Drama

Can Progression Raiding and Alts Productively Coexist?

Don't mind me Atramedes, I'm just sightseeing, said the shadow priest as she crept closer...

We're at a point in this tier of content wherein serious raiding guilds are well on their way into defeating the heroic modes, but many more casual raiding guilds are finding themselves stuck at 9/12 or 10/12 on regular mode. So you know what that means -- folks are starting to want to bring their alts. Worse yet, the people who want to bring their alts are typically the folks who've geared themselves out thanks to having attended all or most of the runs (yes, I'm looking at you MT/Raid Leader/Core Raid team members.)

A guild leader's first impulse is probably to say "OK..." when their raid leader comes to them and says "I don't want to bring my geared out toon to raids any more; I really want to play Character X." But there are a number of reasons you should think twice before sealing that deal:

  1. Often this is not the first-- or the last-- time this player has pulled the old switcheroo. Are you prepared for them gearing up this character then cycling in their next alt?
  2. You've just set a precedent. Now that you've let them swap out to their alt, why can't player X do the same?
  3. So, player Z who has stayed on their main and lost a lot of loot to the swapping player, and is now losing more gear to their alt is starting to hate them.
  4. A raid team wants to feel like a team, not a loot delivery system for the raid leader. It can be hard to respect a leader who is continually fine tuning a situation to their advantage-- raid synergy be damned.
  5. Typically, no matter how much we love our alts, they will not perform nearly as well, or have the same utility as our mains on whom we've spent months raiding.

In my raiding history, once the alts started coming in, progression ground to a stand-still. Tempers flared. And frequently, good players left my raid teams.In many of the cases, this behavior was tolerated because it was done by the raid leader-- and everyone was afraid of losing the raid leader to the extent that no one spoke up about it. But there was a lot of discussion going on in the background amongst the raiders it affected. And none of it sunshine and kittens related.

To be clear, I'm not saying a raid leader shouldn't grab someone's healer alt if a raid won't go without that happening. But allowing players, at their request, to swap characters at this stage in the game, after gearing themselves up? That has a real possibility of derailing your progression momentum.

So, What Can You Do to Avoid a Blowout?

If this issue comes up in your guild, you can't just ignore it. It won't go away. But there are a few ways you can diffuse the situation.

  • Start up an alt raid.
    You probably have enough experienced raiders with moderately geared up alts who want to raid on them. Put them all together, and let them start re-clearing the raids. Bonus points for this approach making folks work for it, versus coasting off mains' hard work.
  • Put it to a vote.
    If someone is truly adamant about wanting to make a switch, put up an anonymous vote on your forums and let the raid team decide. And do the same for if EP/DKP is allowed to roll over or if there will be a penalty spend or freeze for a specific timeframe to discourage the loot and run syndrome.

How has your guild dealt with these situations?


Friday Five: Five Things to Remember if the Game is Getting You Down

why can't I use this pretty seahorse in all watery areas?

  1. It's not just a game -- it's YOUR game and it's supposed to be fun. What makes you smile in game? What in-game activities pop up in your dreams or daydreams? That's what you should be doing regardless of what other people tell you you should be doing.
  2. It's not just the game-- it's the people you play it with. Sometimes, you may do something such as choose guild progression over playing with people you like. But I've found that playing with people I like eventually trumps progression without camaraderie and friendship. Find people you like to play with then stick to them like Krazy Glue. And the people whose behavior annoys you to no end? Put them on ignore.
  3. You can always roll another character. You can even do this on another server. To play with people you've met through the blogosphere or twitterverse. So if you hate mechanics changes to your class or your guild is overrun with SpecX, you can always putter around and do something new. It's never too late to roll another toon!
  4. If your friends behave terribly to you in game, then they weren't really your friends. Write them off and move on. No amount of analyzing or dwelling can ever tell you why people behave the way they do online. If people treat you poorly, cut your losses and move on.
  5. The only constant is change. Chances are whatever it is that is really bothering you in game at this very moment will be a small blip in your rearview mirror in a very short amount of time. Take a deep breath, keep calm, and carry on.

Why I have a Love/Hate Relationship with Guild Forums

Every so often, I swear off reading World of Warcraft related forums. Typically, this is after a particularly nasty turn of events on a guild forum that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth and pondering why I voluntarily subject myself to them. But just as surely, after a while, I am back in there, posting up a storm about things I’ve gotten excited about or think guildies should know. I have a pretty classic love/hate relationship with guild forums. And I think that’s true for a lot of folks.

What I Love About Guild Forums

In theory, I absolutely love guild forums. They can really knit a group of people together into a team.  Specifically:

1)    They provide an out of game place where guildies can get to know each other better. They can post pictures from their vacations, or share their band’s touring schedule, or opine about pop culture. In short, provide a glimpse at the person behind the pixels.

2)    They are a great place to capture your guildies’ expertise. I’ve long been one to post my lists of rare craftables on my guild forums, and my thoughts on specs and gear etc. I shifted much of that to my blog when I started it two years ago, but do link out to those lists or cross-post things to the forums when relevant. Of course now you can see at-a-glance which of your guildies can make what by sorting your guild roster in-game by profession.

3)    Even with the in-game calendar, forums provide a good way to get organized for raids or other events.  The calendar can only provide you with the who/what/when/where. For the nuts and bolts of who is doing what, and what strategies to employ, there’s little that beats the guild forums. Yes, you can get by with telling folks to “go read wowwiki/watch tankspot”, but a successful guild will often find benefit from posting their specific take on strats in their forums. And the forums are the perfect place to post screenies and a recap of your guild events. After all, you can’t post a video of your guild’s naked gnome run in the calendar.

4)    And most of all they can help keep your guildies all on the same page. Instead of having to answer each new guildie’s questions about guild policies and procedures anew each time they are asked, you can have everything there is to know (or at least your guild charter, loot policy and raiding schedule) posted on your forums.

What I Hate About Guild Forums

But I have to be honest and say that overall, I’ve gotten to the “I don’t want to read this anymore” state with more than one guild forum in my five years of playing WoW. Why? The usual suspects:

1)    Trolling. You’d think people would save their trolling for the official forums, yes? Well, that hasn’t been my experience. I have seen more than one blowhard, excited by the captive audience a guild forums creates (since unlike in-game, you can’t ignore a member/poster on most of the popular guild forum providers), being unable to resist their urge to troll their guildies repeatedly. Frequently, they feign innocence, and get away with it and live to troll another day, because, after all, you don't want to jump to conclusions. But here’s the deal: one post that causes a dramastorm is an accident. The same person authoring the last 5 dramabombs dropped in your guild forums? That’s called trolling, no matter how you try to whitewash it.

2)    Bullies. Something about being behind a keyboard, typing words into the void without immediate feedback seems to bring out the worst in some people. They require having the last word. They use facts, complex mathematical equations, or things they made up right now but sound pretty official to try to shout down anyone with an opposing viewpoint. These people are called bullies. Most of the bullying I've seen on forums is over a difference of opinion, not over a point of fact. You'd like to think that adults (and most of the time the bullies are, in fact, adults) understand that with 12 million people playing the game, across the planet, people will not always share your opinion. And that one's opinion is not the same thing as a fact. But a bully will not rest until all opposing opinions have been publicly stamped out, even if that means resorting to name calling, condescending comments and belittling others. Because for a forums bully, all that's important is winning that argument.

3)    Drama. You have probably seen a baby fall down and look around to see if anyone saw them fall before they start crying, haven't you? In many ways, guild forums are like this too. A dogpile of drama can pile up faster than you can say Legendary Weapon, with the wails increasing in volume as more people chime in. Similarly, many people decide to take every issue or grievance they have -- be it with the guild leadership or an individual guild member-- to the forums instead of talking through the issue one-on-one with the other party. This is not OK. If you've never been tried in the court of public opinions via a forums drama post, then you may not realize exactly how horrible it feels to log in and see someone talking a bunch of smack about you, and trying to get others to join on in, about an issue about which you were completely unaware. This is the kind of drama that often leads to a /gquit from the recipient of the dramabomb, leaving you with a victorious bully or dramaqueen.

4)    Endless rehashing of dead issues. Have you ever read a forum wherein every new member wants to give their 2 cents to the raiding schedule? And every few weeks a discussion about loot rules emerges? Or after a decision is posted about who will be getting the items needed to craft the latest legendary weapon, someone else chimes in to say they think they should get it as well/instead? For whatever reason, instead of providing a history of what's gone on and why, many forums seem to get stuck on repeat. And if you are an officer, discussing for the 12th time why the current raid nights are in effect, you just might want to pull your hair out.

And lest you think I am alone in these issues being a turn off, note that whenever I’ve brought this topic up on twitter or with folks one-on-one, there have been a number of folks right there with me, who stop perusing forums (or even leave guilds) when they become overrun with bullies, or churn the stomach with the way guildies are (mis)treating each other. And as an officer, I've had guildies come to me and tell me flat out that they were considering leaving a guild, or in fact did leave a guild, over bullying and trolling on guild forums.

How to Improve Your Guild Forums

 The first step you can take, if you haven't already done so, is to post forum rules and make it clear that all members -- including Officers -- are expected to heed them. Ideally, you'll want to post the rules in conjunction with forum registration, as they do over at Elitist Jerks. Some sample rules/operating procedures:

  • Keep all discussion civil.
  • No name calling or obscenities.
  • Praise publicly and criticize privately. Don't bring your personal issues with someone to the forums-- talk to an officer.
  • Do not post the same comments/content repeatedly in reply to someone with a differing opinion. Say your piece once, then move on.
  • Don't make posts that are just whining/complaining.
  • Don't beg for gold/guildies' time. It's OK to LFM for a group in the forums. It's not OK to post every other day about how none of the guildies have come with you to farm Heroic MgT for the mount.
  • Don't start a new thread about a topic already being discussed.
  • Don't start a new thread about a topic that has been locked.
  • Don't have a signature file that's obnoxious.
  • Don't post links to or include visuals that are distasteful on your forums.

After you have the ground rules worked out, you need to also post how infractions against the rules are to be enforced; 3 strikes and you're out for instance. You'll also want to clearly note, or instance, that moderators will lock drama threads and delete anything that's against the terms of service for your forums provider. Spell out what the ground rules are, and then stick to them. Even if that means locking a thread due to an officer crossing the line with someone. It is key for your moderators to be fair and apply the rules to all members, and for them to be supported by the officers in doing so. If the moderator is going to be getting their own dramabomb lodged at them with accusations of squelching someone's free speech every time they shut down a drama thread, pretty soon you aren't going to have any moderators left.

Alternatives to Guild Forums

Guild forums may not always be the best choice for your guild. If you do not have the bandwidth for active moderation, or guildies don't want to pay for hosting that allows moderation, you may want to consider a few alternatives to guild forums.

Wikis

If you are primarily looking for a place to house your guild's charter and policies, with a "just the facts" slant, a free wiki might be a good resource for you. Check out: http://www.wikia.com/Wikia and http://pbworks.com/content/personal+overview to see what you need to do to get started.

Twitter

Twitter is a great way to keep in touch with guildies out of game. And a lively twitter stream of guildies can also be a great recruitment tool. One of the nice things about twitter is other than direct messages or people with locked accounts, most of the discussion is out there in the open. Something about that seems to give folks more of a sense of accountability. Because you don't want hundreds of WoW folks on twitter thinking you are a jerk, right? I will say I have seen some jerky behavior on twitter, but far less of it than I have seen in guild forums. And it has gotten shut down fast.

Blog

Why not consider starting a guild blog? You can let multiple folks post to it, or have one owner, depending on your preference. Some blog hosts, like Typepad, let you give guest poster's access to creating drafts that the owner has to approve and which will be tied to their username, thus giving some control over the content. This allows you to have static content pages plus newsy posts about what your guild has accomplished, screenshots and recaps of recent events, or even recruitment needs, without the free-for-all of forums.

What's the Future for Guild Forums?

I was talking about this topic with my Alliance guild leader this weekend, and he said that for that guild at least, forums aren't necessary. Yes, we have them and folks use them on occasion. But primarily the guild uses the in-game calendar to schedule runs, officers actively communicate in G (and in whispers to those not on when topics are discussed in G) to communicate anything that needs a wider audience, and a good number of folks are on twitter talking to each other about in-game issues and other topics day-in and day-out. And since several guildies, including myself, are bloggers, commenting in blogs, or on twitter about blog topics, also serves as another communication tool.

The one guild forums function that I don't seeother communication channels as being able to replace, however, is the guild application. I still feel that guild applications, if your guild uses them to recruit raiders and members into the guild (versus invitations going only out to friends of friends via word-of-mouth), should be made in a public guild forum. Having applications out in public allows all guild members the opportunity to speak up if there is a reason the guild would be better off not accepting an applicant, provides a public record of the person's interests and role applied for, and also allows raid leaders to see if their raiders are app'ing elsewhere. Thanks to public guild applications on forums, as an officer I've been able to find out that an applicant was applying to every raiding guild on the server; have had guildies give me a heads up that an applicant was, in fact, their stalker who had followed them from guild-to-guild harassing them; and been able to find out that some of the details in some applications were more than just a slight exaggeration.

So while I don't think guild forums are headed for extinction yet, I do think there are quite a few other ways to build a sense of guild community. And if your guild does have an active forum, having clear rules of conduct-- and consistently enforcing them-- seems to me to be key to maintaining a sense of civility and camaraderie amongst your guildmates, and making the forums a resource people are interested in reading -- not a place of dread.

What do you think? Could you live without guild forums? Would you never even consider joining a guild without an active forum? Have you successfully moderated forums? Would love to hear your POV.

 


Friday Five: Five Guild Forums Commandments

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  1. COMMANDMENT 1: Thou shalt not troll thy guildies.
    No, really. Trade is for trolling. And no one wants guidies who troll. Especially not in G or in the forums. Don't be that guy. You can't win at the Internets. And there is no winner in a difference of opinions. Put down the mouse and step away from the forums.
  2. COMMANDMENT 2: Private forums can not ever remain truly private.
    There's this function called copy/paste. And this other one called screenshot. If you slam your guild in an application in another guild's private forums, rest assured it will get back to your guild. Or make its way onto your realm forums. Watch your back. Same holds true for your own guild's forums. Save your racial slurs, sexist remarks and porn links for some place that will appreciate them. If you can't say something nice, maybe you should log off.
  3. COMMANDMENT 3: The way you treat declined apps will influence your future rounds of applicants, and the way one responds to their application being declined will influence their future guild opportunities.
    If you are nasty to failed applicants, putting them down and acting holier than thou, you'll scare off future applicants. Likewise, if you are declined for not meeting a guild's requirements or needs, and you swear at the officers and stalk them online, word will get around that you are a crazy person. Treat guild forum applications like a blind date with someone who knows all the other hotties in your neighborhood.
  4. COMMANDMENT 4: DBAD.
    Don't be a d***. This seems obvious, right? Go look at my post on how to lose friends and annoy guildies thorugh your guild forums then come back here. That's right. DBAD. Thank you.
  5. COMMANDMENT 5: Save the drama for your momma.
    Some people seem to live for starting drama on their guild forums. Perhaps you should consider a career in writing for daytime serial dramas. I guarantee that no one appreciates your /emo, your /flounce, your /devils advocate for every opinion or post shared on the forums. This is especially true for interpersonal dramas. If you have a rpoblem with a guildie talk it out -- in private.

Major thank yous go out to all my tweeps who gave input and ideas for this list, especially to Druidis4fite. What would you add to round out a top 10?


Friday Five: Five Considerations for Cataclysm Raiding

Psychocandy_Spectral_Tiger_Cub_ScreenShot_090110_183352

Despite recurring lack of interest across servers in WotLK raiding, I'm starting to see folks in guild forums and elsewhere starting to get ants in their Cataclysm pants about making decisions now about raiding teams in Cataclysm. If you're tempted to start drafting up your raiding policies now, you may want to stop drop and roll, and think about these key considerations prior to making sweeping changes:

  1. Mains today are not going to be mains in Cata.
    Don't assume your raid team is going to pick itself up and go into the expansion as status quo. There are going to be a whole slew of main changes. If you started playing in Wrath, or didn't raid prior to Wrath, you haven't lived through watching people who adored their class have nerd rage meltdowns regarding changed class proficiencies and game mechanics, and cycle through their alts until they land on one that feels right. So you'll just have to trust me -- THIS WILL HAPPEN A LOT. Until you have your first 10 folks ready and willing to raid, you can't start parsing out the groups. Will you have too many tanks? Not enough healers? All druids? It's really way too early to know. Or to start fighting about who gets what person on their team.
  2. Your star raiders may not be your star levelers.
    The first folks to make it to 85 are not necessarily going to be your best raiders. Or even be people with interest in raiding. Yes, hardcore guilds often give short timelines for leveling a character to get their raiding going as quickly as possible. But in a casual raiding situation, you may have folks level several toons to 85 prior to deciding whom they want to raid with, or even being ready to give up that alt leveling time in exchange for raiding. I know at least 1 person who has said outright that he intends to spend months leveling his alts prior to being ready to step into a raid.
  3. Heroics will be your first step as a fresh 85, not raids.
    That's right-- it's not intended for a fresh 85 to immediately ding then head into the raid instance. When these expansions unfurl, there is an expectation that folks will farm their way through regular instances and heroics to gear up and get ready (and to learn how to play their class at level cap in a team.) I've heard a number of incredulous newer players complaining about how the heroics are being implemented in Cata as a "C*** block. Newsflash: you just got spoiled by the Wrath heroics on a whole being easy. BC heroics were REALLY DARN HARD at the turn of the expansion.
  4. Guild churn is not over.
    As guilds that focused on 25-mans pare down to 10s, and as folks who have a small core group of friends they play with realize that 10-man raids are a viable pursuit as a focus in Cataclysm, there will continue to be guild churn. You'll also have some of the players who haven't played in over a year who come back, swear they live for raiding, come to a couple then drop out. This is all perfectly normal. Take all such declarations with a grain of salt, and see how things look at the end of December when the dust settles.
  5. Ideal raid makeups are still an unknown.
    Blizzard is still making significant tweaks to the classes. Until they lock and load, and we can see true group synergy in raids, with proper glyphs and itemized gear, it's a crapshoot. We know what has worked in the past, but what's worked for ideal group composition has changed over time, through each expansion, and with some raid instances. See also why my BC druid main never finished ZA, yet my mage alt went through there countless numbers of times (see also: cc makes a Cataclysm comeback.)

This list spurred from having gone through all the prior expansion's raiding "ZOMG we need to change everything up nao" bubbles, plus a great chat AF had a few weeks back to set raiders' expectations. If your guild is starting to have these discussions, it may behoove you to get out in front of it and have a chat about guild expectations in regards to expansion raiding.

Safe travels and Happy Friday!


Leaving Your Guild Without Burning Bridges

  Snakedriver_ScreenShot_071810_094929

There are certainly reasons for a ninja /gquit. Such as when your Raid Leader is a bully and the Officers you've talked to refuse to stand up to him. Or when the GL doesn't have anything to say to you that isn't full of venom and mean spiritedness and you are finally pushed a little bit too far. But unless you have the absolute worst luck, those situations are going to be the exception, and not the rule when it comes to why you decide to tell your guild Buh-Bye.

How Not to /gquit

If you want to leave your guild and still remain on good terms with the guildies you left behind, here are few things NOT to do:

  • DON'T make a passive aggressive post on the forums about how you really hate to leave but mysterious unnamed forces and their <insert conspiracy theory> leave you with no choice but to go to that raiding guild.
  • DON'T post your buh-bye note on the forums then linger around online, milking your goodbyes.
  • DON'T log on in the middle of a raid and dramatically /gquit.
  • DON'T /gquit without telling anyone what's up, and ideally, without talking to an officer or your GM to see if your issues are resolvable.
  • DON'T /w the guildies you left behind, chiding them for not camping on to your /gquit.
  • DON'T start actively recruiting for your new guild from the one you just left.
  • DON'T trash talk your guild or its members in trade or on the realm forums.
  • DON'T log back in to your old forums to gloat over the new loot/achievements you just got with your new guild, or to tell your former guildies how they should change all their raid strats to match what your new guild does.
  • DON'T decide to leave, and line up your new guild, but come to one last raid and blow all your DKP on BiS items. You may feel that you "earned it" but your guildies will be bitter you chose to take that payout and run.
  • DON'T take all that you can carry from the gbank.
  • DON'T be surprised if you DO all of the above and want to leave behind an alt and find them unguilded 48 hours later.

Making a Graceful Exit

It's really not that hard to leave a guild with style, leaving the door open for your eventual return, and reinforcing the friendships you are leaving behind. A few tips:

  • Make a thoughtful goodbye post.
    State honestly, but courteously, why you are leaving. Good examples are: leaving to raid more, to raid less, to play on another server with RL friends/spouse. If you're leaving because your RL is a bully or you have another such personal conflict with a guildie, your goodbye note is not the right place to get into those gory details. You are trying to make a graceful exit after all, remember? Stick with something honest but more general in such a case, such as the guild did not turn out to be quite the fit you are looking for.
  • Share any specific reasons you are leaving with an officer or the GL before you go.
    Ideally, you'll do this before saying your goodbyes. This helps the Officer team understand how the guild may be improved, or if there are any gaps between the recruitment process and the reality of everyday guild activities that may need to be addressed. For instance, if you were looking for a casual raiding guild, but are leaving because once every two weeks is a lot more casual than you were expecting, that's good actionable feedback. If you are leaving due to an ongoing issue that you'd informed officers about, consider sharing with a different person this time around to see if that message sinks in.

Leaving gracefully basically boils down to being considerate of others, and not surprising anyone. This goes double if you are in a position of leadership in your guild. When an officer or raid leader ninja server transfers or faction changes, or just /gquits and turns up in a competing guild  few moments later, it understandably leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

With Cataclysm on the horizon, we're going to see a bunch more folks coming and going as guilds shake out and develop their identity -- be it 10-man, 25-man, or no- raiding. You never know where your guildies are going to end up, so why not make an extra effort to ensure you don't end up on their personal "do not invite" list?

It's inevitable along the way to have one really guild break-up but there's no reason they should all be that way. Safe travels and good luck.


In Defense of Civility

Truth be told, much of what annoys me in-game about the behavior of other people boils down to civility. Specifically, a lack thereof. Some examples over the past few years of playing WoW:

  • Having to talk a guildie out of qguitting due to her absolute panic and hysteria over the teenage boy who refused, after being asked multiple times, to stop making dead baby jokes. The woman, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, had also lost a baby a year prior.
  • The men old enough to know better who pepper their vent chat with gender-specific vulgarities whenever fighting a female boss, and don't give the male bosses the same treatment.
  • The self-centered persons who ninja AFK and leave a team of others waiting for them to show back up to complete the dungeon/raid, never apologizing or explaining their absences.
  • The people who constantly ask for help, be it in the form of your time or handouts, who then never reciprocate.
  • The trade chat troll who spent hours at a time, wearing my guild tag, being condescending to and picking fights with the server at large, including other guild members on their unguilded alts.

I'm sure most people have seen some of the above examples during their game time. What they all have in common is a demonstrated lack of civility.

Civility.

n., pl., -ties.

  1. Courteous behavior; politeness.
  2. A courteous act or utterance.

Well-mannered behavior toward others: courteousness, courtesy, genteelness, gentility, mannerliness, politeness, politesse. See courtesy/discourtesy. A courteous act or courteous acts that contribute to smoothness and ease in dealings and social relationships amenity (used in plural), courtesy, pleasantry, politeness, propriety (used in plural). See courtesy/discourtesy.

That's the dictionary.com definition.

As you can see from some of the synonyms, civility seems to be a term better suited for a Merchant Ivory film than a blog about the World of Warcraft. Who cares about civilized discourse and politeness? Surely not anyone who gets behind a keyboard and picks up a pixelated sword, right? Wrong.

Civility Isn't an Antiquated Concept

Do you make plans with your friends and then not show up? And then never say anything to them afterward? Why is this OK if the plans are a raid signup and involving 24 other people?

Is your every day language at work, at home, and in social gatherings towards acquaintances full of expletives and racial slurs, and derogatory remarks against folks with sexual orientations that differ from yours?

Would you walk up to a group of women whose names you know but you in all honesty are not good buddies with, and start making dead baby jokes? And casually toss around a number of gender-specific sexual terms? Would you say these things in front of your sister/significant other/mother?

Why then so often is online chat too often full of all of the above?And why is it that when you approach someone about their lack of civility, you often are chided for trying to suppress their freedom of expression, or called the thought police? When did it become unfashionable -- or even extremist to hear some folks reactions -- to ask for courtesy in people's interactions with each other and expect a civil environment in which to play online?

At their core, many of the posts I've written here have boiled down to looking for the human beings on the other side of the computer screens to stop what they're doing and behave more like they would behave towards others they knew in their non gaming lives. The fact that I'm sitting in guild chat with you doesn't mean I have an expectation and desire for the level of your conversation to stoop well below what it would in your living room.

I'm not advocating for a G rated guild chat at all times, but I am advocating for the return of common sense.

Ways to Demonstrate Civility

  1. Think before you type. In person, rude and insensitive comments can fly out of your mouth before you have time to reflect upon them. Online, you're communicating with other via text. Read back what you are saying to someone before you hit enter. This is a major benefit of text-based communications. Take advantage of it.
  2. Be the better person. I don't care if it was someone else who started in with the crass commentary -- you are not obligated to join them. You have free will and the ability to make a better decision than they did.
  3. Don't be a dick (a.k.a. the DBAD rule.) Don't troll in trade to "light things up." Don't pick on a guildie in Gchat over something they are sensitive about. Don't treat the World of Warcraft as your personal soap box and megaphone, with your fellow players as the captive audience who can't walk away from you.

How to Cope with Others Demonstrating Incivility

  1. Let them know. Don't seethe with anger and lash out once you are past all points of patience. When the bad behavior/unwarranted commentary happens, whisper the person and ask them to knock it off. If it continues, or if it is malicious and directed publicly at another person, politely ask the offender to cease and desist, using the same channel the person is using for their behavior/comments.
  2. Set an example. No, I'm not saying make an example out of the offending person. I mean model the kind of behavior you want to see in other people. Exert peer pressure by being civil in your interactions with others. Even when you disagree.
  3. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. This is probably the hardest thing to do. And this is also why obscenity laws vary from state-to-state: what offends me or goes against my community's standards of acceptable behavior may not align with what offends you or what offends your community's standards of behavior.

As much as it boggles my mind at some of the comments and behavior people I don't know but am thrown together with over the Internet say and do, I can suspend my disbelief and think that there may in fact be a time and a place wherein they are within social norms and boundaries that favor them and not me. That said, however, the online space is neither my place nor their space -- it is a new shared space wherein we have to compromise and come to a workable and tolerable environment for all of us.

When All Else Fails

And for those die hards who refuse to modify their behavior in the face of guildie requests for a kinder gentler place online, you may do well to direct them to the Terms of Service for the game, which state:

Rules Related to "Chat" and Interaction With Other Users. Communicating in-game with other Users and Blizzard representatives, whether by text, voice or any other method, is an integral part of the Game and the Service and is referred to here as "Chat." When engaging in Chat, you may not:

(i) Transmit or post any content or language which, in the sole and absolute discretion of Blizzard, is deemed to be offensive, including without limitation content or language that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, hateful, sexually explicit, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable

Safe travels, adventurers.


Cataclysm to Take iLvl Out of the Mix for Deciding What Raid Size to Seat

If you were on twitter yesterday morning, you'd have thought the sky was falling. I was pre-coffee and pre-reading anything on MMO Champion or WoW Insider, so it took me a little while to decipher why there was 25 man raider versus 10 man raider sniping going on amongst my normally civil twitter reading list.

Lots of sniping that 25-man raiders weren't such special snowflakes. Other sniping that 10-man raiders were ruining WoW. People predicting their 25-man guilds would be falling apart. Pure chaos. And totally reminiscent of when Blizzard told us our 40-man raids were going by the wayside for Burning Crusade.

First, the Facts

  • 10- and 25- man raids in Cataclysm will share the same lockout.
    There should be no circumstances under which you kill a boss more than once per week on the same character. However, in the same way that you can decide on a per-boss basis whether to try normal vs. hard mode, we might allow you to change between 10 and 25 on a per-encounter basis for additional flexibility. If you started a raid in 25-player mode and then found that you couldn’t get everyone together later in the week, you might be able to downsize the next few bosses to 10-player.
  • 10- and 25- man bosses will drop the exact same items.
    We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we'll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They'll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items.
  • 25-man bosses will drop a higher quantity of loot, but not quality.
    We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people.

(source)

Now, My Thoughts on the Changes

The disparity between iLvl loot meant that many guilds that had great progress on 10-man content, and meh progress on 25s still felt obligated to cobble together 25-mans every week, even if for only a few bosses, to keep their players from falling behind in the gearscore gap. These changes will mean that successful 25-man guilds will gear up a bit faster than those doing 10s only, but that 10s will finally be able to be viable for guilds as a primary raid offer, without fear of losing their more ambitious raiders to 25s. Folks will be able to choose their raid size based on what is most appealing to them without the iLvl quandary thrown into the mix.

For a guild like mine, which any given week was able to field one night of 25s, 2 nights of official 10s, and up to a half dozen 10-man alt runs, I think there will be some interesting possibilities. Those of us who were used to running 25 and 10s each week now have a gift of time since we will have to pick one or the other to do. What will we do with it? I bet it means we'll work on those beloved alts more. At the start of WotLK I had 2 raiding mains, which was not optimal as they had to swap out for each other in 1 raid ID. But if they'd each been able to gear up and be played, that could have worked out longer term.

But more alts in raiding can be a tricky proposition. It will work if we all agree upon solid requirements for the raids overall -- and make the alts stick to them. It won't work if only the couple of official raids use them and the rest of the time it's a free-for-all. Some weeks, we might have enough people who want to raid on a given night to do a 25. Other weeks we might not. So if my 10-man team has been making great progress, why shouldn't I bring a different toon to the 25-man since I can't do both on my "main"? Which raid takes precedence? Who gets to make the choice? Will anyone even have a main anymore?

I have lots of questions at this point, and not so many answers. But overall, I think this will be a positive change for casual guilds that have struggled to fill 25s but had good success with 10s. It will keep the altoholics among us happy and busy (and playing those alts more in raids will probably also make us better at playing them.) And besides, how can we pursue archaeology if we're raiding 5 nights per week?

The sky didn't fall when we slimmed down to 25s from 40s with the launch of BC, though it did give folks the freedom to vote with their feet and find smaller guilds and other raiding teams to join. I'm cautiously optimistic that once Blizzard figures out the details, and we all have some time to reflect upon them, we'll determine our own paths for adjusting to these changes and getting our raids together.

Safe travels adventurers!

More Reading

Get some additional POVs on the changes from these fine folks:

How do you think it will affect your guild?

Our Victory is Your Victory

As those of you who read here regularly know, we've been making slow but sure progress through ICC10 on one ID. We typically run two 10 teams per week, but really only have enough top performing players to have 1 that's working on LK.

But starting with the night we killed Blood Princes I've noticed something disheartening: the sour grapes. Not even as much in the realm of people complaining to Officers about not being included in the progression team (only had a handful of that.) And not a ton of folks, mind you. But enough that you take notice.

More along the lines of peeps not saying grats when G chat lights up with an achievement for completing the wing. Or not giving a cheer in the kill thread on the forums. People who only have something positive to say if their nameplate is in the boss kill screenshot.

I know it sucks to be sat, or to not be able to attend on the nights we are working on progression fights. I sat a lot in my first 4 months as a pirate. (I barely eeked out a solitary Vezax kill as a matter of fact.) And I still sit every few weeks now so we can cycle in other DPS on weeks we have a signups overflow.

I feel like folks can forget we are a team. And the guild's success is OUR success as a whole. It's their $15, and I know I can't expect everyone to share my passion for the guild and our progress, but I would prefer to see all of our raiders enthusiastic and supportive of each other when one of our teams hits a milestone. Instead of just looking at what's in it for them.

I am going to miss ICC 25, and a night of 10s for vacation week. It is entirely possible that there will be some new boss kills I miss out on. And I will be right there cheerleading for the guild if we are so lucky as to get to see some kill shots on the forum.

Because the guild's success is MY success.

Yarrrgh!

P.S. Naie, I am looking at *YOU* to be in charge of nekkid screenshots in my absence.


Friendships: Warcraft Giveth and Warcraft Taketh Away

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Through the course of playing World of Warcraft for over four years, I've met a ton of great people that I am thrilled to have gotten to know over time. And I've also watched some friendships crash and burn spectacularly. That's the thing about MMOs -- there's all these other people involved. And things don't always turn out for the best when clashing agendas and differences of opinion insert themselves, especially in a raiding context. It seems like for every good friend you make, you also earn yourself a frenemy.

The Good

I haven't actively played my Alliance toons in over a year, yet I still try to log in at least once a week to chit chat with the peeps in my friends and family guild (/wave at Milchar and Thardon), and my favorite druid lady. Horde-side, I've made some great friends with whom I have spent way to much time chatting online. And then there are all the bloggers and twitter folks (looks at Deimonia and Psynister in particular.) I've come up with so many great ideas for things to write about and just, frankly, had such a great time as a result of meeting you guys online. This is one way in which I can say WoW has enriched my life -- it's brought me into contact with a great group of folks  that I share a wide variety of other interests with as well, whom I would not have otherwise met. That's priceless.

The Bad

Over brunch one weekend, a friend of ours who played Warcraft from BETA through the end of BC before calling it quits, mentioned that as being one of the reasons he'd stopped playing. He'd been part of a tight knit casual guild that was comprised largely of some of his former techie colleagues. That guild fell apart due to the GM's burnout and some real life friction the friends were having as an outcome of in-game behaviors. Basically, one of their guildies become a little monster once he was behind his keyboard. To the point that people didn't want to hang out with him IRL due to getting so angry with him in game for his bad attitude and greediness.

The Ugly

When a friend wants to start playing WoW, my first impulse is always to invite them to our alt guild, give them some bags, reroll an alt and play with them. I get excited sharing my love of the game with friends. But at this point in time, I am pretty dead set against encouraging a RL friend to apply to my main's guild, due to my most recent experience with that. For me, if I am a personal reference for an applicant in my guild, I feel that means I am at least partially responsible for ensuring they are a good fit, and ensuring they know what's expected of them behavior-wise in the guild. If your RL friend turns out to be someone who flakes on raids, gets saved to other raid IDs when scheduled for a guild raid, and generally acts like a greedy jerk when ever something shiny and purple drops, it reflects on you. And after having seen that happen even once, I know I just can't stomach it again. In that specific case, we *don't* hang out with that person IRL any more. Because it became all too clear we had vastly differing ideas on what constitutes acceptable, courteous behavior.

Virtual friendships can also have as much drama as the RL friend turned cyberjerk. Often, it's guild forums that turn virtual friends into cyber enemies. It's easy to come across as being condescending when replying to someone's comments, regardless of your intent. And it's also easy to come across as purposefully shutting down discussion when it doesn't agree with your point of view. And worse yet, some folks tread into the area of making personal attack comments against anyone who does post an opposing viewpoint. And that can completely shut down productive dialogue within your guild, and drive permanent wedges between folks who were formerly friends. And that's poison for any guild, and doubly so for a raiding team that must rely upon and trust each other.

How to Avoid the Pitfalls

  1. DBAD is the first rule of thumb. Behave towards others how you would behave towards your friends and family IRL. Yes, this is a just a game, and we are all a bunch of pixels, but there is a real live person behind that avatar, and it is your responsibility to remember that.
  2. Text is not always the best way to have a thorough discussion on a complicated issue. It is great to get things down in writing when you are ready to fine tune, but it can also easily lead to misunderstandings and drama because it lacks the nuances of speech.
  3. When things get hairy -- get on that Vent server. A 5-minute conversation can often resolve a several day, multi-thread misunderstanding.
  4. When something makes you really angry, give yourself a time out. Log out for 5 minutes. Draft that forum reply in a text editor and let it sit there for a few minutes. Give yourself a little bit of time and space to accurately evaluate your best next step. Often, doing nothing serves you a lot better than making a quick, off-the-cuff reply. Recent Internet dramas reminded me of this point.
  5. When you find you are upset with a friend on an ongoing basis about an issue, make time to talk to them about it, either in game or over vent. The longer you keep your annoyance to yourself, the greater the likelihood you'll blow up and put that friendship into the "beyond repair" pile.
  6. Remember that this is a game. The purpose is to have fun, with your friends. When it becomes a chore, or you feel you are at war with folks on the forums, or you are dreading logging in, this means it's time to take a break. You don't do yourself any favors when you log in and subject other folks to yourself while you are in that mindset.
  7. Give others -- and yourself a second chance. If you are a jerk to someone, apologize for your behavior, and try not to replicate that behavior. If someone apologizes to you, accept it and move on.
There's very little that goes on in game that merits a permanent grudge war with someone you considered to be a friend. Who wants to carry around all that ill will? Not me. Safe travels, adventurers.


When Raiders Only Partially Depart a Guild

When you've decided a guild's progression in raiding is not to your liking, or there are fundamental conflicts between the guild's raiding style and how you'd like things to be done, that's typically a good reason for a gquit. My horde guild has seen a few such gquits over the past few months, and I have to say, it was a good decision for the folks who did so, even tho I was personally bummed to see the folks go. 

What's been interesting to me over the years is seeing how many folks choose to leave their alts in their departed raiding team's guild, and still clock in on the guild forums each day. Because whenever I've left one raiding guild for another, I haven't felt the urge to keep a toe in where I was leaving, because I've never left on a whim -- it's always been due to some sort on intractable issue or incompatibility.

In most cases, I've done a full-scale move into a new guild. But on one occasion, I only moved my main out of my friends and family guild so she could raid, leaving all my alts behind. The alts' guild has not been raiding this expansion, so it wasn't any sort of an issue for folks that I'd done that. In fact, several members had done likewise once it was clear our scrappy little raiding team wasn't going to head into Naxx when the bulk of us hit 80. 

Former Raiders and the Guild Forums: Not a Match Made in Heaven

In the case of my first time in this position, our guild forums were not especially active, so my moving one character out and still spending a ton of time on my alts didn't cause even a ripple of drama. I wish I could say the same for other folks in that position in guilds that had a more active forums culture. In most cases, it became a source of ongoing drama in the guild until the person either voluntarily moved on, or had the gkick door hit them in the ass to show them the way out.

The primary issues that can flare up are pretty consistent:

  • Bragging about their new guild's progress. Guess what? The guild you left probably has had to struggle some as a result. They aren't really interested in hearing about your successes. And if they are, people will ask you directly.
  • Bagging on their old guild's policies/strategies. You chose to take your ball and go home by taking your raiding toon out of a guild. To me, that also means by choosing to be part of the problem, and not part of the solution to the issues that made you leave, you should also give up your right to lecture/ harangue/ complain/ berate others about said issues.
  • Providing unsolicited advice. The fact that your new guild flawlessly executed on a fight your old guild has been struggling on is not an open invitation for you to school them on how to do the fight. You forget you were right back here with the rest of us, struggling, not so long ago. I assure you, if folks want your advice and tips, they will most certainly ask for them. If you find yourself incapable of keeping unsolicited advice to yourself, go play on the WoW Forums or start a blog!
  • Continuing to fight old fights. You've gone on to greener pastures. Get over those old grudges. bury those old hatchets. Move on. Don't camp the forums and pick fights with the same people with whom you have been picking fights with for months.
  • No one cares at all about the new gear you've obtained. Your momma doesn't even care. Don't link it to us in chat. Or post about it on the forums. Seriously, no one cares. At best, it makes others think your primary motivation is lewt. And no one wants to be that guy.

Having been on both sides of the fence with this quandary, I have to say it's incredibly difficult in most cases to have someone move their raiding main to a new guild and maintain a collegial relationship with the guild they left their alts behind in. Even if you aren't engaged in any of the above guild forum faux pas, the folks you've left behind may perceive a hidden agenda in anything you say after you've left. And honestly, you've taken your ball and gone home. You can't expect others to not feel a little bitter about that.

That said, you may be in the position of having had a personality conflict with a guild leader that drove you out. Or some other big ticket issue that you tried really hard to resolve to your liking before finally going out the door. Your leaving on your main did not resolve that conflict. it is still there. And in some cases, it escalates the conflict. I suppose if you are someone who thrives on drama and conflict and loves to argue, this is a dream scenario. But I know for myself personally, it's neither fun to watch nor to participate in.

So What's a Guild to Do?

There are a few ways to minimize the conflict that can result when a main raider leaves the guild and wants to still participate on their alts.

The guild leadership can:

  1. Consider creating a special level of forums access that somewhat restricts the discussions in which these persons can participate. Give those left behind a place where they can talk about raiding challenges amongst the team -- without feedback from those whoa re no longer participating as part of the raiding team.
  2. Restrict moderation and special forums access only to those with mains participating in raids/the guild.
  3. Continue to check-in with guildies to see how they are feeling about their former raiding peers' interactions with them on the forums. If the scale tips too far into the bad, you risk losing currently active members over those who've already left you once.

The guild member can:

  1. Consider the issues described above and try to participate in a respectful manner on the forums.
  2. If you had a conflict with a specific guild leader, put them on ignore. You can make your friends swear to tell you if they are talking crap about you. Ignoring them doesn't make the conflict disappear, but it keeps your blood pressure down and can keep drama from flaring up.
  3. Make sure you are remaining in the guild on your alts for the right reason, i.e. because you really love playing with the members. The wrong reasons include because you want a safety net in case your new guild doesn't work out, or because you want to show everyone else how awesome you are and they aren't.
  4. Check in with yourself often to make sure it's still working out for you to continue your dual life. It's hard to maintain friendships -- or even get to know new members -- when your primary play time sink is outside of the guild. Knowing when to say goodbye and leave on good terms can be hard. Which is why it is important to periodically self-evaluate how things are going.
How does your guild handle this sort of a situation?

Personal Accountability: A Raider's Checklist

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It's really easy to be that guy who posts a complaint in your guild's forums about how everyone did a crappy job last night in the raid. Or to start pointing fingers via raid chat and vent when things start to go south. But regardless of how thoughtful or valid your criticism may be, if you're not doing everything you personally can to help your raid be successful, your comments are going to fall on deaf ears. Because if you don't demonstrate personal accountability, frankly, no one is going to listen to your point of you.

What is personal accountability?

Personal accountability in a raiding setting can be roughly defined as being aware of how your personal actions and decisions contributes to the overall success or failure of the raid. That's right, YOU. Regardless of what your raid role is. Your choices and actions affected the outcome of that last raid in which you participated. Not just what everybody else did.

When tempted to start diagnosing the causes of a less than spectacular raiding night, you need to start with looking at yourself, and answering these questions:

Did I come to this raid prepared?
  • Did I read the strats/watch a video of the fights with which I am less familiar?
  • Was I online, gear repaired, with all my reagents/consumables, en route to or already at the raid location at invite time?
  • Did I ensure my significant other/parent/dog understood I was going to be unavailable to them for the course of the raid time, and was OK with me spending the entire raid time online, not tending to them?
  • If I know in advance that I can not stay through the end of the raid for some unavoidable reason (think called in to work, not buddy called and wants to go grab some beers), did I tell the raid leader beforehand so I could be replaced either for the whole raid or the portion I can not attend, or better yet did I line up my own replacement?
Now that I'm at the raid, am I focused on the task at hand?
  • Did I turn off IM, minimize the Farmville, turn off the TV so I can pay attention to the raid?
  • Am I listening to Vent/TeamSpeek at a reasonable volume so I can hear anything my raid leader is trying to tell me?
  • Have I turned off any downloads/backups/console Internet connections that might cause me to lag horribly or DC?

Am I correctly performing the role I am assigned?

  • Did I switch targets when the raid leader asked me to do so, or did I stay on the boss or AOE instead?
  • Did I get in your fair share of interrupts/dispells/cleanses? Or did someone else on the team get stuck doing all that heavy lifting?
  • If I was asked, for the good of the raid, to swap into my off spec, did I do so pleasantly, or did I grumble/whine/complain/threaten to log off and hold up the raid for 10 minutes while arguing that someone else should have to swap roles and not me?
  • If someone else had the same job assigned, did I perform roughly the same as they did?
  • Did I die in a pool of slime, or in a fire, or in some other place I should not have been standing?
  • Did I die from pulling aggro off the boss?
  • Was I the first to die in every fight, due to some sort of avoidable issue/mechanic?

Am I playing my class to the best of its potential?

  • Is all my gear properly enchanted and gemmed?
  • Do I roughly understand the stat weightings for my gems and enchants, to evaluate which gem/enchant is better?
  • Is my main spec gear appropriate? i.e. I am not trying to heal in hit gear, or tank in DPS gear, or DPSing in PvP gear.
  • Do I know what a good solid rotation is that makes the most of my special abilities and cooldowns?
  • If there is someone else in the raid with my same spec, am I performing roughly as well as they are? If not, do I know why not? (Hint: If they are doing 2K more DPS than you, blaming their two pieces of better gear is not going to fly as a reason for that disparity)
  • If I am in a raid with someone who plays my same class/spec and they are a superstar, do I check recount and raid logs and armory or even PM them to see how I might improve my performance?

Tough Love

This is a big checklist. And from time-to-time, we're going to slip up in one of these areas, such as by not knowing, after a patch, our most effective rotation. Or maybe we forget and put on a piece of gear we got last night and didn't yet gem. These kind of goofs happen and are forgivable. But if you can't confidently check off most of these items, you are not in the best position to be offering up your unsolicited advice as to what the raid's problems are.

Because you are, in fact, one of those problems.

But the good news is, the checklist doesn't just show you potential issues, most items also include the "how to resolve the issue" portion too. No one expects their raid members to be perfect. But most folks do expect you to give a damn, and to make an effort. Addressing any gaps you have ID'd via this checklist is a great start.


Keeping it to Yourself: Lich King Edition

I've previously made the case for keeping Patch 3.3 Spoiler Free. And I have been happy to have kept myself in the cone of silence until I was able to see things for myself. But yesterday's buzz over the data mining of the Lich King cinematic makes it a good time to revisit the topic.

As soon as I started seeing the twitter buzz, I made my plea:

internets plz 2b keeping your lich king spoilers clearly marked so peeps don't get spoiled not by choice.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Re-Tweeted a few times. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who wants to experience Arthas 1st hand when we eventually get to him. I wouldn't have watched a Sephiroth FFVII spoiler back in the day either. I don't shake my Christmas presents to try to guess what they might be. I don't read the final page of a novel first. I do like for a few things to be in the moment surprises.

First of all a big THANK YOU! to MMO Champion and WoW Insider for keeping their article headlines, which show up on feed readers all around the Web, clearly marked as containing spoilers inside, and not hinting at what they might entail.

I can totally understand the curiosity about what's going to happen next, and that some folks want to know now. I don't care if others ant the spoilers; I just hate when I get them not by choice. I'd like to think folks don't purposefully spoil stuff for others, rather that they get caught up and spill the beans. But the same way you wouldn't blab the ending of a new movie or the seasonal finale of LOST this year if you are on the East Coast to everyone, if you choose to read the spoilers, please think twice before sharing them some place the unwary can't avoid them.

GOOD: Behind an LJ Cut, behind a blog cut tag with lots of SPOILER! copy around it. BAD: On twitter, in guild chat, in various and sundry WoW chat channels. MARVELOUS: the #wrongspoilers the tweeps I follow were posting last night. Not only did a number of them make me LOL, they'll be sure to confound google real time search as well. mwahaha.

Happy Adventuring and thanks everyone for keeping this patch as spoiler-free as you have.


Countering a Misconception

On our Festergut 25 attempt this past Monday, I was blessed with being placed in the melee group. This meant I didn't get the barfs and could stand still and DPS the boss except when I was gifted with a spore I had to run to a ranged team. My DPS increased by 1300-1500 thanks to this placement And as expected, there was at least one public case of ruffled feathers over this placement.

Why did a shadow priest get this coveted placement over another DPS? Aren't shadow priests the class least affected by the having to run to and fro for Festergut? Alas, no, which should have been clear to the person asking me these questions if they had reviewed our raid logs. It takes a while for shadow priest DPS to ramp up. First, you have to get your 5 stacks of shadow weaving up. Next, you have to keep on refreshing that SW:P that you put up after those 5 stacks and during the use proc of your trinket, careful not to let it drop off. And finally, you want to keep your other DoTs up, without clipping them unnecessarily.

Yes, Devouring Plague is an instant cast. But Vampiric Touch isn't -- it has a cast time so I can't cast it on the run. Ditto for Mind Blast. And Mind Flay is a channeled spell. And my Muradin's Spyglass rocks as long as I keep up my10 stacks at all times. So, not sure how one would come to think that the running in and out for spores would somehow not affect my DPS. I'm not just going to fling out DP until I am out of mana to try to keep the DPS flowing. And since you asked, no, in a fight with the entire raid taking damage, I'm not inclined to Shadow Word: Death myself either.

Being put on the spot, by someone I don't really know, who was jonesing for the special placement I'd gotten (which had netted me our #2 damage done slot overall for the fight, #4 on DPS) made me pretty uncomfortable. Personally, I wouldn't have brought it up in guild chat, or proceeded to whisper a guildie, asking them to justify why they deserved the spot. I stood in the middle because that's what my raid leader asked me to do, just as the prior week I'd stood at range, gotten the pukes just about every go, and done significantly less DPS.

This brings up a larger issue for me though which is not presuming to tell others how to play their class. Telling a guildie who excels at their class that they should do XYZ instead of what they are doing is out of line. Period. Firstly, it's not your business; if they want suggestions from the team they'll ask. And secondly, you don't top the damage charts by doing it wrong. You really don't. I promise. Facerolling OPd class du jour excepted, of course.

When in doubt, keep your opinions to yourself. When my guildie confessed he was jealous of my placement, after the harangue about my playing, I said "yeah." Because that much was apparent already, or we wouldn't have been having the conversation. A conversation that, to be totally honest, really turned me off. So next time you get the urge to offer some unsolicited advice to someone, considering keeping it to yourself. Or go tweet your thought or write a blog post. Your raid will be the better for it.


Keeping it to Yourself: Request for a Spoiler-Free Patch

As progress has been made on Patch 3.3, and files have been datamined and PTR time has been sent, a lot of Lore-related content has been posted on the Interwebs. And I made the decision not to read any of it. I want my first forays into Icecrown Citadel to be ones of discovery. In fact, that's a big reason why I didn't try  out the PTR.

My SO was lucky enough to have been part of WotLK BETA for a few months. I was able to poke around and learn everything I wanted to know about the profession and talent changes. And yes, I worked out my 3.0 build, my leveling build, and my lvl 80 build for my main well before the expansion hit the shelves. But even then I drew the line at spoiling the content for myself.

My first time through the Wrathgate cinematic, for instance, was amazing and moving. And it wouldn't have been as much so if I had seen it for the first time on Youtube. It involved my favorite Alliance hero, Bolvar Fordragon, who plays a large part in the new raid instance to come. And that is already more than I wanted to know in advance, but it was pretty much unavoidable.

Not all of us will hop into the 5-mans tonight when the servers come up. And my raid team is not scheduled to start content until Thursday. And thus, I make a small plea: when talking about content and Lore spoilers that this patch introduces, for at least this first week or so, please mark your post clearly with SPOILER. Hide spoiler content behind a cut or a jump.

Just like you don't want to find out what you're getting for Christmas by seeing a receipt in the trash can, I don't want to glean everything that is in store for me in 3.3 second or third-hand.

May your adventures in Icecrown be fruitful.

cheers,

Anexxia


We're Not Friends

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"We're not friends. We're just online acquaintances."

This phrase, spat out over Vent in a mad GM rage, was one of the first hard lessons I learned playing WoW. It came from the mouth of the GM of what had been a fun friends and family guild that had some success with 10 man BC raiding, but was at loggerheads over an elephant in the room that went by the name of Our Main Tank Who Is Terrible But Since She is a Girl Our GM Has a Sort of Crush On We All Have to Compensate For It. For brevity, let's just call her Bad Tank. And in case you think I am being harsh, said tank could not stance dance (even after we all showed her how to do so via macro) so I did not get a Nightbane kill in Kara until I changed guilds. But I digress.

Our GM put us all in our place the night he flipped out. He made it clear that our roles in his life, as far as he was concerned, were interchangeable/replaceable cogs that allowed him to complete heroics and facilitate raiding. We would do as we were told or we could gtfo. We were not to confuse ourselves with having such an exalted status as that of friend. He did not give a crap about our opinions or feelings unless they were along the lines of how great a GM he was. And in this specific instance, he cared more about not hurting Bad Tank's feelings by replacing her with a more able tank on that fight than he cared about frustrating the rest of the guild. He lost three of his most competent raiders, but he was happier that way. Well, until Bad Tank stopped playing a week later to go horde with her new boyfriend. Cough.

His venomous assertion that we guildies were not his friends took me by surprise, to be frank. After our months of raiding together, hearing his tales of woe both job and girl related, I had started to think of him as a friend, not just some avatar I visited at my convenience when I wanted some new loot. Yes, I'd had fallings out with friends IRL before, but I'd never had someone say to me "we're not friends" with an undercurrent of superiority and arrogance.

The big lesson here of course is my perception of reality does not equal your or anyone else's perception of the same situation or place in time. And until someone gets a BFF tattoo with your name on it or mails you a gaily wrapped dragonling as a present, don't make any assumptions about your relationships with other people. Like my mom's smart ass boyfriend always said "You know what happens when you assume, right? You make an Ass out of U and Me." I have to remind myself of this unpleasant experience whenever the "but I thought we were friends..." phrase pops into my head in light of an interaction gone awry.

The crappy thing about this particular lesson is I've had to repeat it more than once, because it just never sinks in for me. I'm hard-headed and soft-hearted that way. If only the armory had a friend stat or achievement so you could more accurately gauge your friend faction with your online acquaintances. Maybe they'll add that to the guild functionality in the expansion.

;)

Until then, I'll keep on fighting the good fight, and keep on treating as friends the folks who make my online experience a fun way to spend my time. And as for those that turn out not to be friends after all? Well that is what ignore's for, and I've got a full 25 free spots I can fill, with 25 more after 3.3. You can't be on the same page with everyone all the time. All you can do is be true to yourself.

cheers.

Addressing Growing Pains Before You Need a Splint

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With all the progress our casual guild has made over the past few months, it was inevitable we would have some growing pains. If you've ever been a part of a guild that was slowly but surely progressing into uncharted territory raiding-wise you've probably been through something similar:

  • Raid team has first half of raid on farm; previously disinterested guildies start signing up for farm night
  • A surge of new guild applicants all wanting to raid
  • As you near the final raid boss, the core raiding team members whom made the progress possible finds themselves losing rolls on major upgrades -- or on raid spots for that matter -- to folks who have attended one raid in three months
  • Forums drama ensues

A guild that lacks strong leadership or vision often crumbles in the midst of these sort of growing pains. Luckily for us, our thoughtful and inclusive officer team talked out these frustrations, and allowed us all as a guild to transform our vision of the guild's approach to end game raiding.

The officers, after taking in guild discussion, came back to the forums with proposals -- not mandates-- that they received additional feedback on. A primary issue they addressed was we were leaning heavily upon three guildies for all our raid leading and strategy. In addition to burning them ut, it gave some less frequent raiders a sense they could show up, go through the motions, loot, and profit. We needed more raiding team involvement in making the raids happen and to thus lead to better engagement (and ultimately, have a strong end game raid team ready for Icecrown Citadel, and to be fielding a strong 25 man raid of some sort in house.)

Not All Raiders Are Created Equal

The first major task that was undertaken was to evaluate the raiding performance of all our frequent raiders over the past few months. From that evaluation, we came up with 2 separate lists of raiders -- those ready for hard modes and the top tier of raiding instances, and those better suited for Ulduar and our "farm" raiding. These two lists also came with updated performance standards, which I am sharing here as I realize how much time it took to get a good SWAG going for them (and in some cases, we are still trying to nail down the numbers).

  • Trial of the Crusader/25
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor TBD, Health TBD
    Heals: 2400 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 400 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: 3000 dps
  • Trial of the Crusader/10
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor 24k, Health 31k (unbuffed)
    Heals: 2300 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 400 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: 2500 dps
  •  Ulduar
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor 23k, Health 28k (unbuffed)
    Heals: 2000 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 250 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: Day1: 2200 dps. Day 2: 2400 dps.

These numbers seem pretty readily attainable for anyone willing to put in the time. My newly faction-transferred elemental/resto shaman, who sat in some Naxx gear, unplayed, since January, is Ulduar ready after a few weeks of badges and ToC 5-man drops. And with her totems down she meets the ToC 10 healing minimums, which means that is within reach soon as well, were she to have been my raiding toon.

Get a Job

The second major component of our raiding revamp was to actively solicit more raid member involvement in planning and running the raids. Our initial list of proposed roles for the two tiers of raiding included:

  • Raid Scheduler
  • Raid Strategist
  • Raid Reporting
  • Raid Role Captain (i.e. Heal Lead, Tank Lead, DPS Lead)
  • Raid Recruiter
  • Loot Master
  • Raid Leaders

The final component of our changes is the introduction in the end game raids of EPGP points accrual and loot bidding. Taking into account compensating those heading into uncharted territory for a night of wiping, and making it less frequently possible that an occasional raider would attend a raid and scoop up the one item for which a core raider had been waiting.

Our approach isn't a cure-all for these issues, and won't work in a guild with officers whose sense of self-worth is tied to wielding their power over the raids. But for our passionate, engaged raiders, it's going to be a welcome change. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.


Friday Five: Five Signs That a WoW Friend May Actually Be a Frenemy

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With friends like Kanye, you wouldn't really need enemies. All the Kanye memes this week got me to thinking that many of us have folks like him on our friends list. For those of you not familiar with the term, frenemy, popularized by the episode of the same name in Season 3 of Sex and the City, is a term comprised of the words fri(end) and enemy, giving you a term that refers to someone who pretends to be a friend but actually is an enemy.

And thus, I bring you, five signs that your "friend" is actually more of a frenemey:

  1. They've replied to your squee about an achievement or a rare drop more than once with a reply that reminds you they've already been there and done that.
  2. They never seem to actually ever compliment you on anything you do, giving you a backhanded compliment at best. In fact, often rather than gratzing you personally for your achievements, they've given you an ungrats-- congratulating your guild or your raid on your accomplishments, or worse yet, using that old uncompliment "I haven't had a chance to congratulate you on..." which is still not a congratulations any way you shake it.
  3. They listened to you when you sighed about needing only a Malygos run for your Frozen Wastes title then made sure to set up a raid for the one day they knew you couldn't make it.
  4. You are up for a guild promotion but they don't say anything in your favor. No, wait they did say that for the amount of time you have available and have been playing you aren't that bad at your class.
  5. They cry bitter tears in blog posts and tweets when a raid fails due to your not being able to be there yet on a day-to-day basis you are never sent a tell, or directly invited to come to heroics, or given any indication at all that you are an important person in their grand scheme of things.

    BONUS: They leave a horse head in your bed.

Once you've identified a frenemy, there are two options open to you: call them on it or cut them loose. If you think the frenemy's irrational competitiveness and jealousy of you may be due to some sort of misunderstanding on their part, sitting them down for a chat can be a good tact to take. But often, it's not something you can sort out. You'll never be on the same page as some folks. And that's when it's important to give yourself permission to cut them loose. Turn that frenemy into a non-entity and save yourself some stress/lower your blood pressure!

For more true stories on frenemies and how to spot them, check out the most recent edition of the always compelling This American Life podcast.

Kanye meme graphic posted by cosmic_iris on Wow Ladies.


Rolling With the Punches vs. Taking Your Toys and Going Home

Yesterday morning, I was chatting with a friend who is still in the same raiding guild I started my raiding career with over three years ago. When I asked her how their progress was going, and how she liked the new raid, I was surprised to hear things were up in the air: their two primary raid leaders had pretty much stopped playing.

Me: "Why has [MT] stopped playing? Was he mad that pally tanks kick warrior tanks butts now?"

Her: "Well...he was getting mad that [PallyTank] pulled off him and tanuted his mobs a few too many times and refuses to raid with him. And since [PallyTank] has pretty much been our MT...he's almost never on."

Me: "Right. So this is just like right before BC came out when he said his shaman will be his new main until Blizzard 'fixes it so warriors are the best tanks again.'"

Her: "I forgot about that..."

Me: "Yeah well since his crazy is why I left the guild...it's been funny to see this specific issue crop up repeatedly. The funny part is, if he looked past his wounded ego and read MMO champion on any blue trackers, he'd see that [PallyTank] isn't intentionally doing any of that, as I am sure he has told [MT]. It's a known issue Blizzard actually *is* going to fix."

The moral to this story? World of Warcraft is a game. It's supposed to be fun. So when you find yourself on the verge of flipping out over something you think someone else is doing to you intentionally, calm down and zip your mouth. Log off for a while if you need to. You are not always right. Also, just as in real life, change is a constant. Today's hot DPS class is tomorrow's wallflowers. Yesterday's tank glut is tomorrow's tank famine. But the bridges you burn today, freaking out without knowing all the facts, often stay burnt.


Time Off for Bad Behavior

I-stalks5 Tonight I witnessed absolutely the silliest /gquit I've seen in my 3 1/2 years of playing.

A healer in our 10 man Naxx run logged off in the middle of the raid. After a minute, she logged back on and /gquit. What was her reason? Because the run had wiped on the eyestalks.

Um, what?

No, the run did not wipe repeatedly on the eyestalks. They somehow wiped once.And this person.../gquit over it.

I have three small words for this person should I ever see her again: Grow. Up. Already.

Shit happens.

I can only imagine how such a person behaves IRL when someone in her life doesn't perform perfectly.

Ours is a fun and friendly guild. In the end, all you can truly say is good riddance, and goodnight.

(super cute GIF courtesy of [info]oftwominds)


My WoW State of the Union

In the three years I’ve been playing World of Warcraft, I’ve gone from a friends and family guild, to a casual raiding guild, to a hardcore raiding guild, back to a casual raiding guild, and, ultimately, back to a friends and family guild pre-Wrath, after getting burn-out from our casual raiding guild turning into 4-5 nights per week of raiding, led by an unpleasant/childish/manipulative raid leader who cowed the guild officers into turning a blind eye to his behavior in the name of progression above all else. Whew. Deep breath after that bear of a sentence.

And now, with two 80s decked out in the best crafted gear possible, plus heroic and some faction rewards gear…I am working on a third 80. And I’m itching to raid again.

Our casual guild was able to clear Kara each week, so we’d hoped that momentum would carry through into Wrath, so we could progress slowly through Wrath 10-man content with a group of fun, friendly folks. But that is not what happened, unfortunately.

The friend who joined the guild with us hit 80 first, followed by myself and my significant other. After a month, we had 2 other 80s in the guild, for five total. By the New Year, we had a couple of 78s, another 80, and my SO and I had our second 80s. You can see where this is headed.

Overall, there was a lack of concentrated guild interest in working on leveling to 80 and doing heroics. Raiding was not even a distant twinkle in most members’ eyes. And thus the other two folks who had leveled to 80 around the same time as us left to join established raiding guilds.

This puts my SO and I in the position of deciding what our next steps are. Do we stick it out indefinitely with the friends and family guild, leveling our other two 70s a piece to 80? Or do we leave with one or more characters for a casual raiding guild? Or is it the right time to commit to our horde characters?

Clearly, a Pros/Cons list is in order. And as bad luck would have it…our DSL provider has killed our Internet connection, which means I have a lot of time to think about it.