In my previous entry I spoke about WoW itself. Hopefully drew an illustrative picture of the most successful multiplayer game of all time (and probably for the next decade, or until Blizzard’s next-generation MMO is released). It’s quite important that you understand just what WoW is before you can hope to ‘conquer’ it. You need to know what makes the game (and gamers) tick; you need to know what keeps people subscribing, month after month.

‘What does this have to do with leading guilds?’ I hear you ask. Everything! Almost everyone that plays WoW belongs to a guild! Ultimately, whether the players like it or not, it’s the guild leaders that have their finger on the button. It’s really is entirely up to guild leaders to make the game enjoyable for the players. Sure, Blizzard also has a commitment to make the game playable and fun, but without the glorious, omnipotent guild leader not much would ever get done.

So, leading on from there, I’ll try to outline the basic role of the guild leader: what a guild leader has to know, and do, to keep his guild heading in the right direction — be it onwards and upwards to #1 in the world, or just to provide a safe, fun environment for raiding and questing.

As a guild leader, you need to know why your guildies continue to play the game. Is it out of loyalty? A sense of competition? Are they playing because of real life friends, or family? Perhaps it’s a mix of all of these elements — or perhaps it’s just to escape from real life. The escapists tend to be the ones not in guilds though; they’re lone wolves, just trying to play their own little removed-from-real-life game, they won’t be discussed in this entry (escapism should be talked about at length in its own entry).

It varies from guild to guild (depending on their purpose), but each and every guild will have a distinct drive, that in turn dictates why its members continue to play and stay active. When that drive is lost, for whatever reason, a guild leader needs to be able to react quickly. He might have just a few minutes or hours to gauge the current feelings and emotions in the guild, analyse the situation and think of a solution before someone leaves the guild — and as you might all know, or have guessed, when one person walks out it can start an unstoppable avalanche.

So what makes various types of guild tick? What gives the members of a given type of guild the urge to play and win? I’ll try to put my finger on the nub. I’ll try to define the characteristics of each type of guild, and what their players require — and desire — to keep them interested and active.

The Hardcore Progressive Guild (HPG)

The HPG makes up for the tiniest percentage of WoW’s player base. A lot of people might perceive themselves as a hardcore raider, but the fact of the matter is that only about 2% of guilds clear all of WoW’s content in a timely fashion — sometimes even lower for ‘end bosses’ like Kil’jaeden and Kel’thuzad. This is the bracket that describes most of the world top 100 or so — Nihilum, Method, SK Gaming — HPGs are the only guilds even approaching ‘celebrity’ status.

HPG Member Traits

  • Very high activity — 30 to 40 hours a week is not unusual. 60 hours a week is not as rare as you might think.
  • Competitive nature — they are usually playing at this level because they think they are, or want to be, the ‘best’ of their class on a given server, or even in a territory (EU, US, etc.). These guys are playing to WIN; not second, or third place — first.
  • Generally young adults — 18-25 is the usual age-group here. Students at university. Students that have dropped out of university. You can occasionally get a younger gamer, if they manage their homework effectively! You might see some ‘real adults’ with jobs, but they are quite rare. These players are often quite happy with five 4-hour raids a week.
  • Impatient – generally they are impatient. They want to be moving now. They don’t want to wait for the next raid! We should be raiding ALL the time! If you’re not moving, another guild might be catching up! While they might be impatient, that doens’t mean they lack focus — they can often focus on performing the same repetitive tasks for hours and hours.

The guild leader of a Hardcore Progressive Guild really has the worst ‘job’ in WoW. You know it’s bad because it’s actually referred to as a ‘job’ (some top guilds have been known to hire professionals to manage their guild logistics). There is little pleasure derived from leading a HPG, other than that warm feeling inside when you’ve moved up another rank in the world, or you’ve beaten the competition on your server. It’s a thankless task, unpaid and with minimal rewards. By far the most common reason most guilds of this type disband is because the guild leader goes on a holiday, never to return. Or he just quits. Or he gets a girlfriend. So how does this poor bastard keep a HPG happy?

  • Progress – Progress of any kind. Even stating there is progress when there might not actually be any: ‘Hey guys, we got one more mob down than last time!’, or ‘Hey, we did this in one raid less than our competition!’ Really, anything to make it look like you’re working well, and progressing. Of course, if you’re making real progress that’s the one sure-fire way of keeping your guild active and healthy.
  • Move quickly – Don’t spend time waiting for people that are AFK (Away From Keyboard). In fact, remove constant-AFKers from the guild (or raid team). They are awful for progress, the raid’s morale and they simply waste everyone’s time. Moving between instances in a timely fashion is also a good practice. Keeping the pace up through a raid is probably the most important thing you can do, as a guild and raid leader; kicking a slow person from your raid is likely to guarantee you the love and adoration of everyone else.
  • Know how to handle people – You are generally dealing with emotional young adults. You will often find yourself dealing with people lacking in social skills. Hardcore players are normally quite a handful — they don’t get out a whole lot, so their social skills can be underdeveloped. Often they struggle to put logical arguments together. This is another subject for another day though!
  • Fairness — Almost everyone in a HPG wants to be the best. They want their hands on those shiny, epic loots when they drop, before everyone else. A fair loot distribution system is key (and again, another topic for another day).Being even-handed as a guild leader is always important (for every kind of guild). The problem is, everyone on the Internet thinks they have a valid opinion. It’s your job to play arbiter — High Lord Justice — in almost every argument that pops up in a HPG. You are probably the only person that every player in the guild fears and respects at the same time, and thus it’s really your job to make sure everyone feels like they have a place in the guild. A surefire way to lose members is to make someone feel like their opinions and input are inconsequential to the guild’s progress and well being.

Each of these topics will most likely have to be broken-down in future entries, but as I’m a hardcore progressive guild leader myself with a lot of experience, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The Raiding Guild

This is your standard raiding guild. This could be a group of real life friends, or a casual guild thath as finally decided to take the step up to 25-man raiding content. This is a large group of players — about 30-40% of all WoW subscribers. These players might not have started the game to raid, but Blizzard’s continued efforts to make all of the facets of the game approachable and easy mean that almost everyone has tried raiding. Most continue to raid once they’ve had a taste of the loot and glory that comes with it!

Raiding Guild Member Traits

  • High activity — While not as active as the HPG members, raiding guild members still play the game an awful lot. They might not play for as many hours in one sitting, or they might have a time constraint on when they can play, but they still play a lot — 30 hours or more a week.
  • Less competitive — These guys tend to raid because it’s a natural progression of their gaming experience. They’ve cleared all of the 5-man dungeons, so now it’s time to clear the 10 and 25-man content. They don’t care much about when they finish it, they would just like to finish it… some time.
  • Less-defined age range – You are more likely to find school kids and people that work full-time jobs here, though guilds tend to be centered around one age group or the other though. It’s quite common to find guilds that raid later at night, to cater for those with jobs — or run early evening raids, for kids that have to go to bed early. Of course, the largest gamer demographic (18-25) is still prevalent here, perhaps they’re less competitive, or just gearing up ready to move to a more hardcore guild. Or maybe they are trying desperately to not fail their degree!
  • Quite patient — These guys are actually pretty patient. They’re quite happy to wait for AFK players, especially if it’s a guild made up of real life friends. There’s no real rush — they’ve had to struggle through 5-man dungeons with a slew of disconnectors and AFKers. They might get sick of it one day and step down from raiding, though.
  • Not so loyal – These guilds tend to be filled up with people that are just looking for somewhere to raid, or somewhere with some green guild text. There’s nearly always some guild on a server looking to recruit; sadly, players picked out of the trade channel don’t tend to be the most loyal guild members. Players in this category will often drop their guild very quickly if offered a place in a hardcore guild (even if it often turns out to be a bad decision).

Being a guild leader for a standard raiding guild is a lot easier. Players tend to manage things themselves — those that want to farm a little extra will do so on their own, without your intervention. Conversely, in this category there will be those that won’t farm for raiding consumables no matter how hard you shout at them. Disputes are often sorted out quickly with an /ignore, or someone leaving the guild. What are the best ways for a guild leader to manage a raiding guild?

  • Patience is a virtue — Progress isn’t quick in a standard raiding guild. It comes eventually, after many long, arduous raids. You need to be able to keep your cool for long periods of time.
  • Be nice — You aren’t dealing with highly-competitive people that can deal with constructive criticism. Many players simply don’t care if they aren’t very good. You really won’t gain anything by telling them that they’re shit. Your best bet here is to do some hand-holding: ‘Watch how I do it…’, or perhaps compile some links of ‘how to play X class’ and put them on a forum.
  • You’re not God – raiding guilds don’t often become spiritual communities (a very tight-knight group where your fellow guild mates feel more like family members than online buddies) like their hardcore brethren. You can stamp your foot and shout like a madman all you like, but people are very unlikely to actually pay any attention to you. It’s better to lead by example, or just try to moderate guild chat. Or draw up some nice rules for guild behaviour on the forum.The rare exception is when you have an ‘ex hardcore guild’ that has fallen fromgrace, and the top rankings, but the guild leader still thinks he is a force to be reckoned with. This is the disgruntled emperor that has lost his empire; the kind of guy that beheads people just for fun, to prove he’s still Got It.
  • Fairness — The same rules as the Hardcore Progressive Guild applies here. You need to be really damn fair, especially when distributing loot. You might even have to be more fair because loot means even much more to the member of a raiding guild. Those lovely little blocks of pixels aren’t quite as common in a raiding guild, so they have a higher value! While it would be quite rare to see someone quit over loot in a HPG, assigning an item to the wrong person in a normal raiding guild can result in all sorts of trouble. A good DKP system is a requirement.

I should add that not all raiding guild members are disloyal. They won’t all leave the moment an opportunity for easy epics arises. There are many strong raiding guilds that never stepped up to the hardcore plate — often they are formed of online communities that pre-date World of Warcraft, or they are just groups of friends that picked up the game to play with each other. Some players really are just very loyal. No matter how likely the ship is going to sink, some players will really stick by the guild until it finally disbands.

The Casual Guild

Finally, we have what represents about 50% of the WoW playerbase — casuals. This is a phrase that’s commonly used by hardcore raiders in a derogatory fashion (‘Oh, he’s logging out after only 4 hours… what a casual!’), but I use it here to describe the players that are casual gamers. These are the players that can only play an hour a day, or perhaps a few hours on weekends. They are married, have large work commitments, or they just don’t enjoy sitting in front of a computer for hours on end.

Leading a casual guild is a bit of a misnomer: you don’t so much lead as… guide. And recruit. Some casual guilds are so large that they won’t even know who their guild leader is — you as the guild leader might only play a few hours each week!

Casual Guild Member Traits

  • Low activity — Casual gamers tend to play from zero to 10 hours a week. 1-2 hours an evening, or an occasional weekend binge, if the significant other is out of town.
  • Their time is sacred – Just because they don’t play much, doesn’t mean they don’t care! They normally want to get a lot done in their small time online and so they really have no patience for timewasters, or timewasting. It’s kind of ironic though, as they are the most likely kind of player to disconnect without warning if  ‘someone knocked on the door’, or ‘sorry, important phonecall’.
  • Every age group – Almost anyone from any walk of life can be a casual gamer, but they do tend to be either very young, or old (over 40 — I know it’s not actually old, but it is for the sake of gaming!). There’s normally a caring parent metering the amount of hours they can spend playing, or they are married and not ‘allowed’ to play more than a certain number of hours a week. Unless the significant other is out of town… then all Hell can break loose. What they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?
  • Loyalty? What’s that? – For these players, a guild is just somewhere to hang out, chat, and pick up players for 5-man dungeons. If someone accidentally rolls on your item, you’re more than likely going to leave the guild. The exception is if a casual guild grows towards a casual raiding guild (1 raid a week, often on weekends) — then the players are likely to be very loyal to the hand that feeds them epic items. Casual raiding guilds very rarely work out though; it’s just too hard to keep it together especially with casual officers.

You’ve probably gathered that you can’t really lead a guild of casuals. They come, they go. You can’t reliably predict when they’ll be online, so you can’t really plan any kind of guild event. There are however a few things you can do to grow the community and keep everyone happy:

  • Recruit — The key to a casual raiding guild is the size of its roster. You need enough players online so that there’s always enough people on at each level range to find questing/dungeon-crawling groups! Casual guilds are often ‘levelling up’ guilds, so you need a vast number of players to hope to have 5 characters of any given level.
  • Make some rules – It’s very easy to just have a free-for-all guild where anything goes, but you might find you receive a position reaction from your guild members if there are basic ground rules. No swearing, as there are kids in the guild? Each person gets 1 item of loot from a dungeon? No ganking of lowbies? Don’t be rude to other players? Rules like that can generate a good reputation for your guild — it can create a guild that casuals aspire to be in.
  • You can be picky – As I said earlier, casual gamers make up the biggest portion of players in WoW. There’s no shortage of people that you can recruit into your guild, so it doesn’t hurt to choose who you invite! Pick up the people that put some effort into speaking like a human being. Recruit the players that stop and help you with whatever you’re doing. Invite the players that offer to pay you for a service, instead of demanding it for free. You are trying to build a guild that is fairly autonomous, as you probably won’t play the game a lot — the best way to do that is to invite other responsible, helpful players; the kinds of players that always ‘have time’ for other people.
  • Get a forum – This goes without saying for every type of guild, but it can be especially useful for building a successful community out of players that don’t otherwise interact with each other a lot. You could have threads that allow people to share ‘the best places to level’, or ‘good addons to use while levelling’, or ‘your class role in a dungeon’. Anything that encourages people to interact and share their views on a topic is a good thing.

There’s Lots More

I’ve touched on a lot of topics that will need to be fully explored at a later date: community building, DKP systems, how to survive when the ‘going gets tough’, and generally ‘coping’ as a guild leader — it’s hard to not be afflicted and aborbed by a God complex if nothing else! There’s also a gap between the Hardcore Progressive Guild and the standard Raiding Guild — the guild that is trying to become hardcore. They all deserve seperate entries though, so stay tuned!

If you have any questions about the issues raised here, I’m more than happy to answer them. You can ask them in a comment, or email me using this form.

Apostrophe's and other tricky grammatical issue's
Apologies for blaspheming this snowy Sunday...

Sebastian

I am a tall, hairy, British writer who blogs about technology, photography, travel, and whatever else catches my eye.

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