21 May 2011

What Is Hardcore?

Just what is a hardcore guild anyway? And how do you define a hardcore player? This has been a pretty big question for me and the guild I’m in. Ask around and you’ll probably get a different answer from every person. It’s one of those hard-to-define attribute that means different things to different people.

In my own mind, hardcore is raiding six nights a week, farming for flasks and food when you’re not raiding, sitting standby outside instances in-case someone’s internet goes down and letting the GM have you on speed-dial in case he needs to pull you in for the night. It’s about progress and performance, where being server first is everything and where players live or die by their World of Logs parses.

Casual is where I see myself at currently, in a guild where fun is more important than progress and attendance is a mere two nights out of three. It’s something I’ve grown comfortable in, like the grizzled veteran who still likes to show what he can do occasionally (read: pull aggro, make sarcastic comments). It’s this comfort that got disrupted a little when the Guild Master decides to convene a Guild Meeting to discuss The Rules.

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a huge fan of blogging about my guild, especially when it’s about the more rocky moments. I don’t want to antagonise or make things worse. After all, if you’ve raided with a bunch of people for a while it’s better to work things out than throw it all in, right?

Fear not though, for this tale is not without a happy ending!

Basically my fears were borne out of experience with previous guilds. Back in Vanilla I raided with an ultra hardcore guild that were pretty much as I described. We scooped up a whole rack of server firsts and I was having the time of my life.

Like all good things it could never last. I changed my job and couldn’t commit to that level of raiding any more. I had to stop treating the game like a second job and more like a game. With that I made the shift to more casual raiding. For a time things were great.

There’s always a but and in this case it’s  that unmistakable gleam in the guild leader’s eye that emerges after a while. It speaks out “Hey, we’re finally getting somewhere as a guild. If we make some changes, get a bit stricter, we could really be something”. The changes are made and the guild starts shedding people until it’s either completely changed or collapses from the loss of members. I’ve seen it happen. Several times.

So there I was, worried that the gleam had emerged in my Guild Master’s eye and that the guild was going to start the climb to Hardcore. After all, why was there a need to bring in a new set of rules? And yes, maybe I did become a little “chicken little” in my approach, prophesying that I’d be leaving the guild before the end of the meeting.

Looking back at it now, the rules were mooted as something else. We had a lot of veteran raiders who’d slain whole flights of internet dragons. We’d built up something cozy and wanted to protect it when we pulled new people in. The guild felt unique and different, and there was just a wish to try and protect it while we grew.

The trouble starts when you try to work out what the guild is about. We all had a fairly good idea of what we thought the guild was about, but we didn’t actually have anything written down. You could call it a constitution, or a mission statement, or even a paragraph to say why you rock. Whatever it is, we didn’t have one.

From there it should be fairly easy – do the rules work to promote the aims of the guild, or do they work against them? Should something be a rule at all? These kinds of questions become a lot easier when you have a shared and declared understanding of what the guild is about. Because hardcore, casual and the middle ground mean different things to different people it’s important to be a little more specific.

Where are we now? I’m glad you asked.

The guild was astonishingly in agreement with where we wanted to go – we like things to be done on a casual two nights out of three a week, where fun is more important than progress and where the other people in the raid are more important than the bosses that we face. We’re not going to push for heroic or hard modes, but instead take things as they come. We still want to clear each tier of content normally, but we’re not going to fight to get beyond that.

Ironically, after the meeting we went on to have one of our best raiding weeks in a long time. We managed to clear Bastion of Twilight, Throne of the Four Winds and most of Blackwing Descent in one night. The next day we went back to finish the job and on the last pull of the night managed to finally kill Nefarian. I’m still amazed.

For now, we’ll be spending our time having fun. There are guild achievements to be earned and the odd hard mode to aim for. 4.2 is just around the corner and we can’t wait to get stuck in, but there is no rush.

After all, fun is more important than progress.

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2 Responses to What Is Hardcore?

  1. Straw Fellow says:

    I wish I could say I had a happier story than yours. The first raiding guild I was in was pretty casual, 2-3 nights a week, and we did ICC mainly for fun. However, the further we progressed the more our RL started tracking our progress on the rankings…and then the entire group collapsed right after our first night attempting the Lich King. If you ask me, I think it was because nobody was having fun anymore in there.

    Regardless, I don’t think it’s a “how many nights a week do you raid” sort of deal when it comes to being a hardcore raider. I think it’s about how seriously your group takes it, and how severely they handle mistakes or members that are performing sub-par. Hardcore groups are worried more about efficiency and getting everything done as quickly and neatly as possible than if any particular member is going to be there for the boss kill. It is entirely possible to have that kind of guild in a 2-3 night a week setting by taking those nights very seriously.

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