The Cost of Being a Goon

A while back I heard about a video of a Wintergrasp battle in WoW that had been won within 62 seconds thanks to a clever bunch of folks that piled around the relic door and used grenades and bombs from the engineering profession to blast it down.  I looked up the video and found that it was the notorious Goon Squad that had pulled it off.  A friend in my guild mentioned that the Goons had also once kited Jaina all the way to Orgrimmar, through the city, and into Thrall’s chambers where they had a showdown.  What a fun idea!  I decided to check out their website to see what else they’d been up to.

I was immediately met with a warning that I was not a paying member, but that if I clicked “ok” I could see the payment options for the guild.  Uh, payment options?   I clicked ok and was met with a summary of what it requires to be a Goon.

If you want the privilege of running with the Goons in WoW, it will cost you an additional monthly fee payable through Paypal, credit card, or direct bank account transfer.  They have four different membership plans, each allowing you access to different levels of raiding and guild activities.  The above Jaina/Thrall event, for example, was a “Platinum Only” event.  All those people involved pay an extra $50 a month on top of their regular WoW subscription fee to participate in this kind of thing, or just $40 if the economy-inspired price break had already occurred.

Beyond the membership fees, they invite people to buy gear, too.  If you’re low on DKP but really want to bid on a raid drop, no problem — you can buy more DKP for a dollar a point.  Seems they may allow some non-members to raid with them, in which case the person must pay $5-25 (depending on gear item level) for drops, payable before the raid.  They add “We do not accept gold as a USD substitute.”  How is this not against the Terms of Use, which says “you may not sell in-game items or currency for “real” money, or exchange those items or currency for value outside of the Game”?

For all this, the Goons must bring in an impressive amount of money, too.  They say these fees go toward paying full time guild employees, including the GM, raid leaders, and a sys admin to keep the forums and vent servers going.  They boast 1800 accounts, so even if these were all just $10/month accounts with no frills, that’s $18,000 per month that they pull in.  That’s the minimum.  You saw how many $40-50 accounts were running around in those videos, so it has to be quite a bit more. I’m sure some folks also buy DKP and gear, so I can’t help but wonder what they rake in.  And do they report it and pay taxes on it?

There are guilds of similar (or larger) size out there that seem to function perfectly fine with a GM, officers, and raid leaders, none of whom get paid by the membership.  I don’t know how many accounts Alea Iacta Est has, but with almost 5000 toons associated with the guild, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a comparable number of accounts to the Goons.  I suppose some would argue that the in-game experience the Goons offer is rare, however. It is an exclusive club and membership can potentially change the game completely for you.  But is it worth an extra $40 per month on top of your WoW subscription?

If it were a one-time fee to help defray the cost of the website and vent servers, I could see doing that.  Even a small yearly donation would not be unreasonable.  But, supporting the GM and officers so that they can basically live off of running the guild?  Sorry, I don’t think so.  The payment of real money for gear is absolutely ridiculous, too.  Pushing the boundaries is sort of their thing though, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.  Still, I’m surprised they get away with it.

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Edit: Evidently this is just another one of the Goons’ clever games and I fell for it.  They’re pretty good, aren’t they?

<–pwned

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Still here…

… and playing plenty of WoW.  It’s hard to believe a month has gone by since my last post, but as I’ve said before, blogging about WoW was really something that I did to keep myself occupied during the day when I hated my job.  Since I’ve quit that job, my days are quite different.  I still like to keep track of things though, so here’s a little update.

A few things have changed for me in the game.  Our guild hit the same summer lull that many others are experiencing, made a little more sad by the fact that our guild leader, who always brought so much life into our guild chat, has been away, busy with family.  He finally decided that it was best for him to step down and let someone more active take over the guild.  As a part of this, they decided to bring in a couple new officers, as well.

(You know where this post is going now, don’t you?)

I think I knew when the conversation started that he was going to ask me to be an officer.  I’m one of those ever-present people, reliable and friendly, and I’ve been unofficially one of the go-to people for new casters getting ready to raid.  I teach them about spell hit, tell them which rep grinds to do first, make sure all their gear gets enchanted, and set them on their way.  I sign up for every raid myself and continue run heroics with people that are gearing up, though I have about 300 badges and nothing to spend them on.

I hesitated a little when he asked.  I’d always told myself I’d never agree to be an officer, wishing instead to be just a cog in the machine.  But when he asked, I knew I had to say yes.  I’d had a conversation with him in vent one night where we both agreed we would never want to be promoted beyond where we were (me a peon, him already an officer).  There he was stepping up to become GM when the guild needed him, so I was inspired to step up, as well.  And frankly, my responsibilities aren’t really that different now after the promotion.  I do what I always did, plus I get a sneak peek at what’s going on behind the scenes and a chance to help steer the guild a little bit.

Almost immediately after the leadership change, the guild felt more active.  Parts of our website that hadn’t been touched since before Burning Crusade are being updated.  We are recruiting and already have a handful of new raiders to replace folks that are busy with summer vacations or just plain burnt out.  It’s kind of exciting, actually.  I’m proud to be a part of it all.

I’m still very focused on my priest.  Because her gear is pretty much set aside from a few pieces in Naxx and a bunch of stuff in Ulduar, I’ve been working toward some of the more laborious achievement endeavors to keep myself entertained.  I thought the Children’s Week thing might kill my interest in holidays, but I did all the Midsummer Fire Festival stuff and had a great time with it.

I also PvP a lot now.  I was honor capped for a long time before I decided to take advantage of all those Wintergrasp battles and start collecting gear.  I’m past 900 resilience now and have a discipline PvP spec that I switch to when I feel like running battlegrounds for an evening.  I’m very, very hard to kill.  Bwahaha… I’m plotting a 2v2 team with a friend to see if I like arenas.  Lots of other folks in the guild are getting into it, as well, so I’m hoping we’ll also manage a 3v3 and 5v5, since that’s where the real rewards are going to be post 3.2.

I still raid as shadow and consider that my primary spec.  To make my PvE/PvP healing swapping less costly, I decided to go discipline for my PvE healing as well.  I resisted this for a long time, maintaining that I loved holy and never wanted to change.  On our last Naxx raid, I was pulled in as a healer, so decided to give a discipline a try there.  Sweet jeebus, that is a powerful healing spec.  And not only that, my mana barely budged.  I think I only got below half mana on maybe two fights, one of them being Kel’thuzad.  Hot damn.

The guild is progressing quite nicely in our raids.  We’re clearing Naxx in one night, usually Friday night, so the only thing that slows us down is drunkeness.  Many of the better geared raiders have stopped signing up for Naxx, leaving room for some of the newer folks to join in the fun.  I’m hoping we’ll have two full raid teams soon, maybe even allowing us to put together the occasional 25.

We’re also doing well in Ulduar.  We’ve cleared the Siege, aside from Ignis, who we’ve only tried twice.  During the first raid, we weren’t really prepared.  (We hadn’t expected to get to him!)  During the second, we were trying the brute force DPS method instead of dealing with the adds.  We got him down to 35% twice, but then we’d always get destroyed.  Next week, we’re going to give the good ol’ Tankspot method a go.  We’ve also got Kologarn down, no problem, and are working on the trash before Auriya.  (We were prepared for the fight, but those Storm Tempered Keepers took us by surprise!  We’ll be ready for them this weekend.)

I’m feeling much better about things than I was a month or so ago.  I can see in my drafts folder several unfinished posts where I was pissed about something or another.  My last beefy post does have a lot of complaining in it, too.  Hehe… but stuff is okay now.  🙂

How are you?

A Few Steps Back

I’ve essentially given myself the week off from WoW.  I’ve been popping in to do a few dailies in the mornings and evenings, but I’m not doing much else.  I feel myself arriving at burnout.

Burnout has been precipitated by a few things.  Briefly…

School of Hard Knocks.  Yes, a damn achievement.  I stepped into the BG’s briefly to attempt some of these and it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to get them done.  It was complete and utter misery.  I can’t remember the last time I was so angry at the game.  I said, “%^&* it,” turned in my whistle, and tried to get used to the idea that I wasn’t going to get the meta-achievement done. *sigh*

Guild “progression” issues.  I feel like we give up too easily.  Last weekend, after downing Flame Leviathan, folks were like, “well, let’s go back and finish off Naxx!” since there was overlap with the group that had been there earlier in the raid week.  WTF.  We’d been in Ulduar less than an hour and the raid leader was taking us back to Naxx?  I was furious.

Minor guild drama.  Minor, but I felt pretty uncomfortable with the situation.  Our guild leader doesn’t play much any more because of family obligations and while the officers mostly do well in taking care of things, they’re not as … patient?  Attentive?  Er… ?  I don’t know.  I feel like the guild is slipping.

Other things in the guild that I could normally ignore have also been bothering me.  Again, it’s stupid interpersonal stuff that I’d been content to stay out of previously.  Now, I feel myself wanting to say something, even though it might make trouble.  Of course, I don’t … but, is this me?   What happen to the old nice me?

Yes, this is the new crotchety me, crispy around the edges.  I see burnout just around the corner. I’m getting mad at stupid things.

So, I didn’t sign up for any raids this week.  After I’m done with dailies each day, I log out and play something else.

The thing I look forward to most now is playing with our static group each week.  We’d hit a bit of a rut for a while there, skipping weeks as folks had RL stuff to deal with, but we’ve been playing pretty consistently lately.

This week, the static group is doing some non-dungeon activities, gathering up all the ZF quests. I’m really excited, given that that’s as far as our Pox Arcanum group made it, though it’s somewhat bittersweet because of that.

On Leadership and Hobbies

Whenever I enter a new hobby that involves dealing with other people, I generally go in feeling like I just want to be a part of the group, not in charge of anything. I’m in charge of enough at work that for my free time activities, I’m happy to let someone lead the way. I will just be a little cog in the machine, I always tell myself… But if I’m associated with the hobby for some length of time, I inevitably end up in charge of something. I don’t know how it happens, but it happens every time.

About ten years ago (wow *creaks bones*), during my aspiring novelist phase, I was part of several online writing communities. A friend and I got an idea for a new kind of community and collaborated to get it going, and we ended up working as co-moderators of this writing group for something like four years. It was surprisingly successful, and my energy for it was seemingly limitless. I thought about it any spare moment I had, planning things for the group, and sneaking in computer time at my job to work on it during the day. We got a write-up in a popular ISP’s monthly publication for its users, and found ourselves inundated with hundreds of new writers within the first year. When the co-moderator and I finally decided to close the group down, we were more than 500 writers strong.

Part of the reason we decided to dissolve the group and retire was that all the administrative stuff left little time for us to do any writing ourselves. That was why we got into the hobby (and the group) in the first place: to write more. But, we didn’t. We wrote less and less until we were writing nothing. The extent of our participation in the group was to run in, do what was required of us for that particular day, douse any flames, make sure everyone was happy, and then go someplace else to relax. Somewhere in there, it had ceased to be a relaxing hobby. It was more like a job.

Same thing happened with my most recent hobby (that shall remain nameless, since I’m still casually involved with it and WoW is sort of my dirty little secret, the reason I’m absent from it so much — my escape!). I went into it thinking that I could just be part of it, but the longer I stayed, the more responsibilities I found myself with. At first it was great… there was enough to occupy me for hours and hours when I got home every night. It was a little like I was coming home to a second job that I didn’t get paid for, but it was a job that I loved even more than my real job. I constantly fantasized about making this hobby my real job.

Now I’m totally burnt out on it. I’m relieved I didn’t swerve off my path and make a big career change, because I’m ready to leave it all behind. It feels like a job in a stressful way now, and when I go visit the forums of the community, there’s a noticible spike in my blood pressure. Definitely not a relaxing way to spend my precious free time. Running around Azeroth and hitting things with a stick is much better for my soul. So far, anyway…

I read a lot of blogs by folks who’ve hit level 70 or have taken on a lot of guild responsibilities, and I see them burning out on WoW the same way I burned out on my last hobby. I don’t want this to happen for me, so I find myself actively avoiding in-game responsibilities. I would never want to run a guild, or even be an officer in one. That previous hobby still has so many tentacles on me, so many reasons I could never just quit if I wanted to, not without a lot of guilt, anyway. I want WoW to be a flexible hobby. If I am obsessed and feel like I have to log in and check my auctions once a day, that’s one thing. Ultimately, I’m in control of that, and there will be no repurcussions if I don’t do this. If I decide I want to quit tomorrow, I want to be able to quit tomorrow, and not feel like there are still a hundred things I need to take care of first or a hundred people depending on me to do things for them. I’m happy to help folks in my guild — I’m thrilled to help them — I just don’t want to be the single point of failure for any particular responsibility.

I’m sure it’s inevitable. It’s a cycle. One day, one way or another, I will find myself done with WoW. I will do (and not do) what I can to postpone that, however, and enjoy the game as long as I can. Now that I’m conscious of this habit of mine, of accepting lots of responsibilities, maybe I can avoid this particular reason for ultimately quitting.

fourth time’s a charm…

I’ve been involved with a total of four guilds now, since I started playing earlier this year. The first was a brand new “family” guild that seemed to be recruiting fairly heavily. They specifically said that they hoped to help new players along, and I was getting to the point where I thought I could benefit from the wisdom (and firepower) of others as I began gathering more and more group quests. I did meet one or two people my level that were fun to play with, but the guild itself didn’t survive for more than a few weeks. Within the first week, the GM stepped down and left someone else in charge (never a good sign), and recruitment totally ceased. I decided I’d better look for an established guild…

My husband mentioned that he’d heard good things about The Amazon Basin, a guild that was also quite active in Diablo II, and a bunch of other games as well, apparently. So, I checked out their website, submitted an application, and rolled a new character on one of their servers. They were really a great bunch of people. I wasn’t with them long enough to really take advantage of this, or even play with many of them, but their guild chat revealed them to be a bunch of smart, funny people with a great camaraderie.

I never formally left The Amazon Basin. I just disappeared from the server, because when my husband started playing, he decided to join the server where his brother plays, so he could potentially group with him. So, I rolled some new toons on that server as well. I didn’t have much invested in the other servers, so it wasn’t a huge loss (in gold or gear, or anything else). My brother-in-law mentioned that he was a member of a couple different guilds, but he didn’t seem that excited about any of them, so I just kept an eye on the channels, looking for something that sounded interesting.

Essentially I wanted a friendly group of folks near my level to group with, and I was interested in an RPish guild, mostly because it meant people would be typing in complete sentences. I don’t mean to sound too cranky about this, but given the choice, I prefer grouping with people willing to take the extra half second to type out “you.” I also don’t understand how it is that nobody can spell “rogue” anymore. I’m really not much into RP, but I’m perfectly happy to greet people with “Lok’tar” if it means they’ll use punctuation in their response.

While leveling up my fishing in Orgrimmar one night, I saw a group recruiting that sounded perfect. Light/medium RP, small guild looking to expand (I know, I wanted an established one, but…), plus a really cool guild name. (Funny how important this felt at the time, but it’s true — when I see guilds recruiting and they have a stupid-sounding name, I think why would anybody join that?) I didn’t respond right away. I thought about it quite a bit, did a little google searching (and found that they were recruiting in the main WoW forums), and found some other stuff about them. Several of the members were friends in real life, who had been gaming together for years, and this guild had mostly served to help them group their alts together. They were hoping to expand and become a more active part of that realm’s community. So, tight-knit central group + typing in complete sentences + active recruiting + cool name… it all sounded pretty good to me. I sent a letter to their recruiter, and they immediately sent me an invite.

They were a great bunch of guys, but ultimately we didn’t play together much. They were hustling toward the end game, and I was still plodding through the early game. We’d chat while we played, and they encouraged me to ask for help if I needed it, but really, I wasn’t sure what they could do for me aside from speed me through instances. (I really prefer to slog through instances, too, so this wasn’t all that great for me.) It seemed like they stopped recruiting after I joined, which unfortunately meant that there was nobody in the guild for me to play with. Then, when they hit 70, they started grouping with some 70s from another small guild, and decided that it might be beneficial for all of them to merge.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the new folks, and unfortunately they did not seem to be doing any recruiting post-merge either, so I decided that this would be a good opportunity to look for a new guild. I had begun to play my mage a bit more, and since she had not joined this guild, I applied to a friend’s guild with her as my main. This friend was someone I only knew through WoW, but I’d grouped with him many times after a chance meeting in Stonetalon. We always looked for each other, helped each other through the group quests, and although he eventually got away from me levelwise, we always chatted and he was always eager to help me (and share loot that he’d found doing other stuff). He spoke highly of his guild, and I checked out their guild website. Again, light/medium RP, with an emphasis on helping people. No services or items were to be sold to other guild members. They had a clear looting policy. It all looked pretty fabulous, and upon joining, I found it to be exactly as I’d hoped. Very helpful, active folks, constantly giving goodies to each other, sharing consumables. A really nice community.

While I was getting acquainted with this new group, I hardly logged on to play with my other toon in the old guild. I was avoiding those guys, unsure how to tell them I wanted to leave. Finally I got up the nerve to log in and play a bit, and observe the merged guild dynamics. Two things I saw within the first 30 minutes:

1) After completing a run together, one of the new folks told the whole guild, “Here are the things I’m putting on the AH. I’m telling you so that you can bid first if you want it.”

2) Two of the new folks were bragging about the tradehacking and duping that they used to do, and about how Blizzard had changed the game so that they wouldn’t work any more.

Gah. So, I talked with my friend from the other guild, and he agreed it looked like a pretty bad situation. He said that his guild wasn’t perfect (that “most people” were really nice, and I think I know what he means by that now), but that it sounded like this old guild of mine had some really sketchy characters in it. I wrote a letter to the same person in the old guild that I’d sent that first note to, and told him I was leaving. I said that I wanted more folks my level to play with. (I left out the part about how I thought the new people were shady.) He said he understood, and with that, I gquit and this toon (formerly considered my main, but now technically my alt), joined my friend’s guild as well.

The new guild has been great. All my alts have now joined it, and I’ve found it to be an incredibly supportive community both socially and in terms of helping me progress through the game. I’m continually amazed at how much stuff people are willing to share with each other, particularly consumables that would bring in some pretty decent gold in the auction house. People share crafted items, enchants, and just about anything you could imagine. It’s almost exactly what I had in mind for a guild. (Almost in that when I say, “Hey, anyone want to do WC?” I don’t immediately get 4 others on board, but I know I can’t have everything.) And even socially, it’s not all perfect. I’ve seen some arguments, some RP that’s gotten out of hand, but it’s all passed over, and generally people seem to like each other and treat each other with respect. I look forward to getting to the end game with these people.