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Case Study: Social Guild A

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

In my time on Saurfang I’ve seen the majority of social players dominated by two different social guilds, Guild A and Guild B. I’ve been with Guild A for quite a while, I guess about six weeks or so (to me that’s long enough to “draw judgment” on a guild). I’m pretty unhappy with the guild in general, or was (since I have now departed) for a number of reasons. Now I’ve never been anything more than a regular member of any guild, I can’t claim to be an officer or a leader and I probably never will be, but I do claim to know what makes a regular member tick and I know that a lot of the practises exercised by Guild A are contrary to what a “smooth ticker” would want:

Recruitment Overload: The fact that two guilds dominate the whole social sphere tells me one thing – they’re trying too hard to recruit. A good guild should have a hundred or so members (maybe a third of those being alts), any less and it’s going to get lonely, any more and it’s going to get crowded. When there are sixty people all online at once talking then a train of thought can quite easily get lost, and there are so many extra ways a person can be misinterpreted (and lead to eventual drama on a much bigger scale). When there are ten or twenty people online then conversations are easier to follow, discussions progress better and there’s less fallout if drama arises.
Why this is important to Social Guild A: An average online count of 40-60 means that one individual voice is drowned out, there’s no individualism to a person because somebody else steps into their shoes instantly, only to be shoved aside seconds later.

Officer Structure: A guild relies on its officers more than most officers care to admit. I imagine it’s no easy feat to look after three hundred people when there are only four of you to three hundred other players. A good player to officer ratio would be fifteen/twenty to one, that is, five or six officers for a hundred man guild. Any more and you’re looking at fat hierarchies and conflicts of interests, any less and players don’t feel like they get enough support and eventually leave. Each officer should have a general level of HR abilities, talking to players, being objective in their views, and knowing where their limits are (and when to ask for help). Depending on the guild make-up the officers might specialise, some may work in recruitment, some may be raid leaders, some may be entirely player-focused, etc. Having four officers manning three hundred people with no guideline as to how to do their job is not a good idea. Officers need to know their own limits and the limits of others, and they need to know when they’re in too deep and to call for help.
Why this is important to Social Guild A: The four officers that the guild has are all pretty hidden. Only one of them is active enough to be considered “officer-like”, and that one is the only person people go to for help. The other three are only officers in name, they don’t do a whole lot and most of them seem to have been picked on the basis of favoritism rather than expertise and leadership abilities.

Guild Master: Oh wow so this is even more critical than an officer. I’ve seen many guilds have one “top guy” who deals with the paperwork whilst the officers deal with the players. This is no different to any big business, with a CEO managing behind the scenes and line managers dealing with people. I’ve also seen some guilds split their power between all officers, so that everybody wears the “Guild Master” title and has identical powers, and the fact that one person has the systematic ownership of the guild is unimportant. In the latter case, a big net of trust needs to be present so that whoever has this systematic power doesn’t abuse it. In the former case, officers need to be trained to know when to refer upwards, and more importantly, the guild master needs to know when and how to delegate. Looking after 300 people isn’t easy and shouldering the whole burden without allowing your other officers to help is not a good idea. Another flaw, and perhaps one that irritates me even more is that if the CEO goes away for a few days (or even weeks) and leaves the untrained and underpowered officers to cover, the guild may end up in a seriously bad way.
Why this is important to Social Guild A: The Guild Master has been away from Warcraft due to the release of Black Ops, and has no intention of returning for another two weeks. Now this is bad for two reasons: (1) the officers are power-lite, they have invite and kick and very little else; (2) a guild master who spends more of his time away from the game than in it gives a very lazy impression, and an impression that is not favorable when long-term players are looking for a stable and happy home. If he must spend him time away, then he should delegate accordingly so that his absence is less noticed.

Favoritism: The problem with a loose and often wishy-woshy officer system is that because there is no unity and no expertise present, the bar for “who can become an officer” is set very low. In a social guild, raiding expertise isn’t an issue, but expecting people to know the game seems to be a bare minimum. However, if people don’t have those skills in order to judge the skills of others, then picking new officers seems to be a case of “who am I more friendly with?”. Promotion starts to be less of an achievement and more of a cock-sucking contest. The problem is, when there are so few officers, the amount of time a person can spend with each is diminished, and there’s not even an opportunity to get their pants down before they have a new favorite recruit. This leaves a guild full of 280 initiates or whatever the base rank happens to be called, and only a handful of people considered “good enough” to be non-plebs.
Why this is important to Social Guild A: Being left to rot as the lowest possible rank is not a happy feeling. There’s no room for vertical growth up the ranks of the guild, and people remain stuck in an indefinite cycle of wanting to do better but having nobody watch them do it. Some people are happy to be initiates, they’re there for the free boosts to 80 then they’re off, some people are there to make a difference but can’t because the only people who get promoted are those that don’t challenge the status quo and keep things “nice and simple” for the underskilled officers.

Revolving Door Concept: When there’s such a large guild with such a small number of officers, the individual contact time and care given seems very minimal. There’s no room for vertical growth (as above), and the scope for horizontal growth is stunted by the fact that nobody cares about your individual achievement (I’m talking about social and domestic, not “Ding Level 80”). With nothing to keep existing players there, and all of the attention going on new players, then it’s no reason that 10 people per day pack up and leave. People use this sort of guild to get to level 80, scout the guild bank for a few useful items and then hot foot to a better guild. In fact, because of the lack of promotion, the guild bank remains locked to all but those twenty favorites who’ve managed to suck enough balls.
Why this is important to Social Guild A: The main aim of Social Guild A appears to be “get as many people as we can”, but that notion is flawed by the very fact that you’re recruiting as many people as you’re losing. You could recruit 12 people per day and lose 10 (for a net gain daily of 2); or you could split your attention to both sides, recruit only 6 per day but only lose 2 (for a net gain daily of 4). Not only do you achieve your guild goal of “xx number of people” but you promote a maxim of low player turnover. The less people you have leaving because your guild isn’t as good as they expected, the less bad press you’re going to get on Trade or word-of-mouth because that player left bitterly and has now blacklisted your guild along with all of his friends. Of course, the whole idea of “xx number of people” is a bad one, but if you’re going to follow it then at least learn to optimize for the sake of the guild, its players and its reputation.

Casual Raiding and Unenforceable Promises: So many casual guilds love to have a casual raiding team, but the problem is that there is not an easy line to draw. You can’t enforce players to come, because then the guild ceases to be casual and moves to being hardcore; and you can’t just let players come whenever because it only takes one person to not turn up to ruin a casual guild run (I’ve noticed an extreme reluctance to recruit outsiders into casual guild runs). I’ve only ever seen one guild completely succeed with casual raiding, and that was a guild that was split down the middle. Half of it was a raiding guild, with enforced raids and punishments for breach, and half of it was a social guild with social events (usually organized by the alts of raiders). Both sides of the coin get their fix, and both sides of the coin have a grey area where they meet. Whilst this sort of layout takes a huge amount of looking after (and thus a higher number of specialized officers) the effects it can have on a guild are staggeringly good.
Why this is important to Social Guild A: I once toyed with the idea of heading up the social raiding aspect of the guild. The guild wanted to raid but nobody would step up and do it. My idea was simple, to have a separate “wing” of the guild that was for raiding, and lead by a different set of officers to those who ran the social aspect. Those officers would have no social powers, but would be able to organize events and see them through. A level of dedication was expected of people, they shouldn’t sign if they didn’t turn up. There were no sanctions, but people who failed to show repeatedly were simply lower priority for invites for future raids. The idea was great, however at the time there was no power to see it through (the leader who had all of the power (as said above) was on holiday) and the idea eventually flopped. At this point, I faded into the background after having my five minutes of fame. I still walked away as an initiate despite pledging to give hours of my time and dedication to the guild. Now though, the guild is about to undertake its first raid this coming Friday. Despite the fact that I’ve already left the guild, I have a friend who remains in it who is going to feed back on the progress. I’m not expecting much, their raid leader (as a Warlock) has Strength gems to boost his pets and can only just push 2k DPS in regular dungeons (despite T9/T10). Now, the guild is social and there isn’t a lot to be expected, but 4/12 seems a bare minimum and if they fail to achieve even that, then I don’t see their Cataclysm “raid wing” going very far.


I’ve joined a new guild, Social Guild B, for the time being, and the fact that it (already after only a few hours) is showing signs of the “good things” listed above is a positive aspect. There are a lot of players, but players seem to be cared for and recruitment has taken a back foot as of late. The officers are all available, their expertise listed for all to see and players are encouraged to speak to them if they have issues. People are promoted fairly based on their character and abilities, and the player turnover is considerably lower (in regards to players leaving per day) than Social Guild A. The raiding has a sanctioned aspect, and players are encouraged to join but not forced to. Players who commit to raids are punished for failure to show, and this shifts the blame entirely onto the player for their own mistakes. I’d like to see good things, but it’s too early to tell and I shall reserve judgment for tomorrow when the guild is busy and I can see truly the effect of 300 players on the officer board and overall structure. That said, optimism is a rare occurence for me and I consider myself (right now) quite optimistic for the future.

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