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 25 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

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    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

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    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 treatment, 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- Taking Your Guild Across Games

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    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

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    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

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    In this day and age, voice chat is all the rage. Any guild worth its salt is going to have discord, 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 imperative 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

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    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 regularly 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

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    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

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    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

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    Has Your Guild Become a Raging Dumpster Fire?
    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. In fact, a study by Nick Yee a few years back clocked the rate of annual guild failure at 54%. 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 let's 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:

    Gaming 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:

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    Gaming 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?

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    Regardless 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

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    I miss the old days when everyone who went on a quest got the same reward. Nowadays 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 erupts, 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 literally 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

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    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.

    Discord is the current flavor of the moment, and, to some extent, it seems to be displacing actual guild websites.

    Inactivity

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    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

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    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 exploiting (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.
     

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