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Heroic Madness on 7 hours a week -- the shape of guilds to come?

Raiding on two nights a week is certainly nothing novel in this day and age. Casual raiders can often devote no more than two nights to WoW. Fans of the Raid Finder find twice a week a reasonable fit. Heck, more than a few of the most dedicated raiding groups have lightened their weekly loads to two nights in light of end-of-expansion doldrums. Even so, three nights per week is probably still the norm among groups that consider themselves dedicated raiding guilds.

But two-night raiding may be building a steamhead as the playerbase matures along with the game. "A couple years ago, you did a feature on a two-night guild when they killed heroic Lich King," wrote reader Oatz of Full Spectrum on Alleria (US). "Well, when Cataclysm started, that inspired me to create my own two-night guild (seven hours per week). I am now proud to say that our two-night guild has just killed heroic Madness, making us not just the #1 two-night guild but also #24 on 10-man and #62 overall in the United States."

Impressive, yes -- but what caught my eye about this email was Oatz's almost off-handed conclusion about the stability of his guild's roster. "It's interesting how raid groups are evolving over the years as the playerbase gets older," he mused. "Our guild is full of professionals in their 20s and 30s, many with spouses and kids, and none of us can raid more than two nights. I'm a practicing lawyer myself, but I started WoW back when I was a lowly college student."

"I remember back in vanilla, even, when there were no server transfers," he continued. "Raiding guilds were always competing for recruits based on progression. It seems now that as the raider playerbase has increased and gotten older, for the majority, it's more based on schedules and other niches."

WoW on demand vs. WoW as a time-gobbling behemoth -- is this where the serious WoW hobbyist stands in 2012?

Oatz
Main character Oatz
Guild Full Spectrum
Realm Alleria (US)

WoW Insider: Tell us about the genesis of your own two-night guild concept, Oatz. What flavor were you trying to create -- the most hardcore progression possible in the limited amount of time, a more relaxed atmosphere, or simply a less demanding schedule in which whatever happened could happen?

Oatz: I started Full Spectrum because I figured there were other people like me. I bought WoW back in 2004 when I was a poor and introverted college guy and joined some 40-man raiding guild. Back then, most guilds raided four or five nights per week, which was perfect for me. I continued in that scene through The Burning Crusade, and while I raided a lot and thought I was a good player, I was never in an impressively successful guild or anything. But I was having fun, going to class in the morning and to Sunwell at night.

Then I grew up. Wrath of the Lich King hit just after I started law school. My free time almost disappeared, and I didn't raid during that expansion at all. Before Cataclysm came out, I had graduated, become a lawyer, got two dogs, moved in with my boyfriend, and bought a house. Luckily, my boyfriend liked WoW as much as I did, so we still played together casually at the time.

But I missed the thrill of raiding. I had remembered a post from this very column, actually, that interviewed Chupa of Skunkworks when Skunkworks got a top 100 U.S. ranking on heroic Lich King 25 raiding just eight hours per week. I had no Wrath raiding achievements to prove it, but I still thought I was good enough to compete at the highest level. So I figured if they could do it, so could I.

Did you find it difficult to find like-minded players?

Even at the beginning, I was overwhelmed with the interest we got. Though we were a brand new guild, our description and goals captivated people enough that we were getting several applications per day. Clearly, two-night raiding was something that many were interested in, so from the get-go I thought that eventually this guild was going to make it.

That being said, the raiding skill of the first people we recruited was mixed. It ranged from being new to raiding to being the former raid leader of a heroic LK guild. It took almost a year of recruiting to get to the skill level we're at today. Success builds upon success, though, and our ability to recruit very skilled raiders keeps going up.

It sounds as if you've developed a highly tuned recruitment process. What specifics do you look at in potential and new recruits?

I've always thought that recruitment is the most important aspect of being a GM. Everything is dependent on it. A bad recruitment decision can negatively impact the guild for months.

While we haven't had any openings for since November, what I look for in an application is someone that fits the guild in three overall categories: personality, skill, and desire for a light schedule. All three are crucial -- a new recruit has to raid at the same or better skill level as everyone else, exhibit a laid-back, friendly, and mature personality that the rest of us share, and specifically want to raid no more than two nights per week.

So often I've turned down an application that didn't quite fit in one of those categories. We've had applicants with stellar raiding experience that I suspected were only interested in us due to our progress, not our schedule. Or, we've had applicants that, while probably great players, were used to the more adult-style humor that doesn't really exist in our guild. Most guilds would have taken these players in -- we chose not to. It's critical that everyone that joins shares the desire to limit raiding to two nights per week.

Other than that, often I go off my gut feeling whether someone is going to work out. There's no set requirements. For example, I accepted our current warrior even though he had no heroic experience at all because, after talking to him, I just had a feeling that he'd be a great player. Perhaps it takes time to develop that intuition.

How much do you emphasize keeping raid times inside the lines? Do you always wrap things up at the scheduled time?

It's actually really important to us, so we always end by 11. Nobody here is in college, so we all have to get up for work the next day. Doesn't matter if we just wiped at 1% -- we go to sleep and come back another day.

Sounds reasonable. How many players are you working with?

We run with 11 raiders. We've found 11 to be the sweet spot between limiting the amount of time people have to sub and being able to cover those situations when someone can't make it. Other than that, we have friends and family of those raiders, but that's about it. It's just one raid team right now, but we're thinking about starting another team or two once MoP comes.

Given the increased accessibility of raiding and the options for cross-realm Real ID raiding, the Raid Finder, and so on, guild member turnover game-wide is probably higher today than at any point in WoW's history. What's kept turnover in your guild so low?

High turnover is ultimately a recruitment problem. Since we started raiding over a year ago, we have not once had a player leave to join another guild. People come here getting exactly what they expect. They aren't turned off by our personalities, they aren't disappointed with the skill level of the other raiders, they aren't wishing they raided more or raided less.

We've done so well with recruitment and retention because we picked a niche and ran with it. Our recruitment posts advertise hardcore raiding on two nights per week, and that's exactly what we deliver. Only a minority of the overall raiding population are interested, but on the other hand, we have a lot less competition -- there's just not that many two-night guilds that can get a top 100 endgame kill.

I think Cataclysm really opened the door to niche competitive guilds, because it meant you could form a small, 10-man guild and not end up with worse gear than a 25-man. You don't have the gear trade-off that you used to. So as long as you advertise well in the guild recruitment forums, I think any niche raiding guild could have the same kind of recruitment and retention success. Maybe someone could start a high-end raid team with only women, or only parents, or lawyers, or military. I've come across forms of all these kind of niches, but they are almost always social guilds. But they could be competitive raid-wise as well -- find nine to 10 other people like you and you're set.

Do most players end up playing casually most non-raiding nights anyway, or are off nights relatively deserted?

People will play casually on non-raid days, though this is dependent on how much there is to do outside of raids. When 4.3 came out, everyone would make sure to do LFR and BH on their own time, and many ran their alts through the new 5-mans. Now, that content has about dried up, so there isn't as much to do. But everyone is active on the forums and will at least log on once every day or two just to fly around Stormwind for a bit.

Our paladin healer, Bouchbagette, put it this way: "I am rarely the only one on. It has been really nice to have someone online to do stuff like LFR, old raids, or achieves with. I think it is because everyone here genuinely loves the game. I don't think you can be as dedicated to raiding as we are and not love the game."

Let's talk about how your guild's demographics have evolved since the beginning of Cataclysm.

The average guild member has always been in their upper 20s, employed full-time, and in a serious relationship. This makes sense, as these are the kind of people that would seek out a two-night guild.

Interestingly, this demographic couldn't be more different from the guilds I was in during vanilla and The Burning Crusade. Back then, the guilds were made up of college students, usually unemployed. A guildie might be dating, but nobody was married or had had kids of their own.

More importantly, we're all pretty low-key and mature. Nobody yells or raises their voice. Nobody complains about loot. Everyone's respectful; the guild has at various times included women, foreigners, parents with kids, openly gay members, and there's never been a hint of immaturity or jokes about any of it. It again comes down to recruitment -- accepting only the people that will fit in.

How does having limited time available to raid interact with endgame nerfs such as the Power of the Aspects buff? Does that affect your schedule and plans?

We don't really schedule or plan around upcoming nerfs. We were on the third plate of heroic Spine before the big 4.3 nerfs came, and only a few 10-mans in the United States had killed it at that point. We killed it a couple days after. It would have been nice to kill it before the nerf, but there are only so many attempts you can get in two nights per week.

Do you have a plan or projected schedule for the upcoming leveling period when Mists releases?

Right now, no plans. I'm sure once it's closer we'll start talking about it. While we naturally don't play as much due to our real-life commitments, I think we'll all be 90 within a couple weeks from release. As I said before, I'm thinking about opening up the guild to another 10-man team or two, so something like that would happen around the release of MoP as well.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Raiding, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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