Tuesday, June 11, 2013

3.9. Outselling The Competition

Mature sets his title to "Twilight Vanquisher"
after completing The Twilight Zone,
Dalaran

Comparative Pricing

How do you become the "Top Guild on the Server"?

Is success measured by the design of the guild's spectacular website? What if players can't be bothered with a site (or don't know how to set one up), then maybe the lack of a website is more enticing. The ability to communicate and treat others with respect and maturity could be a good measure, but mutual respect could also be the exact opposite of what a player wants. Maybe they are introverted and don't want excessive communication, and prefer to be left alone, speaking only when a very specific question arises. Perhaps a reflection of the guild's goals and ideals, then, and how they approach the discipline of raiding (or PvP) is what floats a guild to the top. Maybe the top guild on the server demonstrates fantastic discipline! But, what if you don't want that? What if you thrive on trolling and griefing, and after a hard day at school or the office, the only comfort you get out of life is ganking noobs as they quest in ignorant bliss? Maybe the top guild on the server is the definitive griefing guild, and you salivate at the mere mention of being a part of that. Maybe I'm overthinking this...perhaps it is simply a measure of size. Yeah, that must be it. The top guild on the server must be the largest, no question about it, the top guild on the server is the largest...

...or...is it the smallest?

This philosophical question spent time in general chat nearly every day that I played WoW. Someone always wanted to know who the "top guild" on the server was. And you'd often see the same patterns of names fly by. After a smattering of comedians spammed their own unknown guilds as an answer, trends typically started to show up. During Vanilla it was Depraved; around The Burning Crusade, it became Pretty Pink Pwnies. Occasionally, a troll would spam support for the Alliance, and we'd see guilds like Inertia or Costa show up. In an anonymous medium lacking moderation, the various responses I read often boiled down to the same opinion:

"Our perception of the top guild on this server is the one that's furthest progressed in raids."

Conveniently, that answer didn't speak to how those guilds carried themselves. Some were comprised of genuinely cool people. Others set the standard for a new level of douchebag. In many cases it was a melting pot; a guild with good intentions containing bad seeds, and the only differentiating factor between guilds was how askew their decent-to-douchebag ratio was unbalanced. Whether arrogant leadership led timid yes-men (and yes-women), or officers with a moral compass led a gang of hoodlums, the variety of guild options on Deathwing-US was anything but. Yet the one consistency that remained was the continued perception of the most coveted guild on the server being a measure of their dominace in PvE.

I knew what I was up against on a daily basis; my reminder scrolled up automatically through general chat. Chuck Norris jokes, insults, political arguments, profanity...all arbitrarily intermixed with raw demand. Smithies looking for work. Need help running this Heroic. Need help with this one quest, hey can anyone tell me where Mankirk's wife is? Where do I turn in these tokens for gear? How the hell do I get back to Orgrimmar from Dalaran? Hey, how do you get that bizarre mount? Hey, how do you get that title?

Hey. What's the top guild on this server? I am LFGuild, thx.

"Enigma"

"LOL its Enigma"

"Top guild si Enigma, tlak to Fraya"

I knew what I was up against.

Fraya stands among Kerulak and other various players
on Daetwhing-US, after defeating Emeriss,
Ashenvale

Market Leaders

Fraya had been on Deathwing-US since the early days of WoW. We had bumped into him several times since Vanilla, where his time was mostly spent in Admonished Prophets. My ex-warrior officer Annihilation clocked the most time in Fraya's presence. According to him, Fraya was a good kid, loved to PvP on his druid, and had helped us out killing world bosses like Emeriss and Azuregos, back in the day. By all accounts, Fraya was good people. We even tried to nab him a couple of times, but no...he respectfully declined. Said he had big plans to start a raiding guild. Wanted to make a name for himself. See how far he could push a team into progression. And soon after the release of Wrath, we saw what he was up to: the guild name Enigma started to spread quickly throughout the Horde community on Deathwing-US. As promised, Fraya would be making a name for his new guild, and I had every reason to be concerned. Depraved had poached players from me during Vanilla without giving it a second thought; the same was true for Pretty Pink Pwnies during TBC. But back then, my attitude was one of disbelief, shock, disgust, surprise. How could another guild treat us like this? Weren't we all in this together?

It doesn't work like that. Not on Deathwing-US.

In the business of building a raiding guild on this backwater server, you take what you want. I'm often curious what the general feeling is on this topic for European guilds; my locale limits me to being exposed only to the North American servers. Perhaps a mutual respect exists on a handful of other servers here in the US of A. At least as far as Deathwing-US is concerned, guilds treat each other like Corporate America treats greed. There's no honor among guild leaders; hell, I'd be surprised if any of the guild leaders on Deathwing-US even knew who I was...or cared!

But I wanted to know them.

In the corporate world, public relations and ethics are barely enough to keep people virtuous. Pretend for a moment that you are completely protected by a thick shell of anonymity, free from the repercussions of doing whatever the hell you want, saying what you want, and acting how you want. Nobody's hand can be held to the fire, because nobody knows whose hand to force into the flame. Now, surrounded by that lack of a moral code, more and more join in with that behavior, one gigantic hive mind of douche.

Well, now you have a general idea of what it's like to be a raiding Guild Leader.

We touted ideals and morals in DoD, and four years in I had a pretty good handle on setting the standard behind our walled garden. My guild had made a name for itself, helping each other without being asked. They'd go out of their way to be respectful to players in other guilds, no matter how ignorant a response they got in return. A strategy I particularly enjoyed was killing trolls with kindness; responding to players that had gone way overboard in the what-is-appropriate department with hugs, apologies, and bubblegum candycane hearts. It only drove them into a greater fury.

I loved that.

Behind the scenes, I kept a close eye on the competition, because I knew how the "game" was being played on our server; rules of engagement were non-existent at best. The grand majority of players I brushed shoulders with would never see my website, never read my rules, never once get to know me or my guild, and learn about our ideals or values. They would never come to see how we tried, every day, to separate ourselves from the herd.

...and they couldn't care less.

The only exposure to Descendants of Draenor they'd ever see were those things right in front of their virtual faces: gear, titles and general chat. I already committed to keeping my opinion out of general chat (and compelled DoD to do the same), so that left me with only two concrete selling points. For the masses, I hoped to impress upon them our degree of progress, reflected by what we wore and the titles that displayed next to our name. If they happened to see us flying a coveted mount, it would be icing on the cake. Then...and only then...could I hope to make a pitch on exactly why it would be lucrative for them to choose Descendants of Draenor over another hardcore, further progressed guild:

Perks.


Mature chats with Beercow while
Scruffiebear converses in guild chat,
Argent Pavillion

Added Value

Hardcore raiding guilds were known for keeping a short leash on their raiders, and this included the raiders' individual schedules. Guilds competing for world-first and server-first titles were expected to clock long hours, raiding many nights per week. We couldn't compete with that. We had jobs, wives, kids, responsibilities -- all the wonderful things that like to jam the gears of a hardcore raiding machine. We had to sell that deficiency as a perk. Rather than force you to raid inappropriate hours during the week, we'd give you the option to maintain a more flexible raiding schedule. In order to make this happen, I made it a rule to handle the rotations myself and work very closely with the players to accommodate their schedules. Various guildies were notably concerned about my heightened expectations in our updated Wrath rules, but I assured them I would do my very best to make the schedule work.

One raider in particular, a feral druid named Beercow, expressed his concerns to me over IM. He desperately wanted to be a regular part of the 25-Man progression team and earn his way up to the "Elite" rank, but felt stifled by the fact that there was no room to consistently bring him in the tank role. Beercow was an old-school veteran of DoD; he had raided with the 40-Man team on his warlock Kragnl. After taking time off for TBC, he returned to consume content with us in Wrath. Players that helped us get where we were today held a special place of importance in the guild. Hence, it was important for me to find a way to carve a spot out for him in the raid roster. Abstaining from trying to convince him to play something we needed, I fished out another interest: Enhancement Shaman. I saw a need for that role and told him he'd easily be able to prove his Elite potential by choosing that unique position and sticking to it. He obliged, and Beercow -- now Bheer -- became the only regular enhancement shaman we saw week-to-week in progression.

Another player I made allowances for was a long standing player in DoD, one who had become a regular face in progression and was a player we all knew by many names. He had a multitude of characters on his account, and fashioned himself a PvPer at heart; he had spent many late nights cruising through Alterac Valley, Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch with some of our other veteran PvPers like Neps and Annihilation. He jammed his foot in DoD's door via his brother, the warlock Ouleg (also a PvPer) who had been known to contribute to raids from time to time throughout TBC. Ouleg never demonstrated to me any real significant amount of loyalty to the raid team. I recall nights that we would wipe incessantly in Serpentshrine Cavern, only to hear that "something's come up, I gotta go", and conveniently, Ouleg was gone from the raid. It was the general sort of douchebaggery I came to accept as par-for-the-course when leaning on our PvP crowd to wrap up a raid.

So, when Ouleg's brother stepped foot in progression, I set my expectations appropriately. On occasion he would miss sign-ups completely, or he would show up late and miss the raid invite, so I didn't go out of my way to weave intricate tapestries around his spot. But when he did bring a toon to the raid, whether it be his boomkin druid Scruffiebear or his shadow priest Aeden, that boy would unleash hell on our enemies. He was an unexpected sharpshooter, a hardcore player in every sense of the word, and yet, was simply a laid-back, fun-loving kid that liked to drink and party. He became the guild mascot, known by everyone and liked by all. Rather than call him by the many names of his toons, DoD simply referred to him by his name in real life: Ben. I did what I could to make room for Ben in the roster, as his jokes always kept the raid's spirits up, and his damage was nothing to laugh at. But, I didn't have high hopes that he would ever see a rank beyond "Raider".

While it pleased me to see returning faces and find ways to work them into the roster, some names required a bit more thought during consideration. I'm referring, of course, to those faces who left DoD under bad terms, the bridge burners. But were they bad people? Or was their exit strategy simply marred by bad circumstances?

How does a Guild Leader decide when it's OK to bring someone back across that burned bridge?

15 comments:

Dalans said...

I almost miss Ben's drunken calls from the club at 3am...almost.

Kelden said...

I'd let Ben drunk dial me every night if it would make WoW fun again.

Wargalar said...

I definitely miss DoD and Wow, nice post.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Wargalar,

Long time, stranger! Glad to hear you're enjoying the blog.

Brett Easley said...

Ah yes... Ben's drunk calls. My personal favorite from Ben.

"Hey Taba! Taba I need the name of 3 Fast Food joints!"

"Huh? Why?"

"NO TIME JUST START LISTING SHIT!!!"

Apparently I won him free beer.

Feldeil said...

It's nice to know that there are guilds on Deathwing that aren't complete douchebags. I've had a ton of respect for DoD and it's members, I remember helping Annihilation grind our HWL with my buddy Pandafat. As an officer of a guild that's struggling for recruiting. Recruiting honorably is an incredibly hard thing to do. I try and recruit through the pugs we run, and I really hate doing to to people already in a guild, but I never go out of my to pursue if they decline.

Anyways, this is a good blog, definitely following this...support from a fellow Deathwinger

Shawn Holmes said...

@Feldeil,

It's really great to start seeing some other Deathwing folks stop by and comment.

Re: Your note on recruitment, it was those early days during Vanilla and TBC that I learned my lesson, in that no amount of honor or respect was going to save me from poachers.

I changed my approach in WotLK: Plan for poaching to happen, and put effort into building an environment where players have less incentive to leave.

Doyle Clark said...

It's good to read posts like this. Makes me yearn for the days when my schedule/life permitted Raids and PVP.

A blog like this certainly fleshes out the social aspects of WoW and reveals the inner workings of the community.

Victoria, BC said...

Really enjoying this Shawn! Awesome work! But now you've made me miss Drunk Ben singing in Vent. But at the same time it's making me think back to my first raiding guild in Vanilla. Memories/screenshots with some of the "better" players,some who even made the switch to Horde before me and were in DoD and some who I am still trying to bring over to the "good" side.
Keep at it! But can't you type any faster? I already can't wait for the next segment!

Blain said...

Your blogs are horrible! You need to learn how to write!

Good ole Ben. I remember the 72 hour push to level up Blood Elves with Kadrok and Ben....great times. I should find that recording and send it to you so you can post it. LOL

Brett Easley said...

"WHY, ARE WE DIGGING? IN THIS MANS GRAVEYARD?"

Ah classic....

Petshop said...

I miss deathwing :(

Shawn Holmes said...

@Petshop,

You and me both.

Tya said...

A bit late, but I just read your post about the poaching, and I had to answer. I myself come from the EU servers, and I had already read your posts where you say you poached from other guilds with raised eyebrows. On my server that was namely a HUGE no-no. (Can't speak for other servers, spend my whole life on only one, but I think it was fairly the same everywhere.) Anybody getting caught doing that instantly got a serverwide reputation that was hard to get rid off.
I remember at the end of Vanilla that there was a group of people who decided they were going to clear Naxx, no matter what. So, they flipped the finger and actively poached anybody and everybody they could get. Oh, the outrage. ^^
(it even went as far that if guilds from other servers come to our Blizzard forums, and put up a recruitment post, that it would be overrun with angry responses. No recruiting at our place. Shoo!)

Shawn Holmes said...

@Tya,

Interesting how the servers differ in that respect. On Deathwing-US it has classically been "every guild for themselves", and typically hasn't been any honor among guilds. If they're not doing well, and want your people, they come and they take. As you've read by now, we lost folks in Vanilla and in TBC that way.

My goal for WotLK was to plan for it to happen, and to put every measure in place on my end to ensure folks were content enough, so that when it *did* happen, that the lure of another's guild's progression would no longer seem as enticing.