Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.
We've all come across those mediocre players. They are the hunters that can DPS but don't know how to trap a mob; the shamans that never break crowd control but windfury their way to the top of the aggro list every single pull; the warriors who excel at single-target tanking but can't hold more than one mob at a time. Where do these players come from, and how do they stay so mediocre after 70 levels? The author of this week's e-mail thinks he has the answer: The road to mediocrity is built by your own guild.
I enjoy your Officers' Quarters articles on WoWInsider.com, so maybe you can tackle this subject for me in your next piece:
I am now a casual player (played since beta and used to be hardcore) and I'm in this nice and friendly social guild. I'm not an officer, nor do I have the desire to be one. I just want to log on and do whatever I feel like with my limited play time. This guild puts no pressure on me and I appreciate that.
The guild leaders' philosophy is to be helpful to one another – helping on whatever is needed by other members. Guild members get rank up by how much they help others. This was a noble idea . . . but there's a huge caveat.
One of the things that lower level members often ask higher members for help on is to run them through instances. However, there's a very bad side effect to this: mediocrity.
Now every time lower level members ask me to run them through instances, I often make up some excuses that I can't go, or if I have an alt that is in their level range, I would use that instead and try to create a normal group for them in hope they would learn something. However, whenever I did this, some other high level members would offer their help to run us through, therefore defeating the purpose of what I was trying to do.
I have not spoken out about this issue to the guild. One, because I am not part of the leadership structure, and two, because I know one of the biggest pet peeve people have in this game is when somebody tells them what to do or how to play. Plus, there's a fact that people doesn't like it when you tell them they suck.
I have no intention of leaving the guild, but I am now in the guild for social purposes only and doing other things with outsiders.
Is there a way to soften the blow and tells them that instance run-throughs (or any other hand-holding events) are a bad idea, especially for people leveling up their first toon ever? Being helpful is good, but being too helpful is not good. Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
I have to admit up front that I feel like a hypocrite for writing this column. I myself certainly ask for run-throughs from time to time. I prefer running with a real group in most cases, but those have become harder and harder to put together these days for any dungeon in Azeroth, outside of perhaps Scarlet Monastery and Zul'Farrak. Mostly if I can't find the group I'll just skip the dungeon. But occasionally there's a quest reward much too tempting, like Maraudon's Thrash Blade, so I ask for a run-through.
Even so, I agree with the e-mail's author. World of Warcraft is in many ways a much easier game than most MMO's, particularly when leveling up. Anyone who has played Final Fantasy XI for any amount of time can tell you that WoW is a stroll in the park by comparison. You can level up to 70 in WoW using one spell or ability the entire time. People have even leveled to 70 without any gear at all.
So it is certainly no wonder that some people ding 70 without any real idea how to play their class in a group setting. That's fine if you don't intend to group up for dungeons and raids. If you want to experience group content, however, you have to know how to fulfill your role.
Back in the early days of WoW, before Thottbot or WoWHead or even Atlas, dungeons were a grueling and battle-hardening endeavor. Wailing Caverns is an utter mess of a dungeon for new players. I ran the heck out of that place back then, even with its appallingly confusing layout (just look at that map above!), numerous patrols, mobs that call for help, mobs that spawn more mobs, stealthed mobs, mobs that repeatedly CC your party members, and everything else. It's like Blizzard took every mechanic that gives new players a hard time and designed a Wailing Caverns mob around it. Even killing the critters in that place could be dangerous! And it all ends with a Zul'Farrak-pyramid-type event where you get zerged by murlocs of all things. Without any outside guidance, it's a total nightmare from start to finish. And finishing it despite all those obstacles felt great.
I didn't really know what I was doing when I first zoned in to WC, but after four or five runs I had a much better idea what to do to keep the group alive. You just don't get that kind of experience following a higher-level player around and looting the corpses in their wake as fast as you can.
And so I urge all the officers out there not to encourage this sort of behavior, both for the good of your own guild and the good of the game as a whole. How many players out there who are holding back groups with poor DPS or subpar healing would be excelling at their roles if they had to earn their way through all of Warcraft's dungeons as they leveled up? One honest trip through Gnomeregan alone can be a life-changing experience.
I don't mean to discourage helping your own guildmates, and there are times when a quick run-through is preferable to the agony of assembling a real Razorfen Downs run. However, too much of a helping hand becomes a crutch, and your players need to walk on their own before they're staring down Moroes or High King Maulgar -- or even Quagmirran.
My advice to this week's author is to bring your concerns to the officers in private. If it helps, bring them solid proof of your claims. Start running combat logs through sites like WoW Web Stats to show the disparity between your good players and your below-average ones. The officers may not care, and they may be content to preside over a guild of mediocrity. But at least you'll know you tried, and they'll know why you aren't helping sometimes. On the other hand, they may see your point, and stop rewarding the hand-holding, if not actively discouraging it.
Your guild rewards helping, so see if you can contribute in other ways. If your guild doesn't have class leaders, offer to be one for your class and see if anyone else would like to follow suit for theirs. Sometimes all it takes to turn a decent player into a good one is just 30 minutes of discussion with somebody who really knows the class inside and out. Some people will just never really catch on, and they may remain mediocre forever, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth giving everyone a chance to prove otherwise.
The road to mediocrity and the road to excellence are the same road. The only difference is who's clearing the trash along the way.
Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!