I was originally planning an ode to the awesomeness of belonging, finally, to a solid guild.
After all, I've experienced the limbo of not having a group to run with all too recently.
My best friend's real life situation keeps him from finding a 'proper' raiding guild, and getting into any form of raid for Icecrown is an exercise in frustration, and often, futility.
I'm thankful that I've found a guild that meets my unique set of needs - it's a good group of people, that aren't complete mysogynists. I can raid late at night allowing me my family time first. And we're progressing - not for world or even server firsts by any means, but Sindragosa is scheduled for some down time this week, and we have a reasonable shot at Arthas in the next week or so (on normal difficulty). I'm very happy with the situation.
There is however, a problem endemic to guild life: cliques. Let's face it: cliques are a part of guild life. Guilds are formed most often around people that know each other. Shared interests, play times, real life friendships, etc., all play a role in the smaller groupings that occur in every guild. These cliques lead daily to the kind of drama that has earned a regular column at Wow.com (Drama Mamas).
However, I experienced a different kind of problem with cliques this week, and one that Blizzard has fed into with a major game design decision - that of maintaining both 10- and 25-man raids. While I understand why Blizzard maintains both levels of raid, and in general I think the reasoning is sound, this creates major problems.
Most 'serious' raid guilds, even the 'casual hard core' guilds I've been a part of for the past several years, have been organized around 25-man raiding. 25-man loot is the best loot. The fights are generally more demanding on 25-man, and the sense of defeating a difficult boss on 25-man certainly has a more 'epic' feel to it.
The difficulties of taking a 25-man raid and reducing it to 10-man has been written about before. 2-3 tanks must become 4-6, 5 healers becomes 6, and 5 dps are left out in the cold.
What is clear, however, is that running 10-mans is not optional. A 25-man guild that is moderately serious about their raiding cannot afford to skip 10-man content. There is a decent amount of upgrades even for guilds that mastered the previous tiers' 25-man content. And the emblem system means guilds that don't run it gear up much more slowly and quickly fall behind.
HOW a guild decides to run 10-mans is one of the trickier issues they'll have to resolve. While 25-man raiding is the focus, a guild that doesn't keep its members happy in 10-man content is going to lose members, and struggle with gearing up.
The obvious solution is to for the guild organize 10-man raids. Assign members to each group, try to establish groups of equal skill, and set raiding times and loot rules. This sounds good on paper, but can be an absolute nightmare in practice. All the natural cliques come into play. People want to run with their friends. Other people get dissatisfied with lack of progress and want to 'stack' a 10-man group to push progression. Others' feelings get hurt if they feel left out.
I've been an officer in previous guilds and tried to sort this out. One of my recent guilds simply has an 'A' team, and a 'B' team. People are informed of where they stand, and are told up front which group is expected to push progression. This encourages competition and pushes players to step up their performance, but of course for the 'B' team can create resentment and groups of 'haves' and 'have nots.'
Top-down organization creates more stress for guild leadership - and let's face it - most guild leaders have enough stress as it is, and there are so many pitfalls that guilds can't help but fall into them from time to time.
Another option is to simply inform guild members that non-raid nights are up to them. If they want to do 10-mans they'll be encouraged to do so, but not required. In the right guild, this can be a great solution. If there are a lot of strong natural leaders, people step up, organize, and away they go. This feeds into the cliques, but at least people are happy with whom they are doing 10-man content. In my guild this works very well overall. We have two groups working on the Lich King already, and several more are close (including alts, we have around 5 10-man mostly guild groups). We have a section in our forums for people to post times and group needs, and for individuals to post if they have a character they want to get into a group.
People still fall through the cracks, however, as I discovered this past week. The group my DK was running with fell apart. The group my shaman just started running with was doing fairly well. So it was odd when my shaman killed Blood Queen on 10-man, while my DK was sidelined for the week and still doesn't have the 10-man Crimson Halls achievement. I'm an assertive person, so I've been able to find another solid group for my DK, but it was still frustrating for me to be unable to find a home for my main character for a while. People who are less assertive, or who feel or are peceived as less skilled are likely in for some very negative feelings of exclusion, even if they have a regular part in 25-man content. In addition, less organization may mean less progression in 10-mans as a guild, which in turn means less gear, and less progression on 25-mans.
Overall, am I suggesting it would be a good idea for Blizzard to eliminate 10-man raiding? No, I think it's here to stay, and allows smaller guilds to enjoy raiding as well. Blizzard can't disentangle the two to the extent that larger guilds will be able to skip 10-man content, so it's up to the guilds to continue trying to sort out the personal and political morass of managing both levels of raiding.