Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fraps isn't all fun and games..

Hey everyone, I know my posts are not as consistant as they could be, but I am still here. I've been pretty busy with the guild stuff lately, as we are beginning T6 content now, and its pretty excited. Recruiting, studying bossfights, and keeping the morale of the guild up has been using a lot of my free 'blogging' time.

I wanted to do a quick post about Fraps, and how it can be useful to you, the Raid Leader, or even you, the general guildy.

Fraps is a software package that you can use to record your in-game antics. It is relatively cheap, and the return on this is huge.... at least if you are like me.

Let's back up for a minute here.

I am a Co-Raid Leader for my guild and that makes it my job to be more prepared than anyone else in the guild for a new Boss event. So I've developed a Boss studying strategy (wow, that's deep, a strat for strats), that has proven to be very useful in me gaining the understanding I need for a particular fight.

Below is an outline of the steps I take when I am prepping for one of these occasions.

Step 1:

I always start with youtube. I look up "How to BossXYZ" I pick one that looks like it has text clues inside of it, and I watch it a couple times. I pause on all the text, and make sure I take in what it says. I look for things that stand out, in regards to positioning, the perspective of the videotaker (tank/dps/healer), and make an effort to pick up on visual queues from the described abilities.

Step 2:

I Then venture over to bosskillers and preview their strat there, and read about all the abilities.

I try and then do what I can to recall what I saw in regards to each one, and lay the groundwork for the more technical put-the-raid-to-sleep aspects if the fight, in my brain. I observe the diagrams and ponder about how it will fit my raid, or how it will involve a heavy melee raid, or a heavy ranged raid.

Step 3:

I go back to the video I watched again.

This sort of connects the fight entirely in my brain. When I come back to the video it is with a very solid base, and I feel like I truely get a good grasp on what is going on, and put the icing on my in-brain strategy.

Usually that was the last step for me. Back before TK, that usually was enough, since we were overgeared from badge loot, and could power through a lot of mistakes.

Tangent: An example being that one time on Tidewalker our top DPS warlock was going to pull with a Curse of Doom (He used to be our main tank), and called out for a Blessing of Protection from our Pally healer. The Pally was used to him being the MT and mistakenly BoP'ed our tank when Tidewalker was at 3%. We were able to knock out that 3% fast enough that he didn't wipe our entire ride, but wow..That was a funny night!

Step 4:

This one I have added to my arsenal recently. I use the delightful tool of Fraps to record each First Boss Attempt. I then find myself like an old college basketball coach in a film room, scouring the footage I have, to see if there was something I missed, or what we could do better in terms of positioning and so forth.

In the end I have found it an incredibly useful tool for me, and would highly recommend it, if you are struggling on how to better rework strats, or if you are simply looking for another safety layer with leading your raids, or performing on your guild's raids.

Plus as a bonus, if you have the time to throw together a cool rendition of the movie for your guild, they will love you for it!

Friday, August 15, 2008

What I have been up to..

Well, dang,

I haven't blogged for a while. Life has been busy, and I have actually authored a couple of posts that haven't quite reached publishing.

Here is what they are about... I may never post them, but they are there in case I want to.

One is about me fighting burnout, and a breakdown of my two weeks of tracking my time used in conjunction with wow.

One is about me battling Vista and intermittant lag spikes (which I bested, hooray me!)

One is about whether or not I should gkick the guy that talks to himself endlessly in gchat, and constantly begs for instance runs, while everyone else is silently annoyed.

All of them, I guess I haven't had the motivation to write, so I am going to put this out here. I will continue to write, I am just facing some writer's block (22 blocked) ahahahha.

At any rate, I thought I would throw this up, and list some of my goals before WotLK comes out.

- Level Tigraine (Tankadin) to 70
- Level Davidlopan (warlock) to at least 35-40
- successfully help lead my guild at least halfway into T6 content.

Not many there...and the only one that will be REALLY hard will be the first one. I hate questing. I hate it with the burning passions of a thousand stars. Well..ok, I don't hate it that much, but I really don't like it. I figure with a tank, I can live in instances.

Lopan I am going to be reading and revelling in the lore.. I hate questing when I am trying to level up, but I am finding the side of the quests that was meant to be enjoyed, and reading them all completely, and following the ones I like the most.

Leading the guild halfway through T6... It might prove pretty difficult too. An update.. We got started VERY late as a progression guild, but we have managed to get to 4/6 in SSC and 3/4 in TK and we are attempting Kael on Monday. We will beat on him for a couple more weeks, and whether we get him or not, its on to MH and BT. With WotLK looming over our heads at this point, gear no longer matters... Everyone we have is geared like mad, and we have clobbered everything we try. We are more interested in seeing content at this point.

Fighting Kael will be Epic.. Going back in time and doing MH will be epic.. Setting foot in BT for the first time will be epic.

Way back when we were conceiving this guild in our minds, I didn't have the slightest idea we would get this far this fast.. When a rogue of ours expressed that he was really excited to see BT and MH, I silently scoffed to myself about the unlikeliness of that, and that we would do the best we could, and probably get stuck in TK, and call it quits.... But now... within weeks, we will be a T6 guild! Its really a testament to how awesome our Raiders are, and how much hard work they put in!

Good work!

[1 - Exiting the Requiem Channel]

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shaking up the schedule

So last week, we had a slightly tougher time getting a group for raiding than we usually do. We eventually managed, after replacing 4 people that had to leave, to land a somewhat good group. DPS was solid as usual, as were tanks, but we found ourselves running with only 5 healers.

For Lurker this is really no big deal, and we've done him before with essentially 3-4 healers (one of our 4 died early). In doing Leotheras with 5 healers was somewhat of a feat, IMO, and I was really impressed with everyone involved. Especially considering the fact it was our second-time-ever killing him.

At the end of killing him though, we found ourselves with about 45 minutes left, and nothing really to do. We though about doing FLK, or Tidewalker, but decided that Tidewalker was too much trash to go directly to, and that FLK was probably too much of a strain for 5 healers, especially when two had never been to him before. What do you choose to do? We only raid three hours on raid nights, since most of our raiders have jobs, and families to appease, so we prefer not to push longer than the alotted time, but we knew that everyone was kind of left wanting.

Luckily, we were prepared. As a GM, I do my best to constantly be prepared for such occurances. Have an backburner item, or a funtivity stored up. That way, on those odd nights, you have something to do.

For us, it turned out to be a huge success. We gave old Doomlord Kazzak a shot. We all flew over there, and tried to prep up right in front of him...well, he seems to get a larger aggro radius when there's a large group of people there. We pulled him over and over, it was pretty funny. We got three solid cracks at him, and even got him down to about 25-30%. It truely was a load of fun. It took many people in the guild by surprise that we were going to do it, and everyone was really excited to try a new boss.

That's not the best part though! After we did that a few times, naturally we attracted some alliance attention. Due to the unfortunate nature of them trying to screw us up, we decided to get even. We raided honor hold. First things first..we killed the 5 Alliance that were camping some of our faction near Spinebreaker. It was truely hilarious to see the panic in them as horde after horde landed, and started attacking them. After this we went in and cleaned the town's clock for about an hour. Everyone stayed late, and the laughing and joking on vent, was truly great.

So much fun to be had, so little time. We have some more fun ideas stored up for our guild (and maybe even some others) that we intend to unleash when the time is right.

We learned a valuable lesson though.. Sometimes you need to break it up. Sometimes, even in a casual guild, raiding can grow tiresome. We have no attendance rules, and take many different people each week, but we continue to succeed Sometimes its not enough, though. If you're a GM, and haven't implemented some sort of fun raiding time, you might want to look into it. The team building, and just plain fun of it really has a way of bringing a group together.

Here are some ideas I CAN tell you about.

-Level 1 race across a zone we have no business being in at that level (gold prizes)
-Random draw 2v2, or 3v3 guild tourney in the arenas. (prizes)
-Random Alli town raids (just for fun)

More ideas are to come as we brainstorm. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

WoW is just a game... right?



"Hell, I don't know, maybe?" (for 10 points, name that movie)

This is a topic that is of great interest to me. I read blogs about this sort of thing, and I gobble them up, think about them, digest them, and then read them again. I probably don't have much to offer this perspective, save my own, but hey, that is why you are reading my blog right? For my perspective? Good, glad we got that part out of the way.

Again, I'll throw some brief background and update into the mix. I want to brag for a second, so bear with me. I am the 'proud' pwner of a level 70 (currently resto) Shaman in a fairly successful raiding guild. Our guild is young, but our core is ridiculously strong, knowledgeable, and for the most part, humble and open to improvement. We have been raiding since the beginning of June, and have cleared 4/6 in SSC, and it will be 5/6 as soon as we can get our resist tanks on in the same night, or quite frankly...really care about getting Hydross. We raid two nights a week, for 3 hours tops, each raid. We farmed Gruul and Mag for a bit, and then started in SSC. Over the past 3 weeks, we have gotten first kills on Tidewalker, FLK, and leotheras..usually on our first night of attempts.

Ok, bragging out of the way. So I have had this discussion with my girlfriend several times, and I decided that it would be fun to blog about it. Is WoW just a game? Straight out of the gate, one can always say 'yes.' It is classified as an MMORPG, and we can guess what the 'G' stands for. While it never ceases to be, in fact, a game, it seems to become so much more whenever we enter it (Royal we).

I spend quite a bit of time in the game. I love it. I look forward to it every day. I love the grind, I love the raids, I even, when all is said and done, love resolving guild issues, and explaining for the 100th time why we are not doing TK, or bosses in Hyjal (Oh, I failed to mention above, I am one of the GMs of this guild). I even love the outside time I spend that is related to the game, like reading boss strats, moderating the forums, and the website, and discussing guild direction with my fellow GMs.

So what does this make WoW to me? I don't know... maybe a Hobby, maybe an escape, perhaps as chick gm explains, a way of life/committment, a job? I think in regards to myself, all of these apply. When it is a raid day, I make sure I get home from work at a certain time, give myself proper prep time, and even my girlfriend makes room for this sort of thing in her schedule (whether it's bringin' snacks, snuggling up with a book, or working on her dissertation, or even leveling her own character).

Raiding is probably the most workly aspect of the game. As a GM and assistant Raid Leader, it is mainly my (Really 'our') responsibility to make sure we have the necessary people, smoothe the edges on those that don't get to go, distribute loot fairly and appropriately, set a good example, and most importantly, make sure as many people as possible are having fun.

The committment/way-of-life aspect is partially outlined above, but it goes further than that. That comes in mediating disputes, salving hurt feelings, or helping gear up some new recruits by scheduling Karazhan runs around them, so they can get the gear and badges they need to improve their performance.

I used WoW as an escape for the many hours I felt sorry for myself after a bad relationship, and now, I use it chill out after a particularly heinous day at work, or after a sucktacular commute.

As a hobby, it kinda fits nicely into all of these categories. It helps me build aspects that may not seem overly important, but to me, they are, and will eventually come in handy. I research for boss fights, which will be useful in future jobs, or school classes (well, the research part). I manage up to 20-some-odd volunteers, which will be vaulable in management positions I may hold in the future. I grind out rep in tedium, and mats, and badges to accomplish goals I have set, and marked down for measurement, which can prove valuable, because lets face it... life can be full of tedium. I even mess with video editting software, so I can put together boss-kill movies so that everyone can rewatch the great events.

Getting back to the hobby, I can retire to my office (the garage), after work, and get into comfy clothes (overalls), and start to work on dailies (polishing engine parts, and doing body repair work), and twice every week, I put on my working duds, and take that ol' car out for a spin, and feel all that time I put into it, pay off.

Really though.. It's just a game though... right?



Hell, I don't know, maybe?

As a subtext of this post, I am going to start this coming Sunday, and I am going to log all of my time in-game, and out-of-game, that I spend in regards to WoW, and I will report back my findings. It ought to be fun! Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Letting them know..

"Hey, do you know when the next raid is?"

I know this seems like a silly question, and lets face it, if you are at all doing your job as a GM, or the Raid Leader, you usually have this posted in at least one of two places, if not both.
  • Guild Message of the Day
  • Guild Website (if you have one)
Now for me as a GM, I get a little bit bugged when I get asked this question, especially a couple months down the road of scheduling raids, and posting them in those two respective places.
I know it's not really a big deal to answer the question, or refer them to where they can find it, but I'd like to throw a little plug in here.

A guy at my work turned me on to a service called

I decided to try this, and so far it has been a pretty good success. So much of living in our times is based around using a Cell Phone. As an older-user guild (few, if any, parent-reliant creatures), it's a pretty safe assumption that most people own and use cell phones, and have at one time or another used a text message.

It's free, and its really simple. Its a shortcode that you can text to, and either have an auto reply, or have it send a message to all your subscribers. I decided that I didn't want to really wonder if I was bugging my Raiders with text-message spam, so I just set up an auto-reply with the raid schedule, and keep it current.

The way this works, is you set up a keyword that you want for your guild. Be it your guild name, or something that relates to your guild, it's really your choice. I am not sure if there is a size limit on the word you choose. Once you have that word reserved for your subscribers, you text that word to the number '41411'.

Now doing this the first time will subscribe you to the list. You can unsibscribe, and it outlines that in a return message it sends on your first go. Depending on how you are set up you can go from there. Like mine, you can have an auto-reply, and update the schedule from the website's control panel. I always keep the next two raids in there, or three if I will be out of town, and unable to update it.

The other option is to have it send out a text to all your subscribers. There are two ways to do this as well. The first is that you can open up the list, so you can text your raid schedule to your keyword, and it will send that message to everyone. The second you can type out the message in the control panel on the site, and send that out to your users. If you choose the method of sending the message out to everyone on the list, I would suggest the latter approach, and keep the list locked so other people cannot spam your list. There may be a way to promote a subscriber to a status where they can do it, and noone else can, but I haven't found something like that yet.

Both are definitely good options, but I chose the very first one I presented, due to the fact that sometimes people just get sick of unsolicted texts. I favor the idea that my Raiders can query it at any time, from anywhere they have their phone, and do it as much or as little as they want. If they lose the message, they can simply get it again, and requiring no extra work out of your busy GM schedule.

It is an extra step in maintainence on your part, but I find that I can refer someone to that in guild chat, and it can preemtively stifle future verstions of this question. The first day I announced it in gchat, it was met with "That is so cool!" "Oh, nice" "OMG that's the same number I text to do my attendance at school!" I also put a forum post on our guild website about it, and bump it from time to time to hopefully stimulate some word-of-mouth.

It may not be much, but I have found it a viable third option to keep my guildies informed of what is to come. It is another medium to reach some person that may not be inclined to re-check the GMotD, or don't see it when they log in, due to too many addons. Perhpas a good way to reach that person that refuses to check the website, and would rather ask you in the middle of healing the PvP boss in heroic MagT. I don't think it will ever kaibash that question, but it can, at least, make a dent in my annoyance levels, and maybe yours as well.

Good luck!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Milestones For the Record Book

You know.. I've been thinking a lot on milestones lately. WoW is just pretty much full of them.

  • Each level of course is a Milestone.
  • Each class has certain level Milestones.. I know I was excited for Ghostwolf at 20.
  • Level 40 (soon to be 30) for the mount.
  • Level 60 for epic riding mount
  • Level 70 for a bunch of reasons.
There are also some really good guild milestones that for me were special..

  • First guild Karazhan run (My first ever as well).
  • First T4 passed out (down with Curator!).
  • First Prince kill.
  • First Nightbane kill.
  • First 25 man run.
  • First Gruul/Mags etc., kills.

I guess since we have recently formed our new guild, there have been many particularly special to me, since I was very involved in the structure and formation of said guild. We also had a really important one just last night, so this has really been on my brain. I am really excited about it, but I will get to that in a minute.

First I want to talk about some of the Milestones in the new guild, and what has made them special for me.

The first was, obviously, the formation of our guild. As stated above, I had a lot of say, and was able to be a huge driving force in the realm of making it happen. I feel like (and I am sure everyone feels this way about their own guild) I have been a major part in creating a guild that is truely unique. A progression guild that has no DKP, no EP/GP system, and is pretty much based completely on free mainspec roll, then free offspec roll. It's fair, and I believe it shows our guild that we believe largely in consideration, and encourage everyone to make that choice for themselves. I pride myself on how many considerate raiders we have.

The next few are obvious.. Our first raid was special because...well it was our first raid. We went in and one-shot Gruul (not HK though - dang), and we did it in a fairly timely manner, and we did it in 9 grows. Along with this is our first Mag kill, and our first Lurker kill. We one-shot them both in our second week of raiding.

Last night was one of the most important for me, even if it doesn't seem that great. This is the one that has me thinkin'. Last night on 6/30/08, we downed Morogrim Tidewalker. Yeah, not a big deal, but for me it really was. Forget that we got him within our first month of raiding (6/2/08 was our very first raid), and forget that we got him in our 13th (spread across three separate raids) attempt. This one was big for me because it was our first truely "All us" progression.

I am not talking about PuG's though. I am referring to the fact that before we had ever done Gruul, We had (we being the raid/guild leaders) been there before. Same with Mag. Same with Lurker. Unlike those, Tidewalker took hours of poring over strats, stats, and shats (sucky attempts), to come up with a solution that fit our player set. Numerous healing setups and murloc-tank permutations abounded, and we were able to really figure it out, and we did it by ourselves. Obviously we had knowledge of giants to lean on, but it really brought a huge sense of accomplishment to myself (and our whole guild). For them it may not be as special as it was for me, but listening to the cheers and whoops and hollars on vent made me feel really proud.

These are the milestones that really thank you for a thankless job. It makes all the mediating, and recruiting rigamarole really worthwhile. It makes the countless hours administrating the website and moderating forums worthwhile. It makes the sometimes-painful gearing runs all worthwhile. It even makes the extra money spent for the website, vent, and domain hosting worthwhile.

In short, it was super-rad, and it will be hard to beat, but there's a lot more game where that came from, and I am sure the first pieces of T5 that get handed out will be so sweet in their own respect, as well as the first bosskill we get in TK, and beyond!

And even if they never read it, I would like to thank all those in our guild. You work hard, you play hard, and you get the job done. I appreciate all that you do to better your play, to help each other, and to simply rock the house.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Two weeks of work..

So, two weeks of being an official raid-guild will be here on 6/12/08. Overall, I'd like to say that I think that things have gone extremely well. There are a few bumps and bruises, but it is all a part of trying to set up a guild. One thing I've learned well as a GM of a guild, is that you cannot keep everyone happy, including yourself. Yes, you are the GM, and yes you have all the power, but the folks in your guild are those that empower you. So in essence, as a GM you are there to fascilitate their needs as much as you can on a raiding basis, and you will have to make a compromise or two.

The tricky part about being a GM is you have to be a good example. We have a group of players in our guild that throw kara runs together on a regular basis, and they all have alts that they bring. That's fine by me, but when it's a group of nine, and half their alts are in other guilds, it starts to look really bad. It gives off the impression that those involved are unwilling to run with anyone else in the guild, thus creating a "Boy's Club." Yeah I know we don't want to run with everyone all the time, but it certainly helps bring the guild together if more people get included.

As a GM I have taken it upon myself to set the example. I put together a weekly kara run for those that are trying to achieve raid status, and that need to get more gear and practice. I advertise it throughout the week and end up running it on a Saturday. Unfortunately, though I usually end up picking up all the people that got left out, and if I ever have to ask someone to step out, I feel extra bad. Sometimes these runs can be painful if we can't bring in any of our overpowered people.

So why would I put myself through this? Yeah, I don't need anything from Kara, and yeah, I don't even need any badge loot, but it sets a precedent within my guild that I think needs to be resonated througout - that everyone should be included. As a side bonus I also get to run with as many people as possible, and it helps me to get a feel for how they are as raiders, and as people, so I can more effectively be in a position to help them out, or bring them along as necessary.

Recruiting is always an interesting topic for me. I spend a lot of time on other guilds' websites looking into the recruiting process (or at least applications). I do this so I can get a better grasp of how I can go about this process. I am not in charge of recruiting, but I am the backup when our recruiting officer is unavailable (which he thankfully hasn't been yet..WHEW). I also have found that I actually really enjoy going through other guilds' applicants, if for no other reason than to try to get to know these players through their applications. I am not sure if this helps me at all, but I like it a lot. ChickGM has three really good posts on this process so far (applications, good bad and ugly of apps, interviewing -- post app). At any rate.. What is the point here? I guess my point is that when you come up with an application process, make sure everyone has to go through it, even 'shoe-ins' that you know will make it. It's all about fairness, and showing everyone that even you cannot subvert the rules.

There are a few other things I'd like to talk about, but this blog is already getting too long..
I will wrap up with a quick update to my travels, as well as the new guild's.

I have spec'd back to Elemental.. Enhancement was fun while it lasted, but Elemental is just so much better a spec for me. Incursion has downed Gruul twice, and got Magtheridon on its first shot. We already had many experienced in those instances though, so its not a huge accomplishment, but its pretty cool that on the first day of week 3 as a guild, we will be downing The Lurker Below, and maybe trying another boss or two in SSC.

Thanks for reading!!