Thursday, 28 May 2009

Coping With Raiders

The mind of a typical raider has always been strange to that of a normal player. Not in some deep, Freudian way by which their desire to possess mighty swords is symbolic of the fact their dad threatened to cut off their penis at a young age. Rather, they have different priorities than the rest of the playerbase. Usually, their lives are fairly unfulfilling. They may be employed, but their jobs are boring and lifeless. They seek satisfaction through teaming up with like-minded, competent individuals so they can work together towards a goal they all share. When most people start raiding, they get a huge rush of adrenaline, but that wears off over time. The most enthusiastic raiders retain this feeling. Is it because they are yet to accomplish the same sense of accomplishment in real life? You may wager so, but that way of thinking leads us down some very dark paths indeed. When we begin to judge raiders as lifeless loons who can only get off by fighting giant vaginas, then what does that make us guild leaders? I like to think we're a breed of folks who are driven purely by the need to be productive and help others. Then again, others may perceive us as insane control freaks who need to exercise our need to dominate on strangers. Despite me being against stereotyping, I tend to do it a lot on this blog. Just understand that good raiders are essentially different to your average bloke off the street.


For a start, you'll never really find a raider on the street. Given the choice, most people would stay in and do a few instances than go out for a random walk, especially considering what sporadic weather we've been having recently. Raiders like to raid constantly, for huge blocks of time at once. This doesn't mean that raiders don't have lives. Most do, but they seek self-satisfaction more than your average human being. This means that whatever they do, it's probably a means to an end. They are powered by a natural drive to achieve, which is something all guilds should look to capitalise on. I've spent more than seven thousand words talking about how to motivate your members, but these guys only need a specific goal to get themselves in the mood. That's all you need. Give them the gear and tactics, shove them in a dungeon and they'll plough through it in no time.

This is a 'Raider'. He's angry because you play a Paladin, DON'T YOU!?

Or so you'd think. In fact, these folks are more likely to squabble over the basics than your average player. Take a look around your server. How many raiding guilds are there? Fifteen? Twenty? More? How many are actually making progress at a substantial rate? Five? I will never say that the people who join these establishments are not true raiders at heart, but they seem to lack the brain capacity to really put their dreams into reality. You should never encounter such idiots in your own guild if your screening process is thorough enough, but always prepare for the worst. Their mum could have filled in their application form for them, and their dad could have fluked his way through the TeamSpeak interview. Hell, most guilds only have one of those types of recruitment methods, so it;s statistically likely that you'll end up with a total moron once in a while. Identify and kick. Just don't assume that someone who makes a mistake is likely to cause more trouble. You should know when someone is constantly buggering up and how to get rid of them.


Even folks who have proved themselves to be able in the past may turn out to be tossers once they join your guild. We all know the guy who is just a little too hardcore. If they were a Pokemon, they'd be Gyrados; angry and overpowered. He knows all the tactics and is more purple than a gay rights parade, but is all too quick to remind the rest of the guild of his awesomeness at any opportunity. It's almost as if he's sacrificed part of his humanity in exchange for being a pretty good player. Some people refer to blokes like this as 'cocks'. Others call them 'dedicated'. I brand them as unproductive. When you end up having to sacrifice morale for these blokes, then kick 'em out.

'Oh no! It's a raider with a huge ego!' 'GIVE ME PURPLLLEZZZZZ!'

Once your guild has been going a while, a natural hierarchy will develop within the raiders. There's the lower tier of players, who you drag along to Naxxramas to gear up and get them used to a raiding atmosphere. Then there's a middle tier, where members have some decent epics and know the tactics on most bosses. Or claim they do. These people should make up the majority of your guild, and the skill and gear of the people you recruit should scale with your progress, in order to sustain that progress. When you get people joining who are above the current standard in your guild, you encounter problems. They are used to raid groups that probably don't wipe as much as yours do and have grown accustom to members who know exactly what they're doing. Some of this higher tier are polite and sympathise with the woes of a growing guild. These kind-hearted souls will stick around to help your own guys get up to his standard and therefore improve everyone's life. Unfortunately, most of these more experienced players will simply leave when they realise you can't keep up to their high expectations. You must stoke the fire that warms the heart of every raider, but the more progress they've made in the past, the more coal you're going to have to pile on those flames. Otherwise, they'll proudly point out how superior they are to you and abruptly leave. You don't gain anything out of that, so avoid recruiting people from the higher tiers unless you're very close to nearing their level of experience.

Story of my sex life.

Utilise the natural drive that all raiders have. Once the ball starts rolling, it will take a very long time to stop. This means you must be dedicated to such a cause from the moment you down your first boss. Get into their hearts, and inspire them to fight using their heads. These people are probably just like you, so tie in your own goals with theirs and bond together to make progress.

To summarise:

  • Raiders are special. Not in a retarded way; they're just passionate about what they do.

  • They may be a tad sensitive about why they raid. I know a couple who argue all the time, but work together perfectly if you stick them in front of a large monster. They use it as a way of bonding. Or taking out their frustration. All the same, best to keep out of such complicated psyche.

  • Be wary of the occasional idiot slipping into your ranks. When you spot one, kick them.

  • Fend off people who consider themselves too good to be in your guild. Their constant whining will do nothing but drag morale down. It's never worth the slight hike in DPS.

  • Collect momentum. Sometimes a successful guild will continue to motivate itself, given the right circumstances. Good vibes are all you really need.

[Mad props for the images go to: BossKillzahs, this fan site, this other fan site, these Pokemon fanatics and this.]

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Beauty Of Tradition

A while back, Vaneras started this thread, asking people about their guild traditions. This chapter is an extension of the thoughts and ideas the thread connotes. Take a deek.

A tradition is different to a novel, one-off occurrence. Holding a guild meeting once is different to having one on a weekly basis. The dynamics are different. If you just hold a single event, then it's likely that it will be remembered fondly by everyone who attends. This is because they have nothing to compare it to, so even if the first thing you do with your guild is sit around and get drunk, they'll still approve. Furthermore, promising another event but not actually setting a date for one is a good way to keep people in the guild. When the going gets tough, a small percentage of your members will hang around just to see if you have another event. I only suggest this tactic if you're highly manipulative or facing desperate times. Remember that no one will stick around forever if you keep making empty promises, but the occasional white lie can retain members and help you make progress in key areas. You may have absolutely no intention on holding another in-character piss up, but if you advance with raiding in the meantime, people are likely to be far more forgiving if you reveal you lied to them. Conversely, if your raiding progress goes down the drain, then holding a fun event to raise morale will help considerably. This is what's known as 'plate spinning'; if one area seems to be doing OK, then go fix the other parts of your guild. Just remember to come back to the 'OK area' before it begins to falter.

Skillz that killz.

For good raiding guilds, plate spinning is optional, as most of your members will be simply satisfied with having a basic attachment to their fellows – so long as you're making progress in dungeons. Social guilds who recruit en masse have it harder. There's a good chance your average layman off the street will want to PVP and PVP (and RP depending on your server). This means you'll have to cater for everybody's main interests, and thus 'spin more plates'. Namely, this leads to you having to hold more events to cater for different player archetypes and dedicate more time to the game. Are these events going to be 'traditions'? Perhaps, but if you're forcing yourself to hold them every week, then consider a rethink of what exactly you want from your guild.

So we've established how the odd get-together can be used as a tool to keep people interested in a dwindling guild. Traditions are different from these sorts of events, though. They are more abstract in nature and sometimes can be simply be created spontaneously. Every guild I've ever known of has possessed different traditions, but why is there so much variation? Any muppet can buy some beers from Darkmoon Faire, give them out and have a 'guild party', right? There's little room for difference when it comes to the basics, so why do each guild's traditions tend to be unique from the last?

Come! Dance! Be merry! Engage in casual cybersex!

Unlike most other elements of a guild, leaders only have a small say as to which memes become embedded in a guild's lore. Yes, you can decide on the exact nature of any events and the general direction they take, but it's the masses who decide everything else. Unless you're an RP guild, i'ts very unlikely that social events will take place frequently. Thus, traditions assume other forms. I'm talking about when guilds play certain songs over Ventrillo after each successful boss fight. Or how people 'roll' for the blame after a wipe. When these things are repeated enough without getting annoying, they attain 'tradition' status. As guild leader, you can certainly instigate and encourage such behaviour, but most of the time you'll find that this sort of thing occurs naturally, provided the guild has the right collection of like-minded members.


Does this mean you should allow silliness in hope some funny private joke will be spawned from it? Personally, I don't believe idiocy is ever justified. When a member says or does something genuinely funny that catches on, then give them praise. However, remember that such instances should only occur naturally during the social evolution of your guild. You can give people the tools that subtly aid the creation of good, memorable times. This could even go as far as creating a karaoke channel on your voice chat server. On the other hand, it's a universal fact that the more forced a joke is, the less funny it gets. When people start causing wipes on purpose, or making jokes when you're explaining tactics, then it's time to stop laughing and start kicking.

Traditions will always be used to give guilds a unique sense of identity. What traditions you have are a true reflection of the sort of people who are in your guild. If you have blood rituals every Thursday and Friday nights then your guild's name will become synonymous with 'dark' roleplay. Likewise, singing the Mercenaries 2 theme 'Oh No You Didn't' after every time you kill Kel'Thuzad will demonstrate how you're a collection of fun personalities who are competent at raiding.

Actions speak louder than words. It's all very well claiming you're a bunch of nice chaps who have a smashing good time and kill a good few nasties, but actually going out and doing those things on a regular basis proves just how competent your guild is. Quantifiable progress in PVE/PVP/RP is what will bring guildies together initially, but emotional attachment and giving them a sense of belonging will cause them to stay. Raiding is the heart of most guilds, but the people and the quirky little traditions they create are the soul. Whether its running through old instances for a laugh, or singing along to the Back To The Future soundtrack on TeamSpeak, traditions keep people together in a magical and charming way.

Quite an interesting story behind this one. I searched Google for 'Actions Speak Louder Than Words' and found this epic picture.

You should keep the origins and reasons behind adhering to such behaviour transparent to anyone who asks, so these 'traditions' don't turn into a glorified private joke between a small clique of members. The stranger the activity, the more open you must be about justifying it and its relevance in the guild's history. Even if it's unintentional, elitism will have the opposite effect to what traditions were originally created for and drive the guild apart. There's a difference between the whole guild having a laugh together, and a bunch of cocks giggling at how funny they think they are.

Don't alienate people from any tradition. It doesn't matter if you or one of your subordinates created it. As long as you carry it out on a regular basis (from every day to every year) and i'ts compatible with the general theme of your guild, then traditions can be the deciding factor in whether people stay or go.

To summarise:

  • Occasional events are used as tools to keep people interested when other aspects of the guild are in decline. Such things are not traditions, but simple methods to raise morale. They are often led by the leader's will alone, not instigated or loved by the collective.

  • Managing and balancing the frequency of such infrequent events is known as 'plate spinning'. The more casual and social your guild is, the more plates you have to spin in order to keep everybody happy. When you're recruiting people off the street, there's a good chance they'll want to RP, PVP and PVE, so catering for all aspects is about reaching an equilibrium between the three.

  • When you find yourself being forced to hold events on a weekly basis, then don't consider them 'traditions'; they're chores.

  • Traditions can vary. They range from actually getting together in-game, to shouting 'YATTA!' whenever Yogg-Saron goes down. As long as you do it frequently and everyone enjoys it, then they're a-OK!

  • Know when people are taking it too far. A forced joke is never truly funny. Don't be afraid to kick someone if they're simply a cocky git. In fact, anything forced is never really fun. Remember this if you're consciously trying to craft elaborate traditions yourself.

  • Don't alienate people.

  • Do remember that traditions are the last step in giving your guild a sense of identity. Provided your guild is big enough and full of nice people, they will occur naturally.

[Image credit, oh, and here too. And here. Yep, and here.]