Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why I prefer a Stopwatch Guild

I’m in a Stopwatch guild. Thanks God for that.

I've spent so long time in this guild that I had started to take it for granted that everyone's on time whenever we make an appointment. Tam's post the other day reminded me of that this is probably rather an exception than a rule in most guilds.

Tam shared some of his frustration at the constant delays of 20-40 minutes after the scheduled raid start. Those who bothered to get online in time had to spend this time just impatiently waiting, which hardly is what I would consider fun.

(Oh, and here I'll make a short break here for a message: Tam is not badmouthing his guild, it's not like his previous breakdowns. He assures that he loves this little bunch of nice people, it's just that they need to work a bit on the formalities. There's no incoming drama as far as we know of yet, they just have to find a little more structure. OK? Now, back to the topic!)

Starting on time
I'm in a Stopwatch guild and this means that we - ooohh, crazy thought! - begin our raids on the scheduled hour. The first pull is made no later than the starting time - in 10 mans as well as in 25 man raids. If you’re not present at the destination for the night by then, buffed and on your toes, ready to go you can be pretty certain that you’ve been replaced once you come online (provided that there were any reserves available). Even if it's only a couple of minutes past the official start, you'll be replaced if possible.

You may have an every so good reason to be late – a car breaking down, a computer having issues or unforeseen happenings at work. We understand and we feel for you and we don’t rage about it. Nevertheless – if you’re late and you didn’t make an agreement about it on beforehand, someone else will get your spot. As simple as that. There is no academic quarter in our guild (an old practice in the Swedish universities, allowing students to turn up 15 minutes late to the lectures). We start when we said we would start and if you’re not there you’ll miss the show, just like you'll miss your airplane if you're late to the terminal. It will take off on schedule.

Is it harsh? I don’t think so. The rules are the same for everyone, and by sticking to them, we set a certain standard. Everyone knows what's expected and new players adapt to it quickly.

Admittedly it sucks a bit to miss the entire raid if you're 10 minutes late because your boss kept you at work. But on the other hand, it feels pretty good to know that you won't keep anyone waiting. You can rest assured that the raid will move on without you and you don't have to feel distressed and bad about letting them down.

However, one of the side effects of this is that people generally are on time. The latecomers are exceptions, not the rule.

Stopwatch guilds for casual players
Someone might dismiss the Stopwatch mentality, arguing that it's good for hardcore bleeding-edge guilds, but not so much for a casual guild. There is some sort of general view that casual players don't want or need to take their online commitments as seriously as others. Real life comes first, and it's only a game, heh?

I think this is wrong. Plain wrong. Actually I believe that players who are casual in the manner that their game time is limited, are the ones who benefit most from a punctual raid start.

We who have left our single and student years behind us, normally can't play every night, and because of this we plan the online time we have carefully, to get the most out of it.

Every raid we sign up for is the result of a balancing act. We negotiate with our spouses and our children. We work extra other nights so we can finish our work earlier to make it in time for the raid night. We hire baby sitters and we make dinner arrangements with friends and family so they won't collide with the guild appointment.

All of this takes a huge amount of effort and energy, and also has the consequence that once we're online, our gaming time is precious. Spending it hanging around, waiting for latecomers is the last thing we want to do. Then we'd rather cancel the arrangement altogether.

Being on the same page
I don't know why, but Tam's post made me slightly upset. I guess I feel angry on behalf anyone who has to wait around just because people suddenly decide to have a smoke rather than to start on time. If I was in that situation, it would drive me absolutely nuts. I'd rather PUG the raid to be honest than to spend time just waiting for others.

But if I let go of my anger I can hear what Spinksville commented, wise as always:

"You will need a raid where everyone is on the same page".

That's so true. Let the people who freely want to go away for a smoke or join the raid whenever it suits them best raid together! As long as they share their viewpoint on this, there's no harm in it. To each one their own.

For me however, the choice is easy. I want to raid in a Stopwatch guild - or not bother about raiding at all.


Ophelie said...

I was actually talking with a guildie two days ago about punctuality being even more important in a casual guild, for the same reasons you mentioned. When you have raiders who only get 2-3 hours a week to game, every minute is precious and starting raids late is really unfair to them.

My guild is pretty good about starting on time, although they're more lax about it than I'm used to. When I took over a 10 man raid, I made it clear that unless exceptional circumstances occur, if we can't pull exactly on time, I'm calling the raid. It's nothing personal, it's just that I have better things to do than sit around wondering if people will show up.

I don't think I could last more than one raid in a guild that starts late, regardless of whether they're "casual" or "hardcore".

Flex said...

I think a regular lack of punctuality shows a lack of courtesy - an inability to treat your guildmates as people instead of pixels. Or maybe it's an attempt to be 'in control', to give the (perceived) 'system' the finger and for an individual to say 'whatever, I'm paying for this with my money, playing it on my time, and so I'll play it in my own way'.

But in either case, it's my opinion such behaviour should never be tolerated by any guild, regardless of social philosophy. If a schedule is set, people should keep it. Guild leaders should have more guts and care less about people criticising them when dealing with issues like this. They just might earn some respect along the way.

After all, raiding is a team sport.

Aricelle said...

Unfortunately in the guild I'm in, invites don't go out until 5min after its supposed to start. Myself, I make sure I have everything go over to the portal and then read my book until everyone is ready. /sigh....

Tessy said...

Couldn't agree more!

Len said...

I suppose the key part is "You will need a raid where everyone is on the same page".

If half your guild want to start the first pull exactly on the advertised start time, but half your guild aren't that bothered and will start to mosey towards your destination at some point around your start time it's a recipe for disaster. With any guild the key is communication, setting expectations and sticking to your raiding guidelines - whatever they are.

I dislike the implication that guilds who don't pull the first mob at the advertised raid time are 'bad' or you are 'bad people'. It entirely depends on your guild setup and rules.

Maybe if your only reason for logging on is to raid and you have nothing else to do with your guild then timekeeping is super important. I come from a different perspective where raiding is one of the guild's 'social' activities and I actually like my guild members... while we're waiting for a straggler or two we actually talk to each other, catch up on the day, discuss what raid we want to do or what boss to work on.

Raiding is not always a sport, it's not always about 'first, now, better than you'. I'm not saying that's a bad way to look at it - just that there ARE different perspectives out there and not every guild has to run in the same way to be successful and respectful.

Spinks said...

It really does make a huge difference in letting casual players raid. I mean, if you KNOW exactly when the raid is, then you can plan around it.

The other thing this put me in mind of was raids also ending on time. (This was brought up in comments this week and I thought it was a really good point.) If you work or need to be up early, you can't stay up late midweek. So it makes a big difference if your raid also uses a stopwatch for its end time.

blueberrytotem said...

Great post Larisa!

I as well am one of these that believe stopwatch attitude is far more important in "casual" or "social" guilds, because of the limited playtime option.

"guilds who don't pull the first mob at the advertised raid time are 'bad' or you are 'bad people'."

In the very essence, those people are bad. Or inconsiderate at least. If an event is scheduled either in RL or in game or wherever and you confirm the attendance, especially if you are making 10% of the needed people, you should make damn sure you are there on time for them.

As well, 'this is just a game' quite does not cut it. If you are in the guild for people, then your main goal should be socializing and not damaging those people. You can give me all this 'just a game' thing all you want wiping all night on Marrowgar - I do understand not everyone is so hooked to research out of the game or to actually work real hard to progress and I can appreciate it.

But not being on time on set appointment and wasting scheduled time of 9/24 other people? That does make one a "bad" person. It shows lack of respect and understanding for other people you play and share your fun-time with.

Chewy said...

Completely agree.

In real life I'm not overtly punctual but in game I am and it's for the very reasons you state. Work I have to do, whilst I'm fortunate enough to enjoy it, it's nevertheless a necessity.

Game time is entirely my choice, my time, my relaxation and therefore even more precious than the work hours.

I have no patience for people wasting my most precious time.

Anonymous said...

Actually I see no reason why someone should doubt your opinion, that being in time is not suitable for casual raiding.

We are a casual community and because everyone comes and goes as he likes, it is just natural, that we have to agree on a set time.

But in contrary to your "Stopwatch" start mentality, it works in both ways. We start and end the raid at a set time.

Sure, we have cases, where someone knew he would not make it in time and gave someone a call, so we started with the trash and he joined us later and we had smooth runs where we decided to extend the raid time, for one final try.

In case we exceeded the raid end, a "Ready check" determines whether everyone is ok with another try. One "no" is enough to end the raid.

Therefore I would underline your point and say casual raiding makes accurate "stopwatching" even mandatory.


mentalshaman said...

Very much agree Larisa. I had a similar moment of upset when reading Tam's posts. Casual raiding does not, in my opinion, exclude the use of particular structures. It doesn't mean you can act like an ass and waste people's time.

However if the entire guild is happy/okay with dawdling, then there is nothing wrong with being more lax about things. In my own guild we strike a happy medium between expecting everyone to be on time, but making allowances for people who happen to be late due to circumstances outside their control.

If one or two people are late, and it isn't a main tank, the RL will often start clearing trash without them. If it looks like they won't turn up at all, a back up is brought in before we reach the first boss.

That said, someone hanging around in Dalaran is definitely called out about it.

Maybe if your only reason for logging on is to raid and you have nothing else to do with your guild then timekeeping is super important. I come from a different perspective where raiding is one of the guild's 'social' activities and I actually like my guild members... while we're waiting for a straggler or two we actually talk to each other, catch up on the day, discuss what raid we want to do or what boss to work on.

It's not so much that our only reason for logging on is raiding, but that we have limited time due to RL activities, and have likely put off other things to do doing this particular activity together. Sure we chat to each other in the down time and joke over vent, but we all enjoy actually doing something in game. We set out to achieve something together, and we don't let raids run over time so someone being late cuts into our team time.

If I've rearranged friends, or spent all day madly doing chores/homework so I'll have time to raid with my friends in the evening, I expect to be raiding, not sitting around waiting for someone who's not good at keeping appointments. As an adult my time is precious to me. I'd be mad at a RL friend if they kept me waiting at a Bar for them for 40 minutes, when it turns out they'd lost track of the time.

Len said...

I get that if you are trying to organise a raid, have a limited amount of time to play and people are dawdling for 15 minutes when they are online and SHOULD be ready or not showing up when they say they will then this is frustrating for everyone.

I think calling people bad for being relaxed about their attitude to raiding is a little egocentric though - not everyone perceives the game the same way. All I was saying is that some guilds have a different philosophy and attitude to raiding and it still works fine. You don't like it? Then don't be in one of those guilds.

I suppose I should explain that although we are 'casual' as in not progression focused, we raid 3 evenings a week and most of us actually spend quite a lot of time online outside of this. I'm getting the feeling that the attitude and make up of my guild is not the 'norm' :)

And no, we aren't stuck wiping on Marrowgar.

mentalshaman said...

Len, I get where you are coming from, but to paraphrase you - I dislike the implication that people who care about raiding and about timekeeping don't care about people or the social aspects.

If you are happy in a guild that does not set a timekeeping structure for guilds, that's fine and dandy and works for you. For me guild culture is about respecting the limitations and capabilities of others in the guild, and that includes respecting their time so they respect mine.

I am friends with a lot of the people I raid with, but not all of them, so I foster respect for their time so that they will foster respect for mine. If you're lucky enough to be in a community and are good friends with every single person in that community, I'm rather jealous. As it is, common courtesy as part of guild culture is extremely useful to many guilds.

Markus said...

Being on time was never a strong point for my guild. When you have 3 hours put aside to raid and you lose the first 30 minutes waiting for people to log on, it was a recipe for disaster.

We would take a less than optimal group and we would end up getting stuck on the same raid boss and progression was at a standstill. It led to so much frustration that a separate 10-man group was formed on a different day/time that only these 10 people could make and they had the perfect group makeup, effectively screwing any other 10-man groups.

A stopwatch guild is perfect for me. Unfortunately, I have never been in one. :(

Jen said...

My guild is not terribly punctual... which doesn't mean people feel like they can skip raids whenever they feel like it. However, we usually don't start on time for various reasons - people still in Darnassus buying flasks with HS on cooldown, stuff like that.

But I don't mind. I'm not a punctual person (IRL either), so I don't expect it of others. Sometimes we get *too* slacky, but as long as it doesn't waste half an hour it's fine. If someone's running late/has a cat on fire/we don't have a warlock, we just start on trash without him/her. If someone plain misses a raid/is very late, it's always a real problem which was more important than the raid.

Personally, I prefer this pace. I did a few runs with my bf's (more hardcore) guilds and I didn't enjoy them as much. I like my raids (and heroics) to go slower... I can understand some prefer everything to be uber-fast (including my boyfriend, which is why we're in different guilds and usually don't do heroics together), but for now I'm happy where I am.

tufva said...

Absolutely agree!

When we first starting raiding we were doing Karazhan 1 evening per week for 3 hours. We also only had 10 people that wanted to raid at first, so being there on time was important both for not missing out on the fun, but also as you were needed for the group.

Since then much have changed and with the move to 25s we have written some rules on our forums about time-keeping. Invites go out 15 minutes start time. If you haven't told anyone you will be late (in-game, via forum etc) then you will be replaced. Like you said Larisa - it is not that we don't understand that bad RL things can happen, but it is not fair for 24 other people to be held hostage by someone else's boss/spouse/child/cat/traffic jam. We did find though that it is useful to put this kind of rule into writing on the public part of the forum. That way if you do get a joiner that is not keeping time you can point to it and say "That's part of the rules, you agreed to them when you joined". Makes it less personal and more about how the guild does things.

We also operate a soft and hard stop to the raid. 23.30 server time is soft stop. If we feel that we could achieve something meaningful in the next 30 minutes (like we are really close to downing a boss for instance) we will check who can stay. There is no pressure on anyone to stay beyond this time and even if we do keep going we will stop at midnight server time.

It is so easy for people to keep saying - just one more go. But most of us have to get up early next morning and be able to function at work. So our final try of the evening will start no later than midnight and that will be the final try, no ifs, no buts.

I used to think that having written rules about such things was really "hardcore" and over the top. But actually I have found it immensely helpful as it means that there is never an instance where someone can say they didn't know how we do things. It's all there on the public forum (and on our website) and they are supposed to have read it when they apply.

Len said...

I totally see your point! I think I should just count myself lucky that we've managed to gather and hang on to a bunch of people with the same philosophy, attitudes and desires when playing WoW :)

I suppose respect and co-operation come in many forms depending on your situation. And it's not to say there are no structures within our raids, just they are... flexible to an extent.

Although my uh, 'affectionate' nickname in guild is StaLen so maybe I'm just better at 'motivating' people than I think ;)

Anonymous said...

Paraphrased from my comment on Tam's site, my apologies for no original content as my feelings on this subject are quite unwavering....

I could go on and on about the significant aggro I (and am pretty sure most of us) on occassion have gotten from the wife, kids, etc., regarding raiding. I don't think it is too much to ask is that when signing up to raid, you make the committment to be there on time and prepared. Make no mistake, casual can still equal serious - at least in my mind. It simply means that I have other committments/responsiblities in life that make it impossible (or undesirable) to be a slave to my raiding toon. Namely, enjoying myself with my SAN guildies.

Long story, short: Do unto others.......


Larísa said...

@Ophelie: yeah, being strict with starting on time isn't necessarily something that comes with being "hardcore" or "casual". Although I dare say that I suspect it's more common among guilds that call themselves "social" or "casual" to slack with the raid start. Maybe I'm prejudiced, but it's my impression.

@Flex: I have the picture of a team sport as well. If a football player is late for a set match I doubt that they'll let two teams hang around waiting for her to turn up. They'll just go on, taking in replacements.

: We normally start invites 20-25 minutes before raid start. What is important is that everyone in the guild is clear on what a set hour means. Is the scheduled time the time when invites begin or when you make the first pull? The really bad thing is when half the guild has one idea about it and the other half another.

@Len: I don't say that your way is a bad way. I just write about how I like my guild to be in those issues. And if you're happy with another way of doing it, and everyone in your guild is on the same page, that's really fine for you. It wouldn't work for me, but that doesn't mean that it won't work for others.

@Spinks: oh yes, I forgot about the ending. We have a strict stopwatch for that too. The raid ends at 11.30 at the very latest. Period. It doesn't matter if you have the feeling that the boss would go down next try if you did it. There will ALWAYS be a next try. In order not to wear your raiders out you really need to be transparent about the raid hours and hold to them strictly as you do to any promise.

: thanks!

@Chewy: I'm actually pretty punctual at work too. People coming too late for meetings really bug me. I see the cost of it ticking away. It's a fortune! The worst thing is that the highest ceo at my job has the habit of being 15 min late for meetings as well. With such an example it's hard to change the culture. It's the same in guilds. If you have expectations on being in time, it's crucial that the officers are that as well.

@Usiel: In 25 mans the set ending time is really when we end. In 10-mans we might do a ready check to see if people want to have another go. But one "no" is enough to call it and there are NO hard feelings or words of disappointment whatseover about that. Which I think is very cool.

: In reality, especially recently, with people dropping out of the game, we don't always have any reserves to put in. And then we'll start clearing without the latecomers as well.

@Markus: aww that sucks. Losing the 30 first minutes is horrible - and at least for me, it puts me out of balance, making it harder to focus and perform.

@Jen: When I'm raiding on my main I want a decent pace and discipline. When I'm doing my staggering attempts to tank on my bear alt I want to take it slowly and casually. In my world there's room for both approaches.

@Tufva: I definitely think it's good to have written rules about this to lean back on if anyone is in doubt. It makes it easier for everyone, especially the officers. It's worth the effort to put it down.

: Maybe you need to have been exposed to some spouseaggro to fully understand the point and value of being punctual.

But there are different sorts of guilds. When I can't commit myself to a certain time, when I want a more relaxed way of playing with possiblities to go away for RL stuff, SAN is a good option.

Linedan said...

Being on time and prepared for a raid is not "hardcore" or "casual." It's a matter of respect for the 9-24 other people that have also carved a few hours out of their busy lives to come along.

I'd go nuts in a guild where behavior like what Tam talked about was tolerated. Our raids do start late sometimes, but that's mainly due to picking up substitutes or waiting for a few key members that we know are going to be just a couple minutes late but are hung up by RL (usually stuck in traffic getting home from work!). They start as on-time as we can possibly get them, and they end on-time as well.

Sassafras said...

I was in a guild a while back that was "casual" and kept confusing my frustration with them not showing up on time and not showing up when they signed up as a desire to be "hardcore".

I ended up just leaving, They were a younger group and had trouble with me even voicing my disapproval of the 4 of them suddenly deciding to be an hour later without thinking about the rest of us who planned our day correctly and worked to make sure we would be logged in, buffed, and ready to go on time.

Being on time, and expecting others to be on time isn't hardcore at all. It's respectful. Hopefully more people will learn to feel that way.

Anonymous said...

"Every raid we sign up for is the result of a balancing act.
Spending it hanging around, waiting for latecomers is the last thing we want to do. Then we'd rather cancel the arrangement altogether".

Spot on Larisa :) It would seem I'm playing in a stopwatch guild as well, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else! What makes other people think their time is more valuable than mine, ingame as well as in real life?

Bristal said...

Irks me no end. Obviously none of these people ever played on an organized sports team where game time means game time.

Beromalann said...

My guild has just started talking about this again. Usually we are very good about start/stop times. Invites go out 15 minutes prior and people are expected to be at the instance ready to go at start time. It seems that lately more guildies are logging on right at start or a little after and summoning has become far more commonplace. We actually do have 'rules' for this on the guild website that we can point to and the GL is making a big push to remind people of that. My own feeling right now is that the tardiness/perception of laziness is more a symptom of some changes to team makeups recently. All 3 of our 10 man teams have had either 1 or 2 people switched out for various reasons and I believe it'll all be fine in a week anyway.

All that being said, I believe strongly in having solid start/stop times. Most of our guild members have work and child schedules to juggle, so time is very precious to us and it is important that our WoW scheduling go as smooth as possible. It's very much about respecting your fellow players when it comes to timing. Just my 2 copper. And now, back to work...yuck...