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?

7 thoughts on “Growing a small social guild

  1. Shintar

    Personally I’m afraid that a small, social, casual guild is just a really hard sell. Whenever I’ve been a happy member of a small guild it was either because a) we were all really hardcore into the game, playing all the time, so someone was always on and we got to spend a lot of time together or b) because it used to be a bigger guild, people left, but those that remained were comfortable still hanging out together, even if we weren’t playing together as much.

    If I went into a game looking for a casual guild, I would look for one that’s fairly large, simply so that I could trial getting to know different people, playing with them and finding others with matching personalities and playtimes while in game. I mean, I applaud your dedication and efforts, but trying to find half a dozen people to be friends with and play with on occasion doesn’t seem like a lot of reward for a lengthy guild application process when you could achieve the same more “naturally” in game by just mingling. Maybe that’s just me. :/

    1. Mersault

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you found me over here 🙂 As a measure to prevent spam i activated moderation of comments by new users- but you’re approved now, so your upcoming comments will go through easily.

      On the topic- you’re right with everything you said. A small social guild is an incredibly hard sell, because actually, a lot of players, even casual ones, will share your point of view that it’s easier to just mingle in game and find a small subset of players they like to hang out with in a larger guild.

      I’ve been part of these kinds of guilds, though, and for me, as a player, they have a few downsides. For one, i find it much easier to organize a group via forums and make an appointment for a few days down the road to do something in a group. I can plan ahead then, free up the evening to dedicate a certain amount of time for the game and the group. I usually don’t mingle very well, because i find it more hassle to go ingame and ask for help/other players willing to group up. I can’t plan ahead this way- neither in- nor out of game. I’ve also found that, as a casual player- and i’m talking 10-15 hours/week here and not being at level cap, it’s quite difficult to get in contact with other players in a larger guild- usually, there are already cliques set up, there already is a core membership who are used to playing together, probably hanging out on voice chat.

      In my experience, Guild Chat is very quiet and the maxlevel-players usually don’t really bother themselves with level-independent activities. When/if i did organize something, reception is usually quite good- in the forums. When the day arrives, i’ve often found myself the only one to log in, sometimes joined by 2 or 3 other players- but they were always the same people and they’re in our small guild now. In a community having 900 members in the forums, i think that’s a bit low.

      So even the casual, larger social guilds seemed to be not a good fit for me. I’m still slower, playing less and in a different way than most of its members. That’s where our new guild comes in- we don’t care if someone doesn’t play for a week or two- there’s no need to tell us that you’re on vacation for the next couple of weeks, because we won’t kick you out for that. We simply look if you’ve been logged into the forums during the last three months. This means, however, that we look a bit more closely at who might fit our culture. But honestly, the application process isn’t lengthy, at all. It’s a few questions in a form with very few free-text entries. You can fill it out in 5 minutes- which is much quicker than the applications i wrote in text-form in guild forums.

      But i’ve also thought about doing things in a very different way. The other concept i’ve been mulling over in my mind is the “easy guild” with virtually no out-of-game methods of communication. No forums, no voice chat, just ingame (and maybe skype/twitter/something else, but without anything owned by the guild). Take in whoever wants to join and kick only if behaviour went bad.

      Anyway, i’m quite optimistic- it’ll take time, for sure, but for now i still believe that in two, three years, we’ll have built up a fine community. Maybe we’ll need to change some things up, maybe we’ll need to open a presence in a newer game to garner a bit more interest, but i’m pretty sure we can get there.

  2. ironweakness

    Watching you start this guild and continue persevering to the point you are currently at has been really enjoyable; I’m eager to see how your community continues to grow and develop and where it ends up. I think long term this kind of close community but without a lot of pressure to stay bleeding edge with content would work well for me too, but finding one is a challenge and like Shintar noted, it’s easier to start with a big guild and organically work your way into a smaller subgroup. That said you seem to be making it work and I think it will continue to grow.

    Personally, I’ve found grouping and guilding to be a complete challenge for me lately regardless of what I’m looking for in a guild. It’s hard to fit in with preexisting groups and I don’t like asking for help or assistance because I don’t want to bother someone else’s gametime. I also overthink the whole situation and worry too much about being a bother and so I end up playing solo almost exclusively these days. It’s funny, for some people the internet makes being social easier for them but for me it is just as difficult if not more so for me to create new relationships because I feel the same pressures online that I do offline. I’m three months into The Secret World and I haven’t even really tried to find a guild. I did try with WildStar last fall to mixed success but that was the last time I tried to really participate with a guild.

    I’ve actually been thinking about writing a post about how the Twitter and Massively OP community are basically my guild these days. Sure, many of us play are own games and rarely if ever together but the shared experience of gaming in MMO worlds is similar to a guild or at least to guild chat. And while on the one hand I do miss having regular people to play with, on the other I know my window for playing is very narrow compared to a lot of people and it just never seems to line up with the members in the guilds I have joined but with Twitter and MOP being a truly persistent universe, it’s the easiest way to continually yet casually interact with likeminded individuals.

  3. Faeldray

    I think that forming a smaller, casual guild would be harder because a lot of people want to hang around in a guild where a bunch of people are always online. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get some people who are interested though. I know I’m the sort of person who would definitely go for something like that. I stay away from big guilds because so many people is just overwhelming for me. And by being casual like you described, there’s not so much pressure to log in every day just to show my face, since it’s unlikely that I’ll ever dedicate myself to a single MMO again. So while you might not get hordes of applicants knocking down your door, I imagine you’ll find more people who fit better personality-wise with your group. Quality over quantity. 🙂

    1. Mersault

      “Quality over Quantity”- that’s what one of us is always saying, as well. In the beginning, i thought that multile games could be a problem in a small, casual guild- after all, if every one of us plays 2-3 nights a week and spreads these nights across 2 or 3 games, the likelyhood of seeing somebody else online would be close to zero. In the end, it worked out fine: for some reason, all active players are happy in Elder Scrolls Online (and it’s only three we recruited specifically for that game).

      The most surprising thing for me was how easy-going everything is. As a member of other guilds and especially as member of guild leaderships, i’ve always found myself under (self-imposed) pressure to log in as often as i could. The thought of mingling ingame does that to me, for instance- and sometimes i wouldn’t want to log in for 5-30 minutes, for whatever reason, so more often than not, being a new member in a guild somehow lead to me not logging in at all. It’s completely different in our guild, though- nobody wants me to log in every day and i can contribute to guild life in other, more fitting. ways

  4. everskies

    I only just restarted playing ESO and by browsing the official forums for a nice small social guild I found Zharyon which eventually lead me to this blog. 😉 I like the concept of your guild / community a lot but I haven’t quite decided yet if I really want to be part of a guild in this game. The ambience in ESO is so single-player-ish, I don’t know if I want to see a guild chat popping up while I’m immersing into Tamriel … But if I should want to read green writing, at least now I know where I’d like to apply. 🙂

    Concerning your questions, I think it’s probably indeed harder these days to find people who play the same game for several years in a row. Its only April but I already hopped from Wildstar to SWTOR to ESO this year. And maybe next month I’ll return to Wildstar to finish my Tardis (I Love Wildstar housing) then take a look into Legion when it’s released or finally finish the Sith Warrior story quest in SWTOR and in the summer maybe I’ll take a holiday in ESO to just relax and immerse. One of the reasons why I hesitate to apply to a guild these days is that I don’t want to disappoint people when I switch to another game. And also I don’t want to be disappointed myself when others do the same.

    In every guild I’ve been part of during the last 10 years there were some very nice people that I’d really like to have around in every other game I play. And in a perfect gamers world I could stay in touch with them via a small community during the times when we’d play different games or even hop into another game together. Big gaming communities are too impersonal for my liking or maybe I’m just too shy for them. So a small circle of people with a similar taste in games, yes I think that would be a good thing to have.

    1. Mersault

      Ha nice! Also, i hadn’t yet mentioned the guild’s name here, so kudos. Glad you liked what you saw. I’m sure you know it is a German Guild (just making sure), everything else shouldn’t be much of a Problem really. As we don’t really care for ingame logins- showing you’re alive and part of the Community is enough. We’re still built around the community more than around a specific game. Even if we are only playing ESO together right now.
      So…if you feel like it, just fill out the form.

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