This week's editorial is going to be a little different than my normal rant about an ongoing World of Warcraft issue or problem, I want to talk about the growing pains a guild goes through when it attempts to become a raiding guild. I’m not talking about a conversion to a serious hard core raiding guild, where raiding is all they do, but a conversion to a guild that has a team of raiders working on 25 man content.
Many times, this conversion breaks up guilds. In fact, it’s known that very infrequently can a casual guild become a casual raiding guild. In the past it was almost impossible, however with first the 20 man raids (pre Burning Crusade) and now the 10 man raids, it has become far more realistic. The new smaller raid size allows guilds to start with casual small scale raids before progressing on to the more difficult content. It also allows players to try raiding, with a much easier entry point, to see if it is for them.
The Alliance guild I am in is currently going through this conversion, and has been struggling with it for some time. Discussing the issues we have had the other day with some of the other officers, it made me realize that we can not be alone. Many other guilds have gone through the same growing pains. They have learned what works and what doesn’t through repeated trial and error. It hit me at that point that this column would be an ideal place to discuss those issues. By discussing them it may help other guilds going through it, may help my guild by any feedback, and help any other guild that starts moving towards becoming a raiding guild.
The Alliance guild I am in is huge. By huge, I mean that we are constantly trimming players to stay underneath the 500 member soft cap (over 500 members and the guild list does not always display all members correctly; they could be online and not listed as being in the guild if over the cap). The guild has existed on the server for a long time and has a very good reputation as a friendly, helpful, casual guild. This view is helped immensely by having one of the nicest guild leaders I have ever know. She (yes, women play WoW) is essentially the guild mom and constantly helps everyone out and makes sure everyone plays nice together.
While being big and friendly has its advantages; it also has its own set of downfalls. One big advantage is that there are always players on. ALWAYS. At some times I have seen 100+ players online. There are always people helping each other out as well. This works out amazingly well for almost all the content in WoW.
The one downside though is that because players are always getting help they come to expect it. When we started raiding Karazhan (KZ) , many players just expected to get into a group and run KZ. After several months of struggling with the first few bosses, we decided we had to have set teams to work together. We setup several KZ teams, 1 initially and then up to 4 at one point. Our normal raid nights are Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm central. This is to allow players to participate and have fun, but still allow them to have lives outside of WoW.
Once we started running KZ on a regular basis, we could start to see who was there and participating and who was just there. We started to try to help some of the players that were interested in raiding but did not have the gear to be there, to gear up to come.
By the time we had 2 groups running KZ on farm status though we started to run into issues.
It’s hard to describe everything in detail and stay under 20+ pages of text, so I will keep it as short as possible.
The biggest issue with any large friendly guild is to filter the players that actually get into a raid. It may come across as harsh, but as any raider knows many players want the gear from a raid, but many just do not have what it takes. This could be through no fault of their own; such as limited time to raid. It could also have to do with things like a lack of skill, drive, gear, etc.
The time issue is the easy one to deal with. If they do not have time, they just can’t raid. It’s harsh, but realistic.
The second issues, becomes a very serious issue in a casual or friendly guild. How do you keep everyone happy, even if you have to tell someone that they are just not good enough, or geared enough to take up a spot in a raid. It’s not an easy or pleasant thing to do, and something that causes very hard feelings.
Once you get past the filtering of players and actually come up with a list of players that can successfully run KZ to gear up for 25 man raids, you run into the next issue. This is the issue that we are currently stuck at. How do you keep enough players at the KZ level to get into Gruul, SSC, or beyond if you are just a few players short of the 25 that you need? We keep running into this.
It takes time to identify players that are able and capable of raiding, getting them into a KZ group, and getting them geared up. We usually run 2-3 new players each week with each of the 2 KZ groups that we have running. We then constantly get to the point of having 30+ players that are geared (so we can get 25 online on the Tuesday and Thursday that we raid) and get 1 week in trying new content, and then have players leave to bigger guilds that have the content on farm status.
What makes it worse is that generally it is the players that we have all helped learn to raid, get geared and progress. Once they learn how it all works, they turn around on us and state that things are not going fast enough, and then leave the guild to go to a pure raiding guild. When this happens they have traditionally pulled the rest of their KZ raid group with them. This is especially frustrating as we are ready as a core and always fall just 5-10 players short, right after helping enough players reach the threshold to move on.
In the past two months we have lost probably 30 Gruul/SSC quality raiders to pure raiding guilds. It is almost as if we have become a raid player production guild. We get everyone KZ and Zul’Aman geared and then they move on.
We have tried many things to try and address these issues and move ahead. Some worked brilliantly, some not so great. Some of the things we tried have been:
Defined Groups and Times – Having defined groups, works well to get groups up and running. When you are struggling through learning new content, it is imperative to have a set group so that you can pick up where you left off the week before and not have to relearn everything. It also allows players to get to know one another and form friendships, which is what the game should be all about.
Flexible Groups – Once you have content on farm status, we found it is a great opportunity to gear additional players. For example once we had the first half of KZ on farm and the main group had all the gear they needed, we started to pull in other alternate players. This allowed other players to gain experience and loot (that would otherwise be DE’ed) that would help move them along and hopefully create another raid player. Once KZ was on full farm status we started brining in 2-3 new players a week into a group for the same reason.
Class Leaders – One thing we found critical was defined class leaders that could help players progress. Many players coming from a casual play experience to 70, just had no idea how some of the stats worked in raiding. “What is a hit cap?” and “What kinds of buff food and elixirs are best?” and “What spec works best for this?” are all common questions.
Raid Leaders – Having defined raid leaders for each group helps keep things clear for players. This can be any player in the raid that is responsible for the raid. In one of our groups it is the main tank, in another is it a healer and in a third it was a rogue. While it gives everyone involved in a raid a clear point of contact they need to be selected carefully. We have had 3 raid leaders leave the guild over the last few months and when they do, they pull most of the remaining group with them.
Clear Loot System and Rules – While complicated systems do exist for loot distribution, there really is no need for them. You can get away with very simple loot rules as long as everyone is aware of them and they are clear to everyone. A very simple and common one is that the Main Tank and Main Healer get priority on need items, while everyone else rolls random for anything that would be an upgrade for their main spec. Another common method is officer decision to who would benefit the most. Whichever method you use, be very sure it is clear and open, as nothing upsets players more than feeling jilted out of loot.
Set your Standards and Stick to Them – One thing we found immensely useful when starting out on any new content is to have class officers set standards for each class or sub-type. This gave players easy to see and measure goals. For example to start healing in Karazhan as a Paladin we expected players to have at least +1,200 healing, 8,000 mana, and +20% spell crit. All of these are very easily reachable with pre-KZ loot and ensured that they were ready. Another example was we expected DPS players to be able to do at least 400dps average in a heroic instance run.
Break your Standards Once in a While – Once you have something on farm status, there is no need to be strict on standards. If you have someone that is just short of the mark, that is interested in raiding, take them once. Let them know up front that they are not quite ready, but that you have a spot for this week. They get to come in, see what it’s all about, and hopefully get the itch to go back and finish gearing up. Also once you have enough gear to farm something, there is no reason you shouldn’t take a few players that need the gear that your group would now be DE’ing.
Messiah's Take on It
As you can probably tell, we have gone through a lot in the guild trying to advance through content and making the change to a raiding guild. While we (the officers) want to progress, we also want to remain semi-casual and defiantly friendly. The core of the guild is 15-20 very dedicated players that have become close friends. All of them used to be hard core 40 man raiders before the Burning Crusade came out, so know what raiding is all about. They also know that they do not want to dedicate 5-7 nights a week to raiding any more. As we have moved through content we have all gotten the itch to go further, without giving up that fun factor. The issue has been getting more players that feel the same way.
While we like having serious raid nights where we push for advancement or time runs, we also enjoy goofing around. We have done screw ball things like declaring an all alt run day, just to see how far we can get (we still did a KZ full clear). We have done non stop chain pulls through areas just to see how many MOBs a pally tank can hold at one time. We have done constant misdirects to a mage to see how fast we could kill him off. We have paid off healers to not heal players to rack up death counts. And much more, all in the name of fun.
In the end I think it really comes down to asking:
- Is it possible to have a guild that does 25 man content on a regular basis and remain in it for the fun and challenge of it?
- Is any guild that tries to raid casually destined to end horrifically?
- Can you do it where you realize players have lives outside of WoW so only raid 2 nights a week?
- Are we missing something very basic that would allow us to continue on?
Many of the things we tried have worked very well, and as such I hope that this article helps other guilds in the same situation as ours, by providing some suggestions on how we have been dealing with it. I would also appreciate feedback from other guilds that have gone through this conversion, on what worked (or didn’t) for them. This is a very common issue among guilds as they progress, and it would be very useful to have a “best practices” type discussion for players and guild masters.
The Messiah has had his say, what’s yours? I want to hear your comments and explanations.
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