Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture

Mapping progress: A peek at a guild on an upward swing

December 03, 2011 By: Ladan Category: Cataclysm, raiding guild

So what is life like when you’re not quite an elite guild but you’re also very competitive and driven to succeed? Well, that’s the case for a lot of guilds. Think of things this way. According to current data on a tracking site, we’ve about 21,000 guilds that have killed Morchok on normal mode. That gives us a general idea of the number of groups that are out there forming some sort of association intent on raiding, even at the most casual level. Out of those 20-odd thousand guilds, a lot of attention tends to get put on the top 50-100 guilds, the ones we lovingly (well, I lovingly at least) call the “elite” guilds. And then attention seems to fade away. But what about the guild that’s ranked 200th? 300th? That’s impressive still, right? They’re probably server first at least and in the top 1-2% of raiding guilds.

In my research I’ve not only spoken with the elite raiding guilds. I realise that my blog may have given that impression but that’s because I usually limit my public discussions to those elite guilds (with their permission) as I figured that’s of more “interest” to the reading public. Of course, by doing this I may have unintentionally suggested an elitist attitude toward the different types of raiding guilds out there. Nothing could be further from the truth. I myself have spent a great deal of time playing with and researching casual, social, hard core, semi-hard core, and other types of raiding guilds and find them all remarkable in their own ways. Sure, a more socially driven guild may not be as competitively-oriented as the top 10 ranked raiding guilds, but their orientation toward and expertise with the social and group dynamics can say something just as important about what’s going on in raiding as what we’re learning from competitive raiding guilds.

I had a recent discussion with what I’d term a “hard core” guild named Imperium ( on the Nagrand server, ranked 186 on 25-man raiding during the Firelands race. (Note: A more recent check of the standings has them at a 190 rather than 186, but this is largely due to higher ranked guilds changing status, name, or server.) I’d run into one of their co-GMs, Fenchurch, in the Paragon IRC channel and asked to interview them when he showed me something very intriguing that he’d created as a kind of motivator for improvement and a track record of what the guild had done over a period of time (in their case tiers 8 through 12). The graph is below. You may wish to click on it to see it better.

To explain in a bit of detail, the numbers on the graph denote the guild’s worldwide ranking in correspondence with the boss kill or heroic achievement. For example, their Heroic Rotface 25-man kill was completed on March 4, 2010, leaving them with a ranking of 537.

Now I can freely admit I’m a bit of a graph geek. This is always something a researcher like me gets a bit giddy about. Why? Well, it shows a pattern of progress and movement and indicates this particular guild’s focus on its own progress. And this was confirmed during the interview I conducted with Imperium. For the guild, their goals are, and have always been, about improving their own performance. While I’m sure they’d be thrilled to leap well above their previous 186th and prove a competitive challenge to other guilds worldwide, they are more concerned with improving their own performance and setting a new personal best, explains Fenchurch. And their goal is to get above 150th. This drive to improve began in the latest expansion, Cataclysm, and appears to have not slowed down since.

I asked Fenchurch if he’d had any goal or aspiration of orienting the guild toward being an elite guild–if he’d ever thought about making that leap from hard core to elite. “How could we do it,”  he mused. “Well, that depends on a lot of factors. I guess I could streamline the guild and try to go for it but I’d rather develop the guild members and improve them so we can achieve our goals together that way.” So becoming elite is not really a priority to the guild, despite the fact that Fenchurch has obviously given it some thought. This notion of concentrating on ensuring the guild itself is improved and its members supported to achieve more in terms of raiding suggests a very specific interest that a lot of raiders have toward personal and group improvement. That a game activity like group raiding can start to sound a bit more like a sports team or a business team really seems to transform the very idea of a game being just a frivolous activity with little goal or meaning.

I learned from talking to Imperium that they’ve played together for almost five years. I found this striking considering that the guild’s average age was early 20s. In fact, quite a few members indicated to me that they’ve been playing WoW (not necessarily with Imperium) since their early to mid-teens. “Growing up” with a game like WoW is not unusual and is also noticeable in guilds like Method, but I was very happy to see how close and amicable the guild was. They share contact details with each other, help each other through the ups and downs in life, and seem genuinely interested in each other’s well being. They’ve also arranged gatherings in real life, where some members of the guild have met each other over the years. It felt, to me, that there was quite a bit of your typical “young guy” humour floating around with quite a few inappropriate jokes and comments made here and there. But despite the rough banter on their Mumble server (don’t let your Gran listen!), I could tell it was all meant in good fun. I would suggest that the guild’s desire to protect its friendships and closeness will always be more important than trying to be “world first” or something, though clearly they want to do better than they did last time.

Imperium is the only really competitive raiding guild on its server and as a result struggles to attract new members from time to time. This can result in the habit of some guilds of coaxing new members from other, perhaps less successful raiding guilds on the same server. Newer member Yuana explained how he had come to Imperium and how leaving his previous guild presented a crisis of loyalty that probably sounds familiar to a lot of raiders who tend to stick with a guild out of a fierce sense of loyalty, even if the raiding progress is not satisfying:

Loyalty was a big issue for me. I  had never really left a guild before. It was kind of different. It’s a tough thing. Then all of a sudden people try and recruit you. The guild I left I wasn’t an officer, but I was helping where I could and I heard they were going to realm transfer because the core players were reduced to 9 players including me.

But for Yuana, since a realm transfer wasn’t an option, the change presented an opportunity to move to a higher performing guild and resolve his loyalty dilemma. I’d say this intense feeling of loyalty is often a reason that many people will stick in the guilds they join–playing with the people you feel connected to can often far exceed the perceived benefit of raiding at a higher level. But sometimes, a change in circumstances will allow the player to make a change that benefits their playing goals without severely compromising their need to remain loyal–and thus Yuana was able to join Imperium and raid at a higher level.

Structurally, Imperium follows a kind of controlled leadership approach. Fenchurch and Essem lead the guild as co-GMs, with Tatsu also functioning in an officer capacity. Many of the core functions and administrative duties of the guild seem to fall on just these few officers of the guild as Imperium found trying it another way (having more officers or delegation) did not work for them. Giving direction and keeping the guild oriented can be quite an intensive responsibility for so few individuals, something I have often noticed can be a bit risky for guild continuity, especially if one of the officers suddenly has to stop their involvement. But that’s not to say that this kind of guild structural construct is not uncommon among many serious raiding guilds, nor does it mean it’s a problematic approach for a guild. I’d say that in a structural arrangement such as how Imperium has it, leadership will often expect a high level of reciprocity by the raiders themselves as a kind of “payment” for taking on the lion’s share of responsibility for the guild. By showing up, doing their part, and building the guild atmosphere, a guild like Imperium appears able to sustain its chosen structure and its leadership appears willing to keep doing their part.

Something I often like to ask raiders is if they’ve see any positive impact from raiding on their daily lives, both at work/school or in their personal relationships. A few of the members mentioned some interesting experiences (with a bit of humour mixed in!):

Taldy: “I took the application from when I applied to Imperium and used the same answers to questions in a job and I got the job. I almost copied my application to Imperium to the job situation.”

Monkeygooch: “I told a girl I downed Ragnaros to get her attention.” (laughter)

Fenchurch: “I manage 35 people in this guild. Managers often manage, what, 4 people? They’ve got nothing on managing in WoW.”

Essem: “WoW and raiding has made me improve my speaking skills. I am getting confident speaking in public too. I am learning to become a teacher. I had an assignment and had to speak to 60 people and I think that helped me.”

I also like to ask raiders what they think are important qualities for being a successful raider and part of a team. The following were offered (again with a bit of humour laced in there):

  • Consistency
  • Commitment
  • Not wiping the raid
  • Make sure you want to do what you’re doing
  • Always be focused, know what the fight involves, know your class and the game
  • It’s about a good attitude; if people show up with a bad attitude, it won’t work
  • Calmness, not flying off the handle
  • People get very worked up about things and maybe they should not—it’s about taking criticism well

Kind of reminds me, again, of what we might say makes for being successful on a new job or while taking a course. Simple thoughts are expressed above but I am sure many raiders nod their head in agreement. We seem to know what works well for raiding and what assets a raider brings to the table–it’s a bit like a kind of code of performance.

I liked talking to Imperium and if I’d not had so many technical problems with the recording I would have even more salient notes to share! But suffice to say it’s been great to get to know an exuberant, fun-loving group that also loves raiding together. They’ve been doing some exciting things in preparation for Dragon Soul (like PTR access and even some preparation for the heroic content next week [and the guys assure me that they did NOT take advantage of that LFR bug that emerged during the first couple days of Week 1]) and I am certain that if they keep this up they will definitely improve their own goals and achieve a new personal guild best. I’d be willing to bet they might pleasantly surprise themselves!

Best of luck, guys! :)

8 Comments to “Mapping progress: A peek at a guild on an upward swing”

  1. Great read, thanks for writing about us! xoxoxo

  2. We all famous now,

    was a good read :)

  3. Thanks for the awesome article, hit us up after 4.3 and we’ll see how far we’ve come along ;D

    For anyone that may be slightly interested in what we’ve done as guild.. well it basically started just before the conclave of wind kill, I personally was in a new state of mind and coined together a new ethos for the guild of “Continuous Progression” and this has been active since.

    The general theme is to improve what we have and this has been accomplished by a multitude of things, a major one being reviewing raids and player performance in them simply by using logs/fraps. Anything from these reviews can then be acted upon to develop players and tactics bit by bit.

    By doing the above it helped quite a lot in having to rely on x-realm recruits, our member retention is at an all time high and things are generally on the up.

    This is only a part of what has been implemented, but it’s an insight ;)

  4. I just chanced upon this blog and I’m finding it absolutely fascinating. Ladan, you have a real gift for articulating otherwise unspoken intricacies and formalities of raiding and guild culture. I am ravenously devouring every word you write. Please keep it up – this is IMPORTANT stuff!

  5. Why on earth would you make the graph like that?

    There are basicly 3 different angles to read it. The numbers are one way, the header is one and the name of the boss is another

    It’s a real mindfuck if u may.

  6. Yet you still read it ^^

    But yeh, I guess the Bosskill #’s could of gone the same was as the Boss text.

  7. Just as a follow up in case anyone comes to read this article once again.

    We failed on all our goals this tier pretty much, I’ve gone back to the drawing board. We’ve lost 50% of members in our hiatus after clearing DS on HC, eithe r due to quitting, migrations etc.

    We’ll continue raiding on the server Nagrand for the first tier of MoP. The time off has been great, lots of self reflection but now it’s time to return to the beautiful struggle.

  8. Well, a year has nearly passed and we’re still around.

    As mentioned in previous comment we lost over half our player base during our break from March until MoP launch.

    Now MoP raiding has started, we’re raiding again and we’ve found ourselves in the highest rank we’ve ever had (Currently @ 142 in the World for 25M Raiding).


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