May 2009

Welcome to the first in a series on WoW topic podcast reviews. I listen to a lot of these as I often have to take long trips in the car and it beats listening to the soulful crap tones of Italian radio. There are many WoW podcasts out there and I’ve listened to most of them. So this is your chance to benefit from my experience.

I’m going to begin with the WoW Insider Show. With the resources behind it, it should be one of the best podcasts out there. The sad fact is that it’s not. It’s been getting worse for some time now and I can lay most of the blame for the lameness of this podcast squarely at the feet of one person. The host, Mike Schramm. To put it simply, as a host, Mike sucks big hairy donkey balls. He couldn’t organise a piss-up at a brewery, and yet here we have him attempting to organise a podcast with often three or four guests. It’s difficult to record a podcast because you cannot see the people that you are speaking with. WoW raiders would have experience of this. Have a 10-way conversation on Vent and see how you go. It’s hard, because you never know who is about to speak. If you just leave it up to random chance and get everyone to chat then it not only doesn’t work, it’s a disaster. What it needs is one person to direct the conversation and steer it to each person at a time in a smooth and clear manner.

Something which Mike just isn’t able to do. It doesn’t help that Mike seems to be in love with the sound of his own voice. Which means that often, the only time a guest on the show gets to speak is when they interrupt Mike. Guests quickly learn this, so what you end up having is four people trying to interrupt each other. It doesn’t work, it’s a mess, and often painful and frustrating to listen to. Mike also has a unique way of asking a question. He will ask somebody a question, and then keep on talking, often for a minute or more. So that in the end the original question has often been forgotten, which makes me want to pull my hair out at times if it was something which I really wanted to hear an opinion on. I was going to actually type out one of his monologues, but this post would turn into a book.

Another example of Mike’s inability to handle his show is what he does when he finally reaches the end of one of his epic monologues and hands the reins over to his guests. He won’t specifically nominate someone and ask their opinion. He will simply end his speech by saying, “And what do you guys think?” There will inevitably be a four second silence while three people sitting in front of a computer on skype on different parts of the globe try and work out if they are the one who is supposed to speak, and then they will all begin talking at once. On one occasion, Mike actually berated them for all speaking at the same time. That left me with my mouth hanging open.

Just re-listening to some of the episodes while writing this I came upon a situation where someone made the mistake of asking Mike about his paladin. The ensuring diatribe lasted over five minutes while he went through every ability and situation possible about this toon. At the end he thanked them for asking him about his paladin. Turpster, his sidekick immediately responded, “I wish we didn’t.”

Turpster is an English player whose shtick is being bitingly sarcastic in an over-played English accent. This is funny the first time. It is only funny the twentieth time if you are a 15 year old male who still reads MAD comics. So our two hosts consist of a guy who speaks in boring monologues and won’t shut up and a sarcastic dude who likes making fun of everyone and anything. The WoW podcast Odd Couple? It would be, if it worked. It doesn’t, it’s frustrating and painful.

But the most painful thing?

A podcast consists of two aspects – its hosts and the quality of its information. Considering that this is the WoWinsider podcast you would assume that the info coming out would be awesome. It’s not that there isn’t good information, there is. Sometimes. Maybe. Right now while I’m listening to the latest episode, Turpster is talking about his socks. Brilliant. Just what I was hoping for when I tuned in after taking the time to download it. In fact, I’m going to list now the things that they talk about in the latest episode from this point on. Lets check it out!

1. Talk about their video show that will be coming up in the future. This goes on for a bit.
2. Mike reads some fan emails. Lets sub-list this;

2.1: The first email asks that Turpster talks more as the writer is trying to learn an English accent for a school play. The four of them then put on ‘funny’ accents for five minutes whilst Lesley Smith does her best to laugh like a horse.

2.2: The next email is read out. It’s not clear what this email is about. Something about wolves, and The Fonz, and then the guy writes that he feels like an idiot for something. I feel like an idiot listening to this episode again to be honest.

2.3: Email about who gets the legendary mace in Ulduar. This could be an interesting discussion from four people who write for WoWInsider. Oh, but it’s not. It starts off well when the first guest flat-out says that she will be taking it in her guild. Brilliant. Then they suggest rogues, cause that’s “funny”. Then they decide that they best way to give it out is to play Peggle for it. Outstanding information from the Insider team on a subject that is already quite serious in my own guild. Oh, then they go on about using peggle for all loot division. Lesley does some more Horse-laughing. Now a Peggle challenge after the show between Mike and Turpster. This is really going on for a long time now. They all think that they’re incredibly amusing.

2.4: The email that brings up giving Bloodlust to Rogues! Here Lesley comes out with her awesome, “Stabby Stabby, sneaky, sneaky, pewy, pewy” response. No more needs to be said here. Now some Shaman talk that is fairly interesting, mostly from Amanda to be honest.

2.5 Last email here. This proposes that the next expansion will have a new race, the Worgen, and that the next MMO form Blizzard will be a Starcraft space one! Wow, that’s really big news that we know and they admit is incorrect.

2.6: Oh wait, one more email thanking Turpster for his tip last week about the Argent Crusade dailies. Turpster then comes out with an interesting point about doing those dailies. This is the first real nugget of info in this episode.

3. Turspter’s Tips time! But he hasn’t got one. They get him to give a tip about soloing as a warrior. He gives one, which is about a level 60 raid from vanilla WoW. Great.

4. Now it’s the “Meat of the Show”. This is apparently the really good bit. They speak about the next patch, the first thing obviously being Murky the Murloc space-marine. They mention the Juggernught nerf and they say that it has dropped to 25% and that this is bad. Why? Not sure, but they think that it is bad. Maybe some in-depth analysis that had been prepared beforehand about this … naw, what was I thinking! Quick list of patch notes, no discussion at all. I mean, it’s not like we can go and read a list ourselves or anything … Equipment manager – Mike likes it! He doesn’t really know why, he just does. Mike is scanning through the list and about to pass onto something else as there is “nothing really interesting here” when Amanda points out that there is a new change where you are only saved to a raid or instance when a boss goes down. Kind of a massive change this one, eh Mike? What follows is a good discussion generated mostly by Amanda.

That’s enough, I can’t take any more. Amanda saved this episode, and that is what usually happens. We get one interesting guest per episode that when they are allowed to speak are fonts of information. Actually, that’s the third thing that a podcast can offer after its hosts and information – interesting guests. WoWinsider can do this, it’s just that they’re not allowed to speak much.

But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourselves! Download the WoWInsider podcast and listen to the monologues, the crap jokes, the unprepared script, the useless or wrong information, and the occasional nugget of good WoW info that you want to hear. You may love it. Or maybe not.

The WoW Insider podcast episode from the 18th of May talked again about the Insider teams incredibly stupid idea of giving Bloodlust to Rogues to buff their raid utility. Well, to be honest, they mostly spoke about Shamans but they did speak about Rogues once. Mike Schramm asked Lesley Smith what her opinion was about giving Bloodlust to rogues. She thought that it wasn’t a good idea, and then backed up her opinion with this devastatingly profound explanation:

“… Rogues are big on the all, … sneaky-sneaky, killy-killy, rather than so much, pewy-pewy.”

I mean, are we fucking serious? What the hell does “pewy-pewy” mean? I don’t even know if I spelled that right. I had to listen to it five times just to try and work out what the hell she was saying. This is the wowinsider podcast, supposedly the font on the internet on serious information regarding all things WoW, and this is what they come up with based on their own originally crap idea.

The wowinsider podcast has always been something of a lame duck, but this is just pathetic. For those of you who are masochistic enough to listen to it, the quote in question occurs around the 29 minute mark.

Coming up later on today or tomorrow, I will review the main WoW podcasts. Trust me, the reviews will be scathing.

Today I will take you through my processes for leading a guild. I am using guild leadership as an example but this could easily be used when leading a raid. I am not going to cloak this in academic-speak. I am merely going to explain my own approach in a working-content style. Firstly, when forming the guild I needed to have strong people around me. At the end of the day, WoW for me is a game and a hobby and I have many tasks in real life which I need to devote time to. So I wasn’t able to set this up with the majority of the day to day running tasks falling on my own shoulders. I wanted several people around me that I knew I could trust to do tasks well when I was not around.
As stated in Part 1, this is called delegation. You must have good people working with you in a guild. If you try to do everything yourself then you will become snowed under by the workload, things will not get done, people will complain, you will feel upset at nobody understanding everything you are doing, etc. It won’t work. And the guild will fall apart if you leave. Get capable people working with you and entrust them with important tasks. You need to step back and see the big picture. Tweak it here and there when needed. If no tweaking is necessary, keep your hands off. The best leadership is unobtrusive. It makes the times when you need to step in more effective also.
Communication. But how? What are the most effective methods? I use several means of communication. The first is the guild website and specifically its forum. Each guild member is encouraged to regularly check the forum for new information. Which means that I must regularly put new information there. Your communication method must be dynamic. It must involve people. There is no use setting up a forum and then hardly ever using it. The few times that you put up information, don’t expect it to be read. I also communicate in-game. A whisper here and there to the right people can have a good effect. I try to have an officers meeting every few weeks on Ventrillo. And in all these cases I am trying to listen to what people have to say. I don’t talk to one officer and then make an important decision. That may be enough to alienate the entire guild, on a subject that you thought was fairly straightforward. I am always trying to put myself in the other persons shoes, to see the issue from their perspective.

With all of this comes feedback. People want to know how they are going. If I ask someone to lead a raid that I am not on, I take the time in the days afterward to find out how it went. Tell people they did a good job, that way when you have to tell them something that they might not like hearing they will be more open to any negative criticism. This goes hand in hand with communication, but a lot of people make the mistake that communication is just telling people what to do. It’s not. Listening and feedback are just as important in the communication stakes.

A good leader for me has balance. How I talk to one person may be very different with how I respond with another. Each person needs stimulus in different ways. Taking the time to get to know your people will help you greatly in communicating. Does this mean that I know every person in the guild this way? No, it’s not possible. But at the least I know the person above them in this way. You must also balance situations. What might be good for the individual may not be good for the guild. Being able to recognise these situations and taking the right decisions is very important.

Which leads me to my final points. A leader has to make decisions. A leader has to be seen to be making decisions. If a problem comes up, fix it. If someone comes to you with a problem, deal with it. Sound obvious? Perhaps it is. But the obvious things are often forgotten in my experience. Making decisions and making them well will install confidence and trust in you from your members. They know that if they have a problem it will be handled well. If you make the wrong decision, that’s fine. Fix it when you realise your mistake and admit that you were incorrect. You must be impartial in your decisions and unemotional. If you attach yourself to your decisions in an emotional way, then it will be difficult for you to admit that you were wrong. When conflict becomes emotional, good sense goes out the window. Things can be said that cannot be easily retracted after you have cooled down.

You must think long term. Often, the decision that is easier to make in the short term will not be beneficial in the long term. The decision that is tough to make today will relieve you from a world of pain in the future. An example of this is a guild member whose behavior upsets people but who is a valuable and key member from a raiding point of view. What do you do? Do you keep him, thus helping your raids to be a success? Well, they will be a success in the short term, but in the long term you might not be left with enough people to raid as they have left after dis-satisfaction with this individual.

Ok, time for the last point. Be impartial. No favorites, no special treatment, particularly with officers. Do not accept gifts, whether gold, mats, potions or items without giving them back in kind. Last night four of us ran Karazhan for a bit of a laugh. I am an enchanter, and there was another enchanter in the group as well. A rare enchant dropped which neither of us had. Did I want it? Absolutely. Did I need it? Not really, but it would have been nice. I didn’t even roll, I just gave it to my guildie. Sometimes, as a leader, a small gesture like this can count for a lot more than you would believe. Do you want your guildies to behave well, to be fair, to think of others before themselves? Yes? Then do it yourself. As a leader you lead by example. What you do will be noticed. Do it well.

I was listening to the latest episode of The Instance podcast yesterday when the snippets at the end of the episode came up. Amongst the usual stand-outs in this hit and miss aspect of the podcast, there was a new feature titled, “Strength & Honor Leadership”, which is essentially about how to be a good leader, (about the last 10 minute mark.) Hosted by some guy called Modem, who cites an impressive list of academic credentials explaining why he is a good choice to be telling you all about leadership and then goes off into some bland and generalised waffle whist underscored by the soulful tones of new-age pipe music. I immediately thought that I could do better than his little effort, and the subject matter is certainly important. So, here I go.

Firstly, I have exactly zero academic credentials to back up my own claim of being able to teach you about leadership. I do, however have some real life experience. Namely, over 15 years working as a white-water rafting guide on four different continents as a trip leader. That means that I was not just leading the clients but the other guides as well. If you don’t know how to lead in this job then you’re in big trouble. So, with my sensational credentials out of the way, lets firstly dissect what Mr Modem said in his episode and what I agree and disagree with.

He lists the 5 most important characteristics of being an effective leader. These are;

1 Committed,
2 Experienced,
3 A good Communicator and Teacher,
4 Willing to be the Bad Guy,
5 Humble.

Firstly, lets look at what I agree with. The absolute number one trait of being a good leader is the ability to communicate. This corresponds directly with the ability to be able to listen. Very few people can listen. Most people are thinking of what they’re going to say whilst appearing to listen to you. Communication means understanding the relevant information that needs to be passed on. Information does not exist in a vacuum – you need to be aware that what you know about a given subject might not be the case with the people that you are communicating with. Communicating is all about selecting just the right information and the right amount of it to pass along. Too little and you haven’t said what needs to be said. Too much and the message may be lost in all the words or not even read.

So, that’s what I agree with. Now lets look at the rest of these points and break down why I don’t like them. While I like the sound of “Committed”, and I do agree that it is important, his explanation of why it is important is not. I will tie “Experienced” into this same boat as well. Modem’s idea of committed means that as a leader you need to do everything to get the project off the ground. His idea on experience is that you need to know all the character classes and be the center for advice. All this means that he has never heard of what I consider one of the fundamental traits of being a good leader;

The ability to delegate.

I am the GM of my current guild, The Crazy 88, and when setting up the guild I set out several officer classes. They are, the Tanking Officer, Melee DPS Officer, Ranged DPS Officer and Healing Officer. I did this for two essential reasons. Firstly, one person cannot be expected to be responsible for all these areas in a raiding guild, and secondly, I know next to nothing about tanking, healing and ranged DPS. But I do have great officers who do. I myself am not the Melee DPS officer. As the Guild Leader, I need to be able to step back and see what is going on. My job is not to get bogged down in the details, it is to identify potential problems and resolve them before they become an actual problem. My only “official” task in being the GM is to manage the EPGP loot system. A leader does need to be committed, but in a different way. They need to be committed to getting the job done with the tools available to them. My officers and fellow guildies are my best tools.

Lets look at, “Willing to be the Bad Guy.” Modem says that it’s a reality that all positions of authority come with and that if you don’t like it maybe leadership is not for you. But what does this mean? This is not a trait, this is a by-product of the role. Sure, you cannot please all the people all of the time, and sometimes people will be upset with you and you’ll have to deal with that, but I certainly do not set out to be a bad guy and take the fall for all the crap that goes down. To be honest, if you problem solve effectively, ie fix problems before they happen, then you shouldn’t often find yourself in this situation.

His last trait is the ability to be humble, but to be honest when he starts talking about having a nice helping of humble pie, I want to strangle small furry animals. There are two types of ineffective leaders at opposite ends of the spectrum. The dictator and the advice aunt, and he certainly seems to be heading for aunt-status. Have a listen to the snippet yourselves and make your own judgment. Tomorrow I will post my own list of what I consider crucial leadership traits and take you through my own processes for running a guild.

Tonight our guild tried to take down Malygos for the first time. Now normally this sort of thing would not be worthy of a blog mention. But I think I may have stumbled onto something pretty neat for rogues. We got to the third phase a couple of times before the boss enraged and we wiped. Finally, one of our group had to leave and we thought that we’d just practice for a bit trying to stack two of the sparks on our group at the same time.

Malygos also has a vortex ability that throws you around the air and takes your health down to close to zero. I had been popping ‘Feint’ when he did this to see if I would take less damage. That didn’t seem to have any effect. But on our last try I popped something else just before the vortex began. I hit ‘Blade Flurry’.

And I didn’t go into the vortex.

Yep, you heard it right: Blade Flurry negates the vortex. I did it twice in the same fight and it worked for me both times.

Now priests and paladins used to have similar bugs on the vortex that Blizzard found out about and nerfed. So my fellow back-stabbers, lets just keep this between each other. Nudge nudge, wink wink and all that.


I wrote this post last night while tired. I don’t function when tired, not in the least. So what I’m trying to say is that I made a major boo-boo here. It’s not Blade Flurry that negates the vortex. Killing Spree is the actual ability that has this effect. Sorry, my apologies, kill me now.

Hey groovers,

I’m back after losing my internet connection for four days. Didn’t even know I was gone, did you? I managed to miss out on my guild running Naxx normal and clearing 14 bosses, while dropping some gloves and bracers which I desperately need. Major pooh bears for Elizà, but great news for the guild. We are on the way to running 25 man Naxx. We have 16 fully geared and experienced level 80’s. Our plan is to bring four DPS classes into the raids from within the guild and level them up in two ten man groups. We hope that within a couple of runs they will both gear up and understand what running a raid is all about. Then we have 5 players from another guild who want to run with us. So we could be going into Naxx in a few weeks with a 25 man group.

Gearing up is quite clear, and probably shouldn’t need to be explained. In our guild we have a Tank, Healing, Melee DPS and Ranged DPS officer. They help each class understand what gear they are missing and where they can go about finding said gear. Understanding a raid, and more importantly, how to behave in a raid environment is another thing entirely. So what is expected of a raider? Here are some points which every raider should keep in mind.

1. Know the bosses.

Some raiders want to explore and discover new content naturally without any outside help. That is perfectly reasonable – if you’re in a guild which caters for that. Usually a roleplaying guild will be what you’re looking for there. Not so much in most other guilds though. Try turning up to our runs and telling us that you don’t want stuff to be explained to you because it will spoil it for you and you will experience what some have likened to, ‘The Epic Boot of Death”. Check out Tankspot for all your boss video needs.

2. Be Punctual & Prepared.

If the raid is at 9pm, be at the instance with all pots, shards, flasks, bandages, food items, etc at least ten minutes before raid begins. Anything else is acceptable once. Do you all know what the word ‘once’ means? It comes before twice. Which is not acceptable. The word ‘thrice’ doesn’t even exist.

3. Raid Chat Etiquette.

There are two types of raid chat, voice and typing. Typing ‘lol’ is one thing. Saying it is … hell, I don’t even know what that is. But don’t worry; if you say it then I’m sure that there’s a study being done by someone on people who say ‘lol’ out loud. The great thing about studies is that you can find out you’re a fruit-loop for free. Raid chat is an oxymoron, because the last thing you want to do on raid chat is chat. It’s not for that. The raid leader uses it to communicate in a hopefully not too abusive way. You use it to listen to him tell you to stay out of the purple circles next time for the love of all things holy.

4. Dividing Loot.

Your guild should have a loot system in place. Whether that’s simple rolling or a complicated DKP system, whatever tickles your fancy. But make sure they have something and make sure that you understand it. If they took the trouble to set it up, the least you can do is to take the trouble to find out how it works. Suddenly going ballistic in-game because you “missed out” on a drop due to you not knowing about the loot system just tells us that we don’t need to be worried about hurting your feelings because you won’t be around much longer for us to hurt them. This is our loot system.

5. Know your Role.

If your job is to heal, then heal what you’re told. If they don’t tell you what to heal, ask. If your job is to tank, then stand at the front and get bashed up a lot. If your job is to DPS, then try and pull your finger out of your butt and hit stuff. It’s not rocket science, guys. I mean, 16 year olds could do it …

6. Don’t be a Tard.

What else do I have to explain here? We’re serious about raiding but at the same time we’re trying to enjoy the game. So please don’t act like a tard. If you are a tard, please try and hide it for as long as possible if you’re a healing class. Otherwise, go away.

That’s it. All my rules for raiding. Got anymore rules? Feel free to add them below. And now … I’m off to Naxx!

There was an article on wowinsider today, (linky), that without any detail or explanation suggests giving rogues the shaman bloodlust buff to improve our raid utility. This demonstrates that the writer understands nothing about rogues. Apart from this, his basic reasoning is unsound. He wants to solve the problem of there not being enough shamans around to hand out the bloodlust buff by giving it to the currently most underplayed class according to his research. If you wanted to spread a bit more bloodlust around, surely this wouldn’t be the way to do it.

The article is facile. The argument that it generated was slightly more interesting. But time and again the comments revealed a complete lack of understanding of rogue raid utility and why people play a rogue in present day WoW. So why are rogues so underplayed as a dps class as opposed to say Death Knights or Hunters? The answer is instant gratification. People play the game for different reasons. Some people get satisfaction out of doing things slowly, by discovering the best way to do things, by getting the most out of their chosen class. Other players have less time or patience for this sort of approach in what is, in effect, just a game. They want to go in swinging now and they want to get great results. A lot of the hybrid classes and some of the pure dps classes are like this. You can spam a few buttons and you can achieve relatively good dps results for your average play. Don’t get me wrong; take the time to learn the class well and your results will be much better. But a large number of players just want to get results now. They want instant gratification. Which is fine.

Unless you play a rogue.

Do not expect to play a rogue and achieve good results by spamming sinister strike. Our class is all about learning its secrets. Which poisons go on which hand, what are the best rotations, what abilities should you always keep up, how should you gear up, what weapons should you use, how to manage your cool-downs correctly. It can get so involved that we need excel spreadsheets to sort it all out. I have seen two rogues equipped with very similar gear go into a raid and score vastly different dps all based on skill and ability. Playing a rogue rewards effort. It’s not about spamming a few buttons and then bringing a raid buff as well. Those are the instant gratification classes.

Which is why our raid utility is dps. If you play a rogue properly, if you take the time to learn the ins and outs of the class, then you will be rewarded with very high raid dps. Your ability will be recognised and rewarded with guaranteed raid spots. A lot of players complained that they couldn’t get a raid spot as a rogue. Well, I’m sorry to tell you this but that’s because you couldn’t play the class well enough. Which is why the number of rogues has dropped as those instant gratification players have moved to death knights and the like.

But here is why the writer of that article doesn’t get rogues. We don’t want a raid buff. We’re perfectly happy with where we are and we’re perfectly happy with the fact that not many people are playing rogues. They’re not playing rogues because they aren’t able to. They need to bring a buff to the raid because a lot of the time that’s the only reason they’ll get in. Which is the great beauty and satisfaction of playing a rogue. It’s the opposite of the instant gratification classes. We are the ones who must put in the time and effort to learn our class and improve as players. We have to, it’s the only way to play the class well. And so when you score high dps, when you get a raid spot, it’s because you earned it. This class caters for the player who wants to put the effort into their game-play. Trying to cheapen it with offering a raid-wide buff would be terrible for us. So please Blizzard, keep it as it is. We’re a small player group, but we love our class.

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