Growing a small social guild

Since we’ve founded our fledgling community/guild, i’ve been wondering whether it is possible to build up one of those 10 years plus communities in this day and age. I know there are many great guilds out there, but i do feel the climate has changed and creating a long-lasting guild where bonds between members only grow with time is harder now than it used to be when the MMORPG community had about 3 very different MMORPGs to choose from. Today, not only do we have a billion MMOs to choose from, but the games themselves also allow players to be part of multiple guilds. Players change games more often, and when they try a new game they might seek out another, already established guild in their new game instead of trying to grow the guild they’re in or taking guildmates with them.

I’d like our guild and community to grow, in connections as well as numbers and possibly even games later on and i’ve been thinking about ways to reach the goal to be “that guild” at some time- where people would say things like “this weekend a few guildies and i are trying out game xy together”.

It’s a journey

A longlasting guild can’t be built up in a year, and we all know that. What i’ve seen though, and struggle with myself is that it’s kind of hard to be patient. It’s looking hard right now- we’re seven people playing Elder Scrolls Online right now and attracting members is difficult- i feel it’s because of size, related ingame-features- we’re too small to even have a guild bank, after all and the fact that we openly describe ourselves as being casual players who don’t play every day. If you were to join our guild, chances to build a dungeon group spontaneously on the fly while you’re logged in are about zero. If you were to ask in our forums, though, i’d bet you’d get a group of players willing to join you in the next couple of days, depending on the availability of our members.

Of course, this isn’t something we’re used to nowadays- and in the end, it’s easier to simply use the group finder to tackle a dungeon. When i played WoW, building a group with the guild was the easier way to go (no lfg tool then), it’s the other way around now and with us. In the end, we all have to be patient- the guild leaders have to be while still trying to offer “more” in terms of trying to grow the community, and the members themselves, because right now, we’re almost more a friends list than a guild where you meet someone everyday. With our 7 players, it’s still entirely possible to log in and be the only player online in the guild. Normally, i’d say that 10 online players in the evenings is a good number.

 

Shortly after release, growing fast isn't hard to do.
Shortly after release, growing fast isn’t very difficult.

It’s very easy to grow in new games – in my experience you’ll reach a critical mass quickly if you recruit for games that aren’t released yet. I’ve seen the foundation of about half a dozen guilds before a game was released- at that time, it’s mostly the guild-type that attracts new players, not the current state of the guild. You can start recruiting for a game soon to be released while having only two people in your roster- if you do it in a timely fashion, you’ll have 20 to 50 members as soon as the game releases. Because nobody cares if you’re only two when there is no game to begin with.

In a game like Elder Scrolls Online, it’s harder, because the players want their guild to offer something- a guild bank, players to group with at all times and a guild trader would be nice, as well. There aren’t as many non-guilded or new players, as well, since the game has been out for a while.

In addition to the ingame-features, the community has to grow, as well- we’ve changed things up a couple of times, already. If you’re four people who know each other well, there’s no need to have many rules and regulations. I think a good guild needs to adapt- have its vision set, but alter the ways to get there. There’s a bit of trial and error involved here.

And lastly, “that guild” you’ve played with for five or ten years has to last that long to become just that. You can’t have this done in a year, per definitionem.

Recruitment

All guild advice you can read will tell you how important recruitment is. I’d say it’s depending on what type of guild you want to create. In a game like ESO, building a simple, big social guild doesn’t really require anything outside of the game- you take in who’s interested and weed out inactives and troublemakers. If you want to stay somewhat small and prefer to build up connections with your guildmates, however, recruitment gets difficult, even in small social guilds. Because not being a troublemaker is not enough- the personality of a recruit has to fit into the group, and because this won’t be the case every time, you mustn’t be afraid to decline people. Which is even harder to do in a social guild- “it’s not personal” doesn’t work here, because it is.

 

group
You can have fun in small numbers, as well.

This is why i like Enjin so much right now- because applications aren’t public. We set up a form with a few questions (“What MMOs have you played recently?”, “How much time do you spend in MMOs a week?”, “Do you prefer voice or guild chat?”, “What are your ingame goals?”). The officers can then review an application, ask the applicant some questions and hopefully get answers without anyone knowing what’s going on. For us, we’ll take in everyone who understands what we are and is aware of differences between us and their preferred play-style. For instance, if you’d apply and check “Raids” as an interest, i’d possibly tell you that this is something we’ll probably not do anytime soon, if at all. If you check the box for playing more than 30 hours a week, i’d tell you that this is much more than the rest of us are playing. If the applicant is ok with everything, we’ll try and see if the glove fits. If there’s no reaction three days after i’ve asked some questions, i’ll simply reject the application- mostly without giving an extra reason (i feel that has been given by the questions asked), but sometimes i’ll even go into the official forums and suggest an alternative guild that might be a better fit. So far, it’s 50/50 – i accepted three applications and rejected three, as well.

I do that because i’ve seen guilds with a similar vision failing to decline applicants, growing too fast and therefore building no connections between the guild and the respective players. The communities might have 300 members, but that doesn’t mean anything if the forums are used only by 30 and the whole community discourages their leader from creating an ingame guild because it would be inactive after a month anyway (yes, i’ve seen that happening).

Stability and Perseverance

I think it’s also very important to show stability and perseverance in building the community. OK, so maybe a monthly guild meeting for four players who meet each friday anyway is a waste of time- maybe it will be for seven members, as well. But thinking “i’ll do stuff like this when it matters” sends the wrong signal to the members of the community- it tells them “we’re not real, yet”, so the culture you want to see your guild having needs to be built in from the ground up. Try, and if nobody shows up, try again. Maybe change things up a bit. This is a clear sign that you’re serious and in it for the long haul. I’m also a huge proponent of telling the guildies what the next steps are in growing or strengthening the guild- while i’m almost always somewhat disappointed when asking for feedback (you’ll probably not get any), i think members appreciate it when their leadership shares its plans on following through with the vision.

And because we’re lucky in how MMORPGs are designed nowadays, it’s always important to see if you can find something worth doing in terms of ingame-goals for your whole guild. For instance, tomorrow we’ll be going to Rkindaleft, one of two public dungeons in Wrothgar. We might be able to do it, or maybe not, but it’s nice that we can do something worthwhile together despite being in the level range of 11 to VR10, with 7 players.

 

Before i go, though- what’s your opinion on this? Is it easier or harder to form a small guild with strong bonds nowadays? How would you go about it- any tipps to share?