Online Gaming Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Online Gaming RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Happy Wheels Madness Reactivated on YouTube Wed, 02 Aug 2017 07:00:02 -0400 JP_4974

By today’s standards, Happy Wheels is an ancient Web game. It was released in 2010, which was an era filled with simple Flash games that were swept to the wayside. Yet Happy Wheels is still popular. In fact, it’s played now more than ever, thanks to a recent surge in visibility on YouTube. Game-streaming celebrities, such as Kwebbelkop and Jelly are dedicating entire YouTube series to the seven-year-old Happy Wheels. There’s something special happening here, and it’s worth a closer look.

Summing up the Excitement
Happy Wheels is a terrifically violent game. It glamorizes over-the-top, cartoon bloodshed via ragdoll physics. If released on consoles, Happy Wheels would most certainly receive an M (Mature 17+) rating from the ESRB. This game isn’t on consoles though; it’s available to anyone with a computer or smartphone. As such, Happy Wheels has been played over 8 billion—yes, billion—times since its release. Players of all ages have enjoyed the arm-breaking, leg-chopping, explosive hilarity for free.

In 2010, Happy Wheels became an instant hit. It had a few unique, silly characters in its roster—a list which has grown significantly since then. Now, gamers can play as a brave moped rider, wacky pogo fanatic, or Santa Claus. Each character rides its own “vehicle,”  anything from a motorized lawnmower to a modified wheelchair.

Staying in the Limelight
No other Web games from 2010 remained a worldwide hit. Happy Wheels kept its top-tier status due to one key aspect: sharing user-created levels. A level editor isn’t a new concept; many games allow players to create their own worlds. Very few titles, besides Super Mario Maker, rely on this idea for core gameplay. In Happy Wheels, the best levels are those created by other players. The included editor features a vast, unparalleled set of tools and items for maximum creativity.

The level editor allows players to build, stack, and draw their own structures from scratch. There are also pre-made building blocks (logs, rails), hazards (guns, landmines), and boosters (cannons, jets). A quick glance at the available user-created levels reveals countless new types of challenges. There are Wild West cowboy adventures, ninja obstacle courses, and rope-swinging competitions.

Viewing and Learning on YouTube
The best YouTube gamers know how to capitalize fun. Many subscribers rely on their favorite channels to share the latest gaming trends. This year, Happy Wheels benefited greatly from this phenomenon. Kwebbelkop’s YouTube channel has an entire series on the game, showcasing the most exciting, tough, and grueling levels. Viewers can learn how to beat certain challenges and get entertained while failing others. Jelly’s YouTube channel features nearly 200 videos on Happy Wheels. With millions of views, these YouTube channels (and others) are maintaining and raising the game’s popularity.

The Happy Wheels game is available on Poki, and it includes many of the best user-created levels. The game’s active community contributes hundreds of new levels per day, so there’s always something new to try. Hop onto your vehicle of choice, and ride through the chaos in Happy Wheels!

How Online Games Can Prepare You for Real Live Play? Sat, 15 Apr 2017 14:00:01 -0400 Rudyardk

There’s a lot of research out there that suggests that online gaming can actually be beneficial in areas of your real life in a number of ways -- from problem-solving to improving coordination. Playing games online can also help you to improve your real life game. Let's take a look at some of the ways that online gaming can help you be the best you.

Practice Makes Perfect

You’ve probably heard it all your life, but practice does make perfect, regardless of what you do. While not every online game translates into real life, gaming online allows for the perfect opportunity to practice. Take a role-playing game, for instance.

If you get together with friends for a game night to play an RPG board game, playing a similar RPG online can help you improve your real live tactics. Even if they are different games, the idea and strategies are often the same. They also allow you to generally think in a more creative way -- giving you an outlet to grow in areas like problem-solving and communication skills. 

Go at Your Own Pace

Depending on the game you decide to play online, you may have the ability to set your own pace. When you are able to play at a slower pace, it’s easier to concentrate, put more thought into your moves, and getting a better understanding of the game, overall.

When you play a game, in person, you often don’t get to control the pace of the game and you can’t “pause” if you have a question, need to take a break, or are feeling the pressure of the game you’re playing. Over time, and with practice, you can learn to play comfortably at a “real life” pace.

Learn How to Play New Games

One of the biggest benefits of playing a game online, before you try it in real life, is learning how to play a game. Consider online gambling for a moment. Ever wanted to learn how to play games like slots, poker, or blackjack? Sure, you could watch some tutorials and maybe go to an actual casino, but you may feel out of your element if you haven't actually played a game.

Another reason to try playing online before you play in person is that you'll likely end up saving yourself a lot of money. There are plenty of fun gambling games other there that don't use real currency so playing those type of games can keep you from losing your hard-earned money. 

Learn the Strategy

Not only will you have the opportunity to learn how to play a new game, but you will also get a better understanding of the strategy of the game. The strategy is one of the most important elements of the game, and if you don’t get the strategy, you probably won’t enjoy the game. Understanding the strategy is one of the keys to winning more than losing.

Gain Confidence

Not only will you be improving your game, overall, by practicing and playing online but you are likely to be a more confident player in real life. A confident player can often stay calmer under pressure and can deceive opponents.

When you are confident in your skills and knowledge, you can relax more and enjoy the game. A confident player is always thinking about the game, but never gets too “showy” about his or her ability; he or she has respect for the game and fellow players.

Guild Guide: Dealing with Disgruntled Members Fri, 10 Feb 2017 11:08:35 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

As an officer, your job really comes down to managing situations wherein someone walks away unhappy. That's inevitable. Half of the guild wants to focus more heavily on raiding, half of the guild wants to focus more on small-group activities. As an officer, you hear both sides, you make a decision, and the issue is resolved painlessly. Hooray!

And now half of the guild is angry. Less hooray! Anti-hooray! (What's the opposite of hooray?)

It's obvious when you think about it, but as an officer you are never going to make everyone happy. Any time you have people with differing opinion, someone's going to get what they want... and someone is not. And thus, you have to manage the fact that some people in the guild are going to be unhappy with the end result.

There's no easy way to deal with this and pretty much no way to prevent it, but you can at least work to minimize the effects. So let's talk about how you can deal with disgruntled members before they're former members.

Avoid disgruntling people in the first place

One of the first tools in an officer's toolbox is making sure that someone doesn't ever become disgruntled, which seems kind of obvious but also has some long-term impacts. The trick is trying to thread a middle path without looking at any of your options as either-or propositions, which is especially difficult when you consider that most of the members of your guild will look at things that way.

Let's look at that example from the introduction again. Yes, your guild cannot be focused on both raiding and not-raiding at the same time; either you're splitting your focus or you aren't really supporting either. But you can put in the effort to find out why the groups involved feel pulled in two different directions. It's possible (albeit not necessarily likely) that you can mitigate the issue with some minor changes, thus ensuring that the group which doesn't get their way still feels like they're being heard and mollified.

This isn't always the case, of course. Sometimes the issue is going to be as simple as the raiding group wanting everything to center around raiding and the non-raiding group wanting the inverse. Someone's going to wind up unhappy there no matter what you do. But you should at least try to find out what's actually mutually exclusive before assuming that it's everything. Sometimes you'll find that it's less than you thought.

It's also important to know how intense support for each side is. It's possible that one side really wants more focus on raiding, but the non-raiding group is generally not very passionate about opposing it. In that case, the non-raiding group won't be very disgruntled if they don't get their way... but the raiding group is likely to be spitting fire.

Usually, there are passionate people on both sides, but the real question remains which side has more passionate people and which side has more people whose support comes with a shrug. Those people are unlikely to be upset if things don't go their way. Realize that when making tricky calls, and you can at least minimize the fallout if not avoid it altogether.

Throw immediate bones to the losers.

Let's say that your had an issue where some of your guild wanted to have a regular group dungeon run schedule while the majority favored having a loose system. The majority won, and there's no regular schedule. Now, your first step should be to start scheduling some runs yourself.

"But why? That side lost." Yes, but the important thing is to realize that they wanted this for a reason. You may not be offering regular scheduled stuff that this group wanted, but you can show them that you understand their position and still want to support them by taking a smaller action.

Maybe that group of players gets nervous around strangers, maybe that group only can play for limited times during the week and needs to get things done promptly, maybe it's just easier for them to mark off specific times for dungeon runs and forget about them otherwise. It doesn't actually matter; what matters is that even though they lost the battle, they still feel like their concerns and needs were heard and are being addressed by the officers.

It's important to also make it clear, though, that you're doing this as an olive branch rather than capitulating after the fact. You're happy to schedule a few runs and run them with these folks, but they're also going to need to step up if they want to do this on a regular basis. If they don't... well, it won't happen. You're making it clear that you care, but you're not reversing the decision. You just want to meet people halfway.

Talk with the losing side

You might be surprised how many situations can be forestalled just by sitting down with the people who disagree with your decision and explaining why you made the decision. Maybe not 100%, but easily 80%.

The fact of the matter is that most of the people who are in your guild are likely there because they want to be there. So when a conflict comes up, both sides find themselves in an odd position. They both want to continue being in the guild, but they also both feel that they need something the guild isn't providing. Dissatisfaction comes from when they still need X but aren't getting it, even after making it clear that they need X.

Talking with them, then, is crucial. It helps to convey the message that you know they need X, but the other side needs Y and Z, and you can't provide all of them. It gives you the opportunity to make it clear that you aren't happy either, that your preferred sequence of events involves everyone getting what they need instead of this being a conflict. You can't accomplish that, unfortunately, so you have to go with a compromise.

Not everyone will care, of course, but you'd be surprised how many people will be more amenable to things when they realize that the alternative is doing more long-term damage to the guild as a whole. Oh, sure, they'll still want the same things (you can hardly blame them for it), but they also want to be here in the first place and thus don't want to damage what already exists. Realizing that what they need hurts the group that they love is the sort of thing that can soften opinions.

Obviously, you will never be able to entirely eliminate hurt feelings. When people want something and they don't get it, they're going to be upset. But you can take steps to make sure that the disgruntled members of your guild grumble a bit and then move on instead of becoming a festering sickness, which is probably the best outcome in the long term. No one likes festering sicknesses, after all; they're unhealthy.

Never Played Online Games? Try These 7 to Get Started Off Right. Fri, 27 Jan 2017 05:06:28 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

Let's face it -- online games can be intimidating to someone who hasn't played them before. It's easy enough to say that they allow you to interact with huge numbers of people from around the world. But for people who haven't played the games before that means that you're going to be teaming up with people who have more experience, predetermined ideas about how you're supposed to act, and (perhaps most importantly) who will not be happy if you don't do things correctly.

Still, everyone needs to start somewhere, and the bright side is that there are lots of great places to start -- more than there have ever been. A good introductory game should be accessible to new players and straightforward to play from the start. But it should also offer something unique to the genre, and provide a good teaching tool for something that players will need even if they choose to explore other online titles. The following games may or may not be your favorites, but they're a good way to bring your friends into online gaming.

1. World of Warcraft

Even if World of Warcraft isn't as big as it was a few years ago, it's still huge -- and the continued series of rolling updates the developers make to the game ensure that each given expansion is a good place to jump in. Players who join in now can easily boost up to 100, get an introductory tutorial, and start in on the most recent expansion content immediately. So you don't even have to worry about outleveling your friends if it's your main game. And there's still a lot to like here, along with a low difficulty curve for early content that slowly introduces you to the concepts you'll need for later.

The biggest drawback to introducing your friends here is, well, there's a lot of critical mass that's been built up in WoW over the years. More than any other game on this list, the culture of this game has become deeply entrenched. Still, that's not something that should stop you, and you could do worse for your first stop on a tour of online gaming.

2. Heroes of the Storm

By contrast, Heroes of the Storm is not the "default" MOBA like WoW. But it offers something that League of Legends does not: a strong emphasis on teamwork. Unlike most other MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm makes most achievements collective goals, with experience earned as part of a group effort and most major battlefield objectives requiring a team to secure.

That difference is going to be felt. In LoL, a more skilled player might outright walk away from new players simply because they don't need to coordinate with the new player, and thus a newcomer is left feeling like they're left to their own devices. In HotS, that new player is a part of the team right away, and the team needs everyone to work in unison to be successful. Rather than leaving new folks as a sideline, they become a focus.

3. Marvel Heroes

At this point, roughly 150% of all films made are superhero movies, so odds are that pretty much everyone has at least passing familiarity with bits and pieces of the Marvel universe. That makes this free-to-play ARPG romp the sort of thing that almost everyone can jump into with minimal explanation. If you're fairly new to online games, you might need to be told what things like threat and healing are all about, but you don't need to be told what Captain America does. You've probably picked that up through cultural osmosis alone.

There's also a ton of content here and a lot of things for new players to cut their teeth on, so you can get an idea of what it's like to play one of these click-'em-up loot festivals while playing with other people. That definitely serves as a boon before moving on to more baroque titles or other points of interest.

4. Star Wars: The Old Republic

Did I say that 150% of all movies were superhero films? Because you have to allow for the now-yearly Star Wars movie (films which have, thus far, been remarkably good), so everyone has at least passing familiarity with that. And if you want to show how narrative can work in an MMO, you can do worse than playing a game which starts your new character off complete with a classic Star Wars narration crawl.

Yes, the game is set long before the movies during a wholly different era, and it's not exactly a perfect conversion. But this is the sort of game that introduces the idea that these worlds have people in them, and more importantly that you can have a character who matters and does neat stuff. That's not always easy to come by, and it provides a nice bridge to other titles with a strong narrative focus... or just a chance to lightsaber lots of Sith in the face. Either one.

5. Neverwinter

Action MMOs have become more and more common lately, and Neverwinter is a pretty good example of the type. It's straightforward enough that you don't need a grounding in Dungeons & Dragons to understand the broad strokes of the setting, and it gives a sense of what it's like to play a full-featured MMO with a more active combat system.

It also has some wonderfully straightforward options for characters. Want to be a fighter with a big two-handed weapon? Great Weapon Fighter, right there. You still have plenty of opportunities to customize your character, yes, but outside of Marvel Heroes no other game is quite as good at telling you exactly what a given character should be doing in play.

6. Trove

If you had asked me back when this game launched, I would have thought that a game that looked for all the world like a kid-friendly action-based Minecraft clone didn't have a bright future. But the thing is that Trove is far, far better than that might suggest. It's all of those things, yes, but it's also like a handful of delicious candy. It rewards you for picking up and playing, even for a bit, and it has never met a concept so silly that it won't pick it up and run with it.

Equally fun? It's not just action. You can play the game as nothing more than a run-and-gun romp, but you can also spend time making intricate creations for other players to enjoy. There's lots of cool stuff going down on all levels, tons of player creation to indulge yourself with or just admire from afar. You can play the game how you'd like and interact with others through means other than just beating up baddies together.

7. Grand Theft Auto Online

Here's a fun fact: odds are not bad that your friend already owns this game, since it's the online component of Grand Theft Auto V. And while that may not sound like much, there's tons of DLC, side activities, and stuff to do with others in a game world. It may not be a full-featured MMO, but in some ways it's the best way to show off what an online game can be.

Have you ever been playing Grand Theft Auto V and thought that a bank heist would be even more fun with all of your friends alongside you, causing chaos together? That's what Grand Theft Auto Online is meant to deliver, and while it's not perfect, it puts paid to the concept. That alone earns it a spot on the list.

That wraps up all the games that we'd recommend to players who've never entered the online world, but what about you? Got any others that you think are perfect for newbies? Let me know in the comments!

How Much Is The Online Gaming Industry Worth? Fri, 20 Jan 2017 06:16:09 -0500 vishal kumawat

Over the past decade online gaming has grown exponentially into one of the most lucrative avenues for developers to pursue.

With millions of gamers logging on to compete each and every day, the potential revenue for a business is massive, but how much is the gaming space actually worth? And who is leading the way in terms of pushing online gaming forward?

Web hosting experts 100TB have created a new infographic to help visualise the monetary value of this booming industry and answer these questions for anyone interested in the business side of the gaming industry.

For example, did you know…

  • Tencent games has a market cap of around $246 billion, making it the biggest gaming company in the world.
  • $36.9 billion of the online gaming market share is estimated to originate from the mobile market.
  • League of Legends is the most popular online game with an estimated 27 million active players every day. In 2014 the games earned $1.3 billion in digital revenue.
  • eSports continues to rise in popularity, with global revenue expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2018.
  • Saahil Arora, a pro gamer known as UNiVeRsE has earned $2,631,245 playing online battle arena game Dota 2.

You can take a look at the infographic below...

How Much Is The Online Gaming Industry Worth?
Provided by

Guild Guide: The Seven Big Benefits to Guild Membership Fri, 09 Dec 2016 10:18:15 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

Why do you want a guild?

That seems like the sort of question that should have been answered a while back with this feature, doesn't it? I mean, it's possibly not one you need answered; you aren't reading "Guild Guide" because you think it's going to talk about how dumb guilds are. But you may very well be unsure of what actual benefit having a guild provides. And the answer to that can be extremely multifaceted.

But let's be straightforward. Here are seven big benefits to having a guild.

People to talk with

An online game is a game you play with other people, but a lot of the time you don't actually need to directly interact with them on the regular. That is, in and of itself, all right. You don't always need to be buddied up with everyone on your server. But sometimes it can get kind of lonely when you log in and haven't got a single person to actually interact with.

Guilds change that. Sure, there's still going to be times where no one is online, or the people who you really want to talk with isn't around. But you actually have better-than-zero odds of having a friend online who you can talk with, and you're more likely to make friends you can connect with in the future. That's an obvious benefit.

Shared resources

This isn't always about actual items. If you have a dedicated League of Legends team, for example, your guild is not trading items to one another to enhance your play experience, more likely than not. But -- and this is crucial -- you are still benefiting from shared resources. You may have friends who can fill roles that you can't, people who can offer you strategies and point you toward useful tips that you wouldn't see otherwise.

And in MMORPGs, this is compounded. Other players have items you don't, levels in various skills and classes that you don't. They can do things you cannot do for yourself. Instead of having to beg for random people to give you what you need, you can tap into a shared resource of your guild and help others in the same fashion.

Necessary guidance

You will be lost sometimes. You will not know how to do a quest. You will not be sure how to play your class/job/build. You will need guidance. And having a guild means that odds are good you either have access to that guidance or have people there who can point you in the right direction. Or -- and this is also good -- it will give you motivation to be that guidance for other people in the future.

Seriously, sometimes the benefit of a guild is learning enough that you can be right when other people are wrong. It might seem spiteful, but it works.

Content pushing

We all tend to fall into certain ruts of content. There are things we all do on a regular basis almost instinctively, and left to our own devices it would be easy to assume that this is what everyone does. It's easy to queue up for the same content and join the same sort of premade groups while looking at outside content as "well, no one does that."

Join even a small guild, and there will be at least one person who enjoys content you do not. Join a big one, and you will find groups of dedicated players for that content. And that forces you to have a larger perspective, to realize that something you don't care about might be something that a lot of other players are looking forward to. Perhaps even the majority.

That doesn't mean you'll necessarily want to take part, but it does mean you know people who can help you get into it. It nudges you out of your comfort zone. That's a good thing, really.

Anecdotes for the future

I have a lot of stories that start "I was in this guild where we..." and continue on from that point. And that makes sense; while there are all sorts of emergent situations that will come up in any game, especially an online one, dealing with a mass of other people is always going to produce more interesting stories. We remember those odd social dynamics and the way we work together better than we remember arbitrary mechanical weirdness.

Do you really want to collect anecdotes? Well, they can be useful for offering advice in the future, and you could argue that the whole reason to do things with other people is to acquire experiences you wouldn't have had otherwise. It is left as an exercise to the reader whether or not this is a desirable outcome.

Understandable community

I cannot understand The MMO Community. I can't even understand the community for one game. I have been playing Final Fantasy XIV since its original hot disaster of a launch, and I do not fully understand the community. I have been part of its roleplaying community equally since launch, and I don't totally understand that, either.

But I can understand my guild. And really, guilds are a microcosm of the larger situation. You can't comprehend the game's entire community, but you can filter it through the small slice that you get to survey. It turns the community from something sprawling and incomprehensible into a smaller portion that you can interact with. And it lets you get a sense of the macro through the micro interactions that you do have.

Sure, you don't know everyone or participate in everything. But your guild members are out there, and they'll know and see things you don't. And you can filter that with your own perceptions to at least approach accuracy.

A reason to log in

On one level, this might seem to be more of a benefit to the designers than the player. Having a group of people who know you, like you, and expect to see you on a regular basis keeps you playing and logging in. Designers obviously want that; that way you keep playing and (presumably) paying.

But if you take a step back, you realize that it's your benefit too. Online interactions are, in many ways, just as real as the interactions we have in our day-to-day lives. The people you know and speak with are just as real, and sometimes they provide you a perspective you might not otherwise have. It's like having your favorite bar, except you don't have to be sloshed out of your mind and you can get there from anywhere that's got an Internet connection.

I know from personal experience that there are times when the real world is unpleasant. Being able to slip into a world with people you like seeing, companions and friends? That's a good thing, and that's a benefit. And having a guild full of people who are happy to see you reminds you of just how many people out there are happy to see you.

So there are lots of reasons to be in a guild. And sure, that also means you'll have to deal with some unnecessary drama and nonsense, but that's not all you get out of the exchange. That's important to remember over the long term.

How to Choose the Best Internet Connection for Online Gaming Tue, 06 Dec 2016 23:55:08 -0500 Marcus_Jensen

Online gaming is a highly-competitive arena. Aside from polishing your skills on a regular basis, you need to make certain your system runs like clockwork. Next-gen consoles and PCs are mean beasts all right, but without solid internet, they are not worth a dime.

That is why you have to choose an appropriate internet connection to support your gaming habits. This is not as easy as it may sound and there are various factors you need to take into account.

Get Yourself Connected

Now, online games like League of Legends or DotA 2 do not eat up bandwidth that much, unless you are using video-streaming services such as Twitch. This means that the speed of your internet connection may not be as pertinent to your needs.

One thing you need to remember, though, is that upload speed is what impacts your ping the most, and if it is below 1Mbps, you will struggle with engaging in competitive gaming.

The choice of internet service provider (ISP) is one of the chief concerns in regards to this. You often hear others advising people to shop around for the best offers and find a plan tailored to their specific needs. But, what does this mean exactly? Should you seek AT&T U-Verse providers or avoid bundles?

First off, note that there are two basic methods of delivering internet connection to your location: Wired and wireless.

A wired connection is more reliable, since it does not employ treacherous airways to reach you. Wireless connection, on the other hand, increases your latency -- it's the price for “no wires” benefit. Hence, wired options are preferable when picking a connection for your gaming needs. Yet, even when you decide to go for a wired connection, you are not in the clear. You still have to ...

Give Weight to Quality

Namely, you have to select the type of medium for your connection. Here, the situation is as clear as day: Fiber is a safe bet, as this technology helps you steer clear of ping problems. Only when fiber is not available in your area should you muse on other options.

Note: Bear in mind that multiple services on a single line always undermine your efforts.

3 in 1 packages are tempting because of discounts, although they affect your ping and online connection times. Problems most often occur when all services are used at once and your overall bandwidth becomes clogged.

Similarly, you should keep an eye on the routes and hops ISPs use. Cheap bandwidth options that serve multiple users are to be avoided. This is a valuable lesson about the importance of service quality.

Slow performance is not as worrisome as connection interruptions. Therefore, your top priority should be to keep the latency low. Look for a quality connection that can handle back and forth communication between a game and multiplayer servers.

If you are uncertain of how to proceed, feel free to utilize internet speed tests. Besides speed, these tools give you an insight into latency and jitter, factors that make or break internet quality.

Flawless Gaming Experience

Few thrills in the world can rival the adrenaline-pumping action of games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Battlefield and similar FPS titles. You line up for a perfect headshot, and your connection fails you just as you were getting ready to gloat (Ez). To avoid headaches and reserve them for your opponent's, cover all your bases when picking your internet connection.

Never lose sight of quality and reliability, your guiding lights in the online realm. Strive to get more bang for your buck and kick your game into overdrive.

What are some of tips you have for choosing the right internet provider? Let us know in the comments below!

Guild Guide: A New Player's Handbook to Joining a Guild Sat, 19 Nov 2016 08:00:02 -0500 Eliot Lefebvre

There are always going to be new players coming into online games more or less as long as they exist. And let's assume, for just a moment, that you're one of them. It could even be a totally accurate assumption, in which case: Hi, new player! Welcome to a new way to play games, it's pretty fun.

If you've been playing an MMORPG, or quite possibly one of the many other online games out there, you've probably heard about guilds or seen some talk about guilds. Most games contain a brief tutorial about the mechanics involved, but they're not really good at giving you a picture of what guilds are meant to do. So here's a handbook for new players looking for and joining a guild for the very first time.

What is a guild?

In simple terms, a guild is a group of players who have decided to all work together for a common goal. Most often, this takes one of two forms: the guild either focuses on the content experience or the social experience. Which sort of guild you want to be a part of is going to be very important, even though most guilds at least have an element of both.

Guilds that focus on the content experience are primarily about banding together to take on difficult dungeons, raids or other content that might otherwise be hard to assemble a group for. This is the sort of group to join if your primary focus is in seeing the really difficult stuff that the game has to offer and climbing in power. The exact nature of groups will, of course, depend highly upon your personal game of choice; in games like World of Warcraft you frequently find groups devoted to raiding and PvP progress, and these days, you may well have groups dedicated to Mythic challenge runs.

A guild focused on the social experience is concerned, first and foremost, with gathering people into a social circle so that everyone feels comfortable and happy. This can involve guilds facilitating interactions that might otherwise be challenging, such as roleplaying or shared social gatherings; it can also include making it easier to find new friends and work together. Social experiences vary widely, and there are many guilds that are "loose" social guilds with little real structure to them.

Of course, most guilds of reasonable size will have more going on than just one activity; even social guilds, for example, will often have people who run dungeons together. The difference is simply focus. If you want to primarily meet new people, the social guild is a good fit for you; if you want to primarily run dungeons, the social guild is a poor fit for you, because those dungeon runs aren't assured by any stretch of the imagination.

How do I find a good guild?

There are several ways! The best way, of course, is knowing a member. If you've met someone who's a part of The Happy Hour Harvestmen, for example, you can know right away if that's a guild you want to join. Presumably, if your friend is a part of the guild, the guild shares at least enough values that they're worth a look.

But what if you and your friends are all devoid of a guild? A good places to look for guilds to join are on the game's official forums. Games with official discussion areas like World of Warcraft frequently have people advertising their guilds, often with the space and opportunity to provide more useful information than you'll see in an in-game advertisement.

As a rule of thumb, avoid guilds that randomly invite you. These are guilds that want members so much that they're shortcutting the process of determining whether or not they want you in the guild

Of course, in-game advertisements and tools are good ways to find out about guilds you might otherwise not be aware of. It's often a good idea to combine the previous method and this one; you can sometimes miss guilds that might be of interest t you by only using one method, as some guilds might not want to advertise in-game but will happily put out a call on the forums (and vice versa).

The last option is to ask the larger community; asking in general chat channels in your game of choice can often give you an idea, and I've seen several times when guild officers or members will happily tell someone about their guilds even though they weren't specifically advertising.

Of course, some of the "general community" answers won't be terribly useful; a lot of players will offer recommendations either by reputation or by personal preference ("you want a social guild with an emphasis on creating a safe space? Try this hardcore progression guild with a racist name!") rather than offering useful advice.

As a rule of thumb, avoid guilds that randomly invite you. These are guilds that want members so much that they're shortcutting the process of determining whether or not they want you in the guild; you're wanted as a live body and little else. That's not ideal.

How do I apply and join a guild?

Every guild has a different process, but generally speaking, it will always involve some degree of getting to know you. Usually, the guild will have an application of some sort that you'll need to fill out; there will also usually be an interview, although depending on the guild it might be involved or perfunctory. Your goal will be to portray yourself as a desirable member while figuring out whether or not this guild will be a good fit for you.

Once you've joined the guild, you'll want to make a point of being the best member you can possibly be. This is often easier said than done; sometimes guilds will have: 

  • Problem members;
  • Problem officers; or
  •  Be going through a difficult stage in the membership cycle.

Your officers should give you a good idea about how to contribute to the guild, however, as well as what you can be doing to be a better guild member.

Assuming that you do like the guild, you can help shape the character of the group and either take a big part in its ongoing victories or even eventually become an officer. If this is your first guild, you should think very carefully about whether or not you want to be an officer, as it's a big responsibility that can require a lot of experience.

Don't be afraid to turn down the position if you don't feel that you're ready; a good guild gives you space to expand and improve without requiring you to take up burdens you aren't ready for.

Of course, after you've joined a few guilds, it'll all seem like old hat. But you have to get that experience before it can be old hat, so get out there and join your first guild. Or your first several guilds. Heck, eventually maybe it'll be time for you to just start your own altogether; stranger things have happened.

Guild Guide: How to Properly Promote Your Guild Fri, 21 Oct 2016 01:21:41 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

The old adage of "no publicity is bad publicity" is a bald-faced lie. You know it in your heart to be so. Sure, it sounds nice to think that any forms of publicity are equally helpful, but you know that odds are low you're going to join the guild whose members are constantly shouting obscenities in general chat, or the ones who advertise themselves with a regularity usually reserved for atomic clocks.

Of course, you also know you need to promote your guild, even if you're not doing so by swinging a yowling cat over your head and shouting about it on the regular. Sure, you may or may not to be recruiting right at this moment, but you still need people to know you exist or you'll be out of luck when you are recruiting again. This means you have a complex problem on your hand, a need to advertise along with a need to avoid being seen as annoying.

Yes, some of this comes down to managing how your group interacts with others who aren't among your members. But how do you advertise effectively? It probably comes as no surprise that there are tricks to it, and mastering them is well worth the time it takes.

Focus on tangible distinctions

When I play Final Fantasy XIV, I regularly see advertisements for guilds that have a laundry list of features - buffs always on, a stocked guild bank, plenty of players, voice chat servers, and so forth. And I always roll my eyes seeing them, because those things are not features. That's like advertising a car based on the fact that it has a windshield, headlights, and tires. You can argue (convincingly) that all of that is necessary, but you can't argue that it's unique.

When you're advertising your guild, you don't need to advertise things that everyone naturally assumes are present. Those offerings will take care of themselves. Instead, what you need to convince people is that you can offer something above and beyond the normal. Instead of making a four-line advertisement stuffed with the stuff every guild has, a one-line advertisement with one unique feature is more likely to stick with people.

Similarly, advertising a "great community" or "helpful players" isn't really an advertisement in and of itself; what you call a great community might not be what another player sees as great or even acceptable. Those are just words. Saying that you have a community focused on small-group content and scheduled runs for new players? That's an actual thing. That's something that you can check on and provide, something tangible. Just by focusing on actual things instead of buzzwords, you can make some extra impact.

Run open events

If I see a guild telling me "join up with us, we want more members," my eyes frequently glaze over. I can't help it, I see a lot of those. But if I see a guild in World of Warcraft offering sign-ups to people who want to run old Mythic raids for transmogs as an open event? Now my interest is piqued, even if I don't want to join that guild.

Open events are a great form of advertising, in part because you don't actually have to do any advertising. All you have to do is organize and run an event that happens to include strangers. You don't need to tell people about what your guild does, because you're showing them what you can do, welcoming people to take part in something fun while at the same time demonstrating your ability to handle it.

It's important to recognize the distinction here between advertising and recruiting; open events are worthwhile even if your group isn't recruiting at the moment. Indeed, outright ending open events with "now join our guild" is a good way to make the goodwill you earn evaporate quickly; players will feel like they've been held hostage for an advertisement. Instead, just run the event, thank people for coming, do the best you can, and then know that you left a positive impression on people when they are looking for a guild.

Of course, running these events also requires a certain critical mass of people, so it's not always easy to do in the earliest stages of a guild's development. But it is worth the effort put forth.

Be active and visible

Passive advertisement can often be as effective as outright advertisement, if not more so. This is the same principle as the open events mentioned above; if your guild is running something that people attend and like, they're more likely to remember your guild positively. Just being active and helpful in the community of your game can often build up significant word of mouth alone.

Obviously, not everyone can be a top-level theorycrafter or run dozens of events per month, but even just taking part in discussions and being friendly can make a significant impact. Being active on a community site is an excellent way to keep your guild's name out and notable without having to rely on shouting about yourself.

Of course, it comes with a caveat - just like in-game, anyone with your guild tag is representing your guild as a whole. If the people passively advertising your guild are contentious, nasty, or cruel, that's what everyone will assume your guild as a whole is like, even if that's not true. A bit of caution is well-advised, as a result.

If maintaining an active presence is a bit much, many official sites for online games have forums specifically dedicated to advertisements; posting a detailed advertisement that gets edited and bumped for major changes can often be a good form of quiet notification for people who are looking. As with the first point, you should be focusing on things your guild has that are unique rather than universal, but the core remains the same.

When you have to shout, do it quietly

MMORPGs almost always have guilds shouting their advertisements in cities. As discussed above, you want to do so in a way that focuses on what you do rather than generic traits, but there's another important aspect: not trying to shout over anyone.

Place your advertisement in the intended chat channel, and then leave. Don't do that again for another fifteen minutes at least, preferably half an hour to an hour. Enough time so that people are likely to see it, but not so often that it's constantly buried in waves of chat. If the chat is super active, consider waiting and coming back at another time to advertise.

Again, what you want here is for people to know you're around, not to be annoyed with your constant begging for members. Spacing out your advertisements helps accomplish that. It keeps your presence in the minds of those watching, but it does so in a way that suggests you're calm about it. You're not begging, you're just asking people to come over, without any real urgency to it.

There are, of course, no certainties. It can be difficult for advertisements to reach the people you want. But if you're trying to do so the right way, you can at least be certain that you're not alienating the people you're trying to attract.

Guild Guide: Taking breaks Wed, 21 Sep 2016 19:15:57 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

No game is ever going to be equally fun at all times forever, no matter what. That's the simple reality. If you spend four months playing World of Warcraft, you're going to get a little tired of it. If you spend a year consistently playing it, you're going to watch certain moments of wonder fade away into bland familiarity. And if you keep that up for even more time...

There's nothing wrong or even unusual about taking a break, but it can be tricky to manage. The fastest way to turn a temporary break into a permanent departure is to insist that a break isn't all right, but at the same time, an officer taking a break can turn into a cascading set of responsibilities for everyone else in the guild. So let's talk about taking breaks and how to manage when people need them.

When a member needs a break

If Simon says he needs a break, let Simon know that he's in a break. Have the officers put a note by his name that he's taking a break, and encourage Simon to keep up with the guild on the website. He almost certainly will not do so, but that's fine. The point is, Simon is just hitting pause for a bit, and there's the tacit acceptance that this is normal and perhaps even a good idea outright.

Generally speaking, if someone's on break for four months or more, it's graduated to a full-on hiatus and may never involve them coming back. But if a member just needs to get out for a bit, it can be handled with a minimum of fuss. If the member taking a break has a big presence in the community, you might want to make a larger announcement; otherwise, just let Simon take his break and move on with the usual business of running the guild.

What you do want to look out for here is a cascading break effect; sometimes one person taking a break means four or five other people taking a break, which can ultimately mean a complete nosedive of membership. Obviously, you don't want to crack down on the people who need a break, but you should be aware and consider that one person taking a break might lead to another scenario further on. We'll talk about that a bit more later on; just know that if one person breaks and then five more do, you'll need to respond differently.

When an officer needs a break

Ah, here's where things get a bit more tricky. Members are important to a guild, obviously, but any given member is probably less important to the guild's continued operation than any one officer. (If that's not the case, you're doing a terrible job with officers.) An officer has specific duties that they're performing, and having an officer leave means someone else needs to take over those duties, possibly to the long-term detriment of the guild as a whole.

However, this cannot mean that an officer can't take a break; as noted above, there's no faster way to turn "I need a break" into "I'm leaving" than not being able to take one. But you are going to have to do a bit more work to make up the difference.

First and foremost, talk with the officer who needs a break ahead of time and get a clear picture of what that officer has been doing on a regular basis. Find out if they need a break from the game entirely or from being an officer specifically. Sometimes, handing off responsibilities for a while is all someone needs; often, more drastic measures are necessary, but it doesn't hurt to double-check ahead of time.

From there, it's important to have a meeting with the officers to see who can take over the existing responsibilities, if anyone. If no one is able to do so, you may want to promote someone into a temporary officer position or consider scaling back slightly; this is especially relevant if you're in a real lull in updates for the game or there's something going on that's pulling people away on a regular basis.

The danger in scaling back, of course, is that it can inspire more people to take breaks and ultimately gut the guild. Thus, before deciding on anything in its entirety, meet with the rest of your guild and see what gets them logging on regularly. If it's something to the effect of "guild responsibilities," then scaling back isn't an option; if it's a matter of logging on for various things, you may be able to get away with doing slightly less for a while.

Just like members, a four-month break or longer probably means that the person in question isn't coming back; however, an officer has likely shown a fair bit of loyalty. While I'd recommend quietly removing members who have been gone for four months with no further word, officers who have been gone for four months probably need a demotion; half a year without any word or talk about what happens next is grounds to kick someone. Use your best judgement, but I wouldn't think someone gone for six months is eager to get back to guild management.

Mass breaks

When one person needs a break, one person needs a break. When a bunch of people all need a break at the same time, though, or several people start taking breaks in close succession, that's a different matter.

First of all, ask yourself if this is a result of the guild or the game. In the game's case, it happens; this is something I've discussed before, and you should take that as your guideline in this situation. But if it's the guild itself, something appears to be causing a problem at the very core of your approach; either you're asking more of players than they're willing to give, or you're generally not making the progress you want to be. Or the people you recruited are moving on from the game as they accomplish their long-term goals.

The temptation here is to ask members what they want, but I tend to encourage avoiding that approach. Why? Because it makes you look like you don't actually know what you're doing; you're stumbling and hoping you can draw people back in as they reach their limits.

Instead, determine what your guild is doing well, and focus on that. If you're a roleplaying guild that has always been known for doing well with roleplaying events, run more of those. If you're aiming at progression but do better a tier or two below the most active content, focus on that for a bit. Double down on what makes the guild work best instead of things that might be leading to burnout, and cater to the people who aren't taking breaks over the ones who are.

Obviously, breaks are normal, and often players will come back from breaks without any problems. They're often very low-key things. But being conscious and careful of them is how you avoid turning a short-term drop into a long-term departure from the game, or at least your slice of it.

When Is Too Much Gaming Bad For You? Thu, 18 Aug 2016 05:59:01 -0400 EdWade

As Pokemon Go continues to take over the world, there is no doubting that it is great fun. It is revolutionary in terms of its gameplay and premise. However, it does have its dangers -- not only regarding becoming addicted, but also real physical problems which could damage one's health. Although Pokemon Go has received a lot of bad criticism for the dangers it poses, it isn't the only game putting people at risk. All gaming certainly has its problems, but when does it become bad for you?

So What Are The Real Dangers?

Becoming addicted to gaming is the most common cause for concern, especially among people aged between 14-22. Online gaming can become as much a problem for young people as smoking or drinking, massively interfering with their lives, disrupting both their social life and working life. According to HSE: Gov, 16% of people in school years 7-11 suffer from addiction to online gaming.

Not only can these cause problems for people’s mental state, but also physical injuries. More and more young people are suffering from computer-based injuries such as RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is also a very common problem which gamers face, especially computer users.

A lot of gamers suffer from muscular pains and strains as well. Sitting in a bad posture constantly will undoubtedly make you suffer, as you are putting your body in a naturally bad position. It can become very easy to tense up, especially when the gaming itself becomes so intense. Taking a walk or even doing some stretches can seriously help you in the long term. Similarly, it might be a good idea to invest in a gaming chair, which will sit you in the correct position while you game.

Eye strain is arguably the most common gaming injury. Sitting for hours in front of a TV screen or a computer monitor will, of course, have an impact on your eyesight. People will become accustomed to staring at a short distance and possibly become short-sighted.

Gaming has always been a known problem for the government.

But now with the likely release of Virtual Reality games similar to Pokemon, it could become even more of a concern. Richard Murray from Arinite health and safety consultants said:

‘Gaming has always been on the government’s radar. But now with virtual reality becoming even more prominent in gaming, there has to be made more of an effort to inform people of the dangers.’

Pokemon Go has certainly shed some light on the problem, with stories of people falling off cliffs and walking into traffic becoming ever more apparent. Thousands of people are also cramming into smaller spaces, as they become further involved in the augmented reality of Pokemon. And who knows how the issue is going to be compounded when VR hits the market starting near the end of this year.

As gaming becomes ever more prominent among young people, it is essential for people aged between 14-22 to be regularly informed about the problems they can face, and take steps to minimize the damage they may do to themselves as they play. 

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.

Never played World of Warcraft? Here's why you should start with Legion Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:33:50 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

World of Warcraft is launching its sixth expansion soon. Very soon, in fact; Legion is scheduled to launch on August 30th. But let's assume that this doesn't matter to you, because World of Warcraft has never mattered to you. It's something other people play, not something you play. You prefer other titles -- you don't go for the MMO, even after years and years of operation and people saying that you should try it out.

And yet maybe now is the time to break that streak.

For someone who has never played WoW before now, it might seem like there's no reason to jump in this late in the game. But Legion is the perfect time to start out, giving you a chance to see the best of what the game has on offer and experience a whole new side of the game. If you've never played before, Legion's launch is a perfect time to start, starting with the fact that...

You won't have to level

Buying the base game and Legion means that you get an automatic boost to level 100 right off. That's the current level cap, and it's also the same level everyone will be going into Legion with. You even get the chance to go through multiple class trials, trying out each class so you can see which playstyle appeals to you the most without having to actually use up that valuable level boost.

If you're worried about not being able to jump into the game with the boost, that's been handled, too. The trials slowly walk you through your class abilities, what your talent choices do, and how your class will play in the longer run. By the time you're done in the training wheels section, you'll have a collection of abilities that you know how to use, whether you're a veteran of other MMOs or you've never picked up a similar game before. You'll still be new to the game, yes, but you'll be new to the game with a full selection of tricks that work in a way you can feel comfortable about.

The leveling has a new wrinkle in Legion as well, insofar as the game's areas are not divided up by level. Every area's quests and rewards will automatically scale to your character's level as you move toward the new cap of level 110, meaning that you can explore whatever you'd like without worrying that you might be too low-level to experience everything. So not only will you start on equal footing with everyone as you go into the next expansion, you'll also be able to experience leveling in a much more quiet and personal fashion. You can see things without worrying if you're seeing them in the right order; everything will scale.

In short, you aren't going to be playing catch-up. You'll be caught up and ready to go on.

Classes are more flexible and more distinct

For a long time, one of the big things locking players into certain roles in WoW has been the idea of respeccing. The short version is this: your character has a specialization -- and once you've picked it, it's both time-consuming and expensive to change that. If I've been playing my Warrior as a tank (Protection), I can't make that warrior into a damage-dealing character (Fury) without getting a whole pile of new equipment and stopping by a city specifically for that purpose. It made it much easier to just stick with one thing.

Slowly, that's changed. At this point, playing a Warrior is more flexible than it's been. A Warrior isn't constrained to a single spec unless you want to be; instead, you can freely switch between all of your character's various specs as long as you're in one of the game's many rest areas. And it's not just your spec that's flexible. If you swap to a new spec, your gear swaps with you; going from being a Feral Druid (with an emphasis on Agility) to being a Balance Druid (with an emphasis on Intellect) will see all of your gear swap to account for your new primary stat.

It goes further than that, too; if you decide that a given talent isn't working as well as you'd like, you can freely swap that at a rest area as well. Having trouble with a quest? Try out more survival-oriented talents. Need to wipe out larger groups of enemies? Use more area abilities. You don't have to be locked into one-size-fits-all builds as you quest out in the world; you can try new things and experiment with your options.

Each class also gets its own Order Hall and Artifact weapons in Legion to help celebrate the flavor of each specific option. It's not just a matter of being able to shift between different specs, it's a matter of what your class is. A Paladin and a Warrior can both be doing damage with a big two-handed weapon, but the Paladin is the leader of a cross-faction order of holy knights dedicated to fighting the demon invasion of Azeroth, and the Warrior is an exalted champion of battle within the halls of the honored warriors of eternity. Each Artifact is distinct for each spec, but multiple Artifacts can be wielded by a single character; you can have your artifact weapons for multiple roles allow you to do many things at once as you quest and run dungeons.

The stakes have never been higher

If you're wondering why this is the point at which players are getting such powerful weapons and an entire order dedicated to a single class, it's because the stakes of the story are incredibly high. Azeroth isn't in the middle of a war between its two major factions; it's in the middle of a war against the Burning Legion, an endless tide of demons devoted to wiping out all life on the planet.

The Burning Legion has tried to invade Azeroth multiple times in the past, but each invasion has been cut short. This time, the invasion is coming on in full force; the Legion has opened a portal at the Tomb of Sargeras, the resting place of the fallen Titan who founded the Burning Legion. The very essence of the world's creation will be needed to seal away the portal that has been ripped open, threatening to engulf everything on the planet.

Story-wise, this means that nothing is off of the table. Former villains are coming back as allies in the struggle to save the world, including the new Demon Hunter class (accessible to everyone with the expansion and a leveled character, including a boosted character). Demon Hunters served directly underneath Illidan Stormrage, the villain of the game's first expansion pack, but the desperation of the fight against the Legion has brought both the Alliance and the Horde together with these former enemies. Demon Hunters are mobile weapons that fight back against the demons, channeling demonic powers to defeat the Burning Legion while struggling to contain their own fierce energies.

This means that there's more story for players to explore than ever before, a chance to delve into the history of Azeroth and the stories behind many of its enduring mysteries. If you're familiar with the story of the game's history, you will learn new things from this expansion; if not, you still have every reason and opportunity to learn about these factions and what they represent. And it's in the midst of the game's most epic and far-ranging conflict yet.

It's a huge fantasy adventure

It's possible that what has put you off from World of Warcraft in the past is pretty simple: people. Sure, most people playing on a PC these days play games with other people, but there's a lot of difference between jumping into a quick queue in Overwatch and having to play alongside others for months on end. That's kind of intimidating, and it's the sort of thing that's turned people off of the genre for good.

But thinking of it that way is kind of missing the point, especially with this expansion. This is an adventure, the sort of grand fantasy romp that you usually see in single-player games. Your character isn't a nameless cog in the machine; you are a hero, one of the greatest heroes of your faction, and you will be instrumental in either repulsing the greatest threat to the world ever seen... or sealing your fate.

And you're not doing it alone. You will be alongside other players, other heroes, fighting for the safety of this realm against marauding demons who exist to destroy everything you hold dear. Chaos threatens to overwhelm everything, and players are the only line of defense. There are stories to be told, experiences to be shared, leaders who will fall and major changes to the game's lore in ways that you can't anticipate. You'll experience all of it alongside others, grouping up with them, working as one in a big fantasy battle that you normally wouldn't get outside of a big AAA single-player game.

But it's not a single-player game, and that makes it a team effort. You'll make friends as you experience the story, both real people and NPCs. You'll share in triumphs and defeats. Above all else, you'll be a part of an emerging saga within the game world, one that will change the face of the game forever, for good or bad. Imagine your favorite sprawling fantasy game, and imagine you were running through it with other people, all working to build up your individual order halls into a force that can stand against this overwhelming threat.

Sure, you might never have gotten into the game before. But now is the time to do just that.

And if you're looking for guilds or other people to play with, you can check out our sister site Gamer Launch, which hosts hundreds of thousands of community sites and offers community, roster, and recruiting functionalities for World of Warcraft and many other games. 

Guild Guide: How to grow permanently when dealing with a short-term population boom Wed, 27 Jul 2016 10:40:38 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Games get popular at times. You might roll your eyes at that and say that it's obvious, and in some ways it is. When a new World of Warcraft expansion hits? Popularity goes up. Major Final Fantasy XIV patch? Popularity goes up. League of Legends adds in a massively overpowered hero? Popularity goes up, at least until that hero is nerfed into the ground. And that's not counting bounces from bits of pop culture and the like, like people suddenly jumping into Star Wars: The Old Republic around December because some film franchise releases a new installment. I don't remember which one. James Bond, maybe.

But when you're in those games, these surges mean something. If your game was looking like a bit of a ghost town beforehand, suddenly it's populated. If it always features a healthy population, suddenly it's crowded. There are a bunch of additional people around unexpectedly.

And this is great! It means a lot of new people are coming in and experiencing a game that you love to no end; that's wonderful. What is less wonderful is that you know most of them are going to come in, experience it, and then leave. And they aren't looking at it that way. They show up, they talk about enjoying themselves, and then one day they're just... gone. Like a relationship in college, they thought they were sticking around, but they were really just on the tour.

When you're working as part of a guild, you have to be aware of these things. And the thing is, a guild can grow, and grow permanently, as a result of these population surges. You just have to know what you're doing. So let's talk about making these short-term population surges work for you.

Decide who you're courting

There are three groups of players to court in these population surges, and you can court one of them. That's it. Make your choice early, and make it well.

The first group are visitors. Visitors are new to the game, but they joined in the huge mass of other people checking it out for the first time. They are quite possibly new to the entire genre and still have a lot of wide-eyed enthusiasm, and every new experience they have in the game is really cool because it has literally no equivalent. And, on the generous side, I'd say about 10% of them will stick around after the surge dies down; give it about three months.

The second group are returners. Returners are not, in this case, rebels from Final Fantasy VI; they're former players who stopped playing for a while for a variety of reasons, but all of the buzz brought them back in. What level of play they previously engaged in can wildly vary, but on an average I'd say about half of them will stick around for at least six months after they head back. They also tend to be very knowledgeable about the game, or at the least not much less so than your average active player.

Speaking of which, that third group is players. We're talking the people who are still there and were playing before the population boom started. These people are likely to stick around simply because they were already around; if they were going to leave, they wouldn't do so while the game is on an uptick. You might think that this group can't be courted during a boom, but there will always be people who want to play with other committed players rather than folks who swarmed in on the back of a movie/book/comic/whatever.

If you're going to make use of the population surge, pick a group and court them. My personal preference here is usually to court the returners, because they're the sort of people who already have incentive to come back and just need the anchor a guild can provide. It's not a certainty, but it's better than even odds. But there are plenty of reasons to pick another group to court; just pick one and stick with it.

Nudge but don't deform

So you've decided which group you're courting. Great! Now comes the tricky part - nudging your focus just enough that it includes the people you're courting without alienating the people already in the guild.

If you've got a hardcore progression group, you do not want to be mixing in visitors in the group. Yes, there's a small chance that people will see you talk about progression and say "wow, that sounds so cool," but more likely you'll be splitting your time and attention between two radically different groups with extremely different needs. The visitors won't feel included, and your existing guild members won't feel as if they have a place amidst your swarm of visitors... and when the surge ends, you're left with no one.

This is where picking a group and running with it becomes important. A hardcore progression group can definitely court existing players, because it can bring them into the fold without having to worry about coaching new people. A more casual or dungeon-focused group can court returners or visitors. A group focused on teaching newer players how to play should be courting visitors left and right; sure, a lot of them will leave, but the ones who stick around will both be in a position to teach and will have the guild as their anchor for learning.

Your key is gently nudging your overall focus rather than actually pushing it off. If you have a dungeon-focused group in Final Fantasy XIV, for example, you would be well-served by having a few more lower-level or inclusive runs... stuff that people can clear if they've missed or if they need some obscure content cleared. Make the new players feel as if they're welcomed and valued, but don't give your existing players the feeling that continuity has been suspended.

Expect the departures

While I'm normally big on making sure that your guild is the right size for what you want, when you've got a population surge, the rules get wonky. You are going to get an influx of new players, and then many of those players are going to be gone before too long. That's normal, and frankly, it's all right.

Even if it's not all right, it's going to have to be all right, because those players are leaving.

When you know that you're going to lose some of your members before the ink gets cold on their applications, you have to cultivate a slightly different attitude. You try your best to provide people with a positive anchor, but you cannot be certain that even the veteran players won't decide that the game isn't what it used to be and it's time to leave.

Let yourself get flush with new members, but be aware that the shrink is coming, just as surely. Don't worry about new officers while the population surges; know that players are going to leave and you're going to shrink back down to a more reasonable size. Keep your eyes on the longer-term. In three months, a sudden burst of popularity will have faded, and you'll be able to examine what your guild needs and where it stands in the final assessment.

In all likelihood, if you're playing it smart, you've got a few new members and a slightly quieter game. And that's all right! It's a few new members you wouldn't have had before, and now you can get back down to the usual ebb and flow. Until the next surge, anyhow.

Guild Guide: How to help your guild get better at any game Fri, 08 Jul 2016 06:52:42 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

The past couple of installments of this column have focused a bit more intensely on specific games. I've talked about how to help your guild get better at World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. They're both subjects that I know quite a bit about, and one that I could probably continue on about for quite some time -- although "How to get your local Solitaire group to improve" would probably not be terribly welcome.

But then, that's the fun part, isn't it? Sure, you might not actually play Final Fantasy XIV, but there's stuff in there that's equally applicable to groups in every game. You can, in fact, extrapolate. And even if you can't, there's some general-purpose advice available for everyone about how to make sure that your group gets better at whatever game you're playing. So this week, let's be a wee bit more general -- starting with a tip that's been implied but unsaid the whole time.

Make sure you're actually good yourself

You've heard the sentiment batted around many times by now, I'm sure: It's better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. And that is, in fact, entirely true. I've seen far too many people open their mouths to give advice about how to play a given class in various games, only to reveal in the process that the speaker has no idea how to actually play the game effectively. Sometimes less than no idea.

So before you start worrying about the group doing better, take the time to make sure that you're doing well. Step back. Read up. Do research. Practice your rotation, group up with strangers, and get advice.

I'm not saying that you should be the best in the world, obviously; the upper side of average is fine. You should be reasonably confident that you are, in fact, capable of fulfilling the basic tasks necessary to succeed at content. You should be looking at your own performance and finding flaws to be improved, sure, but you should feel like on a whole, you know how to play the game well enough to clear the content that other people want you to help them improve in.

Similarly, you should also be willing to double-check your advice. If you tell your group that the DPS needs to kill something in a Star Wars: The Old Republic raid, when a DPS member fires back "actually, that should be the healers doing that"? Check on it. Look it up. Find consensus. Your goal here is to be good, not to win an argument.

Don't discard contradictions out of hand just because you want to be right. Master the art of suggesting to your fellow players that you all try doing things this way, even if some of them are sure it should be done differently. They might turn out to be right, but you can find that out for sure later.

Find out who needs which kinds of attention

When someone isn't playing well, there are a lot of potential reasons. Some players just don't know what they're doing yet. Some players need to fail a few times in order to learn the mechanics. And some players are going to need personal one-on-one attention to understand what they're doing wrong and how they're going to fix it.

Every player who is trying to improve needs a different sort of attention. The players who need to fail a few times, for example, are going to be pretty upset if you take them aside and try to coach them through something in a one-on-one setting. You need to let those players screw up and see "oh, that's what I need to do." Check in with them occasionally to make sure that they do know what they're doing, but you don't want to pressure them. On the flip side, the players who do need one-on-one attention will often say that they know what they're doing; it's just that the actual encounters will tell a different story.

Your task, as someone trying to improve the group, is to find out who needs what and provide it. Which sounds easier than it is by a wide margin. Many players will think they're better than they are, and you will need to (gently) correct them. Some players need praise, others need to be carefully walked through what's going wrong so they can understand their individual role. And there are a lot of players who expect to find that they respond a certain way to stress, only to discover after the fact that it's the exact opposite of what they need.

Be flexible and organic, and be prepared to tailor your approach to each individual player. Back off as necessary, and try to get a sense of who needs personal attention and who can be counted on to correct their screwups.

Assume competence

This one might seem like a little thing, but it makes a difference. If someone is screwing up repeatedly, there are two ways to approach the problem. You could ask Scott what's going wrong ("Hey, Scott, what's the matter? You can do this stuff, I know you can") or you can be upset with Scott for failing ("Scott, come on, get this together"). The former is always a better approach.

People naturally tend to work up to what other people expect of us. If you, as an officer, approach a member to discuss performance with the stated expectation of solid play, that member is more likely to think that they need to be playing at their best. If you act like they just didn't try, thoguh, it breeds resentment. It gives them the feeling that the effort they are putting in isn't appreciated, just expected.

As with many other things, getting better is as much about attitude and culture as it is about mechanics. Having a culture based on the assumption that people can do something encourages more positive attitudes.

Plan your improvement times and keep them narrow

In order for a group to get better, you want to throw them against the unexpected. You want to have difficult content or opponents ready to go. So your group gets together at a specific time on a specific night, you go up against your opponents, you do the best you can, you work on improvement, and then you stop. You walk away, you let it go, you let it be.

It's sometimes almost impossible to do this. It should also be your watchword. If you say that your group will be practicing a difficult boss for two hours, though, you make sure that at the two-hour mark, you are done. No more work. No "we almost had him, just one more try." Two hours and done.

The reason this is so important is that improvement and practice is grinding. It's often not fun, and it's frequently marked by a string of failures. And especially when you're doing the same thing for an extended period, some people are going to get tired, or get bored, or otherwise just want to take some time away. They deserve that space to process and internalize what they learned.

Making practice a regular thing means that it can be done at your own pace. You can take a deep breath, do what you need to do, then step back and try again later. You don't have to bash your head against the wall forever, just long enough to do what needs to be done.

It's important to have that safety valve. It's good to know that improvement is ongoing, but it isn't the only thing to be experienced in the game. Sure, you might have been close to victory one time, but taking some time away will tell you whether or not you can replicate that victory. And when you come back and nail the fight each time, you'll know that all the effort to make a better group paid off dividends.

Top 5 Online Gaming Community Experiences: Places of Belonging Sun, 26 Jun 2016 10:41:46 -0400 Phil Fry

In online gaming, the players who inhabit the community can often influence whether or not new players choose to play that game in the first place. Communities are built on shared interests, respect, and social interaction.

If a community is toxic -- that is, unwelcoming, unsupportive, or even just impatient -- new players and community members may turn away from whatever game that community centers on. 

From my own experiences, one of the most toxic communities I've ever had the displeasure of discovering would be that of the widely popular competitive MOBA style game, League of Legends. We could spend time discussing why League of Legends is a toxic community, and even build a list made up of other online communities that ooze toxicity.

But we're going to take the high road, and we're focusing instead on the best overall community experiences you can find in online gaming (thus far). 

Admittedly, this list is comprised of my own personal experiences with these communities -- but if you were lucky enough to experience these communities, you'll probably find yourself agreeing with the games on this list.

Community #1: Town of Salem 

Originally a browser game, Town of Salem was made available on Steam in December of 2014. Starting up a round of Town of Salem, players are dropped into a group of 7-15 individuals with unique roles. The game is in the same style as classic card games of Mafia and Werewolf.

[via Town of Salem Wiki] 

In classic mode, players are either townsfolk with varying abilities, mafia members, the serial killer, or obtain neutral roles like "Executioner" and "Jester". No matter the role, players have different goals.

If you're part of the town, your goal is to figure out which players are mafia members, or who's the SK. If you're in the mafia or you're the SK, you seek to eliminate town members and deceive the town into believing you're a good guy. 

Each game is split into Night and Day rounds. During the night, mafia members and the SK attack unsuspecting players. Town roles like the Sheriff try to uncover information about others by investigating them, and Jailors have the ability to place a person in prison to face interrogation. 

The game relies heavily on player interaction, and each new game has a different set of circumstances that can unfold in countless ways.

It's a lot of fun to experience a community like the one in Salem, because players act uniquely in each of their roles. Every player has a different play style for the role they are given, and often games can become grippingly suspenseful, and leave you questioning what could happen next. 

[via Steam Store]

The community is diverse, and with each new game, you're meeting new players who change the game in their own way. Although matches can sometimes be short in duration, you may find yourself playing far more rounds of Salem than you realize. 

Community #2: Splatoon 

Despite the game's online features lacking voice communication, something that is usually vital to online console gaming, the community of Nintendo's Splatoon is active and dedicated -- contrary to some who believed the community would not last long. 

Although it's difficult to meet other players in-game, the community that makes up Splatoon is wide and numerous. Players find themselves in teamwork based game modes that encourage players to coordinate to conquer their foes. 

When Splatfests are announced, the community only increases in number, because players who may not be as active as they once were come back to participate in the weekend-long event. 

[via Splatoon Wiki] 

Furthermore, over at Squidboards, community discussion occurs over all aspects of Splatoon everyday. For players who wish to find other squids to team up with, utilizing the forums would likely yield positive responses. 

Community #3: World of Warcraft (Pre-Cataclysm) 

The community of players who make up the world of Azeroth today are different from the ones who used to. Of course, there are still countless individuals who still play World of Warcraft, and have since vanilla days, but overall, the community that existed prior to the Cataclysm expansion was one of the best around. 

Before Garrisons, and Dungeon finder, players of World of Warcraft spent much more time interacting and collaborating with other players of the game. Players used to take on difficult tasks and quests together, meeting through the game, and often times built long-lasting friendships that transcended the virtual world of Azeroth into the real world. 

In order to acquire the best gear, players had to join guilds and commit time to the game and their community so that everyone advanced together, and this level of collaborative interaction set the standard for a lot of future MMOs and online games. 

You may say that because the game has changed to focus on more individual play-experience that the community has changed as well, but this is not the case. Classic WoW private servers only exist because there is a community of WoW players who miss what the community experience of WoW used to be. 

Now, there are even more communities of WoW players based on the WoW experiences of those who make up these communities. There are WoW players who value and desire to play older versions of the game, and there are also WoW players who enjoy the WoW of today, or maybe even recent history. 

World of Warcraft has a diverse range of communities all encompassed around a single game, and that is nothing short of impressive that one game can allow for many different kinds of playerbases. 

If you are a WoW player, or you used to be, there is a community of other WoW players out there just like you. 

Community #4: Red Dead Redemption 

Rockstar's old west Red Dead Redemption was a phenomenal game for its single-player story mode alone. What some gamers may not know, is that the community of Red Dead's online free-roam mode made the game even more memorable. 

Players could join together in "posses" and complete area-clearing missions to rank up and gain access to unique mounts and characters. Joining up with others was further encouraged through the bonuses posses gained in experience and unlockables.

Oftentimes these posses turned into dedicated Red Dead clans, who spent time together battling other clans over territory, robbing others of stage coaches, or playing mini-games like Liar's Dice and Poker. 

The players who spent time in the world of Red Dead were loyal and encouraging to their fellow posse members. I remember my old clan leader purchasing the DLC expansion, Undead Nightmare, for me when I reached the highest rank in the game, which was the first time someone I'd met online had ever done something like that. 

Even moreso, Red Dead players were creative and unique in their style of play, often planning journeys across the map, or attempting to uncover secrets of the vast world.

One time, my posse and I spent a considerable amount of time sending a stage coach down one of the highest rivers in the game whilst as many that could stood on top of the unsubmerged roof, drifting in the water towards the eventual waterfall that sent the stagecoach tumbling down. 

The world of Red Dead was visually interesting and beautiful, with its scenic mesas and bluffs, forest mountains, and rolling desert sunsets, but the individuals who dwelled in the world were the ones who truly brought it life. 

Community #5: Halo 3 

Although there are many who may say that Halo 3's community was made up of trash-talkers, griefers, or young children throwing out your-mom-jokes, the community experience of Halo 3 on Xbox Live was an online console experience that was unprecedented for its time. 

Halo 3 introduced Forge mode, which allowed players of the game, for the first time in Halo franchise history, to create their own unique maps and game modes. The result was a vast collection of Infection style games, race tracks, competitive maps, and even in some cases, community created maps with the sole purpose of spending time in a game talking with other individuals.

Although I put enough time into Halo 3's matchmaking to reach the Brigadier rank, a considerable number of hours were spent playing Custom Games with longtime friends I'd met through the game.

Game types like Cops and robbers, Duck Hunt, Predator, Monster Truck Rally, and Fat Kid were player created game modes that were played almost every day, for extended periods of time. 

Furthermore, Bungie's creation of File Share, a place on the user's profile that could hold their own Screen Shots, game maps and modes, and film clips, allowed for the Halo 3 community to share their creations with others in an easily accessible way. 

Bungie encouraged player creation, and they used to update some of their favorite player made content on a list called "Bungie Favorites". 

Halo 3 will always hold a special place in my gaming memories, because it was one of the first games in which I met individuals who shared my interests on the level that I did, and who played the game together almost every day because we enjoyed each other's company. 

[via Halo Wikia]

Despite the game's release in 2007, it was not uncommon to see thousands of players still spending time on Halo 3 several years after its release, and even after other sequels of the game were out. To this day, if one looks hard enough, a dedicated and small community of players still passionately plays Halo 3 online.

I imagine if the servers of the game are ever shut down, we will witness another event like Halo 2, where players who stayed on the game's servers as long as they could. 

[via Reddit]

Online  gaming has allowed countless individuals to meet around the world who otherwise would not have. Becoming a part of an online community can give individuals a sense of belonging and place. These communities are often encouraging of their members -- they help others grow individually. And to have the experience of being a part of an online community is nothing short of something special and unique.

There are those who've never experienced a sense of community in online gaming -- and for those who haven't, they will never be able to understand just what it means to have this incredible and unique experience. Just like those who have had the experience fail to understand how circumstantial those experiences can be.

Coincidence can be difficult to believe in afterwards. 

[cover image courtesy of Zero Ping Heros]

More Updates for Street Fighter V Are Coming Next Week Thu, 23 Jun 2016 11:45:24 -0400 Megan M. Campbell

Even after the first major update to Street Fighter V, players are still having issues with the game. The development team has responded to this with another update – this time to “Matchmaking”.

A Capcom employee under the name of haunts tweeted today that new updates on Street Fighter V’s matchmaking system will be coming next week. These updates include:

Matchmaking Preference Improvements

Since the game launched, some users have reported having issues with the matchmaking preferences. According to the announcement:

“This [included] hardware preference settings, connection quality settings and being match with other players far outside of your League Point range. These issues have now been resolved.”

Matchmaking Speed

Occasionally, players' League Points weren’t synchronizing across the servers, which led to longer wait times to find a match. With the new update, users will be able to find matches at a much faster rate.

Overall Matchmaking Improvements

Players have been having issues getting matched with players of similar skill level. The update has improved the logic for the system so that players should get matched with similarly skilled players more often. This also includes improvements to location based matchmaking and an increased range of qualified match candidates.

Online Match Quality

The final update focuses on the quality of online matches. The connection range settings (1-5) have been improved and “should more accurately reflect the quality of incoming matches.”  

Do you think these updates are enough to give players the multiplayer experience they deserve? Let me know in the comments!

[Source Image: Header Image]

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: Pushing and pulling with leadership Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:02:38 -0400 Eliot Lefebvre

Being in charge of a guild means that you are forever managing a dance between making decisions and having decisions made for you.

Whenever you're in charge of a group, there are members of that group who are going to tell you that your decisions are wrong. Sometimes, they're completely right. Sometimes they're completely wrong. Some people are repeatedly wrong, and no matter how many pieces of evidence prove them wrong, they'll just keep demanding things on the same wrong premises on a regular basis until the stars go cold and dark. And sometimes that's just based on the fact that someone wants something that they can't have.

The struggle for leaders, of course, is that the wrong players want to have just as much of a voice in how the guild is run. And everyone needs to feel as if they're being heard. Hence the push and pull of leadership, the delicate dance between letting others have what they want when you disagree with it versus standing firm on your beliefs. It is, as implied, pretty complicated.

Goals and consensus

The hope, when you make a decision, is that everyone will agree with your decision. You can probably file that hope the same place you file the knowledge that the goal in a baseball game is to hit every pitch while not letting the opposing team hit any. It's certainly what you want, but it hasn't got the slightest chance of happening.

Realistically, when you make a decision, your goal cannot be complete consensus. Your goal can be to have reasonable equilibrium, however. While you can't have everyone agree with you, the people who don't agree with you can walk away from the discussion feeling as if their views were heard and considered and they had a fair chance to influence the decisions that were being made.

As such, one of the first things you have to be willing to do when dealing with a complex guild issue is acknowledge the possibility that you might be wrong. People who are upset might be right to be upset, and complaints could be entirely valid. It's leadership 101, as it were, and it's important to make sure that people are aware your mind can be changed and you are, in fact, flexible.

Ceding the right points

"But how do I know the right times to back down?" you ask. "The rest of the guild thinks I'm wrong, but this is a big and important issue." To which I offer you this point: they're all big and important issues. Every single one of them. If guild leadership and its decisions are involved, then the issue is big and important.

I've seen far too many leaders get bogged down in the idea that it's all right to let the little issues slide, but the big issues have to be fought, and the big issues are what the leaders are there to make the calls on. This is understandable thinking, which is also completely wrong. No one feels like they have a voice if the only times their voice matters are the times that it's not relevant.

If that's too cryptic, consider the following: if you were only listened to on the minor issues, would you feel like you had a voice, or would you feel as if you were being humored on token cases and ignored the rest of the time?

More often, I find that it's important to take a look at the people who are espousing what viewpoint. I was in a guild at one point, wherein several of the members were saying "yeah, the officers here are unpleasant to deal with and very cliquish," with the officer response coming down to "no we're not." Aside from the obvious communication issues there, a more reasonable response would be to at least humor the idea, since the only people saying "there's no clique" were the people who would, by definition, be inside the clique.

If you're willing to stop listening to people at a certain magnitude, you're not doing the push and pull correctly. You're still assuming that you're right, that everyone else needs to be humored. And again -- it's best to start from the assumption that you could be wrong.

The ebb and flow

Thus far, I've talked a lot about pitfalls. How do you actually make it work? The key is to make sure that both officers and members are tugging, not pulling against one another.

When you have to make a leadership decision, listen with all sides. Talk with the guild as a whole. If it's a boolean issue (i.e. does your guild align with Faction A or Faction B), you'll need to make an absolute decision; otherwise, you want to provide the best compromise you can for everyone. And even in boolean situations, you should remember the people who disagreed with your assessment and listen more carefully to the other things they want.

If most of the guild wants to go with Faction A but you want to go with Faction B, but there's no real gameplay benefit either way, Faction A is the way to go. But you can make the decision that Faction B is what you're doing -- except that you'll want to talk it through with others. Explain your decision and your reasoning, why it means a great deal to you, and perhaps most importantly what you're going to do to smooth over any hurt feelings with the people who disagreed with you.

And the next time the disagreement rises up, remember that you did get to make the decision last time, and recognize that the other guild members might still be smarting. Give their arguments a little extra weight. Yes, maybe this time you're still convinced that you're right... but you got to be the lone arbiter before and went against the majority opinion, fair is fair. This time, it's time to cede to public opinion and let someone else make the call, even if you disagree with it.

From all of this, it might sound like your role is mostly that of a tiebreaker or making the final decision when it's too close to call, maybe nudging things slightly. Which is an accurate description of being an officer most of the time. You should not be the person in charge and handing out edicts; you should be the one gently pushing in one direction or another, balancing out a complicated series of issues and providing a reasonable voice.

The best leadership is leadership that lets the guild decide what it wants for itself with only the smallest influence. When there's no clear push in any direction, you have every right and reason to be the deciding factor, but when you have the option to step away and let people talk amongst themselves, you should take it.

It can be difficult to do, especially when you are absolutely certain that everyone else is wrong and you're right. But if being certain you're right is any indicator of rightness, no one would ever be wrong. You owe it to yourself and your fellow members to show humility and be capable of being wrong, of letting other people affect the decisions. Otherwise you're going to end up in a power struggle, and those never end well for guilds.

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.