Lodur’s Epic Journey to PaxEast 2011

If you didn’t know, for the last several months I’ve been the third seat on the RaidWarning podcast. This comes after the BDTU podcast came to a close. Since then I’ve dove back into podcasting pretty hard as it’s something I really love. We were invited back this year to do a Live Podcast at PAX East 2011. I was excited because though I’ve attended Blizzcon and other conventions, this was the first time I would be attending a convention as both Media and as a Speaker. My excitement only escalated further when I saw this little snippet posted on their site;

TypeFrag Presents: Raid Warning Live!
Manticore Theatre
Sunday, 12:30pm – 1:30pm
It happened at PAX Prime and it’s happening here. Seven, David, and Joe, hosts of the ill-humored World of Warcraft podcast, Raid Warning, step out from behind their Brewfest steins for a live broadcast show. Expect the latest in WoW community news, prizes, and Cataclysm information while the hosts and their guests attempt to do what their fans have requested: be funny live. Guest Lineup: Dustin Blackwell (MMOMFG.com) and more! 

 

Panelists include: Seven DeBord [Host, Raid Warning], David Morrison [Co-Host, Raid Warning], Joe Perez [Co-Host, Raid Warning], Dustin Blackwell [guest, MMOMFG.com], Jeff Cannata [guest, Weekend Confirmed]

It’s pretty exciting even still, and now that I’m home from PAX I’m going to frame the page from the convention book. So, back to the epic journey story part right? right!

Well anyways, I begin to make my plans to get to Boston, MA in time for the con. I start looking at train tickets and plane tickets and then notice that it’s only a 7 hour drive from my hometown to Boston. I ask the significant other and we decide that we’ll make the drive. Preparations are made, and the day of the journey arrives. I leave work at 5pm EST and Tart and I begin our long drive to Boston. Everything is going great and I doze off in the passenger seat. I wake up a couple hours later and we stop for gas and some food. We pile back into the car and start on our way again. We make it a few miles down the road, and all of a sudden the RPM gauge drops to zero. The car is still running, but the lights are getting dimmer, the radio is freaking out a little bit, the speedometer stops tracking speed and the odometer stops tracking mileage.We pull off into the next rest stop, and turn the car off  as the lights are continuing to dim.

We get out check the engine and everything on the surface looks good, so we get back in and the car wont start up. We begin looking for a jump, thinking the battery may just be dead. We find a couple willing people, but when we remove the jumper cables, the car just dies out. We call Triple A and they give us a hard time about sending someone out. Over two hours later someone finally arrives, and starts by trying to give us a jump from the truck. The jump starts the car, but again once the power is removed the car dies out. So we get a tow to the nearest WalMart thinking we can just replace the battery. $200 tow later, we swap the battery out, start the car and head off into the night. We get about another 100 miles or so and the battery dies. Clearly at this point it’s the alternator, but it’s super late and there are no shops we can go to at this point to get it fixed. We wind up having to spend the night at the rest stop and waiting until morning. Let me tell you, sleeping in the car when it’s bloody cold is not fun.

Morning comes, we get a tow to a local shop. $374 and a new alternator later, we’re on the road again. We get to about 20 miles outside of Boston, and the car, yet again, dies. Same as before too. The RPM gauge drops to zero, followed by the speedometer and the odometer. We manage to get a tow into Watertown, and it turns out the alternator is dead again. That’s right the second one was bad as well. We get a cab and head to the hotel from the repair shop, and get ready to try and hit PAX. What should have been a 7 hour drive turned into a 25 hour excursion! Next time I go, I’m flying and being done with it!

While at PAX though, it was a truly great time. I got to hang out with the amazing people at Cryptozoic, the company that makes the WoW TCG, got to play Star Wars the Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and Duke Nukem Forever (yes it exists and it is pretty damn sweet). I got to meet a lot of game developers and really get to know the people behind some of our favorite games.  It was quite an experience honestly, and one I really enjoyed. And on Sunday, despite all the hurdles we had getting there, the live show was a huge success. People had a good time, we handed out lots of loot and had some great conversations about WoW and the upcoming patch 4.1. We even got to drink some nice home-crafted beer while doing so. Most of all,  I really enjoyed meeting some of my readers and listeners face-to-face. Being able to shake hands with you guys and say hello was a great experience and one that I’m hoping I get to repeat often.

Matticast Episode 11: Tough Conversations: Kicking, Demoting, Replacing.

Welcome to Episode 11 of The Matticast. This week BorskMatt, Kat, and Brian, discuss:

– How To Have Tough Conversations

– Kicking Someone, Demoting Them, or Replacing Them In Raid

– Dealing with Couples and “Package Deals”

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topics or tweet us with the hashtag #matticast

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

 

Calling All Holy Paladins

Our goal with the new podcast is to constantly improve the show and tweak things based on listener feedback. The two most prominent suggestions we are receiving is for more 10 man content and more Holy Paladin content. So this is our attempt to deliver on that. Are you a Holy Paladin Blogger and/or a 10 Man Raid or Guild Leader? Then we may want you on the show.

Here is exactly what we are looking for:

  • An expert Holy Paladin
  • A 10 Man Raid/Guild Leader
  • A blogger looking to provide content for World Of Matticus
  • Someone interested in helping promote the show.

Meet all or most of these requirements? Shoot us an e-mail.

Out with the Bads and in with the… Who?

As a long time avid follower of as many guild/raid leadership blogs and forums as I can fit into my schedule each week, there is one discussion topic that almost invariably makes me wince. Actually, that isn’t exactly accurate. There is one particular response to this particular topic that makes me want to punch something.

“How do I push my current guild to a higher or more serious level of progression?”

The response that inevitably pops up that makes me /facepalm IRL is: “You need to start replacing the bads and attracting the pros” or even worse (because it sounds so much more friendly somehow) “You need to explain to everyone that raid spots are competitive and people will be replaced as soon as something ‘better’ becomes available”

The overwhelming message that gets passed along whenever this topic comes out is a very clear mercenary-like outline that clearly advocates using fear of being kicked or replaced to snap your raiders into line and light a fire under them to keep them moving forward under the imminent risk of being replaced.

This is my public response to all advocates of raid management that involves any sort of emphasis on kicking or replacing people as soon as something better comes along: Eff that, you would never find me in a guild that treats its members like that.  Unless you believe that you are seriously intent on competing for World or US progression rankings, using an approach that emphasizes the action of replacing/removing people is an inherently unstable strategy.

I once posted that I believe sports analogies are by far the best way to view leading a raid or guild, as opposed to trying to compare it to running a business or a leading a group of soldiers.  I bring this up because something that always pops into my mind when people start trying to describe their plans for assembling the “Dream Team” of WoW raiding, it makes me remember how well it has worked long term when the U.S. did the same thing with our national basketball team.

Sure, the U.S. national basketball team has been more or less successful in the long term, but the only reason for our success has been the overwhelming pool of talent that we have to pull from in the NBA.  If you watch the games, the level of coordination and teamsmanship just doesn’t ever really manifest itself on the court, especially in the first couple of incarnations of the team.  Essentially it is a collection of basketball gods steamrolling over the competition through the sheer force of individual talent. How much fun could that be on a long term basis to be part of?  The only hope someone like me would have of answering how fun that might be would be to look at what kind of turnover the team has had since the first “Dream Team” (for those that don’t want to go look, essentially the turnover is nearly 100% between each big game until very recently when they instituted rules to try and force players to commit to more time to the team).

On the other hand, we could look at virtually every Hollywood sports movie ever made for a good counterexample of an underdog team that overcomes enormous odds through hard work and awesome teamwork.  My personal favorite for this analogy is “Miracle” by Disney,<link:  a true story based coincidently on another U.S. Olympic team.  The 1980 U.S. hockey team and their “Miracle on Ice.” It is a great movie if you’re into feel-good sports films, especially if you appreciate the ones based on real life stories.  I remember watching the final game between this team and the Russians on TV and the swell of national pride during those final seconds of the game. It isn’t hard to imagine why this is described as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

So what is the point? I’ll make an effort here to explain what it is exactly that goes through my head when I see this discussion pop up and my reaction when someone proposes trying to go the mercenary route in their approach to building a “successful” raid group. It usually centers around two questions:

Does this person honestly ever see themselves trying to break into the world progression rankings with their team? (Hint: if you are asking on a public forum for directions or help on how to motivate your team to do better, the answer is no)  I know that at least for me, the only measure of success I have for my raid team is whether or not we meet our raid goals each tier. I could care less if we are the 3rd raid group to do so or the 30,000th in the world, as long as we meet our own goals I am going to feel like we succeeded.

Then my mind goes on a rambling tangent involving sports analogies and nostalgia and I come to my second question:

Which Olympic winning sports team do I honestly think I would rather be a member of? And perhaps more importantly, which team would the person asking the question rather pbe a part of?  The U.S. National basketball team a.k.a. the “Dream Team” that get together every 4 years to ROFLStomp the rest of the world in basketball (and no, you don’t get an NBA contract or salary for being on the team) or would I/they want to be part of that “rag-tag group of college kids” who pulled off one of the greatest moments in sports history? I suppose both options are going to appeal to people in different ways.

Another thing to consider: From everything I have ever read about really high end raiding guilds, one of the most prevalent traits that they share is that the bulk of their members have been playing together for -years-.  Not a single one of them is stressed out over whether or not the next new applicant is going to cause them to take their raid spot and the turnover these teams have is extremely low.  Turnover for them has been extremely low for -years-, and I would guess that what turnover they had had nothing to do with someone failing to perform up to the group’s expectations but instead likely had to do with real life obligations that had nothing to do with the game.

If you don’t have the raw talent to be ROFLStomping your way through the content, then employing a revolving door strategy where you are constantly trying to replace your “worst” raiders is going to result in a turnover rate that will rival your local fast food joint with the creepy shift manager.

If your stated goal is to replace the lowest performing members of your raid team on a regular basis, what kind of message does that send to your team about the long term security of their raid spots?  Even more importantly, what does that say about the possibility of being replaced by some raiding super-star who happens to apply to the guild?

Next week I will share my alternatives to the idea of motivating your raiders through fear of being replaced.  In the meantime I would like to leave everyone with a question to ponder.  You are welcome to share your answers below in the comments, but I would be just as happy if you just spend a few minutes thinking about what your answer would be.

Question: If one of the world’s best <insert class/role here> players applied to your guild, assuming that they met all of your other requirements for a new recruit, which of your current players would you replace with the new applicant?  What if the person being replaced was already one of your stronger players?  Would your answer be any different if there were 4 of the world’s top players turning in applications at the same time? How about 9 applications that are clearly head and shoulders better than anything you currently have in your raid? 

I can tell you that I at least would almost undoubtedly turn the applicant down.  Unless they happened to stumble into one of the few periods of the year where we have opened recruitment.  Though to be honest, even then I would have to seriously question whether someone like that would really fit in with our raid group.

Is Blizzard keeping you in guild by threat of rep?

Is Blizzard keeping you in guild by threat of rep?

Last time I posted, I broke the news that I left my guild and home of 6 years on Zul’jin, Unpossible. I actually wound up moving servers completely, and now reside on Ner’zhul a US PvP server located in the bloodlust battlegroup. I am now a member of the Conquest guild, and attempt to harass Matt (otherwise known as Russelcus) daily. Making the transition was quite daunting. It involved leaving everything I knew behind, transferring servers from PvE to PvP, getting used to new guild structure, raiding roles, other healers, loot system differences and generally getting adjusted. I can say to that effect that the players in Conquest have been nothing but top notch, and really welcoming. They’ve done a damn good job of making this displaced shaman feel welcome while I adjust to my new environment. While on that topic, I’d like to give a big shout-out to all the crew, thanks for helping to make the transition a little bit easier. I’m having a blast raiding with them, and I’m looking forward to seeing a large group of them again this year at Blizzcon 2011.

Now to the meat and potatoes of today. When I transferred I went from being exalted with a guild, to starting back at scratch. That means I lost the ability to purchase any of the guild vendor items that required any sort of rep at all. At first I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but then I rolled an alt and really could use that heirloom helmet to speed up the leveling process, but I can’t buy it yet because I don’t have the rep. Or the fact that while our guild got the achievement Guild Glory of the Raider, I can’t cash in on the sweet sweet Dark Phoenix quite yet. It’s sort of this constant nagging reminder telling me that I haven’t really earned my keep yet. Having hit maximum level and completed all the quests besides dailies and a handful of quests in Vash’jir, I’m climbing up a pretty steep hill right now.

So I got to thinking, is this a deliberate design mechanic to keep people in their guilds? Before Cataclysm, recruitment was pretty steady. You could post on various sites and forums, send out twitter messages or put out a new video and you’d get at least a few nibbles. Now though, recruitment is pretty arduous. I know plenty of guilds that are having a hard time filling in certain classes or rolls, and others that would have to beat away applicants with a stick now are seeing a steady slowing in the trickle of new applicants. So I have to wonder how many people are staying in their current guilds based on their guild rep and the level bonuses? By adding in guild bonuses and guild rep, they’ve bread in a certain brand loyalty based around personal desire. Sure you can leave your guild and join another one, but you’ll have to grind that rep out all over again! Sure you can join that other guild, but they’re lower level than your current guild so you’ll loose all those nifty bonus abilities!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not all about guild hopping or anything like that. But from where I’m sitting, we used to get a ton of emails about finding the right guild, questioning if the guild you’re in suits your needs, things like that. Those emails have dwindled quite a bit since Cataclysm was released. I know a couple of people, who the idea of doing the grind all over again was just the last straw, and instead of switching to a new guild and maybe having their love of the game renewed with a different group of people, they just stopped playing all together.

I think Blizzard recognizes this a little bit and in Patch 4.1 we’ll be getting Heirloom Tabards. The Illustrious Guild Tabard allows you to gain an additional 60% guild reputation from your questing and tasks, while the Renowned Guild Tabard grants an additional 100%. I’m fairly confident that the Renowned Guild Tabard will be something you can pickup at exalted for alts, and the illustrious tabard might almost be enough to ease the burden. It just depends on what rep level you’re required to have before you can purchase it. Both tabards have the added bonus of being bind on account items and can then be used for your various alts as you level them up to help cushion the rep crunch.

The question still remains though, with all these new perks and bonuses coming out for being in a guild, and the things like guild rep being a factor now, do you think that this has contributed to the dwindling returns on recruitment? Are these incentives enough that they keep people in their current guild rather than potentially finding a guild that may be a better fit for them? So what are your opinions on the topic?

By the time you read this I will be heading to PAX East in Boston. If you happen to be heading there as well, or will be in the area, feel free to contact me here or through Twitter. There are no formal meet-ups at the moment, but I will be partaking in a Live Podcast on Sunday March 13th at PAX, tentatively scheduled for 12:30 in the Manticore room. Be sure to stop by and say hello!

Is Atonement Healing Back In?

I haven’t been able to verify this on the PTR yet, but Atonement healing might be a go when 4.1 lands. For the past few months, I’ve observed that Atonement was simply too gimmicky. The relationship between that ability and Smite just kept going up and down, left and right, hot and cold, and all over the place. At the moment, it’s really awesome on Heroic Halfus due to mechanics of the fight.

So how exactly does Atonement healing get better?

  • Holy Fire damage is about 30% stronger than Smite.
  • Atonement triggers with Holy Fire.

I believe the initial Holy Fire hit and the subsequent DoT damage get the same increase. I think the DoTs from Holy Fire may even work with Atonement (But I’ll need to check). If Atonement healing is back in, you may want to brush up a bit on that style of play. Personally, I still believe its an awkward style of play. If only because the healer doesn’t get to dictate where exactly the heal from the damage ends up. I’ve had problems where Atonement heals would land on a blood worm or something.

Smite replaces your Heal. Holy Fire would function similar to a Flash Heal with a DoT. This would be a fun way to heal heroic dungeons in and such, but I’m a little afraid of allowing it in my raids simply because I don’t know enough about the strength and viability of it. The Holy Fire changes alone do warrant a closer look.

On a side note, this is great for soloing!

Healing Precision in 25-Man Raids

Healing a 25-man raid can be a daunting task. While there are more healers to compensate for the larger group, who those healers choose to heal is not static. We as healers have the tendency to heal the lowest-health person as quickly as possible to prevent death. However, in the world of Cataclysm, where damaging mechanics often leave a moment of reprieve and triage, this tendency often leads to multiple healers focusing on the same people, neglecting others until the very last moment, when it’s too late. Luckily, there are a few tricks that can be used to alleviate the lack of healing precision in 25-mans.

Limit the Number of Targets Healers Have in Range

By leaving healers to free-for-all heal the raid during an encounter, you increase the mental strain on those healers, forcing more split-second decisions to be made and leaving opportunities for unintended neglect to sneak in and cause raider death. Limiting the number of people a healer can heal using range limits can help improve focus and reduce mental stress when a raid takes a large damage hit.

Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Trust me, though, it works.

The method I used to fix issues my healers were having on Chimaeron was to limit the number of targets they each had in healing range. This forced them to concentrate on bringing only a few health bars above 10k health in the small windows of time between acid volleys and Massacres. While splitting and limiting the healers may seem detrimental to the raid, it in fact freed up the burden each healer had by a significant amount, allowing them to concentrate on only a handful of people at a time.

Note: This assumes your raid frames will fade or dim when someone is out of range, but even the default UI has this functionality now, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Assign Specific Groups or Targets to Healers

While I’m sure this has been covered by many other raid management and healing articles, it is nevertheless still important. Similar to the above trick, giving someone an assigned group or target to heal gives them a goal. They can focus on keeping their assignment up, as well as their own health and mana, instead of worrying about all 25 raiders’ health bars.

A related trick regarding healers and assignments comes into play when looking at healer skill. If you’ve recently started up a raiding team or want to test a new healing recruit, assign them to a role where you will easily be able to gauge their performance. Examples of this include healing tanks or kiters.

Use Healing Zones Whenever Possible

With tools like Efflorescence, Healing Rain, and Power Word: Barrier, among others, grouping up to take advantage of these types of spells is one of the best things you can do to handle raid damage in 25-mans. While it may not be healing precision per se, it still allows healers to breathe for a moment and focus on more immediate threats, such as tank death or near-fatal strike mechanics.

Take note that you should only do this when it is feasible. Trying to group up when the boss has a tendency to cause explosions or demolish people standing near each other are good reasons to not worry about these spells.

Oh, also make sure to have your entire raid click the Lightwell!

Matticast Episode 10 – Battle Rez, Scheduling, and Performance Raiding

Welcome to Episode 10 of The Matticast. This week BorskMattVik, and Brian, discuss:

– The Hows and Whys of the Battle Rez.

– Raid Scheduling

– The Performance Oriented Raid

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topic or tweet us with the hashtag #matticast

Subscribe to the show: iTunesRSS

 

Tough Call: How do I turn them around?

Tough Call: How do I turn them around?

ComputerRepair

The other day it occurred to me that as a leader, we are judged twice: Once by how we handle success, and once by how we handle problems.

So by now you’ve determined that one of your officers needs to step up their game and contribute more to your rampantly successful organization.  Presuming you still feel they can be a valuable part of your leadership team, this leaves you with two standard options:

  1. Ignore it and hope the situation fixes itself
  2. Violently strike, shake or punch them
  3. Coach them to success

Method 1: Ignore it

Let me know how this works. 

Actually, I’d bet that a fair amount of people are reading this because they’ve already tried this method and realized it never changes.

Method 2: Violence

“We have not yet developed the technology to punch someone over a standard TCP/IP connection.”

- Lodur

So unless you’re a Jedi and can Force Choke someone, this method is sort of a wash, too.

Method 3: Coaching/Wake-Up Call

Part of leadership is motivation, and that doesn’t start and stop with your members.  Your officers need back-up, direction, vision and support on a regular basis.  The only thing that changes is your tactics and means of implementation.

Of course, how this situation came to be and what path you choose from here is largely based on your leadership style.  What follows below likely fits best within an organized style of leadership.  If you run a more chaotic/organic guild, some of this could seem foreign. 

As with any relationship, the GM/Officer paradigm requires give and take.  You both need to know what is expected of each other, so there are no assumptions later on.  It really helps to lay these things out, and to write them down.  Do not presume you will remember all the details later, because you won’t. 

Re-Defining their Responsibilities

Their domain: Are they in charge of all melee, or just tanks?  Do they coach healers outside of the raid, or is that done by the Morale Officer?  In your head, who should be going to them before coming to you?

  • Expectations: What goals have you set for their area of responsibility?  Just “play well” isn’t really a goal.  Zero missed interrupts, DPS that ranks on WoL every night, better cooldown coordination between healers.  These are examples of things they can work on.  Remember, people derive comfort from achieving goals.  
  • Extra Duties: Are they expected to pitch-in on recruiting?  Are they expected to be the sole recruiter for their area?  Do they need to make sure they set aside time to assess your back-ups?  Do they need to contribute to strat development before raid?
  • Rules are there for a reason: Whether it’s your rule or a rule they made up, we are judged by how and when we implement our rules.  If an officer feels like a particular rule (such as talking to players before cutting them, or organising who sits out on which fight, or ensuring loot is distributed correctly) then the situation needs to be examined.
  • Assistance: Tell them what you can do to help them, and when you want/expect to be asked for help.
  • Clarity: Be clear about when and how often you want to update each other.  Some guilds can do this quickly each night, some prefer a weekly officer meeting.  Develop a routine.
  • Desire: Ask them if these are all things they want to do.  Perhaps they are good at some things and not yet ready for others.  If falls to you to decide what they should be handling and when you should be giving them more to do.

Hand-in-Hand with all that, comes your fair share of the culpability.  After-all, it’s your guild, and, even though a lot of GM tasks are intangible, everyone needs to know what you’re doing so they can follow with confidence.

Defining the GM’s Responsibility

  • Tell them what you do for them
  • Tell them what additional things you will do for them now
  • Be clear with what you expect to be a GM-level issue, and what you think is best handled by them
  • Be very clear that your job is to ask questions, and this is just something you will need to do. Nobody should be offended when you make your inquiries.  Afterall, “not checking is not managing”.

Hopefully these tips will give you some good ideas when you find yourself having to coach one of your officers.

Next week: How Cataclysm has changed Guild Structures

As always, please leave your questions/comments/feedback/marriage proposals below.  I love to read them on these rainy spring days while curl up in my official Matticus Snuggie*.

Note: No such product exists.
For GMs –  Enjin 2 year anniversary means 40% off for you

For GMs – Enjin 2 year anniversary means 40% off for you

enjin-logo-birth

Our premiere partners at Enjin are celebrating their second birthday! (Disclaimer: I do advise them when it comes to their services from a GM perspective and the actual links are affiliate links).

From one guild master to another, I can’t recommend their services enough. In the past, I’d use my own combination of forum software, blog software, and EqDKP hacks to manage my guild’s online presence. On of top of that, I had to stress over the looks, too.

Now I don’t know about you but as a guild master, I’d rather spend my time actually playing the game with my guild instead of having to fret over the technical stuff.

I don’t have to worry about loot tracking. They do it for me.

Attendance? That’s taken care of.

My guildies can keep track of each others blogs.

The best part? An actual recruiting form for applicants. In the past, we had a separate forum where users had to copy and paste an existing application template into a new thread. It was archaic! But with their modules, all we had to do is come up with the questions.

Their promotion started a few days ago. But it ends tomorrow! If your guild’s web contracts are coming up for renewal, consider using Enjin to power your guild instead.

Enjin offers three plans. Here’s the scoop on their current deals:

  • SAVE 40% when you prepay for 1 year on any plan!
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Their Ultimate plan is the best value if you opt in for a year. With the 40% discount, that’s $17.97 a month. For smaller guilds, Premium might be the better option for you. For a year on the same promotion, that’s a $5.37 a month.

That’s approximately three dollars a month without having to fret about technical issues, upgrades, or other problems.

But hey, if you’re still sceptical about their services, you can always move your entire guild and try out their premium plan for a month first. See how your guild likes it.

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