Category Archives: Guild Leadership

[Wildstar] Oh wow, that raid attunement

So I like attunements. I missed them a little when WoW made away with them entirely, mostly because it’s always an all-or-nothing approach with some developers. I like attunements for their symbolic value: they’re a rite of passage and as such an opportunity to add meaning to the event of unlocking a raid dungeon for your character. Perfect time to have a special quest chain with the obligatory lore tidbits before you send your players off to the abyss or city above the clouds, or wherever it is they are going. Think the personal storyline in GW2 for instance, doable enough for any player on his way to level-cap, plus one Arah run on normal mode. Fair enough.

What attunements absolutely shouldn’t be is a way to divide your playerbase and essentially make it excruciatingly frustrating to nigh impossible for the more casual crowd, which constitutes the majority of your paying customers, to ever experience endgame or raid content. It makes no sense to create content for your top 1% or even top 5% and that’s a lesson Blizzard learned down the line, to a point where even flex raids have become a reality.

After seeing Carbine’s excessive 12-step attunement to 40man raid entry in Wildstar (thanks Jeromai!) which makes a 100 jailbreaks look decent, I am trying very hard to stay cool and understand what they were thinking and cui bono? Not the l33t kids and top guilds either, surely – anyone who has ever run a raid guild in WoW (or elsewhere) and been in charge of recruitment, shudders at the prospect of finding suitable recruits or getting new people attuned over and over just to access raiding in Wildstar. And we’re talking 40man. Good luck with that roster, the competition is on!

While reserving ultimate judgement is probably the way to go while the game is new and we’re all newbies still, it’s hard to stay positive when reading through the same old vitriolic forum discussions of “casual versus hardcore” that 12-step attunement infographic has sparked in Wildstar’s early community. An infographic which by the by, is brought to us not by Carbine but your self-proclaimed staple elitist guild, sporting core values such as “If you want to bring your shitty girlfriend along, I will personally show you where to shove it” on their about-page.

That’s my main issue right there, the fact that Carbine consciously or not, are catering to this type of demographic rather than their core playerbase. I’m not sure they realize it yet, just as they clearly didn’t foresee what one PvP realm per region would do to launch day. Yeah, sometimes developers don’t have the ultimate foresight. That’s also why I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and 6 months at most before they nerf Wildstar’s raid entry requirements considerably. They seem at odds with everything else I’ve seen of the game so far and Carbine have proven they’re in touch with community feedback before.

It would be a great shame to see this game go down a similar road as GW2; no endgame or inaccessible endgame is all the same to me. That said, early days friends, early days.

Why do we raid?

While rounding up last weeks numerous posts on multi-classing and writing an article on my private immersion (yeah that’s still gonna happen), I came across Jeromai’s recent post on GW2 and the latest Origins of Madness patch. It made me chuckle.

Jeromai displays a particularly fascinating case of raiding malaise in the sense that he dislikes almost everything about MMO raiding, including its basic nature – many of the inherent challenges and social dynamics that make raiding such an exciting activity for others –

Nor am I terribly keen on the idea of separating oneself from players that are playing poorly on average because it’s easier and more rewarding to be elitist and isolate oneselves, than to lead, coordinate and teach. (Though I recognize that it is a reality of life, and periodically tempting, especially when you can’t take repeating yourself any longer.)[…]My other pet peeve about raid bosses is regarding the clarity of mechanics and gimmicks of whatever it is one is to do.

[…]There’s the waiting.[…]There’s the suffering involved with matching schedules and timezones.[…]And there’s that old bugaboo of needing to rely on other people to perform well while not being able to help them much at all.

Now to be clear, I have suffered from all of the administrative side-effects mentioned by Jeromai for most years of my raiding in WoW. A good while ago, I published an article called “Vanilla Raiding – A Trip Down Memory Lane” reminiscing on all aspects of the insane raiding prep, downtimes and aggravation that was part of vanilla WoW’s competitive endgame. Players joining WoW later are unaware of how much more convenient things have become since. I can sing a hundred songs about the woes of 40man raid coordination that include the most trivial and silly of things – yet, we lost sleep over them at one time or another.

Yet, I love raids. I love the cooperative idea of raids. In answer to Clockwork’s more recent Wildstar 40man worries, yes I still love 40mans too. Since we really don’t know much yet about Wildstar, I’ll focus on WoW which seems to be the general reference anyway: 40mans had a lot of bad in vanilla WoW but if you compare my nostalgia post with today’s situation, the way class and gameplay mechanics have changed drastically over time, much of the old raiding downtimes have been removed completely. That starts with things like having guild agendas and guild banks, diverse and instant raid buffs and boons, dual specs….and ends with the removal of progression hoops such as atunements or resistance gear. Oh and flex raids, thank you.

That doesn’t necessarily make 40mans easier but it sure as hell reduces the more aggravating and redundant aspects all around setting up, recruiting and raiding effectively. Because underneath all the organizational hassle, coordinated large scale raiding is an absolute blast and unlike smaller raid units, allows for a more lenient roster in which it is possible to make up for that weaker player or three. It’s nonsensical that MMOs with few to no mechanisms of social control or pre-selective hoops before endgame, should toss players right into some of the hard-ass, unforgivable encounters that are 10-25mans, the way we know them in WoW.

However, returning to Jeromai’s well argued points on raiding, he also dislikes core characteristics such as the clarity of mechanics (and associated learning tactics) or the need to rely on other people’s performance. Now, if you raised a poll on a given MMO’s raid forum, you would probably find these listed among the primary reasons why many people currently love to raid. It’s a huge challenge to coordinate big raids and yes, it involves time often spent on someone else than yourself. But equally, the reward of beating such high-req encounters is unforgettable – a feeling many raiders live for. As an ex-healing coordinator, I would also add that I’ve always loved the “extra work” that comes with guiding others, improving team work and progressing together.

PUGs and mass zergs have their appeal because they’re all too often the only alternative to setup/balance restrictions and recruitment headaches in MMOs. However for myself, nothing truly beats your own guild’s smooth raid machine that you yourself have oiled together with your mates over months and years. That sense of group progression. I do miss that. A lot.

I got the first twilight draaaaake!! That’s pre-nerf!

There is also a rewarding aspect in learning raid tactics and then getting them to be performed perfectly. I am not a fan of “synchronized swimming” or static combat but it’s worth pointing out how that’s a different type of challenge; not primarily a challenge of finding all new solutions (as most guilds don’t do blind raids) or spontaneous action maybe but one of coordination, balance, communication and perfection. Let’s put it this way: any long-term successful raid guild in WoW is also an achievement in different social skills.

I realize how some of my views presented here appear to clash with more recent preachings on active combat or more playstyle freedom – but at the very core of encounter and combat design, I don’t think these things need be mutually exclusive.  In a world of more flexible raids, with less unproductive downtimes and more dynamic combat, I am all game for large scale guild raiding! The only thing that worries me is time. It still takes time to raid in a dedicated, competitive fashion, that won’t just change completely. And I realize given my current circumstances, I might simply not be eligible for that type of focused play in MMOs anymore and well, that’s okay. That’s on me. We’ll see what future games will do about the casual hardcore.

On difficulty in WoW and social control in MMOs

The following article is a follow-up to this topic by Klepsacovic. For full context, please head there first (including comments). I would like to second his clarifications on using (relative and problematic) terms such as ‘good/top’ or ‘bad/sub-par’ players for the second half of this argument. No player is always just good or bad and good players always benefit from the presence of someone a little weaker.

Difficulty in WoW for the average player, lvls 1-80

On social control in MMORPGs
Admittedly, I have omitted one more lesson of WoW’s current “difficulty syllabus” in the above picture: heroics. If we look at the stark discrepancy between WoW’s leveling game from 1-84 vs. the huge step-up of entering a serious raiding scene, we must give credit to the implemented bridge between the two. In theory, WoW players are supposed to stick to this schedule:


5-man dungeons and heroics are the “gate-keeper” to raiding; or at least that’s how it’s intended. At the very latest, this is when a new player is introduced to cooperative group-play. Here he is pushed to learning his class and role, here he is questioned, here he is geared up for the challenges ahead. Here he understands the importance of strategy and communication before class is dismissed.…If only!

No matter how Blizzard have tried to hard-tune their raid-entry dungeons in Cataclysm, heroics do not fulfill their assigned role as necessary stepping stone between noobland and the unforgiving reality of many raid encounters. Getting into a raid is relatively easy, but many are ill prepared for the individual challenge and pressure that awaits. For guilds and recruitment this means a big crowd of potential candidates with the barest pre-selection.

For one thing, there are too many ways in which players can avoid challenging and maybe stressful/frustrating 5-man runs (for example by gearing up in other ways). More importantly though: in an MMO with cross-server LFG no reliable means of player selection or preparation exist. The purpose of the training phase is undermined in a game of anonymity. Here’s why:

Let’s have another look at yes – vanilla WoW. Back then, we had 5-mans too at lvl 60 and hard ones they were (hello Stratholme 1.0 & Co.). We didn’t have heroics, normal modes were bad enough. Gear was important and there were no ways around acquiring your starter raid-gear (8-piece sets on random drop!) from in there. Then, there were also attunements and resistance gear which kept sending you back in frequently, not just for yourself but those you were trying to help out.For the MC raidguild looking at a potential, ready-looking candidate at the time, this meant the following: not only had this person leveled from 1-60, he had also jumped all hoops in order to gain entry and had made it through all essential lvl 60 dungeons (many times) to gather his gear sets. More so, he had succeeded in finding/organizing and finishing runs with groups of your own server continuously. If you hadn’t heard of said player in negative terms up to that point, if he wasn’t on any spoken or unspoken blacklist by that time, there was a pretty good chance that this was your guy! Even if not quite that – at the very least, there was full confirmation of this player being incredibly motivated and experienced enough to raid.

There are no similar pre-raiding hoops in today’s WoW and heroic gear tells us very little about a player. Maybe he is a complete fail who only ever made it by jumping from one LFG group to the next while being an anonymous ass, ninja-looter, rage-quitter. Who knows – you certainly don’t! Who can say how somebody behaves in a cross-server group? Who can judge how well a player truly performed in order to gain his gear? Even if he let himself carry (or cooked his dinner during runs), he certainly didn’t need worry about not being re-invited to a next group (as tank/healer within the next 5 minutes). No social pressure – no social control.

We need the concept of social control for functional communities. We need the dynamic of reputation. We need small enough server communities for social interaction to become meaningful and transparent. We need consequences. The last thing we need is anything cross-server or bigger. Guilds and smaller groups don’t benefit from quantity, they benefit from quality.And so does the individual player, by the way; black sheep aside, it’s not exactly fun to be the “weak link” in a raid guild. It’s not a nice awakening to realize you are ill prepared. It’s disappointing and stressful to end up in a place too early. In a game of unforgiving raid mechanics (which is the situation I base this argument on), you want and need proper hoops early.

How I became a different person
I used to be the raider who loved vanilla raids for being 40man; the scale, the epic kills and also the hilarious chaos (and challenge to order the same). I loved being part of a mixed crowd and running raidguilds that had colorful characters in them. I liked having merry minstrels and jokers along for the ride, to share good moments and laughs on our way.I liked being able to afford “clowns” in our raids.I was never a l33t player and I don’t consider myself “hardcore”, despite having always been a core member and healing coordinator in dedicated top guilds. Fame, loot and kills are all nice and dandy, but I want to share them with good folks and have fun together. I want both, the close-knit team and serious raids. If this means I need to cut back on the first and heroic kills in order to have that – fine in my books (as long as I still experience most of the content). I don’t seek the affirmation that comes from being nummero uno on a ladder, nice as it may be. I frankly also never wanted more than three raid nights.The guilds I ended up in (founded in vanilla & early TBC), were therefore more or less always composed the same way:
20% top players & figureheads / 60% average & good players (wide spectrum) / 20% players you’d carry more frequently, but who’d in return bring other qualities and talents to the table. I’m fine with such a guild and for myself, ideally I want all three groups present.

  • You need the top players; you need them to pull and push the group. You need them to be your guides, guild leaders, coordinators and analysts. You need them too because very often, they’re simply the consistent show-ups with the most time available (which is why they make great guides or leaders).
  • You need the solid good players who are dedicated but down to earth; You need them for a healthy, balanced guild culture that is neither too casual, nor too hardcore. You need them to be the pendulum that swings in between. They are your main executive force.
  • You need the sub-par players; You need them for social qualities, for wisdom and humor that may be indispensable and unique. You need them so your top players get their occasional extra challenge and feel needed. You also need them because somebody always needs to be the weakest link – it’s better to know yours than to constantly look for a new one.

I don’t wish to be in a guild where every person is exactly like me (despite a healthy narcissism, that’s just boring). Nor do I mind slower learners or players who simply fail at the odd mechanic, and those who might fall behind a little due irregular playtime – as long as you can compensate for them somehow during specific encounters. (Assuming of course that they’re otherwise awesome).

Only, this gradually stopped being the case in WoW after the 40man era. Encounters became highly technical, focused on individual performance and unforgiving in ways that wouldn’t let us make up for lower bracket players – there was suddenly a hard line that wasn’t summary. We could only stand by and watch with increasing frustration as they went through the motions, again and again. We became helpless spectators of our guildmates’ ordeals, despite all guidance given. Worse: they started to become the “enemy”. If 100+ wipes into a boss, the same few people are still stuck at beginner mistakes, it’s human to start feeling resentful.I never wanted to become that other person or find myself in that well-known dilemma of so, so many raidguilds out there. But if I am pushed into the corner of choosing between keeping the bad player and not seeing larger parts of the game’s content in time (which was my motivation to play WoW at all) – then yes, I want the bad players out! I even want established people out who I used to appreciate and tried to support for as long as possible (my guilds have always tried longer than many would). I will make the unhappy choice if forced to; I won’t see an entire raidguild fall apart because the other 80% (and especially top 20%) will start looking elsewhere some time into the stagnation. Hesitating forever is not an option. If you’ve tried all you feel you could and if you intend to stick to the established raiding pace, you must make the choice as a leading team.

It’s no wonder so many good leaderships crack under the pressure of this decision; it sucks beyond comparison (add the issue of recruitment). It will always be one of the big sores for me when looking back on an otherwise great raiding run in WoW. It cured me of being too judgmental about how some guild leaders will act, too (“wear my shoes and see”).Sometimes raidguids change their original philosophy because they are catching the “success bug”; it’s a dangerous place to find yourself in, the upwards spiral of success that many fall for, becoming something else, someone else, forgetting how they started off and with whom. I fully acknowledge this problem. But what we experienced like so many others from the 25man era on, was not of our making; it’s nothing you choose, only what you roll with as good as you can.

To this day, I am deeply resentful; resentful of Blizzard, of the game’s later raid designs that presented my own guild with such a reality. I resent them for putting the focus on the weaker players, without any chance for the rest to step in and make a difference. I resent them for cornering us  – for making us choose like this, again and again as the game took its course. Most of all, I resent them for making me that different person. A person with less and less tolerance for team diversity.

What is fairness?


Much in this argument is relative, depending on your own personal approach to an MMO like WoW. Maybe you’re the type of raider who wants to be in zero-tolerance guilds and who has always managed to keep clear of such problems. Maybe you’re not even interested in raids. However, for a big number of “mid-bracket raiders” that form the majority in WoW’s endgame and who are in constant competition for recruits, the missing pre-selection mechanisms and highly unforgiving raid mechanics on individual level, are presenting a real struggle and dilemma. There is also the added pressure of the ever-looming next content patch.

The game did not start off like this; raid teams had more leeway, partly due to the nature of bigger 40man raids, partly due to different encounter design. And while many asked for a more even share of responsibility and target focus after WoW 1.0., I don’t believe that Cataclysm raiders benefit from today’s very different situation – no matter what player group they belong to in their own guild. It’s the broken overall streamlining of difficulty combined with a lack of social control that impact negatively on everybody. They present today’s raidguilds with greater struggles than ever, logistically as much as socially and emotionally.

Vanilla raiding – A Trip down Memory Lane

Klepsacovic keeps posting articles on evul vanilla, so this is entirely his fault.
What can I say, I get all fuzzy inside hearing about things like linear raids, negative stat modifiers or resistance gear – guess I’m just a glutton for punishment. But we really understand the relationship between the hard shit and feelings of accomplishment slash memories by now, don’t we?

I can’t help but think back on the days of 40man raiding ever so often, when everything in WoW was so brand new and unexplored, when servers seemed like such a small place and everyone would sport their epic tiers at Ironforge square (yeah Ogri for you trolls). I know I’m not the only one with such deep stages of nostalgia and it doesn’t matter one bit how much better or worse vanilla truly was. Truly is only what we know.

So, the following little write-up is for all of you who hardly remember how different raiding was back in the days, or those who can find curious entertainment in veteran tales maybe. It’s a time travel back to 2005/2006 when I was a healing coordinator for my second raidguild, sometime halfway through BWL. To my amazement they’ve actually maintained the guild page up to this day and our (incomplete) list of first kill screenshots still exists. I was one of the founders of that guild after having already raided with a different guild before, and I never missed a single firstkill in MC, BWL or Naxx, so Syl is on all the pictures, with a really bad haircut (and the proof that I was the first with a Benediction, lalala!).

A completely average pre-raid day in a busy and entirely too obsessed officer’s life, in WoW 1.0. (All names have been changed to protect the guilty). Feels like it was only yesterday. ~


*****Guild notes, January 5th, 2006
***Current raid progress: MC 10/10, BWL 6/8

“After too many wipes at Vaelastraz (that sucker!) last raidweek, we’re back to BWL tonight, hopefully making it past the three drakes fast. I spent half of this afternoon doing the potion quests in Blasted Lands. If I see another basilisk brain or vulture gizzard any time soon, I’m gonna cry.

The officers agreed to start with the LBRS buff again tonight because “every little extra helps”. I don’t mind the whole mind-controlling procedure, but I really think we’re wasting our time. If Razul suggests doing Onyxia for the head buff as well, I’m gonna hit the roof. There’s such a thing as being TOO prepared! Reminds me, I need to go gather Dreamfoil in Azshara and pay Duke Hydraxis a visit before we start. Just in case we decide to switch to MC.

We’re still farming cores and leather there, at least the tanks and healers are done with their fire-res sets now.  Our three new trialists are dropping like flies during the molten packs lol, I don’t wanna know how we’ll even get them past Raggy…. If that new druid is still not attuned tonight, I will personally kick him out. I really wish we didn’t need the restos to help out with tanking adds at Domo so much, but the mages can’t be trusted to stay alive and sheep at the same time. I wonder if they actually use that raidframes mod we asked everyone to install (yes, DPS too).

I promised Metrolock to help him with shards later; he was all out in ZG yesterday and keeps complaining how long it takes restoring them solo, so I’ll let him chainpull some packs and heal. The mages have been getting sloppy too; last raid they started making water at friggin’ raidstart, so we lost 15 minutes standing in line to trade. We already crafted these big bags for them for extra space, is it asked too much to conjure enough water in time? 

Official raid start is still a big issue in general. People aren’t showing up 30mins early so we can’t do rollouts without a rush. On top of that, the rogues keep complaining that Megadeath counts as a melee now; frankly, I don’t understand myself what it is with these new warriors refusing to tank? To make matters worse, Haley keeps insisting to play shadow in our raids – who the hell wants a shadowpriest DPS?? I can just see the drama once she starts bidding on caster trinkets, exactly what we need! What’s next…. – paladins asking to tank??

Speaking of the palis, the entire group needs a kick in the butt. Buffing was plain abysmal last raid, I was missing BoS and BoK at least half of the time. There’s five of them, surely they can track their buffs better! To be fair, they improved lots on getting DS up in time for wipe recoveries. All the corpserunning from Thorium Point is getting a bit much lately.

In general, the healing team is doing pretty well. The healing rotation at Firemaw went smoothly last time, although I suspect some still aren’t using mana conserve in CTRA. I noticed Kestrel and Lum going OOM much faster than the others. Finn is still being a dork during trash, dying from premature heals. I told the others to stop saving his trigger-happy ass, so he’ll learn to respect tank aggro one way or another.

Note to self: remember to move the priests around critical groups mid-combat, should we get unfortunate on bombs at Vael again tonight. Last time it hit three healers in a row, so it helps spreading some PoH love around. Also, I seriously need to re-write that Chromaggus healing macro – I used up four macros’ worth of space now, nobody can read that much text. If only we had some sort of colored markers to make things clearer. Already looking forward to assigning 15 healers for Nefarian – not.

The tanks finally got the hang out of the taunt rotation business which is kinda crucial in BWL. We’re still missing the Ony cloak for Thor though, I hope we get luckier with skinning this week. Pick-ups have gotten much more coordinated, although the two hunters’ communication is worrying me big time. Those hunter pulls need to happen a lot more proactively if we’re supposed to save time during trash. I think they’ve been on bad terms ever since Vintas got the leaf from Domo’s chest first..

If nothing improves in that department, we’ll simply have to keep recruiting. The Nordic Legion has been pretty aggressive in trying to poach raiders everywhere of late (they even asked our GM lol), so maybe we should return the favor sometime and knock on their door. I hear they got a pretty lousy loot policy and have weird rules in general (rumor has it they don’t ask raiders to level first aid, clearly gaga). Speaking of loot, blues have been piling up of late, I fear I’ll have to create a third guild mule soon.

Time for those Dreamfoils now; need to get new flasks in BWL later. I really hope we get up to Firemaw at least, so I can use the lab – otherwise it’s back to basilisk brains tomorrow, bleh! “

 A good weekend to all of you out there – ye jolly newbs and wistful veterans.

The common alt misconception

In a recent comment on a not so different topic, Klepsacovic left the following comment:

What’s so great about alts? It’s nice to have something to tinker with and to learn a bit about how other classes see the game, but when and why did we get the idea that we must have max-level, max-profession, max-gear alts? That’s not an alt, that’s a second main! Is one main not good enough? Maybe we need more fun and more to do on our mains, rather than spamming alts and then getting sick of repeating quests.

This is particularly interesting: for one thing, it did remind me of a similar comment I had left on BBB where I stated that the gravitation towards alt-play in WoW was a bad sign for the game, not a good one. I’m no fan of alts for many reasons. But this recent comment brought another interesting notion to the table, one quite contrary to the popular belief that playing alts prolongs the fun of playing the same game for long. You hear it often in that context: playing alts makes people tire less fast of WoW because it provides them with the chance to review content from a different angle. Or maybe not.

Why alts are no friends of mine /open parentheses

I’ve never been into the alt business for several reasons. Firstly, I am a rather strict “alter ego” player that plays MMOs for virtues such as story, world, simulation, community and immersion. It always felt like diving headlong into a book or strange universe to me, one that I travel and explore as myself – my adventures, my continuous story. And for that simple reason, my toons would resemble my true self and there was only ever the one me. That’s a matter of preference and perspective – I don’t expect others to join me on this. Let’s just say that playing multiple characters in an MMORPG feels like I am sat in front of the start screen of some classic console game where I’m supposed to pick a random character to go with.

My second reason is that I cannot play a “second or third rate character”. Unless you have an endless supply of time and a more casual guild, alts inevitably end up being your inferior toons. A little less shiny than your main, a little less experienced, a little less travelworn, a little less access to things. A little less of everything. I hate that; I hate sub-par, I don’t do sub-par versions of myself. If I was to heal some random 5man on an alt, I would constantly end up comparing it to healing the run on my priest – it would seem absolutely pointless to me or even a little selfish (“sorry group, had my priest been here we’d be so much faster”). To make matters worse, I’d have to repeat a ton of content, let alone stupid daily and rep grinds that my perfectionism would force me to go through. Myeah, I think not.

Last but not least, one big reason is playtime. I already dedicated a lot of time to WoW as it was – raiding, guild leading, forum and webpage work, PVPing, collecting silly baubles and exploring the world, you name it. There were dailies and token runs and whatnot, I could barely keep up doing those regularly. So, if I ever truly felt I was “finished” with Syl for the day, I really did not want to relog and start over on some alt. I’d rather dedicate time to my other hobbies. The balance hasn’t always been there between WoW and other things I enjoy, but I used to draw the line at playing on weekends or playing alts.

To honour truth here: I levelled a shaman once into the early 70ies and played her on a few 5man and 10man runs. My total playtime at the end of WotLK was 12 days or something and it felt pretty much pointless, besides showing me that elemental is OP levelling up and that I pity the melee for constantly running after tank aggro. I think I did it mostly to have the chance to join guild alt-runs (:peer pressure:), but I never got there. Every time I logged to the shaman, I felt like forcing myself: this wasn’t an alt of Syl, this was a nuisance, a disturbing sidekick. And yes, I had a lot less gold than most of my alt playing mates, but here’s the thing: I like asking other people to help me craft something. 

Besides this experience I never had any alt worth mentioning. Oh, I created toons aplenty and transferred them to Elwynn Forest where they became happy mules ever after. I can escort you from northern Kalimdor to Stormwind on foot with my eyes closed.. However, most available time must be dedicated to “maximize” my main. And if not, I log off (or alternatively, idle and chitchat while running through Dalaran in circles which is jolly good fun). I also believe that you are never “done” on your main, anyway. If I really had “excess time” besides my main focuses, PvP was always the next stop. Here I felt I was doing something meaningful towards my experience as a player and healer.

Personal parentheses closed.

The common alt misconception

Preferences aside, the longer I played and met various “altoholics”, the more I detected issues. Not with everyone mind, but quite a few people. The most prominent notion around is that alts make you a better player. Just like that. I remember a particularly mind-numbing conversation with a former maintank of our guild who wasn’t only one of our most fickle and unstable members, but such a screwup in various situations that we used him as melee whenever possible to “minimize the damage” (sorry DPS, it’s true) to the raid. So there I was, finding myself playing arena matches with the guy, probably by the machinations of some sadistic deity or something. We were short on a member and one of my team mates just grabbed the next best replacement before even asking me.

Wonderful. I spent the next 60 minutes listening to his blabber during queues, about how playing his priest and warlock had given him profound insights towards our raids and how he was definitely the best of our MTs in both PvP and PvE for this reason. He was also rather adamant about being able to give raiding priests and warlocks tips now because he had teh multiple perspective. He also finally understood all the “spell abbreviations they like to use”, like PoH and GS….Things between us went downhill from there.

The guy was just a hilarious example of the underlying issue. He was a shitty player with no degree of self-awareness and understanding of his own class – and therefore he stayed a shitty player despite his alts. Quantity is not were the insights lie. And WoW is not rocket science, no matter what some guys on Elitist Jerks would have us believe. Good players are good players, no matter what toon they play and vice versa. In fact, some of the best players I ever met were passionate about their main and the other half was excellent no matter what class they played. Because they set their mind to it, because they had a quick grasp or just a lot of ambition. They approached their alts in the same way they approached their main. The sucky players sucked no matter what character they played, some shades of difference granted.

So, to sum it up for kicks: You don’t go and play your priest and hunter because they will help you suck less on your warrior. It doesn’t quite work that way.  First and foremost, you play alts because you have time to play alts. You play alts because you enjoy playing alts. And that’s all there is to it. If you truly want to improve on your main, play your main. In any possible situation: practise on your main. First stop to improve your flexibility: PVP. If you’re set on improving, surely you’re willing to go through the drudgery?

Playing alts can give you insights into other classes. It does not make you a better player. There is no direct causality between these two things. 

Now, I can see why somebody who generally likes to “know everything” (aka walking encyclopaedia) or someone who loves to re-visit content would enjoy alts, or why a raidleader would consider it beneficial. It is. A change of focus is always beneficial if you actually know what you’re looking for. I’d never claim that playing alts has no positive potential, but it’s the player that makes it work or not. And it is not necessary in order to be a great player. There is also such a thing as “knowing too much” or thinking you know something when you do not quite yet. From years of personal experience and teaming up with great leaders, I have found this to be true: you don’t have to know everything about other classes in order to lead a charge well. That’s just airy nonsense some leaders like to intimidate you with or to boost their own ego. There is something called “functional knowledge” and that’s what I used when coordinating raid healing. I knew the things I needed to know about the other classes. I knew what was in any way relevant to our role, job and position in raids, about co-healers’ classes, about the tanks, about the DPS. And I knew these things from actually talking to those who had raided on their mains for years, from observation, from learning from them and working together. Plus being an attentive and active person on forum discussions and on healer specific sites.

So, this is my recommendation for all ye coordinators: do not be tempted to know everything about others to the point where you start doing all the thinking for them. They can be expected to know the things that concern playing their class properly. You should not have to know all the ins and outs for others or you will start babysitting every last thing much sooner than you know. Especially if you are a bit of a perfectionist or control freak, which is almost a given in leadership, save yourself by some intended ignorance.

Bottom line: do it all if you enjoy it, knock yourself out – but don’t think you “have to”.

Further issues with playing alts

Manalicious recently posted an article on how playing alts affected her raiding in negative ways. As mentioned before, I have very little personal experience with situations like these, but I can still relate. The few times I ran 5mans on the shaman, I was overly aware of the healer in my back, more than your average DPS would be. As a consequence, I was helping out with healing when I felt the healer struggling, too often than I probably should have. If you’re switching class frequently, it can be demanding to ask your mindset and routines to fully switch over every time. Maybe it is even impossible to perform on the same level as somebody who plays the same class for longer periods of time and has therefore a lot more “automatisms” in place.

But to get back to the beginning of this article: one big issue with playing alts is player burnout. I’m not at all convinced that alts really achieve long-term, what their short-term effect is being sold for – keeping people entertained longer and giving them more things to do. It seems to me that especially long-term, alts have the potential to lessen your enjoyment in the game and not just that, they have the potential to affect the entire world, the social mechanics on servers and their internal progress, negatively. This is the essence of the initial quote I posted and something I want to look into in a follow-up article tomorrow:  

More alts, more player burnout?Let’s find out.

Some truths about raid guilds

I love raid guilds. The truth is, had I not plunged into the world of raiding and guild administration so early on in World of Warcraft, I would have never played the game for as long as I did. Social mechanisms intrigue me, their dynamics and politics. Raid guilds are in so many ways perfect reproductions of a “mini-verse”, a complete representation of a society on small scale. I don’t know much of guild structures outside WoW because I’ve never played another MMO to the same extremes and length, but I don’t think the differences can be significant. Guilds are all about how people work: groups of people trying to get along to reach a common goal. Plus a smaller group inside that bigger group, trying to establish some structure and direction. Like small states or companies, they have become very professionalized in their approach, with their recruitment strategies, raid agendas and dedicated departments, from “personnel” to “marketing”…. running a raid guild and playing in one can almost resemble a second job. It shouldn’t feel that way, mind, but in terms of organization there a stark resemblances – after all, why change what works?

There are plenty of raiding blogs and websites out there, run by experienced players and guild leaders, all full of great advice, “do’s and don’ts”, class-/setup-/raiding strategies and whatnot. But they hardly speak of that other side of raid guilds: the intriguing social mechanics that happen behind closed curtains, the sober and cold side of leadership, the calculation and logistics, the unhappy choices and secret dramas that occur. Or in short: the reality of running a raid guild with all the good, bad and ugly. Not the successful stories with shiny heroes and self-sacrificing martyrs, but the less brilliant but necessary work that is being done to keep an enterprise running. And the attitude that goes with it.

Matticus is one of few GMs that come to mind who is a long-time blogger and has, over the course of the years, let his audience take part in less shiny bits and pieces that come with leading a successful raid guild. The reality of guild politics, the need for strict rules, disciplinary action and that constant struggle for balance while trying to be competitive, are things that frequently shine through his articles and guides without much pampering and without silly drama. Beruthiel is another blogger who ponders the less convenient sides of leadership every now and then. In general however, guild leaders and officer teams rarely spell out for you what they put so bluntly in their private meetings – for obvious reasons.

From where I am standing now, I can speak freely without many restrictions; I actually believe that I have done so in the past when I was still a raider, guild founder and healing leader for the raid guilds I have been in. There’s a time for diplomacy and there is a time for blunt truths in guild leading and I’d like to think that I have often been the bearer of inconvenient truths. But some things are easier to spot at a distance now; and some insights grow over time. You become calmer about what might have infuriated and blinded you in the past; less passionate maybe, but more composed. Less afraid to call a spade a spade, too.

I miss that in many articles I am still reading on WoW by raiders and raid leaders – the courage to blunt truths. WoW is such a fantasy world where everyone likes to present himself a little more epic and heroic than he truly is and that’s fine, for that’s what escapism is there for. We have that “idea” of ourselves in MMOs. But I recall many situations where some sober truths on raiding would have gone a long way – maybe even prevented certain struggles I watched unfold before me in the guilds I haven been part of or have seen come and go. Or maybe these are simply the truths that I personally would have wished for a lot sooner. The dispassionate facts that are good to hear for anybody, raider and leader alike so they don’t go down that unhappy road many have gone before them. No matter what raid guild you are in and what position you hold, sooner or later you will face the same situations and crossroads and a lot will depend on your grasp of reality.

Guild leaders all know how it feels to struggle filling raids, to work with lacking setups, to try and recruit along with fifty other guilds. How it feels to update guidelines and sad looking rosters late at night, to write that third and last PM to an unreliable member, to tell a weak raider he needs to improve or go. And raiders (that includes guild leaders) all know the situation to feel better or worse than their team mates, to be frustrated about officer choices and canceled raids, or to look back on a horrible raid week, wondering why they even bother playing the game. We all experience the human feelings, failings and mechanisms that occur when personal dreams and illusions clash with the reality of our guilds. Then, we will whine a little or analyze ourselves vs. “the others”, all the things we do, the things we’d like to have and the things we don’t get despite being our due.

Three truths for raid-/ guildleaders / officers / first ranks

The truth is: you are doing this for yourself. You should be. There will be times when you’re doing all the extra work for yourself more and there will be times when you’re doing a lot of extra shit for others. There will be times when you enjoy it more and times when you don’t. But you choose to do that extra every day when you’re logging on, nobody is making that choice but you. And it’s your responsibility to keep a balance between the two and not burn yourself out. If you do, you have only yourself to blame. Don’t go talking about “I did all of this for you people for little in return”. If you feel like that indeed, you went wrong somewhere and maybe should take a step back or three.

The truth is: you should not expect much appreciation or thank-yous from others. Firstly, they will never know and cannot possibly know how many extra hours of discussing, writing or just thinking things over in bed at night you have done over the guild. So don’t expect them to know. Secondly, you have chosen this path yourself for any combination of reasons, enjoyment, necessity and maybe being a bit of a control-freak too – so, don’t ask the world for a big thanks. Yes, you are doing a lot for your guild, yes you probably keep it running for the moment, maybe even keep it from breaking apart – and from time to time that deserves note and a pat on the shoulder. But you should never forget that you’re investing that much time because you have that much time to invest, whatever the reasons for that may be. A year from now, your life might have changed so considerably that you too will not be able or willing to do it anymore.

The truth is: you Sir or Madam are replaceable. The world won’t end if you quit. Your end and the guild’s end are not one and the same. And if they are indeed, you went wrong somewhere or things are just altogether over. Nobody should shoulder so much that he feels irreplaceable, nobody should have to. And in 9 out of 10 cases you are not. You might think you are because the thought flatters you, but you are not. And maybe it is “your” guild as you did start it all, but it can go on without you, if you actually did a good job in sharing, delegating and building a functional team of officers. You might be surprised at how well your guild picks up without you: how unexpected new people will fill the gap you have left, because your presence does not take up all that space any more. Yes, maybe your guild won’t be the same guild after you, most likely it won’t – but it will go down a new path and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it’s even something you can watch with pride.

Three truths for raiders (=everyone)

The truth is: raid guilds are a contract. Raid guilds are a deal. And if you are or become a constant burden and liability to your team mates at some point, for whatever reason from attendance to performance, you should have the grace to quit. If you join a raid guild, you sign a contract: the guild offers you something, you offer something in return. You are bound to fulfill this. And while you might be a great guy or fun gal and have a wonderful personality, what your guild is looking for first and foremost are raiders to reinforce their team. They want to kill bosses, they want to progress, they want to loot. They will want these things today and tomorrow. And it’s cool if you can help with all that and be a character too; but if a character is all you are, you are putting your mates and officers in a constant dilemma they shouldn’t have to be in. They should not have to choose between you the nice guy and you the raider they must carry. And no, it doesn’t matter if you have good reasons to suck or not, you probably do but that’s beside the point. Save your guild from unhappy compromise and choices by doing the right thing yourself. Leave, for god’s sake, find a more suitable guild – there are so many out there. Also, there is no shame in quitting. Alternatively, go inactive/veteran or whatever boon your guild might grant you as a way out.

The truth is: if you have never formed and/or lead a raid guild yourself, you will never know how much extra time and work your guild leaders put into the game, what pressure they shoulder at times and what secret dramas and screwups they deal with that you will never hear about. Maybe you have some past experiences at leading a raid or heroics, maybe you’ve even been an officer in some casual guild – still, this applies to you: you will never know how much extra time and work your guild leaders put into leading a successful raid guild long-term. And for that you don’t owe them eternal gratefulness, but it wouldn’t hurt at all to remember this every now and then, when you go to sleep at night looking forward to the next raidweek with all the blissful ignorance that one enjoys who is not in charge. It wouldn’t hurt to take some note and have some respect and trust in those that keep organizing things. This is what you really do owe them if nothing else.

The truth is: you are a big fish in a small pond. Yes, really. You’re not the greatest player in this world, of your class, on your server – chances are, you’re not even the best player in your guild. And if you are or feel you are, there are many explanations of why that may be – be it that your competition is rather busy, pitiful or your head simply too big to perceive your own flaws. No matter in what guild you play and on which server, 99% of the time your “guild fame”, your class pride or personal e-peen has the significance of a dust speck. Feel free to check the world’s guild ladders sometime. Yet, should you still feel your greatness is shamefully wasted on your peers, the best advice I have for you is to leave. Don’t make your guild miserable for not meeting your expectations, go and test yourself against other waters and see if the grass is truly so much greener on the other side of the fence. You might get surprised. Either way, it’s not just better for you but a whole deal better for your current guild too, if you hit the road. While progress drive is a fine thing, nobody needs jerks around that have clearly missed their bus stop.


These “truths” are very simply based on personal experiences I’ve made through the years in WoW, difficult people or situations I have had to deal with as a raider and guild leader. They’re my insights, based on mistakes I have made myself or seen others make – traps we can easily fall into or see others step into without the ability to prevent it, that worst of feelings. They might be humbling points too, smashing an illusion or two; and while nobody enjoys such feelings (much), I think this applies to any given (competitive) raid guild and is good to realize for yourself and at times necessary to point out to others. May be it offers a more sober and realistic perspective on some things, one that will help you not to lose the ground beneath your feet. Maybe it can even be liberating.

At the very least, it can put your momentary struggles into perspective. You see, you are not alone. I realize that these are not the sort of rosy red and comfy truths people like to talk about in public, the ones that make you feel fuzzy about yourself or raiding; but they’re the sort of points I often wished people had considered before they joined our own guild (which I might want to add, was a very tolerant place considering its progress orientation) or had been pointed out more often when necessary. I still have the firm belief that in the long run a transparent and honest way of dealing with the reality of raiding will make your guild leaders and raiders a more down to earth, streamlined and humble group of people. And ultimately a more successful team.

Guild application forms – A thing of the past?

A while ago we had a rather interesting debate among the officers in our guild, regarding our current application form for 25man raid applicants. As you can see we’re pretty standard in that respect – our form covers all obligatory bases such as age, location, spec and raid times, and also a few more things that we believe should provide us with some useful information on potential tralists. As simple and similar as these forms usually look, we’ve actually talked about ours time and again the past years and alterations were made over time, or rather a lot of cuts. (Personally I still think we’re missing the really essential questions, but that’s another matter!)

What stuck out in the last dicussion however, was the suggestion to consider abandoning our guild application form altogether. No more written forms to fill out, rather grab potential members on ventrilo for a personal chat and invite them to a trial 5man heroic or other run to see how they do there and then. Quite a drastic change of procedure and one I have thought about ever since.

Sense and non-sense of application forms

I can see why a more personal approach to the whole application process is beneficial for more serious raidguilds. Written forms only tell you so much and more often than not, an applicant will leave blank spaces or important questions unanswered or ambiguous, so that the time investment to get back to him and all the subsequent emailing take up lots of extra time. This makes the efficiency of the whole procedure debatable.

I’ve also raised an eyebrow before at forms on other guild pages: I’m all for a bit of jolly good fun, but a questionnaire with half the questions revolving around what my favourite color is or whether I prefer Robocop or Batman, makes me wonder whose time is being wasted more here – mine or the guild’s.
It’s obviously very depending on your guild style and purpose but if you ask people to go through a written procedure, you shouldn’t stretch things for no good reason in my opinion.

A questionnaire should be as long needed and no longer than necessary; open questions provide more in-depth information than multiple choice or yes/no and personal questions should serve some guild-related purpose. I guess here too, specific questions on sex or age for example are debatable: what exactly do you expect to get from this answer? Does it influence a decision in any way at all?

A good application form certainly takes some time to work out and ponder over – and yet it will never achieve to satisfy all a guild wants to know. Nothing beats personal contact and experience. And yet in this case, I am for keeping written forms for the following reasons:

  1. Show of effort. Over the years I have seen huge, baffling disparities between the effort and attention applicants were willing to put into our questionnaire. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you take 15 minutes to think about why you want to join your future raid guild. We don’t ask you to come up with stuff of your own, the questions are already there – so how hard is it really? The written application is the very first impression a member can make and it’s an important one. I’m not saying it speaks a 100% for all else to come, but if a person leaves half the form empty or includes leetspeak in every second line, I’ve seen enough. On the other hand, I remember several WoT-applications from the past which were some of the most dedicated texts I’ve ever read; all of them became valued, longterm members of our guild.
  2. Dubious participation. I’m a big spokesperson of this: guildmembers are required to read a forum regularly and also participate actively in ongoing, important discussions. What are the chances really that somebody already too lazy to fill out an application form is going to regularly participate in a guild forum? Filling out an app is only the start, pal! 
  3. Rough pre-selection. If nothing else, a short questionnaire helps you to sift  the painfully obvious non-candidates. If somebody can already not attend your raid nights, is unwilling to use voicecomm or turns out to be a major asshat for some reason, there’s no need to continue the exchange. Save yourself and him time. Also: minimize the risks to yourself (and your guildbank).
  4. Member feedback. In our guildforum all applications get re-published for member feedback. Sometimes members do actually know applicants from past experience or have some other valuable information to share. Their voice is always considered in our application process. Without any written form it’s unikely that you get a larger part of the guild to review your applicants.

Nothing’s to say that you cannot have a more personal chat with a potential trialist besides this – if your team is willing and able to regularly dedicate extra time to the process, that’s great. Realistically speaking, I still think you want to hold on to some way of written information and pre-selection.

A look ahead

All things considered, I’m all for thinking out of the box when it comes to the future of guild applications. In a more hypothetical past article, I’ve mused on raidguilds using entry fees in order to pre-select potential members. Certainly the whole process between opening a guild recruitment topic and making first contact with new members, can be refined and simplifyed a great deal more.

So far, I’ve not actually heard of any guild who’s managed a groundbreaking progress in this department though, at least not without a substantial increase of officer time involved. Maybe the good old application letter has survived this long for a reason?

Healing Coordination: Going the extra mile

There is an elephant in my room and it’s bright blue. It’s been there ever since I’ve taken up blogging on WoW and it’s starting to soil the rug now. All my friends and co-healers know how passionate a holy priest and healer I am in WoW. I’ve coordinated raid healing ever since my first 40 man guild. I’ve had the pleasure to work with 3 different healing teams over the years and to experience and coordinate every encounter in the game since Molten Core, with the exception of the last few bosses in AQ40 and most of the Sunwell. Every encounter I think back on or look forward to in WoW, is from a healer’s perspective. I love healing and I love being a part of healing teams.

The reason why I haven’t blogged about this sooner, is simply that there are already many great posts on healing coordination out there, guides full of useful tips by other very experienced healers and bloggers. I love reading and scrutinizing these topics and while I take a lot of it for granted by now personally, I know it’s not; there’s a great many raidguilds out there still running without dedicated healing leads and raidleaders. They’ve my sincere sympathies.

Healing coordination, the successful kind, is all about a great deal of things: knowing your healers, knowing your classes, knowing encounter specifics, knowing how to prioritize, giving precise assignments (that includes things like positioning or save rotations), re-adjusting raid setup constantly (to correspond to more specific assignments and make your healers’ lives easier), communicating and keeping feedback flowing, keeping your team’s spirits high – just to name a few.

Most of all however, it is about someone willing to do all these things; from pre-raid preparation and discussions with the raidleaders, over the actual coordination, to post-raid analyzis. There’s a lot going on for healing coordinators during raids, especially on a progress night, and chances are you will never know because you never really see them adjusting things in the background. Most non-healers do not notice the healing coordinator’s job in a raid – they only notice his absence, in some obscure, nondescript way.

I don’t like repeating things that others have said before me and already put into elaborate words just for the sake of it. That’s why I’d like to point out a few guides first that I appreciate for their overall information and insight on the subject matter. I know there are many more, these are simply three I remember for being good places to start:

  • Raid Rx: 3 steps to assigning healers – an older breakdown by Matticus which does something before all else: simplify. Sometimes less is more, especially if you’re just starting off. A thing that I’ve said time and again is that healing isn’t rocket science, there’s no need to make it sound that way.
  • Zen and the art of healing assignments – a good example of the essentials of the trade and how healing coordination is about keeping a cool head and adaption.
  • Kurn’s Healing Lead Philosophy – I liked this particular overview because it emphasizes several points that I personally find very important, such as maximizing clarity or dealing with parses the right way.

That’s really all your essentials to start off as a healing lead. Might sound like a lot, but you grow into a role and will refine procedures and macros over time. What you cannot necessarily learn is things like having a “knack” for leadership and overseeing these kind of things – having an analytical yet creative mind for problem solving and strong nerves to deal with short-term changes or unhappy raidleaders. Healing leads need broad shoulders. Not everyone is up to be a co-leader in WoW but if you are, your tools can be found in those articles.

…So, what can I contribute to all this that might haven’t been mentioned? What tips would I like to give to other healing leads out there looking to get back to business in Cataclysm, based on my very personal practice and experiences? I think I have a thing or three to add. I can’t promise you to keep this short, but I can promise to include everything that might be useful to somebody else.

Going the extra mile: further methods to optimize healing coordination

Over time I’ve been stuck in situations where I felt the basic tools weren’t quite enough to prepare us for the tactics of a fight or then we were simply struggling at a boss with more complex mechanics. Multi-phase encounters especially can be a challenge to coordinate if all you have at your disposal are assignment macros and manually typing and reacting in the healer channel. You know that there’s a raidgroup waiting and while all good things need time, holding others up for too long is uncomfortable. Here’s three means of helping yourself which I’ve used frequently in the past and cultivated in our healing team:

1) The pre-pull peptalk / PPP
The pre-pull peptalk is going to make your life loads easier on encounters where there is a lot of details and roles to discuss, positioning, multiple phases and so forth. You do not only feel that spamming so many lines is too overwhelming, but you want to make absolutely sure that everyone is on board and has a chance to ask questions if unsure about any objective. For this, I would usually grab my entire healing squad over to a separate ventrilo channel at raidstart where I would go through all the essentials of the upcoming fight in a very swift and reduced manner: an overview of what’s ahead, what difficulties there are and what every healer is going to be in charge of – while also spamming the summary macro. In only 5 minutes you can explain and emphasize a lot more than you ever could by typing and you get to ask two fundamental questions: “Everyone clear on their targets? Any questions or suggestions?”

Meanwhile, the rest of the raid is busy with getting their own directions from the raidleaders. In Adrenaline the raidleader and healing leader work closely together and prep each part of the raid separately (and we’ve usually already talked this through pre-raid). Nobody is going to miss the healers in these 5-10 initial minutes.
I have used this method at Malygos, Mimiron, Arthas and Dreamwalker to name a few examples. In general, it’s worth doing when you know you’ve got a wipenight ahead. It does not only help you but makes your team feel like a real unit.

2) Visual aids
Fights like Lady Vashj, Mimiron or Sindragosa, do not only have complex mechanics but assignments that are absolutely crucial to be followed meticulously by every single member in the raid. Positioning is one big factor here among several others. Whenever we were facing fights of such complexity, with all the mayhem and chaos of first wipenights, I posted a small overview on our forums with visual aids for the healers (usually useful to others too). Take a screenshot of the boss room if feasible and make a graphic for your team that clears up points like movement and positioning once and for all.
I am a very visual person myself and I know from my educational background that if you’re trying to teach more elaborate concepts, you always want to use more than just words: a lesson that’s accompanied by pictures and/or voice, stimulates several senses at once and always leaves a more lasting effect. And: there are far fewer misunderstandings going on when people have looked at the same graphic!

To give you an example of such visual aids, here’s what I did for Lady Vashj, Mimiron or Sindragosa in the past. Pictures were accompanied by detailed strategy. If you have a forum account at, you can also check here or here for the complete guides.

3) Post-raid analyzis sticky
Tanks, DPS and healers run their separate post-raid sticky threads in our guild forums. Looking back at what went wrong as much as what was done really well, is an important part of preparing for your next raid. It can be difficult to get everyone engaged in these discussions, but in the healer team’s case you have an easier job to get people to participate and we’ve had some very fruitful feedback and tactical discussions there in the past.

In our topic I would regularly publish a round-up after particularly intense nights or new encounters, pointing out briefly what the healing difficulties were, what still needed improving, linking further reading and also: highlighting the good stuff. I have a tendency myself to focus on negatives but it’s crucial to celebrate success from time to time. Get used to writing short post-raid summaries like that and encourage your fellow healers to feedback.

Things to cultivate in your team

This is a more personal part about the core values I have personally come to believe in and uphold in the healing teams I’ve been part of and coordinated in WoW over the years. An atmosphere of trust, honesty, mutual respect and friendship are the corner stones of every functional group of people. As a healing coordinator, it is your role to cultivate qualities such as these while being the leading figure who is in charge of maintaining a sense of order and get to the bottom of  whatever issues. This role can be a demanding task when under pressure and as always, communication is key.

1) Primus inter pares
At any given time, I perceived my role in the healing team as that of the primus inter pares – “the first among equals”. This distinction has always been vital for me to convey. I am my team’s coordinator: that means, I fulfill a necessary and logistic task for my raidguild. I do this for a variety of reasons which range from natural disposition over know-how to the lack of anyone else willing to commit himself to this task (and that last reason has stuck with me wherever I went).
What I am not is your boss, babysitter or mom. I am not all-knowing, perfect or better than any of my team members. When I assign tasks and responsibilities, they will be clear and detailed but I never tell my healers how to heal or play their class. They know what is required – the how is left to them. If things go wrong and it’s really due to a single healer’s poor choices, there is still time to address it when you’re crossing that bridge.

We all see eye to eye in our team even if I am the one calling the shots. If there’s a situation where I need a serious word with one healer, I will do that subtly, via whispers or after the raid. I will never humiliate anyone publicly in the channel and undermine his standing with the rest of the team. Healing teams depend on trusting each other and anyone can have a bad night. I’d rather make a light-hearted joke in such a situation or laugh about it together than blow things out of proportion.

I cannot possibly stress this point enough: your team’s willingness to cooperate, be open and communicate with you is going to depend on your relationship with each other and the role and attitude you establish for yourself as healing lead. That doesn’t mean you cannot be forceful if needed, but there is a difference between resolve and arrogance.

2) There is no “not my problem”
There is no ‘I’ in team, only ‘we’. If there is any issue in the line of healing, it concerns each and everybody. No one is allowed to lean back with a self-sufficient smile while there’s still unresolved issues around. Healing is teamwork: there are no stars here and nobody will be left behind. Without meaning to sound too militaristic: each healing team is only as strong as its weakest link. There are encounters that will push you to a limit like that and where there is no room for ego.

While individual performance matters, the thing that still counts the most for the rest of the raid, is the overall outcome of a fight. Therefore, consider every issue your issue and help your team mates out with suggestions or add your feedback and ideas in the healing channel for the coordinator.
This is what I expect of each team member and nobody is left out from it. We celebrate our successes together and we also work as a team when things go wrong. Anything else will make me really unpleasant really quick.

3) The only way to the healers is through me
This is something I have always been adamant about, sometimes to the dismay of a raidleader or co-raider. By now, most of my mates know why this is so important though (and they’re also a little scared of me, haha!). What I’m talking about is that I expect raid leaders and members alike, to take any form of feedback or critique on healing through me. I am the person in charge and I am also the person with all the information: who has been assigned, to what, how and why. So if there are any questions, issues, wishes or criticism, there is no use to moan at an individual healer in the team, bicker in raidchat about healing or trying to give out orders of your own – they won’t listen to you. We’ve had a trialist or two in the past that actually thought they needed to scream “HEAL ME!” during our raids or blame the healers in the DPS channel; they didn’t last very long. This is not how we deal with issues in our guild.

I’m the one you should be talking to if you want to resolve something and that’s not because I am on some sort of power trip: I need to know what’s going on in order to coordinate healing better and I can’t do this if you by-pass me, this only creates utter chaos. Talk to me, I am actually here to help. Respect the job that I’m doing and let me do it, don’t go over my head or behind my back. Not if you’re hoping to get heals in the future, anyway.

I’m also the one who has a fairly good idea about whether a screw-up is really due to healing or not which is something that’s usually assumed by others overly quick. That said, no healing team is perfect, of course there are healing issues sometime and they can cause the loss of an MT or even wipe a raid. But there’s many many potential reasons behind a screw-up, so if you have anything to convey or ask, then ask the healing lead because he holds all the information. Also:  If you want to blame somebody, blame me. There’s really no use blaming other healers for their assignments.

Final words

These are probably my most valued and personal tips I can give to anyone about the things I’ve learned and situations I’ve been in. I still learn new things every raid, such is the beauty of dealing with human beings rather than NPCs: we’re all unique and fallible and that fallibility is what actually makes leading a required task and a fun challenge. It’s also the reason why encounters stay interesting for healers. Human error is the spice of our trade: if the rest of the raid was constantly 100% on top of tactics, things would get boring quickly. But we never quite know what’s going to happen and as a healing lead, you always need to be ready to react, re-evaluate and work with the choices before you. I love the first weeks in new raid instances for this reason.

Adrenaline will start with official 25man raids sometime around the start of January 2011. I look forward to new challenges and also to welcome Stumps, long-time raidleader and GM of Adrenaline, back in our healing team. I’ve successfully poached him to play his resto druid in the expansion and share the role of healing coordinator with me – I know we’ll have a lot of fun (it’s gonna be fiiine!). There’s been a few changes in our setup, but it still stands strong with both long-term healers and few newcomers. I can only second Lodur’s hommage to his healing team: WoW is so much more enjoyable for me thanks to them and our lively raid channel. We are not just fellow raiders but comrades and it’s worth your time and extra effort to lead such a dedicated bunch of people. Happy coordinating everybody.

Raidguilds with entry fees

The social structure that is guilds has come a long way in the history of online gaming. If we take World of Warcraft as an example, which is handy since the game has been around and evolved for a longer period now, we can see the same has happened on Azeroth – the founding of guilds is as frequent as ever, but the reasons why they are joined and the ways they are run have changed gradually over time, as a consequence of the game changing. There’s a vast variety of guilds these days, catering to every imaginable playstyle. There’s true ‘professional guilds’ and there’s guilds with all sorts of requirements. The other week I read about the rise of a ‘super guild’ on World of Matticus, a new form of guild that has sprung from Blizzard’s featured guild perks system for Cataclysm.

If I think back on the early days of my own server, there was only a handful of 40man raidguilds around. If you wanted to raid seriously, there was a limited choice and we all knew each other on that block, just as you generally knew your opponents in a battleground as a more frequent PVPer (which made for many a fun interlude at Xroads). There were hardly any so-called ‘casual raidguilds’. There were far less non-raiding guilds than today and there was certainly a lot less going on in terms of public chat pugs and lose alliances.

My very first raidguilds also had a rather modest structure and set of requirements and guidelines in place, compared to the well-oiled business machinery run by many guilds these days. Officer teams were chaotic bunches more often than not, recruitment happened in much more legère a fashion and if you wanted to raid on Thursday night, the way to sign up was to be there on time.

Oh yes, we’ve come a long way with our guild organisation; with our lootrules and raid calendars, our recruitment procedures and attendance monitors, guild ranks and officer departments. In Adrenaline we make use of all these options and more. Over the years, Blizzard has introduced more tools to help guilds organize and monitor themselves better. I can certainly say that the implementation of guild banks for example was a huge relief to all the officers out there, used to re-logging constantly to some guild mule.

Another change that has evolved over the years in WoW, is a guild’s need for security. Almost all of us have had at least a guildmate or two who’s account’s been compromised in the past. Even worse, many guilds (ours included) have experienced their guild bank raided because a member and/or officer has been hacked. Using a login authenticator has become pretty much standard in WoW’s community, even if some still resist (for what I personally find very weak reasons) to get one attached to their account.

The other day, Alas wrote an article about an officer guild-quitting on her, because of her guild’s authenticator requirement for raiders. It’s not unfrequent for guilds to have safety requirements like this today – but she goes on to ask the more fundamental question of “how far can guild requirements go?” without becoming unreasonable.
Personally I believe that the sky is the limit. Guilds are always about joint ventures and just like it’s up to every guild leadership to decide on their own type of guild and guidelines, it’s your freedom to join or leave a guild that is not to your liking or found a guild of your own. If there is enough people interested in a certain type of guild, chances are such a guild will be created.

We might have a hard time thinking out of the box right now, but if we look at the long way guilds and online communities have come, I wonder how their structure is going to evolve from here: how are things going to look like in a world like Azeroth, 10 years from now? What procedures and requirements might future guilds employ?

Paying for membership

I have an aunt and uncle who love to golf. They’re average middle-class citizens, they don’t own a house of their own and they only drive one car which is 15 years old. They might go on a short vacation every other year, but that’s about as much as they can afford. Pretty standard where I live, one of the so-called richest countries in the world.
In order to find a shared hobby for their retirement, one that allows them to be together outdoors and be active without the ability to hike or run marathons anymore, they settled for their mutual wish to take up golfing together – a much more difficult endeavor for two average people like them, than meets the eye.

The few golf clubs available around here are the same as pretty much everywhere: damn expensive to join. For those of you that might not be aware of this system, the majority of playgrounds like that are not public and come with entry fees and membership fees of several thousand euros, ranging from 5000-10’000 per year, up to more astronomical numbers such as 50’000 euros and more. Entry fees do not include yearly membership, nor any further services or equipment – they’re only payed for well, entry.

A big stash for ‘normal’ people. A reason to say fuck golfing maybe and look into mini-golf. Certainly a reason to go vote and prevent more of these places to pop up and claim public spaces and wildlife habitats. But I’ll leave the snidy side-remarks at that because I really don’t want to talk about the sense or non-sense that is a few select ones claiming leagues and leagues of public countryside for themselves and their private leisure, pushing out all other people and animals alike (not to mention the gazillion galleons of precious water required to maintain the supple lawns every week), to mingle in exclusive country clubs because life is so hard and they really need some luxury every now and then to relax in peace. Ooops, have I already done it now? Oh well, there’s only so much quiet sufferance I got in me, and it’s Julian-week after all.

The logic behind golf club policy is of course most comprehensible: they’re about exclusiveness as much as the need to limit the number of visitors in order to maintain the courses and keep them a clean and quiet experience. You can’t and don’t want to have places like that crowded by hundreds of people. The high maintenance costs a lot of money and you want things to be profitable after all – none of that is possible if you opened it to a wider audience who’s never gonna spend cash in the same way, while ruining the whole point. Also, many golf clubs around here do business with the excess money, investing into financial projects and so forth.

The business model works for the ones running it and their clients alike: both parties get what they want from the deal.

The guild with the entry fee

In the year 2012, Leprechaun, an imaginary tauren warrior from the imaginary Stormglade EU server, is the founder and GM of an ambitious raidguild called -Decadence-Decadence is safely established among Europe’s top 5 raid progression guilds and home to a force of 45 regular raiders with a 99% attendance or more. 
The guild runs a strict raiding schedule and transparent guidelines, monitored by a very dedicated staff of officers who look after all the guild’s needs 24/7. Joining Decadence is rather simple: willingness to commit to all raid nights, profound knowledge of your class and game mechanics (yadda yadda) and: submitting a membership fee of 60’000 gold upon joining.

When Decadence set out with this unique recruitment requirement, they were initially met with an outrage in their thread on Stormglade’s public forums. By now, the guild is one of the most respected and favoured places to be in their battlegroup. Raiders are switching servers only to get a shot at a trial in Decadence. One more notorious rumor tells a story about a smaller raidguild’s former GM, who disbanded his own guild and sold off the entire guild bank, in order to be able to submit the membership fee.

During this time, Leprechaun has been accused of being an elitist and worse by many haters, as much as being praised a genius by his own guild mates and fans all across other servers. In an interview with, he had the following things to say about Decadence’ unique approach to recruitment:

“At some point the number of applications was just too overwhelming to deal with. This was on the brink of hitting EU’s top 10. The officers were working all around the clock and our guild’s expenses skyrocketed in order to support our swift progression and minimize our members’ need to spend time on farming for mats and consumables.
In Decadence, we provide for everyone: everything is guild funded and free, down to individual playstyle / consumables, repairs and extra gear sets. All of this is funded through membership fees and business done with it.”

“We felt that with the 60’000 gold entry fee we were killing two birds with one stone: a smaller selection of recruits who put in the extra effort of depositing a reasonable sum of money the guild needs in order to function.

“We don’t believe the amount of gold is too high; if anything, it shows a member is dedicated and knowledgeable enough to farm this kind of money in the game. It’s not hard to come by in my opinion, at least not if you’re playing a lot. And that’s the sort of players we want to attract.”

“We’re furthering the goldseller business – are you serious? [laughs] Now that’s a pretty ludicrous claim, in my opinion!  Decadence is a small guild after all, we hardly influence this kind of global enterprise. Also, the types of raiders we attract are probably not the kind of casual players that are more likely to struggle with gold in the game.”

“Asking everyone for the same deposit makes our members feel they’re contributing in the same way, it’s an even share among everybody. Already upon joining, this allows new recruits to feel they are actively partaking in Decadence and have a ‘right to be here’. This is easing them into becoming an established part of the guild. In return, our members get a unique and all-inclusive guild experience. Decadence is run professionally and provides for all our raiders’ needs without any further guild requirements that other raid guilds have, such as donations or material farming. Even our excess loot is evenly distributed, rather than hoarded by us. I don’t see how our policies are so much worse from other guilds, we’re simply doing it differently.”

“We provide our raiders with the experience they’re looking for. In return, we use entry fees to do guild business and ensure a smooth progression. Besides that, members leaving us are eligible to a refund of a 50% of the initial sum. This is an additional security for us in terms of guild drama: we don’t have rage-quitting in Decadence. People treat a guild very differently if their own money has been invested. And a potential refund makes for much more amicable parting, we have learned.” [chuckles]

I admit that while my initial reaction to the membership fee was very critical, much of that if not all has been dispersed through the course of the interview. There is a solid logic behind this guild model: it allows the guild to function the way it does and there’s a few very interesting pros in Leprechaun’s reasoning. His points on members sharing ‘ownership’ and including newcomers straight away for example, makes a lot of sense to me. So does his point on guild drama, as sad as it might be. The 60’000 gold fee is a measure of security for Decadence and it provides members with services in return.
The only ones that really get excluded are those unwilling or unable to make such a deposit – but then these players would probably not be able to commit to such a raid agenda anyway (much less want to).

I don’t think Decadence is different or necessarily more elitist than other guilds: it is just one joint venture among others, catering to one type of raider. And unlike the golf club analogy, it does not harm anyone else by its exclusivity which is probably the most important part.

What does the future hold?

I can definitely see more evolved ‘business models’ like this hypothetical one, exist in the future of online guilds. There are already enough signs out there, maybe there’s even a few raidguilds around already that require deposits of this sort. Guilds are here to stay and as long as MMOs continue to grow, guilds will follow that progress and become more professionalized, with more elaborate concepts and membership requirements. I guess you can like that or not, but then the freedom of choice is still yours.
Would you pay to join the ‘perfect guild’, if it enhanced your gaming experience? I don’t see why not.

Dear guild applicant, what’s your weakness?

There I sat at one of my job agencies last Wednesday, feeling horribly out of character. I am looking for a new job at the moment, that is to say for a new new job, one that is hopefully as unlike to my last few jobs as possible, but there’s a desert to cross first, an annoying phase of explaining curricula and dealing with administrative bullshit.
And I notice these job agencies all look the same: gray and impersonal bastions of corporate capitalism, “help us to help you, so we get money from you working”, it’s a modern version of slave-trade really. Nothing to make you feel the ordinary human resource you are quite like job agencies. But to get where I want to go apparently they’re my best shot.

So, I sat in that small cubicle office waiting for my agent, some way-too-young, teeth-bleached sunnyboy in a way-too-expensive suit. Instantly I felt under-dressed. The whole procedure took about 30 minutes, half an hour of jolly good fun trying to explain to Ken why I am looking for a change of scenery and what salary I deem appropriate, given the fact that I lack experience in the field while holding an academic degree that probably surpasses the education of most people I would be working with. There’s something horribly depressing in realizing those 7 years at university were worth so little. Maybe I should mention my epic WoW skills and guild leadership experience? No?

Anyway, halfway through the exercise Ken caught me slightly unawares as I wasn’t actually prepared to do a full job interview, all I expected was some administrative stuff – yeah, call me a noob. So when he got to asking how I see my future or what my strengths and weaknesses are, I actually didn’t know what to reply to the latter straight away. My weaknesses? Errr…right that’s the standard phony question you can expect in every job interview. You know, the one where you’re supposed to display how much of a self-critic you are, oh-so capable of self-reflection. And that’s why everyone answers with some wanna-be weakness that isn’t a weakness at all, but a strength too really, like “I am such a perfectionist” or “I’m overly punctual”.


I hate things like that. They’re part of what (the brilliant and ingenious) Billy Connolly calls”beige-ism”. Everyone knows how utterly stupid and empty these questions (and answers) are – as if you were gonna tell your future boss that you’re a messy slob or like to steal cookies from the cafeteria. So I just sat there for a moment contemplating a potential answer vs. my utter disgust for the procedure, before I told him I was a little impatient at times (which is actually true), but in the way that I “really like to get jobs done fast and efficiently” (which is again actually true), ya know! He seemed to be perfectly happy with this answer and the conversation proceeded to other topics from there. Phew.

An exercise in phoniness

On my way home, the whole experience got me thinking about what a hilarious thing it would be to incorporate the more nonsensical parts of job interviews into the standard WoW recruitment procedure. Most guilds, ours included, already run a questionnaire that will touch on matters like playtime, goals and expectations in their application form. What if we included the awkwardness of real interview questionnaires in them, could we expect to get similar cringe-worthy answers? What would we expect our applicants to say?

Question #14: What do you consider your weaknesses as a player?
– Answer 1: “Sometimes I am just so focused on downing a boss, I forget about my CDs or taking a potion.”
– Answer 2: “I’m a total perfectionist. I always want to be the main puller and clear every pack in an instance.”
– Answer 3: “I’m a little impatient. I always want to start raids on time and hate wasting time on bio breaks.”

Question #15: Where do you see yourself 2 years from now?
– Answer 1: “As a valuable member of your raid guild and one of your top DPS”
– Answer 2: “As part of your officer’s team where I can contribute in the guild’s best interests.”
– Answer 3: “I’ll be celebrating our success of having become one of the server’s top 2 progression guilds.”

Question #16: Why should we take you instead of that other applicant?
– Answer 1: “While I don’t know the other person, I assure you I am better than him.”
– Answer 2: “Because nobody can heal like I do.”
– Answer 3: “I am a 100% committed and fit your guild’s profile perfectly. We have a great future together!”

Now wouldn’t that just be a blast? I really think we should include these questions in our guild’s recruitment questionnaire for shits and giggles if nothing else! A lot of players already think that WoW feels like a job rather than a game sometime, so let’s go the whole nine yards I say! =D

P.S. Dear job agents, please don’t be offended. I do not actually dislike you, it’s not like you invented the system. And I like keeping the pen!