It is all about the time sink

The time sink game is all I’m playing at the moment. It has many levels and challenges.

I have three writing mini-projects going at once, a few games to try to play, and a family to look after. The three writing projects have deadlines which are looming so I really should be doing those with all my spare time, but I find them difficult to write them without spending large blocks of time. When I write I need a good 1-2 hours of time to get anything new written. I can review my own work in much smaller time blocks, but there is only so much review that can be done before it is called procrastination. New text needs thinking time.

A pc game however can be 30 minutes to 1 hour if I know what I’m doing (like WoW), or need a heap more (like 2-3 hours) if it is a game which is new to me like Elder Scrolls, EvE, Star Wars. I guess I could go play D3 too if I wanted some hack and slash fun, and D3 is the game I’ll fall back to when all else fails.

The writing is all based around pen and paper role-playing games (for a Deathwatch mini-module and a fan made Ars Magica supplement), and I’m enjoying the process of trying to create something for a critical audience. Writing for your own sake is easy, writing for an audience who will read, review, editorialise, and point out incongruity is much harder. That could be part of my hesitation too. The projects are not commercial things, so I’m not targeting a commercial level quality, but still thinking it has to be better than my typical notepad scrawl.

determined-space-marine

As far as computer games go, WoW is still interesting to me. I have some gripes which will come out below, but as I write this I’m really just mouthing off about an errant kid who I like, but pissed me off recently.

I think it is interesting that WoW Insider has announced cut-backs to their blog staff across all games, and wow is significantly affected. That would not happen if the revenue was flowing well, and that is telling about the users of these games, and the market in general. Even though the subscription rate is ok-ish the players themselves are not putting up with any kind of silly or boring content anymore. I think repetition will be the next thing that MMOs have to have less of to keep their audiences, and that will be a huge problem for almost all the theme park style games. Players want more content, more often, with no drop in quality or they go elsewhere. They might return when the new content drops, but almost all the players I speak to are not willing to wait. They go elsewhere. And they should too.

WoW and Guilds

Well there is a doozy here to tell. Many of our raiders either left for greener pastures, were removed for being painful, or left for life reasons. That then caused another round of departures, as others had to ponder leaving too. Then some of those greener pastures were not as good as advertised, so those people began looking around again. Because I’m fed up with being treated like a revolving door, and fed up with the whinging, a few were told they were not welcome back. I think most people would support a player making the “right” call for themselves, and forgive a lot of how that was communicated or made. We’re all human. I think a Guild has to also make the “right” choices too, and that means sometimes enough is enough.

This was not a great time for our guild, but also not unexpected at this stage in the game. The downtime between expansions is always crappy for guilds, with only the strongest ones staying focused. Add in some continued drama, a few people who think they are special snowflakes, and you’re left with very little to do. There is no lever by which a player can be controlled (such as an employment contract for compensation) so “managing” difficult people is next to impossible for any prolonged period.

That leaves us with a guild of social players and no “serious progression” raids happening. Frankly I’m glad that some of the pains-in-the-arse players are gone. I’m sad that we lost great people too, and even more so that it might lead to others leaving. At this point though it is not something to fight, but something to accept. I want players to be having fun, and that is far more important than rubbish about which guild you belong to, or she-said-he-said malarkey. I am glad it is “over”. I’m glad that the people who are staying will not have to wonder why such stupidity is tolerated. It is not tolerated anymore.

I can now login without having to think about somebody getting shitty about some illusory problem. Finally, no dramas from World of Warcraft. Yeehaw! I do not even understand why in hell some people require the input that they do; it is like they are not adults at all.

I’m even happy that the people who left are getting what they like from their game time. It is good to think that people can go somewhere and be happy, and it is very possible (and even a certainty in one case) that a problem only existed because of the people involved. Dissolve the problem relationship permanently, and the fun comes back. More power to them. I hope they’re all killing digital monsters, and looting wonderful pixels.

I’m really not having a go, just talking through what happened. I’m sure the choices were not perfect, nobody makes perfect choices all the time.

Bygones are bygones. – TyphoonAndrew.

An aside – Wow characters can only belong to a single guild at a time, and therefore changing guilds is also inevitable. Why can’t WoW have more than one formal method to organise players. Cal them battle units, corps, whatever, but allow a way that players can stay in a guild they like, but also advance and be managed in another set of organisations. It might help players who have dual loyalties. We can cross-server raid all sorts of junk, but cannot organise characters in the same way in-game. I think that is a functional gap.

walking-frozen-township

ESO Beta

This weekend I was given a ticket into Elder Scrolls Online Beta (thanks T!) and it looks like a reasonable game. As my friend told me “think of it as a good single player story, not as an MMO” and its a great game. There was an NDA which I briefly skimmed while downloading the game so rather than say anything questionable, I’ll just say that it is similar enough that I knew what to do, but was a little different. Graphically it will challenge some computers. This is not a game which will run well on a low spec machine.

Where is the value?

If I were to think about value for money when playing time sinks I not subscribe to Wow, Eve, ESO, or any other subscription game. I’d get back into Star Wars, or something like it. It’s free and has plenty of content I’ve not played. Or many of the other games out there that are free to play. I do like the idea of not having a wow subscription for a while to save up for something else. Perhaps it is time to pause my membership for a few months.

I’ve also got a 7 day trial of EvE sitting waiting, but I cannot bring myself to login just yet. It looks fantastic, and honestly I’d be playing more just to look at the pretty space pictures than actually want to do space battles. I don’t think that alone is worth a subscription cost. In fact a video of beautiful space scenes rolling in the background would almost be as appealing.

That’s not weird. Is it? Happy killing, TyphoonAndrew

Halo_Wars__shield_world_Matte_by_JJasso2

Clarified some Main and Alt thoughts

The feedback on my help-im-frustrated-by-mains-and-alts post was really good. Well great actually, as it had a range of side, which both challenged what I thought about the issues, and also supported many of the doubts I had – which is to say that nothing in that topic is straight forward.

I’d really like to know if I’m off my rocker on this issue.

Well I wasn’t incorrect, but I wasn’t 100% perfect either.

A some key points of differentiation on the issue were:

  • Longevity of the raider within the team. Some even said 10 vs 25s were different, and while I disagree I can see that it may make a difference. Churn within the team is exacerbated when somebody switches.
  • Attitude and level of cohesion within the team, which really tempered the level of support vs the impact.
  • The reason for the switch, being Gear greed, Need of the team, burnout, or preference. This was key for basically everyone, a player who witches for gear only was pretty much reviled by the information I found, and I support that view too. The other areas are gray, especially if you have a raider doing something that they’d not prefer for the goals of the raid.
  • Another key point was consistency. Applying a rule without bias was important to a large number of players, and I can understand why. Nobody want to feel that they are on the detrimental side of an exception. We all like to be special, unless it is to our disadvantage, but most people are happy if the dice come out in their favour.

As part of the post I also went digging on my own and found a large number of articles that helped. The short version of the outcome is that I’m now more confident that my overall approach is good, but also humbled a bit in terms of approach. I took the stance of being a neutral guildmaster, rather than a people person (I’m not an overly emotional people person by nature). I think I missed the emotional impact that this discussion could have on the team, especially the guys pondering a switch. I suspected that there would be impact, but not the degree of impact I saw.

I’ve promised to be typing up the official version of the policy this week (what an idiot I am for creating my own deadline), and it will be largely as drafted, but with tempered delivery. The clarifications I had to think about in response to the post really were the items that might have helped some of the discussion, if only I’d had 6 brains to draw from in the beginning.

Some of the sources I went to read are listed below. Now this list is not all articles devoted to the actual topic, it also contains perspectives on Alt-ism, and why it is good and bad. Often a good point is well made in parallel:

Wow ‘eh? Of course I’d have you re-read the my post and the discussion after it too, as there were some damn fine raiders who spoke up, but these links are good.

Thanks to Isisxotic, Jez,  Leit, Karegina, and Rakk.

Help! I’m frustrated by Mains and Alts

There is some background drama in my guild at the moment, which centers on the topic of rewarding Alts vs Mains in progression raiding: Should there be a penalty for switching mains, what about regular alts, and how do you handle loot in these scenarios?

Without naming folks I’d like to get some feedback from people who read this blog (as you’re clearly an intelligent bunch of high spec people).

I’m pretty open about having a more relaxed attitude toward my personal progress, but I take the policies of the guild very seriously. Heck, I’m the GM I should take it bloody seriously. I think a guild needs guidelines to protect against the people who would abuse the system, and sometimes that causes some angst to the players who would never dream of being selfish.

I said this in 2008: Often the feel of a discussion about progression can hurt feelings, or call out those with strongly held beliefs.

Yep, it sometimes sucks, but its the way of things. We have laws for the same reasons. A guild needs to protect the many, through consistency. I’ve seen more than enough dickheads in guilds in the past, and thankfully they are now all ex-guildies. The set we have now in Insidious are pretty solid people.

What is happening now is that we have a few raiders who wish to switch to different roles or different characters within the raid team. It raises potential drama as until now we’ve never created a policy that stipulated how that occurred or what the affect was.

A player joins a team, and selects a role (meaning a Class and Spec choice) in a team and should stick to it. Sometimes that role might be a Tank, Dps, Healer, whatever. There are also times when the player needs to switch spec for some reason. All good, that is normal. The actual reason for the change is basically irrelevant to me.

This so so that the team can learn to be cohesive, progress well, and be rewarded. Gear and entertainment are essentially why people are Raiding, so the team should do everything to make that happen.

But what happens when a member wishes to switch either character or spec?

I don’t mean for a fight, or even for a single run, I mean what happens when the Druid Tank wishes to become a Death Knight Tank (eg. a change of Character with the same role)? If that is allowed, is that new DK also OK to grab Plate Dps gear before the Warrior Tank? What about all the leather Agi gear, trinkets, and other items that druid has taken which is “lost” to the rest of the team.

Or when a main Dps decides they wish to Heal? What do you do when that really nice Staff drops and two healers both want it – one has been waiting as healer for months, and the other started healing last week.

After many years playing my gut tells me that switching mains causes drama and disruption within the team. The affect might be small, but it is there. It could also be large, messy, dramatic, and a total pain in the arse.

What happens when the player has to play the old-main because the raid can’t fit the new main selection, or they need the old role because now they need to recruit? Do they gear gear as a main or alt?

I believe that there should be a period where the player is de-prioritised for loot. In affect I think that any character that the player brings to the raid should be treated as an Alt for loot distribution while the team adjusts.

This is so:

  • The switch over to a new Main is discouraged. The carrot is the new character or role, the stick is that they have to give something up too.
  • The other raiders are not competing straight away for loot against the new Main.
  • If the player decides they don’t like the new role after all and change again, they have not taken gear away from another player.
  • If the player has to play the old role, they do not take loot which they won’t use in the long term either.
  • other players can know and see directly what is a Main vs an Alt.
  • when the raid leader decides, the interim penalty period is dropped and the person is now a Main.
  • That period might be a day or a year depending on all sorts of things like gear ilevel, participation, attitude, competing roles, flexibility, competency, etc. I suggested the period be flexible so that we have choice.

The counterpoint view to this is that people should be able to switch characters and roles as they wish at any time, and they everyone can be trusted. I’ve been told that there is actually no problem here at all. Having a policy is not needed, and that it is insulting to some people within the team as it seems I don’t trust my raiders. Thus this post was born.

And that counterpoint is partially right. I don’t trust that we won’t have drama, and therefore I want a policy. Make it a rule that applies equally, and there can be no favorites.

To me the idea of no rule is just chaos, and serves people who have many alts more than it serves focused players. I think it will lead to wasted loot and drama very quickly.

I see the new Main as being almost the same as a new player joining the team. There is a time where you’re not sure how everything will share out, so having some protection in place for the people who have been consistent is important.

What are your thoughts?

Please post, comment, etc as I’d really like to know if I’m off my rocker on this issue.

The Path of Calm

It has been a strange few months, full of changes that gave me real pause to consider gaming in a new light. This post is a progressive train of thoughts written to help me express the recent events, and process them. Some folks wanted to walk the path of the Titans, I want to walk the Path of Calm.

Foremost on my mind recently was the harsh and troublesome conversations we had to have with guild members. I’m not going to blather out the name or details as I think there is nothing new in the story that has not been smashed out hundreds of times on hundreds of message boards, but it was the first time that I felt very significantly affected by the selfishness displayed by some of the folks involved. It has further changed my opinion and attitude toward gamers and how to manage games.

In a few short weeks we (the guild officers) had several players constantly whinging about loot, indirectly attacking other players well beyond the typical “they suck” type comments, and pushing the guild to cut players that were not perfect – to the point where even some of the openly nice and calm folks started to get frayed emotions. And not just one major issue, but a few people mixing opinions and thoughts, till it started to really affect the thinking of the leadership outside the game.

The first series of events appeared when one “side” of the player-team-issue was asking the officers to make an us-or-them call, and the other side was equally frustrated for different reasons, but not aware of the scale of the drama. In the middle are the other raiders wondering why the pulls are taking 15 minutes, and the officers trying to play for enjoyment – it was nothing new except the scale of the feedback, which was intense.

We went digging through the responses and the feeling of those involved, as you can imagine it was messy. We chatted amongst ourselves, mainly to make sure we were still sane and helping each other. We talked to the folks involved; sometimes handled it badly, sometimes handled it well, and sometimes nothing else but a face-to-face was going to fix anything. In the end the people with the issues were yelling the loudest or not listening at all, and unsurprisingly when they started acting normally again most of the trouble disappeared. In affect I think the anonymous nature of the Internet helped these people fluster themselves into a position where they could only be dramatic. They could not back down without looking silly, so had to get harsher rather than quieter.

What particularly got under my skin during the events was the attitude of constantly whinging and not offering any suggestion or actions that would not totally demoralise and alienate the others involved. Sometimes the personalities of the officers made things slightly worse too, but it is totally unreasonable to expect an officer to remain inhumanly neutral while they are dealing with frustrating events. An officer is just a person who is willing to get involved. They are held to a higher standard, and sometimes attacked with that standard when they can’t be perfect. I’ve read many places that it is a thankless job, and I can’t agree more.

I’m glad its over, and glad that we didn’t have to gkick everyone involved. I’m pleased that the officers kept it together and helped each other. The core of the guild is the players that don’t have ego, and I really would like to talk to these people more and more. In general I’ll look to support the folks who are fun and zero drama over a dramatic high performance raider, or a paranoid idealist every day of the week.

A second funny (as in groan-funny, not ha-ha-funny) event was an old mate taking issue with conversations of him recruiting from our guild totally out of context, adding some paranoia, and then flipping out. In this story (which was running concurrently with the above) the mate was thinking about starting up an old retired guild. Like you’d expect he was feeling out old members and testing their interest. A few of those members mentioned it to the officers, and I took it upon myself to chat to the mate, as we generally get along well.

Like you’d also expect the leadership of our guild wanted to make sure that we didn’t get too badly nurfed by the old guild if it was to be reborn. Our fear was that there was a possibility that too many players would be poached, which would weaken our ranks, but really I didn’t need to worry. Mostly the players he was chatting to were not in our core raid group, but are people that I really respect and like. Low drama great people who have really positive attitudes. Of course I didn’t want them to leave, but I also didn’t want them to feel pressure either way. To my knowledge none have left yet, and it’s been a few weeks since this blew-up and then blew away.

The drama was mostly invisible to everyone, except a few of us who were directly talking; and for us it was confusing, illogical, and strange on both sides. For myself in hindsight I felt like I should have just ignored it totally. Not even given the thought the time of day, and let the players decide on their own. Next time I’ll try to remember to say something like, “sure, you should consider it, but we’d hate to lose you and understand totally.” And to the mate who wanted to start-up the old guild I should have just said almost the same.

Players will be players, and all the rules and policy in the world actually have no enforceable control on what another player decides to do. They can do as they wish, all the officers and other players can do is control how they react and what they do in response. My plan overall was for the re-born guild to partner with us for the runs, where we might assist each other. An alliance of players, where we didn’t need to worry about poaching, as all the players and characters could swap in some method that helps both. Naive really, but I’m glad it’s over.

And now the part where I scream a bit:

  • I hate these type of situations, and find it difficult not to just gkick people involved.
  • I hate the fact that some people consider themselves inherently superior to others. Especially when none of us are perfect.
  • I hate that some of our darn good people are so drained by the human management needs of this task, that they’d rather not login. They are in affect paying for an entertainment service that they love, but cannot use due to the drama issues. Its crazy.
  • I hate the paranoid type of people, who can’t see beyond their ego to actually receive feedback to improve, and who miss opportunities.
  • I hate fact that I hate; it’s not why I play. It is not why I do anything in life.

As a counter-point to the rant above – there are those conversations you have that are helpful. Players stepping up and taking responsibility, or just showing some faith and support are wonderful. Players who are always selflessly giving their own time, without any real reward beyond just helping. Players that like to do silly things that make you laugh out loud. And players who are always up for something.

We have them in our guild, and I wish I could clone them. Give me a crew of 100 people like that, and we’d have the best darn guild on any server. I hope they know that they are appreciated too, and I’m trying to think of a way of saying thanks that will resonate permanently; in a way that will always be remembered (email me, suggestions are welcome).

And lastly the small event that I want to share is the somewhat ironic event that I was once an officer, and now have been made the GM for the Insidious guild. I consider this to be a temporary arrangement, where I am just keeping the seat warm for one of the other officers or old GMs to step into. I don’t care if this lasts a very long time, but it is important to me for the guild to keep the same feel of ownership; for people to understand it is a role to be performed, not a mantle to effect an agenda.

I’m spending my online time speaking to members about loot, or discussing their raid spot, or what we should do with great people who can’t play as often. Sometimes I’m trying to get folks to be less silly or passionate. About not being temporary idiots when they deal with real idiots, and how we can keep the guild rolling without making it a full time job or having a magic wand. Internal discussions take a lot of time.

There are also small questions (like what to do with guild gold now that everyone contributes a little) which are important questions, but something that we can easily overlook in the face of drama. Something on my mind is how to run things without it feeling like an unpaid job, and how to keep myself positive.

More to learn I guess. If you got this far, thank for listening.

Happy Killing.

Being a guild officer

Over the years I’ve been an officer in a few guilds along the wow ride, and for better or worse it seems to keep happening. Probably it happens for the better in terms of slightly nudging the attitude of the fellow officers and guildies, and maybe for the worse in terms of my attention time and stress levels.

If you ever want to speak to a bunch of wow players who are sick of whinging and loot drama, just buy an officer a cold-brew; you’ll hear plenty. And god help you if you’re one of the loot-mongers and the officer has already had three drinks.

So in the spirit of sharing for everyone’s benefit, and also keeping myself sane, here is a few things about being an officer.

A good officer will:

  • Be outwardly calm
  • Seldom (if ever) speak openly against policy. May raise concerns internally amongst other officers and leadership.
  • Operate within the boundaries of their perview. ie. Stick to the areas where others know they’re working.
  • Always consider the style of the organisation, especially where it is dissimilar to what they are used to.
  • Help reenforce and also continue to influence/enhance the style of the organisation. This means not trying to engineer change overnight, but maybe chance a policy for the better over a season.
  • Officers will seek to learn from and communicate with each other.
  • Officers will depend on each other, trust others, and delegate.
  • Officers will follow the rules far more than every other member, including the leader.
  • Step aside if they cannot follow the rules in the spirit they are intended.

Officers need:

  • Boundaries of authority and action.
  • Known points of escalation
  • Power to move and act independandly of the leader
  • A frequent point of communication with the leadership
  • Can do things for the leadership which even the leadership cannot.
    • Eg, can hold to the principals when the leaders might be compromised by a friendship or personal involvement.

An officer will not:

  • Call out a non-raid issue for discussion during a raid without a bloody good reason.
  • Be a loot whore, greedy, or generally favour themselves over others.
  • Disregard the spirit of a rule to enforce it strictly and without compassion.

Ok, that all said – why am I raising this?

Because I see many folks who are officers & leaders in name only. The kind of idiots who lead by reverse-example. Or just such poor selfish mongrels that they should be prohibited from controlling anything, but instead they get promoted for being the loudest.

So what also needs to be added to the list above, is that the leadership (be it one person or many) need to select officers carefully, and never just because the person is a mate, or a good raider, or loud. You’re just setting yourself up for a drama ride of your own creation.

Thankfully this is few and far between, and all I have to do is follow my own advice.

Happy killing.