How to Properly Promote Your Guild

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 Warcraftoffering 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 arelooking 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.

5 Ways to Ensure You’re the Best Guild Member You Can Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer for what you can do

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

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

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

Understand and respond to guild needs

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

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

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

Encourage your fellow members

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

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

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

Liven up the atmosphere

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

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

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

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

Surviving the Holidays as a Guild

Back when MMOs were first becoming a whole thing, I remember that there were two times of year thought of as guild killers — the end of the school year and the holidays. The end of the school year could often spell doom for a guild simply because people were going from campus internet access to their homes, which often had lesser or nonexistent online access. However, at this point access is so ubiquitous that the odds of Kevin suddenly being unable to raid for three months due to the end of the semester is practically nil.

But Kevin still might go home for the holidays, take a few days off… and then just not come back. Ever. Or if he does show up again, it’ll be after several months have passed and half of the guild has already moved on to other things.

Holidays, in short, can be guild killers. People have a lot of other things to do through the season, which is understandable, but between getting new games, having other obligations, and just general exhaustion, it’s all too easy to find someone going from a regular member to being not there at all. The good news is that it is entirely possible to survive the holiday season; you just have to start by accepting that the holiday season will not simply be business as usual.

Plan around your members

Depending on your guild size, it is either impossible or at least unlikely that you can plan around everyone in your guild. But you can pick out key members. If you have five members who always show up for progression in World of Warcraft and a dozen members who rotate in and out, you can certainly make plans based around those five members.

Find out what those members are doing over the holidays, what their plans are, when they expect to be away from the game for a prolonged period (if at all), and what they hope to be doing over the holiday season. If you’re one of those members, don’t just wait around; make your plans clear. Coordinate with the rest of your guild. Make sure everyone is in the same place so that once people start going on holiday vacations or getting on planes to visit distant relatives, no one is suddenly baffled and wondering why the guild roster is so empty.

This also means that you’ll have a pretty good idea of what members aren’t going to be around for progression or other usual guild activities. Which is something that’s good to expect, because the reality is that people will not be around for these things. Thus…

Expect a hiatus from certain activities

Pushing heavy progression over the holidays is dumb. It’s not going to happen. You can have the best intentions in the world, but if your normal raid night is Sunday this year, odds are most of your members are going to be in something of a food-and-eggnog coma and thus will not be able to bring their A-game. They also will not be bringing their B-game. Expect the game they bring to start around the middle of the alphabet, in other words.

Weekly schedules sort of demand suspension during the holiday season. Even in the event that people are doing everything possible to still be present and playing, they are just plain going to have less rest. Your best tank might be bringing his laptop halfway across the country so he can still be there for raid night, but the reality is that he’s halfway across the country and will probably not be really in the right place for serious stuff.

The bright side is that this is the perfect time to do things that are not, necessarily, progression. I’m not suggesting for a minute that your guild should somehow close down during the holiday season; instead, what I’m saying is that smart planning revolves around knowing that some of your members will not be available. Thus, instead of planning intensive activities that require a whole lot of people to be on point, you can plan smaller fun activities that just bring people together.

If you’re normally all about progression, dedicate the holiday times to running old stuff as a group or doing silly theme runs. For more social guilds, focus less around structured activities and more around loose events. And above all else…

Theme your activities around the holidays

I’m a part of a guild right now that’s running a Secret Santa event in-game. It’s a fairly low-key thing with a low cost to enter, so it’s not meant to be a major activity… but it is meant to give the people who have time to pop in and play briefly a sense of community and fondness. It’s another layer of holiday integration, and it makes sure that players feel like the guild is still running events without relying on all of us being able to give our best in difficult content.

There are a number of ways you can have holiday-themed events in the game beyond that; most MMOs have some sort of holiday event running during the season, and many of those are easier to tackle as a group. You can also schedule snowball fights, low-level holiday runs, or something similar (I once ran a guild that did a “Clears for the Seasons” event where we’d carry less geared and skilled players through content that they would otherwise be unable to get through). The point is that if you’re already breaking from your “normal” schedule, and you are, you might as well break a little further out of the cycle, yes?

Sometimes, you’ll have lighter fare in mind that doesn’t really fit in with the time of year, and that’s fine too. But when you can tie it in, it helps people who can only log in briefly or around the fringes still feel like they’re part of the festivities. And it also keeps the people who can’t log in feeling like they want to be there and participate. Sure, Sarah really won’t be able to play during the holiday season, but she’ll come back with a sense of missing players rather than being happy for the break.

This also helps for the players who don’t really have a normal holiday environment. Odds are good that at least one of your members doesn’t get to just pal around with family members over the holidays; let them at least feel like they’re able to be with friends.

Ease back into normalcy

When New Year’s Day rolls around, there’s often a sense that it’s time to just get right back into everything running normally and act like the holidays are over. But it’s not enough to just expect a hiatus going into the holidays; you also need to plan for one extending slightly after the holidays end. People are going to be moving a bit more slowly as January takes center stage, and you should probably keep your schedule a bit lighter than normal until the middle of the month.

There are, to be fair, some players who will bristle against this. But the thing that’s more likely to kill a guild isn’t being too passive, it’s making players come back and feel like they came back to chores instead of fun. Pushing the progression group to get right back into the thick of it makes the whole thing feel really stressed. By contrast, letting your players have a bit more time to breathe first means that people can reflect, think about having missed the guild, and slowly take center stage once again as the game’s population comes back around.

Or, to make things shorter, the best way to make sure that your guild survives the holidays is by acting like the holidays are happening and they’re important rather than trying to pretend that everything is still business as usual. It’s so obvious that you’d think it went without saying, but it really doesn’t.

The Seven Big Benefits to Guild Membership

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.

World of Warcraft drops to 5.6 million subscribers for Q2 2015

Coming just days before the official announcement of the next expansion for Activision Blizzard’s powerhouse MMO World of Warcraft, the company has released its quarterly subscriber numbers to the public to the unsuspected amount of 5.6 million.  Continue reading World of Warcraft drops to 5.6 million subscribers for Q2 2015