Thursday, October 16, 2014

4.10. GFY

Mature participates in the reclamation of
the Echo Isles, earning "Zalazane's Fall",

Keeping Tabs on Tyranny

The Echo Isles were under attack. I raced Mature to southern tip of Durotar, preparing to rid Kalimdor of Zalazane. The troll's never-ending cycle of life and death had been in the hands of millions of Horde toons leveling their way out of starting areas, but this transition promised to end the cycle. Zalazane's Fall, the first of several events indicating the coming Cataclysm, would forever change the course of the zone. Future generations of trolls would begin their lives here, once the Echo Isles were returned to the Darkspear Tribe. In doing so, players implicitly restored Vol'jin to power in that part of the continent. Vol'jin had long acted as a faithful adviser to our warchief, and the troll had been rising in prominence, as of late.

An adviser of my own was about to get similar treatment.

"I'd like to give you a bit more authority than what you're used to."

Jungard sounded curious, "Oh yeah?"

"Look, you remember how it was. Bustin' ass in Mount Hyjal. Raids weren't easy. We needed discipline..."

He finished my thought beautifully, "...and the 'tyrant' was there to dish it out."

Jungard knew exactly who I spoke of. When he was a freshly recruited warrior, participating in his first DoD raids, Jungard kept his mouth shut, listened and learned. He knew how Blain led every raid with precision, the rogue's ability to pinpoint and correct minutia remained unmatched in DoD's leadership history. But with Blain's perceived super human attention to detail came the drama of players unable to handle his critique, his adjustments, his identification of their badness. They called him a tyrant, and Blain owned it. He even insisted that his rank be displayed as such, continually harassing me to update it to display "Blain - Tyrant" after every rule revision.

"You may have heard that our infamous tyrant is making his return to raid leading in Cataclysm."

"It'll be a welcome return."

I continued my broken responses, in between driving Shadowmourne into Zalazane's followers, "'s the thing, Jung. I know now, after having lived through it the first time...Blain's honesty doesn't often mix well with the majority. Any other situation...I'd put this out of my mind. Except..."

I paused to gauge my phrasing.

"...we aren't going to have the same luxuries in Cata as we do today. Recruitment is going to be much more difficult. We're going to have to nurture more of who we have, rather than straight up discarding them. This is where you come in."

Jungard was the compassionate one. He, much like Neps, was the type of player who would drop what he was doing and help a guildy in need, regardless of their tenure. I never intended to be completely hands-off with mediation in Cataclysm, but I had the sneaking suspicion that my administrative needs would increase. Anything I could hope to delegate had to be identified; game/life balance was still a priority to me. Blain needed a better half; a number two that kept him in check.

"There's no more Ater, Jung. They worked very closely together. Ater mapped out strategies; Blain implemented them. Blain had no interest in putting up with people's excuses, but Ater added that human touch...he fought a lot of fires. There's no more Ater...but there's you. I want you to take this role up in Cata."

"Co-Raid Leader?"

"Well, I was thinking a little bit more..."

Blain fields a complaint from a guildy that was left
out of a 25-Man raid due to poor performance,
Black Temple

Who Offices the Officers?

The plan was as follows: restructure the guild ranks, putting Jungard above Blain in the hierarchy. Responsibility wise, they would lead raids together. Jungard would be Blain's backup to help manage the menial tasks that were proven to drive him overboard. My former raid leader attributed his burnout to the constant re-explaining of strategy, and to his lack of patience toward excuse makers. Having Jungard take these responsibilities off Blain's shoulders was a burnout reduction tactic...but it was only one part of a larger strategy.

Blain already shared his own plan with me for Cataclysm, and promised to make an announcement post on the forums to set the record straight. We had gone soft. We had grown too fond of farming as means of excusing progression decay; it was the Loot Paradox, all over again. Blain blamed this on Bretthew and Omaric's style, having shifted the mentality of the 25 too far into casual-land. It was music to my ears; I loved everything he planned to solve. But, it would be a tough pill to swallow, especially for the "Wrath babies": players who'd never experienced the pleasure of four hours a night, twice a week, for five weeks...on a single boss. I wouldn't have questioned Blain's iron fist in any other situation, but Cataclysm was too grim. If I'd learned anything thus far, there was an identifiable absence of self-esteem among a vast majority of the player base. It didn't make them all bad. Some could be saved: turned around, re-trained, and sculpted into half decent human beings/raiders. They just needed a bit of extra TLC, and this is where Jungard came in.

By putting Jungard over Blain, I explained to him, I could give Jungard final say. He could sit alongside Klocker and Neps in the advisory pool and give another empathetic, thoughtful voice to our progression strategy. Blain would push hard, that was never in question...and we needed to. But, by having Jungard above Blain in the pecking order, I'd have a solid enough voice to back me up, in the off chance we were pushing a little too hard.

"You have the eye for it. I trust your judgement. You'd co-lead in the instances, keeping Blain's plate clean. And in the off hours, keep your finger on the pulse of the guild. Are we keeping a good pace? Or pushing too hard? Those are the kinds of questions you'll be asking yourself."

Was Jungard up to the task?

"Oh, definitely...I'm definitely up for it. There may be a bit of scheduling I need to work through with my night classes, but I think I can manage."

"Good, let's make it last as long as we possibly can."

I told Jungard I would announce the co-raid leadership appointment next, then deliver the actual promotion in October. Keeping the two announcements separate was by design. To every guildy, Blain needed to be seen as the ultimate raid authority for DoD, and if there was even a hint that Jungard's promotion might undermine that, it was my responsibility to eliminate it. Once we set foot into Cataclysm raids, Blain called the shots. No questioning, no second guessing.

Tyranny would lead us to victory.

Elephantine and Graulm pose outside of Gadgetzan,

Sentimental to a Fault

"Gettin' a little work done, there? Good for you!"

Dave's voice was loud enough to break through the WoW music coming from my earbuds. I popped them out and spun around to face him, the eqDKP-Plus site behind me, and gave him my best Peter Gibbons impression,

"...well, I wouldn't exactly say I'd been missin' it, Bob..."

After slaving over the company websites for nearly three years, the boss and I both earned the right to mock the work (or lack thereof). Whether it was he, cursing at ridiculous requests behind his office door, or myself, cursing at ridiculous bugs behind my code, we'd gone through it together. We understood one another; we both wanted things to not suck.

Dave and I shared our love of things that sucked the best way we knew how: sarcastic mockery of items broken, and of attitudes needing adjustment. You can't always get away with that tone in a professional environment, though. But where there's a will, there's a way: a client-facing "code phrase" to use in public situations, free from HR scrutiny, and we'd wield it like a fucking machete. You'd like another round of completely unwarranted changes that have absolutely no merit whatsoever? Good for you!! You'd like me to undo all the work that I've just done? Good for you! You're having me stay late on a Friday because you left things to the last minute? GOOD FOR YOU!!!

"Good for you" happened to share its initials with another three word that more accurately conveyed our feelings on the subject:

Go Fuck Yourself.


I took advantage of the downtime between projects, loading screenshots into the eqDKP-Plus gallery. I was a sucker for sentimentality and lingered on shots featuring the core's first appearance; players that made DoD what it was. A shot of me helping Kadrok with a quest in Ashenvale. A shot of Kerulak doing the happy dance alongside Gutrippa, shortly after purchasing the guild tabard. A shot of us about to take on Immolthar in Dire Maul, partnered with a priest who would go on to become my healing lead through the duration of Vanilla. So many faces...gone. Waxing melancholy skewed my focus, wishing for things that once were. Looking back with fondness was a perfectly human thing to do, so long as it didn't cloud your judgement.

I browsed through disorganized images hastily burnt to CD, and pulled one up that hit me right in the feels. It showed two players on mounts, just outside of Gadgetzan. One was an undead mage, an alt of mine named Elephantine. The other was a warlock, sitting atop his dreadsteed, his violet robes and shoulders matching a purple mask that covered an orcish grin.


Memories rushed to the surface. In the days before Graulm, guild leadership was little more than /ginvite and /gkick. Back then, "difficult" decisions were whether to run Zul'Farrak or Sunken Temple (it wasn't ST!), and the most complex logistics of any guild-related coordination was figuring out who had the key to Upper Blackrock Spire. Ater may have dominated my leadership mentoring-related memories, but turning the pages back further reminded me that others were no less important.

A Quiznos between Arapahoe and Curtis on 17th St., was where Graulm and I met for several lunches, back in '05. He told stories of EverQuest, and the demands of running a guild in a day where the 1% was a measure of who raided, rather than of financial worth. He gave me those first steps; the sorts of things that were taken for granted today. Why take the extra time to hand out Zul'Gurub tokens to guildies, instead of letting them roll? Loyalty. When you hold the keys to the car, players are less willing to look for another ride. Why do we need a private area of the forums, specifically for officers? Discretion. You mediate behind closed doors, particularly when the strategy isn't agreed upon. When officers debate an upcoming decision, it gives off an appearance of instability to lower ranks. For leadership that extended beyond basic button presses, Graulm advised on appropriate behavior, and helped keep tabs on unruly players who ran the risk of tarnishing our reputation. DoD had a six year long, rock-solid foundation underneath it, and Graulm was one of the first to pour the concrete.

The feels continued to ache from the blow of pulling up that screenshot. I considered Graulm a friend. I'll never forget the day he showed up at my front door, an air conditior gripped tightly while he barked out, "Where do you want this thing?" I pointed up our rickety staircase. With a single shake of the head, he gave me a "Damn!", then stomped upstairs with the 100lb unit in tow.

Over an in-game conversation, Graulm discovered I had no AC in my house. Jul, the kids, and I were at the mercy of a ventilation system from 1890, far too old to support a centralized air system. Without giving me a chance to decline the offer, Graulm produced one of his own unused units from his garage and brought it to my house as a gift, latching it in place in our master bedroom window. It ran faithfully for about 10 months before coughing and sputtering in a final gasp of freon-scented smoke.

...and it was the best 10 months of sleep I'd had since moving in. Before the unit, and after, my bedroom doubled as a kiln in the summer months.

I missed Graulm, and I hated how things had ended. I missed the early days of Vanilla, partnering up with him, exploring Azeroth, running dungeons, helping set the stage for our raiding days. I missed his screams of victory in those early months of our first steps into 40-man content. I didn't expect that Graulm would ever come back to the game; an unavoidable tragedy. When some players walk away from WoW, it's official. But perhaps some could be coaxed back, those still floating in the amorphous soup that was Deathwing-US.

I believed wholeheartedly what I told Jungard: when it came to recruits, the pickens would be slim in Cataclysm. Anything we could do to build and maintain our core was of the utmost importance. And if I was directing Jungard into putting effort into those who might be, did it not make sense for me to put effort into those who were? Forgive. Forget. Reach out to former guildies that I'd wronged (or had wronged me), agree that we'd made mistakes, come to terms, and move forward. Band together, for one last hurrah.

Oh, so that's what it's come to? That's what Cataclysm is going to force you to do? Sacrifice any remaining integrity and self-respect by going back to the people that wiped their feet on DoD and compel them come back to progression?

Good for you.


Dalans said...

Our "GFY" was "No issues." The owner of the company I used to work for sent out a typical status update/circle the wagons email after experiencing some delays on a project, due to unrealistic expectations and a time scale that our "Yes man" sales guy agreed to.

The email stated something along the lines of: we want projects to go smoothly and to have no issues, which demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of the current situation (merging several email domains into one).

From then on, anytime there was a ridiculous request or an impossible timeline, we just said "Oh yeah sure, no issues" and went on about our business.

Unknown said...

GFY Sholmes.

Anonymous said...

Graulm seems like a cool cat. Donating an A/C and all.