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Officers' Quarters: Number crunching

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

It's a question on many officers' minds right now: is 10 greater than 25? It's a question that would send any math teacher into a rage-fueled lecture about integers and number lines. But as we know, leading a guild isn't always about quantity -- quality is important, too. With the ability in Wrath to see all of the expansion's raiding content alongside just 9 other people, this question of numbers has become a legitimate issue. Some guilds who had success at the 25-player level may opt to keep it smaller this time around. One reader wants to know how to make the switch.

Scott, I am an officer in what has been a fairly successful guild. We built a great team and led it from Kara, through SSC and most of TK, and into Hyjal and BT over the past several months. But the intense effort that it took to go so far in such a short time completely exhausted me and the other officers. Along those lines, we read with great interest Blizzard's announcement to create a 10-man raiding scene. (I also note, although it might be inappropriate to do so on wowinsider, that a forum poll on mmo-champion about 10 vs 25 raiding resulted in many more people saying they were interested in the 10-man option, with lots of comments from leaders about similar burn-out!)

I'd be interested to see an article about how to transition from a 25 man team, with its due share of slackers, whiners, and drama queens, to a slimmed down 10 man team of the "cream of the crop," and then to still remain a somewhat hardcore, progression-oriented team. There are a lot of logistical and administrative tasks we keep coming up against. Are other guilds in this new position as well? How are they dealing with it?


Thanks!

Anonymous

First things first: Let's be realistic about this. Just because you're only raiding with 10 people doesn't mean you'll never find yourself in a group with a slacker, whiner, or drama queen. It just means the odds are reduced. Likewise, raiding with 10 isn't going to make all the logistical and administrative tasks disappear. It just means that these tasks will be easier to manage.

Personally, I've always gotten more enjoyment and satisfaction from the smaller raids, and I was also thrilled to hear about this new -- and complete -- 10-player raiding path. To me the advantages are clear:
  • Easier to recruit, schedule runs, and fill slots
  • Easier to distribute loot -- rolling on drops isn't nearly as punishing to an individual
  • Easier to diagnose problems after a wipe
  • Easier to figure out who isn't pulling their weight
  • Easier for a tight-knit crew to make adjustments on the fly and react to each other's split-second decisions
  • Fewer people who may get lost in the instance or need the pulls/encounters explained
  • Fewer AFKs, disconnects, emergencies, phone calls, smoke breaks, and bio breaks
  • Fewer egos involved, which usually means less drama
This is all, of course, theoretical and by no means assured. But I've found it to be generally true. The problem my guild has always had is that we don't believe in attendance policies. As a result, even though we're a very large guild, we often had problems fielding 25 quality players who were mostly on the ball. We had no choice but to take people that we knew weren't prepared for a raid or that we knew might cause problems.

You could speak to them later about shaping up, but there was no way to really enforce preparation and focus without punishing the guild as a whole. The next time you need a healer and that problem player is all you have, you're either going to take them or you're going to cancel the run. Sure you can recruit someone, and over the years we've recruited many, many players, but eventually in a guild like mine you're going to need that person.

If someone can attend a run regardless of how prepared they are, and they know that others will do enough to make up for their lack of effort, there's no incentive to go the extra mile. The loot isn't any less purple for someone who isn't flasking.

It made progression sporadic. One week we'd have a solid group and down a new boss or two. The next week we'd have a weak group and wipe six times on a boss we've already beaten.

It was a real conundrum for us. We're not the type of guild that kicks people based solely on performance. And so we've thought long and hard about how our raiding will shape up at level 80. We're still working on our plan, but it will involve rewarding the most prepared and dedicated players with suddenly very limited raid slots on the progression team. Other members can raid, too, of course, but it will be a more relaxed raiding environment.

That doesn't mean everyone else can slack. Whether someone is on the progression team or not, we're outlining a list of minimum tasks that someone must fulfill to be eligible to raid. With such a big guild, we're betting that even slots for the nonprogression teams will be competitive. And we're keeping our fingers crossed that it's enough motivation for people to follow through with their promises.

We know that we have enough people who are dedicated to raiding successfully that we'll always be able to field ten. So unlike our 25-player raids in TBC, the incentive to excel will be there from the beginning.

On the other hand, it sounds like the anonymous author of the e-mail above has just the opposite problem: she has too many good raiders!

Now, the immediate and obvious "solution" to the problem would be to make two progression teams. Do you remember when Blizzard announced that 40-player raids were being eliminated in TBC? Guild leaders complained that the transition would be too difficult. Many people said, "What's the big deal? Just recruit 10 more people and run two teams. Problem solved."

I might be wrong, but I don't remember that particular strategy working out very well for anybody. Two teams means -- even two 10-player teams -- means double the tasks that I listed above, rather than less.

In fact it's actually worse than managing one team of 25. You're splitting your raid IDs, ensuring that, on the second night in any given zone, you're stuck with the same exact people no matter who is or isn't available. In a bad week, both teams might be shorthanded on Night 2. You've got those five other people from your original 25 who could fill in, but that's not a lot of wiggle room considering they might not be the right class or spec that you need.

No, going into Wrath with 25 hardcore raiders and only running 10-player raids is probably not going to work. Before you reach that point, you have to cull your population. Let's see how you can do it humanely.

First of all, the timing of this process will be important. If you start now, you might find yourself shorthanded once everything plays out. You can't ignore the fact that Warhammer Online is launching next month. Odds are a lot of Warcraft players are going to try it out. It's impossible to say at this point if they'll come back to WoW or not. Age of Conan didn't exactly win over the hearts and minds of the average MMO player. But any new MMO could potentially dent WoW's population. Somebody has to eventually, right?

So I'd hold off on trying to reduce your team until the expansion is much closer than it is now.

At that point, the first step is to ask everybody on your raiding team if they will in fact be raiding in Wrath. Some may not want to. Some may have major life changes on the horizon that will prevent them from putting in the time. Odds are not every single member will be able to dedicate the same time and effort that they are today.

Next, announce that you'll be scaling back to 10-player raiding. If you've already identified some people who aren't coming back, it'll make this decision easier for your members to accept. Talk to your members about the stress and the burnout among the officers, and they'll hopefully be more sympathetic and less angry. A few, however, may decide that they really want to raid in the 25-player path. So you could lose a few more from the team this way.

Now, take a good hard look at everyone who's left. Figure out who the "slackers, whiners, and drama queens" are. Talk to your fellow officers and find out if there are any particular members that the leadership collectively has concerns about or just doesn't want to deal with in the future.

Conduct private talks with those members you want to let go. Thank them for their efforts and inform them respectfully that there won't be a slot for them in the smaller raids. I recommend that you do not volunteer any particular reasons for this decision unless they ask you to. Some will probably already know why. For them, going over the laundry list of reasons will just add insult to injury.

After all this, you could be down to 12-15 people, and that's a more reasonable number to start off with. Once the expansion launches, people may weed themselves out. They might start leveling and realize they're just sick to death of the game. Or maybe they'll hate the way their class plays post-70 and reroll.

Plus, your members are going to level up and gear up at different paces, so having more than 10 gives you a comfort zone where you won't have to make everyone wait for that one slow leveler. Anyone who rerolls as a Death Knight is much more likely to lag behind. You'll want to have one eventually, but you won't have to wait on that person before you set foot in Naxxramas.

In the end, having more quality people than you have slots to fill is a great problem for an officer or raid leader to have. Trust me on this: It's far better than not having enough!

/salute

Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at scott.andrews@weblogsinc.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters! For more WoW Insider gameplay columns, click here.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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