raids to Alexander Gordias and they were on the verge of starting a second and third raid team. The two leaders (Jak Mar and Caster Class) asked me if I could come along on one of their raids because they were trying to learn the first floor of Gordias Savage. The way they assessed players was going through a damage check to make sure they knew their class’ rotation. Afterwards, they would be taken into one of the extreme primals to test their learning and listening capabilities. After the clear (or failure), there would be a judgment on whether they are raid ready or not.
After Caster had my tank damage assessed, he told me that I passed and to get ready. I had seen a couple of videos on the first and second floors but I only watched them for my own enjoyment. When we first stepped in, I was a bit nervous being with a new group in content that I had not experienced yet. They told me that I would be fine, just listen to Caster and Jak for the shot calling. It was interesting just to listen to Jak Mar, it was not the call-outs that were impressive but the confidence in the strategy they were using. Although the raid was cut short due to lag, I learned a lot about the FC. After that day, I wanted to try to raid with other teams.
The team I first joined was with Swash, and he was the vocal leader of the group. If I could describe his style of leading, he was extremely laid back yet still reliable when it mattered. He reminded me of Jak Mar’s style of leading. The difference was extremely subtle, but I noticed that Jak Mar could formulate corrections on the fly while Swash had fights mechanically memorized. Swash knew everything that was going to happen so he was always prepared to shield, attack, or warn of what was coming. But above all, Swash liked to do was keep everything light hearted. He wanted to make sure we were having fun. There was no blaming one another, every raid was a learning experience that we grew from. Swash and the group eventually disbanded when other events in their life took priority. I was grateful for the time we spent together, taking what I had learned into a newer group that had emerged in the FC.
“Broken Roses” was a group within the FC led by a streamer with a decent following in the FFXIV category and wanted to try out raiding. The group was comprised of a few members from her stream and other players in the FC that passed Caster’s dummy test previously. Our first group meeting was determining roles and what content we would work on first. While it seemed promising at first, it quickly turned really sour in my experience. The streamer was more concerned with doing vodka shots on stream than actually trying to attempt any sort of content. The behavior was encouraged by her admirers within the group, so nothing was ever attempted or cleared. In addition, we had a black mage who was a nice person at first and then she started becoming verbally abusive to me and talked about our FC leaders behind their back. The last straw was when they kicked out a member named Lucas just because he hardly spoke in TeamSpeak. Lucas was the best melee DPS player on the team and had more experience but he was kicked for not being a vocal part of the shit show they wanted to perform. The worst part about that was it was broadcast live so people saw. Our other melee DPS, Aaron, also shared the same concerns and did not like how we really had no leader so we both decided to leave.
Aaron wanted to run Ravana Extreme, so we went with another group led by Gwen. If there was someone who saved raiding as an experience for me, it was Gwen. By simply asking us if we wanted to run Ravana, her, Hack, and Shorosin actually extended my raiding lifeline otherwise I probably would have stopped playing. The mix between casual conversations and cooperation to clear content was a refreshing escape from the previous group. Paying their kindness and camaraderie forward, I would offer my help to those in the group who couldn’t be around due to time constraints. With my urge to raid rekindled, I ventured into another group to fill the downtime.
“The Gangreen Gang” was an interesting group due to the majority of them being crafters, but a few had cleared Alexander Savage but wanted to go back in for the thrill of clearing weekly. It was formed from the linkshell, “Horizon”. The best part about this group was that I was raiding with my friends. Even though a lot of them were new to raiding, I felt like I could teach them to be better. Our main healer Rina and our monk player Recca were always good and trusting but I think if there was someone who was really encouraging both inside and outside of the game, it was our summoner Alistair Castello. Alistair had some experience raiding prior to joining the group, but poor leadership did not allow her to see too much of the first boss. She improved dramatically from when we formed our group, clearing content and learning boss mechanics to teach others. Simple encouragement and cooperation allowed her to show real potential, often topping the damage charts in each raid. It was her ambition and tenacity that allowed her to improve so drastically. This attitude carried over to her real life, as she was also chasing her dream of finishing her post graduate education. When she said that she trusted that I could make the correct calls and teach the newer members of the team what they should be doing, I felt a sense of determination and confidence. It was motivating to me because she trusted me to make the right decisions even though I was still inexperienced in raiding. Working with her made me realize that true development does not always come in the form of raw numbers and rotations, but what the group is thinking during the actual instance. She showed me a breakthrough way to help people learn which I would use in my current raid group. She grew exponentially with the right group and mindset, then went on to inspire my way of teaching and approaching groups.
I learned that I need to experience things personally, not just see videos of others, to understand the group and the mechanics. Videos gave me a set of expectations, what would happen under ideal circumstances and how people would react. Putting those into practice with a real group required me to know who was with me, what they were capable of, and when to make the right call with what I knew. Knowing a boss mechanic was like knowing the steps to an intricate dance. Calling out when to strike and when to brace for incoming damage became second nature to me. It’s a trust between everyone, they knew their roles and rotations, but I would constantly be observing the battle flow and timing, ready to command a shift in tactic to counter the current or oncoming threat. I know the fight, I know the group, I see the triumphs and mistakes and I work to correct them. Personally, I also think that having the kind of voice that I do definitely helps with shot calling.
These days I now do the shot calling for a new raid group that is currently progressing through Midas Turn Seven Savage. We have a lot of work ahead of us but we’re growing together and getting better every week. We have a combination of veterans from past raid tiers combined with new people who only started in this patch. Talent wise, they just might be the best I’ve ever seen at learning but now it’s up to me to keep up with them. I think that the future is bright for this group and I’m proud of every single one of them.
(Featured Image photo credit to Jessica Cornelius)