Tuesday, June 25, 2013

3.13. Cream

"WoW - Malygos"
Artwork by Wynahiros

Wringing Out the Sponge

We had no idea when 3.1 would hit. Blizzard was very good at keeping release dates hush-hush, for fear of the community flying into a rage when a date was missed. All we knew was that time was running out, and when it had, Heroic: Glory of the Raider would no longer be attainable; the coveted Black Proto-Drake would be removed as a reward, forever left as a symbol of its rarity and the skill of the player whom rode on its back. By this point, no Horde guild on Deathwing-US had completed Heroic: Glory of the Raider. Depraved and Enigma were tied with three remaining: You Don’t Have an Eternity, Gonna Go When the Volcano Blows, and The Immortal. When all was said and done, seventeen meta-achievements needed completion.

Wrapping up The Twilight Zone brought our running total to ten. The work we had done prior to 3-Drake was inconsequential compared to what lay ahead, however. First on that list was killing Patchwerk in under 3 minutes, which we managed to complete the very same day we executed Shocking!, ensuring that no two players crossed a positive and negative charge on Thaddius. The next raid weekend was You Don't Have an Eternity, which forced us to kill Malygos in under 6 minutes -- we barely pulled this off by the skin of our teeth. We employed every trick we could think of to wring the DPS sponge dry. The secret? Forcibly stacking Malygos’ powers sparks for a multiplicative damage buff. My role in this was wielding the Death Knight's ability to pull an enemy (be it monster or power spark) to my location. Once "death gripped" to our feet, melee would blow the spark up, stand in the magical residue left behind, and gain arcane infused attacks. We stacked the buff onto all of our DPS, depleting the azure dragon's health at an increased rate, and were able to make the six-minute mark.

During the day, I'd discuss the state of the raiding situation with Cheeseus, having been newly promoted to the rank of Avatar. Since joining DoD, his affinity toward raiding with precision was common knowledge. What wasn't as well known was that he'd approached me with an offer: assume Raid Leadership and be the single voice that guides the 25-Man progression team to greater prestige. He was only a few months into his guild membership; officership seemed premature. Via Avatar, however, he could give us commentary on raid management, proving his worth to the others. Our weekdays were a combination of chats surrounding achievement order and priority, upcoming Elite promotions, and the state of raid progression on Deathwing-US, as other guilds closed in on Heroic: Glory of the Raider. The task before me was this: Wring every ounce of efficiency out of the team like a sponge being crushed in a vice. I'd do this by making our goals crystal clear, foster raiding discourse on our forums (as we'd done with The Twilight Zone), and pour the concrete into our raiding foundation by acknowledging the shining stars of DoD: Awarding the first Elite ranks.

It was report card time.

The Straight A Student

The Elite rank was a brand new concept I implemented at the start of Wrath of the Lich King. I took the name from a guild I'd long admired for their professional-quality approach to raiding and a commitment to sharing thoughtful, intelligent discussion surrounding raid mechanics. A hardcore raiding guild had the luxury of demanding everyone be committed to a fixed (and often overzealous) schedule, expecting everyone be present for multiple nights throughout the week. Descendants of Draenor did not have that luxury. We needed to make allowances for all types of schedules and levels of commitment. I accomplished this by creating the Raider rank, which clearly defined a baseline set of expectations that a guildy needed to meet in order to be considered for a rotation. This would ensure players wouldn't walk into The Eye of Eternity wearing unenchanted green gear with empty sockets. The downside to the Raider rank was that by not asking a player to commit to a schedule, I couldn't grant them a guaranteed spot in each raid. Minimal commitment equals minimal reward, after all. For many players, the Raider ranked worked well for them. They could come and go as they pleased, and understood that not all raids they signed up for would be given to them -- they were fine with the trade-offs.

But for those who wanted more, Elite beckoned them.

In contrast to Raider, Elite had high expectations. I wanted you to make me believe that raid progression was your priority. With the Raider rank already acquired, you needed to prove you could meet Elite-quality scheduling commitments, signing-up (and showing up) for each of the two raid nights a week -- for a solid month -- without fail. Raiders were free to cancel their raid sign-ups, as RL (“real-life”) dictated their schedules, but if you wanted Elite, I didn't want to see any cancellations. I also didn't want any Elite players that held real-life commitments that involved a unpredictable, fluctuating schedule. If you were deployed to Iraq to serve our country, I’d be proud to call you a fellow guild member...but your deployment would cripple our progression team. Everyone's priorities had to be weighed fairly, and for Elite, I needed the highest level of commitment to the raid that a player could provide. The mistakes of cattledriving throughout TBC would not be repeated.

Once the prerequisites to Elite had been hit, the next step was to assess your proficiency in a number of categories:
  • Activity on Forums
  • Contributions to the Guild Vault
  • Guild Spirit
  • Attitude
  • Gear Pride
  • PvE Performance
From A to F, I'd go down the list and make an assessment of your contributions to Descendants of Draenor. Were you providing thoughtful, meaningful discussion to our boards? Did you give us much as you took from our guild vault? Were you proud of the guild you called home, and acted with our ideals on a regular basis? Were you a positive, driving force behind the raid team, preaching our goals which prioritized progression over loot? And when loot did come your way, did you take pride in keeping it enchanted and gemmed, tweaked to its maximum potential? And, above all, did you walk-the-walk, and demonstrate excellence in our raids? A raider might strive to top damage or healing meters, but an Elite would know there's much more to consider for: awareness, survivability, team preservation (decursing, contributing to adds, etc.). Did you make these your focus, rather than brag about being #1 in Recount?

Score poorly, and you'd be sent back to refine your efforts. Bring home straight As, however, and you'd guarantee yourself a set of proud parents who would shower you with gifts.

Wemetanye shows off his Azure Drake,
outside of The Eye of Eternity,

Elitist Perks 

In my opinion, the kickbacks to earning Elite were well worth the effort. The re-structured guild vault, now categorized by herbs for raiding flasks, material components for enchants, glyphs, stat-specific food buffs, and uncut gems, would now boast increased withdrawal access for your convenience. Furthermore, we'd extend a bit of trust your way, allowing you into the vault tabs where you yourself could take raw components and craft them into the aforementioned raiding materials.

Act like an adult, and I would treat you like one. 

The Guild Vault would also now pay for your repairs; a slick way of taking the edge off your raiding budget. We'd take this a step further, and subsidize your talent respecs as well, easing these monetary demands on your dedication to wiping repeatedly as we learned new bosses. On our forums, you'd become a moderator, gaining the fringe benefits associated with curating our guild commentary. But above all this fluff, these nice-to-haves that certainly would raise the eyebrow of an enticed player, the most important perk came in the form of a raid rotation priority. The players who were focused on raid progression above all else did so because of a core need they wished to satisfy: to be present at all raids.

Earn Elite, and I'd chisel your weekly raid rotation into stone.

All of these perks gave our players the ability to contribute how they wanted, Raiders contributing a little, Elites contributing a lot. By doing so, I defined a clear hierarchy in the guild ranks which differentiated between varying degrees of contribution. I think this is often misunderstood by critics who feel everyone should be treated equally. Let me be perfectly clear: I treated everyone in Descendants of Draenor equally -- I equally rewarded each player's contribution to the guild which matched their level of involvement. If I had rewarded both Raiders and Elites -- essentially, different levels of effort -- with the same perks, the opposite would be true -- I would not be treating everyone equally. Rewarding different levels of effort the same leads to animosity and dissent, jackhammers drilling away at my raiding foundation.

In running the numbers on our first qualifying Elites, a few were not surprising, one definitely raised an eyebrow.

And one completely caught me off-guard.

1 comment:

Yuna said...

The suspense!