|"WoW: Lich King"|
Artwork by Grampsart
An Inconvenient TruthMuch transpired between the end of July and the launch of Cataclysm in December. The transition event marked the coming of Deathwing, and the land suffered many earthquakes as elementals sprouted forth, calling us to battle. The dedication of many players in the guild continued on into the summer months, returning to raids for gear and achievement acquisition. Players rolled alts, flipped to the Alliance to secure a Lich King kill on the enemy's side, and even returned to older content to wrap up outstanding achievements.
As you probably guessed, I headed off on my annual summer vacation, albeit taking a different route, likewise returning with a different mindset. The 4.0.1 patch eventually made its debut come October, and we settled in to our new talents and abilities. I even returned to BlizzCon that year -- my first time returning since the original "Deckard Cain" visit in '05. A great number of changes happened in the roster as we approached Cataclysm, and...just as I had done near the start of WotLK...I rolled out refinements to our guild rules, closing what I hoped to be the last remaining loopholes left unattended.
These paragraphs could produce a hefty amount of blog posts. And they will, I promise. But those posts belong to a different story, however, one we can't begin until the current story ends. In the meantime, there remains a bit of unfinished business to attend to. For this final part of the story, we'll have to leap ahead to the first week of December 2010, a few days before the launch of the expansion that ends it all.
I rolled the last of my raiding rule updates out to the guild forums that morning, preparing to answer questions as they arrived. I popped Pidgin open, fired off an instant message to Bheer, asking him what he thought of the updates. I expected he would be impressed and thankful; Bheer was in a group of a select few people to hold me accountable several times throughout Wrath, pointing out loopholes that needed to be closed. I remembered his state of mind when my Wrath changes were announced, two years previous. I remember being nervous, predicting the worst. And I remember Bheer being one of the first people to acknowledge the changes as exciting and beneficial for us, sating my fear and providing the validation I needed. He made me believe I was on the right track.
This time, he gave me a different response.
"So, no more guaranteed spots?"
"Negative. The day of the Elite is over. It had a good run, but...I'm concerned about how the title grew into their head, changed their attitudes over time. It changed how they treated people. Privileges became entitlements. That's not quite the direction I intended. Once their spot was 100% secure, they...well, some of them...began to act like they were untouchable."
"I'm not sure the new incentives are gonna be worth it."
Perhaps my wording wasn't entirely clear. "Look, functionally, it is the same thing as it was. If you behave responsibly and are consistent...essentially, the Elite of yore, you'll still have the same spot week-after-week. I've just removed the language about a permanent guarantee." To add clarity to my stance, I framed an example around Bheer himself, "Let's look at your spot. You were in a highly sought-after position. There were no other enhancement shaman. You were a model citizen. You signed up. You showed up. In this framework, you yourself would be present in practically every raid you request."
"But you still have the old rule written in the new Elite rank that they're expected at all raids."
"Absolutely. Again, it's not functionally different than before. The new Elite rank is still going to grant perks, but they're going to be held accountable this time. The same goes for the changes to 1st-round bidding. They're going to have to really think about what they want to burn their first round bids on, because in doing so, they reset their pool. Just additional guardrails in place to prevent people from abusing the loot system. They can still bid 1st round...it's just that now, the price to come to the table is far more significant."
I sat back in my chair, confident I'd clarified the change to Bheer. His response popped up a few moments later.
"Hopefully, that will fix the problem with folks like Eh Team colluding behind your back."
The excitement and energy in talking about my changes to the guild rules instantly came to a halt. At first, I thought I misread it. I tilted my head, squinting, leaning closer to the monitor, and re-reading the words next to his name.
"What do you mean 'colluding'?"
As Bheer's words began to appear in the IM window, a debilitating rage welled up inside me. My teeth clenched as his story unfolded, and the glow of my monitor took on a reddish hue.
Mechanism of ConvenienceA cycle repeated as Bheer revealed the grand conspiracy. Part of the story would appear in the IM window, causing my mind to leap back through time like a movie on rewind, trying desperately to pinpoint what happened when, and why I wasn't able to pick up on it. The further back I rewound my memories, the more lost in a trance I was, tightening my fists until my knuckles were white and my fingernails dug in to the skin. Then, I'd snap out of it, re-focus on the story, only to have each successive reveal toss me back into the projector of the mind, the anger blinding me to my own self-mutilation. And I scrambled to isolate the individual pieces. What had I not paid attention to? How had I let this happen? What signs had I missed?
It came about during Ulduar, Bheer claimed. The "initial discussions". They set up a chat channel in-game, protected by a password. Originally, it was to serve as a private bitching area for members of the Eh Team to collectively shit on players they felt were being carried in the 25-Man. Nobody was to share the existence of the channel to anyone in officership. Guild members that were deemed "too close to Hanzo" would also be excluded from this information. Once all of the individual members of the Eh Team acquired a rank of Elite, an alternate looting strategy was floated to the group. As items dropped from bosses, there would be a quick discussion among the group on whether or not the item would be beneficial to Eh Team. If it was, they coordinated their bidding, ensuring that someone locked down the item via a 1st-round bid, denying the item to any potential Raiders that were working towards their own upgrade.
"Were you in on this?"
"I refused to participate, as did Guns. Everyone else had a hand in it."
"Why didn’t you tell me about this before?"
"It was a mechanism of convenience that allowed the Eh Team to flourish, and we were doing well. Really well, actually. I didn't agree with it, but I also didn't want to jeopardize our track record."
I zeroed in on the irony of that statement, "...even though they kicked you to the curb, anyway."
"Well, yes, but that came later. I didn't know they were going to turn on me like that."
I took a deep breath. "Whose idea was it?"
"Crasian was the one who initially started suggesting it. The rest went along with it."
Crasian. The death knight who came and went as he pleased. The player who earned Elite, only to leave to go skiing, who claimed to have thrown a hissy-fit when I chose myself as the first to claim Shadowmourne. The death knight who lost a melee officer promotion to Jungard by a simple lax in judgement. Jungard himself had warned me about Crasian's two sides. There was the popular, guild-friendly face who loved to help fellow members knock out achievements. Behind closed doors, the other face emerged, following his own agenda to establish a steady flow of upgrades to himself, no matter what promises to guildies went unfulfilled. As long as he got his skiing in, that was the most important part.
He would never set foot in this guild again.
The Unusual SuspectsThere was nothing I wanted to do less. Staring at the Eh Team's vent channel made me want to just draw a box around all of their names, right-click, and mass ban in one fell swoop. There's your mediation. But I owed it to them to hear them out. I was obligated to consider both sides of the story, to get a clearer picture of what actually went down. It was all part of the job. Kicking out a wife on account of her husband's bad behavior, or removing a stand-up guy from officership because he couldn't cut the mustard were tasks that seemed lightweight upon reflection. Now I was going to have to call people's credibility into question. Was Bheer's story a fabrication? Or had they genuinely lied to my face about their behavior -- Enron-esque loot funds diverted into their own accounts.
One by one, I plucked them out of the channel, dragging their name down into "Officer" for interrogation. The line of questioning was the same for each Eh Team member. I'd like you to take a moment and explain to me your point-of-view of the events that transpired in the private Eh Team chat channel with regards to loot. It should have been enough to convey exactly what I was speaking about, without playing my full hand to the table. They didn't need to know Bheer was the one who revealed the conspiracy; in the absence of that knowledge, I felt they'd give me a more accurate story.
In some cases, they really played dumb. When I fished the answers out of them, you would've thought they had just joined the guild yesterday -- manufactured shock and surprise to mollify me. They all told me something different, speaking as though they were an outside observer to something they had all been privy to. It only fueled my rage further.
Gunsmokeco: "That was going on? Really? I guess I wasn't paying attention to it."
Just like you weren't paying attention to your addons that I specifically required all players and officers to have configured for the 25-Man? At what point did you feel like you wanted to start paying attention?
Larada: "Had no idea anything was going on like that. I definitely wasn't doing it, though."
The ignorance defense seems to work incredibly well. I wonder how that works in the real world.
Sixfold: "I knew that they were trying to find a way to keep things in the inner circle, but it...I dunno...it felt unfair. I wasn't happy about them doing it. I didn't really like the idea."
...and yet you didn't feel the need to bring it to my attention, that perhaps maybe this was going against the rules.
Bulwinkul: "I dunno why I didn't say anything, but I'm not proud of it. It started as a way to vent frustrations at some of the other players who weren't contributing as much as we were."
Except that you don't get to decide what level of contribution is rewarded in this guild...I do.
Omaric: "Crasian got a little loot hungry, sure, but I wouldn't call it 'collusion'. They were just trying to work out what the most efficient path was for a certain set of upgrades."
And working together to decide who bids on what and when, under the guise of 'efficiency', you wouldn't call that collusion, eh?
Bretthew: "This is an absolute lie. Who told you this? I mean, this really pisses me off, Hanzo, I really really want to know who it was that gave you this info, because it is totally false and unfair. God, this makes me angry! The stuff that we chatted about in that channel was not collusion. Totally not collusion. The kinds of things we talked about regarding loot were no different than anything that was talked about in the officer chat. Officers did exactly the same things as we did, and nothing more. I'm offended, Hanzo."
So, what you're saying is that when I type "Please let it be heroic Deathbringer's Will" in officer chat, that's the same as you typing, "Anyone here need Voldrethar? Should we snatch it up?" Thanks for clarifying that for me.
One thing they all agreed on: when questioned on who the ringleader was, no individual member ever stepped up to take responsibility. Crasian certainly took the brunt of the bus' tire treads when it came time to place the blame on someone for the idea itself...but allowing the idea to take root and flourish fell squarely on the shoulders of the Eh Team's leader. Yet in a stroke of either convenience, genius, oversight, or simple dumb luck, nobody in Eh Team claimed to be the one calling the shots! The one thing they all believed to be true was that they made decisions together -- a democracy of misfits and anarchists whose plausible deniability absolved them of any accountability.
What they didn't realize, however, was that there was someone who was responsible. Someone who had long since taken their leave from World of Warcraft. Someone whose ideals weren't quite aligned with my own -- especially when it came to loot. Someone who had the means to let their belief system justify a new world order of their own. Someone who had an obligation to the guild to report bad behavior and greed, rather than allow it to flourish.
Someone who really should have known better than all these bit players in the Eh Team show.
Someone that I trusted.