Guild Guide: Keeping the group focused during hard progression

How do you keep your guild or clan focused or engaged during the slow and more arduous parts of progression?

The biggest challenge in any sort of progression isn't the content or the other players, it's keeping people from storming away.

You can't really blame them, either, because progress in any sort of online game is meant to be slow and tedious.  Not just to keep you playing, although that helps, but because it involves relying on the skill of several other people and taking on something that isn't built just for you.  If your team is trying to make ladder progress, beat the current tier of endgame content, or even just field a successful group for tackling whatever... that takes effort.  That takes dedication.  And it takes a lot of work for people to not just get exhausted and go play a game that has the advantage of actually ending.

Fortunately for you, there are tools to keep people going, and they're tools you'll want to use.  If you want to start making the climb up from the bottom, you owe it to yourself and your fellow players to make it the most satisfying experience you can.  Starting with a very simple concept.

You hate moths?  I hate moths!  This is going great.

Have a core team with a unified plan

I'm not saying that there are six people who should be shouldering all of the burden involved in progress; I'm saying that you should have a group of players who are all on-board from the word go (and preferably before) with the intensity level you're aiming for and what your overall goals are going to be.

The important thing here isn't the length of the climb, it's what you expect to be done in the name of the climb.

The important thing here isn't the length of the climb, it's what you expect to be done in the name of the climb. If you want to have a group wherein everyone is devoting at least three hours of time to hardcore progress every single night, you want a core of people who will look at that and say "yes."  Not grudgingly, but with some satisfaction.

Simply put, the question here is not one of your goal's height but of dedication.  You all need to be putting in roughly the same amount of dedication to make this work.  If you want your team to make serious progress in the rankings in League of Legends but one of you is super dedicated and two other people consider it a hobby, the dedicated player is going to go further and get angry at the players he sees as holding the group back.  He wants to really work on this, and if they're here, they should be too.

So set down the rules for what you want.  That's the first step.  But it's important even with the same dedication level to realize...

I have a good feeling about Round Three Million.

Hitting your head against the same thing is not progress

I have been in guilds before where when it was Raid Night, it was Raid Night.  And if we hit a wall in content after half an hour of play and Raid Night ran for three hours, then the next two and a half hours would be wiping on that exact same obstacle, over and over, until we cleared it or until the timer was up.

This is not productive, and I don't think anyone running the events realized it or understood why.

But if the team is hitting a brick wall and failing the same way, time and again, it's time to stop hitting your head against it. 

Sometimes, seven attempts are what it takes for the first clear, yes.  But it's important to understand why wipes are happening and suss out a pattern.  If slow but steady progress is being made, if each attempt is better on average than the ones beforehand, it's reasonable to say that even if the attempts aren't perfect there's a reason to keep going.  But if the team is hitting a brick wall and failing the same way, time and again, it's time to stop hitting your head against it.

Not give up, no, but at least recognize that if the same thing happened the first five pulls, unless something changes on the sixth pull, the same thing will probably happen all over again.

Analyzing why things are going wrong and how they can be fixed is the difference that makes a good leader into a great one, but the short and simple version is that repeated failures mean something isn't going right and needs to be corrected.  Take a step back and change directions.  If the same people doing the same jobs aren't getting things done, something needs to be mixed up.  Roles need to be swapped, or gear needs to be obtained, or someone just does not get a certain mechanic and is inflicting that failure to understand on everyone else.

That three hours of dedication on a nightly basis means less than nothing if you're not focusing on three hours of progress.  Sometimes, forward motion means stepping back and re-evaluating.  And when you do make that progress...

I had other guys with me before, but they realized they all hated me.

Ensure that everyone has non-progress motivation

The worst sort of people to work with in progression are not the people that you hate; you wouldn't be in the group if they made up the majority.  No, the worst people are the people you don't care about at all.  The faces in the crowd.  Because as you make progress, if you don't care about them to start with, you're going to start caring as they get things you wanted while you're paying careful attention to their every mistake.

Organize events for the group that aren't focused around progression but just involve everyone having fun. 

Keeping a group together isn't about making everyone a group of best friends.  But you do want your progression group to consist of people who can stand one another, rather than having it full of simmering resentment and unrestrained loathing.

Organize events for the group that aren't focused around progression but just involve everyone having fun.  Forums for the group are good for this past a certain critical mass, but not absolutely necessary.  The point is to provide a space for people to just talk, laugh, smile, and become at least acquaintances if not actual friends.

As important as dedicated progress is, it's also important to have everyone feel like their teammates are people that they want to succeed and do well.  Which ties directly into the last point...

You and me, but mostly me.

Make victories about the group, not the individual

The feedback loop of many MMORPGs is that defeating Boss X will reward pieces of loot, but that loot will almost never be distributed equally to everyone.  It's inevitable.  Even if everyone in the group gets a new thing, that new thing is going to be of different value to every player.  The only way to make things better is if you have that new thing be purely token-based and given to everyone, and even in the token-heaviest games I know, someone gets something a little more than someone else.

In these moments, it's important for the group to feel like everyone got the same amount of net reward.

Obviously, someone got more than other members.  Someone got the random loot that dropped, for example.  But it's all in how you frame it, and part of that is emphasizing that now the entire group is more skilled.  That your members are more experienced and capable of better things, and when you all face the next leg of the challenge, everyone will be better suited to it just by virtue of experience.  It's not a matter of making sure that everyone gets a roughly equal number of shiny things, it's a matter of letting people feel like the real reward was victory, with any other rewards serving as bonuses rather than serious needs.

Victories are victories for the whole group.  Not just the one guy who happened to get new shoulderpads.

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Published Dec. 8th 2015

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