Teambuilding from Scratch

I left WoW in late spring of 2007, burned out from the stress of trying to hold together a fragmenting group. A lot of the raid had left to join other friends on other servers for the expansion, and others were taking the expansion slow. Some of the core group had pushed quickly to the new level cap and were raring to get raids in, causing tension. They wanted deadlines set for people to hit max level, something I staunchly opposed. When it became clear I wouldn’t push people faster than they wanted to go, most of the gung-ho raiders left.

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What remained was disorganized and, in many cases, bitter from the infighting that had characterized the last few months of raids pre-expansion and the post-expansion disagreements. The heart and soul of the group was gone, so I did what I could to make sure people would land on their feet elsewhere and, burned out myself, moved on.

A few months later, I was pulled back into WoW by a new group of friends. I’d moved across the country for my job and while they’d all played WoW before, they’d never raided and in some cases had never reached max level. It seemed like a nice way to relax, and I missed the game, so I came back, fully expecting that I could avoid my old haunts. This was easier, because we rerolled on the opposite faction, so I had a lot of content I’d never seen and could leisurely play through.

Old habits die hard. Without even trying, I was experimenting and optimizing, and had a newly max-level character in appreciable gear in a couple of months. I’d passed by people who had 60-level head starts on me and gotten the attention of the leader of the guild I was in, who’d already heard stories about me and saw me as a way to get to see top-end raid content that he’d never seen before.

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It’s worth noting at this point that the guild’s leader was, to put it politely, incompetent. Capricious and thoughtless, he would demand that the guild come together to do some activity or another, most of which he wanted to brand with his own ‘creative’ twist. It wasn’t enough simply to run a dungeon, we would run it without a tank, or without DPS, “for an element of fun”. Prior to my joining, these efforts were doomed to failure– because I was geared and familiar with playing the game at high levels, I could often push through these nonsense restrictions, which only fueled more.

It got bad enough that several of us created our own channel to get away from the guild leader, calling it “element of fun” as a jab at his scattered whims. It was through this back-channel communication line that we started having fun with the game again, free to talk and have fun without worrying about the constant reactions of the guild leader, who was insecure enough to feel threatened whenever anyone had an idea other than him. It was here that we started talking about raiding again, and where I started building a new team.

I’d had some friends who I’d left behind when I played WoW previously, particularly from college, who I’d kept in touch with but had never played with. I rolled a new character, different from my rogue, and offered to level up with them, and we could all be a group. None of them had formed any particular ties to where they were before, and so were happy to level up something new and different.

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We also pulled in people from elsewhere on the server that we’d met, slowly forming a core. A few of my former LNR raiding buddies had left and missed having contact, so I pulled them in as well. We had a motley crew of players of vastly differing skill levels, but I had a good handle on how to run a group, and the 10 or so of us were a lot easier to manage than the 80 or so I’d been managing before.

The biggest issue I had was timidity. Most of these players had never played the game at a high tier before, so there was a tendency to wait, heal up to full, wait for full mana, ask three or four times if everyone was ready, and so on before a pull would happen. It was polite and thoughtful, which I appreciated, but it wasn’t conducive to exciting runs or holding everyone’s attention. A dungeon run that could be completed in 25 minutes could take more than an hour, and people who could only be on for 30-45 minutes were twitchy about committing to something that might take that long.

I gently encouraged faster pulling, but it didn’t take. I had flashbacks to old LNR days, when a hunter would pull mobs well before people were ready and we’d all come together once danger was imminent. I had a pack of throwing knives on my rogue, and could easily pull the next pack and force the tanks and healers to react lest we all die. Stealing a comment from our old raiding days, I’d throw a knife at some nearby idle enemies, declare “hlep!” as they attacked, and see how the group handled it.

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As it turned out, the group figured it out pretty damn quick, and we went from slow progress to aggressive powerpulling in short order. Our tanks would start pulling on their own, just to stop me from creating chaos, and one of our healers started being able to heal through truly ridiculous situations largely, I think, from not realizing that he shouldn’t have been able to do so. I’d started with a group of timid, inexperienced players and quickly had a successful crew. We never raided in Burning Crusade, but by the time Wrath hit, we were a well-organized, high-functioning group, working our way through all of the content in Wrath from start to finish, very close to keeping pace with content releases.

This group has stuck with me for more than half a decade at this point, and while the precise makeup of the group has changed a bit over time, it’s been these folks that have jumped games with me for years. Even when we’re not playing the same games, we’re in communication and we’re talking about what we like and don’t like. It’s this group that fumbled our way through Karazhan once or twice and it’s this group that will be working at and taking down Turn 9 this weekend.

I could tell more MMO stories, but they’d all center around this group, so this is about the point at which I leave off on the game progression. Since they’re probably reading this: Thanks for sticking around, y’all. It’s been awesome, and I wouldn’t be looking forward to Heavensward (and every other game we play) anywhere near as much were it not for this crew.



Source: Digital Initiative
Teambuilding from Scratch

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