Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for March, 2012

Learning to say: “No, thank you.”

One of the toughest things for me (that I always struggle with) is not specific to WoW, although it applies to it here. It’s something that’s always proven difficult, so I shouldn’t be surprised that it rears its head again now. My problem is this – I overestimate the time I have. I underestimate how long it’ll take me to get things done. I overextend myself and commit to too many things.

I’m sure this isn’t a unique problem. It’s not even that I am that busy a person or anything, but my tendency to say “yes” to everything leads to me making myself frantic. In a Warcraft context, this is an issue exacerbated by the easy access to friends on other servers and in other raid groups. It leads me to say things like, “Hey, I can gear up my goblin alt so I can do Horde stuff with xyz!” and then “Hey, they are running a T11 heroic group on these days, I could go and help them…”

It seems to stem from both a desire to help (everyone) and a wish to experience things. Immediately after BT scaled back our raiding, I couldn’t believe the free time I had. Voss and I spent several leisurely evenings in succession – walking the dog, cooking new meals, hanging out on the couch reading, talking, and watching a movie. It felt decadent to have so much time to deal with day-to-day things like laundry, housework, and recreation not spent in front of a computer. Formerly, with 2-3 raid nights a week (usually three) Voss would get home at 4:30, I’d probably start cooking supper at 4:00 to have it ready by 5:00, sometimes 5:30 if I miscalculated, we’d eat and squeeze in a 20 minute dog walk in time to login for the raid at 6:30. Raids don’t actually start until 7:00, but there are things that need doing beforehand to get ready. Check the forums – has anyone cancelled at the last minute? If so, is there a standby? Are we all clear on what we’ll be attempting? Have we prepared the strats? The raid itself goes until 10:00, at which time we log off, get ready for bed and try to be there by 10:30. All too often we wouldn’t, because we wanted to talk and spend some time together, so we’d go to sleep too late, get too little sleep, be tired, and then come home and do it all over again.

This schedule left little time for just relaxing. It made us take something that was supposed to be fun and turned it into a chore. Sure, I enjoyed the actual raiding, but too much was being sacrificed to make it happen. We didn’t have a non-gaming spouse who would prepare supper or take care of outside of game things for us. It was just us. I had a conversation once with the late, much missed Roksi of Production Company. She described the pre-raid chaos she and her husband went through with racing home, getting everything ready and logging in with food still in their mouths (or at their desks!) She wondered if Voss and I experienced the same thing, and I commiserated. We knew where the other was coming from, but of course it’s a choice you make – up until it doesn’t feel like a choice any more. The time commitment that amount of raiding demanded was like a slow squeeze. I didn’t realize how I’d shaped my life around it until I’d been doing it quite literally for years. We always said “Real life is more important than WoW,” but they were just empty words. My family knew I wouldn’t see them on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday most likely because if we both took the night off the roster would be wrecked. Our bench was theoretically deep enough to handle it but that didn’t always work out. We felt like frogs in a pot with the water was being incrementally and gradually heated – we’d reached a boiling point and never even knew it. If we did happen to do something on a Mon, Wed or Fri I couldn’t stop Voss from checking the forums (and the Mumble status) to make sure “everything was okay.”

We had started to resent the pull the game had on us. It had nothing to do with the guild, who are fabulous people we enjoy spending time with, and everything to do with the unconscious choices we’d make each week. Every time we put off plans because they fell on a raid day, we weren’t putting life first. Every hour I’d spend scouring the forums looking for recruits to shore up a dwindling roster was time I wasn’t spending on something else. Now that I have a bit of distance and it’s been a few months, I recognize how deeply unhappy I was with the situation, and how much better things are for me now. I’m slowly asserting order in our life and environment. I don’t have any more laundry that’s been allowed to pile up. I’ve cooked some (if I may say so myself) amazing meals since January. I love cooking and didn’t realize how little I had done of it because it was usually easier to just order in or eat something fast. We’ve both lost some weight and are much happier and more relaxed. I think it makes us more fun to be around anyway at the raids where we ARE doing stuff.

How does this tie into saying no? Well, first and foremost, we had to reduce our raiding, which wasn’t easy but was absolutely the right thing to do. The problem for me came when it had been a few weeks past that major change. The same free time I’d luxuriated in started to look so open. So full of…possibilities! Awesome guildies like Fsob organized old-content MMLA runs (Mogging Mounts Legendary Achievement). I always love to see old content! Folks spent some evenings in BGs. Hey, I like to BG with my guildies! I decided to start running a Firelands group on Saturdays. (By the way, we’re still looking for a few DPS for this week’s run, we’re trying it on 25! Check out the thread and sign up if you are interested, especially if you’re a hunter because we need your survivalfulness). After a little while, it was possible for Friday to be an MMLA run, Saturday to be a Firelands run, and then Monday to be the guild raid. It was too much. Actually, it was exactly the same number of nights that had made us feel too committed to raiding in the first place! I had to regretfully stop attending each and every MMLA run, because I realized that for me, FL and MMLA were often mutually exclusive. I felt guilty about it, because I like running old content and I like Fsob and I didn’t want his raid to lack for people. But I just can’t have that much scheduled WoW time any more. It’ll be nice when we are done in Firelands so that it’s a non-issue.

As far as other commitments go, it’s so tempting when you see other people who need someone for whatever it might be – a single raid, a series of raids – at least for me, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Raiding is fun. It’s nice to be able to help your friends! But it’s also important for me to look at the bigger picture from the opposite perspective – if I spend x amount of time doing THIS, what will I not have time to do? It’s never an easy question, and can make you feel like a colossal jerk when you know that you could help but seem as if you’re choosing not to. I am fortunate to have some amazing folks willing to help me each week in Firelands, and I’m aware that I’m accruing some sizable debts because of it, which I hope I can someday repay. For now, though, I’m just trying to remember that the time I SEEM to have doesn’t actually exist, being already filled with a number of obligations already. I have to remind myself I can’t join every raid or every five-man that contains people I genuinely like and want to help. I have to pick and choose and sometimes be a bit precious about what I’m willing to spend time doing. I owe it first to myself and Voss to not get grouchy because I didn’t set limits on the amount of energy I had to commit to this. It’s a delicate balance, but I keep reminding myself of a therapist’s advice: You have to take care of yourself before you take care of others. You know, the whole airplane oxygen mask thing. You’re no use to anybody if you’re just gasping there.

I want to hear about how YOU all maintain this balance! Are you juggling everything with perfect poise? Do you feel a bit rushed sometimes, or guilty when you can’t help out your friends? Do you somehow manage to ‘do it all’? Are you tired of hearing me write about how happy I am to be raiding on a reduced schedule? I made the joke about a month later that I didn’t have anything to write on my blog because every post would have just been “I LOVE RAIDING ONE DAY A WEEK, PART I,” “RAIDING ONE DAY A WEEK IS AWESOME, PII…” We killed H Ultrax the other day, too, which puts us at 2/8 heroic at an execeedingly leisurely pace, but then we killed Ultra the first night we even tried it. It’s nice to kill heroic bosses while not caring when we did it, or stressing out about wiping for hours if we don’t actually feel like doing it. It works for us. What’s working for you? Or what isn’t? I’m feeling chatty today, so feel free to let loose if you just need an ear. Have some tea.

Unfamiliar Stars [Fiction]

This is a story for Big Bear Butt’s writing challenge! I have been behind on my blog reading and I very nearly missed it but hopefully I slipped in under the wire. The challenge was to write anything, making sure to include a few specific words. If you’re at all interested in a bit of fiction, you might enjoy the following, otherwise feel free to skip this one. Check BBB’s blog for a post with comments from all the participants.

I’ve never posted any of my fiction writings here, but in the spirit of taking part in the challenge I’m happy to do so.

A gentle hush fell over the city towards this hour. It was not quite fully night but the day had already surrendered, the sun slipping into the sea to reveal the twin moons of Azeroth. It was still strange to her, even after years of living here. She unconsciously scanned the night sky seeking one familiar star, and finding none. These were not the stars of her youth. The atmosphere of this adopted planet, new home to her people, lay far from their last home. She doubted they could find their way here a second time. She smiled to herself as she walked. Even if her people still had a functioning ship, there were few confident in their ability to pilot or steer it. How did that joke go? “Three draenei walk into a bar…no, literally…”

Millya wasn’t great at remembering Azerothian jokes, except that one. She made it a point to memorize relevant cultural markers, tidbits of information that could help her relate to the people of Azeroth. She knew the name of grape varieties grown in Elwynn, the chief exports of Dun Morogh, and the greeting rituals of the Kaldorei, but pop culture was usually outside her milieu. She enjoyed the quiet twilight as she walked, her hooves making a familiar sound on the cobbled streets. Everyone seemed to be taking the time to relax lately. The immediate threat to the world had been dealt with, for the time being, finally allowing reprieve for its citizens to pick up the pieces. The Cataclysm had taken its toll, there was no doubt of that. The streets weren’t crowded at this time as they might once have been – shops closed up and many of Stormwind’s inhabitants were at home enjoying an evening meal or already abed. She passed torch after torch, and they gave off a sort of friendly glow, keeping the paths from being too dark as evening fell. She appreciated that. Even partial light was better than none at all.

She paused as raucous noise came from up ahead. The door to an inn burst open, spilling light and noise into the street. The dark-haired mage frowned and squinted into the shadows as several figures emerged. Some of them shouted angrily, and it was hard to make out exactly what they said, but caught up along with them was another silhouette. Tall and slender, with a distinctive spread of horns. Millya groaned inwardly, thinking it couldn’t possibly be her, it couldn’t…

“You’re just mad,” a strident voice crowed triumphantly, “Because you know I could drink you under the table any day of the week and still kick your ass without breaking a sweat!” Millya briefly closed her eyes. There was no mistaking the voice.

The group of men and human women seemed to close in on the speaker. Millya thought she could hear the sound of some combat from within the tavern, more shouting amid the sound of colliding bodies and even the distinctive snap of breaking wood. She walked quickly closer, deciding in a moment that she had an obligation to intervene if there was any risk. As she drew closer, a pale-skinned draenei woman was revealed by the torch in front of the inn. Her would-be assailants seemed wary about pushing the matter, as she raised her fists and her lips pulled back from sharp incisors in a savage grin.

“C’mon then, what’s the matter?” the second draenei minced a few steps closer, half-swinging a taunting jab at one of the men. From the way he flinched back, he’d had some experience with that fist already.

“OY!” a voice roared from within the inn. A few more patrons scattered before some unseen threat before he crossed the threshold. A burly dwarf with a shock of astounding red hair emerged to stand framed in the doorway. His dirty apron revealed him as the proprietor of the tavern, but his authority was cemented by the gigantic crossbow he was pointing in their direction. He looked down the shaft of a thick quarrel with one eye, his stance menacing.

“I don’ suppose,” he said in a conversational tone, “Tha’ any of ye know what migh’ have caused summat kind of explosion just then?” He lifted his prominent shaggy brows in an inquiring manner, looking around at the group in a way that would have been comical if not for the accompanying crossbow and implied threat. Millya straightened and cleared her throat, causing the dwarf to look towards her.

“Well, Missy Hoofs?” he asked. “D’ye have some insight inta what manner of demon it was that caused me fire to belch purple an’ green, scaring me patrons half to death, spreading hither an’ yon, an’ causing at least one keg to explode halfway to Ironforge?”

She regarded him mildly with glowing eyes. “I’m certain, Master Dwarf, that any manner of an accident causing your fire to emit purple, green–” the mage was cut off as the taller draenei next to her interjected.

“And yellow,” she added helpfully.

Millya and the dwarf both turned to look at her, one in dawning horror and the other with eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“There was definitely yellow, it was a bit hard to notice due to the colour of the fire itself, but it was there.” The dwarf barked a sound that might have been a yell, a laugh, or something in-between.

“All of ye! Get out of ‘ere, an’ I don’t want to see the lot of ye again!” The dwarf’s face was slowly turning a colour to rival the brilliance of his hair. “Take your hooves, an’ yer tails, an’ yer explosions somepleace else an’ don’ ye ever come back!”

Millya stepped forward and took the other draenei by the elbow, turning her firmly even as she murmured reassuring words to the dwarf. The taller draenei initially resisted, trying in vain to turn back to the cluster of humans and dwarf. To what end, Millya wasn’t sure – to finish the fight? Offer to further demonstrate the fireworks? People scurried in all directions as the irate dwarf began waving the crossbow again, and by that time Millya had her charge halfway down the street. They stopped under a street lamp, the bedraggled draenei wrenching herself free. Millya looked up at her, dark eyebrows slamming down on a disapproving face.

“Vidyala,” Millya hissed between clenched teeth, all signs of the diplomatic peacekeeper gone, “What in Velen’s name was that all about?” Her frown deepened. “Are you hurt?”

Vid brushed brown hair out of her face, looking at Millya cheerfully. One of her eyes was slowly purpling and looked slightly swollen. A thin trickle of blue blood had congealed under her split lip, revealing that at least a few of the humans had landed some solid hits. “They got the worst of it!” She assured the other draenei. “There was no need to rush me out of there, you know, I was doing fine.” She dusted herself off as she spoke, looking down in sudden dismay at the goggles around her neck. “Shit,” she said in a muffled tone, her chin pressed almost to her chest. I think they broke ‘em.” Millya noted her knuckles were dirty and similarly bruised.

“Anyway, those Darkmoon fireworks worked just as I expected! I bet that human ten gold that he couldn’t snatch them out of the fire quick enough if I threw them in, HE said he could, and that some troll had taught him to firewalk…Guess that only works if it’s your feet and not your hands!”

A look of sudden dismay crossed her face. “Hey, he didn’t pay me, I’ve got to go back there!” Millya’s face stopped her mid-stride and she amended quickly, “Well, it was only ten gold.” The abrupt turn seemed to set her swaying. It took a fair amount of alcohol to affect draenei with their larger sizes and constitutions than humans, but clearly imbibing had played a part in Vid’s evening. “Say, I don’t feel so great…” Vid lurched past Millya, almost landing in a neat row of shrubbery. She bent over double and abruptly vomited into the bushes, an event that was uncomfortably juicy and lasted for several minutes.

Millya sighed heavily, murmuring an incantation and wordlessly handing Vidyala a canteen of conjured water when she was finished. She guided her towards a nearby bench and they both sat down – Millya with her hooves crossed at the ankle, Vid with her legs sprawling nearly into the street. Vid swigged the water, Millya imagining her complexion to be faintly green. They sat in silence for a long moment, expressions hidden in the dim light.

“What am I supposed to tell your father?” Millya asked finally.

Vid snorted. “Tell him what you want! Tell him I invented a new kind of firework,” she brightened, “Actually that’s not strictly true, but it will be sometime. You know, there’s something about the mix of powder that you put inside of them that really makes the difference.”

The older draenei heaved a sigh, tapping a finger against her chin. She ignored Vid’s chatter, as she usually did, and said finally, “And should I tell him at the same time that you’ve been seen consorting with an orc?”

This time she had Vid’s attention; and she actually turned to face her. She sat up straighter and her tone was chilly. “How would you know anything about my friends, orc or otherwise?”

Millya shook her curly hair in disbelief. “People have seen you with him, Vidyala. People talk. Dalaran is full of people who talk, and mages are some of the worst! What are you thinking? What would your father say?”

Vid stood abruptly, unfolding long limbs from the bench to tower over Millya. She crossed her arms. The effect was only slightly spoiled when she appeared to sway slightly, unsteadily on her hooves. “People talk,” she agreed in a sardonic tone, “Entirely too much. So I have a friend who happens to be an orc, so what? He wasn’t even born on Draenor, he happens to be a fellow engineer, and we’re colleagues, because unlike some people, I don’t judge others based on whether or not they have hooves or a tail.”

The mage drew breath to respond, but the younger draenei forestalled her with a wave of her hand. “I know what you’re going to say!” Her voice took on the pedantic, slightly mocking tone of someone who was repeating phrases often heard. “It’s important for us to integrate. We shouldn’t forget our past. We aren’t like the other people here, and they don’t trust us. Well, you know what? I am integrating, and I’m sure as fel not forgetting the past. I lived it too, remember? But you have to start by trusting someone. How will they ever trust us if we don’t trust them first?”

“And I suppose that brawling in the taverns like a common ruffian is helping the cause?”

Vid met her stepmother glare for glare. “Yeah,” she spat back. “It is, because respect starts somewhere, and nobody gets to hit me without expecting a fist back in the face. We may be taught to turn the other cheek but that doesn’t mean we can’t land a second punch.” She brushed away imaginary dust from her tunic and spun on her hoof with calculated dramatic effect. Her stomach rumbled audibly, which she chose to stiffly ignore, although her cheeks each had a high spot of blue colour.

“So, go ahead and tell my father. Tell him I’m friends with a hundred orcs, and some gnomes, worgen and humans, too. And if he wants to talk about it, I’m going to find another tavern.”

She left the aqua-skinned draenei behind, rubbing her temples wearily. The night’s peaceful calm had been shattered for her, and she sat a long time in the semi-darkness, before resuming her walk back towards the part of the city where its few draenei inhabitants lived. Some time later, when she lay down to sleep beside her partner, he questioned her quietly.

“You seem preoccupied. Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing,” she lied. Satisfied, he fell asleep, but her luminous eyes cast a gentle glow over the room for some hours afterwards.

This Was A Triumph

Here's a shot of Deathwing before he became too busy tossing people off his back in LFR to burn the world. This was taken moments before I met a fiery end while trying to fish peacefully in Uldum. "Oh, the fire won't extend this far..." Famous last words, DW, but I got my revenge.

I was actually awake when the NDA for Mists lifted! I could have written a blog post then and been a forerunner in blog news. Instead, it’s a few days later and everyone has had time to pick over and digest all of the new information and so you won’t learn anything new here!

Of course there were some things I am interested in with Mists. One is a new character slot – hallelujah! Of course, I would have preferred a few new character slots (five, maybe?) but I’ll make do with one. The hardest thing for me is looking at my roster of characters and deciding who is going to die. Which one gets the axe? I know there are some folks for whom deleting characters is actually somewhat cathartic or commonplace, but for me it’s a big deal! I’ve only ever deleted one character who was higher level than 40; my ill-fated hunter. I just never “clicked” with her. Actually, I lie – I didn’t even delete that character, I transferred it to Voss’ account. So the highest level character I’ve ever deleted was twenty.

I’m not sure if it’s because of my inherent RP attitude that it’s tough to do – although I did joke that I “killed” my night elf priest when I race-changed her into a draenei. It’s like I’m murdering a person? Anyway, I need at least two new character slots, one to house my draenei monk and another for a pandaren of some persuasion. Characters that are currently on the chopping block:

-Sarika, 32 Draenei warrior: Warriors are pretty fun and all, but I seldom play her and don’t have much interest in tanking generally. My intent was to level her as a tank and blog about it. She doesn’t have much story or background to speak of either so as far as “murders” go it’s pretty low-risk.

-Jun, 16 Night Elf rogue: I finally made a rogue but I only played her for a day. I have to admit, the lowbie rogue experience seems to be lacking in some way? (Or else it’s me that’s the problem). I learned poisons but they didn’t tell me squat about poisons, and the only way I found a poison vendor was looking on Wowhead. If I had been a new player with this rogue I probably wouldn’t have put poisons on my dagger for approximately 50 levels or similar, as it was it’s a miracle I remembered that you could put poisons on EACH dagger. So Jun’s fate is uncertain, at the least I will probably keep her and use the name for my pandaren.

-Mildred, 41 Forsaken priest: Actually, Mildred’s name probably doesn’t belong on this list because I can’t bring myself to delete her because her name is Mildred. Even though I have little interest in playing a priest or a Horde character at this time. I’ve considered deleting her just to remake some other class so I can experience the “new” Forsaken experience everyone is talking about. But Mildred is the perfect foil to my Millya, so she’s probably okay. Plus Voss has adopted her name as a means of referring to someone who is doing something annoying, such as running halfway across a zone to pick a Mageroyal, losing track of every person in your leveling group, then stopping to pick 8000 Peacebloom. He hollers, “MILDREEEDD!” I suppose you have to hear it to appreciate it.

Anyway, one of those characters will need to die so I have sufficient slots. I had intended to level Jun so we could work towards the Classy Night Elves achievement, but I grossly overestimated available time and interest. Maybe Mildred should be a mage instead (because I need another one! No, really!)

Mists sounds like it’s going to be pretty great for pet collectors, clothes horses goats, and folks who have a sick addiction to dailies and rep grinds like I do. I played Farmville for awhile, until the pressure to harvest imaginary vegetables made me ask myself, “Why am I logging in at specific times to plant more blueberries when I could be playing WoW instead?” Now I’ll never have to experience that dilemma again. I’m not even being sarcastic, I’m excited to plant Warcraft vegetables. I think this addition might just tip the scale and get my Mom to play WoW too, which is why I’m not going to mention it to her. I was telling some guildies the other day that I asked my Mom if she wanted to try WoW because I thought her tolerance for repetitive activities would make her the ideal herb-farmer and miner. In her off-time, she would collect pets. I’m informed that considering using my Mom as an herb farmer makes me a horrible person, which is probably true. But she’d be so GOOD at it!

I like the female Pandaren models. I’m interested to see more of their faces, but I think they are much better than they could have been; they are obviously not an afterthought as female worgen were, which shows that Blizzard was listening to those criticisms, which I appreciate. I’ve heard that some bottom dwellers have already come out of the woodwork to complain that they are fat, to which I say, they are PANDA PEOPLE. Get over yourself! She could have been even fatter and I would’ve been happier, but she’s fine the way she is. I’ll be happy to play one, which is pretty different from my initial feelings about the Mists expansion.

Generally, everything I read about Mists made me more excited to play it. I think the story sounds interesting, I think exploring the continent sounds exciting – even the 10,000 waterfalls, which I will no doubt visit because I like a healthy dose of masochism with my gaming. There will be so much content at level 90 that I can’t possibly be bored. Not being a Warcraft III player, I had no basis for the existence of Pandaren but as friends urged me to keep an open mind I put any premature judgements on hold. Even Voss has warmed to the Pandaren and is looking forward to leveling one with me. The only thing that will need addressing before Mists is my serious dearth of bank space. I finally sold my Darkmoon Card: Volcano just the other day in desperation and to free up one more slot. Farewell, old friend. You served me well for three tiers. You will not be missed.

I eagerly await the time when mounts are made account-wide so that I can ride my ridiculous and awesome rooster mount on any character. They’ve said it’s next on their list after pets, now that the tech is in place to make it happen. That’s a feature worth having, as far as I’m concerned! Cory Stockton also said that there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of people who are raiding since LFR was introduced; he had to be a bit sly about specifics, so no percentages or numbers, but that’s pretty neat to hear. LFR obviously has its upsides and downsides, but the ability to queue for it with friends from other servers has made a big difference to me. Plus, I’ve been using loot from it on my main for months now so I should probably not say much!

Last but not least, here are two links to things that caught my eye today.

My fellow Moonrunnerian (Moonrunnerite?) over at Double Protection wrote about a topic near and dear to my heart: Loot! Don’t lie, you love the purples too. Specifically, he’s addressing a problem that our raid group has experienced – loot distribution for tens. We had six weeks of constant Conqueror tokens, I’m not even kidding. We only recently started to get Vanq again, I got my four-piece bonus just a short time ago, and two of my pieces were from LFR. I like some of his ideas.

Alas of Kiss My Alas fame is sadly wishing the Warcraft blogosphere farewell (Kiss this Alas goodbye). Alas’ voice will be missed, also her querulous sheep that never fails to make me guffaw. (Okay, I’m biased, so what). Best wishes, Alas! Mage mage.

And Cynwise did a reading round-up just today, so in a lazy roundabout way you should check out his post if you’re looking for yet more great posts!

 

 

Then and Now Update

I wanted to thank everyone who participated in the “Then and Now” challenge. I’ve really enjoyed reading your reminiscing and seeing your screenshots from back in the day! Thanks to MMO Melting Pot as well, who featured it. I thought it’d be a shame to miss out on the great posts from folks who wrote on this topic, so you can see them below. I based my list on comments or trackbacks I received, so hopefully I got them all! Nineteen blogs participated, so there is a lot of great reading here. It’d be a shame to miss out on these posts from around the WoW ‘sphere. I had been updating the original post but I didn’t want those links to get buried.

Apple Cider Mage

Orcish Army Knife

Dancing Runes

Water Bender

Power Word: What?

Info About WoW From The Altoholic

Warcraft of the Worlds

Need More Rage

Jaedia’s Menagerie

I Like Bubbles

Kamalia et Alia

Tiny WoW Guild

Bubbles of Mischief

The Daily Frostwolf

Jed’s Corner of WoW Shenanigans

Killing ‘Em Slowly

Sugar and Blood

Need More Rage

Ironyca Stood In The Fire

The Stories of O

Raiding After Dark

The New Guild Order: Why Your Guild Still Matters

This is the WoW equivalent of posting embarrassing photos of your friends. Ullariend had a REALLY rough night.

I know, I’m contradicting myself. If you read my most recent post, you read that I am pretty excited about Real ID raiding. I think especially once Battle Tags are introduced, the social landscape of WoW will be forever altered. You might think that as a guild leader that would scare me. It doesn’t, because I firmly believe that what a guild brings is something separate from just raids or instances.

Imagine you are invited to a big party at someone’s house. When you arrive, the party is already in full-swing. The music is playing and many guests are partying. You won’t find every single person at the party crammed into one room, sitting silently while one person at a time talks, or having one giant conversation. It’s not possible. It’s unwieldy, not to mention intimidating. No, 100% of the time you are going to find in a group situation that people split off into much smaller, more manageable groups. A few people sit on the couch chatting, some others are in the corner, maybe some people are dancing, that one guy or gal is mixing drinks for everyone. Some will talk more than others, some will stay longer than others. The entire collective is the party, but within the party individuals may have a completely different experience. (For example, if you’re me you make sure to say hi to everyone and then find a quieter place to chat intensely with a few good friends).

The whole game (or the larger community of players you’re connected to) is the party, comprised of friends of varying degrees of acquaintance. But your guild? Your guild is your family. You can like and hang out with every person at the party, but it’s your family you see most every day, or sit down to hang out on an evening when nothing is planned. You invite other people to party with you, and when they’ve gone and you need to clean up the mess, the ones who stay are the ones you’re connected to most strongly. Of course, the lines can blur. Some of the folks I can now raid with are from a different guild but I chat with them daily or every few days via IM or whatever. You can have friends that are like family, but it’s all about context. A good example is someone who recently joined our guild – I “knew” her via Twitter but not really well. I find that I pay extra attention to her tweets now, and when a bunch of us are talking sometimes it strays into “Business Time” territory where we’re joking about something that happened in a raid or a forum post in our private guild forums. She’s now “in” my guild, and for me that involves a special mental shift.

To sum up: I have friends, and friends that are like family, and family. The people I’ve been Real ID raiding with are definitely ones that could move from one category to another. I have friends I’d recruit in a heartbeat if I needed people and they needed a guild. So what’s the difference between them? It’s so hard to articulate. It’s kind of like, you know how you complain about your stupid kid/older brother/sister and they have a million faults but the moment someone ELSE criticizes them you are ready to fight them? That’s family, to me. You don’t always get along but you’re a bit stuck with each other. Then friends land somewhere on that spectrum from “I don’t know you really well” to “Call me if you ever have a RL emergency.”

Uhh, you have a little something on your face there...

In Warcraft, to a certain extent your guild and the people in it are your identity. You’re a member of <This Guild> and that means something, to people on your server, to people who know of you, and even to WoW people you might meet in real-life. It’s no mistake that the big, famous raiding guilds have guild sweatshirts/t-shirts and they make sure to wear them 100% of the time at Blizzcon and similar. People know those guild names and what they mean, and they are a badge of pride. I think it would be a pretty difficult thing for that to go away, because of the tendencies mentioned above. People like to feel as if they belong to something, and they ascribe meaning to it. What does it mean to be a member of Business Time? To me, it means that you are a good player. Maybe a retired hardcore raider, somewhere in the adult spectrum, able to take a joke and to give one, not easily bothered by teasing (we do that a lot), but also ultimately respectful of everyone else in the guild. Sure it’s “just” a guild in a video game, but it’s also a collection of people who’ve known each other for years; almost three years in some cases. It has barriers to entry (applications, interviews, which yes, we still do even though we aren’t doing hardcore raiding any more), and it has conditions (i.e. you can be removed from it). It’s a small group but meaningful.

When we went casual, I wrote about how I didn’t know what the future of the guild would be. I honestly believed (and had come to terms with) the fact that my need to step back from WoW could mean the death of the guild, and I cried to think that, and I had to do it anyway. I’ve since had people tell me that even though BT is “casual” now they aren’t sure they could raid with anyone else. Perhaps that’s overstating the case, I’m sure they could learn to, but it’d definitely be different, as each group of friends is different, each guild’s way of being is different. It means a lot to me that people are committed to the guild that way, and it’s that intangible “something” that keeps people in a guild that I believe will prevent Real ID and Battle Tag raiding from actually dissolving guilds. You can’t “belong” to a group without a group to belong to, even if the group is just a Mumble server or green text or a tabard.

There are more practical reasons why guilds will continue to be the de facto structure for most organized activity in WoW, not the least of which is guild perks. Guild perks have proven to be a real double-edged sword – excellent for established guilds but sometimes punishing for smaller guilds or guilds just starting out. People come to expect certain privileges when they belong to a guild, and when you can’t offer those perks it can be hard to attract new members. (I’d offer that if people are only concerned with perks you don’t want THOSE people anyway, but that’s neither here nor there). Perks and achievements also offer tangible rewards of coordinated effort. We can make fish feastsĀ becauseĀ we did a ton of fishing and contributed to that goal. Every time we place a feast, it’s because we worked together to get to that point.

Your guild provides the framework for many of your experiences in WoW, and I believe it will continue to be that “home base” even when extracurricular cross-server activities become more commonplace. Guilds that establish relationships with other guilds will be stronger for it, in a kind of symbiotic mutual health. You can have a kind of “sister guild” where members are welcome at events – but guild members of your guild still get top priority. Whatever “guild” means to you, and whatever the culture of the group of people you’ve gathered together, I don’t think we should be threatened by the upsurge in opportunities for interaction. To use my earlier analogy, you can welcome plenty of people to the party and it’ll just be more fun for everyone. (But at the end of the night, somebody’s got to help me get this wine stain out of the rug).

But I'll only post embarrassing screenshots of BTers. Maybe. I make no promises.

What do you guys think? What is your relationship with your guild(s)? In a strange way, my opinion on this matter is both conflicting and in perfect harmony. I love the opportunity to include more people in activities and to branch out, but I am also fiercely loyal to my guild and the people in it. I think this is most evident in the way that as more people join us for runs, I start to think of them as an extension or part of BT rather than me being less of BT. Ultimately the message is a positive one – I think these changes can and will be good for everyone who is willing to do a bit of changing with the times. Someone who joined us for a raid recently told me that he loved the atmosphere, and to me that’s the highest compliment we could ever receive. If events organized by people in our guild create a fun environment for people to play in, isn’t that what this game is really about?

The New Guild Order: Why Your Guild Tag Matters Less All The Time

It’s been quiet around here because generally things with me have been status quo. I raid with BT once per week on our “new” casual schedule, and enjoy it a great deal. I play WoW on the other days when I feel like it, but otherwise all of my management responsibilities have been greatly reduced. I don’t have to stress out about performance or progression because we aren’t pushing for it like we used to. I hope the rest of the guild doesn’t mind, but if anyone does mind they haven’t mentioned it to me! On the contrary, the past month has seen an explosion of guild activities, more than we ever had before outside of raiding. There was a brief lull after we slowed our pace, and then all of those free raid days began to fill up with other activities organized by other people. There’s an arena team that runs Tuesdays, people run BGs together a few times a week. I started a Firelands run on Saturdays which is a whole entry unto itself, and Fsob has been organizing what he dubbed “MMLA” runs (you heard it here first, people). That is: Mounts, Mogging, Legendary and Achievement runs. Because Real ID now allows for grouping up to do old content, we’re no longer limited by the number of people available to us.

These runs started off small – a concentrated group of BT people and a few friends doing Sunwell, Black Temple, etc. But the changes to Real ID have allowed it to explode into almost an entire group of people running Ulduar 25 for achievements, a shot at Mimiron’s Head, transmogging gear, and meta-achievement drakes. A few people even brought characters locked at level 80 because they need the gear to eventually do a Herald of the Titans run. I was thinking about something as we were doing Ulduar last night, hanging out on Mumble and “meeting” some of the people I’ve known via Twitter for a long time. Business Time’s footprint is small – I mean, we are a small guild, kept that way intentionally. We have maybe twenty members, tops, at any given time. (Probably less). But our reach is wide. Through Twitter networking, blogging, and runs like Fsob’s run, we interact with a great many more people than our small guild size would seem to suggest. The fact is, the guild we are in almost doesn’t even matter anymore, and will come to matter even less after Battle Tags are implemented.

Think about it. Via Real ID, I have been running Firelands with a holy paladin from Apotheosis for a month now. We were friends before, but now we also raid together. Likewise, the guild leader of Waypoint on Medivh has been running with us each Saturday. Last Saturday we brought Tikari (also of Apotheosis). Now of course, Nowell and Tikari are still members of Apotheosis, and Karanina is the guild leader of Waypoint. But what are they to me, and what is BT to them? It’s not exactly nothing. You might call them “friends of the guild.” If they wanted to make an alt and hang out in BT, I would absolutely say yes. The bonds of friendship online, in a game like Warcraft, are forged through three things: communication (via text), communication (via the spoken word) and shared experiences. I’ve been raiding and talking to all of these people once a week for a month now. I raid with my guild once a week. So how do the two groups differ?

I think in many ways, they don’t. The most important and key way, obviously, is progression raiding. Apotheosis is raiding hard-mode content with a group of 25 people. Their policies and involvement may differ considerably from Business Time’s. But in the space that we intersect, we get along famously. I also cannot overstate that this is absolutely the best thing that could possibly happen for guilds of any size or goal. Guilds have typically been (largely) insular operations. You have your own guild chat, you have your guild events, you may sometimes invite “outsiders” along but generally it’s all about what happens within a guild. Thanks to the new connectivity between guilds, this mentality has been exploded. Small guilds (such as ours) can tap into a much larger resource of players. The challenge to keep your guild engaged and interested has just been greatly reduced! It used to be that I worried if I wasn’t online every day, or I worried if we didn’t have enough events being planned outside of raiding that people would get bored, or stop logging in, or even leave. I imagine that other guild leaders may have the same fears. It’s tough to maintain a community of people when everyone has commitments outside of playing a video game. Especially in smaller guilds players can be like ships passing each other in the night – never even seeing another soul online for hours at a time. That may still be a true, but an influx of organized activity that members can participate in keeps people happy and engaged. As far as I’m concerned, there is no downside to this at all. I get to meet and raid with friends that might not necessarily share the same progression raiding goals as I do, and we don’t have to be in the same guild, but we still have a good time!

It also means opportunity for everyone involved. Cross-pollination of guilds widens the community, and bridges the gulf that’s always existed between isolated guild communities without impacting the singular goals of the guilds themselves. Thanks to the contribution of these folks, I am making progress towards building a Dragonwrath. Yes, I decided to go ahead and get it done, no matter what it took. That wouldn’t be possible without the help of these friends. We usually have a critical mass of BT players each week, but are just 2-3 people short of a “guild” run. To me, it’s been pretty amazing. We’ve been doing heroic modes and having a blast. I think everyone has fun. (Although ask them how they feel in a few months…) On the flip-side, Val’anyr shards have been going to Jasyla in the Ulduar 25 runs. Somehow it seems “right” to me that our guild members can help her build a legendary while some of her guild members are helping me build one, too. I’m not a member of Apotheosis, and they aren’t members of Business Time, but as I said – we aren’t nothing to each other, either.

Meantime, I haven’t even touched on the raiding communities that have sprung up as a result of this Real ID change – people who want to make cross-server raiding their primary game activity! The guild that you are in at that point matters even less, because there is not likely to be a “central” guild organizing an event, rather it’s an individual bringing together raiders from all over. It’s radical to suggest that you might not even need a guild to enjoy raiding content, but with Looking For Raid and cross-server raiding, that has very quickly become our reality.

So where do we go from here? Let’s break down even more barriers. I wish I could group with people from the EU. I wish I could raid with my cross-faction friends. Let me invite friends from other servers via the in-game calendar! Consolidate these things so I am spending more time in your game. Let me offer guild repairs for everyone in my raid, the same way I can drop a feast and provide flasks for them. The final one, I’m a bit more trepidatious about: the ability for Real ID groups to join raids for current content. If that one becomes a reality, your guild tag really might cease to matter in a way that’s dangerous for guilds, although it might also really help to be able to fill a raid last-minute with a friend. The structure of guild and group play in WoW has been fundamentally altered. I’m not quite sure where it’s heading, or where Blizzard will draw the line, but for the time being I am pretty happy about it. The recently announced Scroll of Resurrection plays into this too. Characters and guilds and play are ultimately malleable at this time. It’s as easy as snapping their fingers for Blizzard to create a level 80 character, to race/faction change a character, and send them to whatever server they want. All of this is accomplished usually in a matter of minutes – I know, because I’ve poured money in that direction before. Now that the floodgates have been opened to allow us to play together, I predict that people won’t be content to stop there. We’ll probably see current content Real ID raiding, guild raiding coalitions, possibly even guild mergers. (It’s possible to server transfer a guild now, too!) More and more, we’re going to be playing together however much we want to be.

So how about you? How have the Real ID changes impacted your gameplay? What do you think about the “new” social reality of World of Warcraft?

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