|Mature, assisted by the guild, finishes off "For The Horde"|
The Missing PieceThe team wasn't quite whole.
Naxxramas, The Eye of Eternity and Obsidian Sanctum were being gutted on a weekly basis. The adrenaline shot of a new expansion was still flowing viscerally through our veins. The re-envisioned raiding approach Blizzard was trying with Wrath allowed the team to tear the instances apart faster than a noob dying in the fire. DKP was being collected, and the loot distribution grew larger each week. And, we had a healthy mix of old and new faces stepping into Necropolis each week with us. Conversations in vent were positive; one might go so far as to say they were enjoying themselves. Death Knights added a unique and interesting set of mechanics to our progression; I was having the time of my life playing the role of a Tank. Wrath was fun, and we were having fun raiding together.
But we weren't quite whole.
The officer pool was cooperatively leading raids week-to-week; a combination of myself, Dalans, and various officers that remained. It was working, but I attribute our early wins to the severe lack of difficulty in the entry-level raids. It was easy to lead-by-committee when the margin of error was high. There were notable deficiencies in this model of leading raids. Messages get mixed. Communication isn’t as precise as it could be. We would be ratcheting into Patchwerk, quickly approaching his final 30%, waiting for that call for Bloodlust...and the call wouldn't come out.
“Should we BL?”
Awkward silence, followed by an irritated Dalans responding, “Yeah, just do it.”, wondering why raiders just couldn't think for themselves for a change. It had nothing to do with being a proactive thinker. It had everything to do with the norms we had become accustomed to for four years, conditioned by a Rogue named Blain to stay silent, focused on task, and not do anything impulsive, but instead, to follow directives. Players with a propensity to make their own judgement calls on-the-fly often proved to us in the past that they had no idea what they were doing. Furthermore, it undermined authority. This served up a double helping of fail salad; players would feed off this behavior and begin to contribute their own bad judgments systematically pissing off the raid leader and contributing to his own burnout. The good news is that Blain whipped these boys and girls into shape, training them to only respond to the pavlovian bell of his voice.
That bad news is that in the absence of that voice, players executed raids on auto-pilot, almost as oblivious to the fine details of the raid as the mindless scourge whom they were slaughtering.
The lack of a central voice bothered me. It wasn't terrible now, but I feared it would soon grow like a cancer if left alone. Leaving things alone was how I had handled many issues in Vanilla and TBC because they were uncomfortable or I was unsure of my own leadership capabilities. This time around, however, I wasn't leaving anything alone. This time I had a plan, and I had baked that plan directly into the guild’s ranks.
|Mature earns "Dressed for the Occasion" while|
chatting with Mcflurrie
Quest of the Avatar
Part of the revised game plan for DoD was to begin acknowledging guildies for their exceptional contributions to the guild. Rewarding players built upon the foundation I attempted to reboot at the start of the second expansion. I realized that DoD was always going to be comprised of a mixed bag of faces, from those that logged in once a week, just to say “Hi” and check their auctions, all the way to the other extreme, tenaciously tweaking their characters for ultimate efficiency. I introduced the “Avatar” rank as a way to allow a guildy's peers put in a good word for one another, to be recognized for the efforts and to remind them that they played a vital role in the guild, no matter how small their contribution may be. This list of opportunities to demonstrate goodness was infinite, and so I was eager to see how players would take this challenge on. The initial results were impressive, but at the same time, made it very clear I needed to put much greater thought into Avatar’s ramifications.
My guildies had a tendency to surprise me.
First on that list was Mcflurrie, an older player in the guild, who had been raiding with us since The Burning Crusade. Mcflurrie had performed a random act of kindness; after hearing that another player was struggling to find good upgrades as the result of some combinations of bad luck in drops, and low DKP, Mcflurrie offered his own DKP pool up to the player to bid on the item, which was as good as a purchase. It was extraordinarily generous (as raiders typically hoarded their DKP worse than gold), and although I felt it was a shining example of the kind of behavior I wanted to see in players, it also set a nasty precedent for players to collude with one another down-the-road. I awarded Mcflurrie Avatar for his generosity, and then amended the loot rules so that players could not spend DKP on each other. Letting players gift loot to each other bode ominously. I wanted it avoided at all costs.
Next on the list was Shimerice the Paladin, who opted to donate to the guild’s Ventrilo hosting fund, something that had rested solely on my shoulders since Ater handed the server over upon his exit from WoW. This generosity helped a lot, as many players had come and gone without making any effort to contribute to my costs, which included the Vent server, domain name registration, and web hosting -- all straight out of my pocket. There was a bit of a concern about awarding Avatar to players who provided monetary support to the guild; the act tended to weave back and forth across the ethical bridge without firmly landing on one side. I didn't want players to feel like they could buy their way into the rank, but at the same time, wanted to acknowledge them for helping out the guild. Again, as with the Mcflurrie situation, I let rank award go out, and then reminded players that they would be unable to “buy” their way into the role. This would become especially important when the first Elites were promoted, and my 1st round bidding rule became active.
The ethics involving a player “buying” their way into a role that would guarantee them a shot at loot before anyone else had no ethical ambiguity to it -- it was wrong. And when players offered to donate in the future, they got the hint. Bheer proved this when he offered to pay for a registered account at WoW Web Stats, which is what we used to analyze our performance at the time. He paid the for the account, and respectfully declined any Avatar award or promotion, and I humbly thanked him for his support. Other players would continue to contribute in this fashion without gaining notoriety, and I was thankful that the “hint” had taken, and that contributions were greatly appreciated.
|Mature completes his one-billionth Alterac Valley,|
earning him "Hero of the Frostwolf Clan"
Taking the SpotlightOn the surface, Avatar was meant to provide acknowledgement to players of all shapes and sizes, of all degrees and measures of contribution. I wanted it to be clear to DoD that you didn't have to be a raider to earn the title of Avatar; there were many ways that casual players could be identified by their peers for random acts of kindness. To this end, Avatar met that need, and many different styles of player earned a shot at sitting high up in the DoD leadership court, hanging out in officer chat. This was the publicly announced reasoning behind the Avatar rank, to foster camaraderie among the players and return us to our "family friendly" roots. But, I had a nefarious hidden agenda behind the Avatar rank, one I kept close to the chest: players that both raided in Progression and earned Avatar were going to be closely scrutinized for a promotion to Elite. It would grow to become one of those “unspoken rules” like those in Hollywood, where the Oscar for best Director was almost a guarantee that their movie would go on to win Best Picture. It wasn't a 100% given...but you were going to see a pattern.
Following Shim’s award, Arterea the Priest and Omaric the Warrior were next on the list to earn Avatar. Both were continuing to be positive, friendly, well-respected members of the DoD community. And both were proving themselves to be extremely talented behind the raiding wheel, consistently excelling in each respective department, and not hesitating to share their knowledge so that others would learn and grow as well. And, it was not long after those two that Kelden the Shaman earned Avatar, proving that he was consistently pushing his ability to heal to absolute maximum. It dawned on me during Kelden's Avatar award-ship that he had applied to DoD not once, but twice; the first time he had been turned away as his application was for that of a Rogue. We were heavy on melee and had no room for him, yet he persisted, and applied a second time as a healer, which got his foot in the door. Now he was proving he could play the role we needed, and continued to deliver exceptional healing as we scratched achievements off the to-do list.
In the back of my mind, I already had plans for all three. Art and Omaric would going to be seeing Elite very quickly, and I had been starting to weigh heavily the concept of switching leadership from Class Officers to Role Officers. We were already short in multiple departments, from a class officer perspective, and it made more sense in the days for 40-Man raiding. In fact, you were crazy if you weren't delegating management of each class to an individual person when 40+ players needed to be coordinated. Those days were long behind us, and many classes lacked an officer now. Pondering Role Officers made sense, gave us more focus, and kept the raid team more closely knit. If I were to make the change, Kelden was first on my list to promote to Healing Officer. For the most part, I kept the majority of these thoughts to myself, sharing them only occasionally with Dalans. He was on board and enthusiastic. Dalans had long held we suffered from too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen syndrome, so the prospect of downsizing most certainly gave him the kind of twisted satisfaction felt when the executioner approaches the chopping block.
With regular Avatar rewards being doled out, and the picture of Elites and Role Officer promotions growing clearer each day, I was confident that a Raid Leader voice would soon make itself known to me. The moment it did, I’d pounce. I had my own gut instincts on where this voice would come from, but running a guild can’t come from intuition alone. My leadership days of leaving things alone to self-mend were well behind me. Thanks to Avatar, players were pushed out of the line of conformity into a spotlight where they could be recognized. Spotlights have a way of showing you who has potential to fill that role.
Unsurprisingly, the voice ended up being exactly who I predicted.