Raiding Without Sound - Interview with Undaunted, a Deaf-Friendly Raiding Guild
Today, as part of a serie of spotlight articles centered on players and guilds managing to overcome barriers placed in front of them, and excel at what they do, we have had the privilege of spending some time with
, from Area 52 (formerly Ner'zhul). They have been hard at work providing an environment where deaf and hard-of-hearing players can flourish and experience some of the most cutting-edge content present in the game!
You can catch some of their raiders on the following streams. They're on the final stretch of Ny'alotha right now, progressing N'zoth:
Other members of the guild are also streaming, providing multiple PoVs:
: Protection Warrior
: Holy paladin
We're here with Sabot, their GM, Amisorcery, their raid leader, and Sarialinde, one of their officers.
Tell us a bit more about yourself and your guild. What is Undaunted? What drew you to create this community and raiding guild?
I’m Sabot and I’m the guildmaster of a World of Warcraft guild called Undaunted.
Undaunted is a Deaf guild composed of Deaf and hard of hearing players. In a world of online gaming with voice comms such as Discord, Teamspeak, Vent, etc, we wanted to carve out a part of that world by showing that we Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing players can achieve the same challenges without using voice comms. We also have hearing players in our guild who happily enjoy not being required to have voice comms to play the games they love!
The guild was founded during the Firelands raid tier (back then, we were called Durus Veritas). Our GM at the time, Drakwlya, tediously headhunted for deaf/hoh players by making a level 1 on various servers then posting looking for deaf/hoh players in trade channel and recruiting them over to the home server at the time, scouring forums, using personal IRL connections to recruit folks to the game or to transfer to their server. With how close knit servers were back then, people would know of one or two deaf/hoh players and refer them to Drakwlya in trade channel.
Are there any tools or approaches you'd recommend for players with hearing difficulties within an organized raiding context?
During the raids themselves, we have a multiple amount of tools that we utilize extensively. In-game, we have DBM or BigWigs that give us on-screen warnings or timers of raid mechanics. We have WeakAurass that give us customizable on-screen notification or warnings whenever a specified event occurs. We also use Angry Assignments which is like a post-it note on your screen which we use for assignments like “Player A interrupt 1st add and player B interrupt 2nd add”.
You can see some of these weakauras, UI choices and even Amisorcery using ASL to communicate to Daed IRL at the 2:00 mark (they're in the same room):
Many trials come into Undaunted with minimal skills and knowledge that would comfortably allow them to conquer normal raids and those hitting the ground running in heroic raids are far and few. While hearing guilds have the luxury of a much, much wider recruitment pool, we have a duty to bring in, bring up and foster the talent we can find.
The majority of our raid team are players that both officers and the player themselves spent blood, sweat, and tears on developing into a mythic-ready raider. We spend immense amounts of energy into improving our fellow deaf players, energy that the officer core of most other guilds would normally not expend. Our raid team, our guild and the community we have built is our family and together for the long haul. Both inside and out, we provide an environment where players can thrive, maintain
and other resources for deaf players, whether they are in our guild or elsewhere, and our
is always open for visitors.
Raiding tends to require a lot of on-the-fly communication and coordination, particularly for encounters designed around it. How do you approach this?
Amisorcery is an officer in our guild and our raid leader. He often has to develop a lot of raid commands macros such as “Switch target” or “Move here” in raid text that everybody in our raid group can see. We also utilize more visible-type WAs for the boss mechanics. It can be information overload on the eyes for an average person but it’s something we're used to!
Due to the inability to effectively communicate during a pull other than by pre-planned mechanisms (we all know how quickly one gets killed while typing something, even as simple as "gg" in the case of Amis), we rely on our raiders' ability to execute a rehearsed fight perfectly from start to finish, simply because there are no ways to make quick, unexpected adjustments. We provide raiders with a comprehensive set of weakauras and resources, and our pulls are very rehearsed, but we do expect them to adjust their UI to make sure they have
the information they need, unprompted.
Both of our tanks are in the same room and this ends up being an advantage, as they can sign each other and make slightly more changes than normal raiders would. Things like "I have no cooldowns, take this", "your turn", massively help, as tank-tank synergy and communication is still extremely important.
Outside of raids, communication happens in the same format - text chat, discord, and Zoom for ASL. You can see such an example of communication on a debrief after a key in S3 here:
: Jack.. I think... (trails off)
: oh WOW! An actual upgrade!
: Is that sarcasm?
: Of course.
: Hey Nick Twisted wants to talk to you
: yea I agree the shroud strat is so stupid and if we skip those then we have to pick up mobs earlier. If we skip that guy how much percentage do we have to make up? There's 3 trash next to him is it the same value?
(at the same time Sari talking)
: If we were going for the cannon trash that requires a completely different strategy - you have to juke with los and use cc to gather it all up. Jack was wanting to los and kite down the rampart which isn't what we did the first time. Changing the pulls mid dungeon is why we all kept dying then running back because we weren't all on the same page and all that time was lost there.
: if we were going to do that we should've done what we usually do which is clean it all up first then we'd have clear space to kite
: ahh interesting, ok makes sense. I don't even remember the last time I went to Tol
: yea when you kill that, the next pull would be -- (cuts off)
What is the biggest issue your raiders face when raiding?
The biggest obstacle for deaf/hard-of-hearing players to progress, even for our team, is due to the lack of incidental learning. WoW has always been big on the community aspect, and people passively learn and absorb information by watching streams, kill videos, listening to podcasts and other media. Because most of this material is not captioned, it is inaccessible to us, and a source of frustration as others expect this knowledge to be present. For example, no top-tier key pusher has closed captions enabled; every single World First Race event was without them as well; finally, most of the Blizzard official events also happen without the ability for deaf/hard-of-hearing viewers to participate and listen. As a result, most deaf players applying to our guild have never arrived mythic-ready.
To solve this problem, a couple of tools exist, but the step needs to be taken from the outside:
Podcasts authors are not often aware of the barrier they represent when a transcript is not provided. There are tools available to automatically transcribe audio material such as
, but the knowledge of these tools is still relatively scarce.
Similarly, Twitch content creators can enabled closed captions on their streams, and use either an automated CC tool such as
Alejo47's automated CC generator
(free, Patreon-supported), or provide their own CC in the stream metadata itself. A comprehensive guide on how to do so is available
. It is very worth it, as it allows content creators to also cater to people who may not be able to have audio enabled!
With the cutting edge technology in speech to text transcription, there's honestly no reason not to make this content accessible. High-end streamers should consider enabling the new twitch built-in captioning feature by hooking it up to speech to text, it won't even impact their UI and deaf/hard-of-hearing viewers can just toggle it on for themselves. Youtube also has a pretty decent auto captioning/transcripting service, that can be enabled on videos. I was really excited when Blizzard moved the MDI event off Twitch to Youtube because then finally I could use the auto captioning service and keep up with the live commentary on one of my most favorite events for the first time in my WoW gaming history!
Aside from this, we have also created our own guides. This is one of the foundations of our guild - we're a collectivist community, so we immediately share any information we happen to come across with each other, and we create our own resources when we have to. Deaf and hard of hearing players regularly have to do twice or thrice the legwork just to keep up competitively, and so, whatever we can do to speed this up is worthwhile, for us, and for other deaf players. You can see an example below, explaining in ASL all the mechanics, positional requirements and walkthrough for Ra-den (turn captions on!):
Outside of the game, we use Discord (text channels) for communication and community interaction, in order to keep people connected. We also use Zoom for online video conferences using sign language. We also have generous translators that translate sign language into text on Zoom for our members that don't know sign language. The highest amount of people we have had online all at once was 51 during Mist of Pandaria expansion!
What has been your most memorable achievement/moment in WoW?
Probably our guild’s most recent memorable achievement would have to be downing Mekkatorque, a raid boss in the Battle of Dazar’alor raid. This raid boss is notorious for demanding an extremely high level of voice comms to be able to overcome the boss’s mechanics. We were able to defeat the boss without using voice comms. It took an extra amount of practice, text callout macros, WAs, and sheer determination and patience!
Any closing thoughts?
With the new expansion, Shadowlands coming in a few months, Undaunted will be going into it even bigger and stronger with new and returning old faces! Be sure to keep an eye out for us if you want to join our guild on server Area 52!
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