Summer break to the core

So my guild is officially on summer break, after about three weeks of nothing but raids that ended up being cancelled due to lack of signups. I still find the notion a little disconcerting, because I don't recall having a similar kind of break before during the three years or so that I've been raiding with the guild (though I'm not completely excluding the possibility that my memory might be failing me). We had a break at the start of this expansion to give everyone enough time to level to eighty and occasionally cancelled raids over the holidays, but I don't remember ever just "giving up" like that in the face of a summer lull.

There is always something scary about changes like this. Time online passes differently than in the real world, and things can fall apart very quickly if people become sufficiently detached, which is very easy if you don't log on frequently enough to remind yourself that hey, there are people there with whom you used to hang out three times a week. Can we really survive two months of summer break just like that? How many of the people that still want to raid will leave for greener pastures, leaving our roster even more thinned out than it already was? How many will leave simply because guild chat has become too quiet with no-one around? Could resignation in the face of combined end-of-expansion blues and summer doldrums spell the end for a guild that survived so much coming and going in the past, as well as two leadership changes in my time alone?

Reactions on the forums were unexpectedly reasonable to my surprise. I don't know what I expected, seeing how the people who tend to quietly bugger off when they get bored are never the ones who use the forums much to begin with, but everyone who posted agreed that it was probably for the best. Even the people who had stubbornly kept signing despite of all the cancellations seemed relieved - at least now they can make other plans in the evenings, knowing for sure that there won't be a raid instead of having to wait for the raid leader's final decision whether it goes ahead or not.

My own feelings are kind of mixed. I'm not bored of WoW, and working on new alts all the time, but nonetheless I have to admit that I'm currently not that bothered about whether I raid or not, as in doing any actual boss-killing. I think one of my guildies hit the nail on the head when he said that we might all be feeling the lull more strongly than ever simply because throughout previous summers and patch droughts we always had a new instance to progress through as we were always behind on the progression curve, what with not being a top guild, having to struggle with attunements and gearing people up for new content. In WOTLK however it's been a lot easier to get through all the normal-mode content, and while we haven't killed the Lich King on twenty-five-man, a lot of us have done so on ten-man and even those of us who haven't have at least seen the fight. There's a strong feeling of "been there, done that, seen it all" in the air. Not having done all the hard modes hardly feels like a huge loss and they aren't nearly as interesting a goal to pursue as say, working your way through the Black Temple to see Illidan.

On a more personal level however, I really miss those regular raid nights. A few months ago I moved to another country, and while I've made some new friends since then, my social circle still feels a lot more limited than it used to be. Raiding made sure that I never felt isolated, because to the people on the other end of the line it didn't make a difference what country I was playing from. And while I've never been much of a talker on vent, killing stuff together was still a social activity, getting something done with people you know and like. Not having that to rely on anymore makes me a little sad. It could be a cold, lonely summer.

On the other hand that doom and gloom might be completely misplaced. Almost immediately after the official break was announced, someone piped up with "okay, let's do something else then", and already plans are forming to go on some just-for-fun runs of old raids for achievements and just to hang out. Last night we went to Ulduar ten-man and did some of the hard modes. A lot of things felt utterly trivial in ICC gear, but others still wiped us and made me have all the more respect for the people who did this stuff when it was actual progression.

But the most important thing for me was that we were socialising. There were people from two different ten-man teams as well as someone who only did the official twenty-fives. We were waxing philosophical about raiding dynamics all the way through and it made me feel strangely comforted and reassured. These people might be bemoaning the summer lull, but nonetheless they are absolutely loyal to the guild. And it's good to know that the guild still has a strong core. I have to admit I was starting to wonder because a lot of people whom I used to think of as the heart of the guild stopped playing in the last couple of months, and sometimes I have a hard time stopping to think of anyone who joined after me as just another newbie, but fact of the matter is that a lot of these former newbies have now become the new core of the guild and they are no less reliable and fun to hang out with.

As long as a guild has a strong core, it can survive two-month raid breaks and worse. Over the years I've seen a lot of raid guilds form and fall apart again on my server, some of them making better progression faster than we did - but as soon as there was conflict or a major stumbling block, they all fell apart because raiding and being successful at it was all that was holding them together. Past experience has taught me that my guild is not like that, and as long as we retain that strong core of players who have similar goals and just like each other, we'll get back on track eventually. And until then, we might just have time to have some fun.

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