Building A Better _____


Having recently returned to World of Warcraft, I’ve found myself in a new guild with a lovely bunch of people and I’m finally enjoying raiding again. Previously, I had led my own guild, somewhat successfully, for around 3 years. In that time we’d cleared all WotLK content on heroic whilst level-and-gear appropriate (including Algalon, Heroic LK and Tribute to Insanity), and in Cataclysm had finished T11 pre-nerf and killed Ragnaros normal before leaving the game in around October last year. It was fun, and I had a wonderful group of guys and gals in the guild, but raids just weren’t clicking properly and were often frustrating.

I got to thinking about why it hadn’t quite clicked before, and why it’s working now. I wondered how, in an ideal world, I could have done things differently in my old guild. My new GM, being the lovely guy he is, indulged me and recently asked me to put into words a few of my observations. Now, I’ll preface this by saying that my opinions aren’t always going to be best for every guild – Royalty guilds will have completely different priorities than I do, by necessity – but here’s what I’ve found works best for me personally, and some advice on how to achieve it.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere in the raid team is paramount. People need to be genuinely interested in being there, a relatively large proportion need to talk on Mumble (ideally, people should be on Mumble outside of raids too), there should be space for joking and chatting between pulls (with focus when appropriate, of course), and raids should be a fun place to be in. People need to feel comfortable – shouting might work well for some guilds, but it does little to keep me motivated. Knowing that I’m in a guild with people I consider friends makes me strive to play at my best; I don’t want to let these people down. If I’m confident and happy, and playing with my head held high, that’s when I’m at my best.

To help keep this kind of atmosphere, the guild officers have a big part to play. In my experience, the key to having a warm and inviting raid team is to maintain excitement in the officer team. It’s no secret that everyone vibes off the officer team, it’s just a natural thing – as an officer, even if you don’t explicitly notice people doing so, the whole raid team looks up to you. Here’s my advice: if you can maintain your enthusiasm for raiding even when you’re having a dreadful wipe night and you really can’t be bothered, then it’ll keep everyone else motivated. A few encouraging words in between pulls is all it takes. Crack a few jokes, smile (even if you have to force it), and everyone else will feel it too. Sometimes I had absolutely terrible nights when I was too tired and just couldn’t be bothered to lead a raid (shortly after my daughter was born, coincidentally!), but it became very clear that maintaining a positive tone of voice led to a much better raid experience for everyone else, even if it didn’t cheer me up any. You should always be thinking about how such and such a thing affects the raid group. This also means that you have to whisper anyone making negative comments in /ra or Mumble and get them to tone it down. You really really really can’t let negativity affect the raid team, otherwise you’ll have a bad time.

Raid Performance

In my experience, there’s nothing more frustrating to good raiders than having to carry someone. I would advise you to regularly evaluate performance and try to encourage people to ‘up their game’ if needed, whilst making sure to keep a positive tone.  You can do this without being hardcore, you just need to instill in everyone the desire to perform well and not let their team-mates down. In the early days of my own guild, I lost a group of very good raiders because we stalled on progression due to a couple of poor performers (DPSers doing less than half that of the top DPS, for example, or tanks completely unable to handle more than a Patchwerk-esque fight). I was too nice to talk with them and get them to resolve their issues, and would still rotate them into our raid team to make sure I was being fair about raid spots. If there’s one thing I wish I’d have learned earlier than I did, it would be that you need to have someone on your officer team that is not afraid to have a kind, quiet word with under-performers, sympathise with them, and offer encouragement and a point in the right direction. You can’t be scared to bench those people when it comes to progression fights, whilst being entirely clear and transparent about the reason for doing so. I was always too scared of hurting feelings and not so great at confrontation, so it used to go unchecked. Don’t make the same mistake.

I would also encourage you to keep to the following mantra: Publicly Praise, Privately Criticise. If you notice that your feral druid popped a perfectly-timed Tranquility when the healers were struggling, or your DPS death knight taunted the add that was beating up your poor mage, make sure to point it out there and then. “Nice Tranq, Druidface” gives them that moment of pride, helps them puff out their chest, shows them that you’re paying attention and that their individual contributions are important, and gets them pumped for the rest of the fight. Psychologically, it’s just positive reinforcement, but before long you’ll have other people thinking “oh, yeah, I can do that too!” and vying to be the next person to be praised. You’ll quickly find that your raid is less and less tunnel-visioned and more in-tune with what’s happening around them. Similarly, if you make sure to praise under-performers where appropriate, they’ll quickly improve. On the flip side, you should make sure that you do not criticise people publicly. “Sigh. Smexypaladin, you failed on stomp again, sort it out”. There’s nothing worse for your raid team than having deflated raiders just going through the motions. At best, you’ve got one person feeling a little humiliated and no longer at their best, and at worst you open up the can of worms that results in your entire raid chiming in with criticisms after every wipe. Not a good situation to be in. If someone needs a helpful prod in the right direction, give them one, but do it via whisper. The balance comes with making sure that everyone else understands that the problem is being worked through – you don’t want your good raiders thinking that you don’t care about mistakes being made. You have to make sure you’re transparent and that people know you’re working through issues (something as simple as the raid leader saying “give us a few seconds before the next pull, we’re just talking to a couple of people about improvements” works wonders), but keep a positive tone and make sure to encourage instead of admonish.

Pacing

Raids, at least in my old guild anyway, sometimes have a tendency to lose pace a little. For instance, let’s say that as part of a 3hr raid night, you have a 5 minute wee break – on announcing the break, people will go off and respec, repair, smoke, have a cup of tea, etc. and then by the time everyone is back, 15-20 minutes have passed. I would advise that you consider popping up a DBM timer for any breaks (easy to do with a 1-line macro) and run a ready check as soon as the timer expires. A quiet word in the ear of anyone late back would also work well. The key is that you don’t want to frustrate the people who are back on time – they’ll just feel let down and it’ll gradually erode their own willingness to be back on time. The same goes with people releasing and running back between pulls, dishing out loot, the amount of time it takes to start on the next trash pull after a boss kill, etc. It can all be sped up, and the act of keeping people moving will maintain their focus and reduce the amount of deaths due to being alt-tabbed, picking music tracks or talking to the wife, etc (I may or may not be guilty of all of these…).

Some practical things that you can do: try having a DPS character as your master looter. They can be dishing out loot whilst everyone else is already working on the next trash pack. Kill, resurrect, buff and move forwards. People might miss /ra text, though, so make sure that they are announcing every item via Mumble so that everyone has the chance to bid for or roll on the loot they want to. Additionally, you could try and hurry everyone into running back in after a wipe instead of waiting around for a resurrection. Again, talking privately to those who aren’t up to scratch here is best. As always, you want to instill into people the desire to make sure they’re at their best for the sake of the rest of their friends.

Loot

Loot, for a significant number of guilds, really needs to be more defined in my opinion. I can only speak for 10-man guilds, but most will just have a /roll that indicates whether someone wants an item or not. The amount of to-ing and fro-ing that goes on with regards to DPS characters rolling on spirit gear or whether that particular trinket should be for the tanks, for example, can be a bit much. Loot rules need to be more transparent – if you make your fury warrior hand over a “tanking” ring one minute, and then let a non-healer take a spirit staff the next, it’s just contributing towards confusion. Either award loot based on who needs it the most (ie based on who would get the biggest upgrade, RoboCouncil-style), let people roll on whatever they can use, or use a points-based system; there is no wrong answer here as long as it’s clear and the rules are the same for everyone. I would also suggest defining how alts fit into the loot system. In my last guild, if I specifically asked someone to bring their alt, then they became entitled to roll on gear as if they were a main character. For me, it seemed fair because I was actively asking them to bring the alt and therefore they couldn’t get gear on their main that night. However, the reality was that for everyone else it looked like a character that would most likely not even be in the next raid just stole their upgrade. It’s wasted loot as far as raid upgrade-value is concerned – that item is completely wasted unless the alt is in subsequent raids. I would advise not to do this. You need to make it clear that alts have lower priority than your main-spec raiders, at all times. If someone is only bringing their alt for the chance at getting some loot, and otherwise refuses to, then you’ve got bigger problems with that individual anyway.

This won’t work for every guild, but I found the best system for us was Ni Karma, which we used for around a year. For us, it was the perfect balance between /roll and a DKP-based system. Every guild is going to find the loot system that works best for them, so don’t be afraid to experiment and, most importantly, engage with your raiders and see what their opinions are!

Officer Team

Your officers (at least those who raid) really need to know everything about the fights. I can’t stress that enough. The worst thing you can do as an officer team is publicly contradict each other or undermine each other’s authority. In my last guild, we had one officer who was absolutely lovely and a really strong DPSer, but was just a bit clueless when it came to tactics. I sometimes had to correct him when he said something silly about a tactic that was actually used for a different boss, for example, and he could never remember boss names or ability names. Eventually it just undermined everything useful that he said. After a short time, it got to the stage where people would whisper me for clarifications during a tactic discussion because they were concerned he might be wrong. I could and should have fixed that earlier and avoided the problem, so learn from my mistake: make sure your officers are always switched on and certainly among the most knowledgeable raiders, even if you need to remind each other of certain bits and pieces in /o. Don’t be afraid to evaluate your officer team as you would any other raider – if you find that they’re not pulling their weight either in raids or out of them, you have to do the right thing and talk to them about it. Demoting a friend from officer to raider is hard, there’re no two ways about it, but you always have to be thinking about doing the right thing for the guild.

As a slight aside, your officer team are the lynch pin of your guild, and should be your core raiders. It’s perfectly OK to have social officers, or officers who have other responsibilites and don’t raid much, but make sure you distinguish between their roles appropriately. You don’t want an officer who looks after pastoral care and very seldom raids coming in and lording it over everyone else who has been at 100% attendance for x number of months – it sets the wrong tone and can lead to problems. These officers shouldn’t be raid leaders.

In some guilds I’ve been in, including my own, there can sometimes be too many chiefs. I you don’t already nominate one person as raid leader for the evening, I would consider doing so. If you don’t keep it in check, too many people will chime in at the same time and it’ll lead to confusion. During fights, you may end up with two or more people counting down to the next Fading Light, or pink swirly. It’s not a problem, but it’s the kind of thing that may eventually lead to frustration. In my opinion, raids in my last guild always worked better when we had one clear voice as raid leader. It goes without saying, but that person really needs to be on top of their game, has to know what’s happening for everyone in the raid, not just their own role, and they have to be prepared to give a running overview of what’s going on in the fight as it’s happening – if there should be three melee characters soaking a crystal on Morchok, the raid leader needs to be completely aware of who is there and who isn’t, and sort it out appropriately during the fight if someone is suddenly unable to perform this role. This is doubly important for heroic content. It can sometimes seem as though in particularly hectic fights, Mumble suddenly goes silent and everyone enters tunnel vision mode – that’s the time when it’s most important to have a calm raid leader still talking through the motions. It calms everyone else down, keeps them aware of their responsibilities, and actually pulls people out of tunnel vision. I always found that it’s super hard for tanks and melee to do that job; it was always easier to have a healer or DPS as raid leader, since they are typically zoomed out a fair distance and have a great view of everything that’s going on. Find someone who has a great tactical brain, can multi-task and adapt quickly, and who is calm and authoritative. It’s something that takes a monumental amount of practice, effort and refinement to do well, but if you find that person it’s ultimately worth it.

Summary

If you make sure the atmosphere in your raids is one of encouragement and enjoyment, if you can promote self-accountability, get people genuinely interested in gearing up in and out of raids, and point them in the direction of useful links, etc., then your team will thrive, and quickly.

Finally… I’ll leave you with the album that inspired this post’s title. Enjoy!

Posted on by Pixellated in MMO
  • Juicey

    *These are general comments and not guild-specific* 

    Wonderful points you have elicited in your dialectic about raiding. Alas, it’s only applicable if people buy into the idea of putting the same amount of effort and time in as yourself! Let’s take raiding as the example – your points are wonderfully universal yet pragmatically obsolete if you have a core group of people who put their all in and do well and another five who coast, barely log in and when they do, don’t do any content and don’t challenge themselves at all – thankfully that picture does NOT represent out guild and we are very blessed to have some truly lovely and gifted players in our ranks. Raiding is a challenge – that’s the whole point – they challenge the group; not half the group… unless of course, that’s what people want! This is exactly why we have hardcore raiding guilds and the dichotomy of those who enjoy raiding as a very casual pastime. We have been beneficiaries of a very easy time in raiding with the current content being so loot-easy and achievable – bosses are downable like never before and the end-boss has been nerfed into oblivion for good players. For guilds challenging themselves, all the members should feel empowered to be doing the best they can within a supportive *GAME* environment. People don’t need to be calling out Fading Light on mumble – it’s a bloody big sign in front of your face that says, “FADING LIGHT ON YOU” if you install a standard addon- this is not difficult and the frustration is tangible when people fail repeatedly on such simple tactics, applicable to every encounter. In new raid teams, one must make sure everyone is on the same divine hymn sheet – and once they are, it’s a domino effect. Focused (yet casual if they want to be!) players –> Good Tanks/DPS –> Easy on the healers –> Enables better, more controlled healing with more room for maneouver –> Success; which is ULTIMATELY – no matter what you say, or how politely you phrase it with choice words such as, “we log on to have fun and laugh etc”, success IS what you are logging on for if you raid – regardless of whether or not it is achieved. Who logs on and enjoys poor attempts? We log on to win, no matter how often it is or with who. We join a dungeon, not to fail on Commander Umbridge’s [Blitz], but to kill Erudax and stack in his [Shadow Gale]. We join a raid, not to wipe on Morchok, but to give excellent attempts at striving towards Deathwing. The power of doing well and actually having fun is in the fingertips of your team’s players – never forget that. If someone is in your raid team, you need to tell them if they’re doing it wrong AND if they’re doing it right. Be quick to praise but be even quicker to supportively correct and help. A “YOU FAIL, YOU IDIOT” mentality is poor and never necessary in a game – life’s too short – and they’re not an idiot – it’s a game… Having said that, having too soft of criticism mentality is poor for morale and unproductive if you’re wanting to do anything meaningful with a raid team. How this is achieved is in the hands of the guild’s leadership, and not always exclusively the GM. The raid team at large must act as one – it worked for Alexandre Dumas’s ‘Three Musketeers’ – it can work for your team today.