Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Summer Raiding And You

If you’ve been in a raiding guild at all you’ve probably seen this. Everything goes great, your guild is progressing, people are attending, everything is fine.

And then it gets warm outside.

All of a sudden your attendance rates drop, raids don’t happen and raids that do happen get worse. People start coming late or leaving early while others go AWOL for two weeks. Congratulations, summer got you and you’re thoroughly screwed.
Or are you? In the following I’ll discuss why raiding is so difficult during summer and solutions to keep your guild together. If you have more, by all means leave a comment!

But WoW players never go outside anyway!

As a matter of fact they do. The number one reason for lacking attendance during the summer seem to be vacations. While the single, solitary WoW player surely exists, most players actually have family and or friends. If you have a girl- or boyfriend, a husband or wife, or even kids, you’ll most likely be interested in spending some quality holiday time with them. If you’re still young you might not even have the a choice pertaining your holiday plans and in general it’s never a good idea to skip sun and the beach for World of Warcraft. Even in the most hardcore of hardcore guilds you will always have players going on vacation for one, two, three, or even four weeks. This will happen all year round, but the high time will be summer and Christmas.

But, you say, I know who in my guild is on vacation and we should still have enough people – but too few actually show! That is the second problem of summer, people are actually more inclined to spend their time outside. Even those of us that avoid the sun as if it had crabs can be coerced to go outside for a beer after sundown. Social activities tend to increase during summer as well and many WoW players do actually have friends outside the game that will ask them to come along. Can you blame them?

You are still getting enough signups but the raids suck? It could be summer’s fault too! (Damn you, summer!) Raiders in hot rooms get drowsy, others might be drinking beer to refresh themselves or playing on their laptop outside, and yet others might constantly have roomates bulging into their room asking them to come out and join the fun.

Face it, your guild will have fewer signups and worse raiders during summer.

What can the guild leadership do about this?

Method #1 – Boot and Recruit: This is the draconian method. You don’t see why people should pick social acitivities over WoW? Progression is all that matters? Then this is the method for you. Tell your people that you expect them to be there for your raids, come hell or high water. Grant them an amount of vacation time if you must, but make them ask for your approval first. Schedule vacations in such a way that you’ll always have a raid. People not appearing even though they don’t have vacation time? Kick them and fill their spots with eager applicants.
Personally I would never employ such methods or join a guild that does. If you are high on progression and looking for “professional” raiders it can work though. Don’t ever apply this method in a guild that’s not high in your server’s progression. People will defect to better guilds with less harsh rules faster than you can say caipirinha.

Method #2 – Summer Break: This is pretty much the opposite of a Boot and Recruit approach. Raids in the summer will be worse, so why even have them? Tell your raiders to have two months off, and pick up were you left when the rain starts to fall again. The success of this method depends very much on the mentality of your guildmembers. If you are a very casual raiding guild that raids for fun and some loot instead of progress it can work very well. Your members will be happy to get some time off and those that still want to play go out and collect pets or whatever you weird casuals do!
If your guild has a focus on progression then this will probably kill you, plain and simple. You will have people who want to raid and progress, who in fact only play the game to progress their character. These are usually your best players. They attend all the raids, read their theorycraft, properly enchant all their gear and top the meters. Unless you have very strong personal ties to them, these people won’t accept a break and will go looking for a new home. When you come back in September, ready to pwn some face again, you will realize that the core of your raid is gone. Others will realize that too, leave, and you’ll be left with nothing. Not good.

Method #3 – Substitute or Bust! Your raids will happen on the announced dates and announced times, you will do whatever possible to make that happen. One common way to do this is to bring in outsiders. Friends, people from guilds that have a summer break, tradechat puggers. Depending on your progression status and your connections, this can work quite well. If your guild isn’t all that far into progression, puggers can be reasonable replacements. Pick-up groups succeed in Naxx and parts of Ulduar these days, so an organized guild with just a few outsiders should do well too. If you have an extensive friends list you might even be able to get people of higher quality than your average tradechat player. i’ve seen guilds organizing runs on their respective realm forums too, complete with preselections of players.
If you are progressing Ulduar hardmodes on the other hand… probably not the best idea to take outsiders.
If you choose this method, be aware that you may have to change your loot distribution system.

Method #4 – United we Stand: Find another guild with the same issues and form a temporary raiding alliance. Two similar guilds whith holes in their raiding teams make a damn strong pool to build a single raid from. An alliance such as this often turns into a permanent one or even a merger. My own guild right now was created from two guild with summer issues and we do far better now than before.
The main issue here is that you may actually end up with too many people – especially if you decide to make the alliance permanent. If both guilds have 20 players regulary showing up for their raids, you will sudenly have 40 and have to leave 15 people hanging. Make sure you have a good solution (i.e. a rotation) for this problem or you will cause lots of drama. Obviously there’s always the possibility of a merger, leaving the not-so-good players and all that complain behind. But that goes beyond the scope of this post 🙂

Method #5 – Ten Pin Bowling: This method only works if you were previously raiding 25 men raids – halt your 25 men progress and let the leftovers do 10 men. Unless you have killed Algalon-10 yet there will be something to do in 10 men Ulduar. Chances are you will have 10 people available if you previously had 25. If you are missing a certain role (say, all three of your tanks are on vacation and your replacement is out getting wasted) you will likely have offspecs or alts with OK gear in the guild that are eager for a shot at fame and glory (and gear.)
Like method number three, this can cause your better players to go looking for a 25 men progression guild – it is far less likely to do so, however. Especially if there’s 10 men progression still to be done.

Method #6 – Scale it Baby: Let’s say your raid would still be alright if most of the people that are not on vacation would show up. You will assume then that the failing of your raids is due to people that like to spend their summer evenings with things other than raiding. You will still have most people showing up but never enough on a single day. The solution is to scale down the number of your raiding days. In my guild, for example, we have four 25 men raiding days in a given week, three of which are mandatory. For the summer we dropped these numbers to three and two and lo and behold, we still get raids! People are told that, if they are not on vacation, they have to appear to two raids a week on average or be replaced. Unlike method number one this still allows players to spend more evenings on non-wow stuff but focuses the evenings they do spend so that you actually get some raids together.

Method #7 – Mix and Match: Some of the above methods are not mutually exclusive. My guild, for example, follows method number 6 but scales down to 10 men in case we still don’t get 25 people. Find what works for your guild – and make sure you explain the reasoning to your members. They will be far more inclined to do as you say if they know why they are doing it.

But I’m not in the guild leadership!

The biggest piece of advice I can give to normal raiders during summer is: be patient. Other guild out there have the same problems, leaving your guild now won’t change much. It is up to you (and your fellow guildies) to keep the guild alive. Raid as much as you can, point out possible solutions to your raid leaders (but never complain openly!), bring friends into raids that you know are good. Suggest a raiding alliance with your real life friend’s guild.
And if a raid gets cancelled? Or two? Don’t despair, don’t leave the guild or the game in a hissyfit. Go out, have a drink, enjoy the summer. Things will get better if people just keep their heads cool. Even if that’s harder in the sun.