Lately I have been struggling with fits of nostalgia, mostly surrounding World of Warcraft and in the middle of it I had a revelation. I know the moment I started to distance myself from raiding, and the events that lead up to me ultimately checking out mentally. When the Cataclysm patch went live, Blizzard in their infinite wisdom decided to deeply incentivize guild-centric raiding. This was probably a no brainer for them, because in truth this is more than likely how the vast majority of people raided. If you wanted to raid… you went and found a raid guild… and life moved on normally from that point onwards. Since the early days of Vanilla however… we never really raided like this. There was a clear distinction between “The Raid” and “The Guild” that was significantly harder to maintain after Cataclysm. The reason being that we raided as an entity that was distinct from any of the guilds that came together to make it up… we raided as a coalition of sorts. In Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, in Burning Crusade it was mostly No Such Raid… and from late BC through Wrath we formed the Duranub Raiding Company. In each case the “raid” was an organization with a distinct leadership, made up of a bunch of people from different styles of guilds, with the one thing in common… that they wanted to clear content.
There was relatively no pressure to join any of the guilds, though folks did from time to time filter back and forth between them… nor was the fixed and set number of guilds that made up the roster. It allowed us to recruit people to fill slots, without asking them to give up everything they knew about the game from that point… just to raid. It also allowed people who were far more comfortable in five or six player guilds to remain in their small close knit groups, while still having access to a larger raiding life. It also solved some of the problems that you run into with guild based raiding, where individuals have the impression that if they join X guild they will have an automatic guaranteed spot in X raid. We were able to keep a completely separate infrastructure, with its own rules and tenets, and then fall back on our larger social guild for non-raiding interactions. It was a structure that felt so natural to me, and it almost seemed like a personal affront when the Cataclysm changes showed that they would be shifting focus away from this style of raiding, and only crediting kills to the guild with the largest number of members.
Death of Duranub
When Cataclysm launched we tried an experiment that ultimately failed. House Stalwart, the guild I had lead since the day World of Warcraft launched… attempted to consume all of the smaller satellite guilds for the purpose of “keeping the raid together”. So over night we quite literally went from a 600 character guild to an over 900 character guild. With this came so many different cultures and so many different “norms” that it rapidly became a jumbled mess. We also made the decision to focus on 10 player raid groups, and ended up splintering the raid into a bunch of teams. The problem there is that not all teams were created equal, and some of the teams had the deck stacked heavily including more of the seasoned raiders. So when the progress was not equal, it caused strife and competitiveness between the groups, where it had never existed before. Previously we were there Duranub Raiding Company… we were a group that made the easy things look hard… and the hard things look easy. The phrase “Duranub” tied lineage back to a saying that Shiana the leader of my first raid group said about the Late Night Raiders… that we were a “Durable Pack of Nubs”. In fact Duranub was our attempt to pull out the best things we experienced during Late Night Raiders and congeal them into a modern raid group.
In the process all of the officers sacrificed a lot of their time… and for me a lot of my sanity to keep it going. So when that disolved and we splintered into smaller raid teams… it introduced a whole mix of things that I just didn’t care about any more. I have never been a competitive player, and I have never cared about clearing content first. I am all about working together with my friends to make bosses dead, and to get new and interesting pieces of gear. So when I felt like I was in a competition with those same friends, it somehow tarnished the experience. When Rift launched it became all too easy for me to walk away from World of Warcraft, because the thing that had been keeping me in the game for so long… was this concept that I believe in so deeply. That you could gather up a bunch of disparate parts and make them into a raid group… and have fun doing it. The problem with raiding as a guild… is often times there are people that you end up raiding with… that you don’t want to share a guild with. They are great raiders, but lacking in the human being department. The end result causes you to make compromises… and either diluting the atmosphere of your guild… or sacrificing talent for the sake of culture. This is the part that I was never really able to put into words before now.
I have been nostalgic lately, and it seems to be far less about what we did in World of Warcraft, and more about who I was doing it with. When I said the other day that I didn’t wan’t World of Warcraft, I wanted the WoW that existed in 2009 during the Wrath of the Lich King patch cycle… I meant more than just the game. I experienced that game with a certain set of individuals and a certain feeling of togetherness… and that is the game that I want back more than anything. So many of the people I’ve raided with, I keep in touch with today on a regular basis… definitely more that any other group of people that have been in my life. I don’t talk to anyone from High School, and there is only a couple of folks from college that I keep in touch with other than my wife. I have a notoriously bad track record at keeping in contact with folks I have worked with in the past… but when it comes to folks I have raided with… three of the five other people in the AggroChat podcast are folks I have raided with since Vanilla. Rae and Dallian I’ve raided at least on some level with since Burning Crusade. Other than that there is a huge list of people that I have raided with in one fashion or another that I talk to on IM or Slack, which shows how much more important this group is to me than pretty much any other.
When you spend year after year with these people, even though it is only on voice chat… you develop a bond that is forged in shared struggle towards a goal. Having never really been serious about sports, maybe this is the same sort of bond you develop between your team mates, or the same sort of bond that soldiers come out of conflict with. Whatever it is, it is important to me… and what Cataclysm and our decision to abandon 25 player raiding did was to force me to choose between which group of friends to play with. House Stalwart forged on without me, and when I came back during Warlords out of the ashes of numerous groups was forged a really fun raid team. I got to experience the content with people that I had not played with in years.. and for a moment it was magical. The problem being… even then, it just wasn’t quite the same. It is impossible to sort out guild drama and raid drama… when both are mixed into one big amalgam. So as I sit back being nostalgic… I miss the era of non-guild raiding. If I could bring back any one element of the past, it would be that… and even put in systems like formal raid alliances to bolster that style of game play. If there is one thing I have learned throughout the years… it is that raid guilds are just not for me. What I want is to be able to have my friendly social guild… and raid effectively at the same time. While that might sound like wanting it all at the same time… I did have it for years, which is why I miss it so much looking back upon it.