The lifecycle of a [WoW] guild

Scott Andrews wrote a very good column in WoW Insider yesterday, discussing how guilds die.

I was particularly taken by his experience of his own guild, because I think this mirrors the experience of a lot of players.

First the guild is born, possibly with a core of players who know each other in real life. Then it grows. The game is still newish but by the time the original founders get to max level, they find out about raiding and decide that they want to do it.

So, initially as a social guild, the guild starts organising raids. Many find they aren’t able to keep up the constant attendance from an appropriately geared, motivated and varied set of classes. The ones who do keep going, possibly recruiting extras as needed. At this point they usually are still trying to hang onto their social ethos and avoid doing things like stacking classes (ie. benching raiders for being the wrong class) and give everyone a chance.

Some raiders will become more hardcore than others. As soon as the social guild starts to slip behind progression, the more hardcore players will switch to more hardcore guilds. Strong leadership from the guild with well organised raids and tendencies towards progression can put this off for awhile.

Eventually the stresses start to show, particularly on officers and raid leaders. And all it takes is a couple of weeks off raiding, or a couple of failed raids before remaining hardcore raiders drift off to form their own raids, or join other raid guilds. And once the core is gone and the officers are too burnt out to rebuild from scratch, the guild dies.

It’s not inevitable this happens to all guilds. Many thrive without being hardcore raid guilds and still offer raiding (mine has a good compromise, but even so, the raid group has been tending more progression focussed with every expansion.)

What does it mean? It means that WoW (and it is specifically WoW) is teaching players that the only smart way to play in a goal oriented way is to join an individualistic bunch of people who share exactly the same goal.

A game which encouraged more broad based guilds would teach instead the values of negotiation, co-operation, and getting a lot of different people with different goals  to pull together.

I’d be curious to know if anything has any thoughts about the typical lifecycle of guilds in other games.

11 thoughts on “The lifecycle of a [WoW] guild

  1. IMO there should be more reasons to belong to a guild than just be there for the organized raiding. That’s what has bothered me in WoW guild structure for a long time now, ever since I noticed this happen to the guild I started myself. Mind you, we fostered and brouhgt up several players who moved to the so called hard core raiding guilds without even being motivated to raid: we just gave the players a good place to discuss the game, their build, spec and playing in general so they grew out of the confines of the guild.

    There should be more to a guild than just raiding and speeded up levelling. In WoW everything centers and evolves around raiding as if that was the only thing that matters. As if that was the only thing people enjoy doing.

    The short time I was in a guild in Rift I saw already that the guild perks are varied and can be selected by the guildmaster: the guild could get perks to crafting, gathering, PvP or PvE related things, which broadens the options a guild has. I can already see similar guilds as in Lotro evolving in Rift, ones which concentrate on crafting alone or ones which take on PvP as their main effort. There will be more options and reasons to be in a guild and the guild dynamics will be different.

    Does it change the issue you presented? I don’t know. But if the guild doesn’t have strong values and reasons for its existence, it will fail anyhow.

    C out

  2. I have seen this time and again on my main server. My own guild is already one of the oldest horde guilds on the server (six years in April). As our focus is to be a fun place for all-females, we don’t often have the issue that people move on to be more hardcore, but it does of course happen. The same girls often come back, then leave again. WotLK was extremely exhausting in that respect and we had a lot of raiders move on to greener pastures. Or, what I personally found more aggravating, people only pugged content, instead of doing things with the guild.

    But all around us raiding guilds grow, prosper, fall apart, die. We’re a backwater server progression-wise, so those who are most hardcore usually split their guilds and then often leave the realm for a more progressed one.

    It will be interesting to see how guild leveling changes this. Will people be just as willing to break apart their level 25 guild and start from scratch? Will people pick up the torch instead? Will people want to start grinding guild rep, which is not exactly the fastest process in the world? I wonder if that will have any impact.

    • I think people will just tend to have alts in different guilds. Harsh on guild leaders who would probably prefer players to be dedicated to a single guild, but so it goes.

  3. It is a good thing that the more hardcore players switch raid to join a raid which better fits them. We do the same IRL. We switch jobs which better fit our “hardcoreness” or we switch sports clubs and so on. People should “play” together with people who prefer the same way of playing.

    If that kills of guilds, and it does, then it’s not the fault of the people who leave. It’s the fault of Blizzard who creates a game that requires an insane amount of organization from the raid leaders to allow others to beat their content. Raids in the current form should be replaced with more casual friendly content. And I don’t mean easier to beat, but easier to organize. The current heroics show that 5 man bosses can also be more complex than patchwerk but 5 man groups can be formed ad-hoc and don’t need a fix schedule. Just create an epic difficulty level which is even more demanding and reward it with raid level epic.

      • Sure, but if the majority of the player base still doesn’t enjoy/isn’t able to organize 10 man raids, then they did not yet succeed in my opinion.

    • I agree with you, it is down to Blizzard and the way the endgame is designed. And that you get a fair number of rather single minded players who get fixated on certain types of measurable reward and then tend to set the pace for how the community measures players.

      There’s also a kind of confidence trick going on where if enough people really believe that the best way to pursue progression is by finding a hardcore guild then … it becomes true. Even though it makes a lot of players unhappy and pressures them to play on schedules that aren’t ideal.

      It’s also much easier to advertise a really focussed guild to players, as opposed to ‘we’re friendly to people who don’t annoy us, mature, a bit hardcore but not much, plus we like playing on friday nights and sometimes swear in danish’.

      iRL, it’s a bit less clear because often people are following multiple goals so they’re balancing different priorities. Lots of people do jobs they don’t love because it’s a) all they can get b) need the money c) need the experience d) fits in with childcare arrangements etc etc

      • I didn’t want to imply that everyone has the perfect job. (Nor that everyone has the perfect raid.)

        But we try to find a better job if we aren’t satisfied with the current one (or at least we should). And nobody (usually) sees you as a betrayer if you take an opportunity and switch job.

      • Some employers do find it really tough to keep training up new employees (which is expensive) only to have them leave. They just don’t talk about it much.

        I don’t think raiders who join more hardcore guilds are betrayers and I don’t blame them for wanting to play the game the way it’s presented. But I think more diverse guilds are more fun to be in, personally. Plus if you can’t raid for a few weeks or your class is underpowered for a patch, you don’t find yourself socially excluded.

  4. Well, I’ve certainly been in a few CoX guilds where the guild leader does recruiting sprees to keep prestige income up, they eventually leave or retire, and eventually the guild leader loses interest and doesn’t log in except once every 44 days to retain control of the toys in their base.

  5. It comes down to patience, which many modern WoW players may lack.

    Personally, and this goes for a lot of people in my guild, I’d rather kill something next month after learning it together than skipping ahead and doing it this week with strangers. Somewhere along the line the sense of accomplishment and community got replaced with a sense of entitlement. Faster equals higher self-worth.

    So far Blizzard has demonstrated that they are on a 2 year cycle for new content. I’m not quite sure why so many feel like they need to finish it in the next month.

    Me, I like the smell of the roses.

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