New Projects and What I’ve Been Up To

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t posted anything on Cold Comfort in nearly six months. As long time readers surely suspected, this blog has probably run it’s course. I did want to let people know about two new projects that I’m involved with, one of which you should find interesting if you like the content of my posts, and one which will only be of interest if you enjoy my rambling writing style.

Ghostcrawler Expands on Recent Cataclysm Changes

Ghostcrawler has been answering questions raised by the recent announcementof Cataclysm changes in this thread. Why Guild Talents Were Removed Guilds are, for the most part, groups of friends. We don’t want features to drive wedges between them. We don’t want you to guild hop looking for the talents that suit you best; we want you to play (or in many cases keep playing) with your friends. With a talent tree, guilds would naturally have different talent trees, which creates a reason to bail or guild hop that doesn’t exist today.

Major Guild Improvements Dropped from Cataclysm

Well, this is a bit of a kick in the teeth. After waiting patiently for a chance to play the beta, or get information from those in the beta on the guild changes coming in Cataclysm, it now seems as though there will be far less of those changes to test and report on. Blizzard held a press event. I can’t find the original post, so I’ll link to the copy on worldofraids.

Blizzard Wants You to Play Less, All the Time

More big news about Cataclysm late last night with regard to the evolution of badges and emblems. Again, here’s the original postand a quick summary: there will only be two “emblem currencies” for PvE: hero points (for easy content) and valor points (for harder content) the way in which these are awarded aligns with the current Emblem of Triumph and Emblem of Frost PvP will also have two currencies: honor (for battlegrounds) and conquest (for arenas) there will be a cap on the number of high-grade points you can get each week (separate caps for valor and conquest I assume) when a new tier of content comes out, all your higher-grade points get swapped 1:1 for the lower-grade points there will be a way to convert the low-grade PvE points for low-grade PvP and vice versa, though at a less than 1:1 ratio there are no plans to allow high-grade point swaps or low-to-high swaps Some of this is just a terminology switch from what we know today.

The End of Tier x.10 and x.25

Some very exciting news from Blizzard today that effects raid difficulty, loot and lockouts in Cataclysm. Here’s the original post, but in brief: you can only have one lockout per instance per week, regardless of raid size or difficulty 10 and 25 person encounters will be tuned to be as close as possible in difficulty 10 and 25 normal will drop the exact same items 10 and 25 heroic encounters will drop the exact same items 25 person raids will drop more loot – more items, more emblems and more gold the same items will be on the normal and heroic loot tables – the heroic items will just have better stats we will see multiple smaller raids at each tier level rather than one longer raid.

A Few Changes

So, I’ve learned a few things recently: once you miss a publishing deadline, it’s really easy to just get caught up and miss the next few as well Gravity was right on two points – the “How to Win Friends and Influence Guildies” series wasn’t a good idea I’m burnt out on WoW Publishing two articles when you’re burnt out on the source material is not sustainable I’ve hardly been playing WoW at all since I got back from vacation.

Unwanted Attention

Stumped for a topic, I was browsing the US guild relations forum when I came across this post. Here’s the synopsis: female gamer joins a guild with a friend. She doesn’t like to talk on voice chat, preferring that other players assume she is male. The friend transfers servers, leaving her as the only female in a 10-person raiding guild. The GM starts showing an interest in her, asking personal questions, promoting her to officer rank to have “private chats”, and inviting her to visit him for vacation.

We Haz Tabard

I am probably one of a few people who can remember having to save up to purchase a tabard pattern for their guild. Unless you ran a leveling guild in the days of Vanilla, the idea of not having a spare 10 gold among your members may seem preposterous, but it did happen. We were noobs in our 20s and 30s. The idea of spending 90 gold on our level 40 mount had us hoarding every copper we earned.

Remember People’s Names

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”. See the introduction for more. If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 2, Chapter 3: “If You Don’t Do This, You Are Headed for Trouble” Remember That a Person’s Name is to that Person the Sweetest Sound in any Language.[1] The examples in this chapter of how people interact when someone remembers their name aren’t directly applicable to WoW.

That One Thing They Do

I can’t seem to peg reader response to my articles. The ones I’m most proud of get no comments, and the rushed ones get a conversation rolling within hours of going up. A friend tells me that those rushed articles expose my human side. When I explain (in my best Lich King / Dr. Clawvoice1) that I have no human side, she just glares at me (like Smiling, this also works virtually) and calls me a dork.

On Vacation

Just a quick note to the readers: I’m on vacation from March 18th through the 30th (assuming that BA doesn’t cancelmy flight back). Articles (some of them shorter than normal I’ll grant) are queued up to be posted on the normal days, but I won’t have Internet access to respond to comments. Enjoy, and I’ll try to respond upon my return.

Smile

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”. See the introduction for more. If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 2, Chapter 2: “A Simple Way to Make a Good First Impression” There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Smile, eh? Can’t be too hard. Let’s see, engaging cheek muscles. Pull….pull… Damn, the left side’s a little off.

Fixing the Community

I’m stumped. I still love WoW, but I can barely stand to play it with anyone other than close friends or people that I know I can trust. My ability to go out and mix with the community on my realms has been beaten down and destroyed. Every change that Blizzard has made in the 3.x patch line to make content more accessible has been wildly successful – and yet each change only seems to increase the level of self-entitlement.

Become Genuinely Interested in Other People

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 2, Chapter 1: “Do this and You’ll be Welcome Anywhere”

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years of trying to get other people interested in you.[1]

The principle of this chapter is that if you are genuinely interested in people and they know that, they will reciprocate in your personal and business dealings.  Among others, Carnegie relates a story of US President Theodore Rosevelt, who greeted each of the white house staff by name when he returned for a visit two years into his successor’s term. The head usher reportedly said “It is the only happy day we had in nearly two years…”

So how to apply this to guild relations? Not directly, at least not in the same way as is described in this chapter.  Not everyone plays WoW to form real-life friendships.  Some people may take their relationships in-game into the real world, while others may know only basic facts like real first name and occupation.  Yet the way we interact still follows basic societal norms.  I don’t think many of us have a completely different way of looking at interpersonal relationships that we use in-game but not in real life.

If you appreciate people being friendly in real life, you will probably appreciate them doing so in game.  If you dislike people who screw over the little guy, someone who does so in game will get to you there as well.  So we can apply the principles in this chapter to in-game relationships with ease – we just need to respect whatever boundaries someone may have about becoming interested in their personal life.

Don’t Be Creepy

Let’s take an example from the chapter.  While conducting an research interview with the president of a company, a man finds out that the president’s son collects stamps.  The interview doesn’t go well, but the businessman remembers that his company takes in letters from all over the world.  He gets a bunch of stamps from the receiving office and calls back the next day, whereupon he is ushered in and gets the information he was looking for.

Taking a genuine interest in someone’s personal life to gain a business advantage isn’t a bad idea – in business.  Taking an interest in a the real-life activities of a guild member’s child could come off as very creepy.

Some people play WoW to escape from real life.  When they’re in game, they control how much of life bleeds over.  If they casually mention something about real life, that isn’t necessarily an invitation for you to bring up the subject at some point in the future.  By doing so, you’re taking control of that line, and it could easily backfire.

Of course, if someone talks about real life and solicits opinion from guild members, that’s an entirely different situation.  I’ve known several guild members to go through real life tragedy where a loved one was sick or passed away, and I think it helps for someone to hear that their online family is concerned for their well-being.

Keep It In-Game

So where is the safe ground?  Simple – be genuinely interested in what people do in game.

While everyone in a guild shares some common goal, we all have little side projects that we work on.  Some of these (like What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been or The Loremaster) can take months or years to complete.   These aren’t the “because it’s there” achievements – if you’re putting serious effort into them, it’s important to you.  If you know that someone is working on them, ask from time to time how their progress is going.

A lot of people do PvP.  I never have, save for a few battlegrounds in my 30s on my first character (long enough to be branded a Master Sergeant under the original honour system).  I’ve never done arena, and the few times I’ve entered battlegrounds has been strictly for something that has PvE benefit.  I just don’t get enjoyment out of that aspect of the game.  Because I dislike PvP, I don’t really care what others get up to in it.

At times, I’ve been downright hostile to those who let their PvP interfere with organized PvE events.  As a healer, I remember the days of the “PvP virus” and never understood why someone couldn’t just wrap up 6 minutes before we started raid invites to ensure that their flag had dropped.

But my guild members who PvP obviously find value in that activity, or they wouldn’t do it.  Just because I don’t care for it doesn’t mean that I can’t be aware of their goals, and ask them how they’re doing.  Is someone gunning for a particular rating in arena, or to finish in one of the upper brackets to get a title or even the 310% mount?  It doesn’t weaken me to ask “hey, how’s the rating race going?”.  Sure, I could find out on the armory if I wanted, but that doesn’t have the same effect.

Compare the previous question to “hey, I notice your rating is 1950 this week – you think you’re going to get the mount by end of season?”.  The former encourages them to talk about something that interests them, even if the topic isn’t interesting to me personally.  The latter prompts little more than a “yes” or “no” answer.  Which do you think is going to leave the person with a sense of “they’re interested in me”?

Reforged Loot Distribution

The recent developer chat on Twitter didn’t give us much information specifically related to guilds, but it did raise further questions about the changes originally announced at Blizzcon related to reforging.

My concern when the changes were first announced was related to the cost and/or priority of reforged items.

For all but completely random or open-bid loot systems, reforging may require you to re-think how you distribute loot.  Before we look at how, let’s go into some background on items levels.

The Math Behind Item Levels

The item level is something that Blizzard assigns to an item based upon the stats present.  Various attempts have been made to reverse engineer the formula.  If you’re so inclined, you can read about the gory details at Elitist Jerks.

Though the formula is stats to item level, it tends to be used in reverse by item designers.  A given dungeon at a given difficulty drops items of a given item level.  Blizzard throws stats on an item, runs it through the formula, then tweaks the stats until the item level matches the target.

Item level is a fixed attribute on that item, not calculated on the fly.  For items with only the standard stats, the formula is pretty simple.  Adding sockets or proc effects is where things get a bit more difficult to calculate.  Just how much of an item budget is used up by an on-proc effect is based upon some estimation of the value of the proc.  Obviously the opinion of Blizzard vs the opinion of the community may differ in this respect.

When people claim on the forums that “item x is under budget”, it’s because the reverse engineered formula says the item level should be lower than the item level in game, suggesting that some of the stats are lower than they should be.  When the math behind this is sound, Blizzard often adjusts an item.

Arouse in the Other Person an Eager Want

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 1, Chapter 3: “He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him.  He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way”

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.

The principle behind this rather long-named chapter is really quite simple, and eloquently summed up in the above quote.  There is only one way to get someone to do something, and that is to make them want to do it.

To do that, you have to talk about what they want, and not about what you want.   For a raid or guild leader, these should nominally be the same thing, at least at a high level.  Whatever your guild’s purpose is, that’s what everyone is showing up for – PvE progression, PvP dominance, or clean hard mode execution for example.

I won’t go into the examples that Carnegie uses in this chapter, as they’re all very business-oriented and somewhat dated.  Instead, let’s look at some situations in which you might be trying to win your members or an individual member to your side.

In a Raid

An impassioned plea for people to focus on the next boss attempt usually come after the basic “here’s how the fight goes, let’s give it a try” approach has failed.  You’re pretty sure that everyone understands the mechanics, but the execution is just going awry at some point.  You may even understand who’s going off the rails first, but know that calling them out won’t make things any better.

In this context, you probably are going to be talking to your raid as a whole or to roles within the raid.  What wants can you appeal to?  The most obvious are the material rewards from the boss, but this only works if the boss has intrinsic value to the raid.  Sometimes you get unexpectedly blocked by a boss that you’ve had on farm for a while.  The loot is no longer appealing, at least not to most of the raid.  You can appeal to everyone’s desire to just be done with the fight – perhaps asking certain roles to double-up and keep an eye out for people who you suspect are not focusing closely enough.

If the boss is linked to trash that is particularly annoying to clear, you can appeal to everyone’s desire to not repeat that the next night.  This is effective when people are requesting to move to another boss in a non-linear dungeon.  Do you remember pushing extra hard for a Shade of Aran kill in the early days of TBC just because of how painful it was to clear the trash after Curator?

If none of these seem appropriate or are having effect, you can drop one level lower and appeal to people’s desire for loot in the future (assuming you have a loot system that can offer bonuses).  It may seem cheap or compromising to have to offer bonus DKP or EP to get people to do what they should have been doing all through the raid.  Ideally, this is a last resort offered to encourage people to stay beyond a posted raid end or to go all-out on consumables in order to push progression.  Offering strictly material bonuses regularly dilutes their value.

I know we’re all fed up of this boss, especially since he went down so easily the last few weeks.  It’s late, and we all want to wrap up.  But I’m sure nobody wants to spend an extra 20 minutes slogging through that trash again tomorrow night.

I know we can do this, and I’m sure you all do too.  Let’s take five minutes to clear our heads, then come back and take him down.  1000 bonus EP if we do it without anyone dying in phase 2.

Portal Roulette, Corrupted Healing and Other Mischief

I’m catching up on some of the Warcraft novels, specifically Beyond the Dark Portalat the moment. I find the scenes with Nefarian taking me back to the time when I was running Blackwing Lair. I still rate that experience as the best time I spent raiding in the time I’ve been playing WoW. It wasn’t so much the content, but the amount of good-natured grief that we gave each other that made the experience enjoyable.

Give Honest and Sincere Appreciation

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”.  See the introduction for more.

If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 1, Chapter 2: “The Big Secret of Dealing with People”

A feeling of importance.  My article on what motivates your raiders could have just been that one line and it would probably have covered most everyone.  How we get that feeling differs somewhat, but underneath it all that’s what we crave.

In this chapter, Carnegie lists off a number of things that people want[1]:

  1. Health and the preservation of life
  2. Food
  3. Sleep
  4. Money and the things money will buy
  5. Life in the hereafter
  6. Sexual Gratification
  7. The well-being of our children
  8. A feeling of importance

Forget about the first seven in our context, as they all exist in the real world (save perhaps for a bit of #4 – though in-game that just leads to more of #8).  It’s that last one – a feeling of importance that I think drives many, if not most WoW players.

The B Team

What do you do when you become aware (or find yourself a part) of “The B Team”? The B Team in a guild is a separate raid team (usually for 10 man raids) that just doesn’t seem to progress as quickly or as cleanly as the first or primary raid team. Having two raid teams in a guild isn’t a problem unto itself. I suggested as much in a recent articleon bridging the 10 to 25 gap.

Don’t Criticise, Condemn or Complain

This article is part of the series “How To Win /friends and Influence /guildies”. See the introduction for more. If you’re reading the original book alongside, this corresponds to Part 1, Chapter 1: “If You Want To Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive” I must admit: I decided to start this series right after finishing the book. Perhaps I should have re-read from the beginning first. Don’t criticise? Don’t complain?

How to Win /friends and Influence /guildies

Today I’ll be starting what I hope will be a long-running series of articles that will take up the thursday posting slot and carry us at least until we start getting some hands-on information about guilds in Cataclysm.

As you may have guessed from the title, the series will look at the ideas of the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and look at how they can be applied to guild management.

If you go back through my articles you’ll find that I sometimes suggest not trying to get inside the heads of your guildies.  Stick to the facts and skip the psychology.  I still believe that this approach is safe – you won’t get into any trouble by keeping things simple.  I have come to believe however that there are better ways to motivate and guide a group of disparate people towards a common goal.

Why do we play World of Warcraft?  Why do we choose to make raiding our focus instead of PvP?  Why do we join a guild instead of sticking with PUGs?  The answers to those questions aren’t specific to MMOs or gaming.  We do these things because they bring us some measure of satisfaction.  The specific personal goals that these activities fulfil differ from person to person, but it all boils down to “I want to”.

In the second chapter of the book, Dale Carnegie makes a simple statement.  When I read it, I knew that the rest of the book would be applicable to anyone in a guild leadership role:

There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything. Did you ever stop to think of that?  Yes, just one way.  And that is by making the other person want to do it.

Remember, there is no other way.

(1. Carnegie)

I’m sure every guild leader can identify with the frustration in the statement “if only these people would do what I want them to do, this boss would die!”.

I’m not suggesting that what you want your members to do is diametrically opposed to they want to do.  You’re a member too, and your members have been drawn together for the same general goal.  It’s in the specifics where things break down.  You want something done a particular way.  Certain members don’t agree.  In their minds, you’re now forcing them to do something they don’t want to do, and performance suffers (even if nobody is directly aware of why).

That’s just one paragraph of many that I think will resonate with many guild leaders throughout this series.  My hope is to give guild leaders some new ideas on how to motivate their members.

On Manipulation

As I read through the book, I was thinking about how each idea would apply to guild management.  As I did, I became worried that my articles would keep touching on the term “manipulation”.  When talking about how to influence people, it’s hard not to think that at some level you are manipulating them.  I don’t want people to think that I’m suggesting turning your members into mindless followers.  Part of the fun of being in a guild and raiding is seeing different people come together to achieve a common goal.

This series is designed to help you direct the energy and drive that your members have so that everyone’s pointing more or less in the same direction.  Rather than saying “do this because I’m the guild leader and you must pledge fealty to me”, you’re getting them to think that it was their own idea, or that it serves their purposes at least as much as it serves the guild’s.  Is that wrong?  It’s an interesting question, and one one which I invite comment.  If the guild achieves their goals and everyone thinks that they played a crucial part in doing so and that it was their idea to do so, is that a bad thing?

Getting A Copy For Yourself

If the subject interests you, I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the original book.  Here are a few links to various booksellers (none are affiliate links):

  • Amazon US / UK
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Chapters Canada
  • Booktopia AU

It’s a relatively cheap book (though amazingly it’s cheaper in the UK than in other parts of the world).  I picked it up almost by accident – someone had recommended it to me and I’d put it in my shopping cart at Amazon only to find that the shipping cost was more than the book.  I didn’t buy it that day, but the next time I went to buy something there it was still in my cart, and I purchased it without even realizing it (and got free shipping in the process).  Your local public library should also have a copy.

While my articles will be focused on how to use the ideas in a guild management setting, I’m sure you’ll find ideas that you can apply elsewhere in your life.  Of course, you may find that these ideas make perfect sense but applying them seems difficult.  That is what I hope to help with.

When Do You Throw in the Towel with Guildies?

A reader posed this question to me recently: How long do you keep trying an encounter with guild members (in a non-raid environment) before you throw in the towel? I recently spent two hours and eight wipes with an all-guild group trying to complete Heroic Halls of Reflection. The group should have been able to complete the instance easily, but they refused to listen to any of my suggestions. They fought the spirit waves in the middle of Frostmourne’s room, ignoring my requests to use the alcoves.

The Trouble With the World…

… is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt I normally don’t do “go look at this other blog post” articles, but I couldn’t resist with this: The Dunning Kruger Effect(Critical QQ via Pwnwear) This does explain a great deal of what we see in dungeon finder groups, and covers succinctly my feelings from the post on Selfishness.

Turning Over the Reins, Pt 2

This is part 2 of an article series: Jump to Part 1or Part 3 This article might be a bit dry compared to part 1. It’s meant to be an expansion of the things that a GM does, and will (I hope) be useful for a GM planning their retirement or a new GM starting up a guild. In some ways, this is also a list of tasks that a GM might choose to delegate to officers, regardless of whether a leadership change is in the works.

Turning Over the Reins

This article was suggested by Veliaf of Imperial Guardsmen.

I currently run a small guild in WoW, and have done for several years, but in the near future I’m going to be leaving WoW for a few months (probably until Cataclysm is released). Obviously this means I’ll be stepping down as GM, and this leads to questions such as who is going to take over, in what capacity, and so on.

We (that is, myself and my three officers) of course want to make the transition as smooth as possible to avoid disruption to the guild.

Managing the transition from one guild leader to another can be quite stressful.  As much as you may try to make the guild about the members, the purpose and the policies, some of your members will always put you on a pedestal and think that you stepping down means the end of the guild as they know it.

The good news: you’re thinking about it ahead of time.  The more preparation you put into this, the smoother things will go.  Many times a GM disappears without notice, catching the officers by surprise and leaving them without some of the critical privileges they need to keep the guild moving forward.

Veliaf posed some specific questions, which in and of themselves could fill an article.  But this is a huge topic to cover properly, because in order to manage the transition from one guild leader to another, you have to have an appreciation for everything that a guild leader does.  While anyone can can give a general description of what a guild leader does, it would probably be limited to the visible in-game and figurehead aspects of the position.  Guild leaders tend to do much more behinds the scenes.

To give this it’s proper due, I’m going to split this into three medium-sized articles rather than two very large ones.  First, we’ll talk about how to manage the transition itself – choosing a new guild leader, communicating the change to your members and keeping the guild on an even keel throughout the process.  Next, we’ll go a bit more in depth as to all the things that a guild leader does.  This will also serve as a laundry list of tasks that may be suitable for delegation rather than transferring them all onto one person.  Finally, I’ll talk about the practical steps you can take to prepare for your temporary or permanent departure from a guild so that you can quickly transfer leadership and deal with real life.

Crunch Time or No?

Your immediate goals for handling a leadership transfer are going to be very different depending on whether the change is planned or not.  If the current GM has decided that they need to move on and you have even a couple of weeks to make that happen, your job is going to be much much easier.

If your current GM just logged on to transfer leadership and gquit, you need to keep the guild operating smoothly while you plan out the transition.  The worst possible situation is that your GM has disappeared or announced their departure but hasn’t transferred leadership.

If you find yourself with an AWOL guild leader, you can petition a GM to transfer leadership to an officer after the account has been inactive for 30 days.  I believe that the account needs to have no login activity, so in the rare case that the GM has moved to a new realm but is actively playing, there may not be much you can do.  Until you can get control of the guild leader rank, what you can do will be limited.

I’ll go over the various things to deal with in the sections below.  If you’re dealing with an unexpected GM change, you will probably be most interested in:

  • Steady As She Goes
  • Selecting a New Leader
  • Replacing What’s Been Lost
  • Changing Things Up

If the move is planned, then you’ll find more relevant advice in:

  • Selecting a New Leader
  • Guidance Before Retirement
  • Handing Over the Keys
  • Steady As She Goes
  • Preparing For a Return
  • Changing Things Up
  • The Golden Parachute

I can only give each of these a short treatment, so if there is a topic that you’d think would be a good standalone article, please leave a comment.

Trying to Solve the World’s Problems

One of the things that has dogged me whenever I’ve been a guild leader is a desire to solve every problem that I am made aware of.  Even outside of a leadership position, I tend to internalize every little thing that goes wrong.

I have high standards for myself, and when I find myself playing with people who don’t share those standards, I get frustrated.  That’s bad enough in itself, but taking it a step further and trying to “fix” those people is completely futile.  I’m rarely going to be successful, and when my attempts fail, I’ll just get more frustrated.

Of course, I can’t take a completely laid back position – even if my personality would allow for it, there are some problems that guild leadership should address.  There are valid performance and behavioural issues that leaders should raise and address when the see them.  The skill lies in knowing what the scope of leadership covers, and what is not your problem to solve, even if you think you can help.

The core problem is a theme that’s come up before – trying to assert control over others.  Too little leads to chaos, while too much leads to a guild nobody wants to be a part of.  If you’ve ever felt that your guild was “slipping out of control”, you may be facing a mismatch between how much you want to control and how much you can.

Sometimes, the frustration with that gap gets turned inwards.  Rather than the problem being unrealistic expectations, you see the problem as an inability to maintain order.  At that point, the thing you enjoy becomes a chore.

The solution is to get realistic about what is and what isn’t the responsibility of guild leadership.  From the pile of things that are the responsibility of the guild, figure out what you are capable of doing and what needs to be delegated.  Don’t get pulled into things that aren’t the guild’s problems.

Simple advice, but if it were so obvious and easy to follow, I’d have no reason to write this post.  So let’s take a look at some of the issues that you might encounter as a guild leader:

Retention

You can’t expect to keep every one of your members forever.  Guilds are by definition a collection of like-minded but not identically minded individuals.  Everyone sacrifices a few ideals when they join a guild in exchange for the benefits that the guild offers them.

Some people will, against their better judgement, give up more than they really want to, and allow this to fester over time.  Over time, subtle things in the guild may change, or a new policy may be introduced which push them past their breaking point – when the sacrifice seems too much.

So long as you aren’t actively making policies to antagonize specific people, or going out of your way to alienate members, this isn’t your fault.  Some people will be happier elsewhere, and the best thing to do is part company on a friendly note in case they come to regret their decision and you need their class/spec.

The Service of Officers

In scrounging the US and EU guild relations forums for inspiration, I came across this post on abuse within the officer ranks.  I haven’t quite got enough to say on that particular subject at the moment, but one thing the OP said jumped out at me:

All I got in response was him arguing with me for two hours saying that I’d turned his [sic] back on him, and stolen his glory

I’m assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that the “glory” referred to is the glory of being an officer within the guild.

*blink* *blink*

I would hope that I’m not the only guild leader who is surprised to hear the role of officer as being glorious.  At best, it can be frustrating and a source of additional work.  In a fair guild, I’d think that the most reward you could expect to get out of being an officer is an increased chance at being part of a raid, but only for mechanical reasons like needing a loot master – not just because you’re an officer.

I know I’m being a bit naïve here.  The guild relation forums and plenty of blogs are replete with examples of people who have abused their power as an officer.  Offenses range anywhere from ego-tripping to guild bank theft to outright sexual harassment.  But I doubt that this corruption stems from the position of being an officer.  Rather, these are examples of selfish, broken people who would press any advantage they were given.  WoW, and the anonymity it provides, just provides an outlet.  Think of it as an extension of Gabe’s G.I.F.T theorem (warning: NSFW).

The point I’m trying to make is that when you’re doing it right, being a part of guild leadership is a service to the members of your guild, not really a position of power.  It may not have the strict delineations of something like participatory politics, but you’re supposed to be facilitating the operation of the guild – not for reward but because you want to see the guild prosper.

Learning From Others – if That’s Possible

The problem then becomes one of finding people who agree with this sentiment to be your officers.  Obviously it’s not that easy based upon the reports of abuse.  I would like to dismiss these (numerous as they are) as being big on profile but not on significance.  Guilds don’t post on the guild relations forum or write on blogs when everything is going swimmingly.  Nobody keeps statistics on things like guild lifetime or officer and member turnover, so it’s hard for us to look at “the most successful guilds” and emulate their ways.

To the larger WoW community, success equals progression, but there’s no evidence to suggest that top progression guilds have the best leadership practices.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that most top progression guilds have a harsher leadership regime than many of us would be comfortable with – but that the members know that when they join and agree to fall in line because it gives the desired result.

I’m going to whip out the wide brush and paint guilds one of three colors:

  • guilds whose officers are the friends of the guild leader
  • guilds whose officers are simply the people willing to do the job
  • guilds whose officers are picked for their ability to do the job

There’s obviously some overlap here.  Just because you’re the friend of the guild leader doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of being a good officer and willing to put the extra time in.  Just because your guild leader doesn’t put much thought into who becomes an officer doesn’t mean that they won’t end up with a few good people in that role.  However, if you don’t take the third approach to selecting officers, then the experience for your members will be inconsistent at best.

You may have a really good recruiting officer who finds good candidates, answers all their questions before they apply, and helps shepherd them through the trial period.  Then they ask a question of the loot officer, who turns around and acts like a total tool.  Or perhaps the loot officer isn’t around, so they act another officer who doesn’t quite know all the ins and outs of the system.  They get bad information that leads them to make a mistake while in a raid.

Reasonable Expectations

Against my better judgement, I’ve started working on gearing up another of my characters that I abandoned after hitting 80 in the month after the WotLK launch.  I’d finished with all of my EoT gear on my Paladin and Shaman, and told myself that I was just going to get exalted with two factions for a couple of tailoring patterns.  In the course of doing that, I ended up getting enough EoT to pick up a couple of pieces of Tier 9, and before long I found myself chain-queueing for heroics on a character that I was going to let rot until Cataclysm.

That’s a long way of saying that I’ve been running even more dungeon finder groups than is my custom recently.  It’s taking a bit of a toll on me – I find myself having less patience with people than I’d like to, and at times acting like a jerk in response to jerkish behaviour.  I wiped a group on heroic Halls of Reflection because I refused to exploit the escape encounter with them.  Technically, they wiped themselves, as I was just standing in a safe spot and didn’t move to heal when when the first wave of adds came, but it’s the same thing in the end.

Around the point where my frustration was getting the better of me, I read an interesting article by Matthew Rossi on wow.com.  In short, he says that putting raid-level expectations onto the people you meet in dungeon finder groups is not only a recipe for driving yourself batty but is unfair to everyone involved.

Between the point of his article and the ongoing commentary from my post on selfishness, I started to think about why these groups were getting to me.  Was it the groups, or me?  Were the groups completing the dungeon?  Yes, for the most part – maybe 5% of the groups I’ve been in have failed to complete the instance, and that was usually on the path to Tyrannus in the Pit of Saron.

Reflection

So if the groups were completing the dungeon, and I was getting my emblems and rolls on loot, why was I getting annoyed?  It was because the groups weren’t living up to my expectations.

A much wiser man than me gave me this sage advice: “expectations are just premeditated resentments”.

The groups that I meet in the dungeon finder don’t tick a check box that says “I promise to live up to the standards of an experienced four-year raider”.  So why was I treating them like they had?

In my defense, I’m pretty lenient about performance compared to some people.  The numbers I quoted in the selfishness articles are the ones I live by – I don’t complain about DPS unless they’re consistently below 1500, and I’ll happily heal a tank with 25k buffed HP through the original heroics.  But when it comes to situational awareness and having respect for other people, I take a hard line.  Neither of these are required for random heroics.  The fomer makes things run a bit more smoothly and the lack of the latter is more a comment on society as a whole than WoW in specific.

Yet I find myself pushing the things that are important to me on people who may have a completely different set of values.  I like clean execution.  The myriad melee DPS who have killed themselves on Krystallus obviously don’t.  But they seem to have fun and don’t blame anyone but themselves.  Obviously I’m taking things a bit too seriously if someone else gets themselves killed and I let that bother me.

Does this mean that I’m going to instantly become an easy-going dungeon runner that lets nothing bother him?  Not likely.  But I will try to put myself in the shoes of people who don’t take this game as seriously, and not judge them so harshly.

Bridging the 10 to 25 Gap

In the post on guild mergers, I talked a little about what to do when you’re trying to expand from a 10 person to 25 person guild.  Today, I’d like to expand on that a bit outside of the context of mergers or alliances (the latter of which will be covered in a future post).  Hopefully this one won’t turn into an opus (I honestly didn’t expect the last few to run so long, that was just how they looked when I finished writing).

So, you’ve got a 10 person guild.  Perhaps you started it with a few friends, perhaps it was a group of former guild members who left your old guild at the same time, or perhaps you just stuck it out in the trade channel until you had enough people to run a regular 10 person raid.  You may be happy with the situation, but a few of your guild members are making noise about the better loot that they want out of the 25 person raids.  You’re not certain, but you suspect that the sentiment is a common one – people want to run what they perceive to be the “best” content, and for many people that means 25 man raids.

Some practical ideas on how to proceed then:

Is This a Good Idea?

First, make sure the sentiment is commonly held.  It may just be one person rabble-rousing, and you may be better encouraging them to seek a guild that is running 25 person content rather than try to push the guild into what can be a tumultuous period in its life.

There are two points to remember here: Blizzard has decided, at least in WotLK, that 25 person content gives one tier better loot than 10 person content.  They have not, however committed to continuing to do so in Cataclysm.  Remember than the 10/25 versions of every raid were a bit of an experiment for Blizzard.  I think everyone will agree that the experiment has been been successful on the whole, but the item level spread could do with some improvement.  We might see changes to the way the 10/25 split is handled in Cataclysm.

The second point is to remind people that a boss with more HP and damage numbers doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a harder encounter.  Does it feel more epic?  Sure.  But in terms of raw difficulty, many 10 person encounters are harder.  You can’t recover from the loss of a healer (especially if you’re only using two).  You may not have the full complement of buffs and debuffs to boost your DPS.  For a good while after WotLK released, Sartharion-3D was considered to be significantly harder on 10 than on 25.  I know a former guildie who is more proud of his “of the Nightfall” title than “Twilight Vanquisher”.

What’s driving your members to raid?  Are they in it for the loot, or for the challenge of the fights and the feeling that comes from defeating an encounter after several weeks of refining strategy and execution?  I am more proud of what my guild accomplished in Blackwing Lair (Razorgore to Nefarian in six weeks) back in patch 1.9 than I am of my experience clearing WotLK Naxxramas in three weeks.  The raid size isn’t the point here – it was learning to master things like taunt rotations on the drakes, healing teams on Chromaggus and the periodic loss of a role on Nefarian.  These were new concepts to people used to steamrolling through Molten Core, and to get together with a group of people and overcome them was very rewarding.

I haven’t really felt that same level of accomplishment since (though I am proud of what my guilds have done in WotLK).  Then again, I’ve never been in a guild that pushed hard mode content.

You may find that what people are really craving is that feeling of accomplishment rather than the high item level loot.  When I inspect someone and see item level 239 items (which can only be found in Ulduar-25 hard mode), I’m impressed moreso than people wearing item level 245 (easily obtained from Trial of the Crusader on normal).  If so, perhaps now is the time to revisit the hard modes you didn’t complete.  The extreme hard modes from older content tiers are still something to be proud of beating (though obviously less so the further you get into ICC).

Selfishness

Warning: rant incoming.  It’s been a while since the last, and the commentary on the time-to-emblems post pushed me over the line.

I’m calling out everyone who’s become a selfish, self-centered “me first” jerk since patch 3.3 was introduced and the Dungeon Finder became the best and worst thing to happen to WoW in recent memory.

I’m specifically talking about anyone who:

  • drops group without saying a word (at the start of the run or otherwise)
  • complains when a group member’s gear is vastly beyond what is required for heroics just because it’s not equivalent to their own
  • complains about someone’s DPS without giving any constructive advice at all
  • queues as a group leader but doesn’t do anything that can be called “leadership”
  • doesn’t bother to check if the group is ready / in the right spec / buffed before they start pulling
  • pulls when they’re not the tank
  • pulls when the healer is out of line of sight
  • pushes the group to at an unreasonable pace (i.e. “gogogogogogo”)
  • skips bosses without checking what the majority of the group wants to do

If you’re one of the 80% of people I’ve run with who make my dungeon runs enjoyable, this post is not for you (though you may get a laugh out of it).

Here’s the problem I have with people who do one or all of the above: you don’t care if your actions inconvenience other people.

Now, there are always going to be some percentage of people that are jerks, but since patch 3.3, something has changed.  It’s not that I’m encountering more jerks – this was to be expected.  I’m running more dungeons, so given a stable percentage of jerks in the community, I’ll run into more of them.

Jerk Pride

What surprises me is that the “selfish jerk pride” I’m seeing in party chat, trade channels, official forums, and even in the comments to my posts.  Not only do they not care that they’re screwing other people over – they’re standing up and defending their selfish behaviour as if they think that there is a logical argument to be won here.

In real life, shame acts as a limiting factor to jerk behaviour.  If you have an explosion of asshattery among your friends, they’re going to call you on it.  Your desire to not face that and to maintain your friendships might prevent you from acting like a jerk in the first place.

Even among people that you don’t know, there are certain societal norms that discourage you from doing whatever you want.  When you know that you’ll be held to account, you may change the way you act.

The virtual world of WoW removes that shame factor, and these people seem to be missing the gene that self-regulates behaviour in such situations.

Guild Mergers

Hopefully you’ve given some thought to your WoW Identity (both personal and guild), and considered how important it is to you.

Now, let’s talk about Guild Mergers.

My Experience

I’ve only been directly involved in one guild merger.  It was my first guild, one in which I inherited the guild master title from the founder, who logged in one day, transferred leadership to me without saying a word, then gquit.  I wasn’t even level 60 at the time if I recall correctly.  I did my best, and fairly well under the circumstances, but I also made a large number of mistakes.  One of those was trying to push us into Molten Core faster than we were able.  We had 25 or so regular members and wanted to get into raiding.

We’d tried running a guild alliance with a guild who was working on BWL, trying to do “half-and-half” MC runs, but they screwed us over on the first run by promising us 20 spaces then only providing 12.  Incensed and unwilling to cut almost half of my signups, we left their run and cobbled together a 28 person raid which took down Lucifron before getting eaten alive by Magmadar.

We kept trying to recruit, but could never get to a critical mass of people.  One of our members put us in touch with another guild in a similar situation.  We talked over the idea of a merger, then did a few 20 man raids to get a feel for each other.  Those raids were filled with mostly leadership types and the other top players, and overall went pretty well.  We got along, killed the bosses, and ended the run thinking that this group would go far together.

We agreed that they would merge into us.  I remained the GM, with their GM and his officers all becoming officers in the new guild.  I’d already made the mistake of having too many officers in my guild (seven or eight), so this put us at thirteen officers in a guild of about 50 people.

Within a week or so, problems started to arise.  Our guild wasn’t stellar by any means, but they were pretty mature (in line with what you’d expect given the positions I’ve written about).  The merged guild had a lot of younger age people in it, and were right on the other side of the maturity scale.

One of my members quit because she had had to deal with sexual harassment in chat from one of merged members in the past.  Guild chat became so garbage-filled that I had to create a separate chat channel and kick people over to it when they started babbling.

In retrospect, I was overly heavy-handed, and some of the new people picked up on this and chose to press my buttons.  It drove me up the wall, to the point where I took a week-long vacation and told my officers to get things in some semblance of order by the time I returned or I’d start kicking people.

As you might expect, things didn’t get back into order, and most of the new people (and some of my members) left the guild.  We re-built over time, though a job change forced me to step down as GM and subsequently leave the guild and the server.  They stayed together through TBC, but from the looks of the armory, the guild fell apart completely before the 3.0.2 patch.

What went wrong?  Many things.  I wasn’t an experienced GM.  I exposed my weakness with regards to immaturity to some children who chose to take advantage of it.  Mostly, we didn’t do enough investigation before choosing to merge.  The best of ours and the best of theirs got together, and we were both surprised when that wasn’t representative of either guild as a whole.

Guild Identity

I didn’t pay enough attention to what my guild’s identity was, and I didn’t consider how the integration of the other guild would change it.  In this case, it brought the maturity aspect of our identity down below what I considered to be minimum acceptable levels, which led to me acting the way I did.

I haven’t heard very many guild merger success stories.  You don’t really even see many stories about mergers at all these days (unless it’s one that you didn’t even realize was happening).  The 10 person raids in Wrath combined with the easy of acquiring loot means that you rarely are in a position where a guild merger is the best option available.

Will that change in Cataclysm?  Perhaps.  If recruting woes aren’t letting you move from 10 to 25 person raids, merging in a small guild that doesn’t have much of a guild built up may be quite attractive: you get the people you need and the incoming members get access to the talents and heirloom patterns that they don’t have.

Conversely, as a guild’s age (post-4.0) increases, the idea of a merger becomes less attractive, because you can’t bring anything but the warm bodies over.  Both guilds might be at level 20, but they will likely have different patterns and different talents.  You might be able to reconcile talents, but patterns will not carry over.

How Long Do Your Heroic Runs Take?

My post on Time-to-Emblem ratios seems to have become quite popular since wow.com linked to it, but there is some disagreement over how long each instance takes.  To improve the original post, I’ve set up a series of polls.  If you have the time, please fill the questions out to the best of your ability and once we have enough data, I’ll update the original article.

Your WoW Identity

A bit of a thought experiment this week.

I was ready to write an article about Guild Mergers, but after running over my thoughts on the topic I realized that there’s some background I need to get people thinking about first.  Here’s a quick preview: the fear and trepidation that surrounds a guild merger is all about the fear of losing your identity.

But what is your identity?  What makes you “you” online?  How much of your personality and values make it into the persona you expose to your guild members?  Are you more or less the same person, or do you build up a completely different you when behind a keyboard?

Consistency or Facets?

Assuming that nobody knows of the common player behind your alts, do you choose to expose a different facet, or even an entirely different personality on one character vs another?  Or do you play all of your characters act in a way that is consistent with your personality and values?

Personally, I think of myself as a protector, and this comes through in all of my characters.  It’s what led me to always have a tanking or healing main character.  It’s why I only death grip on my DPS Death Knight to pull a mob off the healer.  I like the idea that I am responsible for the other people in my party – not for their behaviour, but for their safety from whatever the game throws at us.

MBTI

If you’ve never thought much about your personality traits, you might want to take a few minutes to take the Meyers-Briggs Typology test.  The full test has 72 questions.  There are shorter versions, like this one that uses the Simpsons characters, but you can’t expect to get much out of a personality test that asks four two-choice questions.

(when our vice president joined the company and wanted to do some team building, he gave us the Simpsons version of the test and I came out as Principal Skinner.  Read into that what you will.  Now that I think about it, it might be fun to work out the 16 WoW NPCs that match the various typologies.  Garrosh Hellscream for ESTP?  Wait, “able to handle criticism”.  Perhaps not)

If you’ve done one of these tests in the past, you may know the general category you fall into.  If so, pick one of your characters and do the test as them.  If you’re someone who does absolutely no role-play, there may be no difference in the results, but I suspect a great number of us switch things up even a little bit when playing.

Tools for Mentoring

A few months ago, I wrote an article on ways to turn bad players into good players.  Today I’m going to expand on the mentoring advice that I laid out in the hopes of showing some practical ways you can help even a completely new player improve their game very quickly.

Advice vs Mentoring

First, let’s be clear on what mentoring is.  It’s not just throwing someone a few URLs to your favorite class specific blogs or sites and expecting the person to perform better next week.  In order to perform the job of  a mentor well, you need to analyze their current performance, identify the problems, help them find workarounds, then measure the improvement.  It’s a coaching role.  A football coach doesn’t just show up at the start of practice and tell the team “just kick the ball better this time” before walking away.

This means that mentoring is a non-trivial thing for a member of your guild to do.  If this is not something that someone has already agreed to do (say by becoming a class leader), then make sure they understand what they’re getting into.  This may be a good place to offer loot system bonuses, commensurate with the amount of time invested.  If someone’s going to spend even two hours per week talking with and measuring the performance of another member – time that they can’t be doing dailies or random heroics – then shouldn’t they be rewarded in the same manner as you reward people for time spent raiding?

What you want to avoid is having someone say “sure, I’ll help _blank_ get his DPS up”, only to have them get frustrated and quit (or be short with the person they’re helping) once they realize the scope of the task.  I’ve been playing for nearly four and a half years, most of that as a healer.  I’m now pretty close to the top of my game, but to transfer what I know today to someone who is new to WoW and/or new to healing is going to take several weeks of coaching, as well as some heavy hands-on with user interfaces and explaining the nuances of experience.

To Match Class or Not

Let’s say that you’re a small guild, or one which is light on a few classes.  You’ve recruited a resto shaman but their performance isn’t where it needs to be for the content you’re on.  The only other shaman in your guild is enhancement and is very good at DPS, but only heals in a pinch for 5-man runs, never in raids.  Pairing the two shaman may seem to be the obvious choice, but I would argue that any raid-capable healing class would be a better mentor.

In 5-mans, there’s no other healer to compare yourself against, and you rarely have to heal continuously for more than a few minutes.   Overhealing doesn’t matter, there are no healing targets to stick to, and the mix of spells you use isn’t that important.  Any sufficiently geared shaman with a resto spec can chain heal spam their way to victory.  When you get into a raid environment, everything changes.  You have to pay attention to more people, you can’t afford to overheal too much, and you have to know when to not heal a raid member because another healer is assigned to take care of them.  If you don’t heal raids, you won’t have this type of discipline.

For everything related to healing, I’d rather pair up the resto shaman with a priest, druid or even a paladin (who, for all their history vs shaman are probably the least like them in healing style).  When it comes to things that are shaman specific (such as totem synergy), you can either rely on web site resources, or pitch those questions over to the enhancement shaman.

Know the strengths of your potential mentors and match them up based upon the value they can provide, not just the color of their raid frame.  This is itself an argument against class leads and more towards role leads – a technique I’ve found to be more effective in the guilds I’ve been a member of

Best of 2009

Ah, the joy of 10 days away from work. It just gets you in the mood for doing … nothing, or at least nothing that requires much effort. The problem is that when you talk about transparency all the time, you can’t easily get away with half-assing an article during the holidays. But if you just come out and admit that you’re half-assing it, then that’s OK. Right? Right? In that spirit, I present the articles I’ve written this year that I am most proud of.

Time-to-Emblem Ratios

Why do people leave groups in the new LFG system the moment a dungeon is assigned? The instances I see this most often on are: The Culling of Stratholme Halls of Lightning Halls of Stone The Oculus If you jump out of the group, you can’t re-queue for 15 minutes. For a tank or healer, that means 15 minutes plus a few seconds until your next group. For a DPS, you’re probably talking more like 30 minutes until your next group (on my battlegroup at least).

Primordial Trophies and Orbs, Oh My!

When a new content patch is on the horizon, I like to go through my policies and see what needs to be updated – typically with regards to loot.  I continue to do this for Cold Comfort even though the guild is in stasis at the moment.  It’s a good exercise, and it helps build up a history with which to demonstrate my ideas on policy transparency.

For patch 3.3, I wanted to update the policies to remove old instances and set a policy for dealing with new items that would drop in Icecrown Citadel.  In doing so, I realized that I had never drawn up a policy for distribution of the non-gear items that drop in Trial of the Crusader.

I’ve heard many people complain about how their guild deals with things like Trophy of the Crusade.  Certainly the way that Blizzard set up the various grades of tier 9 armor didn’t help much, but most policies I heard about seemed to split one of two ways:

  • make them purchasable in the exact same way as gear, with anyone who is interested bidding on them
  • distribute them via some loot council system (even if the main loot system is DKP-like) when a member reaches some threshold (such as having the other materials required for turnin)

The way that you obtained tier 9.25 and 9.5 armor made either approach painful.  In the first case, people would try to grab the trophy early to ensure that they controlled when they were able to upgrade their gear.  In some cases, this let them skip the 9.10 tier entierly.  The second technique led to the opposite behaviour – if you didn’t know exactly when you were going to get your trophy, you might hold off buying your 9.10 set so that you weren’t emblem-starved when you did receive the token.

Crusader Orbs were also tricky, as they were used in 36 recipes to make gear on par with Normal 25 / Heroic 10 drops, but the items crafted were bind on equip.  Imagine that a Blacksmith tank has just purchased four orbs to craft Saronite Swordbreakers for themselves.  While waiting to do the last Titansteel transmute they need, Armguards of the Shieldmaiden drop.  The items are roughly equivalent (depending on the mix of stats you have on the rest of your gear).

Should the member be able to give the orbs back and get their DKP back?  If the items were given via loot council rather than purchased, does the member now owe the orbs to the bank because they would not have received the orbs if they’d already been wearing the dropped item?  What if they’d already crafted the item – are they now at the back of the line for orbs, even though they just wasted them?

Primordial Saronite, the new “orb” of Icecrown Citadel adds yet another variable.  While it’s used for half as many recipes, it is also used in large quantities to progress through the quest to form the legendary weapon Shadowmourne.  While you can purchase the Saronite for 23 Emblems of Frost, doing so would take weeks of pouring all your emblems into the task, and prevent you from purchasing any other EoF rewards in the process.

Even Blizzard doesn’t really have guidance for how Primordial Saronite “should” be distributed, acknowledging that it’s a problem of social dynamics

Loot Accessibility and the Role of Guilds

I read a post on a bluetracker last week (and forgot to bookmark it – again) in which the poster asked “do you need a guild now that we have the dungeon finder tool?”.

Thinking about that leads me to consider the changing role of the guild in WoW.  Since the initial release, guilds have changed from being the only path to high-level gear to a primarily social organization that provides access only to the highest tier of gear and the latest content.

While the response to patch 3.3 has been overwhelmingly positive, it has pushed a major change in the social dynamic of WoW.  For those who are not driven by the pure challenge of raiding the latest content, the argument for joining a guild as a way of gearing up no longer has as much weight.

Let’s look at what your guild could do for you with regards to loot from release until today.

Vanilla WoW

If you weren’t in a raiding guild, your loot capped out at Dungeon Set 1 (commonly called “Tier 0”), and later on Dungeon Set 2 (Tier “0.5”).  The later parts of the quest chain to upgrade your gear from dungeon set 1 and dungeon set 2 were quite challenging and can arguably be called the first “hard mode” in the game, but once you’d finished it, that was the limit of your progression.

The only raids available were 40 people, and in the early raids like Molten Core and Zul’Gurub the number of warm bodies was more important than individual performance.  As you progressed further, the level of technical skill required increased, as did the rewards.  Still, the raid size requirements meant that you didn’t necessarily join a guild for social reasons.  On any given realm there were a limited number of guild capable of fielding a team into the later raids.

Several encounters (Twin Emperors in AQ40 and the original Four Horseman come to mind) were known as “guild killers” because a few weeks of wipes against them could break the tenuous bonds that held some guilds together.

If you wanted PvE loot, you joined a 40 man raid guild.  There was no incentive to go back and run the old 5 man content on your main.

Importantly: if you ruined your reputation in a large guild, your weren’t likely to get into another top-tier guild that easily.  There just wasn’t as much choice as there is today.  This pressure helped keep some of the drama in-line compared to the nerdrage explosions we see today.

Performance-Based Loot Systems

While browsing the US guild relations forum, I was struck by this post: PerLoot – a new Loot System

Not struck by the brilliance of the system, mind, but the process by which a reasonable goal (rewarding people who perform better) fell apart in the implementation.  What’s worse is that the original poster didn’t seem to realize how much things had fallen apart.

In summary, the poster proposed a loot system whose rewards were based upon performance in raids.  The better you perform, the more loot you get.  They proposed to measure performance by the meters – your DPS divided by your GearScore times the cubic root of the number of dispels or interrupts you perform.  The post made no allowance for how tanks would be handled, but did say that they would gauge Discipline priests differently “because they heal by prevention”.

The premise that gave birth to this loot system is attractive: ultimately, loot distribution should reward those who perform well.   I’m sure most people who generally perform above the average of their raid feel they should be rewarded for doing so.  But the loot system as proposed fails on so many levels.

Reflections on the Dungeon Finder

What does it take to be a leader? As regular readers will know, my approach to leadership tends to be fairly structured, strong-handed stuff. I’m not a hardass, I just have little faith in people to self-govern themselves in an environment driven primarily by personal acquisition. But leadership can be subtle and sublime. Hopefully you’ve all had a chance to spend some time with the new dungeon finder tool. From a technical perspective, it’s one of the best changes made to WoW in the time I’ve been playing.

Rent A Tux

Are the servers up yet? How about now? I stupidly patched my EU client to 3.3.0 on Tuesday night, because I’m leveling a character on the US realms with a friend. Now I’m locked out of the EU realms and am getting kicked out of the US realms after logging in (as I’m sure most of you are as I write this, though hopefully not as you read it). Rather than talk about what’s going on right now (because much of it is about to change, or at least get re-focused), I’d like to speculate on an idea that came to me when writing about the Cataclysm announcements from Blizzcon 2009.

Principles vs Pragmatism

Another article inspired by a commenton the last article, this time from Veliaf of der Hexenmeister. Veliaf asked how to deal with the situation where your policies require you to treat everyone fairly, yet some people are more important to the success of the raid. I think it was implied was that the people who are more important to the raid try to take advantage of that situation. Let’s invent a hypothetical situation that you might face as guild leader to give the discussion some focus:

My Dog Ate My Frost Resist Set

A comment by Malevica on a recent article inspired me to write about excuses.  Excuses for leaving groups, for missing raids, for poor performance, for lack of knowledge, for not heading to the dungeon when your group fills up and generally just not giving your all when playing with others.

WoW is a game, first and foremost.  Let’s get that out of the way.  Games (not just those played on the computer) have different levels of interaction with others, and different levels of commitment required.

You can stop a game of Solitaire to go make yourself a cup of tea without issue, but the pitcher can’t just walk off the mound halfway through game of baseball because his mother tells him dinner is ready.

I like to think of WoW as being around the same level as a friendly bowling team.  You don’t tend to bring substitutes to the alley, so if one person doesn’t show, the game is off.  If you’re in a tournament or league, an unannounced no-show may prevent your teammates from playing themselves.

I don’t think anyone believes that WoW should trump all else, or that nobody should ever be pulled away from the game for something important.  If a family emergency comes up, you have to go.  The issue is the subjective value of “important”, and the ability of people to be honest, both with themselves:

How much time do I *really* have available to me before I jump in this heroic or raid?

and with others:

I’m sorry, I can’t join the Thursday raid because I have a paper due on Friday, but I’ll be sure to unsign well in advance so you’re not left hanging because of me

We’ve all heard the various excuses for why someone fails to meet a commitment they’ve made to other players:

My guild needs me for a run

I have to go to eat

I wasn’t feeling well

Or the best excuse of all:

What I’d like to discuss (and what I think Malevica was getting at) wasn’t so much the veracity of the excuses themselves, but the need to make them.  Regardless of the reason you give, having to make excuses comes down to two things: not managing your time and assigning a different importance to WoW than the people you play with.

Investing in Other Players

How much time and effort are you willing to invest in another player?  If that person is in your guild, the answer is probably a fair bit more than you’re willing to invest in someone you meet in a PUG.

For obvious reasons, we’re willing to invest in the long-term performance of people we expect to be playing with in the future.  We’ll accept lower gear levels, the need to explain strategies, and perhaps some out-of-raid consultation on rotations, gear, spec and enchants – all in the name of producing a better player some weeks or months down the road.  We may not consider it to be an investment in the same way you think of mutual funds, but it is – you’re investing time that you would otherwise spend running heroics or gathering materials.  What you hope to get back is a smoother experience in the future.

This willingness to invest is almost exclusively contained within our guilds.  Advice to people we run PUGs with is more perfunctory:

You should use Seal of Vengeance instead of Seal of Light to tank

or

Move when you see the “Ticking Time Bomb” debuff

These snippets are designed to make our immediate experience better.  Even loot advice (“that mace is better for a shaman than what you’re using because Shaman get no in-combat regen from spirit”) isn’t really an investment in future performance.  It comes from that “how can you not understand the core stats that are important for your class” place, at least for me.

There are exceptions, to be sure.  Sometimes when I’ve left a run I’ll get into a chat with someone about class mechanics or things that have a long-term benefit, but there’s never any follow up.  It’s just friendly advice, and whether it results in improvement I never know.

The introduction of cross-server dungeons in patch 3.3 is only going to reinforce this lack of investment in PUGs, as the chance of running into the same person twice will go up by a factor of 20 or so, depending on the size of your battlegroup.

Guild UI Changes I’d Like to See

Cataclysm will bring a number of changes to guilds.  Some of these are completely new functionality (guild experience) while others are improvements to what we have today and could arguably be introduced independent from the new expansion.

Today, I’d like to draw up a wishlist of guild tools that I’d like to see added to WoW in the future.  As we haven’t heard much beyond the snippets from Blizzcon, some of these may even already be in the works.

First, let’s quickly recap the changes we know are going to be part of Cataclysm.  I’m only talking about changes to the guild user interface and things that provide utility, so I won’t be going into depth on things like talent trees and guild currency.

  • you will be able to inspect the professions of guild members without them being logged in
  • you will be able to invite other guilds to your events (rather than the individual members of that guild)
  • you will be able to set recruiting options for your guild, including the type and level of members you are looking for.  People can search for guilds in-game much as they search for groups in the pre-3.3 LFG tool

Now, on to what I’d like to see added:

Communication

Getting information to your members has always been a challenge for guild leaders.  The in-game tools are so lacking that an outside forum is the only place to post anything of substance.  Getting your members to visit the forum regularly is like drawing water from a stone.  Either you make the website integral to their in-game experience (by only inviting members to raids if they’ve signed up via the forum) or you spend a good deal of time saying if you’d just read the forum, you’d know _blank_ in guild chat.  There is more than enough room for improvement.

Guild Warnings

I’d like to see an /gw command that works the same way as /rw does in groups today (though with green text by default, naturally).  The ability to spam a guild warning would be controlled by a new permission bit, or at the very least be restricted to the same people who can edit the message of the day.

Depending on how many channels your members are in, and the amount of social chatter going on, it is all too easy to miss something in guildchat that your GM or officers say.  Whether you’re trying to get people’s attention a few minutes before raid invites go out or enforce some level of control on guild chat gone crazy, the large text and accompanying sound will help.

Notification of MOTD / Guild Info Changes

If you’ve used a Ventrilo server before, you may be familiar with the MOTD window that pops up when you first connect to a server.  And every time thereafter, unless you tick the checkbox that reads “only show me the MOTD when it changes”.

The MOTD and Guild Information Pane are useful places to put information for your members, but neither are very effective at getting information to members the next time they log in.  The MOTD can easily scroll right off the page if you have a few addons that spam startup messages, and the guild information pane is so infrequently accessed by most that you can only put reference material there – links to your forums, your voice server’s host / port / password, etc.  Some addons (epgp) even use the guild information pane to store configuration data on the assumption that when people do infrequently open it up they can visually filter out the addon data.

I’d like to see an option where changes to the MOTD or Guild Information panel prompt members as to whether they want to see the changes.  Much like a software update, offer choices like Yes, No and Remind Me Later.  If you’re online when the change is made, it would be best to wait until you’re no longer in a group to display the prompt; otherwise you see it as soon as you log in.  Once you’ve acknowledged the changes, you don’t get prompted again until the information changes again.  That way guild leaders could put some basic announcements and communication that members would be all but forced to read.

Ability for Members to Change Their Public Note

I’ve never understood why the guild permissions are set up this way, but the permission bit to “change public note” allows you to change anyone’s public note.  As such, it’s only appropriate for officers to have.  I know many guilds who use the public note for nicknames, or tracking of alts, or just forms of self-expression like a very small Twitter update.

Either all of these changes have to be mediated through an officer, or anyone can screw with anyone else’s message.  I’d like that permission bit to be split in two – one that allows you to change your own public note and one that allows you to change anyone’s.

Managing Your Loot Standings

When comparing loot systems, pay special attention to how easy it is for established players who raid often to gain a massive point lead over new members or those who can’t raid as often.  While attendance needs to factor into buying power, certain systems are more susceptible than others.

There are two different problems, depending on whether your loot system has fixed prices or not: inflation and list camping.

Inflation affects systems where the cost of an item is driven by player bidding.  For whatever reason, one or several players have very large point balances.  The going rate for drops rises because the person with a high balance can easily beat anyone who is new.  People with low balances don’t even have the chance to compete – they could bid their entire balance of points and still have that only equal 1/10th or 1/5th of the balance of an established raider.

List Camping tends to affect systems where item prices are fixed.  For the same reasons, someone ends up with a large point balance, so that they have first pick of anything that drops.  When they want an item, they get it at the fixed price, but it doesn’t make much of an impact on their balance.  They essentially stay at the top of the list forever, and when new tiers of content are released, they get geared up first because they keep getting first pick.

That your members will take advantage of these situations isn’t a given.  I’ve been in some guilds where people with high balances sometimes feel guilty for always getting first pick, and deferred to lower-geared players to benefit the raid.  But this relies on magnanimous behaviour, which also isn’t a given.  If the person decides to, they can grab a ton of gear, and it’s not unheard of for people in this situation to do just that in the days and weeks leading up to a /gquit.

Before I talk about ways to address this, let’s look at a few of the common loot systems and the extent to which they are susceptible to these problems.

DKP with Fixed Costs

DKP with fixed costs is susceptible to list camping once you have all the gear you need from the current content.  If the loot system continues without a reset through multiple content patches, the lead someone has can become insurmountable.

DKP with Open Bidding

DKP with open bidding is susceptible to inflation, as a well-geared member can gain points while never bidding on gear.  If members collude to keep prices low (say an under the table deal to allow one person to pick up an item at the minimum bid price), then it can be susceptible to list camping as well.  While this system allows for the greatest level of flexibility for members, it is also the easiest to corrupt.

Zero-Sum DKP

Zero-sum DKP is not susceptible to inflation (as the number of total points in the system remains constant), but it can be susceptible to list camping.  Just how susceptible depends on whether you combine zero-sum with open bids or fixed costs.  While this may make zero-sum DKP sound attractive, the major failing of this system is the inability to provide rewards for anything other than loot dropping.  Without a way to incentivize progression content, zero-sum can be very demoralizing after a night of wipes.  It is better suited to farm content, but I’ve seen many guilds choose to go directly from their primary loot system to open /roll rather than maintain a parallel zero-sum system for lower-level content.

EP/GP

EP/GP is protected against both list camping and inflation, as the points you receive for raiding (EP) are not directly used for purchasing gear (only to rank people in priority order).  In addition, weekly decay of both EP and GP means that the larger the gap between high and low ranked members, the more that is lost during decay.   This discourages list camping – with a 10% decay, it takes just seven weeks to remove half of your EP and GP.  As any regular reader will know, I’m a big fan of this system because it doesn’t share the downsides of the other loot systems (though it does have it’s own cons, including the inability to spend what you feel an item is worth to you regardless of your priority).

Ni Karma

Ni Karma is a “boosted roll” system, in which your points can be used to supplement your roll if you so choose.  There are no item prices, so inflation is not a problem, but you can end up with people at the top of the list after a long period of taking no loot.  Due to the way in which the points are used (a winning boosted roll halves your balance), you can only effectively camp the list for one item.  Unfortunately, this can lead to people not taking minor upgrades because they are focused on winning the one item they really want and want to save their points.

Suicide Kings

Suicide Kings is not subject to inflation, as nobody has a balance, just a relative position on a list.  When you take loot, you drop to the bottom of the list of people who are in the raid (not the absolute bottom of the list).  Like Ni Karma, this can result in list camping for one particularly desired item, as once loot is taken you aren’t likely to get another piece right away.  I don’t see this system being used very much, as it has the same “lack of progression incentives” as zero-sum DKP (and can in fact be called a “zero-sum spend-all” system).

Suicide Kings doesn’t tend to be as popular as it was when first introduced, as the “cost” of an item (such as it is in this system) varies based upon who attends a given raid.  While this is also true of open-bid DKP, Suicide Kings doesn’t give members the level of power they have in open-bid DKP, which makes this downside more glaring.

Sweating the Small Stuff

Let’s talk some more about pickup groups.  Every time I run them, I’m on the lookout for people who might be a good fit for the guild.  At the very least, I like to keep track of people who know what they’re doing so I can group with them again.  There’s no 5-man heroic content that should really pose a challenge these days – you can start doing heroic with far better gear than was possible when WotLK launched thanks to Trial of the Crusader normal, and very shortly thereafter you should be pulling in tier 8.5 / 9 emblem rewards.

Skill is the only thing that can really screw up a heroic these days, and even then you have to be very lacking in it to cause a wipe.

There is however a middle ground in performance between able to get through a heroic without causing your group members undue stress and this person is someone I’d group with again without question that I see regularly.  This is the my gear level means that I don’t have to care about the small stuff zone, and people who live there drive me nuts.

Failure 101

How many times have you been in a heroic where someone:

  • stands in the Ticking Time Bomb in Utgardge Keep
  • gets hit by Impale on Anub’arak in Azjol-Nerub
  • stands in the Mojo Puddle fighting the Drakkari Colossus
  • doesn’t bother to interrupt the Spell Flinger’s Shadow Blast in Ahn’Kehat
  • gets hit by Shadow Crash cast by the faceless ones guarding Herald Voljaz in Ahn’Kehat
  • as melee dps, stands on top of the tank during the Anub’arak fight in Azjol-Nerub and get one-shotted when he chooses them as the target of Pound
  • doesn’t cleanse debuffs that they are exclusively capable of removing (e.g. a Paladin tank failing to cleanse magic from themselves when paired with a Shaman healer)

These are all little things, and most of them won’t wipe a group.  Some of them directly translate into things you need to know in raids (see my article “FFS, You’ve Been Trained for This!“), but most just piss off your healer.

Still, I like to run heroics like I did when WotLK first launched.

A year ago when tanks had 22k HP and DPS were barely scratching 13 or 14k, you couldn’t afford to be hit by a shadow crash for 12.5k damage.  Today, gear levels allow you to make a few mistakes and still survive, though the danger of others hasn’t changed.  Did you know that Shadow Blast hits for 80% of your maximum HP?  If you have a new 80 healing a well-geared tank, it’s actually harder to heal Shadow Blast today than it was a year ago.

Sullying Our Good Name

On my main’s server, I’ve been running PUGs pretty much daily for the last few weeks.  The time just isn’t right to form Cold Comfort the guild it seems, so I’ve resolved to try again closer to the release of Cataclysm, when there is bound to be a fair amount of shakeup and re-rolling.

Standards

As any regular reader will be aware, I have reasonable but strict standards for the people I play with.  I’m not going to tell a tank that they need 35k buffed HP to do Naxxramas, or that you have to have surpass 4k dps to join an Onyxia-10 PUG, but if I invite you to my group for Trial of the Champion and you fail more than once to avoid Radiance when fighting Eadric, then I’m not going to group with you again.  The record of failures I’ve observed in one fight was 11 spread among 3 people.

I use the excellent addon Do I Know You? to keep track of such people because it instantly tells me when someone whispers me if I’ve marked them as negative in the past.  I track more than just people who don’t meet my standards: trade spammers, griefers, people who have caused loot problems, people who ditch on groups and especially that bloody Death Knight who won’t shut up about how the Dragonball-Z game is available on PS3 but not on XBox-360 all get on the list.

Over time, patterns start to emerge with regard to the guild tags of people on my list.  On my main server, two guilds in particular are responsible for a disproportionate number of negative entries, and as such I won’t accept invites from members of those two guilds.  It’s not a foregone conclusion that any group I join started by someone from the two is going to go poorly, but I’ve wasted enough time in the past and play roles that are in enough demand that I’m not robbing myself of opportunities by doing so.

If a guild on a realm gets a reputation for actively antagonising the other members of the realm, the decision not to group with them is pretty obvious.  Has the guild been proven to harbor ninja looters?  Don’t group with them.   Did they transfer in to steal a server first from a home grown guild?  Don’t group with them.  Simple.

The position I take on the smaller stuff – just not being a good player –  is one that I seem to take a bit more seriously than others.  I want to play with skilled people.  If your guild is made up of people that tend to end up on my “do not group with” list, the impression I get is that you recruit for numbers, not for skill.

Is this fair?  Should guilds be responsible for their members’ actions, and what, if any actions by a guild member outside of a guild event reflect on the guild?

It’s my $15 a Month

We all pay our $15 / £9 / €13 per month to play WoW, so shouldn’t we be able to do whatever we want?  Why should I have to conform to a playstyle or set of rules that I don’t like just to stay in my guild?  There’s a nearly year old post on Fel Fire that is still a good read on this subject.  In essence, your guild can’t force you to do anything, but they can say “these are the requirements for continuing to be a member – break them and you’re out”.

So, when leading or joining a guild, it’s a good idea to be clear on what is and is not tolerated.  I touched on this more specifically a few weeks ago; in the same way as guilds tend to gloss over the bigotry issue with terms like “respect your guildmates” they gloss over other unwanted behaviour with terms like “respect the members of the realm”.  Use words and like “respect” that have different meanings for different people and you’re just setting yourself up for an argument when someone crosses the line you’ve drawn in your mind but is still far from it in theirs.

GDKP – Where Does It Fit For Guilds?

A few weeks ago, an article was posted on Elitist Jerks detailing the GDKP loot system.  Since then a few other blogs (Pwnwear, Deathknight.info) have picked up on the idea and spread it around.

I was hoping to provide a bit of an overview and practical suggestions for organizing GDKP runs, but as that’s been done to death I’m going to look at where GDKP can fit into a guild’s loot strategy.

What is GDKP?

A quick refresher: GDKP is a loot system where every item is bid for openly using gold.  Highest bid wins, and at the end of the run everyone splits the pot.

The name is a bit a misnomer, as there are no “dragon kill points” involved.  DKP, EP/GP, Ni Karma – all of these loot systems are closed.  You earn points within the system that you then use in some fashion to receive loot.  No matter what you’ve done before, when you enter into a new DKP system, you’re starting from scratch.

GDKP runs on the other hand implicitly favour people who have a lot of gold, at least from the perspective of getting drops.  But interestingly, GDKP doesn’t solely attract people who are interested in loot.  You can be dressed to the nines with no need of any drop in a dungeon and come out the other side with a tidy sum of gold in your pocket.

Who Is It For?

GDKP attracts three distinct types of players: low-geared members who are willing to spend a reasonable amount on multiple pieces of gear during a run, high rollers who want just one item and are willing to spend large amounts to get it, and people who are just there for the gold.

For the right balance of performance and payout, you probably want no more than 40% low-geared members, 40% people looking for a payout and the rest high rollers.  Depending on just how under-geared the lowbies are, you may need to set more strict gear and experience limits on the rest of the players in order to avoid hitting enrage timers.  Similarly, you can’t go overboard on the people who are just there for the payout or the total gear purchased will be low (as will the payout).

Unlike forming a PUG run where warm bodies are your first concern, building a GDKP run is a balancing act.  Don’t try starting one up on a whim – you need to announce it, review people who are interested, and build a group that serves the needs of everyone attending.

Lowbies Buying Loot For Gold Is Wrong!

Perhaps.  But it’s been going on for a very long time.  Even before Zul’Aman bear runs (costing 15 to 25 thousand gold if I recall correctly) were popular on most servers, there were always guilds who were willing to carry people through higher-level content for a hefty amount of gold.  The difference was that they typically brought one or two people at a time as part of a regularly scheduled guild farm run.  The gold usually went back into the guild bank, and members saw the benefit in that the guild could afford to pay for more repairs or for gems / enchants / etc.

GDKP is just one variant of this.  It’s a framework for doing PUG loot runs that will hopefully become common knowledge.  All you need to do is announce that you’re doing a GDKP run and specify the tuneables: minimum bid amounts, rules for getting kicked, etc.

Minor Updates on Guilds in Cataclysm

There isn’t quite enough detail to warrant a full post, but a few details were recently announcedabout the guild levelling system scheduled for introduction with Cataclysm. The details come from IgoMir, the “Russian E3”. Visit the original article for the specifics; the only thing that I find interesting is that the guild experience feature was originally describedas being very much like player experience – activities by guild members would accrue XP for the guild as it leveled from one to twenty, gaining talents points along the way.

The Spoils of War

Recently I found out from a friend that the account of one of officers in her guild had been hacked.  21000 gold and all the guild bank items was taken, and anyone who could be was kicked.

Hopefully they get most of what they lost recovered, and their leadership wise up and make everyone with enhanced guild bank privileges get an authenticator.  The incident did get me thinking however about the benefits of hoarding gold in a guild bank.

21000 isn’t that much for a player to have, especially not one with multiple characters.  But that’s in the context of a game that has some pretty big player-focused gold sinks:

  • 20k for a Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth
  • 11k for a fully upgraded Band of the Kirin Tor
  • 6400 for an epic flying mount and the ability to ride it in Northrend
  • 12k for four 24-slot bags (in patch 3.3)

None of these upgrades are required, and none of them really improve your performance in a raid (save perhaps your utility going up a bit if you can carry a few more consumables)

So what does a guild need gold for?  I’ll assume we’re talking about an “average” raiding guild – one that does somewhere between 9 and 15 hours or raiding per week.  I’ll assume that you don’t pay for all your raider’s repairs – perhaps one repair cycle per raider per week after a particularly brutal raid, or a capped stipend per member per raid.  Let’s say that it comes out to a maximum of 2000 gold per week.  I’ve never been in a guild that was even that generous – keeping up with repairs was always the member’s responsibility, and in today’s WoW really shouldn’t be a burden for anyone who can spend an hour outside of raiding per week running daily quests.

You may need to maintain a stock of gems and consumables for use during raids, but for the most part these can be supplied by gatherers within the guild.  Even allowing for a few supplementary AH purchases, let’s say that your cash burn rate is around 3000g per week.  Again, this is vastly more than for any guild I’ve been in, but perhaps I’ve just been drawn to miserly company in the past.

Taking the example of the guild that was hacked, do you need to have seven weeks of cash reserves on hand?  Where did the gold come from?  Presumably from selling BoE items that dropped in raids.  The guild as an entity unto itself doesn’t make any money – leaving gold in a guild bank doesn’t accrue interest (wouldn’t that be wonderful, if horribly unbalanced?).  The earnings come from the activities of the members, and stockpiling large amounts of gold beyond what is required for the next few weeks of activities just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.

Obviously there are times when you do want to stockpile – when content is on farm and you’re preparing for a stint of progression raiding (such as the current lead up to patch 3.3).  But for the most part it seems like the gold should either be redistributed or reinvested in the guild.

Progression Raid Scheduling Woes

A long time ago, in a raid far, far away……

40 stalwart explorers milled about just inside the entrance portal of Molten Core.  Before us stood two massive Molten Destroyers, blocking our path.  But confidence filled the air; we’d been here before.  We’d felled these behemoths before.  We knew what lay ahead of us and just as we had many times before, we knew that the master of this realm would fall to us tonight, giving up a precious set of tier 2 legs that (probably) wouldn’t be usable by anyone in the raid.  Tonight was going to be, as the kids say, “e-z-mode”.

Suddenly, our mirth was shattered by a call from the raid leader:

Ok, everyone back up the chain – we’re going to Razorgore.

That bastard.

At the time, our guild had been farming Molten Core for a few months.  We were very good at it, clocking in around 3 hours and 20 minutes, which was pretty good back in the day for a guild whose gear topped out at tier 1 plus tier 2 helms and sometimes legs.  But we’d been unable to break through the barrier that was Razorgore the Untamed in Blackwing Lair.

Most of the fights in Molten Core were “tank and spank”.  There were a few tricks, but they tended to be simple: someone had to remember to move away from the raid when they had a particular debuff, or you had to tank this add out of line of sight of the boss, or a non-tank had to tend to an add instead of nuking the boss.  For most people, the rule was “wait for 5 sunders, then nuke”.  The hardest part of Molten Core was getting 40 people together to do it, followed by the weeks of farming for materials to make fire resistance gear for the final boss.

Razorgore on the other hand took a whole different type of coordination.  Phase 2 had six teams operating independently.  DPS had to control adds swarming from four corners of the room.  Warriors and hunters were responsible not for killing or tanking things, but running away from mobs whilst keeping them interested enough that they didn’t peel off and attack a healer.  One person had to mind control the boss and use him to break 30 eggs (though Razorgore would break free and come after the controller every 9 eggs).  While this was going on, up to 52 non-elite mobs could be up at once.  Everyone had to know their place, and everyone had to be able to recognize and adapt to changing conditions.

In our attempts to down Razorgore and become a BWL guild, we had been scheduling BWL as the first raid during the week, following up with MC on the second or third days depending on how well we did.  The net effect was (as you can expect) that nobody showed up on nights that we were scheduled to do Razorgore but the roster was overflowing on the days we were running MC.

The only way we were able to get Razorgore down was to sneakily swap raids when we had the right number and mix of people turn up for MC to make an attempt on Razorgore viable.  Of course, once Razorgore went down, the problem quickly subsided, as the earlier bosses quickly went on farm and it became the night with the best time to reward ratio.

Though the example comes from old content, the scenario is I’m sure quite familiar to many guilds today.  How do you motivate people to show up for progression content when the loot that drops from the farm content is as good or better?

The Item Level Problem

This graphic illustrates the problem.  The normal modes of the next patch overlap too much with the hard modes of the current patch.  If you’re only playing for gear, it may be hard to see the point of pushing to complete Ulduar-10 hard modes when the same level of gear will come from a 5-man heroic in patch 3.3.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the hardest boss in patch 3.2 (25 Heroic Anub’arak) is not significantly harder than the hardest boss from patch 3.1 (Yogg-Saron with no Keepers).

This all comes down to what motivates your raiders.  I wrote about this in further detail back in July.  Once the gap between easily farmable normal content and wipe-fest progression content gets too wide, the only type of raider you’re going to attract are the “Raiding Until It’s Been Done Right” group.  Most everyone else will (fairly, it must be said) decide that the time to reward ratio is not worth it.

The Importance of Dealing with Dead Weight

Last night I joined an Ulduar 10 semi-pug (half of the attendees were from one guild). Only about half of the members had any experience with the fights, but most of the inexperienced people were receptive to explanations we gave.

Except one.

Our group included one member who had no experience in the instance, hadn’t read any strategies beforehand, put out mediocre DPS for his gear level, continually interrupted the raid leaders with inane comments, and didn’t pay attention to the directions that were given. When he inevitably died early in every boss fight, he continued to spew into raid chat, distracting those who were working to get the boss down. After every lost roll he screamed at the unfairness of the universe.

Basically, he wanted to be carried through the instance and didn’t care that he was making the experience worse for everyone else in the process.

As main tank, I used what latitude I had to address this: more than once I told him to go read strategies during breaks, but he didn’t. By the end I was outright telling him to shut up and asking the raid leader to kick him (as were others who were whispering me).  (as an aside, being on a RP server does  have it’s advantages: I can /yell “for the love of all that is holy, please shut your mouth before my shield shuts it for you” and it fits perfectly coming from a paladin).

This type of character isn’t uncommon in a pickup group. Depending on the instance, you can usually threaten them with replacement and let their desire for loot, but the raid leader last night didn’t choose that route. We got as far as Auriaya and the group disbanded.

We’ve All Seen This Before

The problem is that this archetype is far too prevalent in WoW. Someone who doesn’t feel they have to pull their own weight and doesn’t adjust their behaviour when told that it’s detrimental to the group. It’s not realistic to assume that such people only “turn on the jerk” when in pickup groups, so I have to assume that this was just that person’s personality and that he’d be the same among his own guild members.

As a guild leader, you’re going to run into someone like this really quickly if you haven’t already. How you choose to deal (or choose not to deal with it) can have an impact on your group or guild.  Whether it’s spoken or not, the members of your group or guild will expect you to deal with these situations when they arise.

Why should you care? Because your ability to manage a misfit member of a group is what makes or breaks you in the eyes of the others members of the group. If you can straighten the person out or get rid of and replace them, you’re making their lives easier and they’ll be more eager to group with you or follow your lead in the future. Conversely, if you refuse or are afraid to deal with someone who is pulling the group down, many people (myself included) will either take the job upon themselves (which leads to anarchy) or suffer silently through it and resolve to not join another group that you’re leading.

These more polarized positions are of course more likely to be taken when in PUGs. In a guild, the effect may be more subtle but also more damaging because it affects morale. Nobody’s going to quit because you failed to deal with someone causing drama during a raid. But the episode will be remembered, and when it happens again, you’ll be under increased scrutiny to do better. Fail to do that and you may find people not signing up for raids or otherwise avoiding guild activities because they don’t want to deal with the people problems that go hand-in-hand with large group activities.

Inexperience and Weakness

In my last article, a comment led me to another blog post which in turn led me to a recently released addon called Experience.  The idea behind the addon is that when you target someone, it queries their character statistics to see how many times they have killed the bosses of each instance in the game, converting that to a measure of how much of the game they have experienced.

Like GearScore, this is just a tool to provide quick insight into another player.  The graphic above is of a 5-man group I ran CoS heroic with last night: as you can see, most of them were very inexperienced, but we breezed through the timed run only slightly slower than my personal best (5 minutes remaining instead of 8).  We then followed that up with a heroic Trial of the Champion run that featured none of the deaths or “stupid” moments that are a hallmark of PUG runs in that place.

On it’s own, this mod gives a useful but far from complete view of players.  It has a few rough edges:

  • outside of combat, the boxes above appear every time you target someone.  I really don’t care about seeing experience for people I’m not grouped with, so I use the LDB toggle to disable it except when I first join a group, but the LDB launcher defaults to “on” and doesn’t remember the setting from session to session.
  • the total experience value isn’t very useful for people who do 10 or 25 person raids exclusively.
  • the default setting is to require you to kill a boss 3 times to get 100% experience.  For example, I’ve only killed Malygos-25 once, so I get a 33.3% rating.  You can change this via a slider – I find 2 kills to be more useful.
  • it doesn’t appear to count Onyxia.  As the addon was only came out on Oct 20th I’m not sure if this is an oversight or intentional.
  • As Malevica pointed out, not having the statistics be account-wide doesn’t tell me anything about the player.  I doubt that all the members of the above group were new 80s based upon their performance.

GearScore No More

I’ve decided to ditch GearScore and use Experience for a few weeks to see if it gives me a better view of what to look out for when doing pickup groups.

Even just from testing it last night, there were some moments when the experience value didn’t match performance.  The member with 9.2% total experience was pushing 4.5k DPS on bosses, which is more than you might expect from someone who had only done heroics (and even then not all of them).  In his case, he had been farming both EoC and EoT gear since the last patch, as he was sporting mostly tier 8.5 / 9 gear and obviously knew his class well.

As a tool for guild recruiting, I would be more comfortable using either Experience on its own or in conjunction with Gearscore to set a minimum bar for applicants.  I would probably set the threshold to one, just to see which instances an applicant had run to completion rather than using the default of three.

I don’t want to spend this entire post talking about this addon.  What I really want to discuss is the concept of experience, not just in terms of the content you’ve completed but how experienced you are at WoW in general.

Feed Burp

I accidentally hit publish instead of schedule on thursday’s half-finished post. I’m not sure how it made it out to the feed (I thought I cleaned it up properly), but it did. So, enjoy the first paragraph and a bunch of scratch notes, and tune in tomorrow for something semi-coherent. Cheers

The Great Gearscore Debate of ’09

Chances are that you’ve had a run-in with gearscore if you’ve been joining PUG groups in the last few months.  Gearscore is an addon which calculates a number based upon the gear you’re wearing.  It displays this information in the tooltip, and can query other people using the addon for their gearscore, adding it to the LFG interface.

The problem is that on many servers, people are becoming gearscore snobs.  They refuse to invite someone to a PUG unless they have an unreasonably high gearscore.  This makes it hard for anyone who hasn’t upgraded their gear to around the tier 8.5 level to get into groups.

There has been the expected level of outrage on the forums, with Blizzard being asked to ban the addon (which only goes to show that people don’t understand what it’s doing under the hood).  Blizzard has acknowledged the problem, with Ghostcrawler even joking that they were going to put an easily obtainable epic shirt in the game with an item level of 300 just to poison the data this addon and others like it use.

Today, I’d like to talk about what GearScore is, what it isn’t, remind people of what the various scores correlate to in terms of content, and look at how useful GearScore is with regards to recruiting and other guild decisions.

The Addon

The GearScore addon can be downloaded here.  There’s also a “lite” version here.  The full version remembers the gearscore of people you mouseover or encounter, and so over time will take up more an more memory on your system.  It also communicates with people in LFG who have the addon, displaying their gearscore for you.  The lite version by comparison only does the calculation on mouseover and then forgets about it, trading higher CPU requirements for lower memory usage.  Which you use is up to you.

The Score

The thing to remember is that GearScore is just a calculation.  You feed numbers about each of your pieces of equipped gear, it adds them up and spits them out again.  There are a few changes to the calculation to account for things like Titan’s Grip warriors (it averages the two weapons rather than adding them together) and classes that prioritize a specific slot (like Hunters), but for the most part it’s just adding up the result of a function whose input is the item quality (green / blue /purple) and item level.

Gearscore does not:

  • consider gems / enchants
  • consider achivements
  • consider talents / glyphs

It’s just a measure of the item level of the gear you’re wearning.

What’s worse is that the GearScore addon does not use the same formula as some of the other armory-driven websites that list a gear score.  GearScore gives my paladin’s DPS gear a 4300 score, but WoW Heroes gives the same gear a score of 2240, even though it still calls the value a “Gear Score”.  Be Imba gives me 487.14, calling it a “PvE gear score”.

Just because GearScore gives bigger numbers doesn’t mean that it’s a better measure.  Psychologically, we like big numbers.  But the numbers only have meaning when placed in context.  If I tell you that a place is “about 5 away”, you don’t know if I’m talking in terms of miles, kilometers, minutes or hours.  Likewise, if I tell you that my gear scores 487.14 but you think I’m giving you the value from the GearScore addon, you’d expect me to be clad in level 45 quest greens.

When asking, giving or judging a gear score you have to know what measure you’re using.

Nerdrage and How to Deal With It

<p style="text-align: left;">
  Today, I&#8217;d like to talk about how to deal with the nerdrage that you may be on the receiving end of from guild members, and how best to deal with it.
</p>

<h3 style="text-align: left;">
  So What Is Nerdrage, Anyway?
</h3>

<p style="text-align: left;">
  What we saw on the WoW forums in response to the forced Battle.Net merge was a specific kind of nerdrage, at least if you go by the <a href="http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nerd Rage" target="_blank">Urban Dictionary definitions</a> of the term.  A little bit of #2 (&#8220;extreme anger, offense indignation&#8221;) mixed in with some #9 (&#8220;an RPG nerd who is extremely angry about a gaming issue a normal person would consider trivial.&#8221;).
</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">
  There&#8217;s something about the WoW forums that brings out this extreme type of post.  Perhaps it&#8217;s the anonymity of posting on a level 1 alt, perhaps it&#8217;s the fact that you don&#8217;t have to justify yourself to your guildmates later that week on ventrilo.  Whatever it is, you probably won&#8217;t see quite the same level of outrage when dealing with guild members.
</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">
  What you will see is irrational hyperbole: someone blowing an issue out of proportion without justification.  This may be over a change in guild policy, a perceived slight against them with regards to loot or raid spot selection, or concerns over the direction or progression of the guild.
</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">
  Much of this advice is not specific to online gaming.  If the working world, you will eventually find yourself in a position of defending something you have said against another person, possibly more senior or with more authority.  Learning how to respond to irrational people in WoW will pay off outside of the game.
</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">
  For the purposes of this article, I&#8217;m going to assume that you&#8217;ve announced a change to guild loot policy, and someone who feels that they are worse off for the change has posted an angry irrational screed on your guild forums.
</p>

<h3 style="text-align: left;">
  What to Remember
</h3>

<p style="text-align: left;">
  When you encounter irrational people, either in game or on forums, the important thing to remember is that the issue is important to them.  It may not be phrased properly, the justifications may be flimsy or non-existent, but to them it&#8217;s important.  Depending on the issue and the person, it may be the most important thing going through their head at the time.  Whether this is a good thing or not is irrelevant for you in composing a response &#8211; diminishing the importance of the issue is not going to win you any arguments.  If the issue has been blown out of proportion, you need to convince them that the impact is not as large as they think &#8211; not that the issue isn&#8217;t important enough to be dealt with.
</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">
  I&#8217;m assuming that you have already determined that the person being irrational is not a troll.  I would hope that trolling is not something any of us have to encounter on our guild forums.  It happens all the time on the official forums and to a lesser extent on some of the community forums &#8211; if that is the arena you find yourself in, make sure you&#8217;re not dealing with a troll before you follow any of this advice.  Trolls feed on winding people up, and I am proposing a candid and honest approach to addressing complaints that will pay off with someone who is sincere, but backfire with a troll.
</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">

Battle.Net Nerdrage Part 1

Blizzard recently announced that all WoW accounts must be merged into Battle.Net accounts by November 11th.  Failing to do so will prevent you from playing the game until you do the merge.

Predictably, a wave of nerdrage has taken over the official forums.  The breakdown seems to go something like this:

  • 50% are people complaining just to hear the sound of their own voice
  • 25% are people who can’t be bothered to read the FAQ before complaining
  • 10% are people who think they’re being principled but end up looking childish
  • 10% are trolls
  • the remaining sliver are people who have a legitimate question or concern and articulate it as such

I’ve been using Battle.Net for all of my accounts since April of this year, and I can speak directly to the lies and myths being spread.  This article is going to debunk those myths.  The follow-on article will talk about how to deal with nerdrage when it flares up in your guild (I had hoped to do it all in one, but the debunking alone was nearly 3000 words).

Fire up the Debunkifier

Let’s first hit up the popular myths and lies being spread both on the official forums and various blogs.  And do remember that these are all myths and lies – some born of misunderstanding, most of ignorance, but all untrue.

“Blizzard is springing this on us with no warning!”

Slow down cupcake.  You know how you just scroll through the Terms of Use whenever a new patch is released, never actually reading them?  Well, you screwed yourself this time.  Or rather, you screwed yourself six months ago.  On April 14th 2009, the terms of use were changed to read:

… To access the Service, you will be required to establish a user account on the Service. This may be either an account for the Service only (the “WoW Account”) or an account on Blizzard’s centralized account system for various online games (the “Battle.net Account”). If you do not already have a Battle.net Account that may be extended to WoW, Blizzard may require you to open such Battle.net Account; …

And later on there is a section about what you can do when the terms of use change:

… If any future changes to this Agreement are unacceptable to you or cause you to no longer be in compliance with this Agreement, you may cease to use your World of Warcraft account and terminate the Account in accordance with Section XVII herein. After expiry of one (1) month following the notification the continued use of World of Warcraft by you will mean you accept any and all such changes. …

So you were warned that this was happening six months ago and you had a chance to terminate your subscription.   Even if you had prepaid time, you could have requested that it be refunded due to material changes in the contract.  But you didn’t.  You didn’t read the updated contract, kept on playing past May 14th and in doing so agreed that you would open up a Battle.Net account when Blizzard asked you to.

Blizzard’s Legal Department crits you for over 9000.  You die.

“I’ll have to remember another password”

No, you won’t.  When you merge your WoW account into a Battle.Net account, your WoW password ceases to exist.  When you log into the game, the account management web interface, or the forums, you use your Battle.Net credentials.  The net change in the number of passwords you have to remember is zero.

Bigotry In The Ranks

Death and life are in the power of the tongue

King Solomon (Proverbs 18:21)

I have always been a believer in the power of words.  When I speak or write, I choose my words carefully.  I try to know my audience and consider the ways in which what I say could be misinterpreted.  I do this both because I want what I say to come across clearly and because I understand how words can hurt someone, even if not directed specifically at them.  I don’t want to say something that brings up a particularly traumatic experience, or reinforces prejudices, or just crosses the line of human decency.

Rarely is it necessary to go to such lengths to get your message across.  Yet daily, I see examples of people abusing the power of words in WoW.  Some days, I see people purposely using words to incite others, or to try to hide racist or sexist messages in their guild or character names.

Why do people do this, and more importantly, why do we let them get away with it?

Let me use an example that to this day both infuriates and boggles my mind: the guild name “Sapped Girls Can’t Say No”.  There are more than 120 such guilds on the US and EU realms and over 300 arena teams.  Most of the guilds have five or less members, and many have only one.  These aren’t real guilds.  They are attempts by people to make a joke.  A joke about rape.  There’s no wiggle room here – go do a google search and you’ll find that the top hits replace “sapped” with “drunk” or “drugged”.

If you stood in the middle of a busy city centre wearing a sandwich board that read “Drugged Girls Can’t Say No”, you would at the very least convince passers-by that you were an asshole, and at worst get lynched.  Depending on the country you live in you might be charged with a hate crime or inciting sexual violence.  Yet somehow it’s OK to do the virtual equivalent in WoW, and we (the people who see them displaying that guild tag) let them get away with it.  Under Blizzard’s terms of use, such guild names are clearly not allowed.  All it takes is one report and Blizzard should by all rights force the guild to change its name.

That these names still persist suggests that people either don’t care or think the joke is funny.  But what about those players who have been the victim of sexual violence?  Is it fair that they should be reminded of that dark past just so that some asshat can have a laugh?  Why do we not extend the same human kindness in the virtual world that we do in the real world?  You can’t play these types of things off as “part of the roleplaying experience” – it’s a plain and simple attempt to tell a sexist joke from behind the shield of anonymity that your character provides.

Dredging the Forums

So, what prompted me to write on this topic?  Against my better judgement, I decided to take the pulse of the WoW forum community by browsing the General forum, a decision that was both stupid and tragic.  Among the torrent of nerdrage about the forced Battle.Net merge (more on that next week), I came across this post:

Yes our named got banned because I camped a shadow priest. Tell me what is wrong with the guild name “halaa back naga”. Two of our members that are african american suggested that name, we liked it so we made it. We were getting complements like “man awesome guild name” “Dude can I join your guild its so awesome” etc.  I want a gm to respond to this because that guild lasted 4 months before some scrub that couldn’t get away from me reported it.

Admittedly, this guild name is less offensive than my example above.  But the responses (in which the OP is essentially told that he is an idiot and should have known better) encouraged me to write about the more extreme examples that I’ve seen in the past.  Obviously I’m not alone in my thinking.

It’s not every little thing that I take issue with – just the extremes: racism, sexism and religious zealotry.  I remember an incident from my first EU guild.  I was leveling both my Paladin and Death Knight at the time, and mentioned in guild chat that it would be great it Paladin tanks had a similar spell to Death Grip – call it “Holy Lasso” or something like that.  The response that came back (from the guild leader no less) was that if I wanted a holy spell that dragged people in, it should be called “Islam”.  That was a serious “WTF?” moment, after which I ripped the guy a new one publicly for preaching that level of intolerance.

Calling a Spade a Spade

Let me be blunt: I consider the extremes of this type type of behaviour to be bigotry, plain and simple.  Is that too harsh a word?  Should I try to find something less insulting those those who are only a little bit racist or sexist?  Nope.

A bigot is someone who is intolerant of those whose ideas differ from their own, most often with regards to religion, race or politics.  When you attack or victimize someone who differs from you, you’re being a bigot.  That the attack is passive (displaying something offensive towards another group in a public forum) rather than active is irrelevant.

It’s the degree that is the problem.  Intolerance is such a malleable term.  Some people will observe a disagreement or heated discussion and accuse one or both of the parties of being intolerant.  If any degree of intolerance could be equated to bigotry, nobody would be able to say anything negative to anyone else, and that would be a terrible world to live in.

For my purposes, the line is when you say or do something that would be generally offensive to a mixed group of people you didn’t know in the real world.

A Big Thanks

Wednesday post! I’m breaking my own rules. This isn’t a proper post per se, but I did want to take a moment to thank people for all the feedback on my last postin a way that wouldn’t get lost if you don’t follow the comments. I am truly grateful for the encouragement, and it’s fired up my drive to write immensely. It’s just what I needed to get my momentum back.

The Six Month Meta Post

As this blog is quickly approaching it’s six-month anniversary1, I hope my readers will indulge me in a bit of navel gazing.  I’ve never written about why I write, which given my current circumstances seems as good a thing to talk about as any.

Don’t Repeat Yourself

When I first started writing, I saw this blog as being more of a “greatest rants” page.  I’ve always been one of those prolific forum posters when I’m in a guild, but I frequently found myself repeat things over and over or writing on topics that were of interest to me, but not to anyone else (at least, not at the time).  Often, I’d write a brilliant post only to lose it to a forum database crash or leaving the guild and having the article locked behind a login screen.

Rather than lose those posts, I decided to move my writing here and direct people there from the guild forums.  This gave me freedom to write on topics that might be relevant in the future.  From January through April of 2009 I wrote ten articles or so.  All this time I was raiding, first in a small 10 man guild that fell apart in March and subsequently in a 25 man guild that turned into a 10 man guild due to some poor choices on the part of the leadership.

After I left the second guild, I committed to starting a raiding guild, for reasons I’ve gone into in previous articles.  As part of the planning for that, I thought about the ways in which guilds I’d been in had failed in the past.  The common thread seemed to be that the members didn’t really understand what the guild leadership was thinking about – what direction they wanted the guild to go in, what concerns they had, what policies they were considering implementing or changing.  Over time, the collective vision of the members and the vision of the leadership diverged and people started to leave.  One day you cross this vague line where people don’t think the guild has a future, leading to the inevitable downsizing or demise.

I also knew that I have some very strong and polarizing ideas on how a guild should be run.  One thing I didn’t want to do was try to get people involved in a new guild only to find that they didn’t agree with my vision.  So I decided to focus my writing on guild management topics, getting all my ideas written down so that I could say “go read those articles, and if you don’t think I’m a loon when done, you’re welcome to join the guild”.

The Girlfriend Card

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I’m a proponent of fair policies that apply to everyone, regardless of guild rank.  So what do you do when a member asks for another member to be given special treatment by virtue of who else they know in the guild?

I hope that everyone realizes that I’m not specifically talking about the girlfriends of male gamers – the title is both sensationalist and a literal quote that came up with an old friend from the US realms

did you hear about _blank_?  She played the girlfriend card and got kicked for it.

In this case, it was the girlfriend of an officer (who was himself an in-law of the to the guild leader) who pushed for a raid spot without meeting the performance requirements.  The situation blew up and she was kicked (or asked to leave depending on who you ask).

This is always a touchy topic because someone is bound to take offence with it.  Lodur of World of Matticus saw a fair amount of backlash for his article on guild egoists, which left me wary of revisiting the same subject.  It was Gravity’s recent article on relationships that pushed me to re-open this draft and look at it from from another angle: the translation of real life relationships into the gaming world.

OMG Sexist

Not exactly.  The actors in this play can be anyone who know each other in real life.  Personally, I’ve been witness to more instances of “the husband card” than “the girlfriend card”.

Guys who seek to gain from their relationships in-guild seem to be subject to less scrutiny and fewer accusations of causing drama than their female counterparts, even though the motivation and actions are often indistinguishable.  This is unfair, but representative of larger societal issues that I’m not going to get into in this article.

I doubt anyone who has experienced relationship fuelled drama in game has seen it often enough to make any statistically value conclusions.  Nor am I aware of any scientific studies that have looked at this specifically in WoW.  Everything from here on in is my opinion.  I’m just going to refer to a “couple” from here on in rather than choose to bounce back and forth between gender pronouns.  Could be a spouses, partners, friends – the points herein apply to all to one degree or another.

If You Can’t Make Old Content Relevant, at Least Make it Profitable

By now the news has done the roundsthat new weekly raid quests will be added in patch 3.3 that reward 10 Emblems of Frost. This is the next tier of emblems that will drop from bosses in Icecrown Citadel (and presumably the tri-wing heroic 5 man if Trial of the Champion is any indicator). These quests will take us inside (but not too far inside) any of the WotLK raid instances:

Turning Bads into Goods

When starting a new raiding guild, you’re eventually going to hit that chasm between the 10 and 25 person roster sizes. Staying above 13 and below 22 active raiding members for too long can be dangerous – you can’t offer everyone a spot every raid, you can’t run two 10 person teams, and you can’t do 25 person raids without bringing in a few PUGs. If you don’t push through quickly enough, you risk losing members and being forever stuck as a 10 person guild.

Do All Guilds Suck?

When I first chose the name Cold Comfort (the idea for the guild predates this blog by more than a year), I had just left a guild I was an officer in after a falling out with the guild leader. Things had been rough in the guild for a while. Combined with the pain of leaving, I came up with the tag line “All Guilds Suck. We Suck Less” for Cold Comfort.

Wall of Text Crits you for Over 9000

Here’s what I’m trying to do: I don’t want to start recruiting for Cold Comfort until I’ve got a full website / forum / etc. set up and ready to go.  If you go back through my archives, you’ll see that I’m big on clear and understandable policies, so recently I’ve been working on the guild charter and loot policy.  The problem is that I can be a bit … wordy … at times.   I don’t consider this to be a bad thing – I have a tremendous respect for the written word and I’d like to think that I do a pretty good job getting my point across without resorting to text or l33t speak.  Written communications used to be much longer than the sub-1000 word blips we take for granted in our RSS readers today.

Powerpoint Makes You Dumb

The problem is that not many people like reading through walls of text.  They want the three bullet point powerpoint slide version that gives them succinct detail without requiring an attention span beyond that of a gopher on crack.  Not anyone who reads this blog, surely – but I can’t assume that the people who will be interested in joining Cold Comfort the guild will be of a similar mind as the readers of Cold Comfort the blog.

I can’t just put up the bullet point version though, because while it may be quick to read, it sacrifices detail that may one day be needed.  I can explain how EP/GP will work in the guild in a few sentences and link to the wiki, but the moment a wierd situation comes up, more detail will be required.  Do people have lower priority on pieces that are of a lesser armor class?  What if the community considers them to be best-in-slot despite that?  How do we deal with legendary items?  Is there standby EP?  Are there EP penalties?  What about trial members?  And on it goes.

Reboot

When I returned to my EU toons from my summer break on the US realms, I felt a strange disconnection from the people I used to play with. It may have only been four months since I was last actively raiding there, but so much had changed. My most recent guild had folded, the GM packed off for some other server, and most of the people from it had formed a new guild which was now quite a bit bigger than the previous one had ever been during the time I was a member.

Policy Transparency

For the sake of this article, let’s set aside a few things that I’ve written in the past that might suggest that full transparency is not a good idea.  You’ve decided that it is, and now you need to know what that decision entails for you.

What is Transparency?

I’ll crib from the Wikipedia page, which states that transparency (in a social context) implies openness, communication and accountability.  Looking at the related pages on open government and radical transparency, public scrutiny and oversight are also mentioned.

Transparency in the context of a MMO guild is conducting the guild’s business such that:

  • the way decisions will be made is published for the members to see
  • details of specific decisions made are published for members to see
  • members have the right to ask for more detail on a specific decisions
  • the guild leadership is responsible to follow the rules they have laid down for themselves

Let’s explore each in turn.

Cataclysm: Final Thoughts

This is a series of articles on the changes coming in WoW: Cataclysm as they relate to guild management and leadership. See the other articles in the series: overview, part 1, part 2, part 3and reforging links. Articles in the series will be published every Mon and Thursday from Aug 27th through September 14th. Having now gone through the changes in detail and speculated about the reason for these changes, I wanted to give my overall impressions of everything related to Cataclysm that we learned from Blizzcon.

Cataclysm: Reforging Your Link to your Guild

This is a series of articles on the changes coming in WoW: Cataclysm as they relate to guild management and leadership. See the other articles in the series: overview, part 1, part 2, part 3and final thoughts. Articles in the series will be published every Mon and Thursday from Aug 27th through September 14th. Now that we’ve gone through all of the changes that will affect your guild in Cataclysm, I’d like to talk about the motivation for these changes.

Guild Changes in Cataclysm: Part 3

This is a series of articles on the changes coming in WoW: Cataclysm as they relate to guild management and leadership. See the other articles in the series: overview, part 1, part 2, reforging linksand final thoughts. Articles in the series will be published every Mon and Thursday from Aug 27th through September 14th. Reforging and Its Impact on Loot Distribution Ghostcrawler likened reforging to an enchant whose description reads “Converts Spirit into 50% equivalent hit rating on [cloth] gloves”.

Guild Changes in Cataclysm: Part 2

This is a series of articles on the changes coming in WoW: Cataclysm as they relate to guild management and leadership. See the other articles in the series: overview, part 1, part 3, reforging linksand final thoughts. Articles in the series will be published every Mon and Thursday from Aug 27th through September 14th. Guild Profession Recipes One of the things you can purchase with guild currency are guild-bound profession recipes.

Guild Changes in Cataclysm: Part 1

This is a series of articles on the changes coming in WoW: Cataclysm as they relate to guild management and leadership. See the other articles in the series: overview, part 2, part 3, reforging linksand final thoughts. Articles in the series will be published every Mon and Thursday from Aug 27th through September 14th. Let’s start going into depth: Guild Levelling Guilds will level from 1 to 20 (and presumably beyond in future expansions) as their members perform “activities that they do anyway”.

Guild Changes in Cataclysm: Overview

By now most of you have hopefully had a chance to absorb the bulk of the changes announced at Blizzcon 2009.  In keeping with the focus of this site I won’t be getting into much (if any) of the class or mechanics changes.  What I do want to go into more depth on are all the changes that will affect guilds and guild leadership.

The list of changes truly is massive.  Rather than try to get everything into one post, I’m going to publish an overview of the changes and then go into further detail on the impact of each in subsequent articles.  With luck, that will completely hide the fact that I’m on holiday for two weeks and have essentially turned what would have been a 5000 word wall of text into six bite-sized chunks.

First, I’ll go over the changes in brief.  Then we’ll cover each in a bit more detail and finally examine what we think are Blizzard’s goals of these changes.

75k Gold in Three Months

I’ve written in the past about the lengths I go to do complete each of my characters. Part of that is just my personality, but there are some serious financial benefits to my approach. I didn’t realize quite how much until I sat down to add up how much gold I had earned and spent while leveling all of my characters from 70 to 80 on the US realms over the summer.

Is WoW Too Easy, or Are We Too Lazy?

WoW’s getting too easy

You just get handed epics, you don’t have to work for them

Noobs who have no skillz have full tier 9

If you visit the official WoW forums (or indeed many other WoW-related forums), these types of complaints will be familiar to you.  The vocal minority claims that because raiding is easier, the hard work that they put in “back in my day” is somehow made worthless.

Raiding is not as difficult in WotLK as it was in TBC, which was in turn easier than in Vanilla WoW.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  People who clamour for the days of old either aren’t remembering everything that went into a successful raiding guild in vanilla or were never there in the first place.  It would not surprise me at all if the commonly claim that only 5-10% of players ever saw the high end raid dungeons was accurate.

The goal behind making things “easier” is to get more people to experience raiding, and to see the work that the Blizzard encounter and art teams put so much work into.  To do that, you have to bring the complexity down.  Can you imaging trying to run a casual guild or PUG through a fight like Chromaggus, with the required healing teams and carefully timed heal/regen cycles?  Impossible.

I Want To Trust You, But I Don’t

Reading over some of my older posts, I’m struck by a pattern in my advice.

I tend to describe the ideal situation, the way I would love things to be.  Usually these ideal situations require the active, rational participation of all members of the guild or raid team to make them come about.  Then I say “but because that will never happen, here’s what you should do instead”.

The subtitle of this blog is “Rational Cynicism in the World of Warcraft”, which was, I suppose, my way of admitting that I’m a pessimist when it comes to the the majority of people I play the game with.  There are always exceptions, and I’ve been lucky to be in a few guilds where there were more people who I could count on than I could not.  Generally though, I don’t tend to get into PUG groups expecting to be blown away by their level of insight or skill.

Much of this comes from deep psychological issues.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m similar in my dealings with people in real life.  A friend at work who is of a similar disposition says “I’m not a pessimist, I’m an optimist.  I start every day thinking that things are going to get better, and every day I’m disappointed”.  That pretty much sums up my experiences in WoW.  I want my gaming experience to be with a group of rational people who push themselves to excel and think of the group before themselves.  I just haven’t been able to find a large group of people who fit that description.

Interviewing Applicants

How do you interview potential guild members?  Do you have a trial period?  How do you measure performance during raids?  What (if anything) can a trial member do to shorten their trial period if they prove exceptional?  What if they prove to be a waste of time?  What about the ones you’re not sure about?  Do you offer an extended trial if you just aren’t sure about someone?

Every guild has different answers for these questions.  Some have very strict procedures while others take a more laid-back approach.  Each has their pros and cons.  Today I’d like to talk about some of the different recruiting and interviewing styles I’ve used in the past.

The Trial Period

The first thing to decide is whether you have a formal trial period or not.  Guilds tend to break one of three ways here:

  • a defined trial period lasting one week to a one month
  • an undefined trial period, where the trial is made a proper member or booted whenever the guild feels that they’ve gotten a feel for the applicant
  • no trial period – you’re brought in as a member right away

The last of these tends to be used in one of two ways: by guilds that are desperate for members and don’t want to discourage people by forcing them to go through a waiting period, and guilds that have strict discipline where you can be booted for non-performance or other issues regardless of how long you’ve been around.

My preference is a short defined trial period (ten days or two weeks) combined with a strong suggestion that trial members try to do as much with the guild in that time.  If you only raid three nights a week, having a trial log on for just those raids and logging off immediately after isn’t going to allow for you get a feel for them, or vice versa.  Make sure that everyone understands that at the end of the trial period, people are either in or out.  If you feel that you might need to extend trials, write that into your policies and do it in properly sized chunks (one week at a time for example).  Don’t let a trial applicant linger without a defined date, because people will get fed up of hanging around waiting for you to make up your mind.

The Appearance of the Repeating Clique

What do you do when groups of your guild members form a clique?

This is one of those difficult situations for guild leaders to manage, because it’s often difficult to see cliques forming, and by the time they have, you’re in a position where any action taken is multiplied by the size of the clique.

It isn’t my intent to suggest that there should be no social aspects to a raiding guild, or that recruiting members who know each other should be discouraged.   My intent is to help guild leaders be aware of the potential pitfalls when your guild is made up not of 15 to 40 individual raiders, but 5 to 10 groups of raiders who will act in unison.

The Gaelic Brigade and the Fall of the Clan

All me to illustrate with an example from the last guild I was a member of.  When I joined, you’d frequently see reference to “the Gaelic Brigade” (the name has been changed) in guild chat.  To someone unfamiliar with the situation, you’d think that it was another guild on the server that we were allied with.  The reality was that nearly half the guild was made up of members who all spoke the same language and operated almost as a guild within the guild.  They’d run 5 man groups and 10 man raids together, though if you didn’t know who was a part of the clique and who wasn’t, you might never realize that this was going on.

We started 25-man Uludar two days after patch 3.1 was released.  As with many guilds, we plowed through Flame Leviathan, but had some serious problems with the other bosses in the siege, especially XT-002 (who has been nerfed four times since I believe).   Everyone probably went through two full repair cycles for a couple of nights, and morale was low.  The next time we had a raid scheduled, we found that the members of the brigade were already in Ulduar running a 10 man group “because they were tired of wiping”.  This left us unable to do 25 man that night, and more than a few unkind words were exchanged in guild chat – nobody was very pleased that this sub-group had killed our heroic raid.

The next night, the brigade didn’t run 10 man Ulduar, but refused to join the scheduled 25 man run.  The night after that, the officers got together and booted the entire clique from the guild, decimating our ranks.  The guild has never really recovered – more than half the core raiders left in the next week, and while they have built back up to heroic raiding strength over the last four months, they haven’t downed the keepers on heroic yet (we were up to General Vezax on 10 man when I left).

Gear Grinding

No, not gear as in loot.  I just haven’t had a good rant post in a while, and was inspired by a recent re-run of Family Guy.

I hate PUGs.  Really, truly despise them, more so in the summer months when the ruddy little spawn get out of school and infest the servers.  Playing on my old US server with a +6 hour offset means that I’m unable to group with my old guilds, so I don’t have much choice but to run with PUGs for the most part.

I was organizing my screenshots directory recently, throwing away much of the cruft, but keeping the evidence from a few of the more amusing and depressing runs I’ve been in in my day.  Here are a few of the best, plus a few general gripes that I unfortunately (fortunately?) have no screencap evidence for.

How I DualBox

It seems that in the last year or so, the profile of multiboxing has increased dramatically.  Much of this is due to the Recruit-A-Friend program, which many people (myself included) have used as a quick method to level up multiple alts.  Even a relatively casual dualboxer (if there is such a thing) can level up anywhere from two to six characters to level 60 in the three months that R-A-F offers triple experience gain.  A hardcore multiboxer can do much more.  Wow.com’s Turpster set himself the goal of having at least a level 60 of every class using Recruit-A-Friend and posted some useful tips on how to set up a system for multiboxing.

I have fifteen characters spread between US and EU realms, and while I did use Recruit-A-Friend, only two characters were leveled up using the triple XP bonus.  I started dualboxing in the fall of 2006, long before R-A-F came out, and though I have upgraded my equipment in the years since, my basic setup really hasn’t changed much.

Most multiboxing setups that I read about these days involve two things that are not present in my rig: running two copies of WoW on one PC and keyboard/mouse cloning.  When I first started, the machines I was using were far from being capable of running two copies of WoW at the same time.  My old eMac was be hard-pressed to run even one copy at times.    Even though I now have hardware that could run four or five copies of WoW before it fell over, I still run two separate computers.  Strange, but true.  Instead of a network-based keyboard and mouse sync utility, I use two separate keyboards or keypads.

Unlike some of the recent blogs I’ve read on the subject, I don’t run multiples of the same class.   Doing so vastly simplifies things, as you just end up hitting things harder than if you played solo, but it doesn’t feel very active to me.  You aren’t using the synergy of two characters to benefit each other – you’re just overpowering the competition.   I actively play two different characters at once.  I really feel like I am a party unto myself, instead of a solo player with a permanent quad-damage buff.

Since my setup seems to be different (or anachronistic depending on how long you’ve been dualboxing yourself) than some of the setups being promoted, I thought I’d take the time to explain what I use from a hardware and macro perspective.

Stuck Up Officers

I was reading the latest Officer’s Quarters on wow.com recently, and was struck by this question that the author posed:

Is every conversation among the officers, even those having nothing to do with guild business, held in /o chat instead of /g?

In many of my previous articles, I’ve talked about keeping the lines of communication open.  But I hadn’t really thought about how guilty I’ve been of having most of my conversations in-game be in the officer channel.

I assume that most guild leaders tend to get along with their officers (even if the officers don’t always get along with each other).  Perhaps they are friends, perhaps they’re just people who are “better” at the game (by whatever metric you want to use) than other members.  Perhaps they’re just people who laugh at your corny jokes.

The trap lays in thinking of your officers as your inner circle of friends, and having most of your conversations in the officer channel instead of in guild chat.  It’s an easy trap to fall into, and a hard one to break out of.  You might not even realize how damaging it can be until you spend some time only able to see guild chat and realize how dead it is, even when several of the guild leadership are online.

Breaking Up a Guild Bank

I’ve mentioned in a few past articles about choosing to disband or close up a guild when the needs of the members can no longer be met.

When this happened to the guild I started WotLK with, we had to decide how to distribute the contents of the guild bank.  You hear horror stories about this from time to time, and I thought it would be useful to share the method that we used to distribute the guild’s wealth evenly.

Clearing Out the Trash

Most guilds end up with a lot of useless items in their guild banks over time.  Nobody wants them, they aren’t useful for raids, but they won’t sell on the AH.  Things like the Gnomish Army Knife that engineers have to make en masse while leveling and low-level tradeskill mats.  If you have a free-for-all guild bank tab, you can just move all these items there and leave them out of the valuation step.  You could also vendor them and distribute the gold (even if it may be a paltry sum).

You can also choose to disenchant BoE gear that may be lying around so that it can be distributed as shards, dust or essence.  Though it seems counter-intuitive, leaving BoE gear for direct distribution can make things difficult, as they can pack quite a bit of worth into a single item.  If the items have a particularly high value, consider selling them on the AH and adding the proceeds to the gold balance for later distribution.

Motivation to Raid

What motivates you to raid?

In my years playing, I’ve seen many answers to this question that tend to boil down to one of the following:

  • for loot to be able to take on harder content
  • for loot to PvP with
  • strictly for the challenge of beating content
  • to play with friends

Ask me, and I’d say I fall  into the first category.  I don’t PvP, and I want to experience all the content the game has to offer.  But unlike many people, I am happy to continue running content with my guild so long as we keep on challenging ourselves.

Of course, the question isn’t really complete, nor are the answers of much use to a guild leader.  It doesn’t take much skill to get a group of people together to progress through a raid instance and take down the final boss.  What you really want to ask is “What motivates you to keep raiding after you’ve achieved the superficial goal that was your first answer?”.  What drives your raiders to go back in and keep killing bosses after you have the loot you want?

The second question will illicit a multitude of responses from people, and those responses will tell you far more about the person.  As a guild leader, you owe it to yourself and to your guild to understand what motivates your raiders to raid.

Alliance vs Horde Lore in Northrend

I’m not sure whether Blizzard has different quest designers working on the Alliance and Horde quest lines, but sometimes it seems as though one side has been given more care and attention than the other.

Back in the days of Vanilla WoW, the quest line that differentiated the sides the most was that to become attuned to Onyxia’s Lair.  This was a massive chain on both sides, invoking both excitement and fear.  One of my guilds instantly gkicked anyone who mentioned the quest Jail Break!, usually with a quick re-invite…. usually.

Having completed both the Alliance and Horde versions of the chain, it always felt as though the alliance side was more epic, due mainly to the climactic march through Stormwind and the final unmasking of Lady Katrana Prestor as Onyxia.  While the Horde version was just as hard (if not harder, as it required you to complete about half of UBRS in a 5 man group, which wasn’t a walk in the park at the time), it didn’t feel as “special” to me.  Though I have nothing to substantiate it, my memories of the time say that I wasn’t alone in this position.

In TBC, it seems like the pendulum swung back the other way with the Hero of the Mag’har chain.  If you never played Horde in TBC and have always wondered why Thrall was appearing in Nagrand, you missed out on what was to that point one of the best in-game events, re-creating the cinematic from Warcraft III in which Grom Hellscream defeats Mannoroth.  Perhaps Blizzard shared the above opinion and was giving Horde some love to apologize.

Now we come to WotLK and Northrend.  Having recently completed Loremaster of Northrend on one of my Alliance characters, I’m sad to say that while the Lore seems to be balanced between sides a little better than it was in Vanilla, Alliance get a more epic experience while leveling than Horde do.  Let’s go through the zones and examine why.

How the Roster Has Changed

I’ve been a member of five guilds since I started playing WoW in the fall of 2005.  Of those, three are still around, and for the most part I am still in contact with some of the members I used to play with.

I’ve been playing on the EU realms since I moved to England in early 2008, but recently took the opportunity to re-activate my US accounts and level the characters I left behind from 70 to 80.  I had characters on both the Alliance and Horde, and one of the first things I did was check out the guild rosters on the armory to see who was still around.

To my (in retrospect unwarranted) surprise, I recognized less than 10% of the current membership.  Even the guild that I’d left only 15 months before had changed radically, with only a few of the leaders from my time remaining.  These were not fly-by-night operations either: both were #1 or #2 in progression on their realm and faction.

Even in the course of leveling, I only ran into two or three people whose names I recognized in Dalaran or PUG groups.

Next time you log in, take a look at your guild roster.  How many of those people will still be there in 3 months?  6 months?  A year?  Does that concern you, or not at all?

WoW is a dynamic game, in content and playerbase.  While the subscription numbers have been steady in the 11-million-odd range for the last half year, I don’t think we always appreciate how much the population of a realm is in flux.  People start playing, retire, and server transfer to or from your realm each and every day.  This naturally affects guilds; the degree to which it affects yours is not entirely in your control, but there are some lessons for guild leaders in the knowledge.

Foresight

WoW is in a double-lull right now.  Not only is it summertime, with all the attendance issues that this time of year brings, but we’re at the point where juicy information about the next content patch is being dangled in front of us.

If your guild started running Ulduar right when patch 3.1 came out, you should have Yogg down by now at least, if not working on and hopefully completing a few hard modes.  Perhaps attendance issues have slowed down your progression, or stopped it entirely.

Regardless of where your guild may be in the 3.1 content, now is the time to put on your thinking cap and think about how 3.2 is going to affect your guild.  While the raid content being added may be smaller than Ulduar offered, there are a number of important changes that will have an impact on your members and your guild.  Having a plan in place early can help you retain current members and attract new ones over the summer months.

What Completes You?

I am a hopeless completionist.  I admit this freely.

When I start a character, I am driven by an irrational need to “complete” that character before I shelve it.  Even if I don’t particularly enjoy the playstyle or talents of a given class, once I’ve committed myself, I know I won’t stop until that character is complete.  By the mid-60s I may already know that the character doesn’t stand a chance of becoming my new main, but that doesn’t stop me.

But what is “complete”?  For my WotLK characters, that includes:

  • Level 80
  • Loremaster of Northrend
  • Epic flying
  • Crafting skills to 440
  • Gathering skills to 450
  • Honoured with Sons of Hodir
  • A champion of my home city in the Argent Tournament

Basically, I want to know that if I came back to this character after a long break, I’d be comfortable picking it up and making it my new main without having an arduous leveling process ahead of me.

I did this with my US characters – when I left for the EU they were mostly at the TBC equivalents of the above criteria.  When I decided to come back and level them up, it wasn’t terribly difficult to do.

The additional cash outlay required for WotLK is pretty small (1000g for cold weather flying), and easily earned while leveling, so I didn’t feel like I had that much of a grind for any given character.  You can get Sons of Hodir to honoured in 6 days of dailies, and it only takes 7 days to become a champion at the tournament.  With my play schedule, it takes at least a week of daily play to get from 77 (when most of these open up) to 80, so I never reach a point where I am only doing dailies.  I just tack each on to the start and end of my playtime so that it doesn’t feel that much like work.

I know that many readers (well, the theoretical “many” readers, as there are all of two subscribers to this blog) will read the above and think that it looks more like a checklist for a main character.  But as I said, I’m a hopeless completionist.  You don’t want to see what lengths I go to on my main.

But I Don’t *Want* Another Toon!

It’s just hit me that despite my best attempts to curb the trend, I have to roll at least one more character on both the US and EU realms in preparation for the next expansion.

I am an admitted alt-o-holic.  But for me, it a bit different.  Other people I talk to say that they have multiple alts to experience different server types, to play with friends on other realms, or just to try out various classes in a fresh environment.

Me?  I roll alts to build a tradeskill empire.

I’m a completionist, at least when it comes to tradeskills.  I am obsessed with the idea of never having to rely on anyone else for tradeskill services.  I may not have every pattern for every tradeskill, but I do have the ability to get those patterns if I put the time into it.

This may be a strange attitude to take in a game with a well-developed economy and auction house system, but that’s just the way I oplay the game.  I want to have a max-level character in every profession under my control.  And I’ve achieved that.  On my EU realm, I have every tradeskill at 450 between six characters.  On the US realms, I had all professions at 375 when I moved to the EU, and now that I’m back to leveling those characters, I expect to have 450 in every tradeskill by summer’s end.

The problem is – what do I do when the new expansion comes out?

Gearing Up A New Guild in Patch 3.2

The recent news about everything from heroics through Ulduar dropping emblems of Conquest once patch 3.2 hits has put a completely new spin on my idea to launch Cold Comfort.

The attempts to get CC going on my old EU realm didn’t really pan out – there were about six or seven guilds attempting to recruit at once, and just not enough qualified players to fill that many heroic guilds.  Rather than fight upstream against that kind of competition, I decided to go back and level up the nine characters I left on the US realms when I moved to England.  At the rate I’m going, I should have all of them to 80 by the end of the summer.  That will be 15 level 80s across four accounts.  Perhaps I should re-evaluate things?

In any case, the plan was to get those characters to 80 to ease the task of getting back into WoW if I ever moved back to North America, but to relocate to a higher population EU server and try to build Cold Comfort up.  The problem was what gear level to require applicants to have?  My intent had been to not invite anyone who had an average iLevel of gear below 200 epic.  So if you’d been running heroics for a month or so and had pugged Naxx-25 a couple of times, you’d probably be set.  I selected this level because I didn’t want to bring in freshly dinged 80s and have to spend weeks gearing them up in heroics to move to Naxx-10, to move to Naxx-25 and then on to Ulduar.

Loot Collusion in Raids after 3.2

The patch notes for the 3.2 PTR don’t mention it yet, but one of the changes discovered by PTR players is that you can now trade BoP items won to other members who were also eligible to receive that loot for a short period of time after receiving the item.

This change is obviously designed to reduce the number of GM petitions asking for mis-looted items to be sent to another member of the raid.  I guess I didn’t realize just how many of these must be requested every day.  I’ve only ever filled them out when there was a legitimate mistake in looting – an incorrect click by a master looter for example.  In my last guild, they were filing them all the time.  It wasn’t that the master looter was bad, it was that people would pipe up after loot had been distributed saying things like “well, that was more of an upgrade for me”.  The ML would concur, and file a ticket.  Personally, I don’t like this practice, as it makes people less responsible for their actions.  If you want loot, you should declare on it immediately.  If there’s a discussion to be had about who deserves the loot more, have that in /raid once all the interested parties have been identified.  Yet I digress.

While this change sounds great from the outset, I’m a bit concerned that it may lead to loot collusion, regardless of the loot system a guild uses.

The Underdog Guild

Time and time again, I seem to find myself joining up with the underdog guild on a realm.  When I reach 80 or server transfer onto a realm, I try to stay unguilded for a while, running instances to the best of my ability to get a feel for the various guilds who are raiding.  By inspecting party members and watching how they play, you can get a pretty good feel for who knows what they’re doing and who doesn’t, regardless of what a guild may put in their recruitment message or on their website.

It doesn’t take long to figure out who the “top” guild on the server is.  There’s always one per faction, sometimes two.  And then there’s the underdog.  The guild made up of solid players who for various reasons aren’t at the bleeding edge of progression on the realm, but who have all the right qualities to be the top guild.

And for some reason, I prefer to run with guilds of this sort, even though my experience and schedule more than qualify me to app to one of the “top” guilds.

Why?

FFS, You’ve Been Trained for This!

I’ve only had the opportunity to do General Vezax once, and only a few attempts at that.  Most of those attempts consisted of yelling at ranged members of the raid to avoid shadow crash.

This wasn’t overzealous DPS trying to jump into the resultant puddles.  It was people not paying attention to the world around them.  Having raided extensively as a healer, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of “playing the UI” – focusing on a small section of raid frames to the exclusion of all else.  I can’t quite grok what was occupying the attention of the ranged DPS, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to make.

FFS, you’ve been trained for this!

Guild Ranks and Controls

Rank Graphic

Today, I’d like to offer some practical advice for new guild leaders on how to set up your ranks and controls before you start inviting members.

To Officer or Not To Officer?

Before trying to answer that question, you first have to ask yourself what the job of officer entails for you. An officer can be anything from an assistant who handles invites when you’re not around to a co-guild leader in all but name to a useless sycophant on a power trip. I’ll not address the last variant for obvious reasons, so let’s take a look at what an officer might be responsible for.

Abusing the Armory

Over time these cries died down and the armory became a part of everyday WoW life. Numerous sites use the armory for data (like WowJutsu and Wow Heroes). Even the simple task of asking for feedback on your gear and spec choices is made simple through the site. I can’t imagine not having access to this kind of info when I PUG difficult instances, nor could I imagine trying to recruit for a guild without it.

Putting your Guild Leader on a Pedestal

Being a guild leader isn’t an easy job. It’s often a thankless dance trying to keep the peace between warring individuals or factions, and the best result you can hope for at the end of the day is that nobody’sready to quit, at least until morning. It takes a special breed of person to do this job day in and day out. Often, a guild leader ends up taking on more than they should for various reasons – perhaps they can’t find active officers, or they don’t trust anyone else to do the job the way they want it done.

I’m Quitting If They Don’t Fix Paladins

Without fail, I know that there will be a storm of outrage from people, many of who threaten to quit playing WoW if Blizzard goes through with the change. I just don’t get it. WoW is a dynamic game. It’s not the same game I started playing back at patch 1.7, nor do I want it to be. Overall, I enjoy the game today as much if not more than I did when I first started playing.

The Myths of Account Sharing

The issue of account sharing has always bothered me, for several reasons:

  • on principle, I don’t like people who feel they can ignore some clauses of the ToS because they don’t agree with them.  If you choose to blast through the ToS and EULA, that’s your business, but don’t then claim that you only agreed to half of the contract
  • as anonymous as WoW is, when I get to know someone, I expect that I’m talking to that person when I whisper them.  I don’t want to wonder if when I whisper someone I’ll get back a response that I’ve inadvertently said something to their brother / girlfriend / mate from university
  • most importantly, if you are able to share accounts, you aren’t using an authenticator.  That means that your account is more susceptible to being compromised than it should be.  If you’re in a position of added responsibility (guild officer, etc.) this means that you’re exposing the guild to more risk than is necessary

When I find out that someone in my guild is account sharing, I typically confront them about it.  The excuses that I hear back from people are usually amusing, but not once have they been legitimate.  Here, I attempt to dispell some of the common myths and excuses about account sharing.

Fear of Heroics

Fear

The typical PvE progression path upon reaching level 80 is to jump into heroics.  Whenever I’ve done this, there’s a period of intense fear while I move from normal instances to heroic ones.

Part of the problem is the ease of raiding in WotLK, specifically the ease of getting tier 7.  If you’re in a guild regularly running Naxx, you can be boosted up from mostly iLevel 174 or 187 blues to nearly full iLevel 200 epics in a couple of weeks.  Even after one run through Naxx with a guild that isn’t just starting, you can probably jump into heroics without much fear of your gear letting you down.

But if you don’t have a guild running those instances, or if you (like me) don’t tend to burden your guild members with the task of gearing up your alts, things are a bit different.  It’s pretty hard to get groups for the high-level instances in normal mode, so your gear tends to be a mix of iLevel 174 (the stuff you get from HoS, Gun’Drak, and maybe CoS if you’re lucky) and whatever iLevel 200 epics you can craft or purchase from the AH.  With that mix of gear, heroics are really challenging.

It’s Raining EP

If you’ve read my article about EP/GP, you know that one of the benefits of the EP/GP system is that you can award EP pretty freely without corrupting the system.  While the same can be said of merit based (but not zero-sum) DKP systems, the amounts you can award are limited because they represent direct purchasing power within the system.  If you award 10 DKP for a raid, then every 1 DKP you award for a bonus is 10% of the purchasing power that a member gains from a raid.

EP/GP is different because while awarding EP does increase your PR, it doesn’t increase your purchasing power by the same amount.  The actual increase in your purchasing power depends on your GP value as well as the size of the bonus compared to the EP you get in a normal raid.  Because EP/GP allows you to easily use large numbers for EP rewards, this gives you a lot of flexibility in how you award EP bonuses.

/ignore Guildie

Ignore

A long time ago, I was fed up with the verbal diarrhoea that constantly spewed out from the husband of a friend in my guild.  It wasn’t crass, it was just idiotic drivel, and it.never.stopped.

In the end, I had to /ignore him to keep my sanity on that particular raid.  That worked just fine until a few days later, when I wanted to talk to said friend but couldn’t find her online.  I whispered her husband, whose response was promptly blocked by “… is ignoring you”.

Oops

Clarity of Purpose

It is important for a guild to know what it’s purpose is. Are you a casual guild, who only seeks to raid when people happen to be online? Are you a hardcore raiding guild, with strict attendance requirements? Are you something in between? Whatever you choose: know what it is, be able to articulate it, and stick with it. Know What It Is When I am looking for a guild, I tend to do a lot of PUG heroics and raids without a guild tag (even though I have a personal vanity guild).

The Myth of Consensus

Consensus

One of the mistakes I’ve fallen into in the past is assuming that consensus among the members is a vital part of leading a guild.

The question is this: on the whole, do guild members want to be involved in the decision making process?  I want to say the answer is yes, but experience says that I’ve got it wrong.

This is not to say that people don’t care about change, or that they don’t want to be told about changes.  It just seems that people don’t get as invested in the hows of guild leadership as I wish they would.

This started me thinking about whether consensus building is a good idea in a guild or not.

All About EP/GP

This is a slightly edited version of a post about EP/GP that I did for my guild’s forums.  Since I seem to have done this several times in the last few months, I figured I’d post it here so I can point people to it in the future.

EP/GP is a loot distribution system that tries to do the same thing as most DKP systems (fair loot based on effort put out and gear already received), but without all the horrible mucking about with out-of-game DKP websites.

But What If I Hate Reading?

TLDR people: go download this addon: http://wow.curse.com/downloads/wow-addons/details/epgp-dkp-reloaded.aspx so you can see the standings and how much GP items are worth.

TLDR people who can’t be assed to install an addon: do nothing, but don’t whinge if you don’t understand what’s going on come raid time.

For those who want the full scoop, read the rest of this post as well as the EP/GP wiki

No More Drama in my Life

Is such a thing possible? Are people even using the word correctly? I have to assume that when people speak of a guild as being drama free, they’re referring to the third definition here: “a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces”. And further, they aren’t saying that such a state isn’t possible within the guild. This would imply that the leadership maintain an iron-fisted grip upon the membership.

Backlog cleared…

I’ve cleared out all of the old articles I wrote but never published. The goal from here on in is to do 2-3 articles a week consistently. If you want to keep up, follow the blog on twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. Cheers

10 vs 25

One of the things I’m mulling over is whether 10 or 25 man raids make the most sense for Cold Comfort. The benefits are fairly obvious: less people means less management (and less drama, but this is going to be a “drama free guild”, right? *cough*) The downsides are a little more subtle. Depending on what you’re trying to get out of raiding in WoW, 10 man may be perfect for you or forever one step removed from where you want to me.

[LFG] [Foobar:70] LF any Level 70 Raid

noob

I keep seeing this sort of thing in LFG, and I just don’t get it.

I get the obvious motivation behind it – people who have just upgraded to WotLK think that they can get a nice set of tier 4/5/6 that will make their leveling experience in Northrend quicker than using quest-provided greens.

If you’re one of these people, listen up cupcake.  I gots some learning for you.

PUGs and Loot

pug

My opinion on running with out-of-guild members takes two polarized forms, driven mainly by the nature of fair loot distribution among all contributing members of the group.

For anything that does not use the guild’s loot system (EP/GP in this case), PUGs are fine, to be encouraged even.  Running a heroic with four guild members and one PUG has two clear benefits for me:

  • it raises the profile of the guild on the realm, which may result in applications when people move on from their current guild
  • it increases the chance that we’ll run into an unguilded person who would be suitable for recruitment

For anything where loot is distributed by simple need/greed, these benefits outweigh the potential for ending up with a sub-par player who you end up dragging through the instance as if you were 4-manning the place.

However, for anything that uses the guild loot system, all-guild should be your goal.

“My Guild Won’t Let Me”

an interesting post from Fel Fire, a warlock blog that I found via a post on World of Matticus (who also dedicates posts to the topic of Guild Management on a not-too-infrequent basis). Well worth the read: http://felfire.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/my-guild-wont-let-me/I agree pretty much across the board with his points (especially the account sharing one). Now, off to subscribe to Fel Fire… n.b. Yes, the felfire article was originally written in January. So was this reference to it, but I decided not to make the blog public at the time for various and sundry reasons.

Casual Schmasual

How many times have you see this type of thing in trade chat or on forums? Several of the guilds I’ve been a member of have described themselves as being “casual raid guilds”. On the surface, this seems like the best of both worlds. You get phat lewtz but you aren’t a no-lifer. It’s too good to be true! I hate to break it to you, but when something seems too good to be true, it often is.

WTB Guild, Paying 180g, PST

Gold Coins

If you ever want to create a guild, get yourself 180g and stand in front of the Org bank.  You’ll be done in a half hour, and then you can kick all the charters and start recruiting real players.

I’ve tried in the past to create vanity guilds, once by offering 1g, then 2g, then 5g as people failed to take me up on my offer, once by asking friends in my current guild to help.  Both methods are excruciatingly painful – it takes hours, you’re constantly worrying that your signees will run off and join other guilds or sign other charters, taking any payment you’ve given them with, etc.  It also leaves behind a trail that will forever link you with the new guild.

On Loot Systems

One thing that I introduced into my current guild that is working quite well is the EP/GP loot system In short, EP/GP measures the effort you put out and the gear you get. Divide EP by GP and you get a number (PR) which ranks members in order of loot priority. The person with the highest priority wins the item (which increases their GP by a value calcuated from the item’s level and slot, which in turn decreases your priority).

Always have a Hidden Alt

Casper

I strongly believe that every serious raider should have a “hidden” alt.  Pack enough hardcore raiders into a virtual room for 10-12 hours per week, and tempers are going to flare.  If that happens often enough, people are going to get to the point where they log off in anger.

The problem is that the type of people who make good hardcore raiders are often the type who play many characters for many hours.  As is often the case, once you’re comfortable in a guild you throw all your alts into it.

What’s in a Name

Cold Comfort: very limited consolation or empathy The idea for the name Cold Comfort came about the last time I had a falling out with a guild master, so it only seemed appropriate to resurrect it here. It still exists on another realm, but only as a vanity domain for my unplayed alts. Like now, the plan was to form a new guild, but this time I was going to do it right.

About

Cold Comfort the blog was originally formed in support of creating Cold Comfort the guild. The guild hasn’t come together yet for various and sundry reasons, but I continue to catalogue my ideas and opionions on guild management and leadership with the occasional rant thrown in for good measure. You won’t tend to find discussion of specific classes or encounters here. There are many blogs out there that cover such topics in finer detail than I could ever hope to.