Merging Raids: Step One

Merging Raids: Step One

So, you’ve got a core team of raiders. People whom you know are dedicated to the same goal that you are, whatever that may be. Despite your best efforts, you’re constantly short a few. You find yourself stretching to find good raiders. In your virtual travels, you come across another team that seems to be experiencing the same dilemma. Is it the Twilight Zone? Are you looking at your own team looking back at you? No. You’ve simply found a common problem amongst raiding teams: coming up a little bit short. A five-letter word starts materializing in your head. You try to fight it, but you start to give it more and more consideration: Merge.

That’s where I’m at. Well, where we’re at. My goal is to walk through the different phases of merging two struggling raid teams. Obviously you’re going to run into some of, if not all, of the following issues:

  • Deciding if merging is right for you.
  • Arranging & discussing the merge.
  • The first raid night.
  • Possible shifts in gameplan (or should I say, “raidplan”)
  • Potential headaches.

Is it the right choice?

As I’ve mentioned before, I decided to craft a 10-man raiding team with some of my closest friends. We all got together and decided that this is what we wanted to do.  We’re part of a slightly larger guild that likes to do whatever anyone feels like throwing together. However, it’s always been this core crew of us that always wanted to progress through raids. Let me introduce you to the crew:

- Arcas, 80 Arcane Mage – Jayme, a good friend of mine that I met while working at a piano bar in downtown Chicago. Similar mindsets, a blast to hang out with, etc. I’ve come to call him one of my closest friends.

- Naryamas, 80 Prot Warrior – Sam, a good friend that we’ve been playing with since we were all level 40s early on in the Burning Crusade expansion. He’s always dedicated to helping out, and is always the first to be open to suggestion. **Solely a tank**

- Discotheque, 80 Resto Druid – Scotty, another good friend since the same time we met Sam. Former Art teacher, now a Graphic Designer in Texas. Engaged to his girlfriend. Jayme and I will be flying down to Texas for the wedding. **Solely a healer**

- Kevorkian, 80 Death Knight – Aaron, some kind of genius when it comes to Nuclear Physics. Yet, when he came to Chicago to visit Jayme and me, we definitely made sure he’d lose some brain cells to some drinking around town. Awesome guy, can play the “bad cop” really well. **Can Tank or DPS**

- Dralo, 80 Paladin – Dave, this is the guy you’d want on your side in a fight. Not only vocally, but physically as well.  Former Army Ranger and holder of random wisdom. Regardless of the actual cause of a wipe, “it’s Dralo’s fault.” **Can be Holy, Retribution, or Prot**

- Jalla, 80 Arcane Mage - Pat is our newest acquisition. A cool guy from Boston, he grabbed a PuG slot one night, and now we can’t get rid of him! Only kidding. He’s become an awesome raider and team member to have around.

-Thespean, 80 Shaman – Me, David. I’m the “politician.” I just want to make sure everyone’s happy. =) **Can be Enhancement or Resto**

That’s who I would consider to be the “core” of this team. We have other members in the guild, but these people are the ones that seem to be the A-Team. I struggle because I know it’s borderline elitist to think of the guild that way, but it’s true. Here’s why:

The Core vs. The Friends

The Core consists of the people that usually show up on time when they click “Accept” on the invite. If they know they’re going to be late, they make someone aware. They’re usually always prepped with gems/enchants for any gear they may pick up that night. They have flasks and their own food at the ready, especially if it’s a Well Fed buff that you can’t gain from Fish Feast (Haste, etc.).  They study the fights beforehand and hold enough wherewithal to know what their classes bring to the fights. This is always key on progression nights.

The Friends are people that, unfortunately, say they want to progress, but they don’t put the level of effort forward that the Core does. Simply put, they show up late (if at all), aren’t prepared for fights, take random unannounced AFK breaks, and need constant re-explanations. It’s not that they’re bad people by any means, but the Core just doesn’t feel that the Friends are on the same level as we are. That’s tough, because we like playing with the Friends a lot. They tire of progression fights easily, which makes forward motion tough to maintain.

Raid in the Mirror

As hard as we’ve worked, we always find ourselves just shy of a full raid. Even though we may reach ten people, one is usually a frequent fill-in or is a Friend that’s not too reliable.  I’ve had friends like Derevka and Avalonna from Talesofapriest.com bring alts over to come help. Lodur has offered his help as well, but once Cataclysm hits, each of them goes back to their respective raiding crew to do the new content. Recruitment on Nazjatar is slim at best. I’ve had great response from people that are interested in raiding with us, but it’s a lot to ask for someone to completely transfer to a new server, especially to a guild that’s not at the breaking edge of content. We’re not World First, we’re not Server First, we just don’t desire to be on the cutting edge. We want to be on our own cutting edge. In general (there are always exceptions), people tend to transfer servers for much more hardcore-style progression. Since that’s not us, our recruiting is harder.

We found another guild on Nazjatar that’s having similar issues. Almost point for point, they struggle with similar problems. Although they have a bigger guild than we do, they just don’t feel they have the roster for the kind of raid they want to do. With Nazjatar recruiting being very slim, they also hit a similar wall.

The Deciding Factor

We had one raid night that just wasn’t pretty. I had to call people to get them online (after they clicked “Accepted”). We started about 30 minutes late. After a good raid the night before, there was just no focus, and the Core noticed it. We were having to explain and re-explain assignments. People had to leave early, but we couldn’t get the group focused to make the best of the time we had. People randomly left because friends wanted to hang out (I’m all for friends, but stick with a committment you made). One of our AFKs ended up being gone for about 20 minutes. Our warlock said she would be 15 minutes late, but she didn’t show up until over 90 minutes later.  In just over an hour of raid time, we got one boss down, and that’s it. Once the raid got called, we were ready to bring up the merge to the other raid team.  Those of the Core that were online all agreed. Putting aside our nights and not having similar dedication from other members just wasn’t fun for us.

And so the conversation began, which I’ll cover in the next post…

Have you dealt with a possible merger? What other issues have you had that pushed you towards or away from the decision?

When a Raid Member is Not a Team Member

When a Raid Member is Not a Team Member

Quick summary: When the announcement was made that 10mans and 25mans would be on the same loot system, I cheered. All things considered, I just enjoy the feeling of 10mans more. More responsibility on each member, the boss fights can be less forgiving.  Because of work reasons, I had to take a break from Unpossible, Lodur’s guild.  As much as it pained me to lower myself to the bench, it needed to be done.

In that time, I’ve been pieceing together a 10man team that will be Cataclysm ready. Starting with a core group of players that I’ve been gaming with since Pre-BC, it’s starting to flourish. And now, the tale begins…

First Incident

We’re keeping it simple. As our guild name implies, this is a Team Sport. Everyone plays a role. Those of us that are “raid leading” are putting forward the effort to bring these people together. We’re not the “you need #### gear score” or the “link acheivement” type. As I’ve posted before, it’s more about the people than the gear/class/loot. I’ve downed Arthas on 10man normal with Unpossible, but killing Putricide with my friends gave me an even bigger rush.  It may sound crazy, but it’s true.

We’ve been doing what we can to accomodate schedules. We’ve found that Tuesdays and Thursdays yield the most guildies. So, I put up the signups on the calendar. People click Accepted/Declined/Tentative. If they click Tentative, all I ask is that they contact me when they know ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. They all have my email, as well as my cell phone number. This leads me to “Kevin” (not his real name).

The first time Kevin signs up for raid, he lists himself as Tentative. After being a random no-show, the next time I see him, I simply say, “Hey Kevin, sorry we missed ya Tuesday. If you sign up as Tentative, would you mind shootin’ me a text when you know if you can or can’t make it?”  He replied, “Dude, that’s why I signed up Tentative.”  “I know,” I respond, “but I just need to know if we’re waiting for you or moving on.”  “Oh yeah, sure.  Sorry man,” was his final quote.

Second Incident

Kevin signs up for the next night as Tentative. Totally cool. Obviously, real life takes precedence over WoW, and it should. Time ticks down to the first pull of the raid night. No text from Kevin. No email. No in-game mail. His status still listed as Tentative.  So, I text him. His girlfriend has been sick, and he’s taking care of her. ”Oh, sorry to hear that. Awesome you’re taking care of her. If you could just shoot me a text if you know you’re not gonna make it, that would help out a lot.”

His reply: “Yeah of course, no problem.”

Third Incident

This time, Kevin signs up as Declined. He sends me a whisper, “Hey, I’m signing up as Declined because I’m not sure I can make it or not.” I say, “Cool, we’ll count you out for the night. If that changes and you can come, just text me and we’ll see what we can work out.” “Yeah cool!” is all he says.

Raid starts a little late because our MT got bogged down with work and needed time to do it. We grab a couple new Applicants to the guild, a few of our usual non-guild friends we raid with, and we set off into ICC to at least get through the first wing.

Approximately 3 hours after the raid was scheduled to start, Kevin signs on.  “Hey guys, how goes ICC?” “Pretty awesome, actually. We just started,” I answer.  Raid continues, we only get through Saurfang with the 45 minutes we had before we started losing people to family, work, sleep, etc.

Face-off

After the raid is over, I get a whisper from Kevin. Here’s essentially the conversation:

Kevin: “Hey man, whatever happened to Team Sport?”

Me: “Not sure what you’re getting at.”

Kevin: ”You had 3 Applicants and 2 PuGs in there. What happened to full members getting priority?”

Me: “Well, you signed up as Declined, and didn’t let us know you were coming.”

Kevin: “The Team Sport I know would boot one of the Applicants or PuGs to get a full member in there.”

Me: “Actually, that’s not the way it’s been. If you would’ve given advance notice you were coming, maybe we could’ve work ed something out. I’ve made myself available for you numerous times to get in touch with, and you haven’t taken advantage of it once. Just because you wear the tag is no guarantee, Kevin.”

Kevin: “Whatever dude, I’m out”

**Kevin leaves the guild.

You get the point. I was also called selfish, and accused of not caring about the Team. In actuality, it’s because of this team that we’re trying to make it work. The core of us could go anywhere to raid. We could join random guilds just so we could see and conquer the endgame content, but it’s not how we want to do it. Building and filling out this group is vastly more important to us. If other guild members are up to the task, awesome. If not, no big deal, there are other options to explore.

There’s only so much reaching out we can do.  We can’t do much for people that don’t reach back.

TL;DR – Raid Leading is hard.

**If you’re interested in possibly becoming a part of this team, email me at the link provided below. We’re building a small 10man group of talented and friendly team players. Particularly looking for dps with off-specs in healing/tanking. Even if you don’t fit that bill but are still interested, email me all the same**

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

Preparing for Absences

Things get a little frantic on my end during events where I’m cut off from both my guild and my blog. Everything needs to be planned out to make sure there’s enough stuff to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll be driving down to Laguna Seca in California for work and to check out these motorcycle races.

Remind me to bring ear protectors as we’ll be next to the track. I’m also going to need stuff to do on the way down. Anyone have any suggestions? I’m bringing a few books and I’ll have my Macbook with me. I’m not going to get much in the way of internet. I suppose I could collect some Sudoku or crossword puzzles from newspapers.

From the guild side of things

Knowing when you’re leaving and how long you’ll be gone for is a big plus. It’s good to take stock of the roster during the 6-8 weeks before leaving to see what sort of gaps need to be filled. Knowing that my guild will be down a healer, it’s smart to have an idea of who can step in to fill that position temporarily. I recruited a couple of extra players (who can play multiple roles adequately) so that the raids will continue unaffected.

For my raiding guild, the bottom line for me has always been that the raid must go on.

The next thing to do is to delegate any extra responsibilities you have to other people who both can do it and want to do it.

I usually direct the healers. Someone will need to liaise between the healers and the officers. I picked one of my Priests to do that as he’s done the job before.

Lastly, you also need someone that can cover your position and roles in raids. When the opportunity presents itself, I’ll try to rotate and shuffle healers around. I might put a Resto Druid on Infest healing or a Shaman on tank healing. I’ve placed my number 2 Disc Priest on Infests while I went Holy and raid healed. The goal of the exercise is to give everyone one or two shots doing something that they otherwise normally wouldn’t be doing so that in the event they have to, they won’t be confused.

Always build redundancies.

I think the greatest fear of every guild leader when they need to step away for a while is that they return to a smoking ruin with a pillaged bank and the guild in complete disarray with half the roster size.

And for crying out loud, designate a de facto number 2. Make sure you have witnesses. Tell them something like “This guy’s in charge while I’m gone. Treat the words coming out of his mouth as if they were mine. He’s got my full support and I trust him to do the right things for the group.”

Guildmasters, what’s on your to do list when you know you’ll be gone from the guild for a while?

From the blog side of things

I’ve pre-written a bunch of stuff. I think I’ve written more in the past few days then I’ve had in the past month or so. With more beta information released, there’s been more ideas and stuff to discuss.

I also updated our About page (finally) to include the new guys to the team as well as add some interesting facts and tidbits about ourselves. You might actually find it interesting! 

If you’re interested in being a part of the team (whether permanently or just want to contribute a guest post), check out my guidelines, and then contact me. I love guest posts. And I’d certainly love to feature some over the next week and a half.

Guild Survival Guide: How to Apologize

Guild Survival Guide: How to Apologize

apologize

You screwed up big time. You’ve infuriated a good number of people. Whatever it is, you made a mistake and you need to own up to it.

The problem?

You’ve never really apologized to anyone in a game before. Something I’ve noticed when playing online video games is that egos can get in the way of someone apologizing. GMs and officers screw up. We’re not perfect and we do make mistakes. The least we can do is own up to it.

Step 1: Figure out what they want to hear

Do you know how you offended them? Are your listeners justified in how they feel if you were in their position? Keep in mind what would be going on through their head when deciding your respond.

Step 2: Has it been a long time?

The intensity of the resentment will scale depending on the length of time they’ve waited for you. That means your apology will need to scale accordingly.

Step 3: Can it be made up?

It sounds cheesy, but see if there’s some way you can make it up to them. Try offering up some gold or buying them a gift. Offer to run them through an activity like an instance or a quest. If all else fails, you can’t go wrong when asking “Is there anything I can do to help you feel better about this?”

Step 4: Go full audio

A lot of communication and meaning is lost when typing messages to other people. At the very least, if you’re apologizing over a voice program, your sincerity and tone can help add to the strength of your message.

Step 5: Be sincere and straight to the point

“Look, I screwed up. I’m sorry. What I did was wrong. I know I can’t really make up for what happened but I will take full responsibility for it. This might not make up for it, but it would mean a lot if you’d accept this item/gold/activity from me. It’s a minor gesture, true. You’re pissed and I get it. I will do my best to make sure it won’t happen again. If there’s anything else I can do to make things cool between up, please let me know.”

Step 6: Give them the opportunity to speak

Don’t say anything and give them their chance to say something. Listen and don’t offer up any excuses or explanations for why you did the things you did unless you’re asked to. Once they’re done saying their peace, apologize again.

It might not fix everything. The apology might even get rejected but at least you’ve shown the willingness to take responsibility for your screw ups. It is up to them whether or not to accept and you have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. If that player was a big asset to you and your guild, they might just leave over such a grievous offense. You can’t win every battle.

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.

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.

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

Book Review: The Guild Leader’s Handbook

There is a book for everything it seems. Some will tell you how to hack an iPhone, others will tell you how to cook rare and exotic treats. In the gaming world there has been everything from strategy and content guides to art books and everything in between.

A few weeks ago a new book hit the stands, The Guild Leader’s Handbook by Scott F. Andrews. Scott is not only an accomplished and long time  guild leader in World of Warcraft, but also the author of “Officers’ Quarters” on wow.com. His book takes a look at what it is to run a guild in today’s modern MMOs and offers readers both looking to start a guild and those who have been at it a while, a cornucopia of information from his collected experiences. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the book with you.

Before we begin I’d like to make a few things clear. Firstly, Yes I do write for wow.com as one of the class columnists. This does not mean however that I will be unfairly biased towards the book. I have had little to no interaction with Scott and anyone who knows me or has listened to my podcast knows that I do not temper my criticism and critiques based on acquaintances or tangential relations. In short, friend or foe I try to tell it exactly as it is and as unbiased as possible. In mathematical terms we would call this “Correlation does not imply causation”. Secondly, while I myself am not currently a Guild Leader in WoW, I have lead numerous successful guilds, super-groups, and various other groupings in many other games. I am however still the Healing Lead and one of the raid officers for the guild I call home, and thus in a leadership position within the structure.

The first thing I noticed when opening this book, is the level of accessibility. It was very well written and very easy not only to read but digest. The concepts and ideas in the book are thoughtfully laid out and the way the topics are grouped not only make sense logically, but allow the material to be more easily digested. Potentially confusing concepts are quickly explained, often times with a real life scenario that the author has experienced himself. The second thing I noticed while reading this book is the confirmation of the author’s depth of experience. The familiarity he writes about the topics is comforting and also conveys a sense of certainty that is easily lost when writing something of this nature.

The book itself covers many topics such as;

  • Forming a guild and making it successful
  • Choosing a guild size and focus
  • Dealing with guild drama
  • Differences between leading a guild and leading a raid
  • Loot distribution
  • Alternate styles of guilds (PvP, RP)
  • Choosing officers
  • Guild Morale
  • Planning for the long term
  • Dealing with Real Life

Seems like a lot to cover in such a small book doesn’t it? It is, but the author cuts out most of the unnecessary and leaves in the most relevant information to the topic. Each topic is subdivided and dives into specifics and does so with the perfect amount of detail.

There were a few pieces that really stood out to me while reading this. First was the section on forming a guild. Beyond setting a size and focus for your guild, the author talked about a topic that I think deserves some attention. Forming a guild identity and presence. For any established guild or group, their name and longevity carry a certain weight to them. If you think about any guilds, corps or fellowships you may have come across, I’m certain you can find at least one where their name is well known. For a new guild starting out it can be hard to forge an identity and establish a presence. The author offers some solid advice for creating a server presence. This ranges from specializing and becoming rock solid at a particular goal, having a history of cooperation with other people and guilds to having fun contests and events. One example that I found particularly enjoyable was the idea of taking a completely meaningless piece of land in the game and claiming it as your own, while challenging anyone to take it from you and doing anything you can to hold on to it. That would certain generate some notice, and could be a particularly fun event.

Next was explaining the differences between leading a guild, and leading a raid. The distinction is one that sometimes goes unnoticed. A lot of players seem to feel the two are always synonymous. The author explains the characteristics of a guild leader very well and talks about the shift in personae needed to lead a raid. The two can often times be polar opposites of each other. A guild leader is at the end of the night the ultimate authority of a guild. They can control who becomes officers, who is kicked or invited and tend to be looked upon as the arbiters for any guild disputes. Compassion, openness, friendliness and approachability all play very well to a guild leaders station. A raid leader has to evaluate performances constantly while keeping the group focused. They have to play the role of team captain, coach and player all at the same time. Leading by example, but also calling out problems and fixing issues as quickly as possible. This can sometimes involve not being very nice and squishy in your assessments. I was quite pleased to read this section here and it would be something I encourage not only people in leadership roles to read, but also those in a raider position. It is very much like being friends with your boss outside of work. When you’re at work you still need to work, and it’s your bosses job to keep you focused.

Another part that particularly stuck out to me was the section detailing real life interactions and issues. Even though this is a game, it is a social network. You are interacting with other players regularly, and you are devoting time out of real life to play this game with other people. As a result real life will always impact a gamers life and a game may affect the life of those that play it. This section of the book covers topics like dealing with addictions (both substance and potential video game addiction), Depression and mental illness, sexual predators, relationship problems, family problems, burnout and criminal confessions. These are real life topics that can and do affect people who play MMOs. This section offers advice to deal with these situations as they arise. Let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that a criminal was tracked down through WoW by law enforcement.

This section also talks about planning real life meet-ups. Investing as much time as you do in a guild there may come a time where you want to meet the people behind the avatars face to face. It sometimes requires a lot of planning, but can indeed be exceptionally rewarding.

So in the end what does this book really have to offer?

For the new guild leader or leadership role

A plethora of information that is neatly gathered in one place for you. There is a lot that goes into forming and running a guild. This book takes the information and neatly bundles it for you for easy consumption. The information contained in the book is very accurate, and is very universal in it’s approach. The advice offered is solid, well thought out and has been tried and tested by the author himself. The book may have items you never thought to consider, or just did not occur to you. It offers a new officer or guild leader a chance to be prepared and also educates you on exactly what you can expect. Everything from personalities in the guild and group dynamics to planning for the future and longevity of your guild. All the basics you could possibly need to know are detailed here for you.

For the old-hand

Even if you have been playing MMOs for a long time and are quite experienced at leading groups, running guilds and leading raids, this book will offer something that can often times be lost over time. Perspective. We fill these rolls for so long that things become second nature to us. Like everything sometimes it’s nice to have a refresher. No one is perfect 100% of the time, we all make mistakes or forget things. The way I view it is like this. Next to my computer I have a series of books for programming, APA style and formatting guides, marketing and business books and a variety of other reference material. No matter how long I’ve been doing something, there will be things that I will forget. Having these books handy gives me a reference. somewhere I can go to clarify questions and vague points or remind myself of things I may have forgotten. This book now has a permanent place on that shelf. For us old hands this book is a perfect reference to when we need to get back down to basics.

For the non leader

Even if you are not in a leadership role this book can offer you a great insight you might not have otherwise. Ever wonder why your guild leader made a particular decision but don’t really want to ask them? How about when a raid leader does something that you’re not quite sure of? This book will give you a basic understanding of what it is your guild’s leadership has to go through and constantly juggle to make sure the group remains stable and that you have a place you can unwind and have fun.

I applaud the author for this book. I found it easily accessible, accurate and a fantastic read. I was able to identify with the examples he presented right away and could have compared them to any number of stories from my own past in gaming. This book is a great starting point for anyone looking for form a guild, new to an officer position or for those who just want to understand what happens behind the scenes of their groups. On a personal level, reading this book allowed me to catch something happening in my very own guild that I almost missed simply by reading about it and being reminded of it.

The only criticism of it I have is that I feel it could have been longer.  Some of the sections could have been more fully explored and may have benefited from having a little more room to breathe. The book ends at a surprisingly short186 pages.

I feel it is well written, logically put together and is a must read for anyone seriously involved in MMOs and guild structure. Even with consideration of the length I feel that is well worth the money, and even more worth the time you would invest reading it.

The book retails for $24.95 us ($31.95 CDN) and can be purchased directly through the publisher’s website.

If you’ve read it and would like to share your thoughts on it we’d love to hear your opinion on it.

 

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)?

Hello 2010

Hello 2010

dawn-2010

First, congratulations to the US team for beating the Canadian team. We’ll get you back in the Olympics (seriously, that Canadian roster looks stacked with the top line from San Jose and with others).

As with every year on the blog, I try to make an annual thing out of reviewing the resolutions from last year for myself personally, the game, and the blog.

Let’s start with that. Did I meet the goals I set out to do last year?

2009 resolutions

Blog

Resolution: 3000 subscribers – Thanks to your readership, I have exceeded that and have managed to entertain 5000 bored players at work or school.

Resolution: 1.5 posts per day – Nope, not quite. My responsibilities have increased and I have not been able to fulfill that resolution. I’m working with a great crew that’s as diverse as it can get. With Lodur, Thespius and Mimetir, the blog provides a variety of insights.

Still could use that elusive Holy Pally contributor.

Game

Resolution: Top 10 server – Nope, Ner’zhul is a ridiculously competitive server. We’re barely breaking into the top 20 overall. According to Guld Ox, we’re exactly 10th Alliance side.

Resolution: Avoiding Burnout – Still here and I’m still not close to feeling any burnout. Thank goodness for cheap steam games in keeping me occupied.

Resolution: Raid achievements – Managed to pull off some of them but not as many as I’d like. The focus continues to be on progression. We’ll look at some of the other stuff later on.

Personal

Resolution: Let things go – Yep, I’ve learned to keep my distance on topics that I would have commented on in the past. Sometimes, it just isn’t worth it.

Resolution: GPA to 2.5 – Nope, holding at around 2.2. I learned that distance education courses and myself just don’t agree with each other. I lack the discipline on my own. I need to actually be in a classroom where I can directly ask for clarification on stuff that just doesn’t make sense to me.

2010 resolutions

Time to set some goals and tasks for this year.

Blog

Resolution: 10000 subscribers – A bit ambitious and it will be double the current amount. It’s how I measure the progress of my blog. Page views have remained increased slightly (not in the same ratio). I’m more concerned about being read then I am with just page views.

Resolution: Consistency with NSUI – It’s a great blog and a great idea. I just wish I had more time I could devote to it. I blog about different addons and ways to help players when I can. I’ll try to start with a consistent update time on a weekly basis.

Game

Resolution: 8000 achievement points – Slowly but surely, I am getting there.

Resolution: Arthas hard mode (25) – That’s my ultimate goal.

Personal

I’m not quite sure what to do at the moment. I feel rather lost. Undecided about Crim and Communications (or Journalism) is unavailable to me. Maybe I should just finish with a BA and get out of here and start working.

Get the heck out of school would be a great resolution but I won’t be able to pull it off this year.

Poll results

Last week, I ran a poll asking if you cleared out all bosses when running heroics. Here are the results:

poll-heroics

I resounding 47% of you do go after each and every boss in the instance. The next chunk of players are indifferent and go with the flow. A staunch 16% won’t knock out all bosses if they can get away with it. I suspect those might be the players where nothing attractive remains in current heroics or from Triumph badge vendors.

Guest posts

I promised I’d write them and they’re on the way. Bear with me. If it takes me a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, I will get them finished.

WoW.com is hiring again

I stepped down from handling Spiritual Guidance to focus on more general work and Raid Rx on wow.com. The site is expanding. A healing priest and a shadow priest have been brought on for twice the priestiness.

Yes, our class is so awesome, we get two columns featured.

They’re also looking to expand again. A Resto Druid, a Holy Paladin, an addon specialist, and a lore specialist.

More healers would indeed be awesome. Now they can heal me through the various PTR runs!

Quick application tip: I’m just going to use an example on the blog here when I look over contributors who want to work with me. Don’t bite the hand that feeds. If you’re applying for a position, don’t talk trash about the employer and then apply to them expecting to be successful in your application. I’ve seen people trash my blog and the work I invest into it on their twitter or their blog  and then they get in touch with me asking why I never link to them or highlight their work.

Like, seriously? I didn’t realize there were people that dense that were out there. Blogs are google-able. Everything is accessible. Nothing is hidden.

There is a line between constructive critique and being a dumb troll. Dumb trolls don’t get very far and they never will because they just don’t learn.

In any case, if you’re even remotely thinking about applying, just give it a shot. If you read the blog on RSS, you’ll notice I insert a quote by Wayne Gretzky:

“I miss 100% of the shots I never take.”

So take chances and shoot more. You just might score one. If you’re unsure or have any questions, feel free to drop me a line. There are some questions I won’t be able to answer but I can try.

It doesn’t hurt to know every pop culture reference and cult classic known to man. I was ridiculed for the longest time when I didn’t understand the Monty Python and Princess Bride references.

Which by the way, I finally watched. To be honest, I didn’t understand much of the humour. Probably a generation gap thing though.

Highlight Posts of 2009

Highlight Posts of 2009

2010

You didn’t think I was going to finish out the year without the traditional “Best of 2009” post, did you? Here’s the top posts of 2009 based on your views, comments, and tweets.

On healing
On gaming and society
On guild management
On recruiting
On raiding
On blogging

To other WoW bloggers, I’d love to see you compile a list of your favourite posts that you have written over the past year and don’t be afraid to post a link in the comments to it below.

Have a safe and happy new year! I would share my New Years party stories, but chances are, this Dwarf would not remember. There was that one year where I woke up half naked with a Tauren beside me and a banana…