Doesn’t Go To Eleven: One Guild’s Tens Experience Post-Cataclysm
Our latest stint of recruitment unfortunately coincided with me being away for family concerns, so recruiting feels like it’s taking a little longer than usual. I’ve written about recruiting being hard this expansion before (harder than I’ve ever seen) but I’ve been thinking about this a great deal and I’ve started to isolate some specific factors. It’s pretty interesting, actually. In a strange way, we’ve contributed to making things difficult for ourselves.
Back when we were a “strict” ten hardmode guild, there weren’t that many out there. Kae over at Dreambound was my ‘strict ten’ buddy in the blogosphere, and perhaps there were others but I didn’t know about them. Some people expressed confusion about the strict ten ethos – why deliberately avoid acquiring gear that would make your encounters easier? For us, strict ten was a specific challenge. Hardmode tens encounters were often overtuned or designed in such a way that they were afterthoughts to the 25-man version, or ham-handed adaptations. Doing the heroic Lich King encounter while wearing tens gear meant something. It took ages for anyone in the world to even do it, and then it took longer for more groups to follow. (In the interests of full disclosure, we defeated H LK following patch 4.0, so it was easier than it was for people who did it prior, definitely. But it was still an achievement).
Strict tens guilds faced challenges in many ways. Recruiting was difficult because you were seeking players that wanted to do hardmodes and had the ability and will for them, but many such players gravitated towards 25s and considered tens the more ‘casual’ raid size. That was a hurdle we managed to overcome by appealing to that niche player – burnt out 25s raiders who wanted a smaller format, or people who were just a bit offbeat but still didn’t want to waste their time. A “serious” tens raiding guild seemed like a contradiction in terms to many, but we managed to bring in players despite that. Some of them were those seeking 25s that I managed to convince, others were those who wanted a tens environment on their own, and we built something we could all be proud of.
Having secured a roster, we faced other challenges – the perception in the community still being that tens wasn’t “real” raiding. 25s would farm our instances for gear (things like the trinket from H Gunship 10) all the while laughing at how easy tens were. But naturally, they had a significant gear advantage as they did this. This all changed with the adjustment to raid lockouts, something that I know a lot of 25s players weren’t happy about. Rather than doing “this AND this,” suddenly it became an either or choice. You were either raiding tens, or you were raiding 25s.
But ICC was hard on people, and many players in our guild teetered on the edge of burnout as Cataclysm loomed. Overall, we were ecstatic with the announced changes – shared raid lockouts meant that tens were a viable progression track and not just a place where 25s players went for an alt run or to let their hair down on the weekend. The announced changes to gear distribution in Cataclysm were amazing. We’d no longer be at a gear disadvantage, which meant that there would be less reason for people to turn up their noses at tens! Balance would be less of an issue (they could balance around existing gear because it’d be the only gear there was). It was like a tens raider’s wildest dream! I remember being giddy and feeling like our efforts as a strict ten had finally paid off. We’d stubbornly insisted on treating tens as the viable progression path we felt they were, and finally Blizzard was acknowledging it, too.
Be Careful What You Wish For
In a twist that strikes me as truly ironic, though, what was our wildest dream has also turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. I feel like I am Hipster Guild Leader. “Hipster GL knew about ten-person raids before, but you probably haven’t heard of them.” In Cataclysm, everyone knew that tens would be getting the same loot. They’d even be eligible to make legendaries (something that hadn’t been true ever before). They already shared a singular lockout with 25s, and a raiding populace burnt out after six months of ICC flocked to ten mans in droves. I remember hearing about 25s guilds splintering into several groups, or forming up an “elite” team and leaving their other members in the dust. Ten man hard mode guilds sprung up like weeds, and suddenly our pretty small pond of tens raiding guilds was flooded. Ten person raiding went mainstream.
What did this mean for a hardmode tens guild that had been raiding tens since April 2009? It meant that suddenly there was a whole lot of competition. We went from being this odd little guild of people with the funny notion about tens to being one in a crowd of tens guilds – a single fish in a vast school of swimmers. Our server now has only tens progression guilds. All of the 25s guilds either folded, splintered, or downsized. The raiding world saw tens and saw that they were good. If tens raiding was our little indie band, suddenly we were hearing it on the radio twenty times a day. We were a pop hit.
We no longer had our elite strict ten ranking to use as a recruitment tool. At the height of our achievements, we were ranked tenth in the US (among strict ten guilds) during ICC. This was an awesome way to attract the kinds of players that we wanted. That method of recruitment was gone. I removed the ranking from our recruitment ad, because it’s not impressive anymore. We’re not in the top ten, or even the top hundred. There are thousands of guilds doing just what we do. The strict ten ranking was an odd thing that has engendered more than one debate over the past few years. The strict ten designation was very restrictive; it operated by counting the number of people in your guild who’d achieved a particular kill (25M Marrowgar, for ICC). Then it set an arbitrary limit, e.g. you could have seven people in your entire guild who’d downed 25M Marrowgar, but any more would disqualify you from being a strict ten guild. This meant that some people’s alts couldn’t join the guild. We maintained this level of monitoring for a long while, because it WAS one of our strongest recruitment tools. We had a big discussion in the guild about keeping it or letting it go, and we decided to ultimately drop the ranking (although we didn’t actually obtain any additional gear for our H LK kill so I still consider it pretty strict. Maybe strict-ish).
Comparisons are Odious
The problem for me all along, I’m realizing, was a shift in how and why we considered our rankings. Were they a tool we maintained for recruitment? Or perhaps did we fall a little bit in love with that number, and that spot? I can’t use our ranking as a recruitment tool anymore. So why was I checking it all the time? Also, what is our strongest selling point in a market that is 1) shrinking all the time, and 2) has an abundance of choices to buy what we’re ‘selling’?
It’s no secret to my friends and guildies that I am pretty hard on myself a lot of the time. Each time we slipped down a rank or failed to achieve a kill, it felt like a personal failure of mine. Why was I unable to keep those guildies from losing interest in the game? Why couldn’t I retain these members who’d been with us since ICC? Why didn’t we get that kill? Why didn’t we achieve this within a “reasonable time frame” (as measured by other guilds’ accomplishments?)
The big problem for me personally is a saturation of information. Twitter and blogs allow us to be connected to fellow players more than ever before. Heck, I have Twitter on all day long and when I’m not home I have it on my phone. Thus I’m in a position to see messages come rolling in like, “Just killed x boss,” or “Finished the entire raid!” and anything less than that feels like a personal failure. I actually think the raiding community is a lot smaller than we think it is. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of “coincidences” in the form of raiders joining our guild who used to raid together, or people leaving to join another guild that someone else is in who I am personally acquainted with. I think it’s more than just coincidence, it’s the fact that our pond is actually a lot smaller than we think it is. Which is part of the “too much information” syndrome.
For me, it’s a strange process. I have to consciously examine the facts of the guild at another point in time: We had very little turnover for a year. Our roster was stable. We had much less competition. We also used to raid four nights. A stable roster meant no readjustment period with new people coming in. It meant most people had experience with the same fights. We knew we were at a gear disadvantage, and perhaps that had a psychological impact as well. When we needed to recruit, we could point to our GuildOx ranking as a way of saying, “Look, we have credibility.” We were doing hard mode progression raiding with an adult roster of friends and dedicated raiders.
Then I have to consider the facts of the guild as it stands: We’ve had a ridiculous amount of turnover (in my mind) since Cataclysm started. We lost almost all of our healers, several tanks, and have had a veritable revolving door of DPS. But we only lost them to general disinterest in WoW, not to our guild personally. We downsized to three raid nights at the end of Wrath, so we have one less night and three fewer hours than we used to. Our roster raids less overall, and thus doesn’t master fights as quickly as they once did. Our old biggest selling point (GuildOx ranking) is no longer applicable. I think one of the biggest things we have to recommend us is that we are a stable guild (despite roster turnover) and have been so for going on three years. We still are doing hard mode progression raiding with an adult roster of friends and dedicated raiders.
At the end of the day, I have to recognize that Business Time – like any group of people – has changed over the years, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ve all gotten a bit older, and/or recruited people who are older. We have jobs, girlfriends, wives, family obligations, children. We adjusted our raid nights to reflect that, and it’s impossible to pretend that wouldn’t have an impact. I should note, this isn’t an invitation to tell me all about how YOUR guild does xyz in x number of hours. I’m happy for you, but I’m talking about my guild, and the expectations or achievements of one guild can’t be applied to another. There are no rankings for things like dedication, maturity, longevity, and the ability to tease Voss. For the record, as far as I’m concerned we rank pretty high in these intangibles (especially teasing Voss). We are still dedicated to progression within the time allotted to us, and I think it’s important that we focus on what we’re doing, instead of constantly having one eye on server rankings or Twitter. And yes, I’m mostly directing that statement at myself. I took GuildOx off my quickbar bookmarks. Not because I don’t care if my guild does well (I do) but because I want to focus on what we’re doing. I think I’ve let myself be distracted by things that are of lesser importance, and that I need to focus on one boss at a time instead of always bemoaning what we didn’t do. We earned those purple birds last tier, we have a blast raiding three nights a week together. I am damn proud of what my guild does, that it’s managed to stay together and reasonably stable for all of this time – that even though we have to search really hard sometimes, we can always find the right people that want to be part of BT with us. This is your Business Time. There are many like it, but this one’s yours. (It’s not a Booterang, although that would make kind of an awesome guild name).
Finally, an entirely shameless plug, we ARE still recruiting and the link above will take you to our post. We’d like a shadowpriest or moonkin, ideally, with a working resto off-spec. We did find a paladin tank so we’re halfway to our recruitment goal!
Last but not least, tell me about your experiences this expansion. Has your recruitment gotten harder? Did you change raid sizes? Are you happy with the change?