Guild mergers and acquisitions

It’s finally happened! I found the Goldilocks guild that compliments my guild perfectly. This last couple weeks have been exhausting both, looking for that merger candidate and recruiting players at the same time. After all this hard work and long hours spent on the non-game part of the game, we finally get to actually PLAY!

I found these guys by chance. After all the work I went through sorting through guilds on wowprogress.com and looking through logs and tracking down the guild leaders, I happened to see a guy shouting in game that they were looking for players. What stuck out to me was that their play times were very close to when we play.  By chance, we also had another long time player that joined these guys earlier in the expansion, so we had that mutual tie.

Within 10 minutes of taking to these guys I decided that I liked them and that they run their group similar to how we run ours. In under an hour we had all the leadership in agreement that we were going to give this a go.

We both decided that we had to go into this with a clear plan. We took our combined people and created our first raid group with basically an even split of players from each guild. Everyone involved in leadership worked fast to get this first group in place. Then we were off to the races!

Our first raid was on a Tuesday and I tried my best to take a step back and let the other guild leadership lead the group through the fight.   I talked less than normal and focused on my own performance as a player.  I felt a renewed vigor in myself and felt great.  I had more fun this night than any other night in the past 6 months in game.  I think we all felt this way.  Remember how I said that guild recruitment is like dating?  I think we found a keeper.

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

Each week my guild has been getting just a little bit better and a little bit bigger.  We has a large amount of interest in our guild the first few weeks that we were raiding in the new expansion.  I was talking to several people per day about how we run our group and what we expect of our members.  Some players I turned away, if they had never raided before or if they seemed to have a “my shhht don’t stink” type of attitude.  I wasn’t putting a whole lot of effort into seeking out recruits, they were mostly coming to me.  Things seem to be going in the right direction until a couple weeks ago when our steady stream of recruits seemed to dry up.  I went from talking to several people per day to talking to maybe 1 or 2 per week.

Last weekend I busted my butt to get our numbers up.  I had a goal of bring in 6 new people and ended up finding 8!  It was a lot of time and effort to get this many people but it would be worth it if we could just fill our raid group for both of our scheduled nights.  Tuesday started out well.  We got down the bosses that we killed in the previous weeks and moved on to start learning some new bosses.  We had exactly the number of people we needed to play but our group set up was far from ideal.  We were a healer short and melee heavy for 2 out of the 3 fights available for us to work on.  It was a rough 1 of progression but we got through it, which was more than can be said for the previous week.

Thursday was a different story.  Of the 8 people that I recruited the weekend before, only 2 showed up, 2 had work conflicts and the other 4 were just nowhere to be found.  We ended up running our heroic clear with less than clean execution.  We brought in a few friends of players that were just not great players and we were carrying them pretty hard.  I ended up sitting one of the friends due to poor performance and being dead the whole fight.  We also had one of our tanks leave in the middle of Thursday -_-  tanks should be the most reliable players in any raid group.  It’s such a coveted position, why risk it with absences?  I’m at a lose for which direction to go.

I’ve talked to a few different guilds about possible merger/collaboration but most seem to want to cherry pick our best players and leave the rest, and that’s not the direction that I want to move in.  If only I could get like 8 players that are here on our 2 nights that we have scheduled content…then we could move forward and work on some new bosses.

I keep telling myself baby steps will get us there, but it is super slow and I want to already be there.

A Tale of Two Guilds

I hadn’t been looking for a merger but one seemed to find me. Our guild was doing well making steady progress through the game, killing a few new bosses with each week that passed. My officer and I were hard at work tapping into a health pool of eager raiders. Since heroic raids both were cross-server and flexible in size. We were able to bring in player without too much investment. Many years ago a player could only play with a guild if they were all on the same server. This meant that in order to even get a shot at raiding you had to shell out $25 to move your character to a new server. Time have changed and the barriers that once kept us apart have evaporated…unless you want to do the hardest content. We are close to completing the heroic difficulty of Uldir which would mean we are ready to start those super hardcore mythic raids that only 1% of players experience. We want to get there but we have a logistics challenge – we need more players. Unlike the heroic version of Uldir which scales up and down between 10 and 30 players, the mythic raids are for 20 players and 20 players only. We are a bit short of the mark and my officer and I have been pounding the internet pavement looking for those perfect players for our guild.

When we started building up our roster I talked about how one way to get a big influx of players was to merge with another guild. Merging is a scary thing. You work hard to build up the type of community and culture that you want and if you look to combine forces with another group there are usually sacrifices that need to be made. One of the big questions that is usually at the forefront is “who will be the guild leader?” Back when my guild was struggling in Wildstar we looked to merge with another guild who wanted to retain absolute control and make me an officer. This was a deal breaker for us and something that the other guild was unwilling to compromise on so we ended up not merging.

We have in the past absorbed some struggling guilds and found these type of transactions benefit us greatly.

This merger was messy, as combining 2 groups usually is. There were some people pushed out and a few pushed up. The greatest circumstance that the leadership of the absorbed guild was that the day before we agreed to bring in the tank to trial, one of our current and I would consider him our “main” tank decided that he didn’t want to raid anymore. This left a vacuum in the tank positions that were then able to be filled by the two tanks from the merger.

Tanks are such a crucial position on a guild. Consider them the leaders in their own right. They control the big epic boss battles from start to finish. Ideally you want someone who can be there 100% of the time, can follow instructions and can communicate clearly both expected changes and changes that need to be made on the fly. There is a lot of coordination between tanks so having a pair that can work well together is also crucial. If you have two people that are forced to be partnered on a project and they dislike each other that will cause your guild nothing but problems.

Why Finding a Guild is like Dating

I am no stranger to recruiting players and have talked to dozens of people over the past month who are interested in what we have to offer.  We often chit chat a little bit.  We ask each other questions and get to know each other.  If I get any responses that are deal breakers I stop them right there and thank them for reaching out and let them know that this conversation isn’t going to go any further.  If we are on the same page during our initial conversation I invite the potential recruit to come play with us on a specific night.  I set the time, the place and tell them what to bring.  We see if it’s a good fit.

The world of building algorithms for matching us up with another person has gone from being a scary taboo corner of the internet, to the mainstream way to met people.  So why are we still relying on general boards and yelling in the middle of town to find people to play with in our guild?  It seems like our recruiting methods are 100 years behind.  We must rely on our voice being heard and someone noticing that we are looking for someone to fill a hole in our social group.  If only I could filter a long list of warlocks that are looking for a raid group and swipe right once I found someone who might be a good fit?

Tinder

Recruiting members for your guild is like courtship in the early 1800s where your best bet is to have some obscure connection to the person that you wish to pursue.   We spread the word that we are looking for someone and hope that against all odds that the perfect person will hear our call.

Once we start building a gaming relationship, it is much like dating.  We put on our best outfit (gear), spend hours thinking about what we are going to say and how best to impress our date(do crazy dps and try not to eff up).  We screw up(not on purpose) and make mistakes and show this person we want to impress that we are flawed human beings and see if that is enough to scare them away.  Sometimes both of us want a second date and more than a couple times I would end up waiting for my date to show up, just to figure out that they had blocked my phone number.

There were a couple of times that I decided that I didn’t want to continue building a relationship with someone because their personality did not mesh well with the rest of us.  Now those could have been messy breakups, but for the most part they were mature about the rejection and moved on to someone who would appreciate their unique personality.  I want to know about your experience making friends in games?  How did you meet?  What about them made them a good companion?

WoW BFA Recruitment

Now is the time to put on your recruiting boots!  The very beginning of any game or game expansion is a great time to recruit players for your guild.  There are lots of people that are coming to a game for the first time or returning after an extended absence.  This all means that they need a social group!

A couple weeks ago I talked about how we were in the beginning stages of recruiting for our guild.  Now that the expansion has launched we are starting to get a flood of potential recruits.  Last time I made a big push to recruit, I did so mostly by seeking out those players that posted to the general forums saying that they were looking for a guild.  I would send each of them a private message that was personalized to respond to what they were looking for.  While this proved very effective in a new game, this method was getting very little responses in WoW.  For one, we were a brand spankin new guild as far as anyone was concerned.  We didn’t have any wowprogress history or any impressive boss kill logs, so the serious players didn’t even consider us since they were getting lots of messages from already established guilds.

I was frustrated that all my hours of finding the perfect recruits were proving unfruitful.  So I made a change and rethought of how we could improve our headcount and be able to step foot into the new raids for BFA and hopefully reduce my load of administrative duties outside of game.  I mean, I wanted to play the game too!  I decided for my own sanity that I needed to cast a wider net and started to spend less time talking to applicants during the first week of the expansion and steering them to the community.

Communities are a new feature which allows you to join a new social group without leaving your current guild or having to pay for a server transfer.  I could see wow eventually making this THE new social experience in the future.  For those long time wow vets, a community is basically a custom chat channel with a member list interface.  I like this idea so much that instead of building up the “guild” we were using the community as our new “guild”  It was so easy to use.  Instead of a potential player having to wait to get an invite from someone, they can just enter a join code and instantly be connected with everyone else that’s online.

Getting people to talk to you is half the battle, and having them join a social group just gives us opportunity to introduce people to our group’s culture.  It takes a lot of work to join a new guild in any of these games, so if I can get them to play with us even just a little bit they may like that experience and want to hang around because of it.  Right now we are getting to know our potential raiders and just having fun.

Handling Criticism as a Guild Leader

Today one of my long time guildmates sent me a whisper.  He didn’t agree with how I was recruiting for our raid groups.  He felt that the players that were in our community were not well vetted, which is true, they are not since I have the link to join posted on public forums.  I’m not looking to create an exclusive club with a whole list of criteria from the get go.  I would find myself saying no to people all day and not growing our ranks.  What if I told a player “no” based on their lack of raiding experience and they ended up being amazing?  A good resume does not mean that the player is going to be great.  People lie all the time and tell us what we want to hear.

This type of criticism is not uncommon for a guild leader.  There is always people that want to tell you how to do things.  I have one time that stood out as a clear, what not to do to keep your guild alive and healthy:

It was the first couple weeks into Wildstar.  We had started strong and were currently sitting at the #5 rank for the entire world for boss kills.  One big problem was that the #1 guild was on our same server and provided extra pressure to catch up to them and surpass them.  This was because we wanted to be the best, and so did the majority of our guild members.

There was a lot of complaining about how we needed to change and improve or people would leave.  The loudest critics came to me and said, we need to do XYZ in order to succeed.  They offered to help, so I promoted them to officers so that they would have the authority to make the changes that they wanted.  Or maybe I promoted them to shut them up, or so they wouldn’t leave.  The later two were the wrong reasons.

So the loud critics didn’t make any changes and continued to complain and now when they were complaining, they were doing so with the Officer title.  OF course maybe part of this was because they realized how much work is involved with leading a successful guild.  The continued complaining created massive problems with moral for a large chunk of our members.

It all reached a boiling point when one of our long time officers sent me a message that they were done with all the stress of trying to be a leader in the guild and that they were going to join the #1 guild in the game.  When they left, so did 30% of our members.  We were a broken group that lacked the ability to complete the content that we were clearing just the day before.  All of the venomous talk of how bad everything really got in my head and stressed me out.  I didn’t even want to play the game anymore.  This experience had sucked all of the fun right out of it for me.

Cancerous members like these may have good intentions, but when they start stirring up crap with rumors and complaining all the time, it’s time for them to go.  You may end up losing a player or two in this process but most likely your guild will remain intact.  Don’t promote your biggest critics to officers in your guild.  If they already don’t agree with you, its more likely that they’ll work against you than with you in the future.

After the experience of trying to allow people to do more and help out and having it backfire so badly, I am leaning towards trusting my gut.  I’m not going to create a perfect place for everyone, its just not possible.  Since I’m doing the bulk of the work getting this thing off the ground my instincts tell me to just keep doing what I’m doing and know that I won’t be pleasing everyone and they’ll move on to green pastures.  The goal is to create a place where I’m still having fun and not burning out form all the stress of trying to please people.

WoW’s broken recruitment tools and how to fix it

World of Warcraft has an in game guild search/recruitment tool.  To use this tool you need to not be part of a guild.  Open the guild interface (default hotkey is “I”)  and you will be prompted to search for a guild.  Click the “Find a Guild” button and that will open up a basic search function.

Find Guild

What we are offered is a simplistic compartmentalizing of our potential new social groups.  We check the type of play that we are interested in, our availability and role.  Then we click the Browse Guilds button and are faced with a list of hundreds of guilds to sort through.  Honestly, who has time for that?

Browse Guilds

While this may be an adequate system for those not looking to get invested in their guild (or this game for that matter), this is not a great way to narrow down your pool of potential guilds.  I really hope Blizzard makes this a focus in the future since I know if I have a hard time finding a guild that fits how I like to play, I typically leave a game after a month or so.

Fix #1: Allow characters currently in a guild to use the recruitment tool.  If I’m browsing for a new guild, I’m not usually going to leave my current one before I have a new one lined up.  Compare this to job hunting.  Does everyone only look for a new job when they don’t currently have one?  Of course not.  That would be an absurd criteria to fulfill in order to interview for a new company (sorry we only are considering unemployed applicants), so why is being unguided a requirement to use the guild finder interface in our game?

Fix #2: Add more robust search criteria.  The search criteria is entirely too broad and on my server if I select one interest it narrows down my search to at least several hundred guilds to scroll through.  I would probably guess that most people that use this tool wind up not finding a great fit due to the large volume of guilds they have to spend time sorting through and end up finding a guild through other methods, be it the forums or the dozens of other sites that try to create a solution for this problem in the game.

  • Schedules:  Allow for guilds to put in their exact schedule via a drop down for each day of the week.  And also allow players to do the same with their availability.  For ease of use, include timezone so that players don’t need to try to figure out what time a guild plays in their own local time zone.
  • Search Key Words:  If you want a guild that is currently raiding or new player friendly that should be an option to search in this interface.  We shouldn’t be limited by 5 check boxes, the results end up being overwhelming to search through.
  • Location:  Allow a checkbox to include different realms, a specific realm or any realms and also the option to include different factions.  A lot of players are willing to pay blizzard to transfer a character.  Why not make it easy for them to do so!?

Fix #3: Allow players to be contacted by guilds. I see so many posts on the guild recruitment forums from players that say “this is what I’m looking for, post your guild info in the thread”. Wouldn’t it be a great option if a player can flag themselves in game as “looking for guild”?  In my experience a player doesn’t like doing a ton of work to play a game.  Make it easier for them!

Fix #4: Request to Talk…in addition to request to join  So many of us out there want to speak to someone who would be a future member.  I remember before joining my raiding guild in Cataclysm times, I spent over 2 hours chatting with the GM before I was extended an invite.  And while that was a bit excessive, I want to be able to say to recruits – “Hey! This is our plan for the guild, this is what we expect of you, and do you have any questions for me?”

  • Discussion Interface:  Attach a chat interface specific to each potential recruit tied to their request for more information.  Allow all of the officer rank members in guild to view these questions and respond to create a sort of chat log that can be checked on and responded too – even if the player is offline.

As a guild leader, I spend more time than I would like trying to find and communicate with potential recruits for my guild.  I would rather be spending my time actually playing the game instead of working extra hard due to having poor tools that are supposed to help me.  I spent 5 hours last weekend posting to player’s recruitment forum posts, adding their battle tags only to have none of them add me back and it felt like a whole lot of wasted time with no progress made towards finding people for my guild.

There are a lot of players out there that play MMOs and crave that social aspect of existing in a virtual world.  I know that this is very much a quality of life improvement but it is my belief that as WoWs player get older and as we have jobs, kids and other real life obligations in our life, we will gravitate towards games with systems that make the overwhelming task of finding people to play with less time consuming.  I know that I personally want to play games with cool people, help me find them!