Thespius’s State of the Dungeon/Raid

There’s been a lot of great conversation about how things are tuned in regards to Cataclysm Heroics and Raids (meaning normal Raids, I haven’t seen Hardmodes yet). This is starting to dip into the usual “Casual vs. Hardcore” debate, which I think is not what this entire argument is about. This game has made leaps and bounds toward making the game challenging for all. There are definite challenges for the people at the edge of blistering progression as well as for the family man/woman that can only log on once/twice a week, if that. I’d like everyone to take a look at a few different things, including adapting to change, the nature of challenge within the game, and the mindset of the “average” WoW player.

Know Where You’re Going, Know Where You’ve Been

Vanilla WoW – I was never a Vanilla WoW player. I understand that there was a very clear delineation between the casual player (questing and alts) and the hardcore player (40-man guild raiding). It’s very daunting to play a game when you know you have no chance of getting into any of the endgame content, stocked full of lore and goodies. This definitely took things too far in segregating the community. Casual players wanted to see the content, and Hardcore players loved feeling entitled to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Holy Grail of the game.

Burning CrusadeThis is where I stepped into the ring. I started as a very casual player, barely being able to throw a Karazhan run together with friends. It was ridiculously hard to climb up the progression ladder to see higher content, but it was doable. Sadly, I had to leave some friends behind because of it. Guilds operated as “stepping stones” to the next level. There existed the “KZ” guilds, the Gruul/Magtheridon guilds, the “SSC/TK” guilds, and the “BT/Sunwell” guilds, meaning the highest those guilds could accomplish. With the release of Zul’Aman, we now had harder 10-man content that my ~9 friends and I could hammer through. Granted, I was single and working as an actor at the time, so I had lots of extra time to play. That would definitely change soon. Still, not being able to see Illidan really sucked.

Wrath of the Lich King – Ahh, the release of 10- and 25-man raiding, but things got easy REALLY quick. So much so that I found multiple PuG 25-man ICC Hardmode Runs. Hardmodes were supposed to be the culmination of progression, really only reserved for the highest of raiders. I was fine with that. I wanted to give them a shot but didn’t have any grand visions of getting my HM Lich King kill. The gameplay was such that mechanics could be avoided. Phrases like “just heal through it” were peppered in boss explanations. DPS started to complain if they had to stop their rotation, tanks screamed at healers if they couldn’t/wouldn’t heal through a mechanic that wasn’t being interacted with properly. Entire mechanics were being glazed over, and the general WoW community got lazy (that’s right, I said it). Although PuG raiders were in Hardmodes, they really didn’t know what to do, and had forgotten entire pieces of their class/spec. Mages decursing? Druids CCing? Hunters trapping? Unheard of!! The bonus part: people got to see the content. My opinion, it became trivial too quickly.

Cataclysm – 10-man and 25-man raiding becomes equalized as much as it can be. 25′s only slightly hold the advantage of being the “truer form of raiding”. Blizzard realized that people were completely ignoring fight mechanics and made them less forgiving (if you let Dragha’s Invocation of Flame get to its target, you’re dead). Justice/Valor Points from your Daily Heroic are no longer things you’re “entitled to”. They must be earned and fought for. With changes to healing and fight mechanics, players are forced to actually look at their spellbooks once again (any Dwarves looking at Stoneform again?). Encounters now begin to feel like a group effort, rather than 5 individuals who wish they could just solo the content so they don’t have to be around other people. Raids feel more daunting for most of the player base, and guilds are back to trying to beef up their own team rather than PuG’ing from Trade Chat. It takes longer to gear up, but the gear is obtainable. Epic gear is actually epic again! Even without running Heroics, it’s possible to get 346 gear for your character. People don’t want to PuG, thus forcing the player base to look for guilds of people they get along with.

I look at all of these as good things. With my guild being called “Team Sport”, it’s no wonder that I long for a gaming world where it feels more team-oriented and not so individually cut throat. If I had the time to run things more, I’m sure I would be geared to the teeth at this point, but I’m not. It’s taking me a little while, but that’s always giving me something to strive for. A trinket I need from Archaeology, or the rep from Baradin’s Wardens, all of which give me something to shoot for that takes time and dedication. I don’t expect it to come easy.

Challenge Yourself

Ever work out? Ever have that great feeling when you finally get your jogging route under your target time? What about finally getting able to lift some weights heavier than the 5-lb ones you’d find in an aerobic class? It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? It’s a high, a rush of endorphins. Did it come easy? Probably not.

Think of any hobby the same way. If you start out knitting, don’t expect yourself to whip out a complicated Afghan in a day. You start out with ‘easy’, and when you’ve mastered ‘easy’, you move to the next level. Look at model building, sports, or anything you do for fun. You can’t expect to be the best at it before you even pick it up. Just about any hobby is worth putting the work in, because without the work the payoff isn’t as good.

Now look at dungeons and raids. If you can face-roll Heroic Stonecore, then that one piece of gear that drops off of Ozruk doesn’t mean as much. You don’t value it the same way you would if you had to work as a team to get it done. That piece you now wear has a story behind it. Working hard to defeat that Heroic Ozruk has brought you close to your gear, and to the 4 other people that help you beat him.

When you find yourself in a group that is struggling with a Heroic Dungeon, ask yourself if you’re using everything in your power to make it go smoothly. Do you have some ability that would make the rest of the team’s job easier? Maybe you can step out of your normal role to help someone that’s struggling. I’ve seen Hunters that have issue frost-trapping a mob. My DK friend Aaron loves to Death Grip that mob back to the frost trap. It’s something that in WotLK a DK wasn’t expected to do, but Aaron does it because it helps the group. Is it easy to do? No, but it’s certainly not back-breaking. However, it’s more rewarding when we down bosses after thinking outside the box. It becomes an accomplishment to finish the encounter, rather than the accomplishment being the addition of a few Justice/Valor Points to your pool. That should be the reward for the accomplishment, not the accomplishment itself. Again, you value the prize more when you worked for it.

The Average WoW Player

A lot of complaints have come from the community (especially on the Official Forums) about the quality of the average LFD group. Rogues get instantly kicked for “not having reliable CC”, a Tank gets kicked for “one pull going awry”. I’ve been kicked from a group as a Resto Shaman simply for suggesting CC be used in Grim Batol. The quote: “Only bads use CC.” The forums are cluttered with threads such as these, and it makes it a really bleak outlook.

As stated above, we come from a Wrath mentality. The population both surged and got lazy in the last expansion. Mass pulling and AOE fests were more plentiful than senseless slander in American politics. Now we’re changing in Cataclysm, and change doesn’t come easy to most. It’s difficult for people to adapt to having to do more to get the same results.

Look at Trade Chat. Outside of gold and profession spammers, Trade Chat is pretty gross. I rarely am ever in it. Same goes for the official forums. Those that are the most unhappy or feel “scammed” talk the loudest. Anyone trying to be a voice of reason is usually shouted down, and good productive discussions are few and far between. This is no different than the LFD situation. There are a lot of people in that system that are bitter, jaded, and hate change. Rather than encouraging a nurturing environment, they’ll curse up a storm and belittle everyone else around them.

Where are all the nice players? They run with their guild, or have a friends list of people they’ve found that value a fun environment over the prospect of running a “boot camp dungeon”. They are out there, I promise. You just have to be patient and look.

I know the 45-minute queues are unbearable. It’s how I built up my Resto set–by queuing as Enhancement. It’s a total roll of the dice, and you may completely bottom out with your luck if you queue alone. Lodur posted a great article about being a teacher within the LFD. Strongly recommend checking it out, as it may give you a glimmer of hope.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you’re one of the people who feels like you’ve been wronged by Blizzard, I ask you this: What is it you really want out of this game?

  • “I want to be able to log in, get my badges/epics, and log off.” I’m sorry, but those days are gone. People very quickly were behaving like drones. Those players in the game looked at dungeons and badges as “tasks” or “chores”, instead of events and rewards for those events.
  • “I want to see the lore and the content.” The normal dungeons provide all the same lore that the Heroics do, as far as I know. Heroic Deadmines and Heroic Shadowfang Keep offer their own lore but aren’t really in line with the Deathwing plot line. They’re great little side stories. As for raids, think of the storyline as Mt. Everest. I would love to see the top one day, however, I know that it will take work and dedication to get there. I don’t expect to just stroll up to the top.
  • “I want it to go faster! It takes too long!” You lose the journey this way. The struggle. Anything worth getting is worth the fight. Take Lord of the Rings for example. If Frodo just flew over the mountain and dropped the ring in from the start, it’d be a short movie, and not very gratifying.

If you want to find enjoyment in the game with people that are like-minded, you have to work for it. Blizzard stated before this expansion that they wanted to encourage more group- and community-oriented game play. It’s time for us as players to adjust to this shift in ideology.

Perhaps you’re in a guild that doesn’t really offer itself up to run dungeons with you. Maybe the group you’ve found yourself in isn’t really supportive when it comes to learning your class mechanics. Everyone starts somewhere, right? To me, both situations mean it’s time to start looking to surround yourself with people you share a mindset with. That’s what this particular MMO is built around, and that’s how Blizzard wants it. If you want to be solo and do your own thing, it’s going to be tougher and cause you more headaches. Start looking for a guild of people that you actually get along with. There are guilds out there that can get through the content and not belittle their members along the way. Whatever your schedule is, whatever your goals are, I promise there is a guild out there for you.

Focus on the journey and the challenge, rather than whining that you can’t have it all right here and right now.

I’m Thespius, and I approve this message.

Is Trade Chat a Good Avenue for Guild Prospects?

Is Trade Chat a Good Avenue for Guild Prospects?

recruiting

I don’t get a lot of email. But the ones I do get are often insightful questions. Heh, sometimes I have to respond to the reader and tell them that an email response wouldn’t do their email justice. The next best thing is to convert their question and topic into a blog post so I can really attack it from all angles.

From Ephii:

I see that you’re posting in trade to advertise/recruit. Our guild is currently recruiting but our members have always felt that spamming trade carries a social stigma of being "one of those crappy guilds." We were the most progressed Alliance guild in TBC until some of our core members transferred off. Our reputation is sterling as the mature guild with players who don’t run their mouths. However, we’re having problems getting new recruits by posting on the realm forums alone (for server recruits). What is your take on posting in trade?

Ephii runs a really cool Shadow Priest blog, interestingly enough. Pay attention to the Healing Macros post.

Back to the question at hand. I can understand why players don’t like to advertise in trade. Trade chat has traditionally been viewed as a place where scoundrels, heathens, morons, and bad players congregate.

So why would I want to advertise my guild there?

Because, like it or not, it is the largest channel in terms of population. Just because you have scoundrels, heathens, morons and bad players running their mouths off in trade chat doesn’t mean that you have scoundrels, heathens, morons and bad players reading it all the time.

I used to think about trade chat the same way. I wouldn’t want any guild I was a part of to advertise there because of the perception that those bad players bring. Why would I want to play or raid alongside these trade chat pollutants, right? Only crappy and unskilled guilds recruit from trade chat. Real good players are the ones that transfer to you off server and come to you directly. With that in mind, I shouldn’t advertise in trade chat.

Why is this wrong?

You have to start somewhere. Unless you’re a top 20 guild, you’re never going to be able to attract top level talent. The only way to attract talent is to prove that you have tenacity to get the job done with whatever members you have at your disposal. At this point, for most guilds, their immediate goal is to attract players. Skilled players come later. Weak players weed themselves out as time goes on.

As GM, my immediate goal is to get into the 25s as soon as possible. I wanted to develop the image and perception that Conquest would be a successful guild. In order to do that, I have to have at least 25 raiders. Without it, my goals are as good as dead in the water. I don’t have the reputation yet to be able to convince or draw 25 players without utilizing trade chat.

Lesson of exposure

One important concept I was taught in marketing is the concept of exposure. If you don’t expose yourself, people aren’t going to know you. If they don’t know you, they’re not going to join you.

Let’s put it this way.

I’m an electronics chain looking to unload some Blu-ray Players. Specifically, I got these kick ass Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray Player‘s lying around.

Let’s forget the fact that it’s 1080p, HDMI, Dolby Digital, and comes at a low price of only $199. Because it’s not important.

(I can hear the epic sighs and see the head shaking but I’m trying to prove a point here!)

You wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t told you. If I was working in marketing and I wanted to sell as many of these as I could, I have to make people aware that I’m selling these. Why do you think advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry? Companies employ television ads, magazine and newspaper ads, billboards and our most hated enemy are banner ads.

Hell, people call you at 7 PM when you’re having dinner to ask you to buy something. Those guys, I want to shoot.

Everyone is competing for your attention.

We’ve grown accustomed to filtering them out. But if a company can attract your attention for even a few seconds, they’ll have succeeded because they want you to think about them. The next time you get the urge to to buy a product or pursue a service, they’re banking on you to remember it.

Back to trade chat

So how does this apply to WoW guilds and recruiting? It’s the same general principle. People aren’t going to buy stuff if they don’t know you have them. Players won’t apply for your guild if they don’t know you exist. For guilds that are just starting out, trade chat is the biggest source of potential recruits because in my experience there are three types of players:

  • Players that aren’t looking for a raiding guild
  • Players that are looking for a raiding guild, but don’t know it yet because they’re waiting for the right opportunity
  • Players that are looking for a guild

Numbers 2 and 3 are the most important. Offering EST friendly hours was one of the best moves I was able to make because I didn’t alienate players on the other side of the continent. I advertised this in trade and received a number of applicants this way because they weren’t able to handle raiding up until 1 AM or 2 AM anymore. The only reason they stayed in their current guild was because they had little choice.

But by exposing my guild, my days, my times, my goals, and wants, I gave them another way out. Raiders looking to join raiding guilds generally have little to say in trade chat. You’ll be amazed at how many people you can pick up from there.

Realm and guild recruitment forums are nice. But only a small fraction of players check those. In my experience, those tend to be the 3rd category of players.

Although you may hate it, trade chat’s going to be the biggest source of recruits for you. Take advantage of it. Otherwise, you’re going to be waiting for a long time.

For my purposes, I view trade chat as a necessary tool. I don’t exactly have people knocking on my door and I need to spotlight my guild as much as possible. This means plugging it on Twitter, using my blog, advertising in Trade chat, using the realm forums, the guild recruitment forums, my Plusheal forums and so forth.

Where did they come from?

Since my guild is still relatively lean, I still remember where (most of) my players come from:

recruits

When I mean off server, I don’t mean transfer. These are players that were a result of advertising on guild recruitment forums. I probably had around 7ish server transfers (if you include the blog and twitter). Referrals are players that a guild member knows. A Paladin applies, gets in, refers a Rogue and a Shaman and those guys subsequently get in as well. They may or may not have been exposed to trade chat. Had I not advertised in trade chat, the original Paladin would not have known about Conquest or advised his friends about it.

Don’t judge the quality of every player in trade chat by what’s said. Most of us generally keep our mouths shut. Just because we don’t say anything doesn’t mean we aren’t reading.

Be a World of Warcraft God in 5 Steps

Be a World of Warcraft God in 5 Steps

wow-god

You’ve got the game. You’ve done the raids. You’ve finished the PVPing. For some reason, and you can’t quite place it, there’s still a hole within you. It feels as if though there is something missing. You were a hardcore gamer before. In Counter-Strike you’d consistently dominate with the AWP in your hand. In Warcraft 3, dominating the opposition was nearly effortless especially with multiple tournament wins and top place finishes.

Not only that, you actually beat Tetris.

You’ve mastered shooters. You’re renowned in RTS games. Now you’ve set your eye on the MMO world. How does one “conquer” World of Warcraft?

Raid. Raid a lot.

The best gear in the game can only be acquired by tackling the hardest bosses in raiding instances. Until you’ve taken down Illidan and Archie (and now Kil’Jaden), you’re just a small pup. Get the best gear you can possibly get!

PvP Endlessly

What good are all those shiny weapons going to do if you can’t actually use them? It’s one thing for your opponents to make a note of the firepower you’re packing. It’s something else entirely when you go up to them and cleave them in half. Furthermore, a strong push to the 2000+ rating is almost a must. Non-stop BGs and Arenas are your ticket to be the Unstoppable Force.

Post often to forums

Forum trolling is an acquired skill. Some people just grow up having the innate ability to cause an uproar. The point here is to make your presence known and felt. A real gaming God is not content with just be a one man wrecking crew. Their name has to be known in households worldwide. The only way to do that is with constant posting. Reply to other threads, answer other questions, or start some discussion of your own.

Have insane amounts of gold

Like it or not, the WoW economy is one of the central pillars that drive this game. Gold makes the world go round. Without money, you can’t buy the supplies you need. Yes, although WoW Gods don’t need trivial things, armor and weapons could use some buffing and shining every so often. Although some players would be willing to do it for free, the merchants in the cities need to make a living somehow.

“Contribute” to Trade chat

It’s not enough to own the forums. You have to own trade chat! Start making references to bad movies! Make fun of Canada! Go ahead and randomly insert support for some political candidate! Get people to react to you! I saw this one guy in trade chat who said that “heals can’t crit” and I observed in amused amazement as the entire channel went off in an uproar for a good 45 minutes citing every resource base in the game that “yes, heals can in fact crit”.