How smoothly do you think your raid would run without Vent? The instant connection of voice communications makes short work of strategizing before an encounter. It allows raid leaders to direct the flow during battle, issuing new orders, calling out phases, and reminding players when to move. It allows for a certain amount of friendly banter during lighter moments, and it unites the entire team in whoops and cheers when the boss finally goes down.
The players of Durus Veritas make their way through the heroic raids of Mists without any of that. In fact, most members are partially or completely deaf and can't hear anything in the game at all. Even its hearing members hear nothing, because the guild eschews voice communications. Despite that, the guild is now 8/13 in heroic Throne of Thunder, chewing steadily through every barrier and demonstrating that fellowship, like raid progression, depends on clear communication -- no matter what form.
WoW Insider interviewed long-time DV leader Sarssypoo about the guild's unusual membership and impressive record of raiding success. (Durus Veritas is currently officially led by Zoroji while Sarssypoo takes a leave of absence from active raiding.)
Main character Sarssypoo, holy blood elf paladin, long-time GM
Guild Durus Veritas
Realm Ner'zhul (US-Horde)
WoW Insider: Is every member of Durus Veritas hard of hearing or deaf?
Sarssypoo: Durus Veritas consists of a mixture of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing players and is open to everyone who enjoys the community focused on Ventless raiding. Guild chatter gets intense at times and it's fun. (Of course we prefer mature players that are open to banter.)
Has DV's mission always been focused on players who are deaf or hard of hearing?
The guild was created in April of 2011 and has been working ever since to develop effective ways to approach raiding without any form of voice communication. I've been in several hardcore progression guild that used Vent, and I decided to use my skill set and experience to form a guild for deaf/hard of hearing people with a few close friends who also have similar experience.
Do any of your players use voice comms at all?
There has been no form of voice communication involved with the guild's progression. Most of our raiders have exceptional awareness and remember the assignments given to them beforehand.
Would you say that the limitations faced by DV's raiders are more the result of not being able to hear game sounds or of not being able to hear other players? Is either aspect more difficult to overcome than the other?
I would say that one of the biggest limitations is the down time between wipes to type out explanations rather than talking out on Vent.
I don't know about the game, as I have never experienced sounds during a raid. However, the only thing I'd imagine would shave a few seconds with reaction timing is sound cues from add-ons, but it has never been an issue. Most cooldowns can be predicted, such as tank cooldowns, and we generally study the fight as we go and fix problems that we encounter for a specific part of the fight.
I am sure on Vent it would be easier to make on-the-spot calls if a tank has used up all his cooldowns and needed extra healing/tank swap until the next cooldown comes up. Healing cooldowns are usually spread through the fight with prior assignments, as it's ideal to use them as often as you can to conserve mana for all your healers.
Does the guild recommend a particular set of add-ons to help substitute for audible game cues?
We encourage members to use Deadly Boss Mods, but that's the only thing I can think of other than using addons that helps players with their specializations and keeping a clean UI with minimal clutter so they can take full advantage of visual cues.
What specific chat add-ons or tips do you recommend to make text-based raiding more efficient and effective?
Most of the things that we use are readily available and come with Blizzard's default UI. Some members make their own custom UI, as long as they are made visible, as we rely on macros. Sometimes we (usually the healers) type out assignment changes or chat macros to communicate during a raid encounter.
Are there other gameplay techniques you and your guild mates have developed that make playing easier for deaf players?
The success of the raid largely depends on people focusing on survival and putting out as much numbers as they can to make the fight go smoothly. Ideally, a raid should consist of people who fully understand the fight as well as the math behind it and their gameplay skill. I've noticed that when we get good hearing players in with all the qualities above, they pick up just fine.
Setting up assignments prior to a raid fight is generally what we do, mostly healing assignments, to make coordination possible. Players are required to memorize their assignment and execute them to their best based on how well they can analyze the fight and optimize their performance. It's good practice for those to brush up their raid awareness and understanding of the fight. For healers, we've developed our own healing channel to discuss parts of the fight where there is struggle with healing and how to coordinate healing cooldowns around them.
Every player is good in their own way, and micromanagement of their skills largely depends on the raid leader or other players to watch what everyone does, help them figure out what cooldown to pop, or watch how they died via addons such as Recount. Going in a fight blindly has almost never reaped effective results without coordinated cooldowns.
What about hardware and technological solutions?
I have tried to use a video system such as an iPhone video Skype/Facetime to communicate with one raid member, but it is far too distracting to watch someone communicate in sign language or even reading text and watch the encounter.
I've also tried to livestream myself explaining the assignment before the raid, but it takes more time to make sure people alt-tab out to watch and understand what I am telling them. It would be possible if everyone in the raid had dual monitors, one for raid and one for livestream, and they can use the chat option in the livestream website to discuss their duties. Preferably, a LAN party would fix a lot of issues with the downtime we have between wipes to make sure adjustments are in place.
What options has Blizzard included in the UI and game that help?
Options such as raid markers and world raid markers as well as chat macros have been a huge assistance to raiding without voice communication. I wish that markers would be available in PvP as it is in PvE, because deaf players struggle to get in Rated Battlegrounds or Arena due to the fact that voice communication has a huge advantage over playing blindly without icons over players or an effective means of changing strategies on the spot without typing it out.
Durus Veritas has recently done some shuffling and re-shuffling of guild size, isn't that right?
We have two core 10-man [teams], but the second 10-man has a more casual schedule as well as casual raiders, which caused some of the people who were serious about progression in that second core to be frustrated, so we discussed going 25-man. Once we went 25-man, it was difficult to manage, as we didn't have a strong enough roster to manage progression into heroic content.
So I made the call to go back to our respective cores, and some players from Core 2 decided to take a break from World of Warcraft. Because of this, we were able to jump from 1/13 HM to 6/13 HM, and Core 2 has been slowly developing their roster. [The guild is now at 8/13 heroic.]
It did not help that we're on a medium populated server with people who are concerned about joining a guild that does not use voice communication. ...We were able to get back on foot with the new recruits this week.
When you're not playing WoW, what do you do?
I currently work as a teacher's aide for sign language classes at an university. Mostly, I just have WoW-on-the-brain syndrome, and I theorycraft for several elements when it comes to the game. I'd imagine the next level of challenge for deaf players would be a coordinated Rated Battleground.
Read about other deaf players and disabled players of all kinds who are enjoying World of Warcraft.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.