Thursday, September 19, 2013

3.33. The Call

The Eh Team displays their Rusted
Proto-Drakes near the entrance to Ulduar,
The Storm Peaks

A Double-Edged Sword

One-by-one, I pulled up the scheduled raid for Ulduar on our sign-up, looked for his name in the rotations, and deleted it. The restructure of the guild had been successful to such a degree that I had actually pulled off the trick of training my players to sign-up months in advance. Today it wasn't a blessing, it was a curse, because I had the frustrating task of deleting his sign-ups, one at a time. Each time I clicked delete, my gut laughed at me. You knew promoting him was going to cause you grief. And now he's walked and left you holding the bag. When are you going to start listening to me? I didn't want to listen. I liked the guy. He was funny, had been with us for years. His love of pizza and tacos was a well-known joke among the raid. He was family. I wanted to temper judgement with compassion, cut him a break for past offenses. Summer had arrived; signups were weak. I needed the best and brightest to tackle hard modes, to see us through Heroic: Glory of the Ulduar, to assist with the crafting of Neps' impending Val'anyr. So, I gambled on him and ignored my gut.

I gambled and lost.


A month had passed since The Eh Team had reached their goal. The "Glory of the Ulduar Raider" achievement spam had lit up the screens of all the guildies on the evening of May 27th, 2009, signaling to the rest of us that the spoils were soon incoming. Cheeseus and his crew proudly sent over screenshots boasting their coveted Rusted Proto-Drakes. I encouraged the guild to join in congratulating their hard work, and their many late nights slaving over the various metas. But while there was celebration in the hearts of the The Eh Team members, Cheeseus remained in his perpetual state of funk. Descendants of Draenor's #1 position on Deathwing-US (via 10-Man raiding), had finally fallen from grace. Enigma ended up beating The Eh Team to the Rusted Proto-Drakes, by a factor of only two-and-a-half weeks. With steep competition produced by various 10-Man teams in both Enigma on the Horde side, and Inertia on the Alliance, the resulting tally of achievement points pushed DoD's 10-Man standing down to the number 3 spot. I reminded Cheeseus that his team's work was no less successful, and that the guild was very proud to have him and his members on board. The 10-Man achievements were simply gravy, anyway -- what we cared about the most was 25-Man progression. Nevertheless, Cheeseus clung to the belief that they could have done better, pushed a bit harder, and this weighed on his mind as we carried on into the summer months.

With The Eh Team's completion of "Glory", new faces began to appear out of the woodwork. A few members needed to take a break from the constant push Cheeseus levied on them, which created opportunities for others in the guild to tag along in Eh Team runs. Various players that weren't previously able to field a 10-Man saw this as a chance to secure a Rusted Proto-Drake of their own. Behind-the-scenes negotiations began to take place as various players in DoD would speak to whomever was "their bestest bud" in The Eh Team, finagling a spot to acquire gear and achievements. Cheeseus's weekly 10-Man soon became one rife with new faces. The guild's family-oriented ideals dictating we all pitch in to help one another was starting to rub Cheeseus the wrong way. His way of thinking was more meat-and-potatoes. You want something? Get out there and earn it. I couldn't disagree with that stance as I'd restructured DoD to put greater weight on personal responsibility.

I was on the fence. 

Part of me wanted to push Cheeseus and The Eh Team to extend assistance to folks interested in getting their Rusted Proto-Drake; it's what a guild would do to help each other out. It was the sort of compassion and camaraderie I was striving for us to achieve. Sticking to our guns in that department, in turn, would be a selling point to recruit new folks who had grown tired of hanging around with insufferable, entitled children.

But another part of me thought otherwise. You should be very thankful that Cheeseus and company would even consider having you along at all, riding their coattails as a means to your own personal end. What started out as a very gracious offer soon devolved into an entitled expectation, and their get-out-of-responsibility-free card was the guild tag that sat below their name.

The 25-Man progression team defeats Freya while
protected by one of her three Elders, earning
"Heroic: Knock on Wood",

Chipping Away

Whether or not the drama of dealing with freeloaders in weekly Eh Team runs ate into Cheeseus' psyche, one can only guess. He may have completely put it out of his mind, or it may have been something he chose not to talk about, while it quietly flicked the back of his earlobes as he tried to concentrate on work. But in our continuing discussions regarding 25-Man hard modes, he continued to express his interest in an aggressive pursuit of "Heroic: Glory", along with his frustration of those who held us back. Even as Father’s Day presented another struggle to schedule around, Cheeseus stuck to his guns, insisting we run with who we had while I argued it was a mistake. He hyper-focused on the carries like Prodigie, while I continued to remind him to relax, and I would handle it. We may be held back a bit, but we were still doing very well, progression-wise. If it were up to him, he would cut all of the failures out of the roster. He only wished for perfection, anything less was an excuse. As a result of this mentality, when he turned on the heat about our lack of progression, he would lobby for more Elite promotions, this time in the form of Bretthew, the Paladin I gave a second chance to...but whom had red-flagged me to the point that a promotion would almost entirely be out-of-the-question. And this difference of opinion only served to draw the debate out further.

The work day conversations may have been thick with debate, but at least we saw eye-to-eye when it came time to zone in to Ulduar.


Hard modes continued to be chipped away throughout the month of July. The first of this batch was the completion of Heroic: Knock on Wood, defeating Freya with one Elder alive. This achievement was only the beginning of a hard mode, however, as we would have to crank the difficulty up two additional times to acquire to the final meta: kill Freya with all three Elders alive. An easier but no less annoying meta, Heroic: Iron Dwarf, Medium Rare, required us to force Razorscale to slay the Iron Dwarves that were trying to protect her. Whittling them away slowly without accidentally killing them was an exercise in patience in frustration. We held the plated Proto-Dragon in place, writhing, blowing fire in every direction. In many cases, she would ignite a pack of dwarves low in health...but not low enough to kill them. To our great excitement, the process would have to be repeated again and again until each member of the progression team individually claimed the achievement. From there, we moved on to The Assembly of Iron, and ramped up the difficulty a notch, killing Runemaster Molgeim last. It wasn't the achievement we needed for "Heroic: Glory", but it was the next logical step in difficulty. Baby steps...all over again.

July had a great start, but slowed down considerably as the weeks progressed, providing us only two more achievements. The weekend of the 19th scored us the first of this pair -- the completion of Heroic: Three Lights in the Darkness. This kill marked a significant milestone for us, as it would be the precursor to crafting Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings. All we needed was to collect the remaining Fragments, and getting a hard-mode kill guaranteed us at least one, even if our luck failed to produce any others for the duration of the raid. We were still short a few Fragments; my hope was to complete it before the impending vacation at the beginning of August. July's remaining achievement came in the form of Heroic: Siffed, marking our first successful push through Thorim's phase one in under three minutes. But when Sif leapt down into the arena and the achievement flashed up on everyone's screen, we learned very quickly that activating the hard mode -- and actually defeating Thorim with Sif in tow -- would be as different as Wrath was to Vanilla.

The 25-Man progression team defeats Yogg-Saron
with only three Keepers protecting them,
earning "Heroic: Three Lights in the Darkness",

Listening to the Gut

Except for the three-light kill of Yogg-Saron, a particular player was absent from all of these achievements. A player who should not have missed any of them. A player whom held the title of Elite. He had been a familiar face in my raids as far back as Vanilla, and always rocked the damage meters with his effortless control of fire. Over the course of DoD's life, I'd struggled with keeping the roster full of reliable, well-played mages. Many were reliable, but played like shit. Others were damage-dealing machines...if I could get them to show up. Only one remained consistent throughout our many years of slaying internet dragons.


Through DoD's bad luck with mages, Turtleman had been a shining light in the darkness. But his immature approach to his schedule was biting at his heels. He'd gone missing a number of times, discreetly canceling out of a number of raids -- even when he shouldn't have been allowed to -- taking advantage of a bug in our phpRaider signup application. Yet when he pressured me for a promotion to Elite, I felt obligated by a sense of duty, rewarding his tenure. I ignored my screaming gut as I reached for that promotion button.

Tenure doesn't trump a red flag.

When the call came in to my phone that evening, my gut scrolled a message across my mind like a Hollywood Marquee. You should have known this was coming. Throughout the entire conversation, my mood slowly changed from disappointment to anger. Turtleman sat on the other end of the line, his tone like that of a kid being caught stealing from a store. He confessed. No more progression raiding for him. I asked for explanations; he offered none. I reminded him that this would be it for him, his final chance to ever hold a role of seniority in raids within DoD, that all his loyalty and tenure would be flushed down the toilet. I even gave him an out: give me the two-weeks notice I ask of all Elites to find a replacement, and you can walk away from this amicably. No dice. He mumbled responses, I could tell it was eating him away inside. Embarrassment and shame. Most players would rather walk away than have to deal with facing more disappointment. I demanded that, at the very least, he do the right thing and complete the evening's raid to kill Yogg-Saron with three Keepers. He agreed, and hung up.

I rested my phone down on the desk. Fuck. Pulling up phpRaider, I scrolled to the month of July, and one-by-one, cancelled Turtleman out of every raid he was rotated in for.


Brett Easley said...

It starts.

The Eh Teams epic chapters of drama and hardship begin.

I look forward to more.

Anonymous said...

Cheese has been conspicuously silent here... letting the tension build... IT'S GONNA' BLOW!!!

Cheeseus said...

I typically don't comment here unless it's to add more to the post. Shawn and I discuss things quite often, if you can't tell from our convos he includes, so generally how he portrays things, and how I felt at the time are accurate.

If there's things I disagree with, usually I PM him to clarify, or toss bits into the discourse posts to correct it.

With that being said, you're right. It's all about the tension :)