The thankless life of a guild leader in a MMO

Everything you need to know about guild leading can be summarised in  that the #1 piece of advice most existing guild leaders give to someone who is considering it is “Don’t do it.”

It is terrifically fun to build and run a guild, but it can also be crazy stressful and your guild members will typically not care as much about the guild as you do. So similar to running a business, except you’re not paying them to be there, at least not in hard cash. Or making a profit.  (I wonder if a F2P business model where guild leaders pay ‘good’ players to join them and charge ‘less good’ players would fly, I’m sure the hardcore would enjoy it.)

What certainly doesn’t help is when the game design favours soloers over group players. In fact, any aspect of game design that rewards individuals for individual achievement over social or group achievement is practically begging players not to bother being loyal to a guild. I have seen similar developments in real life and wonder if we’re heading toward a job market where the majority of people will be self employed and employers will pick them up on temporary contracts as needed. But in any case, game devs these days hate guilds and are actively trying to harm them. They may not say so, they may not even know it themselves, but they’re moving to a world where there will be automated ways to do all the things guilds used to do for players and you’ll be able to do it without talking to anyone if that’s what you want. And in WoW, a new player will probably get a silent invite from a huge guild full of perks just for turning up. That’s not a guild, and certainly not a community, it’s not even an anything.

It’s a shame because guilds are and have always been one of the prime examples of player created content in these games. Just understand if you are a guild leader that the devs could be helping you more, and they’re not because they are valuing individuals over player communities.

Anyway, back to guild leading, and raid guilds in particular. Syl posted yesterday a set of home truths for raid guilds and he’s right on the money. I used to be very involved in running raids in MMOs, I ran huge public raids in DaoC, I was a class leader in a 40 man progression raid in vanilla WoW, I’ve run 10 man raids, etc etc. I presume I was a decent raid leader, or at least good enough. Yet when I got bored/ burned out, I didn’t take a break and then start running another raid, I joined someone else’s raid instead.

I do feel guilty about that in a way. I knew all the pain and burnout that goes with raid leading and I was happy to let someone else do the job that I didn’t want to do (any more.) And inevitably, they faced similar stresses about filling raids and guild drama – much less stress in a more social raid group, actually, but still present – and I … sat back and hoped that the leaders would be able to deal with it better than I did.

I suspect that for a lot of raid guilds, the flim flam that you  find on progression raiding blogs about how professional you need to act, how you should design your application form, how badass you need to be to new recruits and how you have to whip your raiders to make them perform better will not address the base problem of not having enough regular raiders in total. Or of what to do when the content is just too hard for your players. Driving away the guys who do turn up isn’t going to help unless you have replacements on tap, which you don’t. They won’t have easy answers for these problems because there aren’t any.

It might be more useful to talk, for example, about how we used to turn a blind eye to the priest who always turned up to 40 mans in shadow spec even though he was healing because dammit, at least he turned up. About how we felt when we’d spent ages trying to get friendly with people and they just pissed off when they got ‘a better offer’ from another raid group. And why it is that most guild leaders would advise anyone considering it not to bother.

15 thoughts on “The thankless life of a guild leader in a MMO

  1. As I started some new toons on new servers just the other day, I was bombarded by guild invites, both in whispers and in direct invitations. I have declined them all, because I agree with Groucho Marx on this one with a slight adjustment.

    “I don’t care to belong to a guild that invites people like me as members.”

    C out

    • Well said. I should macro that statement. I’ve got a level 22 prot warrior now, and he gets non-stop guild invites. The first was from “Guild Perks”, which clued me in to the point of the invites pretty quickly.

      Spinks’ statement that, “they’re moving to a world where there will be automated ways to do all the things guilds used to do for players” is right on the money. Point systems breed players gaming points.

      Better would be to start soliciting general geographic info so that you could base your guild formation around location or shared activity (other than raiding), etc. I’d rather chat with folks that follow sports, you know?

      Anyhow, yes, less human. I had a younger player ask me why so many guilds spam you, and said, “How do guilds gain experience again?” It’s sad the system’s come to this.

  2. The zerg guilds farming Guild XP by inviting everyone may not be an elegant solution, but I would disagree with them being “nothing.” As a brand new player, I remember getting an unsolicited guild invite out in Ghostlands and ended up making a friend that helped me with a group quest at the end of a chain. We were both warlocks, so he provided some useful class advice as well.

    Zerg guilds may not offer a “community,” but how else are new players supposed to know the benefits of grouping/finding a guild/etc without, you know, getting out there and joining one?

  3. My own experiences as a guild leader to these 3 truths that override all other truths:

    1. Being funny and laid back will get you further than anything, even competent management. If you find guild leadership that stressful and that much extra work, don’t lead a goddamn guild. It doesn’t need to be these things and if you decide it does, well, that’s your own fault.

    2. Most people who are good at the game are pretty laid back. Odds are the rude, shouty, self-entitled guy isn’t actually that good at the game, so to hell with him. This does not apply to tanks, who are generally all these things, but are tanks. So we just ignore it.

    3. Coming back to our management theme, if you haven’t been in a situation where you’ve actually been in charge of people in some capacity, you probably shouldn’t be in charge of a guild. It’s not hard but you still need a vague clue as to what you’re doing.

    • I think many people who are good at the game are pretty laid back (ie. will do the same things as the rest but in a more laid back way), but arguably you also need the non-laid back ones to be your ultra-keen never-miss-a-raid raiders.

    • @Simon
      “Being funny and laid back will get you further than anything, even competent management.”

      While I agree with most of your points, I don’t agree with that line.
      unfortunately, the reality on many servers and certainly the server I always played on, was such that it became increasingly hard for any big-scale and more serious raid guild to recruit enough players sometime in mid-WotLK; be it that the game changed and many guilds disappeared into 10man mode, be it that several raidguilds migrated server. neither being “funny” nor being laidback does ultimately solve such very real problems. and the pressure of trying to maintain your guild while you can’t seem to fill the gaps in your roster or keep up with your raid agenda, which creates a vicious cycle in itself for recruitment, can be a stress and downside to guild leading most leaders know. at least those that feel responsible for what’s happen in their guilds.

      there are plenty more such situations that are, from a very human point of view, demanding and at times can simply wear somebody down, the examples are endless. you’d have to be a robot not to care or be affected by it if your guild is close to your heart. but it’s important to know how to keep a balance and to know when to stop if you cannot.
      all that said, a good sense of humor and nonchalance DOES help loads with things, no disagreement there. but you can’t laugh the walls of jericho down, if you get my point.

      • I think the best thing that can happen to a raid guild is one of your rivals going BOOM. I’m sorry to say that as it’s not a thing I would wish for but when a raid guild goes BOOM, half quit in bitterness and half join the ranks of a different raid guild that might have otherwise struggled.

        While not all difficulty come from roster levels 90% of it does. 20 men needed, 21 log in, result happiness. 20 men needed 19 log in, result misery.

      • My first 40 man raid guild got formed after the guild leader deliberately engineered two other guilds going BOOM so that he could get enough raiders to get started. (They were both social-ish guilds that were trying to get raids started and he swooped in and invited all their proto-raiders with the initial idea that they could raid as an alliance without having to leave their initial guilds, then came the guild invites because it would ‘make things easier’.) True story.

  4. After my Rift guild collapsed then the guild I moved into collapsed (despite being an epics factory downing 3-5 raid bosses a night) I went back to Eve. I was utterly utterly flabbergasted to discover that the Fleet Commanders running pug Incursion groups (bit like pug WoW raid leaders) routinely reimburse people who lose ships in their fleet out of their own pockets). I was stunned. Not only do you have to herd cats but you pay the cat damages if it wanders off and gets bitten by a dog. You would have to be crazy to do it.

    Fortunately we only had one death and we solved that by having a voluntary whip round (most of us sent his 10 million isk). But it’s a crazy system, especially in Eve which has a reputation for evil players.

  5. “…if we’re heading toward a job market where the majority of people will be self employed and employers will pick them up on temporary contracts as needed.”

    Having just finished a very worrying article on a similar topic over at Cracked (the 6 most ominous trends in video gaming), this idea makes me feel even gloomier. may it never happen! =/
    And you’re right, there would be so much more to tell and food for thought in the everyday business and dilemmas of running guilds, you could fill a whole book of examples like the ones you’ve just given in the last lines. I think this is what we can all really relate to, rather than win-win guides and co. raiding has its grand moments obviously, but 4 out of 5 days running a guild is a routine, as exhiliarating as maintaining any sort of enterprise or ‘machinery’ – or if you like it more poetic: caring for a garden. there’s a lot of routine and less shiny tasks involved to make it look great in the end. that needs to be enough for you as a leader or you will be very unhappy very fast.

  6. I pretty much agree with everything you said. No matter what Mr. Jones up there says, Leading a (successful) guild is an incredible amount of work and stress. If you can get through all that “laid back”, more power to you. That’s not how it works for most people.

    The one thing I can’t agree with is feeling bad about not leading anymore after a burnout. While I understand the feeling, it is absolutely not warranted. You’ve done your part for the guild and you’ll help no one by leading again and quitting altogether because of it. I’ve seen guild/raid leaders dropping down to member status and floating back up to leadership after a recreation period and I’ve seen quite a few leaders burning out due to not calling quits early enough. I took a bit of a backseat for Wrath (going from guild leader to member and then administrative officer) and I don’t think I’d have been able to get as far into Wrath as I did if I had stayed in a top position.

  7. I agree to “don’t do it.” But I make a terrible follower, so I usually take the lead nevertheless. To the degree of being the boss in all but name. Basically, I am Denethor? 🙂

    My best time in Guild Wars was unguilded, after my first guild dissolved, funnily! Fact. I had a huge friendlist and organized missions, “raids” (~ elite missions and areas in GW are a bit like that) with a core group of buddies from a ton of guilds. While nobody had any obligation, attendance was ~100% and when I asked someone to come along they always had time. In fact many IMO got used to me or a buddy popping up and telling them what we will do tonight. Sometimes I really wondered about that.

    In WoW TBC I was in a guild with the bored veteran syndrome. At one point I left so that I could raid Kara/Gruul/TK when I wanted and not with the guild raids who often got cancelled. Sidenote, one of the reasons why I hate timed raid locks.
    I got part of a random raid group made up of randoms/twinks etc.. We soon formed a solid PUG that actually no longer was a PUG and raided SSC, TK, Hyjal successfully. We did not make it to Illidan but formed our own guild out of the core of this raid group and did Naxx in WOTLK within a month after release.

    There is a difference between being a guild leader and being the boss at work: I don’t think coming casually to work is something you have to deal with as boss. In a guild this unfortunately seems to be the norm more often than not. Guild are nowadays in my experience too often torn between being a raid roster and being a group of friends. For GW2 and future MMO-style games I will form a guild with a small core group of long time buddies and go full PUG mode.

    I don’t know why but for some reason motivation and fun seem to become obligation and unfun for people when they are in the same guild. I find that amazingly strange but our super successful pseudo-PUG raid group mostly dissolved due to players quitting WoW (me being one of them) in WOTLK right after we successfully cleared Naxx. And no, we did not have internal conflicts at all. Ofc WoW is to blame as it is just bad 😉 and probably general burnout. But see my first statement in this paragraph, it seems that feeling obliged to raid with a certain group of people burnt people out, the same thing they liked to do when they did not feel this kind of “obligation”.

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