Thursday, October 23, 2014

4.11. Cataclysmic Tactics

Vanilla era, Zanjina prepares to PvP while Bovie makes
an excellent suggestion for the future of WoW,

The Unforsaken

When Bovie confessed to us that she was, in fact, a 'he', it was admittedly both historic and awesome, but was not the most impressive thing I remember about him/her. S/he came out of the woodwork of Deathwing-US very early in DoD's history, when Vanilla was ripe, gold was scarce, and soloing level 60 quests often ended tragically. I secretly suspected. There were no shortage of female toons; digital busts, hips and waists powered by the hormones of teenage boys and middle-aged men uninterested chase-camming a dude. I was as guilty as any of them, having already rolled Uld, a female orc rogue, and Zanjina, a female troll priest. Gal players were out there, but they were far and few between. Many chose to downplay their gender in real life, an unfortunate necessity of the culture: in my experience, they were nearly always subject to harassment and rash judgement of their ability. Now, Bovie certainly didn't run around Orgrimmar announcing her lady parts to the server -- s/he was quite demure about it...which is exactly why DoD never really knew for sure.

I got that it was a tremendous weight lifted off his shoulders. The guild got a good round of jabs in, and the druid took it all in stride. For DoD, it was historic and awesome, but not the most impressive. The most impressive story about Bovie is that, mid-way through TBC, he took me aside in vent and made another confession: he was headed to law school. I asked how long it would take him; he guesstimated about three years, from baby to the bar exam. I told Bovie that we would miss him, but that as long as WoW wasn't going anywhere, neither would DoD, and I assured him that I would keep his spot warm in the guild. The virtual seasons came and went. TBC carried on, as did our struggles and redemption, concluding with Illidan's defeat. DoD was torn down and rebuilt. New stories unfolded in Northrend; Death Knights were everywhere. Naxxramas, all over again. The epic adventures in Ulduar. Breaching the gates at Icecrown, slicing through rotting flesh and undeath to put an end to Arthas. Now, WotLK was at the end of its life. And in the entire time, Bovie sat offline in the roster, his 'last logged in' status a constant reminder of the promise I'd made. 1 year offline. 2 years offline. 3 years offline.

...and then, one day in October of 2010, I opened the roster and saw his last logged in status: Today. DoD's official litigator was ready for his opening arguments.


Thorim's voice called out from inside my jacket. I was parked outside my son's school, concentrating on capturing Ho-Oh when Thorim began repeating his infamous phrase. I flipped the DS into the passenger seat and answered the phone. It was Joredin. I hadn't heard from him in years. He quickly brought me up to speed on the events that had transpired since he'd last set foot in Azeroth. We exchanged stories of job changes, of life changes. I told him of changes that were coming, both to the game and to DoD. He revealed the hacking event that caused his first retirement from WoW. How many players were lost to hacking over the years? Only Blizzard knows. Thankfully, they did something about it.

I told Joredin about the latest addition to the game: authenticators applied to player accounts could now be verified by guild leaders. I'd be tying certain ranks to their presence; additional permissions to the guild vault that wouldn't normally be considered sane. Trust goes both ways, and if I gave a little, I expected a little in return -- authenticators would be the first way to guarantee that trust was in place. In a virtual world shrouded by so many layers of anonymity, players sloughed off accountability like so much dead skin. "My account is secure, Hanzo, honest!" carries very little weight. In Cataclysm, I wouldn't be able to promote you to raiding status until an authenticator was attached and confirmed -- the game would physically prevent me from pressing the promote button.

Joredin liked the sound of that, and wanted to know what he could do to return to DoD.

"You've already done it," I told him, "be ready for your re-invite when I log on."

One of the few rare moments Mature pulled ahead
of Zedman in achievement point whoring
(Source: via The Wayback Machine)

Unhealthy Obsessesions

I stalked the shaman relentlessly for the better part of Wrath of the Lich King. Who was this orc that had the audacity to stay ahead of me in achievement points? Folks in the server-first raiding guilds like Enigma and Inertia had a valid excuse: they got through the toughest stuff before we even had a chance. But Unbridled Apathy, as far as I could tell, were either neck and neck with DoD, or falling behind. Yet, this player named for the last letter of the alphabet was continuing to stay first in this unofficial race to who had less of a life. And it ate away at me like "nerd world problems" tended to.

It was at the point where I was filling out spreadsheets just to determine the fastest, most efficient path to beating him. Some achievements might only take a few hours worth of work, while others would take weeks and weeks of grinding (particularly the ones involving reputation gains). Every time I gained a small lead on the Zed Man, it would only be a matter of days before he closed the gap and pulled ahead once more. I carried on in tortuous agony, queued for the worst kinds of PvP, participated in mindless clickfests, and camped for desperately sought-after creatures. I was determined to stay ahead of a make-believe nemesis who, quite possibly, had no idea I even existed.

[From: Zedmann]: Loq? He won't be up for another 3 hours. :(

I eyed the random whisper.

[To: Zedmann]: I hate my life.

He'd spotted me, hiding near some foliage in the southeastern corner of the Basin, one of the known spawning locations of the rare spirit beast, Loque'nahak. I needed him to finish Frostbitten. Every other hunter needed him to bring some concentrated coolness to their Beast Mastery game. The result was that he was never up. Never.

[From: Zedmann]: I've got them all on a timer now. It's a 6-to-8 hour window, his comes up again around 10:00pm. Only way to keep ahead of the hunters.

[To: Zedmann]: Staying ahead of you is a full-time job. You realize that, don't you?

[From: Zedmann]: lol, only thing we can do to compete with the hardcore raiding guilds.

The in.

[To: Zedmann]: So what's the deal with UA? You making progress over there or what?

[From: Zedmann]: Long story. It's all over the board, and I have RL stuff that keeps me out of the regular schedule. People are losing interest at the end. Raids are spotty.

The pitch.

[To: Zedmann]: Come join us. Our forces combined, no other guild could compete with such ridiculous levels of achievement whoring.

[From: Zedmann]: lol. It's complicated. ;)

[To: Zedmann]: Try me.

He was close friends with the leader of Unbridled Apathy, and in discussing it further, felt an obligation to remain. He was loyal, to a fault. Zedmann shouldn't have had to suffer the failings of a disappearing raid roster because of his friendship with the person in charge. I would never have demanded the same of my own people, nor expected such blind faith during imminent collapse. But Zedmann truly felt a bond with his guild leader, and assured me that he would be staying in Unbridled Apathy.

...which is exactly the reason why I continued to stalk him.

That kind of loyalty is hard to find. If I could wrap it up, package it, and sell it as a How To Guild Leadering LOL, I'd expect to make a small fortune. So whenever I re-engaged achievement whoring mode, I sent him whispers, and continued to harass him. I explained how he shouldn't have to bear the brunt of a collapsing guild, or a raiding roster not in tune with his restrictive RL schedule. I broke the Zed Man down, chip by chip, until eventually, the guild title underneath his name read Descendants of Draenor.

You've made a wise decision, achievement whore. It will be you, Joredin, and Bovie, that take up the mantle of our first 10-Man Tacticians.

If you're reading this caption, Zedmann, then
you know why I'm including this screenshot,

Why We Want Your 10-Man

In order to support official 10-Man teams in DoD, I put together a list of all the things 10-Mans had failed at in the past.
  • Assembled via word-of-mouth, leading to hard feelings / ostracization / accusations of double-standards
  • Poaching of members between teams, due to miscommunication
  • No guild-sanctioned title or leader, thereby shirking responsibility / accountability of the behavior of the team
My attempt to solve these problems came in the form of a new rank I introduced to DoD for Cataclysm: the Tactician. Tacticians were the new pseudo-officers of the guild. Thanks to the flexibility of eqDKP-Plus, I was able to grant them the ability to announce and schedule their own signups. This was especially helpful, as players like Joredin were forced into managing a schedule on a shared spreadsheet. Workable, but we could do better.

eqDKP-Plus took it a step further: they could even manage their own DKP pools, if they chose. These tools, coupled with the ability to see all the other 10-Man team schedules (and, of course, the 25-Man schedule) meant that the Tacticians weren't only asked to keep in communication with one another, they had no excuse not to. All the data they needed to coordinate schedules between teams was a single click away. My intent was to have this be the end to poaching, once and for all.

Outside of all the publicly announced rules and perks associated with running a 10-Man, players who chose to take up the Tactician mantle received an unofficial briefing from yours truly, to ensure there was no opportunity to misinterpret the needs of the guild:

The health of the 25-Man is of the utmost importance in DoD. Anything your 10-Man team does to jeopardize that health will fall harshly on your shoulders. Do not, under any circumstances, appeal to the members of the 25. If they reach out to you, fine; I'd ask that you clear 25-to-10 transitions with me first, before you approve their induction into your team. You will not sell the magnificence of your team to the 25.

If they could do me this one small favor, I guaranteed that they would be subsidized in raiding costs, guild repairs, ample raiding resources (flasks, mats to craft, etc.) from the vault, as well as granting them first dibs on any BoEs that the 25 produced. I would also expedite any recruitment they brought to the table, getting individual players or groups of players, grandfathered in -- so long as they met our minimum requirements. On digital paper, we had many rules, the result of so many common-sensical decisions gone horribly awry. Behind closed doors, I shared with the Tacticians the only one true law they needed to abide: Wheaton's Law.

Joredin, Bovie and Zedmann all fit the requirements for Tactician beautifully. They very much wanted to be a part of the 25-Man, but had their own reasons for spinning up a 10, whether to sate an unbridled hunger to raid non-stop (on alts, if it had to be so!), the unpredictability of their careers intervening at impromptu times, or of the demands placed upon them by their families. Each had their own reason to lead a 10-Man, and with Tactician in place, we could scratch each other's backs.

Heed my words, Tacticians: Do not let the 25 die.


Anonymous said...

Nooooooo! I have unfortunately come to. The. End! Write harder! Really am enjoying the whole story so far, look forward to the next installment!

Joredin said...

Being apart of DoD and running my 10-man team(s), is to this day my most treasured memories of all time (from a gaming perspective). You are a master wordsmith, Shawn, and enjoy they way you have weaved this together.

Unknown said...

So, anyone else just picturing Mature with a stack of notebooks writing everything down while we raided? That explains the DK tanking issues :P All kidding aside, have really enjoyed hearing the story of DoD before Alivia and I joined. We had heard a few stories while playing obviously, but this is a great read man. Hope it is as fun for you to write as it is for us to read.

Chris (Amatsu)

P.S. - I'm back (even in DoD again) but haven't caught you online. Look forward to chatting man. It has been far too long.

Shawn Holmes said...


Welcome back, stranger! You're not too far from the truth: I scribbled notes ALL the time during play...even during raids. Many of them were tossed, because they were on the backs of envelopes, scrap paper...whatever was available.

Sometimes I come across one, though, because I'm a horrific packrat. If I see any, I'll be sure to upload a pic in nerd fashion.

Will see you soon, if not by the 13th, then very soon after.

Night said...


Love the blog, read it a few years back, and recently embarked on a re-read, as I lost it for a while and couldn't remember where I'd left off.

Anyways, I'm finally commenting because I liked loo the first screenshot and was wondering what you used for your UI? I love the look/feel of your small button clusters, and the framing of the various boxes.

One other note, regarding the previous post, I'm a physicist who works in post-flight analysis for a missile system, and I still can't avoid dealing with people, either. It is inevitable, I suppose.

- Night/Duskwood

P.S. Are you still playing? Has DoD made a resurgence into Legion and BfA? Enquiring minds want to know!