Archive for April, 2011

OK, I did name my guild Drama Queen. Totally so I could be seen around Dalaran with “Fleetfoot <Drama Queen>” over my head. I never made any secret of it! Look!

Amusingly then, I have to admit that although I have been called a drama queen in WoW, on more occasions than Fleet has cooked a hot dinner, I’m still not sure what that means. OK, I know what a drama queen is in RL. I know what creating a drama out of a crisis is. However, in game drama is something else. No, no…it absolutely is.

From what I can understand in game drama, or more commonly guild drama, is, or at least seems to be, disagreement or creating an argument. Voicing disagreement at least. I’ve often said before that the only thing in WoW worse than having an opinion is expressing it. I’ve also often expressed personal opinions I hold and posted them on guild forums. All hell breaks loose and debate very quickly descends into SHOUTING, intemperate language, judgement and insults. Expressing the opinion and opening up the gaping sore of disagreement then is drama. I think…

I find this difficult with my academic background. As a philosopher I found dialectic, point, counter point argument and debate central to my first degree. Indeed, there is nothing more illuminating than debating the rightness or wrongness of an idea. Discussion, argument and the exchange of viewpoints is beneficial for understanding both sides and essential to learning.

This is not the case in guilds and it’s valuable to understand that (even if you choose to ignore what you know). I have made perfectly reasonable points, arguments or statements only to have people attack, not my point of view, but me for daring to state whatever I’ve said. I don’t understand why some people cannot separate me from my point of view, attack my opinion and not me, but they can’t. That is also why some people react so unreasonably and become incensed when you reject their point of view. They believe, quite erroneously and foolishly that by disagreeing with them you attack them, dismissing and devaluing their contribution. People, and I am talking about adults now, have /ragequit guilds not because we disagreed, but because I said I disagreed, I do find this puzzling even though I do now expect it. It doesn’t matter how contentious or innocuous your remark is, DRAMA may ensure. You can opine on loot distribution, raid rotation, what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviour in raids, what guilds and raid team can or should expect from raiders, what days the guild should raid, whether loot x is healer gear or DPS gear…it really doesn’t matter. Expressing an opinion or even worse still justifying and arguing in favour of this point of view (God help you if that involves changing how we’ve always done it) people will overreact and hate you for it.

This also has profound implications for running a guild. Part of operating a guild and running raids is keeping people happy and motivated. Some people will bitch and moan behind your back if you make decisions on their behalf. If you ask the guild/raid group what should be done or how something should be handled no one will respond. If anyone does the same moaners and complainers will shoot them down in flames. If you take the replies you do get and make a decision based on that people will bitch and moan that nothing ever changes and no one gets a say. Even though logic dictates that if no one can express an opinion, no one’s opinions can be be taken into account. I always said running a guild was a minefield of Catch 22 situations.

Any opinion, no matter how reasonably expressed, is a rant and probably a personal attack on someone.If you find yourself in a situation where you are abused and/or treated unfairly the worst thing you can do is complain and refuse to take it lying down. You post on a guild forum (or in your own blog) at your peril and you open yourself to the accusation of being a moaner, a whiner and a drama queen. Well, I am a Drama Queen and proud of. I am an online mouse! Hear me roar!

Venom and hatred…

Interactions with others in MMOs often leave me staggered. There does seem to be a genuine dearth of logic. Here I consider the adult population of MMOs and not the gaming core of children.

I have formed, what I considered to be, strong friendships with fellow gamers only to see them reposition themselves, for instance placing something as virtual, transient and ethereal as ‘a guild’ before genuine human friendship and companionship. This has frequently led me to speculate on the depth and reality of these relationships. The question is what quality of investment are other people actually making in these relationships, because it doesn’t seem to equate with mine.

I also struggle to understand the social norms and mores that pertain to online gaming. Perhaps it’s indicative of the the make up of this sample that certain things are valued above all others. It also speaks strongly of the assumptions that this group make, often quite illegitimately.

One of the worst crimes in MMO seems to be expressing an opinion. Someone with a different opinion is not someone to engage with to understand and debate with. Someone we agree with is someone to frown upon nevertheless for ‘creating drama’ by expressing that opinion. Experience suggests to me that however much a person treats another with contempt and disrespect, calling them out for it and criticising them is by far the worse crime. Worse still is if you are literate and intelligent and can out argue a fellow MMO player.

In MMOs one virtue is valued above all others: keeping your mouth shut whatever you think. That way everyone believes you agree with them. In MMOs the only thing worse than having an opinion is expressing one. Disagreement and argument, no matter how sober or rational, is drama, all drama is unnecessary.

It’s difficult not to conclude that most people that play online games, particularly RPGs have problems with normal social interactions. The ‘classic nerd’ is socially awkward and has trouble interacting with people, particularly those of the opposite gender. Being socially gregarious and outgoing in your everyday life is rare for the mass of the online gaming ‘community’ and for many their most satisfying daily interactions are only possible online and mediated by distance and separation.

Many in the community exhibit all the classic signs of Asperger Syndrome and high functioning autism that the types of interaction presented online are beneficial in accommodating. A lack of demonstrated empathy is a pronounced feature of Asperger’s; individuals are unable to properly comprehend how their behaviours make others feel. Therefore, those exhibiting Asperger-like traits often respond very badly to criticism, all of which they find unwarranted as they are unable to reflect upon their own behaviour from the viewpoint of others. Individuals experience difficulties in the most basic social interactions, this frequently includes a lack of social or emotional reciprocity and impaired non-verbal behaviours. Voice chat software screens those with Asperger Syndrome from the difficulties of interacting non-verbally. Those with Asperger’s are less obvious in MMOs with it’s often denuded and truncated interactions.

Asperger Syndrome individuals often exhibit high functioning cognitive ability, which clearly distinguishes the condition for autism. They are able to describe and show a theoretical understanding of other people’s emotions and social norms. This theoretical understanding is regularly distilled to a set of behavioural guidelines which are applied rigidly and without reference to contextual cues in a way that may be interpreted as insensitive or socially naive. Childhood desire for companionship can become numbed through a history of failed social encounters.

This would account for some of social anomalies in the mores of online ‘culture’. In this culture being nice is valued disproportionately above being honest and genuine. Equally, one (Asperger) person’s ‘harmless fun’ can easily be at the expense of other people’s patience, time and pleasure. However, not properly understanding other peoples views and purposes leads the Asperger section of the online community to display an unintended lack of respect for others. Not being able to evaluate their own behaviour from the viewpoint of others, they often do not consider this to be as serious as being unfriendly and critical of people. “…[P]eople with Asperger’s are not usually withdrawn around others; they approach others, even if awkwardly. For example, a person with the syndrome may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favourite topic, while misunderstanding or not recognizing the listener’s feelings or reactions, such as a need for privacy, brevity or simply to leave. This failure to pick up on cues in social interaction may appear as disregard for other people’s feelings, and may come across as insensitive. However, not all individuals with Asperger’s will approach others. Some of them may even display selective mutism, speaking not at all to most people and excessively to specific people. Some may choose to talk only to people they like.”

MMO is also attractive to those with Aspberger Syndrome due to their in restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. They are often abnormally intense and focused. They often demonstrate ‘intense preoccupation with a narrow subject and exhibit one-sided verbosity’ – again classic Asperger’s.

Asperger Syndrome can present problems in the restricted and truncated nature of MMO. MMOs are attractive as they are not as complex and rich as face to face interactions, however this exacerbates some of obstacles those with Asperger’s face. “Verbosity, abrupt transitions, [very] literal interpretations and incomprehension of nuance, use of metaphor meaningful only to the speaker…” make the exchange of views and understanding difficult to an almost impossible degree. “…[A]uditory perception deficits, unusually pedantic, formal or idiosyncratic speech…”, inappropriate “…loudness, pitch, intonation, prosody, and rhythm” can all erode the meaningful value of online interaction.

Those who find normal everyday social interaction difficult often react incommensurately and aggressively towards those who question and criticise them. Remember that being critical of someone’s behaviour in game can, and often does, incur an outpouring of venom and hatred, and the holding of grudges, that can last for years and appear irrational and disproportionate.

Quotes and supplementary material: Wikipedia.

The venerable DKP (Dragon Kill Points) system is designed to encourage raid attendance and reward regular raiders. Hardcore raiding guilds reward raid attendance with access to loot. The more often you attend raids the more credit you earn to enable you to get loot and gear. By rewarding attendance those who showed commitment to the guild, over the medium to long term, earn greater access to precious gear upgrades. This strengthens the raid team by ensuring gear remains in the guild, gearing up the raid, by allocating it to members who do (and will hopefully continue to) raid most often and will in future.

This is fine in hardcore raiding guilds, gear becomes concentrated with those guild members who are good at playing their char and attend regularly. This maximises the impact of all gear upgrades for the whole raid team and guild. It takes time to build up credit with hardcore raiding guilds and this makes them difficult and inaccessible. New members struggle to break into the Raider group and lag behind in utility as their gear is not as good. Catch 22 again. Getting to raid regularly means you need to improve and upgrade your character, to improve and upgrade your character you need to raid regularly.

Social/raiding guilds have a dilemma: DKP and other allocation systems are designed to reward attendance. If a guild wants to promote participation to more of its membership this kind of loot system will create a two tier guild with two raid groups: an elite progression group, with all the best gear, pushing forward through the latest content and; a less well geared group, struggling along with less gear against content the elite group already has on farm. As time passes the gap in gear, experience and content between the two teams becomes greater. The chances of more casual members gearing up and attaining parity with the elite group, or even a level that can make them competitive, becomes smaller.

If you want to square the circle of social raiding this is the core of the loot problem. If you want to democratise raiding within your guild and give everyone an equal opportunity of participating and extending that opportunity long term, not just when you set-up raiding, then you need to allow people equal access to loot. Whether they raid a few times monthly or a few times every week, if guild members are rotated in to raid they must be able to get loot.

This is why loot can be so divisive. Some people will inevitably feel that they have a greater right to loot if they attended (or at least sign up to attend) every raid compared to those who only attend a couple of times a month. Some people who have been in your guild for some time may feel that they have a greater right to raid loot than those people who joined the guild, or started raiding, only recently. Their argument may not only be a selfish one either. People who raid every week, sign up for most, if not all raids, and have shown loyalty and commitment to the guild represent a far safer and better investment of loot than someone new, who may quit and more to another guild, or someone who has taken a long to time to level and gear their char for raids and may not be eager, or able, to raid as frequently. The raid team would indeed benefit more and progress through raid content faster by having the most committed and frequent raiders prioritised over other guild members for loot.

How you resolve these issues defines the balance your guild is going to make between socialising and raiding. The more you weight the allocation of loot to your regular raiding ‘core’ the more raid-centric your guild will be. This doesn’t necessarily have to make you less social, friendly and welcoming. Just bear in mind that you are favouring one group in your guild over another. As I already stated ‘social/raiding guild’ refers to a broad church with different emphases, both to being social and to organising raiding, allocating raid places and distributing loot. At the social end of the social/raiding guild spectrum you can fully democratise the opportunity to acquire loot and upgrade everyone’s char’s gear. All guild members have an equal chance to raid and to be rotated onto the roster for each raid. See yesterday’s description of a very workable and fair rotation system. You can then allow all raid members to roll for class appropriate gear on a main spec priority basis, then an off spec basis, if no one rolls for the gear for their main (current raid role) spec. This means that a new member of your guild might get lucky and get into a raid in their first week of membership (post trial) and may win a roll on loot and get gear.

To minimise the impact of a ‘rogue guild hopper’ grabbing gear out of raids and using their new gear to get into ‘better’ more progression oriented raid guild, it makes sense to test a person’s commitment by placing them on trial. If your trial period is a month I’d argue that anyone who completes a trail in your guild has attended enough raids to qualify for loot even if they take the first set they get and leave. Being used as a stepping stone guild is the occupational hazard of running a social/raiding guild. That is why a rigorous recruitment and approvals policy is essential to try to weed out those kinds of people before they can loot strip your raid.

There are as many types of social/raiding guilds are there are guilds. I hope by discussing some of the main issues that effect how this type of guild operates has focused your mind on the kind of guild you’d like make. Once you’ve decided on the type it’s easier to design things so your recruitment, rules, raiding, rotation and loot allocating facilitate that kind of guild to emerge. If you allow these thing to grow organically you will inevitably end up with a guild community, ethos and balance between socialising and raiding that you did not plan for and probably did not want.

So, you have a core raid team (even if you’re struggling to make raids happen every week), you have a recruitment policy and rules to try to attract the right people to your guild. How do you make your guild more of a social community without losing your raiding edge.

It’s actually very easy. There are a lot of people that don’t want to, or simply cannot, reasonably compete for a place in a hardcore raiding guild. The investment of time required to learn, gear and maintain your character at the level required is too much for many people and while they still want to raid they are not so serious. There is a whole spectrum of attitudes to the relative importance of raiding and socialising in guilds, even limited to within the group of WoW players who do raid.

If you’re serious about striking a healthy balance between raiding and having fun, you’ll find a large number of people who enjoy a large slice of laughter with their raid wipes. How do you keep your guild functioning when you’ve gone out of your way to build a easy going, social guild when everyone seems to attach a different priority to raiding?

Genuine equality of opportunity to raid is what you need. So that people who want a slot in every raid can be accommodated alongside those people who want or can only raid sporadically. You are going to have to address two thorny problems: rotation and loot allocation. Today I’m going to try to tackle rotation, the different issues and why it’s important.

A good rotation system is essential, built into this system ought to be a mechanism for enabling new guild members to join the raid team and be rotated into a raid on a fair basis. More raid centric guilds operate (at least) two guild ranks. We’ll call these Social and Raid. Raid members are the core raid team and they take priority over Social members for slots in a raid group. If 25 Raid members sign up Social members are not going to raid that week. If a guild has more than 25 raiders a simple role based rotation takes place. For example one week three tanks will raid, next week a different three. The same for healers and DPS, the less raiders you have the less often Raid members are forced to sit out on raids they signed up for. Social members may go for many weeks without raiding. It’s often difficult for Social and new members to break into the Raid team as they need to attend raids to prove themselves, but cannot get into raids as they are not guaranteed a slot as Raid members are. Catch 22.

A social/raiding guild is predicated upon the idea that all members can raid if they fulfil a minimum criteria which is usually gear, gems and enchantment based. If the criteria is met a guild needs a fair system of allowing all members an opportunity to raid. Here is a very simple system that allows for our two conditions, of being fair and quickly integrating new members, to be met. Make a list of everyone who attend the first raid of our rotation system. Put a check mark next to everyone’s name. When reviewing the sign ups for the next raid, if you have more signs that raid slots, rotate in anyone who didn’t raid last time and rotate out anyone who has already raided (it will be necessary to work this on a class basis, if you only have two tanks they will always raid). For everyone who raids this time add a check mark next to their name. For anyone who had to sit out remove a check mark, if they have any. Simply put, you rotate into the raid those people who sign and have no (or the least) check marks next to their name and rotate out those who have the most check marks in that raid role (tank, heal, DPS). If you prioritise new members they will normally be able to raid the first time they sign up. If you have members who can only raid infrequently you can ensure they get to raid by having raiding check marks fall off (perhaps one per week) so if they can only raid every other week for example they get to raid those weeks, the alternative is that people could wait over a month between raids and clearly that would be unfair, even if strictly speaking they are attending every other raid they sign for.

It is very beneficial to publish you rotation system and update the check marks openly on your guild website, along with an explanation of the rationale. Here you can state explicitly the purpose of rotation which is to allow every guild member a chance to raid, encounter all content and get any of the loot appropriate to their class.

Loot is probably the single most divisive issue in any raiding team, no matter how hardcore or social. Tomorrow I will try to explain some of the issues that make loot allocation such a ticking time bomb and I might even walk out into the mine field and suggest a solution.

As I noted in the last blog: “The essential problem with getting any raiding guild up and running is retention.” It’s no good getting people to join your guild if you can’t keep them. Even if you and a small group of friends form a guild your ability to progress will be hampered if you cannot retain a solid raiding core. Experienced raiders and gear will haemorrhage out of you guild preventing you from progressing.

So now I hope you can see the value of a good recruitment policy to help you get people with commitment into your guild. People who are prepared to give something back to your guild in return for raiding and gear.

There are many free loaders and selfish guild hoppers who care nothing for other people or developing relationships in game. For whatever reason they do not want to invest in the guilds they visit, that’s their business. In an MMORPG success and progression in raids requires time and effort. People become invested in this process of developing their character to progress through the increasingly challenging content. Having good social relationships within the guild is valuable in progression raiding. Being able to trust that the people who you assist and share loot with will reciprocate and help you is essential. So building a social dimension to your guild is not only about having fun and enjoying the game.

Directing people to apply online at your website will filter many unwanted applications. Some people can’t even be bother to browse to your website. Make it more difficult by forcing them to register before they can post an application. If possible have an automated process that forces them to complete the whole application, answering all the questions. If anyone submits an incomplete application ask them to fill in the gaps. Remember you are making the application process more difficult not easier, this is filtering out those who are lazy and careless. If they can’t be bothered to apply properly you probably don’t need them in your guild.

Be prepared to leave all your applications open to public view. Note on rejected applications the reason for the rejection. You can be polite but tell people if their application is too short and lacking detail, ask them to expand and if they can’t be bothered reject them out of hand. Ask new applicants to check out past applications to see what works and where people fail. You can cheat and get one of your mates to post an excellent application you can point people to as “a really good application that got an invite.”

This whole process is working towards getting you quality members who will stay. Retention is a vicious circle: while you have a large number of people joining and leaving your guild people will tend to do like wise. If you get people to join and they stay other people will stay too. Maximise your stability by trying to invite only those people who seem to offer a reasonable chance that you can retain them.

Guild Rules, especially in social guilds can simply boil down to: be nice; don’t abuse anyone; and try to have fun. However, actually writing a set of rules is essential for two reasons. Guild etiquette may seem like common sense to you, but may not be as obvious to someone else. If someone actually abuses the guild or it’s members they can always hide behind ignorance and state they didn’t know they shouldn’t do whatever it is you object to. You should give people the benefit of the doubt as MMO etiquette is not known or even respected by everyone. However if you do have a set of rules even if they’re short and ‘obvious’ you can assume everyone has read them, especially if you made it a requirement before applying, and boot people who are out of order, no second chances.

Hopefully, kicking someone out of your guild is something you’ll never need to do. If you do need to, as someone has really been out of order, two things will happen if you don’t have a good set of rules. Either you accept that the person didn’t know they were doing wrong and give them a second chance annoying half your guild who want them out or you do kick them and half you guild thinks that’s really unfair (especially if they’re a skilled, well geared raider) and will be annoyed and may even quit the guild.

Make it black and white: these are our rules, this is how we roll. This is the second reason rules are valuable. Having a stated attitude to certain behaviours and insisting members abide by these standards may recommend your guild to people considering joining. For example,

“The way you treat other group members is very important. We all do this for fun so if people give up their time to do things with you please respect and treat them courteously. This also applies to when you group with other guilds. This is a game and the only thing a guild has of any real value is their reputation. If a guildie does anything that makes an entire guild decide never to group with the guild again this is very serious and could lead to a final warning or a guild kick.”

Personally, I would always look for a rule like this. It tells me this is a guild that actively promotes the kind of behaviour I want to see more of in game. It also states quite baldly that if you don’t meet these minimum standards of behaviour you will be shown the door. In the Guild Rules I wrote, I stated up front “The only purpose served by these Guild Rules is providing a structure to shape our dealings with each other. We should always try to stick to the spirit of these rules (even more than to the letter).” This is essential to stop people exploiting grey areas and they will, trust me.

If you really want to try to promote community here is a good rule to draw like minded souls to you: “No begging gold or items from other Guildies. Never spam guild chat (do not sell items in /g!)” You can define a loose set of social rules to try to ensure that chat and all other guild interactions are positive and valuable. Trash talk is frowned upon in the /gchat of some guilds. In the guild I helped run and drew up rules for I made it a rule that people should mess about in /g and outlined sanctions against those who were offended by and criticised this trash talk and fun. It may also be beneficial to define specific rules just for raids.

Guild rules are not simply a prescription of how to behave and a set of sanctions for breaching them. You can and should use your rules to advertise and shape the kind of guild you are building. Rules are not just for fascists and control freaks. Define rules to shape a warm, friendly guild and protect your community from anyone who tries to abuse your laid back and relaxed group.

Social raiding guilds usually happen rather than being designed. One of the primary motivators for forming a guild in the first place is a desire to raid, usually to raid with a selected group. Recruitment becomes necessary when you regularly cannot fill all your raid slots.

This is where the problems start. I don’t want to be immediately negative but the truth is running a guild and leading raids is frequently like herding cats. The essential problem with getting any raiding guild up and running is retention. As long as you understand that building a guild is a thankless and tiring task then the next series of blogs where I look at just some of the issues you will face and some suggestions on how to address them may be of some help.

Even grabbing ten of your mates, forming a guild and organising raids is not as easy as it sounds. Inevitably, whatever you are doing, one or more will very quickly state that this is not what they had expected. When you start inviting people you don’t know to join your guild they will arrive with a whole raft of assumptions and expectations. The question is how much do you care? If you don’t and are happy to put up with a high turnover of members, unstable raid team and variable raids that’s totally fine. However, if you’d like to try building something more stable and lasting read on!

One of the most difficult things to get when starting any new raiding guild is commitment. If you can secure the commitment of more than ten people you have a fighting chance. You need more than ten in a ten man raiding guild because everyone cannot raid all of your raid nights. Not everyone will be able to attend every week whether they want to or not and sometimes people simply need a break.

If you want to find good people to raid and hang out with you are going to need to manage expectations and remove assumptions. To do this you will need two interconnected things. The most important thing you need is direction, this is shaped by a recruitment policy, a mission statement and some rules. Secondly, you have to refer prospective members to your guild website to complete an application.

The reasons for these things are all interconnected. If you really want to build a solid guild and attract people who are prepared invest in that guild, as much as you invest in them, then you need to be selective. Being selective at the outset enables you to be a little more trusting of new recruits and for that trust to be reciprocated. ­

Trust is essential when building or maintaining a good guild. Your members trust you to create opportunities for them to raid­; enjoy new content; and receive gear appropriately to strengthen them ­ and their raid contribution. In return for providing this organisation and sharing you trust your members to take the gear you give them in raids and use it to perform better in subsequent raids to assist in progressing further and getting more gear. It is a waste of your team’s time and energy to raid, learn fights and train new members for different encounters if, after getting new gear, people quit your guild and take that investment elsewhere. ­

You can have all the rules you like, but ultimately you have no sanction against them but removing them from your guild. If the problem is they got gear from your raid and immediately quit you can clearly see you have no way to censure or control, no recourse in game and no way of getting that gear back into your raid team. If you invite people to your raids and share your loot you do so on the tacit understanding that they will attend future raids with you and, with their new gear, strengthen your raid team. This is why getting good people you can trust into your guild and filtering as many untrustworthy, guild hopping, uncooperative opportunists you can is absolutely essential.

To allow you to be selective you have to put in place some simple filters to screen applicants. The simplest way to screen out people who guild hop and are unlikely to be committed team players is to have website based applications. If people can’t be bothered to complete a short application on your website how much commitment are they likely to show the guild? That’s right: none. Secondly you can make reading and agreeing a simple set of rules or policies a requirement when applying. This is your opportunity to try to encourage applications from the people you want and discourage those you don’t want from even applying. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, if some whispers ­ “Can I get an invite to your guild ­” and you simply invite them don’t be surprised if they leave shortly after. ­

It can be demoralising and may also cost you members if guild hoppers are allowed to plunder your raid loot and then hop into a new guild. The issue is that people join your guild to raid and get gear upgrades to maintain their progress through the content. In return for your organisation, raid team and rights to gear you expect the gear to be utilised for the benefit of the entire raid team. Not only do you expect the recipient to raid next week but you expect them to raid regularly. The reason for this is so that all your hard work to learn progression raid fights becomes reinvested in the raid team. A better geared raid team can down bosses more easily and get yet more gear and progress steadily through the content. If you down bosses and allocate the loot to someone who leaves, the raid team doesn’t get any stronger and progression is just as difficult. Eventually, this lack of progression will cause more people to leave.

You will probably oscillate between full guild raids, no raids and part pugged raids for some weeks as you struggle to develop a stable raid roster with enough people to rotate in and out of roles as necessary. This is why it is so essential to get reliable, trustworthy members who will commit to coming raiding not just this week but most weeks and be prepared to ride out the storms and squalls when people leave or cannot raid and raids have to be cancelled. This is why a selection process is essential. ­

You may think you’ve made it and organised you first guild only run and had fun and got bosses down. Next week a couple of people can’t attend and half of the others bitch and whine about the raid being cancelled this week. Next week people are back and the very people whining last week can’t attend. Suddenly you haven’t raided for two weeks and people will leave and suddenly you are in crisis and unable to organise guild only raids all over again.

Tomorrow I’ll consider how to optimise the application process to get exactly what you need, along with the whys and wherefores of guild rules.

So my guild disbanded, well that’s not exactly true: it merged with another guild, so it might’ve well disbanded. I feel sold out, I’m not the only one either, actually I’m a little surprised by some of the guild members who are dissatisfied, but really I shouldn’t be. The thing I loved about the guild was the friendliness of most of the members. Like all guilds we had fringe players, transient drifters and guild hoppers. However, at heart we had a nice group of people, we all felt we could trust and rely on one another and we were ready offer to help and support, knowing that it would be reciprocated. Our guild had a culture of cooperation and sociability.

We took advantage of everything that was positive in the changes Blizzard made in the Wrath expansion. We raided twice a week and worked hard to learn the fights and finally before the expansion was done we downed the Lich King together. I won’t say the guild was without problems but we had fun and we progressed through content. The wonderfully relaxed culture and reasonable approach we developed to raiding, rotation and gear actually turned out to be half the problem. The other half of the problem was, ironically, appallingly bad leadership. Our leadership, particularly the Guild Leader, simply did not value the social side of the guild that other active members and raiders all loved. They allowed the relaxed, laid back culture of the guild to develop in spite of their tougher philosophy and approach to raiding. The Guild Leader desired faster progression and a more rigorous approach to raiding. I vividly remember of GL’s bitching and lack of joy when we killed Arthas and all became Kingslayers.

Our guild founder, and then leader, stood down in early 2010 to take a well earned break. However, during the summer our placeholder GL had discussions about disbanding the guild with the guild founder. On that occasion she managed to talk him out of shutting down the guild. In October, just before Cataclysm hit, our guild founder decided it was time to take over again. As all of this implies any decisions about guild direction and our future were exclusively the concern of the guild’s three officers and no one else had an input. The guild membership had no say in who led them or in many other matters that affected the whole guild. In January the Guild Leader declared himself burnt out (after two months back at the helm) and had decided to merge the guild into someone else’s. The officers’ were very enthusiastic about securing places for themselves and all their members in the new guild and encouraged everyone to move their chars over as quickly as possible.

They still don’t understand what incensed people so much. My understanding is that they still believe that the announcement to merge could’ve been handled better. They could’ve trailed the fact that they were in negotiations with the other guild and then it would’ve been less of a shock to all of the members. Guys the problem is that you took such an important decision without any reference to the membership, not the way in which you announced your unilateral decision. Several days after guild members began to jump ship to the merged guild the Guild Leader said he would consider handing the guild over to someone if anyone wanted to keep our guild going and not merge. By then it was too late the damage had been done, the guild was fractured. If this had been an alternative to the merge that was sprung on us as a fait accompli then three officers might have left the guild, with our blessing and we’d have very happily taken our guild forward without them.

Apart from the officers I don’t know anyone in my old guild who is very happy with the new one they have joined. Naturally, this is because they feel about the merger as I do and now, after being in a fantastic guild, find themselves marginal, fringe members of another. Whether the new guild guild has good people or not, my friends have all joined a strange guild with a new group of people, a different approach and culture. I hear the raiding is good but they have already set up a two tier raid system with the best gear in the progression, top tier. Not surprisingly some of my mates feel alienated (whether that is fair or not) and many in that other guild may indeed consider many or all of the joining guild members ‘the other guild’s people’ or simply intruders. Guild mergers do not work, I may be wrong but I don’t think think it’ll be long before most of my guildies’ leave this new guild and do as I did and join other communities. Then it will just be those three officers and while I greatly respect them as individuals I find the unilateral decision to disband incredibly arrogant or short sighted. The result is that they have destroyed our social / raiding guild and damaged our in game friendships with our fellow guild mates, the officers have lost our trust and our good will. All of which is very sad.

Some people, especially if they are warm and outgoing (like one of our officers), will be sought after and courted, especially, as in this case, if they are female. Such is the culture of the MMO. They simply will not have any problems integrating with any new set of people. Others will go from having worked hard to become part of a great guild’s core to being peripheral to a new guild’s social and raid order. When you get a guild that can balance a group of disparate personalities well hold on to it like grim death. You cannot simply transplant that or graft it onto the side of another integrated group of people.

There is a universal truth in this very personal story. You can bring together a group of like minded people to reach a shared goal, but the more you bring to the mix the more the direction is diluted. After a time the group may define itself by ends you hadn’t envisioned. just because you are the group’s founder it doesn’t mean that the group’s aims and direction is illegitimate simply because they are not what you had intended. It may be that you need to leave the group and find another that more closely shares your goals.

Less generally, with direct reference to WoW guilds: I have no experience of guild mergers working and here’s why: it doesn’t matter how good the new guild is it’s not the one I joined and stayed in.

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