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.

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Raid leading Ulduar 25

A few nights ago I led my first 25m Ulduar, and it was certainly a challenge. Raid leaders have always had my respect, and as a participant I tend to follow the instructions from the leaders even if they make little sense. You never know when somebody has a method or tweak that will change the encounters. That said – its a prick of a job.

It is a strange sensation to lead a raid rather than just do my job. Kind of like thinking in two spaces at once, the first is my normal role of melee dps killing the mobs, and the second is watching what else is going on, seeing and correcting the actions of others.

Raid leading seems like a good role to keep the game interesting. I’ve always been an advocate for knowing the roles of other classes, and understanding what powers, strategies, and potential the Tank, DPS and Healer roles use. And now I get why often raid leaders have several alts, in each of the three roles in the game.

My concerns were:

  • Trying to give brief instructions to the players who had not seen the content, without covering everything and boring the experienced players to tears.
  • Moving at a pace that let us not feel to slow. Now to my mind, the last run was really slow, especially in the first prep. I aim to speed this up significantly.
  • Giving advice without being a prick, or sounding too harsh. I hate saying the same thing 3 times, and if a set of players are just not doing what they’re told that irks me. (eg. melee dps need to switch to the XT002 trash if it is getting too close to the boss)
  • Being ok, or not being ok when instructions are not followed.

I find in the heat of battle people stick to what they know rather than what they’re told to do in advance. That means that moving them mid fight will help, but also saying it afterward will help too. Post-wipe looks to me to be a good time to outline what we might have to do better. I think it willstick more in everyone’s heads after a small beating.

What went well:

  • Considering it was the first time that a lot of the raid had seen Ulduar 25, and first Ulduar run for a few players we did ok.
  • Killed Flame and XT, but had a frustrating time with Razorscale.
  • Morale was good, they’re happy to be seeing 25m stuff.
  • Overall everyone did what they had to in a really efficient way.

What I’ll do next time:

  • We tried Suicide Kings for the first time in the run too, and I think there was a lot of confusion. I am definitely going to re-cover the loot rules at the beginning.
  • Quick in, and expect players to know the fights. Get in, play, wipe if we need to, then cover next steps. Better to start playing that spend 20 minutes talking about it. Setup and go in 5-10 max for a new group.
  • Next run will be Flame, XT, then Kolo. Razor can be killed when we’re all a little better geared and more coordinated.