Clans Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Clans RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network What Destiny 2 Needs to Hold a Community Better Than Its Predecessor Tue, 27 Jun 2017 16:27:20 -0400 LuckyJorael

For anyone game with online features, one of the most important parts is matching players up with other players. If you can't do that, then you might as well not even have a multiplayer component. Yet every year we see AAA titles release that fail to adequately master this part of the equation.

And let’s face it. Destiny fell into this latter category. You could really only get into a matchmaking queue for strikes and the Crucible. Everything else in the game required you to go onto one of the "looking-for-group" websites or apps and roll the dice. While fans banding together to support a title is commendable, it's not okay that much of the time this was the only way to actually play the game.

Often, if you wanted to do something different than a Raid or a Lighthouse run, you’d be out of luck. Wanted to do an activity like Court of Oryx, Prison of Elders, Archon’s Forge, patrol, or even a story mission? Well, that's too bad because there were practically no people looking to do the same thing.

Even if you wanted to do the more popular Raids or Lighthouse runs, the stipulations people put on joining their group became ridiculous. “Must have 2+ k/d” one would say for a Lighthouse team. “Must have Gjallarhorn” was the standard for Crota’s End when it was the game’s main Raid. Since obtaining Gjallarhorn is completely RNG based your inclusion on a team could easily be left up to pure luck.

It’s these types of disappointing stories I look back on when Bungie announced Destiny 2

Destiny 2’s Matchmaking So Far...

Bungie made a big deal about Guided Games during their reveal stream on May 18th. Guided Games is a way to match clans with single, clanless players so:

  1. The clans wouldn’t have to field 6 players every time they wanted to raid, and
  2. Clanless players could have a matchmaking experience that wasn’t pure hell.

Guided Games works like this: a clan wanting to put a team together gathers players from within the clan, and then sets the group to Guided Games, listing the number of open slots. On the other end, a clanless player can see available clan teams, and can either elect to join a team if they like the clan, or refuse, based on how the clan presents itself.

Bungie has stated that Crucible and Strike matchmaking will return, and normal-mode Raids and Nightfalls will also receive matchmaking. This is good! By the end of year 1 of Destiny, Nightfalls didn’t need the coordination of a team communicating, so it made no sense that players couldn't matchmake, and Raids had so many players willing to instruct others that not including matchmaking became increasingly strange.

Bungie has also stated that Heroic Raids – the most difficult content in the game, PvP aside – will never have matchmaking. Guided Games will not include Heroic Raids. Not so good, in my opinion; while I'm sure Bungie has their reasons for that, players have proven time and time again that they can overcome even the most difficult challenges with sometimes ridiculous handicaps.

Whether or not a clan can start a Guided Game for a normal-mode Raid and then switch it to Heroic after clanless players have joined has yet to be seen.

What About Clans?

Destiny had clans, but they were vestigial things, requiring the player to go to Bungie's website to join, post, or set up teams -- similar to how players were forced to access story content via the grimoire. For all that Bungie pushed clans in year 3 of Destiny, they weren’t much more than a three-letter tag below your name in-game.

This time around, Bungie is making clans a bigger deal. Your clan name and banner, as well as a short blurb on what your clan is about, appears in-game, and clanless players seeking Guided Games or a clan to join can see all of that. In addition, Bungie has stated that clans will receive rewards as their members play. They’ve been tight-lipped about what these rewards actually are, but if joining together with Blizzard is any indication, I expect clan rewards to follow a similar path to guild rewards in World of Warcraft. Expect clan rewards to be things like ships, sparrows, shaders, and emblems you can only get from joining a clan.

What’s Needed

All these upgrades to the matchmaking and clan systems are a breath of fresh air, but I hope that there’s more to be introduced. Matchmaking shouldn’t be limited to just a few activities. Bungie has introduced a slew of new things to do in Destiny 2, including revamped Patrols and Public Events, Adventures, Lost Sectors, in addition to the explicitly matchmaking-enabled Crucible, Strikes, Nightfalls, and Raids. With the inclusion of an in-game map, I hope that each of these different modes has the option to enable matchmaking.

It would be spectacular to be able to open my map, select “Patrol” and join a fireteam, or select the Adventure I’m having difficulty with and have someone join to help me. Bungie has mentioned that players no longer need to go to orbit to change activities – something players complained about in the first game – so quickly joining a team through the map should be fairly easy.

While I understand that certain things like Public Events and Lost Sectors are supposed to be something of a discovery, I shouldn’t have to stumble upon other players wanting to do the same thing, like in Destiny. If I want to go hunting for Lost Sectors, why shouldn’t I have the option to find others that want to do the same thing, through in-game matchmaking?

For clans, I’ve already touched on what I expect as far as rewards, but I’d like to see more. Weekly rewards in the form of upgrade materials, a random loot box, consumables, or even engrams would be great for clans, rewarding players for reaching certain goals. Unless Bungie has reworked how shaders are developed, I don’t expect shaders using the clan’s colors, but emblems using the clan symbol would be amazing, and a way for clan members to show off their affiliation in game.

If Bungie does things right and learns from their mistakes in Destiny – as they hopefully appear to be doing – Destiny 2 will avoid many of the pitfalls the first game suffered from.

What ideas do you think Bungie needs to include in Destiny 2? Let us know in the comments.

[All media courtesy of Bungie, Inc.]

Guild Guide: 5 Ways to Ensure You're the Best Guild Member You Can Be Fri, 04 Nov 2016 06:00:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Focusing on progression in an MMO is hard, but it's not just hard because of the content. Sure, that's part of it, but it's safe to say that if you really want something down, you'll get it down. Eventually.

It's that "eventually" that starts to wear thin, though. Everyone knows you need to go in for another round of practice, this content won't beat itself, but boy you're not looking forward to another week of wiping, and the same problems keep happening, and you're all struggling... and before you know it people just don't want to be there anymore. The rewards are not worth the exhaustion, full stop.

Of course, officers do everything they can to help this. But you, as a member, can also do a lot to help make this happen. So let's look at some of the ways to make sure that you're being the best guild member you can be.

Do independent research

Part of an officer's job is making sure that everyone involved in the progression team knows what they're supposed to be doing, and hey, that's great. But that does not mean that during the rest of the time you can slack off and ignore things. If anything, it means that there's more onus on you to find out what you can be doing to improve your performance all around.

Take the time to do research on your own. Research your class mechanics and make sure you're using the best build possible. Practice your rotation. Look for alternative strategies on bosses that are giving you problems. See if other people are stuck in the same spot and what they did to overcome that problem. Do yourself the favor of looking around and seeing if there are more resources out there to make your team better.

If you find a good alternate strategy, send it along to your officers. If you have more practice with your rotation, share it - not in a passive-aggressive way, just share on the forums that you overcame a problem and that others can use the same approach. Don't try to take control of the guild away from the officers and the people who are actually in charge, but make a point of doing some of the lifting on your own rather than waiting for the officers to say that you have a problem.

Volunteer for what you can do

There are always things that need to be done in between progression attempts. Resources need to be restocked, guides need to be written and consolidated, people need to be reminded of the times, events need to be scheduled... it can be exhausting. And most of the time, the majority of that responsibility is on the officers, since... well, it's their guild. So that makes sense.

Still, that doesn't mean that you can't offer to take some of the burden off of them. If you can gather some of those resources or handle the necessary calendar functions, that's a burden off of the officers and more effort for them to focus on actually leading the guild. This is doubly true for things like calendar maintenance, necessary tasks that no one really wants to do but everyone wants done just the same.

Understand that this means you will probably be volunteering for some boring scut work and it won't be particularly glamorous. It's probably going to be tedious as all heck. But it also makes the guild as a whole run more smoothly over time, so that's a good thing.

Understand and respond to guild needs

The hardest part of being a good guild member is when your guild has just cleared a difficult fight in Final Fantasy XIV, the loot is there, and you want to lay claim to exactly what you need... but you pass on it, because it's a bigger upgrade for another part of the guild. There's no shame in making a few choked noises over voice chat as it happens. But you also know it's the right thing to do, because the small upgrade for you will be a huge upgrade for someone else and will lead to more success overall.

Responding to guild needs need not be that extreme; sometimes it's just a matter of choosing crafting specializations or professions in Star Wars: The Old Republic to match what your guild needs rather than what you like to do. But the core philosophy is the same: you are part of a group, and your decisions are primarily based around what is good for the group, even if it doesn't necessarily sync up with the stuff that's best for you.

And yes, sometimes it means making choked noises over voice chat. Stop shy of singing "I Will Always Love You" in the midst of it, though.

Encourage your fellow members

Your officers are your authority in your guild. Whether or not they deserve that authority is another discussion but also doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot; that's the position they have, regardless. Praise coming from them is naturally going to feel more like your boss giving you a pat on the back. You, on the other hand, are not an officer; praise from you feels more like a co-worker acknowledging work done well.

This is one of those times when the source of a compliment matters almost as much as the complement itself. Encouraging your teammates doesn't need to be a big thing - it can be as simple as telling someone that you can tell they're doing good work, or reassuring someone that they got screwed by mechanics when they drop. It's a matter of making the environment and atmosphere one of commiseration and camaraderie, that you're all on the same team and you recognize their accomplishments.

What's especially nice about this is that it tends to form a self-perpetuating loop - if one person is more free with compliments and praise, everyone else tends to follow suit, until everyone is praising one another and being supportive. It's like a master plan to manipulate everyone into being helpful, it's great.

Liven up the atmosphere

When I was working on Naxxramas with my guild many moons ago, we would often all burst into song before the Heigan fight. He was the dance boss, after all, and so we all wanted to be in the mood to dance. And sure, we still would occasionally wipe on him, but the fact that we were all going in and laughing about someone's terrible rendition of "Video Killed the Radio Star" made things far less tense than they would have been otherwise.

Maybe you don't sing; maybe you tell awful jokes or share puns or just rib one another. The important thing is that you work to make the atmosphere light and fun. Yes, you all need to be paying attention and put your game face on, but you don't need to do that instead of having fun. You should be doing that while having fun.

Please note that intentionally failing an encounter is not "livening up the atmosphere," it's just being a jerk. Find ways of making people smile that are focused around humor rather than just forcing a wipe.

None of this, of course, will ensure that you're successful as you work through progression. It just ensures that you're doing your part to be the best guild member you can possibly be, offering your fellow players the best atmosphere you can bring to the table. At least if you still wipe, you know you're doing all you can to avoid it... or take the sting off of the frustration.

Guild Guide: How to Handle People Who Aren't in Your Guild Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:17:32 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

No matter what game you're playing, you do not get to play it exclusively with your guild. Ever. There are going to be other people playing the game, some of whom you want to have a positive relationship with -- and your guild needs to handle how you interface with others.

Of course, that also comes with the caveat that people who aren't your guild are, well, not in your guild. Which means that you have to handle a different sort of interplay. You simultaneously have to make sure that you're treating people who aren't in your guild as important and relevant while at the same time not letting your actual guild feel less relevant. It's a juggling act, in other words.

So let's break this down into three major categories... after we determine the sorts of people you'll be dealing with.

Who is this person to you?

Total strangers are people whom your guild interacts with based on more or less nothing. They're random people tossed into your guild by queued content or other unplanned excursions. They're people members meet out in the field of open-world games. They're not people you have recruited or ever interacted closely with.

Associates are people your guild deals with infrequently, but steadily enough that you know who they are. They may be part of a sister guild or just someone who's close friends with some officers through other means. Your guild as a whole sort of knows them, but not really.

Partners, in this case, are non-members who wind up in your guild space a lot. They're the sort of people who make you ask why they aren't actually with your guild -- and while there's often a very good reason, they're a familiar presence. Though they have no actual ranks in your guild, they're treated as almost a member.

Last but not least, former members are people who were part of your guild but aren't any more. It's important to consider why they're former members rather than present members, and that's going to inform the way you interact with them. If they left on positive terms, they can easily be akin to associates or partners; if they left on bad terms, there are other cans of worms to deal with.

Handling complaints and feedback

More often than not, you're going to be getting this sort of feedback from total strangers. "Your guild member did X at our event," or something similar. Someone you don't know is going to accuse your guild member of being rude or otherwise violating a rule.

The first thing to do is to explain, calmly, whether or not what was done actually violates a rule of your guild. Guild members make an agreement to follow the rules of your guild, which is why I've mentioned in the past that you should have rules about behavior to outside members. However, if the guild member did something that was entirely valid but ruffled someone's feathers, your only real recourse is to explain that to the (no doubt unhappy) victim.

Assuming that this is a violation of rules, thank the person and tell them that you'll look into it. Follow up by talking with the player in question and explaining the complaint. You aren't, hopefully, going to automatically side with your guild member just because they claim innocence; however, you're also going to still take their version of events into account.

If you feel like there's room enough to consider this an actual violation, you may as well treat it as one. Furthermore, if the person bringing the complaint is an associate or partner, you'll probably be able to skip ahead a bit; you don't need to know if the person leveling the complaint is trustworthy. More often than not, this is the sort of thing that merits a warning and a filing away until a later date. But if the member in question has several warnings for dealing with non-guild members the same way, it's a sign that more serious steps should be taken.

Handling attendance at events

Events are a bit trickier simply because, at least in theory, events have limited space. Every non-guild member who attends is one more guild member who can't, and that's important to consider. But that doesn't mean that it's necessarily wrong to have non-guild members about; it just means that you have to have a care for how you invite people.

When setting up events, designate if they are open to non-guild members and also emphasize whether signups are based on a first-come first-served basis or on a priority system. If it's the former, whomever offers to show up first gets to come, and if that means guild members get pushed out, that's on them. The latter case, however, lets you tailor the list based on who you want there first and foremost; just don't claim a priority system if you're going to be inviting non-guild members and not inviting members.

Obviously, you can't punish people who fail to attend if they're not part of your guild. As a result, it's best to limit events like this to ones where you can go with a flexible number or cancel if you can't get enough guild members; if you're doing a World of Warcraft raid on Normal and you don't have ten members sign up, don't try to fill out the base with non-members. It's also completely fair to prioritize former members (on good terms) and partners over associates.

If the non-members showing up are part of another guild, you may want to communicate with that guild's officers first, just to coordinate matters. It might not be necessary (your guild might be a casual raiding group while they're a PvP group), but it can be good to know that if you do need to hand out some punishment, the other guild has your back to some extent.

Handling progression content

This is where things can get very tricky. Progression content is something that, in theory, not everyone has done yet. It's something that drops some really high-end rewards. And traditionally, it's often been one of the bastions of guild content. A guild offers a group that can clear this content. But sometimes that winds up being just plain limiting, forcing people to choose between guilds and environments that they want to either follow friends or progress, not both.

The first step, then, is to make sure that any progression groups are operating on a priority system that is understood ahead of time and is entirely transparent. Once that's established, the question has to be answered: for every non-guild member present, why should that person be there instead of another guild member?

At this point, you're pretty much only discussing partners and former members on good terms. If you're filling out with totally random members, it's probably not really progression.

The other major thing to consider here is rewards, and there's really one hard-and-fast rule you need to have in place here: If there's something that's being fought over by a member and a non-member, the member wins that fight. No matter what it is, the member gets the item. That ensures that members don't feel as if they're fighting against people who aren't even in the guild to get rewards they need; they still might not get what they want, but at least it's not because of someone who isn't even part of the guild.

You're always going to be dealing with non-guild members, but with careful management, this can actually be an asset. Just make sure that your priorities center around the people who are in your guild. Otherwise, those members are going to wonder why they're supporting a guild without an interest in supporting them.

Guild Guide: The Big Book of Punishments (& How to Use It) Fri, 30 Sep 2016 07:45:54 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Guilds have rules. We've talked about that a lot. What we haven't discussed heretofore is what happens when those rules are broken. "The person who broke the rule needs to be punished" is pretty obvious, but the little things like "how" need to be covered. Unless your guild consists solely of members of your household, punishments like "do the dishes for the next week" aren't really going to work.

Your options in most games are pretty limited; there is a decided dearth of games in which you can place your disobedient guild members in an oubliette until you feel like letting them out. (That would have logistical problems, for starters.) But you do have options for punishment, and today, I'm going to run down the five biggest ones whilst discussing when to use them and when they just plain don't work.


You have gotten a warning at your job. It's fine. We all have. At one point, I even got the dreaded Formal Written Warning at a job about a week before I got promoted. That fragment of an anecdote pretty well sums up the usual attitude to take toward warnings, which is that they're not to be taken terribly seriously.

Warnings are an easy punishment to use, since they don't require a whole lot of effort from officers. Unfortunately, they're also a very easy punishment to completely ignore, because usually a "warning" just means that the officer said "don't do that," which means you have to not do that while that officer is watching until it fades from memory. It is ineffectual.

As a punishment, a warning is never going to have much in the way of teeth, but it works well as a buffer assuming that the officers are actually keeping track of this. "I'm giving you a warning for this" means absolutely nothing. "I'm giving you a warning; next time, you're going to be unable to chat in the guild channel for two weeks" means something.

Carefully tailoring the "next time" punishment and the duration of that warning is also useful, as no one wants to forever be one black mark away from a major penalty; all warnings should be in place for a maximum of three months, after which time you can be reasonably confident something warnable won't crop up again if it was a momentary blip.

Overall, warnings are useful just so you don't come down with full wrath on every petty offense. But make sure to give them some teeth.


In MMOs, there are really two sorts of fines you can levy. The first is a proactive fine, such as making someone toss 100,000 gold in your guild chest in World of Warcraft. The second is a reactive fine; the next time a token drops that you could use in Star Wars: The Old Republic, you have to pass on it and let someone else have it.

Fines are, by themselves, an effective punishment. Someone takes an item that they should have passed on, they have to pass on the next thing they want. Someone yoinks an item from the guild chest, they have to pay back the value of the item plus some extra. Unfortunately, fines also have the problem of being entirely voluntary; you can't force another player to pay the fines, and if they didn't care about the rules enough to incur the fine, they might well not care about them enough to pay the fine.

Some people also have a nasty habit of using fines as buying the otherwise unpurchaseable; I knew someone in WoW who regularly stole items from raids and then paid the fine, reasoning (correctly) that the gold cost was something he could earn while the items themselves were otherwise impossible to buy. Not a great guy, but he had a strategy that worked.

As such, fines are something best put into place as part of another punishment, or as a slap on the wrist for something that doesn't matter too much. Keep them small and use them more to punish inattentiveness than outright malice, so people are likely to grumble for a moment but then acquiesce on the grounds of fairness.


Most guilds need more than three ranks, or even four ranks. When handled correctly, ranks are a measure of trust. If you've been with the guild for three years, you get more privileges; I trust you to access the guild bank freely and even change the daily message if need be, because you're probably not going to screw with people.

Demotion, however, is useful. Consider, for a moment, a guild with eight ranks; the top two are the founder and officer, the bottom rank is a specialized punishment rank, and the others have slowly ascending privileges. If you get demoted in that environment, that indicates that your punishment isn't just a loss of privilege, although it's that as well. It's an indication that the guild trusts you less. Even if the change in rank just means there's one batch of items you can't take from the guild chest any more, you feel that shift.

Obviously, a lot of the utility of demotion comes down to the tools you have at your disposal. In some games, you can offer fine control; a guild in Final Fantasy XIV has many tools about different options for players at different ranks, so it's easy to declare that someone no longer has the right to tend the garden and potentially reap those benefits. Some games offer less fine control. But a demotion is always something to consider, and even if you can't reflect it in the game, you can still mark it in other ways, such as making sure the "demoted" player no longer has an automatic team placement or pick on your Heroes of the Storm team.

You can also have a demotion be temporary or permanent. The former is usually appropriate for smaller things. Someone got a warning about being a jerk to non-guild members, then they did it again, so now they get a notch down for a month. The latter, however, is pretty serious; it means that the member in question did something really bad, and they need to really rebuild trust before they're allowed full access again, if ever.


The semi-nuclear option, and one that should never be at the top of a list except for the most serious offenses. If you're in a competitive League of Legends team, for example, removal is an immediate and deserved go-to if a member leaks your strategies to an opposing team. Usually, though, removal is the option when someone just will not stop screwing up.

Rather than being a single cascading effect, removal should be considered when lesser punishments are having no effect. You've demoted someone down as low as you can, even to the new recruit tier, but they just keep breaking the rules. At this point, it's almost done with sadness. You don't want to kick them out, but nothing else works at this point. It's sad, but necessary.

Wait, did I just say this was the semi-nuclear option? Yes. Because there's a worse punishment.


This is when someone is just so dedicated to being disruptive that you have to turn your back on them completely. The player isn't just removed from your guild; you contact other guilds and tell them not to recruit this player. You refuse to party or interact with this player. You full-on shun them, bar them from any interaction with the guild. They're gone to you so far as you're concerned.

Needless to say, this is extreme. Sometimes, however, it's justified; you just have to have a situation in which the player his someone you actively want gone from all mentions. I've been in guilds wherein two players separated from a real-life relationship because one of them was abusive, and the guild, in turn, shut the abuser out completely. I don't know how his story ended, but I know that he was not welcome in any space which could conceivably involve our guild.

Most of the time, you don't need to go this far. Heck, most of the time you don't even need to go half this far. The majority of the players you'll meet just need a little nudge, some warnings, and perhaps the occasional demotion. But it's important to understand your full spread of options, just in case they ever come up.

Guild Guide: How to make schedules work Fri, 16 Sep 2016 06:00:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Scheduling tools are useful. Gamer Launch has some great scheduling tools for its guild websites, and while many of my opinions might lead off with "do you really need this," the answer here is almost always "yes." You need a schedule if your guild is more than two people. It's important.

The problem isn't whether your guild may or may not need a schedule; the problem is that you may or may not know how to use that schedule. It's like a screwdriver. You sure as heck need it, but if you don't know what to do with it and try to use it as a hammer, you're probably going to ruin everything.

So schedules are a lot like carpentry. Or... something other than carpentry. The point is, you need to know how to use them, and that's what I'm talking about this week. So let's dive right in.

Give lead time

First and foremost, it's important to realize that not every single person is going to follow the schedule religiously. Some people are, and that's great, but in order for the schedule to work, you cannot put an event on for early evening in the late afternoon. You need to give people lead time to see when things are happening and whether or not they'll be available.

A good rule of thumb is to have three days of lead time for smaller events, five days for larger ones. That's enough time for people to know when something is happening and be able to plan around it, including what times will need to be open. If I know that there's an event I must attend in three days, I can juggle my schedule; if it's a big event that's going to take a lot of time, having more forewarning gives me more time to make things work.

Of course, that lead time only matters if people are actually checking the schedule on the regular.  Which brings up the next point...

Drive people to the schedule

While events can often be run by members rather than just officers, it's the officers' job to make sure that players are being driven to the schedule by things actually happening there. And this is where a lot of officers can make mistakes, because the schedule is often treated as a reminder rather than the actual central point of contact. People didn't check the schedule and the event is going to start now, but they didn't sign up because they didn't know, can they come anyway?

No. The answer is no. If you want to be a part of a scheduled thing, go and sign up.

You will not like saying this, because it makes you a jerk. And that's fair. But it also sends the message that the schedule is something to actually use, not just an optional secondary aspect of the site. So don't make last-minute all-calls for people who didn't sign up. Didn't sign up? You're not in the event. Not enough people as a result? Event cancelled, reschedule.

Have regular things scheduled

The previous entry is the stick side; here's the more carrot-based side. Officers should make sure that people are signing up for events on the schedule, but they should also be putting regular things on the schedule for the future. If you always want to have, say, a fun farm run for old raids in World of Warcraft on Fridays, put that on the schedule and let people discuss what they'd like to hit in the week leading up to that fun run.

Your guild's activity is a good gauge for how much stuff you want to schedule, but I generally recommend between one and three events scheduled in advance on a regular basis. That's enough stuff to make it clear that things are going on, but not so much that the schedule is crammed to the brim right from the start.

By that same token, that Friday fun run is a bad idea. Not the fun run aspect of it, but the Friday part.

Leave the weekends open

I'm not suggesting nothing should happen on the weekends; rather, I'm suggesting that officers should leave more space open for non-regular events on the weekends if at all possible. The reasons for this are multifaceted, first and foremost being that a lot of people have more plans in the real world on the weekends. If all of the events are taking place on the weekend, players are going to be reluctant to attend, and that's not good.

The other reason, though, is that if you're making events with a few days of lead time, the weekends are the perfect time to slot those events when most people will be able to attend. Around the middle of the week, people can be posting events for the weekend, and everyone can plan the next few days as the lineup starts to form. Regular events are better set to other times; progression raid nights, for example, are better scheduled early in the week, both to avoid burnout and to allow for pickups and rescheduling if things go south one night.

Distinguish between events and reminders

I've mentioned signing up for things before, and that's an important aspect of events. But then there are things that you want to have on the schedule which aren't actual events. For example, perhaps your guild's most active crafter is always gathering and producing random stuff at the same time every week. There's no event there, but it's good to know, and if you have any stuff you want crafted that's the time to ask for it.

A good schedule has both events and reminders on it. Events are things you sign up for and participate in; reminders are just stuff that's happening that might have an influence on your play sessions. Heck, they need not even be guild-based things; having a reminder for important in-game events is just as useful. When is the next bounty week in Star Wars: The Old Republic? Toss a reminder on there.

Follow the schedule

This one is back into the slightly more jerk-based side of advice, but it needs to be said. If an event starts at 8, it starts at 8. That should not mean that 8 is when people are doing any of the following:

  • Assembling groups for the event
  • Farming items for the event
  • Traveling to the location of the event
  • Signing up for the event

Instead, people should be doing the following at 8:

  • Starting the event

My personal system is to have a 30-minute warning in place before the event happens, both for myself and for other participants. That's your time to get any of the other tasks you need accomplished before the event starts. And no, you shouldn't throw fits if it's 8:01 and someone is a moment late but otherwise prepared. But when you have a schedule, you should follow it, and you should have people who are punctual handling the scheduling of same. Just like driving people to the schedule, it makes you seem like a jerk when you do it, but it has benefits in the long run.

Be conscious of the shadow schedule

In any sufficiently large and long-running guild, you wind up with what I call shadow schedules. There might not be anything on the actual schedule, but everyone knows that Tom, Shannon, and Gina run certain stuff in Final Fantasy XIV around the same time every Thursday, and they'll usually pull some guild members in with them.

There's not a problem here, exactly, but it's worth pulling Tom, Shannon, and Gina to one side (metaphorically) and asking why that isn't on the schedule. Even if it's not on every week's schedule, having that there can be useful to let people know that it's happening. It doesn't even need to be something that someone signs up for as a formal event; just having it there as a reminder is in and of itself a way to make sure that people know it's happening and are planning around it.

Keep the schedule useful

If you're running an event, the scheduled event shouldn't just contain a description; it should include where everyone's meeting, what you'll need to bring, what players should read up on, anything unusual going on, the whole shebang. The more information there, the better. Sure, it means you'll need to do a little extra work to fill in all of the details, but that means people show up to the event prepared rather than confused.

As I said, a schedule is a good thing. Having one for your guild is a good thing. And when you're handling it carefully? It winds up providing a great deal of information for your entire group. You just need to know what you're doing.

Guild Guide: Managing your guild's reputation Fri, 26 Aug 2016 06:00:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Reputations are probably the most important part of your guild that you don't get to control directly.

Most of the stuff I talk about in this column is something that you, as an officer or member, can do something about. If you're an officer, you get to set the rules for your guild and make sure your members are following them. If you're a member, you get to be responsible for your own behavior as well as providing feedback to your officers to make sure that the guild is working well. You have control over all of this. But you don't have absolute control over your reputation; if someone says loudly enough that your guild is a bunch of jerks and enough people believe it, you will forever be known as a bunch of jerks.

It helps, of course, if your guild in this scenario is not literally named A Bunch of Jerks, but there's something to be said for unified branding.

Let's be real, though; while reputation is not under your direct control, it's still something you have quite a bit of influence over. You can't force people to think your guild is not a bunch of jerks, but you can influence their perceptions substantially by not acting like a bunch of jerks. So let's talk about managing your reputation, from both a member and an officer's point of view.

Listen to other people

Not every single person in your guild is likely to be your close friend. It's nice if it happens, sure, but most of the people you're around are people that you at least theoretically like and trust. These are your people, and thus you're inclined to give them your support and attention. So when some random dipwad from another guild says that a fellow guildmate was being a jerk, your first instinct is to tell the person in question to perform acts that are anatomically unlikely.

This is basic human instinct. It's also the wrong attitude to take because it's possible that your fellow guildmate was being a jerk. And even if he wasn't, his actions are entirely predicated on the fact that you would not think he was a jerk.

The problem with always having someone's back is that sometimes, all of us are wrong. Sometimes I am. Sometimes you are. Sometimes your best friend is probably a jerk to someone. And if your guild works like most friend groups, sticking up for its members no matter what, that's a step down the road to being seen as jerks. Not because you shouldn't support your friends, but because you're not actually taking the time to ask whether or not your fellow members are being jerks to other. It's possible that you're having a legitimate behavior issue shared with you, and your first instinct downplays and loses sight of that fact.

If someone contacts you and says "this person did X," thank them and tell them you'll talk with the member about it. Hear their side of the story and decide if any rules were violated. Even if nothing comes of it, it helps your reputation by painting your guild as one with an emphasis on being able to listen to what other people say.

Take part in outreach

Your guild's first obligation is to itself. That is natural and smart. If your guild can easily clear Mythic raids in World of Warcraft, you are not obligated or even encouraged to carry people who struggle with normal difficulties. But boy, it sure does bolster the way the community sees you if you do anyway.

Reaching out to the larger community as a guild has two effects. One, it makes other guilds see you as something to aspire to, which is a good thing. Two, it makes people who aren't affiliated with your guild want to be like you if not actively a part of the guild. Running events and overcoming challenges with a focus on the community as a whole rather than just your immediate guild winds up doing wonders for your reputation.

Of course, in order to run an event for everyone, you have to have something your guild can offer that not everyone has. Bringing in random outside strangers for progression is not a good idea. But when you're farming something simple anyway, why not bring along some people who otherwise would not be able to go? Why not make it something several parts of the community can experience?

Basic logic makes it clear that your guild is first and foremost concerned with, well, itself. That's what keeps guilds running, after all. But from that basis, you can either move on to the idea that other people owe you something for helping out the community as a whole, or you can assume that you owe something to the community when it costs you nothing. Generosity tends to be remembered more positively.

It's also helpful on this point with a sufficiently large guild to have an officer specifically handling outreach with other guilds and cooperative ventures. Making it clear that your guild is willing to work with others and has an obvious point of contact helps solidify interactions and encourage cooperative ideas.

Encourage knowledge

Every single group of players has its dumbest member. No matter what tier you're playing at, there is someone who is notably lower than everyone else, and unless your guild exclusively works with its own members (which, as mentioned before, is a bad idea), you will have to deal with that dumbest member encountering others. The question then becomes whether you want that dumbest member to be the one who slightly misspells the names of planets in Star Wars: The Old Republic or the one who doesn't have any idea which specialties can serve as tanks.

Encouraging knowledge within the guild seems like the sort of thing that would only benefit your own guild, but it ripples outward. If I meet two people from the same guild spouting the same utter nonsense, I tend to think that that guild is not very well-run. By contrast, if I meet two people from the same guild who both prove to be brighter than average, I'm going to assume that the guild itself is better than average.

This is something of a hidden benefit of helping your guild get better all around. By improving your performance, you also improve the performance that your members will show when working separately. That means people will associate your guild in general with doing well, no matter how good you actually are. Sure, you might not be all that far in progress because progression is not your goal, but people know when a guild tag symbolizes that someone is on the ball, capable, and shares good information.

Obviously, none of these behaviors can prevent someone with a vendetta from saying that your guild is a bunch of jerks. But if you've established a good history, the odds are far more likely that another person in the conversation will say, "Hey, I've met those guys, they seem all right. Their guild name is A Bunch of Jerks, but they really aren't."

Still, you might want a different guild name, too. That can't hurt.

Guild Guide: How to deal with server changes Fri, 12 Aug 2016 06:30:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

If you're playing online with other people, servers are kind of important. They're the part of the network that allows you to actually do the whole "interacting with others" thing, after all. MMORPGs usually have different servers to facilitate different languages and locations as well as specific rulesets, so that players can either experience a more open PvP environment or a more roleplaying-heavy game. All of these things are important.

And almost all of these things will change.

Server changes are not wholly inevitable, but they're pretty common with any long-running game. There are merges, there are rule changes, there are expansions that change the makeup of servers, there are new servers that your group is considering swapping to, and so forth. Unless you're dealing with one of the handful of single-shard MMOs on the market, you will have to deal with server changes sooner or later. So let's talk a little bit about how to deal with major changes on your home server.

Understanding the nature of the change

There are a lot of different things that can happen with servers, but for the purposes of this article we're going to group them into two broad categories: mechanical changes and community changes.

Mechanical changes are things like a change to a server's ruleset (say, from RP-only to RP-PvP), turning on an expansion's features, rollbacks, and the like. Fundamentally, the population of the server has not significantly changed, but what the people on that server might value or be looking for has changed in a major way. Your guild's main way of generating money may no longer be viable, or people might have more need to be in a guild than in the past. But the community is still present, and the people you knew before are still around and active.

Community changes are usually server merges, but they can also include things like World of Warcraft's cross-realm zones, new chat modes, game integration, and so forth. These changes mean that the mechanics of the game likely aren't changing significantly, but the people in the game will be different. During the all-too-common server merges, you'll be seeing people you didn't know before, often encountering traditions you didn't know, and so forth. Or perhaps the servers will just be moved to a new location, affecting the ping rate of players in various ways.

Both of these will require some flexibility in dealing with a changing environment, but the bright side is that pretty much everyone else on your server will be dealing with the same issues at the same time. The down side, of course, is that this means you're not necessarily all working together.

The economy will shift

Whenever you have a major server change, this is a constant. Your guild probably has a way of making money if you have a guild bank, or it has a way of having wealthier members provide some sort of necessary financing otherwise. That means providing income on a regular basis, and all of that is going to change when a major change happens.

When a mechanical change goes down, your economy is shifting because what was super-valuable before may or may not still have any value. Crafting ingredients that were hard to get before the expansion might still be hard to get, but the items they make may no longer be worthwhile. Community changes, on the other hand, mean that communities are all going to be dealing with a very different player makeup; there may be a larger or smaller number of people selling the same things, and depending on the differences of the existing server communities, differing emphasis will be put on certain items.

The smartest thing to do, then, is to prepare ahead of time. Sell the stuff your guild had been hoarding for a rainy day, make your money, and then pull back. Put a moratorium on money-making for a bit until you've seen how the new economy will shake out and what's still valuable. You might miss out on an opportunity or two by being cautious, but you'll also avoid sinking big money into something that might not pan out. If previously rare items are suddenly selling for a pittance, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can make a killing; the value may never go back up, and you don't want to be left holding the bag.

Hold back a little bit. Sure, you might miss a deal, but you might also miss out on buying a lot of things only to watch their value fall further.

Culture shock

With server merges, this is a big deal. The server has certain accepted rules about how things are done, usually, based on time and what's worked. Rare enemies are pulled five minutes after the first sighting, for example. Quest enemies have a queue in place. New players learn the accepted rules of a given server or server cluster. But another server might have different rules, like only pulling an enemy after no one responds that they're coming to kill it, and you have to deal with a server full of people who think that there are different behaviors which count as rude.

The usual effect for guilds is to dig in. "We're from server A, and we're doing things like server A has always done things!" And that's a great way to ensure that you get left behind.

See, the fact is that once the merge happens, you're not in server A or server B, you're on server AB, and new rules need to be in place. So your best bet is to instead recruit people from the other server, welcome them, and understand the culture there. Use a mix of rules, and be flexible as things settle into place.

For mechanical changes, there's less culture animosity, but there's still some learning to be had as things no longer work the way they once did. Here, again, it's a matter of having good behavior rules in place for your guild as you wait for an overriding cultural imperative to become dominant. As long as your guild does its best to be respectful, you may very well have a hand in shaping the server culture as a whole to be respectful and polite to other players.

Progression issues

This affects both sorts of changes equally, but in different ways. With culture changes, suddenly the top progression groups or the most competitive PvP groups are at odds with one another for that distinction; they're pulling from the same crop of players. For mechanical changes, suddenly there's a question of what progression actually matters, and whether or not progression actually ought to continue.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer for this particular problem; a lot of push-and-pull is necessary. It's important, for example, to evaluate where you are in progression when you're getting close to the edge of a major change, and asking the important question about whether or not continuing is worth the effort. Remember that "no" is a valid effort; you could not want to compete in a more competitive environment or when the mechanics are shifting rapidly.

Most important is the matter of sticking by your guild's focus. If you're trying to focus on progress, continue to do so, but give yourself the space to change your lineup or experiment with new sorts of content. It may or may not be exactly what you had planned, but like all of these items, you need to be ready to roll with the changes.

Guild Guide: How to merge with another guild Thu, 09 Jun 2016 04:30:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

A lot of guilds don't fall apart because their communities don't work or because the players wind up being wholly incompatible. A lot of them fail simply because they're not big enough.

I've talked a lot about having the minimum number of members necessary, but if you have a guild with four people, it's often easier to just have a friend list and organize occasional stuff as a group. It's possible for a guild to be large enough to justify its existence but not large enough to really sustain itself, especially with several games that actively reward and support omniguilds, like World of Warcraft. That's a topic for another day.

But that doesn't mean that the work that went into making your existing guild needs to go out the window. While I've previously discussed splitting your guild into pieces, this is the other side of things -- merging your guild with an existing guild. There are three ways for this to go down, and so I'm just going to dive right into exactly that.

Being absorbed by a larger guild

Let's start with the most likely scenario, wherein you are the little fish being eaten by the big fish. Your primary concern in this situation is making sure that your members get to enjoy the benefits of a larger guild without losing anything that they've already worked for. But generally with a larger guild there's not a space for your existing officers to just move up in the guild. Right away, there's going to be a bit of a disconnect.

If there is space for the former guild master to be an officer, they ought to be. Players should still feel like some of the old leadership is in place. But if not, that sense of continuity is still important. Which means that you need to start by creating a community and a reasonable straight line between the points, giving members the feeling of a guild that isn't just dissolving. So plan ahead.

Start by bringing members of the larger guild along on regular events. Have them incorporate with your guild's. Bring them on raids or dungeon runs or quick matches or whatever you do as a group. Give the existing guild a feeling that these people aren't members of a totally different group, but people who could be part of the guild as easily as any of the current members.

Make sure that everyone is on board with merging, to boot. Sometimes it's not as straightforward as it might seem. Sure, you agree that the guild might need more members, but you might find upon further discussion that what your fellow members really wanted was more recruitment, not a much larger group of people.

Once the merge goes down, obviously, you'll only have one or two people in the same officer positions, at most. But you should still organize the same events you used to, albeit with the new guild. You'll have a larger pool to draw from, and hopefully it'll give the sense that everyone is ultimately working together to make a new shared guild, not just absorb the remnants of the old guild.

Joining up with another equal-sized guild

This is, to me, the far more interesting and positive option. Theoretically, the former is something you could accomplish by just disbanding the guild and having members fill out applications. This is creating something entirely new, a shared guild that didn't exist before.

When you decide to go this route, start by figuring out how both of your guilds want to progress in terms of future policies and shared rules. Your goal should be to change as little as possible from the leadership side. That doesn't mean retaining all of the same officers, but it does mean that any major policy changes should happen well in advance of the merge and be accompanied by discussion from members about what's coming next. Everyone gets a chance to sit down, chatter about the plans, and make decisions about what seems like the best for the new merged guild.

By the same token, officer positions should also be discussed. It's rarely as simple as the guild just needing twice as many officers; you'll more often need some but not all of your officer corps to remain in place. There's no hard and fast solution for what will work, but the best place to start is to figure out what shared needs the guild is going to need to address. Let everyone talk first and foremost about what the officers will look like after the merge, then decide who from the existing officers will remain in charge and who will step down to regular member status.

The obvious route to go here is to disband one guild and have the other guild simply invite all of the existing members, although depending on the game in question there may be automated systems in place. It's important, just as with the above scenario, to have the two guilds work together ahead of time; unlike the former scenario; however, it's less a matter of helping your guild grow accustomed to the other players and more about finding the ways in which both groups can mesh together.

Being the larger, absorbing guild

Let's be real here - there needs to be a good reason for the bigger guild to take on a large number of new members all at once through a theoretically streamlined application process. For the smaller guild, it's a matter of numbers, but if your guild is absorbing those people you need to have a reason. In some cases, that may be for a reason as simple as liking the players involved, but it might involve a numbers game for you as well.

Figure out what this new influx brings to the group that didn't previously exist there. Remember, you want to keep your guild size needs in mind; you don't want to grow too large and prevent effective management. There might be expertise, or just help in reaching a critical mass to expand your guild's overall focus.

Even if you don't retain any of the smaller guild's officers, you should still be speaking to them and listening to them for at least a few months after the merge takes place. It's possible that there are issues you don't know about if you just immediately treat your newly absorbed members as if they've been there all along. They haven't been; you know it, and they know it.

Above all else, you want to let the people involved retain their identity. The whole point of this merge is that it allows players to keep the core of their guild identity intact while still acknowledging that the guild just plain isn't big enough. It's about making the group work together more efficiently, not about pretending that the original guild was in any way a bad idea. Let the players who were a part of that guild and presumably cared about it quite a bit still feel like part of the guild, even if they're also a part of yours.

The goal with any merger is about making something bigger out of smaller pieces, working together to forge an alliance greater than the sum of its parts. That means walking a line between keeping old identities and forging new ones as a team; just recognize those problems and make sure that it's a matter of both thrusts working together rather than at cross purposes.

Guild Guide: Giving new applicants what they need to succeed in your guild Wed, 18 May 2016 07:30:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Having new members join your guild is always exciting, no matter how informal your guild might be. What's less exciting is when that new member leaves after two weeks because they don't feel like the guild is a good fit for them.

It's upsetting, sure, but it's also understandable. After all, they never did anything with the rest of the guild, never spoke up during conversations, never participated, never started events. And it's only when you think about it a little bit that you realize that the reason for all of those things might have to do with your guild not actually giving new members the tools needed to get involved, start events, be heard, and become a part of the guild.

Last week, I talked a lot about how to make sure that you were getting the right applicants for your guild. This week, it seems only fitting to look at the flip side. Once you have the right people applying and joining, how do you get them to have a good time, get invested, and stick around?

Come along

The first thing to do is to go out of your way to include the new member. Not simply by offering the member a spot if they speak up, but by asking for that member specifically. "Hey, Tyler, we're going to do a dungeon run; would you like to come along?"

The point is that you want to involve the new member, but you're doing so in a way that's welcoming but non-restrictive. Simply going on a run doesn't work well in this scenario, nor does generally asking if anyone wants to come along. Tyler may not yet feel confident enough in his ability to handle a dungeon run with the group or feel like the group really wants him along on a dungeon run. Making the question explicit for him and then asking for other volunteers makes it clear that he's thought of and welcomed.

However, it's also open-ended. Tyler can say no, either because he can't or because he seriously doesn't want to right at that moment. It's inclusive, not exclusive, and it's unambiguously targeted at getting Tyler doing something with the rest of the guild without putting undue pressure on Tyler.

Far too many guilds adopt a "sink or swim" mentality, where someone like Tyler can speak up if he wants to be heard. The problem is that I've found someone like Tyler will specifically not speak up; he's aware that he's treading in ground owned by other people and doesn't want to make waves or be disruptive. By putting the burden of making Tyler known on Tyler, you are subtly sending the message that you don't care if he's here or not. That's hardly conducive to forming bonds.

The same thing goes for conversations. If you notice that Tyler isn't speaking up with other members, ask him about it. When he does so, encourage him. Don't put pressure on him, but coax him gently to come out of his shell and get involved with the rest of the group. For some people, it's enough to just know that their presence or lack thereof is noticed, rather than just tossed in the background. Let Tyler feel like part of the group, even if he's a new part, rather than just someone filling out a number on the roster.

Helping with setup

For most groups, there's a bit of a probationary period with any new members, time for the member to learn what the guild is like, and vice versa. Assuming all of that goes well, the new member is now a full member of the guild. And that's the perfect time to sit down with your member, ask what they need, and start guiding them into making it happen.

It's a good thing for every member of a guild to have a hand in running events, but in the case of new members it's particularly relevant, because it's part of the process wherein a new member finds their events. It's a step along the road to making your new member more than just a new face, but a part of the guild as vital as any other.

So let's say you're sitting down with your new member, Cheryl, and she mentions that she very much wants to be running more old content for vanity items and the like. That's perfectly valid, and you can help her through the process of marking an event to do just that within the guild calendar and setting up a roster. Guide her gently without running it yourself, and encourage the rest of the group to take part while offering feedback.

"But what if she doesn't want to run something we don't already run?" Well, it happens more often than you might think. After all, there's a reason we seek out specific guilds, usually because they're already providing the sort of events that we want to take part in. That does make it a bit more difficult to get the new member to run something, but not insurmountable -- it's just a matter of handing off leadership duties for the event to your new member for a bit. Let the new girl form the weekly dungeon run for a week or two, let her be the authority, and let her see how she likes doing it.

The key is making events feel manageable rather than something difficult but important; even if they person in question doesn't run them regularly after the first few events, the idea is planted in the player's head that they can run one.

Resource adjustment

In games like Heroes of the Storm, new members to your guild don't really need to bring much of anything and also don't take much of anything. Resources aren't a considered thing. But in games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, it's a big deal if your new member needs a whole bunch of rare resources that the guild slightly disproportionate shape with the new member's contribution. Or vice versa.

I've seen lots of guilds have more relaxed item rules for new members, but frankly, this is a bad idea on several levels. For one thing, it's pretty basic bribery; for another, it creates a very unusual curve of membership wherein it's better to be new than to be established. Everyone gets a bit resentful about that sort of thing.

A better idea is to assess what the new member needs and what said member can provide to make things even. Sure, those rare materials for crafting might be easier for the long-time members to gather and might not be a big deal for them...but the new member can provide more mundane but still important items. Or perhaps the new member tosses extra money into the guild bank in exchange for having a whole lot of additional materials. Resources can be offered to a new member without simply bribing them.

The trick is to establish an environment that's welcoming and novel without making the new member feel coddled or ignored. Which is a complex procedure, of course, but a bit of care makes it far easier overall. When done right, you get to be sure that your new members are succeeding within the space allowed by your guild, and neither expecting nor wanting to just be carried or ignored until they leave.

Guild Guide: Making sure your applicants have the qualities you need Thu, 12 May 2016 05:30:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Sitting down and reviewing applications to join a guild is hard. The bright side is that building a good set of tools and application questions means that you can effectively shut down the applications that never have a chance of being worthwhile; it's very easy to be sure that the people applying to the guild are people you would actually want in the guild. Or, at least those who can sound like solid additions to the guild on a written application.

If that's not clear enough, let's be direct - a good application is nice, but it's not the same as knowing whether or not someone is actually going to sit well with the rest of the guild. And interviews might help, but it's still going to ultimately come down to whether or not you you make that judgement call.

The fact is that a lot of this comes down to instinct, which is not something that you can necessarily teach. There are applicants which can look great that don't hold up; there are others who look awful but actually do a great job in almost any guild. But you can at least start to make some assumptions, and that's exactly what this week's article is about. It's time to start developing that metaphorical third eye and figuring out if these new applicants are going to have the qualities you need for the future.

Be honest about what you're looking for

How often is the first step to filtering just being honest about your filtering? Remove the words "we'd prefer" or "particular consideration given to" from anything you have going. You wouldn't prefer Elemental Shaman to join your dungeon group in World of Warcraft, you are looking for an Elemental Shaman. That's what you want. Ask for that.

Sure, maybe you would accept someone who wasn't an Elemental Shaman, but the important thing is that this produces a very different string of questions. If you put forth that you want X, people who want to join that don't fill the criteria will ask if they can apply even though they aren't X. You can make the call based on what you want and add in a different layer of filtering.

More to the point, as discussed elsewhere, there's only so much space in a guild. You can and will reach a point where you have too many members for your guild to support effectively. So start by recruiting the people that you actually want, and make sure that you're filtering out the people that you could maybe accept but don't necessarily strongly want in the guild.

Don't rely on interviews

Interviews are a vital part of the application process, but they're not always a perfect indicator of how someone is going to act in the guild proper. This should be obvious if you've ever been interviewed for a job, during which you almost invariably took part in the time-old art of "fudging the truth."

Not lying, of course, you would never lie. But you may have... nudged reality a bit here and there. Stretched the truth. It's fine, there's nothing to be ashamed of, but you know it and we know it.

Interviews are a good chance to get to know your applicant, but they cannot be your sole source of information about what the applicant will actually do once they're with the guild. It's not enough to assume that someone is going to be able to lead your guild through raids based on their say-so.

What is useful during interviews, aside from just getting a feel for the player, is to ask hypothetical questions. If you're looking for someone to act as part of a raid, ask them what they'd do in situations that have actually come up and determine whether their answers are on-point or not. Ask questions that give you a chance to know how the person is likely to respond.

Get time with the applicant

Most guilds have a bit of time with a new member during which the new member is something of a provisional entrant - they've got some privileges and they're in the guild, but there's still a chance to step away. But it can be helpful to get some time with the applicant before even that, just to evaluate them on a more honest level, especially because at the time you're doing so they don't know you.

I don't mean that in the sense of they don't know who you are, just in the sense that they don't know how well you play your game of choice, what you prefer, and so forth. You are still probably a cipher to them. So be a cipher and go do something with them, and see how they handle themselves. Especially if you make a point of not being very good.

A guild master I knew in Star Wars: The Old Republic used to make a point of running dungeons with applicants and making small-scale mistakes all through the run - not enough to sabotage things, but just enough to appear kind of derpy. He ran a guild that was meant to be helpful and beneficial for new players. The point was that he wanted to see how his applicants would react to having people without great skills in the party. Some of them were quiet, some were loudly dismissive, and some were helpful or just silly in response.

Similarly, you want to pay attention to parts in an application that allow an applicant's personality to shine through. If someone is applying for serious progression but mentioned needing to learn more, that could be a sign of humility, or it could be a sign of not being ready for the top end despite outward signs. Keep your eyes open and remain alert for what you might not be expecting.

Trust your instincts

At the end of the day, if you get to say yes or no to applicants, you have to be willing to say no. You have to be ready to reach down and say "no, this person feels like a bad fit," and you have to trust yourself in that regard. It's not always satisfying, but it is important.

Obviously, you can't just turn people away because your instincts tell you on some level that it's a good idea. You can, however, say that despite everything, this person is just rubbing you the wrong way, that something makes you feel as if they aren't actually right for the guild. If you can get another person to interview them, that's great; if not, you need to be willing to say no, just because something isn't sitting right with you.

It's tricky, but that's the nature of leadership. Sometimes every sign will point to the person being fine while you feel in your heart that something is wrong. Develop your instincts and learn to trust them.

Of course, you also need to make sure that you're giving applicants what they need to succeed in your guild... but that's a topic for another week.

Guild Guide: Extending a guild through multiple games Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:30:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

In the earliest days of playing games online, the very idea of stretching a guild across more than one game was kind of ridiculous. Then again, this was also at a time when there were only two online games in existence anyway, so the odds of playing both of them were fairly low. The ubiquity of the internet has meant that online gaming is now pretty common, something that most people do rather than a small handful. And you might find yourself wondering why your League of Legends team can't also be your guildmates in Final Fantasy XIV and your fellow criminals in GTA Online.

More simply, there are lots of online games out there, and it makes sense for a guild to not limit itself to just one game. If you have a sufficiently devoted playerbase, you can easily make your guild into something of a franchise, spanning many games with many different goals, all humming along as a port of call in multiple different games.

How do you make that work? With complexity, naturally! So let's start untangling what you can do, starting with the very notion.

Branching out to multiple games

Let's start with a basic assertion - if you have a guild in World of Warcraft with a small group who also play Heroes of the Storm, there's no real need to extend your guild outward. One of the points of a guild is to have a social hub for people, and if people happen to share interests that take them outside of the forming game, so much the better. No, for it to be a full-on guild effort, you need more.

The main point of extending a guild across multiple games is to give players a reliable port of call in them. Today you're playing one game, tomorrow you're playing another, but you're in the same guild in both games and you're working with many of the same people. Thus, you'll want to focus your attention on games where people are going to be active and playing for a while, something that's not just a passing diversion.

There's also the fact that you want to assess crossover potential. How many people in your World of Warcraft guild will want to tool around in Heroes of the Storm? What about the other way around? In that particular case, it's quite possible that you could wind up welcoming new members by having a presence in both games. If you're talking about more divided games - say The Division and Star Wars: The Old Republic, for example - there might not be enough crossover to make it worthwhile.

So consider it ahead of time. It's worth moving forward if you have reliable people who want to make a home in multiple games, less so if it's a handful of people just dabble in another game. If you notice the crossover happening, think about branching out.

Common leaders

If you have a guild in both Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World, you want to make sure that both guilds are adhering to the same basic philosophy. As such, it's useful to establish ahead of time that you have multiple people steering the ship, and that means that you need to no longer be in charge of the guild.

Once you've branched off into multiple games, you can't have just one person at the head of a group. The group is now something of a franchise, and that means it also needs to plan for the possibility (or reality) that a leader is going to be more or less active in a given game. As such, you need to have a leader per game, coordinating and overseeing everything for that particular game, with the whole guild being appraised of any and all developments as they happen.

The person who first formed the guild can (and probably should) be given a nod as the founder, but they can't (and probably shouldn't) have any extra authority. Instead, it becomes a council of equals. If a member is causing a problem in one game, their actions have an effect on other games. If a corner case gets decided one way by one leader, that needs to be kept in mind by other leaders. Everything links together like that.

It's also important to note that leaders from one game are officers in the other games; the leadership of the guild is part of why people wanted to extend it, after all.

Maintaining connection

So now your guild has branches in two different games. (Or more.) You have your leadership group established. How do you make sure that this is a guild stretching across multiple games and not just a pair of sister guilds?

Part of it will come down to the guild site. Yes, once you're splitting your time across multiple guilds, you really do need to have a site; the tricks I've discussed previously just don't work with a multi-game guild. You need a site. That will allow players who don't necessarily see one another often or at all in-game to communicate and discuss issues in shared spaces, even if their primary focuses will be their games of choice.

In addition, you should make it clear to members that membership in the guild in Game A extends to membership in Game B. It's not obligatory, but it is a given. You don't have to fill out an application to become a member in another game. In this way, members are encouraged to check out the other game and see what it's about, possibly even sticking around in the new game.

Encouraging crossover is a good thing, although you don't want to go too far with it. It's good to have a guild where the members feel that they're welcome in any game hosting the guild; it's bad to have one where it feels that multiple games are the expected default rather than an option.

What about nomads?

Obviously, what I'm talking about here are guilds that exist in multiple games at once. There are, however, guilds that extend across multiple games in a different fashion by virtue of the entire guild being nomadic. The guild as a whole plays a game for a while, then the whole guild packs up and moves to another game, albeit with the potential loss of a few members along the way. What about those guilds?

It'd be flippant to just leave it at "what about them," but that's kind of where I wind up. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with those guilds, but when your guild is defined in large part by communal movement, normal rules of community management don't exactly apply any longer. Your guild is clearly working as its own organism without much outside input, if any. The issues of guild management are replaced by the issues of getting your group to agree on its next collective destination.

If you do wind up recruiting in a more nomadic guild, of course, it's important to note that when someone applies in the first place. Many players - quite possibly the majority - are playing an online game out of enjoyment and with an eye toward long-term commitment. If you know for a fact that your guild might well pull up roots and move down the metaphorical road, applicants deserve to be informed of that ahead of time. It doesn't mean that it's a dealbreaker for everyone, but some people won't want to come along.

Personally, I'd prefer to set down roots and have a place to call home, even if I sometimes roam. But the important thing is that you find what works best for you and yours, whether that means a guild in one game, a guild stretched across many games, or a guild that just moves from game to game over time.

Guild Guide: The simple guide to starting a guild from scratch Tue, 22 Mar 2016 11:35:53 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Over the past year and change, I've written a lot about guilds. About how to run one, about how to join one, about how to be a good member in one, all of those topics. But starting one is something that I've never covered explicitly, just fragments of starting that guild.

So consider this somewhere between a go-to guide and a greatest hits compilation, because I'm going with both. This week, I'm going to talk about how to start a guild from scratch, complete with a look back through the columns I've written so far for people who might have missed them before. It's your one-stop checklist for making a new guild and moving on to the adulation of members and the envy of your fellow players.

Thus, we start with step one...

Get your focus

My very first column on the topic talked about how every guild should have a focus. That hasn't changed. Ideally, this isn't even a step you need to go to because the whole reason you want to start a guild in the first place is because you have a need that's not yet being served by the existing communities in and around your game.

You should, of course, ask yourself that question before deciding to run a guild, as well as making sure that you actually want to run the group. But let's take all of that for a given at the moment. Once you have your focus, you can move on to the next step.

Have your minimum

I've talked before about deciding on the minimum size of guild for what you want to accomplish. Once you know you want to go forward, you want to be aware of both that number and your game's minimum number of applicants, because that needs to be considered as well.

In some games, at least ten people have to be there for an in-game guild. In other games, it's only three. If your minimum size is less than what you require for an in-game guild, you should probably start getting a bit over your minimum if you can. Paying people in-game to help you fill out the required slots is kind of a bad show right out of the gate.

Some games, of course, don't feature any sort of actual in-game guild support. In those cases, you should be aware of how to work with guilds/groups/etc. in games that don't really support them. You should also be setting up and considering what you want to do with your guild site, since that's a great way to get organized before you pull the trigger in-game.

Obviously, Gamer Launch is a great place to go for those site purposes, but I've also talked before about how you can use email newsletters in lieu of a site if you'd prefer. Just a slightly lower-stress option, if you need it.

Set down the rules

If you're intimidated by the thought of setting down basic rules, you don't have to be; I've already provided you with a nice drag-and-drop set of basic rules to lay down. You'll have to fill in more specialized rules on your own, but the basics will save you time in both the long and the short run.

Having the rules ready at this point is important for many reasons, not the least of which because you want people who you're bringing in to this new organization to know what they're getting into. If several of you are coming from the same original spot, you probably have a few things that you want to change right off of the bat. Now's an obvious time to do that.

Determine your application and your recruiting process

Yes, there's also an application template for you to get started. That part isn't nearly as difficult as it might seem, once you have all of the pieces in place.

Assuming your group isn't yet at your minimum, you'll want to recruit new people. This is where having a site is particularly useful, as there's the easy method of telling your fellow players, "Hey, we're getting this thing together, check it out to be a founding member," and so forth. Keep in mind, though, that even before the guild forms you might be running afoul of certain recruitment mistakes; keep your eyes open for those. You'll also want to think about how to turn down applicants so that you don't burn bridges, and you want to be recruiting in the smartest possible ways.

If you're already at your minimum, you probably don't need to have a super-involved discussion about recruitment just yet, but you should still talk about it, and you should also be paying attention to what your guild needs to do when it's not recruiting.

Determine your leaders

I've talked before about how you can opt for a more distributed leadership style if you'd rather, but now is the time to figure that out. You're finalizing rules and plans from here on out, and you need to make sure that your group is on board with what you have planned.

Since we're talking about forming this, odds are good that you're going to be one of the people in charge, which means you probably want to be aware of the mistakes you're going to make. You also want to make sure that you know what your group is actually going to need in terms of officers, just so you avoid having too many or too few people calling the shots. And keep in mind that some of your picks might wind up being problematic, but you can figure out how to deal with that ahead of time.

Form up and start building

You've got enough people, you've got a structure in place, and you're otherwise ready. Time to pull the trigger and make it happen! You'll want to start working on building and maintaining that community right away, particularly by creating good projects for everyone. The high of having just established something where there once was nothing is only going to be something you can ride for a limited amount of time.

It's also worth considering the life cycle of any given organization at this point. Obviously, you're still in the nascent stages, but you're not going to be there forever, and knowing what minefields to expect while being able to track the guild as a whole will prove useful. Instead of reacting to everything with confusion as it happens, you can move ahead of trends, problems, and the like. Acting to do right by the guild is better than reacting when things go wrong.

Starting a new group is only a fragment of the overall path, naturally. You'll have a lot of ground to cover over what will hopefully be a long life, and the fine details will need to be pushed and moved gently over time. But paying attention to how you start off and following it step-by-step gives you a leg up on the future. It means that you know you're going in with as much knowledge and planning as possible.

Plus, in this case, a lot of those resources are right there for your perusal without the need for further searching. So it's win-win.

Guild Guide: Reasons to stay with a guild you aren't fond of Fri, 18 Mar 2016 04:30:01 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

We talk a lot about leaving guilds where you aren't happy, and that's important. You shouldn't be in a group that makes you very uncomfortable. There's no reason to stick with members who constantly ruin your day, and there is definitely no reason to stay in a guild that has decided to nickname you "Fart Magnate" and calls your real-life boss to share that nickname.

Unless, of course, there is a good reason.

The fact is that sometimes, you have every reason to stay with a group that you'd rather leave behind. We talk a lot about reasons to leave, but not much if at all about reasons to stay even if you're tempted to leave. Yes, those reasons do exist.

You're in a game that requires a guild

There's a famous and possibly apocryphal quote that gets attributed to Canada Bill Jones - upon being told that a local poker game is crooked, he responded, "Yeah, I know it's crooked, but it's the only game in town." In some games, that's where you are. Sure, you might not like the guild very much, but if your options are between being in no guild at all or being in a guild you don't like very much, the latter is the better choice.

A lot of this depends upon your goals and whether those goals are worth whatever you dislike about the guild. If you want to make headway on progression raiding at Mythic difficulty in World of Warcraft, odds are high that you're going to need to have a guild at your back. That's worth dealing with some people you may not otherwise be friends with. On the flip side, if you're dealing with constant harassment and abuse and no longer find the game fun because of the guild, it's far more important to get out than to worry about your Mythic raiding goals.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about when a guild becomes too obnoxious to tolerate, obviously, but my usual rule of thumb is to treat the guild like a job. If it's at the point wherein I found the job annoying but not horrible and you have a need of the guild for the game, it's worth toughing it out. If you're getting to the point where you'd rather be unemployed than have the job, you should probably swallow your metaphorical pride and just leave the guild and deal with the fallout for your other goals later.

It's some members, not the whole guild

Sometimes, the real problem isn't the guild as a whole, it's Steve. (My apologies if your name is Steve, assume I'm talking about another Steve.) Steve is an absolute jerk. The rest of the guild finds him useful enough to tolerate, but he rubs you so far in the wrong direction that you're considering leaving the guild just because it would mean not being around Steve any longer.

The plus side here is that your problem isn't really with the guild, it's with Steve. The down side, obviously, is that as mentioned, Steve provides enough of a function that the guild isn't just going to kick him out. But the key element there is that there is a window for Steve leaving; it's just that it's not automatic. There are reasons to keep Steve around and reasons not to.

Often, this isn't as simple as one or two people, but an entire clique within a guild that has certain ideas about how the guild should work. Just leaving is the easier option, but it's also the option least likely to affect actual positive change. You might not like that the guild too much as that clique takes control, but as long as you have a voice, you can actually use that to affect positive change despite the best effort of Steve and his fellow Stevealikes.

In other words, the issue isn't that leaving is a bad idea or would hurt you, it's that leaving would mean leaving the guild to sink. If you care about the guild but just want Steve gone, as soon as you leave there's nothing to stop the guild from turning into The Steve Show.

No one actually knows you're unhappy

Sometimes, it turns out that the real problem isn't that the guild is awful, it's that you haven't said anything and bad habits have gotten ingrained in your fellow guild members. Leaving is premature, because while you might not like the guild very much, that has more to do with objections you never raised.

Let's speculate, for example, that you really have a problem with people talking about insects. They bother you. A couple of the guild's members are exterminators, though, and then another member joins who turns out to be an entomologist, and the next thing you know guild chat becomes talk about bugs all the time. It bothers you, and you're thinking about leaving just so you don't have to constantly hear all of the bug talk.

But do these members know it's bothering you? Or did you mention it once, offhandedly, as something that mildly annoyed you, then never again?

On the one hand, this might seem like it's the sort of thing that's not really a reason to dislike the guild as a whole, but when you feel as if your needs aren't being met or considered, you tend to hold on to a certain amount of resentment for the people who you feel are ignoring you. That's normal. This is a case where no one is spurning you by design; it's just bad luck and bad timing working hand-in-hand, essentially. So while you still might not like the guild, you need to give it time to change course after you've said something to the people inadvertently upsetting you.

People you like are relying upon you

Sometimes it's not about you, honestly.

Maybe you have four or five friends in the guild who can't leave for various reasons. Someone has family in the guild, for example, and even if they don't like the guild that much that's obligation enough to stick around. In cases like that, you have a good reason to stay in place even if you're not fond of the guild as a whole, because you're making those people enjoy their time more.

Yes, you're still going to be just as annoyed by the guild, and no, it's not likely to get a whole lot better. However, you aren't sticking around in the vain hope that it gets better, you're sticking around because Tanya's nephew is in the guild, and Tanya can't leave while he's there, and he doesn't find the guild annoying. So you can at least make your friend's experience more pleasant.

The overall point here is that it's not always a simple matter of deciding to leave just because you don't like a guild. I've been in guilds where I'm not fond of the group, but there's enough reason to stick around despite that distaste. The goal might be to eventually move on to somewhere better, but there are lots of reasons to stick around even if you aren't exactly happy. Guilds are not romantic relationships, and "good enough until something better shows up" can be an entirely adequate philosophy.

Guild Guide: Handling guilds in games that don't support them Fri, 11 Mar 2016 04:30:02 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

This column isn't just about MMORPG player organizations, but it spends a lot of time talking about them. There are several reasons for that, but the most important one is something that was true since the early days of the genre and remains important: MMORPGs, unlike many other online games, actively implement and support guild-style organization on a whole. It's rare to find an MMORPG without guild support.

This does not, however, mean that MMORPGs are the only online game that benefits from that sort of structures. Clans, Steam groups, teams, all sorts of community organizations have popped up around games since the dawn of online gaming in general. Pretty much as soon as three people started playing a game together, they realized that they could accomplish more as a group. It's pretty much human nature.

But it does become tricky to make and maintain a guild in a game that doesn't support it, simply because all of the focus shifts from forming a group within the game to forming one outside of the game. I talk a lot in these columns about how for certain groups, the primary point of contact is in the game itself. If the game itself doesn't support forming any sort of guild, your primary organizational point of contact has to be outside of it.

There are no easy solutions here. But it's worth discussing. Let's talk about how to have a guild (or clan, or team, &c) when the game itself doesn't support it at all. Luckily, we have an easy suggestion right off of the bat.

Have a central point of organization

Have I mentioned Gamer Launch here recently? Yes, I have. And there's a good reason for that which has nothing to do with knowing how my paychecks get signed. It's a good site with a lot of tools for people to organize a guild, even - one might even say especially - when you're dealing with a game that has no explicit support for that guild. It's an extension of the older days when there was no such thing as an in-game guild invite, back when your team affiliation was entirely tied into your tag.

Sometimes it still is, because history is cyclical.

Gamer Launch is a fine option. Having a Steam group page would work too, albeit with fewer points of organization. You could have a Facebook group if you feel the need to use Facebook for reasons that no human being has yet managed to decipher. The point is that you need to have something that serves as The Guild as an entity. If it's not a line in the game databases, it should be a space, something where people can congregate, discuss things, and have a rallying point.

In cases like these, using a newsletter can almost work better than having a website, if you remember the discussion on using newsletters effectively from a few weeks back. That newsletter creates a sense of ongoing camaraderie and communication, something which all of the members actively need to work to keep going. It's not a passive thing, and it promotes engagement.

But just having the space for the guild isn't enough, because you need an identity that's shared. That leads to the next point, no less important but perhaps a bit less obvious...

Make the game more of a guild activity

You can play Team Fortress 2 any time that you want. But if you want to have a team together in the game, you probably want to play it less frequently, and almost always with as many members of your team as you can wrangle.

In games with weak-to-no support for group structure, you aren't going to be bonded by a shared chat. Even having a website isn't necessarily going to bind you all together, unless having everyone you passed in the hallways in high school as a Facebook friend makes you bosom buddies. No, what's going to bind you together as a A Group of People Playing a Game Together is going to be about shared experiences.

Thus, quite simply, you want to share as many experiences as possible. And that means doing as many things as you possibly can as a group, starting and focusing upon the game in question.

This is where a lot of groups run into troubles, because technically having an affiliation with a group means very little if your triumphs and failures aren't shared. If you have a team that you belong to but don't share any big wins or upsets with the people in question, you may as well just have a forum you occasionally visit. You want to make sure that you associate the time in the game with the people you want to share your time with, to make shared experiences the norm rather than the exception.

There are limits to what you can accomplish as a group, sure. Sometimes you want to do things by yourself, or play the game by yourself, or even work on your tendency to react badly to non-group members. These are all good things. But you want to make shared experiences a thing.

But there's another aspect that tends to make these groups a little harder to maintain, and that's the fact that you want to...

Make membership feel rewarding

If the reason you're in a guild with other people is just because you all know one another and you like being in a guild together, this is a bit less applicable. But if you're in a guild with people you met through the game, this becomes more important, because your goal isn't just to have a guild bonded by familiarity - you want people who want to be working together.

MMORPGs have several advantages here because there are lots of things you can do as a guild that don't necessarily work alone. But League of Legends can be casually played alone, with no need for a full team. So you want being in a team to not just be a chore or something where people are bonding over failures - you want to provide rewards for your members. You want to make being in the group feel like it's a rewarding thing.

Some games make this easier than others. I have friends, for example, who are part of teams for MOBA games that organize individual members going to conventions with free skins or goodies. So one person from the guild goes to PAX East and picks up a skin for everyone in the guild, thus meaning that you get a bit of an intangible reward just for being a member.

There are other ways to make presence in a guild feel rewarding. The obvious thing is having a team which plays better together than apart, practicing and climbing the ranks together. You could also have organized team matches based on otherwise unpopular rulesets, map variants, and the like.

Or perhaps you just want people to feel like they have a safe space to play in, which in and of itself can be rewarding.

The important thing with all of these points is that the game itself is not going to make these things easy for you. You have to really twist the game's arm and force outside systems to work in your favor. But when done correctly, you still enjoy the benefits of having a group together; it just takes a bit of extra legwork on your end first.

Guild Guide: The mistakes you're making with recruiting Fri, 12 Feb 2016 05:38:37 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

So you're recruiting more people for your guild. That's great! You never want to have your guild stagnate and start moving backwards; bringing in new people is the best way to avoid precisely that happening. I would be remiss in failing to point out that Gamer Launch has a number of great tools to recruit new people and bring a little new blood into your guild.

But the problem is that recruiting is like anything else - all the tools in the world won't help you if you're using them incorrectly. And while there are definitely times that it's appropriate and even smart to have your guild recruit new people, when done incorrectly you run the risk of damaging your guild or making everyone decide that they don't want to be a part of your guild.

Today, then, I'm covering the mistakes that you may well be making with the best possible intentions. They're easy mistakes to make, but also easy ones to avoid - and if you're really striving for solid recruitment, you'll need to work on avoiding them.

Casting too wide a net

Let's be clear about something - your criteria for guild membership should never be "unguilded person, no other requirements." That ties back into topics that have been discussed here ad infinitum. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if your guild has a focus, this is not a way to make sure that said focus is actually being advanced.

The trouble with casting too wide a net is that it means that you're not actually looking for anything, least of all cohesion with the existing group. It's the equivalent of sending friend requests to random people on Facebook in the interests of raising your friend count. Sure, you're going to have a high number listed, but do those people actually care what happens to you? Does having more members make your guild better? Or does it mean that more fights break out hither and yon?

People make fun of the fact that guild application processes can be slow and annoying, and I get that. I know I've bounced off of some applications because, frankly, I didn't feel like applying and being interviewed right then. But that doesn't mean that those things are dumb or shouldn't exist, it just means that I wasn't feeling it right then. Accepting everyone who shows even the most mild interest doesn't mean you're building a community, it means you're throwing everyone together and hoping they stick around.

Being a bit more selective isn't a bad thing. Heck, it's necessary in the long run. Better to have some barriers to entry before joining rather than after.

Annoying people

If you have played an MMORPG at some point within the last ever, you know that people put recruitment messages in chat. That's fine. What's not fine is when someone has a paragraph-long advertisement that gets reposted to chat so frequently that you'd swear it was a Skyrim meme. Usually, these are the same guilds that wind up casting too wide a net, but being annoying is a separate problem all its own.

A few years back, you may remember a series of particularly annoying commercials for a supposed headache remedy called "Head-On." The commercials just chanted the same phrase constantly, they looked as if they were being filmed for the public access cable network, and they were constant. Pretty much anyone you spoke with could remember the commercials and how annoying they were.

And they weren't very successful, not just because the product didn't actually work. Because people remembered the ad being annoying, tuned it out, and forgot about it.

Constantly spamming your advertisement in chat puts you into that territory. People are going to tune you out at best, and actively dislike you for spamming chat at worse. You want to get the word out, sure, but constantly barraging people with notifications that your guild is recruiting tells people that you tend to be a bit on the pushy side. Heck, at that point most of the recruits you actually get are likely to be of the sort that needs a wide net to even be accepted.

Advertising is fine. Just don't make it screamingly obnoxious.

Casting too narrow a net

Having high standards is not exactly a bad thing. If you're forming a team for Heroes of the Storm with an eye toward serious competition, you're damn right that you should be asking for win stats. You should be looking for skill. Progression raiding in World of Warcraft should require new applicants to show what they've done and how much they're capable of.

But there is a point where you move from "high standards" and into "insane standards." I've seen guild applications that require more information than the paperwork needed to legally own a tank as a civilian. I've seen application processes for guilds that are pointlessly elaborate and obtuse, including more than a few ARGs required to find and apply. And while I understand that the motivation is finding the best possible people for the guild, this goes so far in the other direction that it becomes intolerable.

Past a certain point, you've created such a high barrier to entry that the only people who have any hope of joining your guild are the people who are already good enough to have other guilds begging for their application. High standards are all well and good, but not when they make joining your guild so difficult that good applicants will just bounce off. Make the process as simple and straightforward as possible.

Pinning everything on recruitment

I've mentioned before that I once had a friend who was trying to start a progression raid group that always was on the cusp of being ready. He'd always have nearly enough players... then someone would leave. And he'd recruit someone else, and then another person, and be right on the cusp... and then someone would leave. And one of his mistakes was that he had started the guild without enough people to do what he actually wanted to do.

You've met people in your life who always need to be dating someone. They can't be single. They always need someone else in their lives. This is the guild equivalent of that, assuming that at some magical point you'll have enough members and then the guild will work out wonderfully. The fact is that if your guild can't already support what it's meant to do, you need to re-evaluate what it's meant to do. You cannot pin everything on people joining.

Guilds take time to find their shape, yes. But if you're always looking at getting more people before starting that step, you'll never build a core to shape the guild around.

Perpetually recruiting

I have mentioned before that there comes a time when a guild should stop recruiting. I stand by that. Being in a perpetual state of recruitment isn't the same as pinning everything on recruiting that perfect lineup, but it does indicate that however well the guild is going, it's not quite enough yet.

Stability matters. Having a point when you are comfortable saying "yes, membership is in a good spot" matters. You don't always need to have an influx of new members. After a certain point it becomes more healthy to let people stop and breathe, build relationships, and work on addressing whatever mild weaknesses run through the heart of the guild.

It's a bit less satisfying than watching the guild grow, but watching it create a foundation is a net positive. And in the end, that's the hardest mistake to correct, to let yourself accept that the right thing to do in a given situation might be nothing whatsoever. To just let go, let it be, and give some space.

Like every mistake, it's made with the best intentions. But you can avoid the mistake if you're looking out for it, and in the long run, you'll be better off for it.

Guild Guide: When to use the more specialized features for guild sites Fri, 29 Jan 2016 06:30:41 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

The last column I did in Guild Guide talked about the stuff you need on your guild site. But there are a lot of features I didn't include in that particular rundown, several of which are in fact super useful. So why would you leave those out? Isn't more features necessarily better than fewer features?

No. It is not. And while I ran down the general stuff that pretty much every guild site will want in the last article, today I want to talk about specialized features that you're only going to want some of the time... and more importantly, why.

Think of guild sites like video games. Imagine if your favorite FPS included an elaborate dating minigame - would that make the game better? Or would it just mean that it had more stuff in it? I venture that it would be closer to the latter than the former, for much the same reason that you don't want a butcher knife attached to a fork attached to a chopstick. More features are worse than useless if they actively detract from the main point of a thing.

That's the case with several of these features. When used properly, they can be a major asset to your guild and provide you with useful tools to make management easier. When just thrown in without a care in the world... they're actively destructive to your long-term organizational health.

DKP tracking

In the interests of stating my bias up front, let me just say that I generally dislike DKP systems in general and find them to foster a certain degree of distrust and anti-communal behavior. A DKP system means that you're stating up front that you either cannot or do not trust your members to handle loot distribution like adults, and thus you need to layer another system on top of the game's existing systems so that everyone behaves maturely.

That doesn't mean you're wrong; I've seen plenty of places where not trusting your membership to be mature about loot was the entirely correct conclusion to draw. But it sends a certain message, and that message is that you're here just for loot and that's all you really want. Which is why you want to be careful about having it on your site, since it immediately sends the message that this group is:

  1. All about the loot
  2. Not even a little bit afraid of what it means to be all about the loot.

This is, however, very useful for organizations where it's accepted that the group is formed less for the purposes of working together as a team and more for the purposes of just getting something done. Some MMOs really reward that kind of play in short bursts, and there it can be super useful. You aren't trying to be friends, you're trying to all keep things fair. DKP is a clinical way of doing exactly that, and while it doesn't foster warm feelings it's not supposed to.

So, if you've got a group going that's all about pure efficiency and worrying about who gets what, by all means, make use of this. Otherwise, leave it to one side.

Guides and tips

Actually, this is a bit of a corner case - guides and tips are almost always useful. The trick is which sort of guides and tips.

For some types of group, this is vital. If the primary focus of your group is helping people learn the game, your focus is providing both static and dynamic resources. So if you've got a Heroes of the Storm team going with a site, one of your goals is to provide plenty of guides and walkthroughs for players to get a handle on the various available heroes. The whole group can benefit from that.

On the flip side, if your team is more focused on high-end competitive play, providing basic guides on how to play characters isn't useful. Providing detailed breakdowns of the best characters in each role and figuring out how to make the best use of map features is useful. It's the difference between teaching your fellow players how to play and making sure that you're all sharing refined strategies to improve your play.

The nature of your group also determines whether or not dedicated guides and tips are a useful investment or not. If you're going to make a big deal out of your guides, you need people who know the ins and outs of what's being described who can also spot-check whatever is put forth - you don't want someone posting a dungeon guide for World of Warcraft when the names of several classes wind up being inaccurate. If the focus of the group is on clearing content, high-level play, or teaching players, you probably should think of guides as a core part of your play experience. If your guild as a whole has other foci, guides might be nice, but they're not the biggest element to worry about.

Wiki features

If you're going for the whole knowledge base thing, wikis can be very useful. They can be really useful for roleplaying guilds in MMORPGs, too. But before you start one up, consider two questions - is this feature something that exists elsewhere, and is it actually going to be used?

The former is especially a concern when it comes to knowledge and the like. If there are already well-known community guides out there which have all of the information you're going to be referencing, starting a new wiki is probably redundant. A wiki needs to be curated, checked on, updated, and so forth; if those resources are already out there, then making your own half-a-wiki is a repost of existing information at best and a useless mishmash of unnecessary information and in-jokes at worst.

Actual use, on the flip side, is something that you need to determine on a case-by-case basis. For guilds that have a heavy focus on things like roleplaying, a wiki seems like a no-brainer... if you think the players in the group will actually make use of it. Done correctly, it can be a resource for players to learn more about other players and about characters. Done incorrectly - or not used - it winds up just being a graveyard of half-assembled facts and out-of-date anecdotes. Not useful.

Also, consider the amount of time that a wiki will take. Much like forums will need moderators, wikis need people maintaining and cleaning up. No, you don't have just one person writing the content, but sometimes that just means more work for whoever takes on the wiki cleanup project.

Character profiles

Lots of games have the tools necessary for pulling character data and embedding it right in your guild site. This can, in fact, be really useful... if it corresponds with something that your guild is actually trying to do.

If your group is involved with pushing progression endgame content, having character profiles is really good insofar as it allows you to see what gear people are wearing, for better or worse. It lets you check up on how people are playing the game and provide useful feedback regarding mistakes and sub-optimal choices. That's a good thing, that's the point of the group. In a similar vein, if you're a high-end competitive MOBA or FPS team, having stats and profiles for your players can help identify who's pulling their weight, who's doing well, and who needs improvement.

On the other hand, if your group is a casual group of players coordinating chiefly for social benefits, having character profiles is an easy way to generate arguments. Profiles are simultaneously an act of bragging and of examination - you're at once asking other people to see what your character/account has accomplished and giving others the tools to take those accomplishments apart. So don't put them forth unless you're creating an environment wherein a bit of examination and evaluation is expected.

These are the most common "optional" features, and of course, there are others. But you get the idea - in general, you want your site to feature the things which advance your guild's goals and interests. The parts that don't aren't just extraneous extras, but elements that can have negative impacts on what you really want to achieve.

You can use all of these features and many more at our sister site, Gamer Launch! All tools are tweakable and customizable to fit whatever your guilds' needs are.

Guild Guide: Taking feedback and managing discontent in a group Fri, 18 Sep 2015 11:05:28 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

The last time I talked about feedback, it was all about giving feedback that's worth getting. The problem is that the best feedback in the world won't do anything when you're dealing with officers who don't actually care about what you have to say. You can outline all of a guild's problems with aplomb and wit, provide a flawless plan to fix them, and even add in a quick five-minute guide to losing weight and making money while eating cake - if the officers don't read and internalize it, all of that feedback is immediately worthless.

So let's look at things from the side of the other half. You're in charge, you've gotten feedback, and it's quite possibly (let's even say definitely) on the negative side of things. Your group has some problems. How can you take that feedback and use it as a solid guideline to do better?

Smart groups are always trouble.

Kill your ego

If you are an officer of a guild, your first and foremost goal should be making the guild the best it can be. That may very well be that it's better off without you steering it anywhere.

No one likes hearing or thinking that. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that absolutely no one pours blood, sweat, and tears into a guild that they don't care about. You want to be a part of the guild's successes, not its failures. But if you really want the guild to be in the best possible state, that means you have to be ready to lay down your ego and do what's best for the group, not just for yourself.

Sometimes, the best thing is for you to leave and/or abdicate your responsibility. Maybe you can't handle it anymore, maybe there's a crisis of confidence and none of the members particularly trust the officers any longer, maybe you have personal issues that need to be sorted out first. None of that matters. If you want to be an officer, that means you are also tacitly accepting the idea that you may become superfluous or unnecessary, and you should take that in stride as a sign to step down.

Put more simply - if you were a member rather than an officer, would you feel more confident if you dealt with officers who readily stepped down if needed or with officers who refused to even entertain the idea? Because one sounds like the whole thing is an exercise in fueling egos.

We've really only had a few naked conga lines, let's be fair.

Recognize the role of perception

One of the points I made in the earlier linked column is that feelings matter a bit more than facts, because when there's a major issue within a guild what matters is what people perceive more than what's actually happening. Even if the issue that the guild is facing is wholly one of perception, it is still one hundred percent a real issue.

If anything, it makes your job a bit easier. If the main issue is that players don't feel like the officers actually act upon feedback, you can counter that by doing so. Sorting out events is difficult, arguing over particulars is dicey, but when you're stuck in a situation wherein people are upset about Action X you just need to make a point of not doing that.

Perception is slow to change, but it it's fairly straightforward to do, and it can sometimes be changed with nothing more than a single straightforward act. Your job as an officer, in part, is to manage perceptions and provide the players in the group with a steadying hand. If the guild as a whole doesn't trust the officers, that means trust needs to be re-established, and one of the first steps in doing so is trimming down and managing expectations and perceptions.

In theory, at least, everyone in the guild wants the guild to succeed and do well. It's important to recognize how much hangs upon the way people look at the guild as a whole and the officers in particular, and how a lack of confidence completely disrupts that process. If there's a lack of confidence or a major perception issue hanging over the metaphorical collective heads of the guild, no amount of good actions will fix it; similarly, if everyone perceives things as fine, an awful lot of missteps can wind up being handled without a problem.

No standing near wood ever.

Be wary of absolutes

"We're definitely not going to do that" is probably the worst possible thing to say when you're dealing with feedback.

Not all feedback is good feedback. It's quite possible that the unhappy group in your guild that's providing feedback wants things that are entirely at odds with the bulk of the guild, or that it's being based around a group of troublemakers and malcontents who just like to stir the pot. But even then, looking at feedback and just discarding it out of hand is adding fuel to the fire, blithely shutting down any further discussion in favor of the cold certainty of "no way whatsoever."

Instead, a better option is to discuss the feedback both among the officers and with the guild members specifically. Instead of saying that something is absolutely not going to happen, look at what's being requested and discuss whether it's for the best for the guild or not and how many other players feel the same way. If it's just a handful of malcontents, sometimes you can deflates the issue right then and there.

More to the point, though, whatever way the officers have been using to deal with problems up to this point is apparently not working as intended. You have a methodology in place to handle problems, but it isn't succeeding in that goal. It's doing the opposite. Declaring that you're absolutely not going to do something speaks back to the perception problem, sending the message that even though your approach for dealing with things hasn't worked thus far, you'll stick with it just the same and it'll work eventually.

Or, to be a bit more direct, it speaks to a certain inflexibility that's as sure a way to shut down the group cohesion as anything else.

It's difficult to find perfect solutions to any problems, and it's often complex work when you get a whole lot of negative feedback. As an officer, it's easy to conflate negativity about how the guild is being handled with negativity about you as a person. But if you're in charge, your job is to move beyond that and provide useful solutions and a positive environment for the rest of the guild. That means you have to prioritize solid solutions and what the rest of the guild wants over what makes you feel best about your time as an officer.

If you're more concerned with your feelings than whether or not you're actually making the guild a better place for players, well, maybe people are right not to trust the officers after all.

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Guild Guide: Giving better guild feedback Fri, 04 Sep 2015 10:45:58 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

At the time of this writing, I'm not far from having left a longtime guild in one of my regular games. It's something I had been thinking of doing for a long while, but a bit of discussion internally about issues within the guild were enough to convince me that yeah, it was time to go. It all had a lot to do with how the feedback was handled in general, but that's getting into a whole pile of useless hearsay.

The thing that occurred to me, and part of what served as the catalyst, was that the guild did not (and to my knowledge, still does not) have a culture wherein players feel that they can provide any feedback. This, naturally, got me thinking about the ways that members can and should give feedback as productive parts of the group.

So, let's talk about just that - how do you give good feedback that can be heard, and how do you frame your expectations?

Let's discuss this like reasonable fantasy characters.

Feedback should be expected, if not regular

One of the things that I've found happens all too frequently in guilds is that they aim for either constant feedback or problem feedback. Neither situation works.

Constant feedback is something like a weekly report - tell us what you felt about the past week or month of play and what's been going on, etc. The problem with that is that you tend to burn out and tune out feedback that doesn't happen right around those intervals, meaning that the actual feedback you have gets muted or piled up. It also tends to create the pressure to say something even if you don't have anything to say, which results in a bit of resentment and even boredom around resolving issues.

By contrast, problem feedback is when no one gives feedback unless there's an issue, which is equally counterproductive in the long run. It's the equivalent of never even looking at a structure to see if it's holding up under the weight, ignoring the cracks until the building collapses and then rebuilding from the rubble. By deferring all feedback until a problem becomes enormous, you wind up never needing to actually have feedback, because by that point the problem is obvious.

The goal is to instead have a cycle or rolling feedback. In a large enough group, it's a good idea to have one person serving as the complaints manager, collecting issues and bringing them up for officer discussion; small groups can usually manage with democratic discussions as things go on. What's important is that there's a regular flow of feedback and the expectation that it's going to be heard and discussed, even if it's disagreed with.

I'm sensing anger and loss here.  Is it the whole death thing?

Paint a picture and describe a feel

The most useful feedback for officers, usually, isn't about recounting specific events. It's about how the guild feels.

If there's a loot debate during a raid run in World of Warcraft, that in and of itself doesn't tell me anything if I wasn't there. If you're recounting the whole issue wherein you argued with Jeff for two hours, that doesn't mean anything to me except insofar as I know it happened. Maybe you were right, maybe Jeff was, you're both going to present the situation as being the other person's fault.

But if you tell me that the issues comes down to not feeling as if you have any space to disagree with Jeff, that has merit, especially if Jeff is an officer of some capacity.

When guilds clamp down on discussions before they turn into argument, they frequently give the impression that discussion isn't welcome, especially when the people clamping down on the discussion are the same people who the rest of the guild disagrees with. That's more useful to know and understand than the details of what the argument was about, because that part honestly doesn't matter. You could have been debating about the best Pokémon game or debating serious gameplay issues - the impression of "discussion is unwelcome" is given just the same, and that impacts everything in the guild.

Don't try to get yourself another chance to win an argument; give feedback based on what the argument's management did to your overall emotional state.

Honesty isn't the best policy, it's just the least bad policy.

Be plain about your motivation

There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion by definition. But there is such a thing as a clearly biased opinion. There's weaving in subtle digs at Grand Theft Auto V throughout a review of the game without ever mentioning Saints Row IV, and then there's saying right off the bat that you're a huge fan of Saints Row IV and making it explicit that you're comparing the two games in service to a larger point.

Good feedback is the same way insofar as you cannot convince me (or anyone) that it is unbiased. It is biased, it's always been biased, we all know it's biased. But you can state, right at the beginning, what that bias is. If you're in a guild with a group of officers who feel that all events should be started and maintained by non-officers, your statement that the officers should be starting and running events may fall upon deaf ears, but no one who reads it could be confused as to your feelings on the matter. That doesn't mean the guild will shift to fit you, but it does mean that you owe it to others to make it clear what you want to accomplish.

Similarly, it implies (and calls for) an action plan. Saying that something is bad may be accurate, but it doesn't provide a clear picture about what to do next. Stating the problem and suggesting a process that might fix that problem is more complex, but it's also more likely to produce actual change for the better.

We're on the same side insofar as I'm not specifically on the other side at this moment.

You are not a journalist (and that is helpful)

After spending six years as a journalist, I don't like making claims that I cannot substantiate with appreciable evidence. If the only source I have pointing to a developer's update plans is an offhand statement from a year before launch that could be taken to mean something, I'm unlikely to take that as an absolute truth or even something close to the truth. But this is completely useless when providing feedback to a guild's officers, because when I'm doing so I'm not wearing my journalist hat, I'm wearing my player hat.

The reason I point this out is that people - myself included - have a bad habit of treating feedback and problems the same way that I treat investigations in my job, when that's really not necessary or helpful. I do not need to drop a folder full of evidence on the desk of the guild officers and then challenge them to deal with it when it's in the papers. There are no papers, there's no defending, there's no court of opinion. It's just problems that I have and things I've observed and felt, without the slightest need for thorough fact-checking.

Don't be that guy. Don't delude yourself into thinking you can storm in with accusations and evidence of various goings-on and look like a crusading spearhead of truth. You look more like a nutjob trying to dig up gossip on someone you don't like, and it isn't helpful.

Of course, all of this is just about giving feedback. Actually dealing with feedback is another matter... and one for another column. But at least you can feel confident that if the officers do a bad job of handling feedback, it isn't all on your head.

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Guild Guide: Recognizing the signs of an unwell group Mon, 13 Jul 2015 08:24:10 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

There's a certain point when a guild just isn't coming back.

I'm not necessarily talking about guilds that have lost a bunch of members in short order. The big question isn't how many members left but why they left.  One player leaving could be the signal that the slide is beginning, and half of the guild splitting away might not necessarily mean that anything is wrong.  It all depends on whether or not the group itself is healthy.

Thankfully, there are warning signs well before a group actually implodes.  Seeing them doesn't mean that the guild is going to explode within the next week, but it does mean that something is rotten at the core, something that isn't going to get fixed.  So keep your eyes peeled if you notice...

Arguments about random nonsense

Anyone who has been in a romantic relationship for a while knows the argument about nothing.  It blindsides you on an otherwise normal day.  One of you says something about a flavor of ice cream or a song or the color of the house, something completely inconsequential - and next thing you know you're both saying the nastiest things you can think of about one another, aware in some part of your brain that your partner's problems cannot all be traced to preferring chocolate ice cream, but certain nonetheless that this flavor preference indicates something.

These happen in guilds, too, and they're a sign that something is very wrong.  Because if you're reaching the point where your League of Legends team will start screaming obscenities at one another while talking about the last episode of a television show, it's not really about the show.  It's about the fact that the group as a whole can no longer stand one another, and even the slightest nudge will send everyone into a shouting match - because something has to set everyone off.

I don't need to elaborate on why your group not being able to stand one another isn't a good thing. It's time to remove yourself from the situation, because all that awaits you down this road is harsh rejoinders over cereal brands.

You could always just argue with a machine.

Officers shutting down civil disagreement

One of the duties of an officer is making sure that people don't start arguments or create hurt feelings just for the hell of it. So a certain amount of officers stepping in and stopping arguments mid-stream is, in fact, indicative of everything being perfectly healthy in a guild.  But it's a bad omen when an argument isn't actually happening, but the discussion still gets shut down.

I've seen this happen a few times, and it usually comes down to the officers in question wanting to be seen as right when the rest of the guild disagrees with them. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with officers, so long as said disagreement remains civil, polite, and non-argumentative.  It's when that disagreement turns into name-calling and nastiness that it's in need of a shutdown.

When officers start getting overzealous with conversational shutdowns, that means they're more concerned with the appearance of agreement than actual agreement. I shouldn't need to clarify why this is a bad thing, but just in case: if you can't actually say an officer is wrong about something in a calm and polite fashion when it doesn't matter, there's no reason to believe you can argue your case when it does.

Rapid changes in leadership

Officer makeups change over time in any game. It's the nature of the beast.  What's telling is when a new officer has barely been in the job for a week before another new officer steps into the void - quite possibly the same void that had been filled a week ago.

This is indicative of problems for two possible reasons, both of which lead to bad places. The first possibility is that the rapid shifts are caused by a guildmaster who's impossible to work with for any extended period of time, which is the equivalent of an otherwise fine bar owned by someone who should not run a bar.  It's also possible (and equally bad) that the rapid changes are just leaving officers with no ideas about their responsibilities or goals, and the rapid cycling is due leaders to being unprepared for the sudden influx of responsibility.

Either way, the net result is that there's something wonky going on with the people in charge, and when the people who hold the power - theoretically the ones with the most investment - can't be convinced to stick around, odds are low that your own presence will be rewarded.

Someone has to take responsibilities for all the messes other people are leaving!

Departures and announcements that don't mention one another

On Monday, you're surprised to find that your Counterstrike: Global Offensive group is suddenly down five people.  On Tuesday, a post goes live discussing changes to the group moving forward...while making absolutely no mention of the five people who left.  It's the sort of thing where you can't draw an explicit connection between the two, but you know that they're connected.

There are always things going on behind the scenes of a guild that you aren't aware of; that's inevitable.  But there's a certain point wherein there are things happening that are not only somewhat hidden but are outright denied by leadership, sort of an NSA deal writ large.  That indicates that problems exist, but they're also being kept out of sight, presumably because the powers that be know you wouldn't stick around if you knew how serious the problems were.

I'm not saying that every person's departure from a guild should be met with fanfare, especially since it's usually over some point of contention.  But when someone leaves and immediately afterwards you get information that's trying to shut down any future contention, pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.  That doesn't mean the people who left are necessarily right, it just means that there's an approach and a methodology in place that isn't comfortable.

Shadow guilds

Technically, a shadow guild isn't a different guild.  It's part of the same group, and the people involved have the same overarching group identity.  What's different is that it feels like an entirely separate group, with its own internal heirarchy and gatherings - like a separate organization that exists within the larger one, despite never being officially acknowledged.

Large enough groups will always form a certain number of smaller organizations therein, cliques and sub-groups of various fashions.  Things become uncomfortable, though, when it feels less like a natural outgrowth of people getting along better with some players than others and more like people banding together to form a guild before the current one detonates.  If you're inclined toward cynicism, it's the equivalent of hedging your bets, making sure that if you head off into the wild blue yonder you've got people who will be coming with you.

Once you notice these groups forming with greater regularity, it's indicative that the group might not be officially splitting but everyone wants something different out of the larger structure.  In some ways, it's a beneficial thing, since everyone gets their own space for different goals, but in a more realistic sense it means that the group has already split up and just isn't officially acknowledging it yet.  Maybe that isn't a good reason to jump ship immediately, but it's good reason to be unsurprised when the whole group evaporates into a puff of smaller units.

It's up to you to know the signs

Whether or not all of these factors mean that it's worthwhile to jump ship or try to repair the damage is an exercise for the individual, but when the illness has crept this deep it often means that there may be no saving the whole thing. Remember that all of these are signs of illness, and sometimes that illness is so deep within the guild's bones that you can't fix it.  It's unfortunate, yes, but it's better to know the signs and save what you can than spend months trying to fix something when the disease has taken root.

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Guild Guide: Keeping the group focused during hard progression Fri, 19 Jun 2015 05:18:22 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

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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