Expansions can be extremely tumultuous times for guilds. It’s often very difficult to motivate members as one expansion closes, and subsequently ensure that you can push members into the new expansion. Tempers run a little shorter than usual, and people frequently have less patience for things. It’s certainly challenging to keep your guild running like the well oiled machine that you like to think it is.
This expansion leaves even more uncertainty than usual for a lot of guilds, with Blizzard equalizing 10 and 25 man raids. There are a lot of questions to be answered – and unfortunately most people don’t have answers to offer. Not because they don’t want to, but because they just don’t know. Nobody is sure how this change is going to affect current 25 man raiding guilds. There is a lot of speculation on the challenges that we may be faced with, but no concrete evidence yet.
However, we aren’t here today to talk (whine) about how hard it’s going to be to recruit, raid, recruit. What I would like to do is offer some insight on ways to survive an expansion. They aren’t guaranteed to work for you, but they are things that have been successful for us. So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty, shall we?
Make A Mission Statement
The first, and probably most important, thing that you should do is share with your guild what it is that you intend to do in the expansion. If you are a 25 man guild now, do you intend to continue to raid as a 25 man guild with the new expansion? Do you plan on swapping to 10s? If so, how are you going to pare your 25 man roster down to a 10 man roster?
Uncertainty tends to make many people nervous. As such, don’t leave your members blind, floundering, and uncertain! Let them know what your plans are, and how they are going to fit into those plans! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, you don’t need to be Keats, and you certainly don’t need to have every little detail worked out. A simple statement such as “It is our intention at this time to continue pursuing a 25 man progression path” is more than adequate and should go a long way.
Dealing With Changing “Mains”
I’m sure that everyone knows what I’m talking about! Those players that come to you and indicate that they are no longer satisfied raiding on their current main, and would like to re-evaluate who their “main” is for the coming expansion. Different guilds deal with this in different ways, and a lot of times the type of guild that you are trying to structure will dictate how you choose to deal with this dilemma.
For us, we try to be flexible and accommodating with these requests. First off, we very strongly believe in the players behind the class. Players have, and always will, be a priority to us. And the cold, hard truth of the matter is that if a player is unhappy, they aren’t likely going to continue as part of your raid team. Your leadership has a very difficult decision to make when these requests are made: either let the player swap, or risk losing a valuable member of your raid team.
We tend to be very open with the way we handle these types of requests as a new expansion approaches. Once the expansion is looming – we post a tread on our forums where members need to do one of four things: State they aren’t planning on playing the expansion, state that they are keeping their current main, state that they would like to stay on their main – but change the spec that they play, or place a request to change mains. We put a deadline on making your post – and by that time you need to have made a declaration. For this expansion, we asked people to make a decision no later than November 16, 2010. This does a few things for us, but most importantly it gives us time to fill gaps in our roster, and bring people into our team before Cataclysm launches.
Now, I know what you are thinking! How in the world do you decide who you let switch mains? Well, we add a qualifier, caveat sort of statement to this whole process. We let everyone know that while we will take all requests into consideration, we still have to plan for having a successful raid composition. We don’t over-recruit, and we don’t want to over-bloat any one class. That is to say that if we have 3 resto druids on our current roster, it is unlikely that we are going to add another.
Once everyone has made their declarations, we start forming our progression roster. We look at who is staying on their main, we look at who has asked to switch, and we look at the overall skill of the players who have asked to switch. After doing that – we then start making decisions and will make an official announcement with our progression roster.
Ideally you want to enter into a new expansion with a full raid roster ready to kick some ass. That means that you want to get as much of your recruiting done before Cataclysm launches as possible. This not only gives new recruits a chance to acclimate to your guild before everything becomes new and shiny, but it also gives you a chance to get to know your new members while you have free time to really dig in and understand them.
To facilitate this, we are currently accepting open applications through November 16, 2010 – and will review them simultaneously with our raid declarations. Don’t be shy about having open recruitment pre-expansion! Keep your applications on file, and tag those that look promising, this way when you do have a position open up after the expansion, you already have a number of good people to consider without having to open up recruitment!
Once we’ve set our raid roster and see where there are still gaps that couldn’t be filled by either current members or applicants, we will then open recruitment for specific positions that we need to fill (hint we are definitely looking for a solid ret pally applicant!).
Consider Building Communities – The Power of Friends and Family Members
Another thing that some guilds may want to consider when recruiting is the new guild leveling system.
Now, Monolith is currently sitting at ~490 members and somewhere around ~160ish accounts. We’ve actually had to remove inactive alts because earlier in the year we “broke” the guild by hitting over 500 members and being unable to utilize the guild interface for new members. Adding new players for us – just for the bump to guild leveling – isn’t something that we are going to do. That being said, a lot of guilds aren’t as large as we are and there may likely be some benefit to considering opening your guild up to an extended friends and family.
If you don’t currently have a friends and family (non-raider) rank, it’s something that I do strongly encourage you to do, and not only for the guild leveling perks. A lot of times current members of your guild have people that they really enjoy spending their off-time with, but just don’t have the time/skill/energy to commit to raiding and it’s a nice perk for your raiders to be able to be guilded with their friends. Additionally, Friends and Family members are frequently enormously valuable assets to your guild and shouldn’t be discounted. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve saved a raid night by inviting a friends and family member to join us for the evening. Or how many members have gotten to play with their friends on their alts in any number of raids, or even how many alts have gotten to participate in guild runs because friends and family members either organized or participated in off night raiding. It truly is a win/win situation for everybody.
But more importantly than that, Friends and Family members help to build a guild community. For some guild leaders, this may not be an important aspect, or something that you focus on. For me, however, the environments that I chose to play in, and the people who I chose to surround myself with, are one of the most important things in the game. And I absolutely love the fact that Monolith is a community within itself on our server.
Encourage Guild Groups!
This is now more important than ever with the new guild leveling system! Try and discourage using the LFD tool as much as possible while leveling and running those first dungeons. Really encourage your guild to run dungeons and do things as a guild. This will not only boost guild levels, but it will also build camaraderie between your members that helps to strengthen your guild – and subsequently the way you play together as a team.
We’ve asked our entire member base to consider both their main specs and their off spec when gearing, especially if they have tank and healing off specs to help get guild groups going. We’ve also considered tossing a bone to those that have tanking off specs, and having the guild bank assist them with some of the early crafted tank gear.
Not only that…but with the way the new dungeons are looking from the Beta reports, it’s going to be a risky experience trying to PuG your way to glory! You are more likely to have a guildmate respect that CC than a PuG. Oh – and if I don’t see a lot of Poly Monkey happening, I’m going to be highly disappointed!
Considering Changes and Gathering Feedback
No guild can say that they are 100% satisfied with every aspect of how their guild is managed. There is always room for improvement somewhere, and usually the best way to facilitate improvement is to effectuate a change. A new expansion is probably the best time to consider and implement those changes. However, I wouldn’t recommend blindly making changes without first getting some feedback from your guild.
The leadership in Monolith has been talking for awhile now about the direction that we’d like to see the guild move with Cataclsym, and some changes that we are considering to help us move in that direction. Once we narrowed down the key changes that we were considering – we presented them to the guild and asked for feedback on them, to see how the guild felt about it.
This does a number of things, but the most important one is that it lets you see if you are truly in sync with your guild as a whole, or if you’ve lost touch somewhere. We had some of our proposed changes (stricter performance standards, for example) that were pretty well received, and some (Fewer raid nights, but stricter attendance requirements) that weren’t as favored. Once we received the guild’s feedback we were able to decide which changes we want to put into place, which we want to put into a “wait and see” category, and which ones we want to can all together.
Setting Goals and Timelines
If your objective in the new expansion is to continue raiding, it’s fairly important to set goals for your members. Most people are goal driven, so things like timelines and deadlines really help keep people focused. In setting these goals, you will want to make sure you map out the intended progress path, and should consider setting goals for:
1) Reaching the Level Cap;
2) Gearing for Heroics;
3) Gearing for Raids;
4) The First Raid.
Making the decision on exactly when to set deadlines is where it gets a little bit tricky. It will be important to take a number of things into account, especially with the timing of this particular expansion releasing, and thus bridging over the holidays in what would be your normal first progression push.
Some key things to consider are:
1) The median age of your guild – do they have family that they are going to want to spend time with over the holidays?
2) How important are things like “server firsts” to your guild?
3) Are you progression focused or more casual?
For us, we think that family is extremely important. We didn’t want people to feel like they were obligated to choose WoW over their families during the holidays, or else fall behind. So we have taken a slightly more generous approach to our deadlines than we might have if the expansion had been released at a different time of the year. That being said, we’ve also indicated that we would frequently re-evaluate our timeline, and if need be will adjust it accordingly. Thus, if we have 25 people chomping at the bit to raid before our official first raid, we will likely schedule raid time earlier. This ended up being the case for WotLK.
Flexibility from both the leadership, and the members of the guild will be key! There will always be those who level significantly faster than other (like me, for example!) – and so for those people, consider putting together some 10 man raids to check things out while waiting for the rest of your progression team to get ready! I have frequently found that watching achievements fly and loot dropping in that first 10 man group of overachievers tends to really motivate those that are dragging a bit behind.
Throw Your Progression Team A Bone
If you have a healthy guild bank, considering providing a little bit extra to your progression team. After all, you are going to be getting “free” guild bank gold for every raid boss that you kill as your guild levels. That is in addition to your normal play on the auction house. Even if it isn’t much – sometimes doing things like tossing out 250 gold to help purchase Warm Weather Flying will go a long ways for a lot of people!
We are also considering having a big “pre-Cataclysm” party on December 6 in game. With contests and prizes! Why not send WotLK out with a bang?!
I think that Cataclysm has a lot of promise – I do think that this is going to be the expansion of the guild. I also think that it’s going to be very challenging for a lot of guilds. Having clear definitions of where you are going as a guild will only help on your journey! I wish everyone the best of luck come December 7, 2010. I know that I will be one of those eagerly awaiting my CE copy in the line outside of Game Stop at midnight…hopefully Deathwing won’t be flying overhead trying to torch me while I wait ;)
Is there something that your guild is doing that you think is really unique or wonderful for the expansion that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it!