Thursday, April 4, 2013

2.43. The False Step

Zanjina and the 25-Man Progression team prepares
to work on Illidan the Betrayer,
Black Temple

Contemplating Promotion

We pressed on and defeated The Illidari Council the night of July 27th, concluding a month of work. The path to Illidan was now clear. Time was of the essence. The next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, was in beta, and I expected Blizzard to follow suit with applying the 3.0 patch to the game prior to its full retail release. This meant all existing encounters would be implicitly nerfed when our players gained all new talents and abilities. The defeat of 40-Man Maexxna was one of our proudest moments as a raiding guild, as we managed it prior to the 2.0 patch that trivialized said content. I insisted that the guild apply the same passion towards an Illidan kill, pre-3.0. Our original goal of defeating Illidan as a raiding guild was still doable, and would earn us a historic spot on the server, even when considering that Blizzard bolted on an entirely new raid tier after Black Temple, the Sunwell Plateau.

As The Burning Crusade waned, raiding guilds that were stalemating on progression began falling apart, and I picked up the pieces of these dismantled teams. I weeded through them, cherry picking the roles we needed and giving them a shot. This was my strategy to deal with any possible burnout the raid team was suffering as we neared our goal. Many of these guild breakups involved players who happened to be friends of Wyse. I found myself getting first-hand referrals on players she recommended; as the volume increased, I simply deferred to her judgement when taking new players in, bypassing the due diligence. The end result was a core of new players that were exceptionally well-geared and well-played, but were lacking in other social graces.

That summer was rough on the roster, and the BlizzCon 2008 ticket fiasco didn't help. Blizzard, unprepared for the popularity of previous BlizzCons, set up an online ticket purchasing website that completely buckled under the demand of WoW nerds across the globe. One such nerd happened to be my very own mage officer, Goldenrod. The sham of the ticket system failing, coupled with his growing disgust of mage treatment in PvP, was the straw that broke the camel's back. He announced that he was quitting the game, news that got back to me by way of one of my raiding priests, Neps. I shared this knowledge with Wyse in the hopes that she would assist me in holding things together through Illidan's completion. She obliged, expressing that she would reach out to the existing mages, folks like Turtleman, Dandrak, Barraged, and convince them to remain focused until the Betrayer met his fate.

Unbeknownst to any of them, Blain had already confided that he, too, would be leaving at the end of the expansion.

It was at this point that I began giving serious consideration to Wyse for officership. She had the unique benefit of being on-hand every day via IM; I could delegate the handling of situations at a moment's notice, without having to wait to log in to the game. It came from a feeling of desperation. I needed anyone available that demonstrated a sliver of leadership to help plug holes in the dam. This desperation clouded my judgement while I considered promotions -- it prevented me from seeing the warning signs. Signs such as Wyse expressing frustration at players who were tormenting her in guild chat, or worse, ignoring her outright. Signs in the form of her relaying to me how her friends in-guild were being "abused"; I would find out later that it was these same friends who incited arguments amongst players ill-equipped to raid. Soon, even laid-back members of the guild grew disgusted with her neediness and inability to handle criticism.

In a moment of clarity, my gut spoke to me. If you are going to extend a position of authority to her, she is going to have to demonstrate serious growth in both diplomacy and finesse. I listened to my gut and made the decision to hold back on the promotion.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Illidan the Betrayer,
Black Temple

The Betrayer

Descendants of Draenor clawed its way through the hellish summer months of 2008. By September, we had put in a solid four weeks of work on Illidan. Blain and I clung to the A-Team/B-Team rotations, allowing us to field the huge pool of players which now made up the roster. I drafted a "State of the Union" forum post, hoping to encourage those suffering from burnout to stay strong and remain involved in the rotations, so that we could claim an Illidan kill. Thankfully, the roster stayed full, and we continued our work on Illidan. Kurst continued his role of main tank and dealing with Illidan's Shear, while both he and Dalans worked together to perfect the Flames of Azzinoth tanking. Eventually, they were acting as a single cohesive unit. Within a few more weeks of earnest effort, Illidan Stormrage met his fate by our hand, granting us an official Black Temple clear date on the evening of September 21, 2008. It was both triumphant and bittersweet, because although we accomplished what we set out to at the start of The Burning Crusade, we lost many core folks from our original Vanilla raid team along the way. Still, few guilds could claim an Illidan kill; we now sat among those elite few. It was a proud moment for Descendants of Draenor, and the event remains permanently burned into my brain.

It was the week following our Illidan kill that would bestow upon me another everlasting memory.

Seven days later, we returned for our weekly clear. The rotations for that week were handled as fairly as possible; we brought as many must-have roles that were necessary for the kill, and rotated in folks that did not get a chance to be present for the first clear. Many core raiders fell into this latter category, officers included. Even the shaman Ekasra, whom I felt was vital to every raid that Kerulak was absent for, hadn't been present for the first kill. These folks all needed a shot, and thus, were rotated in on week two. As we were getting situated for a pull of Illidan, drama exploded in guild chat. Two recently acquired guildies (who happened to be friends with Wyse) threw a fit when they discovered they had been left behind for that evening's Black Temple raid. They were outraged that raiders who weren't involved in the initial kill were now getting priority over those who contributed to Illidan's defeat. Without even bothering to take it up with me and attempt some sort of resolution, they quit the guild.

This outburst of rage and immaturity would be the catalyst for Wyse's undoing.

Political Incongruity

By now, the raiders had grown into a unified, efficient team. They knew the goals we had set out to accomplish, and where our priorities lay. Clearing raids was the focus, being competitive and progressing so that the guild could experience the content was the endgame for us. We had burned into their brains that loot was not the reason we did what we did; we were not in this for individual gain or glory. The glory came from our accomplishments as an entire guild. Thus, any behavior demonstrating greed was immediately pounced on. The guild unanimously wrote the ex-guildies off as selfish and paid them no attention. Wyse, however, held a different opinion. She felt her friends had been mistreated and not given a fair opportunity at spots in the roster, reminding us that if it weren't for their contribution, Illidan would likely still remain undefeated. The result of this defiant public stance was an overwhelmingly negative response to Wyse.

Alienated, she became the focus of an entirely new round of personal attacks. Discussions she'd start in guild chat would cause officers like Dalans to instantly mute her. Any mention of the ex-guildies would cause my members to violently defend our morals and principles, further backing her into a corner -- with nobody on her side to defend her own claims. She made multiple attempts to contact me via IM, relaying to me the treatment she was receiving, but I could provide no additional support or advice. She had dug her own grave and nothing I could say or do would change the opinion of hundreds of guild members...including my own. It was not enough that she was a dedicated, experienced mage with a passion for progression and high-caliber play. She needed to be aligned with our ideals, our values. Instead, she remained frustratingly loyal to her friends; ex-guildies that had demonstrated selfishness and deceit -- not anything that I wanted us to stand for as a guild.

On November 11th, 2008, just six months after Wyse joined my guild, she posted a goodbye on our forums, and quietly left to join her friends. Various members of DoD made a concerted effort to be civil and wish her well; even Dalans left her a note: "Water under the bridge." I was appreciative that, in the end, my guild had the decency to let her know that she had been a contributing member. Skewed alignments aside, she had helped the raid progression team perform incredible feats. Without her, I cannot guess as to what amount of time we would have spent on Illidari Council, which potentially could have pushed Illidan far enough out, causing us to miss the pre-3.0 kill. I was thankful for her efforts, yet saddened that I couldn't convince her to see my side of the story. She would forever remain faithful to her friends, which in her eyes, were more important than the good of the guild.

---

A week later, one of my guild members started sending tells. "Hanzo, you need to jump into Vent. It's Wyse. She's pretty upset."

I popped on my headphones, turned on the mic, and jumped into Vent, finding her in a solitary channel. She was beside herself and in tears. I asked her what was wrong. Wyse proceeded to tell me how she had joined her friends' guild (the very same ones that stormed out of mine in a tantrum), and that she had been busy contributing raiding materials and gold from her characters to their guild vault. Once she had given them everything she had to help get their guild started on the right foot, her friends decided that they didn't need Wyse any longer, and kicked her to the curb.

It was an impressive demonstration of loyalty.

The very players Wyse had gone to extreme lengths to defend...had now turned around and cut her loose. She was distraught, not by the loss of trivial in-game goods, but by the betrayal of those she believed had her back, as she had theirs. I did my best to console her. I couldn't help but feel a certain sense of irony surrounding the events. Her "friends" had shown their true colors, something my gut had told me months earlier. It was unfortunate that she had to experience this first hand. As before, I wished that I could have found a way to convince her of this ahead of time. But, as with some people, the only way to truly convince them is for them to live through it themselves.

My experience with managing Wyse was profoundly enlightening. It was my first experience managing a player without the advice of a mentor, like Ater. I learned how to weigh my own needs in the middle of a crisis, but not jump to rash decisions like premature promotions. It was an exercise in keeping a level head. Dealing with Wyse reminded me that in leadership, I had a responsibility to not allow my emotional attachment to cloud my vision. The plucking of heartstrings is not a valid justification to sacrifice integrity, no matter how difficult it seems. And I won't lie to you...it is difficult to listen to someone pour their heart out, and hold yourself back from wanting to help -- to make everything better. It also reaffirmed my beliefs about people: you can't change them. All you can do is provide the necessary information to lead them down the right path. Whether they take that path or not is ultimately up to them.

I filed the Wyse experience into my stack of lessons learned, as I prepared to take Descendants of Draenor into the next expansion.

28 comments:

Heather Hamilton said...

Fast forward 4 1/2 years...

This is Wyse, now known as Design. A lot changed for me too. Wasn't just you guys, but I had a lot going on IRL which effected me EXTREMELY in game. I let a lot of what was going on in my life leak into the game, and let it control my emotions as well. Was a massive mistake on my end, but then again I was 24 during that time, in the middle of dealing with my dad being sick, and still very immature for a 24 year old.

A lot's changed since then. I've learned from my mistakes, learned how to take trolling as trolling (a lot of that for some odd reason I took personally back then and I'm not sure why), and pretty much grew up.

Golden since I know read's this now, thanks for pretty much declaring I had a brain problem. I do not, but if you think that then, ok. Not much I can do to change that now about your opinion.

Dalans that pirate pic made me lol pretty hard that you emailed me 2 weeks ago.

Rest of you, see you on deathwing.

Love,
Design

PS: I had to delete my 2 comments due to my phone being stupid.

Shawn Holmes said...

Don't be too hard on yourself, hindsight is always 20-20. As the blog will continue to demonstrate, I encountered many more individuals that gave me an opportunity to show them the path--not all of them took it!

It takes a *lot* to be able to acknowledge poor decisions in the past, and learn/grow from them. I cannot count how many people I ended up working with that, to this day, *INSIST* that they did nothing wrong, and will never, ever grow.

Heather Hamilton said...

Well one thing I can say, I'm still friends with Neps, and have been for the past 4 1/2 years. He never took me off Facebook and added me to Real ID when it came out. You and I spoke briefly some time at the end of ICC, when I had come onto the server to alt pug, and then I lost contact with you until about a month ago.

With all that said, I can say that you were my best GM as a person by far. Every other GM I've had has displayed either extreme immaturity, a lack of skill, or is a very indecent person. I feel like as the game is going on, either because I'm getting older or something, that the community that WoW once had has died, and everything is impersonal to a high level. Very few people in this game know me, even though my Real ID is full.

A lot of my attitude is sarcastic, I have a tendency to get frustrated easily, and I'm poor at communicating through typing to people. The few people that have gotten to know me over the years, and actually met me, said that meeting me is how they figured out what I'm like, because I use my hands a lot to explain things, which is hard to convey through typing. I'm more of a picture person, not words person, and in this game that really kills me.

James said...

Choices are always hard. What do you choose? The guild you've been in, the one you helped progress, the one you really enjoy being in, or the people who were kind to you, who supported you - your friends. Loyalty for your guild or loyalty for your friends. Whether or not this ends up well, I believe, in most cases, anyone would choose a person over an entity. When I left my guild for my ex-raid leader, I had half the guild e-mailing me and whispering me to come back. But I pretty much couldn't handle the idea of betraying my ex-raid leader. I accepted letting down my ex-guild, all the people there, seeing their progress fall, just because I had to do the moral choice and support my raid leader. In the end, I couldn't stay with him either, being with any side made me feel like I was betraying the other, I often felt there's no place for me anywhere, even though both sides were open. I became bitter. I ended up on a different server, cutting almost all ties. This is truly a game and for some it's an emotional experience, for some, it's just pixels.

Shawn Holmes said...

@James,

Thanks for the comment! I can understand that decisions surrounding loyalty are tough, and the bond of friendship is a hard one to break (family is even harder). There's an implicit bias, esp. with younger players, to not put a lot of time into thinking through the long-term effects of their decisions.

Result?

What I ended up seeing was a lot of great people leave for the wrong reasons, only to ping me back later with thoughts along the lines of "Leaving this guild was the worst decision I ever made."

Hopefully, as this blog spreads, more people will begin to understand your sentiment: to some it truly is just pixels, but to many others...there is a lot of emotional "people" stuff that goes with the WoW territory.

Heather Hamilton said...

@Jamie

Trust me, I KNOW that feeling WAY to well. I left Deathwing for nearly 4 years before I came back wondering wtf was I thinking, in both bad and good.

Good way was, I got to rekindle a lot of lost friendships. Bad way was, people that had an extreme hate towards me STILL DO. I have no CLUE how you hold a grudge after 4 years. Mind boggling.

That's the risk though you take. You are dealing with people, and you are also dealing with a lot of "not so healthy" people, to put it kindly. I guess my 2 years of working with the public really opened my eyes to "I could be raiding with any one of these types of people....."

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I love the blog so far, and I hope you keep writing! It's been very insightful to me and hopefully a lot of other people. Keep it up! :)

Bill DeGeer said...

Shawn;

I came across your Memoirs via a link from 'Favourite Bloggers' on Wow Insider. So VERY glad I did. Read through every one of them, and could feel myself reliving much of what your guild has gone through, especially in terms of people and group management.
I too have preferred the non-hardcore style of raiding, favouring towards the casual side. Yet, as you so articulately explained, casual raiding is only fun if there's a sense of progression.
Stepping up to the task of attempting the downing bosses is something that's a requirement, not a given. My guild is going through post-cataclysm depression right now, with MV smacking them upside the head repeatedly. The 'ease' of raiding during cataclysm has lulled many guildies into a sense of entitlement on raiding, and it's a tough hill to climb back.
I'm hugely interested in seeing the further installments of your blog. Thank you so much for taking the time and the effort to put this on the web.

An ardent fan.

Wylset

Shawn Holmes said...

@Wylset,

Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate all the positive feedback I've gotten so far, and am thrilled to hear that our guild's story is hitting home for a few folks. My biggest concern all along was that nobody (beyond us) would really care about these stories, but as it turns out, they speak to many WoW players.

I'm ramping up for Chapter 3 as we enter WotLK, and things are just going to get crazier from here on out.

Anonymous said...

No love for the Dual-role Lock-tank/Healing Pally...

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

Ah, that was Lyticvirus/Holyvirus! He absolutely played a vital role as well, and thanks to having him flip back and forth between his Warlock / Paladin as needed, we gained a bit of flexibility in the roster that we needed for those rotations!

It would also cause drama that I'd have to re-investigate in WotLK: "pure" single-class players began to feel as though players like Lytic got special treatment/addt. rewards. It was something that had to be addressed...

Neps said...

"Well one thing I can say, I'm still friends with Neps, and have been for the past 4 1/2 years. He never took me off Facebook and added me to Real ID when it came out"

And 4 1/2 years later i'm still trying to bone! JK!... Unless you let me.

Fun times back then though, I miss Dalans

Trond Skillebekk said...

Hello Shawn! I would also like to thank you for this great blog! I followed a link from Wow Insider to find it.

As others have said this bring a great feeling of nostalgia and recognition. I was in a raiding guild in Vanilla in the EU. I came late into raiding and the guild me and my friends joined already had Molten Core on farm and i rememeber being one of those being "carried" tought the place at first with no clues about what to do...lol. We continued on to BWL and onwards with me learning to be half decent offtank during that time. We wrapped up our vanilla raiding with failed attempts at the first bosses in Naxx.

In TBC i soon quit the 25man raiding because of te reasons you point out as weaknesses in those raids.. I did enjoy Karazan alot and have fond memories ofthat place!

Enough about my own raid history.. Thank you again for this excellent blog!

PS! Have you ever been tempted to play on one of the many private servers that have popped up to relive the vanilla content and have another go at the content you missed that time again? :)

Shawn Holmes said...

@Trond,

Thanks for the feedback!

Re: The private servers, I gotta tell ya, those days are long behind me. I spent hundreds of hours in Molten Core alone, we pushed two full sets of players (so ~80) through MC, and poor Ater was present for all of it, just to get Thunderfury done.

I can look back on those years fondly, but don't think I could push myself to relive it. I've got plenty to keep me occupied now, both in WoW and out...including the blog!

Anonymous said...

Sorry you had to put up the drama... I busted my ass to gear up a healer and learn everything to go along with that to get past that one encounter to get the guild through to Illidan. I thought I was being unselfish... so funny the things people complain about. I'm still shocked at all the hate towards Blain... I never saw it and loved having him lead us.

Anonymous said...

Need part 27 badly

Heather Hamilton said...

Shawn,

I'm starting to get some heat from this now... Messages of why I was such a horrible person.

Anonymous said...

I get messages of why I'm such a horrible person all the time. Consider it fan mail.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Heather,

Everybody makes mistakes! It's a learning process; you didn't know then, but you know now--that's all there is to it.

Anyone who claims you're the horrible person didn't read closely enough--it was your two pals that were the shallow ones.

Strategy: Laugh with them, "Yep, it was a pretty crappy situation, I've learned my lesson!" which should taper that off.

Alternately, /ignore.

Heather Hamilton said...

@Shawn

Lawl

Tyler Iacono said...

Wow Heather's first comment made me look back at Goldy's response on the previous memoir. So cold! Damn!

jjloraine said...

"Bill DeGeer said...
Shawn;

I came across your Memoirs via a link from 'Favourite Bloggers' on Wow Insider."


\o/

That was my comment!

The Wyse segment is quite an interesting read and gives me pause to think about how to deal with certain members.

Was there a chance for her to return during that vent conversation, or did you just comfort her? From what you say about their response to her departure, it sounded like there wasn't lingering animosity from your guild...or does leaving DoD essentially burn the bridge to returning? I totally thought she was going to rejoin and it was going to have a happy ending. :(

Shawn Holmes said...

@jjloraine,

Mainly, I wanted to offer my support to Wyse as I felt she had been treated horribly by the guild that had kicked her out. In terms of returning at that point, I don't think it would have worked out, primarily due to:

1. The plan I was preparing to set into motion regarding WotLK, which I wanted to be 100% focused on, and

2. Previous animosity between Wyse and certain folks was still fresh, and I didn't want to rekindle those fires.

This particular story *does* have a happy ending, though, because Wyse and I continue to check in with each other to this day.

As you will soon learn, not all breaks from DoD end so amicably. This is a story I have yet to tell, but will address the question:

"What determines when you let someone back into the guild, as opposed to gaining a perma-ban for life?"

The answer to this is hazy, but I have a theory, and will definitely address it.

Heather Hamilton said...

There most def. is a happy ending. As you can see I'm obv. still fine. I ended up growing and experiencing A LOT.

Shawn and I still talk, even when he's doing a log in log out spam on my real id :P

Anonymous said...

It's fascinating to read this convoluted history, and then have the actual people mentioned in that story comment after the fact.

It's like reading a story about titans, and then having one show up and say, "Oh yeah, I remember that."

The memoirs themselves are utterly fascinating - I've been reading them for the past.. three hours? It's an interesting look into human social interaction, and just further confirms that I'd be a horrible guild leader.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

Thanks for reading! I'll agree that the guild coming back to comment on each blog post definitely gives these memoirs a unique feel. Originally, I had only really planned it for them, but as it turns out, our stories appeal to a much wider audience. I'm making a concerted effort to say true to these characters, as they are real people with real personalities, all of which were important in how they played together into the grand story.

...and if you think it is convoluted now, wait until things get hairy in WotLK and Cata. One word:

Politics.

Stonebreath said...

I only started playing during Wrath so this has all been about things I have no personal experience with. Even so I've found the memoirs to be fascinating so far. There's so much more people management in larger raids than in the 10 mans I'm used to.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Stonebreath,

Glad to hear you're enjoying the read, and you are absolutely correct--it was nearly a full-time job to coordinate large 25+ sized raiding guilds, esp. when the modus operandi was to take a more human approach to it.

One of the benefits of the truly hardcore guilds is that they have zero tolerance for a lack of skill or drama. Easier to manage, but less flexible for the player. I tried to provide that flexibility with DoD, and you're reading now about what that was like.