Why the Flex Raid is a Boon

I recently purchased a Flex plan from my cell company where I’d be charged monthly based on the amount of data I actually used. I don’t know if I’ll always be near a wireless access point or not but at least the charges will scale accordingly.

Speaking of Flex plans, Blizzard’s taking a page out of that book and introduced a new type of raiding: The Flex Raid difficulty.

  • We can bring anywhere from 10 – 25 people and the bosses will scale.
  • We can invite friends from other realms via battle tag
  • Item level is between raid finder and normal but loot will be handled via raid finder loot system
  • Separate lockout from raid finder, normal/heroic

I’m still digesting the news. Usually my raid will run through raid finder once a week. We’ve started bringing in and carrying our alts. People are still running raid finder to grab their Titan Runestones at the start. Raid finder is great if I just want to mind numbingly get my way through an instance, gear up an alt, and just generally not have to think but mash buttons. I can eat every void zone, stand in every fire, miss every interrupt, and can live (most of the time).

What kind of example am I setting, right?

Why it’s good

This is great for guilds and cross realm raid groups. Players don’t have to transfer their characters from server to server to raid. I know there’s players out there who have a whole train of alts with assorted professions designed to support their main. If that player is satisfied with raiding on the flex plan, then they can still see the content in the game without committing money to move their supply train.

Second, from a recruiting standpoint, this is a huge tool for a prospect to raid with a potential guild and see if they’d fit in. Right now, we run livestreams and invite possible recruits on to our Mumble in order to give them a look at our raids. I can see a day set aside where recruits can jump in and raid with the team – And the beauty is a whole 25 man team isn’t going to be needed either.

Third, what about guilds that are looking to scale up from 10 to 25 man? This is another excellent way for them to gradually expand. It’s often a nightmare to make an immediate jump from a 10 man to a 25 man raiding guild. Sometimes the pool of player availability isn’t always there. The flex raid allows them to slowly (but surely) change their raid size until a consistent 25 raiders is found for the inevitable shift to normal modes.

But at the end of the day, Flex Raid isn’t a normal raid. It will never carry the prestige or reputation that normal and heroic kills grant. I doubt it’ll be taken seriously but maybe that’s what the main point of the flex raid is. It’s not designed to be cutting edge or challenging. It’s supposed to bring you, your family, and your friends together to raid where you don’t have to deal with potential morons in raid finder. You get to raid on your terms with whoever you want with relaxed restrictions.

Will you flex?

I’m still weighing the costs and benefits of working in Flex raiding for Conquest. I’d remove guild sanctioned Raid Finder from the list of activities and swap to this instead. At minimum, I would have to have at least two tanks available for this. With Raid Finder, I’d be able to go in with whatever composition I had available. The potential drops are better than raid finder anyway. I imagine my current raiding gear from Throne of Thunder will be better than the Raid Finder and flex drops in 5.4. If anything, Flex will be used to help ease our way into progression raids or on nights where half the raid is unable to attend.

Where does the flex raid factor into your guild’s raiding plans? What about your raiding plans? I’ll end up changing my Wednesday night raid finder to the flex raid instead.

http://chiesadomestica.org/new/clomid.html
http://theimagearchitect.com/media/editors/tinymce/templates/new/index.html
buy zithromax online

Recovering From a Bad First Guild Date

I issued a Valentine’s day blogging challenge earlier on Twitter. It wouldn’t be fair of me to not participate. Any bloggers are welcome to join in. It’s a fun way for bloggers to throw a Valentine’s spin on their posts. If you do accept the challenge, feel free to e-mail or DM me a link to it and I’ll round them all up at the end of the week. I’m sure you can come up with some ideas if you think hard enough.

1327762_rosesPerformance anxiety.

Nervousness.

Fear.

Intimidation.

Those are just some of the few things any prospective raider will experience on their first “date” with the guild. As much as we love to hear a happy ending to a story, the reality is that it isn’t always the case. Here you are, a  player trying to court your new guild. You want them to love you. You want them to be attracted to you. Why? Because you want to be with them too.

But then you screw up.

You stand in the fire. You eat one too many Shadow Crashes. You accidentally dropped a totem in the wrong place.

For whatever reason, your “date” just wasn’t impressed with you at all. Here you are trying to establish a solid foundation with them but you blew your chances because of some silly mistakes. The question they’re asking themselves: Can you be trusted to not screw up again in the future?

Meanwhile, the question you have running through your head is: Will they give me a second chance?

Probably not. At least, not right away. If you epicly messed up, you won’t have a shot. But you know, maybe that guild likes you just enough for another look. But you have to prove yourself.

Communicate

“Hey, I know I screwed up here, here and here. I’m just a little jittery because it’s my first time here. I’ve watched the movies and I know the abilities, but I guess I was just overwhelmed with anxiety. I know I’ll do a better job next time.”

Sometimes a little reassurance to the guild is all that’s needed. Everyone loves a person who recognizes and owns up to their own mistakes. It’s a sign of a truly mature individual who understands they’re not perfect. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but someone who can see where they screw up without having to be told about it is perfect in my eyes.

Listen

Hear out what the guild has to say. If you’re not sure, ask them what you did wrong so you can try to make amends for it. If you know your DPS rotation is messed up, why are you still following the same bad habits? This is especially true if someone is playing the same class as you. Listen to what they have to say, consider it, and see if its right for you. When they drop little hints about what you can do to be better, listen to it.

If that player isn’t you, then you might just need to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and make the choice between walking away or dealing with it.

Don’t screw up

You were given a second chance. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll be given a third. Don’t mess it up again by choking. They’ve said yes to you again so you better show up and show them who the real you is. Polish up the armor and maybe shotgun a flask.

When they ask you where the nearest raid is, you can curl your muscular Dwarven arm and go “that way”.

Even though you didn’t make the best of first impressions, you might still have a chance to get into the guild of your dreams.

They want to like you

Last thing I want to impart is this:

No one is out to get you.

The guild that you’re going for, you have to remember that they want you to be the one. They don’t want to go back to the recruitment boards again searching for Mr. or Ms. Right. They’re looking for someone who will stick around for a long time.  You’re here because they think they found a potential match and they’re rooting for you to be with them! They want you to ace it so they can go back to drinks! It’s up to you to either validate or prove wrong that claim.

Speaking of which, we’re looking to shore up our roster with a Holy Paladin, an Elemental/Resto Shaman, Rogue and a Mage. But we’ll look at any other classes though. Come check us out.

A Change of Recruiting Strategy: World of Raids Tool

This raid cycle is about to end soon and I know there are many guilds who are gradually bleeding members to life and other obligations outside of the game. It’s becoming a tough stretch to even field a full competent crew for ToGC 25.

Right now, even though we’re recruiting for ToGC 25, I personally don’t know if anyone’s going to bite. What I did decide to include is an extra note that says we’re also recruiting for Icecrown.

Another stipulation that I’ve added is that quality of gear players have when applying won’t really matter to us. In other words, I’ve relaxed the gear standards.

Why?

Because I know Icecrown’s just on the horizon and will debut within 4-6 weeks. I projected a late November or early December release.

That’s 4 weeks for a new applicant to get themselves geared up so that they can be effective in Icecrown. Even if they’re a fresh 80, running a constant stream of heroics or getting carried in farm or alt raids is enough to build a supply of badges to purchase tier 9 gear.

So in other words, I’m enacting a two tier strategy. The first priority is to recruit players who can help fill our raids and contribute. Failing that, if they’re not at the level they need to be, we’ll still draft them for the future.

I’ve gotten some bites on trade chat, but they’re mostly inquiries for now. Twitter has again proven fruitful as I’ve had a few interested players from there apply. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to use the official realm forums as everytime I post it says “Invalid Option”.

I was actually tempted to include in the recruiting message that the leadership had Icecrown experience as I’ve participated in all of the PTR tests so far. When you’re competing against other guilds for players, every edge helps right? One would think that foresight and knowledge into the next tier of content might tip the scales in favor.

So let’s look at the World of Raids recruiting page.

What are you looking for?

recruit-6

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are a variety of search filters at the top. Use those to narrow down the guilds that fit your criteria.

1. This is where you select the Realm. Obviously, since I’m a Dwarf Priest, I am going to select Alliance. Even though I live in Canada, the closest realms to me are in the US. I prefer PvP servers just because of the extra variable element they add to my day to day affairs even though I still hate Rogues.

2. If there’s a specific realm you’re looking for, you can enter it here and it will isolate only guilds that are from there.

3. You set your class and specs here. For me, I’ll put down Holy Priest as an example.

4. If you care about progression, you’ll want to look for a guild that’s in your area. This takes a bit of trial and error as there’s no absolute guideline on this. Just for the sake of it, I said narrow it down to guilds that are in the top 2000 around the world.

5. Raid times can be narrowed here. If you prefer to raid on certain days and times, simply choose the day where it matters and then use the buttons to select the start and end times. Setting a large range works best. It will display guilds that happen to raid on the days that you choose. Note that the guilds may raid days in addition to the ones you have selected.

Make sure you set the time zone appropriately.

The search results below will show guilds that best match your criteria. A green bar on the left signals how close they match your filters. The rest of the information is shown on the bar such as classes, progression rank, and times.

And hey, look at that. There’s a guild called Conquest that happens to be recruiting. I think I might give those guys a shot. Let’s click on that page and see what happens next.

What am I looking for?

Now that you’re on my World of Raids guild page, you can see all of the necessary information listed in one area and it’s very handy to applicants and recruiters alike.

recruit-4

At the very top, it displays some basic information. The icon on the left signifies which faction, Horde or Alliance, the guild is. The server and battlegroup along with the guild’s website is shown beside it. On the right side, applicants can see where this guild ranks on the progression curve. The Apply button is in bright yellow box that’s difficult to miss.

recruit-1

As you’ll see, the top part of the page displays what classes I’m looking for. At the moment, the classes that have a color background behind them signify that I will consider those classes. All we could use right now are bodies to help us in our raids and I won’t be too picky when it comes to class. If you can reach a certain threshold of DPS output and in game “smarts”, it’s good enough for me.

recruit-2

Right below that, you can see a neat graphical representation of progress. It takes a while to update as the data is pulled from WoW Progress and is reflected here. Under Crusader’s Coliseum, note how there are two levels of progression. Half a bar represents the boss has been taken down on normal mode while a full bar means it’s been done on heroic.

Ulduar is below that and it also breaks down individual boss achievements into fractions. Freya, for example, is broken up into 4 parts which represent her and various amounts of elder kills.

Sadly, this isn’t up to date as we took down Heroic faction champs last week and killed Yogg with 3 keepers active.

You can also see a link to 10 man achievements in the top right corner of each raid instance.

 recruit-3

Below that you can see notable accomplishments and a simple mouse over will display what has been achieved. I like the fact that it also highlights when a certain achievement was achieved. For example, Kil’jaden on the far right was killed prior to the release of 3.0.2.

Unfortunately, as this tracks everyone’s achievement, even if one person has Immortal, it will still display it as a guild achievement. Such was the case here because we weren’t able to get Immortal together as a guild.

recruit-5

Finally, the right side bar displays information that can’t easily be expressed or pulled from a third party source. This is where the administrator enters extra information about their guild. The raid times are shown at the top and is displayed in a 24 hour format to minimize confusion. The timezone that the guild operates on is also shown. These are settings that the administrator can control which ranges from MST, CST, EST, and so forth. I don’t recall what the European ones are.

The about section offers a brief description of the guild and what it’s about. It’s important to not go all out here. You want to sell your guild and garner interest, not scare them away with a giant wall of text. This is not the place to paste your guild’s core beliefs. You don’t have to enter in duplicate information. Remember, guild progression is already shown in the main area. Just tell potential applicants what you’re all about.

Some things include:

  • What you do? (Raid, PvP)
  • How you do it? (Push content within a narrow time frame)
  • What sets you apart from other guilds? (We hold players accountable)

Applicant expectations are where the guild administrators state what their expectations are. Again, be fairly brief here. Think of this as a brochure instead of an operations manual. This is the area where the qualities of the ideal applicant are listed.

One example would be something simple as must be mature and have thick skin so as to not take negative feedback personally.

Great I’m ready!

Once you’re ready and this looks like the perfect guild fit, it’s time for you to hit the apply button. There are 3 options that administrators can set.

  • Apply via World of Raids private message
  • Email
  • Website

For me, I selected the website because I like to keep all applicants in one area. Not every guild has such a luxury and you may wish to use email or PMs to handle that.

It’s certainly a well polished tool and I hope more players and guilds make use of it.

Is Applying to Multiple Guilds a Sin?

750936_52062459

Found this intriguing question on Twitter today that was directed to me. I’ll try to paraphrase it as best as I can.

”Is there anything wrong with players applying to multiple guilds?”

From my perspective, no. The way I see it, if I’m a guildless player who is looking to get involved with a raiding guild somewhere, I’d take the shotgun approach. I won’t get into why such a player should or shouldn’t apply to this type of guild. Let’s assume that I’ve done my homework and have answered the self-help questionnaire on the type or guild I want to be a part of. For example, I want to be in a raiding guild that’s just started Ulduar and is utilizing a DKP system that happens to only raid on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from a period between 6 PM – 12 AM.

Let’s say I hit the jackpot and there happens to be four guilds that fit the criteria.

From the applicant perspective

Why not? I want to raid. It doesn’t matter to me which guild I get into as they’re all pretty much the same. I’m flexible with my hours. I can raid from 7 – 11 PM for example. The time frame I listed above is the window that I am willing to commit myself to raiding. By applying to 4 different guilds, I get to maximize my chances. The odds are higher that at least one of them could use the role that I play.

From the guild perspective

It’s nice and flattering to hear from a player that they’ve looked only at your guild and want to be a part of it. They didn’t even consider any other option. What if the applicant doesn’t fit or if you don’t have room? It’s nice to know that the player has some other plans to fallback on. It kills me whenever I turn down a player sometimes. Some of them genuinely deserve good guilds to be a part of and wish to contribute to raids. Sometimes there’s just no space.

I’ve seen guilds who adopt this attitude that their guild is awesome. In fact, it is so damn awesome they can’t fathom why anyone who has applied to their guild also applied to other guilds. Clearly it’s an insult to such guilds. When a guild gets wind that an applicant also applied elsewhere, they just shoot them down. On one hand, it makes the process a little easier for the app as it does weed down the number of remaining guilds.

Cover your ass

When I applied to post secondary schools, I applied to no less than 3 institutions. Why? because I knew there was a very real chance that I would get rejected. It’s the same mentality when applying for jobs. Apply to many as you can and see who wants you. Then from there, you take the best possible offer.

There’s nothing wrong with the business sense. Don’t try and pull the loyalty card here either. The guild hasn’t accepted the applicant yet. There’s no incentive for them to be that loyal so early. When a player of outstanding calibre happens to apply (let’s say a player with Immortal or Champion of Ulduar or something), it’s up to the guild to change gears and sell themselves. The guild has to essentially put up a neon sign that says “JOIN US!” Ultimately, the decision is always going to belong to the applicant whether they accept or otherwise. If a guild truly wants that player, they’ll start talking and eventually extend an invite. If not, the guild will pass and one of the other guilds might consider the player.

It sure as heck saves a lot of time, too. Lots of guilds have response rates varying from hours to days to even weeks. If I were planning to raid, I’d apply to all the guilds at once. However, if there was one organization that I’d want to join, I’d make it known to them that they were my first pick. Would other guilds feel slighted? Well, probably. But if they needed the extra set of hands, they’d overlook that. If they didn’t, then the applicant would get turned down anyway regardless. It’s certainly faster than applying to one guild, waiting for a response, getting rejected, and then repeating it with a different guild over and over.

Applying to multiple guilds allows players to gauge the level of interest a guild has in their services. There’s nothing ethically wrong with that.

Image courtesy of woodsy

So You Think You Can Raid

header-think-you-can-raid

I caught the Vegas auditions last week for So You Think You Can Dance (and the results the next day). The judges can be so brutally honest sometimes. They possess a level of blunt truthfulness. Sometimes I wish I could be like that. As a guild master and a player, interaction and feedback is a daily occurrence.

Watching this weeks performance show (Bollywood was amazing, cha cha was really good and samba was just wow) and witnessing the judge comments reminded me that negative feedback does not always have to be harsh. It’s how you respond to it that matters.

Making the cut

This isn’t a post about getting through and making the guild (or raid). This is about the leadership perspective. We’re like judges. We evaluate and assess new recruits based on what we see. Sometimes we have to cut people. What sucks for us is that in a game that is dynamic and long lasting as this is the fact that evaluation is a constant.

When a guild recruits a player even as a trial, we do so hoping that the player meets or surpasses our expectations. When the challenges that a raid instance offers goes up (such as the gap from Naxxramas to Ulduar), there is an expectation that the player evolves and grows up in the same direction. Some players are able to do it admirably. Others just can’t. For whatever reason, they are not able to fulfill the level of technical skill that the encounter demands.

I especially want to direct this to struggling players who have been talked to by their leadership or fellow guildmates.

  • We’re not calling you dicks.
  • We’re not calling you morons.
  • We’re not calling you dipshits.
  • We’re not calling you assholes.
  • We’re not calling you humanity’s failures.

But we do recognize that you’re struggling. It would be disrespectful if that was simply swept under the rug and ignored. When you’re cut, it’s for a reason.

Why is it so difficult?

Cutting people from raids isn’t a feeling I take satisfaction from. It’s one of the worse things about this GM role. There’s something heartbreaking about telling a prepared raider that they’re not going to get the call up today. And at this point, I expect the whole this is just a game, stop taking it so seriously argument to crop up. Yeah, I understand it’s a game. But you’re still dealing with real people on the other end of it. It’s amazing how many people can lose sight of that. They’re not simple chess pieces on a board to be sacrificed on a whim.

It gets way harder when a person continues to be benched.

Is it the fact that the guild’s invested time and energy into getting them some gear to help out? No.

Is it because no one likes telling people they don’t get to go today? No.

Then what is it?

I’ve acted as a recruiter in no less than four different guilds. We watch new recruits and prospects. We try and carefully screen them as best we can.

What sucks for me personally is knowing that I spotted talent and potential in a player only to realize days or weeks later when they’re in our raids that I was completely wrong about them and their ability. No one likes to be wrong.

All the upper management types are scoffing. Understandable. They’re seasoned at the whole letting go thing. I’d probably be terrible as a manager or as HR. Heh, I’m still in my early 20s and you know that rule where everyone under 25 doesn’t know what they’re doing. I sure as heck don’t.

There is a limit

I hate to say it, but there’s a ceiling to the amount of effort that will be invested to help a player. Gear can only do so much.

Usually when a player is told that they need improvement and a strategy is devised to help them in that path, one of two things will happen.

Improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players of that same class. Undergoes a noticeable level of change. Actually gets better and is able to respond to the challenges of raiding.

No improvement: Player reads strategies, watches videos, talks with other players. Does not improve at all. Level of skill stays stagnant. No signs of growth. Nothing happens. Doesn’t seem to care.

If a player improves, great! GM’s job or class officer or whoever’s it is is now complete! Mission accomplished! Congratulations! You helped Joe Mage get better!

But what about the alternative? What if they don’t?

You see, no amount of video watching, strat reading, image diagramming, peer discussion, or gearing up can make a player better. A player has to not only learn from what they’re absorbing but they have to act on it. I can watch any number of healing videos or read all the stuff on EJ’s. But if I don’t noticeably improve somehow, then there is no amount of anything in the world that can help. You have to find the way to battle through and prove that you can raid. If you can’t meet that threshold even with all the resources at your disposal, then there is nothing more that can be done. The onus is always going to be on the player to get better.

Not everyone can. Not every player is fit to raid. Hard mode is hard. Not every guild can successfully do it. I can’t arena for crap.

The next step after that is entirely up to you and your guild. Either they find a new role for you or you start shopping for a new guild or accept being permanently benched. I’ve had to reassign players before. They weren’t meeting the expectations that were set for them. Sometimes a change of scenery or position works wonders and they just so happen to fit in.

Negative feedback is hard to give. But it’s even harder to receive.