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Guild Recruitment and benching

One of the things that must tax all guild manglement is how many balls you have to keep in the air at any one time.  For example, we cannot run progression raids without 10 players being present at the same time – we cannot run raids without ten players using toons of the appropriate type and skill at the same time.

Therefore recruitment takes place.

But after a while, it is discovered that recruitment has brought a sufficient number of players to the guild, all with the hopes of being part of the group of 10 – and yet there are only 10 spaces.  So we need to make sure that some people are happy to sit out.  And that no matter how many geared and skilled toons an individual has, they, as a player, do not get significantly more playtime than the rest of the team.

There is also the slightly tactically difficult position of wanting enough players who are more skilled than others to be in the group of 10 – in order to give the best chances of success, as balanced against getting all the players who are skilled (but possibly undergeared) to be in the raiding group so that as wide a group of players as possible is equipped to play in raids, in the event that the primary players are not.

So, benching the ones who need to take their turn so they do not hog the action and/or gear, no matter on what raiding alt, and benching the ones who are not good enough.  And there is the rub – why are they not good enough? Why is not all for the best in the best of all possible worlds?  Why is it that sometimes you have a fantastic raid makeup and others where you just want to rip the group to bits out of frustration….  I reckon there are a few distinct types that end up in a raid – and that it would be great if we admitted that we have all been one or other of these types (possibly not all, but even that is possible) and that none is generally wanted in a cohesive group:

The noob

There is a type that is not good enough because they lack experience at play, or play in the role.  This is a group that can improve, if given advice and encouragement, and possible some tips on how to hone their playstyle.

The runt

There is a type that is not good enough because they are undergeared – this is somewhat harder to judge – sometimes gear makes a lot of difference in performance, sometimes it is key to performance, and sometimes it seems that some can squeeze enormous results out of very little, depending on the class.

The Rebel

There is a type that is not good enough because they annoy, because they say the wrong thing at the wrong time, because they ruffle feathers and generally get up people’s noses – so that no matter how well they perform, the moment they do not excel, they are not good enough, because we can’t wait to point out where they got it wrong, because they have been such a thorn in the side of manglement.

The diva

There is a type that is so prominent that it is like a boil on the nose – something that catches your eye and irritates whenever you see it, and yet, do not underperform, in fact may overperform – but who somehow irritate, and who seem to upset the balance of the group – so that playing in a guild run is either manic or morose, depending on the mood of the diva concerned.

These are all types that you find in a raid, and somehow must accept them all, or refuse to embrace diversity – because no matter how much each tends to annoy, they are all part of the same spectrum – just at different points.  To refuse to allow them to play is to limit the range of experience that your guild has.  But the interesting part is to make sure that you don’t get all of them at once – that you move some to the easier content – the farm bosses, which will become far more difficult with some of the above present, and thus more of a challenge and less routine, but consequently, refreshingly difficult for those who know the ropes and could sleepwalk it…  And bench your more able players for this – reserving them for more complex fights, whether those able players are divas or rebels.  And biting your tongue again and again and again…

None of us wants to be identified with any of the four sterotypes above, and few would hope to be any of them – but we all have been, or will be at some time.  And each of us longs to be the reliable, yet cool raider who just gets on with the job – and considers ourselves to be so…

The busking, reliable one….

All images copyright Alex Williams from the babybarista website, created by Tim Kevan

Social Cohesion, colleagues, friends

Humanmoose wrote in http://antlergirl.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/time-for-some-spring-cleaning/ an entry about having a break from WoW – and mentioned a lack of connection with the current game and/or players.  I started to make a comment, but then it got a bit long.

I think the thing that makes tight communities is the shared experiences.  That are, more or less, pleasant socially, even if the circumstances may be somewhat trying?

When I was at university, there were some halls of residence that were, let’s say, rather basic in construction – some said that the architect won an award for them, some said that they were built in the 60s with a projected lifespan of 20 years.  These halls were far from the attractive Main Founders Hall of residence, which adorned (and still does) the university brochures and website.  These halls were made of grey breezeblock, unpainted – some levels were actually below ground, and there were occasional sightings of cockroaches.  Those who lived close to each other could share those experiences and felt richer for it – there is nothing like having to go down two flights of stairs, across a long corridor and up another two, just because you had a dull red thumb-length insect with enormous antennae waving at you ominously, to bind you together.  And the meetings in the carpark over the persistent fire alarms – and the laughter at the latecomers, the couples, the naked in blankets…  for the third time in that cold early morning.  Those things give a sense of cohesion.

If your guild is made up of people that you know IRL, then to a certain extent, you may start with a feeling that you have shared experiences – and this may bind you together – but this is not automatic – because people inhabit their avatars and play WoW for all sorts of different reasons and may not behave towards you in game as they might in life, whether there are subtle shades of difference or huge chasms of drama.

If you have all levelled together in Vanilla, back when mounts really were expensive, and you had to run the entire length of Duskwood/Elwynn/Darkshore just to deliver <foo> and then the guy turns round and says “now go back and get me a cherry to go on top of the cocktail that you just made me out of four different types of rarely found berries, and by the way, yes, you will have to fight your way back through bears and wolves that can sniff your approach from huge distances away” and off you trotted, then you each have a feeling of shared experience – that you too, trod this path, and you know *exactly* how much effort it took to achieve something.

Extrapolate that to the organisational nightmare of 40man raids, and the hopeless droprate of essential gear, then by those standards, no-one who started in BC  (let alone Wrath or Cata) knows how hard it could be.  And that shared knowledge binds you.

Come in more newcomers, who have it easier and easier, and who virtually *squander* all the resources at their disposal, and the tight knit feeling disappears, is diluted.  And, what is more, you actually have to make it clear what level gear is required in order to run a dungeon, because it cannot be assumed that all will use all their skills to make a group work well and efficiently – the gearscore/ilvl actually wins out against the RP -” just go with the flow – this is a dungeon adventure” feeling.  The numbers invade the playing of the game – the maths becomes overwhelming – who thought this was about dressing up as heroes and fighting the forces of darkness?  This is about counting, and cooldowns, and itemisation and optimisation…

One of the reasons I like raiding, or even running dungeons, with a guild group, is that you create that shared experience of temporary hardship, through which you must all together battle in order to achieve a solution – that creates a mini bond between you – that if repeated enough times, starts to mean that you are part of a team – and from which conversation might grow, and who knows, something more than being merely colleagues in the internet-dragon business.

Deja vu: looking back

05/12/2010 1 comment

I admit to being a player whose main experience has come from Wrath of the Lich King as an expansion – I levelled my first two characters towards the end of the Burning Crusade,  back when ground mounts were only available for *hyooooge* amounts of gold at level 40,  and when a quest chain was necessary to unlock the level 60 fast ground mount, flight skills were only learned at 70 …..  [cue:  “in the snow, uphill, both ways”] and I only had about a month of IoQD before Wrath appeared.

Back then, Cold Weather Flying was not available for ages and ages (level 76, iirc) and so, just as in BC, you had to walk the content, gathering interested mobs to chew your butt off as you worked your way to the quest objective…

I’m now working through Wrath content with my last Alliance character (hey, until they give us more character slots, I am stuck having 8 alliance chars on the one realm).  And BT seems a lot better than Hellfire, admittedly.  But it’s knowing I can survive UK on normal – when I remember not being able to do that at all the first time round…  the cosiness of Wrath dungeons, now I have run them for the umpteenth time.

And in a few days now, the new expansion will be here – new zones to level through and conquer, new quests to do, and laugh at, new pets to tame, new reputations to grind, new dungeons to die in, painfully, until they are either nerfed, or our gear gets good enough to survive them.  As with BC and Wrath in the early stages – there will be unnerfed levelling – watching the blue or purple XP bar move slowly from left to right across the screen, rather than leaping across in a single dungeon.

And another chance to have a total gear reset – for us all to start from (theoretically) the same starting point, before racing to level 85 and heroics, and raids…

So, in the last few days before the expansion hits, I really do need to clear my bags.  And perhaps fillet my collection of pretty dresses – they clog up my bank something shocking…

Effective Raid Leadership: Theory X and Theory Y | Blacksen’s End

Effective Raid Leadership: Theory X and Theory Y | Blacksen’s End.

Reading this made me wish I had attended the lecture so I could explore the theory slighly more deeply – one of the greatest rewards about WoW apart from killing internet dragons is watching the group dynamics of a guild or raid group – who motivates whom and how – what the atmosphere is.

Motivating people to do what you would like them to do is a real skill – in the workplace, you have the motivating carrot of salary/promotion/payrise/praise and the stick of demotion/work starvation/dismissal – and more subtle versions of the stick so as to avoid litigation…

In a social arena like warcraft some of these factors really do not work – unless the individual has really no perspective of the place of a computer game in one’s existence…  Essentially, playing a computer game is something that is done with one’s spare time, for enjoyment – as contrasted with work, which is the main focus of an adult’s waking hours, which provides the finance for the roof over your head, the food on the table, the warmth of the house, and all the other slightly less essential pleasures of life, like telephones, televisions, holidays,l books, collections…

So, how to balance the guild?  If you have a guild that is friendly and social, but which does not feel like running dungeons/raids, and that is something you want to do, then perhaps a guild change is good for you.  Similarly, if you have a guild that centres around PvP and that is not your thing (or vice versa) then again, the guild might not be for you.

But the huge challenge is running a guild that does run raids – because then it is all about making 10+ people’s wishes come true – something which it is beyond the power of the individual to achieve in themselves.  All raiding is like this – which is why PuGs so seldom work, and fall apart often at an early stage.  And if a guild is reduced to one person running raids, setting them up, raid leading, preparing flasks, then the pressure on that individual can become unbearable – the pleasure they should themselves derive from playing a game can be negated – wiped out and put into deficit.

So how’s it done?

Short answer – lots of people can’t get it right – and lots write posts on it, some think it is a version of carrot and stick (method x) and guided liberal method (method y) or mixture of both.

I tend to fall on the method y – which relies, in my interpretation, on 1-5 people who motivate and praise, and very rarely censure, but who encourage all (minimum 10) to realise that their continued efforts are needed and appreciated, and that their continued commitment is needed so that all can benefit – so that each individual gives (time, effort, patience) for the benefit of the group – which sometimes that individual may not even be part of, but without the continued commitment to which the group itself will not exist.  Call it enlightened self-interest, if you would.

In a PuG, there is no such thing as the abstract idea of the Group – except where all the individuals have their abilities and self-interests coinciding.  Which is why when it gets difficult,  the PuG tends to fall apart – which is why progression content is impossible in a PuG – no-one can be on the cutting edge of raiding with people who lack that feeling of cohesion and determination to make it work, for the greater good of the group.

How to get that feeling of enlightened self interest in the heart of every raider on your team though?  Not solved that yet – except to say that the traditional workplace methods are less that completely effective – the stick/carrot approach has less weight.  If leading a raid is like cat herding then there’s something that has gone very wrong.  Because the only thing that herds cats consistently is food.  If they are hungry.

Bible of Dreams: Guild Recruitment: Applicant Fact-checking

28/10/2010 1 comment

Bible of Dreams: Guild Recruitment: Applicant Fact-checking.

I know this is not a new post – but I have found the links in the post to be especially helpful when trying to look someone up – I just keep forgetting where I read it.

Here’s hoping I remember what section I filed it under.

Raiding Guilds « Paw Prints at the Portal

Raiding Guilds « Paw Prints at the Portal.

This is my guild.

And I’m hoping that whatever is bugging people can be put on hold for a few more weeks – it’s only 60 or so more days to go before the expansion hits.  And I know that the expansion is going to be fun – I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Beta recently, as my posts show.

Guilds are all about cooperation – levelling groups, pvp groups, instance groups, and the most extreme cooperation is in raiding – where organisation is key, and success depends on the group, and the leadership of the group.

I don’t know whether my guild will implode completely, or whether it will stick together – because in the new dawn of the new expansion, it will be so much better to be together than not – and it is a pretty sure fire thing that any raiding will not be for at least a month, possibly two, as you need to have so many people geared to a particular level in order to run gearing 5 mans, let alone proper raid instances.

The death of my old raiding guild was awful – but then it had been limping along from about Easter onwards, it took until the end of August to die – I was sad about that, but they held out for as long as they could.   In this guild, I hope we can manage life support for 8 more weeks or so, just to keep things together.  People are so jaded and meh about things now, that trying to motivate players is like flogging a dead horse.

And I think that is part of the problem – now we have got LK down, it feels (this has to be the reason) that there is nothing else left to do.  No matter that there were some who could not attend that night’s raid, or that there is still RS to do, or that the heroic modes and achievements give a drake, or at least the sense of achievement…

One or two people’s ambitions and determination cannot drive the whole guild.  There has to be a point where the collective will overrides the will of the single or few motivated person(s).  If the motivated person leaves for places that they feel appreciate them more, then the guild loses out.  If there can be a way to accomodate both sets of people – the tired and the apathetic, as well as the motivated and determined, then the guild is the better place for it.  We cannot always agree with everyone, but if we can be adult about it, and still have respect for each other, there is something worth keeping – I do believe that.

And, if I’m honest, I know that there is a sense of ennui – a realisation that the epics that you spend hours grinding though raids are going to be near worthless in about 3-4 months time.  So what’s the point?  And that phat loot is one of the main motivating forces in the game –  it is the medal of achievement, which is why so many “professional” raiders have got so annoyed at the badge gear polluting the purity of raid loot – and the players wearing that badge gear diluting the ranks of proper raiders.

But the current guild is a casual guild, which finds social relationships important, and which realises the importance of personal freedom and space.  And this is not the same sort of ethos as you find in a hard core guild, where the motivation is “to be the best” regardless of personal time contraints, placing the success of the guild above everything else.

On that basis, perhaps as a guild we can decide whether or not we are going to get KS for the remaining raiders, and that when this is done, we will go on hiatus.  I honestly think this is the way to keep the guild alive – and we will need it when the expansion arrives.

10 Reasons People Don’t Heal | World of Matticus

10 Reasons People Don’t Heal | World of Matticus.

There’s so much about this that I understand – from the main article to the comments – and it’s the reason why I like to DPS in pugs – and why I like to heal in raids.

The thing is – in a group of people that I know, all will make an effort to take care of themselves – to get out of the fire, to DPS from behind the boss (except where this is not possible), to behave responsibly, with respect for others.  In those situations, it is OK to admit blame, pick yourself up and carry on – or to work out a new strategy, pursue that and get further.

In pugs, this is not the same.  People tend to have no respect for each other – they are careless of their own health, they can be rude and abusive of each other, and they are free to BS their way out of situations – like the tank quitting because the DPS is “too low” when proper tanking techniques could have managed to defeat the instance.  Or not holding aggro causing massive group damage and overstressed healer.  In those cases, being DPS is the easiest – your job is to kill things fast. In a group of unknowns, DPS meters are all that matters – it is the easiest (and most superficial) diagnostic of those pulling their weight.

In an arranged group, it’s not that the numbers are unimportant, but that if you can manage it, then you take on the responsibility for CC/interrupts/offheals – those gimp your personal DPS, but allow for the whole group to finish off the task more quickly – because you know the group, then greater utility and less DPS is expected, and there is less defensive reliance on the DPS meter – in favour of a collective benefit.  In those circumstances, stealing aggro by pre-pulling, or standing in fire, or failing to move to dismiss a debuff or accept a buff is part of the more sensitive diagnosis of the DPS skills.  As a result, DPS and tanks tend to work together more – reducing the burden on healers, and working as a team…

That’s why I like to heal in groups of people I know – for raiding – where I can do the job of healing people who make a decent effort to stay alive, and not to think only of themselves.  Where I am not the only reason for a wipe – or where it feels like that – where the burden of getting an encounter down is shared more equally.

TLDR: this is a social game – the closer the bonds between the players, the more likely they are to cooperate to achieve a common goal. When there is no social link between players, behaving defensively is far more likely – got to look after number one.

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