Attendance Tracking and Raid Slots: The *real* “loot crisis”

Introduction aka “what is this post about?”

I have posted before that, at least in our guild, loot simply isn’t an issue. The only real currency that our raiders care about is who gets to raid and who gets to be on standby for a given night.

One of the most difficult responsibilities of being a raid/guild leader, and one of the few I genuinely hate, is having to decide who gets to raid, and who gets put on standby.  Thankfully, Roksi is usually the one who shoulders the bulk of this responsibility, and it’s usually more my task to figure out how to accomplish the task in front of us with the raid she assembles. Also to her credit though, she allows me a fair amount of input when it comes to specific requirements for a given raid night.

Semi-random comments loosely related to the topic

Despite the frequent claims to the contrary around the internet, I don’t think that organizing and managing a 10man only guild’s roster is any easier than managing a 25man roster, they are just different. You have a whole lot more flexibility with a 25man roster. Even if you have 6-8 people sitting on the bench most nights, given a 3 night raid schedule, it is unlikely they will individually have to miss more than one raid a week each.  Imagine trying to juggle 10-12 regular bench warmers into your raid every week without anyone getting upset.

With a 10man roster, that same 6-8 bench warmers translates into 2-3 extra bodies you have to work with if you still want your whole raid team to raid on a reasonably regular schedule. Every bench warmer you have on a 10man raid team is equivalent to 2.5 for a 25man roster.  Our guild limits ourselves to 12-14 people on our active raid roster MAX. That is the same as a 25man guild running between 6 and 10 people who show up every raid hoping to get picked for the raid.  Ideally we would cut ourselves off at 12, but we have a couple of really valued raiders who have to travel for work like one week every couple months, and one member who has to be an hour late 1 out of 3 raids each week.  So rather than replace them outright, the group as a whole makes the sacrifice to carry an extra couple bodies on the roster.  The single biggest attribute that makes these raiders with “special needs” worth accommodating though is, without any question, their open and consistent communication with Roksi and myself. They keep us informed weeks in advance when they will be gone, and give us plenty of information and notice to make it as easy on us as possible.

Finally getting to the actual point of the post

All of that being said, we have developed a pretty cool system for tracking attendance in Production Company that I thought might be useful for others.  For anyone familiar with the U.S. military, it is based off of the same principles as a duty roster, except in reverse (since people mostly see raiding as more enjoyable than K.P.)

The system is also weighted to emphasize behaviors and factors that we value as a guild and offer incentive/penalties for things we want to dissuade.

Here is a screenshot of last March’s record:

Here is a link to a copy of the same data in spreadsheet form that people can play with. (I wonder how long it will take until someone defaces it or screws it up? It is set so that anyone can edit it so fair warning I have no idea what you might find by the time you are reading this)

Here is the explanation for what the different numbers mean:

Attendance Values:
1.5 == Person signed up and didn’t show
1.2 == Person signed up late or showed up late and raided
1.0 == Person signed up and attended the majority of the raid
0.8 == Person signed up and spent the majority of the raid in their offspec
0.5 == Person signed up and spent less than half the time in the raid
0.2 == Person signed up late or showed up late and did not raid (but still showed up)
0.00 == Person signed up and “sat out” for the night
“__” == Person didn’t sign up, signed up as tentative, or asked for the night off

Now obviously, these numbers represent what we value as a guild. I should also note that we also have our members sign up on a raid calendar on our website ~a week in advance.

When it comes time to fill the raid, we fill it with the appropriate number of tanks, healer, ranged dps, and melee dps to create a balanced raid.  When deciding which healers/dps to bring for the night in a particular raid slot, once raid comp has been accounted for, we look at the “% Attended” number. Lowest % Attended gets priority for the raid slot.

Mandatory image to break up the wall of text

Assuming they give us enough notice, the system does not penalize people in any way for taking some time off, days that are left blank are not factored into any of the calculations. People ARE however “rewarded” for sitting on standby for a raid (indicated by the zeros) and are “penalized” if they sign up and don’t show up (indicated by the 1.5’s)

The “Total” numbers were a rough way of tracking how often people were actually participating in raids.  It wasn’t implemented very well, but well enough to do what we needed (these numbers were tracked on a separate sheet that aggregated data from all months)

We also provide a very small “break” for the people who spend a great deal of time doing things like helping to heal with their offspec (the 0.8 number)  What this does is generally give these people a slightly higher priority compared to the rest of their “group” for invites and they generally end up sitting out ~1 less raid a month or so.

Previously, we were trying to operate on a system that was quite a bit less flexible. For example, if someone failed to sign up on time, they were likely going to be sitting out all week.  Unfortunately, we had a couple of healers that were taking advantage of the fact that we didn’t have the luxury of sitting them out all the time despite their signing up late.  What this system does though is allow us to choose to bring someone in for the sake of raid composition and then sit them out at some point in the future to “balance out” their numbers once we have the people online to allow it.

For the upcoming expansion we have revised a couple of things in how it works.  I redid how overall “activity” is tracked by calculating the actual percentage of raids that they participate in in some way. % Attendance is tracked in the same way, though we readjusted our numbers slightly.

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Posted in Behind the Scenes, Guild Management, Production Company | 1 Comment

Stages to Learning a New Boss Fight

I have seen a lot of guilds and pugs that have a hard time figuring out out how to approach a new boss fight.  The process people usually seem to fall back on is to go read bosskillers, stratfu, tankspot, or wowwiki (unfortunately this is sometimes done over vent) and then try their best to implement what they have just read/watched.  If it doesn’t work within a couple of attempts, they move on to the next guide/video/strategy hoping that they will eventually find “THE” strategy that will allow them to kill the boss.  Whether knowingly or not however, I would propose that there are certain stages that your group has to pass through in order to kill a new boss, and especially if you want your kills to be easily repeatable.

Stages of learning a new boss fight:

Research: As a group, you need to identify all of the mechanics involved with the fight, make sure that you have at least a basic understanding of how the fight is *supposed* to work. This is typically done prior to the raid, and with cataclysm a description of boss mechanics will actually be available through the default UI. As a group, you need to figure out which abilities have been recycled and combined to make up this new encounter. New or “Special” boss abilities need to be identified and tested to see which are counterable in some way, either through character abilities (interrupt, dispel, purge), or some sort of raid positioning (run the hell out of the fire/raid/cloud of choking death.) At this stage, DPS numbers should be “adequate” but shouldn’t be anyone’s focus until all of the mechanics have been identified and addressed.  The focus here is everyone learning the fight.  If you make it to the enrage with everyone alive, you are on the right path.

Practice: Once mechanics have been identified, and everyone understands what is going on with each stage/phase/mechanic and a basic strategy has been selected and agreed upon, the next stage is to simply get everyone caught up to speed and executing the fight properly. This is the stage where you see the most variability in time spent on an encounter from guild to guild.  As a raid leader you have two basic choices when it comes to people who are lagging behind in the learning curve for a given mechanic; you either patiently wait for them to figure their way through it or you replace them.  Only after each individual gets comfortable with the mechanical execution of the encounter under control, should you start pushing your dps/heal/tanking numbers back up to where they should be. Learn how to do stuff the right way the first time through before you worry about topping the meters. People who die in a fire or who blow up the raid while topping the meters are about as useful as an extra belly button.

Refinement: Once everyone has all of the mechanics of the fight down, and raid wiping mistakes are at a minimum, it is time to throw the gas onto the fire and start polishing your performance. This is the point where you need to start trying to squeeze everything out of your character that you can as far as dps and individual performance goes. Your individual performance, and your group performance should continue to get better and better every time you complete the encounter. As a group, you should continue getting better and faster at each boss fight as you repeat the kill from week to week so that you continue to have more and more time for newer content.

Common Mistakes:

One mistake that I have seen and heard about far too often is raid leaders who completely revise their strategy between every 1-3 boss attempts.  The only time you should be doing any sort of major revisions during a raid is one of the following reasons:

  • You were mistaken about how a boss ability worked and the reality of it invalidated your planned strategy.
  • Your raid composition changes somehow in such a way as to necessitate a change.  This means that you no longer have a needed interrupter, dispeller, kiter, or something along those lines.
  • You are ready to admit that one of the people in your raid is currently incapable of performing their assigned task[s], you are no longer willing to give them more time to learn how to do it, and you are ready to either replace them or adjust your whole group’s strategy to accommodate them.

Another mistake I see guilds and PuGs make far too often is adding an extra healer when things aren’t going well. This deserves its own entire blog post I think.  In short though, 10man encounters are designed to be healed with either 2 or 3 healers.  After progressing through a whole expansion where my personal focus, and for the second 3/4ths of my guild’s focus was 10man raiding, I would say that it is probably more accurate to say that ALL 10man encounters are designed to be healed by ~2.5 healers.  Everything should eventually be doable with 2, but 3 can sometimes give you a bit of leeway while learning a fight as long as the dps loss from the 3rd healer isn’t going to prevent a boss kill. There is no reason you should ever need more than 3 healers in a 10man encounter.

Posted in Raid Leading | Leave a comment

The Little Guild that Could

There’s a difference between “I think I can” and “I know I can.” There are guilds out there that know without a doubt that they will get all the bosses and various modes down. While our guild sets its sights on those big goals and we’d like to think we can reach them, we don’t know for certain that we will. We do give them everything we’ve got, and one thing we’ve never said is “we can’t.”

WotLK was an interesting time for the guild; there was a brief moment where I wasn’t even sure there’d be a guild to continue. Right as we were getting our feet wet in Naxx and OS, my husband and I had to deal with an emergency that took us off game for six months with no warning. That’s an eternity in WoW time.

When we were able to get back online, frankly I was surprised we had any members left. The guild definitely needed some work to get back on its feet so I asked for a lot of trust, we did some major housekeeping, and struck forth as a 10-man guild. What we ended up with was the guild I always dreamed of having.

When we first converted to 10s, I wasn’t sure what goals would be realistic for us to reach. Gaia, perhaps in a moment of insanity, said to me – let’s go for our Ulduar drakes and Algalon! I told him he was nuts, but it sounded awesome and would give us something to shoot for.

I need to stop here for a second, I’m totally sugar coating this. When Gaia suggested we shoot for the stars (get the Algalon reference?), it was the most far-fetched crazy plan someone could have come up with at that time. Our ship had been sinking, Celine Dion was actually singing in the background, that’s how dire it had gotten. We had just done the equivalent of steering the Titanic around that glacier and getting it back on course. It was too soon to know if our ship was still taking on water, if anyone was going to jump ship, if there was another glacier looming in the near distance or even if we had plotted the right course. Saying the plan was a pipe dream doesn’t do it justice.

Two very fun months later, we were flying around on some cool new mounts and shortly thereafter were sporting Starcaller titles next to our names. At that point, we decided to go for it and set our sights on trying to defeat everything Blizzard could throw our way. And somehow, we did it. So while having Heroic Lich King down is awesome because we killed the end boss, it’s not the only reason I’m proud. It’s because we were the guild that didn’t know it could but believed in itself enough to try.

There were definitely times through our “progress” on the HLK fight that I began to question if we really could, however giving up would have been worse than not giving it everything we had until the very end. Then one day, the usual happened. We broke through the wall we had been throwing ourselves at for months and everything clicked. The push through that wall was such an extraordinary leap we actually found ourselves scratching our heads asking what happened. Somehow after very little forward momentum on the fight, we suddenly found ourselves in the Frostmourne room for the first time. That’s all it took. We went from a hesitant “I think we can…maybe?” to an “OMG…I think we really can!!” and that confidence is all we needed.

Looking forward for Cataclysm, we still won’t be the guild that knows it can, but we’ll believe in ourselves enough to think we can, and will give it our best. I think we prefer it this way; it makes those successes taste even sweeter.

Posted in Production Company, Roksi's Personal Posts | 3 Comments

Heroic Lich King: The Sequel

So Monday, we got our first HLK kill.  It was a really awesome raid week in general last week as we watched our attempts get closer and closer.  We could clearly see ourselves creeping closer and closer to a kill and then on Monday, last night of raiding before the lockout, we ended up killing him with about 3minutes before our raid ends (and yes, we would have quit for the night if we had screwed it that attempt up)

I wanted to post something along the lines of the post Kae made over at Dreambound about their experience progressing toward their first HLK kill or the similar post Vidyala made regarding their progress through the Firefighter encounter but haven’t found the time for it yet.  Incidentally, our biggest “ordeal” fights this expansion were Yogg+1 and HLK I think, mostly because we did Yogg+1 before Firefighter.  Instead, I wanted to briefly share another awesome moment that was our last two nights of raiding.

First, inspired by my recent post on speed runs, we managed to clear all of heroic ICC up to Arthas on Wednesday in just over 2 hours (not including normal mode Marrowgar because some n00b raid leading druid tank forgot to switch it to heroic.)  A flurry of internet boss issues ended up defeating our plans to go for a full heroic clear in one night and we ended up just heading to Naxx for the weekly raid quest.

For last night’s raid, we went and took another stab at the Algalon’s “He feeds on your tears” achievement and failed when the n00b Bear tank came out of the shadow realm too far from the boss and failed to save the big bang soaking shadow priest before the boss had him for a mid-fight snack.  We went on to get the “Supermassive” achievement though so all was not lost.  We were then mainly killing time waiting for our last core raider to get home from work so that we get him in for the HLK kill he missed on Monday.  Once he got home and logged in, we went and very nearly one-shot Arthas right out of the gate, two disconnects during phase3 left us at 13.9% when the last person died.  We went back in though and two attempts later he was dead for the second time.

I was pretty pumped up on a “my guild is awesome” high on Monday night after we killed him the first time after wiping for 4-5 months on him, but I think in a lot of ways I am even more proud of last night’s kill. It proves that it wasn’t just a fluke, we didn’t just happen to get lucky, and like I told the raid last night, and tell them every time one of them asks me why I always make them learn boss fights “the hard way”, repeatability is one of the core components to our success as a raiding guild over the last year and a half we have been doing 10mans. When we learn a boss fight, we genuinely *learn* the boss fight. We make sure that by the time the boss dies, everyone understands how the boss fight works, what is *supposed* to happen, how to react when it doesn’t happen that way, and most importantly, how to carry that knowledge over into the next time we see a similar boss mechanic.

Posted in Gaia's Personal Posts, Production Company | 11 Comments

Raiding Efficiently: Speed Kills (Bosses)

Way back in the day, I used to participate in a community centered around Quake and Quake II speed clears, among other several other FPS oriented pursuits (Netmech, Descent, and then the Tribes Franchise with a little CS and TFC here and there)  Then the military and college kidnapped me away from the gaming world for a few years and by the time I got back online my reflexes had dulled a little and MMO’s were more attractive than shooters to me but I still missed the speed and adrenaline of my earlier “career” in FPS’s

A few months after I started getting serious about raiding in WoW, an old friend shared a video with me of a group who had cleared all of Gruul’s lair in under 6 minutes.  Yes, that includes all of the trash, High King and his cronies, and Gruul, start to finish in under 6 minutes.  I don’t have the ability to download it any more (would love it if someone could direct me to a link that doesn’t require a premium account) but here is the video: <click here> Here is a blog article on speed runs in general from WoW insider: <click here>  this got me interested in the idea and after some reading around, I finally ran across a guide from Fusion on raiding efficiency and their general philosophy for speeding up their raids. (click on the link in the sidebar)

Needless to say, this inspired me to get back to my roots, and every raid that I have led since has followed the basic principles outlined in that guide.  I have run into resistance before from past guild leaders and fellow raiders that we didn’t have good enough gear, or we weren’t awesome enough, and a handful of other lame excuses as to why we weren’t going to be capable of raiding like this, and when given the opportunity, I have proven them wrong every single time.  Raiding efficiently doesn’t require any certain level of gear or skill amongst your raiders, the bulk of the difference is in the mindset of the raid.

Here are my personal suggestions for the best ways anyone can speed up their raids, regardless of how hardcore you and your group may consider yourselves:

1) Spend less time on loot. ICC has 12 bosses in it, every minute you spend passing out loot per boss is 12 minutes of your raid.  If you spend 5minutes per boss that is 60 MINUTES!  For us, that would 1/3rd of our raid.  I’ve covered it elsewhere, but in ProCo our “loot system” is me linking everything into a raid warning while the raid starts clearing to the next boss.  I give everyone about ~20-25 seconds to /roll and then I either give the item to someone or loot it to myself to DE.  I generally don’t DE anything until the tail end of our first Bio break in case someone changes their mind.  that is ~6minutes spent on loot rather than a full 60min!!! <click here for my post on loot>

2) Don’t spend time during the raid “working on your strat.” That is why you should have a guild message board.  Come up with the plan ahead of time and don’t make any major changes to the plan during a raid.  The only thing that should cause you to make a significant change to your strategy during a raid is something like a mistaken assumption about a core mechanic (you thought something could be interrupted/dispelled/covered with a cooldown and it turns out it doesn’t work that way)  When leading raids, I use the ~4-5 minutes between wipes to make any minor adjustments and give out any suggestions or reminders that I think may help.  I also use the ~3-5 minutes of trash between bosses to offer any reminders or special instructions about the next boss.  If people complain that they can’t hear me while fighting trash I tell them to disable their sound during trash.  90% of the time I have ever been in a raid where the raid leader changed the strategy, there was nothing wrong with the strategy being used, there were just issues with the ability of the group to execute the strategy.  That just means you should be choosing a strategy based on the strengths and weaknesses of your group, and then resist the temptation to lower your expectations and either have the patience for people to work through their own issues or replace them (incidentally, we have never “replaced” someone due to lack of ability and we seem to have done ok so far)  Until you have everyone in the raid actually executing the planned strategy as intended, you are going to do more harm then good if you keep making core changes to your strategy.  I think I probably need to split this topic out into a future post…

3) Eliminate time spent standing around. Plan for scheduled breaks in your raid.  For each of our 3 hour raids, we have a planned bio break half way through at around ~1hr 20min – 1hr 35min that lasts around ~3-4min.  If someone absolutely has to afk for something then we continue without them.  If someone shows up late to the raid then we either grab a different guildie or we start clearing without them (we generally try and avoid bringing PuG’s to raids if there is any hope of a guild member logging in) We have 8 and 9 manned everything in lower ICC while waiting for people who are running late (on hard mode) You never know what you are capable of until you give it an honest try.

4) Miscellaneous other items: Don’t ask if everyone is ready before pulling, instill into your raid the expectation that you will continue pulling until someone asks for a break.  The only ready check I ever use in a raid is to see if everyone is back from our bio break.  The only warning my raid gets before I pull a boss is me saying “Moving in to position, any questions?” followed directly by “Here we go, pulling” They have all just grown accustomed to getting ready quickly and speaking up if they have a question or need a second to deal with something.  I would guess that in a world of LFD gogogoGOGOGO!!!!! tanks/groups that all of this probably sounds less crazy than it did when people were talking about it a couple of years ago, but once you get everyone in your group on board with it, it is amazing how much it changes your perception of raiding.  I have browsed through the logs from other raiding guilds on WoL and compared our downtime to theirs.  I have found “progression” guild’s that raid ~16-20 hours a week that spend less time actually *raiding* than we do during our 9 hours a week.

How to evaluate how efficiently your guild is raiding:

The introduction of tools like WMO and WoL have revolutionized the ability to evaluate everything you could ever want to examine about a raid and/or individuals in a raid.  This is also true when it comes time to evaluating how efficiently your raid is performing during your raid time.

Here is a partial screenshot of a section of our WoL from our last ICC clear: <click for link that will expire in a month>

For the skeptics and conspiracy theorists out there, I did cut off the 14minutes of pre-raid time (I usually start the log right before I start invites so that I don’t forget) and I cut off the alt-weekly raid quest Malygos kill at the end of the night after we broke a little early. I also cut of the hour or so I hung out in Dalaran chatting with guild members while letting the log run, the portion I used to calculate the time and activity level is indicated by the blue shaded region in the timeline graph of the above image.

This shows that we were raiding for 2hr, 49min, and 20sec.  During the raid, we spent 01:37:33 of our time actually in combat. (57.6% of our raid was spent *raiding*) which means that despite everything discussed above, we still spent 1 hour, 11minutes, and 41seconds “standing around” (running back from wipes, rebuffing, bio break, etc…)

The “Included fights” section has a detailed breakdown of when we were in combat.  you can see which bosses we killed, how often we wiped, and even a breakdown of how much time we spent with each trash pack.

As a general rule of thumb, I am happy when we keep our “Active Time” above 50% and I like to shoot for 60% each raid.

Here is another example from last night when we spent the whole raid wiping to Heroic Arthas.  If you go back to our earlier attempts when we were still stuck in phase 1 we were probably averaging ~27 attempts in a 3 hour period.  This time it shows the full report

Again, gear and skill level play a relatively small role in how efficiently your team is going to be able to raid.  Going back to my softball analogy, inefficient raiding is like playing a softball game where you only pitch the ball once every 30 minutes, as opposed to pitching it once ever 2-3 minutes.  The only thing better gear or skill will do is speed up how fast the boss dies and reduce how often your group wipes.  If you are able to increase the amount of time you spend actually fighting bosses during your raid though, you will inevitably end up with better loot and more skilled players anyway.  Happy raiding!

Posted in Raid Leading | 4 Comments

Core Expectations of a Raiding Guild

Every group that raids together should have a common set of expectations for everyone involved in the process.  The more transparent these expectations are, the easier they are to evaluate and meet.  The more consistent they are in both how people are evaluated and in how well people in the group understand them is a strong gauge for how enjoyable the raiding experience will be for everyone in the group.

Getting everyone, especially anyone with any kind of leadership role, on the same page for these things is critical to the long term health of a guild.  It needs to be absorbed at a level above merely posting it and getting everyone to read through the list, people need to really understand what the group is expecting from them.  People in charge need to make sure that they set a clear example with all of these things.

The following is my quick list of categories of expectations that a raiding guild is going to expect from all of its raiders.  Your guild may set the value of some/all of these items differently than another guild… but whether you realize it or not, your guild WILL have a stance on each one of these topics.  Having that stance articulated ahead of time, and written down somewhere you can reference and your members can see will save you a lot of drama, headache, and time in the long run.

funny pictures of cats with captionsRemember that this is not only for you and your current members, but it is also for anyone possibly interested in your guild.  I have been in and around guild’s where someone taking a ~15min afk during a raid to run to the corner store for another case of beer is an acceptable thing.  I have been in other groups where bringing your day old level 80/85 character wearing quest blues and greens is an acceptable thing to expect.  I have also been in groups where failing to interrupt your assigned target more than once or twice will get you removed from the raid and replaced with someone who can.  You need to figure out where your personal stance is on these topics are and then find a guild who shares your feelings.  If you manage to do that then you’re going to enjoy yourself, regardless of how fast the internet dragons die.

Personal accountability prior to raiding:

GEAR: Everyone is expected to collect and prepare the appropriate gear for their character and their role[s] in the raid.

CLASS KNOWLEDGE: This includes a proper raiding spec, and whatever preparation you may need (addons, macros, UI adjustments, etc…) to utilize all of your classes raid utilities.  Identify people who are better than you and seek them out for help and advice.

ENCOUNTER PREPARATION: Some sort of research or prior experience of what the group is likely to encounter during the raid.  This may include an expectation of research on specific fights, or just a generic level of raid experience and the ability to apply it to new situations (stuff like not standing in flames or void zones that appear, not standing in front of a giant dragon, moving away from mobs with giant two handers that start spinning around, monitoring and reacting to new/strange debuffs that suddenly appear on your character, and etc…)

Expectations during a raid:

BE RESPECTFUL OF THE GROUP’S TIME: Either show up when required, or communicate ahead of time that you won’t be available.  Don’t take excessive /AFK breaks.  Don’t spend time during the raid discussing or debating something that can be saved for after the raid is over.

STAY ON TASK: If you are assigned to add duty, healing Group A, decursing/interrupting, killing adds, or anything else, make sure that you don’t arbitrarily decide that you don’t feel like doing that any more. “I didn’t feel like playing outfield any more, so I’m going to play catcher for this next inning k?”  Make sure you understand what your role is and what expectations there are for your character/class in the encounter at hand.

DO YOUR BEST: Give the group 100% of your effort and attention.  If you make a mistake acknowledge it and try to avoid making it again.  If someone else makes a mistake, exercise patience and trust in them and the people in charge to make whatever adjustments are necessary.  If you aren’t meeting your own expectations, or the expectations of your group, take an active role in identifying and addressing the issue.  Take the time to communicate with the people in charge and with the rest of your group what your plans are for improving your performance.

Posted in Guild Management | 5 Comments

Bane of the Fallen King

We killed Heroic Lich King-10 tonight.

Gaia and I will write more about it tomorrow but for now, it’s time to log off the computer and relax. I don’t think I breathed during raid tonight.

I’m one proud GM – not just because we finally won, but because of the effort, patience and teamwork our raiders displayed while working on this fight. Thanks team.

We did it!!!!!11111one

Posted in Production Company | 2 Comments