Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reflections on my pixelated fixations.

According to my account information, Azeroth has been my part time home for three years now. I had heard of World of Warcraft ages before, probably sometime around release date but had resisted the temptation to join. It was only after watching a friend play and later sharing his account for a bit that I signed up myself. Initial dreams of levelling up to join my friend and his guildmates soon fell by the wayside as I dabbled in altitis, falling further behind as those more focused players forged ahead towards 60. I was not new to Azeroth exactly, having played Warcraft 1, 2 and 3, as well as most of their expansions. Blizzards other games, Diablo and Starcraft also got regular workouts. The 3-d "Roleplaying" world in an MMO was different to the strategy games I had mostly played before. I loved the game!

My first character was an undead warlock on my friends account. I managed to level him up to about 15 or so in the relatively rare times I got to play. I had fun but probably made every rookie mistake in the book. When I got my own account started, I made an effort to re-create the same character. He still exists, gathering dust along with all his guildmates on one of the US servers, since there were no Oceanics available back then. I ended up inheriting the guildmaster position as most former members transferred off or quit the game. My friend had moved on to another guild to try raiding but found the time difference too difficult. He and some others had also started alts on Alliance on one of the first Oceanic servers. Of course I followed as well, generating one alt of each class and of each race/gender combination. Nearly all of these characters made it to the low 20's before abandonment. I continued creating characters on every oceanic server as they opened up "reserving" my spot. Each of these got levelled up to at least the early teens as well. Before long I had over 20 characters to manage.

My friend fairly abruptly quit the game about June 2006, and most of the other friends and guildmates I had made had dispersed all over the place. Another RL colleague had level 60's on another server, so I played there for a little bit and continued to shuffle between all the various alts for a few months. One evening I was mucking about on Dath'Remar, on an under-used Rogue I'd created some weeks earlier, when the Tirisfal Glades newbie chat was reasonably active.

Someone was moaning about how he couldn't get into a guild, since they were all full of transferred level 60 raiders who were not interested in lowbie scrubs. Several others piped up in agreement. I offered the obvious solution: Make one yourselves! There was a bit of discussion back and forth, mostly about how it was too expensive so I offered to raise the funds myself. 10 silver is a large amount to an unassisted lowbie newb like myself, so I actually spent a couple of hours grinding and _vendoring_ linen cloth and the like to scrounge the cash. By this time, the newbie crowd was all around level 10.

Since this was an alt on a server I was unlikely to visit again soon, I offered to general chat the funds to get that guild started, and were there members willing to sign up? Sure enough one chap called Stickykey volunteered to be guildmaster and there were enough people around to get the charter signed in short order. Several names were discussed before my suggestion was picked as the most likely. Thus was Crimson Legion born.

Guild mastery changed hands several times between Stickykey and myself that evening as we established ranks and set up guild powers. Stickykey had never had access to the guild controls before so basically palmed the role over to me to set up. Ranks established, guild powers loosely defined and about 30 people recruited, I logged for the night.

I forget the exact sequence of events, but Stickykey was going away for a while so I was going to be "temporary" guildmaster. The new guild kept gathering members rapidly and there were enough sensible people in officer positions to keep it running smoothly even when I also didn't log in for a few days early in the piece. We had over 100 members in the first few days then recruitment started to die off a bit as we left the newbie areas. Some players and myself created extra alts and returned to the newbie zones for more recruiting, though even in these early days we did NOT spam the chat channels .... we just offered assistance or grouped up with people and recruited from there.

By the first weekend it was clear the guild needed some structure and basic rules. There had been some silly behaviour and some people left because of it. I searched the web for free forum hosts and found one that looked vaguely suitable. We had a competition to design a guild tabard, and a donation drive to raise funds for it. As usual, I was spending too much time on alts and my main was falling behind the other members as they rushed into the 20's and 30's. We even recruited a few higher levels, most of whom left fairly soon after for late game guilds.

After some discussion on our forums, a revised rank structure was put in place. I organised a few guild wide events that drew reasonable participation levels. Raiding against the Night Elves became a fairly regular event, often involving other guilds as well. Our core leadership group settled in to their positions and we kept a lookout for more talent to join us. Stickykey made a few brief visits but was missing most of the time without much explanation.

By December, we had grown to nearly 300 members and our highest were nearing the level cap at 60. Everyone was eagerly awaiting the release of The Burning Crusade. My stable of alts had grown yet again and I had got most of them on Dath to around level 20. Crypt was nearly 40 and looking forward to his mount.

We lost a few members to raiding just before TBC release, then quite a lot more in about February as people hit 70 and wanted to raid then. A core group of officers moved out and formed a splinter guild only for higher levels. I transferred guild leadership temporarily to Xera, an officer and founding member, who was leaving that night to join a raid guild. Xera then transferred guildmastery back to my alt Decrypted. Cryptography joined the new splinter guild.

Over the next few days I found the demands of actively participating in two guilds to be too much hassle. The leadership team of the new guild were taking it in a direction I didn't feel comfortable with and I missed out on lots of things in Crimson Legion while mucking about on Crypt, so in a short time I quit and rejoined CL.

The splinter guild lasted about 2 months before internal drama, and possibly bank thefts, caused it to almost disintegrate. A few refugees returned to Crimson Legion, others moved on to other guilds and a handful persevered. Eventually the remaining guildmaster quit, handing control over to the bank alt of one of my officers. There are still 6 members listed on the armory website but these are dead accounts or otherwise inactive.

We periodically go through cycles where members leave, convince others to go with them and start a fresh guild. More often, a member will quit to start a guild with their school friends. Nearly all of these attempts are unsuccessful and a lot return to the CL family.

One recent exception has been Poshmina and her guild. Posh was in CL for only a month or two but was a very talkative and active member when she was here. She left, poaching a number of our members and has gone on to establish what looks to be a very successful guild. They had 275 members when I last looked, including a higher proportion of max level characters than we maintain. I wish them every success!

People come and go all the time, but the essential core of the guild has remained strong. We hit 500 members about 6 months after handing in the charter, despite semi-regular purges of inactive members. I have mentioned in another post that there are limitations imposed by the game that have caused us to keep below the magic 500 from then on. We hit that limit again just last night so we are due for a purge again.

About the time of our first anniversary, an interesting bug manifested itself. Some officers were playing around abusing the demote and remove powers, then re inviting or promoting the victims. Somehow this bugged out and Mannak got guildmaster rank alongside Decrypted. Now, Mannak is a nice enough guy but he should have been about rank 4 or 5 at the time, not a higher officer and certainly not co-GM! Some people made accusations of hacking but I seriously doubt it. It was interesting trying to fix this... he couldn't gquit, becasue the guildmaster powers couldn't be passed on. I couldn't demote him back to his normal rank, because of course he was the same rank as me. Eventually I petitioned it and a Bliz Gamesmaster sorted it all out. I took the opportunity to have Cryptography re-instated as guildmaster and Decrypted gladly stepped down from the hot-seat.

In August 2008 I took an overseas holiday. Before I left I transferred guild master rank to Sebra, one of the rank 1 officers. I think she did an excellent job looking after the place but she was in a hurry to transfer it back once I returned. Any of my top level officers could have held the spot while I was away, but I know Sebra through work which would make sorting out any issues easier. Everything went smoothly except for the guild bank bug that I posted about in another message.

Crimson Legion celebrated its 2nd birthday in October 2008. We have maintained membership of around 400-500 members throughout our existence and are reasonably free of guild drama.
A solid core leadership group have kept it alive and thriving. I am intensely proud of their efforts. World of Warcraft is still a very interesting place to be and I have no intention of leaving any time soon.

Thank you to my guild members for making it a place I'm happy to return to.

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