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Azmara’s Restoration UI Guide: Part 2

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week saw Azmara from Ensidia grace us with his thoughts on how to create an ideal restoration UI. He covered macros, key bindings and the all important raid frames.

Today I’m bringing you part two of his guide. This focuses on more generalised UI design tips and how your hardware can benefit your raiding. You can read part one here.

General UI Design

Having sorted all your keybinds, setting up your macros and installing your chosen raid frames, the next step is deciding where to put everything. In truth, this is the most important part. You can have all the tools in the world but if you can’t find them when you need them, it’s irrelevant.

As a healer, the centrepiece of your UI is your raid frames. Unlike a tank or DPS, we can’t just place these in a corner out of the way. Your entire job depends upon your ability to heal the right people are the right time. You want your raid frames to be fairly central. This allows you to position everything else around them. Ideally, if you’re checking the time until the next defile, your tank’s health is only an inch or two away.

As a healer, your first priority is always yourself; a dead healer can’t heal anything. As such, you don’t want your own unit frame too far out of the way either since it provides the easiest manner of monitoring your own health. This also saves time as you don’t need to look for your own health in a group of twenty four other players.

Boss modes also deserve prime screen space. My timers are just to the left of my own unit frames. The warning messages (Defile on YOU!) appear immediately above my raid frames so they’re almost impossible to miss. Most of the boss mod addons also provide audio warnings (Bigwigs can be configured to provide a count down if you desire), so placing them more out of the way is forgiveable.

I mentioned in my previous article that action bars are almost redundant data. You really want to learn your keybinds and if you know them all, why are they still on your UI? Remove them and save some space. Another thing to mention here is clicking. A lot of people will try and argue that they can respond just as quickly as anyone else while clicking their abilities. Simply put, this is a lie. Ensidia will decline any player who is a clicker. If you’re found to be doing this after joining, you will be kicked. This may sound harsh but clicking is incredibly inefficient and it is impossible for a clicker to reactively use abilities faster than a player utilising keybinds.

The biggest adjustment when removing action bars is still monitoring your cooldowns. Personally, I use two addons to do this; “SexyCoolDown”, which is similar in function to ForteXorcist’s cooldown bar (but more lightweight) and an addon called “Filger” which tracks buffs and cooldowns (such as Riptide, Tidal Waves, Elemental Mastery and so on.) This is an incredibly useful and lightweight addon, however due to being entirely LUA based I would recommend Power Auras for those who are not comfortable with editing LUA files.

Hardware

The final thing I would like to discuss before closing this article is your physical equipment. Obviously having a good PC will help your performance in raids but the one thing that is frequently overlooked are the important of good peripherals.

A good sized monitor is a godsend. I personally play on a 22″ HD monitor at resolution 1680×1050. It’s a nice size and gives you a lot of screen space to play with, much more than on a 17″ or 19″.

Another thing worth investing in is a good keyboard and mouse. I use the Logitech G15 keyboard with the Razer Naga mouse. Firstly, this gives me a whopping eighteen additional buttons on my keyboard, all within easy reach of my normal hand positioning. The Razer Naga mouse boasts and additional twelve configurable buttons in addition to running at a much higher sensitivity than standard mice (4000 DPI versus 800-1200 DPI.) While the Naga is an expensive choice, there are other Razer mice available for between £25 and £30. You’ll find these much more comfortable to use during long periods of gaming.

In closing, if you managed to make it all the way through this guide, I certainly hope you managed to pick up a few tips from it. I also hope I helped reinforce the knowledge that there aren’t any super secret keybinds and macros used by all the world class players. For those of you interested you can find my own UI updated and maintained over on the Ensidia website here.

Over at the Ensidia website you can also get the opportunity to ask questions and read guides written by some of the top players in the game, along with uploads of some excellent UIs and even some random stuff like Spotify play lists and some of the other games being played at the minute.

My final thanks goes out to Zing for providing me with the opportunity to write this guide and to everyone who took the time to read it.

Best of luck in Cataclysm and beyond!

Zing’s Closing Thoughts

Once again, I’d like to thank Azmara for producing this guide for us. It gives an interesting twist on creating a good, raiding UI from the perspective of a main spec healer. I’d also like to draw attention to two articles I published a long time ago, reviewing the benefits to be gained from using gaming keyboards and mice. You can find the keyboard article here and the mice article here.

Categories: Azmara of Ensidia

Entering the Sanctum

July 22, 2010 4 comments

(Image courtesy of Bridgeburners Guild.)

The second of our guest posts this week comes courtesy of a personal friend of mine outside of WoW. Tokk is a long standing member of the Bridgeburners guild on the Emerald Dream realm. Due to my own forced raid break, I was left somewhat stumped when people began requesting strategies for the Ruby Sanctum. When I finally decided to approach a third party to produce the guide, Tokk was my first choice.

Bridgeburners are currently EU ranked 248 (world rank of 476) and the leading PvE raiding guild on the Emerald Dream realm. With their status as the realm’s leading guild secured, they offer realm first achievement and title kills to all their members. They’re also recruiting! Interested parties should head over to their forums to read more about this lovely group of people.

(Image courtesy of Bridgeburners Guild.)

Today Tokk (with the assistance of his amazing guild) are bringing us an insight into the tactics and strategy involved in a successful Ruby Sanctum raid.

Halion

It’s time to take a closer look at the latest member of the elemental-breathing, tail swiping, angry lizard familiy, Halion The Twilight Destroyer.

In this post we will discuss his various phases and abilities across all modes and difficulties, but the tactics below are meant for the 10-man Heroic version of the fight.

The Room

The entirety of the fight takes place within the big circle in the middle of the Ruby Sanctum where Halion spawns. Once you engage him he will wall it off from the rest of the zone, so make sure you don’t linger too long on the edge when pulling. Other than that the fighting area remains static for the duration of the fight.

Abilities

As with all dragons Halion uses the draconic hallmark abilities of frontal cone breathing, cleaving and tailswiping. The breath attacks occur in all phases and will usually kill non-tanks in a single hit. The tailswipe this time around is a knockdown stun that lasts for about 3 seconds, so be very careful not to get hit as it can be lethal throughout the fight.

Phase 1 – Physical Realm

Fiery Combustion

This ability is cast roughly every 20 seconds and puts a debuff on the target that ticks for 4000 damage every 2 seconds and builds up a counter every time, lasting for 30 seconds. Once the debuff wears off, is dispelled or the target dies, it will explode knocking nearby players back and placing a void zone type damage circle on the ground that leaves a DoT on anyone who stands in it. The size of the circle depends on the amount of stacks the initial debuff has ticked up to. The circle lasts for 40 seconds. Going through any kind of portal with the debuff on you will cause it to be dispelled on top of the portal, so be careful!

Meteor Strike

The second ability used in the first phase is used every 35 secons and summons a large meteor from the sky to hit the ground beneath a random raid member. Anyone hit by it is prone to death by fiery squishing, so make sure to move out of the area. When it lands it will also spawn 4 trails of fire that arcs out and around the zone dealing moderate damage to people standing in them.

Heroic notes

The only change in phase one happens in twenty five man heroic mode. When the meteor strike hits the ground it will spawn a large fire elemental called Living Inferno and eight smaller elementals called Living Ember. The big one has a short range fire damage aura, so should be tanked away from the bulk of the raid. The small elementals will gain a stacking buff that makes them grow bigger and stronger whenever they stand near the Living Inferno.

When his health reaches 75% Halion will vanish into the Twilight Realm and start phase two. A portal will spawn on his location that you will have to enter through.

Phase Two – Twilight Realm

Soul Consumption

This ability works exactly like Fiery Combustion did in phase one, with two exceptions. Firstly the circles will slow anyone who stands in them for a few seconds every application. So even when you get out you will still be slowed for a few seconds after. The second difference is that instead of knocking away nearby players, it will pull them into the circle.

Twilight Cutter

The only other ability used in phase two is the Twilight Cutter. Around the edge of the fighting area in the twilight realm two orbs will slowly go around clockwise. Every thirty seconds they will lock a beam between them that oneshots anything it touches.

Heroic notes

The change in phase two applies to both the ten man and twenty five man heroic versions. Instead of there being two orbs circling the room there will now be four, effectively splitting the room into quardrants every time Twilight Cutter is cast.

Upon reaching 50% Halion will give a short speech and enter phase three, spawning two portals in the twilight realm (to the north west and south east) that lead back to the physical realm as well as two in the physical realm leading to the twilight (north east and south west).

Phase 3

The third and final phase consists of everything from the first two phases happening at the same time. Halion will be active in both the physical realm and the twilight realm. Having no players in either realm will cause him to regenerate 2% hp every two seconds. On top of that, Halion will now display a corporeality percentage. It starts at 50% for both realms and will change in increments of ten depending on how much damage is done in either realm. Every time it increases Halion will deal 30% more and take 20% more damage and when it decreases Halion will do 30% less and take 20% less damage, so keeping it between 40% and 60% is recommended. If the physical realm Halion takes more damage than the twilight realm version, the corporeality in the physical realm will go down and the corporeality in the twilight realm will go up and vice versa.

Heroic notes

Both heroic mode changes from phase one and two will still be in effect in phase three. In addition the circles created by Fiery Combustion and Soul Consumption will now overlap between realms, giving you a lot less space to move on.

Strategy

Assuming the Twilight Cutter didn’t get you while you were reading, we move on to the actual strategy involved in killing this purple bastid. As stated earlier this will be focused purely on the 10-man heroic version. On with the show!

Basic notes for all phases

Halion should always be tanked smack in the middle of the room. This is critical for the twilight realm and amazingly useful for the physical realm. Stay in the same general area! For physical realm that means on the same side of the boss and for the twilight realm it means in the same quadrant.

Handling Combustion and Consumption

Always run them to the edge before dispelling, no matter what. A three stack circle at the edge is safer than a one stack or two stack circle in the middle. This is without a doubt the most important part of the fight to master as a misplaced circle will most likely wipe you instantly.

Abilities such as Blink, Disengage and Hand of Freedom (in twilight) will help you get out of the circle quicker while Sprint, Body and Soul and Rocket Boots will help you get to the edge faster. Use these as much as possible, especially when in the twilight realm.

Raid Setup

You’re going to be needing:-

  • Two Tanks (one for each realm)
  • Two to Three Healers
  • Five to Six DPS

I would presonally recommend going with three healers (one in the physical realm and two in the twilight.) It is doable with only two if you are feeling brave. Bringing a class that can crutch heal for the physical realm is also recommended for when the healer gets Combustion. The enrage timer should not be a problem either way, providing no one dies.

Phase 1

There is nothing really special to note here. Make sure you run the Combustions to the edge and dodge the meteors. After the latter crashes you will likely have to strafe a little bit around to avoid standing in fires, but just focus on getting him to 75% as soon as possible. Given the cooldown and lasting time of Combustion there will always be two circles up. This will matter in phase three.

Phase 2

As you enter the portal for the Twilight Realm the tank needs to pick up the boss asap and face it north. The raid then groups up to the left of the boss, a position they will keep for the rest of the fight.

Dealing with twilight cutters

The tank and the raid will be moving around in different quardrants to avoid Halion breathing doom unto the raid. It is advised to have a single DPS assigned to watching the orbs and giving the move command to everyone as the cutter doesn’t always start in the same spot. It is important that everyone moves when the order goes out though, as lingering behind will almost always spell certain death. The tricky part in this phase is when Consumption and Twilight Cutter overlap (and they will pretty much every time), as you have to move diagonally towards the edge in order to not get chopped in half after dropping your circle.

Heroism or Bloodlust (assuming you have one) is best used in this phase since it doesn’t work cross-realm in phase three.

Phase 3

Now the fun begins.

The raid splits in two as the physical realm group goes back up as soon as the coast is clear of cutters, to resume fighting with fire.

Since the last phase is just a repeat of the first two the only “new” thing you have to be aware of is the circle overlapping the realms. This means that there will at all times be four circles up in both realms and that it is possible to spawn them on top of unsuspecting raid members in the other realm. If the healers are on the ball it is survivable and it will probably happen a few times during progression, but there is one trick to minimizing risk.

The physical realm tank should rotate Halion so that the raid always stands in the area with the fewest amount of circles. As noted earlier the corporeality mechanic is also active in this phase and has to be balanced in order to prevent tank deaths. Simply stopping DPS in a realm if the corporeality hits 40% and waiting until it goes back to 50% is a safe and easy way of dealing with it as it will never really become an issue.

This phase feels like it takes forever, but just hang in there, play your best and the dragon will be giving up his precious lewts (and 10 achievement points) soon enough.

Zing’s Closing Thoughts

I’d like to give out a huge thanks to both Tokk (for producing the guide and providing the in game screenshots) and his guild (proof reading and ensuring the tactics were perfect) for taking their time to write this amazing strategy for me. Once again, I’d like to mention that they are recruiting. They boast amazing progress (11/12 in Icecrown Citadel heroic) and are a stable and long standing guild. I’d like to personally offer them the best of luck in finishing wrath content and with their future progression in Cataclysm.

Restoration Shaman UI Tips

July 22, 2010 6 comments

Welcome to Azmara of Ensidia

Earlier in the week I promised two very special guest posters this week. Azmara is Ensidia’s newest restoration shaman and is gracing us with his personal views on user interface configuration from the perspective of a full time healer. He boasts a massive amount of PvE experience at the very top of the raiding scene. You can check out his armoury profile here

Due to the huge amount of time and effort he put into this guide, I’m delivering it in segments. Part one will focus on macros, key binds and raid frames. Part two, which should be out for your reading pleasure early next week, will focus on more general UI design tips and the importance of good hardware. Azmara has his own UI compilation available for download. If you’re interested or if you have any further questions regarding his UI specifically, you should head to his thread over on the Ensidia forums.

“A screenshot of your UI”

How many people are stumped by such a simple request? Why do so many guilds insist on having a picture of what your interface looks like? Surely it cant be that important to how well you perform?

Simply put, so many ask because it is that important. I’m here to talk about a combination of queries that get thrown around quite regularly for healers. Specifically; keybindings, macros, addons and general interface design. This article is going to focus on interface design purely from a healing perspective, what addons should you have, and what’s available out there to help make your job easier.

How?

To start off I’m going to talk briefly about how you can heal. There are three major ways to actually perform healing, the most basic of which is the simple “click player, click button” style. While this is by all means functional it is far from efficient, as it requires one more action than the other two methods. I personally would recommend using one of the following:

  • 1. Mouse-over macros
  • 2. Clicking

I personally prefer mouse-over macros. The reason behind this primarily is that option two requires an addon and I like to run as light as possible with addons. Your mouse-over macros should look like the following:

This will attempt to cast the max rank of Lesser Healing Wave on the target your mouse cursor is over when you press the button. This is assuming the target exists and is valid. If your mouse either isn’t over anything or it is over an invalid target (an enemy in this example) it will instead cast on your current physicaltarget. Make a macro similar to this for each of your spells (it works for everything from Earth Shield to Frost Shock) and bind them in place of your standard spells and you are good to go.

The final option is clicking stuff. In order to do this you need an addon, the major 2 being either Clique or Healbot (which I’ll talk about in a bit more detail later). These allow you to bind your spells to a specific mouse click such as left-click for Lesser Healing Wave or shift-left-click for Healing Wave and so on. I tried this for a while but I prefer mouse-over macros. It really comes down to personal preference – try both and go with whichever feels best. Just try to avoid the “target player, click heal” style.

Macros

People seem to be really interested in macros and I’ve never really understood why. While they can provide some nice functionality they aren’t going to perform miracles for you. Apart from my mouse-over macros I only actually use a few macros, two of which are simply to save keybinds.

The best and most practical macro is the simple “Swift/Tidal waves” macro:-

Since neither Nature’s Swiftness nor Tidal Force trigger the global cooldown you can place them both on the same macro, and this provides shamans’ only real emergency button.

In addition to that I have:-

This is fairly self explanatory, if control is held it will cast Cleansing Totem, if not, it will cast Tremor Totem. I have a similar macro for Fire and Earth elemental. This is purely to save keybinds.

Key Binds

Keybinds are incredibly important for every class in any role. It is important to have a good knowledge of where all your keybinds are located and have the ability to press them unexpectedly. Personally I have around fourty keybinds all of which can be accessed without moving my hands from the standard movement keys and mouse configuration. I won’t go into detail of exactly what I have keybound where, as keybinds are something personal – what may be comfortable and intuitive for me, you may find clunky and unwieldy.

What you aim for is to have your primary keybinds bound somewhere close and comfortable to spam when needed. Things such as Bloodlust/Heroism can normally be put a little bit further away. What I will do is suggest some keys to be using;

  • Keys 1-5
  • Q, E, Z, X, C, R, F, and V

Don’t forget about shift and control modifiers, they are essential if you want to keybind as much as possible. Really its just important to get keybinds that work for you, are comfortable, accessible and then to memorize them. The best way to really learn your keybinds is to get an action bar addon such as Bartender, and start hiding some of the bars. Start with your primary action bar, and then start moving on to secondary bars until eventually you don’t play with any at all.

That personally is what I do, I have no action bars at all visible on my UI. This is not to show off, I know all my keybinds, and there is no need to display redundant data. Instead this frees up some oh so precious screen space for other functions.

Raid Frames

Getting a good set of raid frames and getting them set up correctly is vital to be a truly effective healer. You need to be able to easily monitor the entire raids health, along with your own buffs and any fight specific debuffs.

There are three major sets of stand alone raid frames out there and I’ll talk briefly about each of them in turn.

Firstly we have Grid. I’ll admit from the start that Grid is my personal favourite of the three so I may be slightly biased. Grid has a fairly basic layout with an easily configurable size. On the most basic level it shows your team mates, and their health. It is incredibly simple to add any new abilities you want to track. There are several main ways to track abilities, one option is a variety of coloured dots at the corners and the other is via an icon in the middle of each cell.

As you can see the in the screenshot above I’m tracking my Earth Shield via the center icon, Riptide via the blue dot at the top left, and Ancestral Fortitude with the orange dot in the bottom right. This can be fully customized to suit how you want it all to appear. Grid also has a number of extra “bolt-ons” that you can download to give extra functionality if you desire.

The second options is Healbot. Considering its name, you’d think it would be the no-brainer addon to have in your healing UI, but here are some reasons why I think that assumption would not be that accurate.

Firstly there is a widely embraced opinion saying that using Healbot makes you a worse healer. This is something I don’t agree with, nor do I understand where it came from. I don’t dislike Healbot because it makes you worse. I dislike it because it’s terrible.

I’ll get the petty complaint out of the way first. Healbot is fucking ugly! While by all means functionality is more important than aesthetics there’s a limit, and Healbot is that limit!

As far as more valid concerns go, my primary complaint is with the way the information is presented. I found it quite difficult to gauge at a glance the health of my party members, and when you’re raiding twenty five man heroics, a glance is sometimes all you can spare each person. Healbot’s major advantage over other addons is it’s ability to display a large numbers of buffs complete with durations. While this sounds awesome at first glance, you will soon realize that it turns your raid frames into a clusterfuck of different icons and spinning timers. Combined with the unclear health bars, this makes a bad problem worse. On the example below I found it quite difficult to gauge exactly how much health the warrior has at a glance.

It can be argued that these problems can be remedied by a proper setup. This leads nicely onto my other major complaint: the configuration GUI is the most confusing and unintuitive interface I’ve seen in an addon. For example why is the buff display found under “skins” instead of under “buffs”?! It makes no sense and only served to infuriate me as I struggled to make sense of the different options.

The one praise I will give Healbot is the “test mode” option. That is incredibly useful and something I wish more raid frames had.

My ideal raid frames are simple, attractive, not overly colourful and able to display all the information I need in a clear and concise manner. It should be able to do all of this while taking up as little space as possible. Healbot is the total opposite of what I want from my raid frames! It is overly complex and horrible to look at. The constantly changing colour bars do nothing but distract you from what is going on elsewhere (also known as healer tunnel vision). Worst of all, in order to display the information I require, Healbot would occupy almost a quarter of my screen. I wish I was over-exaggerating here but I’m not; in order for Healbot to be of any use, it needs to be huge, and I just can’t deal with that.

Vuhdo is the third contender. I had never used or ever really looked at this addon prior to writing this post, but that ensures you’re going to get an unbiased view on the addon from a new user.

Unfortunately most of the complaints and annoyances I had with Healbot return in Vuhdo, starting with another truly terrible configuration window. The author has designed a completely original configuration window with custom colours. The particular choice of colour scheme is quite painful on the eyes of the average user, as blue on white is not easy to distinguish under any circumstances.

After a brief setup, I had a quick blast through a heroic dungeon for a test drive. Again, I found more of my Healbot complaints returning. There is too much information and not enough space to accurately display it all. After only five minutes of the dungeon, the frames began to become a bit of a strain on the eyes. This is a problem I’ve yet to have with any other frames.

In my opinion, Grid is definitely the best of the big three. It has a simple configuration and adding new debuffs is simple and intuitive. It can provide the amount of detail you need in a very clear way, without obscuring anything. Also, while documenting for this post, I downloaded a fresh version of all three addons and Grid was by far the simplest to configure.

Closing Comments From Zing

There we have it ladies and gents. Part two of Azmara’s post will be with you next week. This will feature some more general design tips along with his thoughts on the importance of hardware for your raid performance. From a personal point of view, I’m fascinated by UI design and to see how other people create theirs is always inspirational. I play restoration as an offspec (and love it) but I far from consider myself a healer so I thoroughly enjoy reading design ideas from those who truly are healers.

Once again, I’d personally like to offer my thanks to him for offering his insight. Remember you can download his UI here, where he is also available to answer questions or queries regarding it. Any comments left here will be forwarded to him and perhaps he’ll be kind enough to answer them.

Guest Posters and Site Changes

July 19, 2010 4 comments

A very brief update for today. I’ve been taking a lot of input from some much more technologically knowledgeable people over the weekend and as such, you’ll be noticing some changes to the blog over the next day or so. I’m pruning numerous categories to hopefully aid with the navigation. The template has changed to allow a larger area for main articles (which should improve the quality of some images also.) Hopefully the changes should tidy everything up greatly

From my own blog stats, I know that my boss guides get a lot of use and I’ve had numerous requests to complete these. Due to the fact my own guild stopped raiding at Sindragosa heroic, I’ve been a little bit stumped on how to bring you these in a reliable format. Simply put, I won’t rehash other peoples’ tactics in the hope that they work. All the strategies found here have been tested and tweaked through weeks of raiding with my own guild.

After giving it a little consideration, I’ve called on the help of a personal friend from a more progressed guild. He has very kindly taken the time to start producing a raid guide for the Ruby Sanctum and hopefully, I’ll have that out for you this week. He also has experience and kills of the lich king heroic so perhaps he’ll be able to offer his expertise on this fight also. For now, I’ll keep secret who this guest is. I’ve read the first draft of his guide and it’s awesome so this one is definitely going to be worth reading for all those people currently working on Hallion (on any of his difficulties.)

On the theme of guest posters, I’m going to be welcoming a restoration shaman this week. He’s going to be gracing us with his thoughts on healer specific user interface configuration. He’s joining us from a world class guild and with a great deal of PvE experience on his shoulders. Once again, for now, I’m going to be keeping his identity hidden.

I’m really looking forward to reading both these new articles and I’d like to offer my personal thanks to both the lovely people in question. I can’t wait to introduce them both to you later in the week!

As always, I welcome feedback so given that I’m currently “fiddling” with the layout of the blog, any thoughts would be greatly received.

Categories: Misc Stuff

Shaman Round Table Broadcasts This Week

July 12, 2010 6 comments

Over the weekend, numerous prominent shaman players representing all three specs were gathered together to take part in a podcast dedicated to our favourite class. This was all organised by Raid Warning. Recording is all finished and the lovely people over at Raid Warning are left with the task of editing down the hours of material into some kind of structured show.

I think it’s safe for me to speak for all the elemental representatives in saying we had a great time and it’s certainly brought together our part of the community. We’re hoping this will benefit the shaman community further as we try to pool our collective resources together to deliver a shaman centric web resource in the future.

There was a lot of mocking of accents (the collected players were from the U.K, America and New Zealand), some quite epic blunders (who knew we had a Scone-Skin totem? How about the fact that Warlock’s can set traps? Or even that haste makes you (wait for it) cast faster?!) and all in all it should be well worth listening to. (I’ve been told from the lovely Pewter over at The ‘Mental Shaman that the restoration set was very impressive also.)

Hopefully it will be set for release tomorrow so please do your best to support the community (and specifically, the brave souls who dedicated their time to contributing) and download it. Finally, on behalf of myself, thanks to Raid Warning for giving us all a chance to discuss our favourite shaman spec on an entirely new medium.

Categories: Misc Stuff

It’s Lonely at the Top

July 12, 2010 4 comments

For most players, a guild is a way of life. The purpose of a guild can be as varied as the desires of the players. For some, the sole focus is beating PvE content at it’s highest level and competing with players around the globe for the world first kills of newly released encounters. Others may focus on pre-made PvP content and utilise a guild environment to facilitate this goal. Some players just want to experience the social aspect of having other people to chat to while they wile away their time in game. Naturally, for every category that we can place a guild and it’s goals into, there are shades of grey. A PvE guild can be more hardcore or more relaxed. Some social guild’s vet their members carefully, catering to a specific age group or mindset while others invite anyone and everyone creating an eclectic mix of people.

Browsing the official “looking for guild” forums will demonstrate the vast variety and types of guild out there. All of which have their own personal goals and aims.

This article is focussing primarily on one specific type of guild; the PvE raiding guild. Furthermore it’s written from my personal experiences of being an officer over a number of years.

Hierarchy and Structure

A guild is, essentially, a community. The fact this community resides in an online environment does not detract from it’s description. As with most communities, they have their own structure.

At the pinnacle of this structure is the leadership. This usually consists of either a guild leader and his or her officer team or a “council” of officers that elect to make decisions together in the most democratic way possible. Each type has it’s advantages and disadvantages and I think the argument for which is better is quite futile as the people involved are far more important than the structure itself.

Many players will crave for an officer position until they have actually experienced it for themselves. They are seduced by the idea of “power”, control, or by the dream of creating and leading a world class guild. Many fail to realise the work load that goes hand in hand with the commitment to these roles, but furthermore they fail to realise the conflict of interest that can arise.

The majority of officers will rise to their position from the membership. They were, at some point, a core member of the guild abiding by the decisions made by their seniors. At times, they probably disagreed with these decisions and questioned the thought process or motives of those seniors. All to often an atmosphere of “them versus us” arises between the members (which can ultimately be described as the backbone of the guild) and their leadership. One disadvantage of officership so frequently over looked is suggested by the title of this article; how terribly lonely it can be.

For an officer or leader, the guild’s best interests must always be paramount. Obviously, these interest vary from guild to guild based upon the purpose or collective desire of the member base. Frequently, the best interests of the whole are very different to those of an individual. If you have been a long standing member of a guild, you undoubtedly formed friendships and bonds among your peers. What happens when those friendships are tested because you ultimately have a job to perform?

This question is one that has always plagued me. Regardless of how close you personally feel to a member, you have to judge them objectively and act accordingly if their performance or behaviour becomes questionable (and thus against the interests of the collective.) It’s very difficult for us to not feel personally offended when another person delivers the news that we messed up. On some occasions, this can feel like more of a betrayal of trust when it’s from those closest to us.

An officer not only watches a guild evolve but they watch their members evolve also. They’re often the first point of contact for a nervous recruit entering into a strange new social environment. Similarities here can be drawn from starting a new job. There is the burning desire to prove yourself as an asset to the collective and to be regarded as exceptionally skilled in the ability to fulfil a role. Concurrently is the hope that you are accepted socially, that you will find new friendships amongst your peers and that you will, quite simply, be liked. After all, the latter is a fundamental concern for most people. An officer will be watching these first few tentative steps, hoping to encourage this new player to integrate into the guild.

After a trial period, an officer will have either seen this player succeed with this integration and become both accepted, liked and depended upon or will be required to deliver the bad news that it’s time for individual and guild to part ways. From there, we’ll undoubtedly see these players go through good times and bad both in game and out of game and we’ll try to offer support during either.

Ultimately, occasions arise where either we are on the receiving end of their dissatisfaction with our own role, decision making abilities or leadership capabilities or they are on the receiving end of ours. It’s at this point that a relationship that may have developed into a friendship is tested and stressed. By definition our friends should support us. However here rises that dreaded conflict of interest whereby we all still have a role to fulfil, regardless of friendships or personal feelings. Furthermore, we all have to answer to someone when we fail in that role through their eyes.

I’ve never quite mastered the art of this balance. Instead, I generally keep an emotional distance from most of the people I share a guild with. I find it difficult to be both their friend and an officer simply because if it comes to the crunch, I will always favour the interests of the whole over the interests of the individual. Never wanting to suggest otherwise to people, I prefer to establish a boundary from the outset.

Perhaps it is possible to maintain both these distinctive relationships; to be both friend and superior. (Please understand here, my use of the word superior is to make a distinction in the ranks of a guild hierarchy. It may sound like a power trip but it isn’t. I would much prefer a guild to run itself and for members to not require any interference or “leading” but ultimately, someone does need to be able to make decisions when they are called for.) I for one have never managed it and I feel that I always end up disappointing someone when a decision I make may not be to their personal liking or preference.

Either way, it sure can be lonely at the top.

Categories: Guild Management

Real Names on Official Forums? No More!

July 9, 2010 1 comment

After what has undoubtedly been a very controversial few days for Blizzard, Friday brought the news that their proposed new forum system featuring real names for all posters has been withdrawn.

Regardless of what side of the debate you sat on, it has been the topic of choice for most players, forum discussions and blogs. It’s definitely good news for all those players wishing to keep details of their gender and ethnicity private and more over, it’s reassuring to have a very direct example of Blizzard listening and acting upon the voice of their community.

You can read the full source of this news here.

Categories: Misc Stuff

Battle Net Changes to Hit Forums

July 6, 2010 5 comments

The news broke a short time ago that the official World of Warcraft forums will soon be taking on a new format. Prior to the release of Cataclysm, an entirely new forum system will be launching. This system will see players posting on the official forums from their real ID. That is to say, real names will be displayed by any and all forum posts you make.

You can read the full statement on this change here.

I’ve had mixed feelings about the real ID system. I really like the functionality that allows for cross server and cross faction chat. I do believe it was long overdue, however, considering another MMO had this chat system in place a number of years ago (it also allowed for cross game chat). I’m not a huge fan of the need to implement this via the use of real names. Furthermore, I severely dislike the feature that allows you to view the other real ID contacts of each of your friends.

Some players prefer to preserve the anonymity of some of their characters; bank characters are an excellent example of this. For some players, the economic side of the game is a huge part of their play experience. In many respects, I consider myself a member of this category. For the most part, I prefer to keep my bank characters anonymous. I go to quite long extremes to ensure there is no link between them and my shaman. The real ID system reveals these characters to all my contacts and due to the fact I have multiple WoW accounts umbrella’d by one battle net account, these characters are highly visible as they’re online for a large portion of the day.

The system does save me a reasonable amount of tabbing out. I no longer need to minimise to windows to chat to one of my friends on MSN. Once Starcraft II launches, I foresee the system being of greater use to me since I can always stay in touch with the guild or indeed, the friends I play intend on playing SC II with. It’s also allowed me to talk more to some of the bloggers and considering a new shaman centric web resource may now evolve from this new circle of friends, I’d consider that an advantage.

You can, however, decline any real ID requests and purely use the in game friends list that displays only the character names of your contacts. In this sense, it is an opt in or opt out system. Admittedly, there can be a moment of awkwardness when you need to explain to an in game friend that you don’t wish to share your real ID details but it certainly isn’t compulsory.

The announced forum changes appear to be an attempt on Blizzard’s behalf to clean up the cesspit state that the official forums have degenerated into. Many players exploit the anonymity of an unknown level one character in order to flame and troll other players or guilds. A quick glance over the majority of realm forums are a testimony to this fact. It’s not uncommon for guild’s (particularly the more well known ones) to have rules preventing their members from engaging in flame wars, particularly focussed on other guilds. This makes sense, it helps to protect their own reputation. They can’t, however, prevent their member’s from creating level one characters and partaking in such flaming behind their new found veil of anonymity. The intention behind Blizzard’s proposed changes are undoubtedly sound. The implementation, on the other hand, is a little debatable.

In addition to addressing the flaming issues on the forums, Blizzard are hoping these forum changes will continue to strengthen the community and encourage players to forge stronger friendships originally formed in game. Starcraft II will be integrated with Facebook, allowing your social network site contacts to be added as a real ID contacts in game. (Incidentally, this feature received a very mixed welcome from the SC II beta testing community, many of whom didn’t enjoy it’s appearance.) The real ID system itself displays all the characters of your friends to prevent you from needing to remember which alt belongs to which friend. Again, the theory is there but the implementation, for me, is slightly off. I can happily say that some of the friendships I made in the first MMO I played, Everquest, have remained real life friends to this day. This has to be the choice of the player, however. You can’t force more intimate friendships upon your players. Some people prefer to maintain a distance between their in game lives and their real lives.

For those players that prefer to keep their personal details personal, this is an extreme change. I have a friend in game that transferred servers and factions in order to gain virtual distance from an ex partner. That is the beauty of such a game. It facilitates our desires to escape our real lives. We can hide our names, genders, ages and a number of other details should we so choose. Thanks to these forum changes, two of these details will potentially be public knowledge. A simple google search of a friend, acquaintance or colleague’s real name could reveal them to be an avid World of Warcraft player. For some perhaps, this is not a big deal. For other people, however, it’s crossing a certain privacy line.

We can argue, again, that the system isn’t compulsory. You can merely refrain from posting on the official forums. The issue isn’t quite so black and white or clear cut. For players like myself who are responsible for guild recruitment or publicity, posting on the forums can be a daily ritual. It isn’t one that I essentially enjoy but I do have plenty of free time and I like to contribute to my guild. When the new forum launches however, I don’t think I’ll be comfortable undertaking this officer role any further.

There is some good news for nervous or concerned players. The real ID system will only be activated on the new forums. The current official forums (which will become frozen) will not have this change retroactively added. That is to say, any posts that you have made on the forums will continue to display the character name from which you posted. As I saw comments from some posters over at wow.com stating that they were already removing all forum posts they have ever made, this detail is worth reinforcing.

I do appreciate Blizzard’s attempts to clean up their forums and generally make them a more pleasant place to be. Seeing guild recruitment threads get hijacked by obviously bitter former members is saddening. Hopefully, preventing people from hiding behind their level one alts should go a distance in addressing this issue. I do wish they had a different method for implementing this aim. Other games or forums have used one handle or user name per account. This prevents players or users from making multiple accounts in which to engage in more derogatory posting without forcing them into revealing their real life identity.

On a related note, it’s been revealed that a design flaw in the real ID system allows any addon to read and expose your real life name (via the real ID system). You can read the full thread about this revelation here. This flaw being revealed shortly after the announcement regarding the new forum systems is a little like rubbing salt in the wound of some players. The only advice regarding this problem at present is to use as few addons as you can cope with.

Categories: Misc Stuff

Shaman Centric Site? We’re Gauging Interest! (Also My Guild are Recruiting)

July 5, 2010 6 comments

This is the first of a couple of updates planned for today. A few of the shaman bloggers have been discussing the viability of a shaman-centric website over the weekend. To be more specific, something along the lines of shadowpriest.com or tankspot but obviously, dedicated to to the shaman players; a true shaman resource.

To gauge interest in this, Binkenstein has created a poll over at his blog. If any readers could be kind enough to hit the link and go and vote in his poll, we’d be most grateful.

Secondly and a very shameless advertisement for my own guild; Decimate are currently recruiting a few active players. We’re a ten man strict guild on the Eonar PvE server and we’re looking for representatives of all raid roles (DPS, a healer and a tank). If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of ten man strict raiding, you can read about it here. If this is of interest to anyone out there, then please go take a browse over our forums and apply.

Categories: Misc Stuff

Resuming Normal Service!

June 25, 2010 38 comments

After far too long spent neglecting this blog (primarily due to the new puppy and my own guild being on a raiding break), I’m finally back into the swing of things. I now have the facilities to update the blog without being tied to my desktop PC which is a huge bonus in the current temperatures we’re seeing.

Initially, I’m going to begin by updating the Cataclysm preview section with the new information that has come to light. I’ll most likely bump that back to the front page once it’s all up to date. From there I’ll see where my mood takes me but if any readers have ideas for specific articles they’d like to see (ranging from shaman issues to guild management and raid specific topics) then feel free to drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

On another note, I’ve been asked to take part in the Raid Warning: Shaman Roundtable. I’ve not yet decided if I’m going to be taking part, but the scheme deserves all the publicity it can get so please do your best to support it.

As always, I welcome questions, comments or general chit chat on the blog so feel free to leave your mark!

Categories: Misc Stuff
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