I started this blog after I left my old casual guild, We Know, for my new "casual raiding" guild Que sera sera. Now that I've been with QSS for a few weeks I've gotten some insight into the different approaches to community and the game. This post was inspired by one from my guild-mate Beroth talking about how he views QSS.
QSS: fairly hardcore?
I find it a bit funny that QSS calls itself "casual". QSS raids five nights a week, three hours each, with two nights mandatory from every member. We play aggressively, starting exactly on time, moving swiftly through farm content and recovering quickly from wipes on progression. Full consumables assumed; no whining about flask costs. Trash pulls happen swiftly, when the RL is ready. People are expected to have done their research ahead of time; no fifteen minute Ventrilo discussion of strategy, just a couple of words for people's assignments. And when folks screw up it's called out directly. It's a demanding way to play and can be a bit intimidating.
But it's also really fun and productive. My guildmates are very good at their roles. High expectations are met with high performance, everyone's trusted to do what they're supposed to do. And while mistakes are called out they're done so neutrally, not personally, and the judgements are fair. There's also forgiveness, even when a dumb druid runs away from the trash right into FLK and wipes everyone (ouch). Sometimes we laugh when things go badly, sometimes we get frustrated and irritable, but overall there's a positive attitude and a sense that we're collectively getting better at the game.
We Know: casual
My old guild We Know is way more casual. 25 man raids once or twice a week. No expectation of consumables, lots of explaining content to the new folks. Some people play very hard and read up on fights ahead of time, others just show up and try to figure it out on the fly. There's some acknowledgment of mistakes but it's taboo to publically point out when someone screwed up. It makes for a very friendly experience. Lots of laughter, an explicit understanding that people are there more to have fun playing with their friends than to go beat up some new progression boss. It's quite fun and very social.
But that style of casual raiding is also not very productive if your goal is beating the game. The reason I left We Know was the sense that we were running in place, not ever getting ahead so we could see the new content. The most serious players would get frustrated after the third month in the same content, either take a hiatus or start bringing in an undergeared alt or leave the guild entirely. New people would take their place, good people, but we'd have to start over explaining content, gearing them up, etc. But We Know isn't just about raiding; guildies have a lot of fun in the game doing all sorts of things, it's a very healthy community of game players. It's just the slow way through endgame content.
Game Design for casual and hardcore
Warcraft is successful because it appeals to people at all levels of seriousness. There's 10 million people playing this game, I guess less than 5% of them will ever even step foot into a 25 man raid. But it's a fun game even if you only play one hour a week and never figure out what "aggro" is. It's fun if you're into crafting, if you're into PvP, if you like nothing more than collecting hunter pets. There's a sense that the endgame raid content is the "real game" to serious players and I think there is some truth to that. But for most people endgame raids are a goal, an aspiration that gives structure to the game. Not a personal experience.
I think the best game design in all of Burning Crusade is Karazhan. Foremost it's just a really beautiful dungeon, great story and art and geometry. Also the boss encounters are a lot of fun with a bunch of variety. It seems impossibly challenging when you first go, everything hits so hard and there's so much coordination required. But you stick with it and figure it out and the gear progression is rewarding so over time you see improvement both in your gameplay skills and your stats.
But the real brilliance of Karazhan is that it's a 10 man dungeon. Small guilds can field that many people. Large guilds can run several groups. There's some drama about "A-team" vs "B-list players" and the transition to the first 25 man raids has been difficult for a lot of guilds. But Karazhan successfully gives even fairly casual players a serious raiding experience with all the joys of progression. It kept me happily busy for six months; first as a moonkin, then seeing it again as a tank.
I moved on to QSS because I wanted to see the content past Karazhan and knew I'd need a more hardcore group to do it. And QSS is just about the right level for me right now. It's challenging and demanding, but the people are good at the game and fun to play with.