Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Miri’s Thoughts on Flexible Raiding

June 7, 2013 2 comments


It’s been a while since I’ve done a post on an upcoming feature in WoW and my thoughts on it, but based on the discussions I had with guildmates last night and the flurry of activity on Twitter, now seems like as good  of a time as ever to jump  back in to blogging. I can spout of excuses as to why there haven’t been many updates, but pretty much the best thing I can say is that the experiences that have kept me from blogging lately are going to result in blog posts in the future. I’ve been lax on communicating Paladin news and even more lax on my general opinion pieces. That changes now!

The Flexible Raiding Announcement

Last night I was sitting in Mumble bumbling my way through a heroic scenario on my Warlock with guildmates (who knew that clothies don’t have the armor that a Paladin does?!) when suddenly a message flashed up on my screen from guild chat from another member who basically said “One of the 5.4 features is going to be flexible raiding!” Instantly intrigued, and probably almost as instantly killed (man, I HATE that boat scenario. HATE IT), I alt-tabbed to Twitter to see Tweets scrolling by faster than I could read; all discussing this new flexible raiding feature. We rolled through the heroic (haha, there were 2 monks in the group, get it? Roll? Hahaha…never mind) and I immediately pulled up the entire announcement on Blizzard‘s website.

Here’s what it said:

Raids in World of Warcraft have a long history of not just challenging players, but changing and evolving as the years and expansions go by. As with everything in the game, we’re always thinking about what more we can bring to raiding to improve the experience for an even wider range of players. While Normal and Heroic Raids are a great fit for many, we feel there’s another gap worth filling—and to that end, we’re currently working on the development of a new type of Raid for the next major content update: Flexible Raiding.

One Size Does Not Fit All
While it’s impossible to fit every player into a neat, tidy archetype, we recognize that we could be providing a better experience to one broad category of raider: social groups comprised predominantly of friends and family, and smaller guilds that do their best to include as many members in their Raid outings possible.

During the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, the 10-player Normal difficulty served these groups of players pretty well, but the unification of 10-player and 25-player into a single difficulty effectively eliminated that niche. While Raid Finder mode is extremely accessible, it doesn’t provide smaller groups with a tight-knit social experience while progressing through the content. In Patch 5.4, we’re planning to introduce a new mode of raiding that allows us to deliver the sort of experience that we think these players are looking for.

To fill this void, we’re in the process of developing a new Flexible Raid system, which includes a new difficulty that sits between Raid Finder and Normal difficulty, while still allowing friends, family, or pick-up groups to play together. This difficulty will be available for premade groups of 10–25 players, including any number in between. That means whether you have 11, 14, or 23 friends available for a Raid, they’ll all be able to participate.

The Flexible Raid system is designed so that the challenge level will scale depending on how many players you have in the Raid. So if you switch between 14 players one week and 22 the next, the difficulty will adjust automatically. Keep in mind that unlike Raid Finder, no matchmaking is available, so you’ll need to make sure you invite people to attend—but if some can’t make it, it’s not the end of the world (or the Raid). You’ll also still be able to invite Real ID or friends cross-realm. Who you choose to bring and what Item Level gear they’ll need to join your merry band is up to you, too—there’s no Item Level requirement for this Raid difficulty.

Dressed to Kill
A new Raid difficulty also means a new Item Level. Flexible mode will award loot with an Item Level that falls between Raid Finder and Normal quality, and will use the Raid Finder’s “per person” loot system, specialization choices, and bonus rolls, so you won’t need to worry about bringing the “wrong” person and having them win that piece of gear you’ve long been waiting for.

You Have the Keys
We plan to unlock the Flexible Raid difficulty in wings, similar to Raid Finder, but on an accelerated timetable. This new difficulty also has a separate Raid lockout from Raid Finder and Normal difficulty, allowing you to take part in all three if you so desire. You’ll also be able to complete portions of your “Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider” raid meta- achievement in Flexible mode as well as in Normal or Heroic to earn cosmetic rewards such as an epic mount. This will allow Raid groups the opportunity to switch off nights between raids to complete achievements. Finally, taking part in Flexible, Normal, or Heroic difficulty will provide access to additional rewards that won’t be available in Raid Finder.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks
As with any in-development feature, we’re continuing to refine how the Flexible Raid system will work, and we look forward to hearing your constructive feedback from your experiences on the Public Test Realm when the new system goes live.

I read the entire post to the 2 guildmates in Mumble and we vacillated between excitement and dread. And let me explain why…

Flexible Raid Excitement

The concept of having an adjustable slider to scale a raid dependent on the number of members is a great step forward in WoW’s future. I’d love to be able to bring my raid team every night to down bosses as a team and not put anyone on standby. The ability to group up with RealID friends who are off-realm for current content is also a great step forward and will benefit many of my WoW friends. Not to mention being able to say “hey everyone, let’s get together and bash some bosses as a group!” This appeals to me because of how we do LFR in my guild. We do an open invite for all the members and raiders, plus we extend invites to friends off realm and even go as far as opening it up to our realm for a weekly standing invite. LFR for Enigma is a big, crazy, sometimes drunken, fun night. We go in to parts 3 and 4 and explain fights, steamroll bosses, and laugh and tease each other in Mumble. We listen to the fun competition between our guildmates and friends in another guild. We wait for the poorly timed Time Warps because our Mage’s trinkets procc’ed and he goes “I NEED ALL THE MAD DEEPS.” It’s fun! But being able to do that specifically with friends? Even more fun.

Flexible Raid Dread

Flexible raid dread will probably be more likely to apply to players who play at the level of intensity that I do. Right now, there’s no real need for me to be running LFR, aside from a chance at the non-existent Runes I need to finish out the current stage of the Legendary. I need no loot from LFR, but I religiously do parts 3 and 4 because until last week, my guild hadn’t gotten that far in our content clearing, so I needed to make sure I was getting Runes from somewhere. But let’s assume I was trying to Valor cap (because I do this for gear upgrading), or I was still looking for Off Spec gear, so I’m running all 4 parts of LFR. And because it’s LFR and I usually only sign into WoW around 9p and log by midnight, I’m going to get through 2 LFR segments a night. Well there’s 2 nights in LFR. I also raid lead my 10-man team through Throne of Thunder right now, 2 days a week. So there’s 4 nights already in  the same content. Flexible raiding has a chance to give better loot than LFR, so why wouldn’t I jump at the possibility to get items better than what drops in LFR? Even with friends, I don’t think it’s going to be possible to clear all of the flex raid bosses in one night, so let’s slot 2 nights for the flex raid content. That puts me back up to raiding the same content 6 nights a week. The last time I raided 6 nights a week AND managed a guild was in BC, and I had significant burn-out. But this is even worse! In BC I was only raiding 25-man progression content 4 nights a week and then we had 2 nights devoted to Karazhan and Zul’Aman. Now I’m looking at 6 nights? There is not enough alcohol in the world to make that realization go down smoothly.

One of the positive sides to LFR is that it gives your group what you need. If you need tanks, you get them. Same for healers or DPS. But for a flex raid, you have to handle the group comp yourself. This isn’t a huge deal, but some weeks we only bring 1 healer to LFR. One healer isn’t going to cut it in a flex raid. You still need to bring 2 tanks and 2-3 healers, at a minimum. So what happens if I can’t scrounge up healers? I guess I can pug it, but then I might as well do LFR.

Then there’s the gearing concept. Some of my fellow raiders go to the extremes to make sure they have the best possible gear they can get their hands on. That means running LFR for upgrades, that means raiding. LFR is my fallback for pieces I don’t get in normal raids. Flexible raiding would be another fallback that I’d work into my rotation. It’s not that I love the content so much I want to run it every  night (and sometimes I run it on multiple alts) on my main just for a chance that one of the 3 raid settings available to me could get me upgrades. So I should take advantage of them. It would be foolish of me to NOT.

Oh yea, and then there’s the alt Army. Right now I have 3 characters who can run ToT LFR. My main, a DPS alt, and a healing alt. My second tank and second healer are just a few points shy of ToT. I like keeping my alts somewhat current if I enjoy playing them. And I love my warlock, and my shaman, and my priest, and my DK…I want to be able to keep playing them, as well as my other alts I’m still leveling. I had 12 characters at level 80 when Wrath ended, so it’s not like I’m leveling characters from 1-90. They don’t have a TON of leveling to do, but I still want to level them. And that’s time that I have to pull away from gearing my main character. My brain won’t let me NOT try to make my main the best that I can be for my raid team. It just doesn’t work that way for me.

My fellow guildmates are wrestling with some of the same concerns. When we sign on to play, we hammer through  the content so we have time to do other things. We are excellent time managers. But 6 nights a week devoted to 1 raid? Right now we have some challenges getting people to come to raid and LFR. As a raid leader, I now have to figure out how to make all the pieces come together. Do I tell everyone that LFR is off the calendar and if you want to run it, you’re on your own? I can put flex raid dates up on the guild calendar without issue, but what happens if I don’t get enough healers for the run? I guess then I’m off to RealID, once again, not a huge issue. But then we’re trying to jive schedules and time zones and other people’s raid calendars. WILL THEY BLEND?!? It basically becomes a scheduling nightmare…

What I’d Love to See…

When I heard the name “Flexible Raiding,” I honestly thought we were going to see a melding of 10 and 25-man raiding. There wasn’t going to be a 10-man or a 25-man raiding option, it was going to be flexible and it was going to scale with what you brought. If you brought 15 people, you could still raid. If you only had 23, well, still raiding! I didn’t want it to be yet another lockout to make sure I took advantage of.

Blizzard made a comment that it will help small friends and family guilds raid. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it will. Setting the starting point at 10 seems too high to me. Lowering it to 8 makes more sense, because usually one of the limitations to for a small guild is finding those last couple people so they can start raiding. Someone on WoW Insider even mentioned scaling a raid size to 40, in case people wanted to feel the epicness of a large scale raid. I’m all for this!

I don’t need more lockouts to juggle. Give me LFR and give me a scaling raid size that I can take advantage of for my raid team. So I can help out friends if they need it, and even form up for large scale raid fun with friends, if we so chose. But please Blizzard, another raid lockout to juggle, another ilvl to calculate, another raid schedule to manage. Give me the flexibility to play on a varying scale, but allow me to have the time to enjoy the other aspects of the game you’ve made available. Please don’t make me clear content for a third time so I can stay competitive for myself and my team.


Random Quick Update

February 29, 2012 1 comment

Damn my Capris...

I’m still alive, just tossing that out there. Stuff has been a bit crazy IRL, in guild, and everywhere in between. Things I still owe you guys:

  • Updated Transmog ideas
  • Spine & Madness strats (damn these fights are boring)
  • H. Morchok and H. Ultrax quickie guides
  • More posts where my cotank makes fun of me
  • Miri on Guilds: Culture
  • Then & Now meme
  • Update on my Heroic 10s team

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I can think of. I’ve been writing a ton, but it hasn’t been blog related, so, sorry guys =\ Work has had me bashing people’s heads into walls and well…raids have been sorta having the same results. Something more like me bashing bosses into walls. And Heroic Ultrax sneaking in a 204K hit that I apparently couldn’t miss last night and went splat to because of an ill-timed Twilight Instability.

Anyway, usual excuses post. Lots of work travel for the remainder of the week but hopefully I’ll find a moment of clarity this weekend to post.

Enjoy the header, this was me on Ultrax last night, bitching about fashion woes, like all good Belfs do!

Also: cute Lofaz and Raz pic (I got “holy crap you REALLY are short” tonight when I shared it).

My Cotank DID transmog that awful looking belt...

Miri’s Thoughts on Guilds – Recruitment

February 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Like my previous post, Miri’s Thoughts on Guilds, this will be another running stream of consciousness about guild management, leadership, and development. None of this is ground-breaking (at least I hope it’s not), but what I think is “normal” has proven to be abstract to someone else. So, enjoy! ~Miri

Recruitment is a hot topic right now if you check on the forums. Like the end of every expansion, players are hitting burn out and stepping away, using the time between the final content patch (Blizzard has already announced that Dragon Soul is the last raid) and Mists of Pandaria to recharge. It’s a stressful time for guilds when they have to deal with a fluctuation of membership, especially so late in the game; during which they hope they can locate quality members to add to their teams. But how do you make your guild stand out above the rest for potential applicants?

Miri on Guild Recruitment

Recruitment isn’t easy. It can be a long (and arduous) process, truly dependent on how your Recruitment Officer handles things. There could be lengthy applications, interviews over a voice chat, possibly even cross realm grouping to see how well the player performs. It could take 24 hours, it could take 2 weeks. Either way, it needs to be a clearly explained process for any potential applicant. In the past I noted that a guild officer would respond within 48 hours to an application and that we would state then if we wanted to proceed further with the application process or if we chose to thank them for their interest but state our reason(s) for not continuing with them.

It’s not just hard on a guild looking for new players, it’s also hard on the applicants. Depending on the guild, you may have to defend your spec, your gemming, your enchanting, your reforging. You may have to explain your professions and your willingness (or lack thereof) to change them. You may have to explain boss fights and your role in them.

For many people, something has pushed them to change things. Maybe they want to progress faster than they currently are, maybe they want to see what a raid is like. Maybe there’s a personality clash or a time zone difference. But no matter what, you have to leave a comfort zone and venture into the great beyond.

I was recruited into my Wrath guild from a Trade channel conversation. When I look back on the entire chain of events, it was rather amusing. I was leveling fishing in Orgrimmar and was being sassy in Trade. It caught the eye of one of the guild’s officers and we struck up a conversation in whispers. It was a great talk and he told me they were looking for a healer and asked if I’d be interested in applying and checking out the guild via some heroics. I agreed and spent all of T7 with them. My guilds for T8 and T10 were me joining up with real life friends for short periods of time before I settled back on my “home” realm and had relaxed fun in PuGs.

Cataclysm saw me join a friend from Twitter towards the end of T11. I remained with them through almost all of T12, only moving on due to time zones killing my sleep patterns. I moved on to another guild that fit my time zone requirements perfectly, and joined a group of people that I knew via Twitter and real life.

Each time I made a move, I had to learn new personalities, I had to get to know new people. I had to learn who was the guild gossip, the guild drunk, the guild freak. Some people are afraid of interacting with strangers and it keeps them in a situation they are unhappy with, or it keeps them from joining a guild at all. Sometimes they they think they’ve found a good place, but later discover it’s not as they get to know the guild’s members.

One of the things I like is on our “About” page for my current guild: not only does it talk about some of the guild’s past achievements, but it speaks to some of the guild personalities. I kept a running “Introduce Yourself” thread on my guild forums where people could post a picture (if they so chose–and surprisingly, I think everyone did!) and talk about their hobbies outside of WoW. Making a thread like that public (viewable only, no posting) to non-members gives them a chance to discover if it’s a guild full of hash smokers or alcoholics or if it’s players who are just enjoying the game and all it’s offerings.

The ability to do cross realm grouping with RealID and the future implementation of BattleTags will make engaging with potential applicants even easier. Not only can you now group with an applicant cross-realm (thus saving them the transfer fee and discovering they hate you, your guild, or your realm), invite them into voice chat, and allow them to truly experience some of the guild in their natural element. Recruitment no longer needs to be a “blind” process in which you hope you got lucky and that the good experiences will outweigh the bad.

It sounds corny, but a guild is a home to me. And I’d prefer to stay there as long as I possibly can.

Why Guilds Recruit

I previously wrote that a guild is like a business, and that a successful guild will operate as such. Every business needs employees to operate. They may be your managers, they may stock the shelves or greet the customers. The employees each fulfill a specific role for the team.

A guild may recruit for their rated BGs team, or their raid group, or maybe just social members. Some guilds prefer to remain small and their recruitment list shows that. A guild may only recruit for their PvE or PvP related aspects. Other guilds may like to have a large roster and will look for people who are interested in socializing in addition to the PvE and PvP play styles. It is truly dependent on the whims of the GM and the guild’s officers to shape the direction that the guild goes.

In the Burning Crusade, a player would join a guild because it was a means of getting into raids, getting regular groups for heroics, and to avoid some of the crafting fees. This is in addition to being able to play with people who you (hopefully) enjoyed playing with. In Wrath, players joined guilds for many of the same reasons, but as the expansion progressed, guilds became less necessary as the content became more and more pugged. In fact, I pugged both of my Lich King kills via Trade because my tiny little guild didn’t have enough geared players to do our own raids.

Cataclysm saw a re-emergence of guild growth, but probably for the wrong reasons. It was even commented about last night while I was running heroics with a player from another guild on realm. Players join guilds now for their perks. I mean, who doesn’t want to run back faster from a wipe? Or have reduced repair fees? The ability to mass rez your group in a Heroic, or summon a friend to you for questing? Being a level 25 guild early on in Cataclysm had huge perks–some guilds were even taking any player who wanted to leech perks as long as they were helping the guild push to level  25.  Some guilds stuck to their guns and the guild leveled via the guild roster–and whenever they hit 25, they were good with it.

In some ways, a level 25 guild is a perk that can be used to draw players in via various recruitment methods, in others, it’s a crutch that inhibits guild growth.

Using Perks to Drive Recruitment

In between trash pack pulls in Well of Eternity, I learned a bit about the player we had pulled in to help us cap the weekly guild heroics.

Our healer commented that he had never seen her guild tag before and she stated that they were a new guild with a small roster. We asked what the guild’s goals were and she informed us that at some point, they hoped to raid. She continued the discussion by sharing that it was really hard to recruit to fill out their roster–simply because of their guild level.

The leveling of guilds, while a great concept to unlock perks, makes it hard for any group who reforms (or forms) to get traction in the server community. People don’t want to have to re-level a guild. People want to join and have the guild be level 25 already. I cringe at thinking about ever losing my level 25 perks. It makes leveling a crafter (or a gatherer) even more painful. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I prefer the quality of life benefits that a level 25 guild offers.

There was one night, months ago, that I sat in voice chat with friends and we were discussing recruitment. And a question was posed that has stuck with me since that night. It had such an impact on me that it was the basis for this post.

What perks do we have to offer to a potential recruit?

It is a simple, yet honest, question. Guilds sometimes lock themselves into the mindset of “well, I recruited you and gave you a slot on my Rated BGs/Raid/Arena team. That’s all you need.” But people who are looking for guilds are looking for more than that. They may or may not admit it, but they want to know what guilds can offer them besides a slot on a team.

Here’s where we go back to the discussion of a guild being a business. When I was getting ready to graduate from college, I began job hunting in earnest. I knew the mindset that I wanted my employer to have (work hard, play hard), but I didn’t want to find a job where there weren’t “perks.” Perks in the business world could be a lot of things: 401(k), health care, dental, and even child care. It could be a large amount of vacation time, it could be a Starbucks in your building lobby. It could be a company car or “Beer and Cookies Fridays.” Business perks can be all the things listed in the benefits package, but they can also be things that define the culture of the company you work for.

My previous employer had a great cafeteria that I could grab breakfast from in the mornings. There was a 1st class gym in our basement that I could use free of charge. We could have our laundry picked up and delivered to one of our campuses. We could have our oil changed and cars detailed while we worked. Once a month our VPs hosted a party on the front lawn with beer, wine, and a ton of food and music.

Those “perks” were in addition to a great health care plan, vacation packages, and the ability to have a flexible work schedule. The perks were great and even though I’ve moved on, I’ve had nice things to say about my previous place of employment.

Let’s be honest, the perks and the culture (that’s another post for another time) of the guild are what will attract players. As I looked at the Guild Recruitment forums earlier this week, I saw some great examples of guilds listing their “benefits” to try and woo players into applying to their ranks.

Some things I saw:

  • “Core” raid slots – this is usually a big deal for raiders who don’t want to have to have a raid team rotation
  • Guild Repairs
  • Flasks for raids
  • Feasts/Food
  • Gemming (gems and cuts)
  • Enchanting (mats)

Core raid slots, flasks and feasts are usually more raid specific than anything. If you were a PvPer looking for a guild, having repairs or the guild providing the gems and enchants you need for your newest piece of Conquest gear is a pretty nice deal. The list above was compiled from raiding guilds recruiting and it addresses basically anything a raider could need! The only thing that a player would be expected to do with these perks is 1/ know how to play their class and 2/ research the boss fights. The farming, the AH fees, the general “cost” of raiding has been absorbed by the guild, leaving the potential recruit the ability to spend their personal gold as they see fit.

Using Activities to Drive Recruitment

Activities show that the guild is active in other avenues and is a great way to engage players outside of the typical raid (or PvP) setting.

If your guild is primarily PvE based yet members have shown an interest in trying out PvP, schedule a fun PvP night weekly for players to get together and learn how to play each BG in a low stress environment. If your roster boasts some strong PvPers, see if they are willing to coordinate the teams and be a teacher–when you fight in mid, what the objectives are of the battle, etc. It’s supposed to be fun and a good team-building exercise, so the coordinators shouldn’t be prone to fits if a loss happens or something goes wrong. PvP is also great for raid teams to learn to work with limited communication while working with a team of 1-2 people while holding an objective.

Another idea could be an alt night. It could be for any level of alts, but members could help with dungeon boosting or crafting (I’m sure if I had a big and brawny level 85 out killing mobs for me to skin, I’d never fear leveling Leatherworking again!). Each week the “host” changes, so they can get time to get assistance with their alt(s).

I’ve seen groups who do “old school” raid nights. Whether it be for Transmog runs or achievements, assembling a team of willing guildies to go and run old content can be fun for everyone. It could be vanilla raids, or even TK for a chance at the Ashes of Al’ar. It could even be more current content, like T11 or T12 where people want to finish up achievements.

I often see people looking for a player to group up with for “2s for points.” What if you could keep that within your guild? Some players don’t care what their Arena ranking is, but they would like to be able to pick up new PvP gear. Maybe there’s a set night each week that people who want to try and cap their Conquest can sign on and teams are divvied up to get their points.

An interesting thing I saw done in Wrath was “physical” guild meetings in game. My guild meetings in BC were done over Ventrilo, but a social guild that I joined picked a spot each month to meet in the WoW universe. The “meeting” was conducted in both a raid group and in Vent, and throughout the discussion there were door prizes. The prizes were donated by officers and the “leads” of the various groups that made up the guild. A bit of backstory here: there was a small RP aspect to the guild and members were “assigned” to one of four houses, a la Harry Potter. Each “house” had a leader who a player could go to with their problems or questions. The leader may or may not be an officer, but it was someone who was aware of guild policy and was respected by the members. The night that I was “announced” to my house, my leader told me to pick one “wish” I would like granted by the guild. It could be an epic BoE crafted or purchased, it could be help leveling a profession or even my character! The prizes were 22-slot bags (pretty pricey in Wrath!), rare pets, and even 1K gold! It was a fun way to engage new (and old) members in the guild!

These are things that can be driven at the officer level, or can be handed off to other members of the guild who are interested in playing an active role that benefits many. They can be advertised on the guild website, put on the guild calendar, and should definitely be included in a recruitment post! Let people know that your guild does more than raid or PvP! Let them know that there are reasons to sign on outside of a raid or a rated BG. By having events to keep the guild active, more players on your server will see your guild tag actively, see more people on when they do a /who, and may be interested in joining your fun!

In Conclusion…

An active guild is usually a happy guild. The more people who are on at any given time means that more people are seeing your guild tag on realm. An active guild website/forums shows an applicant that there is stuff regularly happening within the guild. Activities mean that there’s a reason to get involved. Perks show that the officers are interested in supporting and retaining their member base.

Our first impressions usually come from looking–a concise yet interesting recruitment post, a polished and organized website containing application forms relevant to the content and an explanation of guild policies.

Let applicants get into voice chat and into runs with members they would regularly be interacting with. Allow those moments to be unfiltered so that an applicant and get to truly experience the people that they are going to be PvPing or raiding with. Let them truly get to know the guild and it’s regular players so they can determine if they are making the right choice–and so your guild can decide as well.

Keep your guild recruitment activities up-to-date for your members–they may know of people who can fill slots that you have open! Keep them involved in the recruitment process! One of the best changes I ever made was dropping the officer control on my guild recruitment in BC. The officers and I agreed that we shouldn’t be the only ones making the calls about applicants, though our decision was the final one. We allowed our members to review applications, pose questions and feedback (examples of “Oh, you were the person that trade blew up because you ninja’d a ton of stuff from your guild bank and sold it on the AH” was a legitimate response) about the player. Officers are unable to be all-seeing, no matter how many times we tried to be–so utilize your membership to help fill you in!

Hopefully some of these observations will help guilds grow and enable people looking for new guilds to ask questions that may have never sprung to mind in their application process! Best of luck to everyone recruiting for the end of Cataclysm and the launch of Mists!

Miri’s Thoughts on Guilds

January 27, 2012 3 comments

It was a simple enough question, posed on Twitter Thursday morning while I made my morning commute. Rewt, of HearthCast, asked “What does being a Guild Leader mean to you?” I told Rewt that I could write a novel on the topic, and thus this blog post was born. Once again, this post will be a running steam of my consciousness that I hope to be able to tie into a tidy package when I’m done.

While I am not a GM currently, I have worn the hat in previous years. I ran a fairly successful raiding guild in my BC days and incorporated much of my business background into how I ran my guild. So let’s start there.

Miri’s Past as a GM

As I’ve mentioned, I was the GM of a raiding guild in BC. I set up a medium sized officer core (There were 7 in guild leadership, yes, I just had to pause and count): 1 GM, 2 Raid Leaders, and 4 Officers who each wore a different hat. 2 were in charge of recruitment. 1 was responsible for strat planning and illustrating positioning for fights, and 1 was responsible for dealing with guild drama. The raid leaders were responsible for setting the raid team each week and I, the GM, was responsible for our loot system (EPGP), forums access, guild website updating, and paying the bills each month. My expectation was that my officers would represent the guild well and that we would meet weekly as an officer team to review issues, applicants, the roster, and any other topics of discussion.

The guild as a whole was responsible for reviewing applicants, commenting on their performance by reviewing their logs (I totally forget what WoL’s precursor was at this point), and helping supply the raid team.

We were raiding before guild banks even existed (gbanks went in with 2.3.0), but I remember the patch where guild banks were added into the game. And I hesitated at first, wondering how people would feel about a central repository for supplies. Would they feel like it was taking away from their own collections of mats, or would they embrace it completely and load it with stuff? And who would fund the creation of the bank and it’s tabs?

Amazingly, I didn’t have to worry about it. People threw gold at me to buy tabs. Which was incredible. Gold was hard to come by for raiders. We could  do a couple dailies (there was a low cap at this time), but people were trying to afford flying (and epic flying!), and pay repair bills and everything else. Gold wasn’t easy to come by back then, especially when there was no dual spec!

Within weeks we had 6 tabs and I was amazed! So then I had to wonder how we were going to keep them stocked…

And I sat with the officers and pondered it in one of our weekly meetings. How could we put the guild bank to good use? And the response was what was expected: “to supply the raid team!” And then I asked, “how do we do that?” And the response was as you could expect: “Enchanting mats (this was pre-scroll days)! Gems! Food! Herbs! Flasks!”

My next question was simple as well: “What could we do to make people want to gather supplies and possibly even give up their personal stocks to benefit the team?”

That night we devised an addition to our weekly EPGP calculations. Every item donated to the bank was assigned a value. Even money. We agreed on a set amount of EP that could be earned by guild bank donations and published it on the guild website under our guild FAQ.

But how did we get our social members to participate? They didn’t need to earn EP if they weren’t raiding. We agreed that anyone who donated would have the ability to be the recipient of items in the bank. BoEs, patterns that the raid team didn’t need, crafting supplies, etc. But they couldn’t receive if they didn’t donate.

All guild bank withdrawal requests were published to a special forum. Each requester had to make a case for the item. Flasks for raid that night. Primals for crafting resist gear. Whatever it may be, it was published for all to see with an approval or a reason for rejection published by the officers. And since we didn’t want to wait for our weekly meeting to get supplies to our team, a “majority” vote between 3 random officers could be performed at any time and the supplies granted.

All major guild decisions were socialized to the guild. I was very big on driving open lines of communication with my members. We held a guild “State of the Union” every month. Every member of the guild was invited into Ventrilo and we discussed our successes and our failures over the past month. We asked for membership feedback on what our strengths were and where we could improve.

One of the things outsiders thought was odd was how we handled our raiding decisions when Patch 2.4.0 hit (dropped all the attunement requirements for the raids). While all the raid team was attuned to the content we were progressing in, we hadn’ t downed Kael yet. We could create an artificial wall and not let ourselves move into Tier 6 content until we downed him, or we could begin to progress in the Tier 6 content while still working on downing Kael. Instead of the Raid Leaders or the officers making the call, we put our progression decision into the hands of the raid team. The final vote was surprising. The team was willing to make a push into Tier 6, but their priority was Kael dying. And then they became even more specific in that they were willing to step into Mount Hyjal. But Black Temple would have to wait until Tempest Keep was completely cleared. The decision surprised the officer team, but it was a majority decision. That night, after the meeting, we stepped into Mount Hyjal.

We never saw Black Temple as a guild. Kael was eventually our  guild killer, but we had progressed to 3/5 in Hyjal when we shut our doors. To this day I wonder if we should have broken our rule of skipping BT, but honestly? I’m glad we stuck to our decision. It was a raider decision, and we respected that until our dying breath as a casual progression guild.

A Guild is a Business

Think about it. Not from a money-making perspective, but a good guild will operate like a business. Let me explain.

Totally using the Apple store as an example for this–no, I am not an Apple employee and know nothing about their business practices, but having sold electronics, alcohol, firearms, and a good amount of other stuff in my life, it’s a fair basis for this discussion. –Miri

A store will have a Store Manager who oversees all the business that is performed there. They may be in charge of the raises, the bonuses, and they report back to a chain of command that in this case really doesn’t matter. They are probably largely responsible for the appearance of their store and make sure that signage is current, the product on display is in good working order, and that the employees are a good representation of their customer base.

That store manager probably has shift managers; people who are responsible for overseeing how the team operates and performs when the store manager is off or unavailable. They may handle assignments and tasking of the other employees, provide evaluations to the store manager, and be around to address any customer or team concerns.

You’ve got the Genius Bar employees. These employees are going to be much more skilled than the other floor workers as they have a particular focus. They spend time after work doing training, possibly responding to issues on a forum or traveling to train other teams. These employees are a small subset of all the employees in the store; a customer must book an appointment to get time with them.

Then you’ve got the regular store employees. These are the people who greet you at the door, ask if you have questions when you look at a product, ring up your purchases, refresh stock, and thank you for stopping by.

So why do I use Apple for this example? I’m not going to lie–my  best shopping experiences have been in an Apple store. They work as a team, represent their product well, and are efficient and effective in service and support. From a business perspective, they do it all right.

You know you’re walking by an Apple storefront because it’s uncluttered and welcoming. The products are sitting right out for anyone to touch. They supply the basics of information with each product in unobtrusive packaging. And if you have a question? Someone is quick to address your needs and concerns.

Pause and think about it.

Your Guild is a Business

That store manager? That’s your GM. They hold the power of guild repairs, promotions to officer status, the keys to the guild bank, and in all reality, the success of the guild rests on the shoulders of the Guild Master. If a GM doesn’t give their guild members (or a store manager their employees) the tools to succeed, then a guild will not succeed.

The shift managers are your officers. Your officers may wear different hats or may be aligned to specific causes. Some officers may be responsible for recruiting. Some may be the Raid Leaders, some may be tasked with the technical needs of the guild. But like the GM, the officers are responsible for making sure that the guild is a healthy place for growth and development of it’s members (just like a manager needs to help an employee grow professionally).

The Genius Bar? That’s probably your raid team. These are players who play a very specific role for the guild. They are your tanks, your healers, your DPS. They probably spend a lot of time outside of the game researching their classes, looking to improve themselves. They are reviewing data from previous raids, looking for weak points, studying boss fights, strategizing with fellow teammates. They probably devote more time outside of game to the game than they do in the game (or at least I hope they do. We’ve already established that I have a much higher level of expectation set for my raid teams than others do, but we won’t venture down that rabbit hole right now).

And the general employees? That’s probably your social core. They are the non-raiders, the friends and family. They may be trying to work their way up to the Genius Bar level, or maybe they are just content with signing on and playing for a couple hours. Maybe they have high aspirations. Maybe they don’t. But at their level, it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t, because there’s not a lot of responsibility foisted on this role.

And your storefront? That’s your guild webpage, that’s your guild tag in game. Most guilds have a web front that potential applicants can be directed to. It may host forums, a tally of boss kills, miscellaneous information about the guild, the application process, anything your mind can think of. A website that isn’t current or a forum that’s pretty inactive can lead an applicant to wonder if the guild is really as active as they claim to be.

Why You Should Run Your Guild Like a Business

A guild is only as strong as it’s officer team is. A weak (or largely inactive) leadership team will create a lot of tension in a guild environment. Ineffectual leadership will also have a toll on the member base. Guild leadership must prove that they can wear the hat(s) that they need to in order to help the guild succeed.

It sounds crazy, but think back to past employers, or even your current job. If you have a weak manager, you’re probably frustrated. They probably aren’t championing you for a promotion or a pay increase. You may feel that they are doing nothing for you but just enough for themselves to get a moment in the spotlight. Maybe you won that big deal or delivered ahead of schedule to a very demanding client. Was your success acknowledged? Did you benefit from the effort you put forth?

If you answered no, you’re probably unhappy in your current job. If you could transpose words about raiding (gonna be honest, singling out raiding here because being a non-raider in a guild is pretty much a foreign concept to me) into that sentence, you could possibly make it relate to your guild or your progression (YMMV).

So how do you supply benefits to your raid team to make them keep showing up week after week and wiping as the team learns content? Well, Blizzard created guild repairs, funding that comes from the guild bank. The basis of guild perks also allows for additional gold to be skimmed off bosses and even mobs killed while questing (aka, basically free money)! Guildies can also help add additional funds by helping cap the guild’s weekly heroics requirement.

Repairs can be funded by the guild. Feasts can be cooked and dropped before a boss fight (fish either purchased or gathered by the raid team members or even by others who want to help the raid team out). Cauldrons can be dropped for flasks (and once again the mats can be gathered or purchased). Some guilds go so far as to pay for gemming or enchanting supplies as well.

As odd as it may sound, those sort of things being supplied to a raid team are a lot like “spot awards” or bonuses to employees. They get some benefit for their efforts.

A funny side story. A few years ago, my employer decided to remove all the soda machines from our break rooms. We had full access to every Coke and Pepsi product on the planet, and kept nice and cool in chillers. We had bottles of water, we had fruit juices, we had everything. And it was all free. It was a perk that made people not mind working 10-15 hour days–they could wander right down the hall and grab a drink before heading back to their desk. They never had to leave the building. And then they vanished. And honestly? It was the beginning of the morale dip that has had a major impact on our output and in my mind, our quality. Some can sit there and scoff and say “it’s a fucking soda, Miri” and they would  be right. But it was a part of the culture. It was something that made you feel like you were a valued employee. It wasn’t a bonus, it wasn’t extra cash you had to pay taxes on, but it was a small thing that made you feel wanted. Food for thought…

If your raiders are supplying a large majority of their supplies, then assist them with tips for crafting fees, access to the bank for repairs, etc. It may seem like a tiny and meaningless gesture, but it’s probably appreciated and shows that you value the contribution that they make to the guild or the raid team.

Side note, a guild that I have an alt in turns on guild repairs for even the lowest ranks. I will admit that I was amazed when I went to repair on a lowbie and could use the guild funds for that! It wasn’t a large amount (probably no more than 3g a day), but the gesture was incredible.

In Conclusion…

Being a guild leader isn’t easy work. Well, it can be. It truly depends on the team that supports you. A good guild leader is easily accessible, whether it be in game, or on the forums, or some chat program (people are big on Skype and AIM and even texting nowadays–we didn’t do that stuff when I was a GM!), your members can always drop you a note. It’s about being able to make the hard decisions, and knowing which decisions you need to propose for vote. It’s about making sure your guild management reflects what the guild is about and that it represents players from all avenues. It’s not for the faint of heart!

A good business has a passionate leader and management team. A good guild will be built on the same premise.

And like a good business, a good guild will continue to grow and expand.