Stages of the game

The game is the game. It’s fresh and new and you are forging through the content. It’s exciting and fun.

The gear is the game. You need gear to compete and succeed. You will grind reputation. You will run instances over and over. That other guy who is better than you? He’s got better gear.

You are the game. Gear is a side-effect of your choices and desires. Your skill needs to be better. Your choices need to be better. If someone else sucks, it’s the player, not the gear. You read theory-crafting forums and you grind your ability.

The game is the game. You are playing the game. You have fun and you enjoy your time playing. Gear, skill, the game … it’s all junk that people use to compete. You realize everyone else who plays has different ideas and goals in the game. It’s ok. It’s exciting and fun … again.

You suck!

I tend to break guilds down into three basic styles of game-play. You have the focused, hard core, very serious raiding guild. Then you also have social, mostly casual guilds. Both of these guilds have a single goal and it’s pretty easy to stay on target. The third type is the hybrid guild that has a casual attitude, but has a subset of serious raiders who are progress oriented. The hybrid style is wide and covers lots of guilds who vary in their breakdown between the two other classes. But, all three have to deal with the “you suck” problem. In a nutshell, how do you tell someone who is playing poorly that they are … well, playing poorly?

If the guild is totally social and there’s almost no real push to progress, the answer is really simple. You don’t tell anyone they suck. It’s not important to dish out six hundred and fifty DPS on Gruul in this kind of guild. If it’s fun, it’s ok. This can be really relaxing and nice if you care more about other things than getting new bosses down and optimizing your role in raiding. If you can’t heal a normal five man instance as a healer, it’s ok. Just try again and if you walk out of there without the boss dead, no big deal.

If the guild is a progression based hard core guild, you tell everyone they suck. Just kidding, you just tell most people that they suck. If the entire purpose of your guild is performance, it’s really not that hard to tell someone that they are not doing as well as they should. The people applying to be in your guild, or those who have joined your guild, know what the guild is about and have the right expectations that they will be judged on their performance. If you suck, someone is going to tell you. Maybe someone will tell you that even if you don’t.

Then we have the last type of guild. The hybrid guild. This guild probably has a large group of casual players who level alts and are not really trying to refine their class to it’s optimum performance. It likely has a smaller group of people who raid frequently (though not daily) with the concept of actually making progress. Maybe there are “progression” raids and maybe there aren’t. But when the two groups are in the same raid, with different ideas, the entire concept of “you suck” starts to flow in both directions. “Can’t person X even play their class right?” “Stop telling me that I should bring flasks!” What makes it worse is when you try to keep the different styles apart, but you depend on the more numerous casual players to get close to twenty five people into a raid instance. A four hundred DPS warm body is better than a zero DPS empty slot, right? It’s hard to reinforce the idea that people need to see both sides of the fence and keep in mind which side people are on.

Sometimes I wish that Blizzard did not remove attunement requirements, if only to help solve this problem. It’s easier to look at someone and say “You don’t have your key, yet” than to have to tell them that they suck. Those hard barriers can be a good thing, so that people can see the effort of raiding in a more tangible way. Even if it seems arbitrary and painful, good fences help delineate the difference between those whose heart is in it and those who are just along for the ride.

It’s not fair

I hear this a lot. Not always in those exact words, but I hear a lot of people outright or indirectly voice their concern about fairness. Everything needs to be fair. Raiding should be fair, loot should be fair, recruiting should be fair, and everyone should be fair.

Specifically, I am talking about people getting along in a guild. It’s not always fair. In some kind of utopian world, everyone gets along with everyone else and no one ever dislikes anyone else. I’m not certain humans can handle that. People like to think they are open minded, but they don’t want to hang out and be friends with a bunch of people who act differently or think differently. Maybe people can do that for a little bit, but eventually, people just want to be with other people with similar values, ideas, behaviors. It’s not heartening as a leader to see that, but it’s how people work in societies. At least in a guild, the idea of race and economic class have a minimal impact.

If there’s a person in your guild that a handful of members hate, it’s a ticking drama bomb. It doesn’t matter if that person has not broken a single rule and has been a model member of the guild. In the end, a wall has been built and who knows which side will end up outside the guild.

It’s a two way street. And this has everything to do with guild recruiting and looking for a guild. I saw a good metaphor involving shoes (on the Guild Relations Forum). Guilds are like shoes. No one blames the person if a shoe doesn’t fit. And no one blames the shoe for not fitting. You just go look for another pair of shoes that do fit. You don’t take the shoe apart and try to make it bigger or smaller. You don’t cut your toes off to fit in the shoe. The same is very similar to guilds and members. It doesn’t matter who is the shoe and who is the foot. The fact is, even a shoe that seems to fit might not grow with your foot. Or, the foot might need more arch support later in life.

But, for some reason, the guild is a bunch of elitist morons, or that one member was just a jerk. I suppose people like to reassure themselves that they are right, they are not wrong, and the other side was wrong. That’s not fair.

Let’s do some old content!

When I got my first character to level sixty five or so, I had the same thoughts running through my head. Going back and doing Onyxia, or Molten Core sure seemed like it would be a lot of fun now that I had a few levels under my belt. The tables had turned! But after ramming my own head into the same wall, I realize it’s never going to happen.

Blizzard isn’t going to remove the Onyxia and Black Wing Lair attunements from the game. Long after the Black Temple and Mount Hyjal attunement quests are removed, you will still need to clear Upper Black Rock Spire to get into Black Wing Lair and you’ll still need to do the twenty-some step quest to get into Onyxia’s Lair. Even if you are attuned, chances are good that a lot of people in your guild are not, or are playing a character that never did the quest chains. But, that still leaves Zul’Gurub, AQ40, AQ20, Molten Core, etc. Right?

Let’s assume you can’t spend eight hours a day playing World of Warcraft. Let’s assume you have some goals in the game, like getting some content down, getting your epic mount, or earning some honor. Why would you spend the limited time you have in the game on clearing trash and defeating a boss that won’t drop anything that is even worth some gold? Running a regular five man instance in the Outlands will get you more return. You still can’t solo those old raid instances, so you will need to get a group of people who all feel it is worth their time and effort to go into the old raid instance and try to down the boss. And, frankly, that’s going to be very rare.

And lastly, I know there are people who never set foot in those instances. I am one of those people who never went to Onyxia or AQ. The one time I did go to AQ40 with a full group of level seventy players, it just wasn’t the same as raiding Karazhan with my guild or the days when I was helping raid Zul’Gurub for real (at level 60). Going back to do Scholomance was a real eye-opener for me, too. Once you are beyond the level, the raid loses a lot of it’s detail and impact. The flaws stand out more starkly and seem to be more obvious.

I still hear it come up every so often. The call to go do some old raid instance. The fact that it rarely goes beyond that and usually never happens is a sign. The real sad part is that it confirms my pessimistic idea that people don’t run raids for the content, but for the rewards.

The hidden drama

The person who swears on vent and calls people morons. The person who ninja loots. The person who verbally abuses people in guild chat. I can handle those problems. Those are EASY to fix. When someone behaves in a totally unacceptable way in the guild, it’s time for them to go. It’s all the drama that you can’t get rid of that slowly eats away at my sanity.

The guy who complains all the time. The person who refuses help or suggestions from other people. Personal disagreements and people pushing each others buttons. People upset they didn’t get picked for a raid. Crying because one person’s alt got into a raid but another person was asked to come on their main. The list goes on, and I can’t fix any of those problems. I’m not the politician who needs people to vote for him. I’m the guy who takes a situation and escalates it until either the person leaves or agrees that I am right. I decide where we go, or what we do. I don’t hold hands or tell people their feelings are important.

I think that when a guild is making some hard decisions, you need a guy like me. You need the person who lays down the law, decides what is going to happen, and does it. My way or the highway kind of situations are where I think I do well. But, later, when the guild needs more nuanced direction and fine tuning, I am the wrong guy. I can throw people off the ship and decide what port we’re headed to, but I don’t enjoy or excel at solving betty and john’s fight over how to swab the deck most efficiently.

I know, I know, more QQ for the fire.

You’re going to burn out

As a guild ages, the chances you can avoid dealing with some kind of drama related issue goes down to zero. The cause of drama is people. Every guild has people in it. Therefore, every guild has drama. And drama is, usually, what leads to burning out of officers and guild leaders. Every dispute, argument, disagreement, mistake, and accident can end up draining the officers of their will to play. At some point, an officer or guild leader will have defense mechanisms that will kick in to try and keep some sanity. Maybe they stop logging in as often as they used to. Maybe they start lashing out at people who drop problems at their feet. Or, even worse, maybe they just stop caring what happens. Classic burnout.

People expect more from their government over time. This is true in the real world, and it’s true in guilds. Not a day goes by where some group isn’t on the news demanding or begging for some government (theirs or another) to step in and help do more. “Come here! Fix this!” Few people look outside their own door and say, “I guess I’ll have to help fix this problem.” I see this same mentality echoed in my guild. The small number who want to help make the guild better are quickly promoted and put to work. The vast majority want to know why there isn’t a Karazhan raid scheduled this week, or why we don’t have more tanks in the guild. It’s never enough. It’s not long before the officers feel like everything they do is just drops of water on a huge fire of demand. That can be psychologically overwhelming, especially when all your time spent managing and coordinating are not bringing in anything positive … much less a paycheck. I can not seriously remember the last time I heard someone tell a raid leader how much they appreciated their work after running a raid. I see a lot of “grats” and “now what?”, but not a lot of “Thank you for running this raid!” It wears the leader down over time. If you every ask yourself why you bother, you’re getting burnt out.

I tell you players who are part of a guild to not take your officers, raid leaders, and guild leaders for granted. Tell them that you appreciate their hard work and effort. And then ask them how you can help. They might not need the help right now, but just being willing to do a little bit to help keep the guild running will help. The success of a guild rests in the hands of the entire guild, but usually those people are standing on the shoulders and backs of a very small number of people.

You might be your own worst enemy

As a guild leader, your account is the lynch pin of security for your guild. You can have all the proper access controls in place on the bank to prevent even your officers from being able to rip off the bank, but nothing in the game of WoW will stop your account from making off with everything. So, every month, change your password. Even if everything is fine and you run anti-virus and you never visit porn sites, etc. Just change it and make sure it’s more than eight characters long, has no words in it, no dates, and contains numbers and letters (upper and lower case).

Just some friendly neighborhood systems administrator advice.


You know how some people are very casual about playing World of Warcraft? They play alts and enjoy the game and aren’t pushing hard to really raid hard core or anything. They take the game as it is and smell the roses and all that. I’m kinda one of those people mostly. But, I’m not talking about them at all. Today I’m talking about the people who are seriously looking to get face to face with Illiden.

Those people, whether they are in a serious twenty hours per week guild or a more casual raiding guild, require one major attribute to be successful. Motivation. WoW is not the kind of game that you just go from point A to point B in. The game is pretty flawed in that it does not draw you a map on your class, your role, or your next step in getting to the high end raiding content. There are no signs at the end of Karazhan that say “Now that you have this and that gear, go to Gruul’s Lair!” There’s no sign outside any of the instances that say “You must have this much healing to ride this ride!” And there is nothing in the game that tells you how to play your class the most optimum way. So, how do people go from the basic quest completion and killing mobs to participating in twenty five man raids and being a productive group player?

The people who switch to that raiding level of performance are very motivated to squeeze more performance out of their class. They are going to use lots of tools to grade their abilities and help them compare themselves to other people who are performing better. They look at a WWS report, for example, and instead of saying “this other rogue is better because they are sword specced”, they say “maybe I should find a way to switch to sword spec so I can do more damage”. One type of person makes excuses, the other sees a way to perform better. In my experience, this is the fundamental shift in attitude someone needs to make in order to be better at raiding. It means using WWS, reading forums, doing research, and grinding faction and gold. Those things are work, but when you are motivated, they are steps towards your goal.

So, how do you convey this concept to people who want to raid seriously, but still have no motivation to do the work, and don’t have a correct attitude about self evaluation? For myself, I look at the work involved and I look at my free time and I can honestly decide if I feel I can raid seriously based on that. But if you have lots of free time, but no motivation, it’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that something else is holding you back. While I think there are a few times when you need other people to help you, usually I feel the only thing holding someone back is themselves.

As for answering my own question, I have no idea how to get people to make the jump in how they think. I’m not sure anyone can change how someone else sees things.

Why do the tools suck so bad?

Blizzard recently added guild banks. Sure, guild banks are awesome and they remove the practice of keeping tons of junk on someone’s personal mule account, but they are a security nightmare. Managing ranks and access to bank tabs is done through a pretty poor interface.

As my guild has grown, I have seen the need to add some more ranks just to manage access to the bank and give people more control over promotions, etc. You can’t add a rank in the middle, you have to add a new one as the lowest rank. The lowest rank is the rank all new members join at, so you need to do the membership shuffle. Moving everyone in your guild down a rank. Time consuming and not a fun thing to do in the game. Something as simple as adding a rank can net you several hours of monotonous clicking, the kind that won’t get you any XP or gold. Blah.

I also want to give out the ability for officers to withdraw cash for buying raid supplies or payout out for contests and such. But our guild doesn’t let people repair out of the guild bank. Right now the guild management lets me restrict people to only being able to pay for repairs out of the guild bank and not withdraw cash. The exact opposite of what I need to do. So, there are always issues where someone accidentally clicks the wrong button and they have to pay back the costs to the bank. It’s the little annoying bugs that often end up being the most frustrating.

There are a million other things in the game that I know Blizzard will spend time fixing and balancing. I understand that. But guilds are practically a requirement for playing the game beyond hitting the level cap. These guilds aren’t going to run themselves. Making it easier to manage a guild and keep the bank secured means pleasing the minority of people who are pouring their time and effort into providing a better game experience for Blizzards customers.

It’s not all bad

Sometimes things in a guild “just work”. You get some good officers, or maybe after some bad runs with recruiting you find some really good people to join up. And then you hear some little thing that makes you feel like you are playing a game for fun, and not enduring your second job.

For me, it’s usually one of two things. Sometimes it’s a regular member who has joined our guild and I hear them comment about how much fun the guild is. Or how glad they are that someone else in the guild hooked them up with some materials to make a nice item. Or that they are just glad that when something dropped, no one yelled at anyone else. And then there are the officers in the guild. Taking an idea and running with it is the typical thing that floats my boat. They’ll spend some hours polishing a policy post so it is very thorough and well written. Or they take the time to help someone, even though the person getting the help is a jerk and will never return the favor. And most importantly, when I am burned out, or pissed off, or upset, they don’t bail on me and usually are running the guild while I am taking a break.

These moments are the times when being a guild leader is not all bad. Sure, it’s usually just the eye of the drama-cane du-jour, but it’s still the same blue sky up above.