Today’s Quick Links – New to a guild? Or making cash on gems?

Hey, y’all. Rebecca found a couple of cool links, so I thought I’d share them from my virtual beach hut.

First up, if you’re joining a new guild, or if you have just had someone join your guild, Dwarven Battle Medic has a truly excellent guide on how to make the process smoother. I particularly like the bit on how to welcome people to a guild.

Second, there’s a fascinating piece about gem prices up on I Like Pancakes. I’d go so far as to say this is a must-read for any jewelcrafters out there – she’s using about two and a half months of her auctioning experience to give recommendations on the best gems to sell, with lots and lots of Dataz. I Liek Dataz.

Enjoy!

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Editorial: Blizzard Burying Raid Content – Quick, Light A Candle

Awwwww, nevermind. *pat pat* here, have a cookie.

That’s what Blizzard’s just said to my raiders and I who are still on Valiona and Theralion and Maloriak. Normal. Maybe you too, or your alts’ raid, or your friends’ raid guild. But they haven’t stopped there.

Have all of the cookies! Well, the old ones anyway. And here, we’ll make them fall from the sky so you don’t have to put any effort in at all – not even stretch a bit to reach the cookie jar on top shelf. All you have to do is stand around in vaguely the right place, slack jawed and glassy eyed, and you’ll snag some nommable drops.

You can handle that right? It’ll be fine. It’ll be just like the raids in 4.2!

I like cookies as much as the next disheartened, previously quite competitive small-guild raider who’s been pushed from pillar to post since Cataclysm arrived. But I don’t want Blizzard fiddling with how I get cookies just because there’s a newer brand on the shelf, and I certainly don’t want them falling from the sky. I want to feel like I’ve earned my cookies. Just like I want to be able to feel like I’ve earned my raid kills.

Last night Blizzard announced in 4.2 they’re planning to nerf tier 11 raid content across the board. Not a stacking debuff as worked so well in ICC, and not a small nerf to just take the edge off, if they must nerf. Not even a “your raid leader can switch it on or off” nerf.

No, they’ve announced a whooping 20% nerf on average to all bosses, with some receiving extra special treatment (less maggots on Magmaw? Really? Make my life as add tank boring why don’t you?)

Let’s have some context here. In Wrath my guild downed the Lich King on 10 man one week into the 15% buff to damage/healing being active: we just missed downing him on 10% by a few perecent. For a small 10 man (and no more) guild of friends who raided once a week, twice if we felt like it, that was bloody good going.

In Cataclysm things changed drastically for us. Some changes to the game such as LFD and guild challenges basically steam rollered the support networks we’d grown in order to survive as a raiding group. We lost people before Cataclysm. We took ages to get into raids because of the heroic ilevel requirment. We started raiding about 6-8 weeks ago. And we’ve downed four bosses.

We recently accepted the fact that we don’t fit into WoW the same way we did in Wrath: we accept that we’re now more social and casual than we were then. The game’s changed, our group’s changed, we can’t be what we were. We are downing bosses slowly. It’s just about the right level of challenge for us now, although by thorison’s beard do I wish there were less “don’t stand in the fi- … oh well” fights.

Heroic modes are so far in the distance they might as well be the restaurant at the end of the universe. Normal modes, right now, this level of difficulty, is our territory.

This 20% nerf is going to bulldoze it. Bear in mind that we’re already going to be having a much easier time in the raids thanks to the justice point gear available post 4.2.

The 20% nerf on top of that will take it from challenging but doable and rewarding a sense of achievement to a cakewalk. It’ll be an express lift to tier 12, which will feel a whole lot less satisfying than had we walked up the 12 flights of stairs and got to the damn banquet by ourselves. To tier 12, where we’ll probably smash into a brick wall and be even more dispirited because of the false sense of ease the remainder of tier 11 will have given us by then.

Do not want. Bypasses do not have to be built.

Ah, you say, but the intention of this nerf is nothing to do with players like you! Remember you’re just a small section of the playerbase, there are lots of others out there!

You’re right. So who’s the lucky intended recipient of these cookies falling from heaven? Is it the shaman I had in my dungeon group just the other day, who insisted on skipping to the end boss because “this dunagen is boring [spelling and everything]”, and that he could tank because the tank left? And did so, gave the healer cause for repeated heart palpitations, causing them to leave? The shaman who then boldly waltzed into a room full of angry dwarves armed to the black eyeballs with rifles, got us all killed, then “gtg”? No, I don’t think it’s aimed at him. I think he’s probably safely tucked up in bed before his guild raids.

Or maybe at the three (count them) druid healers I got one after the other in a ZG PUG shortly after the instance was released. Three of ’em because each one left saying “lol you guys [the ones doing 14k DPS] are crap”, as we didn’t know tactics like the back of our hands yet? No, clearly not aimed at them, their gear showed that they’d already done the raids. Or at least their guilds had, and had fed them shinies for tagging along.

Or maybe it’s aimed at the real social, the next level of laid-backness down from me, the ones who occasionally do a dungeon but don’t raid because it’s “too hard” if you believe the accepted wisdom? Well,I have characters on another server and they’re all in an incredibly laid back guild like this. Said guild doesn’t raid, and yes, the content difficulty is one of the reasons. But there are a whole bunch of other reasons before you get to that one. Reasons like never having enough people on at once, never being able to organise anything because people have small children and real lives who they always prefer to put first, or not having enough tanks/healers to fill the roles. Why do these reasons get in the way of raiding? Because it’s not a raiding guild. These players mightn’t mind seeing the raid content they’re missing out on – the raid content Blizzard is about to nerf allegedly in the name of content tourism – but they’re not particularly fussed either. They’ve got lots of other things to be doing like chatting to each other and bimbling through the end game content that doesn’t involve the words “blackwing” or “Chogal”.

So I can’t see who they’ve aimed this at. Let’s take a look at some motives behind the nerf rather than looking for whom Blizzard wants to put on the “special” bus.

Scenario 1 – raid tourism

Blizzard say they’ve done this because they want everyone to see the content. Awwwwww, isn’t it sweet, little Blizzy wants to show everyone what he drew?Images thanks to Lara604 and goldiekatsu @flickr

The raid tourism defence doesn’t stand up – see above. And yes, I know there are a nitwibble tonne of other guilds out there who are less progressed than my guild. But I think they, like us, would do just fine with either a 5-10% nerf or a stacking debuff a’la ICC. An across-board blast with the nerf BFG isn’t necessary.

Scenario 2 – enabling PUGs

There have been a *lot* less PUGs for tier 11 raids than there were for any Wrath raid. I wonder whether Blizzard wants to help people gear up all the faster for tier 12 content and are nerfing tier 11 so much that people will have no fear of forming PUGs and stepping boldly through the door to kill the bosses by doing /fierece emotes at them.

Scenario 3 – dumbing down

I’m not even a top raider and I’m saying that Blizzard wants, for some obscure and idiotic reason, to dumb the game down even further. A lot of people have been saying for aaaaaaaages that Blizzard keep dumbing the game down but this is a whole new level of dumb. I don’t know, maybe they’re scrabbling to keep subscribers by making sure they can see the content rather than driving them away. Who or what was their control group for making this decision anyway?

My prediction? The opposite will happen. Smaller, more casual guilds like mine will rush through the rest of tier 11 and then hit a brick wall in tier 12. And because there are only 7 bosses and 1 raid instance to house them all, there’s no variety. Everyone, whether they get stuck or complete the content, will get bored. And I’ve no idea when or what the next patch is. Let’s see what the subscriber numbers do then, eh?

That’s it. Apologies for the nerd rage, though I believe I have some fair points here. Our guild has been pushed from pillar to proverbial lava decayed post since Cataclysm, and we’d just about clawed ourselves a way to survive as a raid group. By just about I’m not kidding – we’ve had so many setbacks and problems we’ve been dangling by a single thread for so long and the only reason we’re still here is because we’re a very close knit group of friends. But Blizzard bulldozing that way we’d carved, that territory, is like a slap in the face for not getting through the content fast enough and then a condescending pat on the head and cooing reassurance that they’ll make it all better.

Do. Not. Want.

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Cataclysm recruitment: how hard is it?

Cataclysm. No PUGs raids. Dungeon PUGs strictly on an anonymous “we’ll never see each other again” basis. Heavy encouragement to only do any form of activity within your guild.

A number of people predicted that Cataclysm would see guild recruitment become staggeringly difficult. I know that in Herding Cats, we’ve experienced this personally – the wide network of people we knew in Wrath and TBC from dungeon running and PUG raiding has vanished like the morning dew, and frankly the idea of having to recruit anyone new right now fills me with terror.

Shintar at Priest with a Cause is finding the situation equally frustrating:

I used to have plenty of contacts outside our guild, but they have mostly dried up. Five-mans used to be the big thing to do with people outside your guild occasionally, but the dungeon finder has mostly killed that off too. So it’s not until you’re short on raiders that you realise that you’ve got nowhere to turn. I keep thinking that I should make a point of running the daily heroic again and ask in general chat whether anyone wants to join to get to know people, but seeing how I’m a healer and healers are exactly what we’re missing, that strategy wouldn’t really achieve much.

How much longer can this continue, I wonder?

Does this mesh with your experience? Is your guild panicking about what will happen if they lose a key tank or healer – or even DPS? Or are you finding recruitment as easy and fun as ever? (And if so, can we have some tips on how you’re doing it please? )

_Quote taken directly from Shintar’s post.

You can find Priest With a Cause’s homepage here_.

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WoW Levelling As Its Own Game

Yesterday we highlighted Tobold’s idea to strip raiding away from WoW and have it as its own solo/multiplayer game. Well, you’re not getting the full scope of Tobold’s idea if you only get the half we ran yesterday, as it was only half Tobold’s brainwave. Today he’s posted up the other side concerning making WoW’s levelling game an entity of its own.

Tobold says the basic problem is that reaching the level cap and going into heroics/raids isn’t an end to levelling, just that levels start being measured in terms of gear. Once you realise that raiding and levelling are both ‘levelling’ games (it’s called progression for a reason), Tobold says, you can approach each as a means to itself. Levelling then becomes the end-game: your goal. He has a lot of ideas how to make it work to keep us engaged.

The same principle would also serve to create a flexible social game. It would be possible to solo, but the efficiency in experience points per hour would be relatively low. Group, and you advance faster. And you wouldn’t need a full group for that, as a group with 2 or 3 members would simply advance faster than a solo player, but slower than a full group. Thus given the possibility to temporarily adjust your level for a group, and a flexible group size, you would always be able to form a group with whoever of your friends is online…

Tobold says there needs to be enough levelling content to keep players entertained, and being able to change your level would keep things fresh and sociable. He points out this would have impacts on game mechanics from guilds to taking pride in your levelling gear, and everything in between. The only thing I’m not sure on is Tobold’s logic of how this would affect peoples’ role choices.

Go, read. What do you think – would a pure-levelling version of WoW mean people were more sociable and took up roles they didn’t like, or would it skew it too much towards social (or even casual), and fail to satisfy you?

_Quote taken directly from Tobold’s post

You can find Tobold’s MMORPG Blog homepage here_

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Constructive Criticism In Guilds

There’s been a bit of chatter in the blogosphere over the weekend about constructive criticism, and particularly in giving it in raiding guilds. I’m linky-ing all of the posts relating to it so far even though they each have a very different take on the matter, because all of them are extremely well written and from the heart. And in their own way, they all have a good point. I’d be interested to see anyone else take this topic up, too.

Anyway, without further ado…

  • Saying ALL the things that need to be said – Rhii’s post kicked the topic off. Her guild works by everyone being on an  even footing and being able to take constructive criticism, and handle themselves. But Rhii said something  … and then her guild leader quit. A good read, especially if you’re a raider and can compare your circumstances in-game to Rhii’s situation.
  • Constructive Criticism, what’s the problem? – Rhii’s post was a catalyst for Ophelle who’s is a bit shocked that many players seem to treat constructive criticism so gingerly that the gingerbread house must be missing its cooking facilities. Ophelle says constructive criticism = a Good thing. She’s also included a few guidelines for what is and isn’t constructive criticism.
  • Fixing The Problem Without Causing More – Analogue’s read Rhii’s post over the weekend and tells us how it helped her see different perspectives on situations in her own guild. She’s telling us how – and why she sorted the situation out – I’m impressed, sounds like it was  handled with much aplomb.

So what do you think – are constructive criticism and personal responsibility an infallible part of any progression raiding guild, are the wheels always bound to come off at some point?

You can find the homepages of…

  • _Oh My, Kurenai here_
  • _The Bossy Pally And The Giant Spoon here_
  • Looking For More here
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When Guildies Leave Forever

With all the muttering at the moment about whether or not Cataclysm is any good, we’re facing a situation where many of us – perhaps all of us – are going to see in-game friends and companions leaving World of Warcraft, likely forever. I know that Rebecca’s and my own guild has seen one person leave in the last few months, and many of our readers will be facing the same situation.

Tamarind of Righteous Orbs is one of them. He’s recently seen a close friend quit the game, and it inspired him to write a thoughtful post not about the in-game reasons why, but the feelings and thoughts that the disappearance of a fellow player leave, particularly if it’s likely you’ll never interact with them again once they’re no longer in WoW.

It also made me realise just how fragile the connections we make in Azeroth can be. I suppose there’s an extent to which all connections are fragile – I mean how many times have we promised to stay in touch with colleagues and then never bothered, not because we didn’t give a damn but because it actually takes quite a lot of effort to maintain a friendship with someone when your lives aren’t naturally in harmony. So really there’s no difference between somebody stopping playing WoW and, I don’t know, moving to another city or giving up the football game or the poker night, or whatever. It’s just the intangibility of it all makes it seem worse somehow.

I suppose it’s because there’s more self-delusion involved in the real world examples – you can tell yourself that if you’ll just overcome the habits of a lifetime and do it right this time you can compensate for natural social inertia, but when WoW is the thing that brings, and binds, you together there’s no sense of control at all. And that person will be gone. If you’re very lucky you might have, gasp, a real name or, gasp, an email address but you’re so defined by the fact that he thinks you’re a belf in a sissy robe and you think he’s an angry bear I don’t know how far it is possible to transcend the limitations of Azeroth.

I’ve never really seen anyone address the sense of loss that almost invariably accompanies long-time involvement in an online game. I still miss the guildmates I played with back in Classic, from the guild that dissolved when we all vanished onto alts in TBC. And given that I first met the girl I love in World of Warcraft, it’s a scary thing to think that, had the situation been different, we might just have drifted apart or been separated by events in the game.

It’s sad but it’s true – all the developer changes and gradually aging content will have a cost in terms of friendships that fall apart and confidants we never see again.

What do you think? Do you make an effort to keep in touch with people who leave in game? Or are there still humans out there somewhere who you never knew outside their big shoulderpads and glowy epics who you wish you could have stayed in touch with?

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Do You Need To Be In A Big Guild For Group Content?

Kaozz over at ECTMMOblog.com is in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand she’s enjoying some aspects of WoW more than ever. On the other hand she’s playing more casually than ever – and feels like WoW’s priorities are steamrollering her in Cataclysm.

Kaozz is a member of a very small, casual guild. She doesn’t want to leave it but Cataclysm’s instances are just too long and raiding’s beyond the question. She looks at the problem while taking apart Ghostcrawler’s latest blog post on dungeons, the LFD tool and group content. Kaozz says small guilds are being pushed out: their members either have to join big guilds or recruit strangers (as the LFD system reduces the opportunity to get to know people on your server) in order to see group content.

So why penalize small guilds because they lack the numbers or casual guilds? We must be in an active, large guild to really enjoy the game, even casually, at this point in time?

Is there a place for the casual player? The casual guild? What about people who can’t find a solid guild at odd play-times? …But what about the little guilds, do they suffer and fall apart, friends get left behind?

After thorough musings on Ghostcrawler’s post Kaozz reckons that the LFD tool isn’t working as intended and they may as well throw it out. Ooh err. Just to round it off, she says that WoW’s far from working as intended, as the developers like to call it. Instead it feels to her that she’s repeatedly relearning how to play her class, the game, on the whim of the developers – because they don’t know what they want. Thing is, Kaozz isn’t crying wolf – wherever possible in her post she’s fair to the game and the developers. What she has are reasonable problems with the game, and as she says… isn’t it a bit early in the expansion for burnout to set in?

What do you think – is Kaozz making too big a deal of the way Cataclysm’s group content is set up, or does it unfairly exclude casual/small guilds?

_Quote taken directly from Kaozz’s post

You can find ECTMMOBlog’s homepage here_

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Muradin Musings: Why Your Reputation Is Important

A player’s reputation in game is affected by how they act. Seems simple, right? Well, Janyaa over at Muradin Musings is y’know, musing, that some players don’t think about their reputation. Or how it can affect them for better or worse.

Janyaa’s highlighting how a player can really mess up their chances of being included in group content by being a jackass. She’s talking straight from her own experience of being both a recruiter in her guild and someone who sometimes leads PUGs, and it shows that she knows what she’s talking about. She says that once someone shows some murky colours that’s the chance blown in her eyes. And, she points out, a negative reputation spreads by word of mouth.

The consequences don’t only affect a person’s ability to pug. I usually run into bad behavior while on my alt, without them knowing I’m also the recruitment officer for Jubilance. It’s interesting how much more honest people are when you are “incognito.” There have been many occasions that someone has tried to apply to the guild after I’ve had a negative encounter with them. Unfortunately for them, it’s too late. I already know what kind of person they are and how they choose to interact with others.

I’ll give you one guess on how well their application does.

Janyaa goes on to talk about how an individual’s reputation doesn’t just affect them, but can either poison or shinify their guildmates’ reputation. Simply by sharing the same guild tag. Some of this might seem obvious but perhaps it’s not: we all see people shooting themselves in the foot by behaving badly in groups.

What do you think? Is reputation something that people should take more care of, or is it too easy to simply change names or transfer to another server thereby resetting one’s reputation?

_

As an aside to this topic, I’d heartily recommend checking out the site WoW Jackass, which I was pointed to last night. You can search any realm for ‘jackasses’ and it’ll bring up descriptions of what the individual did to afford the title. It also has an option to rate information on ‘jackasses’. If you’re into PUGing this site looks like a great tool for checking people and ensuring a workable atmosphere. Murky reputations really do get round._

_Quote taken directly from Janyaa’s post

You can find Muradin’s Musing’s homepage here_

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The whole “player versus character” discussion

Lots of interesting discussion  on both Tobold’s blog and Syncaine’s blog about character ability versus player skill, which appears to rather be the topic of the moment.

I’m actually going to link to Syncaine’s follow-up post intially, which is an excellent discussion of the recruitment strategies of average WoW guilds, top WoW guilds, and guilds in other game styles like EVE and, yes, Darkfall.

Mental exercise time: if you are a guild leader, what criteria do you use when recruiting?

If you are an ‘average’ raid leader in WoW, you look at level/gear/achievements, exclude the psychos (unless it’s a healer, then you just pray the psycho can be contained long enough to progress), and you are good. Come raid time you hope the new recruit knows enough not to cause a wipe, but beyond that no real test of ‘skill’ is needed or considered.

He’s making the argument that Blizzard seem to be trying to get back to a more player-centric model in Cataclysm, which I would tend to agree with – but the entire discussion, particularly that of recruitment strategies, is an interesting read. (It’s certainly true that in previous guilds Rebecca and I have prioritised player personalities and skills over character gearing, and that’s worked very well for us).

Meanwhile, Tobold is addressing the question of what, exactly, we’re talking about when we talk about skill, revisiting a common thread in his journal of gear and “passive” skill (tactics guides, etc).

But once we admit that there should be *something* to do for the player in a MMORPG, we need to decide what exactly. What other kind of video game should a MMORPG be like? One school of thought bases that decision on the history of role-playing games, which evolved out of war games: Thus it would make sense if a MMORPG would play somewhat like a strategy game, and success would be based on your strategic or tactical decisions. But that sure isn’t the only option: MMORPGs like Puzzle Pirates show that a MMORPG can be based on puzzle mini-games, where it is your puzzle game skill that determines success. You could theoretically design a game in which your success is based on your skill in solving differential equations, but presumably there is no market for that.

He’s got a very interesting model of the design of WoW, one where, quite deliberately, as your character gains “skill”, the player requires less skill in various forms (reaction times, strategic knowledge). It’s a read I’d not seen before and one I found distinctly thought-provoking. Some of the comments are also very interesting (look for some martial arts nitpicking from yours truly), although others are, ah, of varying quality.

It’s nice to have a meaty topic to dig into in these quiet times, and I’m looking forward to seeing more discussion on the subject!

What are your thoughts on the player skill versus character skill issue?

Quotes taken from http://syncaine.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/the-value-of-the-player-behind-the-character/ and http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2010/10/character-skill-vs-player-skill.html

You can find Syncaine’s blog at http://syncaine.wordpress.com/ and Tobold’s at http://tobolds.blogspot.com

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The whole "player versus character" discussion

Lots of interesting discussion  on both Tobold’s blog and Syncaine’s blog about character ability versus player skill, which appears to rather be the topic of the moment.

I’m actually going to link to Syncaine’s follow-up post intially, which is an excellent discussion of the recruitment strategies of average WoW guilds, top WoW guilds, and guilds in other game styles like EVE and, yes, Darkfall.

Mental exercise time: if you are a guild leader, what criteria do you use when recruiting?

If you are an ‘average’ raid leader in WoW, you look at level/gear/achievements, exclude the psychos (unless it’s a healer, then you just pray the psycho can be contained long enough to progress), and you are good. Come raid time you hope the new recruit knows enough not to cause a wipe, but beyond that no real test of ‘skill’ is needed or considered.

He’s making the argument that Blizzard seem to be trying to get back to a more player-centric model in Cataclysm, which I would tend to agree with – but the entire discussion, particularly that of recruitment strategies, is an interesting read. (It’s certainly true that in previous guilds Rebecca and I have prioritised player personalities and skills over character gearing, and that’s worked very well for us).

Meanwhile, Tobold is addressing the question of what, exactly, we’re talking about when we talk about skill, revisiting a common thread in his journal of gear and “passive” skill (tactics guides, etc).

But once we admit that there should be *something* to do for the player in a MMORPG, we need to decide what exactly. What other kind of video game should a MMORPG be like? One school of thought bases that decision on the history of role-playing games, which evolved out of war games: Thus it would make sense if a MMORPG would play somewhat like a strategy game, and success would be based on your strategic or tactical decisions. But that sure isn’t the only option: MMORPGs like Puzzle Pirates show that a MMORPG can be based on puzzle mini-games, where it is your puzzle game skill that determines success. You could theoretically design a game in which your success is based on your skill in solving differential equations, but presumably there is no market for that.

He’s got a very interesting model of the design of WoW, one where, quite deliberately, as your character gains “skill”, the player requires less skill in various forms (reaction times, strategic knowledge). It’s a read I’d not seen before and one I found distinctly thought-provoking. Some of the comments are also very interesting (look for some martial arts nitpicking from yours truly), although others are, ah, of varying quality.

It’s nice to have a meaty topic to dig into in these quiet times, and I’m looking forward to seeing more discussion on the subject!

What are your thoughts on the player skill versus character skill issue?

Quotes taken from http://syncaine.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/the-value-of-the-player-behind-the-character/ and http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2010/10/character-skill-vs-player-skill.html

You can find Syncaine’s blog at http://syncaine.wordpress.com/ and Tobold’s at http://tobolds.blogspot.com

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