Tobold's Blog
Monday, November 27, 2006
Guild management in World of Warcraft

Managing a guild in any MMORPG, whether as guild leader or officer, is hard work, can be pretty stressful, and is often a rather thankless task. Since burning out on a guild leader job in Dark Age of Camelot, which basically ruined the game for me, I have kept my head low and prefer to avoid the responsability. But having been in several guilds in World of Warcraft, I have observed some typical modes of behavior of guild leadership, and I think WoW guilds are somewhat different from guilds in other games.

Over the years, playing so many different MMORPG, I've seen a lot of different guilds and types of guilds. And one type that was slowly developing out of the fact that there are so many more games to play now was the multi-game guild. I've been in an American multi-game guild, which was very nice, and only the inevitable problems of living in different time zones prompted me to leave. I joined an European multi-game guild, just to see it run into major problems with World of Warcraft. And I think the issue here is the underlying purpose of guilds in WoW and other games. Especially with multi-game guilds the purpose of a guild is playing together with friends. It is a lot nicer to move to a new game with a bunch of people you already played with, than to start every time again with a group of strangers. You then can expand your circle of friends and invite some new people, but the people who knew each other the longest form the core of the guild, and are often the guild leaders and officers.

In World of Warcraft the purpose of a guild is a different one: progressing together in the raid circuit. Many casual guilds either develop towards raiding, or have constant problems losing guild members to raiding guilds. Guilds start measuring their success in terms of what the most difficult boss is they can kill. Is your guild "only" killing Venoxis in Zul'Gurub, or are you killing Ragnaros, Nefarian, or even Kel'Thuzad? The original purpose of "playing with friends" becomes lost, and you start valueing people more for playing the right class in the right way than for being nice persons. In previous games to get recruited into a guild I often had to play with them for a while, to see whether I was a good guy and friendly character. In WoW most guilds have some restriction to recruitment based simply on your character class, and tend to ask more questions about what gear you have and what dungeons you are attuned to than verifying whether you are a decent chap.

It is somewhat ironic that World of Warcraft is a game where it is a lot easier to solo to the maximum level, but there are more people guilded in WoW than in other games. Guilds are considered a necessity to advance in the endgame, not an option to play with people you like.

What remains the same is that the guild management is often done by a small group of friends, some inner core of the guild. Guild size is more dictated by the number of people you need for a raid than by social concepts like the Dunbar number. The number of friendly relationships you have is often smaller than the number of people in the guild, so you consider some guild members your friends, while others are just a necessary addition for raiding.

Very often the guild's inner circle is the people that play the most, the people who are at the front of the raiding effort, and most advanced on the raiding circuit. Unsurprisingly loot rules often favor these frequent raiders, so they are also the best equipped. And with the very purpose of the guild being raid advancement, what is "good for the guild" is defined in how it pushes forward the progress of guild raids.

The big downside of that is that people who join the guild later, and are less far advanced than the average guild member, often have a hard time to get integrated. They might be required to have a certain level of equipment or certain attunement quests done to participate in the guild raid events, but at the same time the guild is too busy with the top end howthey *they* got their starting equipment and attunement quests by playing together, and how much harder it is to do the same in pickup groups. The same thing applies to learning how to raid well. When the top raiders of a guild tackled Zul'Gurub or Molten Core for the first time, there was a lot of discussion and learning how to raid together well. Later a newcomer might be able to join a MC raid where the dungeon is cleared out in record time, but without anyone explaining him the tactics. He'll have a better chance to get epic loot, provided everybody else already has most gear from there, but as a learning experience of good raiding that isn't so good. Besides being shouted at when he does something wrong, such a raid is more confusing than teaching him much.

I've seen that again and again how guilds are so concentrated of pushing the front forward that they basically forget about the stragglers coming behind. The worst uber guilds just kick out the people that fall behind. But even the better guilds basically let the newbies fight for themselves, or think that by letting them have an epic from MC they helped them more than enough. But purple loot can't replace the feeling of being part of a community, and new players having to endure pickup groups while the guild is raiding BWL probably don't feel much friendship towards the others. By the time they arrive at being able to raid Zul'Gurub, the guild has probably just decided to not give out any DKP for ZG raids any more, because no officer can be bothered to join these "low level" raids. The gap between players even inside the same guild is growing. And if everything is organized by guild officers that are the guild's top raiders, it is logical that not much thought is spent on the problems of the "lesser" guild members. I've seen some cases where the guild leaders evolved so far ahead of the rest of the guild, that they ended up quitting and leaving the bulk of the guild behind. Or they burned out and quit, with nobody left to take over guild leadership.

My hope is that the Burning Crusade fixes some of these issues. On the one side the smaller number of players per raid should make smaller, more casual guilds viable for raiding. It is a lot easier to know everybody and integrate everybody in a raid guild that only needs 25 people to attend each raid, than if you need 40 of them. For existing guilds, the fact that the Burning Crusade loot easily replaces the previous raid epics makes it possible to close the gap between players and let people newer to the guild catch up with the top raiders and guild officers.

Of course that won't be an easy process. There are a multitude of risks, things that could be managed badly. One very likely problem is that most guilds will keep their loot distribution and DKP system, which is in many cases heavily loaded against newer players. So on their first level 70 raid guilds might end up giving most loot to people who raided the most level 60 dungeons, although the link between having raided level 60 dungeons a lot and contributing to the success of level 70 dungeons is somewhat strenuous. With everybody wearing gear acquired from BC quests and dungeons, why should somebody have priority on level 70 raid loot, just because he went to Molten Core a hundred times? Another probable problem is that level 70 raids could easily be oversubscribed, because the 40 people who raided MC/BWL/AQ40/Naxx together all show up, and only 25 people can raid together now.

A difficult period will be the first weeks after the Burning Crusade comes out. Guilds that used to raid every night will have to somehow replace these large scale guild events with organizing lots of small scale 5-man groups. There is a danger of everybody soloing, and the guild not having any purpose or events left at all, with people drifting apart. And then not everybody will level up at the same rate, with the first level 70s impatiently tapping their feet while waiting for enough others in the guild to level up for raiding.

So I don't envy all these guild leaders and officers, they have a difficult time ahead, managing these massive changes to the previously established guild routines. Some guilds will probably not survive the transition, break up, and reform. But if that ends up grouping more similar people together, maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe the current World of Warcraft guilds, operating under the special 40-man raid constraint, are just too big for their own good.
Excellent write up Tobold.

I was wondering though, you do a lot of good write ups like this that get lost, why not put a link to posts like this on the side bar similar to broken toys, I never would have found lum's 800exp or other posts otherwise.

I'm gonna link this to my guild forum, as has happened to a lot of guilds the "core" members have left to carry on with raiding naxx before tbc hits.
I frankly don't know which ones of my posts are important enough to be put in such a sidebar. It is hard to judge one's own writing. And the free sitemeter I'm using only gives me the last 100 page hits, so I can't see which posts got more hits than others over the past year and highlight them.

I should have written a post about *blog* management instead. With now 2,000 page views per day my tools for blog management are starting to become a bit insufficient. But before I look for better tools, I'll first have to see how the planned Blogger move to a new system works out for this blog. Currently I can't move my blog yet, because it is too big. But apparently the people from Blogger want to move everybody to the new system sooner or later. I just hope I don't lose any data or comments or anything. I had to switch commenting system once before, and lost all old comments in the process.
Oh, and everybody go and read Lum's 800 xp post. It's excellent.
Being one of those in charge in a Guild this issue is of matter to me aswell, though i do not see the future that bad.

We are a medium sized Raiding Guild, which is in a Raiding alliance with two other Guilds, to Raid MC, BWL, AQ. We use a Zero-Sum DKP System and we allready agreed, to start new from scratch, when BC hits the shelves. Though for different reasons as those that you described. We feared, that some people would not use their DKP for the actual loot, but hoard it for TBC.
Now they spend it all and it is rarely seen, that something has to be disenchanted.
The problem with "old" raiders is not an issue with Zero-Sum-DKP.

I guess with the dawn of TBC we will see more "Guild only" activity and that the Alliance will be used to "fill" up Dungeon Groups, or to search for people, who share the same leveling speed.

I am looking forward to it and guess we will have a lot of fun in the burning Crusade as a Guild and as a Guild-Alliance aswell.
Am suprised that you don't or haven't looked at using Wordpress? I use to blog with Blogger but I find wordpress so much eaier to use in browser. Very clear & would suit you style of blogging too.
The problem with "old" raiders is not an issue with Zero-Sum-DKP.
Agreed. One reason why I would prefer zero sum. Unfortunately I've never been in a guild using it.

Am suprised that you don't or haven't looked at using Wordpress?
Well, Blogger goes with Blogspot. Most people use the address instead of the address, so if I moved to a different service I would lose most readers and my Google page rank.
My take on this (coming from someone who does not belong to a hardcore Raiding Guild) is that a good Guild will create an A-team and a B-team. How many of the Guilds that Raid 40-man content have just 40 players in their Guild? I'm guessing none. I'm guessing most of them have more than 40 players because not everyone can make every Raid every day. It's doubtful they have only 50 as well; most likely an end Raiding Guild has 60 players or more.

Now you have all those players and yet many Guilds still don't start their Raids right on time, some do, but not a lot. Usually most Guilds are waiting for a few more players to trickle in to make sure the Raid has X of A Class, X of B Class, X of C Class, etc.

With the introduction of 25-man Raids you don't need X of A, X of B, etc, you now only need X-2 of A, X-2 of B, etc. And suddenly your Raids start on time because now you have more than enough people online at 8pm. In fact now you're not letting people in because there's too many of them, so, you take along your A-team, and if there's enough players online you set up a Raid for your B-team as well. Guess what? Most people are going to want in on the A-team Raid because that's the Raid that's happening, so it will be filled with the best geared players and have the best chance of succeeding/not wiping. If the B-team Raid gets off the ground it will be comprised initially of the people cut from the A-team Raid and then filled out by the tardier members.

A smart Guild will maintain an attendance roster, and at next week's Raid they will give precedence to members cut from this week's Raid. This way everyone gets included, everyone learns the strategies needed to beat each Instance, and everyone earns DKP and gets a shot at the ZOMG EPIX!!!

The not-so-smart Guild, the one run by the people who want to push on harder, faster, more, more, more!!! that Guild will create an A-team based on their best geared players and even if you got cut from every Raid during the last two weeks despite being there on time, you'll continue to get cut because Ipwnsyounoob has better gear than you and is continuing to get better gear than you because he keeps getting selected over you because he has better gear. Vicious circle. The B-team players (of which there technically are none in this Leet Guild because the Officers can't be stuffed creating a B-team because they're already in the A-team) will eventually look elsewhere, and will either find themselves picked up by a smart Guild, or they'll wind up in a not-so-smart Guild where they may luck out by having better gear than Ipwnsyounub so they replace him in the Raid.

When the Expansion comes out you'll quickly discover which Guild you're in, especially when most of your Guildies ding 70 within a week of release ;)
In WoW most guilds have some restriction to recruitment based simply on your character class, and tend to ask more questions about what gear you have and what dungeons you are attuned to than verifying whether you are a decent chap.

I've seen people say in recruitments something to the extent of "so-and-so is an obnoxious, pain-in-the-arse, egomaniac but he knows his stuff and is well geared you should grab him".

A successful raid guild is more like a business than a "group of friends". If you want to be with a "group of friends", chances are you will never beat the hardest raid instances because you wouldn't kick out your "friend" due to sub-par performance.

I recently left a guild that had been in existence for nearly 1.5 years on an original release server. I left because the "good ole boys" high up were funneling the T3 drops to the Vets and they didn't much like my objections (I was only a member with 6 months of attendance). I joined a new guild on a new server (~1 year old). The new guild isn't a "group of friends". You either learn the encounters by reading the forums, strats and watching the videos or you are guild removed.

In Naxx, bleeding edge encounters (Loatheb, Harvester, 4H) required precise performance by nearly ever raid member in order to succeed. We spend upward of 1-2 hours "practicing" on Loatheb before we attempt to kill him. The whole raid needs flasks, Pots and 3 world buffs (Nef, Hakkar, etc...) to take Loatheb down.

You can say that I don't raid in WoW to make friends. I'm here kill new bosses and get new epics. I expect everyone else to be putting out as much effort as I do.
Fantastic article! It lays out many points that our guild has been discussing over the past few weeks. Will be linking it on our website. Many thanks =)
You should put this up on grimwell as well, not seen you put anything on there in ages.
"I don't raid in WoW to make friends. I'm here kill new bosses and get new epics. I expect everyone else to be putting out as much effort as I do."

I guess that's why raiding is so utterly alien to me. (Not saying that quote is representative of every raider/raiding guild by any means, but I don't think it's a small minority view.) I get enough of work at, er, work! I don't need administration, performance reviews, office politics, all that stuff, when I finish for the day.

I started in City of Heroes as my first MMO, played with a small group of people for a bit, then most of them drifted away. Browsing around the forums, I found a supergroup recruiting, and joined up. Never looked back. Through pure luck, I guess, I found a bunch of people who were generally cool, laid back, didn't take things too seriously, and had a blast playing. The game itself helps a lot; death means very little, you can team pretty much any class with any other class/combination of classes, and the sidekick system allows disparate levels to group far more easily than anything else I've ever seen. The flip side is that there's not really much to the game itself, as Tobold notes when he talks about it; basically, instanced mission after instanced mission, over a few different tilesets. But the people kept me playing.

When WoW came along, quite a few people headed over there, set up a guild. But it wasn't quite the same; where in CoH you'd just shout and see if anyone was teaming, in WoW you'd try and work out if you had the same quests, in the same areas, whether the other people would have finished them by the time you flew over there, ran there, got the ferry there... You couldn't just run an instance with whoever was kicking around (CoH missions scale according to the level and number of people in the team, and almost any class combination works), you needed exactly five people, and you needed your tank and your healer and your DPS. Loot started getting divisive; in CoH there isn't really any loot to speak of, "money" hardly exists. In WoW, x was jealous that y got the roll on the UberLewt of Niceness. Some people would offer loot to the guild for nothing, others for vendor prices, others would keep quiet and list it on the auction house to make a bit of money. I got to level 60, ran a few late game instances (it was difficult as there were an overabundance of damage dealers compared to other classes; usually it would end up as a Raid, no quest completion, tiny chance of a decent drop which seldom happened), but then what was there? As a "hardcore casual", as I think someone else termed it, I play quite a lot but can't commit to x hours on night y so raiding is out. 5 man instances in a good group were fine, but good groups were rare and raid-zerging the same thing again and again and again for a 10% drop? No thanks. The guild was more or less finished by then anyway; the raiders had moved onto raiding guilds, others to new games, and the general "hanging with friends" vibe had never really been the same for all the previously mentioned reasons. There'd always been more "drama" than in CoH, and if there's one aspect of online communities I really hate, it's "drama". Sure, it's inevitable that people don't get on, but where in CoH you needed a pretty colossal personality clash for everything to kick off, WoW had all the additional niggles. Do you, as a guild, try and legislate and have strict guild rules enforced by officers? Or just say "play nice, kids"? It's a sort of mass prisoner's dilemma.

When City of Villains came out, I went back to that, and put the WoW account into hibernation, and to be honest, never really missed it. I flitted around various betas and/or initial months of other MMOs since, but always came back to CoH/CoV for the people, never found another guild/group like it anywhere else. Then, a while back, I got together with a bunch of friends, and they were all talking WoW. Some had been playing since launch and kept going as raiders, some were inveterate game-switchers and had been dipping in and out, and they'd ended up with various combinations of mains and alts around the same level. I'd been thinking about coming back for The Burning Crusade, but got so nostalgic for it that I reactivated my account right then. And I've been really enjoying it since, just playing with close friends; we're fairly similar levels, and happily have synergistic classes, so can team up pretty well in most combinations. We all get on, so there's no drama over someone getting better loot, or someone else getting that place in the instance. We're not actually in a guild, as there's no point, we just use the friends list and a custom channel.

I don't know if I really had a point or was just rambling... I guess a "guild of friends" is possible, even for raiding, as brian shows in the comments, but it's a pretty rare beast compared to groups of people held together by DKP rules and the desire for epics. I'm hoping the Burning Crusade will have enough to keep me going for a bit in my little group. From what I've been picking up, it *sounds* like it's moving in the right direction for me (winged instances you can do in "bite size" chunks, more emphasis on turning in tokens to get class items rather than praying for that 6% drop chance from a certain boss, variable difficulty instances (in my case, so hopefully you can run the instance for not-too-bad loot without agonising over optimal group make-up, rather than ramping up the difficulty for uber-items)). But we'll see.
OK, that inspired me to go off and start my own blog!
I really liked your article. I'm an officer in a Horde medium-to-hardcore raiding guild (BWL/AQ40/Naxx 4 nights/wk). A lot of the issues you described were the exact same things we faced. I just wanted to share a little of what's worked for us to really make end-game raiding about playing with friends.

1) Keep your raidng group as small as possible to minimize people on standby. This helps form that "playing with the same friends every night" feeling. We have about 45 people on for raid nights. Average raid attendance is 80%, with about 60 total raid members in the guild.

2) We have a Friends and Family rank. These are rl friends/family of our raiding members. We also move raid members to this rank if they won't be able to make it to raids anymore. When they are able to pop in, they're still with friends and we're glad to see them. This >>is not<< a farm team for the raiding rank, or Guild Group B. This is a social invite.
New people can bring in their buddies/siblings so they're not alone. Old members can hang out with their friends that aren't into raiding. I used it to keep in touch with my sis who's 4 states away.
In turn F&F people can run MC/ZG/AQ20 with us if they want. They also have an easier time finding people to help them with quests and attunements. It's been very successful so far.

3) Zero-sum DKP with an entirely separate system for the BC guild runs. Someone else mentioned this already so I won't go into it in detail.

4) Selectively recruit. A interested person can submit an application. It's then posted for the entire guild to comment on (privately in a guild-only forum). If it looks good, we'll do a Vent interview with at least 2 officers. We don't care about gear, spec, attunement, or previous raid experience. We look for a mature person who can and wants to raid 4 nights/wk.
We also do a "background check" to see what other guilds they've been in. We don't want loot hoppers, plus we know other guild leaders, and may ask their opinion of this player, too. It's basically like the process to hire a friend. :P

5) Being positive and upbeat is one of the jobs of being an officer. We crack jokes and have fun during the raids. We even have running gags and contests (priest that dies the most will be in charge of all 30 min raid buffs!!!). Even after wiping for 4hrs straight, it's the officers' job to keep people focused but relaxed. We don't yell or allow cursing, and any player repremanding is always done privately.

All of this together has helped us continue to progress through Naxx even with BC on the horizon. We just like to raid together.

Amici on Scarlet Crusade
Regarding newer people coming in, our high-end guild ran MC and BWL into the absolute ground before dropping them. I was at umpteen-billion raids when I no longer needed anything "to help others get their stuff." There is a point where you HAVE to stop or you won't progress any more. And some people are always upset, "but I'll never get my LEGSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!" If you never stop until everyone has what they want, you are not going anywhere :) It got to the point that we'd look for well-geared people as much as possible. It was easier on both of us if they not only didn't need the older gear, but had the experience of those places to add to our own.

And despite this, we still have people in blues beating down our door. The plain fact is that you can't run up into Naxx that way and there are 0 days left on a busy raid schedule of AQ & NAXX to dip back into older dungeons that 30+ of us are utterly sick of. "Guild management" at this level is about making these hard choices, about when to cut it off and push everyone forward as a group.

Whoever said A/B teams is the way to go for smart guilds, I disagree. B-teamers will almost always feel resentment, and if you can field both groups when 7-day lockouts come, you are primed for a split. I think many high-end guilds are looking forward to the new raid size to "shed the slackers/nubs." That might just be the B team :p
Great article. It will be interesting to watch what happens to serious raid guilds in BC. I expect many to have transition pains and if they level at very different paces, many will fall by the wasteside.

I really like Martaliti's idea about F&F members. I've seen guilds do this on my first visit to EQ2. When our WOW guild started having issues with hardcore vs. casual, I suggested we do this so that it didn't have to be all or nothing. Unfortunately, it wasn't a popular idea and we fractured in the end.
A/B team of Raiding makes no sense.

Why take the 50 people in your guild and make two raids out of it? There is really no point in doing so. DKP will be different. Leaders will be different. People will be mad at team A because they are not on that team. I just dont see the point. I think your better off forming to seperate entitys because regardless of how you set up Team A/B thats what will happen... Two seperate guilds... IMO...
This reads like you were a member of my guild.
This reads like you were a member of my guild.

Most people think that their guild has very unique problems. But after playing with different guilds on different servers you'll notice that exactly the same stuff comes up again and again. What I describe above is probably true for up to half of the raiding guilds in World of Warcraft
Disorder are a Kul Tiras - EU (PVE) Alliance Raiding guild. We are late to the party but are catching up quick Smile

We have recently got the 5/6 SSC and 3/4 TK point and have been working on Vashj. Due to a group of players retiring from the raiding aspect of the game recently, we are looking to bolster our team for advancement in BT/Hyjal and returning to kick Vashj and Kael butt.

We are looking for the following classes:

Warlock: 1
Priest: 1 Holy
Druid: 0
Paladin: 2
Warrior: 1 Prot (Must be well geared)
Hunter: 0
Shamans: 1 Resto
Mage: 0
Rogue: 1

Any applicants wishing to join us need at minimum full Kara epics / best crafted epics, preferably with SSC / TK experience beyond Lurker and Void Reaver. Our Raid schedule is Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday/Tuesday from 8 til 12 Server time. We have a very good team at the moment and will only take on players that are fully committed to the PVE scene and all the effort it takes to progress. We welcome X-server transfer applicants and will discuss more about the guild 1:1 if it helps.

You can find more details about us at our website
Fell free to fill up application post in the Recruitment topic on forum.
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