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

Posts tagged ‘when I’m down to just my socks you know what time it is’

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 feasts because 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?

Hello, Paladins.

Hello, Paladins.
Look at your guild tag,
Now back to me.
Now back at your guild tag,
Now back to me.
Sadly, it isn’t the same as mine.

<Business Time>

But it could be if you were ready to put on business socks and apply to mine.
Look down, back up!
Where are you? You’re in a raid instance with the guild your guild could be.
What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it!
It’s a calendar with an invite to the raid you love.
Look again, the invite is now spellpower plate we’ve been disenchanting.

Anything is possible when your guild wears business socks. (I’m on a pally horse).

Sadly, I forgot to take a better horse screenshot before my horse became an Elekk. (See how easily things become other things around here?)

More plainly, you’ve all heard about my guild. We’re a guild that’s been strict ten since ages ago (April 2009). We’re almost two years old now! We finished out Wrath by achieving Bane of the Fallen King after getting our Frostbrood drakes back on June 1st. We’re currently 10/12 with available content (Al’akir, Nefarian remaining) and will be heading into heroic modes over the coming weeks. We are based on Moonrunner US (PvE, PST) and we raid Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6-9 PM PST.

In a nutshell, we are a tight-knit, small group of adults dedicated to progression raiding on a schedule that actually works with people’s lives. Our members have jobs and other things they are doing, so we pull at start time and not a moment later (or else Voss’ head explodes). When we raid we’re serious about it (I’m really trying hard to avoid making another Flight of the Conchords joke here, so just bear with me). Thanks to incredible stability and very low member turnover, our roster is almost the same now as it was a year ago – no mean feat, I think! The commitment of our members is itself a testamony – BT folks tend to stick around, and we like it that way. We don’t have roster openings very often.

Unfortunately, real life stuff (happy real life stuff such as getting engaged and moving!) is going to be claiming our holy priest in the next while and we’re going to need another dedicated healer (a solid off-spec wouldn’t hurt, either, but we’re primarily looking for a holy paladin.) I’m hoping that since my original blog seemed to attract many awesome holy paladins interested in watching the noob flounder cheering me on, that perhaps some of you still read and might be looking for a great guild. Our current healing roster has two restoration druids, a restoration shaman and a holy priest – so we’ve got no paladin in this role at all. We think a paladin would be just perfect (although if we don’t have luck finding one we might consider a different healing class).

If you have any questions feel free to ask them here, on our website, or you could drop me a line via Twitter or my e-mail (puggingpally AT gmail DOT com). And if you aren’t looking for a guild but you have a friend who might be, please consider spreading the word! I appreciate any mentions or links immensely.

Social Members, Raiding Guilds

Occasionally as a guild leader or “management” member of any group of WoW-folks, you’re faced with some tough decisions. Sometime last year our guild had to grapple with the question of social members – would we have them, and under what circumstances? Should we have them?

Historically, the guild had a few social members. These were invariably people who had once been raiders that were unable to raid for one reason or another. When I first joined there was an assorted group of these, some of them that no one in the guild could remember raiding, but they were still “around.” Some guilds might have almost nothing but social members, or just “members,” but when you’re a focused raiding guild there is usually going to be a necessary division.

Almost all the screenshots I have with guildies are from raids! This one happens to feature our nifty battle standard.

For us, social members have always been a bit of a grey area, sometimes presenting a conundrum. The social members we’ve had have come in three different flavours: 

Social With A Side of Raiding (Someday)

Our first two members like this wanted to join although we had no raiding spots. This is one of the biggest difficulties of being a small, “exclusive” kind of guild. Since we focus on ten mans and don’t want to run two simultaneous groups, we have to be very careful of roster bloat. Too many raiders means people are benched too frequently. Not enough will lead to burn-out. I actually famously (and regrettably) turned down a resto druid and her hunter friend because our roster simply didn’t have the room for them. The druid was so determined that our guild was the best fit for her that she farmed up the copper to send me an in-game message asking me to reconsider and reassuring me that they would be happy to just be social until such time as a need arose for them on the roster. Note – this kind of tenacity does have the potential to make a guild reconsider your application. She impressed me – we let them in.

Less than a week later, in a strange twist of fate, we had roster turnover and suddenly needed a healer and a DPS. Because we’d considered the two of them including the merits of their skills as raiders, this was fine. They stepped in seamlessly and are still valuable members to this day. I’m happy it worked out the way it did.

It’s a rare person that’s going to want to join a guild just to warm the bench, though – most people applying to a raiding guild are going to want to raid. If you admit people as socials with intent to raid, you still have to evaluate their personality, gear, logs, experience and knowledge. Recruiting is work, interviewing takes time, and this could be time wasted if the people don’t actually raid with you – or if you decide not to admit them after all the time spent reviewing their application.

Raiders Gone Social

This is liable to be a common category in most guilds, no matter the size. Life has a way of sneaking up on people and bludgeoning them – life changes like children, a move, or a new job can make a formerly convenient raiding schedule impossible. I’ve never seen any need to not keep and value these people – you usually know them from raiding so they are friends, and having more people in the guild keeps things lively. They can still run five-mans with other guildies when they have time, or just chat.

In some cases, these folks may want to raid again at some later date. Once a raider has “stepped down” from the roster we require that they re-apply to join raids. This is for us the only fair way because roster needs may have completely changed. There may not be room for that person, or they may have a different schedule. Re-applying proves that they are serious about raiding again, it can help to answer scheduling questions, and it acts as a tangible sign of commitment. We might even interview if the situation called for it – say, for example, if many guildies didn’t know the person from previously, or if they intended to play a different character.

Because nothing says "friend" like getting your buddy stuck on a Sandbox Tiger, laughing at his distress, and then posting screenshots for all the people on the internet to see.

Just Social, Please

We’ve had poor luck with purely social members who applied that way. After some discussion about this last summer, we did have a few folks (friends of mine) join briefly, but often alts on other servers are played infrequently, and so although they were awesome people (hey guys!) most of the guildies didn’t know who they were. This is a bit awkward for everyone involved, sort of like giving a friend a key to your shared home but not being home when they drop by and let themselves in. With such a small group of people, it can be jarring to have new folks joining and if personalities don’t gel, someone has to go. (Hint: It can’t be one of the raiding members we depend on, and this leads to awkwardness all around). We did decide that we’d take social members on the good recommendation of a current member – so if your good friend wants to join and you’ll vouch for him, then sure, but again it’s provisional. Just as we have a trial period for all raiders, we consider any new member in the same light.

Another really bizarre example of a “just social” member came after a disgruntled former member created an alias for himself, played a different character, and re-applied to the guild…as if he were a completely different person. Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up. I don’t know if we’re too trusting or just plain gullible, but he put on a convincing enough voice for the vent interview that we actually let him in. It wasn’t an easy decision, as several members rightly asked, “If he doesn’t want to raid, I don’t see what he’s really bringing to the guild?” I argued to give him a chance since he seemed nice enough.

Not everyone is going to have the same point of view on this. Personally, I like people. I like to chat with them, and I like the feeling of having a few folks online with the green chat. Others are more practical: we’re a raiding guild. We’re here for raiding, so why would we take people who aren’t going to be raiding? It’s a fair question, and it worked out tremendously badly in this fellow’s case. Eventually the suspicious things he’d said and done added up, and an officer thought to check his IP address on the forums before coming to the realization that he was the same member who had left. He was the last person to apply as a social that we accepted.

Since then, we’ve all been pretty wary about social applications. I actually got an e-mail from a reader (perhaps a former reader) who was going through some difficult times and looking for a guild to be in. I felt terrible to have to tell him that I really wasn’t certain if we were the place for him. As a blogger, if I were running a different sort of guild – I wouldn’t have hesitated, absolutely. As GL of a raiding guild (taking into consideration all of the above) I had to give him a pretty ambivalent answer. I still feel bad about it on a personal level, but as far as my responsibility to my fellow guildies goes – I did what I had to do. I can only hope that he understood, although I never heard back from him and probably lost a reader because of it.

Let’s All Be Friends (And Kill Internet Dragons)

It’s unfortunate, but social applications and members can present a number of problems for a raiding guild. We’re lucky because the social members we do have are great people, very friendly and affable. I feel an obligation towards all of my guildies and I want them to have fun and feel comfortable in the guild, but our primary focus is raiding. We’re a raiding guild, it’s what we do – so it’s easy for social members to feel a bit on the outskirts, and there isn’t very much I can do about it.

Fortunately, with Cataclysm some fairly drastic changes have led to a much better system in this regard. Prior to release, one of our social members took me aside to tell me that he’d been feeling pretty disconnected with the guild. He still liked the people, just that since he wasn’t raiding he naturally felt as if he wasn’t contributing anything to the guild. Since guild experience and guild leveling were implemented, it doesn’t matter whether you’re raiding with a guild or just questing on an alt – everyone’s contributions are equally visible and valuable! This same member went out of his way to kill specific classes/races in PvP so we could earn an achievement and the right to buy the Guild Page, and he reaps the benefits of our leveling just as everyone does. I think it’s pretty great that we can all share in that, and I’ll be writing in greater length soon about guild leveling, guild XP, and how happy I am about them.

Meantime, I still don’t think these changes to the way that guilds work are compelling enough for us to start entertaining social applications apart from close friends of guildies. I’d still like to make sure that all our guild members are happy and feel valued. What is your guild’s policy about social members (if you have one)? Have you ever been a social member in a raiding guild? Did you regret it, or were you happy with the way it worked out?

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