Monthly Archives: May 2011

The New Guild Finder Feature

There’s a new feature in WoW, the Guild Finder. 

Here are my initial thoughts from the perspective of a guild leader:

  • It makes the most sense for a guild leader to select all of the options that apply to their guild, but there is no way to apply weighting to those scales. Unfortunately, that means that raiding guilds are probably going to click everything, because raiders still quest and dungeon, and even PvP.
  • The time options are too limited. Weekdays and weeknights? But what if your guild has their events on Thursday and Sunday? Well, better click both, then.
  • While they give us a set number of characters to talk about our guild in a free-form space, that number of characters doesn’t actually display in the guild finder tool on the other side, and there’s no way for the prospective guild member to click and see more. Totally unhelpful. If I’m going to put words in there, I want them to be seen. I feel like I have to tweet my message.  I’m not that good at tweeting.
  • I have to look at my guild info tab every time I log in to check for prospective members.
  • Sometimes, prospective members will disappear. I know this because one of my officers used a placeholder toon to try it out from the member side when I didn’t happen to be online. When I did get online, his request wasn’t there.

As you might gather, I’m underwhelmed. There are several things that could make this product great from the Guild Leader’s side. I’ll address my thoughts:

  • Give us the ability to indicate which of the activities we do is the most important. Let us make an ordered list instead of just a bulleted one!
  • Can we have 7 time options, or even better, 14? Seven days in a week allows the raid guilds to say which days they need you. Daytime and Evenings allows the casual guild to indicate when most of their players are online. This could even be done with 7 days and then some time options that are overarching.
  • Either give us a character limit that matches the visual space for the prospective member, or give the member a way to look at the whole message. Ideally, the latter, and maybe then a little more space to write (say an in-game mail message lenght).
  • Just for the guild leader (or selected ranks), after the guild message of the day shows, provide a message that indicates how many prospective members are in your queue. One line. Potentially even make it toggle-driven in the chat options.
  • Fix the disappearing prospective member bug.

Thanks, Blizzard, that would be 1000% more useful.

From the member side, I have some different concerns.

  • I have no idea how prospective guilds are sorted in the list.  Trying to find a guild that actually fits my criteria is quite difficult, unless I’m a raider or PvPer, because everyone quests and does dungeons.
  • I know about two or three guilds that I might like to apply to because I’ve run across their members here and there, or read about them on a forum someplace. I have to scroll to find them. God forbid I have an alt I want to bring into my current guild and there’s no officers online, so I want them to be aware of my presence.
  • I want to see everything the guild wants to tell me.

These, while frustrating, are somewhat easier to overcome. Many of the problems would be fixed by the guild leader side fixes recommended. But give me a search function and I’ll be a happy camper!

So, while I think the Guild Finder tool has a lot of potential, it just isn’t very usable for anybody right now.

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Can five dwarves really level together?

In a tiny guild, sometimes one of the disadvantages is that one or two people have to come up with most of the ideas. If you’re lucky, you get several people who are willing to shout out for group activities. But when your five active guildmembers tend to play at slightly different times, that can be hard.  On the other hand, you can propose long-term stunts like having everyone roll a new dwarf (in a semi-coordinated fashion) for the purpose of leveling together. 

What you have to do:

First, you need to set a start date and timeframe so that everyone can decide whether they can commit. You also need to know how you’re actually going to do the leveling. We chose instancing, because we all have altitis, so we do quests on our own. Besides, have you ever tried to quest with 3 players running around together, much less 5? Doesn’t sound like fun to me.

Next, you need to decide how to deal with someone not showing up.  Do you just not go that night, and do something else? Do you use the dungeon finder to pick up your missing spots, and just roll with it? Do you figure out a way for those who miss to catch up?

And then there’s extras that can also skew experience gains: heirloom gear, rested xp, and certain professions can cause your experience gains to skew.

We set up a group of rules for our event:

1. Get to level 15 on your own (or with a partner if you want) by our start date. We gave everybody two weeks, just because that’s how our schedule worked out.

2. Do not pick up professions that will net experience or use heirlooms.

3. If you miss, you will be replaced via the dungeon finder. You can make up your missed xp out in the world on your own in the interim period.

That’s it. Since we picked dwarves, we have a shaman, priest, paladin, mage and warrior. A nice blend of gearing options and only one class that doesn’t have two different roles, which will allow us to almost certainly always have a tank and healer, thus making any pugging we have to do much easier.

Starting in early June (our first run is June 2), I’ll be posting every other Saturday about how this little event goes.

Altitis isn’t about Uber Alts

In any other gaming environment, changing characters means starting the game over. In MMOs, you get lots of opportunities to assist your new characters: BoA gear to level faster, the ability to provide your other characters with money, items, or raw materials.

Lots of people complain about “having to” do this or that thing on their alts. I think that’s a whole lot of hooey.  You don’t have to do anything on your alts. If you want to do something on your alt, like, say, raid, then certain things are expected of you, yes. But one presumes that very few people have the time in a week to devote to raiding with more than one toon at a time. And those few people choose to raid on more than one toon.  I don’t have sympathy for people who say you have to do anything on your alt.

Having alts does not have to mean that you pursue the same content on all of your alts.  Let’s take a look at all of my toons.

There’s Shoryl. I’ll call her my main for this exercise, because she sees a significant portion of my dedicated play time. I make decisions about what I’m going to do with her for long-term goals, and I pursue those goals. She has some milestone achievements, like Loremaster of Kalimdor, Easter Kingdoms, Outland and Cataclysm. I’m still pursuing Northrend, but I also have other goals for her. I’m spending a lot of time on Outland reputation achievements right now, and just recently got Leading the Cavalry.

There’s Breige. She’s an 85 hunter, and I enjoyed solo leveling her, but I’m not a very good hunter player – I don’t understand half of what she can do, I don’t understand 2/3 of what her pets ought to be able to do either. She’s got maxed skinning and leatherworking, and is honored with the guild, to provide my little tiny guild with those two professions for Working as a Team. Right now, she’s my auction house toon because I don’t have any particular goals for her.

There’s Taoiseach. You’ve heard the stories about Taoi and Shoryl. Taoiseach has a few achievements under her belt that Shoryl may never attain. I play her when Sonaira isn’t available, as Sona and Shoryl are a pair and only occasionally pursue separate activities (usually revolving around profession dailies). Taoiseach doesn’t see much play time, but she’s an alchemist and is currently my cash cow with her truegold transmute.

There’s Kerridwen. Kerridwen is level 67. She already has Loremaster of Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. I rolled her to run through the brand new 1-60 stuff. She’s also got skinning and herbalism over 300, has just reached 300 with cooking skill, and is working on 300 skill in fishing. Next up? 300 skill with archaeology. I’m guessing she’ll be near 70 before setting foot in Outlands, but that is where she will go next. She’s not about playing hard content. She’s about seeing the game. Maybe not “as it was designed to be played” but seeing it, and taking the time to savor it.  She’s also a solo toon.

There’s Sveala. Sveala is my third attempt at a shaman, and she’s leveling primarily using the dungeon finder. She’s a healer, which is helping her queue times. I’m working on her to eventually give our guild’s only other healer a chance to bring his warrior out to play once in a while.

No, I realize none of my toons are particularly uber. Back in the day Taoiseach (then Shoryl) was somewhere in the middle of the pack of raiders, which was a smaller group of people than it is today. I got burned out. I would be 100 times more burned out if I had to spend all of my time getting all of those toons up to level 85 post-haste, then get them geared in the current gearing system and then also try to find time to raid with them.

Yes, I get why people don’t want to do that with all of their toons. But they don’t have to. Because it’s a game. Not a job.

It’s Okay to have a Tiny Guild

Every once in a while, I have to remind myself of this. And then I read about other guild leaders and the problems they have with drama. And I think “Yay! I have no drama in my guild.”

Okay, so sometimes I want to have more than four active players in my guild. Or even more than a half dozen players with level 85 toons in my guild. But, I can count on my players to not cause stress in my game-play.  We plan to run 5-man guild achievements like a lot of guilds plan to run their raids. And some nights we have to PuG someone in or go do something else.

And we’re only a level 5 guild. But I know that I earned a part of each and every one of those levels. And I know it when one of my players goes on a tear to finish one of the guild achievements.

A couple of weeks ago, we had nearly completed Making History. I’d been plugging it on the guild boards and in the message of the day for a couple of weeks, and I’d steadily watched the numbers go down. Then one night, I got on, and we had 22 to go.  I headed out to do some archaeology in Outland, where I hadn’t done much. As I completed each of my finds, I watch the guild count tick up. And it made me smile. We got to 480, and I changed the guild message of the day to indicate that we needed 20. Another guildie got on. A little while later, when I completed another project, I noticed that it had incremented while I was busy chasing down my next find. He was also doing archaeology. A bit later, there were four of us on, and we got to 10. And I started counting them down in the guild message of the day as I watched them tick off.

We got to 5, and I changed the message. And the count rolled over to 4. So I changed the message again. And it rolled over to 3, then 2, then 1. And each time I changed the message. Then we had the achievement. One of the guys had been saving his completions for when we got close enough that he could complete them as I changed the message. And, apparently, two of them were hoping to be the one to complete the last one.

Stuff like that might happen in big guilds, but it happens so fast that there’s no sense of wonder as it occurs.   At one point, earlier in that very evening, the guy who chose to do the count down for me had suggested we all stop. My partner and co-guild leader pointed out that we were close enough that I would probably stay up all night by myself and finish it so I could see it happen if they did.

My level 5 guild, BTW, has always rolled over the level when I’m offline.  I get on one day to discover that we’ve gotten our level, frequently when I was hoping to see it the next day.  Once, one of my guildies saw we were so close that he stayed up until 2am to finish it off all by himself. He normally gets offline around 8pm.

And that’s why it’s okay to have a Tiny Guild. Tiny Guilds might take longer to do some of the things that bigger guilds get done, but when you’re in a tiny guild, you know your contribution counts.

Anatomy of a PuG: Why Tanks are Know-It-Alls

Tanks are the defacto leaders of runs. They set the pace with their pulls, determine kill order, tell everyone what they need to do.   The tank will get blamed for every wipe in a PuG, regardless of who was doing what.  The hunter doesn’t turn growl off on his pet? The tank’s fault for not generating enough threat.  The mage lights up with AoE as soon as the tank hits his first target? The tank’s fault for not generating threat fast enough. The healer gets killed? The tank’s fault for not taunting the mob off the healer fast enough.

On top of that, the tank has to know what kind of crowd control every class has and what types of mobs it can be used on. And in PuGs, nobody ever bothers to provide the tank with that information about their class. No one says “hey, would you like me to banish that elemental?” Ever.

Tanks, instead, get statements like “Go this way, Noob.” or “Why’d you pull them, we can run through this circuitous route over the boxes and behind this lamp and not aggro them.”

So tanks have to be know-it-alls because no one else bothers to know as much; and if they do know it, they don’t divulge the information until the tank has done something without the information that would have been useful 5 minutes ago.

Add to that, if the tank announces at the beginning of the run that they don’t know the instance, or they’re new to tanking in groups, at least one person is going to drop group. How fair is that?

Why don’t we have people in PuG’s saying they can CC? We know that in Cata crowd control is king, so why aren’t people ponying up their abilities?  I didn’t know until my shaman got the ability that they have a hex spell. You better believe my tank is gonna know I have a CC ability this expansion.  Even as the healer, I can hex one thing at the beginning of the fight, or when it comes after me, and take a little bit of a load off not only the tank, but myself.

If you’re a tank out there, I commend you for your patience; for your ability to take pride in cleaning up other people’s messes. 

If you’re anybody else out there, learn your class, and if you know the instance like the back of your hand, offer advice withouth the obnoxious extra stuff. And maybe offer it early on? Maybe say at the beginning of the run “hey, I know this instance well, would you like me to handle directions?”  Tell your tanks what you can do, but if they don’t use that information, then it is on them, and so be it. 

If the community were a little bit nicer to tanks, we’d have a few more good ones out there plying the trade where we can get shorter queue times.  And for the Light’s sake, know your class!