How to Get What You Want From Your Guild

How to Get What You Want From Your Guild

See that image up there? That is one annoyed looking cat. Looks as if someone took away his toy or threatened him with a bath. That’s the same look I exhibit when someone comes complaining to me.

But hey, it comes with the guild leader territory.

Listening to complaints. It probably takes up around 15% of communications.

(Actually, file that post idea away. “Percentage of matters that occupy guild leader time”). 

Most of the time, it’s just hot hair or someone wants to get something off their chest. Generally, complainers aren’t really taken seriously. But y’know? Every so often, there’s a legitimately dissatisfied player.

If you really want to lodge a solid complaint, you need to identify if what you want is an actual change or you just want to vent.

Too often in guilds, players are exposed to people complaining about something.

Maybe it’s someone’s performance.

It could be their lack of attendance.

Perhaps the raid just takes too long to get going.

You know, if you’re looking to secure some kind of change in policy or the way things are done, then effective complaining is called for. If it’s for the second reason (emotional comfort), then really, all you’re looking for is someone to listen to you.

My advice? If you’re going to complain because you want something done differently, figure out exactly what your end game is. The most ineffective complaint is the one where there’s no objective.

What is the end result of your complaint?

Here’s some examples:

  • Consistent faster pulls
  • Less off-topic discussion during raid
  • More booze during break

Once you figure out the outcome, identify the person capable of delivering it. You don’t harass the Warrior if you don’t have any food or water, right?
If I’m on the receiving end of a complaint, I instinctively put up walls because I know what’s coming. Being conscious of this, when I’m lodging a complaint to others (a legitimate one, mind you), I make an effort to be calm and polite.*

Ask yourself this.

Are you looking for results or the satisfaction of being right?

* My friends have picked up on this. When they notice I‘m super extra nice, they immediately get suspicious.

When following through with your complaint, start off with a cushion. This is a statement that prevents your target from feeling that they’re being attacked. Follow it up the meat and potatoes which contains the concern that you want resolved. Then finalize it with a statement proving that you’re not crazy or insane. You want that statement to prove that you are a reasonable person who would greatly benefit from the assistance.

Here’s a fictitious example:

Problem: Concerned about excess, off-topic chatter during a raid.
Solution: Additional focus on the encounters that matter

“Hey Jarvis,

I appreciate the hard work and energy you expend running the raid. Our raid group is an energetic and talkative bunch of players. Can we get them to tone it down during progression boss encounters? The raid would proceed much smoother and efficiently allowing us to get out earlier and awarding everyone precious relaxation time.

Bonus: They get to socialize in a less pressured environment.”

Signed,
Buster

Let’s break it down.

I appreciate the hard work and energy you expend running the raid.

Jarvis is the raid leader. This guy puts up with just about everything and is the linchpin. He might not get too many pats on the back but this is your way of recognizing the little things he’s doing.

Our raid group is an energetic and talkative bunch of players.

You’re reframing and putting a positive spin on the problem. The raid tends to discuss stuff that’s not relevant to what’s going on. This could be due to excess energy or a lack of focus. But, hey, you don’t really know the root cause. Maybe they’re just hyper from all the gummy bears.

Can we get them to tone it down during progression encounters?

Now we’re getting to what you really want. For the sake of your sanity and to prevent yourself from verbally destroying someone, you’re asking the boss if he can do something to calm players down. Maybe all they need is a firm reminder. Who knows? You don’t care how it’s done as long as it’s done. I will add that it’s a nice touch to offer a solution or two that you feel might work.

The raid would proceed much smoother and efficiently allowing us to get out earlier and awarding everyone precious relaxation time.

This is where you appeal to the rewards section. As my uncle Lawrence Reciprocicus always asks when someone calls on him for a favor, “What’s in it for me?”

You want to offer something mutually beneficial that your target would appreciate. In this case, a smoother raid and an earlier clear time.

Now the next time you feel the urge to throttle someone or want to stab a pen through your raid’s eyes, consider voicing your concerns to your leaders first. You gotta do it with discipline and serenity! Violence is never the answer!

Making Connections

Making Connections

You’ve figured out why you should blog.

You worked hard on naming conventions for your blog.

You learned the nuances when writing for the internet.

You’ve mastered Writer’s block.

And you learned to… just get off your ass and write.

But despite applying all the technical and promotional techniques that you learned, you’re still not quite getting the comments you’re looking for. The traffic isn’t reflecting the effort and work you’re putting in. No facebook likes, Google +1’s, and no retweets. In fact, you’re gradually contemplating throwing in the towel.

What gives?

It’s because you’re missing a crucial element. A few weeks ago, I signed up for a Webinar from John Morrow, associated editor from Copyblogger.com. It was a free, 2 hour session discussing elements of traffic and community building. I figured I’d share the notes I took.

What we’re taught

Content: Write awesome content. The logic is if you keep writing amazing and helpful stuff, you’ll get noticed and your viewership will start skyrocketing.
Promotion: At the same time, you need to promote your posts. Ask for links, retweets, shares, etc. If people don’t know you exist, they’re not going to read your or share your stuff. So you have to do what you can to get known.

You get jillions of readers if you can combine them effectively.

The equation

Content + Promotion = Readers

But, this equation is missing something.

It’s off slightly. Content and promotion are both important, but there’s a missing component of the formula. You can still write smashing hits and you can still get those mentions, but it might only work for the short term and it doesn’t help your overall strategy of your blog.

It’s about the Connections

This is what the actual equation is.

Content + Promotion + Connections = Readers in the bajillions

Jon used best selling authors as an example.

The easiest way to write a best seller is to already be a best selling author. Guys like Seth Godin and Stephen King don’t need to ask for agents, or be booked to TV shows. People just already know who they are. The reasons why new authors struggle is no one knows who you are. You have to fight to get an agent, a publisher, an interview and so forth. This works the same way for bloggers.

“If you deleted my blog and all my subscribers (I’d be sad for one), but it’s not the end of the world. Because over the past few years, I’ve built relationships with all the popular bloggers in the world. I could still do in a flash.”
-John

The real key to blogging isn’t who you know. The key to blogging is who knows you. No matter how good your content, or how awesome it is or how hard you work, it’s not going to matter.

If you don’t have any influential connections, it’s not going to matter.

Popular bloggers ignore you because they don’t know you. If you email a blogger asking for a link to your site, you’ll most likely be ignored.

If you think about it, we do the same thing.

You scan through your emails and look for the senders you recognize. Anyone you don’t know, you end up ignoring or skipping over. Popular bloggers get on average 100+ emails (some go to 500+) per day. The reality is, most bloggers don’t often respond via email (at least, not right away). We respond to people we know. You have to get lucky with them opening your email to help you out. That’s not a situation you really want to be in which is why why link building won’t work.

If they don’t know who you are, it’s impossible. They have to know you first in order to get you links.

Let’s talk about twitter

What’s supposed to happen is you share your link with your friends. They share it with their friends and then it goes viral and snowballs it.

Wrong. That’s not actually how it works.

The posts don’t start with people with few friends. It’s not actually consistent. It’s like winning the lottery online. The way viral posts usually happen is they go top down. They get other people with big followings on twitter to share it with their followers and to their friends on twitter. And then their followers. It starts with the top people and works down.

The 3 C’s

Your goal must be done in these 3 steps in this order.

Step 1 — Connections with list owners

Connections means that those bloggers know your name. They’ve read your work. They’ve had a conversation with you. They think you’re smart and they like you.

No, this doesn’t mean a connection on LinkedIn.

Now list owners means people who have a huge twitter following, high RSS counts, a large emailing list, etc. They’re all different types of lists. You need to get THOSE people to like you because they can help spread your content to their followers and readers.

Step 2 — Content creation

Create awesome content targeted specifically at their audience, point out how it’s relevant to their audience, and ask them to promote it. You can’t just write great content and “hope” someone stumbles upon it. You need to have a connection in mind.

Step 3 –  Convert visitors

Ideally, you’d be able to offer your readers something of value. Blogs in other niches hook up readers with like an EBook, a report, or something but unless you’re really intense about it, I wouldn’t stress about that.

When it comes to subscriptions, Jon advises that email is way better than RSS. The engagement level and retention of email over RSS is about 20 times more valuable.

But, you should offer both types anyway. Make sure they’re full feeds.

This is the wrong order

  1. Content
  2. Connections
  3. Convert

Instead, the actual order should be:

  1. Connections
  2. Content
  3. Convert

The problem is you start as nobody. How do you become a somebody?

The answer to this is guest blogging!

Jon discovered that this is the only strategy that consistently works for every topic, every blogger, every niche. Some strategies work for certain topics and bloggers, but guest blogging is good for everything. If you guest on a big blog, and you write a mindblowingly amazing post, readers are going to say that post is awesome and they want to read more.

Here’s another analogy he used.

Think of it like an opening act for a major concert.

You’re performing on stage for someone like The Rolling Stones and you’re the first act.

The act of writing a guest post for a popular blog, those bloggers will love you. These posts get you introduced to other popular bloggers and influencers as well. This does NOT mean commenting. This means an actual article to give away to big popular blogs. We’re talking like 1500+ words. You write a popular post for one of these blogs and they edit it for you and give you feedback.

As an aside, if you ever get a chance, take your original version and put it side by side by the edited version. Ask yourself what changed and why.
The smartest thing you can do is link directly to your page (If possible, link directly to a page that offers something cool, like a webinar, or a report, etc).

Make connections

I want to re-emphasize one more thing.

Network the hell out of everything.

Make friends.

Get contacts.

Know people.

Connect.

It is the universal skill of all universal skills. So many opportunities will be available to you. This is one of the lessons my dad instilled in me when I was younger (actually, this was second after knowing my 12 x 12 multiplication tables). While you’re never going to be best friends with everyone you meet, it doesn’t hurt to be on relatively good terms with everyone.

This isn’t even about blogging. Things like academic openings or even job postings? Amazes me how much of that stuff is behind closed doors. Who you know can make a way bigger impact on your life than what you know. You never know when a blogger’s brother’s wife is looking to hire someone for a specific position that happens to coincide with your goals.

You never know what doors will open from that one blogger who takes you under their wing, or from that one guy who retweets your post.

On the other hand, if there’s nothing wrong with burning bridges as long as it’s done for the right reasons. Alas, that’s beyond the scope of this post.

“More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”
- Peter Drucker

Raid Leading 101: 3 Important Communication Tips

Last week, we covered some of the basic pro’s and con’s to both 10- and 25-man raid styles. Thanks everyone to their input and comments. I’ll be updating the post soon to get those new items in there! This week, we cover the art of communication.

Now that you’ve donned the crown of Raid Leader, you have to pontificate with your subjects… meaning you have to talk to your raiders. This sometimes can be the hardest aspect of the job. You definitely have to be more “on the ball” than the other people on the team. In my time as a raider, and also as a Raid Leader, I’ve always found the best Raid Leaders have been great communicators.

Choosing Your Style

When I raid, I like a positive and friendly environment. In raid environments, I usually do best when people are laughing, smiling, and overall having a good time. This is a game for me, and although I take it seriously, I work hard to make sure people are having fun. As a Raid Leader, I try to impress that upon my raiders.

It’s on you, as Raid Leader, to decide how you’re going to motivate your team. Positive reinforcement? Brow-beating? Drill Sergeant? I’m particularly biased towards the positive reinforcement, but I also see the benefits of other styles as well. Think of it this way:

  • You can take each good thing from a wipe and build on it. Encourage that kind of behavior or style of playing. Praise the healers for an excellent job handling that attempt, even if they ended up wiping.
  • You can point out the faults in each attempt, in an effort to discourage that from happening again. Even take it farther and threaten substitution if it happens again. Point out that if the mage doesn’t move the split second he needs to, he’s getting replaced.
  • You can be the strong, silent type. No news is good news. Set your assignments, and let the raiders discover what went wrong.

Either way you go, you must be aware of what kind of style you possess. This will easily decide what kind of raiders you’re going to have. There are plenty of raiders out there that enjoy different styles of raiding. Some like tough competition, some like the team environment. Be conscious of the tone you’re setting, whatever that may be.

Your Intentions

Just like in the olden days when a gentleman would court a lady, they would state their intentions. You must do the same. This goes back to our discussion on motivation. Have you been honest with yourself about your motivation? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to go about it (all things we’ll eventually cover)? You need to be up front with your raiders on what the goal of this adventure is:

  • What size are you going with? 10 or 25?
  • Are you going to work towards heroics? or just normal?
  • Are you bringing close friends? or are you valuing performance over history?
  • What sort of attendance policy do you intend to have?

By setting out the groundwork to your raiders, there’s very little room for guessing on your part. When you talk things out, it solidifies it in your own mind. Also, all of your raiders and potential recruits will know what they’re getting into, and what to expect.

Honesty is the Best Policy

An awesome line from my favorite movie, Swingers: “Respect my ass. What they respect is honesty.” The same holds true for being a Raid Leader. You need to be a straight shooter. If you want someone on your team, you need to be up front about it. If something’s not working out, you gotta speak up.

I’ve learned this first hand as a Raid Leader. **STORY TIME** When I was running the original Team Sport raids, we had a warlock that was never up to snuff. We tried to be up front from the beginning about what we expected of the raid team, and we knew that this warlock wasn’t up to it. Nice person, and fun player but just didn’t have the extra “oomph” to raid at the level we wanted to. Constantly long AFKs, not paying attention in fights, etc. Since we let it go on for so long, it had become acceptable to this player to act like that. When it came down to saying that we wanted to move forward but without the warlock, we were met with some unnecessary drama.

Essentially, if we had been honest up front regarding what we expected and that the warlock’s behavior wasn’t what we were looking for, we would’ve saved a lot of trouble. Now, within the Raid Team, I have little to no problem telling people that not signing up is unacceptable, or that not having food/flask is not gonna cut it. I’m not a jerk about it, but I’m honest with my raiders about what I expect of them on the team, and when they’re not getting invites or raid spots, they should know why.

How have you stepped up to the task of communicating to your raid? Are there any alternate methods/tips you’ve used that have been particularly efficient?

3 Points of Effective Raid Communication

This is a guest post by Blacksen of Blacksen’s End. Rumor has it this raid leader likes to play funky motivational music before every raid. Don’t forget to check out his blog!

Communication in raids has always been important. For most guilds, this means using some form of voice communication. Several fights require that all raiders are able to hear their raid leader and then make a tactical response. You need to hear about tank swaps on Festergut, Putricide, and Sindragosa. You need to hear requests for tanking cooldowns. You need to hear sudden tactic changes as the fight is moving. You need to hear your other healers when they’re debuffed on Sindragosa. The list goes on and on… Regardless of the fight, really, communication is a key element to successful end-game raiding.

I’ve struggled with communication at several points throughout my raiding career. A lot of guilds pitch that they "want someone who will talk on vent," but the reality is that communication can be intimidating for members, especially if they’re new. For raid leaders, it is essential to communicate effectively with your raid. I’ve found that effective communication made the difference between a wipe and a kill on several occasions.

What to Communicate

What to communicate can be a challenge for a lot of guilds. Whenever anyone says something on vent, be it the raid leader or some key members, the main goal is to have it invoke a significant and positive response. Simply put, you want things said during a boss encounter to evoke a response. Conversely, things that aren’t going to evoke much of a response shouldn’t be said on vent.

Bad example: Don’t call out inhales on Festergut. Very few people will respond (at most, 1-2).
Good example: Calling out tank changes on Festergut. Not only do your tank healers respond, but your hunters and rogues will also switch their misdirect targets.

Bad example: Don’t call out “run-out” after the pull-in on Sindragosa. By the time you say that and it’s both heard and processed by your raiders, the damage will have already been done – your raiders are either already running or already dead.
Good example: Calling out "pull-in soon, get ready to run out" on Sindragosa. Players who would have been tunnel-visioning are made more aware that they’re about to need to turn their camera and run.

Plan it out

Plan out what you’re going to communicate before the fight. One of my most common mistakes as a raid leader is not planning out communication before the pull. In the past, I’ve had an expectation that everyone will know what to communicate, and that’s all we need. With every new fight, however, I find something that’s not really obvious but probably should be communicated. Tell people before the pull exactly when they should talk on vent.

One thing that a lot of people can struggle with is balancing specific calls with general calls. Whenever you’re making a raid call, you need to know when to specify something and when to speak generally.

Bad example: Tanks asking "can I get a cooldown?" The term "cooldown" is too broad. Does intervene count as a cooldown? Raid-Wall? Guardian Spirit? Pain Suppression? Which cooldown do you actually want? The raid needs to specifically know. Asking for just a “cooldown” could result in getting multiple cooldowns wasted by stacking on top of each other.
Good example: Tank asking “can I get Guardian Spirit?” Now we know which cooldown you specifically want.

Bad example: On the Lich King’s Valk’yrs, it would be bad to say "I need a backup stun.” This risks random stuns getting thrown out on all the Valk’yrs by random people. We need to know which Valk’yr needs the stun, and who you want to execute it.
Good example: Saying “Thine, backup on Square.” Thine, a specific raid member, now knows that he needs to execute a backup stun on square.

Specific raid calls are another area in which raid leaders risk becoming unclear. In some cases, it’s better to speak generally rather being specific.

Bad example: Saying “Blistering Cold soon” on Sindragosa. This tells us nothing about the response or how most raiders conceptualize the pull-in.
Good example: Saying “Get ready to run out” on Sindragosa. This tells us what’s about to happen and the needed response.

Bad example: When an aura mastery is needed, it’s pretty cluttering to say “Warel, use aura mastery shadow.” Most of the time, it’s obvious which aura mastery is needed.
Good example: On phase 3 of Professor Putricide, all I need to say is “Warel, go” and he takes care of the rest.

Consistency

Be consistent with raid calls. While a lot of my friends have joked about how I sounded like a broken record player, the fact is that consistent calls lead to a consistent response.

Bad example: On Heroic Lich King, saying "Shadow Trap Ranged" followed by "Trap on healers plus ranged." Each call requires processing – your raiders can’t build an association between the phrase and the response.
Good example: On the Lich King, saying “Necrotic Plague in 3” every single time necrotic plague is about to be cast. This instantly prompts your members to be aware and ready for the impending debuff.

Lastly, let’s talk about how raiders should communicate. Getting raiders to communicate the way you want can be very difficult, but once they get into the loop of things, most of them will execute everything great. The most important concept of raider communication is telling us what needs to happen, not what already happened.

Bad example: On the Lich King, a disc priest calling out “I’m picked up” generally doesn’t mean anything. It requires your raiders to connect “disc priest is picked up” to “oh, this infest is going to be bad.”
Good example: Saying “Watch Infest.” Now all of your raiders immediately know the consequences of you being in a Valk’yr.

Bad example: On Sindragosa, having a healer say "I’m Unchained" means nothing. This requires all other healers to know everyone else’s healer assignment.
Good example: Saying "Watch Group 4" gives us information. Now all healers know the consequence of you being unchained: group 4 needs more healing.

Bad example: Saying “Oh S***” on any fight. Random expletives don’t give us any information and just put people on edge. We need real responses with real information.

Note: Matt is extremely guilty of this. Don’t do it.

Your raiders will also thank you if you tell them exactly what you want said. Tell them the exact phrasing you want. This will lead to a more consistent environment and thus more consistent responses. It takes the burden off of individual raiders for coming up with what you want said, and will likely make them very happy.

Nearly every hardmode raiding guild has a vent atmosphere during fights. If you find yourself wiping due to seemingly random things, see if communication has an answer. Communication is generally an easy problem to address as it has very little to do with tactics or individual skill, but more preparation and consistency. You can sometimes beat the more challenging elements of a fight just by clearer and regular communication

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.

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.

Why It’s A Problem That Healers Don’t Communicate in PUGs

The end is nigh.

Healers don’t communicate properly in PUGs. It’s a can of worms waiting to explode in Cataclysm.

WotLK minted many new practices, including PUGing raids. While the level and quality of communication in PUGs has always been unpredictable, there’s been decline in healer communication since the LFD tool was introduced.

People don’t seem to want to engage in communication unless pushed. I rarely see anyone bring up the topic of healing assignments. I usually wait to see if anyone else will initiate communication to sort tank and raid assignments and then organise it myself. The favourite responses vary from “sure”, “just heal ffs” and the particularly fine “lol Apeorsa tht healing setup is so naxx”.

Considering how players might feel these days I’m not greatly surprised at this lack of communication. As the root of group play, random 5 mans are largely to blame. They tend towards brief and impersonal affairs at best and arenas for bullying at worst. Sure, nice runs do happen – but for some there’s little incentive to be nice with strangers they’ll see once. There are no seeds of trust and friendship, and that dearth puts cracks in the foundations we build bigger PUGs on.

I’m sure some healers think communication in PUGs is unnecessary. From their POV, they’re kinda right. Think of a tree – call him Furtree. He’s used to raiding with his guild. Perhaps PUGs just don’t feel the same – he doesn’t get the mutual comradeship and pride he does with his guild. Perhaps VoA25 isn’t the challenge he’s used to in his guild’s ICChardmode runs. He has no reason to show loyalty or effort; he’s only here for a handful of badges to put a minute edge on already spiffy gear.

As a seasoned raider he might have a lack of patience with less experienced healers, or anyone inclined to ‘overtalk’ the situation – he just wants to get through the fast content as fast as possible. Many of us – including me – have been guilty of these at times. We’re slightly bored by now. I’ve even seen healers hiring themselves out as one-man-band progression healers, effectively amputating dialogue and shared learning.

At the other end of the spectrum we have new, struggling, healers. Imagine Timmy the timid priest who’s hit 80 and has blues and 219s. He wants to PUG for kit and badges, but PUGs can be harsh. Timmy’s more likely to be laughed off than invited to PUGs. When he does get an invite to his first ToC25 and the raid wipes to Burning Inferno because the healers didn’t communicate on Incinerate Flesh, Timmy’s may well get the blame.

Healers not talking mean that new healers don’t learn their own versatility in encounters or specifics behind healer setup. Sure, Timmy can read and watch tactics, but there’s an equation for learning encounters you’ve never seen plus how to heal in the first place which doesn’t necessarily = 2, for new healers.

equation2

A lack of teaching and support from other healers could have several effects. Timmy might get bored because the other healers have it covered. Or Timmy may believe all wipes are his fault and he can’t heal. Or he’ll have been given the easiest job and will think he’s brilliant – then he joins a guild and his lack of knowledge sticks out like a sore thumb. All of these can turn a new healer off of healing. There aren’t many of us to start with!

It adds up to a vicious circle in which there’s no incentive to communicate in PUGs. As in random five mans you’re unlikely to see these people regularly. As in random five mans it’s easy to believe you needn’t be loyal to anything but your character’s gear, for various excuses from improving it for guildruns or because you have something to prove. As in random five mans the atmosphere can be of distrust, which increases the chances to wipe when no-one’s healing the tank, and then snipe at each other with Blame Bullets. Frankly, I’ve found that people are grateful and relaxed if you run groups saying there’ll be oodles of communication.

Communication is the foundation of relationships. By not engaging in it any more than necessary healers distance themselves from possible ‘relationships’ in game – be they new friendships or just networking for team members. We should never, ever forget how to socialise in a game we play with other people.

If that’s not incentive enough consider this. Cataclysm is going to challenge us in ways Wrath wasn’t meant to. Healers may face changes to mana and even role setup. We’re going to need to communicate. It may come as a shock; falling into apathetic and uncommunicative habits now is signing our characters’ – and WoW’s – death warrants.

Crucial tweaks to the LFD system – like cross-realm friends lists – would encourage us all to communicate better. Whether or not that happens we can all take responsibility now, in content we might be bored of. Take fresh interest in ‘healing’ the foundations – just by putting a bit more effort in. For The Cataclysm!

I’m not whining; there are positive cases and it’s not all bad. I’m genuinely concerned. Question is -what do you think? Have you noticed a difference in communication or has it not been too bad where you are? Do you think this could turn into a longterm problem or am I doomsaying? Do you think we’ll be flexible enough to adapt out of bad habits?

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.

Article image2 originally by Tim Trueman @ Flickr

Does Communication Make Us Better Risk Takers?

Does Communication Make Us Better Risk Takers?

My raid on Sunday night gave me pause for thought.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about a few aspects to help healing and raid leading at once. Last night I realised that, of those, communication is vital. Why? Because I think healers are fragile. Even that they can be a danger to themselves. And because last night my raid wouldn’t have worked so well without good communication. Let me put you in the picture.

You’re a healer raid leader about to lead a progresion 10 man. Your group’s bouncing with energy as the run starts. You’ve all got a burning desire to see Putricide go down as you’ve been carrying a grudge against him for a while. He’s public enemy #1 for your group tonight, followed by a vote on Princes or Sindragosa. Holy smokes, things are gonna go well.

Then half the group is hit by disconnection issues as the EU login servers go down.

Two hours later your group is back online, now a bit bedraggled and a whole lot more tired. It’s midnight already for some. You hit Putricide and he goes down in a few attempts. So far so good. It’s late now but the group wants to go to Princes. This is what crosses your mind:

  1. We’ve downed Princes before. It was messy but we can do it again, and the practice won’t kill us. That often. I hope.
  2. We have someone different on kinetic bomb bouncing this time. He’s going to need time to learn it.
  3. It’s midnight, for cripes sake. The elements alone know what time it is for our Herd members in Finland. We don’t have many tries in us.

You’re now in my shoes as of about midnight on Sunday. The outcome was cheery; we got the Princes down in four attempts. But it was messy from 50ish-0%. The successful attempt saw half the raid dead by the end – both myself and the other shaman healer died twice. Our discy priest heroically kept the rest up for 5%. Both shamans had been helping with kinetic bomb bouncing.

From my leader viewpoint communication was crucial. For one thing, there’s a lot going on in that fight and I admit I fail at watching everything.

It’s important to know which Prince is empowered at any time because the entire raid’s tactics change depending which it is, as does the healing output. But watching the empowerment changes is something I just can’t do yet. So I simply have one person dedicated to calling which Prince is empowered when it changes.

It’s also essential to have information in order to make good decisions, right? Right, but it’s more important for healer raid leaders. Each role is inclined towards taking risks, perhaps several times during each fight. Double the risk-inclination means double the chance we’ll make the wrong call; things go wrong or we overburden ourselves, probably wiping the raid.

So I’m realistic – i can’t do everything. Keeping track of boss health is another task I ‘outsource’ to others. As a healer I don’t have time to watch health meters other than those on Grid, but as a raid leader I need to know boss health. For example, the fight was a mess by the time Princes hit 23% health. But I knew we were close, and that was the deciding factor in the split second decision to urge the group to hang in there and pop cooldowns rather than to call a wipe.

Both of the above examples – knowing when we’re at health-wise in a fight and which tactical stage we’re at also means I have valuable information allowing me to make cooldown judgements. Not my cooldowns – I’m talking about calling Divine Guardian from our paladin tank or cycling the raid’s mana regen abilities when and for whom they’re needed.

The most dangerous risk of all on Sunday, though, was one a healer-raid leader was in the best position to make. On later attempts I had myself and another healer helping our warlock on bouncing kinetic bombs: I knew we could both multitask. Controversial decision? Yes. Bad practice? No.

It wasn’t because I thought our warlock couldn’t learn it by himself – far from it. It was because we had a lack of time, the group was tired and wanted victory in the face of server instability. Not only that, I knew the healers involved could do it without healing suffering too much. It benefited us too: we got a perspective on another aspect of the fight and it probably improved our spacial awareness as were constantly looking round. I admit, it was also really fun in an already adrenaline-fuelled fight.

Later on when it got hectic and our DK died? Not a problem. Rather than completely loose a resource and have a player feel useless, I asked him to watch out for falling bombs and tell me where they were.

So there we go, folks. I say that healers are fragile and inclined to risk: there is a lot resting on us in a raid. Add leading on top of that and it can be a recipe for disaster. But I say organising information ‘feeds’ to and from your team will put you in control of the situation and your raid one step closer to settling scores in Icecrown.

What do you think? Do you agree with my analysis of healers’ potential towards fragility and danger or do you prefer safe-rather-than-sorry? Would you have made any of those decisions differently to me? Do you know which types of information you need more of, or are you still working it out?

This is a post by Mimetir, a druid of a raidleader on The Venture Co. (EU). You can find my twitter feed here.

Guerrilla Raiding: How To Scale Up to 25 Mans

Guerrilla Raiding: How To Scale Up to 25 Mans

TheFuture

My guild is special. No, really. We’re like a guerrilla force descending from our airborne stronghold to plunge deep behind enemy lines in a surprise raid. This is, you see, an affectionate way of describing my guild’s raids.

We are a small, ten-strong band of fighters not all wearing the same colours because our roots are in a small core relying on PUGgers. It is sometimes a surprise when our raids get going, even though they’re organised in advance. Yet despite these things we’ve managed to storm the citadel right up to Rotface. Not only that, we’re thinking to scale up to 25 man operations. How I hear you cry, is that special?

My guild, you understand, is not a raiding guild. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves. Herding Cats is a small group of real life friends. But many moons ago we got together, grabbed a few random PUGgers, and poked our noses into Naxxramas, like guilds do. Northrend’s raids became second homes over the months.

In ye olde Naxx runs we decided we just wanted PUGgers to be friendly. Not imbah, not a great tactician, not rocking 18k DPS. Our raids might not be lightning fast but they should be jolly good fun, old chap. Whenever we found a friendly stranger we rejoiced. And kidnapped them. Oh, we didn’t recruit – only invited them to our raids. In this way we cultivated a network of friendly people who fit in with the raiding group.

Our network of non-guildies quickly outgrew the slots we had for 10 man raiding and priority was given to people who were already raiding with us. We thought it sensible to develop a core. Tactically the group would become a single unit capable of learning encounters and to work together in order to move forward. Naturally this had social benefits for our raid members, who were rewarded with progression, loot and group friendships.

The downside of this was that many Herding friends are left out. As the raid leader/organiser, I really feel bad about this downside, as we are lucky enough to have people ask every week if there’s a raid spot for them this week even though they’re often told “I’m sorry but we’re full at the moment.”

So my guild is special but not unique. I’d wager there are a lot of guilds either already in our position or considering adapting to something like it.

How can we include people? 25 mans. Our network is big enough to fill 15-20 slots of a 25 man raid. It’s one huge step for Herding-kind. Dangerous almost. It might bite. Going into the hydra’s den unprepared is a bad idea so we’re arming ourselves and going at it as a team. We’re still thinking about it but this is the current battle plan.

1. Delegation. There are a lot of hats to wear in a 25 man so we’ve agreed to split the hats between the five of us. We’ll have leaders for each role, and they will each have a chat channel to communicate with their players. For example, in the tanks channel the tank leader will ascribe tactics to the tanks and foster communication between them. The other leaders will do the same for healers and melee and ranged DPS. The raid leader’s task is to introduce the raid, keep an eye on the group chat channels, be the deciding force in conflicts and handle unforeseen shenanigans. We’ll also have someone acting as a mentor. Unofficially we’ll have someone else as a morale officer and someone acting as a raid HR department.

2. Housekeeping. This is a brief introduction to the raid, given by the raid leader, which sets out a few basic points. These include our core principles for the run – for example, that we will welcome people amicably and expect them to do the same in return. We’ll also set out other rules on behaviour, breaks, tactics and loot. I’ve spoken before about how important this is, and it can only get more important the more people you have to organise. Setting clear rules from the start creates a safe, fun raid for everyone, Herding Cats veteran or first-timer and gives everyone a fair warning of what’s expected of them before we start.

It relaxes strangers, too. I think that people can join PUG raids expecting an atmosphere of every man for himself; having to constantly defend their playing style, DPS, healing, gear, whatever. We’ve had PUGgers say they’re pleasantly surprised to find a group where this isn’t the prevailing culture.

3. Communication. I believe the more information you communicate the more time you’ll save on wipes. Tactics are fluid things, changeable in progression content and per player experience. We’ll explain tactics for all encounters, provide a chance for suggestions and encourage raiders to ask questions in chat or privately to raid officers at any time. Officers will also keep an eye on their players and have a quiet chat if they suspect a player isn’t clear on something. “Hello Mr.. rogue, nice work on adherents there but you didn’t seem to get any time stabbing Deathwhisper. Any questions about that?” Likewise, we’ll check in with random raiders at random times to find out how they’re feeling.

Communication is most important when things go wrong. When we wipe we have a quick brainstorm in Herding Cats Land. Then we talk to the raid, saying something like “ok, what went wrong there was a deformed fanatic getting loose as phase 2 started. Easy mistake, we’ll get it right this time. Oh, and nice work on her mana shield, guys.”

4. Social. I play this game for fun, don’t know about you. It’s not a single player game and I like interacting with other people. I hope our raiders do too, but in a large group it’s easy for negativity to spread. The morale officer will keep the atmosphere cheery. The mentor’s role is just as important. It’s his task to be there for anyone who’s in any way unsure or needing reassurance. They might be new to raiding, they might be unsure in group settings, they might still be learning their class (who isn’t?). We welcome new players – given the right encouragement they can turn out to be some of the most loyal and best you’ll find.

5. Networking. We can’t fill 25 spots off the bat. We rather like that. It means that we have room to do what we did way back in Naxx times: meet new people and kidnap them to our raids. This way our network will grow whenever we find a new person we like and the entire group will benefit both in raiding and social terms.

If we get a PUGger we don’t like? We call them ‘That Guy’. You know – the guy who backseat raid leads, continually pastes DPS meters, abuses other group members. The list can go on. Ideally we’ll have a very strict policy, backed up by the housekeeping which already informed people what standards we work by. Some people have different attitudes and expectations to raiding than what they find in our group: that’s fine, but if you join a group you go by their expectations.

If someone insults our group members or any Cat finds them annoying in some way, they’re out. Sorry. I don’t care if they’re saved for one raid lockout, I don’t care if they’re the leader of the server’s top raiding guild. I don’t care if they’re hitting 11k healing every fight. I’ll protect my own group over someone who’s just griefed the priest healer they know nothing about. I think this is the most controversial point of our game plan, particularly if we just find someone annoying.

So those are the basics of our arsenal. There are some finer points such as where to begin our venture: we’re thinking ToTC25 for the first raid. It’s relatively short and should be a good ground to help the raid find its feet and bond. Not only that but it should provide some folks with bits of kit for the real progression and leave everyone salivating over the prospect of more next time. We also have a raid spam addon tailor-made for our needs in the works.

And do we, the raid officers, know what we’re doing? Why, yes, old bean. We know the enemy lines and the guerrilla force we’re leading into the Lich King’s chambers.

What about you? Is your guild in a similar position, or considering something like this – are you worried it’ll be a lot more work than you have time for? Are you in a large guild that does in house runs? Are you a PUGger who wishes you did/did not come across more groups like this? Do you think leaning a bit towards carebearing is going to hold us back or benefit us in the long term (and what’s YOUR playing style)?