Permanently Grounded

Forgive me, dear readers, it has been three months since my last blog post. I don’t even necessarily want to talk about what I’m going to talk about here, but, well, I couldn’t help myself.

The Announcement

This week, Ion Hazzikostas, the lead designer of World of Warcraft, had an interview with Polygon, in which he stated “that outdoor gameplay in World of Warcraft is ultimately better without flying. We’re not going to be reintroducing the ability to fly in Draenor, and that’s kind of where we’re at going forward.”

Let me be clear, readers — I kind of didn’t mind the concept of not flying until the “first major patch for Warlords of Draenor”, which was how this was announced to players before the game even launched. One might assume that flight would have been reintroduced in 6.1. When that didn’t show up, I personally thought “oh, hey, I guess they’re waiting for the next tier when we get into Tanaan Jungle. That’s fine.”

Apparently, this won’t be the case.

Some Thinking & Some History

So, I’m not pleased. But I took some time to try to figure out why I’m not pleased. How does the prospect of continuing on just as I have really affect me? Does it affect me?

Having started in Vanilla, where you not only didn’t have flight, but you didn’t even get a ground mount (and a slow one at that!) until level 40, I wasn’t used to flight when I started playing the game. The world was vast. Immense. Boats, flight points, all of these helped out a great deal, but to this day, it’s still a pain to go from, say, Un’Goro Crater up to Winterspring. The old world is freaking huge.

The new continents in each expansion… well, they’re not that big. They’re landmasses that don’t really come close to the size of each old continent in Azeroth. Which, you know, that’s fine. It’s an expansion. You’re not going to spend the rest of your WoW career in Outlands or Northrend or Pandaria, right? The old world is going to see a lot more action, particularly since we revisited it in Cataclysm, than the other continents and areas, which are much more transient in nature.

They introduced flying in Burning Crusade, but what a lot of people either don’t know (because they weren’t there) or don’t remember (because it’s been a long while!), is that flying was still incredibly rare! Epic flying was stupidly expensive (5000g) and regular flight was, well, I think it was around 600 gold. Gold, in those days, was really difficult to get. The people in my guild basically pooled their money to help people get epic flying. I think there were six or seven people in this group with my brother, all of whom would kick in some cash to help someone get their flying, and that person would then pay people back over a (long) period of time.

So it wasn’t always easy for someone to get flying, much less epic flying. I spent a great deal of time on an alt on Proudmoore, post-raids, chatting with my RL Friend the Resto Druid who was raiding on Pacific hours. I’d be doing circles on a ground mount in Nagrand, mining adamantium and fel iron and using my engineering thingy to get motes of air. This was perfectly reasonable and fine. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having flight on that character. This, despite the fact that there were several areas in Burning Crusade that required flight — various dungeon instance entrances (and this was before dungeon queues!), various farming spots… Back then, you couldn’t get to Elemental Plateau without flying (or being awesome friends with a warlock and some others who could fly!).

When Wrath of the Lich King launched, I grumbled a bit about not being able to fly, particularly after that Wintergarde Keep quest where you DO get to fly to save the various people from undead things, but when I hit 80, I threw my 1000 gold at the trainer and I COULD FLY AND IT WAS AMAZING. I didn’t even have the super-fast flying on Kurn then, it was only 280%. (I would later get 310% flying when I completed What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been in late 2009.) Various raid instances were either impossible or very difficult to get to without flight if you didn’t want to rely on a summon. Naxxramas and Ulduar come to mind.

Flight in Cataclysm was, and let’s be fair, totally expected. If they were going to blow up our old Azeroth, flying just made sense. (Ultimately, I would probably trade flight to not have lost Auberdine and Southshore, though…) But think about things like where the raid entrances were! Nefarian’s balcony up at Blackrock Mountain, the top of a spire in Twilight Highlands, the instance entrance for Throne of the Four Winds… I mean, we were clearly meant to be flying in Cataclysm content, the same way we were meant to fly in parts of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. What was different here is that, for the first time, we were permitted to start flying at the start of the expansion.

In Mists of Pandaria, I did the same as I usually done — levelled up, threw gold at the training and luxuriated in the glory of flight and its freedom. I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that I couldn’t fly until 90.

Throughout all of these expansions, there were places where flight wasn’t allowed.

In Burning Crusade, there was the Isle of Quel’Danas, plus the entire old world, even the new zones for draenei and blood elves.

In Wrath of the Lich King, there was Wintergrasp. I recall frequently clipping the edge of the zone and getting dismounting and cratering. Oh yeah, plus the old world.

In Cataclysm, there was Tol Barad, plus the draenei and blood elf zones and… that was about it, because you were in the old world and you could fly from the start.

Then in Mists of Pandaria, you had… well, the Timeless Isle and those old draenei and blood elf zones. You could fly pretty much everywhere else.

In Warlords of Draenor, you just can’t fly. Period. And now we have confirmation that we will not be able to do so.

So I find myself thinking about how this affects me. Does it affect me? Can I go back to just being on the ground? I mean, I played for over a year on the ground in Vanilla, plus lots of time in Burning Crusade, the levelling-up time in Wrath and Pandaria, plus my time in non-flight zones (Timeless Isle, most recently), as well as these first few months of Warlords of Draenor.

Managing My Own Expectations

I can, of course. I have done so for the last several months. And what the last several months has mostly meant is logging in, doing Garrison stuff and occasionally flying out to Nagrand (via flight point, obviously) to trap 21ish clefthoof bulls.

Will having the ability to fly change my in-game priorities?

No.

Does it actually change the quality of my in-game life to not have flying?

No, because I haven’t had flight since Pandaria anyhow.

So why am I displeased?

I’m displeased because it was heavily implied that we’d have it at some point, but while re-reading the phrase from Bashiok, it’s clear to me that they never planned to bring it back. Read it for yourselves:

We intend to disallow flying while leveling from 90 to 100, and have flying become available again in the first major patch for Warlords of Draenor.

 

Reading that initially, I read “We will disallow flying while leveling from 90-100″ and then “but flying will be available again in the first major patch”.

They covered their asses well. Look at that. We intend. Just because they intend something doesn’t mean it will happen. Personally, I saw that and assumed because the first part was true, it would follow that the second part was true.

My fault for assuming, I guess. But I think a lot of other people made the same assumption.

The Loss of Trust

As such, a lot of people are talking about trust for Blizzard right now. Frankly, I don’t have any trust for them any longer. They lost me in Firelands. Up until then, no matter what nonsense they threw at us, I was pretty much okay with them, believing that there were things I didn’t know, believing that there were things I didn’t understand, other kinds of factors that led to their various decisions. I supported them, believing that they knew what was best, believing that they were doing good things for the game and for the community.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when, despite the introduction of LFR, content nerfs continued through Dragon Soul. And, as a result, I left WoW for about 13 months. (And then resubbed a few months after that, but I have not raided in any kind of serious fashion since then.)

Flying isn’t the end-all and be-all for me. It’s that we were led to believe flying would come back this expansion. It doesn’t affect my daily WoW life that I can’t fly, but I don’t take kindly to being led to believe something will occur that won’t. (Hey, where is the dance studio, anyhow?!)

There’s also the fact that some mounts are really meant to fly. My Violet Proto Drake is not meant to waddle on the ground.

Nor are my drakes from Dragon Soul (I have both the meta and the one from Heroic Madness), my bird from the Firelands meta or my Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher.

It’s not as though I don’t have some nice ground mounts — I have Baron Rivendare’s mount, which is awesome. I have my paladin’s charger, also awesome. But using these huge flying drakes on the ground is pretty dumb-looking. I like using some of these fancy mounts. But not to see them waddle on the ground. To see things I worked really hard for get relegated to use in the old world… it’s disappointing. Someone on Twitter is even talking about false advertising in terms of buying mounts from the shop. (I don’t know that I’d go that far, but, to be fair, I’ve never bought a mount from the shop.)

Speaking of posts by people on Twitter, don’t miss Ross‘s post at Feckless Leader: “Yep, We’re Still Talking About Flying“, in which he talks about how maybe this is the beginning of the replacement of flight, not just the flat-out removal of flight. (I wish I had his hope and trust.)

And, of course, if you don’t regularly read Alternative Chat, shame on you. Go read her post about flying.

But What About THE GAMEPLAY?!?!

Hazzikostas talked about how it’s silly for people to fly to their mob, land on the hut, kill the mob and fly off again.

Okay, that’s fair. So stop having such simplistic quests. Add in “kill X number of mobs” to the quest. Or put the mob in a cave. Or underwater. Or something.

Frankly, I will say this — the terrain of Draenor sucks. It’s all hills and canyons and how in the actual fuck are you supposed to get up THAT hill and how do you get out of THAT canyon and seriously? This would be a lot less frustrating if I could fly!

Half the reason I don’t go out into Draenor is that I don’t really have a reason to do so, but when I do go out there, venturing out from my Garrison, I end up frustrated as all get out because there’s no obvious way to get to point B from my point A. The maps are not remotely detailed enough to take height into consideration. I see my objective on the minimap and, in the world, it’s like three stories over my head, dangling off a cliff. How do I get up on that cliff? The challenge should be in getting the objective, not in navigating the inhospitable terrain to get to the cliff, the way I see it. If the terrain weren’t crazy, I wouldn’t mind being without flight, really, when I’m out in the world.

But it is crazy. The ground is never just flat. This is not Vanilla. And I’m glad it’s not Vanilla. I remember walking into Hellfire Peninsula and being like “HOLY CRAP, THE GROUND IS SLANTED” when Burning Crusade launched. And I like that. I just don’t like being forced to travel around and over and up and down for the sake of absolutely nothing. There is no reason to make the terrain as treacherous as it is in some parts except to slow us down and annoy us.

That’s when I miss flight. It doesn’t make the gameplay any more enjoyable for me. It makes me feel as though I’m a rat in a maze. And that? That does not endear me to the designers of the game.

Want to hear more about this and other subjects? Don’t forget to tune in to the Kurncast — a (mostly) weekly podcast, (mostly) focused on World of Warcraft. Tune in today, on iTunes or Stitcher!

Friends and Comrades

My goodness, things get awfully dusty around here, don’t they? My apologies.

I was walking home from the store today, on a cold, snowy, wintery day here in Montreal, and I decided I wanted to dust off the blog and write something. Many leadership topics swim through my head on a regular basis, so, as I trudged home in the snow, I decided to talk about friends and comrades in a raiding team.

Your Friends, Your Core Team

As long-time readers already know, what happened to start up Apotheosis of Eldre’Thalas originally is that our previous guild, Fated Heroes, split up, scattering many of us to different guilds (or not — many of us, myself included, remained unguilded for quite some time). Eventually, those of us who had stayed in touch decided that we wanted to raid together. In those days, raiding together usually meant being in a guild together.

And so Apotheosis was born on June 1, 2007.

When we first cleared Karazhan, including Nightbane, as a guild, we took a celebratory screenshot.

Apotheosis fully clears Karazhan. (June 11, 2007)

Apotheosis fully clears Karazhan. (June 11, 2007)

In that screenshot, you have me (as Madrana), Cryptkikr, Karsomaric, Slovotsky (aka my brother Fog), Bregalad (aka Kaiu), Shadowcry, Findric, Tharivol, Huntertoga and Palantir.

All of us, except for Findric, had been in Fated Heroes, even if only for a brief time. Karsomaric was a real-life friend of Majik’s brother, Sephden, who had been in our previous guild for a short while towards the end.. Findric and Palantir had bonded during the levelling phase of Burning Crusade.

We were basically a group of friends in that group of ten. Sure, I wasn’t best friends with Tharivol, but we had history (oh my God, it was a disastrous Dire Maul North run that we bonded over). There were many more friendships throughout the entire guild. But, of course, you couldn’t run 25-man content with 17-18 people.

Recruitment & Growing the Roster

We needed people. We needed another tank. We needed more healers. We had a bunch of DPSers who were healing instead of DPSing and had to keep recruiting so that we could switch those DPSers back to DPSing. (Thank you to the dwarves — Hulkdwarf and Tankdwarf — for all those weeks of healing instead of smashing things in the face with an axe.)

Among the people we recruited, we welcomed our first shaman, Jitte (who was resto), a new tank, Baur, a hunter, Immortalis, two DPS warriors, Netsuge and Venality, and a mage, Pewpewmagoo. All of them helped us with our first kill of High King Maulgar, on September 2nd, 2007.

Apotheosis downs High King Maulgar. (September 2, 2007)

Apotheosis downs High King Maulgar. (September 2, 2007)

But except for Netsuge, who knew Kaiu, there were no bonds between these new people and the older core. What was to stop them from just taking off? Nothing. And so, when you look at a kill shot from nine months later, many of the names aren’t the same.

Apotheosis kills Lady Vashj, clearing Serpentshrine Cavern. (June 2, 2008)

Apotheosis kills Lady Vashj, clearing Serpentshrine Cavern. (June 2, 2008)

Gone were Jitte, Baur, Venality, Immortalis and Pewpewmagoo. Gone even was my brother, Fog and Majik’s college roommate, Palantir. In their stead, we have Aaza, Criza, Opus and Mightypoo (all of whom came over to us at once), plus Antidentite and Furormalic, Brodix, Dayden, Duper, Eviildeedz, Kazir, Massimo, Shadowmyth, Warthon, Scrixi, Euphie, Legolia and Quelyne.

But again, there were very few ties holding these people together.

No Social Ties Means Less Loyalty

Churn, which is something I think about a lot in my current job, can be defined in World of Warcraft terms, perhaps, as an individual who applies to the guild, gets accepted, passes their probation or trial and then, eventually leaves the guild. (I wouldn’t apply the term “churn” to people who stay in the game but quit raiding or who quit playing altogether — that’s something else entirely.)

Recruitment sucks so much that it’s much easier to hold on to your players than to go out and replace them.

But how do you do it?

You have to involve them. You have to integrate them. You have to make an effort to be social with them.

It doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend, but you have to make an effort (as does the rest of your guild) to make new people feel welcome and feel at home. The more they connect with people within your guild, the more they’ll feel as though they’re a part of the team, which will lead to them staying through difficult times to help support the team.

If you don’t have that connection, they’ll eventually leave, whether it’s because they’re tired of your guild dynamics or because they think there’s something better out there.

Friends and Comrades

I didn’t spend a ton of time with my guildies in my time as guild master of Apotheosis, at least in the second incarnation of it. I think that my lack of desire to incentivize people to spend time together (and my lack of desire to spend time with people in general!) contributed to the churn we experienced. Our progression wasn’t quite so advanced that it alone was enough to draw in new players, so replacing each and every person who left was extremely difficult.

All of this to say, have your friends in-guild with you, sure, but remember not to be exclusionary. You must be welcoming to your new members or you risk losing them whenever they find it convenient. You must make efforts to keep them involved, or risk losing them.

This is where the distinction comes in between friends and comrades. Your comrades are your fellow raiders (or PVPers, RPers, whatever team you have going), with whom you do spend a substantial amount of time. It’s important to think of them as something other than “oh, they’re just a guildie I don’t spend a lot of time with outside of our guild events”. These are people upon whom you rely, who rely upon you, without whom you might not be able to accomplish all that you do.

They deserve your respect. They deserve some social interaction outside of your events.

Without those things, it’s just a matter of time before they move on.

Having said that, you’re not required to be their best friend. Or even their friend. But remember that they’re something more than “another guildie”. They’re a teammate. A cog in the machine. Think of them as something more than the warm body they may represent or risk losing their presence in your events.

Don’t miss The Kurncast

Every Monday (or so), I put out a new episode of The Kurncast. I recently had Majik on the show for Episode 37, so check it out.

7 Things a Raid Leader Needs to Succeed

A raid leader’s job is terribly important when you look at World of Warcraft. The raid leader is, at least symbolically, the reason your raid team succeeds or fails.

Thus, the success of your raid team relies on the success of your raid leader. Probably.

Gathered from my own experiences, here, then, are seven things that most (all?) raid leaders need.

1) The desire, vision, energy and time to lead a group of individuals through raid instances. Seems a little obvious, I know, but if you’re missing any of these things, you will fail. If you’re not giving it your all, if you’re not doing everything you can to improve your raid team, you will almost certainly fail.

This means reading strats, tweaking strats, examining logs, explaining what happened on various attempts and fixing the issues that didn’t allow you to get the boss down. Perhaps it will be in the wee hours of the morning, perhaps it will be during your lunch break at work, maybe it’ll be while you’re supposed to be paying attention in class… It needs to be done. If you’re not ready to put in the time and energy, if you don’t have the desire or vision to drag people through, kicking and screaming as they go, then you probably don’t want to be a raid leader.

2) A great support system, both in and out of the game. If your guild isn’t supporting you, you won’t have a chance. Your guild officers need to work with you to build the team. Your officers are a huge part of the team and if you don’t have officers who are willing to work with you, who are willing to help research things or to help talk to people or to help organize people within the raids themselves, forget it.

You also need to be able to vent about your frustrations outside of the game, to someone who doesn’t really know all these people you’re dealing with. It can be a friend, a partner, a sibling, anyone, but the farther removed they are from the game, the better. It’s theraputic to vent.

3) A good understanding of the raid group. Look, you can only work with what you’ve got. If you have a resto shaman who never does anything apart from chain healing the melee, short of replacing them, you have to deal with them. That might mean just assigning them to stand there and heal the melee. Similarly, your group might be collectively terrible at encounters where you have to move (spreading out, collapsing, etc). You have to adjust for this. Change assignments, change requirements, change the strategy so that you give your team (your team) the best chance of success.

4) A good understanding of the game’s mechanics and past encounters. What helped me tremendously as a raid leader was finding similarities between different fights. So when I was fighting, I don’t know, Ultraxion in Dragon Soul, it was a lot like fighting Patchwerk in Naxxramas, with just the extra button push for Heroic Will. Being aware of how council-type fights work is a huge bonus. Understanding that jumping out of fire is generally a bad plan can be useful. Knowing the various cooldowns available to your team’s classes is key.

5) The tools for the job. By this, I mean something like Raid Buff Status, which is amazing to see who’s buffed, who’s not, who’s eaten or flasked, who’s not and the like. I also mean making sure you’re logging your fights, through a combat log parser such as (my preferred) Warcraft Logs. Definitely spend some time going through your logs. Analysis is key to improvement. (What are some of your favourite raid leader addons and tools? Comment below!)

6) The ability to let someone know that they’re just not cutting it. This is one of the harder parts of the job, but sometimes, you have to tell that resto shaman that they need to do more or risk being replaced. There’s no need to be personal about it, although it will almost certainly be taken that way, but rely on facts and be kind. You never know when someone will redouble their efforts because you let them know that even though they’re not doing the job right now, you believe in them. Give them a reasonable deadline to show improvement and if they improve, let them know how impressed you are. If they haven’t improved, at least you gave them a shot.

7) Raid team members to lead. Face it, without a raid team, you’re just another know-it-all in LFR who has no one listening to them. Always treat your members with respect, always emphasize that the team as a whole comes before individuals and know that you are just a few /gquits away from being That Guy ordering people around in LFR. What makes you a leader is that you are leading your team. Your team. Treat them well. Even that resto shaman.

Hope that was helpful! Share with me your suggestions for various addons and such a raid leader might want to use. Tell me a story about That Resto Shaman who insists on just healing melee with chain heal. What are some of your favourite raid encounters and why?

On Competition, Winning and Being Stubborn

If you’ve been reading this blog for even five minutes, you may have gotten the impression that I am a stubborn person.

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than that, you know I’m a very stubborn person.

You may also have gathered that I am someone who tends to care about winning — at least in the sense of getting a team win. (Winning stuff as an individual, while I’m in a team, doesn’t really matter much to me. Winning stuff individually when I’m not in a team setting, of course, is nice.)

A lot of people who play World of Warcraft are competitive and enjoy “winning”, whatever “winning” means to them. That’s fine. That’s great, even. If people didn’t enjoy winning, people wouldn’t even play this game. Every time someone tops damage or healing meters, I’m sure they’re psyched because they “won”. Every time a boss dies, people have “won”. There’s a lot of competition baked into the game and the developers leverage that personality trait of ours, the desire to win, to get us to do all kinds of things.

However, the fact that so very many of us are competitive also works against us.

Winning Isn’t Everything

Winning isn’t everything, “they” say. Whoever “they” are, “they” are right. That said, it seems silly to think that there’s no reason you shouldn’t be winning regularly in World of Warcraft, right? I mean, once you get your gear and have practiced your rotation or your role or whatever, chances are good that you ought to win in whatever you’re doing on a pretty consistent basis, right? Isn’t that what farm bosses in raids are all about, after all? I mean, you work hard to get to the point where you know what you’re doing and then you win. Consistently. (Well, hopefully.)

Winning seems to be the very point of World of Warcraft, no? Races for world-firsts, server-firsts, top of the arena rankings, best challenge mode times… the list goes on.

Wanting to “win”, though, harms the communication process a great deal. As someone who can be inordinately stubborn (whether that’s because I’m a Taurus or it’s just a character flaw I embrace because a Taurus is supposed to be stubborn, I am unsure), I had a bad habit as a guild leader, of which I absolutely had to rid myself: I had a tendency to want to win arguments.

WRONG.

So wrong.

So very, very wrong.

This is wrong on the same level as a hunter wearing cloth spirit gear and wielding two one-handed swords.

This is wrong on the same level as not moving out of the fire.

So. Very. Wrong.

Why is it wrong? you may ask.

It’s wrong because, believe it or not, you are not always right.

Sorry. It’s true. I know this because I tend to be right a good proportion of the time, and yet I can still be wrong. So if I can be wrong (and I can be!), you can be wrong, too.

Unfortunately, the problem with being “wrong” is that sometimes you don’t know it. And because you don’t always know it, you may be tempted to dig in your heels and… yes, be stubborn.

If you want to do that in real life, go ahead. I can’t say you’re going to make a ton of friends that way, but it’s your choice.

However, if you try to pull that as a guild leader, raid leader, guild officer… that’s when you’re going to have trouble.

The Needs of the Many…

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. So says Spock. And we can’t really argue with Spock, can we? (No, we can’t.)

What this post is really driving at is the concept that, if you’re in an argument with someone about guild-related stuff, you need to step back and take as objective a look as you can and try to see if what you’re doing is going to benefit the guild.

Are you arguing because you want to be right or are you arguing because you want to do what’s right for the guild? These are not always the same thing.

Even more frustrating, arguments can get heated and suddenly, you’re pitted against someone else in your guild. Not only does logic typically fly out the window in these scenarios, but suddenly the argument becomes less about whatever it is you’re arguing about, and becomes more about beating the other person. That’s what we do, right? We’re competitive. We want to win. Winning means that someone else loses. Whether it’s a boss or a PVP opponent… or even our guildmates and fellow officers.

This is precisely the wrong mindset to have. As a leader, one needs to make quick shifts in mindset. One moment, you may be trying your best to down a boss, the next, you may be arguing with your officers about the best strategy to ensure people don’t inappropriately soak Twilight Barrages on 25m Heroic Blackhorn…


Whatever the case, you need to stop being competitive when you start talking to other people. You need to slow down, calm down and listen to what they’re saying and then, regardless of how much you don’t want to, you may have to concede that the other person is right.

It’s Not Easy

Well, it’s not easy for me. And if you’re remotely competitive at all, it’s not going to be easy for you. But this is why I recommend that you do not surround yourself with “yes men” as officers. You want that other perspective, you want that dissenting opinion, if only to point out that there are other ways of looking at various problems.

It can lead to tempers flaring, it can lead to that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that you were wrong, but… if it leads to something better for the guild, isn’t it worth it?

Yup. It is.

So the next time you’re arguing with someone about guild stuff, take a second to look at the situation from another perspective. Understand why you’re digging in. Try to figure out if your wanting to be right, if your desire to win, is because you just want to be right or if it’s because that’s what you think is best for your guild.

(I promise you, it gets easier with practice!)

On Leadership and Communication

My apologies for the length between blog posts this year, my dear readers. I resolve to write in this space more frequently in 2015. I have things to say and I hope I can organize myself better so that I have the time to get those things down here.

I actually have a couple of different things that I want to talk about, including healing, including my adventures, such as they are, in Draenor… but as we bring the year to a close, I wanted to talk specifically about leadership and communication. Why? Because these ideas are so very entwined with one another that I do not believe you can be an effective leader without being an effective communicator.

How to Communicate Effectively

Okay, so this isn’t going to be a long-winded essay on how to communicate effectively, much as I would like it to be. ;) I’m just going to jot down some important key points and expound on them a little bit.

As a leader (of your guild, your raid team, whatever), people are looking to you for direction. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be all “OH MY GOD WHAT THEY SAY IS LAW!!!”. In fact, most people will probably not listen to you as well as you’d like them to, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not listening to what you have to say. And, in the absence of direction, they’re going to go off and do whatever they want to do. So you may as well give them some semblance of direction, right? Right. Here are some ways to do so.

  1. Communicate Early and Often. You know surprise parties? I have never had one. I have never wanted one. I do not enjoy surprises. At all. You know who also hates surprises? Your guild members. Individually, sure, people may like to be surprised, but as a collective, they hate it. They hate it. Now, most news coming from leadership will be a “surprise”, but the way to help your guildies to adjust to whatever changes you’re enacting is to communicate the changes well in advance and then give them follow-up reminders.For example, Patch 4.3 of World of Warcraft introduced epic-level gems to the game. They were difficult to get and red gems, the ones that boosted strength, intellect and agility, could go for five thousand gold each for a while. As a raiding guild, I knew we would want to take advantage of those beefy stats, but I gave the guild plenty of warning as to when those epic gems would become official raid requirements. I also set up a system to request them in limited amounts from the guild bank for gear over a certain item level. If memory serves, I gave them something like six weeks’ notice and then reminders every two weeks thereafter, then a one-week warning, if I’m not mistaken.

    Give them warning. Then remind them. Then remind them again. Do this for every change you enact in terms of guild policy. It won’t always be enough to deflect all criticism lobbied against you (and you will have plenty of that!) but it will certainly be a better situation to tell them of a change with warning than to tell them of a change that is dumped on them that takes effect the next day.

  2. Be Clear and Firm (and Polite). I was going to write something here about policies, but I’ve already done so over here at Sentry Totem. Basically, remove the word “try” from all of your communications. No, your guild members should not “try” to be on time for your guild events, they must be online for your guild events. But don’t be brusque or rude. Just be firm.
  3. Be Open to Feedback. Even feedback that consists of nothing more than hurled profanity at you and your ancestry is feedback that you need to consider. If you make a decision that goes over exceedingly poorly and there are other options, discuss those with your officers and consider changing the policy … and communicating it. Again.

    I did this in Cataclysm with regards to loot issues. We felt strongly that some individuals were hoarding their EPGP priority and, as such, were harming the raid group. So we were going to change the way we handed out tier armor and unlink it from the EPGP system. This went over like a lead balloon. There was a lot of feedback. And many insults hurled our way. (Thanks for that, folks, you know who you are…) We changed the suggested policy in favour of changing how often we decayed EPGP values. I’m still not thrilled with how this went, nor do I think that solution did a lot to solve the issues we saw in terms of EPGP hoarding, but we were open to the feedback and made changes that made some difference. It was more of a compromise than a real solution and, as is the case with most compromises, no one was really happy. Still, no one was really ticked off, either.

Why Communication is so Important

It’s important because when you communicate with your guildies, you’re not only passing along important information, but because you’re also taking in their reactions and their feedback. This leads to a better working relationship between all parties.

It also lets people know that you value them and their feedback. Had I waited six weeks to tell my guild “HEY, EVERYONE NEEDS ALL EPIC GEMS FOR TOMORROW”, they would have risen up and killed me. I respected them enough to tell them “hey, in six (or eight or whatever) weeks, we’re going to be requiring all epic gems…” and then reminded them consistently.

Communicating with your guild members also helps engender a team spirit, particularly if you write things framed where you are part of the team that your audience is also part of. If that makes sense.

For example, if I wrote this:

“You all need to put epic gems in anything that’s ilvl 410 or higher”

then that makes me look as though I’m not part of the team as as though I’m dictating to the people reading. This is not the tone you want to aim for!

By contrast, if I wrote:

“Everyone (officers included!) will need to have epic gems in any piece of armor that is item level 410 or higher”

then I’m at least a bit more like a team member. Better yet, though, is this version:

“We’re all going to have to have epic gems in any armor piece that’s ilvl 410 or higher”

WE. ALL. Team-related words!

Remember, whatever you’re doing in terms of your guild events, you are a team. There is no “I” in “team”, as the saying goes, and, as I am fond of saying, a guild leader without any guildies isn’t really leading anything.

Conclusion

To summarize:

– communicate early and often
– be clear and firm, yet polite
– be open to feedback
– at all times, try to build up a sense of the team

Of course, if your actions don’t back up your words, people are going to catch on to that and will not be pleased, but that’s another blog post entirely.

Have a safe and happy new year, everyone and best wishes to you and yours for 2015!

(More GM-related advice and information can be found at Kurn’s Guides and you can also find a ton of Guild Leadership columns of mine up at Sentry Totem.)

Level 99

Quick update post:

  • I’m level 99 and am 68% through it
  • I love garrison missions and it’s basically my goal in life to collect more followers
  • I skipped most of Spires of Arak because I really, REALLY dislike the Arakkoa
  • Nagrand, by contrast, is MY FAVOURITE
  • Love various throwbacks to Outlands/BC
  • Did I mention I <3 garrison missions???
  • I’ve only done one dungeon, Skyreach. I did it via LFG and it went very smoothly. Got the first version of the ring. Feel like this expansion will be a little Gollum-esque…
  • Looking forward to proving grounds and other stuff at 100
  • The heirloom bow from Garrosh is pretty bad-ass
  • Quite pleased with random upgrades from greens to blues or blues to purples, both in gear and followers
  • Having a follower with an EPIC MOUNT is AMAZING

All told, I’m enjoying myself. I didn’t have to deal with queues or disconnections, haven’t had to spend all day, every day levelling to get to 99. I started playing on Friday night around 11pm or so, played for a few hours, then played for chunks of Saturday and much of Sunday (to be fair), but have been limited to evening play during the week, due to work. So it’s not bad. I’m not rushing. I’m taking my time.

Also, I am a very different person now than when I wrote this blog post in 2008.

Off to get my day started. Hope you’re enjoying Draenor.

Welcome to Warlords

It’s certainly been a long time since I’ve had the time to sit down and write here, for which I apologize. It’s not that I don’t have things to say, mind you, it’s that I lack the time.

Work is a bit overwhelming, as I adjust to this “daytime” schedule. I feel as though I have no time for anything that I really want to do. Or, if I really want to do it, I have to abandon other things that I want to do. In fact, I recently had to step down from writing about guild leadership at Sentry Totem, which really, really makes me sad. I just didn’t have the time to contribute regularly.

I haven’t played much WoW, either.

I have mostly maintained my podcast, which is great, but it’s been at the cost of doing other stuff. And this month is National Novel Writing Month and that is something I always endeavour to do, but, perhaps understandably, my ability to hit 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November never goes well when I’m actively playing WoW. ;) This year, as last year and the year before, I’m dedicating a lot of my spare time (and I have so much less of it now!) to NaNoWriMo.

Speaking of writing, I haven’t finished my Raid Leader’s Guide. If we’re lucky, I’m hoping to have something for you in the early weeks of 2015. It’s just so difficult to find the time (and motivation!) to write about it. Even though I think it’s super-important for WoW folks, even though I want to share everything I know about it with you, it’s a tough slog. I’d rather you wait for something good than something terrible and pretty much unfinished.

Tonight, the night between Wednesday, November 12th and Thursday, November 13th, marks a pretty big change in my life, strangely.

You see, Warlords of Draenor launches at 3am.

And I… am going to be asleep. Because I have work in the morning.

Not only that, but I’m probably not going to play much, if at all, on Thursday when I get home from work, because there’s this whole “writing” thing. Friday, I’ve got the first of two high school reunion dinners this weekend. I think that, realistically, the first opportunity I’ll really have to be able to play Warlords is Friday night, after dinner — if I’m still conscious.

While I did miss out on the Mists of Pandaria launch, I was on a flight to Rome. Kind of couldn’t be helped.

This time, it’s all my choice. It’s my choice not to be sleep-deprived at work tomorrow. It’s my choice to be rested for Friday. It’s my choice to not play.

And it just seems as though my choices, of late, have been just that — not to play.

And it makes me sad.

I’m not blaming anything or anyone for these choices, although I freely admit that if I didn’t have a full-time job, I would probably be resting now in preparation for a 3am launch… My priorities are changing, shifting, and they’re not even done changing, yet. They will likely never be what they once were. I will likely never again know as much about WoW as I have previously. I will likely never be quite as engaged in the game as I was before. And the thing is, none of this is because of the game. It’s all because of me and my circumstances in life.

I remember when Burning Crusade launched and I was SO ANGRY that there were no midnight parties in Montreal, which meant that I had to wait until 7am the next day. Still, I was on TeamSpeak (!!!) with Majik as he stepped through the Dark Portal… and got flattened by the Fel Reaver while gazing at the sky.

I waited in line for Wrath of the Lich King and played through the night.

I bought the digital version of Cataclysm and played through the night then, too.

Of course, there was the delayed playing of Mists of Pandaria due to Italy.

But tonight… I won’t be up late. I won’t go out and explore Shadowmoon Valley within minutes. I won’t skin dead animals or tame new ones. I won’t log in and out on all my characters to make sure they get rested experience going.

I’m going to bed shortly and the entire World of Warcraft will change while I dream of things that don’t involve healing or hunting or deck fire on Heroic Blackhorn.

I’m a little sad and feeling a little introspective tonight.

But to those of you who still wholly embrace this wacky game, to those of you who will be up at 3am, to those of you who will race through the new content in the next couple of days… enjoy it. Take care of yourselves. Take it easy on the soft drinks. Get some rest, eventually. But above all, enjoy the launch. You never know when it’ll be your last.

Go forth and decimate the Iron Horde for me. I’ll catch up with you soon.

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