How did you find your current guild/s?

I’m planning to write a longer post this week on different ways to find guilds in games. One of the things that stands out to me is that you may need to search in different ways, depending on what you want from your guild.

For example, WoW offers recruitment forums on the official boards. But at least 90% of the guilds who use those forums are looking for raiders to take on hard mode ICC. So if that wasn’t what you wanted, there’s no point searching those forums even if they were widely publicised (which they aren’t). And  there’s also no easy way to filter out the guilds which are on awkward schedules for you, even if you were a hard mode raider looking for a home. Other websites attempt to plug these gaps, but that still leaves the potential recruit with a lot of work to do. Recommendations from a friend is another time-honoured way to find a guild, especially if you know people who raid on multiple servers/ characters.

I’m hoping that someday, some enterprising guild or game takes the Facebook approach and lets people recommend guilds to their friends. (This would actually be a useful battle.net feature but I don’t think that Blizzard is socially savvy enough to do it.)

Another way is via other communities. For example, maybe you are a member of a bulletin board or group of bloggers who decide to start a guild and you join it because you want to play with them.

Listening to recruitment chat in games is yet another way. People disparage the guilds who recruit madly via game chat, but it’s one way to meet people. And just because a guild recruits publically doesn’t mean that they might not be good company.

Running lots of random groups is another time honored way to meet people in games. If you find yourself frequently in a PUG with people from the same guild and you like them, asking if they are recruiting is a natural next step.

And the most traditional way of all, although maybe the hardest – is to start your own.

So how did you find your current guild/s? And do you think the same method would work for a new player starting now?

It came from the PUG: CALL ME PALALORD!

Today’s instalment of random pick up group experiences is dedicated to lower level dungeon groups. Lower level groups bring a whole new level of insanity to the usual mix, because it’s pretty much expected that people are still learning to play their class and role. In some cases, it seems that people are still learning how to actually interact with other human beings online as well.

But what I am mostly finding is that however bad the group actually is – and I’ve had some real howlers – I don’t see the same level of frothing ragequit, random quits for no reason, or personal attacks that a bad (or even a good) group in a level 80 heroic can generate. I assume this is because even fanatical players realise that low level instances aren’t all that important in the great scheme of things, plus at least you still get xp for the stuff you kill.

Now I will never understand why getting your frost badges in heroics in 15 minutes instead of 10 will reduce some people to incoherent rants about slow, useless tanks. Surely they must realise it isn’t that much of a deal? Or in fact any much of a deal. But apparently these things are deeply important to some players.

Disagreements in a lower level instance are more like having an argument with a bunch of people who have been smoking pot. They’re arguing, but no one can  be bothered to get really worked up about it all.

Thanks for mad group!

The place is Gnomeregan. I sigh internally as I zone in on my warlock, because I’d forgotten that I was in the level range for that instance. I don’t hate the place, although it has a well deserved reputation as the hardest low level instance if you do it at the right level. But I remember it as being long, rambling, wipetastic, and something of a maze.

The group says Hi to each other. We’re all towards the lower level of the instance range. But that needn’t be a problem if we all play carefully and take things easy. And what’s the chance of that in a PUG?

I was surprised to see two people tanking, until I realised that the paladin was the healer and just grabbed some extra mobs when he was bored. Or because he could.

I was surprised to see two people pulling, until I realised that the hunter had a different idea of pacing from the tank.

I was surprised when a boss dropped a sword with a melee proc and the hunter explained to everyone that if it had been anything other than a sword, he would have taken it. And then the tank countered with ‘no, it’s a tanking sword,’

And then there was the point where the tank finally got annoyed with the hunter (this had been working itself up to a critical mass over the course of the instance) and sat down, sulking, and suggesting that the hunter should tank if he was so keen to pull. So the hunter did tank the next couple of pulls. And then instead of leaving, the tank seemed to get over it and took over again.

And most of all I was surprised when I was relating this on guild channel and someone (reasonably) asked whether the group had broken up, and I answered, “Uh no, actually we’re just looking at the last boss now.”

The tank summed it up after the group had successfully killed Mechatorque and everyone got their achievements and goody bags. He said, “Thanks for mad group all, see you round,” and left.

I was laughing. I think what struck me about this group is that they were all over the place and breaking all the rules, but not actually playing so badly that we couldn’t get through the instance. And even though people were arguing, no one seemed genuinely upset.

CALL ME PALALORD!

The second group was less successful in terms of actually completing an instance, but massively more entertaining. Arb and I zoned into Zul’Farrak to be greeted in party chat with, “Call me palalord!’”

A couple of pulls into the instance, someone pointed out politely that a palalord might be able to hold aggro. But that didn’t stop the tank from piling on in. He just said, “Call me palalord, pls!” (It wasn’t his name.)

Arb was more concerned that the other shaman (who was called something like Dpslol or Loldps) had better hair than her, but did a bang up job of healing through the awesomeness that was the palalord’s creative pulling.

Group chat was getting increasingly incoherent, not because people were angry but because they were just … incoherent. Palalord died on a couple of pulls. I turned on growl and I think the warlock had a similar idea because the pets picked up on the tanking well enough to avoid a wipe.

Somehow, we made our way through a few bosses. I wish I had written down some of the randomness that made its way into group chat because I was laughing too hard to care about whether we cleared the instance or not.

We didn’t get through to the last boss, but again, the group was remarkably good spirited. No one was actually horrible to the palalord, even though he was pretty bad. I’m suspecting a kid behind the keyboard. Still, kid or not, and bad player or not, he and the rest of the group were more mature about laughing it all off than a lot of the players I have been teamed with in heroics.

Run low level instances in the dungeon finder. Even when they are bad, it’s a great way to put things into perspective.

It came from the PUG: Do I look like a registered childminder?

This is not actually something that happened to me in a PUG, but to Daraxxus.

He was plugging along in a PUG and getting annoyed at a dps player who was running around and picking up mobs, asking for loot to be set to free for all (so he could grab it all) and generally being a twit. The rest of the group let him know how they feel about this. And the kicker? Later on in the instance, the actual player gets back to the keyboard and tells them that he was letting his little brother play his character, and gets upset at how the group spoke to him.

This is not the first time I’ve heard of a similar occurrence. I’ve heard of parents letting their kids play their toon in an instance while they watched, unaccompanied 9 year olds wandering the landscape, and people generally treating the game as if it was childcare.

Now here is the thing: I’m not a childcare professional, neither are most other players, and even if we were, why would we do it for free? I also can’t be responsible for what anyone in the group says to a kid when they have no way to know it was a kid. (And some people would be gits and upset the kid anyway because they don’t believe them about their age; and to make it worse, there really are people who would pretend to be 9 year olds just to annoy everyone else.)

I’m not in the business of telling other people how to bring up their children, and it’s great when families can share their hobbies. But if you let your 5 year old play in my group, then you really need to sort out your priorities. I can see how it happens – oh, little Timmy wants to play with daddy’s computer game! Well, hey, wouldn’t it be cool if he could do that and *eyes light up* I could get my frost badges at the same time? No, it would not be cool because you are abusing the trust of other players who didn’t sign up for childminding.

That is even without considering privacy issues, or grooming issues, or any of the other really great reasons why just because your child is sitting safely in their room, it does not mean that they are actually safe.

I think it would be terribly easy for a precocious 9 year old to never be outed. And I’m quite sure that they could play the game competently. But  the rest of the playerbase can barely be civil to each other. Even if they were all nice people AND registered childminders, how can they moderate what they say to a kid when they don’t even know they are talking to a minor?

There are some pretty cool MMOs which are actually aimed at kids. Games like Free Realms, Wizard 101, Club Penguin et al have a lot more protection built in and also have a much better chance of the kid to be able to meet other kids. They also tend to be much cheaper than WoW. Think about it before you decide to bring little Timmy into a heroic instance group.

It came from the PUG: When good players go bad!

This week’s pick up group story is a sad tale of miscommunication, failure on behalf of everyone involved (including yours truly) to act like grown ups, and some inventive griefing where the responsible player forgot just one key thing …

The scene is Old Kingdom. I was tanking. The group was itching to move quickly so I pulled the first few groups quite fast. They didn’t handle it well. Now, in my opinion, if you yell at the tank to go go go at the start of an instance, it implies that you don’t want to wait around for marks or to have the kill order explained.

A couple of characters died – but not me because I know:

  1. the kill order
  2. the reasons for that kill order
  3. how to use spell reflect and interrupt to not be killed by spellflingers
  4. And also I have overpowered gear and good tanking cooldowns.

So really, I’m not going to die. You however, over-eager dps who think it’s a great idea to open up as soon as more than two monsters converge in the same place, are not so lucky.  In any case, after this, I decided to take the pulls a bit more carefully and mark as appropriate. It was my mistake, I’d assumed the group was more familiar with the instance than they really were.

This was not fast enough for some of the crew who started to run ahead and pull anyway. I asked them to stop doing that. And all hell was unleashed in party chat. It … was unpleasant.

We were heading towards the blood elf boss when someone else yelled gogogo again. I sat down, just to annoy them, and said, “afk 2 mins to get tea.” I wasn’t actually afk which is just as well because at this point the rogue stealthed up to the boss, pulled it, and used tricks of the trade to misdirect it onto me. So the boss comes running down the ramp and hits me a couple of times.

I think, “You have got to be kidding me,” and leave the instance mid-fight. After which I put them on ignore. Presumably they wiped, although the rogue may have been able to vanish.

People who just lose their senses

I think some players just have poor impulse control, because as soon as anything goes a way they don’t like, all common sense gets thrown out of the window. Yes, congratulations, you can use your class abilities to be really really annoying. But what exactly is the point?

Maybe for a lot of us, the griefer is not hiding very far beneath the surface at all and all it takes is a situation in which we feel powerless to bring out the crazy. (i.e. I think he flipped because he couldn’t bear the thought that he might have to wait for me. Or just go along with my request to stop pulling.)

It came from the PUG: Oh, is this an instance? I’m just here to practice my staff skill

I have a lot of sympathy for genuine slackers. The human drive to complete tasks with the least possible effort is the same drive that leads us to generate new and incredible feats of science and engineering. Every great engineering invention started with the thought, “I wonder if there is an easier way to do this?” (Many engineering PhDs end with the thought, “Nope, I guess there isn’t. But at least now I know why.”)

But as all true slackers know, there is a slackers code of conduct.

  1. Don’t put in any more effort than necessary to accomplish your goals.
  2. If you can beat more than one goal at the same time, so much the better.
  3. If someone notices that you are slacking and calls you on it, STOP SLACKING.

OK, now back to the PUG story. I was in an Old Stratholme run for the daily instance and I noticed that one of the other group members was very low on the damage meters. You can use recount to check which abilities people have been mostly using, it’s actually a really handy tool when you’re learning to play a class because it’s easy to compare your rotation with other people. So I moused over his name on recount and saw that his second most damaging attack was a melee autoattack. And he was a mage.

So at this point either he’s the noobiest mage ever or there’s something else going on. And since he had some Icecrown gear, I mentally rolled my eyes and figured he was probably levelling his staff skill. (Which is, by the way, completely pointless for a mage but is also part of an equally pointless achievement.)

I figure, fine. He’s taking the piss. I don’t feel the need to make a scene because it’s only Stratholme but if I have to pay attention during an instance run then I don’t see why everyone else can’t too. So I say something I never thought I would say to a mage, “Could you cast some spells please?”

He at this point makes the tactical mistake of explaining in group chat that he was levelling his staff skill, but notes that he was helping on the minibosses. I say tactical mistake because the rest of the group got outraged and booted him. Since he sounded like a reasonable bloke, I personally would have just said, “OK, fine. But when we get to the town hall, stop doing that please.”  I still think it’s cheeky for an ubergeared player to expect the rest of the group to carry them while they do a totally pointless achievement but I can overlook that if they pull their socks up when I call them on it.

I think I just have a much higher tolerance for slacking when it comes from someone who knows what they are doing. But most players won’t share that attitude.

And on a nicer note

I also had one very sweet PUG this week. One of my guildies was practicing tanking on a Death Knight alt, and since he’s a notorious aggro monkey on his main, myself and one of our other main tanks jumped at the chance to swap to dps specs and get some revenge! (Err, I mean, help and support him while he learns to tank instances.)

We were very lucky and had a fantastic PUG priest in an Utgarde Pinnacle run, who was able to heal through me tanking Skadi in fury gear after the tank died.

At the end of the run, she commented to us that when she zoned in and checked gear, she thought we were going to give the tank hell for being in blues. But then she noticed we all were in the same guild :) So whoever you were, awesome priest, thank you for being awesome.

(And Kesser, if you are reading this, we both thought you’ll be an amazing tank once you have some more gear. But it is part of the job description of fury warriors and boomkins to test new tanks!)

It came from the PUG: The Shadow

What is it with random groups in WoW these days that people are so reluctant to speak in party chat? I don’t expect extended witty conversations (although that would be entertaining), but here’s the example that annoyed me this week.

If I’m tanking one of the new instances and some of the other players seem a bit rough or undergeared, I’ll pause before each boss to ask if everyone knows the tactic. If I do this, it’s because I think this will be smoother than just rushing in. So why do people not speak up if they need to be instructed on what to do? I’m happy to tell them or else I wouldn’t have offered in the first place. I haven’t even been checking their gear score, only that the total dps in group is sufficient.

I had a prize example of this  in Forge of Souls. I paused, asked if people knew the fight, and one guy said ‘gogogo’, got his army of ghouls out and then promptly got himself killed by attacking the end boss when it cast mirrored soul. Darwinism in action, although I’d have been pissed off if that had caused a wipe. It’s also irritating when the guy happens to be the top dps in the group, so he understands some aspect of his class.

But I felt that even if the rest of the group hadn’t known tactics, they would have preferred to hide at the back like shadows and hope enough of the rest knew what to do to pull them through, rather than  speak up and ask for advice. What gives? None of them even spoke up to say that they did know it. Is it because they’ve never had to learn tactics for any fight? Or just think it doesn’t apply to them? It is a mystery to me.

What is clear is that addressing a question to the group will often get no answers. If you really want to pin down the shadow, you have to put a spotlight on them and call them out by name. This is slow and laborious and will annoy everyone else while they wait.

So your options are: Kick people who don’t answer quickly enough (assuming you have been in the instance long enough to kick people), explain every fight where tactics might matter  in a brief sentence without asking whether  the explanation is needed and hope people can read even if they can’t talk, hope you’re overgeared enough it’ll be ok if some people don’t know the fight, or wipe.

But I think it is the lack of response, as if you were PUGging with a bunch of shadows, which drives me most nuts at the moment about tanking pick up groups.  I would really prefer having a squad of NPCs along if that’s what the players are going to do, at least they’d follow orders.

The long distinguished roll of pick up group disasters

This post marks the end of a long week of posts about WoW and particularly about the new random dungeon finder that came in with patch 3.3. What can I say? It’s been a jolt in the arm for an aging game. It’s been a reminder that the instanced content was always WoW’s strongest selling point. And it’s reminded a lot of people who thought they disliked grouping that what they mostly disliked was all the associated hassle in getting the group together.

The most brilliant thing about the dungeon finder from Blizzard’s point of view is that no one else running current gen games can copy it. In order to work, a tool like this needs a massive user base. For example, I woke up at 2am this morning and tried to get a group on my death knight out of morbid curiousity. 10 minutes later *BAM* smooth as silk Forge of Souls Heroic run. Now think about how many players you need active in order for there to be a 50% chance for any single person to only have to wait 10 mins to get a group at two in the morning.

My new Death Knight who conveniently hit 80 the day before the patch is also looking rather sleek in her new gear, thanks to some lucky drops.

In any case, we’ve all been running a lot more instances, and getting to grip with a lot more PUGs. I feel as though I’ve been in a permanent sugar rush when logged on. And it’s also not all perfect – what’s more, even those of us who are usually paragons of perfection occasionally make (say it in whispers) minor mistakes.

Here’s a list of some of the dumb things I have done this week:

  1. Ran a whole instance with my Death Knight in the wrong presence. I didn’t realise until right at the end when the tank asked why I kept getting aggro.
  2. While manoeuvring a mob in Forge of Souls, I fell off the platform.
  3. Told a death knight that it was fine for him to use Army of Souls on Loken, following which we immediately wiped.
  4. While trying an experimental short cut in The Nexus, I fell off the platform (incidentally, EVERYONE who has ever run Nexus has fallen off that platform at some point but it don’t half make you feel like a noob when it isn’t your first run.)
  5. Let far too many people die while healing on my druid because of being a bit out of practice.

By the way, every single one of those runs was actually successful (except for the Loken one because my friends logged on and I left the group). The only one that even caused a wipe was when I fell off Forge of Souls, because I was tanking at the time.

The oddest complaint I have had from another player was that I killed the bosses in the Nexus in the ‘wrong order.’ I told him I hadn’t received that memo.

I’m not the only person who has been cataloguing personal PUG failures (aka “I was THAT guy.”)

Naxxramas Revisited

I’ve been back to Naxxramas a couple of times this week. Time has dulled the pain of over-exposure — I was really quite bored of the place after having run it twice a week (once on 10 man, once on 25 man) for a few months. Despite the sub-par graphics, I’m quite fond of the old instance. It does have a good variety of encounters, even if the tuning was never quite right.

The biggest flaw to my mind is that it’s far too easy to brute-force the Spider Wing. But by doing that you lose the most interesting parts of Anub’Rekhan and Faerlina as boss fights (what’s the point of Faerlina if you don’t have to mind control and sacrifice the adds?). The second biggest flaw is that there are too many bosses to clear in a 3 hour raid unless you are all being very hardcore/ disciplined about it, which doesn’t happen even in successful PUGs. A smaller raid instance or a set of winged instances would have been more manageable.

I wouldn’t say I’m overgeared, it’s just undertuned

My first Naxx rerun was in a raid that a friend in the raid group organised for alts and new level 80s. She’s very concerned that they don’t have much of a chance to learn how to play their characters in raids, especially some of the (female) players who are nervous of being shouted at in PUGs. We’d hoped to have enough signups to run a 25 man raid but in the event we only had enough to run with 10.

Although I do have a couple of level 80 alts who could have gone, I offered to bring Spinks to help them out. I doubt there’s anything I need from Naxx-10 even as offspec but I eyed the signups and figured they’d have a much better shot with at least one (over) geared tank. Also, I suspect seeing my name on the signup list made them all feel more comfortable about the run.

The raid was a moderate success. We got the two easiest wings down, and a few people learned the fights who had never seen them before. A new raid leader had a chance to order people around and see bosses die. DPS was generally low, and I’m grateful they didn’t want to go on to the Construct wing as I don’t think we could have taken Patchwerk. So although many people would consider that raid a failure, most of the players had their expectations met. And some of the fights were still exciting — they may have been exciting because people weren’t playing especially well but we still had some fun skin-of-the-teeth kills.

I fear there isn’t really much you can do for people who want to learn to raid but are nervous of PUGs and heroics and mixing with people they don’t know. There comes a point at which you can only learn through practice and these things aren’t really designed as fun social experiences for nervous raiders. Plus a lot of people in the raid group really are burned out on Naxx and won’t want to spend time there when there are other things they can do which would be more beneficial to their characters.

I do think it’s possible to teach nervous players to raid based on one raid per week, and I won’t be at all surprised if dps improves next time. But it’s a slow process and it really isn’t guaranteed that other players will be as patient as the newbies might need. They could help themselves a lot by getting over the PUGphobia.

And then there’s the raid I walked out of due to sexist quips …

I swear I have a pretty good tolerance for off-colour humour among gamers. I can sit back quietly and let them have their fun even if I don’t have anything to add. But what I don’t have is any tolerance for sexist, racist, or homophobic jabs. Not funny. And I will tell people if I’m not amused. And if they persist then I’ll walk. I figure you get one chance to realise ‘wait, someone here is uncomfortable with this’ and if you don’t take it then I’m so very gone. And if I’m one of your healers then you may be very stuffed.

So. The second Naxx raid was a 10 man PUG that I hopped into on my resto druid. Again there aren’t really many drops I need from Naxx-10 but I’m still at the stage with that alt where I figure I could use the practice. One of my friends was there too, also healing with her paladin. Unfortunately she had a power outage near the beginning so they had to replace her.

And it was a good PUG. People were chatty, we cleared through the Spider wing smoothly and then the Plague wing as well. It was only after we killed Patchwerk that things started to fray a bit at the seams. One of the holy paladins flew into a rage when one of the moonkins asked why he was rolling on spellpower leather which had spirit on it and left. (This boggled me, because the piece might still have been an upgrade for him but if so all he had to do was say so and I don’t think anyone would have minded if he’d taken it.)

But fortunately my friend had her power restored at this point so we invited her back. It was actually more amusing than this because she’d only just logged back on at the time and had just paged me to say how sad she was to have missed the run. So I’m like, ‘Hey, do you want to come back then? Our holydin just flipped out over loot.’

So we’re trucking on through the Construct wing. The last two bosses here have tended to be the skill checks for pick up Naxx groups. No one ever wants to kite the zombies at Gluth and Thaddius continues to confound PUGs (it may be his role in undeath). After a second wipe on Gluth, our MT was getting grumpy. And the sexist jokes were coming out. I was chatting privately to my friend about this and we were both agreeing that neither of us really needed the Naxx loot and didn’t really see a reason to stand for it. So after one warning, which he ignored, we apologised to the raid and left.

I was paged about 10 minutes later by one of the raid, saying that they’d booted him and would we be willing to come back. Since they’d been nice enough people (and competent too) that’s what we did. Awesome guildies were nice enough to agree to come fill in the other spare spots (a dps had to leave for RL reasons too) and we rocked through the Military wing. By that time, people were tired and wanting to go eat so we called it.

And the bonus? One of the nice players contacted my friend later, asking how she could apply to join our guild (and as it happens, I know it was a female player and she was attracted by the fact we’d no tolerance for the sexist guy and we’d been able to bring other friendly guildies in to finish the run). Now let me tell you, any PUG in which you get the chance to recruit a friendly, competent player is in no way a waste of time … Also, dps shaman! :)

The other interesting side-fact was the class makeup of that 10 man PUG. Three druids, two paladins, three shamans, two deathknights. It’s an interesting view into what alts people are playing at the moment.