Category Archives: Opinion

Starcrack Valley

I don’t often play single-player games. I enjoy the social aspect of MMOs, so for me most single-player games just don’t cut it. There is one notable exception however – Animal Crossing. I’ve played every game in the franchise since the original came out for the Game Cube years ago, but even that you could say is a quasi-social experience, since a very large part of the game is socializing with the NPCs and basically creating a village experience with them. Otherwise, I largely ignore most single-player games.

That is, until Stardew Valley came out. I hadn’t even heard of the game until after it had released and a friend mentioned it to me. It looked like Harvest Moon, and crazy as it sounds, I’ve not really been a fan of Harvest Moon games either. The Day/Night cycle always seemed to move too fast, like there were way too many things to do within each day, and it felt more like a time management game – I have enough time management issues in real life, thank you very much, and really don’t need to deal with it in my game time. So I was skeptical – but as I looked at it, it seemed to also have blended in aspects of Minecraft, Terraria, and – joy of JOYS – Animal Crossing. And the price was right at $14.99. So I gave it a whirl.

AND OH MY WORD THIS GAME IS CRACK. I love it. As long as my plants get watered, I can do whatever else each day, so the day/night cycle doesn’t bother me too much. Mostly it only bothers me when I’m mining and trying to dig down through the levels to hit another elevator. The game itself is charming, with the SNES-era sprites that make me feel like a kid again, vibrant color palettes, and a wonderful soundtrack. The NPCs all have character and it does feel like a social experience even as a single-player game. My favorite character is currently Linus, the homeless NPC that hangs out at his tent by the river, dishes out philosophical wisdom and is more than happy to be given food. Most of the NPCs are rote social stereotypes – the athletic guy, the emo guy, the Fabio guy, the alternative girl, the good girl, the nerdy girl, etc – but they are done fairly well and they all have a backstory with some twists and turns.

So far I’m just trying to build up cash by farming, mining, and selling everything that isn’t nailed down. I haven’t even really started on trying to woo any villagers or build up friendships via gifting, I figure that will happen in year 2. It’s the little things in game that give the game heart – such as the train that rolls by dropping items off that you can grab, or the little fairy that stops by some nights to make your crops mature faster.

It blows my mind that one guy developed the entire game, including composing the soundtrack, and that he is committed to continuing to push out updates. That is a major accomplishment, and I’m happy to support indie designers that have taken something like this on. It’s a great complimentary game to play alongside World of Warcraft, and in this case, I actually like that time stops when I’m not playing, because there’s no pressure to play and I can fit it into my schedule any time.

That Dorothy Moment

I’m generally a pretty positive person. Maybe sometimes a realist, but more often than not I’m a sparkly unicorn of rainbow optimism. Which makes the recent game depression – for lack of a better term – that I’ve been going through so strange.

I think it’s a combination of several things. It kicked off when Sony announced that they were selling SOE, which then became the dubiously-named Gamebreak Daybreak Games, with the promise that it would be “business as usual”. Then came the layoffs, the changes, breaking away from Storybricks and the subsequent closure of Storybricks. Even Storybricks themselves communicated that if they had been successful in their purchase of SOE, they would have made deep cuts. While I’ve never been overly attached to SOE or the EverQuest franchise, it’s still a cornerstone of the industry and seeing it go through this is like watching Michael Jordan crash and burn on a basketball court.

Then came the revelations of a former Turbine dev regarding the development of LotRO. LotRO has been in a slow downward spiral for several years now, although in the past Turbine has tried to spin PR otherwise with little success. Still, hearing the stories of the behind-the-scenes of a game that I’ve been playing for years – the lost money, the dead projects, the poor decisions of executive management – it feels like it’s a miracle that it has made it this long. It’s still alive due to the sheer tenacity of certain developers, the best IP and lore you could ask for, and a dedicated, passionate, award-winning community, which was nearly decimated by the ineptitude of a former community manager.

Elder Scrolls Online, Archeage, & Wildstar all were less successful than anticipated. RIFT & The Secret World are still chugging along quietly – almost too quietly. World of Warcraft, the elephant in the room, had a gangbusters start to their latest expansion but has had questionable decisions since (selfie camera? really?). Guild Wars 2 is the one bright spot, with an expansion coming out in the near future. As far as AAA-level MMOs coming up – I don’t see any out there. There are indeed some smaller and indie-level MMOs in the works, but this is the first time in a very long time that there hasn’t been a “new hotness” coming out. This may not be a bad thing – the market is more than saturated already, with too many engorged albatrosses lumbering along with cash shops hanging around their necks.

Lest this be seen as unbridled criticism and despondency, let me clarify that it’s not. The developers, artists, production teams, community managers of our favorite MMOs are passionate people that pour their heart and soul into these games. Sometimes missteps are made, but it’s usually on the part of executive management – releasing games and patches too early or incomplete, making decisions based on what will give the fastest infusion of cash rather than on what is best for the game, putting in systems that are completely unnecessary or unwanted by the playerbase… all of which are sure recipes for disaster. The developers are trying their best to hit deadlines and trying to conjure magical experiences for us. But as Fredelas tweeted the other day:

As gamers, we all have Dorothy moments when studio curtains are pulled back and we find it run on wires and levers by mortals, not wizards.

I’m having that Dorothy moment. I’ve loved my time in LotRO, but now I wonder if it’s worth continuing to play – I see the age, the mistakes, the current state of the game and it smells like an injured gazelle on the Serengeti. The doubts cloud my mind but I’m contributing to the problem if I don’t play. Even if I try playing a newer, stronger contender, like Guild Wars 2, I feel guilty for not playing LotRO.

WTB a pair of ruby slippers, please.

Faction vs. Faction

It seems like the last week or two of Rift has brough all-new meaning to faction vs. faction… except this time, it’s not Guardians vs. Defiant.

If you listen to the latest Rift podcast, you’ll note that one of the developers mentions that they have now removed the 10-man raid option. That’s not to say that there are no 10-man raids: they are just limited to world bosses and other specific types of content. For the purposes of progression raiding, however, it’s going to be all 20-man, at least at launch. Of course, this puts a crimp in things for small raiding guilds that were planning to make the move over for Rift, but ultimately having only one size of raid makes the raids faster to design & balance, and the gear easier to itemize.

This is an issue where the developers have chosen to make a decision that would put them outside of the current raiding paradigm of The Game That Shall Not Be Named. By removing 10-mans, they are making smaller raiding guilds to make a choice: recruit up to become a 20-man guild, forge a guild alliance with another like-minded 10-man guild, or just pass on Rift altogether.

While I understand that the raid size is an problem for those smaller guilds, at the same time I have to admit that what Trion is doing takes guts. So many people have declared that Rift is a “WoW-clone” (oops, I named it), but the moment that they try doing something different than WoW, they get slammed for it because it’s not convenient. Trion is really in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation here.

And really, should Trion just do whatever The Other Game does just because it’s what people are used to? Or should they do what they feel is best for their game, regardless?

It’s very similar to the PvP vs. PvE controversy, or the hardcore vs. casual controversy. You have two groups of people who are very passionate about their style of gameplay, and both sides hurl the “if you don’t make this game the way I want it I will cancel my pre-order!” sort of petulant childishness far too easily and too frequently. Of course, if you don’t think you will enjoy a game, then don’t play it, but throwing threats and tantrums in-game or on message boards, Facebook, Twitter and the like is just… silly. It doesn’t help your cause in the eyes of the developers, and it doesn’t convince anyone who believes otherwise over to your point of view.

I’m starting to wonder if MMOs really should limit their beta-testing to stress-testing only, only within 2-3 weeks of launch, and only once they have their core game systems in place. If the raid size issue, the open-world PvP issue, and the mob/rift difficulty issue had already been ironed out in alpha and the changes made before it was ever opened up to the public, would these still even be problems?

Something else I’m wondering: Is it even possible for an MMO to cater to two styles of play simultaneously in a way that makes both sides happy? The Other Game has tried to walk that line for years, and while there is content there for both hardcores and casuals, there is also a great deal of animosity between the two. Hardcore folks don’t like their challenge being nerfed or their gear given to casuals. Casuals don’t like that there is content that they aren’t able to complete. It’s looking more and more like Blizzard lost their focus with Cataclysm by trying to cater to both sides and pleasing no one.

And from a larger perspective, what can MMO developers do to solve the issue? Two thoughts come to mind:

A. Choose a segment of the gaming population that they want to satisfy at the start, and keep that segment in mind throughout the design process and through the betas. Want a hardcore game? Keep it hardcore. Want a casual game? Keep it casual. Want big raids? Make big raids. Want open-world PvP? Make open-world PvP… but don’t expect to throw all of the above together and not have the player community at each other’s throats.

B. Step away from the traditional and too-broad-to-be-useful PvE/PvP server types. At this point, if you DO want to make a game with broad appeal to a number of players, then give players multiple types of servers to choose from. Perhaps something along the lines of Hardcore PvE/Hardcore PvP/Casual PvE/Casual PvP, and RP variations of all of those. The Hardcore PvE servers would be progression servers, Casual PvE would be for questers/explorers/crafters. PvP would be the same, but with open world PvP enabled and encouraged.

Just a few rambling thoughts for your Tuesday. Peace folks… remember, games are supposed to be fun! 😉

WoW’s NLE (New Leveling Experience)

Pete at Dragonchasers and Spinks at Spinksville have been debating the pros and cons of WoW’s new leveling experience. Is it too fast? Is it too simple? Does it hold your hands and promise you long walks on a moonlit beach?

In my experience, the leveling seems to be going by fairly quickly. However, I don’t think that the leveling itself is going that much faster than it used to, as much as the new story and the new quests are making it SEEM like it’s going by faster.

Back in the day, when every quest was “go kill 10 kobolds” or “go collect 10 boar gizzards, 5 bear lungs, and 5 eagle beaks”, leveling was tedious. Only 1 in 4 boars would drop a gizzard, which meant you were spending 4 times as much time grinding out those boars to finish the quest. Plus you had FedEx quests that would take you from Westfall to Stormwind to Darnassus and back. Again, it was a time-sink, and it took longer to level. To be very honest, I struggled with boredom in many zones due to this. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the leveling process, but sometimes my short attention span would kick in and I would find myself tabbed-out of the game, looking up reruns of Kids Incorporated on YouTube.

These days, every boar drops a gizzard, the FedEx quests have been removed completely, and the quests themselves are so much more interesting and fun that I’m not constantly checking my xp bar to see how long it is until the next level. I’ll just be playing, having a blast, and suddenly realize that I’m 4 levels higher and need to go train. Am I leveling faster? Well yes, because I’m not distracted or spending my time puttering around at the Auction House. I’m playing through the quests and having such a good time doing it that I forget what time it is or how long I’ve been playing.

All that said, does the new player experience hold your hands a bit too tightly? WoW was due for a “new player experience” revamp. I think they’re counting on folks getting friends/family to play, particularly the social gamers coming from Facebook (just look at the cross-Facebook marketing with the Darkmoon Faire website). Those folks will likely need those extra tool-tips and hand-holding, at least starting out. For WoW and MMO veterans, it does seem like overkill, particularly if you get the “Beginner’s Tool-tips” option turned on (you can turn it off in the Options menu).

The one aspect of the NLE that I’m not very happy with is the simplicity of the low-level dungeons. I ran Deadmines on-level at around level 16 or so, and even with a Dungeon Finder PUG it seemed ridiculously easy. We blew through it in about 20 minutes. Compare that to running it on-level 6 years ago, when you’d likely be in there for 1-2 hours and had to methodically take out every patrol and use heavy CC. That bothers me a bit, because as a new player (particularly one with no previous MMO experience), it’s deceptive in regards to what exactly a dungeon IS. It doesn’t do a lot to teach those new players how to best perform their role in a group or to improve their skills. I would rather see the low-level dungeons at the same difficulty as the old versions, but with tool-tips to walk players through such concepts as crowd control, aggro, and watching for patrols. It’ll be interesting to see how the “Cataclysm Generation” transitions from the 1-60 content to Outlands, Northrend, and beyond.

Moving Forward, Moving Backward

This past week there have been many, many posts on the WoW official forums regarding reactions to patch 4.0.1 and the new direction of World of Warcraft. It seems to be a very love it or hate it situation; you have players threatening to quit, and others who are absolutely ecstatic over the changes. There is always a middle ground, but typically you only hear from the very vocal and passionate players on the extreme end of both sides.

I do want to say that I understand the feelings that the unhappy players have to a certain extent. After playing a single game for a long span of time, years for most of us, you get attached to it. It’s comfortable. It feels homey. You enjoy playing it, you get attached to your characters, and you have fond memories of all the people you’ve met and fun times you’ve had.

So when that game changes, especially in a big way, it’s disorienting. It feels different, strange, not-so-comfy. Sometimes it can feel downright scary and disturbing.

I’ll admit that I’m a Warcraft fangirl. Note, that’s not the same as a Blizzard fangirl… I don’t really give a whit about Starcraft or Diablo, but I do love the Warcraft universe. Blizzard has done a lot of really good things with WoW. They’ve also done a lot of really stupid things with it. I’ve been burned out, I’ve been frustrated, I’ve declared “that’s it, I’m done with this game!” more times than I care to admit. So when I see people declaring that Patch 4.0.1 is the End of WoW™, I understand those frustrations, even though I don’t agree with them.

There’s two popular sentiments that I’ve been seeing.

This patch is dumbing the game down and making it too easy! Even a six-year-old could play it now! The talent trees are too simple, the builds are all cookie cutter, and some of my old abilities are missing! It feels like WoW Lite!


This patch has made things too hard! My class isn’t the same! I’m a tank and can’t hold aggro any more! I’m a healer and keep going OOM! I’m a DPS and keep pulling aggro off the tank! Change it back or I’m quitting!

Think about those two complaints for a moment.

Honestly, if half the complaints are that it’s too easy and half the complaints are that it’s too hard… maybe the reality is that Blizzard struck the right balance, for once. Fear of change is probably the real culprit here, because there’s no one overwhelming issue that everyone can agree on.

It seems that Blizzard is attempting to return the game to it’s roots with Cataclysm. Not just by returning the game to Azeroth, but by the changes they’ve made to the game’s mechanics. The shortened talent trees are reminiscent of what existed during WoW Classic. The new combat pace isn’t “new” at all… we were doing this during both Classic and TBC. Moving through dungeons slowly, marking mobs, using crowd control, and focusing on skull-x-square… this isn’t new to WoW and it certainly isn’t new to MMOs in general.

As a matter of fact, the WotLK heroic instances were an anomaly in the MMO world, and probably will end up being classified as one of the “stupid” things that Blizzard has done. Currently, heroics are of no use to anyone except to farm badges. They’re not fun, they’re not exciting, and they don’t prepare you with the skills you needed to begin raiding. You could easily go from 1-80 completely solo, then gear up entirely in the LFD tool, never talking to another player and certainly not learning any strategy or teamwork skills other than chain-pulling and AoEing everything.

That’s not good design, and it’s not fair to the players who then get to raids and don’t have basic raiding skills… like following directions or knowing when to get out of the purple glowy poo.

Cataclysm heroics are designed to be that training ground for raiding that we were missing in WotLK, and they’re going to be the “end-game” for those of us who don’t raid. They’re going to be hard. You’re going to have to mark stuff. You’re going to have to discuss strategy. You’re going to have to work with your teammates. You’re going to have to think about what you’re doing. You’re going to have to put the success of the group above your ego.

But I promise you, it’s doable, and it’s worth it. There is no better feeling than going into a dungeon where there is no guarantee of victory, where any number of things could go wrong and your group could wipe horribly, and coming out victorious on the other end. It feels epic, it feels fun, and it makes you a better player.

Those are the kind of moments that you’ll remember 5 and 10 years from now. Those are the kind of moments that old-school players talk about, not just from WoW, but from the original EverQuest and Ultima Online. Those moments helped shape the MMOs that we play today.

Certainly, Blizzard is moving the game forward. We’re finally seeing the world change in a very real and substantial way. We’re seeing the lore progress past the point of rehashing everything from the original three Warcraft games. We’re seeing classes change. We’re seeing the game UI change. At the same time, they’re moving it backward in regards to combat and mechanics, to go back to that old Classic feeling.

Ultimately, the players will benefit. They’ll spend less time perusing websites looking for that one cookie cutter build that will give them +.5% DPS, and more time actually playing the game. They’ll spend time meeting their fellow players, developing teamwork, building their player skills.

Change is here. It’s big and it’s very real. It may seem difficult at first, but give it a chance. Usually the best decisions we ever make in life are when we step out of our personal comfort zone and do things that seem hard.

RealID: An Epilogue

Blizzard announced this week that they finally implemented the functionality that many had been asking for regarding RealID: A way to turn it off (that didn’t involve Parental Controls), a way to turn off the Friend of Friend feature, and a way to turn off the Facebook integration.

It’s certain that in regards to the WoW community, Blizzard has their job cut out for them. To be honest, the WoW forums are full of trolls, pot-stirrers, and people who can barely type a coherent sentence. It’s embarrassing, and the WoW community has developed a terrible reputation. Terms like “U mad bro?”, “lulz”, “QQ”, “bads” and other silliness is the equivalent of saying “kewl” back in the AOL days. It looks borderline illiterate.

So yes, it is in Blizzard’s best interest to do something about the situation, and it has been long overdue. The pros and cons of RealID have been debated at length elsewhere and that dead horse is glue at this point, but now that the RealID issue has settled down, what can Blizzard do to improve their forums going forward?

  • Force people to use one unique identity. I would be perfectly happy if everyone was given a unique username, or barring that, people had to choose one specific character to be tied to. Take away the option to post on alts, and that will be the first step. This will force posters to be held accountable for what they say.
  • Add in a reputation system. Allow posters to give positive or negative reputation to other posters. People that make better, more helpful posts, should be recognized as an MVP. People that troll should be recognized as such.
  • Add more community managers, and better enforce community standards. Posts that are well-written and present points and opinions in a constructive manner should be encouraged. Flamers should be warned and banned both from the forums and in-game on the third warning.
  • While we’re at it, Blizzard could also use more in-game GMs. Any time that I’ve submitted a ticket or a report I’ve gotten a message that they are experiencing a heavy load. Blizzard could react more quickly and with harsher penalties on people who are spamming [anal] jokes in Trade Chat or who are harrassing other players.

I guarantee that if Blizzard were to implement at least unique identities and the rating of posts (and my understanding is that they are considering doing both), it will improve things drastically. Add in the rest of those ideas and it would be even better! Would Blizzard lose some players? Possibly. But considering the sheer volume of subscriptions that they have at the moment, I doubt that they would be missed. An improved community could likely even bring back many players who tried WoW, liked it, but left because they didn’t want to put up with such childishness.

Going into the Ethics file…

Yesterday the gaming blogosphere got all hot and bothered over an issue that was kicked off by an article regarding a wrestling game that is shipping with a one-time-use code that unlocks online content for the game. The question everyone is now asking is: If a consumer purchases a used game (from a friend, from GameStop, etc.), is that basically the same as piracy? The developers aren’t getting their cut, so it’s basically the same, right?


I admit that I’ve sold used games back to GameStop in the past. Sometimes a game just isn’t that good, and I’d rather recoup some of that cash back into my pocket… which then goes into buying more games, thus supporting my game-buying habit AND the developers who make the games. The economy is tough on all of us, and games aren’t a must-have item, so my budget is limited.

If I have $100 to spend, I can buy one $60 game. Now, if I don’t like that game, I can take it back, get $20 for it, pair that $20 with the remaining $40 and get another $60 game. On that second game, the developer is still getting the full wholesale price of their game, probably 50% or so of the retail price. GameStop “ate” the $20 that they gave me for the original game, but they’ll make it back when they resell it, plus an extra $15-$20 for their trouble and overhead.

On the flip side, sometimes there are games that come out that look interesting, but due to previous bad experiences with a particular publisher or franchise, I just don’t want to spend $60 on that game. This doesn’t happen that often, but it’s usually a dealbreaker. 9 times out of 10, I’ll skip purchasing a game that I consider a “risky” purchase, and then the developer doesn’t make anything off of me. If I find a used copy of it for half-price… sure, I might give it a try. The developer still isn’t making anything off of me, but if I try it and like it, then they’ve won back my trust and I’ll be more likely to purchase something else from them in the future.

All that said, you’d probably think that I’m all “USED GAMES R TEH AWESOME!”… and really, I’m all for people being able to sell their used games. It’s recycling and it’s green and it’s helpful for those of us who have families and limited budgets. But at the same time I do view game developers as artists, and I would agree that they deserve compensation for their work.

And honestly, I think the way that THQ is handling it… with the game content being playable solo but having a key to unlock online play… is brilliant.

Think about it: you buy a game used, for let’s say $30. You play it, you like it, you want play against other people, but you can’t because you don’t have the key. The publisher can then sell the unlock keys online. Pay $10-$15, and voila, your online access is there. You’ve still spent less overall on the game, you’ve saved one more plastic cartridge/disk from being thrown into a landfill, and the developers got some compensation for their work. Like a 10-day free trial in the MMO world, used-game players would get to see if they like it first. If it’s a good quality game, the companies get the cash from unlocking the additional features.

Maybe it would even encourage companies to, you know, make better games.

Guilds! Guilds! Get Yer Fresh Guilds!

I have the privilege of being the recruitment officer for my guild. It’s something that I enjoy doing overall, since I do like meeting and talking with new people and I really do believe in what our guild is and what we represent. But sometimes I get slightly frustrated with the state of guild recruitment in WoW. It seems like players don’t have one specific, easy-to-use place to look for a new guild, so players up to this point have come up with all sorts of ways to do it.

What are the normal ways to advertise your guild?

You could advertise in your realm forums: This seems to work the best, particularly since it’s primarily seen by people who are already playing on your realm and it’s the first place most people look when they decide it’s time for a change. The bad thing about the realm forums is that they only reach a limited number of people. There might be a slew of people out there that would be a great fit for your guild, but they just haven’t found your server yet. You also open your guild up to possibly being trolled, although most of the time the trolls will leave you alone as long as you don’t have a bad reputation.

You could advertise in the official WoW recruitment forums: Honestly, these forums are a mess. They have them split into two boards, one for Alliance and one for Horde. If you actually peruse those forums they have hundreds of posts, all with a slightly varying but generally similar subject line: 11/12 25H – 12/12 10H Pro Core LFM Heal/DPS/Tank. First off… that is soulless and reads like a line in an IT hardware catalog. Second, all of these posts have been bumped hundreds of times, probably several times a day, and those boards move FAST. Wait an hour and you’re on the third or fourth page already.  So you’re left furiously bumping your recruitment post so that you might possibly get seen among all the eye-bleeding pandemonium.

The other side of this method is that the guild representative can peruse those forums for players who are advertising looking for a new guild. Again, this is hard on the eyes and involves scanning through about 20 pages of posts, searching for a needle that might not even be in the haystack. But, it can also be very rewarding if you do find some promising players.

You could advertise in trade chat: Oh yes, we’ve all seen it…

Knights of The Azerothian Hamster are recruiting all classes, all races, all levels! We are a fun, friendly, mature guild with 5 bank tabs, a tabard, and a website! PST for more info!

Granted, the KotAH might be a really fantastic group of people. But that advertisement really doesn’t tell anybody what the guild is about. Most guilds would need to be “fun” and “friendly” in order to retain members, and “mature” could mean several different things. Most guilds also have bank tabs, a tabard, and a website, so that’s not necessarily something to brag about. Even worse, if you’re advertising in trade chat there’s no telling what kind of folks will see it and want to join. The few times that I’ve tried it, I’ve generally gotten whispers like “invte now plz” or “i join ur guild”. Responses like that get put on /ignore.

What are some alternate methods?

Alternate guild recruitment websites: Sites like are a good option if you are looking for a quieter and much more user-friendly place to post. I really like their layout and it’s much easier to search for recruitment posts by faction, battlegroup, server, server type, playstyle, raid times, progression… just about any possible criteria you might have can be filtered. Plus, you don’t have to deal with trolling. The bad thing is that of course it’s a third party website, so you likely won’t be seen by as many people.

If I could shoot for the moon, I’d love it if Blizzard implemented a similar system on their website. Then instead of maintaining server guild lists and individual recruitment posts, a guild could set themselves up once and be done. Entries could be easily changed and maintained at any time to reflect guild needs.

Mentions on fansites: Probably one of the more difficult things to do. This includes getting mentioned on or in podcasts. First, you have to do (or plan) something really nifty and unusual. Then you have to notify those outlets about what you did, and hope and pray that it’s a slow enough news day for them to take notice. If they do mention you, what kind of recruitment that’ll generate is a bit iffy. I’ve seen some guilds grow by leaps and bounds after a announcement, and I’ve seen others that didn’t see any new recruits at all.

Multi-media: Of course, if you’re so inclined you can always start your own WoW fansite, podcast,or YouTube channel and make your own splash. Look no further than the Instance podcast or the MooingDruid’s Crimson Blood Clan videos for great examples of this. This isn’t an option for everybody but if you have the resources and the creative and technical talent to do it, go for it!

What kind of results can be expected?

A few months back, I went on a recruiting spree for my guild. I tried all of the above methods for two months, except for the trade chat (of course) and the multi-media option… my skills aren’t quite up to that point yet! But here’s the results we got with a fairly detailed post describing our guild:

Server Forums : 13 recruits
Guild Recruitment Forums: 11 recruits 2 recruits 2 recruits

28 recruits over a two month period… not bad! However, don’t get too excited yet.

15% of the applications were rejected outright.
30% of the recruits were invited but didn’t make it through our associate period.

So really, we ended up with a little more than half of the recruits actually becoming full members. We’re still quite happy with those numbers, as we got some really excellent players that fit with the overall group dynamics and atmosphere. It’s important to not get discouraged when recruits don’t work out. If it isn’t a good fit for both the guild and the player, it’s much better to acknowledge that and give each other a friendly “Best of Luck!” before moving on.

What about you folks? Have any of you discovered any other unusual methods of recruiting that have worked pretty well for you?

We are the World… of Warcraft

After Monday’s post with my rants about WoW and LotRO, I really started thinking more about the WoW community in itself, and I think the subject deserves it’s own post.

When you look at the WoW community, the easiest thing to do (and I admit that I’m guilty of this) is to look at trade chat and the WoW forums and draw conclusions from that. While trade chat and the forums are certainly representative of a certain part of the community, it’s definitely not the entire community. To be fair, there’s a huge number of players that don’t participate in the forums or in trade chat, and there are pockets of good communities tucked away in corners of the internet:

  • Guilds: Easily the biggest subset, but it seems like most guilds keep to themselves and there’s little interaction between them, unless it’s for raiding alliances.
  • Class Websites: Sites like tend to have very strong communities and offer a place for players to discuss their classes without the “Ghostcrawler nerfed my class to the ground!” hyperbole… which usually is done to try to bait the devs into talking to that particular post. On class websites, there’s no reason to assume that the devs are watching, so the discussion tends to be more productive.
  • Blogs: There’s a WoW blog out there for just about every specific interest, from leveling to making gold to collecting pets. Plus there’s a slew of general interest blogs by players and communities like Blog Azeroth and Azeroth United that serve to put bloggers in touch with each other and encourage group collaboration.

A while back Gordon at We Fly Spitfires wrote a post about the WoW community, and in one of the comments MMOGamerChick wrote that:

WoW is like a big city. Everyone sort of minds their own business, people are rude because the chances of ever running into each other again are slim to nil, and as with any big population you’ll have your share of jerks and crazies.

And as an inhabitant of a big city myself, I think this is a great analogy. When you look at the overall population as a whole, it’s very impersonal and stand-offish, particularly when compared to smaller “cities” like Lord of the Rings Online. Those communities are better because they’re small enough (and well moderated enough) that your reputation matters. You can’t run from a bad reputation because there’s nowhere to hide, so it pays to be a constructive member of the community.

But in big cities there are small pockets of community, usually focused around schools, places of worship, clubs, sports leagues, and so on. It’s unfair to write off the entire city based upon a top-level view. To really get the true picture you need to get to know the inhabitants in their smaller communities and see how they interact with each other and what kind of things they’re doing.

So after thinking about it some more… the sky isn’t falling. Sure, Blizzard has some serious street-cleaning to do on their forums and in trade chat, and there are a lot of unsavory types of WoW players out there. But there are also a lot of really friendly, fun, and kind WoW players out there. It’s just a matter of finding them.

The Social Aspect of 3.3

So the new hotness in Patch 3.3 is the new Dungeon Finder system. Level 80’s are running instances like crazy right now to get prepared to beat the living daylights out of Arthas. Even lowbies and alts benefitted to this change, as it’s now easier to get at-level groups for early dungeons, thus rejuvenating the leveling experience.

I’ve been having some interesting discussions regarding how DF will impact guilds, especially smaller social guilds. There seem to be two points of view. Some are very concerned and feel that the DF will trivialize guild groups. After all, you get extra badges, extra gold, and extra loot if you use the DF to find random PUGS, whereas you don’t get those same benefits with guild groups. It’s now incredibly easy to get online and jump straight into a PUG heroic, so why wait on guildies? Now you don’t need a guild to run instances… anybody can do them on their own with no fuss.

The other viewpoint is that the DF tool is actually very beneficial. Most players in smaller guilds stay there for the low-key atmosphere and the close relationships they develop with their guildmates. These players enjoy grouping with their guildies, and will nearly always prefer a guild run over a PUG group. But, on those occasions that there are more than enough guildies online for one group, but not enough for a second (or third) group, this offers a better, more improved system for those odd folks out. Missing 2 or 3 people to fill out your team? Jump in the queue, grab a couple of puggers, and go get some badges. Everybody who wants to instance, gets to instance, but within the guild they keep that same homey atmosphere that they enjoy.

Another interesting idea that I’ve been mulling over is how this will affect gear-progression and raiding. Right now the Dungeon Finder is designed only for 5-man content, but it wouldn’t be a huge stretch for Blizzard to add raiding content as well at some point in the future. If that were to happen, it could reduce the number of players from smaller guilds that “trade up” to large guilds for gear progression and raiding. The guild would be for the social aspect, and Dungeon Finder for the progression aspect. Who said that successful raids can only be run by guilds?

Of course, this is all speculation and we’ll have to see how things work out over the next few months. The Dungeon Finder could be one of the best things to happen to the game… or it could be detrimental to developing camaraderie within guilds. Only time will tell, but at this point I think it will be far more beneficial than anything else.