Epic Adventures: To Thine Own Guild Be True
The plans for my second column called for a closer look at my distaste for arenas. It's still a valid topic, but one I will delve into later. What was more important than ranting on something I hate? In this case, it was struggling with something I love.
Are guilds about people or gear?
For many World of Warcraft players, choosing a guild involves one question: Will this guild help me progress in content so that I can get better purples? After all, a guild is a collection of like-minded people after the same goal -- to be the best and have the best gear, right? For me, that hasn't been the case.
I have been in my current guild on Aerie Peak for more than three years. Back when I was a poor PUG Horde hunter, the guild was on Gul'dan and was primarily a PvP guild, tearing up the BGs as Alliance. At that time, there were no cross-realm BGs and you could recognize players from the opposing faction by name and guild. After many months of playing against each other, they got to know me. When we'd see each other, they might let me live, dance with me, cheer me, or send just about any other emote. We'd still kill each other, but there was a mutual respect. I joined their guild forums and they convinced me to reroll Alliance, and I've been with them ever since.
As with any guild, it isn't always wine and roses. I speak up when things bother me and I'm not afraid to call out when I see something wrong. Our guild has gone through drama, low attendance periods and poor raiding months. We have never been a hardcore guild. We have tried to balance life and play by not mandating attendance or forcing people to play to remain part of the guild. What has always kept us together is the respect we have for each other, and the friendships we made over these four-plus years.
Progress in 25-man Ulduar has been slow.
Unfortunately, at this time, so soon after the release of 3.1 and a brand-new raid instance, my guild is at a crossroads -- and so am I. For the last few weeks, we have struggled to get 25 people together for raids. We currently have two 10-man Ulduar groups, and even those have had attendance issues. I find myself joining with other friends and their guilds to raid when I have time, because my guild has nothing on the calendar. Our guildmaster retired from the game this week because of fading interest. Some key people have left the guild because of its inactivity and their desire to see more of the game. A few more have left because of burnout. The attrition is hitting the guild hard.
I've asked myself what I should do. My playtime is precious, since I don't play very frequently. When I log on, I want to do something: raid, PvP, instances. If I've been spending most of my time raiding with other guilds, I thought, then perhaps it is time to move on. I tested the waters by removing one character and entering him into a guild I had run with off and on. Good people, but still a new environment to get used to. People outside the game may laugh and say "It's just a game; what's the difference?" But my experience has been that a guild should be like your drinking buddies. It is a fraternity of people that gather around shared ideals and interests, and you enjoy their company in the process.
So when I joined this new guild, part of me felt like I was betraying friends. The other part rationalized that, with playtime being a precious commodity, I should be doing something other than daily quests and waiting for a raid to happen. Funny that in a game, I can cause myself angst with a moral dilemma.
We'll get here eventually?
So, as my guild struggles to find its way and tries to get out of its current rut, I am faced with a decision. What choice will get me the most enjoyment out of the game? For me, the answer goes beyond exploring content -- obtaining new purple pixels for a paper-doll cutout that represents my character. This boils down to friendships. And in four years, I've been through a lot with these guys. I laugh with them over vent at stupid sophomoric jokes. I chat on the forums with them about family problems, money issues and addictions. I've even visited a few of them when I've passed through their cities on business.
Yeah, it's a game. But for me, the people have made the game. We've pulled ourselves out of ruts before and we'll probably do it again. If we don't, and the guild does disband, then so be it. I'll have stuck with them to the end, and enjoyed the camaraderie in the process. In the end, an MMO is only as good as the people who help you enjoy it. World of Warcraft is no different.
I hate arenas
Now I can get into my arenas rant. Arenas will have me throwing a headset in the blink of an eye ? which sucks, when you consider yourself easygoing and having a thick skin.
Blade's Edge Arena: fun with line-of-sight.
I've had my run-ins with arenas over time. At one time, the best hunter weapon in the game was available for a mere three to four weeks' work in arenas, or 30 to 40 games. I decided to join a team that was comprised of guildmates, and suffer through it. I finally earned the weapon, but I quit the team immediately thereafter. My guildmates would laugh at my rants on vent and the invectives I let fly. I'd scream about my hate for Warlocks and how Ret Pallies are so overpowered.
I could never put my finger on why I hated arenas so much. I love doing PvP in battlegrounds, so why do I hate PvP in a small arena? At least in BGs, I can occasionally make a difference. I can cap a flag, capture a tower, and fight off an assault, and even though our team may lose the BG, at least I felt like I accomplished something.
Arenas are so fast and furious that I rarely have enough time to do anything, because of focus fire or crowd control. I am not a stellar player, and I will never be able to master hotkeys or mouse movement enough to be elite. But, damn, I want to at least get off an attack or two before I die. I could study all the strategies, refine my talents, and practice until my fingers are numb and bleeding, and once the battle happens, it's usually for naught. It could be the team makeup, it could be the quality of the other team, or it could be the quality of my teammates. Who knows? All I know is that arenas just accentuate how poor I am in this aspect of the game. So I'll do without it. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Putting a dent in Ulduar
Emalon, the noob-crusher
Ulduar has been out for a month now. In my first column, I talked about the difficulty level of the 25-man instance and how the experience has been such a radical departure from original Wrath of the Lich King content for non-hardcore guilds.
Blizzard has tweaked many of the encounters to better "balance" them, and many guilds are making their way through. Our guild has made it two-thirds of the way through 10-man Ulduar, and I can say that I am comfortable with most of the fights.
One fight, though, that continues to stymie me is the new boss in Vault of the Ancients. Emalon is a huge step up from his Wintergrasp counterpart, Archavon. Before Emalon, it was easy to get 20 to 25 random players to go in after winning Wintergrasp, and down the boss for easy loot. Emalon has taken the fight to a whole new level by forcing players to be geared and to pay attention. This is nothing I am against, mind you, but finding 25 competent people at random is an exercise in feeding gear repair vendors. The fight is fairly simple in what you need to do, but having the firepower to do it in the time allotted has doomed many of the PUG raids I've been in.
I've downed Emalon twice in four weeks across all three of my 80s. Here's hoping I can find better groups or a semi-guild run on a regular basis before I hit the poorhouse.
Keefer plays three level 80s on the U.S. realm of Aerie Peak. His characters are Notbigmoo (shadow priest), Artdarkist (survival hunter) and Darkartiste (combat rogue). His guild is Mail Enhancement and not sponsored by Viagra. Feel free to Armory him and ridicule his talent choices, comment on his impatience, or brand him as a noob by e-mailing him. Emails could be used in future columns.