In February, I put out a call for folks to join me in an experiment where we’d work through WoW in static groups, only questing and leveling together. Three months later, I’m in the same team I started with, and last Tuesday night, we blasted the doors off of Scarlet Monastery Library. In our three hour play session, we crushed Doan three times. On the final pull before Doan on the last run, our tank pulled all the mobs in the room at the same time, just to see if we could survive it. And we did! Awww yeahh…
All in all, it’s gone quite well for us, but I have to admit that the experiment as a whole hasn’t turned out quite the way I anticipated…
First, I never thought there would be so many people interested in trying static groups. I imagined something very informal, maybe just five people total if I was lucky (and I’d have proceeded if it were only four). I immediately got responses from more than four other folks, so we decided to take it a step further and form a guild. Currently, we have eight full teams of five, plus a couple new teams forming. We have a few people running with more than one team (all these teams are static), so they have more than one toon in the guild, but those teams are mostly accounted for by individuals. I admit we have some teams that haven’t run in a few weeks (as far as I can tell), but I’m still impressed with the way it’s taken off. It is very rewarding and fun to experience WoW with a static group of folks, watching players learn classes they’ve never tried before, and in some cases, experience content they’ve never seen before.
The biggest issue in getting the teams going has been scheduling. This isn’t too surprising. Getting five people’s schedules to mesh has, in some cases, stalled the team right from the start, but it seems as the teams rearrange themselves or people admit they maybe don’t have as much interest or time available as they initially thought, the teams fill up and get going. Teams that play during the same time slot every week have gotten the furthest. With my team, the few times we’ve tried to reschedule something for a different time, we’ve never been able to get it together. Either someone doesn’t check their e-mail in time or folks just have other commitments in the game or RL. It’s much easier for us to plan our playtime and the rest of our social schedules if we know that Wednesday (or now Tuesday) is Pox Night.
One thing I didn’t anticipate as the guild formed was how seldom the individual teams would interact with one another. I was so excited, for example, when The Game Dame, Dammerung, and Wulfa said they were interested in joining, because I sort of assumed this meant I’d be hanging out with them. We did chat quite a lot as we were all leveling our toons up to 10, but after that? I hardly saw them. If we were on at the same time, our teams were usually in instances, and with limited playtime, there wasn’t much time for extra chatting. My team is awesome, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but I had somehow assumed that we’d all be hanging out. That’s just not the nature of the experiment, however. We treat our characters as I described in those initial posts I made — the groups play just once a week and the toons are very definitely alts. We might log in to check auctions or do a little fishing and gathering, but there isn’t much overlap otherwise.
Initially, I found this kind of depressing. I was still happy to see new people coming in and really enjoyed reading about their adventures, but I hesitated to invite more friends to the guild because it’s not like I’d be playing with them. And it’s not like a normal guild where you say, “join our guild so you can hang out with me,” because if you join Pox Arcanum, there is a very slim chance you’ll even see me much less hang out with me. This issue has been remedied by many of us joining the Sidhe Devils over on Kael’thas, the guild led by none other than the Big Bear Butt Blogger. Most of us normally play Horde, and so it has been a great opportunity to roll some Alliance alts, kick back, and hang out. Some Pox folks have transferred their Alliance mains there as well, so at any given time, I can log on to Kael’thas and hang out with my fellow Poxers and play in a less structured manner. It’s been great fun.
Even though the Poxers may not overlap much with our play times, there is still a strong sense of community amongst the teams. The guild bank is perpetually full of stuff that folks have donated for other players to use. There are potions, crafting mats, stacks of food, patterns, non-binding quest items, bags, you name it. Folks seem to operate on an informal give-a-penny, take-a-penny kind of attitude, and people are quick to respond on the e-mail list to requests for items, too. Within our team, people that enjoy playing the AH do so, and send crafting mats to each other. I almost always have leather waiting for me in my mailbox, too, from someone who fished up a bunch of trunks the night before.
We have plenty of resources as a guild now, but we did start from scratch. This meant that as our first few teams were leveling up our toons, we had only the bags we found or had scraped up the silver to buy. Several times, I had to ditch my hearthstone to make room for something I needed to pick up for a collection quest! (And was it a bummer to have to run all the way back to town when I forgot to get a new one from the innkeeper? Yes, yes it was. But also quite funny.) I remember being so excited to find some six slot bags in the AH for just 2 silver each. It meant I had to postpone training for a little while, but my inventory felt positively roomy after that. Now I’ve got netherweave bags in all four slots and more than enough gold to train in all skills, but I’m not afraid to pull out my old lady voice and talk fondly about those old days. I remember how we chuckled as the clothies collected various pieces of the “frayed” gear set (“set bonuses through the roof!”), and when people found their first greens, they boasted in gchat about the epix that had just dropped… hee hee…
Through fishing and playing the AH, we managed to become financially secure. It actually wasn’t all that tough, either. Again, this was one of the surprises — starting over on a new server is really quite doable, even for an individual. It takes a little time, but there is no reason for a new person on a server to be begging for gold in Orgrimmar. Proceed directly to the fishing trainer, buy a pole and some lures, sell the stuff in the AH, and you will be fine. It has also been very interesting to see how the economies are different on the various servers I’ve played on now, particularly on older vs. newer servers. There is a lot of money to be made by the lowbies on older servers, because the old guard has a lot of cash to throw around as they powerlevel their professions and their alts.
Overall, I think Pox Arcanum has been successful in creating a sandbox for experimental alts. It’s an even better sandbox now than it was when we started, too, given the resources we have accumulated. Not all the groups follow the exact plan I initially described (some folks play without full groups some weeks, for example), but we’ve left it to the individual teams to decide how the teams play. The one thing we do ask is that folks do not level independently of some sort of static team. We wouldn’t want to become a regular guild, after all. 😉
As a social thing, Pox Arcanum fell a bit short, in my opinion. I have still met some very cool people there, however, and any time I run into someone while I’m checking auctions, I do like to stay and chat. My vision of it as a place for bloggers to hang out didn’t quite come true, though it’s clear why when you think about the restrictions on how we play. I still like the experiment itself, and wouldn’t want to change how we play, but I’m surprised this didn’t occur to me as the guild was forming. I suppose teams could come together for some Karazhan runs in the end though, right? 🙂