Thursday, April 30, 2015

4.36. Hypocritic Oath

Mature assists Bonechatters, Turtleman and
Volitar (Toadie) in wrapping up "It's Frost Damage!",
Deadmines

The Cut-Off Point

Herp Derp was no longer a team, a fact dictated by Blizzard long before I had any say in the matter. To resolve conflict, I erred on the side of skeptical optimism; hoped for the best but planned for the worst. I liked Riskers, and believed he was capable of making the right decision. I also knew that the psychological drain of people management took finesse. He deserved the benefit of the doubt. But when it came time to declare an officially sanctioned team, Blizzard called that shot, and left me no choice but to circle back and plug holes I’d left open in DoD's code of conduct. It sucked. It had to be done.

Herp Derp definitely met my criteria that called for a named roster, an advertised schedule, and had an official Tactician leading the group.

"Leading"

But thanks to Falnerashe's abrupt exit, the roster was now a 7/3 split. And while DoD held the majority share in that team, it wasn't enough for World of Warcraft. Achievements required 8 of the 10 players present to be part of a single guild. The moment Fal parted ways with DoD, the Herp Derp clan went from an officially sanctioned 10-Man team to little more than a random group of guild members helping a handful of non-guildies.

"Helping"

Riskers wasn't making it a huge priority to solve the issue; as the responsible party, I expected a much quicker turnaround. But I didn’t expect miracles. The likelihood of Riskers being able to convince Drecca, Ben and Fal to return to the guild seemed exponentially monumental. And it's probably the reason he made no headway. I made it clear to Riskers that he wasn't expected to move mountains, only to the solve the problem at hand. Get them back, or replace them...whatever works.

It wasn't happening.

What was happening was their regularly scheduled raids, because boss killing and loot grabbing took precedence over mediating melodrama. I didn't blame him for not wanting to sink his teeth into a task most players would avoid faster than an LFD group dumping out of The Oculus. But Riskers' indecision was infecting the guild with dissent. It was a growing audit trail of absent leadership, lumped in with moments like his defense of Ben when the guild attacked.

"Attacked"

The window of opportunity to make a decision narrowed, but I could do little else for Riskers. It was his team, his responsibility to make the call. All I could do was ensure that DoD was prepared for the fallout, leaving little-to-no room for excuses when everything blew up in Herp Derp's face. DoD was the priority, not a random group of players that were proving to me that guild integrity was far less important than a 10-Man Heroic Cho'gall.

"10-Man Heroic". LOL. Stop it. You're killing me.

Mature, Bonechatters, Turtleman, Volitar and Dewgyd
race to Vanessa Van Cleef in under 5 minutes,
Deadmines

Guild Plumbing

Tacticians were the conduit between their team and the guild. In exchange for their administration efforts, I hiked up their access to the guild vault, so they could distribute repair gold and provide raiding flasks/food to their team. To cement DoD's commitment to the 10s, I gave them an additional perk: BoEs procured by the 25-Man progression team would go to the vault, offered up to Tacticians on a first come, first serve basis. The hope was that it might help take the edge off whatever difficulty their teams were experiencing. Primarily, this perk intended to narrow the raid qualification gap for new recruits, or to stave off the often streaky, horrific luck of Blizzard's RNG. Plugging the 10-Mans into the DoD framework in this way not only allowed me to hold a named individual responsible for their team's actions, it provided a clear means of rewarding teams that played by our rules....and if not, it was a valve I could easily shut off, until their options dried up.

It wasn't until I reached for the valve that I noticed the gaping hole in the pipe.

10-Man teams shouldn't need a legal declaration, their definition is baked directly into the title: if you have 10 people, you have a 10-Man team. Some teams have more, choosing to sit a bench just like the 25-Man progression team did. As WoW interest flares and subsides, a 10-Man team may find itself short a head or two, as well. If a Tactician is actively recruiting, however, absenteeism is justifiable. But if there is no forward movement on recruitment attempts, intentionally or otherwise, a 10-Man team can't be called what it isn't.

I didn't think I would have to go to such lengths. Then again, I also didn't conceive of a hypothetical future in which several guildies would defy our rules, and the person in charge would not make a swift decision. Had someone in, say, Bovie's team, or Jungard's team, or Joredin's team did something equally foolish, I was reasonably confident violaters would receive a swift kick in the ass to shape up or ship out.

...but I also never suspected Riskers would be the type of person to drag their heels. And in that moment, I realized I was making an assumption that any of them would act as quickly.

Yet you were intimately familiar with the ‘psychological drain of people management’. Nice work setting expectations.

What I was left with was a Tactician, seemingly incapable (or uninterested) in mediating, yet kept all the perks flowing back into his team while it remained in a pseudo-stasis, not recruiting, not replacing, but still raiding, using guild repairs and flasks, and wasting achievement after achievement due to their 7/3 split.

To light the fire under Riskers, I amended the requirements of Tactician to enforce the completeness of their respective 10-Man roster. It had to have 10 people, minimum, which qualified them for guild achievements. And if not at 10, they had to be actively recruiting, and I needed to see the evidence of it: posts on their team page, and working with me to recruit the necessary people for the role. Riskers had to have an officially sanctioned 10-Man team in order to keep his rank and to keep those perks flowing back into the team.

Once updated, I politely reminded him of my initial two week window, and encouraged him to be more aggressive in his approach to solving the problem. A few days later, a fourth Herp Derp member, Phame, left DoD. And every day Riskers said nothing to me, I felt awful. I liked him.

But I didn't like who he stood for.

As Sir Klocker begins 25-Man invites, Mature, Onionscoop,
Beefysupryme and Lix barely pull off "Headed South" in time,
Lost City of the Tol'vir

A Compromising Position

As March’s weeks bled into April, I continued to recruit, discarding nearly every applicant that arrived in my inbox. I was convinced that my then-age requirement of 23 was liberal enough to keep reasonable amount of new faces flowing into the guild, but it simply the wasn't the case. Email after email went to the trash, as 16, 17 and 18 year olds continued to submit applications, ignoring the first rule I laid out at the top of our application page. Occasionally, I would hit paydirt. Finally! An applicant able to comprehend my restrictions!

...only to find out the player was into heavy recreational drug use -- a habit that doesn't play nicely with reliability.

The masochist in me wasn't ready to take guild leadership to a new level of pain. Back to the drawing board I went, reviewing underage apps, then discarding them. Eventually, I backed down from my age requirement. For a temporary amount of time, I pitched a "guild promotion" to allow normally excluded applicants to be referred to DoD. If it was a decent app, they came in on solid footing, and were sponsored by a veteran, I agreed to waive the age requirement. We saw a few new faces during this period, but it would take time to determine if there was any value among these kiddies. Besides, there were more immediate hurdles I needed to vault.

Both the underage newbies and our existing legitimate apps had trouble climbing the DoD ladder. The steps were as easy as I could make them. You started as a Recruit with limited access to our forums. It was just enough to introduce yourself, but not enough to inadvertently say the wrong thing in the wrong place, wasting the time of the forum moderators while simultaneously making you look foolish. 

Over time, you worked your way into the system until you qualified for Guildy, which is when the raiding forums became available (in read-only mode). If you were interested in pursuing a raid spot, you didn't need to ask questions or harass players for more info -- everything was laid out in a set of crystal clear steps. Fill out your profile on the raid tool, make sure you log out wearing your best gear so leadership can verify the fundamentals: ilvl, gems, enchants, spec. 

After Raider qualification, you could sign up, were rotated in, and the game was afoot: you proved to us you were ready for the long haul. If you chose, you could push up into Samurai, gaining even more spots, being exposed more forums. Eventually, you were looped in to the Samurai peer review process, participating in a committee with personal investment in shaping who they played with, week to week.

This was simply all too much to handle.

They didn't know what to read, or where to go to find the right info, or why they couldn't create a raiding profile in our signup sheet. When they were made Guildy, they didn't know why they were unable to ask questions in the raider forum, and the concept of rotations eluded them -- even though it was painstakingly detailed in our guild policies and procedures. My gut told me they just needed to read, to use some of that elbow grease to get the brass ring. But as their inability lingered on, I suspected the answer was more dire: they read it...and legitimately did not understand a thing I asked of them.

This new generation of recruit wasn't one that plagued us in Wrath or earlier; inductees were pointed to DoD's steps-to-raiding, and players figured it out. And because of the limited bench, I couldn't waste time circling back, pointing and re-pointing and re-re-pointing to the same instructions over and over until it was jackhammered into their skull. The roster lacked faces. So, I did what I expected most guild leaders would do in a signup crisis...

I backpedaled.

New recruits to DoD were fast tracked into raiding, rather than forcing them to go through the motions. It required excessive micromanagement to ensure each and every one of them knew what was expected of them. In Wrath, if they didn't read the rules, didn't understand what I asked of them...they simply didn't get in. It forced players to re-evaluate their comprehension of DoD policy, and they either improved or withered away. With the roster sitting at 24-25 heads (barely) each week, there was no room to play games. I either accelerated the promotion rate so they could join the 25-Man, or there would be no 25-Man.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of drawing lines through your own hand-crafted rules; a signed confession of a hypocrite.

No, I did not envy Riskers' position, faced with a team that was actively betraying his own beliefs, yet simultaneously aware of his own participation in it. I did not envy him, but I understood his hesitance. And I felt awful for him. And for his end game.

10 comments:

Jungard said...

Here's a fun fact to share. It took me a really long time to get ahead of the age requirement in DoD because it kept going higher and higher. Faster than I was aging apparently!

I first got invited to the guild in BC below the age requirement. The guys gave me the benefit of the doubt and I was able to stick around. As I got closer to finally being "legal" in DoD, it got bumped up. That happened 1 or 2 other times as well.

I don't think I finally hit the required age until somewhere around this point in the story, oddly enough. Like I said, fun fact!

Aedilhild said...

I think you'll be able to appreciate this: five or six chapters ago I stopped rooting for the 2011 Shawn Holmes.

He's lost touch with why he plays the game, and his guild's jumped the shark. DoD's franchise establishment is fascinating but bewildering and surreal; doomed to failure.

Social inevitability is the hero, now. And yet the story's no less interesting.

andomar said...

"My gut told me they just needed to read"

I recognize that sentiment as a red flag. People can't read, and if they could, they wouldn't want to.

If you expect people to read the problem is with you.

Dalans said...

@Jungard: Don't forget about Pollar, joined because of his brother Dandrak and he was like 10 or 11. And then by the end he was 16 or 17; everyone still referred to him as a little kid.

@andomar: How exactly is expecting someone to read clearly outlined instructions a red flag in itself? If you can't complete a simple task such as figuring out what needs to be accomplished to rank up in guild then how are you going to be an asset when say following instructions in a raid or researching new encounters?

Anonymous said...

To me it seems like his beliefs haven't changed one bit. The thing that has changed is the game and the player base around him. At this point he is defiantly trying to hold onto the game he loves and remembers instead of evolving with the game. I imagine the fatigue of running a guild this rigid and micromanaged has more than set in and after many years he just doesn't have the desire to push through when he can see the game is going in a direction he doesn't agree with.

Loksley

Shawn Holmes said...

@Loksley,

If I understand you correctly, you feel that my implementation of how to handle both 10s and 25s within DoD wasn't *enough* of an evolution, and that I should have done something more drastic?

Or did you mean something else?

Anonymous said...

I was mostly responding to Aedilhild's comment about that you had lost touch with why you play the game.

I disagreed that you had lost your way. I think that your way was to experience content at its most challenging and to you that was 25 man. While at the time many of your guildies have started to embrace 10 man more than 25. You were trying to do what you could to keep the focus on 25 when maybe most guilds faced with similar situations would've decided to keep going they would just do 10 mans.

Loksley

Ian said...

There was a guild I joined once that ran exclusively 10 man's. They had 3-4 10 man teams that had to be filled in with alts from each others teams. It was a nightmare, and they did it because it was "easier" than organizing a 25.

I prefer a guild with rules and an application process when the rules exist for a reason. Most of the rules in DoD seem to have been born from someone doing something self serving or counter to the best interests of the guild, just like many other guild rules. So when someone rails against it being too complex or too much micro management, it seems like a red flag on its own. They want less rules so they can do what they want, when they want, with no negative consequence to themselves.

Aedilhild said...

"[Shawn] were trying to do what you could to keep the focus on 25 when maybe most guilds faced with similar situations would've decided to keep going they would just do 10 mans."

He did, and pretty cleverly too. But from where we are, the satellite system is so pragmatic and impersonal that franchisee and franchisor interact beyond the most businesslike arrangement in a game. Community seems to have been replaced by market forces.

Mind you, I'm not judging. He did what he thought was best, and the appeal of this story is that it reads fair as accounts go. It's just interesting.

Anonymous said...

"He did, and pretty cleverly too. But from where we are, the satellite system is so pragmatic and impersonal that franchisee and franchisor interact beyond the most businesslike arrangement in a game. Community seems to have been replaced by market forces."

That's a great explanation IMO. It does feel like Shawn ran DoD like a business, but it has sounded like it had been like that for a long while.

Loksley