10 Tips: How To Organise A Guild Meet

10 Tips: How To Organise A Guild Meet

Last week I Herded Cats.

Well, all right, not really cats. I’m not a crazy cat lady and my guild members aren’t felines with string addictions. But our annual guild meet up – or Herd Moot as we call it – finished last week. But what does this mean to you?

I know a lot of guilds meet up. I know some would like to and aren’t sure where to begin. I figured I might share a few pointers with you in case it’s something you might ever consider organising with your guild, whatever game you play. Pointers you wouldn’t necessarily think of immediately, and which I’ve learnt both during this Moot and through organising similar knees-up in the past.

It really is worth it. More’s the point, it really isn’t impossible.

We had folks travel from other parts of the UK, and from Finland and Norway. I deduce from the fact that everyone said they didn’t want to leave and some have made a point of saying they’re now actively looking to move here that everyone had a good time. Heck, we’re vaguely considering through the post-Moot recovery haze that we might organise another Moot for later in the year.

So, a few things to keep in mind for you as an organiser – or you as a participant supporting your organiser – to help your own Moot go smoothly.

1. Flexible plans. You’ll select precise times/dates. Be prepared for participants to either choose to travel on slightly different times/days which best suit themselves and their finances, or simply get it wrong, without checking with you first. For example, I organised our Moot for Friday-Monday; it ended up being Thursday-Wednesday due to peoples’ flights. You don’t need to stress if this happens, or worry if you have obligations like work on ‘extra’ days – the group can look after itself for a bit! Stay on top of travel details and keep in mind how many of the group are around at any one time.

2. Intensity. Think about how important it is that your group spends all of the meet together. Think about how long your meet is; if it’s quite short – 24 hours – you might well spend the whole day together as a group. if the meet is a few days then it’s likely to be part-meet part-holiday for anyone who’s travelled. Leaving them some time to themselves over the few days for exploring a new place on holiday might be just what both them and you need!

3. Health. Always ask anyone you’re ‘overseeing’ if they have medical conditions you should be aware of. Reassure them that you won’t make a big deal of it and it’s for your reference in case anything goes wrong or they fall ill. It’s highly likely everyone will have niggling little issues that they won’t think it worth telling you about when you ask, but which will probably come out during your meet when they suddenly remember their bad knee doesn’t like the long walk the group’s halfway through. Give them plenty of opportunity to think of telling you anything pertinent; if you’re planning a walk, tell them in advance, and how far, and if there are options to stop halfway through. For ‘active’ pursuits it’s also useful to have an idea of your group’s general (and lowest) fitness level. We found that half our group weren’t as up for long, pretty walks as others were.

Also, get basic health supplies in. I believe a first aid kit is vital if hopefully unnecessary, and last week found me handing out painkillers to various Cats for migraines to hangovers to general aches.

4. Finances. Your group will probably reflect a range of financial situations. Try to get an idea of the range of your group’s finances early on by talking to individuals quietly and in confidence. Then plan a spread of activities accordingly. Remember that money is a sensitive thing for everyone, whatever their position – don’t blather publicly about who can afford which activities. if necessary plan a couple of options for any one time that differ financially; people can decide for themselves which they want to do.

5. Gaming. You do want to spend some time together playing the game you all have in common – it’s great fun to all be in the same physical space playing it. Even so, strike a balance between ‘real life’ activities which don’t involve WoW/whatever MMO you play, and playing the MMO. For us, that balance was one main evening session and a smaller, less organised session, over 6 days.

6. Booking responsibility. Everyone participating is responsible for booking something. For you that’s ensuring there are arrangements for a place to game. That might be a LAN in someone’s residence, which requires cables and technical equipment, or booking an internet cafe or hotel conference room.

Any participants travelling to the meet need to take responsibility for their own travel and accommodation; unless they really really want to give you their credit card details (big nono for so many reasons). The only help you should give them is to encourage them to book early and have either yourself or someone with knowledge of the area research/suggest some affordable accommodation options and travel sites. Bear in mind some people may not have travelled much and may need more help organising themselves than others.

7. Communication. As the organiser you need to be approachable. Maintain a dialogue with participants in the run-up to the meet. Less intrusive/immediate forms of contact like Facebook are ideal as it gives others the opportunity to reply in their own time, and you the ability to chase them up if they take too long to keep you posted. IM services such as Skype or MSN also work well, particularly the closer the meet is, and particularly if you are having to chase particular individuals for details.

On a more specific note, if your group doesn’t often use voice software while gaming and you have people coming from other countries, they may be worried about speaking English (or whatever language). One of our guild members was particularly worried about his spoken English; we reassured him as much as possible and I also offered to talk to him on a voice skype chat before the Moot as a ‘practice’/’soft’ speaking run before he got here.

8. Recognition. You’re all about to do something scary: go out of your way to Meet Faceless People Off The Internet. Most people in your group will be nervous to some degree. You should share your details with participants to help them see you’re not a betentacled monster and so that you can stay abreast of travel details on the first day. Mobile/cell phone number exchange is crucial, as is a picture of yourself.  Hopefully by setting this good example you’ll inspire them to share theirs back with you.

9. Visibility. Buy sticky labels. Have everyone wear one with their character name and real name for the first day or two. Sounds geeky, right? Mayhap, but it’s also practical and puts folks at ease with remembering real names and using them. You could commission individual t-shirts or hats displaying names and character information or pictures too, if you really want to push the boat out and add a memorable touch given that labels are easily lost and not much of a fashion accessory,

10. Age range. Some guilds have people of a range of ages playing. Be aware of the youngest and oldest ages you have. You may need to generally think round activities that all age groups can enjoy. On a more specific note – don’t make alcohol a part of your meet if you have folks under the legal drinking age (doh!). If you have really young folks, keep a general eye on them. This all may not be a problem for you; it wasn’t for us as we’re one of many guilds of a similar age range. But it’s easy for age differences to slip your mind when you’ve known people online for so long without actually ‘seeing’ them.

 

I hope some of that is useful to you and your guildies. It might look like a lot of work or a scary concept when laid out in practical tidbits but fear ye not. Guild meets can be really special events creating long-lasting memories and deeper relationships. Particularly if you keep an open mind for practical details!

What about you – are you considering doing something as crazy as this? If so, do you have any questions/worries? Have you organised meets, and have tidbits to add or any stories to share? Or do you think the idea of meeting up with the pixels you adventure is weird and wrong?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.

What Will The MMO of Tomorrow Bring?

What Will The MMO of Tomorrow Bring?

Cataclysm is rapidly approaching and the game world we’ve known for the last 5+ years is changing. Towns destroyed, new races about and new powers for each race to play with. WoW is not the only game facing changes though, In fact the state of MMOs is changing as a whole, I mean let’s face it, in the coming months everything we thought we knew about this genre is going to go right out the window. The best part is, we as gamers are in the right place to enjoy the best of these changes to come … hopefully. You may ask yourself what am I talking about? Well let’s take a look at things that are going to be happening in the very near future.

Star Wars: The Old Republic


One of the most highly anticipated games coming up is Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). The game takes a popular franchise and is recreating the universe for a new MMO. So far it is shaping up to bring some new features with.

Every NPC / Quest is voiced: That is right, talk to an npc to get a quest, the whole thing will be read off to you by the character audibly. Pretty massive undertaking, and a pretty cool feature.

Consequence system: Every choice you make in the game, every quest you take every mob you kill has consequences. It can alter what quests you have available to you as well as what powers become available to you. It is possible to play two different characters and get completely different experiences based purely on the choices you make. The other part that is interesting about this MMO is that your choices can lead to faction changing. It has been stated that a Sith can be redeemed and a Jedi can fall from grace, all based on the choices you make in the game world.

Advanced Class system: Each starting class can evolve into one of two advanced classes, each of those advanced classes has two skill trees it can choose from. This allows for a large variation among players and classes and lets you customize your character to suit your needs and play-style. The depth of this is not yet revealed but this can be very very interesting in the future of updating and personalizing your in game avatars.

A Whole Universe to Explore: Most MMOs take place on a comparatively small land mass or group of landmasses (EvE online is an exception here), and can often times feel very linear in its progression. This is a truly massive undertaking as they are creating many many worlds for us to explore and each world is to be massive in and of themselves. The sheer scope of this, and the potential for player freedom here can be an altering factor to MMOs to come after.

These are just things off the top of my head about the game, there will be more to come as the game is closer to release, but they are truly beginning to push away from MMOs as we know them.

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars received great attention when it was released 5 years ago in part because it was a free to play after you purchased the game, but also because it was (and still is)  a good game. The sequel is shaping up to be even bigger and badder than the original (which is a good thing), but like Bioware with SWOTR, Arenanet aiming to shake things up a bit.

Whole New Way to Quest: I’ll open this up with a quote from Colin Johanson, Lead Content Designer for Guild Wars 2.

When building an MMO, we had to examine every core piece of accepted content from traditional games in the genre and ask, “How can this be improved?” By looking at the traditional quest system used in basically every MMO ever made, we’ve come to the conclusion that quests have a lot of areas for improvement. To address these flaws, we’ve developed our dynamic event system.

Traditional quest systems involve walking up to a character who usually has an exclamation point or question mark hovering over their head and talking to them. From here, you get a massive wall of text hardly anyone reads that describes a horrible or totally mundane thing going on in the world that you need to help with. You run off, complete this task, then return and talk to this character again to receive another wall of text and a reward. Traditional quest systems rely on these blocks of quest text to tell you what is happening in the world; this is just an outdated form of storytelling.

In Guild Wars 2, our event system won’t make you read a huge quest description to find out what’s going on. You’ll experience it by seeing and hearing things in the world. If a dragon is attacking, you won’t read three paragraphs telling you about it, you’ll see buildings exploding in giant balls of fire, and hear characters in the game world screaming about a dragon attack. You’ll hear guards from nearby cities trying to recruit players to go help fight the dragon, and see huge clouds of smoke in the distance, rising from the village under siege.

That is fairly massive right there, I mean just think about that. Total immersion into the world. That is pretty impressive and really sells the world to the players. He goes on to say the following

There is a second fundamental flaw to traditional quest systems: what the quest text tells you is happening in a quest is not actually what is happening in the world.

For example, in a traditional MMO, the character who gives you a quest will tell you ogres are coming to destroy the character’s home, and you need to kill them. You then get a quest which says, “Kill 0/10 ogres” and you proceed to kill a bunch of ogres standing around in a field picking daisies. Since every player in the game needs to be able to do this quest, the ogres will never actually threaten the character’s home – they will just eternally pick daisies in the field. The ogres aren’t actually doing what the quest says they are – the game is lying to you!

At ArenaNet, we believe this is NOT good enough. In Guild Wars 2, if a character tells you ogres are coming to destroy a house, they will really come and smash down the house if you don’t stop them!

We’ve all seen it, we get the quest to go kill x of y because they are coming to hurt z, but in truth they are just standing around doing nothing but waiting for the players to come and kill them. This adds a real consequence to the game world and leads into the second big thing about the game.

A Living Breathing World: Every action you take has an effect on the world around you. This means if you don’t stop the ogres from destroying that home, guess what? The building is actually destroyed and gone. If an army lays siege to a town and takes it, they will occupy that town, until someone frees the town from the army. There is no case of say a certain inn in a certain western location being built for 5+ years. If a city or town gets decimated it is not outside of reason that in this game it will be rebuilt over time. Traditionally in MMOs once you complete a quest or a task, you collect your reward and you move on with no effect on the world (That damn Corki keeps getting caught by the Ogres…), here everything you choose to do — or that which you choose not to do — has an impact on the world around you and can cause a chain of events that you may not see happen from making one innocuous choice.

Bringing a Community Back to MMOs: Right now in most games if a player goes off to kill a named NPC and another player gets the same quest, unless they are in the same group together they have to wait for the mob to respawn. This has often let to things such as griefing and harassment. Arenanet aims to end that. I’ll end my section here with one more quote

All players that fully participate in an event are rewarded for doing so; everyone who helps kill a monster or blow up an enemy catapult will get credit for doing so. There is no kill stealing and no quest camping. Everyone works together towards the common goal of the event and everyone is rewarded for doing so. To help ensure there is always enough for everyone to do, our events dynamically scale, so the more players who show up and participate in the event, the more enemies show up to fight them. If a bunch of players leave the event, it will dynamically scale back down so it can be completed by the people who are still there playing it. This careful balance created by our dynamic scaling system helps ensure you have the best and most rewarding play experience.

Tell me that doesn’t sound pretty cool. Again this can help shape how players move and interact through MMOs to come, depending entirely on execution of course.

Tera: The Exiled Realms of Arborea

Recently I had the good fortune to speak with Producer Brian Knox and writer Robin MacPherson from En Masse Entertainment on the podcast. If you’re interested you can click here for the show notes and the episode is free for download on iTunes or direct link from the site. The information we gained from the interview is pretty killer. The game itself is being simultaneously developed for both the eastern and western markets. There has been some trouble bringing eastern games over to the west based purely upon the different ideas of what we want in a game. En Masse aims to not only break those barriers but redefine the MMOs while they do it. So what do they have in store for us?

Define Your Own Player Relations: As of now there are no factions like we are used to in World of Warcraft and other games, instead it is entirely up to a player to choose who they side with. You choose your allies and your enemies. There is no pre-set racial enmity so you have complete freedom here. This is kind of a big deal for some people, and hasn’t really been seen since the days of Star Wars Galaxies. Yes there is PvP in the game, but it is about groups and teams versus other groups and teams. It is very likely that at some point you will be facing off against members of your own race in gladiatorial combat! It really opens up a lot of opportunities for the players both in terms of the game and, if they so choose, role playing.

Combat and Healing: The developers of Tera aim to make a much more involved combat system. There are no auto attacks here, there are no infinite stun locks, Tera’s tactical combat system gives players more control and constant involvement in the the game-play. No more point-and-click or just cycling through a palette of spells and skills, you really have to pay attention. This is not only true for damage dealers, but also for healers. They gave us two great examples on the show. One of their healers has a multiple target heal, it is activated by the player and held, the player is then required to select the target of the heals by clicking on them and then releasing the heal. Another can drop a series of orbs that will be used to heal players as they move around, requiring tactical placement and attention to the fight. They also are working to not make healers so fragile that they fall over in combat, but not so powerful that they just can’t be killed. They will have offensive capabilities so that they can hold their own in a fight, both PvE and PvP. One of their goals is to make healing more involved than playing Green bar Whack-a-Mole and to add some more excitement to that particular role. They aim to draw more people to the healing class through interest. The enthusiasm Brian Knox and Robin MacPherson had for the development of their combat system is rather infectious and they are excited to be able to showcase it in more detail soon.

Collision Between Players: Most MMOs don’t include collision in their games, you can run through bosses and other players. This reduces griefing in cities, and helps take a little stress off of planning some encounters and spaces. In Tera when a player is in a city there will be no collision, but when they step outside of the city there will be collision enabled. This is actually a pretty big move and adds a new level of complexity and strategy to combat, both PvE and PvP.  How many times has a boss gone waltzing through the tank and smack a healer dead in one shot? How many times in PvP does the healer or clothie just get burned down because no one can stop them? In Tera that is no longer the case. Tank types can intervene and try to place themselves in harms way to save a squishy. This also means that tank types in PvP are useful as tanks keeping players away from healers or fragile casters and giving their teammates time to react and adjust. Think about in WoW in a battle ground, when you see a warrior, druid, paladin or death knight you rarely will find them in tank gear and spec. It just isn’t useful because PvP in WoW is mostly about burning things down quickly. This also adds a level of strategy to PvP and PvE we haven’t seen before and will require people to work together in more involved ways. This can lead to varied and interesting strategies between different groups to accomplish the same goal.

Political and Economic System: Players make up the world for the most part in any game, we out number the NPCs and aside from driving auction house prices, have little impact on the world. The same leaders are in place and if you go to buy a consumable from an NPC the price largely stays the same. The developers of Tera have been pretty tight lipped on this system but I hear rumors that they may be explaining this in more detail soon. On the cast the stated that players will have a deeper impact on the economy of the game and that players will be able to be elected to offices for their server. Again no details are available yet, but if they do it like SWG did (but better) I think that will be an interesting change. Allowing players to have a deeper impact on the game and a larger investment in their time spent playing.

If you get a chance stop by their website and check out the trailer for the game, it has a glimpse at the UI as it stands right now and a view of some of the PvP action and starts to give you an idea of the size of the world they are creating.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Another of the years most highly anticipated games, Blizzard Entertainment has been hard at work to give us not only an expansion to a game we’ve come to love (or hate in some people’s cases), but to take time and change the game. We’ve been keeping up pretty heartily with things that are changing but let’s take a look at some of the highlights so far.

Stats and Class Abilities/Talents: They are re-balancing stats, pruning excess and making it easier for players to understand their characters. They are doing this not only with classes in mind, but also player roles. It will be easier than ever to know if a piece of gear is meant primarily for healers or DPS. While they are hard at work pairing down stats, they are also taking a look at all of the classes core abilities and talents in the game. In some cases their are some radical things in the works while others will receive some minor tweeks. We have had some information given to us from their twitter dev chat, as well as their class previews that were released not so long ago. New talents are being added and taken away, some find themselves converted into base abilities or trainable spells for the characters, and while they are at it they are adding a whole new talent system to the game called mastery. Rewarding players with key abilities and stat boosts as they invest points in their chosen roles. Tanks become better tanks passively by spending points, healers become better int heir roles and DPS do just that much more damage. This allows players a certain freedom while choosing talents and is working towards eliminating “cookie-cutter” specs and allow for more diversity.

New Races and Race/Class Combinations: They are adding two new playable races to the game just like they did in Burning Crusade. Worgen for the alliance giving them access to a monstrous race that is heavily steeped in the games lore, and Goblins for the horde with a very compelling story for the little green folk. While they were adding new races to the game they also decided to add new race and class combinations to the game. Trolls can become Druids, Humans can become Hunters and so forth. Some of these are based on lore (Dwarves in particular come to mind, but that is a post for another day) others are based on logic and the changing times of the game. Either way it opens up new avenues for players to enjoy the game and immerse themselves in the world the Blizzard has crafted.

New Graphics and a Changing World: Blizzard is simultaneously destroying the world we’ve known for the last 5+ years and making it more inspired at the same time. The game has been around for a long time and as a result the older content does not compare graphically to the newer content we’ve been seeing. Blizz is taking the time to update everything, from the polygon count and character models of the races, to the water and fire effects in the game. This is a huge leap forward in the ever escalating graphical war between game developers these days. While they are upgrading the technology of the game they are also doing a few things to the game world to add an feeling of epic grandeur to to the game breaking zones and cities and creating new areas to explore, bathing the world in fire and destruction and bringing new life to places long since thought dead, and in doing so they are expanding the lore of the game and bringing new life to an old world.

Changing Mechanics: When Wrath of the Lich King was released, tanking had been updated and changed around. Threat generation, tank DPS and the overall feeling of tanking has evolved since that expansions release. This time around Blizzard aims to change the way healers interact with the world. They want to make it a less stagnant role by moving it away from whack-a-mole and having each heal, each use of mana mean something and require not only thought and planning, but for the healer to pay more attention to the encounters and what is going on around them to try to predict where damage will be coming from. This includes adding spells, changing mana consumption and regeneration as well as a myriad of other factors we have yet to see. I think we will see the mechanics of healing change over the course of this expansion as much if not more so than tanking changed and was updated. Also by doing this they open up a multitude of avenues to re-invent boss fights and create new and dynamic encounters within the game that previously they could not do.

Scaling the Game: One of the biggest problems games that have been around a while have is scaling with the players. As you gain levels and powers older content loses its appeal and difficulty. Sometimes this can lead to players becoming bored as they outgrow the content put before them and start looking back on the previous content. Constantly adding new challenges is something that all MMOs do, but adding content that keeps you feeling as if you are in the midst of an epic world takes talent. Back in Vanilla we faced gods, elemental lords and children of dragon aspects and it felt epic. In BC we faced demon lords, specters of the worlds history, demon lords and NPCs that were super powerful and integral to the story and lore of the world, even after Vanilla it still felt epic. In Wrath we fight to face the architect of much of the worlds strife, and along the way face dragon aspects and a plethora of political intrigue as well as beginning to unravel the mysteries of Azeroth’s birth and forgotten lore, again even after BC the content moved in a steadily increasing arc. Now in Cataclysm we are working to uncover more about the titans that shaped our world and that still live somewhere among the multitude of worlds, are working to safeguard the world from a tormented Dragon Aspect that could have likely shrugged and destroyed Icecrown Citadel and crushed the Lich King. It seem that the arc continues as even now it already is starting to feel epic and it appears to be scaling properly with our ever increasing level and powers.

The game is still in alpha stages right now, but information is slowly trickling in and Blizzard has yet to reveal everything they have in store.

In The End: Needless to say the next year is going to be huge for the MMO industry, WoW is still the standard by which most people gauge an MMO, just like Everquest before it was the measure of the genre. The industry seems to no longer want to make another WoW, instead they seem to be working towards re-inventing the MMO genre. The best part is, in the end it is us the gamers that will benefit from this. We are at the horizon of a new age in gaming , everything is updating at an increasingly quick pace with new graphics, stories and game-play. This is an evolution of social gaming that has been long anticipated by the masses. In the past year alone we have had more choices in games of various shapes, sizes and types than ever before. I think there is a new arms race about to begin amongst the super powers of gaming, and I personally can’t wait to sample each of their wares and play with some shiny new toys.

So how about you? What do you think? Do you think that MMOs are going to evolve? What are you looking forward to the most? What would you like to see developers tackle? Are you excited for what is yet to come?

Well that is it for this week, until next time.

 

Pros and Cons of Recruiting the Raid Leader

Pros and Cons of Recruiting the Raid Leader

recruiting-raid-leader

This is the most important position you’ll ever fill throughout the entirety of your guild’s existence. In fact, it is so important, guilds will often disband if there isn’t a competent nor capable one. If working on farm content, raids can typically get by with zero to minimal guidance. Everyone runs by the same playbook and routine strategies are done without any problems (usually).

But once you hit progression content, you’re going to be stuck. If your raid is leaderless, it’s going to be painful and you need a plan.

So, do people really recruit raid leaders? In many cases, the guild leader and raid leader are one and the same. There are some exceptions (such as in Conquest where the positions are separated). But back to the original question: Do people recruit raid leaders?

Typically, most raiding guilds do not. Raid leaders are usually promoted from within. There are two basic things I look for when deciding on a raid leader. Without these two qualities, I skip and move on entirely.

  • Competency: Now this encompasses a wide range of leadership skills. I just lump them all together in here for the sake of simplicity. These are things including but not necessarily limited to skills, charisma, vision, tactics, and so forth. Basically, does this player have what it takes to lead and deliver the necessary results?
  • Desire: Do they actually want to do it?

And that second point is a super important question. That raid leading wannabe you want to quarterback your raids might be the perfect person to do it. But if she has no interest or desire, it’s not going to work.

Where do I go to get raid leaders from?

In a nutshell, either you have a sleeper raid leader within the guild who emerges to take the flag when things look grim or you look outward and see if you can fish up one.

Option 1: Promoting from within the guild

These are usually the players that have stood by you for a long time. The existing raid leader left a void to fill. There could be people from inside who are looking for a chance to step up and take a larger role within the guild. Or it could be that they sense the guild is on the road to failure unless someone takes over and that person wants to be the one to do it.

Again, your group may run into the problem of not having the right person who can do the job. A skilled player who is familiar with the game and their class might not have the appropriate leadership qualities. Or maybe they work in a management type job and doesn’t want to deal with that level of responsibility on their off time. If your search for a raid leader comes up short, you’ll need to come up with options. Try to figure out why that person isn’t a good candidate. You can’t change their desire. However, you might be able to help improve their competency.

Ultimately though, hope for the best. Be prepared for the worst.

Pros

Familiarity with guild culture

Players used to the leader’s personality

Intimately familiar with players and capabilities

Cons

Might not be anyone qualified from within to take the job

Potential prejudice or favoritism to specific players

Option 2: Recruiting outward

This isn’t exactly the most common approach. You don’t see many guilds advertising for a powerful position like this one either. I suspect the main reason would be on trust. Everyone in the guild has had time to get familiar with each other. Not only would you be introducing an outside player, your guild is being asked to follow their commands. That bond between raid and raid leader just isn’t there yet.

It’s like a new manager being brought in. No one really knows who she is. Is she lenient? A hard ass? Accommodating? By the book? No idea!

Don’t forget that having a new player calling the shots from outside the guild means they’re largely unaffected by any guild politics and will have a fresh perspective on raids. Of course, you never know what you’re getting. If you truly plan on going this route, raid leading applicants need to be screened a lot more carefully.

Pros

Fresh perspective and new ideas

Unaffected by any guild influences

Cons

Players have no idea how to react

Lack of initial guild chemistry

When my raid leader hung up his claymore months ago, I was in a tight spot. The short list in my mind for replacement raid leaders had no desire to do so simply due to other responsibilities. There were other players I had considered asking, but I didn’t know if they had the skills to pull it off. The only way to know for certain is to assemble a raid, pass them lead and say “Here ya go!” and one of the senior raiding guys who had been with us for a long time wanted to give it a shot.

It was a leap of faith. Either he would sink or swim. To my delight, he did a pretty darn good job after he shook off a few raid leading jitters during the first few days at the helm. But it was to be expected.

Had he not spoken to me beforehand, I would have had no choice but to turn outwards and look off guild for someone to help coach the raid. I can’t honestly think of any moment in my experience in the game where I’ve read about guilds specifically recruiting raid leaders that were outside their organization. What commonly happens is a player either gets the nod up from management to take over or the guild implodes due to lack of interest and focus. The latter is not an option for me. I’ll admit, it would have been a remarkably interesting process (and experiment) to start off raid leaderless and end up with a fully situated quarterback acquired outside the guild.

It’s like hiring a new coach for a team. Players are so used to certain plays and systems. The new coach comes in and throws things out the window.

How About a More Graphical and Public Ban?

I caught some news recently on Massively. Before playing World of Warcraft, I used to engage heavily in Guild Wars (won a sigil once with my team in the Hall of Heroes before we stopped playing).

Anyway, they’ve implemented some pretty cool stuff in the game especially against cheaters. Dhuum is the god of death in the game (a Hades-esque figure). After ArenaNet banned 3700 accounts for botting and other cheats, they’ve decided to take a more public approach.

Any player that gets caught cheating gets a visit by Dhuum, who then proceeds to completely destroy the player (and their account gets banned as well).

It looks pretty darn awesome.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Blizzard implement something like this in WoW personally. Which NPC would deliver the killing blow, though? Perhaps it could be Arthas who emerges from the ground and cleaves a player. In Cataclysm, maybe Deathwing appears and can swallow a player whole.

I don’t know if this would actually deter players from violating the ToS, but at least they can go out in style.

The Sue Sylvester Method to Raid Leading

The Sue Sylvester Method to Raid Leading

sue

She is ruthless.

Unforgiving.

Merciless.

Sue is the cheerleading coach from Fox’s Glee. She certainly knows a thing or two about winning and what it takes to get to that national spotlight. As raid leaders, we try to be accommodate and work with the players available. Sometimes it just isn’t enough.

This is where we can take a page from Sue.

Never takes her eyes off the goal

Whether it is adding another national title to her impressive trophy case or crushing her opponents, Sue never wavers in her pursuits. Set goals and figure out the best way to attain them. Don’t immediately discount every option. You just might have to be creative to find ways to get the job done if the obvious method isn’t apparent.

Be fanatical about your desires as it will rub off on other players.

Openly critical

Get right to the point. Sue never hesitates in sharing what’s on her mind. She says things openly and honestly. Of course, she could be wrong but know that she’ll never sugarcoat failure. If someone screws up, she’ll whip out the megaphone and bellow who it was and what they did. Not only does it inform them what they did wrong, it also sets an example for everyone else. You don’t need 25 players experiencing a defile to understand that it is a bad thing to stand in.

It’s good if a player learns from their mistakes. It’s even better if everyone learns from a player’s mistakes.

Gives people a chance

Sue doesn’t outright say no to anyone who wants to be on the squad. She gives them a shot to prove to her that this is where they belong. Depending on what your guild does, keep an open mind when it comes to applicants. Don’t outright reject anyone unless you have a solid reason to do so. You never know when you’ll find a diamond in the rough.

Reward them

Champions need to be treated like champions. The Cheerios work hard to get where they are. They take care of Sue’s aspirations, and Sue in turn, takes care of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if her budget for the cheerios dwarfs what the entire school gets from the school board. Give your players access to resources that will help them play better. Offset repairs a little. Provide consumables for their usage. Enchants, gems, and other augments should be offered up. Any players stand out in a particularly rough kill? Recognize them.

Killer instinct

Whether she wants to blackmail the principal or destroy tht blasted glee club, when Sue has her mind focused on a goal, she does her utmost best to see it through to the end. This is the kind of cutthroat, no holds barred attitude that slowly seeps to the rest of the raid. If this type of fervor to take down a raid boss can spread, you’ll notice a difference right away. After all, if your raid isn’t motivated or lacks that proper killer instinct, you’re going to have other issues entirely later on.

A Fond Farewell to AVR/AVRE

A Fond Farewell to AVR/AVRE

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now. In patch 3.3.5 Blizzard intends to intentionally break AVR/AVRE. It is not the first time that something like this has happened, but it does strike me as a bit odd as to the reasoning behind it.

If you missed the full announcement here it is for you

Bashiok — AVR Mod Broken in 3.3.5

This is a notice that we’re making changes in 3.3.5 in attempts to break the ability for the AVR (Augmented Virtual Reality) mod to continue functioning. For those unaware, this mod allows players to draw in the 3D space of the game world, which can then be shared with others who are also using the mod. In some cases this manifests itself through drawing/tagging/defacing the game world, but more popularly is used to give visual guides for dungeon and raid encounters.

We’re making this change for two reasons. The invasive nature of a mod altering and/or interacting with the game world (virtually or directly) is not intended and not something we will allow. World of Warcraft UI addons are never intended to interact with the game world itself. This is mirrored in our stance and restriction of model and texture alterations. The second reason is that it removes too much player reaction and decision-making while facing dungeon and raid encounters. While some other mods also work to this end, we find that AVR and the act of visualizing strategy within the game world simply goes beyond what we’re willing to allow.

The change we’re making in attempts to break the functionality is light in its touch and approach. When blocking any functionality we run the risk of affecting other mods, but we’ve targeted the changes as carefully as possible. If we find that the AVR mod (or any mod attempting to replicate its functions) are usable after 3.3.5 we will take further, more drastic steps.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they are wrong to not want to see mods like this disabled, but they claim it is because of the invasive nature of the mod and that it allows altering and interacting with the game world. Well, we interact with the game world all the time don’t we? We kill a mob, that’s interacting right there! Silly statement I know but it is the truth. Simply by being in the world and playing the game we are interacting with the world and on some level altering the state of play for those around us. As far as calling it invasive or that it alters the game world, I don’t know. Is it any more invasive than any other boss mod? Take a look at most boss mods, they mark players that are affected by effects, provide warnings both visual and audio before a boss does an ability and effectively simplify encounters. Some even give you arrows telling you where to run from an effect, others include range finders to tell you how far away you are from other players in order to avoid making some boss abilities chain or augment. Mods like Auctioneer allow you to alter the way you interact with the auction house, postal allows you to modify how you access the mail in the game world, power auras allows you to be notified of every single buff and debuff in the game and mods like grid allow you to alter how you view the members of your party and allow you control over what information is filtered through and omen alerts you to threat compared to all other party members.

So what makes AVR so taboo? I was thinking about it and it reminded me of a funny story from my pen and paper days.

I was playing Dungeons and Dragons (tabletop pen and paper version) with a group of friends. Our party was supposed to set up an ambush to take out a band of mercs about three times our size. I was playing a halfling rogue at the time and was the party’s wet works guy. I would sneak around, spy on things and help set traps. Our fighter in the party was a tactical genius (the player has since moved on to a military career and it is very fitting for him as he honestly was a huge strategist) and came up with a plan that involved key movements at key points in time. My character happened to have a bunch of chalk, and came up with the idea of setting markers on the walls and floor to indicate thresholds for those lying in wait. It could indicate when to attack and after a point when to break off and regroup or attack from a different direction. The fighter loved this idea, and we set about marking the ruins we were using as the kill zone in markings the party would understand. We then set various traps and waited for our ambush to take place. As the mercs entered the ruins we watched from hiding as they breached the thresholds, we attacked. The mercs moved past another marking and we dove back into hiding and onto the next position. This continued until the band was no more. We took no casualties and had a well executed plan thanks to a series of chalk markings. The GM joked at the time of having allowed us to have such general items and them coming in so handy.

So, is AVR so different than the chalk we used in that game session? I don’t feel that it is when used to say, mark spots on the ground for people to collapse to or stand at during certain encounters. On a personal level I will miss it not because of anything it did during a boss fight, but I truly loved the way it interacted with Totem Radius in showing me the effective range of my totems in real time. That said I wont lose any sleep over it going away, but I think Blizzard may have been a bit hasty in their aggression towards this mod. Personally I don’t feel it is any more invasive than any other mod they currently allow in the game, and honestly once you allow mods or addons of any sort you are inviting a sort of intrusion into that which you created.

Did it make things too simple and remove player thought from the game? I don’t think so either, I’ve seen enough people with it installed still mess up quite frequently. It was not a guaranteed win for boss fights otherwise we would see a lot more people having downed ICC heroic mode when using this. In the end a mod is no substitution for attentiveness to the game and player skill. This one just happened to let us John Madden things a bit, and occasionally draw funny objects where they don’t belong.

So what do you think? Do you support Blizzard decision to break the mod? Do you think it made things too easy? Will you miss being able to draw stick figures randomly in ICC?

Bursting Bubbles

Bursting Bubbles

This is a guest post from Dwynwen, a Discipline Priest with some lessons to share. Be sure to visit her blog!

I’m one of many burned out 25 man raiders who have turned to 10’s to help minimize raiding impact on ‘real life’. I’d been at loose ends for a regular but casual raid for a few weeks after an alt run I’d been tanking fell apart.

When the call went out for a healer to join a better-geared 10 man ICC alt run, I offered my priest without really thinking about it and almost immediately wondered what the heck I’d done. In theory my priest was quite well geared to start ICC, wearing mostly 232 and 245 with a couple of PVP 264. The real problem was that I’d never really learned to heal in a raid as disc, and I wasn’t looking forward to attempting harder content than I’d ever tried on her before.

dwyn2

I had two major problems with discipline. One was of perception, and the other performance. Disc isn’t widely understood, at least on the servers I’ve played on. While the information is certainly out there if you look hard enough, holy priests are assumed to be the default and it takes a little digging to pull out the disc information from priest threads dominated by Circle of Healing. Worse, those who don’t know much about the differences between two specs judge us against our holy brothers and sisters, against which bar for throughput we haven’t a hope. I’d had quite a few bad experiences at the hands of PUG raid leaders who judged me purely on healing done, which does make my performance look appalling. Lacking the confidence to challenge this assumption, I tried to adopt a throughput-focused playstyle by using Prayer of Healing, Flash Heal, and Greater Heal. I struggled with mana issues and still performed poorly, and had added quite a bit of stress and anxiety for myself into the bargain.

In desperation, I respecced to holy expecting that to be the answer. I lasted half a heroic before teleporting back out to the trainer. I missed the powerful and dynamic playstyle that I’d fallen in love with in the battlegrounds, using every tool at my disposal to survive and claw my allies back from the abyss. I have the greatest respect for holy priests, but I regretfully concluded it was simply not for me.

Defeated, I stopped putting my hand up for raids. My confidence continued to take a beating from the usual abuse meted out to healers in LFG. Intellectually I knew full well the Paladin had killed himself by standing in a void zone, but with my faith in my abilities at such a low ebb I meekly dropped group to save them the trouble of a votekick and vowed to focus on PVP.

It’s probably understandable that after all of this I would be nervous about stepping into ICC. The first run I was healing with a druid who had a disc priest main. The druid took over healing assigns and she was confident in directing me. “We’ll get the Paladin to tank heal” she suggested, “so you can focus on raid healing with me.”

Raid heal? I didn’t think I could.

“Keep an eye on the tanks just in case we run into trouble, but focus on keeping bubble up on the raid.”

I followed her advice as best I could. The first four bosses passed without incident as I focused on learning this new playstyle. Without a healing meter that tracked absorbs I had no idea how well i was doing, but I soon found I felt far less anxiety and my mana problems went away. At first, my saviour complex had me leaping to direct heal DPS who were taking damage but I slowly learned to have faith in the bubble to hold them until the druid HOT’s could roll in.

To start with, I was quite sparing of the bubbles, only casting them over the whole raid when I knew raid-wide damage was about to occur. As started to see heal reports whispered from the druid that showed how powerful my absorbs were, I gradually learned the art of bubble spam. I modified my raid frames to show Weakened Soul, and aimed to keep it up on all members of the raid at all times. I made a mouseover macro for Power Word: Shield, and bound it to 1.

I learned to move almost constantly to keep myself out of damaging effects while still rotating through the raid, keeping up POM and throwing out Penance. I kept casting, throwing out Renew if I had nothing else to do. If I didn’t have mana problems, I pushed harder until I did.  I started to get better at picking the times when direct healing was called for. Bubble-Spammer I am, but as the only healer in our raid able to break both fears on Blood Queen I gloried in throwing caution to the wind, stacking haste procs, and exploding out in Prayer of Healing to get the raid through. If that’s what it feels like to be a holy priest, I think I’m starting to understand.

dwyn

If the mistakes I made were driven by the perception and attitudes of the community, so was the solution. I can credit good mentoring for most of my improvement. My druid friend gave me many tips, hints, and plenty of encouragement. Apparently this is as natural to her as breathing, because when I credited her with teaching me how to disc she scoffed and assured me I already could.

If only she knew.

There’s a certain truth however to what she says. I already possessed enough of the information I needed to raid successfully as disc, little bits here and there I’d gleaned in my wider reading. What I was really missing was the confidence to put into practice what I knew was right, and the numbers to back it up. Penance Priest, World of Matticus and Plus Heal have filled in some of the gaps for me here. The final piece though only dropped into place when I was provided with an environment where constructive criticism abounded in which to develop and learn.

I can wholeheartedly agree with "The ABC of Discipline Priesting" that playstyle makes far more difference than perfect stat itemisation, and I think it’s a message that many new disc can benefit from. I can assure you I could be gemmed with pure agility and still be performing better than I was before – and I’m not a bad player. I’ve raided 25 man content as progression over two expansions, and have always had a reputation in my guild as someone who hits hard above their gear level and follows direction well. It still took more than a few trial-and-error runs and a guide to gemming for me to finally shed my fear of disc’s perception and start learning to play well.

My gear is certainly not fabulously itemised at the moment – I’m high on haste and regen and low on crit according to the conventional wisdom, and the 200 hit rating and 150 resilience I’m carrying probably isn’t doing anyone any good. I had my reward for all my hard work and development though when, finally brave enough to enter a 25 man ICC PUG, I saw myself top the charts fight after fight against very geared healers. Winning the roll on Althor’s Abacus possibly assisted with the general feeling of benevolence to all humanity, but at the root I was thankful I could finally feel proud of my impact. Bubble is, after all, the ultimate heal snipe.

Of course, the meters don’t tell the whole story and that’s not really what I’m celebrating here. My sense of achievement comes not from indulging my saviour complex, or from the numbers on recount, but from a feeling of mastery of my class. Besides, it doesn’t matter how much you push to top the chart – you’ll still be outhealed by the hunter you killed with Mark of the Fallen Champion by meter-chasing instead of following your assigns.

skada

Oops.

Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook, Mimetir Perspective

Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook, Mimetir Perspective

“Because it takes a village to slay a dragon.”

You might look askance at me for getting excited about that sentence. I wouldn’t blame you. It’s the blurb on the back of the Scott F. Andrew’s Guild Leader’s Handbook.

I admit I got quite excited when the opportunity to get a copy crossed my inbox. I’ve been involved in leading online communities in games for near on 10 years now, but I know I’m still learning about leadership and communities all the time; the nature of the games and roles within them is one of constant change. I figured that I might well learn  from Andrews’ book and at the least it’d be an interesting read.

I know Lodur’s already shared his thoughts on it here but I’m going to, too. Not because I know Scott Andrews (I’m not affiliated with him or WoW.com in any way, convoluted or otherwise) but because if you visit this site you and I may well have something in common: an interest in guild leadership. And if that’s the case, you could do with getting yourself a copy of this book. And, to be on the safe side, a pinch of salt.

First and foremost I must salute Andrews. Guild or online leadership is a topic which many people would consider frivolous; Andrews approaches it with the solemnity and respect it deserves. His writing style manages to convey that all the way through the book.

At every turn we’re reminded – no really, guild leading is Serious Business, no joke. Players are real people: so are you. That’s something I respect and it’s something I’m continually harping on about as a misunderstood fact of online communities. Another tune I regularly pluck is that these games are meant to be fun – again, Andrews keeps ‘fun’ as one of the integral principles throughout the book, constantly reminding his readers that having fun is one of the main aims for both themselves and their charges in the communities they’re building.

Saying that, his writing style isn’t *too* serious. The Handbook’s very readable thanks to a style which flows well, explains concepts immediately and simply, and gets to the point in short and understandable sentences. In this way the Handbook is very accessible to anyone from new or prospective guild leader to old hand, or even a player with no intention of leading. Andrews also cross-references his material between sections, enabling you to flick back and forth as your interest takes you.

The Handbook’s carefully thought out sub-sections also aids its accessibility – they help split up the text, as do the regular diagrams and tables dotted throughout the book neatly reinforce his points. All of this helps Andrews to mint his topic as one not to be snorted at.

As to the material itself – there’s no doubt that Andrews is a veteran of leading online communities. I was impressed right from the introduction as Andrews goes straight for the jugular, calmly asserting the dichotomic challenge that guilds pose for their leaders. After all, guilds may be part of a virtual or ‘unreal’ realm but they are populated by real people, whom, as Andrews points out, guild leaders can’t physically see. I’d not often considered this or its ramifications before, but he’s right – not being able to see your members face to face, and able to gauge whether their body language is trying to tell you something, or if they’re only smiling with their mouth – these are things which make online leadership at once both more personal and more impersonal. As Andrews rightly recognises – a unique challenge, but not one impossible to get right.

There’s a lot of his wisdom I both like and wholeheartedly agree with. As a bit of a ruffled-feathers veteran myself I recognise that I – and others – can become entrenched in views on the game, playstyles and player expectations. So I was pleasantly relieved to see that Andrews expertly manages to keep an objective and unbiased voice throughout. His comparison of the machinations of guilds of different sizes is well explained – but then he moves on to a potentially volatile definition – that of ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’. I’d disagree to some extent with his definitions – by his definition my own Kingslayer raiding group would be casuals – but the topic’s a good example of where he manages to tread a minefield without putting a foot wrong.

Andrews successfully illustrates most of his points with examples. He talks about player types and gives examples of how different types might interact. Crucially he also underlines the fact that players – again, as real people – aren’t as simple as to be a single player type, but rather composites. It might have been easy to forego this point in the name of generalisation: happily Andrews notes it. It’s a good example of little details that guild leaders have to watch out for and which might not cross our minds until it’s pointed out, possibly quite sharply. The Handbook rescues us from being thrown in at the deep end in numerous murky ponds.

Saying that, there are a few points where Andrews’ advice appears clunky. When talking about how to prepare for raids as a raid leader he basically recommends that one tell the group everything about the fight. Personally I’ve found that breaking down a fight into what each role (tanks, healers, DPSers) need to know is popular both in my active raid group and PUGs. In my opinion dumping all the information on people just drowns them in it, but giving them the bit that pertains to them makes it bite-size. He then goes on to talk about the importance of morale and constructive communication in post-combat raid leading, which I thoroughly agree with.

My biggest qualm with the Handbook is that it generalises a tad much. Sure, Andrews is presenting a guide applicable to all types of communities in all types of MMOs – he has to generalise a bit. But if you’re using the book in relation to a specific game you may well need a pinch of salt. For example, Andrews’ recommendation to be recruit by going out among strangers and recruiting is all very well and good, and worked brilliantly for me in WoW a year ago. Nowadays if you showcase your leadership abilities in a LFD PUG in WoW many people will think you’re being weird or pushy – and tell you that. Regardless of peoples’ reactions to a stranger from another server being social at them, the game simply doesn’t facilitate re-grouping with prospective recruits cross-server at present.

He also goes into some depth about the differences between raid and guild leading. This is the only time that I wholly disagreed with his expertise. He suggests raid leading and guild leading are a completely different kettle of fish (who puts fish in a kettle anyway?); in the former role you need to be prepared to shout at your raiders. Whether it’s due to different experiences or just his need to generalise, in my opinion Andrews’ wisdom fails him here, as my Kingslayer group stands as at least one example of a raiding style which succeeds at endgame content without screaming at or chewing over my raiders, which he seems to suggest all raid leaders will have to be prepared to do. If this is what he meant I believe him wrong – if not, I believe the text misleading. I’d quite like to hear Andrews’ take on that!

All in all, sodium chloride taken into consideration, I think Andrews’ book is a timely addition to the MMO world – and to my own bookshelf. His closing thoughts are as grounded as his opening ones and underline the fact that MMOs are a reality; whether or not individual MMOs can keep up or fall by the wayside, MMOs as a genre will be around for a long while. They provide something for us as players – the chance to partake in, create and resolve conflict situations – which ties them, as a platform, to us as real individuals.

Lodur gave publication details for the Handbook in his post but just in case you missed them;

The Handbook retails for $24.95 US ($31.95 CDN). It can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

It Came From the P.U.G.!: Why I Hate Gundrak

It Came From the P.U.G.!: Why I Hate Gundrak

For those who might not know yet, my gluttony for abuse knows no bounds. As a result I find myself in a rather large number of P.U.G. groups. At the end of the day I bring you, my readers, the stories of my travels in the random grouping of Azerothian adventure!

I really really hate heroic Gundrak. Not because it’s hard or that there is loot there I want but can’t seem to get to drop, but because it seems like every time I queue for a random, I get it. I’ve done it at least 40 times, and the vast majority of those times have been through the LFD tool. It’s not a bad instance I’m just tired of seeing the insides of it, and I think this last time my group was agitated as well.

It started out pretty normal, warrior tank, ret paladin, mage a boomkin and me. Pretty solid setup, everyone had gear that hovered around at least ICC10 so I figured it would be a nice, quick run. In and out of Gundrak, I’m all for that! Down the first boss like normal and we’re moving onto the second boss when something odd happens. The boomkin pulls threat off the tank on a trash pull. Tank re-establishes aggro and we move onto the next one. The boomkin pulls aggro once again but this time the tank doesn’t grab aggro. I heal the boomkin like crazy and keep him from dying and everyone stops after the trash is downed.

Boomkin: What the hell man? I wasn’t even doing anything to pull aggro! Did you forget how to tank?

Warrior: If you learned how to manage your aggro this wouldn’t be an issue.

Boomkin: Yeah but you just sat there while I was dying! WTF is wrong with you? Learn how to tank

The warrior runs forward and pulls ALL of the trash leading up to the second boss and then shadow melds as the boomkin is in the middle of AoE. All the mobs go hell for broke after the boomkin. I toss an Earth Shield on the druid and nuke heal until the pack is down.

Boomkin: Seriously? What the hell is wrong with you?

Warrior: Shouldn’t try telling me how to tank then

Me: Fine, fuck it. If you two are going to fight, I’ll just tank.

I switch to my PvP gear, run in and ES myself while frost-shocking the boss. I nuke heal myself and keep shocking and lava bursting on the boss.

the DPS starts in slowly and I’m holding aggro pretty well and eventually the tank runs in and grabs aggro off of me. I let him take it and switch back to healing. The boss is downed and we are all sitting there.

Me: So, we done fighting? I already hate this place, I just want to be done.

Ret Pally: Dunno, but watching a healer tanks was pretty funny. Think you could do that again?

Me: Sure, unless mr. tank and mr. boomkin want to play nice so we can just be done.

Warrior: Fine, proved your point.

Boomkin: Fine.

Rest of the run is done without any hiccups, no one is openly aggressive to each other and the rest goes smoothly.

The sad thing about this isn’t that the fight happened, but the fact that it is not the first time something like this has happened. I’ve seen players go at each other’s throats for seemingly small things or mistakes. It boggles my mind how people playing a GAME for FUN can have such a stick up their arse and be so aggressive. This has happened at least 3 times this past week, not me tanking (although I do threaten it from time to time), but the bickering. If you can’t play well with others, you shouldn’t be playing a game that relies on OTHER PEOPLE to do part of it, or just avoid that part of it.

So how about you? Any good pug stories this week? Any horror stories?

Well that’s it for today, until next time Happy Healing!

Bah Humbug! PUGers, Use My Name

Bah Humbug! PUGers, Use My Name

Hello, my name’s druid and I’m a PUGger.

That might as well be my name – or yours. We’ve all been privvy to it: “Druid go tank” “warrior u nub pala tank” “priest dead other priest heal”. Addressing someone by their class rather than their character’s name is rude, it’s lazy, and it’s adding to the stagnation in WoW’s pond.

We give our characters names for a reason. It helps us differentiate our character from the millions of other blue-haired and glowy-eyed sacks of muscle. Everyone has a different method for choosing names – I know some people just mash the keyboard until something looks good. For me, choosing a character’s name is an involved process requiring an etymological dictionary, babynames sites and a chunk of time staring at the character creation screen.

A name is part of an identity. In WoW it’s the only thing that we can tailor to be completely unique. It’s more important for some players; for role players names are part of an entire personality. But we all name our characters and I’d bet it’s not just role players who agonize over hitting the Right Name. I do and it’s just because I like to give my lil’uns a starting point, like a header for a clean slate starting at level 1.

It’s disrespectful to not acknowledge the thought and identity we put into naming characters. Yet in WoW I rarely see people use names in social situations where they have no attachment to people. I’m talking about random groups; it’s painfully obvious that anyone inclined to call by class name will do so in a group full of strangers. But why?

Imagine a paladin named Spongebob. He runs 5 to 25 man PUGs and uses character names as little as possible. The first and most obvious reason is that he doesn’t have time to check a name. Things can get hairy in group content; if the death knight is about to become a bubbling heap on the floor it’s reasonable for Spongebob to yell “DK move out of fire”. But if the death knight is in no more imminent danger than getting toasty-warm toes, Spongebob doesn’t really have any excuse not to check and type his name.

Granted, the Death Knight might have a long and well considered name like “Enginescannae”. You know, one that’s a mile long. But that’s where just typing the first few letters of the name works wonders. Just a quick “Hey Takeitjim Engi, fire move!” acknowledges the death knight’s name and communicates clearly.

Ah, communication. That is why using names is practically crucial. If someone needs to do something right the nitwibble now then letting them know using their character name gets that across perfectly. Using a class name can come across as confusing, particularly if it’s spelt wrong – the amount of times I’ve read “durid do X” and thought “which one is durid? can’t see anyone by that nam… oh! Me!” Not to mention the fun to be had by saying “shaman go heal” when there are multiples of that class in the party.

Of course, at the dark, murky heart of the issue is the fact that PUGs mean strangers. Spongebob’ll probably never see the party or raid members again, particularly in 5 mans. He can afford to be lazy; why bother putting the effort in to be social? He might even occasionally look at other players like they’re the local armour repair vendor.

Being with strangers also means there can be what I call a Pecking Order Issue. Chaos can ensue unless boundaries and/or hierarchy are stated and accepted. The tank is traditionally top of the pecking order in 5 mans, but frankly that hierarchy is obselete and most players ignore it. In 10 and 25 man PUGs the hierarchy can be shaky or non-existent if the raid leader isn’t capable of holding things together or setting boundaries.

Now, Spongebob may be a player who needs a Pecking Order; perhaps that’s what he’s used to with his guild or in real life. He may also be a player who likes to be at the top of that Pecking Order and perhaps doesn’t feel he gets to be often enough. Telling the priest to “go heal” removes the priest’s choices in playstyle and identity, lumping them into a faceless group. It also asserts Spoongebob as the authority or arbiter. It’s like saying “oi black haired person go play the violin cos I say so.” Quite often it’s meant as a challenge, and if no-one speaks out against it then it becomes status-quo for the run. Spongebob will take it as freedom to act and talk how he likes – and no-one likes a bully.

I’m not going to spend hours saying that random dungeons or PUGs are a good or bad thing and they’re making the social aspect of the game worse. What I have said, and I stand by like a hairdresser with a maniacal glint and blue hairspray, is that making a statement using names wouldn’t kill us. It might just remove some of the ridiculous schoolyard-like standoffs and get WoW’s social pond flowing freely.

What do you think? Do you get annoyed by class names being used, and if so how do you react? Or do you think it’s fine, perhaps use class names often yourself? Do you think it matters in the name of ettiquette, or do you think it’s just an unimportant habit in a game?

This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.