Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Officers' Quarters: Unleashing your guild's bloodlust

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

The large majority of my columns since Officers' Quarters began three months ago have been PVE-focused. And even though Warcraft itself is certainly more PVE-focused -- by which I mean, you can't level up from PVP alone -- PVP is a large part of the game for many players. So I was glad to see the following question in my Inbox this week.

I am currently the PVP officer of a mid-level raiding guild, our Kara-1 team has been successful and Kara-2 is coming together nicely, but that's not the point. As we are on a PVP server, what should I do to encourage my guildmates to hit the BGs on the holiday weekends as a group, rather than farm elementals for 3 days straight? Also as a Raiding guild - do you believe that World PVP (read: Opposing Faction City Raiding) is a viable alternative to add more class-driven PVP to the game, and give our Raid healers a spot in a fun PVP tradition?

I have to admit that I've never been a big fan of PVP in games like this. I'd never roll a character on a PVP server -- the thought that I could be happily alt-grinding on tigers in Stranglethorn and get ripped to shreds by a higher-level player on the prowl just sounds incredibly unappealing. Even so, some of my most memorable Warcraft moments have occurred during PVP.

My guild is a Horde guild, and for whatever reason we've always had a soft spot in our hearts for pillaging Theramore. As a target it couldn't be more juicy: It's easy to get to, deserted by high-level characters, and relatively unguarded. Even better, Theramore Isle is home to a high-profile target -- Jaina Proudmore. Jaina is a fun fight. She summons water elementals and randomly teleports players out of her tower. Plus she drops a decent chunk of change as a reward, at least by pre-TBC standards. During our two-year anniversary last January, about a week before TBC was released, we descended on Theramore en masse, killed Proudmore twice, hopped on the boat to Menethil Harbor (which we were sad to see was now guarded by level 70 NPCs, but pushed onward regardless), and then took another boat to Auberdine. We finally got our comeuppance on the outskirts of Darnassus. It was a great night and resulted in some hilarious screenshots and stories.

So, in my opinion, a raid on locations of the opposing faction is a great bonding experience for the guild. You don't have to worry about class balance, consumables, raid IDs, or all the rest. You just take every warm body you can muster and run in, guns (and spells) blazing. Invite another guild or two for maximum carnage. And yes, as you say, even your PVE healers can have a blast without feeling the need to respec.

But how do you convince your guild to get on board for such an event, which offers very little in the way of tangible rewards? You have to whip up your players' bloodlust.

First, tell a good story on your guild's forums about a raid you experienced (either on the giving or receiving end) and talk about how much fun it was. Then share an idea you had for a raid of your own and how you would carry it out. Come up with a clever plan that piques people's interest, like a paratrooper incursion on Thunderlord Stronghold using Skyguard's Drapes. Set a goal, such as killing Rexxar, that gives the event a greater sense of purpose. Try to schedule it in advance on a night that nothing else is going on. People are always more willing to participate in events like this when they know about it ahead of time, as opposed to pulling them away from whatever they planned to be doing that night.

Most importantly, talk it up throughout the week prior and generate some buzz. Remind people about all the jerky things the other faction has done to your side of the server and how they're in dire need of some good old-fashioned payback. Get people worked up. Let the bloodlust flow!

Unlike city raids, battlegrounds have plenty of tangible rewards, but unfortunately most of them suck compared to sweet, sweet Arena gear. Arena gear is so good these days that it seems like the Arena is all people want to do. Not to mention that 3 out of the 4 current BGs have been around since September 2005 or earlier. So it's no surprise that many players are either burnt out on this part of the game or never really had much interest to begin with. After all, what happens in BGs has no impact on the world at large. You're in a safe little instanced bubble and, regardless of the outcome, you'll all get some honor points and a mark or three and go safely back to your cities to queue up again. BGs just don't appeal to the same sense of brutality and revenge that a city raid can.

I wish I had some good advice about how to drum up interest for BGs. Maybe someone out there has found a way, but honestly, either your members are interested in BGs or they're not. There are usually a few in every larger guild, however. So the only thing I can think of is to track down those few and find a time when you can all join a BG as a group. If people know there are already a number of guildies going in, they'll be more inclined to participate than if they were just joining the queue and hoping for the best. It never hurts to ask!

And as always, scheduling a BG night a few days in advance is going to be more effective than just tossing the idea out there from time to time. Obviously you'll have better luck on the bonus-honor weekends, but still the interest has to be there in the first place. If people need to farm so they have the necessary consumables, enchantments, etc. for your Karazhan runs, and they have limited playing time, you may be asking them to make a choice between earning some honor and rep or being prepared for Nightbane. For a lot of people, that's no choice at all.

But the truth of the matter is, until Blizzard adds better overall rewards or comes up with a truly innovative new battleground (Eye of the Storm is really just more of the same), it's going to be tough to find people to fill that 15-person Arathi Basin team. Personally, I'm hoping for a BG with player-controlled zeppelins, dwarven planes, giant steam tonks, shredders, and destructible buildings -- but that's probably going to be implemented right after hero classes (i.e.: never).

Of course, a good compromise between city raids and BGs are the world PVP objectives in Outlands, which the author of the question did not mention. But a lot of people lump them in with BGs as mostly a waste of time for level 70 characters, so you're probably facing an uphill battle there too.

One of Blizzard's perennial problems is finding ways to generate dynamic PVP experiences without disrupting PVE gameplay too much. It's a thorny issue given the population imbalances that a lot of servers suffer from. In the meantime, all you PVP officers out there are in a difficult spot, and I wish you luck!

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