Hades - Guild Primers

Discussion in 'Articles, History and By-Laws' started by Hades, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. Hades Lord of the Dead

    Building A Successful Guild

    With LotD having been around 12 years, played multiple games, and having a good track record for each guild game we often get asked for advice from others on how to build a lasting and successful guild. Our primer is mainly designed for a new guildmaster, or a guildmaster of a competitive guild (larger than 25 people) who is moving their guild to a new game for the first time. Without writing a novel, I'll cover some of the core elements that have helped us last through the years and remain competitive in each game we've played.

    Leadership

    It all starts at the top with a stable leadership core that knows how to plan, develop a consistent set of standards, delegate and supervise to implement the plan, and to ensure that critical timelines are being met. Good leadership can make or break a guild, and many new guilds or guilds trying to make a transition to their second MMO fail due to breakdowns in the leadership.

    A guild must also take the time to develop junior leadership that can quickly fill key roles in the event that a senior leader has to step aside, or if a senior leader has to be removed for other reasons. Guilds should have a good set of policies and procedures in place that allow for talented members to slowly ease into positions of escalating responsibility and authority. Properly trained and oriented junior leadership can be an asset to a guild, but poorly trained junior leaders can cause all sorts of problems.

    Policies and Procedures

    Believe it or not a set of standard policies and procedures can save a guild lots of headaches. I don't know how many guilds I've seen fall apart because members got special treatement, promoted, or disciplined without regard to any set standard. In LotD, every member is evaluated, promoted, demoted, or booted according to our by-laws. In instances where our by-laws haven't been followed by the leadership, the Elder Council has over turned junior leadership decisions and sanctioned those leaders. Some policies on behavior, expectations, etc need to be tailored for the game being played but its always a good idea to have some universal standards and expectations for the membership.

    Standardized procedures are also a good thing. Having a basic start up plan, standards for certain activities that are fairly universal no matter the game, PVP standard operating procedures, etc are all ideal to have. Once you establish basic procedures, then you just need to modify the parts that are new to the game you are presently playing. For example, in LotD we have standardized PVP Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's). These SOP's cover how we organize for PVP by going over how we prepare, what some critical roles are, what each class is expected to do, and some basic strategies we employ on certain maps or zones. Having standardized procedures helps us with new member orientation and training. The newbie member who shows up to his first PVP practice with an obvious lack of knowledge of our procedures isn't allowed to run with our groups until they show they understand the basics.

    Planning 101

    In instances where your guild is starting new or transitioning to another game, your leadership will need to do some careful planning. How long is your setup time going to be? How do you plan to handle recruitment? How many of your existing members are likely to transition? What resources is the guild likely to need, and how soon? Who do you have that will be able to fill key leadership roles in the new game?

    Guilds don't fall apart because they plan to fail, they fall apart because they fail to plan.

    We usually consider our setup phase of a new game to be the 45-60 day mark, and we plan certain milestones into that time period for where we want the guild to be by that time. We consider the operational phase to be the 60-90 day mark, and by the end of that period we want to have the guild engaging in its long term strategy for that particular game.

    In a sense you have to treat a guild like a business. You have to do your homework on the new game you are going to, create a setup plan, create operational plan to maintain after the setup is done, and then follow through accordingly.

    Personnel 101

    While nice to imagine, it is highly unlikely that your guild will retain the same membership year after year and game after game. In 12 years LotD has rebuilt 80% of its membership in each new game it has played, trained and oriented that new membership, and then gone on to achieve success. Members that do not follow the guild into every single game are placed into a certain membership category, and members who do follow the guild from game to game are put into another membership category.

    Either way its highly likely that LotD or any other guild will have to rebuild its membership for new games. This is where planning, leadership, and policies all become critical because new members have to be recruited, trained and oriented, and brought up to a certain level of performance usually within 60-90 days. If you are still struggling with new membership training and orientation issues after the 90 day point, the odds of your success in that game go down considerably and it shows in your guild's overall game progression. After 90 days of retail release the playerbase on a server usually becomes mature, and it becomes harder to maintain continuous recruitment if potential applicants see your guild still mired in growing pains.

    Personnel activity is fluid though, and you always have to have a game plan to deal with normal attrition. I advise a continuous recruitment process, and recruiting what you need as you need it. Eventually though a game matures and a server matures to where recruitment becomes difficult, and at that point your leadership has to consider options such as server transfers or whether or not its time to move on to the next game. Once you lose the ability to recruit, its only a matter of time before guild effectiveness is eroded. If a guild waits too long to make decisions, it can lose its core members to guilds that are more proactive or guilds that are moving to other games.

    Communications

    In this day and age, voice chat is all the rage. Any guild worth its salt is going to have ventrilo, teamspeak, or some voice server capacity. Things happen so fast in games these days, that you just don't have time to sit there and type in text chat commands to people. For day to day coordination, it is imperitive that you establish some sort of voice based communications capacity.

    On the flip side though voice chat makes people lazy. The guild leadership must take time to establish policies and procedures on its website or in forums, make regular news announcements, and ensure that their members are reading the updates. Otherwise you waste time and productivity with having to constantly explain what's going on to every idiot who's too lazy to take five minutes a day to check the forums. Voice chat is great for coordinating activities, but it sucks ass for long term planning and organization.

    Figure out what works for you, but beware of the trap that voice chat can create.

    Progression Strategy

    Whether its PVE or PVP, the leadership should have a strategy for guild progression. The strategy should be both realistic, and obtainable without requiring the membership to feel like the game is a full time job. It is also advisable to regulary check your strategies, and update them based on existing conditions.

    Establishing class leads, PVP coordinators, etc is very helpful to keeping the guild organized and to assist in creating optimal group configurations. With good coordination and communication amongst your leads or coordinators, creating optimal group configurations is usually not very difficult. Sure you can advance to the end game without an optimal group configuration, but you usually get there faster with the best group configuration possible.

    I wouldn't be too strict on forcing people to play a certain class, but you have to encourage members to roll things needed to fill gaps or be able to recruit the types of classes you need. Class makeup and group configurations can make or break your progression so its important to balance the needs of the guild vs the class needs of the guild.

    A nerf here or there could totally gimp a character class while making another character class powerful. These types of changes could require individuals to reroll and level new characters, and could affect guild progression in the meantime. Whatever the situation keep your members actively doing something that contributes to the overall guild goals.

    Public Relations and News

    One way to keep your guild in the public eye is to make periodic announcements about relevant activities, events, or achievements. This shouldn't be overdone or the public will get "your guild" fatigue, but its certainly acceptable from time to time. By keeping your guild in the public eye, it can also help to attract new recruits over time.

    Regular guild news is also a good way to keep your membership informed about guild events, planned activities, outlining goals, and setting preferred activities for your membership during a given time. I like to release monthly newsletters, internally, on guild chapter forums to that everyone knows what the expectations and priorities are for that month. When members know what to do or what the priorities are for a given time period, they usually become more productive.

    Member Discipline

    Last but not least we have member discipline. Most members integrate well, but from time to time there's always that one person who feels he's god's gift to your guild. This is gut check time because sometimes you have to boot that guy, and all his friends who came with him. Personally I believe its acceptable to suffer a temporary setback in order to remove a cancerous member and his supporters within the guild than to let them fester and grow. Games like World of Warcraft that require a perfect combination of so many people or so many of each class do make one hesitant to boot someone and their friends at times, but letting cancerous people remain in your guild can doom the entire guild. We have booted recruits, full members, and even Elders over 12 years when they got too big for their britches, but those things are required if you want to stand the test of time.

    Conclusion

    So this has been a short primer, and I covered the things that I feel are most important. If you've got more things to add, feel free to let us know in our forums.
     
  2. Hades Lord of the Dead

    Why Most Guilds Fail

    Recently I wrote an article about how to build and maintain a successful guild, so this article is intended to provide the other side of the equation by discussing why guilds fail. The fact is that thousands of guilds get formed for each game, but only a small percentage ever last more than a year. By the time a guild gets to the five year mark, there is an even higher risk of that guild stagnating if it doesn't continue to rebuild itself.

    A guild, to me, is the pinnacle of player organization in a game. Those players are bound by a common cause, philosophy, and share the same goals. A great guild is one that sets its own agenda, and adapts to each new game in order to achieve success. Great guilds are not born, they are made and they take work to maintain.

    As I explore new games for LotD, I do a lot of reading and pay attention to the player community were we may get our potential new recruits. More often than not, I see more players who have negative opinions about guilds. When I delve further into the reason for such negativity, it often becomes a story of how these people were in bad guilds so their view of guilds is tainted. They end up with low expectations for guilds, and due to that they continue to make poor choices so they continue to end up with bad guilds.

    So lets explore some of the reasons that guilds fail, and maybe your guild won't end up in the big MMO guild graveyard!

    What Sort Of Guild Do You Want?

    Any potential guildmaster needs to put some serious thought into the type of guild they want to create. Too often they just grab some people, create a guild tag, and worry about the rest later. If you want to have a guild that might last a while, then you have to decide what type of guild focus you want to have and what type of gamers you want to recruit.

    I sort of break guilds down into three basic types:

    Clan

    To me a clan is just a small handful of people who know one another, and they form a small unit in a game that may share things such as a guild tag, cloak, emblem, guild hall, voice chat, etc. They don't really do much planning, and they just sort of show up and game with whoever is on. Typically they don't do much recruiting outside of personal invites, and they stay small.

    Guild - Casual Focus

    I think that guilds with casual focuses can do fine so long as they stay within certain parameters. Casual based guilds generally look for relaxed players who don't want to be held to a strict gaming schedule. Their members generally want to belong to a larger group so that they can achieve more notoriety and/or progress farther into a game's End Game Content.

    Guild - Hardcore Focus

    A guild with a hardcore focus typically does have very clear goals in mind when its created, and it tries to recruit people who have a regular gaming schedule. They work with these members to plan specific PVP or PVE schedules in order to advance as far into the End Game Content as possible, and then gain notoriety within their gaming community for their achievements.

    Potential Pitfalls:

    Clan:


    In many of today's games its hard to progress far into the end game without a dedicated group. Many clans fail to grow enough to tackle the epic encounters, and as a result they hit a stopping point or are unable to make a real difference. They also tend to end up in alliances of other like minded groups, and those alliances are usually more trouble than they are worth.

    Guild - Casual Focus

    Casual focused guilds can run into many of the same problems as the Clan. However the casual guild can usually progress farther into the end game before they reach a stopping point. If they want to move beyond those points, they have to get more players, more organized, and the leadership has to do more work. Anytime a guild grows there is potential for drama, conflict, or leadership burnout. From what I've seen its usually that they grow too large to manage, or they stagnate as leaders burnout and there are not enough new leaders available to carry the load.

    Guild - Hardcore Focus

    Hardcore guilds have the potential to reach the end game, or blow up somewhere along the way. These types of guilds tend to die with a greater frequency than the previous two types of guilds. A hardcore guild can be so elitist that they can't attract enough people, or so rigorous that the guild becomes a second job and the members just burnout. Usually the leadership fails to see that their recruiting standards are too strict so people don't apply, or they don't know when to slow things down enough so that members don't burnout. If their members do burnout, then their inability to recruit can stagnate the guild and cause the whole thing to collapse.

    Managing Guild Size: Too Small, Too Big, Or Just Right?

    Regarless of the type of guild, size can certainly matter. Guilds that are too small can run into serious issues with PVE or PVP progression while guilds that are too large can become nearly impossible to coordinate. Under recruitment and over recruitment are two big things can can sink a guild in a game, or perhaps even permanently.

    Common Reasons For Under Recruitment

    * You underestimated the amount of concurrent people you need to progress and halted public recruitment efforts.
    * Your application requirements could be too strict (i.e. applicants must be X level, Y class, and Z gear). As a game ages old players leave and new players looking for a guild might not meet those requirements, so they just go to someone else's guild.
    * You fail to keep your guild in the public eye. Face it, there's thousands of guilds out there. If your members never associate with people outside the guild, then you are probably going to get passed over by guilds who do mingle with the public.
    * You spam global channels with annoying advertisements! Man I hate this, and so do a lot of other people. If that's how you recruit, then you need help.

    Common Issues With Over Recruitment

    * Your guild leadership simply can't handle the level of organization and coordination required.
    * You get swarmed with new members who need orientation, and it slows down guild progression or productivity to unacceptable levels.
    * You have too many people for events, and some people have to sit around too often.
    * Too many new people in a short amount of time can create personality conflicts that cause a lot of drama or other side issues.
    * Your members get quest fatigue or burnout from having to do the same encounters over and over to get people geared out or get access to the next zone.

    These are just a few of the issues here, but as you can see the problems associated with under recruitment or over recruitment can certainly give a guild leadership a lot of headaches.

    Loot And E-Drama

    I miss the old days when everyone who went on a quest got the same reward. Nowdays that doesn't happen often, and you have to run the same quests over and over again and again.

    Your casual gamers complain they can't ever get the good loot because no one wants to run quests when they need them, and your hard core gamers got their loot and are trying to avoid burnout while getting the whole guild outfitted. The inevitable E-drama errupts, people get pissed off and leave or burned out and leave.

    The bottom line is that many guilds don't establish good rules for raiding attendance and loot distribution. Fights over loot can litterally make or break some guilds, so its important that guild leaders establish some fair and consistent guidelines as early as possible in the guild's life. Then enforce them, and don't bend the rules for anyone.

    Guild Resources

    Most guilds try to put together a basic website, but many don't and just rely on the in game guild tools to support their efforts. To each his own I say, but I'd have a hard time really connecting to a guild that only had an in game presence. Having an external presence gives people a way to socialize outside of the game, and get an additional level of communication.

    Inactivity

    Not every guild needs to have a rigorous PVE or PVP schedule each week or month, but it does help to sort of provide direction to the guild. Otherwise people may not know when to log on for important events, and your guild could consistently find itself under manned for the desired event. Once or twice this isn't a problem, but consistent feelings that a guild isn't very active can cause members to leave for guilds that they think are more active.

    Poor Leadership

    Not everyone is cut out to be a leader. Some guilds promote people to leadership positions based on that person's tenure with the guild, but just because someone's been around forever doesn't mean they'll be a good leader. Other times people can get promoted to leadership too quickly, and as a result they can make some drastic mistakes or even abuse their power.

    There are also issues that arise from leaders being indecisive and not wanting to make any decisions without input from the guildmaster. That's ok, but the guildmaster needs to be able to delegate and then oversee the junior leaders. Having to wait too long for decisions to be made can stagnate the guild, and eventually it can overwhelm the guildmaster that has to formally approve every action.

    The final thing about poor leadership is having too many leaders. This can create communication overlap, cause members to not know who to listen to, and eventually cost the guild a lot of productivity. Guilds should try to design their leadership and communication structure to avoid bombarding members with too many orders or directives at once. In LotD we like to do monthly or weekly news letters to members to tell them what's important for that week.

    Guildmaster Goes Insane!

    Believe it or not, this does happen to a lot of new guilds. The GM gets disgruntled with the way the guild is forming, it doesn't live up to his expectations, or it becomes too much work. Suddenly and without warning the GM disbands the guild, nukes the website, etc and the guild vanishes in an instant.

    The moral of the story here is that junior leaders need to help share the workload so the GM doesn't explode, and the members who care about the guild should go the extra mile to help achieve the guild goals. Its hard work running a guild, and its even harder when lots of other people stand around with their hands in their pockets.

    Guild Image and Dumb Guild Names

    Many new guilds try to create flashy guild names. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't, but your guild name is the first thing that displays your guild image. If you have some goofy name, its going to be hard for members to take the guild seriously and for them to put the effort into making it a long term entity. Also not many developer studios want to recruit guilds with stupid names for their betas, and they certainly won't spotlight your guild on beta journal news that goes to the mass media.

    Other things that hurt the guild image are leaders who get caught hacking, duping, or exploting (Rolling 30's from Shadowbane for example). You won't develop a good rapport with dev studios or the community if your guild is widely known as a bunch of exploiting SOB's.

    So your guild image and your guild name play an important part in your ability to recruit, develop external relations, and last from game to game. Pick wisely because "GanGsTa'Z oF WaRz" probably won't last over time.

    Concluding Remarks

    This is not a comprehensive list, but it is meant to cover some of the things that cause young guilds to fail and they are things that I've seen time and time again over the years. Feel free to provide your input and experiences, and I'll try to update this over time.
     
  3. Hades Lord of the Dead

    Building Guild Friendly Games Part 1

    What is a Guild?

    An online gaming guild is simply defined as:

    An association of gamers in a particular game or gaming medium who come together to establish an organization whose members share common goals, objectives, and philosophy.

    That is pretty much it when you cut right down to it. You want to game with people like you, who enjoy what you do, and who want to achieve the same goals. Sometimes you can do that with a collection of close buddies, and have fun without anything getting too serious. I tend to refer to that as a gaming CLAN rather than a guild. To me a guild is a step up in the evolutionary gaming ladder, and is a much more professional type of organization.

    People establish guilds when they want to establish a formal presence in a gaming world. Whether its a PVE focus where you are known for "slaying the dragon", or a PVP focus where you are known for "PWN'ing your enemies", a guild is the pinnacle of a player gaming group. Good guilds are very organized with progression strategies for PVE, combat strategies for PVP, have good planning and coordinating capability, use voice chat, and have some type of recruitment screening process to weed out bad applicants. Bad guilds are full of drama, full of member turnover, have few standards, and are good for forum entertainment.

    Good guilds have good members, and they rise to the top of the gaming community with their achievements. All guilds have strived for that, and any guild that doesn't shouldn't be a guild at all. A game that has a healthy guild community is able to retain players and build a good player community that people will want to stay involved with, but a game that doesn't will eventually get a bad reputation. So if guilds are so important, why are they being so poorly supported these days?

    Core Issues With Guilds In Today's Games

    Purples 4tw!
    Back in 1993-1996 in the era of Old Neverwinter Nights and Darksun Online there were actual live events in the games. Events required coordination, and guilds being formed were the eventual result. When guilds would do well in an event, it was publicized in the game and within the media outlets of the day. Being associated with a certain guild could carry prestige and respect within the player community as well as assist members with attaining rewards they couldn't normally obtain. While nice to have, these items were not so overpowering that they were "must have" type equipment.

    Today we call that Epic or Raid level content, there's no live team, no real notoriety, and the gear that is obtained is light years ahead of what can be gotten through non epic/raid encounters. You get your spot in a raid depending on your class, your dps or healing, your gear. Not only that but lots of time is invested, and rewards are few or only benefit a certain class. So a guild has to repeat this time investment over and over and over again for each piece of gear, for weapons, and for each character class in the guild.

    It creates a sort of "quest fatigue" and burns people out, and creates a situation where guilds are so busy with progression that they can't focus on anything else. Many people join one guild simply because of where that guild is in the game's progression, get their purple, and then leave to go find the next guild further along so they can get their next piece of gear.

    Casual vs Hardcore

    Several game related articles have brought this up recently, and the fact is that most online gamers are casual players. But today's games are mostly geared towards the hardcore who have more hours to play in two days than most casuals have all week. In most of today's games, if a casual gamer falls behind in gear or progression they will spend weeks or months trying to catch up with their friends. In many instances they will even quit the game rather than be forced to grind it out with nasty pickup groups (PUGS).

    It is very hard for guilds to balance the needs of casual and hardcore gamers, and often creates divisions within a guild. The casual isn't the right class, doesn't have the gear, dps, isn't the right level, etc. So while the rest of the guild is off slaying the dragon, the few casual players are off slaying the rats. A sad fact is that group of casuals may never see the dragon because the hardcores of the guild may have moved on to the next set of content, and that dragon is old news. So the casual is forced to PUG it out, find a new guild, or just quit the game. Usually they opt to quit if they can't game with their friends.

    Games provide few or no incentives or ability for the hardcores to win things that could then be used to help the casuals close the gap. This has been the status quo since Everquest, and a big reason why I hate games that seperate content so drastically based on levels.

    Guild Community/Benefits/Management

    Many games simply feel that giving you the ability to create a tag, a cloak, have a officer chat channel, and a general guild chat is the extent of what you need. That line of thinking is why you have 1 man guilds in games, and why people don't feel too much loyalty to guilds anymore. It used to take some effort just to establish a guild, but now anyone can do it. In City of Villains there were so many 1 man guilds running around that it wasn't funny. These guys would form 1 man guilds so they could design their guild emblems, etc and then sit around and beg for groups all day. Insert "your game here" and you would probably find the same thing.

    As mentioned in the Purples 4tw section, the only real benefit to being in an in game guild anymore seems to be that they are the means to an end (which is to get the purple). If content is going to be designed that requires organized groups, then most organized groups are going to be guilds. Why not develop some in game benefits to being in a guild? More on this later.

    Guild management features are sorely lacking, and as a result the player community has taken it upon themselves to create game mods to help them be more effective. The problem with mods is that you get a nasty reality check when the players quit making updates, and you are forced to deal with just the options you have in the core game. Managing and coordinating your guild should be easy, simple, and painless. Too often you're dealing with stupid slash commands, or joe blow member has to be "present" to get something done to him, you have a guild membership cap, etc.

    There has also got to be a better way to handle guild recruitment than what's being offered now. Too many games rely on cluttered public recruitment forums where b1lli3'z newbie guild is too busy spamming everyone else out. Other games have people macro spamming recruitment announcements in a zone that's so bad you have to filter out public chat (who uses those announcement channels anyway eh?). There really needs to be a way to have an interface where people can go see what guilds are recruiting, and then sort the guild lists by some criteria.

    Guild Friendly Game Design

    Ok my list above was very very broad, but the intent was to hit some highlights and then focus on some design concepts that would help to promote guilds.

    Rewarding Guild Loyalty

    Reward someone for being in a guild, and sticking with that guild over time. One way to do that is to provide an experience bonus, % chance to succeed on a crafting check, % chance increase to find some rare drop, and maybe a small bonus to resistance damage/hps/etc based on each month they've been with a guild. In order to prevent 1 man guilds from benefiting, each game should decide the minimum guild size they'd consider to be a real guild in their game. So something like Fred gets a bonus to something based on (check guild size, if its acceptable then apply a modifier by each month someone's been in that guild). This isn't perfect, but it provides a benefit for staying in.

    Other benefits could include monthly certificates that provide temporary increases to exp from killing mobs, quest completion, etc that could be passed to other members. The more hardcore guys could pass these down to the casual players in the guild to help those guys close the gap with character development. Guild Halls could be upgraded to provide power-ups, or mabye NPC Henchmen (like guildwars) for members to use to help them progress when the main guild is tied up with other activities.

    The key thing here is that there should be a benefit to belonging to a guild, and there should be things that guild members can obtain that can be used to benefit the rest of the membership. Lets get away from the "Purple 4tW" mentality where you just have a bunch of people sharing a guild tag, and not a real guild.

    Character and Content Progression Tools

    The City of Villains buddy system was a good first step in this direction. A higher level guy could allow a lower level guy to buddy up with him, and it would temporarily raise the lower level guy up to a high enough level to where he could kill things. The downfall of this was that the lower level guy didn't get any accelerated exp gain, and if he was level 10 then he only had access to level 10 powers. That's not very useful in a zone that's level 40-50, and the higher level guy can't go into lower level zones because the mobs don't give exp.

    I don't see anything wrong with letting people assist their friends, and even powerlevel them. Again casual players have a hard enough time keeping up with their friends as it is, and MMORPG's have a history of forcing people to reroll to a new class due to a patch that gimps someone's previous character. Give guilds the ability to assist their casual and lower level characters, and then maybe some will start recruiting more newbie level players. The opposite effect is that once a game is 6 months old or older, newbies are thrown to the wolves and no one wants to take the time to help them level up.

    Guild Management

    Lets make it easier to setup and run a guild. Let guild leaders make custom ranks/title and bestow permissions on those ranks/titles. Give us some automated tools to deal with inactivity, guild wide info alerts, conducting opinion polls.

    Games should come out of the box supporting guild halls, guild vaults, and the ability of leadership to establish a guild tax to raise needed funds. Why have to still deal with mule accounts and manual gold/dues collections to maintain guild houses, vendors, etc? Its 2007, not 1997 and running the day to day stuff to keep a guild going shouldn't eat up all of the leaders time.

    Conclusion

    We've covered a lot of things, but this list is far from comprehensive. I plan to write more articles on guilds and gaming in the future. However guilds are the backbone of a game's player community, and few people get very far in a game without belonging to an organized guild. Therefore we need to put some things in that provide a benefit for being a member, a benefit for staying a member, make them easier to manage, and give them some rewards that can be used to benefit other guild members.

    We are better than "Purple 4tw" in 2007, so lets ask developers to design smartly so that guilds can get back to the business of helping each other to succeed.
     
  4. Hades Lord of the Dead

    Building Guild Friendly Games Part 2

    Most games require an organized effort to achieve high levels of progression for PVP or PVE content. Generally those groups are called Clans or Guilds by most MMO players. Unfortunately too many companies in the past have not treated guilds like a living entity or recognized them as a critical component of their game. Too often guilds have been condemned to be just a guild tag, a private chat channel, and maybe a guild cloak. Then after the game launches, the developers sit back and wonder why their guild community is bad, why guilds fall apart, and why so few are able to progress to high levels of in game achievement.

    I do know that having a successful community of thriving guilds that can continuously grow is certainly not a bad thing for a game. In order to have a thriving guild community, the game first needs to recognize that guilds are a core part of their game and then build in systems to help those guilds remain viable.

    Some of the critical things that I believe any modern MMO should have to help guilds be successful are:

    1. A Guild Purpose In Game
    Beyond just sharing a tag, the guild should have some in game purpose to exist and motivation to continue to exist. Using a recent game, I think that Warhammer had a good idea with their living guild system but that system really didn't give good enough rewards or incentives. Leveling up a guild should have given access to tangible rewards (i.e. %exp bonus, %crafting bonus, access to special gear vendors, etc) that would benefit individual members. Leveling the guild should also have provided some guild wide bonuses such as extra bank vault space, special vendors, guild hall designs, etc. If guilds are important to participate in an organized part of the end game content, then people need incentives to be in them and see them grow.

    2. A Mentor System
    This would apply to everyone whether they had a guild or not. But basically the game should provide a way to apprentice up or temporarily downgrade a character to a lower level so they can game with friends. In too many games people get left behind unless they can game a million hours a day. A good mentor system can definitely help guilds because they'd be able to help new members, or assist someone's new character so that rerolling wouldn't always be a pain.

    3. In Game Recruitment Ability
    Less than 25% of all players in a game bother to read forums, and as a game ages guilds end up spamming some trade, zone, etc type channel over and over. They do this because few games have areas where people looking for guilds in game can actually go to find them. Some hubs with an in game recruitment function would absolutely help many guilds continue to thrive and grow after the game is no longer new.

    4. A Unique Place To Call Home
    This goes back to some type of dedicated place that a guild can call home, access banks, access vendors, practice PVP, etc. Guild Wars did a good job of that with their Guild Halls, and provided a lot of variety. Just relying on player housing isn't the best idea because housing sprawl eventually limits a guild's growth options and locations.

    5. Guild vs Guild Options
    Even guilds in the same faction want to kill each other at times, and there should be ways for guilds to declare war on one another. Even the grandaddy of MMO's, Ultima Online, allowed one guild to declare war on another guild and there's no reason a modern MMO with a strong combat component shouldn't have it too.

    6. Guild Recognition
    Having leader boards, Kill to Death ratios, statues of outstanding players, recognition for great PVP or PVE events, etc all provide ways for guilds and the people within those guilds to be recognized. This doesn't have to be limited to guilds only, but certainly should apply for things that require an organized effort to achieve.

    7. BIG (Bind In Guild)
    Forget bind on equip and bind on pickup for content that requires an organized group to obtain. Too many players use guilds for progression purposes, then leap to other guilds, and it causes all sorts of upheaval. One has to just look at WoW to see it, and how guild hopping leads to guilds lose their motivation to keep running the same instances over and over to gear up new people. In most cases the guild simply implodes and dies when the members tire of that.

    Using BIG concept means that gear that was obtained using a guild belongs to the guild. If someone leaves the guild, the BIG gear goes back to the bank vault to be given to another guild member who can use it. As mentioned, you simply have to look at WoW to see all the drama that gear creates and the fact that people can simply walk away with all their loot the day after they get their last needed drop.

    8. Guild Tax and Vault Systems
    These should be built in and easy to manage if there are things in the game that require a guild to pool funds or resources to purchase or make.

    9. Grouping Bonuses
    Solo'ing has become all the rage for advancement since WoW. I certainly think solo'ing should be viable, but please don't penalize grouping. In some games a mob worth 500 exp/1 gold is worth less for each member of the group who joins. This just leads to people not wanting to group to maximize their EXP and money. Then people whine about boring solo leveling, and this is certainly the case in many games right now.

    Games that make grouping easy and don't penalize people for grouping end up providing more grouping opportunities.

    10. Looking For Groups
    One thing Warhammer did well was its open party system. Unfortunately you are penalized in exp/gold for grouping, so there aren't many open parties. However its a good idea if grouping has no penalty, and people can see what parties are available in each zone/area.

    11. In Game Calendar of Events
    Certainly a great thing to have, and it helps to organize guild events.

    12. Guild Roster - Per Account
    Everyone loves ALT's, but managing your guild is about knowing who is active or not active. It gets hard to keep up with a medium to large sized guild when the roster is done on a character basis, but much easier when its done on an account basis. People might not think roster management and activity monitoring is important, but it is because you need to use the roster to manage your personnel and recruitment needs.

    13. Guild Announcements Section
    There should be a spot in the GUI for important guild announcements. Too often a MOTD just gets lost in the login/zone chat spam.

    14. Guild Titles and Awards
    Titles should be available and customizable as they are in many games. It would also be great if there were some awards that could be assigned to outstanding members, and then have a tab on the guild UI to list people who were recognized by the guild for outstanding service.

    15. Guild History
    Knowing someone is a guild hopper or not is always valuable. Being able to view someone's guild joining/leaving history when they apply to your guild is good knowledge to have. It would be nice if there was a way to provide that along with the in game recruitment tools.

    Conclusion
    I'm sure there are many more things and not everyone will agree with them all. I think guilds are the lifeblood of a good player community so things that help manage them, keep recruitment going, help newer or lower level players, and provide an incentive for people to log in to grow the guild in the game just help keep them viable over the long term.
     

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