Nostalgia Continues

DRC_Gruul

Eleven Years

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At this point eleven years ago I was spending the morning with a friend and coworker desperately trying to raise the money to buy a guild charter on one of the two original roleplaying server… Argent Dawn.  I remember we rolled a set of toons that we had no interest in playing, and wound up selling literally everything we got from quests and drops all in the hope of hitting that magic number.  From there I mailed all of this to my would be main character and started the guild, running back to Coldridge Valley to get signatures.  At which point a bunch of people made Dwarves or Gnomes and we got our charter up for House Stalwart in rapid fashion.  WoW was the first game that I had a planned entrance into, because it was that one game that everyone seemed to be able to agree upon.  So we pulled folks from Everquest, Horizon, Dark Age of Camelot and City of Heroes all together into one large organization.  We had noble amibitions of having both an Alliance guild on Argent Dawn and a Horde guild on Silverhand.  Most folks that have worn the House Stalwart tabard probably don’t even remember that the crusader cross that has become so recognizable… was not even our original design.  You can see in the screenshot to the side that the colors were similar… but instead we went with the tree logo.

It was not until the first “reboot” of the guild that we went with the crusader cross, as a bit of a way of signifying that things had changed.  Hell there was a period of time when I didn’t even have my mains in the guild.  About six months into the game I took a hiatus and went off to play Everquest II, which I talked briefly about during my MWP post a few weeks back.  When I came back to the game pretty much the entire guild had disappeared.  Later I found out that some of those that remained ended up going and creating their own guild, and rather than shaking the boat I decided to move most of my characters there as well.  We had some good times, but it didn’t last and before long I was asking my friend Finni to help me move my characters and pass back the leadership from my bank alt to my main once more.  Before we knew in… within twenty four hours we went from being a guild of essentially one… to a guild of like sixty players again.  This began the golden age of the guild, and with it we started dipping our toes into regular raiding with what was our sister guild at the time… Silent Strike.  Granted we never really did anything much more serious than Zul Gurub and AQ20, but we had a lot of fun doing it when we raided as a guild.

Misplaced Intentions

wowscrnshot_012406_220132One of the more interesting things about this game is that I became known as a tank, but even now there are folks like my friend Eralia that still call me Lodin my original Late Night Raiders main.  I played a hunter for the better part of Vanilla, but I never intended to do that as my role in the game.  It was shortly after the launch of the game that we had a pretty horrific death in the family.  So while I was keeping up with my Paladin for a long while… I quickly fell behind and when I came back… the only thing I could seem to level quickly was my hunter.  I pretty quickly realized that the class was not really for me once I started raiding.  However my good friend Shiana needed a replacement for a less than reliable hunter, so before I knew it I had become a regular cog in the Late Night Raiders machine.  Once I was geared… I felt like I simply could not swap to another class.  It was during this time that my fellow hunter Ailah decided that she really would rather level a priest… so we rolled Belghast the Warrior and Finni the Priest and started leveling them as a duo to make life easier on both of us.  At that point the hardest possible thing to level was a Holy Priest, and the second hardest was a Protection Warrior… and we figured as a duo we could burn through the content quickly.

It was not terribly long before both Belghast and Finni had become our “unofficial” mains, so when Late Night Raiders disintegrated at the end of Vanilla, I took that opportunity as my change to be the class and role I had actually wanted to play.  I tore through Burning Crusade with a vengeance and became one of the folks that people relied on to make dungeons happen.  When LNR finally called it quits I transitioned over to another raid group that I had been tanking for on the side.  NSR or No Such Raid became a second family, and through that raid I met so many of the people that I keep in contact with on a daily basis.  We had a really great run with the raid and made it to the start of the Tier 6 raid content before various things happened, and the leader dumped the raid in my lap.  I tried to make it work as best I could, but week by week we were hemorrhaging folks.  We started with baring being able to pull the group together, then the next week we were down around five people… and the bleeding continued at that pace until three weeks in I just called it.  I felt like a failure and honestly was uncertain what my future would bring.  I talked to a handful of the highest tier raid guilds on our server… and had essentially made my way through the recruitment process on a couple of them.

Durable Nubs

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It was around this time that a good friend of mine from the days of Late Night Raiders pulled me aside to talk about an idea that he and some of his friends had.  The theory was simple… pull together a raid group in the style of Late Night Raiders and go off and tackle the content on our own.  There were a lot of things about the methodology of NSR that never set right with me.  I’ve never felt like yelling orders at a team was really that effective.  Basically I had a choice… do I go with my friends and start a brand new raid, having to train people up from Tier 4, or do I go off and join a hardcore raid guild and continue my progress into Tier 6.  If you have read this blog much, it would be pretty obvious which choice I made, but I have  to admit that choice haunted me.  As we wiped to Gruul or later Leotheras the Blind…  I kept thinking…  what did I give up to make this happen.  I spent a good deal of Burning Crusade being grumpy about my decision but in the long run I absolutely made the right one.  When Wrath of the Lich King launched we were prized to be a real force for awesome raiding.  The atmosphere that evolved was awesome… but we did a few things that I think ultimately hurt the raid.  We had this policy of “never let the children see the parents fight”, so while we raided the entire group of officers remained connected to a second voice server.  The problem being is that when heavy deliberation was going on… the normal raid chat could be deathly quiet as we sorted out what we needed to do to fix the situation.

To the members this felt like a vacuum of information, and we also failed to take into account the possibility that some of those folks might have some really good ideas that would help solve whatever problem we were having.  LNR was the example that we were following, because almost all deliberation there happened in a separate and private server channel.  The problem being… we had no clue just how contentious that channel could end up being.  I had zero intention of being the voice of the raid… but over time that is precisely what happened.  The thing is… as burnt out as I eventually became…  I still look back on the moments of us raiding together in a positive light.  Namely because so many of the people from the raid groups I have been in… make up the folks that I converse with on a daily basis.  Like all things…  Duranub came to an end, but this time it was only slain by the Cataclysm release and the shift of focus to guild based raiding.  There are several moments that I wish I could go back to, and several raider line-ups that I wish I could pull together again.  With Cataclysm we ushered in a plot by some of my friends to create the raiding dream team… the problem being… it wasn’t my dream team.  It ended up feeling like a really forced thing, and while the team was called “MellyBelNore” it felt like neither myself, Elnore or Melyloss really had any control over where the team was heading.  This frustration… combined with a brand new shiny game on the horizon called Rift, ultimately got me to leave WoW on a semi-permanent basis.

Always in Your System

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The problem being… that World of Warcraft is one of those games that I can never seem to fully flush from my system.  Over the weekend I spent chunks of it playing around on my Blood Elf Warrior that I rolled ages ago on Scryers… as a way of having both Horde and Alliance characters on Argent Dawn.  Once upon a time I was a forum junkie, and with that came pretty frequent postings on the Argent Dawn server forums.  Through them I met lots of horde players on my server, and cultivated a pretty great relationship with many of them.  I’ve never had a lot of faction loyalty, I just tended to prefer the look and feel of alliance races and cities.  I’ve never had that streak for playing “monstrous humanoids” to borrow the dungeons and dragons term.  One of my big regrets has always been that I never really got a character high enough to be useful on the horde side.  I have an account that I no longer play that managed to catch up during Wrath of the Lich King, and I raided a bit with the Batteries Not Included raid…  of which lots of folks are in the guild that I am hanging my hat in currently.  For years we had a relationship with Bloodmoon Chosen, and I guess there was a bit of a major dramasplosion there.  As a result the folks I was actually friends with ended up leaving and creating their own guild called Facepull, and as a result I moved my characters there over the weekend.

I’ve been having a lot of fun, because there is just something about leveling in World of Warcraft that makes me happy.  I’ve not spent much time on the House Stalwart side of the fence, namely because I have no clue yet how long I will actually be around.  I always feel like a dick when I have one of these relapses and folks start saying things like “Yay! You’re Back!”.  I don’t like letting people down, because for all I know I will be gone  in two weeks time when something else catches my fancy.  If you were to look at my subscription history since the launch of Rift, you would see each expansion there are two or three of these relapses, and of all of them… only two managed to stick for any length of time.  What is ultimately going to hurt this time is the fact that I really don’t have much of a guild to return to.  That also feels like my fault, because when I left again this time after us defeating Blackrock…  a large chunk of folks followed me into Final Fantasy XIV.  In the resulting vacuum, the guild as a whole just vanished.  I am looking forward to us ramping back up to doing things as a group in Eorzea, and this past Saturday night before the podcast was a lot of fun.  That said… WoW right now is like slipping into a warm sweater…. or fixing a hot cup of soup.  It is comfort gaming, and works perfectly for being wrapped in a blanket cocoon on the couch watching stuff on Netflix.  It is the mode of gaming that I need right now, and I have stopped fighting the desires for the moment.  Only time will tell if this is just another outbreak of nostalgia, or if I really truly want to be playing the game.

 

Mourning The Past

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Another Time

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Lately I have been struggling with fits of nostalgia, mostly surrounding World of Warcraft and in the middle of it I had a revelation.  I know the moment I started to distance myself from raiding, and the events that lead up to me ultimately checking out mentally.  When the Cataclysm patch went live, Blizzard in their infinite wisdom decided to deeply incentivize guild-centric raiding.  This was probably a no brainer for them, because in truth this is more than likely how the vast majority of people raided.  If you wanted to raid… you went and found a raid guild… and life moved on normally from that point onwards.  Since the early days of Vanilla however…  we never really raided like this.  There was a clear distinction between “The Raid” and “The Guild” that was significantly harder to maintain after Cataclysm.  The reason being that we raided as an entity that was distinct from any of the guilds that came together to make it up… we raided as a coalition of sorts.  In Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, in Burning Crusade it was mostly No Such Raid… and from late BC through Wrath we formed the Duranub Raiding Company.  In each case the “raid” was an organization with a distinct leadership, made up of a bunch of people from different styles of guilds, with the one thing in common… that they wanted to clear content.

There was relatively no pressure to join any of the guilds, though folks did from time to time filter back and forth between them…  nor was the fixed and set number of guilds that made up the roster.  It allowed us to recruit people to fill slots, without asking them to give up everything they knew about the game from that point… just to raid.  It also allowed people who were far more comfortable in five or six player guilds to remain in their small close knit groups, while still having access to a larger raiding life.  It also solved some of the problems that you run into with guild based raiding, where individuals have the impression that if they join X guild they will have an automatic guaranteed spot in X raid.  We were able to keep a completely separate infrastructure, with its own rules and tenets, and then fall back on our larger social guild for non-raiding interactions.  It was a structure that felt so natural to me, and it almost seemed like a personal affront when the Cataclysm changes showed that they would be shifting focus away from this style of raiding, and only crediting kills to the guild with the largest number of members.

Death of Duranub

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When Cataclysm launched we tried an experiment that ultimately failed.  House Stalwart, the guild I had lead since the day World of Warcraft launched… attempted to consume all of the smaller satellite guilds for the purpose of “keeping the raid together”.  So over night we quite literally went from a 600 character guild to an over 900 character guild.  With this came so many different cultures and so many different “norms” that it rapidly became a jumbled mess.  We also made the decision to focus on 10 player raid groups, and ended up splintering the raid into a bunch of teams.  The problem there is that not all teams were created equal, and some of the teams had the deck stacked heavily including more of the seasoned raiders.  So when the progress was not equal, it caused strife and competitiveness between the groups, where it had never existed before.  Previously we were there Duranub Raiding Company… we were a group that made the easy things look hard… and the hard things look easy.  The phrase “Duranub” tied lineage back to a saying that Shiana the leader of my first raid group said about the Late Night Raiders… that we were a “Durable Pack of Nubs”.  In fact Duranub was our attempt to pull out the best things we experienced during Late Night Raiders and congeal them into a modern raid group.

In the process all of the officers sacrificed a lot of their time… and for me a lot of my sanity to keep it going.  So when that disolved and we splintered into smaller raid teams…  it introduced a whole mix of things that I just didn’t care about any more.  I have never been a competitive player, and I have never cared about clearing content first.  I am all about working together with my friends to make bosses dead, and to get new and interesting pieces of gear.  So when I felt like I was in a competition with those same friends, it somehow tarnished the experience.  When Rift launched it became all too easy for me to walk away from World of Warcraft, because the thing that had been keeping me in the game for so long… was this concept that I believe in so deeply.  That you could gather up a bunch of disparate parts and make them into a raid group…  and have fun doing it.  The problem with raiding as a guild… is often times there are people that you end up raiding with…  that you don’t want to share a guild with.  They are great raiders, but lacking in the human being department.  The end result causes you to make compromises…  and either diluting the atmosphere of your guild… or sacrificing talent for the sake of culture.  This is the part that I was never really able to put into words before now.

Extended Family

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I have been nostalgic lately, and it seems to be far less about what we did in World of Warcraft, and more about who I was doing it with.  When I said the other day that I didn’t wan’t World of Warcraft, I wanted the WoW that existed in 2009 during the Wrath of the Lich King patch cycle…  I meant more than just the game.  I experienced that game with a certain set of individuals and a certain feeling of togetherness… and that is the game that I want back more than anything.  So many of the people I’ve raided with, I keep in touch with today on a regular basis…  definitely more that any other group of people that have been in my life.  I don’t talk to anyone from High School, and there is only a couple of folks from college that I keep in touch with other than my wife.  I have a notoriously bad track record at keeping in contact with folks I have worked with in the past… but when it comes to folks I have raided with…  three of the five other people in the AggroChat podcast are folks I have raided with since Vanilla.  Rae and Dallian I’ve raided at least on some level with since Burning Crusade.  Other than that there is a huge list of people that I have raided with in one fashion or another that I talk to on IM or Slack, which shows how much more important this group is to me than pretty much any other.

When you spend year after year with these people, even though it is only on voice chat… you develop a bond that is forged in shared struggle towards a goal.  Having never really been serious about sports, maybe this is the same sort of bond you develop between your team mates, or the same sort of bond that soldiers come out of conflict with.  Whatever it is, it is important to me… and what Cataclysm and our decision to abandon 25 player raiding did was to force me to choose between which group of friends to play with.  House Stalwart forged on without me, and when I came back during Warlords out of the ashes of numerous groups was forged a really fun raid team.  I got to experience the content with people that I had not played with in years.. and for a moment it was magical.  The problem being… even then, it just wasn’t quite the same.  It is impossible to sort out guild drama and raid drama… when both are mixed into one big amalgam.  So as I sit back being nostalgic… I miss the era of non-guild raiding.  If I could bring back any one element of the past, it would be that… and even put in systems like formal raid alliances to bolster that style of game play.  If there is one thing I have learned throughout the years… it is that raid guilds are just not for me.  What I want is to be able to have my friendly social guild… and raid effectively at the same time.  While that might sound like wanting it all at the same time…  I did have it for years, which is why I miss it so much looking back upon it.