Sunday, October 6, 2013

King of the Raid Leaders

Motivation is an interesting thing. What motivates someone to do what they do is very different from person to person, and occasionally you just cannot make any sense of another’s motivations whatsoever. Trolls in particular.

But as a raid leader in WoW, I like to ensure what my raid is offering aligns with my players’ motivations, so they’re inclined to stick around. High turnover in large social guilds is quite common, and therefore player retention is a rather difficult venture.

Which is all really fancy-schmancy talk to say that we need to be having fun. Whether you enjoy solving difficult problems that requires ten to twenty-five people, just like hitting Internet dragons in the face, or love the loot, as a raid leader I need to make sure it happens. So what happens when the loot stops flowing, the kills stop coming, and the difficult problems you’re facing aren’t the bosses, but the players themselves?

I’ll be the first to admit, I hate, hate, hate having to confront players, whether it’s poor behaviour or poor performance. It’s the least fun part of the job, but it has to be done. Thankfully, poor behaviour is easier to handle, since eventually once you’ve addressed the issue a couple times and it keeps on occurring, you can easily just write them off as a troll and boot them (and have done so in the past). Their motivation is to be a jerk, and I won’t tolerate that, because then no one is having fun. But poor performance...

I could treat it like a business and say, oh, your numbers must be at this level in x weeks or you’re out! And that at least gives actionable feedback, but that’s super impersonal. Maybe if I was running Method or Blood Legion or some other top guild that’d make sense. But in a social guild? By itself it won’t work. It needs to be tempered by humanity, or you come off as a jerk and could potentially drive those raid members out of the guild, which is definitely something I don’t want, since raiding is but a small part of what our guild does. Along with high turnover making it difficult to find raiders, you can’t just threaten expulsion from the raid as a consequence of underperforming, because then we just don’t raid at all, which sucks.

So what to do when someone isn’t quite cutting it? Well, again, it comes down to motivation. How does the raid leader motivate the raiders to get their game on? So far, in nearly four years of raid leading, often just pointing it out is sufficient. These folks want to get boss kills, and they’re team players, so that’s their motivation to get better. Many of them are totally capable of getting research done on their own time and two to three weeks later, are kicking ass and taking names. But there’s another subset of players that are a concern: players who aren’t motivated to change, and players who are motivated but incapable of doing so.

I’ve found players who aren’t motivated to change often weed themselves out of the group, because that lack of motivation shows up in their attendance. They’re constantly late, or bailing on the raid. Eventually you’ll have to drop them, though, or you’ll never make progress. I’ve been lucky that I’ve never actively had to boot underachievers from my raids so far, as bad attendance falls under bad behavior and makes it easy to remove them.

Finally, we have the folks who are motivated to fix their issues, but just cannot for some reason figure it out. I’ve yet to solve this particular issue. The player knows they’re not cutting it, and even asks for help, but either they’re not applying that help, or not doing so correctly, because you see no improvements from week to week. They’re clearly doing the research, but they’re unable to relate that to their own play. At that point in time you need to spend some serious quality time with that player to root out the source of their problems. Are they struggling with crappy UI or crippling lag? Is there a Rosetta stone that can make everything click, or is the player just lazy when it comes to actually implementing feedback? Are they truly motivated to make things work? It’s something I’ve struggled with, because I prefer to give folks the benefit of the doubt rather than just assuming they’re bad and should feel bad.

World of Warcraft is the king of the MMO heap because it knows how to motivate players to keep playing, and I could be king of the Raid Leaders if I could figure out how to motivate players to step up their game.


  1. First of all, let me welcome you to the blogosphere :). I'm looking forward to reading what your unique perspective can offer.

    I had a question about the motivation topic. How do you deal with a player that socially is very effective (everybody loves them, brings fun to the raid, etc.) but their performance is not good enough... and doesn't seem like it will improve any time soon. If your guild is primarily social, I guess you would prioritise their 'social performance' over their raiding performance. But that would ultimately rankle the other, better-performing, members, and may even impact your guild performance as a whole. And those players that are motivated by overcoming challenges will be dissatisfied.

    Boy, guild management is such a pain!

    PD: I'm missing a Name/URL option in the comments :(

    1. Thanks so much for the welcome and the comment, Milady!

      As to your question, it's a doozy, and I can't profess to have a perfect answer either. For me it's always been a balance. You can have the nicest person in the world, but if they cannot pull the numbers required, so far it has been sufficient to let them know, and usually they've stepped things up. Thankfully we now have a Flex raid I can direct those folks to, which certainly helps the situation (thanks Blizzard!). But yeah, clashing motivations is certainly a sore spot at times.

      Thankfully I don't manage the guild (we had nearly 2000 characters at one point; we're a meta guild, really). Just some of the raids within the guild. I don't think I could deal with that many people. Hard enough with the 20 - 25 or so I have between two raids. But! That being said, despite the tribulations, it's been pretty rewarding being a raid leader.

      As far as your PS, I wonder if that's because I have anonymous commenting turned off? It linked your account, apparently, because I can get to your page by clicking your name. Do you think anonymous commenting is useful? I want to weigh the approach given spambots

  2. I asked the question because sometimes some people are unable to fit the requirements of competitive raiding for some reason, and it won't make a difference whether they are aware of it or not because it is a case of... incapacity. They just can't play better, or they could if they practised a very great deal over a long period of time. I had someone like that in an old guild of which I was part, but not as an officer, and they would carry him along unless the raid needed a top-notch performance. But it seemed cruel to leave him out when he was doing all he could.

    I'm not sure it's the anonymous thing, because that would be a different option that doesn't give you the 'Name' and 'URL' fields, if I remember correctly. It just marks the comment as anonymous. But I'm not conversant with the Blogger system, so I can't help much on that. I'm sorry :/

    1. Yeah, I hear you there. Unfortunately in 10N raiding, we really cannot afford to carry anyone. 10N in WoW at least is tightly tuned enough that you can't afford to bring someone who's doing a quarter of the damage or healing other players are, at least not at our collective skill level. It makes for really rough times for everybody involved. It certainly feels cruel to tell people they can't come, despite the fact that they ARE trying.

      Flex, in theory, was supposed to help solve that issue. I'm not running our guild's Flex raid, but we did end up having performance issues causing wipes because Norushen and Sha of Pride were tuned enough that even our best DPSers couldn't make up for the added health of bring those folks along (and we're talking folks who are quite capable).

      I guess it comes down to what's better for a given raid. The raids I run are billed as a progression raid, so folks know there's a lower bound on performance before they get into things, which helps cut this problem off before it begins (mostly) in my case, but it would really be nice if we could still take those folks with us to Flex so they can get in on the enjoyment too.

      And no worries on the blogger thing! I'll poke around and see if I can find it!

      Thanks for the comments!

    2. If I select the "Reply As" field now, it gives the option for name/URL. Is that what you were referring to?

  3. Yup, now it works. Thanks for taking the time to solve something that was really minor. I feel bad for making you work for an individual preference :/

    I thought that Flex Raiding of all things was what was going to give most trouble with people like the guy I told you about .Because in 10m you can always say that you don't have a spot, and in FR you cannot resort to that diplomatic evasion. The boss 'grows' according to the number of people, so the pressure to perform exactly as much as the boss has grown is very strong, and I have read here and there that people have had trouble with that because of underperformers, and spots in FR have had to be juggled, when it was supposed to be the all-inclusive raid system.

    I'm not sure there can ever be a solution that will make this particular problem disappear. At least not a developer-provided one.

    Cheers :)

    1. No worries :D if it makes it easier for folks to comment, it's totally worth the time.

      And yes, I completely agree with you about the discrepancy between what Flex is supposed to be, and what Flex actually turned out to be. We've definitely had the same issue. There's certainly a lot more room for error and a better capacity for performance disparity, but it's still not quite enough. We've had to bench people, or we've had to keep the number from going past 17 so we don't turn on 25-man mechanics, because three prisons on Sha for example, was beyond our collective capability.