Thursday, May 15, 2014

3.67. The Sorest Loser

While waiting for Sindragosa, Mature sneaks a peek
at who is currently logged-on in the guild,
Icecrown Citadel

Best Policy

Logging in each day, being greeted with the bustle of Descendants of Draenor, was not unlike entering a small city. Throughout the week, any one of the four 10-Man teams were busy marking their territory at the various signposts staked inside Icecrown Citadel. While I assisted Blain and co. with Si Team, Eh Team continued along their own path, minus a few members, but still determined to make a stand in heroics. Meanwhile, Jungard and Fred continued to push Federation Starflex through the muck. The fourth was Cowbell, a team comprised mainly of old-school DoDers, many of whom had left their mark in our history -- folks like McFlurrie, Kizmet and Breginna. Cowbell was the platform that many players got a start from, including Jungard and Bretthew. But the bustle didn't end with the four 10-Mans. The 25-Man progression team, long the sole source of income for our guild, had drawn a line through every boss standing between us and The Lich King himself, and plans were well underway to architect his defeat. The success and celebrity of the 25-Man progression team led to more invested interest in the Alt-25, and before long, Mangetsu was getting help from Drecca leading a second set of players through ICC. Business was good.

From the top down, I did what I could to remain humble, yet kept spreading the word about our accomplishments, acknowledging the hard work being done by the men and women in the guild -- boasting only occasionally to outline we were a raiding machine that actually still cared enough to treat each other with honesty and respect. Just as it was in the old days, our members mostly kept off of the public forums, and as a result, flew under the radar enough to steer clear of the handful of festering douchebag guilds on Deathwing-US. We were rarely (if ever) the target of humiliation, nor did we drum up drama needlessly. There was plenty to go around on the server without our intervention. I felt confident that when our name did come up, whatever insults were slung came from the misinformed and the careless -- groups of players that we didn't need to lose sleep over. Detractors didn't have a chance. I kept a diamond-like focus honed on the cultivation of a guild unlike any other on the server...and possibly even further than that.

How does one cultivate such a culture? For me, it was by ensuring that when taken to task, I shot straight from the hip about who we were and who we weren't. Players with our guild tag under their name, as well as those who wished it to be, knew what we were here to do, even before their eyes graced a single rule or perused any forum post from our boards. We are not going to be a world- or server-first guild. But we're not going to run you ragged through week long sprints of raiding, either. You get out of this guild what you put in, and those people who invest wisely will see the biggest returns. And as long as you dedicate yourself in whatever chunks of time and energy you have available, we'll continue to see successes as we have in raids in years past. This will be a judgement free guild where you will come to enjoy content by similarly minded folks, who push each other and always have something to learn. In short, what you do here matters. And we notice.

I was proud of that sentiment, at least. It made the many men and women living in the city of Descendants of Draenor feel like they mattered. And I often wondered if Blizzard themselves would ever take notice of us? Do you think they see what we're doing here? Do you think we matter?

I got my answer on the morning of March 11th, 2010.

Enigma demonstrates their mastery of
choreographed genitalia,
Icecrown Citadel

15 Minutes of Shame

I scrolled through the website, reading carefully, my tongue dragging itself across the jagged edges of my teeth in disgust. It was Blizzard's freshly launched World of Warcraft Anniversary site, celebrating five outstanding years of World of Warcraft and an unbelievable fifteen since the Warcraft universe's inception. On this particular page -- one I was finding increasingly laughable -- Blizzard had chosen a random guild of the many hundreds of thousands across a myriad of servers to highlight for their accomplishments.

I'll bet you already have a pretty good idea of how I felt about their decision to choose Enigma.

I read through the interview with Fraya, to see what Blizzard felt made them so special as to be plucked from a seemingly random group of guilds across the world. After all, Enigma was certainly not a world first raiding guild, only a server first. This was true at least in the short time they had spent on Deathwing-US. Descendants of Draenor, meanwhile, had a solid four years on Enigma. Longevity certainly didn't seem to hold much weight in this particular comparison. There, of course, were minor details to stack up against Enigma as well -- pushing more people through content, keeping flexible schedules and allowing players to contribute at varying degrees without penalizing them and kicking them to the curb. But again, these features appeared to mean very little in this particular selection process, nor would the fact that I insisted players in DoD treat not only each other with respect, but also those outside our guild. 

I pulled our website up again to see if perhaps something could've been overlooked. Maybe there wasn't a clear enough link to our ideologies, what we stood for, things that might catch the eye of a potential Blizzard employee. Nothing stood out as problematic. I popped open a new tab and typed in the URL to Enigma's website. Centered squarely on the homepage were a series of boss kill pics, some in 25, and some in 10. And in nearly every image, Fraya and co. had positioned themselves in the shape of a gigantic dick. Their killshot portfolio brought an entirely new meaning to the phrase penis envy.

It was nice to see Blizzard chose such a class act for this monumental celebration.

I flipped back to the interview and read further, until my eye caught the real highlight of the entire ordeal. A specific question about scheduling, and Fraya's alleged answer, caused my vision to turn blood red:

---

How rigorously is raiding for your guild run? For example, do you place a lot of focus on 10-player content with multiple dedicated groups in comparison to your 25-player raids?

How rigorous? Well it's nothing extreme. We raid sixteen-hour weeks, with a potential extra four tacked on if we feel we want it. Most of the time we only end up raiding about eight hours a week.


---

Eight hours a week, my ass. If anything, the eight hour schedule was the only true claim-to-fame Descendants of Draenor had, retaining it as far back as The Burning Crusade. There was absolutely no way this was true. Fraya and his guild were pulling down server firsts from a four-night-per-week schedule, minimum. By comparison, guilds on Deathwing-US that had limited themselves to three nights a week were keeping up with us. But this claim...this was so far off the map that it infuriated me. And why, Fraya...why try to spin this? They already had the server-first claim to themselves, why try to bullshit their way through false pretenses? Was it because they weren't a world first guild, nor would be, so claiming a "lighter" schedule would excuse their shittiness when compared to the likes of Vodka and Paragon? Not everyone was fooled by the interview. Some of my best players had friends in Enigma, some of whom confided with me Enigma's more realistic schedule, which essentially boiled down to:

"We're not leaving until the boss is dead."

From that point on, I just shook my head as I read the remainder of the interview. I gleaned nothing amazing, no incredible insight from this "mature nineteen year old guild leader", but a final quote caught my eye just before I closed my browser:

"The aspects of really good leadership and people management are virtually endless, and that will keep me attracted forever."

Forever is a long time, Fraya. Let's hope you mean it.

Hanzo's email to Blizzard regarding Enigma's
selection for the Anniversary feature.

Turning Loss Into Win

To vent my frustrations, I wrote a scathing letter to Blizzard on their "guild selection process", thanking them for ignoring the efforts of guilds like mine that tried to put some effort into their management of people and process, rather than pick the guild with the most server 1st kills under their belt.

I got no response. And expected none.

---

When my temper tantrum subsided, my crimson view giving way to a more calm, crystal view of the situation, I was determined to make the best of the situation. If nothing else, Enigma's selection would mean heightened attention on Deathwing-US, which in turn would draw more possible recruits. Sensing a much larger surge of applications approaching, I moved quickly to take advantage of whatever collateral damage Enigma's celebrity might cast our way. I thought about the effort that recent applicants like Drecca and Lexxii displayed in their applications, and wondered if there was a way to draw more of that out from the WoW public. My wife reminded me that not everyone writes with such precise eloquence, but perhaps there was a way to point them in the right direction.

I scanned my Gmail trash bin, overflowing with the rejected applications of so many could-have-beens, looking for just the right mix of apathy, laziness and self-deprecation. So many to choose from! I tried a few out, copy and pasting them into a forum post, eyeballing it for clarity and aesthetics, while stripping away any name which might humiliate and/or incriminate. I had to admit, choosing between so many wonderful examples of idiocy gave me great pleasure. I felt like it was a rare opportunity to educate, but not necessarily implicate. After playing with various combinations of failures, I at last settled on two: Poor and Can't Read Directions. Together, they stood as shining examples that represented the very worst in guild applicants.

But...what to do about the very best in guild applicants?

I could've lifted either Drecca's or Lexxii's, as both were fresh in my mind. But that was the problem. Just as leaving names in the worst examples would've implicated the original authors, humiliating them in public, I didn't want to draw attention to these new recruits, either. In much the same way, using their apps as examples ran the risk of artificially inflating their ego, or worse -- speaking to the guild about how fast I was vetting players, an issue that really wasn't any of their concern in the first place, but still had the potential to sow dissent. No, I needed an older applicant. An older yet stellar applicant.

I popped open IM and made virtual letters appear there.

"Do you still have a copy of your app?"

Moments later, Cheeseus responded, "I expect its buried somewhere in my email, will look in just a second."

I tapped my fingers on the desk. Against all logic, I instinctively sent applicants I accepted into the guild straight into my Gmail recycle bin, a virtual trash compactor that Google disintegrated at regular intervals. Meanwhile, all of the failed applicants to which I had replied, "Sorry, but we're not looking for X at this time," remained etched into eternity via Gmail's "sent" folder. It was a tragic irony reflective of life: the failures remained, while the successful moved on, just out of reach...and never to return.

"Got it, resending."

Thank God.

"Ah, wonderful, here it is. Thank you for this."

"Taking a moment to bask in all of its glory?"

"You should be proud. I have big plans for it."

"Interest piqued."

"Need to tighten that noose up a bit on how potential applicants are reaching out to us. It's not enough to give them an explanation of what to do and what not to do. Sometimes they need to be shown."

"And you want to use my application as an example?"

"Bingo."

"Oh, you flatter me so."

I began to select massive chunks of Cheeseus' writing, copying and pasting into a forum post, reformatting, prettying-up, making things crystal-clear for the masses. At last, I revealed the third and final example: **High Quality**. I remembered Goldenrod's advice a week earlier, regarding AVR and posting content publicly; he was right. If we wanted to set a new example for guild applicants, it was incumbent upon us to provide that clarity...and what better way to do so than by real-world examples of what we deem acceptable? With two examples on how to fail, and a solid one on how to succeed, I felt like I had turned a setback into a perk...

...and I looked forward to hearing from more applicants who'd visited Enigma's homepage.

7 comments:

Saerath said...

As a guild officer, frequently tasked with screening applicants, Cheeseus' application makes me feel funny inside...the others just sad...

Cheeseus said...

@Saerath

Thank you :) You only have one opportunity for a first impression, so I tended to try and show everything I had, as opposed to just answering the question[s].

Fred said...

Since moving on from DoD, I have been in the recruiting position in other guilds. The one thing I have taken from all of it is that you can not have a simple question and answer template. It leaves way to much room for copy and paste. One thing we started doing with my last guild was leave no template. If someone wanted to apply, they had to write a well though application without us feeding them questions. It worked out really well.

Saerath said...

@Fred

I like the idea, and I imagine the process of filtering applications is more interesting than skimming those with a Q&A format.

The benefit to an essay template is that it gives applicants a chance to go above and beyond, much like Cheeseus did. The volume of text and spacing would make him stand out amongst copy/pasted apps.

If only I had started playing as Horde on Deathwing. DoD operates like I wish my guild would.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Saereth,

The problem with leaving applicants to go free-form with their applications is the tendency to shy away from details that could reveal much to the recruiter. Part of the process is a "weeding-out", after all. It's true that sharp recruits will most likely deliver a well-written application, but the majority of applicants don't know how to approach this. The result is that they leave valuable information out, and waste your time when you meet with them 1-on-1.

Guidance, therefore, is quite necessary -- especially when the volume of applicants increases (as it did for us during WotLK).

Bonechatters said...

Reading this reminds me of why I worked so hard in the 25 man raids - camaraderie. Once I established my presence, I had a second family. I looked forward to raids every week, and even on those long nights of wipes, I enjoyed watching those meters and reading over those combat logs. I'll be back in a heart beat once I see the calender sign ups for 25 man go back up (and dem mythic 20s)!

It is almost expected to see Blizzard choosing to go for the popular guilds for exposure and fanboys. I'm sure they didn't want to spend the time to actually do a quality check past youtube videos and general guild stats.

Littlebear said...

Every week I read this, and every week I think the same thing:

"How the hell did I make it into this guild?"

I'm eternally grateful and thankful. I'm a far better human being for my time in DoD, but I still get reminded of every Red Flag I must have raised.

LB