Monday, August 24, 2009

the Times they are a Changin'

Morning people. :)

Wilder announced this morning, upon exiting the shower, that we were changing things up - for better or worse. He's decided that we're spending too much time banging our head against walls that aren't ready to come down. So, in the interest of the Guild as a whole, the raid schedule will be modified.

In fairness, it speaks very highly of our people and their abilities that we've kinda forgotten that there are steps to this progression thing. You have to spend time collecting keys in order to open doors, right?

In order to understand this, you have to know a little about the social structure within the World. There are tons of people playing this game. Everyone wants something different and Blizzard has been pretty awesome about accommodating this desires. If you just want to spend your time fostering the war between the factions, so be it. Battle grounds are the place to be. In these specially designed combat areas, the Horde battle the (often greater numbered) Alliance for control of prime sections of land, resources, bragging rights, ...basically positions to better their sides advantage in the war against the Wrath. You can hook up with buddies as a whole group, or just a couple at at time if you like to do it pack style. or, you can allow Blizz's queue system to pull you into a random group of like minded players. Either way, your getting your bash-the-enemy fix.

If raiding is your thing, then it takes a little more coordination as far as social aspects go. You have to find a group of people who are able and willing to go into the content zones you want to be in. Sadly, this is where programming genius ends and the failing of humanity begins. (*le sigh*) Many of the hardcore progression guilds require potential members to fill out application, complete with references and abilities, specifics about play style, class, skills, etc. In fact, this is sort of the default group type. It consists of people who dedicate huge amounts of time (upwards of three to four hours nightly, three to four nights a week) organizing 10 and 25 man groups of people to progress through new content. On any given day, you can see people posting recruitment messages in the general chat channel, which functions as a sort of community bulletin board or SwapShop.

You do this for many reasons. Mostly, it's a desire to better your character with better equipment. Like most games, you have to fight bigger bad guys to earn better gear to make the next bad guys easier (or, even possible in some cases). Some people do it from a true and distinct love of the content and storylines that come from those clever dudes who created the World. Testing your skills against the game has long been a serious pull for most of us. It's why we play. We want answers to the age old gamer questions: Am I good enough, can I react fast enough? Are my reflexes honed? Can I pay attention to all of the different aspects and phases and still manage to do my job? It's doubly addictive and highly frustrating when it's not just you playing gainst the core elements of the game in question. When you have to learn the style and abilities of and entire group of people and where you fit into it, the game takes on a new element of excitement.

Due to these demands, attendance is strongly encouraged. After all, it's impossible to learn how to dance with a partner who doesn't show up, right? And what is the best way to make sure people show up on time, every time? Loot restrictions. Several different distribution systems have been attempted within these larger groups. DKP (aka: Dungeon Kill Points) is the time honored standard. Each raider is awarded a standard number of points for each boss downed, or content progressed through nightly. You can then use these points as currency to bid on the spoils of war your group manages to uncover. Clever, yes?

However, much like the Communist Political system, it only looks good on paper. It has a good basis; the idea is sound. You get paid for doing your job, the same as any one else so that everyone has a fair shot at the same rewards for time and effort. However, after you add into consideration the fact that one person (generally the raid leader) is in charge of distributing these points fairly, to only the people who have earned them. They flaws and cracks in this system have run rampant. Things such as 'loot council': the powers that be decided that someone else in the group deserves the gear more than you do, for the good of the group as a whole. (O.o Mhm.) Like Stan Lee's beloved Uncle Ben's words of wisdom caution, "With great power comes great responsibility." People who disagree with the decisions made usually have two choices: lie down and take it or leave and try to start over with a new group of people. Neither one is very appealing after dedicating 15- 20 hours a week into the group effort. Tempers flare, dramatic crises occur and relationships crumble like the Roman Empire. Many a raiding guild has been made or broken by the spoils of war.

Now, if you aren't much for all the pressure, there have social leveling guilds. For the casual, laid back player who just wants to hang out and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the World's many facets. You can see the tiny corners of the world, discover the storyline, study the lore, and earn the trust and respect from the many different native races. The bonus? Low pressure people to hang out with while you goof off. It can be a lot of fun, getting to know people and exploring the social nature of MMOs. (It's what separates them from console gaming. You get to do it with friends.) The draw backs? Progression is nil. You don't get to see the big bad guys. You don't get to forage into the seedy darkness of betrayal or feel the all encompassing adrenalin rush when it's your army against the Wrath. Which also means you don't get to earn the chance at the really neat peices of loot.

There is always the option to PUG, but at their own risk. A pug is a pick up group, consisting of many different people who can do specific jobs. It's kind of like shirts vs skins at the park. You never really know who your going to get, if they are any good at what you're doing or if you will be able to get along. Plus, you run the risk of being jilted out of your earnings. Trust is an iffy thing outside of your Guild in the World.

Aside from those two options, people were kind of stuck. Until now. WDB has very slowly reformed the face of Azeroth, at least in our own little corner. We are a social guild. We like to hang out with one another; we help each other level. We don't have attendance requirements or specifications for membership, unless you count my quiz. :) It has questions on it like "Who is your favorite Beatle?" and "How do you feel about pillows?". I think I even asked one guy if he believed in faeries. (Good answer too Shen. He said "Only when I'm wishing on a stars.")

The reason I ask these? Simple. They speak to a person's personality. Can you take a joke? Are you laid back, or do you take everything too personal? Will you slide right into our little world like you've been here all along or make a giant splash and shake it up? Either way, we like to know what to expect. We have a fantastic group of people. I'm incredibly proud of them all and consider them a huge online family. We don't recruit. Word of mouth adversities really well for us.

After all, we're an oddity. Now, what makes us different from any other social guild? Raid progression. We actually press through to see new content on a weekly basis. We also do it without demanding that our people give up their lives outside of the world to dedicate huge blocks of time the cause. Our motto? You're paying for the right to do whatever the hell you want to in the World, so we're not going to tell you how to spend your free time. Your kid has piano recital on Tuesday and you can't come to our Ulduar run? Ok, no problem. There is no penalty. Your not going to miss out on a chance to run next time or loose DKP. Why not? We don't use it.

Wilder's loot system is truly inspired. Every raider starts the night with one Primary roll. Think of it as a token. If something you really, really want shows up in a chest then you can toss your hat in the ring against the other people willing to give up their primary token. Once you win, your primary roll is gone. The feild stays narrow, becasue most people are hesitant to spend that primary roll too quickly for fear that they will miss something better. After all, the further in you go the better the reward.

What if no one is willing to spend their primary roll? Then it goes to secondary. Anyone who can use the item in question is welcome to try for it, without using an primary rolls or even if they have already won something else through the run, primary or otherwise. Basically, it's Need vs Greed. It works really well for us, as far as fair distribution of the spoils. It also keeps our group pretty balanced.

Now, I've explained all of this to illustrate how awesome our people are. Sometimes, we forget that we aren't quite as hardcore on progression because of the caliber of players we've collected. So, Wilder is slowing things down a little bit in order to find a solid groove for us as a group. One of the things that makes him such a good leader is that he knows when to go a little crazy and try for the stars but he also knows when it's time to rein ourselves in and focus our abilities.

We'd follow him anywhere. :)

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