Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Homeless, Guildless, Guiltless?

1) Introduction:

Let's steal a good idea from Tamarind, and separate the text into several chapters. I think he probably stole that idea somewhere else (*suspicious look included*) - probably the old Egyptians or Babylonians or some such. We shall also add images at random points to break up the text. The Egyptians had that down to an art - their whole wall of text was nothing but images *nodnod*. As behooves a mighty tauren a serious topic, we shall start with an introduction.

Snack is currently without a guild. I quit today, after a few lines from our guildmaster had me rather upset. The amount of diplomacy stuck into the delivery was low, but of course that is not the whole story. Which is why there is a whole long post about it - well that, and I love to hear myself talk.

2) Guild Climax (Ooh, aah):

Let's start with the high point of guild life. Back when I joined Vengeance, raiding was still focused on the final chapters of Icecrown Citadel normal. The first attempts on the life of the Lich King were made in Summer, and of course it was all very exciting. The guild had an excellent system of checks and balances for raiders - performance of new recruits was (I thought) evaluated well. Quite a few people did not actually make their trial, which had me very hopeful for the future of raiding.

The general level of performance was high - mistakes happened still, though. I think it is only fair to say that some people failed more often than others - but I was certainly not in the best 5% either. I am still surprised I made it through the trial - tank mistakes are so terribly visible.

The first 10-man Lich King kill was strenuous, but brilliant. The fight was quite hard due to it's unforgiving nature. Pretty much a single mistake by anyone meant that a restart was in order. It felt even better then, when he finally bit the dust (err.. ice?) after 93 attempts.

3) Guild Plateau:

After the 10 man kill, progress was focused on heroic modes in 10 man, the achievements in 10 man after a while and obviously pulling the same off in the bigger raids. 25 man progress was a good bit slower (and took almost three months more for the Lich King kill). And while people were still raiding regularily, the drive that pushed the 10 man kill seemed to be a bit lower.

4) Guild Decline:

And this is the bit, where it all got a bit strange. After early October 2010 the decline in signups was palpable. We had just completed the first Shadowmourne for the guild and people were - understandably - a bit drained with ICC. There was some effort by the officers to keep sign-ups high - but unfortunately much of the energy invested was aimed wrongly.

Basically: It doesn't help to tell the people who are there that they need to sign up more.

Both the "need to tell people (tm)" and the "but you got the wrong guy (r)" reactions happen in pretty much any situation, though. It's not like it's not going to be the first thing in the local supermarket and the high tech company around the corner as well. Gevlon would probably call it an Ape-Subroutine ... or something.

With the drive gone, everything went pretty quickly odd. The official release date of Cataclysm had been confirmed by Blizzard as the 7th of December. Two of the officers didn't play any more. With a short "I'll be back" message they had basically given up until Cataclysm. Our guildmaster was busy in real life - which understandably put a dampener on the "pull" of players in the guild.

A few of the remaining raiders tried organizing some interim measures - raiding Ulduar and Naxxramas for fun, attempting to do Trial of the Champions with all the attempts left, that sort of thing.

A bit surprising at this stage was the total lack of communication from the officer core. I'll actually leave that in as it is, because it's important criticism. Not playing the game while waiting for the expansion is entirely acceptable and understandable - most of the officers had put in a very very high attendance record and were worn out - however, the forums were still an open option for communications.

In the last few weeks, people would hardly notice signup pages on the calender any more, and the focus in raids was frankly gone. Some would not show up, some would leave early, some would "stand in the fire" and hardly care. I think one of the most memorable moments was a raid with a second guild (because we couldn't field the 20 people for an Ulduar-25 ourselves any more) when a guildy was kicked from the raid for standing in the bad too often.

5) Officer Stress and Feedback:

On to the parts I cannot properly comment on. I don't actually know any of the data here. I think that our officers (when present) and our guildmaster in particular were doing their best to hold the guild together just before Cataclysm. There was probably some organization going on behind the scenes. One of the highlights of that time was a poll on the forums about how people wanted to go about leveling up, recruiting for raids in the future and content.

Let me quote my own answer to leveling speed, because this is the root of my current problem:

Guild holiday?
I’m all for one. In fact, I rather enjoy questing – and being prepared for the actual raids. This probably means there will be new factions to get to exalted, new areas to be enjoyed and generally lots of things to do. Again – I arrived late at Vengeance and haven’t really seen any levelling going on, but at the moment people seem to mainly log on for raids and disappear right after (or that could be me – I wonder if me not being on outside raid times plays a role?). Would the simple solution be to just set everyone to member once the expansion hits and let them ask for “raider” rank when they feel ready?

From the changes to the interface/gameplay a lot of classes will need to learn how to play the game again anyway. The AoE-days are apparently going out; crowd control and possibly even area control (with fog and line of sight and things) are coming in. It’ll be a new game.
So… I’d skip the “preset” holiday period. Raid as soon as 10 people are willing to go, but allow the other guildies to catch up at their own speeds.
This still describes how I feel about leveling up in the new and shiny Cataclysm. I personally feel that raiding is only a part of the game - there are many many more nuances to it. Treating Cataclysm like a content patch (see Ulduar, Trial of Champions or Icecrown) devalues the whole experience massively.

I also tend to stick less to a schedule around the Christmas holidays. There are presents to be sorted, a tree to be watered and decorated and all sorts of family celebrations. That dreaded "real life" shows itself in its most enjoyable form. With cake and chocolate!

And luckily, everyone seemed to basically agree.

The official statement back then was this:

We have yet to finalize and edit rules for expansion on our next meeting, but this can be said for sure: we are not going to be pressuring nor have any penalties for the 80-85 leveling time. This is very individual and depends a lot on real life commitments each of us has and off course play style (a lot have been starving for new lore and leveling experience), and there will certainly be no gkicks because of slow leveling.
We will start raiding new content only when 10 or so players will be feeling like it, then growing in raid group size.
Now unfortunately this has not played out the way I interpreted it at the time. Back then, I thought this sounded perfect for a leveling experience that was similar to Wrath of the Lich King. As a level 70 (back then - this is ancient history, mind) I had to complete pretty much all the zones, do almost all of the quests and thus got almost all of the factions up to the point where only instance runs would improve them further. The best pre-raid gear was aquired from heroic instances (back then pretty much the same as now), with crafted items making up everything that was missing in drops.

My interpretation: We won't moan about anyone who plays the whole new zones/quests in their drive to get the best gear accessible before raiding. We want quality in the raiding equipment first and foremost.

The first players in the guild reached level 85 on the second or third day of Cataclysm. The new leveling model is an entirely different one. People are expected to level early and pick the two zones they enjoy most. Much like the rest of the new game (with the Shattering) there are now multiple parallel leveling paths that are entirely equally viable. Perfect for someone who plays an Alt and wants to experience something different.

The first instances were run (and moaned about), the first heroics were attempted (and moaned about even more). A relatively small group of players was seriously rocking the heroic world. Today (21st of December 2010, so this post can last for eternity) the average item level of those is around the 348 mark (done in my head - from a sample of four - so the standard deviation might be large). My own has just barely passed the 330 - almost a tier behind everyone else.

Now interestingly enough - this is not only something I noticed, it was also noticed by the officers (Good! They care deeply about the guild after all!). However, the way they went about it was terrible.

What I would have wished for would have been some clear communication. Something along the lines of "We appreciate that everyone wants to play their own game, but this is a raiding guild. We want to start seriously raiding in week x (I would have said week 2/2011, but that's too late for some). We want everyone who's interested to have their gear ready by week x-1, so we can plan on who will be there, what to do, etc."

I would probably not have minded someone saying "Look, we currently have one well-equipped tank. We need a second one - is there anything we can do to help you get gear?". I appreciate that it's my own responsibility to gear up, but pickup groups are not the fastest way - especially if some guildies already know the instances inside out.

What I got instead (over the last three days - since a first attempt into Blackwing Descent) was increasingly hostile Guildmessages of the day and then finally a personal "talking to" from our guildmaster today.

Now I presume there are different perceptions of how the conversation went again. This is likely always the case, and I suppose our officers are actually busy on more than one thing. There is also this fresh content that everyone seems to appreciate (and that I'd like to enjoy, too, limited as my playtime is) complete with cutscenes that completely block out all chat channels (this is a bad piece of design. It truly is.)

My perception was this. I had just grouped up with Issy to do instances. We had asked in guild if anyone would want to join us for a normal and actually got one more. We had entered the instance (a new one for me) and asked around if anyone actually knew what they were doing here. Two of the DPS were willing to help with quick tactics and we set out to kill things.

The first question I got was "You guys doing heroics yet?". I was a little surprised about the choice of chat-channel, but I declined. I thought in a funny manner, but of course this is hard to judge over the interwebs. The next question was "How come? been 85 couple days". Now I know I just said it's hard to judge funny over a chat, but that appeared unneccessarily agressive to me. When I said there was plenty to do I got a "Like what? we are not a social guild tbh, other things can wait."

Now this combined with the tension and bad communication over the past days for me was too much. I may be too easily angered (especially in the mornings, while tanking things I have never seen before) but I was told I could take as much time as I wanted. Just to be told it didn't apply.

There was a new post on the forums at the same time, basically saying something like this:
It seems that we have a lot of players who have already reached level 85, but for some reason instead of getting ready for raids, decide to spend their time in-game on leveling alts and not raiding related professions, which can be done after the main character is raid ready.

We did give everyone time to level at whatever speed you like, but abusing this to slack at level 85 is unacceptable.

This is basically where I draw the line. This ties in with the question on pretty much every guilds recruitment questionaire "Are you willing to respec for the good of the guild?". My answer usually is "Sure, as long as I can stay tank. Of course I'll get Improved Demo Shout if no one else can provide it, but I don't want to join as a warrior tank just to be playing a priest healer". This is a game I play for my enjoyment - and without knowing all the facts accusing people of slacking is not acceptable.

Especially not in the format done.

Waiting until the players are not currently busy, then taking the time to talk to them works. Snapping out one-liners in between your own heroic runs does not. I'd say a guild leadership in any way needs to be better than the members at communicating its wishes. Much like my boss at work needs to be better than me - otherwise something is going wrong.

5.5) Intermezzo: On Gearing up for Raids

There is, of course, a reason for my leveling plan. Surprisingly I actually want to raid on Snack and am aware of the gear requirements for proper raiding. Unlike the top guilds (Worldwide, obviously, but even Serverwide) I am not good enough a player to cleanly progress in the minimum level of equipment required. On the first day in Naxxramas I died to Anub. On the first day in Icecrown Citadel I wiped on Marrowgar. Hell.. the first time in Shattered Halls heroic I died to the gauntlet trash.

Luckily, Blizzard is well aware of a bell-curve of their players skill. Higher gear levels help to smooth out problems and rough corners. In the current situation that means reputation rewards (and tanks need Ramhaken, Wildhammer Clan, Therazane, and Guardians of Hyjal at exalted) and crafted items. Blacksmithing, mainly. And now I am well aware that leveling Alchemy on a second character to maximum may be considered wasteful, but the cost of raiding does actually play a role.

Wow, that sounded more angry than I thought. What I was trying to get at - I know what I need to do to raid and it takes time. More time than some other classes, possibly - and certainly more than I can spend when I have a small child at home. 16 hours of WoW time may be logged in - but certainly not at the keyboard.

5) Again: Back to Officer Stress and Feedback:

So ... I am looking at a guild with officers who (probably) talk in officer chat and on the forums in a seperate channel. They do, however, not see the need to communicate their fears, hopes and wishes to the guild - except in BOLD STATEMENTS at the end of a decision finding process.

I left at that point.

I'm unsure about the guild at the moment. There is both a certain amount of Sloth and a lack of direction here. I feel that the guild that was designed and sharpened for raiding did not cope well with enforced downtime. I wonder if they can recover. If raiding started up again, people might behave again. However, the push towards it over the playstyle of players is obviously not going down well either. This should have been forseen and probably handeled much better.

6) What can I learn from this?

It seems at the moment that a raiding guild is only good for raiding. If raiding stops (for whatever reason) people loose focus and the construct unravels.

It's true as well; while raiding I might put up with drugged and abusive guildmembers who behaved like teenagers - as long as they were pulling their weight - but in the downtimes their (well his) aggravating chat behaviour was just unbearable.

Officers of a guild have to handle recruitment (well done in Vengeance), raid signups (well done in Vengeance), guild policies (So-so done. I really liked the poll, I was completely unhappy about the sudden change in direction at the end) and communication with the members (not well done in Vengeance). I am truly glad that I am not an officer. Major props to all who are - no matter wether they blunder on one or the other topic - because this is hard work.

Oh yes. And I decided to put my own enjoyment of the game over the guild experience for the moment. Everyone makes mistakes and it was probably hasty to leave. I still feel like it was the right thing to do. I'll take my time leveling and gearing up, and when I'm ready (and back at work on a normal schedule) I'll probably have to go and find a raiding guild again. I love bashing my face against a wall three nights a week. I just don't want to burn out on the only raid in the game now when there is other stuff to do still.


  1. Hey Snack, Its a massive shame to see you go. You and Izzy were great to have around!
    I Agree with alot you have said in this post.
    I think i've missed alot of the drama over the last couple of days. Christmas is a really busy time of the year for me, and with many other people too. And with the new ''Be ready by this date thing'' , i can't see myself being ready by then.
    I wonder about my future in the guild too, but hopefully, the officers will make the correct decisions.
    Best of luck in the future Shack, and send my wishes to Izzy also :)

  2. Oh snack snack.. Why so angry? ;)

    Anyway some small reminders:

    4) There was a clear announcement that official raiding will be stopped until the new expansion comes in.

    5) Not the memo i got. No people were not pressured to level, get the game etc. But if you are in a raiding guild after all - can you seriously blame the GM for setting a deadline for people to be raid ready?

    Personal chats with the GM - since i have no knowledge of this then not saying anything relevant except that if it as you said it is, then yes, sure, could've been handled better.

    Finally - Everyones own choise how they play the game. If you don't feel like being in a guild then sure leave - it is still your own descision and choise to play where you like.

    So i wish you good luck on your journey in WoW.

  3. Wow, very dramatic and great example of "communication"...

    If you are in a raiding guild, you should expect to pick up slack and answer to deadlines, stats and performance review. There are other sorts of guilds, more social orientated, call it one-trick-pony - but truth is to each it's own...
    You chose to apply here, we were missing one tank, and you decided to spend the time to level alt's professions etc not even attempting to gear up...Guild is there for a reason, anyone could have helped with making potions etc, which was offered from both officers and rest members, so please, do not play a victim here.

    About communication within the guild: we have very lively forums, where our every official officer post is welcomed to reply to and we always answer, as far as I can see. What I do see as "overreaction" is /gquit when you feel you are not treated as an exception. When you have a problem - an adult way of dealing is to directly talk about it, not hide and write bitter posts after quitting.

    Anyways, guilds have regulations, rules and purposes. Vengeance has those clearly stated, and all who apply do willingly sing up to respect them. If this is not for you, can't hold against anyone's wishes, the game is about fun, which can be achieved by having people thinking alike and having same goals in their online time.

    Good luck and have fun in WoW ;-)

  4. Oh, a small and trivial P.S.: It is always easier to criticize and whine than to do. Officers are same gamers as everyone, who simply taken on the responsibility to organize/solve guild players everyday needs and wants from their own time and energy. If you see a problem: don't point out the obvious, this is an easy task anyone can do, offer a solution when you see one, that is an always welcomed help and contribution :-))

  5. I think it's very different from guild to guild how soon you're supposed to have geared up.

    I know in my guild the majority of our members are adults, some with families and children - so especially December is a very busy period and people may not have time to farm Heroics and grind gear all the time.

    I know for me personally I'm still lacking a few pieces to be raid ready. December is just a horrible month for an expansion and I only have a few hours per evening to play. It seems I only have time for 1 Heroic or doing my dailies for reputation, not both.

    We're a raiding guild, but we allow for casual members too (they just don't get priority on raid spots). I guess that means we're more casual than some raid guilds, and we've said that if we have enough ppl before we may try a raid, but otherwise we will start raiding in January.

    I hope you're comfortable with your decision, and that once you're ready you find a guild that suits you.

    Guilds don't need to be bad per se, you just have to find one that suits you personally :)

  6. Hey, that breaking a long piece of text into smaller pieces is totally my idea. Where else would you have seen something so mind-boggling, ground-breaking and original?

    I'm really sorry to read this - I've heard a bit of your guild woes from Issy, of course, but this saddens me as Vengeance seemed like such a good fit for both of you. I can see you have had knee-jerk defensive posts bestowed upon you from officers in your guild in response to this and, to me, the attitude displayed merely cements the rightness of your post, and the reality of your concerns.

    You have said very explicitly in your post that if you had at any point been given a set deadline you would have met it. What you seem to be objecting to, entirely fairly in my not-so-humble opinion, is the lack of consistency in guild policies, which neither of the officers have chosen to address here.

    Anna writes: "If you are in a raiding guild, you should expect to pick up slack and answer to deadlines, stats and performance review".

    It seems to me that you were perfectly willing to do all of this, these are entirely reasonable things to expect of players in a raiding guild. HOWEVER, your officers have not asked this of you. They have merely criticised the way you have chosen to play without bothering to give you a framework within which to make informed decisions about what the guild requires of you.

    This is completely absurd. I'd find it funny, if it wasn't so genuinely harmful. One of most absurd aspects seems to me this arbitrary distinction they have drawn between levelling and "slacking" at 85. So you can have as much time as you like to level but you're expected to be raid ready a couple of days after you hit 85. Lolwut?! And again, this does not seem to have been clarified at any point. It's a ludicrous approach to the game but as perfectly legitimate as any other - it's only a problem, in fact, when it isn't communicated.

    Also there seems to be random accusations about you wanting to be treated as an exception when it seems to me that they are the ones treating you differently to other members of the guild. They're essentially treating you badly because you're their best tank - hello topsey turvey world. It's completely unfair to impose arbitrary demands on individual players simply because they're good at the game. I can't imagine anyone is urging a mediocre DPS to gear up and stop slacking.

    You simply can't accuse someone of slacking if you haven't given them a metric for performance. Just to clarify: I absolutely think it is appropriate for raiding guilds to impose gearing deadlines on their players but this has to be consistent, measured and provided in advance. You can't just jump on a player one day for not having reached a standard of gearing they haven't previously told them they'd be expected to reach within a deadline you haven't told them about either.

    And then to respond to the player in this slightly pathetic and unprofessional manner is quite frankly outrageous.

    I also think it's connected a wider problem with the role of tanks (and to a lesser degree healers - sorry, had to get myself in somewhere). Looking at our guild, the only people running heroics are DPS because the gear requirements are just flat out lower. There's an extent to which tanks and healers are expected to carry DPS, and equally the symbiotic relationship between tanks and healers means we need to be geared for each other - tanks don't like to be squishy, healers don't like to run out of juice. I think it's a real problem with the game, actually, that it places higher demands on tanks over other players.

    Anyway. I know you're a fantastic tank, and a generally cool person, so I'm sure you'll be welcomed wherever you go.

  7. A lot of comments - more than I had expected surely. I'll try to reply a little bit - and possibly make my stance a bit clearer.

    @Falc: The only open comment I have is that I wasn't aware of a deadline until after I had quit. Of course it is acceptable in a raiding guild - and I'd even encourage it. My gripe is with the change in stance from "no pressure" to "get ready now" which was conveyed mostly in guild chat itself.

    @Anna: My perception of "time spent on alts" and yours seem to differ greatly. I'm surprised and still feel like the victim here (no attempts at all made to gear up? Really?). There is no way to prove anything (played time at 80? That doesn't really work) and it's beside the point anyway. Personally I feel all of my time online except for archaeology were spent gearing up. This includes questing for reputations, of course, as there still are minimum requirements for tabards.

    And ... you are obviously right. Whining belatedly and not talking about an issue is bad form. I don't try to come off as faultless here, however in my perception communications had turned fairly hostile. It's Christmas season and I just don't want to put up with that.

    @Saga: Thanks for an outsiders perspective. I'm happy with my decision still.

    @Tam: Err.. thanks for defending my virginity .. err ... innocence in my absence - and thanks for the overinflated praise of my tanking abilities. I learnt a lot in the time spent in ICC - always a good thing. I think you're overestimating my innocence and the "evil played upon me" in this case - it's not nearly as bad as you make it sound.
    That just shows, though, that perception from an outsider is possibly even more important than actual content when communicating over the interwebs. If this is what you got from my post, I was overly dramatic. Good thing I do this for fun and not to earn money - and on the other hand there is the message that those who expect to be listened to/read must be even more careful in their communication.

    Neat how I tied that in there again, isn't it?

  8. Well, you're such a wilting nancy I know you need me to defend you... actually I got my perspective more from the comments, rather than the post. The post was very balanced.

  9. I'm sorry about what happened... it probably wasn't fun, especially since you seemed to like the guild. I do feel a bit responsible for all this... sorry.

    Anyway, this seems to happen to a lot of guilds and I actually think it's a problem with most *pure* raiding guilds - no raiding = no interest. In a guild where everyone's there for other reasons too (i.e. we actually *like* each other), the end of expansion wasn't so bad. It was relaxing for me at least, since we stopped official raids after we got our wyrms and I could level an alt while messing around in gchat. I think a lot of people needed that break between ICC and the new expansion (I sure did!).

    To end the wall of text, poke me in game if you want a place for you and Issy to hang out. I can't promise raids and things yet since we don't know ourselves what we need... but we're friendly and we don't bite. Most of us.