The Magic of Server Transferring Guilds

In the last story, you listened as the budding guild leader had finished a guild merger. Things were looking good for a while. Bosses were going down cleanly. But it wasn’t going to last because the attrition boss reared it’s head again. Something is up with this expansion causing guilds to collapse. My suspicion is that guilds that used to cut it during heroic came to the start conclusion that Mythic just wasn’t in the cards. Players that excelled in heroic suddenly couldn’t execute at the level demanded in Mythic and lacked either the perseverance or general skills to proceed. In any case, my players were beginning to show signs of fatigue and disinterest.

Coasting: To move easily without exerting power or force. In Warcraft, doing the minimum required to defeat a boss simply because you can overpower it easily.

With raiders, it’s apparent that once you reach a point in the tier where enough players are equipped and the content doesn’t pose a suitable challenge anymore, many mechanics can simply be brute forced. Like it or not, players will naturally take the path of least resistance. Why bother structuring all these intricate defensive cooldown rotations when player health has reached the point where it can withstand a major boss attack without casualties? Reluctantly, I began putting those away and giving free reign to the team to revert back to the tried and true strategy: Kill it first before it kills you.

Okay, back to the story of the server transfer. At the rate we were losing players and recruiting them, I did the math in my head. We weren’t going to make it to Hellfire Citadel in patch 6.2. No way in hell. I explained this to a few of my officers and they all agreed that something had to be done because recruiting wasn’t getting us anywhere. A few of my raiders proposed tabling the idea of transferring servers again.

This is a massive decision which can overwhelm even the most seasoned of leaders and cause them to freeze up or stick to the status quo. We’re going to put a pin on this because I want to share a story that helped with the decision process.

Saving Intel

Did you know that Intel used to be both in the memory and microprocessor industry? It was many years ago but it’s true. Except their memory business was absolutely haemorrhaging money.

Former Intel president Andy Grove faced the toughest decision of his career: Whether or not to kill the company’s memory business. Intel originally had been founded on memories. In fact, it used to be the only company that manufactured memory. However, whole companies had started manufacturing and competing in the memory business just before the 1980s. The microprocessor came along later after a small R&D team developed and presented it. They caught a huge break when IBM selected Intel’s processor chip to power their personal computers.

Now you have a company with two major products: Memory and processors. At that time, memory continued to be the primary source of revenue for Intel but they were starting to have problems competing due to the threat of Japanese companies.

“The quality levels attributed to Japanese memories were beyond what we thought possible,” said Grove. “Our first reaction was denial. We vigorously attacked the data.” But they eventually confirmed the claims, said Grove, “We were clearly behind.”

In the ten years between 1978 and 1988, the Japanese companies doubled their market share from 30% to 60%. There were leaders within Intel who wanted to buff their manufacturing. Another group wanted to hedge bets on some new tech that they felt the Japanese wouldn’t be able to compete with. A last group wanted to stick with the strategy of serving these speciality markets.

The debate continued to rage while Intel kept losing more money on the memory business. Grove continued discussing the memory dilemna with Intel’s CEO, Gordon Moore. Then Grove had an epiphany:

I looked out the window at the Ferris Wheel of the Great America amusement park revolving in the distance, then I turned back to Gordon and I asked, “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.” I stared at him, numb, then said, “Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back in, and do it ourselves?”

This “revolving door test” provided a moment of clarity. From the perspective of an outsider, shutting down the memory business was the obvious thing to do. The switch in perspectives—“What would our successors do?”— helped Moore and Grove see the big picture clearly.

It’s called the “revolving door test”. To an outside person looking in with an objective mindset and no ties, killing off the memory business was the correct course of action. Asking — “What would our successors do?” helped the two men see the big picture.

Naturally, many of their colleagues within the company opposed it. But they held firm and the sales team was forced to explain to their customers and clients that Intel would not carry memory anymore.

Of course, one customer said, “It sure took you a long time.”

I’d say Intel has done well since then with a good share of the microprocessor market.

When you’re shopping for a car, you have to consider a number of important factors. You tend to think about the initial cost, the mileage, maintenance, safety, and other features (Bluetooth is a must, in my book). Not only that, each factor might be weighted differently. Safety over maintenance or fuel economy is an example.

But in major decisions, there tends to be the emotional element that’s missing. With the Intel story, Grove’s decision had plenty of information going around and alternative options. It was agonizing because he felt emotionally conflicted. He was torn about the future of the company and the loss that comes with dropping a historical product.

Short-term emotion can seriously affect decision making. Going back to server transferring, there are multiple factors when it comes to choosing servers. The question the GM needs to ask themselves first is, “Is it time to transfer off?”. It’s an agonizing question. Maybe you have history on the server. Perhaps you or your guild are well known to the server or you’ve developed a bit of a reputation. If you’re still conflicted, then the next question to ask yourself is this:

“If it were my best friend’s guild, what would I tell them to do?”

You can actually use that “What would I tell my best friend to do?” question for a personal dilemma. 

A little perspective might be just what you need. Just being detached will help conquer that emotional component.

Once the decision to move has been green lit, now you’re faced with additional factors with server selection.

  • Realm size
  • Faction population and ratio
  • Realm progression
  • Realm type
  • Realm latency
  • Economy

WoW Progress provides a nifty snapshot of realm information. You can glance at the information and use it to figure out what your next move should be. In my case, I wanted a server with a really high and healthy population. On the other hand, I didn’t want it too high either to the point that it affected our capability to login and play. In addition, the server either had to be completely Alliance dominated or PvE. I was sick of potential recruits turning us down because they weren’t down for playing on a PvP server and I wasn’t prepared to go Horde. A server with strong raid progression is a plus because it tells you that there’s enough players on there who take it seriously.

In the end, Kel’thuzad looked like the winner. After our last raid, I started making all the preparations for the transfer. Players were informed of where we were going and what we were doing. I knew that not everyone was going to come with us. Anywhere between 25% to 40% would either not transfer over or quit the game.

All in all, we had about 15 raiders ready to go. But our work still isn’t done. Mythic raiding starts at 20 and we had many slots to fill up. Attrition problems didn’t go away though. We continued to recruit and even though there was a high population of raiders, we had to continue filling in players for group finder and the like. I guess we weren’t the only guild that had the same idea of moving to a more populated realm.

And then the bot banwave hit and our prayers were answered.

 

Case Study: Guild Mergers

Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. There’s no real science behind it. It takes hard work and the desire from everyone to keep things going. If there’s players not interested or coasting along, then it’s highly unlikely that merges will work. Our new core of players has managed to continue raiding and stave off server transferring, for now. The updated roster managed to defeat Blackhand and put us within 5% of defeating Mythic Beastlord.

He’s so close to dropping.

Or rather, he was. Fast forward to present day and we now have half the original roster that defeated Blackhand and that worked on Beastlord. In addition, we’re also on a new server. Just how on earth did we get to that point? I’ll get there in a moment. Let’s talk guild mergers first.

I was approached a few weeks ago by another guild on server with a similar progression to ours. We were working on Blast Furnace and so were they. They opened talks with us first floating the idea of a guild merge because their guild was having difficulty attracting and retaining players (as were we all). I was certainly receptive to the idea and I hopped on to their Mumble channel to just open talks with both their guild leader and raid leader (with one of my officers also in attendance).

In discussions like this, it helps to have at least one other officer around to help cover your bases and remind you on things you might have forgotten. When it comes to merges, you’re looking at combining rosters, philosophies, personalities, and so forth. It’s going to be messy but you have to break it down point by point. This wasn’t my first guild merge and I doubt it’s going to be my last. Here’s a list of important factors to consider:

  • Guild name
  • Guild resources
  • Roster personnel
  • Roster roles
  • Officer positions
  • Loot systems
  • Policy
  • Event scheduling

Our opening discussions were fruitful and we shared the same goals. Their GM suggested we take the weekend to think it through and then meet again the following week for a more in-depth discussion.

Guild Name

With guild names, there are three options: Your name, their name, or an entirely new name. On this, I could not compromise at all. Conquest had been around for nearly 8 years. We had the branding in place with the site and customized apparel. Plus not to mention the endless work when it comes to changing all the various recruiting threads and social media branding. Not only that, we also had a sponsorship arrangement with Enjin. This is your identity. You decide what it’s worth. If your guild is relatively new, it might be worth considering a brand change.

Guild Resources

Resources can be thought of all assets. This doesn’t mean just gold and stuff in the guild bank. This means voice servers, websites, etc. Who provides and assumes the costs of those? Since ours were on the house, it was a no brainer there. I would’ve volunteered to assume the costs otherwise or open up donation coffers to allow anyone to pitch in. We didn’t merge banks though. I felt we had enough resources stock piled that it wasn’t entirely necessary. I suggested that whatever funds that remained could be redistributed to the rest of their guild.

Roster Personnel

This was a harder one. Combined, our roster would shoot up to 32. Who sits and who goes? We opened the door to volunteers who wanted to rest or did not need loot from certain bosses. Our mythic roster would be delayed until after we had another week or two of combined heroic clears under our belt to see how well we worked together. In most guilds, there’s players that you want to cut due to lack of performance but you can’t because of numbers reasons for Mythic. Now the flexibility is there for those kinds of decisions.

Roster roles

As a follow up to the previous point, now it’s time to look at player roles. Raids won’t need four tanks. They’re not going to need 13 healers. How does that get consolidated? For example, with two discipline priests in raid, it means we’d have to change things up because it wasn’t exactly ideal. We could’ve made it work but it wouldn’t be as effective as having a discipline and a holy priest. I volunteered to switch back to holy since I had the gear in place for it. It was a little rusty, but that was nice change from playing discipline for two straight expansions. The rest of the healers would be evaluated accordingly. Tanks were a little harder and I was willing to compromise on both of them and cede tank responsibilities to theirs. Our Death Knight had played DPS before and our Prot Paladin was willing to give it a go. Mind you, since I insisted heavily on retaining our name and branding, I had to be willing to give up something as a show of good faith and this was one of those.

Four tanks will need to be cut to two. 13 healers have to be reduced to 6 (or even less for mythic). Have talks with the players it will affect the most. Be prepared for players to leave or simply stop showing up the moment they realize they’re not as valuable as they were before.

Officer positions

This is the leadership question. We didn’t want too many cooks in the kitchen but we also wanted to ensure that there was fair representation. I discovered that we shared similar leadership structures (A GM, a raid leader, and role officers). I was not in a position where I was willing to give up executive authority as GM and this was one of the points I would not give in on. However, I was absolutely willing to switch raid leaders and change role officers. I was willing to expand it and have secondary role officers as well. I suspect that there were officers who were okay with giving up the responsibility and just being a player again without having to stress over everyone else.

If you’re tired of being a GM or a raid leader, this is your way out in a merge. If things change, you can even step back into the arena after some time away from all those responsibilities. I was prepared to float the idea of a rotating leadership during each month or each tier as another compromise.

Loot systems

Another sticking point is loot distribution. If one guild does EPGP and the other does loot council, then one group’s going to get fried no matter what. If it’s EPGP coming into a loot council dominated system, players are going to be pissed that their EPGP points will be wasted. Loot council players going the other way are going to start with 0. Thankfully, both raid groups utilized loot council so that was not a major sticking point. However, they did use EPGP for attendance tracking and incentive reasons.

I’m actually not sure how to reconcile guilds with completely different loot systems. Not unless the majority of the guild agrees to it. You’re going to naturally lose players in the process anyway.

Policy

If there’s any special rules, this is where it gets discussed. No stabbing on Wednesdays? Immediate benchings on players who trip a mine on Blackhand? No heavy swearing in guild chat? This is where it needs to be brought up. In my case, I said easy on the language on anything in game. I’ve had players banned before who said something they shouldn’t have in Eye of the Storm and they were struck with a 3 day ban which affected our Black Temple progression at the time. I was livid. At the same time though, if they’re in Mumble with their own group or set of friends and as long as no one’s taken exceptional offence, I don’t want to know. Any other forms of disciplinary action would be decided here.

Event scheduling

Do the raid times line up? This is the last thing that needs to make sense for both groups. Our original hours were from 6 – 10 PM Pacific. These guys raided from 630 – 1030 Pacific. I had players on the east coast and I stood firm on the 10 PM end time. But I was willing to be flexible on the start time. To that end, we agreed to proceed to a 630 start instead. Their raid days were on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday whereas we raided our days mid-week from Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. They were more than willing to move Monday to Wednesday which is where our schedule is now.

Aftermath

And that’s it! If both leaderships can come to a mutual agreement on all of the points listed above, welcome to your new merged guild! The work isn’t over yet. The first week or two is going to be a feeling out period. You have to remain extra diligent to minimize perceptions of favortism especially on loot decisions. Keep an open ear to the ground. Continue to stress to new players coming in that you’re always open to strategy change and feedback (and for it to be done in between raids not during raids). We actually picked up some neat alternative strats that made life easier even. Work with players from both sides of the roster. Eventually, you have to stop referring to players coming in as “their guild” and your existing players as “your guild”.

Those guilds no longer exist. You have to drill it in player’s heads that this group is now “our guild”. Us vs them mentality, if it continues, it will gradually eat away at a guild. It’ll be subtle at first. People will blame each other for mistakes or low DPS performance. But these are aspects of the game that everyone needs to work on and it starts with stamping out “us vs them”. A unified front is much stronger than a divided one.

We worked really well together for the first few weeks. The Blast Furnace kill was repeated with the new group. Blackhand was similarly taken down. We even stepped back into Highmaul and defeated Brackenspore. For that month, it seemed like a reinvigorated roster was just what the doctor ordered. Eventually, attrition struck. Some players stopped showing up because with all the players around, they felt their presence was no longer needed or that their position was in jeopardy and didn’t want to bother competing for it. We let a few players go due to personality and motivational conflicts. Soon we reached a point where we were starting to have a hard time fielding a full group for mythic and it was time to revisit the plan to transfer servers.

Ner’zhul, my home for 8 years, was dying.

Anyway, that was a long enough read. Next time, we’ll touch upon server transfers.

The Podcast and the Hearthstone Stream

We won’t be transferring servers after all. After a two-week process, I’ve come to terms with the leadership of another guild on our server and finalized an arrangement for a guild merger. This will be the third one for the guild and it’s infused fresh life into everyone. I’ll have more details about that later in the week with some behind the scenes stuff, thought processes, and all the various factors.

Merging guilds is another topic of discussing in an upcoming show of the Guildmaster’s Podcast, which will be set to debut on March 24. Wil and I have been recording our shows two weeks in advance. The third episode on low negativity and morale was released yesterday. Having that nice buffer in advance helps cushion for any unexpected events that can affect scheduling. So give us a listen!

Speaking of extra projects, in a bid to expand the streaming arsenal of Blizzard Watch, I’ll be on deck Friday nights to stream some Hearthstone game play! My first session went live last Friday and you can watch the recorded stream here. Watch that game with the warrior as it’s a doozy. No one can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like I can!

Raid progression-wise, we’re now back in front of Blackhand. There’s been some internal discussion on the merits of targeting Blackhand versus returning to Highmaul and knocking out some of the mythic bosses there instead. It wouldn’t be something we do regularly, but it’d be nice having those kills under our belt. Plus the difficulty of Brackenspore and Tectus on Mythic has been likened to the difficulty of Blackhand on Heroic (Really?).

Have a terrific week!

Thoughts on the WoW Token: About Time!

No doubt by now you’ll have heard of the new WoW token that’s been introduced by Blizzard. In short, it’s an alternative way to pay for game time with in-game gold. For others like me, it’s an alternate way to acquire in-game gold by buying a token for actual USD and listing it in the Auction House. This was a possibility announced a few months ago during December. I will say though that if you have stock in gold farmers, you should sell and unload that right away. The fact that it’s a safe and secure way for people who wish to exchange is the key takeaway. Gold selling sites are around for a reason: Because there is a demand for in-game currency. There’s lots of players like myself out there who understand that making gold is easy but simply do not have the time or wish to put in the effort to do so and can afford to spend real money instead. Some people have good income and would rather put that hour’s worth of work into 50k gold instead.

Has the world ended? Nah.

Price setting

According to their FAQ:

Q: Why can’t players set their own prices for the WoW Token?
A: The WoW Token feature is designed to facilitate the exchange of gold and game time between players in as secure, convenient, and fair a way as possible, and without making players feel like they’re playing a game with their hard-earned money. Having a set current market price and a straightforward exchange system is the best way to achieve that—you don’t need to worry about whether your Token will sell or not due to being undercut or the market shifting, and everyone receives exactly the amount of gold they were quoted.

Great, so if at the point of sale I’m told the token sells for 50k, then when a buyer comes along, I’ll have received 50k. But does that mean it will actually sell for 50k?

Q: What happens if the price quoted to me is different from what the Token actually sells for?
A: You will always receive the gold amount quoted to you at the time you place a Token up for sale, regardless of what the current price is when the item actually sells.

The token gets listed for 50k but instead the price fluctuates and falls and Joe Highschool ends up buying it for 40k due to the extra supply. Joe pays 40k, but I still receive 50k.

On the other hand, it sounds like it could go the other way around. What if the price trends upward? Maybe there isn’t that much supply to begin with and Joe pays 60k but I get paid out the 50k. Not sure where that extra 10k goes. The nether? No, it looks like it’ll just get taken completely out of circulation. In theory, it should even out.

Blizzard will tell you exactly how much you get for your gold and it’s better this way. There would be severe price differences on various servers if it were unregulated. For example, you could end up paying 100k+ on a smaller server versus 40k+ on a larger realm. It’s preferred to have a set standard of how much gold it will cost for a month of game time regardless of what server you’re playing on. Remember, the price is set regionally (NA, EU, Asia, etc.) instead of by server.

In addition, it would account for the number of gold billionaires out there in existence who could outright control how much tokens cost.

Let’s not forget that tokens are also bind on pickup right after. You can’t buy a token at a low gold price and then turn around flipping it later in a few months when the price climbs. It means tokens cannot be used as investments. That’s the key here. Additionally, you can buy tokens anytime you want but you don’t have to list them right away.

“We think there will be buyers and there will be sellers. It’s not really possible or sensible to be both. When you purchase a token off the shop, there is literally only one thing you can do with it: You can list it on the auction house for sale,” he said. “You can’t use it yourself, you can’t mail it, you can’t give it to a friend, you can’t destroy it. When you buy it off the auction house, the only thing you can do is to consume it, to add 30 days of game time to your account.”

Botters would be crippled. Think they’re going to spend all their hard earned gold on game time that they can’t sell? Gold botting revolves around acquiring in game gold and then selling it for hard currency which people generally won’t buy because it can be legitimately attained from tokens.

Blizzard learned much from the Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House. That largely failed because players could simply cash out their gold into hard currency. That two-way transaction system allowed things like botting to be way more lucrative.

Watcher confirms that the monetary price of a token will never fall below a regular monthly subscription.

Comparison to PLEX and CREDD

Eve Online’s PLEX system operates a little differently:

  • The players set the price, not Blizzard
  • PLEX is tradable even after being sold to players
  • PLEX can be used to pay for several account services (Transfers, other products)
  • There is a dedicated line for people wishing to purchase packages greater than 300 PLEX.

I for one would be quite interested in having tokens be used as a way to pay for account services like server transfers or faction transfers.

Perhaps the best time to buy tokens for maximum return on gold? During the fall when students are slowly making their way back to school. Conversely, I suspect the gold price of tokens will drop during the late spring and summer months as people enjoy this… outside stuff and enjoy the weather.

A couple of years ago (2012), PLEX used to be worth around 600 million Isk (their in game currency). Now it’s sitting just below 800 million. Seems like a bubble just waiting to burst but who knows?

I wonder if PLEXes be used as a form of tax sheltering, heh.

One more thing I’ve found is that it seems the price of a regular subscription to EVE Online is cheaper than the same game time equivalent of PLEX. You’d think since both are for 30 days of game time that the prices would be the same, but it doesn’t appear to be the case.

Inactive accounts

Don’t worry, if your account is inactive you can reactivate it anytime as long as you have the sufficient gold. You can still login to the game but you’re restricted to low level characters and can’t interact with the auction house or trade chat since it’s restricted. But if you have the gold, you can purchase a token right from the character select screen.

The auction house impact

Yeah, you can it’ll have a huge impact for sure. A Spectral Tiger goes for around $450. Mythic BoEs can easily break 100k. Expect prices to fluctuate before leveling out over the first several weeks.

What’s neat is that this offers a great way to buy pets or other BoAs on other servers without you having to establish a presence. An Anubisath Idol might go for 65k on my server but end up being 30k on a different one. I can sell a token for the necessary capital to buy an Idol at 30k and circumvent buying the one on my home server.

On a side note, the auction does need an overhaul real soon. A unified regional auction house might do wonders but then does anyone really want to contend with thousands of pages of one Draenic Dust?

There’s been some concerns that this is another step closer to players being able to buy gear with hard currency. In a roundabout way, it’s possible. Here’s what Ion had to say about that:

“In Diablo III, gold and the items that were being transacted there were really very direct analogs for power. That’s what was changing hands. The very best items in Diablo were what was on the auction house,” Hazzikostas said.

“World of Warcraft … since day 1, one of the distinguishing features of our game and the game economy was that the best items in the game and the most powerful items are only obtainable through personal exploits, whether you are earning conquest points in arenas or rated battlegrounds, or whether you’re killing dragons in a raid and taking a flaming sword off the dragon’s corpse. You have to earn that yourself, gold won’t get you those things.”

Translation: BoEs aren’t the most powerful items in the game. Do expect a potential change to the Black Market Auction house. Seems like Blizzard has the foresight to consider that and increase the chance of items being sold to pets, mounts, and other cosmetic stuff.

In any case, those’re my thoughts on the topic. Quite excited for this. Patch 6.1.2!

Those of you with millions of gold: Do you really need 20 years of WoW game time?

Further reading

Venture Beat’s Interview with Watcher

Prismatic Reflections Need to be Banned

Prismatic Reflections Need to be Banned

Okay.

That’s it.

I’m pissed.

The first few times were funny, I’ll admit it. It’s okay if someone wants to try my transmog and appearance on for size. I do look rather dashing.

prismatic-reflection

But I’m not laughing anymore. That stupid Prismatic Reflection thing got me killed!

I’m getting real close to instilling guildmaster decree No. 49! No more Prismatic Reflections!

Oh, I’ll tell you why this thing has me all worked up. Imagine doing Operator Thogar in a pug and someone innocuously using that Reflection on you. Of course, I’m too busy doing my healing thing to notice and it looks like I’m positioned safely and correctly on the track. A quick eyeball glance shows my distinctively looking overalls and lumberjack shirt standing on the right side of the train track. You can see my look above. There’s no way you can miss it. Fat farmer panda is a pretty unique looking panda.

Nope.

Sure enough, the train doors fly open and take me with it.

I saw someone else who swapped appearances with me and we were standing so close together that I mistook them for my character.

I’ve stared down dragon aspects, undead lich kings, and fierce demons. And all it takes is someone switching their appearance with mine before I get dismantled.

I hate this game.

What’s Going on with Mythic?

Indulge me in this observation.

It appears that a number of prominent guilds are starting to buckle and implode. These were once strong, proud guilds who had achieved success last tier during Siege of Orgrimmar. I can’t say for sure what the cause of breakups are, but it’s happening across the board.

Starting to wonder now if we’re walking in with too high expectations of ourselves and then getting hit with a huge dose of reality. Maybe it’s deliberate though since they want Blackrock Foundry to last a while before the next tier (which if history is any indication will be around during the summer or early fall).

Can’t even begin to surmise what’s going on here.

Is the extra difficulty level of Mythic simply too much?

Is it just due to the roster absences?

People getting tired and putting too much pressure on themselves?

I had a thought yesterday. All mythic guilds now were strong, heroic guilds last tier. But it does not appear that all heroic guilds can cut it as a mythic guild this tier.

We started the expansion strong with 27 players. Thank goodness for flex modes, because I feel lucky if I can even get 20 now. Trying to recruit and pickup raiders for a  guild seems insanely tough (and I still think transferring off might do the job).

Allow me to highlight two factors:

  • Too much competition: I’m not referring to other guilds. I’m referring to other difficulties. Between raid finder, normal, and heroic, players can now find the guild that’s raiding at the right pace and difficulty for them.
  • Too much accessibility: The group finder has been a huge blessing and a curse.

Take this nugget of logic below:

“Why bother going through an application and interview process in joining a guild when I can just take a few seconds to browse around on Group Finder or Open Raid and join a group at will?”

– Random Mage, 2015

Years ago, guilds were the only game in town if you wanted to defeat Arthas or tackle raids. No group finder meant if you wanted your moneys worth in the game, you had to join a guild. The only way to get picked up by a guild is by going through their process. The only way to stay in the guild is to not lose your edge and die to every third void zone on the ground. You had to be sharp, you had to be productive, and you had to be skilled otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see content.

The last bit above there ties into something else about individual performance. If you aren’t as skilled or astute with your character, there’s a raid difficulty just for you. During the old expansions, it was play and perform at X level or else don’t raid. Now it’s, why play at X level when I can play at Z level with reduced stress and pressure and still see the same bosses anyway?

Random Mage might be on to something there.

Maybe they’re the smart one. Because you’ve got GMs like me who are wracking their brain and desperately looking for ways to find and retain talent. Other GMs are closing up shop due to lack of resources, time, effort, interest, and so forth.

Take a look at this list:

  • Summit (6/7 Mythic, ceased raiding 1/27)
  • The Horsemen (US 25th during Siege of Orgrimmar for Heroic Garrosh, ceased competitive raiding during December)
  • Blood Runs Cold (6/7 Mythic in Highmaul, ceased raiding in January)
  • Vanlyfe (6/7 Mythic, ceased raiding in January)
  • Victory or Whatever (US 38th, 25 man, ceased raiding)

Admittedly a small sample size, but I’m sure they’re not the only ones that had high hopes and aspirations. But for whatever reason, they’ve stopped raiding. Maybe expectations or other life factors interfered here. Who knows? But something’s definitely going on here.

For the purposes of raiding, guilds are meaningless and may not mean anything significant in finding success in raids because you can still do the same thing via Group Finder.

Someone pointed me over to Stoove’s blog post on Mythic raiding and how it has impacted a 10 man scaling up. Mythic took the difficulties of heroic raids and amplified the difficulty immensely.

It might be time to take a hard look at the mirror and realistically figure out what kind of guild we really are.

The Next Generation Troll

As a way to help supplement our main raids, Conquest has started fielding weekend normal raids. Our focus during the week continues to be aimed at heroic Blackrock Foundry but we still want want to build as many tier sets as we can with the stuff out of normal mode.

Like most hybrid guild and pickup player compositions, the players you pick out of the group finder is completely random. Like any other queue into the dungeon finder, you don’t know which player you’re going to get.

Is it going to be the guy who remains completely unaware of his surroundings?

Is it the girl whose on her 4th alt but has an immense amount of experience that she can do the raids blindfolded even though her character isn’t the most geared?

Is it the player who gives zero crap at all about anything and expects to be carried through the whole instance?

The group finder can be such a pandora’s box. We stumbled out of the gate on Flamebender a little bit before we went on cruise control and demolished the other bosses of the instance (short of Blackhand).

But let me regal you with a story of a player with misplaced efforts. We had a player who had a hard time consistently staying alive. Even with their access to immunities, they would die to a Molten Torrent. They kept chasing one of my players around even though they were under the effect of Blazing Radiance. They just could not seem to handle stay alive and kiting the wolves. I was lenient at first and kept giving them opportunity after opportunity to step it up and prove me wrong but enough was enough and I delivered the bad news that I had to drop them in order to keep the raid moving on.

Oh of course they were pissed.

Most sane people would accept the fact that maybe they can’t just cut it in the current group and drop out to find another one to join or duck back into Highmaul and keep banging out more gear or practice.

This guy takes it a step further. A new level 1 alt is created on my server and instantly my chat box is flooded repeatedly with non-stop periods (as in “…” for the whole length of the chat field) in an attempt to cause disruption. Then they show up in Mumble trying to play music but it’s fairly soft and not really overpowering. Plus with Mumble open on a second screen, it takes under half a second to right click and suppress/ban the user.

I attribute that to years of practice with an AWP in Counterstrike and the quick scope.

Anyway, the chat disruption goes on for another 20 or so minutes but Warcraft Instant Messenger is busy picking it up and filtering it. The chat gets minimized, the sound notification gets suppressed, and we keep raiding anyway and taking down Flamebender within the next two pulls. Eventually, I grew wary and reported the player to Blizzard via the in-game ticket submission. I can’t seem to right click and report through the Instant Messenger window unfortunately. Just before the ignore, I receive a whisper saying “okay, going to get on my VPN now” but nothing materialized after that.

It’s amazing the effort and trouble people will put themselves through just to try to undermine and disrupt other people. This thirst for vengeance satisfaction is bizarre. If the individual placed this same level of effort on working on their awareness and general gameplay, they’d turn out to be a solid mage that any group would embrace.

Just wow. Mildly annoyed but oddly impressed.

If you get dropped from a group, try to figure out why. Maybe the reason is bull. Maybe their reason is sound. But does it really do you any good to go after someone on the internet for that? It’s a waste of your time that could be spent looking for another more accommodating group.

Remember when all trolls used to do was clog up trade chat and ask where Mankirk’s wife is?

I miss that.

Blizzard Watch and Blackrock Foundry Impressions

What a busy week! If you hadn’t had a chance yet, here’s the latest stuff written up on the Guildmasters:

Blizzard Watch

I’m back!

No doubt you’ve heard the news of WoW Insider being shuttered. Alex and Adam, the brains behind the operation, have a Patreon all funded.

Their targets were met within the day.

Blizzard Watch is a reality now with your help and support.

I’ll be on deck providing general day to day support for any Warcraft stuff and Hearthstone stuff. Once Overwatch kicks in to high gear, you’ll be able to see my contributions for that too. In fact, I just finished my first draft on a Paladin deck list that’s been making the rounds on the ladder so you can expect to see that sometime later in the week.

In other news, I’ll be temporarily stepping in as the Priest columnist dude. It’s interim for now until another can be found.

Why interim? If you haven’t yet, take an opportunity now to read Poneria’s thoughts on her own Warlock column.

I’m not Dawn.

I’m not Fox.

No way I can fill their shoes. During Mists, I tried my hardest playing Shadow at various points and just couldn’t pull it off at the level required. I don’t have the intellectual capacity to theorycraft in Holy or Discipline, either. Oh sure, I contributed to the Priest section in the Warlords of Draenor strategy guide. However, the class columnist needs to be self sustaining through the good content heavy times and the dry spells of the expansion. It’s easy to whip out something to say after a patch, a nerf, or a new raid instance. Coming up with something during the lulls is much more difficult.

My problem is that I’ve written so much that I don’t know what to really write anymore. Ideas themselves aren’t a problem. But a class columnist has this level of expectation and pressure on it as Poneria illustrates. With the Priest being such an iconic class, it wouldn’t be possible for me to sustain the level of quality that I expect from myself over the long run.

It’s like being expected to hit a home run at least once per week.

Imagine a waste basket in front of you that’s filled to the brim of crumpled Post It notes and scribbles. In that waste basket are ideas that might be good enough for something else, but might not be up to the standard that Blizzard Watch readers expect and deserve.

Look, I absolutely love my Priest. Not once has any other class been considered as a main switch. But I lost my confidence in writing about it ages ago. You have WoWHead, Icy Veins, Noxxic, Ask Mr. Robot, and How to Priest as these wonderful resources for both new and veteran Priests to turn to. What the hell did I have to add anymore?

In the spare time I had before in the past, I’d periodically mentor new bloggers or columnists to the realm of Warcraft blogging. I’d tell them the day they start receiving comments that disagree with their content, it means they’ve officially reached the big time. As a blogger, our roles are to help educate and encourage discussion. Alternative viewpoints aren’t a bad thing. If everyone agreed with everything written in a post without a second perspective or anything else to add to the discussion, then I failed my job. But hey, this is the internet. People say things. People say really mean things. And I try to encourage the new writers not to give up, to not take it personally, and to not let it get under their skin. The moment it does, then the internet wins.

Confession: I let it get to me. I started second guessing myself. I second guessed every post I wrote and every idea that popped up. Before, the standard used for writing posts was “Would Matt read this?” and if the answer was yes, I’d start.

The blank document in front of me was like a huge giant slab of marble that was waiting desperately to be chiselled for the words, ideas, and entertainment to be unleashed upon the world.

Now, I don’t even know what my standard is. I’ve built up my own internal expectations to the point where I can never surpass them.

I forgot to add, Big Bear Butt’s recently called it a career from blogging too. He’s a veteran blogger and fellow WoW Insider colleague. There were times where I was depressed about writing and wanted to reach out to him because I felt that he could at least understand (I never did though as I just swallowed it, bit my tongue, and went back to grinding away at what I was working on). He and I started writing about Warcraft during the same time period around 2008 where we had legends like Phaelia, BRK, Ego, and so forth. I don’t think there’s anyone left that’s still active (even playing the game).

This is why I’m only filling in temporarily.

Anyway, I promise, I’ll keep the seat warm for you. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions. Can’t say I’ll be able to answer all of them but I’ll try. If you’re interested, here’s the contact form.

Blackrock Foundry Impressions

Is Blackrock Foundry fun?

Yup, I’d sure say so. We’ll find out if the instance is just as fun and engaging in two months as it is now. The reaction to it appears incredibly positive. First few week’s often energetic as players are enthusiastic about the instance and the atmosphere.

We learned the hardway early on in Highmaul not to take anything for granted so we opened our week into normal mode to help shore up any remaining gear issues while getting everyone’s feet wet for heroics. Plus, let’s not forget the benefit of tier sets and bonuses.

Gruul – I daresay this guy is the Patchwerk boss of the instance. Burning Crusade veterans should have no problems as they ace through the Petrify and Shatter mechanics. We didn’t have the benefit of radial circles on the ground that informed us who would get hit by Petrify affected players. Oh yeah, everyone in raid was hit. None of this 8 players business. Anyone else’s lawn called? Something about getting off it? :)

Oregorger – The trick is to stay behind this guy. When phase 2 rolled around, we stacked the raid together and rolled around the chamber to activate Blackrock crates. You might have to time defensive raid cooldowns against the Acid Torrent.

Blast Furnace – Apparently, this was bugged during the first night or so. Thankfully, it was hot fixed a little later on. One of the toughest bosses in the instance even on normal. Ended up stacking sides during the first phase. Having a Priest with Mind Control will come in handy during the second part.

Hans and Franz – These guys are hans down my favourite boss of the instance. If your guild ever needed an idiot and movement check, this one would be it. If you haven’t referred to the abilities as pop tarts and stamps yet, you should start.

Flamebender – Conquest spent a few wipes here as we attempted to shoot for the Steel Has Been Brought achievement. It largely worked with us just tanking Steelbringer to the side while he jumped around the raid. If you’re planning on obtaining this for your guild, pull him way into a corner. He does knock backs which are insanely annoying especially if you get affected by the Molten Torrent ability and can’t jump into range of melee fast enough.

Kromog – Kolagarn 2.0! Nothing can get more random than this. Stack up your range and healers. Establish defensive raid cooldowns on breaths as needed. I used at least one per breath. Paladins and Mages can easily ignore the rune and hand mechanic. If someone gets caught out, a Paladin Hand of Protection will save them.

Beastlord – This is another quick test of your raiders and how swiftly they can dodge the spears being thrown. Your healers will be pushed during Ironcrusher phase with the Stampede.

Operator Thogar – The other movement heavy fight in the instance is Thogar and his toy trains. Set defensive cooldowns against the Iron Bellow from the Man-at-Arms. The Cauterizing Bolt from the Firemender is key as it deals 20% damage to the ads then healing up to 35% of their health over 10 seconds. Time your Mass Dispel against it. Make sure you download Thogar Assist.

Iron Maidens – Can’t say I’ve participated in an encounter this long since my first go at Illidan or Kil’jaeden. You’ve got time to theoretically use Heroism twice. But you should really save it for 20% when the fight really starts.

Blackhand – This is a really satisfying end boss to an instance. It has three phases, none of this intermission junk. The changes they made to phase 2 with the bombs and the spear throwing is handy and makes things easier as long as the fixated players know how to drive the tanks around. I’d advise referring them to something else other than tanks lest your actual tanks get confused. Phase 3 is the biggest individual awareness check ever. Stand at the wrong spot or angle to the impact of the Massive Smash and you’ll go flying off the ledge — Just like your chances of beating this guy. Heroism here.

I can feel the pain of having no Resto Druids in raid. If you happen to be a Resto Druid, a Balance Druid, or a Shadow Priest, check our guild out. We could use your talents.

I’ll Never Forget the Fond Memories at WoW Insider

You might have seen some of the alleged rumors and news going around yesterday about Joystiq’s demise. How does this affect WoW Insider? Well, WoW Insider is under the arm of Joystiq which is also owned by AOL (along with Massively). Heck, #SaveJoystiq was trending all day earlier. I’m sure the support from many of the readers was well received by the writers. If anything happens to Joystiq, the sister sites would feel the effects. I’m sure if there were anything official to announce, it would happen soon. Until then, I’m going to take a moment and be all sappy. I’m almost never sappy.

Matt? Show emotion? Please. But indulge me just this one time on a trip throughout the years and the awesome writers that I am proud to have worked with (and played alongside).

WoW Insider was my first big break. During the Spring of 2008, then editor Liz Harper signed me to write a weekly Priest column. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have any formal training or a post secondary degree completed yet since I was still in university. All I had was this blog as my portfolio. The Warcraft blogosphere then was completely different. There wasn’t an Icy Veins yet and WoW Head was still in it’s infancy as just a database. WoW Progress didn’t exist until 2008 and on. Elitist Jerks was the place to go for class discussion and theorycrafting. All these community sites and forums for classes never existed and MMO Champion had one of the more horrendous looks at the time (but at least it was organized and neat). I can’t say for certain what the oldest Warcraft fansite is, but WoW Insider would definitely be up there. I never did find out how the idea and the initial production of the site began.

WoW Insider wasn’t the first place to go if you wanted patch notes, raid guides, or blue posts. MMO Champion and WoWHead both filled that quite handily. If those two were the head and brains of Warcraft fan sites, then WoW Insider would’ve been the heart and soul. There are easily hundreds of opinions and editorial pieces published over the years that highlighted initiatives by players, challenged designer decisions, and offered advice on all sorts of topics. Yeah, some of it was fluff but I can’t deny the impact or the community aspect and the way it brought people together.

I’ll never forget that chance Liz gave me.

I’ll never forget the lore debates between Mike Sacco, Matt Rossi, Anne Stickney, and Daniel Whitcomb late at night.

I’ll never forget Alex and Daniel’s constant back and forth regarding each Mass Effect game, the characters, and the choices.

I’ll never forget Dan’s numerous lolcat pictures where he seemingly had one for every possible situation.

I’ll never forget Mike Grey and his calming influence or the lessons he taught about the business side of things.

I’ll never forget Adam’s liberal use of facepalm Picard pictures.

I’ll never forget when Anne introduced me to the mimosa nor all the new Starbucks drinks she came up for me to try.

I’ll never forget how I managed to rope Joe into being one of the Shaman writers.

I’ll never forget Lisa who was like the English teacher you wanted that did not use a red pen whenever you screwed something up.

I’ll never forget Fox because seriously, how can you forget Fox?

I’ll never forget Allison Robert when she won the informal headlines contest for page views hands down with “Naked Women Playing Cataclysm Alpha”.

I’ll never forget Olivia who literally showed me what tenacity and hard work looked like if they chugged energy drinks.

I’ll never forget Robin’s encouragement in making an appearance during WoW Insider guild events (I was a shy fellow).

I’ll never forget Dawn and her relationship with Ruthers, the Yak. She was always the better Priest.

I’ll never forget Sally or Kristin and the perspectives they brought to the discussions which made me re-examine my own.

I’ll never forget Chase Christian and our hilarious exchanges about how bad the other’s healer class was.

I’ll never forget Christian Belt and his nigh-legendary rivalry with about every Warlock columnist who ever tried to wage a war of words.

I’ll never forget the revolving door of Warlock columnists until one Megan managed to break the curse.

I’ll never forget the sleepless nights leading up to patch or expansion drops and the work we put in to ensure all the basics were covered.

I’ll never forget the readers (and the email comments which can never see the light of day).

I’ll never forget the fun and planning that went into Hello Kitty Insider.

There were numerous other individuals who were there. I feel like there are going to be a few others that I have forgotten. Amanda, Liz W., Big Red Kitty, Big Bear Butt, Basil, Frostheim, Chase H., Scott, Josh, Matt W., Kelly, Stacey, Lissanna, other writers, and then there were the support teams operating behind the scenes who helped ensure the site was running. One of the best editorial teams I had the pleasure of working with.

The Hypothetical

If you follow editors Adam or Alex on Twitter, they’ve both been posting hypothetical questions.

I am going to emphasize that it’s all hypothetical.

It would be nice if this was the 24th century and money wasn’t a thing anymore. But writers have to pay the bills, put a roof over their head, and put food on the table. For some, freelance writing is a part time gig. For others, it’s a full time career and profession. I think there’s a few things that the corporate overseers could’ve done better and should’ve evolved with the changing internet. If a game can make over 50 million dollars from crowdfunding alone, then that needs to be examined as potential revenue stream.

Here’s a few options I can think of that seem to work well for the sites below:

There’s the Starcity Games model where they have a nice collection of accessible articles and a premium selection of written content. However, It could be spun so that premium content would be available later for free (and that those interested in supporting the site would get a first crack and view premium content first).

Another model is to follow in the footsteps of the TotalFark and Reddit Gold programs that allow users to provide a modest monthly subscription donation which includes optional ads, special site-wide perks, and awesome deals with select partners.

The last one I can think of is New York Times and Wall Street Journal model which places everything behind a paywall (and this would be the least likely route since the hypothetical site wouldn’t last very long here).

Whatever ends up happening, this is all research into hypothetical situation that might not occur. Either way, I encourage you to let them know directly (or you can respond here).

Time to Change Servers?

Recruiting’s just abysmal these days. After we joined the Mythic 2/7 club the other night, we started work on Brackenspore. Three starting healers have decided to leave the game or explore other opportunities elsewhere. Haven’t called a day off yet outside of the holidays.

Every week it’s a struggle where for every gain or sign of progress we make, a player calls it a career.

Wasn’t this expansion supposed to rejuvenate and regenerate the player base and bring back players?

Wasn’t Warlords hailed as the best all-time expansion the World of Warcraft received?

Is it the healing game and systems in general that have turned off healers completely?

The state of raiding is in a flux now with the extra difficulty level added which helped further separate raids into different tiers. It seems now though that players are settling at the tier they’re at with little to no desire to advance up. There’s the rare number who do want to make that push for themselves and try to move up to the more difficult content in the game. Others are content or just don’t care. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But it doesn’t make it easy at all.

There’s a feeling of apprehension that GMs keep in the back of their minds. No one’s going to discuss it though. It’s a sinking pit in their stomach. It’s the fear that their guild crumbles. I’m vulnerable to that too. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if other GMs look ahead to see and wonder if their guild will be around next week.

With the player recruiting drought though, nothing is ever off the table. It means I’m considering server moves and faction transfers. Yes, even Horde. Right now, it’s all spitballing. Get a red team to poke holes into the idea and get a blue team to find every reason to make that move. Ner’zhul is a PvP server and I’ve heard applicants change their mind at the last minute simply because they were afraid to transfer to a PvP server and get ganked all the time.

I don’t know where that fear comes from because while you may suffer the periodic ganking or two, it isn’t that widespread or common. Most people just want to get from point A to point B and get their farming done or what have you. In the extremely unlikely event you do get camped, you can always change activities or switch to an alt and come back later.

Anyway, enough of that. Mythic Brackenspore is on deck. The difficulty curve on this encounter relative to Twins is amazing.