Tuesday, July 23, 2013

3.19. Honorary Freeloading

Klocker stands naked beside other
members of the 40-Man core raid team,

The Social Network

I was in a pickle with a particular player, a Paladin named Klocker. Originally joining Descendants of Draenor as a Shaman, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me, making a name for himself as our raiding team gestated. He healed Ater through blankets of Shadow Flame, kept the nature soak team alive during Princess Huhuran's Poison Volley, and diligently maintained his position in the Nature's Swiftness rotation on Maexxna. He'd been present for nearly every first boss kill my guild had scratched off the to-do list. Come Burning Crusade, Klocker flipped to a Paladin, but continued to heal with steadfast determination. Eventually, I named him Paladin officer to keep them in check. He coordinated their buffs with PallyPower, directing their play, keeping me informed of who needed to be a regular rotation and who ought to be benched. And he breathed life into the guild. He carried with him a dirty sense of humor, quick to make a sexual joke to lighten the mood and raise people's spirits; nobody was safe from his innuendo, not even himself. Klocker was one of the key reasons why Descendants of Draenor birthed a raiding team that was able to compete against hardcore guilds.

So when the forum post said he was furious and ready to walk, I had to act.

The goal was to have role officers in place for the first week of 3.1, brought up to speed and ready for Ulduar that Friday. That meant an official announcement, some rank renaming, a quick pow-wow in Vent followed by a few promotions and demotions...and the deal would be done. But by killing class officers in favor of role officers, Klocker was an odd man out. The three Paladin specializations were Tank, Melee DPS, and Healing. Tanks were now being handled by Dalans, Healers were under Kelden's command, and melee was now the responsibility of Cheeseus -- our new Raid Leader. This left Klocker without an assignment. What to do? Artificially promote him to fill some vacant role? My officers came with very clear responsibilities; it was the work they had committed to which granted them the perks of officership. Klocker had no responsibilities now; without one, a demotion would not only mean a step down from officership, but a loss of those perks. That circle of friends he'd come to make a part of his daily routine would be stripped away -- no more officer chat, or discussions about how to handle guildies via the forums. From my perspective, it was never meant to be personal -- it was simply business. Blain had received no special treatment when he stepped down from Raid Leadership at the end of TBC, so why should any other officer?

Klocker was furious. Not just about the demotion, more importantly: why didn't I come to him about it first? A fair argument; I had pulled back the reigns of my own in-game investment time to gain some balance with real life. "Micromanagey" tasks were chopped to the cutting room floor because of this, and hands-on time with players suffered as a result. I hadn't taken him aside and given him the appropriate heads-up. But while Blain's response was more like that of an employee at a business, it was clear that Klocker was affected emotionally by the decision -- I was erecting a wall between him and his social circles. I knew officer promotions / demotions like these would be difficult, cleaning house is rarely easy. But I don't think I really grasped how much of a psychological impact I would have by deciding someone's social circles for them -- which is essentially what I was deciding by allowing / disallowing players into /officer chat. Especially someone who had been a part of /officer chat for so long.

The reason why people play World of Warcraft is because they thrive on the social interaction it provides -- is it the core reason that makes an MMO fun. My mistake was in not giving the social implications of officer demotions enough weight. Not everyone would grant me the same luxury of a response as Blain had.

Mature earns "Champion of the Undercity" while
Klocker and Dalans chat in guild,

To Honor One's Elders

With the threat of Klocker walking, something had to be done. I couldn't in good conscience strip him of his access to the social network he'd grown to be a part over the previous four years. But the conundrum remained: there was no officer role for him to fill -- all heads were accounted for. I needed a way to legitimately return him to his post so that I kept the consistency of my structure intact. Any shred of doubt that might give a guildy cause to suspect double-standards at play had to be removed -- it needed to appear as though Klocker was receiving no special treatment. My solution was the creation of a new rank titled "Old God". Inspired by the lore of the Old Gods imprisoned far beneath the surface of Azeroth, this new rank allowed ex-officers the ability to voice their concerns from an administrative standpoint, and in turn, gain a reduced set of perks for their contributions. Old Gods would be allowed to speak in /officer chat and help with guild mediation via the forums. They were "honorary" officers, ostensibly, but came with no raiding expectations...nor guarantees

I took Klocker aside and proposed the change. I reminded him that he was an extremely valuable member of Descendants of Draenor, and that it sucked that my role officer implementation squeezed him out. I apologized to him for that. I told him that, in retrospect, I realized that I still needed his input. Through this new Old God rank, he could retain his post as an officer. I never directly spoke of cutting him in or out of his circle of friends -- even to Klocker, this had to appear as a legitimate assignment. Klocker seemed happy with this setup. Although his raiding position was no longer guaranteed, he was smart enough to know his position in the roster was safe. Thanks to updates in Wrath, Retribution Paladins were now viable and produced insanely good damage. In keeping with the new guild rules of "play what you love", Klocker chose to change things up and deliver melee DPS, becoming the sole Retadin of the core team. Meanwhile, he would continue to hold a role of official responsibility, contributing to guild management and remaining an active voice in /officer chat. 

He got what he wanted, and I got what I wanted.

So. How to articulate this rank to the masses. A new "honorary" officer rank. Intent: to pay respect and show thanks to those ex-officers who were valuable contributors to the guild, but whom no longer have a post in the Role Officer structure. An avenue to allow a player to contribute to the overseeing of the guild, its purpose, its mission and ideals. But without the perks...or the responsibilities.

Can you guess what happened next?

Come The Freeloaders 

Once I announced the rank of Old God and its first recipient to the guild, I found myself bombarded with sudden, new found interest in officership. Or at least, ex-officership. The prospect of being inducted into that prestigious circle of folks sans the responsibility dangled like a Carrot on a Stick. First on that list was Larada, a faithful Hunter in progression since TBC, and whom I had fill the role of Hunter Officer after Skarg vacated following the demise of Illidan. Larada took up the mantle, but contributed little (if any) to management of the guild, and the assignment only lasted a few months. We were barely into Obsidian Sanctum when Larada had already grown tired of incessant questions from up-and-coming Hunters annoying him and disrupting his game time.

Some players simply do not have the time or patience in dealing with administration -- they play WoW to play, not to be bothered with paperwork. I can respect that. Leadership isn't for everyone. But when the Old God role popped up as a means to grandfather players back in that once held a role of authority, Larada was quick to jump at the chance to have that title back. Hell, who wouldn't want authority without responsibility? 

Larada was not the only ex-officer that wanted in. There was about a two-week period during The Burning Crusade after Goldenrod retired from the game that I experimented with promoting a younger player, Dandrak, to officership -- the very same Dandrak who was responsible for our first Vaelastrasz kill years earlier. The experiment failed miserably; Dandrak was far too young to deal with officership. He was better at producing drama rather than mediating it. His short reign was fraught with immaturity and skewed by ego...never mind the fact that it is nothing short of impossible trying to manage a group of players in WoW when your parents have grounded you from the game. Dandrak still felt he was owed a promotion to Old God, though, and made sure to hammer me to grant it to him. 

I was even bombarded by requests from players that hadn't even held officership! Players that had unofficially run their own 10-man teams automatically thought they met the requirements for ex-officer, players who had been away from the game for months (maybe years), freshly re-invited to consume 3.1 content. They couldn't wait to hop into officer chat and be a part of the inner circle. 

Old God was like a birthday present to much of the guild, yet none of them knew it was created to solve a specific problem. If you were an officer that I didn't have a role for, it allowed you to continue to contribute to leadership. But, it read very much like I was inscribing a double-standard directly into the rules. The spin, therefore, came in its description: honorary officership to ex-officers. I designed it to show respect to those who had given me their blood and tears, like Klocker. The same could be said for any of those folks who had toiled over Descendants of Draenor, names like Haribo, Klocker, Kaleu, Breginna.

Ater. Blain.

So, it shouldn't have surprised me that players who weren't cut out for officership but still wished to enjoy its benefits wanted a piece of the pie. Thanks to the simplicity of how I described it, any ex-officer could tie on the feedbag and dive in to dessert. So, I sent over a pleasant "sure!" when Larada asked for the Old God promotion...

...and then I re-worked the description of the rank before any more damage could be done.

"Must have been a contributing member to leadership over the guild's lifespan."

"Must not have exited / been expunged from the guild on bad terms at any point in the guild's past."


While all the fuss surrounding Old God was going on, who qualified, who should get it, how fast I could promote them so they could "hang with the cool kids in officer chat" but not be expected to actually do anything, one player remained quiet. 

He never complained. 

He never expressed concern. 

He never whispered me or took me aside and wondered what was with all the promotions / demotions and why he wasn't being considered. 

He said nothing and carried on with his daily business, fully aware that the restructure meant his officership had expired. And in his silent humility, I saw a person I deeply respected, not only for his knowledge of the game and skill as a healer, but in how he was fiercely loyal to the guild, regardless of my decisions.

I took Dalans aside one evening and asked him,

"So...what's your opinion on Neps?"


Dalans said...

SPOILER ALERT: I think Neps is sexy.

Fred said...

Neps is a qt

Brett Easley said...

So hawt.... want to touch the Hiney.......


Tyler Iacono said...

It all could have been solved with /channel dodofficer2 !

"We will now use this channel instead of guild officer chat. We love you Klockstar." :D

Anonymous said...

That Annihilation guy is sexy