Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Last night I popped into Warhammer Online for a little bit. It's still fun, and there seems to be more open RvR going on. That's good. I doubt I'll ever go back and level up like I do in WoW, though. Maybe if RvR becomes a seriously viable method to level, I will play more Warhammer.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hardcore Minority

Tobold recently made a blog entry about the waning influence of the "hardcore" player in WoW. I find myself moving back and forth about his opinions on the game, but this point I agree with. And, the people who feel that WoW has changed, or gone soft, probably are the people who need to move on. Given the choice between millions of people leaving because the game is too hard or having less than a million people leave because it's too easy, I know where Blizzard will go. That's a lot of money to give up to remain the "hardcore" king of MMOs.

Even if you think that most of the more casual players only play WoW because of the percieved uber-leetness of the raiding, that bar has moved. Now more people will be in the raiding dungeons, killing bosses, instead of reading about hardcore raiding guilds doing it and hoping they could one day make the cut and be in there, also. That will surely keep people playing longer, and consuming more content.

While I'm not really happy about the achievement system, it does provide a way to give the serious raiders challenges beyond just clearing a raid instance. It's not the same as having been in a small group of people to even see the inside of Black Temple, for example, but even the most accomplished Diablo II player didn't see any content I didn't see. They just beat the game on a much more difficult level than I had the time or skill to do. Hooray for both of us.

I welcome our new, kindler, gentler World of Warcraft.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More Wraths

I hit level seventy nine in Blizzard's latest World of Warcraft expansion, The Wrath of the Lich King.

Blizzard has done some really hard thinking about what it means to level in their game. Quests are easier, quicker, and seem to hand out more rewards. When you think about that in terms of a skinner box style of leveling, it's a departure from the norm. Typically, as you get higher in levels and are more invested, the rewards come more infrequently to the amount of work put in. I would say that Wrath does the opposite. Less work, more fun. That's a good sign.

The more Blizzard does to reinforce the idea that time poured into something does not denote worth, the better the game will get for the majority of players.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Wilderness

I have been musing over the concept of travel in MMORPGs. I have two competing desires in any game I play. I want to be able to meet with friends and get anywhere I need at anytime, but I also want to have my character be able to live outside a town for a long time while being self sustainable and living off the land.

In my mind's eye, the fantasy setting almost demands that the adventuring character be able to walk out of a town and subsist for weeks on end without seeing a vendor or blacksmith. Creating your own arrows, making your own food, all take on a new importance when a town is not just a click away. Are you really a seasoned adventurer if you can just fly to town and sleep in a real bed and buy all your provisions? Imagine a world where striking out to rescue someone means stepping out into a world without a safety net. You can't just stop half-way there, fly to town, buy some more arrows, then fly back out. But, then, if you can fly, why wouldn't you just fly over the area and look for the missing individual.

But, like oil and water, these two ideas will probably never cross paths. Who wants to play a game where it takes days to cross an expanse? Especially when you want to play with your friend on the other side of the world today and not next Friday. Access is important to people, and limiting access is bad. Even when it destroys the sense of being in the wild and being a grizzled adventurer.

That's it for now

I have more ideas and concept for how to go to the "next level" in an MMORPG, but they are still unformed and ill-formed. Mostly having to do with proper game mechanics and building a combat system that works and scales. Is that too much to ask for?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Social Networks

I've gone over some mechanics, and I think I will go back to them in another post, but I felt the need to go over some ideas about how people interact in an ideal MMORPG. This is something that's very important to me and I think it's probably the most important concept in any MMO. People will overlook any mechanical, design, or art issues with a game if their friends are playing it and they are having fun playing with their friends. I know that I am not a fan of medieval games, but I played DAoC and World of Warcraft because of the people I played with.

WoW has the most hamfisted and poor approach to social networking of any game I have played. There are no alliances. You are either a member of a guild, or you are not. You are either playing with a group of people, or you are not. The meager options available cajole people into choosing between a guild with friends, or a guild designed to raid. A guild (and a player) can not serve to masters (or sets of friends). DAoC had alliances which helped quite a bit. People could join a guild of friends, and join an alliance with a larger goal that leveraged different guilds with different goals into a single unit. Warhammer Online is aiming for this by everything I have seen of it. But, even with alliances, does it really represent how people play the game? How they interact? Does a person really have to be limited to a single set of friends?

One of the largest issues to repair with modern MMORPG's is to help quantify and advertise guilds to people. Unless someone can provide me with sound reasoning otherwise, I am pretty certain that most people playing WoW, for example, do not join a guild. And if they do, it's a leveling guild and they have no idea what a guild will help them with, or what the guild expects from them. So, why not take the concept of joining a guild and making it part of the game experience for everyone? EVE Online does a good job of this since you must belong to a "guild" and all new characters start in an NPC guild. Right off the bat, people are exposed to a guild channel and it's pro's and cons. This means people are developing an idea of what they want in a guild. Even if it helps teach them what they do not want, it's getting them prepared and to think about it. So, expose players to the idea of a guild right off the bat, and get them thinking about it as a part of the game ... which it is. If your game requires getting five or more people together to kill bosses, you owe it to your players to help get them in touch with a group of people who have the same mindset on how to play the game you have provided.

Another idea that I think would be a huge positive is in-game guild advertising. Give guilds chances to recruit in the game in a way that isn't just someone spamming a "looking for guild" channel. Players should be able to walk their character into a major city, stroll over to the guild recruiting office, and see lists of guilds that explain what their guild is about, who they are, and what kind of people they would love to have join their group. This would also provide a good place for people to see what guilds are doing in the game. Are they raiding? Are they leveling? Are they the biggest guild on the server? Or maybe a small guild of friends? This place should let people fill out guild applications and see if they are accepted or rejected for membership. Why force guilds to fabricate all of this outside of your game, with their own time and money? This provides something that helps builds communities and gets more people into the "guild game". Let's face it, /ginvite is not a good basis for guild building.

I'm not convinced this is the best solution, but I propose a system where a person can join multiple guilds. People are not members of only one social group. Many people join multiple groups of people in their weekly lives to have fun or accomplish goals. The same applies for people who are playing MMORPGs. An individual could be a member of a social guild with their friends who play rarely, and a member of a serious raiding guild, and a member of a PvP defense guild, etc, etc. The idea here is to get people to build communities beyond just their most important needs. No more leaving your friends because you want to raid seriously. Now you can operate in both circles and not be relegated to isolating yourself from your old guilds chat. This would also go a long way into absolving the nightmare of people changing their game goals. Guilds can be designed to suit a wider range of demands. Short term guilds for defeating content. Long term guilds for social interactions. It could be complicated for people to operate with three or four guild chats going, but is it better to have more options than shoehorn everyone into the confining single guild system? No one would have to join multiple guilds.

Overall, without matching the in-game tools to how people socialize in the game, nothing but strife will be the result.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gearing Up!


"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." - Mark Twain

Every MMO I have played involves getting armor, rings, trinkets, etc and using them. Even EVE Online, at some level, is about getting equipment with certain attributes and using them.

1) Where it comes from.

In World of Warcraft, most of the best gear comes from one of three places. PvP, raiding, and crafting. Other games have variations on this, but it's basically the same concept. But, I won't deny that my biggest gripes about how gear is handled are based on how WoW does it.

Random drops from boss encounters while raiding have got to go. Besides being frustrating, it means that getting a specific piece of equipment requires you to do some pretty crummy things. Do you really want to entice people to run into a dungeon or raid instance over and over just in the hopes of getting some good gear? That's not even a viable model for an adventuring hero to outfit themselves. Should it take nine or twenty four other people for a player to get a nice piece of armor? I don't think so. And then there is the player competition this creates. When there is only one and many people want it, they often will fight with their own guild mates for it. Guilds fabricate entire systems outside the game to manage this loot distribution system. That's asinine!

I like the idea of collecting badges or tokens from killed enemies to trade in for armor and equipment. That's an awesome idea. I don't mind people playing PvP to amass points so they can do the same. Again, great idea. But the random loot drop idea is just creating more effort and work for everyone.

2) How it looks (stats/aesthetics) when you first get it.

Armor often comes in a lot of flavors. Many of the standard fantasy tropes apply to MMO games. Priests wear cloth, rogues wear leather, warrior wear plate, and so on. And, in every game, different types of characters share similar armor types. In WoW, for example, shaman and hunters both wear mail armor, and paladins and warriors wear plate armor. And when the gear comes with magical properties on it, it creates arguments and confusion over which item is best used by different classes. And add into the mix that paladins can be healers, tanks, and dps, so you end up with all three kinds of plate. Some of which is useless to others. This means that itemization of gear is incredibly complicated for the developer and for the player. Again, we see there are lots of systems and web sites dedicated to helping people wade through the tons of equipment to find what is best for them. I say that's broken.

So, let's take the magical component of the armor, and toss it down into section three below and just talk about armor and equipment and what it should be. Armor should be armor, and nothing more. It should protect you from physical damage (armor value), an armor type (plate, cloth, etc.), and a visual appearance. It needs nothing else. This makes picking your armor very simple and lets you prioritize appearance higher without sacrificing some innate boost to your specific class capability.

Net result? Your armor is selected based on protection and appearance.

3) How it can be made better.

Now that I ripped all the juicy stuff that people long for in their gear, what ever will we do? Apply the benefits, stats, and buffs to the gear based on what class we are and what role we are. Just like my crafting post before this, the land should have some enchanters of varying levels of skill who can sell to adventurers enchantments. These are scrolls that let people apply benefits to their armor to suit their class and role demands. One side effect is that your armor is not upgraded by replacement, but by actually replacing only the enchantment. Your look and armor values can stay the same, but you can increase your power with access to new enchantments via the vendors. These could also be purchased and stored so you can hang on to ones you like.

You might say that we've just moved the problem around, but that doesn't have to be true. There's a chance that these enchantments could become insanely numerous and complicated. But if there is a mathematical system that underlies the entire class system to help quantify the net effect of every stats on characters theoretical performance, then a formula can exist to create similarly powered enchants and balance them properly. Keeping the number of enchants small is now a viable option and new armor designs don't force the creation of a new set of stats for the gear. There's no reason to create enchants for variation, only for power increases and class/role customization.

4) How does it get replaced?

Your armor is replaced if you find or purchase armor with more protection, or a better look that you like.

Your enchantments are replaced if you find or purcahse an enchatment that is better. Or, if you change your role and need enchants that cater differently to that role.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Crafting ... seriously? You're going to start with crafting?

Yes. Yes I am.

I feel that crafting was probably the first step off the path for many MMO style games that led to a confusing, unfocused game. In DAoC, I felt that crafting was just something to keep people occupied while they were not grinding levels or playing RvR. Basically, something to keep people in the game when they were not playing the game! And to those of you who love crafting in MMO's, I'm going to recommend something you probably won't want to hear. I mean this in the nicest way possible. Go find a crafting game or make stuff in real life. If your idea of fun is sitting in one spot and doing something that other people feel is a chore, you can go play EVE Online. It's like the best crafting game I have ever played. EVER.

In my vision of an MMO game, the character I play is not a merchant. They are not a haberdasher, or a sword smith, or an alchemist, or a pet store owner. They are an adventurer, or a hero, or a villian. A real do-er in the world that needs things done. Aside from gathering skills, my game would have no crafting or tradeskills per-se. This lack of crafting solves one issue right away. You don't need to feel obligated to grind up a profession to make gear, or to make items you feel you need. No more need to find a blacksmith to make belt buckles to grind your leatherworking up. No one will tell you to grind up your tailoring to get some armor that is the best in the game. It's a liberating idea.

But, how am I going to get cool things? Like nice armor, potions, gizmos and whiz-bang inventions? Here is what I think can provide a realistic, customizable, system to get people these same things. Merchants. Imagine heading into town and going to the local armor smith and commissioning some armor. This merchant offers some discounts if you can provide some of the raw materials, but he can also take raw cash. You get to select from many different looks and options, but you can make the same armor that looks different. Potions and other items can be purchased from merchants, not unlike how you buy arrows in WoW today. It just makes sense that people would specialize like this. Hero's go out and "hero" and the people who are artisans stay in cities and make quality products for money and materials. You could even have tiers of crafters who offer ranges of quality items. The best armor crafter in the world could be pricey, but manufacturer the most ornate and powerful armor in the game. I don't know, maybe he lives in some out of the way place. It's a free world.

In the end, I like this idea because it solves a few problems. It removes the idea of balancing tradeskill items with items you might get from killing bosses. People would not feel obligated to grind a tradeskill up just to get some high end gear easily. People can collect resources to offset costs of new armor, and they can get armor that suits them that looks the way they want. It also creates a world where every priest you meet isn't a master artisan tailor. This design adds some depth to the world and makes NPCs seem less like vending machines and more like craftsmen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crazy Ideas for an MMORPG

I have played a few MMORPGs and, as such, have some crazy ideas. I feel like I should write some of them down. Maybe someone will appreciate how crazy these ideas really are. I plan to post them on the blog in a series that will go into each one at a summary level.

A few of these ideas are really centered around the idea of a game being enjoyable to play, without being a huge smattering of little parts that all suck. Purity is something I have posted on in the past, and I like the idea of a game being direct and the players not being able to argue over the purpose of playing. Can you honestly imagine four people playing Monopoly, each with a different idea of what "winning" is? I can't.

Commence the crazy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I complain a lot on this blog, but I am also seriously thankful. And since this is where I spout my gibberish about the MMO gaming world, I'll post my thanks about the same topic.

Thanks to those guys who cram in hours of work getting the games I play out the door. Thanks for fixing so many bugs. For those that try their best to keep me entertained, thank you. Thanks for the great artwork, voice acting, quest text, model design, web pages, forums, etc. There's a lot of people working hard around the clock to keep games like World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, EVE Online, and many more, up and running. Thanks. Server jockeys, managers, QA testers, community managers, thank you.

As a sysadmin, I know that these games I play are hard to make work flawlessly. And rarely do you guys get credit for the hours upon hours where there are no problems. Every time I log in and things just work, it's a testament to your efforts.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wraths

My copy of the new World of Warcraft expansion arrived in my mailbox on Monday. So, I popped it in and took it for a spin. There's some good and some bad with WoW these days.

One bright beacon of light is that all of the content in the new expansion has already been conquered by the most elite of all guilds in the world. Before my copy was even in my hands. I like this because it does tell me that Blizzard seems to be getting wise about their past "make-it-so-hard-no-one-can-beat-it-quickly" mentality of balancing their content. Raiding content after you hit the maximum level shouldn't be a struggle for the average player and guild. What good is spending half your companies resources on parts of the game only a minority of players will ever encounter or see? Better to cater to the majority of players and get more people rolling through the content and having fun. I am hopeful that this will slowly leave the more "hard core" crowd looking for bigger and better challenges in other games.

I also like the look and feel of the new areas. The Death Knight starting area is nice and different. And the Northrend areas I saw as Alliance are awesome looking. As usual, the artists employed by Blizzard are amazingly good at what they do. And the new areas are able to convey a feeling and mood as well as a sense of place. The quests clearly pay homage to the fact that you are not a schlub and you are a hero who can make a difference. Despite my knowing how ironic it is, it's still a nice touch when you are basically soloing.

My characters are a mess. The mechanics seem out of whack. I have no idea what's important for my classes anymore. And, I'm a little upset that the game seems to radically change every expansion. I'm not sure it's getting better each time, either. In typical Blizzard fashion, I have no in-game help to let me know what stats are important to my character or what gear is better or worse than other gear. I'm level seventy and I have been playing the game for four years and I am back to feeling like my seasoned character has no clue how to be good at the game. It's frustrating and bad design.

I guess two out of three isn't bad for a game that's been around the block a while.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The will to play

Fallout 3 has sucked up a lot of my time recently. WoW, WAR, meh. I have to say that I ordered the new WoW expansion, and I might play it. But, Fallout 3 was a nice break from the MMO re-tread world. I didn't have to worry about people telling me what to do. Or not having enough people coordinated to get anything done.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


It takes inspiration to be the person organizing stuff. Getting a bowling team together, planning raids, hosting a LAN party, or coaching a softball team. All these kinds of things take inspiration, vision, work, and participants.

For me, I look back at my time as a guild leader as the most soul crushing experience of my life. All my vision and inspiration were totally stomped into the ground by wave after wave of guild members. A large part of that entire experience for me was not that my vision was flawed (which it might have been). But that when I proposed it to people, no one really cared. I was greeted with an initial wave of indifference that slowly turned into a steady trickle of ambivalence and malaise.

I had the vision. I had the inspiration. I put in the work. But, I am not sure I had the willing participants. At least, not enough of them. I think I had several willing helpers who embraced the vision, but none had their own vision or inspiration. Hindsight is 20/20, and I probably should not have moved forward with an existing guild, with an existing player base. A new guild would have been a better idea. It would have avoided the constant turmoil of people trying to stay with their friends, but who didn't give a damn about the "idea" of the guild.

Live and learn.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Guild 2.2

Avoid the trappings of an in-game structure all together.

In this concept, you avoid the fixed barriers of a guild. Friendships are no longer defined or destroyed by inclusion in an arbitrary game mechanic. A "lite" version of this idea is the alliance. While people might have to join a guild to join the alliance, they can join (or create) a guild they like, with people they like, and join an alliance that provides an over-arching unity to meet a larger goal. Yet, this doesn't solve all the issues with management. You have to join a guild, and that guild will need to be managed and controlled. Most alliances still have rules for participation and to manage shared resources, such as the alliance chat channel.

The Leftover's concept is a good implementation of the "No-Guild Guild" idea. There is no "guild", only charters. Charters are for accomplishing goals. The charters function as limited guilds. They have defined goals, there is no in-game manifestation of being a member, and no expectation of being included permanently. As a matter of fact, the charters are obviously not going to last as long as the people will play the game. Charters are designed to tackle specific content in the game of WoW and when the person running the charter is done, the charter might just go away. No harm, no foul. The one thing this idea really delivers to the table is the broaching of expectations. No one joins the charter with the expectation of getting lots of guild services. And no one running the charter expects people to behave like they are members of a guild. And, if you don't want to be in a guild at all, a charter is still viable for you to join or run.

Obviously, someone is still running the charter and doing the work of putting together a raid in WoW, but this is a lot less work than setting up web services, managing guild membership and interpersonal problems. In the end, a charter leader would most likely be doing this same exact work in a guild, and be called a raid leader. But now they have a wider pool of participants to choose from and people have a wider pool of raid leaders to follow. No one is limited to the pool of players in their guild alone. At first glance, you might think this is opening up this aspect of the game to more people might lower quality of participants. But, since the charter leader and the participant are free to do as they please, they can exclude problem players from who they have to interact with. Charter leaders can opt to not invite people they think are problems and participants can not join groups run by people they don't like. They are not playing out of a pool of their guild, and thus forced to decide between their friends and their game play expectations.

Guild 2.1

One of the first ground rules I can see coming out of this is that idea that a guild and the member have a social contract. There are expectations on the members to put time into the guild, and an expectation that the guild will (in turn) provide certain things that the member expects. Those member expectations are above and beyond following the rules or playing the game well. Showing up is not "giving back to the guild". If all you have time for is to "show up", then I seriously question why anyone should carry you by running events, hosting a website, managing a VOIP server, etc. I certainly had the reverse thrown in my face many times as a guild leader. People telling me that they are sick of carrying everyone else in the raiding group since they are showing up on time, doing their best, while others are not. If your guild required nothing more than people to show up and play their best, you wouldn't really need a guild, would you? People can play their best on their own.

This concept for a guild would not be "new" per se. But it would be a formalization of how guilds have worked in the past. It's also a more formal view on what a guild actually is. Instead of being a club, it's an arrangement and everyone knows it and appreciates it. Many serious gamers really do join and run guilds like this. It's not written down, but it's a social contract guild. Do X and Y, and you'll get A and B in return. This is also why those high end raiding guilds fall apart when progress is not happening. Suddenly the guild isn't delivering A and B despite a member giving X and Y. The guild is in breech and the contract is null and void. It's possible that the guild is not to blame and it's just a string of bad luck, but that's just a horrible contract. No guild can guarantee progress, and if the members believe it can, they are the ones buying a bad bill of goods.

But, this idea might work for more deliverable services. Such as a guild agreeing to host so many events a week. Or making sure people have VOIP services, calendaring, and people to manage the bank and keep the jerks out of the guild. Those are feasible things a guild could deliver in exchange for members who promise to help run some of those events, contribute to the bank, etc.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Guild 2.0

You want a group of people to play a game with. Let's just assume that's the case. Hypothetically.

How do you get people to do things that they don't want to do? How do you get people to see the game for what it is, and learn to be good at it? How do you get people to lead other people and put some of their own personal time into a system?

I'm operating under some basic ground rules that you have to agree with before you can come up with something new.
  1. People need other people to achieve a goal in the game. If not, then there's no reason for a system. If you don't need other people, just play by yourself.
  2. An intelligent leader is required to make progress in the game. Random grouping and zergs might work sometimes, but if you value your time, being coordinated and working together means more consistent results.
  3. Your game allows for variances in how people want to play it. In other words, it's not a severely limited scope of game play. People might be gear motivated, or socially motivated, or one of many other self-driven motivations.
  4. Most people want to partake in group activities, but few will have the desire, motivation, or time to lead a group.
  5. The majority of people in the game, and most likely your guild, will have expectations of the guild, but will not want the guild to have expectations of them as a member.
So, given these crazy ground rules, how could it be done? And would it be too much work?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trust me, you are totally evil.

I'm not one to go all squeamish in a game. There are good guys, bad guys, and those in between. And in the end, it's just a game and, as far as I know, no orphan souls are being used to power the servers.

But, the "Evil Elves" in Warhammer Online are pretty evil. And I'm not talking about concerted evil as a crusade against the other side which is good. I'm also not talking about "take over the world" evil. I mean "the script says really really really REALLY evil, so I'm going over the top" evil. We're talking about total chaos. To the point that after I was in the second zone, I seriously wondered how these guys manage to stay together in an organized group. It's rampant chaos and random acts of violence. Does the extra step of sticking heads on pikes really help our side? Or is it just busy work? If I were an evil elf starting up the chain of command, I would think that after a while I would look around and say, "Maybe the good elves are right, I don't need every single commanding officer telling me I'm worthless and I'm a jerk. Especially after I just helped them out and saved their ass or whatever." The defection rate has got to be really high.

I spent time on a low level quest poisoning someone, then covering up the attempt, then taking credit for killing some random dude who is being blamed for the covering up of the attempt. Even the Klingons figured out it was easier to just kill people and say, "He sucked and I have some better ideas" than to try and write plots for a CSI show. Evil for the sake of evil just isn't a good system of governing.

I bring all this up because during my time playing the totally evil elves, I actually thought to myself, "this seems a little too evil for me." I know that these naughty elves, as I like to call them, are supposed to be hedonistic, selfish, jerks. And, at some level I can barely make out the semblance of some desire to reclaim their homeland. I think those can go a long way for motivation as a person playing as a dark elf.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I pre-ordered Warhammer Online. This act of signing up in advance to purchase the game entitled me to a "Preview Weekend", "Open Beta", and a "Head Start". I think there's also some trinkets in the game, but I don't care much about those gimmicks.

The "Head Start" let me get in the game a couple days before the boxes were on the shelf. This was kinda nice. I figured that since I had pre-ordered, I could wait for the box to show up, put the key into the accounting system and keep playing. I didn't realize that a day or so after the grand opening, I would find myself locked out and waiting for my retail box to show up in the mail. I guess that if I had known that in advance, I might have made some different decisions.

Overall, regardless of the quality of the game itself, the entire pre-order, beta, head start deal was a difficult to understand system. I ended up, by pre-ordered, with four keys and no real idea when and where to use them. Most of the times and dates for events to start or end were unknown and unpublished on Mythic's web site. Would it have been so hard to have a calendar with start and stop dates for these events? Or was the game being shoved out the door too fast?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nugget of Wisdom

If there's one thing being a guild leader has taught me, it's that doing your best will be rewarded by the constant reminder that everyone else cares more than you and does less than you. So don't bother.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The WoW Killer

It wasn't Age of Conan, was it? Puzzle Pirates didn't kill it. How about Dungeons & Dragons Online? Nope. Guild Wars? Nothing is going to "kill" WoW. I hate to break it to the WAR fans, but WAR won't kill WoW. It's not a reflection on WAR at all. It's a reflection on the mediocrity of the WoW players and the "jack of all trades" game that is WoW.

WoW is not a PvE game. It's got the best PvE game inside it, but it's not just about that. It's also a pokemon game. And a PvP game. And an RvR game. And a guild building game. It's chock full of little things to keep people busy. Like my post before, there's no pure focus in WoW. It's all of those things. Little by little, new games will come out and they won't go toe to toe with WoW. They'll offer the WoW player a slice of the WoW pie that is done better and with more intensity and focus than WoW could offer. You just can't come out of the gate against WoW, offering people everything WoW can today. WoW has had a lot of time to bolt on PvP, faction grinds, mount collecting, pet collecting, etc. Trust me, all that stuff was not there from day one.

Now you are ready to take on a slice of the WoW pie. WAR is doing this, and it's a smart attempt to do something WoW can not do. WAR is all about PvP. Even if WoW spends lots of development cycles on PvP, it won't be as good as WAR. WAR just doesn't have the same PvE end-game to worry about unbalancing. But, why should someone leave WoW to play WAR? That person needs to be able to detach from WoW, and they need to like your niche. The second part is easy. Lots of people got their PvP feet wet in WoW (or DAoC), and they have a desire to play a game where PvP is done right from the first day. But can they detach from WoW? Some will. Many will not.

Flash back to Everquest 2 and Asheron's Call 2. AC2 is long gone, yet AC1 is still up and running. EQ2 is finally grown larger than EQ1. Even companies own succession games can not lure people away from their old games. People are attached to the familiar and they count their high level characters as valuable posessions they can not abandon. It can take a long time to get people to move to a new game.

I hope WAR does well. I would rather have WAR as a PvP option and WoW as a PvE option. I personally feel that PvP has done nothing but ruin WoW as a PvE game. So far, my time playing WAR has been above average and I plan to try it out.

If only I didn't need to join a damned guild. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Purity of Gaming

It's often the case that you don't realize what you had until it's gone. I look back at my time playing Planetside as such an example.

Planetside had purity. There was no gear to farm from a boss. There were no pets or recipes to farm for. There were no quests to complete, money to get, no mounts. There was one thing to do. Capture bases. Maybe you could capture towers, or lay down defenses, or fly planes, etc. But it all was to one end. Capture bases. No one argued over what the game was about. No one ever logged in and said, "Sorry guys, I'm going to go farm gold instead of capture bases." If you didn't want to capture bases, you didn't log in. Now that's what I call purity of gaming.

World of Warcraft has none of this. If you want purity in WoW, you are going to have to build it, and enforce it. That means being a jerk to people. Who wants to log in to work on their Arena Team, only to be told that they should be farming mats for raiding or going on a raid to gear other people up? WoW isn't a game. It's like twenty games, and most of them are solo games. Many of them have requirements on how many people can participate. Impure!

Friday, September 12, 2008

You did what?

We constructed a guild specifically to play World of Warcraft in a reasonable way

That's a quote from today's Penny Arcade. I think that's the problem with World of Warcraft. Guilds are not there to help you enjoy the game, they are there as a tool to help you try and play the game reasonably.

And that is why World of Warcraft has such a socially gut-wrenching guild problem.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Player versus player and MMO games

I wrote this for a forum post over at Gamers with Jobs, but it kinda sums up some of my thoughts on WAR. So I'll re-post it here for posterity.

This is going to seem really out there, but I think one of my favorite PvP (or RvR) experiences was Planetside. I played some DAoC, a good bit of WoW, and I participated in the WAR Preview weekend. None of those three games really came close to having a real advantage to being in a coordinated squad like Planetside did. In Planetside, my outfit had SOPs for tower taking, defense, base breaching, etc. Teamwork was exceptionall important and it made a small group of people extremely effective, even in the face of overwhelming enemy opponents.

I keep thinking about that experience and trying to figure out where DAoC, WoW, and WAR are lacking. This is all just high level theory crafting about WAR and what I think is the ideal MMOPvP game.

1) Outside of some minor differences, all three realms in Planetside had the same basic equipment and gear. Your level did not limit your ability to use something, it just limited the breadth of versatility of your soldier in the field. Basically, an almost level playing field. WAR seems to get closer, and time will tell if this happens one it is released. In Planetside, you would not run into someone who was stronger, faster, and better than you in every way. This is where I see WoW really falling down with PvP.

2) The battlefields are a mess. WoW and WAR both seem to have the idea that the best place to fight is a huge, open field. In Planetside, fighting in a skirmish in the open was a huge no-no. Fight on objectives. Don't fight in the roads. And a large part of this problem is that WoW, WAR, and DAoC don't offer transportation that allows for maneuvering. In Planetside, we often had lots of air positioning to get drop-ships to a base, or complex cat-and-mouse driving of troop carriers to get people to the objectives. I feel like WAR, WoW, etc, are all just a huge open field that everyone runs on. This means there is an advantage to being a loner and hoping you don't get picked off. There is no reason to band together because people will just focus fire you down. I guess it's like fighting in pre-revolutionary war days where everyone just runs at each other.

3) There's no tactical or strategic tools in the game. As a squad leader in Planetside, I could set waypoints, and give people some basic instructions like "Take WP1 tower!" and people would do it (if you were in a coordinated group). You can tell people to do things in WoW, but seeing a huge waypoint on your screen is much better than "Take RH!" "What's RH?" "Relief Hut!" "Where is that?" Even in PUGs, it was possible to do some basic things with the tools that helped people out. It wasn't perfect, but it made things easier.

4) Planetside did not have the concept of tanks (ok, they had tanks, but they were tank tanks, with treads and stuff). Everything was about suppression and damage. I realize WoW is a PvE game first and foremost. I *love* PvE. But WAR seems to have tanks as some kind of vestigial PvE idea. It's a step in the right direction, I think. It just needs to go a little farther. Collision is a huge help here since in Planetside, it meant having a vehicle between you and a bad guy was saving your but. I just wish people between me and a caster in WAR would soak the hits and not just pass through them harmlessly. DOH! If I can't hide behind the big guy with all the health, what good is he?

5) Population controls. WAR doesn't seem to have them. In Planetside, each "island" had pop-locks to keep the ratio of enemies in check for good fights. Sometimes it sucked, but it mean that one side having the lions share of players did not lead to an imbalance. Some people have told me that WAR won't repeat the Alliance/Horde issue of PvP imbalance, but I get the impression that most people who are really looking to fight seriously will go with Destruction. Maybe I am wrong, but if I am not, I don't understand how the game will force more fair fights in the non-scenario style RvR and PvP.

To sum up, I really like the idea of a PvP centric game. But, I feel like organization and good teamwork will not be a huge influence in WAR, based on the RvR I did over the weekend in the elf area. I'm willing to admit I don't know as much about WAR as I do about Planetside. It would be nice to be wrong.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why do it?

Why run a guild? You aren't going to get any financial reward for it. It's unlikely you will get much praise or thanks for the work you do.

In my times of reflection about what frustrates me about the guild, I often come back to the idea that I wanted to make a guild that I would enjoy. A guild based on a belief that WoW requires different things from people based on their goals in the game. A guild that I could "get behind" when it came to an ideal.

No one cares about that crap.

In my time as a guild leader, I saw a lot of good people come into the guild who were perfectly willing to agree to the policies. These people enjoyed playing with the guild, and they fit in well with the existing members. But they did not have any stake in the guilds design. As long as they got what they wanted, the concept of the guild, the design of the guild, the philosophy of the guild, was all irrelevant. This created situations were people only have input on how the guild operates when they don't get what they think they should get. And then, their solutions are designed to get them what they want, not to reinforce the guild concept.

The result? Your concept is worthless to the people enjoying it. There's no admission that you, and your concept, are anything other than a vehicle to get what they want out of their own effort. Is there any wonder so many guild leaders give themselves loot, or take cash out of the bank? There might be some rational to those actions, but it gets the guild leader something tangible that they want. And even then, if you are like me, the rewards and feedback you get will never be worth the hard work, the complaining, the gnashing of teeth that guild leaders must endure.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What do I want?

I enjoy World of Warcraft a great deal. At it's inception, it was clearly an attempt to take the existing MMORPG genre and refine it to be a better game. And over it's many patches and last expansion, the game has evolved to be a better game. Interface improvements, raid and guild management changes, etc. For all my griping in this blog about WoW, it's impossible to imagine running a guild in DAoC or EQ.

My guild is moving through high level raiding content in WoW. I enjoy the mechanics in the game. I like playing a class and doing it well. I like PvE. But there are things I want to see change. Fundamental issues that seem to plague every MMORPG out there. Things that I think could be changed to make things even better.

1) Teach players how to play your game. You can play a hunter in WoW and make it to the max level having never learned about shot rotations. Either the class should not require you to know how that works, or the game should reveal that information to the player during the course of their playing. Not only does it keep people from being "another stupid hunter", but it opens the higher and more in-depth aspects of the game to more people. The mechanics of a class should not be hidden from players. Even if it's just an in-game manual, it would be a huge help.

2) Don't make me have to consult an offline resource, or do complex math, to try and figure out if an item is an upgrade for me. This is similar to my first issue in that it involves the game hiding the game mechanics from me. Sure, give me options in my upgrades, but why should I have to try and determine if +34 Agility is better or worse than +20 Hit Rating for my class role? If people can write mods to distill all this information down to a relative number, why can't that be designed into the game? It sure would help people know how to tank/heal/dps/etc better instead of guessing, or making huge mistakes on what they think is good upgrades. Heck, removing stats from armor or items might be a good step. Have all your armor be just armor and let people add the class appropriate upgrades as enchantments.

3) Give me good rewards when I do something. Let's say I turn in a quest, I should not see a list of items that are useless to me. I should also not see two items I have to decide between, knowing I can never change my mind or get the other item again. Every quest should net me something I can really use. I should never complete an objective and feel like I need to pick the item that will sell to a vendor for the most cash. Why not just give me money?

4) Don't make me solo with morons. I appreciate the scope and open environment of an MMORPG. I really do. The ability to play with lots of other people is the reason I keep playing MMORPGs. But if you want to allow me to solo, then let me do it alone. There's no need to force me to be exposed to the other knuckle-heads when I am playing by myself. No matter how massively multi-player your game is, I don't need some jerk stealing my stuff, killing my quest goals, and making my life more difficult. The game should be fun to play with people, and fun to play when I am doing something on my own.

I know what games were like before World of Warcraft. I know about arduous corpse runs and losing experience every time you died. I remember when quests did not really exist and you leveled by killing monsters over and over. I was there. I know game designers can make the games more fun without sucking all the challenge out. But do not think that WoW's success is some validation that there's no more ways to make the genre better. It can be better, and being better might not get you WoW's subscription numbers, but it will make a great game that people enjoy and keep playing for a long time.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Raiding and Guilds ... part 2?

To add some more evidence to my previous post, I have the following hypothetical situation.

Let's say you join a raiding guild. You always show up on time, perform flawlessly, bring consumables. You are online before invites start and at the entrance to the raiding instance. You are the top performer in your class/role. You log out when the raid is done. You don't talk to anyone and you never converse socially.

Except in some rare situations, you will never be considered a valuable member of the guild. So socially expectant are guilds, that being non-social is a problem. I'm not talking about being anti-social, just being quiet and doing your job.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Guilds are the wrong solution

The problem is raiding successfully. Guilds are social creatures. Imagine that a guild is your family and raiding is your job. Do you see your co-workers as your family? Are they the ones you want to talk to socially and be in constant touch with? Maybe. But, would you work with your family members? Would you want your mom to do what you do, be your boss, or be your employee? Unlikely.

I have been enamored by the Leftovers concept. It detaches the progression that raiding demands from the social stigma of guild hopping. The fact is that raiding does not demand lots of in-game socializing and contact. There are very few practical advantages to building a raiding group around a guild. There are very good reasons to build your social life around a guild. Before I saw this Leftovers concept, I had an idea for the No Guild Guild. Individual members in WoW would join a guild they liked, or be guildless. But, they could join an offline community whose sole purpose was to coordinate raiding and progression in the game. No more social tangles of having to leave your guild to raid. No more guild shopping to find a guild that offers both social interaction AND raiding at the right level for you.

Detaching guilds from raiding is the future.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


No one joins a guild because they want to join a guild. Especially a raiding guild. There is only one reason to ever join such a guild. To get what you want out of the game.

Socializing? Bullshit.

Making friends? Liar.

Enjoying content with like-minded folks? Your pants are on fire.

Get in, get what you want, and get out. Planning to leave? Spend all your DKP! Can't get your alt into runs? Don't offer to run some alt-raids, just play alts in other guilds and leave the moment you aren't getting what you want. Don't like how the guild policies work? Quietly grumble under your breath and tolerate the guild stepping on your freedoms to get loot until you can't take it and bail.

WoW isn't about being friends or having fun. WoW is about greed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


There is something about high end, hardcore, raiding guilds. Something that instills a sense of political maneuvering in it's members. When ex-hardcore raiders join my "casual" guild, they rarely voice their opinions in the open. They find the group of technically proficient players and join that group. They begin complaining about mistakes and poor decisions of others. They don't point out errors or problems publicly in the forums. It's all hush-hush, and "I don't want to rock the boat."

Like we can't take it. We'll be offended. That someone else is a good player with good ideas. Instead of "Hey man, try doing X and see if your DPS goes up.", we get snickers behind people's backs.


Sunday, June 29, 2008


When your guild is small, everyone is friends. You know everyone because you play with them and things are kinda normal. As the guild grows, that goes away. People form cliques and you end up with people who just won't even group with other people. And the guild leader is often stuck in the middle of everything. I get to hear everyone complain and mock everyone else. Even when I agree, I know I'm going to have to deal with the personality clashes at some point. It means playing the game with people in the guild is a constant reminder of how much the entire guild is a society. A group of people who enjoy spending their free time playing the same game, and still manage to build walls between them and others.

I don't really care that someone else made you feel bad. I don't care that they did something and now you feel left out. I don't care that someone said something offensive and someone else stopped playing the game and we lost a valuable player. I'm not here to make sure everyone gets along. I have a hard enough time getting people to understand the DKP system, or how signing up for a raid works. I have to make sure people's forum access is set up right. I have to talk to people who applied to join the guild and make sure they are not jerks. I have to check the bank and make sure we didn't have a bunch of stuff stolen. I have to write down policies so people stop asking me questions over and over. Of all the things that the guild needs done, at what point did you think the guild was kindergarten and you needed the teacher to make Billy stop calling Suzy names?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Axiom #1

Nothing you can do as a guild leader is going to "fix" a systemic problem.

People rolling on loot they shouldn't? DKP! Right? It will help. But it won't stop someone from dumping their last five weeks of hard work into the toilet for an item that won't do them much good.

Getting bad people in the guild? New recruiting policies! Right? Sure, it helps a lot. Suddenly you have less morons coming in and less annoying people. But, every so often, they still get in. He seemed like a perfectly normal person for six weeks, then ... drama bomb! You need dogs posted outside your guild to sniff out the terminators. If only it were possible.

No matter the problem, no matter the novel solution, you're never going to get things down to zero problems. You reach a point where the added policies and systems to finish off the last 10% of the issues take 90% more work. I'm sure most people stop at the 20/80 mark.

Monday, June 16, 2008

No voting!

Voting in a guild is worthless. When people vote for in real elections, they have some pretty dumb reasons why they vote for someone. "I think he's nice." "I like his speeches." "He looks nice." Seriously? Your going to give someone legislative power over you for those reasons?

In a guild, it's even worse. People vote to let people in the guild because they don't mind the person chattering away endlessly and annoyingly in vent. They vote to get a DKP system in place that will make sure they can always get the loot they want. They will vote for policies that they think their friends want to follow. They will even vote in a certain way because they think they are voting the way the guild leader would like them to.

The best thing about voting is it assures the voters will get what they deserve. Not what they want.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Nothing can last

Not even the best run guild.

Given enough time, people get sick of the place. Your hard working officers get burned out and step down. No one else wants to step up and help. Everyone sits around, waiting for someone to come in and make the guild fun and exciting again. Sitting. Waiting. Not lifting a finger.

Imagine a town where the volunteer fire department got sick of always doing the work and quit. Then while the mayor is trying to get people to help put out a fire, the townspeople just kinda sit back and watch things burn. Some even wander off. "That building wasn't THAT important." People get upset at each other. "Why didn't you do something!?!?" "This town is letting me down!" "The mayor should fix things! I don't have time to help."

At least, if people pay taxes, the mayor can hire firemen and police. No such luck in a guild.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Better or worse?

You go to the eye doctor and he will have you behind the giant eye machine. "Better ... or worse?" Cha-chick, another lens pops in front of your eye. "Better ... or worse?" People in WoW often end up doing this with their gear. It's kinda sad.

Your players should NEVER have to resort to third party applications or data sources to make decisions about their in-game character.

People in WoW run addons and consult external (non Blizzard) web sites to decide what gear is better for them. No wonder so many people see raiding as hard core! Nothing in the game can actually tell you how expertise rating will help, or hurt you. Nothing tells you if 25 agility is better than 25 critical strike rating.

If someone has to go to the Elitest Jerks forums and read five or six posts about their class before they can understand what gear is best for them, you have failed as a game designer. You have basically divided your community of players into knowledge rich and poor.

I see two ways to repair this in a game. One way is to make the game easier so that such decisions become less important. People can show up for raiding in whatever they want and manage to get through it. The other way would be to actually show all the data to people in a format that helps them make good decisions. Basically, every piece of gear should come down to "is this more or less DPS/healing/tanking?"

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Control is an Illusion

People say "control is an illusion" all the time. I don't think many people actually believe it. Most people see control as people forcing them to do things. Things outside of their own sphere of influence. Things they can not ... control.

Realizing that control is an illusion will help you control people. In other words, knowing you can't force people to do what you want will help you get people to do what you want. I know it sounds like I'm just rambling on about some kind of mind game, but there is something to it. It's all protocol and social skills that allow people to get what they want. Don't confuse this with telling lies or deceiving people, that's not required at all. Often, being direct and open about your intentions and how it can work out to others advantage is more than enough to get someone to do things they might not do on their own. Many people, like myself, are good at spotting lies and seeing through people. I know that trying to pull the wool over people's eyes will often backfire and end up with someone actively trying to NOT do what you think is right. Getting someone to hand over their trust and accomplish a larger goal is work and I think it's one of the most powerful aspects of modern society.

When you have a large group of people who want to accomplish the same overall goal, there are bound to be different ideas and opinions about how to reach that goal. If the goal requires a unified strategy, there will most likely need to be a single person who is making decisions about which strategy to use. As the goal becomes more complex and requires more unity, the benefits of a single person in control grows. At a certain point, it is more efficient to follow a single leader with an occasional poor plan than to never follow a single plan as people fight and argue over what to do. It can be really hard for people to accept this concept.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Sometimes I start writing for this blog, and I don't finish my thought completely. Then I don't have time for a few days. When I come back, my idea seems weird and most likely I am now tainted with new information. It can ruin a good post.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

People do not change

... in World of Warcraft.

I have seen some people change in my lifetime. Usually confronted with some huge issue such as a chronic health problems, or a change in where they live, and sometimes I have seen people change for no reason other than they wanted to. But, in my time playing World of Warcraft, I have not seen someone change how they acted towards other people.

Most of the time, people put on a front. A fake outward impression of changing, but underneath, they are the same. I have seen guild members in my guild who stopped doing something when people said they were being annoying. The behavior always came back. I have confronted people about breaking rules, and they broke them again. Often times trying even harder to justify why they did it.

Currently I feel that if someone were to make a change in their life with respect to World of Warcraft, their first change would be to leave the guild or quit playing before altering their behavior. People don't change because a disembodied voice or some text in a video game tells them to.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Do not kiss up to me!

The last thing I need is some new recruit kissing up to the guild leader. There may be leaders out there who love having their ego stroked and want to keep around some people who will make them feel good. That's not me. Every time you remind me that I am the guild leader, it's reminding me of all the work I need to do. You are reminding me that you are not a nice person who I want to play a game with, you are reminding me that I am responsible for making your time in the game fun. Stop it!

Kissing up is also a warning sign of a drama-bomb. The guild officers and myself are not controlling the guild. We are facilitators. So, when you think you need our consent to do anything, you are actually trying to change how the guild works. You are going to have to learn to look at the guild, and figure out how you fit into it. I'm not going to do that for you beyond you being in the guild, or not in the guild. That's the options for me when it comes to your place in the guild.

And, for the record, you might have run a guild in the past, or been in a guild in the past. I wasn't there. I don't know what kind of crazy stupid DKP system you used. I don't know how you ran Karazhan. I don't know what kind of power hungry bat-shit insane guild leader you had. But this is my guild and you want to join it. It's a new country and we are different. Start from scratch. Don't try to show me how good you are. Don't try to tell me how your old guild did it. Don't expect me to cut you some slack or be your friend because you know how to play your class. Act like a reasonable human being and be honest with me and the people in the guild. Learn how to get along with people and understand how your comments make people feel about you. Grow a damned empathy bone or something.

Honestly, it's like dealing with people in kindergarten sometimes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I am surprised at the number of people in my guild who say their account was hacked. I am also concerned that many of them seem like really poor thefts of people's accounts or gold. Every hack I have seen has been a "smash and grab" and never a real, professional style robbery. It makes me doubt that these people are really being "hacked". It seems more likely that they are getting gouged or ripped off by an ex-friend of some kind who knew their password. I tend to imagine that someone who got a key logger onto a system and got WoW information would take the hour or so to really clean you out. Your password would be changed, and once you reset it, you would log in and every character you had would be deleted. Clean sweep. Every item sold, every drop of gold mailed off to another account, and every single thing they can do to delay the inevitable report to Blizzard, done. I think a real hack is pretty rare. It's a lot of effort and work. And you would have to recoup every last bit of effort since you effectively violated federal computer intrusion laws to get someone's WoW account information. I suspect that the results of such a thing result in a complete and total milking of every virtual item found.

I think that account sharing, on the other hand, is not rare. I think a lot of people do it. And I also think a lot of people never change their password. Those are two very common things, in my opinion. Combined, an ex-friend, or someone you thought was a friend, is now enjoying your gold and hard work without leaving you totally crippled. It gets chalked up to evil hacking and Blizzard refunds the lost items. No harm, no foul, right?

Friday, April 4, 2008

It's the recruiting, dummy!

Our guild revamped our recruiting policy about a month ago. Keeping the crazies out is a huge chunk of running a guild properly. So what worked?

First of all, we force people to create an account on our forums in order to put an application in. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow. This step probably cuts down on a lot of people who should not be in our guild. It means having a valid e-mail address and being able to follow instructions. It weeds out the people who just want an invite and don't care about communication outside of "LFG" in guild chat.

We had no problem with recruits who suck, or recruits who were awesome new guild members. The soul-grinding work were the people who sat on the fence. These people were often online very little, rarely spoke to people, or never really made any impressions on people. Some people suggesting asking the recruit to "shape up" to get them over the hump, but I am a firm believer that if they are a recruit and on their best behavior now, when they are a full member they will let their guard down and end up being a jerk. Asking them to change would just give me a false sense of security. Now we have a basic voting system. Recruits remain recruits until they get five positive votes. If they have more negative votes than positive after two weeks, they get the boot. If they have no negatives, and not quite five positive votes, they stay a recruit until they get the five. Those people who don't engage the guild or actively interact with the guild will remain a recruit for longer. How hard is it to get five people to agree you are a good fit for the guild? If it's that hard, maybe it's not the right guild for you.

We also have a members-only section of our forums where these recruits applications are posted. Full members are allowed to post their votes and their opinions about the recruits. There just isn't any way for the guild officers to really keep track of ten new people, so we use the regular members for feedback. In theory, these regular members are playing with these people and seeing them when the officers might not. Is the new recruit a jerk? Is he whining about loot? Do they have a great sense of humor? All great things to know when deciding if someone is going to be part of your guild.

Finally, you have to have good recruiters and members. Groups of people tend to attract similar people and your members are those people. You can not just invite everyone who is not in a guild and tell people to "just get along". Bringing in like minded individuals will strengthen your guild and your recruiters are the gate-keepers who make sure it happens. If the recruiters have a good feel for the guild and what the current guild is like, you'll get better quality people coming into the guild. If your recruiter was made a member one week ago and just wants to help make the guild "awesome", you're going to get crappy recruits.

So, in the end, what worked for us were a few things.
1) Higher bar of entry.
2) Recruit driven goals for membership.
3) Peer review.
4) Good recruiters and good guild members.

It's THAT easy!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Stages of the game

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 21, 2008

You suck!

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's not fair

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

Let's do some old content!

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

The hidden drama

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You're going to burn out

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

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

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

Friday, March 7, 2008

You might be your own worst enemy

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

Just some friendly neighborhood systems administrator advice.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why do the tools suck so bad?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 1, 2008

It's not all bad

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is it so hard?

Is it so hard to find twenty five people who are not suffering some kind of mental impairment? I think ten people is pretty reasonable number of sane, intelligent people. But twice that starts to push the limits of expectations.

World of Warcraft is a fun game, but if you want to pursue the end-game raiding content, you will have to find twenty four other people you can work with. And they can't just be people you can get along with under ideal circumstances. These people need to be comrades when the chips are down and things are not going well. They need to agree on what they expect from everyone else and be able to apply that same expectation to themselves. I don't think I know that many people in real life, and if I did, I certainly were not friends with them all at the same time.

When you try to build this dream team, you end up with some people waiting around for the rest of the team to stumble into your guild. Sometimes after being through several other guilds, searching for their true home in the game. And that journey can leave this otherwise normal person with any number of strange quirks and psychological problems. Sometimes it's something as simple as "we don't pull the mobs like this" or "I cleared this in another guild so you should be coming to me for advice!" And it can be worse. After spending twenty hours a week with a group of people who hate each other to get some content down, they have often abandoned any protocols for working with people in any rational way. They learn to treat people like dirt to show their own superiority. They learn to insult people who are not as well geared or skilled as they are. They develop these insecure mechanisms where they tout their spec as being the same as the main tank in Nihilum instead of taking any pride in having a spec they know is good and WHY it is a good spec. I've had people, after being removed from our guild for not fitting in well, actually try to argue their way back into the guild. Often they expect to stay in the guild based on their skill or gear, even if everyone in the guild hates their guts. Who does that? I know who. Insane people!

It makes being a guild leader a nightmare sometimes. On one hand you need to recruit and grow your guild. On the other hand, you need to scrutinize these new people and keep the jerks out. When someone is really bad, it's not such a bad job. It's the people who seem normal, but are a swirling storm of drama underneath that make being a guild leader a serious pain.