Clearly I Wasn’t (and Am Not) “Back,” But an Update of Sort

(Sorry for the lack of editing and links. With life the way it is, I’d rather get this out now than spend the next few weeks intermittently editing it and then finding it outdated when it’s ready to be published.)

There are a number of people who used to read my blog who have asked if I will ever continue to write. Technically, the answer to that question is “yes.” I do have a manner of important things to say concerning Wrath of the Lich King, its raid content, the future of the game, the nature of the MMO industry, what the future holds for me, etc.

But to expect any sort of regularity in content is probably out of the question. First of all, leading a hardcore guild is in gamer speak “serious business.” Doing so between taking classes full-time and working a couple jobs is even more strenuous. Finding the time to sit down and even write about a game while maintaining any level of normalcy between my obligations would be impossible. But the complexities of why I haven’t been able to find time deserve to be addressed.

Wrath’s Initial Content Did Not Help Existing Hardcore Guild Leaders Transition Easily

The first reason why I could hardly find time to write concerns the nature of the game’s raiding content itself. For a guild transitioning from TBC to Wrath, the path was extraneous given the tools the game provided.

As with any transition between expansions, a guild is going to lose members to that fabled realm reality. Which means a guild leader will have holes to fill with new players. Unfortunately, however, tier seven was hardly challenging, making the process of replacing people arduous and uncertain.

Naxxramas is a relic of “old content.” Many people look back on it fondly, as they should, but it was designed to be the last tier of vanilla content, not the first tier of a third expansion. So it had many problems. Consider that each encounter only has maybe one or two gimmicks, a primary feature of “classic” content. By comparison, encounters in TBC usually had a few or several gimmicks, except for maybe Attumen, but he’s a special flower.

Consider further that most of Naxxramas’ “gimmicks” are now outdated. So when you nerf them into the ground on the premise that Naxxramas is supposed to be entry level, you get a raid dungeon that becomes much easier than even Karazhan was. This is hardly a prime environment in which to test new members.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sartharion with three drakes alive, and five-minute (and then six-minute) Malygos provided some challenge–Sartharion as a situational awareness and cooldown check, Malygos as a minor-grade DPS check. And you could definitely use Thaddius to weed out people who couldn’t do something as simple as switching sides on a debuff change. But when you only have a few encounters which highlight people’s mistakes, it’s difficult to distinguish between typical mistakes anyone can make on a bad night, and someone who plays consistently terrible.

In a nutshell, there wasn’t enough challenging content to adequately evaluate players to determine whether or not they were good.

Potential Recruits Were Complacent

Because the initial content in Wrath was easy, many awesome players were also content to remain in mediocre guilds. Afterall, any guild with half a clue could clear Naxxramas and the easy version of Sartharion. Malygos was a moderate challenge, but only moderate. And then Sartharion with two drakes proved doable for even subpar guilds.

This provided ample access to all available loot for anyone in an average guild. So why would they apply to guilds with higher standards when they can get the gear they need and potentially have a better shot at it given established reputations and DKP? Simply answered, they wouldn’t. And I certainly noticed.

What Recruits You Did Pick Up Were Usually Mediocre or Came with Baggage

Basically, the breadth of our applications came from people who were one or more of the following:

  1. Unguilded.
  2. Knew someone in the guild already.
  3. Were tired of dealing with mediocre players.

For number one, this often included people who had taken breaks from the game. A new expansion is an optimal time for people to return to the game, afterall. Unfortunately, this meant a lot of people applying were either inclined to get bored of the game or to have real life intrude. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the latter. It happens. But when a high percentage of your applicants are susceptible to such conditions, it makes it frustrating to find long-term players who will be around for at least six months.

For number two, you’re never guaranteed to find someone who is actually good enough to be in a hardcore guild. Friends, relatives and significant others are often biased and will do and say anything to be able to play with their partners in crime. I’ve seen this happen several times, now.

For number three, sometimes this condition is paired with a bad attitude. The type of person who can’t accept that even good players sometimes make mistakes. I’ve seen this several times, now. And I’m not going to lie and say we don’t already have some temperamental players who occasionally get upset over mistakes that are going to be typical in any guild.

Simply put, you’d be hard-pressed to find guilds ranked between 15th and 50th in the U.S. who play perfectly. If there was, they wouldn’t be ranked 15th through 50th. They’d be number one. Because if all it took them was exposure to the mechanics, they’d defeat each one devoid of random mechanics in merely a couple hours (and a few of them sooner). Which would likely outpace Ensidia. Which would make them number one in the world. So people need to get it into their fucking heads that it’s just not going to happen. If that’s what they want, they should apply to Premonition, or move to fucking Europe and join Ensidia. And even then, they both raid grotesque hours to get their world firsts, and they don’t play perfectly on every attempt.

So when you have a lot of these types of applicants, it becomes very difficult to retain good and reasonable players. Of all the people we recruited in tier seven content, only two people remain as a full-time raiders. And that’s saying something, because as a guild we’re currently ranked number 53rd in the U.S. We have six of the ten hard modes down (if you count Algalon as a hard mode).

I highly suspect these issues are what have caused guilds like Might, vodka, V A N Q U I S H, etc. to slip far behind in the ranks. During tier seven, you were simply lucky if you could find just a few genuinely good players.

Early Raiding Achievements Were Frustrating

Tier seven had some annoying achievements required for Glory of the Raider.

The Dedicated Few and Subtraction are just retarded. When you’re trying to gear people up, sitting people for an entire raid so others can get the achievement or running two different Naxxramases, one heavy on alts, is aggravating. Especially when one of them comes close to Immortal and fails at it because you needed one of your stronger players to even have a chance at completing the other 20-man Naxx.

I like the concept of And They Would All Go Down Together, but it provides no reward other than potentially completing the meta and getting a drake.

Denyin’ the Scion was just fucking stupid.

The Immortal was perhaps the most frustrating of all. It was, essentially, part skill, part luck, and partly based on the quality of your applicants. Let’s be clear: attrition happens. So when you have 23 people and need to trial a couple people, it’s difficult to evaluate them when you need to sit them out because you don’t want to ruin an Immortal attempt. And doubly frustrating when the reason you fail is because you think they’re awesome based on their Sartharion performance, but then it turns out they can’t do the jump on Thaddius and then ruin the attempt by running into a group while uncharged. Or just fail on the charges.

Immortal was frustrating also when normally good players ruin attempts by doing stupid things. Like thinking they can line of sight the mana bomb on Kel’Thuzad. Or trying to push DPS too much on Sapphiron instead of playing it safe with ice blocks. Or failing to notice where they’re standing for something. Or missing a heal on Kel’Thuzad’s frost blast.

Those were reasons we never got Immortal. We came to Kel’Thuzad ready to get it I think four times and failed each time. A few other attempts failed because of disconnects. A few failed to priest problems on Razuvious (problems I don’t think we’d have today), before we realized you could soft reset the dungeon and still have a shot at Immortal if you did Razuvious first. A couple failed to Grobbulus bugging out and spraying the raid as he turned to inject someone. And a few failed to recruits failing on charges on Thaddius after we thought they’d be able to handle that situation given their performance elsewhere.

And then some were just mistakes any good player may occasionally make. For example, we had one person who’d been in the guild for two years make a single mistake, which ended an Immortal run early. Though, honestly, it was still in December, so I don’t know we would have done Sapphiron or Kel’Thuzad cleanly. But my point is that in the past two and a half years, he’s made maybe three noticeable mistakes. If that. So if a player that good can make a mistake, anyone can.

What complicated the matter even further is that normally mediocre guilds were getting Immortal. So when one slightly above average guild on our server got it, suddenly people were saying “Lunacy is no longer number one.” Right, okay. Even though we got server firsts on the 10 and 25-man versions of Twilight Zone, Malygos and You Don’t Have an Eterinity, we were suddenly number two, then number three, etc. We were the only guild to even do five-minute Malygos when it was still five minutes. But somehow, people were now better than us in the eyes of some rather uneducated imbeciles (a few of whom commented on this blog).

Unfortunately, that mindset also tended to creep into the thoughts of some in the guild. Because we had a couple people who were normally good players fail more than once on Immortal, and because good recruits were suddenly almost impossible to fine, they began to view the guild in general as mediocre and in decline. We even had one player who departed us return to say they were glad to see we were good again in Ulduar.

In reality, however, nothing was in decline. If anything, we’re stronger now than we were then. That’s not to say we don’t have holes to fill and problems to solve. Guilds always do. But we were never mediocre. We were never in decline. We just had some people make stupid mistakes, and we took dumb chances with some recruits. That doesn’t mean we weren’t going to be capable at competing when raid content again became difficult.

And it now shows. With Ulduar, we’re ranked 53rd in the U.S. On our usual twenty-hour raiding schedule. A couple of our hard mode kills were in the 40’s. But from November through April, I was frustrated in having to deal with unreasonable personalities and poor morale, on top of having recruitment problems, etc.

Life Is Primary, Blogging a Distant Last

On top of guild leadership, life has simply been busy and will only get busier. It has come to a point where I will have to step down from leading the guild in the near future. Anywhere between two months from now to a year.

I’m coming into the final year of my degree. However, if something comes up in life such as a major family death, that could lead to a year and a half. Simply put, I’ve taken studies far too casually to be content. I’m lucky to have one job, let alone two. One is part-time, and one freelance and unpredictable, but whatever pays tuition. However, I face the possibility that I won’t get a Cal Grant next year, which would help with tuition and allow me to shift some finances into my rent. If that doesn’t happen, I’m going to have to increase the amount of time I spend at work. Which means I will no longer be able to raid.

As it stands, I’m sacrificing blogging time for whatever work I can get. So this is why you don’t see me writing. And when I’m not working, I’m usually interviewing applicants, farming the gold I need to raid, or participating in 10-man Ulduar once I get home from work, because it contains a lot of BIS pieces for certain classes (including my own).

I’m Also Inclined to Change My Life’s Priorities and Hobbies

Simply put, the world is unpredictable. And while I definitely enjoy gaming as a hobby, spending twenty hours a week raiding, and probably twenty to forty dealing with guild-related issues has developed it into a full-time job. It was one I was willing to take on two and a half years ago, when I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life. But these days, things have changed.

Running was once a passion of mine. Right out of high school, I had aspirations of working to compete on an amateur level. Even though I wasn’t serious in high school about running as I could have been, I still did extremely well and built like a Kenyan or Ethiopian marathoner. But I never applied myself. So now as I’m getting closer to the prime age, I just want to take a shot at competing, if even merely on an amateur level. And I’d love to get into the ultra marathon scene. But the game eats into what free time I have to condition myself. So I’ve hit a plateau in my training, because I haven’t been able to do what’s necessary to go above and beyond: hill repeats out in the foothills everyday, more focus on my nutritional habits, balancing proteins and carbs to optimize muscle growth and development, etc. Having a raid in twenty minutes means settling for a quick fixing of mac and cheese with maybe a vegetable, or eating whatever family has cooked up and then rushing to raid.

On top of this, I aspire to write about topics other than games. Where I once had planned to study web development and then create a gaming news web site with a different flavor and treatment of its topics, that passion is no longer there. It’s a complicated topic and one I will likely address in my final entry of the blog. I realize this post is already long-winded enough, however. Regardless, my plan is to eventually enter an MFA program for creative writing at my university. And once that happens, I won’t have time for anything else. And it’s something I want to do more than anything.