|Securing your Blizzard account with two-factor auth...$6.|
Knowing your WoW account is hackproof...whatever the
going rate is on eBay.
Credibility CrumblesKurst's skill as a tank was repeatedly called into question, yet I insisted on working through these superficial struggles. If it were only a question of his ability as a warrior and an officer, I reasoned, this knowledge could be taught and improved over time. If I stuck it out, he could turn this around. As we progressed into Wrath, Kurst gave me another handful of problems to mitigate, and my clarity faded. As with all people-related issues, his blurred from black-and-white into a complex cloud of grays. Navigating this storm was a challenge; just when I thought I had his problems addressed, another struck, as though he were forever cursed to suffer bad luck. His character's name was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
At the beginning of January 2009, Kurst's account was hacked. The details in my mind are sketchy; I recall that there was a focused attack that compromise his wife's email, and the collateral damage spilled over into Kurst's in-game obligations. One can argue (and I definitely argued) that anyone can be hacked. It's true; in Kurst's defense, thousands of Warcraft accounts are hacked on a daily basis. But there were key pieces that made Kurst's situation turn from disheartening to infuriating.
The Kurst hack was particularly inconvenient. He was unable to raid and finding a geared / experienced tank in a short amount of time posed a challenge. Tanks were rare in numbers as a natural result of their distribution in raids, and those that were well geared remained extremely loyal to their raiding guilds. So, my options were limited to the many ungeared / inexperienced tanks, desperate to show me how little they knew. But the inconvenience didn't end with a recruitment burden.
Kurst's officer rank extended him access to the guild vault, which I logged-in to find had been gutted as a result. Since Cataclysm, guild leaders have been able to restrict access to the guild vault by detecting the presence of a player's Authenticator, but back in WotLK, no such functionality existed.
Blizzard, you get a pass on this one. It wouldn't have helped.
Kurst, whose profession was IT security in the real world, had opted against attaching an Authenticator to his account.
I jumped through the guild leader hoops and defended him publicly on the forums, reminding my guild on the dangers of hacking and that nobody was above being targeted. Inside, I was disgusted at his shortsightedness. Kurst's hack absolutely could have been prevented, but his insistence that his account was safe despite a lack of two-factor auth made it that much more difficult to take anything he said seriously.
|A screenshot from the "Re: Why I Sort By Damage Done"|
DoD forum thread
Checked OutPresence on the guild forums is as vital to Descendants of Draenor as it is to any guild. We are a social unit and need to carry on conversations that begin in-game or vice-versa. We need to be able to communicate strategy to raiders, changes in management to officers, and clarification of rules to guildies. Yet, forum activity was nearly always a fraction of what transpired in-game. It is a constant struggle to keep people attuned to our forums outside of the game.
I've experimented with a variety of techniques to keep people participating. One such tactic: Have officers drive content. They are the leaders, the ones who are turned to for advice and guidance. They need to set the example by providing updated topics on their class, and what players need to be aware of in order to continually improve their game. And (perhaps most importantly) if you're not being rotated in for raids, the first person you'll go to is your officer. At the start of WotLK, I mandated that officers keep their topics fresh with links to spreadsheets, info on the latest patches, and what their class needs to be thinking about on a day-to-day basis. I wanted to breed excellence.
Not surprisingly, being uninvolved had the reverse effect on players. They would wander around Northrend in a daze, asking the same questions over and over...questions that had been answered long ago on our forums. I instructed all officers to stay caught up on current events by clicking "View New Topics" each time they returned to the forums, and while guildies were generally encouraged to check the boards at least once a week, officers were mandated to check at least once per day.
Players detached from the extended conversation risked missing vital information. Sometimes, that vital information had nothing to do with raiding. Once such discussion arose when Ekasra announced to us, with great sadness, that his friend and fellow guild member Lhaktar, a player who suffered from clinical depression, had taken his own life. In a gesture of kindness, the guild spent some time offering their condolences and remembering Lhaktar on the forums. But the stigma of suicide is such that word doesn't necessarily spread quickly, so pockets of the guild remained in the dark about Lhaktar's passing.
When someone created a thread titled "Re: Why I Sort By Damage Done," which featured their scores at the end of a battleground, guildies began contributing their own screenshots of various performances in PvP. One such screenshot featured the final score of an Arathi Basin.
It was a screenshot taken by Lhaktar.
Upon seeing this, players left comments in the topic like, "I miss him. :(", remembering their friend. Thinking players were being melodramatic about a ex-guildy that had been ejected for behavioral problems, Kurst hopped into the thread and added:
"This is not 'The View'. Move along"
I stand by the claim that Kurst was a very kind and generous person in real life, and believe to this day that he meant no harm by his curtness. He lacked context. Despite my encouragement, Kurst was not active on our forums, and therefore, wasn't privy to Lhaktar's story. As a result, his comments came across as disrespectful and cruel, offending a great number of players. Once Kurst realized his mistake, he apologized profusely. Gamers, however, are very good at holding grudges, and not at all good at forgiveness. The damage was done, and was yet another reason to make me believe he was checked out.
|The 25-Man Progression team poses outside Wryrmrest|
Temple upon completing The Twilight Zone,
Firing Good PeopleI pressed Kurst to stay involved in the forums -- it was his responsibility as an officer to drive leadership and represent the expertise we demanded of our recruits. As we shifted our focus toward The Twilight Zone, it was clear he was still out-of-the-loop.
Cheeseus and I would have daily conversations about how to best position the three drakes, how we would improve our positioning to dodge the flame wall, and how we would most effectively coordinate killing elemental adds. When other guilds revealed tricks and techniques we jumped on them and poured them into our raid strategy forum. Kurst was never involved in it.
Proactively, I would open an IM window with him, and ask if he was up-to-speed with our changes to flame wall movement -- he didn't know what I was talking about. I had to specifically ping him each and every time a new piece of information was discussed. In my quest to delegate responsibility in WotLK, Kurst was turning the tables on me, giving me more to worry about rather than less.
Initial work on The Twilight Zone suffered. One drake was a non-issue, killed on the Jan. 11th, and Two drakes took only an additional week to work through (the 18th), so by Jan. 25th we were officially working on all three. The progression raiders were comfortable with the various mechanics introduced by cranking up the difficulty, but Kurst to fall short. Cheeseus expressed frustration over IM about the number of times Kurst continued to eat shadow fissures, noting that on the evening that Cheeseus himself had eaten one, Kurst had eaten thirteen. I implored Kurst to improve and refine, but you can't get blood from a coarse stone. Kurst was already giving me everything he could.
It wasn't enough.
By the third week of attempts, I was out of both encouragement and options. If I wanted to keep the DoD raid team moving forward, I had to enforce my guild's new edicts. Both players and officers had to be accountable. The right people had to be in the right job; anything less put the raid team at risk. It was awful, but had to be done if my guild was to succeed: I made the horrible decision to demote Kurst from officership.
Writing Kurst's termination letter sucked. I drafted the entire thing up on a flight back from Dallas, TX, to my home in Denver, CO. Turbulence chipped away at my ability to concentrate the entire time, spurring self doubt and guilt. You don't have to do this. He will improve. But I pressed on, rationalizing the decision by returning to those awful facts that described an officer failing to meet expectations.
It's easy to fire a douchebag as you kick them to the curb. But how do you tell a friend, someone who's been loyal to your guild for years, that they're no longer good enough? That their presence jeopardizes everything you've worked toward?
There is no easy way. The hardest job in the world is firing good people for not being good enough.
You tell a child that their beloved pet is dead and it hollows you out when they fall apart. You just deliver the news and try to keep a shred of dignity about it. It's a band-aid that you rip from the flesh; it stings, you move on, and you hope it stings a little less each day.
Kurst didn't take the news well. He wasn't defiant, he didn't proclaim there was some grand conspiracy at work. He didn't blame anyone or point fingers at any player in particular. But, he wasn't overjoyed. He didn't express a grand sigh of relief, no longer burdened by demands he couldn't maintain. Kurst didn't challenge my decision, he simply shut down.
Officially, it was just a demotion. There was no clause stating he had to forfeit guild membership. He alone chose to withdraw. Remaining to himself for the days following the demotion, he logged on a few times to collect his things, go about his daily routine, but spoke to no-one, and made no announcement of his intentions on the forums.
Less than a week after the demotion, Kurst left Descendants of Draenor. We never spoke again.
After three dedicated years of membership, Kurst's last raid with us was on February 6th of 2009; a 2-drake kill in OS25. One week following his exit, the 25-Man progression team earned its first 3-drake kill, wrapping up The Twilight Zone. Once again, the team was realigned and on track.
For the guild, it was the right decision; the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Yet, not a day goes by that I don’t think about my decision regarding him. It was the single, most difficult thing I've ever had to do as a guild leader.
I've not yet come to forgive myself for it.