Thursday, June 16, 2016

4.76. Epilogue: Onward and Upward

Mature arrives in Pandaria,
The Jade Forest

At Least I Got Chicken

Two years passed. By the spring of 2014, there'd been a lot of change. Jul was back to being a full-time stay-at-home Mom. I didn't have kids...I had teenagers. In games, Flappy Bird was dominating much of the mainstream muggle news, while the majority of us glanced over with a troubled, concerned look. It would be a few months before Destiny released to mixed reviews, revisiting the hotly contested topic of addiction-by-design. Streamers were the new normal, with Felix Kjellberg leading the pack in what many of us still consider a profoundly bizarre turn of cultural events.

The hotly anticipated Diablo III finally launched, complete with its real money auction house. Gamers around the world converged on the infamous franchise, only to walk away a short time later with a very bad taste in their collective mouthes. Something was missing from the carpal-tunnel inducing game that Blizzard was famous for. The thrill of the treasure hunt was gone, a cruel side-effect of the alleged necessity to ensure items had some real money value. Uniques in Diablo II came at just the right time -- when they dropped from the hands of zombies or demons, they filled players with newfound uber-power, renewing the player's descent into clicking madness. By contrast, "Legendaries" in Diablo III were but shadows of their predecessors. The end end game lacked any semblance of balance, nigh impossible to master -- a shoddy design bent out of fear that players would clear it too quickly. Eventually, Blizzard admitted defeat, and promised to make things right.

Blizzard released a free card battle game, Hearthstone, which saw immense popularity and growth. I immediately recognized the battle mechanics, mirroring an older, lesser known game for the NeoGeo Pocket, SNK Vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash. It made sense, considering how often Blizzard employees were self-proclaimed fans of SNK's various fighting game franchises, particularly Samurai Shodown. I'm sure it only took them a matter of minutes before deciding it was a game they could do better. Just like Dune II. Just like EQ. Just like Team Fortress.

Of course, the WoW landscape continued its evolution. Eight months after the 25-Man progression team threw in the towel, Mists of Pandaria was released. Many familiar faces returned to DoD, each of them displaying varying degrees of interest in a radically changed game. For a great majority, they came, consumed all that MoP had to offer, then left. Only the truly hardcore stayed on, tending to their farm on every single alt.

During that initial burst of interest, stories about former guild mates trickled back to me. I discovered (not to any great surprise) that our server's #1 raiding guild, Enigma, floundered and retired only a week or two after us. I can't say for certain what the root cause of their collapse was, but I suspect many of the same variables that affected DoD were involved.

I also learned of Herp Derp's fate, which wouldn't be fair to keep from such a loyal readership. Shortly after Ben acquired Tarecgosa's Rest, the legendary staff, his computer broke down. To keep things moving forward (as we know Drecca was an expert at), HD's infamous leader purchased and shipped a MacBook to Ben to immediately get him back into progression. Shortly after this -- and without Drecca's knowledge -- Ben up and switched servers, leaving his Herp Derp guild mates behind. In his inimitable style, Ben was off to PvP in a new battlegroup, armed with a fantastical staff and a shiny new laptop to power it. 

Things did not go too well for Herp Derp after that. Rumor has it the guild finally imploded under the weight of a forum argument. The topic? Star Wars. DoD may not have been perfect, but at least we were able to keep things running for more than a single tier of raid content.

Many months after the end of the 25-Man,
Mature's mediation continues,
Valley of the Four Winds

Achievement Unlocked

One thing had not changed, however: I was still at the same job. Now celebrating my three year anniversary, things hadn't quite played out to my favor. My new boss didn't possess that same set of nurturing, mentoring genes I'd enjoyed in previous managers. My current project was embroiled in a daily design-by-committee battle, its most important goals now lost to petty arguments among the "experts" at the table. I longed for a new challenge.

An email arrived from a familiar name. Dave, my former boss -- the same one who shared an airplane flight with me while I typed up a guildy's "dismissal" letter -- posed a question to me.

"Read this, call me."

I navigated the job description, skimming past the buzzwords and perusing for anything concrete. Health Data and Analytics company. Corporate website and SharePoint intranet. Lead a team in development and maintenance. Work with the business to establish and implement ongoing vision, ensure best practices. The company was looking to hire a Senior Manager of Web Services.

Senior Manager.

---

"You know they use SharePoint in Hell, right?"

Dave laughed, running with the joke by rattling off an ad-hoc sales pitch, "Hey, 'If it's good enough for Satan, it's good enough for HR'."

We both laughed.

"Good times, good times," Dave replied, then cut the looming awkward silence, "So, other than the CMS from Hell, whaddya think?"

"Well, I mean...it really reads like your old job, back when I was missing meetings on account of dragons."

"Actually, it is my old job. I moved to a different department, another guy came in...then he left...and now they need someone."

"I'm honored that you thought of me, but this 'manager' thing, I mean..." I hesitated, "It's like...you, Allison, Dawna, Diane, you all keep saying it, but..."

"It'll be fine," Dave dragged the long 'i' out, as if to make it sound like a thousand acre forest ablaze was merely a campfire that 'got a little crazy'.

"Hey, I appreciate the support. But let's face some facts. You've got a degree in business admin. I took, like...two years in liberal studies and dropped out. I'm just a code junkie. I've never professionally managed or lead anything."

"Remember that flight back from Dallas? You know, the one where you were typing that thing up for that guy in your guild?"

All too well.

"You cared more about your guys in that WoW guild of yours than I've seen from most of the professional managers I've worked with in my career."

I stayed silent, took a deep breath, letting the impact of Dave's compliment soak in.

"Look. What is it? It's tactics. It's managing up and down. Right? It's motivating a team and keeping them happy and making hard decisions when you need to. Ok? It's mentoring...negotiation...knowing when and where to pick your battles. It's delegating and taking care of rockstars and knowing when to say no. It's giving a shit. Like I said...it'll be fine!"

I stood in silence a moment, still clutching the phone, contemplating the possibility. The feeling was not unfamiliar -- fear of the unknown, of complete and colossal failure. But like all of the things Dave named, my first experience of that feeling was perhaps the most important lesson I had as leverage. It was the one key take away from guild leadership that was most important: failure is only one potential outcome; it's a possibility, not an inevitability. Once you embrace that, a logical conclusion falls easily into place: there's a chance you might actually succeed.

So, why not?

"Fuck it. Let's do this."

~~~


60 comments:

Fred said...

Sharepoint is for lovers

Jungard said...

Now let's get the gang back together and make a sequel.

DWB said...

I knew you could do it, you just needed the nudge. Barton did it for me a Kaniza, I saw you could too, you just needed the right opportunity. Cheers!

Zyr said...

Sharepoint is a bad touch in the pants. At least I'm pretty sure.

And after my comment on our last post I went back and re-read all the posts (yeah I skimmed some) and that brought back some memories. I find myself here now logged into battle.net tempted to pick up a month or two just to see how things are now.

Anonymous said...

I'm going miss reading this each week. Great Job Shawn, way to stick with it all these years.

And i have to say that I'm totally shocked that you have drawn Dave into reading a gaming blog. Your powers have grown strong. You are the master now.

J Barton.

Anonymous said...

what an unbelievable read. I have absolutely no words to describe this. I started Vanilla WoW when I was 13, and I basically just read every page of your blog today to send me down the rabbit hole. You captured the magic, in text. Emotion, sacrifice, time...wow

Anonymous said...

I'm going to preface this essay of a comment with the fact that I have never touched WoW in my life, and that I read this entire blog - first post to last - in the span of about 26 hours. (I'm stuck in bed, deeply and truly bored, and I like reading. Also, it's...5am now.) I didn't actually intend to binge this extremely long and epic tale...it was linked to me by a friend, who thought I might enjoy it, and I had nothing else to do, so I figured, "Why not?"

Several hours later, I'm sitting here mindblown.

Despite not having played this MMO, I have played others, and many aspects of your story resonated with me. From the people - the ups and downs of the game/struggling with the developers - the incredible and bizarre types of drama and stories that come out of a guild - and all of the various ways that you tied your personal life/career in with the story of DoD. Your cliffhangers were masterful, even if I didn't suffer from them the way your long-time readers must have. And it's a testament to your writing ability that I sat through all these posts about raids and their various mechanics when I've never been particularly interested in pve raid content at all.

I'm experienced in pvp, but for a long time I focused in guild v guild / guild raiding in RvR, so your posts made me deeply nostalgic for the days of fighting as a team. I paused about 3/4 of the way through to go to my guild's website and scroll through old forum posts. We had a fucking great run, but fell apart for similar reasons - roster issues, changes in the game that prevented us from playing the we used to / wanted to, shifts in the player base, and our ever rotating circle of leadership. I'm a little more sympathetic to their struggles now.

Your second to last post, where you announced the end of the 25 man, actually had me tearing up a little bit. We knew we were dying for a long while and tried so many different solutions. All of them were just band-aids...eventually we ended, even if I can't remember the particular day that was The Last Time.

Even if I'm sad over the ending of this story, I'm really glad that things are looking up for you irl. And I'm really glad I read this. Thanks.

Aubiece said...

Thanks for all the fish Shawn.
And so it ends, and I will miss the blog.
Your blog brought back to me why I enjoyed raiding and leading a guild.
The camaraderie we had a raid team and the fun of downing a new boss was excellent fun.
The teamwork was why I raided, and you captured what is is to be a raider and leader.

All the best to you and your family Shawn.

Cory Moser said...

I wish I had known about this blog years ago. It would have helped me with my own sense of loss as the game I used to love so much changed so drastically. I have just started reading your blog and am through the first year now. I look forward to reading the rest. Thank you for voicing our experiences so well.

Shaedrya/Evelinne said...

I just wanted to give my thanks as well. Reading through all these blog posts (you can blame whomever linked to you, from Kotaku) took me back to all the fun I had, and all the friends, as well as all the drama and troubles (but in a good way). I identified with so many of the things you all went through, because I was too, on a different server, at the same time frame (though not as guild leader!). I got to relive it all, a little. :)

Everything from the challenge of TBC raiding, to trying to play WoW over Satellite connection from Iraq (1300ms ping, on the good days - no raiding, but damned if I wasn't going to log in, or try, anyway). Taking a week of vacation for the first week of Cata's launch.

It also made me realize that the game we played, and loved, is long gone. What's left is a different one that evolved from it. It sucks, but that's life sometimes. I kept raiding with my ten man group that formed from the ashes of my guild's 25 man in Dragon Soul, and we did really well, into the second raid expansion of Pandaria, but in the end.. well, that's how it goes.

Again, thanks for everything you wrote!

Shaedrya/Evelinne, In Omnia Paratus, Darrowmere-US

Anonymous said...

I just read your post over at Polygon. What a pretentious load of catshit. You're catshit.

Anonymous said...

Binge read this thing from start to end. You sounded like a great guild leader, and your guildies (for the most part) good people. If you ever decide to reopen DoD for Legion, post it up, and god knows I might try to join you.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't read it all the way through but you definitely helped me realized I need to fix my social aspects before anything else. Carnegie here I come...

As for everything else, it was interesting reading about the beginning of WoW and raiding through the expansions (Vanilla, TBC). I came in towards the middle of TBC and played through Lich and a little of Cata. I never raided hardcore, preferring to create toons and get them up a little and repeating that haha. I did more raiding in Lich since it was so open (I liked that part), but fell apart after trying to PvP with a holy paladin (ugh). In the end, thank you.

PS: How the hell did you get away with having 2 kids and wife and still play WoW? I have that now and couldn't even imagine it.

Anonymous said...

But it wasn't just Mists of Pandaria you came back for, was it?

In one of your earlier posts, you posted an armory link to one of your characters.

A character who is level 100. So, you presumably came back to complete the Warlords of Draenor content as well.

Kyir said...

Binged the entire account of events in two days (instead of working, of course.) Interestingly enough, reading it has gotten me interested in playing WoW again for the first time in a long time. I half-assed a lot of MoP and WoD, but there's just something about reading the accounts of vanilla raids that makes me want to give the whole thing another try in Legion. I'll probably be disappointed, but that's all Blizzard ever does these days, so what's the risk?

Someone, somewhere, will always have a place for a healer.

Fiendish said...

Hey Havoc, I discovered your blog recently and have spent the entire span of time since then devouring the entirety of it. I feel compelled to talk your ear off for a bit. I'd apologize in advance, but I know you don't like hearing sorry.

Back in the day, my Vanilla raiding guild was very important to me. I was our guild's Warlock leader, which meant the breadth of my responsibilities were to assign Banish targets on Garr and to crush the filthy mages on ranged DPS. Our guild downed Ragnaros for the first time on my 1 year anniversary, and I was the first recipient of T2 leggings. Probably just about the best day I ever had in WoW. Our guild was never in the same league as DoD, but we managed to down Nefarian. Once. About 2 weeks before they upended PvP in preparation for BC. I remember vividly, because 15 of our players suddenly had to prioritize getting High Warlord gear in lieu of raiding. "I'm earning purples to increase my DPS!" Our guild transferred servers just to be rid of those scrubs.

My original guild was flattened by Magtheridon, and unlike DoD we didn't survive. A lot of guildies left the game, and I joined a very competitive guild where a friend of mine was an officer. I suppose I was never a phenomenal player, but my new guild was too focused on Sunwell with their vetted team to pay any attention to someone not in raid. When Wrath hit, they took to the new raids and I sort of meandered and focused on Achievements. I found myself a member of a guild that never gave a damn about some guy who wasn't in Ulduar with them. I slowly became casual, though with a respectable history.

That guild crumbled around the same time that DoD did, and as I was reading your posts the memories flooded back. Our hardcore raiders were livid at the changes to raiding, and everything ended. Someone like myself benefited from Raid Finder, as it allowed me to circumvent the 25 man roster and actually see content. It felt hollow though, defeating Deathwing in a pug had nothing on defeating Ragnaros in MC. I had shiny purples, but I was also in a guild of strangers with no one to enjoy them with. I continued being casual in MoP, but before WoD hit I logged my main out in Orgrimmar and turned off my account.

CONTINUED

Jeremy George said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fiendish said...

CONTINUED

Your blog really made me think about how much fun I had in WoW back in Vanilla. I had a group of personalities whom I happily bled with. And everything was new! I remember seeing a player on a mount for the first time and gaping. About me and a friend taking our level 30s and running to Silithus, Booty Bay, and Eastern Plaguelands just because I wanted to see all of the places on the little map in my instruction booklet. I remember my first PK on an Alliance level 60 stirring trouble in Crossroads. My first guild leader helping me with the ritual pieces for my Dreadsteed. 3 day-long AV matches. Summoning Eranikus in Moonglade. The Silithus opening event crashing the server. It made me so nostalgic I loaded a month of game time just to see Azeroth again after so many years.

A lot of my toons were frozen in time, with Friend Lists full of ghosts. Visited MC and soloed everything in the name of my dead guild. Then I soloed Nefarian for good measure. Checked my alts, and discovered I still had Argent Dawn quests in my queue. Even managed to track down a few veterans who had long since retired from raiding and reminisced with them. Also tried to figure out what the fuck a Garrison is, and why there is a shop button next to my Achievement button. It's been a lot of fun visiting Azeroth again, even if it feels odd.

Thank you for taking me back to the world that at one time was so important to me. Thank you for helping me remember guildies, world events, and personal triumphs. Thank you for showing me the GL's perspective in every dark day WoW had. And thank you for articulating just why WoW was soured for me and for the fan base in general. I would have proudly served in a guild like DoD, though I probably wouldn't have made the cut. Even though my application would have been immaculate, It seems like you were consistently good on Warlocks for most of your run.

For the Horde,

Fiendish, Hand of A'dal

Anonymous said...

I never been so captivated by a blog before, I went through all of it in a few days. It mirrored so much my own experience in the game, and my feelings towards its decay in design.

I went from Vanilla noob to BC raider, to officer then to raid leader. I push the guildies through Kael'thas, Lady Vashj, Archimonde, and by the time we acknowledge with Illidan we weren't ready, Wrath of the Lich King knocked on the door.

We weren't as organized as you were during WotLK. Now with regrets I understand we just mimicked bigger guilds setup, without feeling the subtlety of why the model was what it was. But as clunky and semi-functionnal as we were, we went on.

I almost broke the guild on Kael'thas. Almost. 15 weeks of re-explaining the strat to new faces drove me to burnout. A few weeks after the kill, Hyjal and Black Temple were suddenly a walk in the park and a welcome change, the guild attracted a lot of new players. It must sounds crazy but Kael'Thas is now my best memory of WoW, my numeric Everest, shared with various people met in a videogame.

Paradoxically, most of the dedicated raiders left for better structured guilds on more populated servers after Kael'Thas was down. They could have spared themselves of 15 weeks on a brick wall way more sooner (there was no more attunement for T6-raids by the current patch at the time). But then the guys and gals, away from the ears of the officers and the GL, come to me and told me they have stayed at this point just for me. You can't imagine how weird it was for me then. They agreed to postpone the exode not to avoid to sunk the guild, but for me, for the perplex raid leader they felt they OWED to make the Tier5 clean happen.

Sadly, I couldn't see Wrath of the Lich King in the same light as Shawn, with raiding becoming hunting achievements. I felt my raiding skill was useless, as nothing offered resistance, the new roster would just be: "what's the big deal, just dps until it dies".

Now I play a bit each expansion just for the lore, as in a single player game with a bit of PvP.

Reapy said...

I spent my 4th weekend reading the blog from start to finish. Thanks for writing this.

I'm a solitary player, I don't know what it is about me. I played EQ beta but couldn't get far on my own, later, some friends played so I was able to learn enough to play up to max level cap, but only did a few raids. You have to network yourself in, which is tough for me. I moved on to DAOC and had the same issues, max cap, and out. I started WOW 1 month post release, waiting on it. By the time I maxed out, the dungeon runs were well oiled machines, no time to pause and figure things out. I quit then too.

Finally came back when co-workers started up near the end of TBC. They didn't know what pull was, was where they started. So I was there while we all figured it out together. I lasted up until half way through ulduar, asking myself why I was spending so much of my day watching other people die in fires, grab loot and leave, and basically everything you have described in this blog. For a time it was great, I'd talk guild and raid strategy with my co-worker, ask for strat adjustments in officer and see them executed for success, and didn't have to deal with everything that you were able to deal with for so long (no clue how you held it up so long)

MMO's need the unobtainable. As a person who has understood I will never be the obtainer, watching people roll by or discuss 'forbidden' places is what kept me in that world, what made it have life. I had never stepped foot into molten core, but read about it for a long, long time. When I finally went back during wrath to actually see it in person and steamroll it in a 5 man, it still felt epic, like a place I would never be allowed to tread in, yet here I was.

Going back further to EQ, I talk often with a co-worker who ran a successful guild from EQ -> EQ 2. The stories the mechanics in EQ told, the epic struggles, the intensity, the stress of loss. I realize now that the world felt so magical because there was many places I wasn't allowed to step foot, even via faction limitation.

I've always told him that the design of EQ was the dream of creating a fantasy world, with no knowledge of the reality of gamers. I feel blessed to have played it when there was no other option, for I surely would never have wasted my time with such punishment. I would never play that game now, and I suspect that not many others would either.

At the time wow was a breath of fresh air, a causals playground. The fact I could max level by myself was unheard of. But still, nobody had figured out end game yet, how the world becomes top heavy. It is interesting we look back at WOW vanilla and consider it hardcore, when it was anything but at release.

But we've all changed, we are older, we've 'done the mmo thing', gaming is older, gaming is different. I miss the MMO, but don't dare want to play one ever again in its current form. But, for this weekend, I was back in it, reliving what I had experienced, and everything else I had missed.

Thank you.

Charles Robertson said...

I found this blog off of a Reddit post a few days ago and binge read the whole thing. I wanted to say thank you for writing this. It brought back all of my old memories of friends, raids, and how fun the game was to me. Every time I read about your experiences in all of the raids I could close my eyes and relive as well. When the end finally came, I felt myself getting choked up as I remembered my own guild fizzling out.

On a positive note, I was able to share this blog with my wife. After she finished the blog, she looked over at me and said, "I now understand how much this game meant to you. I never really did before."

So, thank you again. Your blog helped my wife and I bring closure to a time in our lives that was dominated by this game.

Fredrick said...

It was a terrific read, but damn, I wish it could've ended with the triumphant announcement that DoD were returning to fight the Legion next august. If Blain reads this: the pandas are not that noticable, honest!

Anonymous said...

What an incredible, fantastic journey. The people, the stories. It really makes me misty-eyed for WoW and has me seriously considering firing up the subscription again. I had my fair share of ups and downs with it over the years (2005-2012) - including a little bit of guild leading thrown in over the Wrath/start of Cata era. I only wish I could have found a guild like DoD with a leader like you! Sadly the EU/US time divide would have been too great. All the best for the future Shawn.

/salute

- Alex

Anonymous said...

Loved your comments. I was a gl for conclave (durotan then we all moved to dath remar). Youve helped me relive the amazement i felt when i first saw the undercity. My nervousness at getting the zep and the continual exploration. But most of all the friends. Some of is still reminisce about our first magmadar kill on nye. Thank you.
Rusha, undead mage

Unknown said...

What an amazing read! I only played WOW at a casual level, but who had friends who were hardcore. I never understood how they played the game until reading this. Simply amazing.

Alexstar the Rogue said...

Was reading this for like a week. Kept eyeing the date going "man I don't want to get caught up! I want more" only for it to end! Which is worse! Lol. Was an amazing read and has helped (along with the movie) reignite my interest in WoW. I quit after LK. But I'm back thanks to you! Amazing read. I've recommended it to my friends who played with me including my former guild master!

Dranlu/Myahalna said...

Hello there GM.

It has been close to 6 years since I played on Deathwing and about 2 years since I played WoW. I was apart of your guild during AQ40 to around the release of Black Temple's release when I switched to Resto Druid on another server. I was pointed to this by a friend that I play with on a "private" server because of a statement I use to hear. During that time I was classified as a "Casual" due to poor ISP, however I wanted to mention to a lot of people that I don't know if he mentions how the "Veterans" and "Casuals" felt during this time. I still am reading through and need to finish to see what happened after the time frame I left. I think one thing a lot of people don't know is that what it meant to us as opposed to those people that were "Raiders" during that time. We enjoyed reading the exploits of the Raiders and to see the struggles they pushed through. I personally didn't talk much back then and really wasn't known to well but loved to see the struggles and the pushes they went through. It was a long time ago and now that I have better internet I actually came to see if you still played, though someone told me you had a new name, which was Mature. I actually am rerolling TDruid over to horde on Deathwing, would love to know so I could catch up and if I have to reapply to the guild so be it, since I don't remember name or even my email.

Myahalna/Dranlu

Nick Morrissey said...

I've been reading this for a few days after I caught a link by accident in an article.

My WoW career started sometime in TBC, and officially ended after I'd finished the first tier of MoP. While I certainly still log in and play (and a recent Legion beta invite hasn't helped), I know I'm not alone when I say that this game is not the same WoW. It carries the same title, it has a lot of the same places, but the game isn't the old game.

I can't reminisce about vanilla, because honestly I never played it. I felt a longing desire to do server-wide stuff like opening AQ, but honestly I don't think it would have changed much for me in the long run.

I started playing MMOs with Final Fantasy XI. I still remember, fondly, my first few months of that game. For better or worse, I got caught up with a driven crowd and had a very quick crash course about how the game works. It's barrier for entry was a lot higher than WoW ever was. Make it through that, and the game was incredible. I watched my own progression in that game go from wide-eyed noob to jaded veteran. As time went on, I stopped wanting to play because it wasn't the same.

But I realized something, and having gone through basically the same thing twice, I can say with certainty that it was me that changed the most. I had expectations, and sometimes lost sight of the fact that I was just a customer to a business. My subscription wasn't changing the landscape of the game, it was the subs of the masses. I changed. I tried to hold on to the old times and found myself having issues adapting.

WoW happened at the same time. I'd casually started playing it with my wife as something to do when FFXI wasn't busy. The games are so totally different that it was nice to just have something else to look at, something I could do casually. Until I burned out on FFXI. While WoW has the fortunate structure of no world bosses (since Vanilla, anyway), FFXI would occasionally involve me getting 3am phone calls because a boss popped, and we got claim. That level of play bore quick burnout in a lot of people.

WoW was easy to jump in to. Even in TBC, I never had much of an issue getting stuff done. I didn't seriously raid in TBC, but I did my fair share, and had cleared everything except Illidan before WotLK and the start of my actual raiding career. Oddly enough, it was this sense of instant gratification that made me fall for the game. When you can use the words "instant gratification" while raiding casually in TBC, you get a sense of the FFXI landscape.

CONTINUE...

Nick Morrissey said...

...CONTINUE
Anyway, back to WoW. It was quite interesting to see the parallels in your own playing career to my own. Starting out innocently enough, just trying to do the best you can, not necessarily taking it full on seriously, but clearly wanting to be more than a casual. That shift from vanilla to TBC, just from your own writing, marked a very obvious shift in how YOU personally wanted to play the game. Obviously running a guild was not a simple task, but it was quite a bit easier to fill out a roster when not everyone wanted to be the captain of their own ship, and instead wanted to work with a real group. I had the any pick I wanted in TBC, and my decision was actually to play on a server with a better population and time zone (I'd actually started playing on an Oceanic server because my wife had a friend who played and lived in Australia).

WotLK was great because getting in to real raiding not longer had a big barrier. I think the balance worked out. I'd argue that the start of the expansion was probably a bit too easy, but as time went on, it got tough. I'd worked my way in to a guild that was interested in real progression, was the top guild on my server, and we were pushing server firsts. I remember Ulduar hard-modes fondly, and ToGC is something I'll always remember (25H Anub was so much fun). I treated all 10mans the way you did, something on the side, but something I looked forward to, often times more than the 25man raids I was doing. And this is where I'll differ from you.

I'm an introvert, through and through. I have a small group of friends, and I like it that way. Doing my 10man raids in WotLK always felt a bit more comfortable because I got to really know the people I played with. 25s always felt impersonal, and while I'd know a couple of people in there really well, I'd often have to have vent open in a way that I could see the names of who was talking, as the voices all kind of ran together. That never happened in 10s. It's funny, because I feel that was actually the case with you, a core group of people you were close with, and a bunch of fillers. I loved 10man raids.

I think WotLK was very much the fork in the road for WoW players who actually played back then. I believe that TBC was more of an extension of vanilla than it was radically changing the game. Of course it brought lots of new stuff, and streamlined things, quality of life improvements perhaps. But I think the raiding atmosphere wasn't insanely different, just smaller and probably more manageable, maybe a bit easier in comparison. But Lich King gave people more options. Don't want to field a full 25 people? That's fine, you're just not going to get the same rewards, you're going to get 10man rewards that are useful in 10man situations. It was maybe a bit subtle, not really bashing your face in with it (if I remember correctly, you didn't know about strict-10s until ICC), but 10 mans were starting to become an option.

I personally loved the atmosphere. I got to really know the people I was with. I think we were more able to hold each other accountable, instead of trying to disappear in to the crowd, which I'll argue to the death was a lot easier to do in a 25man raid. I loved 25man raiding in WotLK, it was fantastic and it was hard, something I couldn't get from 10 man raids. If I COULD get it from 10man raiding, I was probably going to take it.

Lich King was both great, and probably the worst thing that happened to WoW. It basically said to people, despite what Blizzard kept saying for years afterwards, that anyone could jump in and give raiding a real try... if they wanted to. I'd been fortunate enough to see raiding before LK and knew that we had it pretty good. Many people did not. While a lot of people picked on me for being a BC baby, Wrath babies were even worse, especially going in to Cataclysm.

CONTINUE...

Nick Morrissey said...

...CONTINUE
I knew what I was in for when Cata dropped, I even tried to do 25man raiding. Between going to school full-time and working a full-time job, I couldn't commit to 25man raiding in Cataclysm. That's life. Fortunately for me, Blizzard decided to make 10man raiding a more serious affair, instead of something you could just do with a couple of bored people. I lucked out, my group of 10 only wanted to do one day a week. We were skilled enough that we could tackle heroics in a single night. I didn't think that they'd ever successfully balance 10s and 25s, but I thought they'd get close. I hated that I'd be grouped together with them in terms of progression, however. I didn't think it was fair for anyone, and obviously most people agreed.

We still struggled through content; it wasn't a cake-walk because we were doing clearly downtuned encounters. We had a one-night-a-week schedule, and we were going to push heroics. We did. For a while, we were the top ranked 10man group on our server, second Horde guild overall (third overall on the server). We didn't get server firsts, but we missed by sometimes as little as hours. This trend continued well in to MoP.

Cata really was the beginning of the end. The Wrath babies brought us a new type of player: those who stopped caring about working together. Everything should be a loot pinata, and if it wasn't, they'd find a guild where that boss WAS a loot pinata. The problem? Item levels became the measure for a players worth (obviously you know that isn't true). It became a bigger issue when Blizzard embraced it, making it part of your visible stats, MAKING IT A BARRIER FOR ENTRY TO DUNGEONS AND RAIDS. It was a contradiction that really made me start to think about Blizzard, integrity, and transparency. On one hand, they were telling you to "bring the player, not the class" (though I think some homogeneity was necessary after vanilla, and TBC/WotLK seemed to have worked that out), while at the same time saying that the player wasn't enough, they also needed to have spent a ton of time grinding out for gear. Now it was bring the player WITH GEAR, not the class. A simple distinction, but, I feel, an incredibly important one.

In my own ironic twist, the simple feeling of instant gratification that initially drew me to WoW was now the thing that was pushing me away. People stopped playing for the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the fun, THE THRILL OF THE KILL. Instead, they started playing purely to get the BiS gear and the highest ilvls. The Wrath babies were winning, and I wasn't adapting.

CONTINUE...

Nick Morrissey said...

...CONTINUE
I had high hopes for MoP. My schedule hadn't lightened up, and I was getting less sleep, and my stress was high. I went from doing my best to hide it, use WoW as my escape, to using it as my channel to vent every tiny bit of frustration on people who had no business taking it. We wiped cause I screwed up? I'd proceed to rant for the next 5 minutes about how it was everyone's fault but my own. I made it through the first tier of normals and we mutually parted ways. Which is a nice way of saying my guild leader kicked me from the group (not the guild) because I was being a giant piece of shit. Probably for the best, really. The guild did their best to keep going. We all loved the 10man atmosphere. We dealt with what we could as far as balance was concerned. It was clear that there was a difficulty disparity between the two sizes, some fights were easier on 10, some easier on 25. Obviously Blizzard felt the same way, and I'm sure they just got tired of spending time trying to balance it, knowing that it just wasn't possible. Instead, no, we were told that we needed to field a 20man roster to do the highest level of content. If recruitment for 25man guilds was hard in Cata, it was nearly impossible in MoP. If you survived as a 10man, awesome... but now we were being told that if we wanted to keep playing like we did, we'd need to find 10 MORE people. No one had any interest in trying to recruit 10 more people, somehow vet them, hope they stuck around through the pre-expansion lull, and then see what happened in a new expansion. They called it instead, said it was a good run, and a few of them met me on FFXIV, which had successfully relaunched.

I don't like the way Blizzard handled itself. I think the failure of Titan to ever see the light of day dramatically affected the development of WoW. The quality went downhill, and it really seemed to have happened right around Cata, which was very likely when Titan was eating up resources. I'll argue that Cata kind of needed to happen to update the game, update the zones, fix the quest flow, things like that, because I think it's true. But I think it also signalled a major philosophy change in Blizzard. The transition from us being players of the game, to being nothing more than numbers reported back to shareholders. They wanted sub numbers to go up, because that means more money, but if you're only catering to people who exist in the realm above casuals, eventually those numbers dry up. It sucks, because a lot of people DO remember what WoW used to be, and they see what happened as the game evolved. It went from being about gamers to being mostly about money, with people pretending to care about what the gamers want. When Blizzard shifted to simply telling us what we'll like ("you think you do, but you don't" regarding private servers, or ANY discussion about CRZ), you get the strong realization that WoW is almost purely about making money. There isn't anything wrong with that, I often say that no one goes in to business to LOSE money, but it's how you present it. Blizzard got too caught up in their own legend to even attempt to put a mask on it, and at least try to appease the players.

It's too bad, watching a company actively work to push their own player base away.

CONTINUE...

Nick Morrissey said...

...CONTINUE (Final)
It sucks that your 25 career ended without officially clearing Dragon Soul as a group. I don't think your issue, towards the end, was necessarily tuning of the encounters. I think that the group itself had lost the passion. No amount of skill OR gear is going to solve the lack of passion. TRULY caring about kills is a very real part of raiding. Losing people to other games, lack of interest, any of those things is like a virus; it spreads quickly. While I'm sure they did an excellent job of hiding it, the Christmas break was just enough to push them over. All it takes is one person dropping out, and that's it, like dominoes. Sure, you had the gear to kill that stuff, that was never an issue, but I think your guys just had enough, they hit a wall, and nothing was going to fix it. That said, if you guys did make it through, AND survive the pre-Cata lull, AND survived the raiding in MoP (which I personally believe was still high-quality), WoD would have done you in. There is absolutely no sense of community in WoW. In "The End" you said you were standing in Orgrimmar, and it seemed like you were totally alone, desolate. Unfortunately, that's the case for everyone. I know you still log in, and DoD still seems to have a fairly healthy roster, I'm sure you've noticed that most people just sit in their Garrisons all day. I did do some raiding in WoD, nothing serious, some of it not even outside of LFR (doing it just to see the raids themselves, not because it's real raiding), and there is still some activity there. But the rest of the world? I've been online for the past few days and have noticed that, again, it's barren out there. Even Warspear, on Hyjal, a hugely populated server, is empty. There are a dedicated few still out grinding mounts and reputations (which is what I'm doing), but it's just empty.

Hopefully Legion will draw people back in. What I've seen of the beta so far seems promising. The zones look great, the lore is obviously fantastic. I don't know much about instanced content yet, but hopes are high. Maybe it's the kick in the ass that WoW needs. If not, the hints they dropped at BlizzCon 2015 suggest that they do have a plan to either continue on with the game, or can kill it off at the end of the expansion if things aren't going well. It's unfortunate, but I think Legion is actually legitimately make-or-break for World of Warcraft. They need to start by righting the wrongs that began over 6 years ago.

Good read, I loved it. You mentioned something about picking sides. The only thing I didn't agree with you on was the condemnation of the legitimacy of 10-man raiding post-WotLK. Not once did I read this and think "wow he is pompous" or "wow, he doesn't care about anyone but himself." Nah, it was pretty obvious that most of the things you did was for the best of the guild and for the people in it, even when they probably didn't deserve it.

From a fellow Canadian, thank you.

Royston Teo said...

A friend recommended me to your blog hanzo. The only thing I can say is, 'the feels are real'.

Starting in TBC, I missed the glory days of vanilla, and being an avid (almost borderline hardcore) raider, I never got the opportunity to do anything past karazhan.

Guild drama and management are things all too real. had a few personal experiences myself, and these were with people I called friends in real life!

Thank you for the blog, and the memories it evoked whilst sharing in your glories as well.

Ps. Blain you're no.1 raid lead in my ❤️

-Aegistorm, Kilrogg alliance

Anonymous said...

First, read it all. Enjoyed it immensely.

Secondly.. except during part 4. Not that I blame you. Actually, what I didn't enjoy was being reminded why I should quit and move on. I've played since vanilla, and while I'm a Casual, I've felt the pangs of WoW's death as well, albeit in less grand ways. It *is* sad, looking back, knowing that so many people are gone. Friends and aquaintences from as far back as vanilla Runescape coming over to WoW, friends list full and alive, now empty and depressing to look at. At 30 this October I'm looking forward to Legion, but I don't feel like I should be. WoW feels like a corpse that doesn't know it's dead yet. Even sadder, no one left playing cares. It's like that scene in Erik the Viking where the Atlanteans are denying the sinking of their island. Except the people left on it are there because they never knew what it was like *before* the water hit their ankles. I know why I cling to it, but honestly, there's nothing left to do. Maybe turning 30 at the start of a new expansion is... I'm not sure fateful is the word, but maybe it's a sign it's time to hang up Shadow Priesting for good. From a hardcore casual to a casual-core raider (or whatever you guys called yourselves), it was fun sharing your memories and reliving my own for a time. And if Blizzard ever reads this comment, you killed the game when you assumed your player base was too stupid to know the difference (and 6 million people proved you right).

- Kyrtis-Kilrogg

Aegis said...

Hanzo,

First off, thanks so much for the blog - found it a couple of days back and binge read it in between work and wow (i'm Alliance now, don't hold it against me). I've been around since TBC (maining a tankadin for 5 expacs and counting), and I have to say, reading your blog is like a stroll down memory lane - especially wrath, the period where I had the time to commit to hardcore progression raiding)

I've tried my hand at raid leading and guild management, and I have to say that I wish I had read your blog when I was down and dirty with guild drama and politics - it's an excellent primer to anyone interested in handling small to medium-sized groups of individuals.

Like many here, I've watched the rise and fall of wow, and the continual watering down of difficulty in the name of equality. At this point, there's no way we'll go back to the glory days of TBC, but I'm still (probably foolishly) optimistic about Legion and the future for wow - I just wish I had a guild like DoD (I'm oceanic, though, or I would totally drop an app - timezones suck)

Anyway, sorry for the tangent, just wanted to say that I've enjoyed every moment of reading this, and am truly appreciative of the time it took you to write and share your thoughts with us.

Aegis.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned Matt Uelmen before. This vid is a fanboi salute.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CURbbAdqlFs

Anonymous said...

As a Hunter, every thing I liked about the class, stealth, aspect of Cheetah, has been destroyed. Blizzard took my dog, brought it out back behind the shed, and then shot it.

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Anonymous said...

Echoing what others have said here. Your blog was a fantastic look into a dedicated group of people and the challenges you all overcame together (and the challenges which were yours alone to shoulder).

I raided from Burning Crusade to halfway through Wrath in a guild that was casual and had a jerky officer who made me decide to leave raiding and never return. Reading your blog brought back all those memories, good and bad. Crashing our DPS against Gruul, trying to topple Naxxramas, guild officers acting like little tyrants (but not in a cool and effective way, like Blain :D). What a fantastic ride, and a great, great blog. Thanks for sharing your story with everyone. I wish the very best for you, your family, and all the members of Descendents of Draenor (the nice ones, anyway).

For the Alliance :P

-Wrenne

Anonymous said...

Such a fantastic read,thank you for sharing your accounts with the world. I had started my WoW career during TBC and really got into it during WotLK. As real life friends quit the game and my 1st guild fell apart, I joined one with randoms from a pug. It was a good home for a while and I made friends across multiple game platforms. Eventually, the stressors of being a casual guild having to pug players to raid with killed the game for me. Repair bills skyrocketed, the need for faction rep skyrocketed, and so did my real world responsibilities. So after a small hiatus, I eventually stopped playing for good soon after Ulduar was released. At this point I'm sure you've heard of how nostalgic this blog had been for everyone who has read it, and I am no different in that feeling. So much in fact, that I had my account recovered and have just started playing the game again. It has been fun leveling up my old toons in the zones from cata, Mop, and WoD that I missed out on over the years. Looking for a brand new start to progression style game play once Legion hits. Thanks very much for lighting that fire again!

Grizzlymac (NEWLY LVL 100!)
Zul'jin US

Unknown said...

Honest feels, reflecting what many of us have lived and breathed over the years.

Well said sir, would have been a pleasure to raid along side you and your guild.

Arnoldlane-Anetheron (US) said...

Hanzo,
Started a couple days ago, just finished. Amazing. I started at work, and even though I'm currently reading my favorite book series (Susan Delgado is about to meet her fiery demise), I could not put this down.

I started in BC and started raiding with TOC. I have experienced both the guild environments you touch on. In wrath, I was in a faceless organization that cared nothing for people (though our progression was decent, all but LK himself down heroic 25) and left for CATA to join a guild like yours (awesome people with a guild leader that your story has reminded me of). I would like to say, thank you, on behalf of those of us that reaped the benefits of the dedication of people like you. On behalf of the readers that have found a trip down memory lane from your eloquent writings. Thank you so much.

1. Publish this
2. Put up a paypal link so we can appreciate you monetarily


Arnoldlane - Resilient - Anetheron (US)

I find myself more tempted to play than I have been since MOP....I blame you:)

Dominatus said...

10/10 For the sheer amount of effort you have put into not only this, but leading/raising your guild over so many years.
I followed a link here from Kotaku a few weeks ago and in between tasks at work have been steadily consuming this post by post.
Vanilla through to Cata raider myself - though admittedly I didnt get serious about it until BC - Your play by plays of the fights, the drama, the good times, and the horrible blizzard decisions really resonated with me.
Thank you for sharing your experiences, Ive just renewed my wow sub and prepurchased Legion since reading this, keen to get that guild life experience back again. Currently levelling a lock on Frostmourne to be ready for the next chapter in wows life.
All the best Hanzo and to all of the DoD players.

Anonymous said...

What a tale! I'm one of those filthy casuals that's been lurking around since Burning Crusade (played a smidge in Vanilla) and honestly appreciates the availability of content now. Still, I've known hardcore raiders (my wife was one for years!) and lurked in their guilds on and off in the past so I recognize a ton of the content and player archetypes you were writing about. Even with both perspectives, it's impossible to not appreciate the sheer scope of the story laid out in this blog. Thank you for sharing with all of us!

Shawn Holmes said...

All,

The response to the blog this past month has been truly overwhelming. I can barely keep up with all of the feedback. Rest assured, I'm reading through all responses, and whenever a question comes up, I'll definitely respond. Will try to address the myriad questions that crop up in order received (and yes, am reading new comments on individual posts as well).

So!...

1. Re: Playing WoW with a wife and two kids: Not easy! But doable (with discipline). I set limits on my play, come WotLK (after I gained confidence in delegating tasks to officers), and worked to give more of myself to the family on a constant basis. It comes down to being proactive: If it was my turn to do the dishes, I took care them well before raid time, so there'd be no fighting/interruptions. Owning your share of responsibilities then makes it easier to negotiate "me time", which a healthy marriage needs, anyway.

2. Re: Coming back for MoP+: Yes, as you discovered by seeing Mature is 100, I did come back for both MoP and WoD...and I never played either to the great extend that I did throughout the course of this blog's story. I'll always be around...in some diminished capacity.

Remember: Nobody ever quits WoW, there's just a period of time when you're not logged in. :)

Criz said...

It has taken me a few weeks...maybe almost a month to read through all of this. As a wow player who started in vanilla with no idea of raiding to eventually finding guilds who barely could do MC to a guild who took me through MC (remembering seeing the perdition's blade drop off my first kill of Rags and getting it) and BWL and a little bit of Naxx and AQ40 then did hard core raiding through TBC and WoTLK I loved reading about your journey through it all. It has brought me a bit of nostalgic for when I had the most fun with my guild and the challenges that came with raiding. It was especially hard for me with my time difference and am forever grateful of my guild's understanding of me sometimes being an hour late because of it.

I've always looked back at my time of WoW fondly and sometimes forget about all the drama that also went on through the years. I am reminded sometimes of it while reading through your blog and messaging old guildies who i also made read this.

Thank you for writing this all down and giving me a wonderful trip through what you went through during your years. You are a tremendous writer and i was constantly wanting to read what was going to happen next. Reading this right before Legion comes out makes me excited to jump back in and see all the new changes (for 2 months lol).

Unknown said...

I've spent the last month or 2 at work in between projects reading every single post made. Bravo!!! I have played this game since the final months of Vanilla. Played every day up until MOP was released and then cut back because of a real life job change. I wish I was able to keep a record of accounts that happened to me and the guild I was in throughout the years. It is not easy to run a guild especially one of your size and for so long. As a reader I really appreciate you wanting to share your story. Brought back a lot of nostalgia and memories of my own from my years of playing. Thank you again Shawn and if you do decide to continue the story I will be waiting in anticipation.

Michael Tomlin said...

Hanzo,

Thank you for writing this.

Anonymous said...

Mate, thank you for writing this. Its been an absolute nostalgia trip for me, and every chance I've had over the past few weeks I've been right here reading every word! Amazing!

Adrian Foekens said...

*Swipes left trying to go to the next blog entry*

This cannot be, why isn't it working!!!?? If i keep trying there will eventually be a new entry right? right?

Hello? Anyone?

So this is what it must feel like.....


Thanks shawn. This was truely incredible. A story better than most bestselling novels. Somethingi won't forget for a long time.

-Moose.

DougB said...

After months of on-and-off reading, I finally come to the end, and will add my own thanks and praise to the pile. What a great read, I really enjoyed the mix of game and real life, and truly felt the journey.

I relate to many of your early games, Ultima III was probably my starting point. As I progressed through adulthood and "real life", gaming took a back seat. For the past many years (okay, decades), I've found myself still playing games, but only at a very casual level, never really immersing or enjoying for more than a few weeks. Your blog inspired me to look at games again, and now with my personal life affording me more time, I find myself enjoying games at a deeper level again. Truly, truly enjoying them, and I have this blog to thank for prompting my new (old) approach to games.

I've gotten a lot out of your career journey as well, seeing a lot of parallels to my own (tech evolving to manager). I appreciate the fresh perspective I got from following your story.

Thanks again, really well written.

-DB

DougB said...

Oh yeah, and I meant to say, your wife is pretty awesome - you are one lucky man.

Art said...

Hello Shawn,

Just finished reading your entire story (over the last three weeks) and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write all of this. It's a good read and it brought back a lot of great memories. I was an officer and guild leader in EverQuest (1999 - 2004) and World of Warcraft (2004 - 2012) so I can relate. Really.
So : thank you.

Now I have a question, if you have the time, someday : why is this hosted on a French website (blogspot.fr) ? For some reason, I always thought it would be explained at some point in the story. But no luck.

If you care for some comments & criticism, here's what I liked and disliked :
- the writing is good, and honest. This honesty is what makes the story compelling because it feels true. Also showing the implications of gaming on life and life on gaming is interesting because it hasn't been done that much before.
- the level of detail is impressive.
- I also liked that you take the time to explain what you're talking about so even people who never played wow can still enjoy the story. I took the liberty of quoting parts of your writing to non-gamers to explain a few things, and it worked.
- I didn't care much for the heavy Horde bias, however. Having leveled multiple characters to max level on both factions I can tell you that they're pretty much equal (lore, story, players, griefing, etc). So reading about you ganking "night elf monstrosities", how Alliance had it all, and all those hyperbola was a bit embarrassing. Sad because it cheapens the story for non-biased readers.
- Another detail, I was really surprised by how much you despise what you call "Loot Council", going so far as to say to someone that it "sickens you". That seems very extreme and weird to me. We used that system for more than a decade, over two different games (well not that different, since WOW took pretty much everything from EQ) and it worked great. In fact, considering the trouble that your DKP system gave you and all the special rules you had to create to support it, I'm surprised you didn't try something else. It struck me as pretty unreasonable, yet you seem to be a reasonable person overall.

With that said, congratulations on your accomplishments in WOW and on writing this story, and thanks again for the many hours of entertainment.

- Art

Shawn Holmes said...

@Art,

Glad you enjoyed it, and gratz on making it through! Here are the answers to your questions/concerns:

Re: being hosted on a French site - Actually, I've posted everything through the main blogger.com domain eightyearsinazeroth.blogspot.com. However, Blogger load-balances its content across the world, and has caches of the content in various locales to make it easier/faster for the content to load internationally. More than likely, someone in Europe caught wind of the blog, Googled it, was taken to the french host (.fr), and then that link was shared with friends or on boards...eventually making its way to you. I expect that if you're here in North America, switching back to .com will serve you the quickest.

Re: the heavy Horde bias - Having read through, I'm sure you get that I'm an emotional person. It was another way to convey to the reader how easily I get caught up in my emotions over seemingly unimportant things (depending on your pov). That I would get so bent out of shape over things like the Draenei being retconned or players not understanding Thrall's role as protagonist (true story!) in WoW should help to convey to you how riled I became over *more important issues*. And this is necessary in telling the story that I did, as it was about me constantly making decisions while struggling to keep personal bias and subjectivity out of the way (not easy, I might add).

Remember: Medivh gave the Alliance a half-dozen opportunities to save Azeroth, and they just swept him aside, time and again. He only had to approach Thrall once (see: Warcraft III). My mind was made up on the Alliance long before World of Warcraft ever arrived, and no amount of Draenei fan art will make up for that!

Re: Loot Council - if you had great successes with loot council over an extended period of time (years) I'd love to hear more about it. There are very few records of successful loot council out there, they all end in tragedy/misery/corruption. Please, do share what your secrets were on ensuring it was successful. I'm particularly curious on how you dealt with dissent when a particular loot distribution didn't go too well.

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Art said...

Thanks for taking the time to reply !
Regarding the Horde vs. Alliance thing, now that you put it that way, I actually think you were right. It does make sense. It really conveys the "emotional person" side of your personality. So basically I retract my comment because now I see that you did it on purpose and you had valid reasons.

About Loot Council : yes, as I said earlier, we did have success with that system for over a decade.
For context : 1999 - 2004 on Everquest so five years, and then 2004 - 2012 on WOW so another eight years. Progression wise, we managed to get a lot of server firsts on EQ, on WOW we were in the top five guilds for our server most of the time. We raided for roughly three hours, three to four nights a week, on average (with a fifth night added in when a new raid was available and only two nights or even one when we were waiting for new content).
To us Loot Council (we called it "direct attribution") was the obvious way of doing things, and while we discussed DKP regularly, we never adopted it because it felt too rigid. We took loot really seriously though, and recorded everything. We had at least one officer fully devoted to it at all times. Everyone (in the guild) had access to the full history. We made clear from the start to any new members that loot would be distributed with guild progression in mind. Our criteria were the following :
- contribution to the raid (skill, playing an important role...)
- contribution to the guild (longevity as a member, farming...)
- contribution to the forums (discussing strategies, reading important stuff...)
- contribution to the social environment (being nice to everyone including people outside the guild, helping guildies outside raids...)
That's mostly it. Obviously we also considered the number of upgrades already given to a player on any specific tier.
How it worked is that when we killed a boss / internet dragon / whatever, each officer would collect tells on one specific drop. Players were allowed to be more specific than just saying "I'm up for X". They could specify if the item was a BIS, if it was only a minor upgrade or sidegrade, if they wanted it for the look, for an alt, or whatever, if they thought somebody else should get it because X, etc. Then we would discuss it on the officer chat, and announce a winner. At the end of the raid, everything was posted on the forums and any concerns were addressed openly and with as much transparency as possible.
Over all of that time, I can recall only two incidents. One was during our early Everquest era. At the time, we didn't allow people to say anything other than "I'm up". So a mistake was made, an item was given to someone who certainly deserved it but it wasn't much of an upgrade, over someone else. Angry words were exchanged but not much else. We discussed it the next day, apologized and changed the rules.

(continued)

Art said...

(continued)

The other incident was during Firelands. For us too, it was the end (well, we managed to kill Deathwing as a guild, but that's it, the slow death of the 25s and an expansion with pandas killed us). It was a rough time, interest in 25 man raids was very low (but we wanted to keep doing 25. Hell, for me 25 is already way too low, I actually have fond memories of raids with 80 players in Everquest !) so we had to lower our recruitment standards. Something you're familiar with, I know. So when Firelands hit, we had to recruit players that wouldn't have made the cut otherwise. Some were young, too young probably. So one night on heroic Alysrazor, we got a strength ring. We gave it to a DPS warrior who totally deserved it. The guy was nice, reliable, got ranks on world of logs regularly, and it was a good upgrade (as I'm typing this, I'm actually scared by the level of detail I still remember from that night from four years ago). Anyway, his best friend was also in the guild, and was playing a DK. The guy wanted to DPS but had been tanking for a while because we had lost a good tank recently. In the DK's mind, he deserved that DPS ring more, because not only was he good, reliable, etc, but also because he was making a sacrifice by playing the tank role. Which is true, but if we had given him the ring, it probably wouldn't have benefited the guild since he was mostly tanking. As you can see, the decision is pretty hard to make in this case. So we gave it to the warrior, and the next day the DK decided to quit the game. I tried talking to him, but wasn't able to change his mind. I think more than that ring, he was angry at having to tank. Forcing specs they don't enjoy on people sometimes misfires, as you learned as well. But at the time, it was becoming more and more difficult to find people for that role.
Reflecting on those incidents, and having read your story, I consider myself really lucky, because they were very infrequent and never led to an exodus. The biggest number of people we lost at once was two, and most of the time that's because they were a couple retiring at the same time. We also had a drama once and two new guys left, but that's because they thought we weren't progressing fast enough for them "skilled players" and were too protective of the "carries".
I think that's it, if you have any more questions I'll be happy to answer them. If you prefer I can also contact you via email to pursue this further (I would be interested!).
Thanks again.

- Art.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Art,

"Direct Attribution" sounds *very* similar to Suicide Kings, which is definitely a more formal way of distributing loot and tracking item allocation historically -- I liken it to one step removed from DKP. It does involve a list, it does track players over time, and does clarify to both players and officership "who's next for the big upgrade." You've iced the cake by making your guilds' expectations clear on how you rank contributors, but ultimately, the sorting of that list is derived from each player's most recent upgrade, right? (ie. You would not assign a huge upgrade to a player twice in a row, if I read you correctly).

If so, you have my permission to not refer to it as Loot Council, which is truly a less formal, less transparent oligarchy. The defining factor really is that tracking of the list of players who have upgraded: in true Loot Council, no such list exists (beyond the minds of the players that frequent the raids) and errs on the side of informal. Yours strikes me as quite formal, quite transparent, and quite fair!

...all attributes that a raw loot council system lacks.

Art said...

Alright, let's not call it Loot Council then. The thing is, when we started playing EverQuest together, the DKP system wasn't even invented yet. Then we started raiding (and killing Lord Nagafen and Lady Vox, the first two internet dragons, DKP is named after them!), it seemed obvious to us to continue discussing loot like we had done while we were leveling.
Then we heard about the systems used by other guilds, about "dragon kill points" and "loot council". Since we were definitely not doing DKP, and since I always played with the same group of people, never experiencing another system first hand, I always assumed we were doing what other people called Loot Council, but I realize now that this is not exactly true.
Anyway, I think we're pretty much beating dead horses by now, because if I understand the way loot works now in WOW correctly, basically the games decides who gets what and that's it.
Thanks again for taking the time to reply, and for writing this blog !

- Art.

Steven Long said...

It's taken me awhile, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog, Shawn, and I deeply appreciate your taking the time to write it.

I myself was a pretty hardcore WoW addict for a good five years (though I had the intelligence and common sense to join the Alliance ;) ). Some friends who played a lot of computer games convinced me to try it to play with them. As a professional game designer myself (tabletop RPGs, though, not computer games), I decided it would be a good idea to see what this "new hotness" was all about. (Plus, since it was a business-related expense, I could write all the costs off on my taxes. ;) ) Something about WoW "clicked" with me and I was soon playing more than any of my friends.

I was fortunate to start playing in Vanilla, and to be taught to play the game by friends who were long-time gamers who schooled me in proper ways to play: essential skills like moving out of the fire, knowing my class's capabilities, and just generally focusing my attention on the game and its goings-on. (Years later, I was proud that the one nice thing the hard-core raiders I played with could say about my gaming skills was, "his sheep will never break." ;) ) I ran in a few raids near the end of Vanilla to fill gaps in friends' rosters, but was no "raider" in any sense of the word.

Eager to see more, I eventually transitioned out of my first, highly casual, guild into one that could conduct raids. I had a lot of fun with that, and again learned a lot and improved. Eventually when that guild foundered, I was one of just a few members picked up by another, much larger and more serious, raiding guild.

I was never a front-line raider for that guild. Partly this was due to my working schedule, but largely because, frankly, I wasn't good enough. I'm an older gamer (mid-40s at the time), and having not grown up playing video games from an early age I just didn't have the experience and reflexes to keep up with the better players. (Though I was a part of my guild's first kill of Magtheridon, I remember that proudly.) So I waited patiently for the Saturday-night alt runs, where I had a lot of fun and ended up seeing pretty much all the raid content in TBC and WotLK, and beating nearly all of it.

But after Cataclysm hit, the increasing difficulty that made it hard to keep groups together, coupled with the emphasis on "electronic chores" (dailies) and most of my real life friends quitting, eventually tired me out. I left and have never looked back, for the Azeroth I knew and loved is essentially long gone. And I can't say I dislike having so much time back to work on other things. ;)

But this is all a long-winded way of saying that reading your blog has been a wonderful nostalgia trip for me, reminding me of many of the things I loved so much about the game (and a few I disliked). While I don't agree with your every opinion and thought about WoW, I so frequently found myself nodding my head, thinking "this guy gets it," that I really, really wish I'd had a chance to experience the DoD phenomenon myself.

That would even have been worth playing Horde. ;)