Guild Play vs. Solo Play in World of Warcraft

[Edited to add: The above title is a misnomer now, since really this has become an article on “Casual guild play vs. raiding guild play”.]

Now that World of Warcraft has been out for quite a while, it’s getting harder and harder to play solo, even for a short time. More than that, it’s putting certain pressures on guilds that cause many of them to crumble and collapse even though they’re fun guilds with quite a few people in them.

The longer people play, the less they want to put up with the consequences of PuGs (Pick-up Groups, going off to do quests and instances with folk you probably don’t know). You never know whether one of your people is a ninja-looter who will make off with loot at the first chance they get. You don’t know whether someone will suddenly have to go off and get dinner within the first half-hour of an instance after saying they could come, or show up, realize they forgot to repair their nearly-broken armor, and have to go all the way back to town to take care of it. You have no idea whether these folks will have any idea what they’re doing, or whether they’ll set off too many mobs too quickly and get everyone killed multiple times, resulting in the group falling apart before anything gets accomplished. You don’t know whether you’ll end up with obnoxious, arrogant, or even racist, etc. players who make you want to quit the game in frustration.

With all of that, you can see why so many people, now that they’ve played long enough to make friends, meet good players, join guilds, and set up multiple-guild chat channels and alliances, refuse to join PuGs unless absolutely necessary. It’s unfortunate, however, that this leaves less socially adept people with some difficulties finding groups when they need them.

This might not be so much of a problem if it were easier for guilds to form, stay together, form alliances, and so on. However, there’s a certain tension of desires that has caused problems for so many of the guilds I’ve been in and witnessed.

There appears to be a strong dichotomy between the players who want to hang out, relax, and have fun, and the players who want to become die-hard raiders. This might not be so much of a problem were it not for several factors.

People often start out as the former and become the latter. They join a “fun” guild for leveling because the people tend to be friendly and helpful, and then when they reach 60 they want to move on to raiding. There are a few problems with this, however. One is that they often have trouble finding a raiding guild that will take them, or they don’t want to have to deal with being low man on the totem pole at a new guild, so instead of finding a raiding guild they bully and pester and argue for turning their current guild into a raiding guild. Often they put it in terms that make it clear that the folks running the guild are somehow shirking their duty to be helpful to their members by not making it possible for them to raid.

Because the folks running these relaxed, helpful guilds are usually interested in being helpful, and because usually they only hear from the folks who are complaining–not the folks who are happy–which gives them a very skewed perspective on what their guild members want, this causes them to do one of several things. Either they go nuts running around trying to make it happen, which they probably can’t, because the guild just isn’t set up for raiding and not enough people in the guild really want it to happen (and if the folks who wanted the raiding were truly willing to put in the necessary time and effort to make it happen they probably wouldn’t be bugging the guild leaders to do it for them). Or they end up getting burned out because they get the mistaken impression that everyone in the guild is unhappy with the direction it’s going in, and thus the guild probably ends up crumbling, losing a bunch of people, and perhaps shutting down.

Raiding guilds, on the other hand, have difficulties of their own. It’s hard to get enough people together to do the big raids. You generally can’t do it from scratch; most of the big, successful raiding guilds started out as normal guilds of lower-level people when the servers were young. These folks “grew up” together with similar goals in mind, pulled themselves up through the various levels of instances and quests, and gradually made their way through the content, gearing themselves up and learning as they went. Now most of them only take fully-geared level 60 characters who are already set up to raid.

Let’s go back to those transition players who level up through casual guilds and then want to raid. Part of the problem is that many of them seem to think that they should be able to hit Molten Core and Ahn’Qiraj the moment they hit level 60. This isn’t the case. There are a bunch of level 60 instances for a reason, and there’s also a reason why it typically takes quite a few runs through them to get your first set of class-specific gear. If most of these transition players were willing to take that time, gear themselves up, and prove themselves, they could probably get positions in raiding guilds–but they’re impatient and don’t want to wait. They feel they got to 60, now it’s time for the big leagues.

By now you might think that I’m blaming these players, however. I’m not. They’re certainly a part of the problem, but they aren’t the root cause of it. There are many contributing problems, but one of the big ones is that there are raiding guilds, and there are casual guilds, but there are few proto-raiding guilds. There are few guilds on established servers dedicated to focused leveling, gearing, and ‘training’, if you will, to get people to the point of raiding. There are folks who try to put such guilds together, but the truth is it can be difficult to find enough folks of similar level on an established server to fill up the ranks of such a guild. And even if these guilds succeed, they aren’t meant to be recruiting grounds for other raiding guilds, they’re meant to turn into raids themselves–which means that they just become yet another closed raiding guild once they become “successful”.

I do have a proposed solution. I can’t know how effective it would be, but I’d love to see some folks try to implement it. It might require more cooperation than most competitive raiding players are willing to employ, but I can hope, right? So here it is:

Establish “training guilds” run as subsidiaries of a pool of the major raiding guilds on a server. Here are some of the things I’d love to see implemented:

  • Each raiding guild that wants to be able to help train and actively recruit from this guild has to contribute one officer to the training guild. This should be an alt of a member of the raiding guild.
  • Each raiding guild involved should contribute some minimum time commitment (maybe once a week) helping out the training guild. Helping to take a group of players through an instance shouldn’t be charity work–it should double as a chance to give playing pointers, help folks to get geared up for raiding, establish relationships with the players and get to know them, teach them the teamwork necessary for raiding, etc.
  • When members of the training guild start reaching an appropriate level and gear-set, raiding guilds could set aside “test spots” or “training spots” to take potential candidates on and test them out in some of the lower-level raids. If the raiding guild as a whole doesn’t want to give up a raid spot for this or create a raid for this, then a handful of people from the guilds sponsoring the training guild could get together and do it.

In order to make this truly effective, however, I do think the in-game tools for guilds and raids need to be improved. I’d love to see an integrated raid scheduler that allows you to open the raid to certain guilds, and an integrated event scheduler for guilds, among other things. This would also make it easier for casual guilds with moderate raiders to create multi-guild raid groups to satisfy those players who are fairly casual and don’t want to leave their casual guilds, but who want to try out raiding.

Of course, there’s just one problem this won’t (and can’t) solve. There will always be players who don’t want to put time and effort into obtaining their desires. They want their raid group handed to them fully-formed. They don’t want to have to get geared up (unless someone will magically give them a run through someplace to get the gear they want) and they don’t want to spend the time necessary to learn the tactics to take on an instance. They’ll see the training guild as a candy-land where raiders hand their desires to them (and because of this attitude they’ll probably get kicked out, and rightly so). And because of this, they’ll continue to level through casual, helpful guilds and then try to guilt-trip those guild leaders into making their desires happen for them.

For this, I can only say the following to all of the leaders of casual guilds out there: Don’t listen to these players. If you’re running a casual guild and you’ve always run a casual guild, and you’ve made it clear that’s what your guild is, and you do a head-count of your guild and realize that you’re only hearing from a few people (go ahead, do it–I think you’ll be surprised to realize how few people are actually complaining), then don’t worry about it. You can work with a bunch of other casual guilds to set up a multiple-guild raid if you’re energetic and motivated, but I think you’re better off smiling and saying, “great. If you’d like to raid, why don’t you set it up? We could use someone to set up something like that.” I think you’ll find these players back off quite quickly. If they’re truly determined to raid, let them go put the effort into finding a raiding guild or forming a raid–don’t let them tear apart your friendly, casual guild with their own wants. I’ve seen it happen multiple times on multiple servers to multiple guilds, and it’s always a tragedy–a very unnecessary tragedy.

Posted in Gaming
One comment on “Guild Play vs. Solo Play in World of Warcraft
  1. taurgon says:

    love this post…. i (level 32 tauren shammy) have been soloing and want to try a few dungeons, yet am having a terrible time finding people to join up with. are you aware of any “training” guilds that have started up since you posted this way back when?

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