Sneak Peek 2 – Officers!

The other day, I put up a post asking for feedback (thank you!) and allowing you all to download my first sneak peek at a section of my Kick-Ass Guild Master guide. More than 300 downloads later, I thought, hey, why not put up another sneak peek?

So, here you go! Sneak Peek 2 is from my Officer module. It’s all about you, as the guild master, rebuking an officer for a variety of reasons.

http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/officers-sneakpeek.pdf

And if you’d still like to download the other sneak peek from my How to Recruit module, you can do so here:

http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/howtorecruit-sneakpeek.pdf

All told, the full guide (which is about two-thirds of the way done) is already over 37,000 words long and covers a variety of situations dealing with setting up the guild (module 1), recruiting for the guild (module 2), officer issues (module 3) and I’m currently working on community management (module 4). Still need to write up how to plan for expansions (module 5) and how to quit without killing your guild (module 6).

If nothing else, this has been a blast to write. Enjoy the sneak peeks and I’ll probably add another one (from community management) next week.

Naming Stuff and Sneak Peek

All righty, I’ve been working on this guide to being a Kick-Ass Guild Master and I find that I need your input on a site name.


survey service

So, please take a second to vote, pretty please! And if you think all of those names suck, please post your suggestions in the comments. :)

And now, here is a sneak preview of a portion of Module 2 of the Kick-Ass GM Guide: How to Recruit. It’s all of Step 3 in the Finding Recruits section.

http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/howtorecruit-sneakpeek.pdf

Enjoy!

What's New with Kurn

Hi, folks! I have had a heck of a weekend, first watching my brother (aka Fog) get married and then skipping his reception to fly to Toronto where I stayed overnight before grabbing a flight to Newark, whereupon Daey and Toga picked me up and then I got dropped off at the lovely golf club where Majik was going to get married — and I was a bridesmaid.

I’ll write up a post later, I’m sure, about meeting Daey, Toga, Dar, Kam and all the others, but I’m still exhausted from my 4 airports, 3 flights and two weddings in the span of 72 hours. (Add 11 hours of sleep in that time span to get a really good idea of how tired I still am.) Short version: Everyone was awesome and excellent and the 21 hours I spent in NY were not enough.

Also, I have a short recording from the post-reception afterparty that I will be using in a super special BONUS episode of Blessing of Frost! It is hilarious and I can’t wait for you guys to hear it.

In the meantime, I’m still writing up that how to be a kick-ass GM guide. Not done yet and I’m at nearly 27,000 words for the whole thing. The first module (about actually starting a guild and getting things in place) is just over 5,000 words and I think most modules average 5,000-7,000 words, although the How to Recruit module is almost 11,000 words and I am still adding to it, because recruitment sucks a LOT.

Anyhow, this is really going to be a complex, in-depth, modular guide and I hope you guys will enjoy reading it and learning from it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

Oh, speaking of the guide… From this weekend’s post-reception afterparty: Dar told me that Daey was telling her that the only thing I need to include in my guide section about loot is “/roll”. Oh, Football. Never change.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this game called Healer that Megs pointed me to. Dar and I were talking about how we missed healing and I said that this game was really the solution to healing without playing WoW. It’s very, very similar to WoW healing and there’s even an Onyxia-type encounter. Dar ended up playing the game on my iPad post-afterparty for like, 20+ minutes and this game is the sole reason she actually wants a tablet now. (I think the game is only available for iPad, not iPhone or any other platform.) Time to start up a Tabletfordar fund. ;) The game is really neat and I quite enjoy it. Check it out if you have a healing itch. (Note, it’s $4.99, but I think it’s pretty well worth it.)

Okay, I should wrap this up as I have some errands to run and, clearly, lots of guide-related and Blessing of Frost-related work to do! Enjoy your 5.3 patch day, folks. :)

Answer…

My previous post asked you guys if you might be interested in a guild master’s guide. The results are in — I got dozens of responses and the majority of them said yes, they would be interested in such a guide, and most of THOSE said they’d pay something for it (although prices varied wildly).

As such, I wanted to let you know that I am now officially working on a guild master’s guide. It will be modular, so you can buy whatever it is you need help with most. There will be samples available before you buy and the cost for each module will be very reasonable, with a bit of a discount if you buy the entire guide at once.

What I’m looking at, as of right now:

– Module 1: Starting (or reorganizing) a guild: goals/timetable of events, rules, structure, policies, loot (if applicable), community.
– Module 2: How to recruit: the entire recruitment process, from A to Z (that’s “zed”, Americans), including a sample application and sample recruitment posts, plus where to recruit AND how (and when) to go that extra mile. (Turnover is also included here.)
– Module 3: Officers: how to choose officers, avoiding drama, what to do with underperformers, how much impact officers should have on the guild’s direction.
– Module 4: Community Management: Troublemakers and dealing with them, cliques, morale, fun events, real-life circumstances, guild alliances/mergers, social media, exposure.
– Module 5: Expansions: How to successfully plan for an expansion (this mostly already exist on the blog, but I’d refine it somewhat).
– Module 6: Passing over leadership without killing your guild: How to quit but let your guild live on.

My NEW question to you guys is if there’s something that’s not covered above, what would you most want covered and in which section would you want it? Or does the topic deserve its own section entirely? Similarly, if there’s anything you think I’ve listed that REALLY doesn’t need to be in the guide, chime in.

(Bear in mind that I’m trying to leave raiding out of it entirely for the moment. I have another idea about maybe writing a raid leader’s guide, even a role officer’s guide, but let’s see how this goes, first. ;))

Feel free to let me know in the comments or via email (kurn [at] apotheosis-now [dot] com) if you want to remain more or less anonymous. With any luck, I’ll have a first draft for all modules done in the next two weeks and then sometime after Majik’s wedding (Blessing of Frost listeners, I WILL TRY TO GET HIM TO SING!), I hope to start releasing stuff. So now’s the time to let me know what you really want to see included!

Question…

I’ve spent the last couple of days reading a great book called $100 Startup and it’s gotten me to start thinking about stuff I know that I can share with others — for a price. ;)

One of the things I know how to do is how to start and run a pretty successful guild. I may no longer really know how to heal or go through WoL (since there have been so many changes I haven’t kept up with) and since I don’t play anymore, I wouldn’t feel as though my advice for actually PLAYING WoW would be worth much, if anything.

But I’m pretty sure my experience at being an officer, a raid leader, a healing lead and a GM is still useful. So, for the next week, I’m going to run this survey, asking you fine folks what you think about the possibility of me putting out a guide for GMs. It’ll close just after midnight on Monday, May 6th, 2013 (EDT).

Here’s the link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1i5p9180oT8GnK8rzn-UmvkYshbTYaJFFhIzSivk9czw/viewform

It’s anonymous. I’m just looking for info from a group of people who might be interested in what I have to say in a more organized fashion than on my blog. ;) If there’s interest, sweet. If not, no worries. Just putting out some feelers, and I’d appreciate your feedback. :)

As usual, haters need not apply. ;)

Updatey Goodness

MAN, this place gets dusty quickly, doesn’t it?

Anyway. Hi. It’s been awhile. I just thought I’d share a couple of things about what’s happening with me in this strange, strange post-WoW world.

1) SimCity: The launch was unbelievably terrible. We’re talking worse than D3’s Error 37. It was catastrophic. Gameplay is still not great and, honestly, when I think about how I should go play (since my brother Fog and I are collaborating on a region), I just get depressed at how craptastic portions of the game are. It’s a sad state. I haven’t asked for a refund, but I can’t recommend anyone purchase the game at this time. Maybe in a couple of months. I just lost a relatively young city to the rollback/unable to load city bug. Again. Ridiculous.

Don’t even get me started on their customer service. You who still play WoW do not know how lucky you are that Blizzard’s CS is, frankly, outstanding.

I would take a role-playing GM over the imbeciles at EA ANY DATE OF THE WEEK. That’s how bad EA is.

2) Job stuff: I can’t go into any real detail because I signed a non-disclosure agreement, but I recently had four rounds of interviews for a sweet job as community manager for a specific product for a specific video game company. Sadly, I didn’t get it, but it was a fantastic process. Why?

Among other things, they wanted to make sure the job went to a real gamer. So much so that in one of my interviews, the guy had me rattling off my raid progression from WoW.

Let’s think about that for a second.

In order to get a job out there in the real world, I was asked to talk about my in-game achievements. in World of Warcraft. (No, it’s not a job for Blizzard. Like they would hire me after my rants, anyhow. ;D)

But seriously, talking about my in-game achievements? My meta-achievements? My raid leading and guild leading and healing assignments? All in order to get a job in the real world that has nothing to do with WoW?

My head kind of exploded.

We didn’t get into too much detail about my raiding, but this blog, my Blessing of Frost podcast, my Twitter account… all of these had hits and followers and downloads that pointed to the fact that I knew how to build a community. And my raiding accomplishments were used to point out that yes, I am, in fact, a gamer.

Basically, my seven years of playing WoW, of engaging other players, of organizing people, of writing stuff, of doing countless posts that have math in them (UGH), of doing loot lists, of putting up with Majik, for crying out loud… all of it was absolutely worth it if only because it got me farther in a job interview than someone who hadn’t done so.

Granted, it was for a video game company looking for a community manager for a specific upcoming video game product. I don’t know that my raid leading is going to have as much importance in other interviews. But knowing that I went through a screener call from a recruiter, followed by a much more in-depth phone interview by the recruiter, followed by another phone interview with the two people with whom I’d be working, followed by a full afternoon of four interviews with five separate people… all thanks to my past job experience but especially my experience in WoW?

That felt pretty good.

The guy who asked me about my raid progression actually said:

“Soooooooo. Tell me about your guild.”

I think he was trying to throw me for a loop, but it energized me. My passion for what I had put together in Cataclysm really came shining through, my joy at getting to play with these people not just in BC but in Cata as well was evident.

So regardless of whether or not I got the job, I was thrilled by the process. I was so glad to have spent the time that I did in WoW. I was even proud to have done so, because I knew it distinguished me from other candidates. I made it to the final round of interviews and they went with someone else, but I got there, and a lot of it has to do with my guild, this blog, my podcast and my Twitter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you. I’ve had 350,000 visits, garnering 454,000 pageviews with almost 175,000 unique visitors from December, 2010 until today. Thank you for helping to make me one of the better places for holy paladin knowledge, at least back in Wrath (because I know I fell down on the job a bit in Cata) and thank you for all your emails, comments, tweets and support throughout the years.

I may not play any longer and I may not even post very often anymore, but please know that I appreciate your support, dating back from late 2010 through to the present. Those of you who made it through some of those exceedingly long posts, thank you in particular for dealing with my long-windedness. :)

What’s next for me? Back to square one in the job search. But hey, if you’re looking for a community manager, drop me a line. ;)

(As to the state of the place here, well, I’ll try to drop in more often to keep the dust away!)

Why Not Playing Isn't Easy

Lately, I’ve been reading up on the new SimCity game. I’ve been reading reviews and websites, watching videos, enjoying the Let’s All Be Mayor events and generally waiting (not remotely patiently) for the game to be released on March 5th (in North America).

As such, I’ve seen a lot of negative comments from long-time SimCity players. A lot of positive ones, too, but so many negative comments crop up everywhere. Some of the vitriol being spouted reminded me somewhat of WoW forums, to be honest. My first instinct was to tell these people to STFU. I mean, if you don’t like the game, don’t play, right? That’s when I realized what I was thinking and why I was tempted to say these things.

I was annoyed because these negative folks were bringing me down. Here I am, all psyched to go play SimCity and these clowns have the nerve to point out every single potential flaw they see in the game? Feh. Thanks a bunch for messing with my anticipation of the game. I think this is the first game I have been genuinely excited about since Cataclysm. It’s certainly the first one I’ve spent watching videos of and certainly the first one in which I’ve made as much use out of the beta as I possibly could. (Unlike Mists as I barely touched Mists beta.)

However, due to the fact that I stopped playing the SimCity franchise somewhere around SimCity 2000 (and picked up SimCity 4 because I was bored sometime last year — 9 years after its release!), I am quite aware that I am not the hardcore fanbase. I am not part of the community that has kept SimCity alive. I best recall the 1989 version of SimCity and that’s the game I spent hours upon hours playing.

There are others who have been die-hard SimCity players since 1989, who have continued through ten years of no new games from EA/Maxis in the SimCity series. That is definitely not me.

In many cases, however, that is the group that is complaining about various things, from a too-small map size to the always-online component, from glitchy graphics with roads to the fact that there is no subway system in the game.

At some point, while reading these complaints and getting increasingly frustrated with these people, I recognized something pretty clearly: I was *that group* when it comes to WoW.

What do I mean? I mean, I was that crotchety old-time player who remembered 40-man raids and attunements and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about battle pets and scenarios. I was deeply invested in the game, both in terms of my time spent doing game-related things as well as my own emotional investment. Lots of times when Blizzard did something I didn’t like, it felt like a personal attack on my loyalty. It felt as though Blizzard was deliberately doing things to their game to get rid of me, although I do, in fact, know that’s not the case. ;)

Everyone has their own breaking point when changes come to their beloved things. Whether it’s nerfs to the Firelands and Dragon Soul or nerfs to paladins, whether it’s the removal of attunements or the emphasis on dailies, everyone has an opinion. For a vast majority of players, these changes are simply ones you have to roll with. I learned early on in WoW that rolling with the punches is the only way to advance in the game. You have to change, have to adapt, have to deal with things constantly being adjusted. If you can’t, then you’re better off no longer playing.

That’s where all the “if you don’t like the game, don’t play” comments come in. It’s not that easy, and here’s why.

1) Time investment: In my case, when I made my decision to quit, I had been playing WoW since October of 2005. In that time, I had been an officer, a healing lead, a raid leader, a guild master, a blogger and a podcaster. My /played time was well over a year in real time, when you looked at the time played for both my hunter and my paladin combined. In the last couple of years, I easily spent 15+ hours a week on game-related stuff before even logging in to the game to actually play it.

It’s difficult to throw away all that time invested and not play any longer. Trust me. It’s still challenging to me to not log in, particularly on nights when I would normally be raiding when I’m not otherwise occupied. For someone like me who spent at least 15 hours a week on game-related stuff outside of the game, plus another 15 hours a week raiding (9 with Apotheosis, 6 with Choice), plus another 3-5 hours doing Stuff in-game, it was a huge change and part of why I never quit before was because I actually enjoyed spending all that time doing game-related stuff. For a great majority of my time playing WoW, forming these friendships and creating communities and educating people about the game was a delight. I loved pulling up raid strats and then later making my own. I adored pouring over the logs, diving deeply into them to figure out which healer I needed to yell at for blowing us up on Heroic Yor’sahj (stupid Atonement, stupid Lightwell). And it was all wrapped in this greater purpose of getting the team through the content. I was really happy doing that stuff and I really do still miss it. Of all the things I felt I gained while playing WoW, it’s the working with my team aspect I’ve had the most trouble replacing.

So I can understand not wanting to seemingly throw away all that time one has spent being invested in a game/franchise/etc. It makes sense to me.

2) Emotional investment:¬†Seven years was a long-ass time for me to play WoW. I can’t imagine how some of these SimCity people feel after playing the games religiously since 1989. One must become very much attached to various concepts. I guess it’s probably something like what feral druids went through in Mists, with the separation of Guardian spec from Feral spec. I know some druids were pleased that they were finally getting a real tanking spec that was separate from kitties, but I know that some other druids were upset to lose some of the functionality. After eight years of having feral being the tank-spec for druids, I can imagine it was a really difficult thing for some druids to give up. One sort of starts to take for granted certain things about their classes, I think. Imagine if they got rid of Divine Shield. Paladins would go apeshit. I would go apeshit and I don’t even play anymore. (And don’t get me started on the removal of Divine Intervention. I still miss it. Shout-out to Euphie, my RL Friend the Resto Druid and Walks, all of whom I DIed more times during Wrath than I ever did in the two previous expansions combined.)

I imagine the same thing can be said for the long-time SimCity player. There’s a certain level of comfort when looking at the UI and seeing the familiar RCI (Residential/Commercial/Industrial) demand bars. There’s something nice and familiar about zoning and drawing roads on the map and the like. But this version of SimCity has some other things to think about, such as City Specializations, which may take precedence over the types of zones you drop in your city, despite the demand. There’s also regional play, meaning your citizens can end up working in another city while living in yours, so you can ignore the industrial demand because, hey, your citizens can go work at the dirty factories down the highway from your clean, pristine city. This is a significant change from previous versions, as I understand it.

3) The Breaking Point Arrives: Sometimes, no matter how much logical sense a change makes, it feels wrong. That’s where the breaking points come in. At which point can you no longer stomach changes that feel wrong to you? I mean, I dealt with the removal of Divine Intervention because I understood that people were abusing it (apparently, using it on someone with a Mark of Blood on Saurfang was popular), but it still felt wrong. I’m sure the removal really boiled down to “how can we prevent DI from making this encounter trivial?” and that’s unfortunate, but it’s what happened.

I kept playing, despite being disappointed, because I cared more about just DI in the game. I cared about a LOT more, not the least of which was my plan to revive Apotheosis.

At some point, however, my problems with the game’s direction became greater than my affection for it.

The major issue in leading up to an individual’s breaking point is, I think, that up until that point, you think you can do something to enact change. At least, that’s my view. The only way to enact change is to be vocal and clear about what you don’t like and, wherever possible, offer potential solutions.

When the nerfs to Firelands came out, since that was a huge turning point for me, personally, there were a ton of suggestions thrown out there as to how to “better” nerf the game. Among them, suggestions to not flat-out nerf things, but perhaps the places where people are struggling (tornadoes on Alysrazor, for example).

When T13 came out and LFR was introduced, we all thought “well, finally, there’s a raid level for people who don’t have time to commit to an organized raiding group, they’ll leave normals and heroics alone”. Wrong. The normal-modes were pretty easy anyhow and then nerfs were implemented at the fairly steady rate of 5% per month over six months, despite assurances that the nerfs would only continue if Blizzard saw a need for them.

If Firelands was a turning point for me, then Dragon Soul was the breaking point. It was at that time, when the Dragon Soul nerfs came out, that I really began considering no longer playing after Cataclysm had ended. Unless something big happened to convince me to keep playing, I was done raiding and likely done playing entirely, once my Annual Pass had expired. And that’s what ended up happening. No raiding, no real interest in Pandaria and no more obligation to pay Blizzard led to my account cancellation. Seeya, Blizz.

CLOSURE

It took a lot, though. I persevered through guilds breaking up and reforming and breaking up again. I dealt with abusive raid leaders and terrible GMs. I dealt with performing well under pressure on a shitty computer. I went through nerfs and buffs and class redesigns and buggy, buggy encounters. And finally, I’d had enough. But it took a lot to get me to that point.

So when I see people yelling at the disappointed or upset SimCity players, telling them “don’t buy the game, if you don’t like it!”, I suddenly feel for the disappointed players. They’re upset because they’re passionate. They’re somewhere between being upset and working towards changing what they don’t like and being upset enough to not even buy the new game. Some of these people are the equivalent of me when Firelands nerfs came out. And some are me post-DS nerfs.

I guess my point here is that I’ve suddenly gained a ton of empathy for these angry and upset and disappointed long-time SimCity players. And telling something to “just quit” isn’t helpful. When it comes to something about which you’re passionate, the way I was about WoW for so very long, one has to find their own breaking points and can only quit at that point, I think. It’s really about mourning the loss of what you once loved and then moving on. It’s something that’s different for everyone and people will get to that point at different times and, eventually, will quit. I started mourning in Firelands and learned to accept things after Heroic Dragon Soul was cleared and the focus in our guild moved towards the new expansion.

But you know, even when you do quit, it’s still not easy to let go of all the time and emotion you put into that activity. If nothing else, trust me on that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t still feel pretty twitchy on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 9pm ET if I’m not otherwise occupied. :)

Ruminations about Raiding from the Retirement Home

Well, hello there, folks. Apologies for the dust, but that strange thing we call “Real Life” seems to have expanded significantly since I stopped playing. Plus, who wants to hear about WoW stuff from someone who hasn’t played it since November?

Of course, though, I have things to say. I always have things to say. As usual, whether you play or not is your choice. These are just my ruminations about raiding. I’m not calling on people to quit en masse, I’m not encouraging everyone who’s ever quit to go back. I’m just writing because I have stuff I want to write about.

I’ve kept up with some of changes that have happened in the game since I quit in November. A lot of the smaller changes have escaped my notice or interest. To be honest, I don’t care about most of the balance changes, I don’t care about VP upgrades, Elder Charms, dailies or anything of the sort. However, what has struck me as interesting has been some of the discussion between Blizzard reps and various players about a couple of subjects. Specifically, the 10% nerf to 5.0 raids that is coming up in 5.2 as well as some responses to a thread on the forums about raiding being too hard and time consuming.

In order to address these points, I want to talk about my own philosophy and what encouraged me to raid.

RAIDING WAS THE PVE END-GAME

We typically spent a lot of time getting our toons from 1-60 in Vanilla. It took me 30 days of /played time, one full, real-life month (!) to get Kurn to 60. It was a long slog. Part of it was that I had no idea what I was doing to start, part of it was because I was distracted by all the cool things I could do in the world. (I spent way too many hours on a run from Desolace down through Feralas to Tanaris in order to explore the neutral Auction House, for example. There were many deaths as I ran down there at level 28 or so, collecting flight points along the way. I still had a blast, because it was all new and exciting!) I eventually hit 60 and was getting the hang of the various 5-mans available to me. I soon learned the best ways to clear LBRS, that the Father Flame event in UBRS was SO not worth it, that unless a warlock needed shoulders you should probably avoid Jandice Barov in Scholo, memorized the pulls in Strat Undead, figured out how to summon the Postmaster in Strat Live, figured out how best to navigate around Dire Maul’s various wings and, possibly most importantly, knew every square inch of Blackrock Depths and how to get everyone through Molten Core and Onyxia attunement. (Damn you, Windsor, DAMN YOU!)

As I saw it, the 5-mans (and LBRS/UBRS 10-mans) were stepping stones to the REAL end-game, which was raiding. I also acknowledged that not everyone wanted to raid or even had to raid. But the max-level instances were there to help attune us to the raids and also challenged us to learn how to play, basically. That’s where I learned how to pull properly, but that took time. I still remember killing more than one group after the rat cage in Strat Live because I pulled the patrolling abomination at precisely the WRONG time, causing a group of undead to join in the fun. But I learned to time things better and got to be good at pulling, as well as CCing and controlling my pet. (We will not talk about how my cat, Whisper, once wiped us all in BRD because we jumped off the “high road” and Whisper took the long way ’round…)

As I understood progression within the game, it was very linear. You got to 60, did these instances, then started raiding. And you would start raiding with the 20-mans, Zul’Gurub or the Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj, if you didn’t have 39 friends to go raiding with. So we cleared ZG and half of AQ (always less popular than ZG with my guild). We recruited constantly and only ever twice had a full 40-man group to go tackle Molten Core. We would usually be around 32ish people or thereabouts, of varying levels of gear, skill and specs. We once walked into MC with something like nine warriors. Awkward. But no more awkward than 26-manning Gehennas one night.

MC would lead to Blackwing Lair, which lead to AQ40, which ultimately led to Naxxramas, the original level 60 instance. Somewhere in there, around the midpoint of MC, you could probably start working on Onyxia, which dropped T2 helms. (Insert moment of shock when you think that they’re about to release Tier 15…!)

Guilds were supposed to work their way through the content and eventually arrive at Naxx and Kel’Thuzad.

It didn’t really work out that way, though. Given the amount of people needed (at least 40 to have a full-powered raid) and the amount of time needed to prepare to raid (flasks, food, all the farming), many guilds just fizzled out, the guild I was part of at that time included. You have to know that in any guild, you have a lot of chances for things to go kablooie. The raid leader or GM quits? The chances to come back from that (if it’s unexpected, especially) were slim, back in those days. When you had 40 people, at a minimum, to manage, things got crazy hectic and there was even less of a chance of overall consensus or acceptance of various strats because there were even more people who could disagree with you. Maintaining order was challenging.

So, to me, it’s not at all surprising that so few people ever cleared the original Naxx. You weren’t expected to even SEE Naxx back in those days. It was accepted that most people, even raiders, would maybe get somewhere into Blackwing Lair, maybe early AQ40, and that’s where they’d basically fall apart. It was only the most dedicated and talented (and, in some cases, lucky) players who would get through Twin Emps and C’thun and get deep into Naxx.

There was, of course, a time limit. Naxxramas came out with Patch 1.11, June 20th, 2006 and Burning Crusade came out on January 16th, 2008. (Wow. Imagine less than ten months between the final instance of an expansion and the release of the new expansion…) So guilds only had 7 months to get to and clear Naxx.

It wasn’t really possible for people to catch up and get to Naxx. That’s why Naxx (much like Sunwell Plateau later) had so few guilds that ever even got to it. That’s why they could re-release an easier version of it as Tier 7 at the start of Wrath of the Lich King. So few people had seen it when it was current content, it was like a brand new instance.

BURNING CRUSADE MAINTAINED LINEAR PROGRESSION (MOSTLY)

Burning Crusade was more of the same game that we loved. We still had to go through and do the instances at level cap before we went off to raid, only they also introduced “heroic modes” and made those attunement quests rely heavily on mastery of level 70 heroic instances. I won’t talk about the rep requirements for heroics, nor will I talk about how some of the heroics were really quite difficult, even for people who knew their classes quite well. Entry into Karazhan didn’t require heroic dungeons to be completed, but Serpentshrine Cavern required time spent in Heroic Slave Pens and Tempest Keep’s The Eye required all the Trials of the Naaru to be completed — which included Heroic Shattered Halls, Heroic Shadow Labyrinth and Heroic Arcatraz to all be completed. (They were all considered to be some of the most challenging dungeons.) Once you cleared SSC and TK, you could get into Hyjal. Black Temple attunement required an extensive questline and for you to kill certain bosses in SSC, TK and Hyjal.

Long story short, progression here was extremely linear up until the point where they removed the SSC, TK, Hyjal and BT attunements and released Sunwell Plateau which was open to everyone without attunement (although the last three bosses were gated for two months).

Still, things were pretty linear because in order to participate in T6 content, you pretty much needed T5 gear. You couldn’t very well show up to a Tier 6 boss and do your part as a team member in gear you got way back in T4 out of Karazhan. It would be like doing some of Molten Core and then showing up to Naxx back in Vanilla. You couldn’t do it — your stats would not be high enough to justify giving you that spot, unless you were in an exceptional group who dragged you through farm content to gear you up.

So we went:

60-70
Normal level cap dungeons
Heroic dungeons
Karazhan (10 people)
Gruul/Magtheridon (this is when raids started requiring 25 people)
SSC/TK
Hyjal
BT
Sunwell

Somewhere in there, I think with the launch of Sunwell and the Shattered Sun Offensive, Blizzard gave us badge gear. We’d had Badges of Justice for quite some time, but now it could be used to purchase gear that was … interesting.

These badge-obtained items weren’t quite T5 (ilvl 133) but they weren’t quite T6 either (146). They were in the middle, leaning closer towards T6, with an ilvl of 141, for the armor. The weapons were ilvl 146, which was BETTER than what could be gotten out of BT, just from a stat perspective, with the exception of weapons off Illidan (151, except the Warglaives, which were 156).

All of a sudden, you could go from being all decked out in Kara gear to farming badges for this badge gear and you could move from being relegated to T4/T5 content (none of which most people touched in pugs except for Karazhan, at least on my server) to being able to join a guild progressing in Hyjal and Black Temple or even Sunwell.

This was the introduction of the catch-up mechanic. While the removal of the attunements was the preliminary step, the introduction of this badge gear was the thing that actually enabled people to move from T4 to T6 content without ever seeing T5 content. You could go from pugging Karazhan or even just doing heroic dungeons, to a Sunwell Plateau pug on your own.

It’s as though, midway through the expansion, Blizzard realized “dude, if guilds keep getting stuck at these entry requirements (attunements) for each tier, no one’s ever going to see Illidan,” and then once they lifted the attunements, they realized that the gear was the stumbling block. “Let there be gear!” they said, and there was.

Despite this, and despite the blanket 30% nerf at the 3.0 patch drop, about a month before Wrath came out, Sunwell Plateau was not seen by a ton of guilds. It was more popular than Naxxramas was for a variety of reasons (no attunement, the ability to pug trash for epic drops, etc), but I know hardly anyone back on my server went into Sunwell. Even very progressed raiders on other servers had a lot of difficulty with Sunwell and many guilds broke up while coming up against the second boss, Brutallus, who was well-known for being a “guild-breaker” and the sole reason many people picked up Leatherworking, for the Drums of Battle that could be used for a “permanent” haste buff, which stacked with Heroism/Bloodlust.

BURNING CRUSADE-LIKE BADGE GEAR BECOMES THE NORM

So off we go to Wrath of the Lich King.

In Wrath, tier gear was available from badge vendors right from the start. Sorry, I mean emblem vendors. Remember all those emblems? Emblems of Heroism, Valor, Conquest, Triumph and Frost. I still call them badges. :P

Anyhow, you could now get TIER gear from these vendors. Not all of your tier at first, but once the Trial of the Crusader raid (T9) came out, you could use your badges (which you got from basically any PVE content, including heroic dungeons and even a random normal one, once a day) to purchase your entire tier set from a vendor.

This continued with Tier 10 gear from Emblems of Frost, although your methods of gaining Emblems of Frost were a little less varied than Emblems of Triumph. Here, this page explains things pretty well.

So it was during this period, around Tier 9, that you suddenly not only had a “catch up” mechanic, or a mechanic to help you out in case your tier token is packed or to help with bad RNG. Suddenly, players had an alternate method, aside from raiding, to gear up entirely. What’s more, since the badges were EVERYWHERE, basically, people weren’t using the gear to “catch up” in order to go out and raid. It was more just to improve their own characters for the hell of it. And who could blame them? If you have the ability to upgrade your gear, especially with such ease, why wouldn’t you do it?

This is also the point where, in my never-remotely-humble opinion, raiding stopped being so much about the gear, which had been a huge incentive for people for years to this point. Until T9 came out, you were never able to get all of your tier gear without raiding. Gear was many people’s GOAL for raiding. (Not mine, mind you, although it was always nice to get upgrades.)

Gone was the linear progression, entirely. You could now level an alt to 80, do a ton of heroics, get the lowest tier of your tier 9 and then jump into PUGs without being a drag on the group due to your gear. (That’s not to say, of course, that you wouldn’t be a drag on your group at all, but that’s another story.) In theory, a knowledgeable player could get an alt to 80 and decently geared in an extremely short period of time. It was during this time that I actually levelled a bunch of alts. I had levelled my hunter and my paladin, but I levelled a druid to 80 as well as a priest, a shaman and even got my mage from 70 to 80. I healed pugs on all my healing-capable toons and did gold-DKP runs on my hunter. I knocked out dailies and weekly raid quests on most every character. Without a doubt, I was the most active I’d ever been in-game, with six characters at level cap and almost all of them had at least a full set of T9 and I was capable of doing just about any content I wanted to with them (barring heroic raids).

JUSTICE POINTS, VALOR POINTS AND CATACLYSM

Once Cataclysm launched, not all tier was available from the vendors. Clearly, Blizzard had realized “hey, we should probably keep SOME of the tier to raids only…”. Still, players had all kinds of options from their Justice/Valor point vendors. While there were a couple of slots that were notoriously hard to upgrade (helm and shoulders in particular) in early content, but there were several off-set pieces available to people, such that it was also pretty easy to gear up an alt or a new level 85 character. Combined with Darkmoon Faire trinkets, plus crafted gear from various professions, someone could level a toon to 85 and then get geared and hop into a raid pretty quickly. Even while running a guild, raiding with that guild, raid leading with that guild, I levelled a second holy paladin from level 1 to level 85 and geared her appropriately for T11 content in less than two months. If I’d had all the free time I wanted, that would have dropped to maybe three weeks, total.

It only got easier once Dragon Soul was out and the Heroic Hour of Twilight instances were out. Plus LFR joined the fray.

It was clear that LFR (in conjunction with the nerfs we saw in T11 and T12) was brought out to push people back into raids. However, given the precedents set in Wrath of the Lich King (where people were able to get good gear just by virtue of doing daily dungeon runs over a period of time), the challenging aspects of the LFR raids were toned down, if not eliminated.

Blizzard claims this is due to LFRs being a group of 25 people who don’t communicate and don’t plan things out. That’s fine, I get that. But there were very few, if any, negative consequences for screwing things up in Dragon Soul’s LFR. People didn’t have to soak on Morchok, bounce the ball back on Zon’ozz, even switch to the “proper” slime on Yor’sahj. People could eat Ice Waves on Hagara and manage to live. People could easily ignore the twilight realm on Ultraxion while healers didn’t pick up the healing buffs and still live. LFR Blackhorn wasn’t anywhere near as challenging as its normal version and was a pale imitation of the heroic version of the fight. LFR Spine saw healers twiddling their thumbs throughout while DPS mindlessly did damage and countless abominations died before they were pulled into the proper position. Thrall kept dropping people on Madness.

So LFR Dragon Soul was laughably easy to get through, with most of the issues stemming from griefers: those who would start the fight before people were ready or the group was even full, those who would deliberately kill abominations before they were in place and the like.

At the same time, normal Dragon Soul wasn’t terribly difficult. My own guild stomped the first four encounters on Normal on the first night we were in there. Two weeks later, Deathwing was dead and we could start in on heroics.

Meanwhile, non-raiders could “catch up” through LFR and get very similar gear to normals, albeit slightly less powerful versions. Again, though, these people weren’t trying to “catch up”, they were trying to progress. And that’s fine, that’s what LFR is for, IMHO. It’s for the casual raider who wants to see the content and do the encounters but doesn’t have the time or desire to raid in an organized, progressive fashion.

But then, they nerfed the crap out of Dragon Soul, both normal and heroic, despite having LFR available.

WHAT IS THE ACTUAL PURPOSE OF LFR, NORMAL AND HEROIC DIFFICULTIES?

After they had nerfed T11’s normal modes after T12 came out (by ~30%), I know I assumed they would go forward and nerf T12 by the same amount (normals only) once T12 was done and T13 came out. But just three months into T12, they nerfed everything in Firelands, pretty much, on normal and heroic. Why? So that people could progress and see the content.

Once LFR came out with T13, I know I assumed that normals and heroics would remain untouched in terms of being nerfed. After all, anyone with ilvl 372 could get into LFR and see the content.

But no. They started nerfing Dragon Soul normals AND heroics just 9 weeks into the release of the instance, and that’s with an active LFR.

It was no longer about allowing people to “see the content”, as they had previously claimed. If all they wanted to do was to expand the number of people who see instances, they’d done that with LFR. No longer would instances mostly go unseen, as had happened with AQ40, Naxxramas and Sunwell Plateau. The trouble is that, due to the ability to catch up even more quickly, fewer people were seeing the earlier instances, although likely not as few people saw the early raids as the late raids back in Vanilla and BC. Anyhow…

Here’s what Blizzard said about the nerfs to Dragon Soul.

For any number of reasons a group may be having difficulty on a specific encounter each week, and our intent in adjusting the content is to ensure the ability to keep progressing, enjoying the content, and gearing up. […] Very few players are willing to suit up, buff up, do all the necessary requirements to raid, jump in, and then do no better than they did last week for hours and hours, only to return next week and do the same.

So it became clear: Blizzard wanted people to eventually see any difficulty level without always putting in the required time and energy. Right?

MISTS OF PANDARIA AND A RETURN TO DAYS OF YORE. KINDA.

Well, not really. Nethaera recently replied to a poster on the official forums, who had complained about being in normals for three months and wiping for 8 hours a week and she suggests some things that may be causing issues in the person’s normal raids.

You’ve found a bug or an imbalance in an encounter that’s causing you issues.

Your Raid team may not be using solid achievable tactics to approach the encounters and may need to refine them more.

Members of your Raid team may not have the most appropriate gear for the encounters. which can cause additional burden on other members who do have appropriate gear.

Members of the Raid team may need to change spell rotations or even talent options for specific encounters

So Nethaera is telling people to basically gear up, learn how to play their class, examine tactics and to submit a bug report if they think they’ve hit a bug.

This sounds like a perfectly reasonable response to me. This is what people used to do! This is how I’ve always approached the game. Make sure you have the gear, the skill, the knowledge and a strategy (or two… or three…) and note any weird behaviour that could be a bug. But Neth is telling this person who is stuck on normals to basically learn how to play the game. Good! It’s said a lot more diplomatically than, say, I would put it, but this is a case where the person who is complaining is basically saying “give me my loot with very little effort required”. And Neth says “no”. Yay!

However, at the same time this exchange is going on, the news comes out that they are nerfing T14 by 10% when 5.2 (and thus, T15) comes out. Bashiok says that they went “too far” in Cataclysm, meaning that they allowed people to skip all previous content, later on in the game and that fresh 85s could just hop into Dragon Soul. So now they’re going to try to force people to go through T14 content before hitting T15, and in order to make it a little more palatable to pug it, they’re going to nerf both normals and heroics by 10%.

But hey, if you killed various bosses in those instances PRE-NERF, you get a “Cutting Edge” (for heroic) or “Ahead of the Curve” (for normal” feat of strength! Snazzy. I guess…

SO WHAT’S THE POINT OF THIS POST, KURN?

I guess my point is that Blizzard is being inconsistent.

In the beginning, raiding was basically reserved for those who had the time to dedicate to it, but this was unacceptable.

They wanted more people to raid, so they lifted attunements in BC and implemented badge gear.

This presumably grew the game and so they continued with that trend in Wrath, with the game reaching

They feel that they did too good a job in allowing people to “catch up” in Cataclysm, so in Mists, they’re going to go back to the linear model, but make it easier to complete than it was before (10% nerf).

At the same time, by virtue of what Neth is saying on the forums, they are seemingly okay with someone in a sub-par raid group because there appears to be a limit to what Blizzard will do to allow people to progress without those people doing “the right things”, like gearing up, figuring out how to play and the like.

REALLY? NEARLY 4000 WORDS AND THAT’S YOUR POINT?

Well, there’s more to it than that. WoW is down to 9.6 million subscribers in Q4 (October, November, December) of 2012, down from “over 10 million” in Q3 (July, August, September). The Annual Pass ended, for many people, in November. Is the reason Blizzard is forcing people to go through raid content in a linear fashion because they’re hoping to get back to Wrath basics, where the game population grew substantially and everyone had alts? Is it because their early instances are being completely abandoned even by newer raiders in the more recent expansions? At the end of Wrath of the Lich King (reporting for Q3 2010), there were over 12 million concurrent WoW subscribers.

There are now 9.6 million.

I don’t think WoW is dying, I don’t think 9.6 million subscribers is bad. It’s leaps and bounds more than most MMOs have these days.

However, if I worked for Blizzard, I’d be looking back at Wrath and trying to figure out ways to entice people to keep playing. What could I lift from the extremely popular WotLK expansion and drop into Mists? At the same time, I’d have to balance how to keep the better/smarter/more talented players around.

I think the problem is that WotLK is when Blizzard got an influx of “the masses”. Not gamers, not people who understand what an MMO is or how things like aggro work. We’re talking people who don’t bother to train their skills, who don’t understand the game and they’re inflicting themselves on other players. So as game population went WAY up (and it clearly did), the overall ability of a random group dropped down into the basement.

I think that Blizzard needs to ask if they want 12 million bad players running around, making life miserable for everyone else on every single random dungeon or battleground or LFR they run OR if they want to keep the game interesting for the more talented players, even at the risk of alienating some of the bad players (and thus, their subscriptions).

I think a lot of this is tied in with how they approach gear and available PVE/raid content.

I don’t claim to have the answers. All I can say is that, if I were in Blizzard’s shoes, I would have wanted to keep people like me (GM, raid leader, blogger, podcaster) interested in the game. Since I am not interested in the game any longer (okay, not interested in PLAYING the game, since I’m obviously keeping up to date on some of the happenings), I can only imagine that people like myself (and Majik, for example) are being replaced by the people Nethaera responded to on the forums, who complain about 8 hours of wipes a week on normals for three months.

Which type of player is better for the game? Which approach is best from a financial standpoint? How can in-game changes to gear, gear acquisition, raid content and nerfs be used to maintain and grow this population? How can Blizzard balance the game population? Do they even want to?

Like I said, I don’t have the answers. I can only guess that we’ll learn more as Mists of Pandaria matures. Where will WoW’s population be for Q1 2013? We’ll find out in early May and that, combined with in-game changes, may give us an idea of where Blizzard is heading and what its true intentions are with regards to the type of players it wants playing World of Warcraft.

(PS: The final episode of Blessing of Frost is out. Enjoy!)

Better Late Than Never

Ladies and gentlemen of the holy paladin community… hello.

You are probably all caught up on this stuff, but since it was a lingering issue throughout the Pandaria beta and well into live, I thought I’d actually update here. Thanks to Ophelie’s post that reminded me I hadn’t updated the situation!

Shortly after 5.1 came out, I sent a note to Jacii, a holy paladin in Apotheosis. I was like, “dude, can you please do me a favour and see if they actually fixed Holy Avenger like GC promised they would?”

He happily obliged, for which I thanked him profusely. Then I got caught up in holidays and family and junk.

So here, now, are the results of Jacii’s testing:

Holy Avenger will now grant 30% extra healing to Flash of Light and Divine Light on the Beacon of Light target while active.

Additionally, they will continue to give you three Holy Power when benefiting from Tower of Radiance, when Holy Avenger is active.

Here are the averages of about 10 casts WITHOUT Holy Avenger active:

Holy Shock – 34,755
Holy Radiance – 25,674
Flash of Light – 46,791
Divine Light – 62,204

And here they are WITH Holy Avenger active:

Holy Shock  Р45,147
Holy Radiance – 33,421
Flash of Light – 60,999
Divine Light – 80,516

Jacii kindly also included the percentage differences, which means I don’t have to do math. Yay!

Holy Shock – 29.90%
Holy Radiance – 30.17%
Flash of Light – 30.36%
Divine Light – 29.44%

Obviously, the offsets here and there are due to heals healing for a RANGE of healing and not always, say, 35k, 25k, 47k and 62k. It seems as though Holy Avenger now properly grants 30% extra healing to all heals that grant Holy Power, as the tooltip indicates! Yay!

If you want to see the screenshots from Jacii, they’re all available here: http://imgur.com/a/pD0qr

Anyhow, my apologies to being late on this, but that pesky “real life” thing tends to get in the way an awful lot. :) Thanks again to Jacii from Apotheosis for getting me the info (like, six weeks ago) and thanks again to Ophelie for reminding me, however unintentionally. ;)

Lastly, Majik and I are still plotting planning our grand finale episode of Blessing of Frost. We’re looking for YOUR comments on what you liked best about Episodes 43-74! Recording will likely occur in early February, so get your comments in now! Tweet us @kurnmogh and @majjity or email us at podcast [at] blessingoffrost [dot] com. :)

 

Old Habits and Updates

One of the things I loved about WoW is that I could play it at any time of day or night. I could always find something to do in World of Warcraft that would be beneficial for one (or all) of my characters, even at, oh, 4am. For a long time, it was a habit to play WoW until I was just so exhausted that I would have to go pass out.

This was especially the case when I had a headache.

You can make all the jokes you like about a raid leader/guild master/etc having game-induced headaches (God knows I did get some headaches due to other people in that fashion), but since the age of 18-19, I’ve had some seriously bad sinus headaches on a fairly regular basis due to something called vasomotor rhinitis. I was on a steroid nasal inhaler for this for quite some time, but for the last several years, they haven’t made that particular inhaler any longer and other prescriptions don’t work quite as well to the point where there’s no real point to taking any regular prescription for the condition at all.

What works best for me, during some of my most severe headaches, is taking an over the counter decongestant, along with some Tylenol, waiting for it to kick in and then taking a nap or going to bed when the pain is bearable enough to ensure lying down. (Lying down always makes it worse for me, and sleeping while sitting up sucks.)

WoW was a great habit to have when I had headaches. I would be sitting up (good for my head), I would be entertained (thus distracting me from the pain) and it wasn’t something that required a ton of attention when I was obviously not feeling 100%. But it required SOME attention and that was really, really awesome.

It’s been over two months since I last played WoW. I haven’t uninstalled the game yet, but my account is inactive and I have no plans to reactivate it. I haven’t really missed it all that much. Part of it is that I threw myself into National Novel Writing Month (and “won”, by writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November), so when my account was disabled on November 10th, I didn’t really have a chance to miss it ’till December. And I didn’t really have a chance to miss it in December what with the holidays and family and all kinds of stuff.

I find I don’t really miss WoW very much now, either. I sometimes miss the idea of raiding and I certainly miss the idea of being really good at something (tank healing!), but other things are taking the place of most things I used to do in-game.

Except farming when I’m up late with a headache, like I am right now. There’s still not a good option. Television is loud and is also too passive, mostly. Reading is too difficult with the headache. Other games aren’t as interesting. At least when I’d farm in WoW when I was up with a headache, I felt like I was doing something useful with my time. I do miss that aspect of the game.

But, having said that, I guess I’ll go try to watch some TV or a movie on Netflix and hope that’s enough to distract me until the Tylenol and decongestant kick in.

Hope you’re all doing okay out there. Aside from this killer headache, I’m doing pretty well. :)

PS: The last episode of Blessing of Frost is being recorded Soon(tm). Let Majik and I know what your favourite bits were — episodes 43-74 only, please! :)