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
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.
The Standards We Keep
Because we are willing to invest in long-term improvement, the standards by which we measure our guild members need to be higher. The carrot needs to be dangled a bit further in front. You have to give someone a target that they can reasonable meet, but that requires some effort on their part. Doing this forges bonds, which serves the purpose of the guild while also providing benefit to you.
Failing to meet the standards set for guild runs needs to be dealt with directly and constructively. If a DPS is under performing and you've identified rotation or debuff uptime as being the root cause, then after every raid you should be able to congratulate that person on improvement (even if small) or discuss the lack thereof. Hopefully you have trustworthy class leads to take this on for you.
Conversely, the standards for PUG groups need to be lower (though still reasonable), but the tolerance for not meeting those standards is harsher, and more immediate. I just finished a Violet Hold run in which the first boss was Xevozz. Our first tank didn't know that he had to be kited, and even after the first wipe, didn't tell us that they didn't know what "kite" meant. They moved randomly around the large open area on the lower level, resulting in a quick second wipe. Had the "vote kick" feature of 3.3 been implemented, the tank would have been booted, as the rest of the group had little tolerance for this. We all would have been much happier if after the first wipe the tank had said "Sorry, I'm new. Can you explain what you mean by kite?" rather than waste our time running through 5 trash waves to have us discover that they were too embarrassed to admit their inexperience.
Perhaps We're Doing It Wrong
Would WoW be better if we were willing to invest in the long-term improvement of players outside our guilds?
Everyone has to start somewhere. I've written before about the fear of starting heroics, and while the emblem changes in patch 3.2 and the introduction of Trial of the Champion normal has eased the transition from questing to heroics considerably, healers and tanks are still under tremendous pressure when they only have two or three pieces of epic gear. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if most people jump into heroics with a secondary DPS spec (where under performance is less damaging, and slightly more tolerated) in order to get emblems for their main spec. It shouldn't be required - the difficulty of heroics hasn't changed since launch, so the same level of gear I had in December 2008 should be acceptable for a heroic today.
I'm sure most of us have helped a guild member gear up in heroics, and may have even put an under geared guild member in the tank or healing role, knowing that the run may not go as smoothly as with a fully geared group. But when a non-guild player wearing the same gear wants to join your heroic, we reject them as under geared.
You can't tell what the future holds for that inexperienced or under geared person who isn't in your guild. They may be a complete casual, picking up one piece of gear every couple of weeks and running heroics forever. Or they may be a re-roll whose current gear level doesn't qualify them to apply to your guild. In a few weeks or months, they may have the best non-raid gear they can get and be a star performer looking for a guild. Your willingness to invest in the future performance of someone who may not join your guild may be the deciding factor in whether they decide to apply to your guild. People do remember guild names, both those who act poorly and those who act decently.
Sure, you may end up helping someone who will never reach the levels your application process demands, but will it kill you to extend a helping hand from time to time? If someone ends up being a leech, you're going to spot it fairly quickly. You don't have to feel bad about cutting off someone who wants you to boost them through content. A bit more honesty between players in this game would be a good thing: "I'm sorry, I can't help you get all the gear you need in a week, but good luck and if you need a healer and I'm in LFG, feel free to ask".
This willingness to help doesn't have to start at 80. I still find it amazing that there are people coming up through the mid-60s who have never played WoW before. I shouldn't, as I'm helping a friend do just that at the moment, but sometimes I forget just how little of proper technique you learn while leveling and not doing dungeons. If everyone who levels up has to wait until 80 to get advice on how to play their class better, then we shouldn't be surprised if new 80s suck.
Recruiting Is More Than Posting on Forums
I maintain that any raiding guild needs to constantly be in a state of recruitment. Sometimes I think we forget that recruitment isn't just about maintaining forum posts and/or chat channel announcements. It's about finding people that you want to play the game with and who want to play the game with you.
There are plenty of opportunities to help out people in this game. You can help a lowbie through dungeons that you know it's nigh-impossible to get a group for. You can help people out with the various Icecrown group quests; many of them reward the best-in-slot pre-heroic gear available. You can remind people that by doing all the quest in Dragonblight, they can get some very useful reputation rewards by the time they hit 80. Will it take some of your time away from gathering herbs? Sure. But you might find that someone needs a quick hand with something while you're out doing dailies. You might even find that the mobs the person has to kill for the group quest count towards your dailies.
You're probably not going to get immediate reward out of it. You might never get any reward out of it. But there is a chance, and not a completely remote one, that your small investment of time today will pay dividends tomorrow when that person remembers your kindness, applies to your guild and becomes your next star performer.
Until Next Time