This week’s question comes to us from Das Tal developer Alexander Zacherl, who says his team is in the process of implementing a direct democracy scheme as the default model for guild leadership. But he acknowledges other models, like oligarchies and dictatorships, and wonders what most people actually do.
“How is your guild being governed? What do you believe is the greatest governance model for a successful MMO guild?”
I posed these questions to the Massively OP writers for this week’s Massively Overthinking.
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Oh, I love talking guilds! I haven’t been active in a guild for literally years (maybe two?) though. I’ve been member and officer in a few guilds (mostly oligarchies), and that seems to be the most common one that works. I know The Syndicate and some other big ones are dictatorships, but for all the PR they may get, I rarely feel their presence or contributions, even when I’m playing a game they’re active in. Big oligarchies like Goon Squad and The Older Gamers make a big impact on the communities they’re involved with, so I feel they’re preferable, even if it’s very easy for regular members to get lost in the shuffle (in my experience). I’ve been in a kind of communist oligarchy before (HUAH YEW!), and it wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough, particularly showing its strength during a long, drawn out civil war in Darkfall Online.
The guild I used to run was basically a republic where people voted in someone else to represent their interests, and that person would basically represent them in guild decisions. It was a small, multi-gaming guild, and each game guild was kind of its own state. It worked well enough when myself and the other guy chosen to run the whole operation could make time to deal with problems and run events. We got some press and dev recognition, and some folks started to recognize our name, but RL prevented the leaders from having any computer access for a bit, so certain reps smashed up the most active branch and there was nothing in game we could do to stop them.
While that set us back, it wasn’t the end. The end was the limited time we had to replace active reps and members, and this seems to be the downfall of many successful guilds. Running a guild is a job that doesn’t pay (unless everyone’s friends, but that’s rare in large, multi-gaming guilds that make MMOs feel alive to me). The model that best allows for recruitment, advancement, and maintaining member expectations is ultimately going to work the best for a guild that’s looking to succeed. It just depends on what “success” the guild is aiming for!
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): The best model is going to depend on the size of the guild, the goals of the guild, the core gameplay of the game, and the personalities of the people you’re collecting. What works for my guild right now, which is basically minimal organization, a near anarchy of equals, really, would never have worked for us when we were a hardcore PvP guild, a hardcore raiding guild, or a hardcore roleplaying guild, and we’ve done all three. I tend to think pseudo-dictatorships with strong officer crews work better for guilds with any sort of competitive purpose, be it raiding or PvP, but I also think those guilds rarely outlive their owners, rarely survive the game du jour. Democracies on the scale we’re talking about here, 30-100 people or so, can be easily guild-wrecked by a clique or two, so they’re not much better. I think my favorite style when my guild when running a large city was a more presidential style that incorporated membership voting, leader vetoes, and officer countervetoes on top of that. But even as I say that, I know how much work it all was, and I think nowadays I prefer simpler ways of sorting things out among friends. Guilds aren’t really governments, after all; they’re voluntary clubs, and you can literally leave at any time and seamlessly join one of thousands of others, so most of the draconian entities of the late ’90s and early ’00s are long gone, and good riddance.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): My WildStar/GW2/SWTOR guild has been around for a good long while and has a very structured leadership ladder. Each game has various officers (all elected) to cover PvP, roleplay, etc. as well as a senior officer. Then there’s the multi-game counsel, on which sits the senior officers and some other elected folks. At the head of that is our big chief, who is also elected. Obviously elections are really important here and are mandated by term limits. It isn’t perfect, but it does give everyone a shot at having a say and even becoming a leader if so desired.
Patreon Donor Veldan: I believe the greatest governance model for a succesful MMO guild is simply to have a single leader. A dictatorship, if you want. Of course, not all those who are willing to be a dictator are fit to lead a guild to greatness. There are many requirements for being a good leader. You need to be active and know what goes on in the guild, you need to be knowledgeable about the game in order to help guild members and steer the guild as a whole in the right direction, you need to have enough authority to make everyone listen to you (and, if necessary, obey you!), you have to keep everyone happy to prevent members from leaving the guild… and that’s far from everything.
I’ve seen it pulled off truly succesfully only once. That was in Aion, where a single guy transformed our low-ranked, badly equipped guild into one capable of capturing fortresses in the upper abyss. I remember the glorious moment when the first fortress showed our guild name on it. My ears still ring from the cheers coming in through my headphones. I also remember how fast the guild fell apart later on, after that single guy quit playing, and that’s the biggest downside of this model. While a dictatorship guild can quickly rise to great heights, it can fall apart even quicker. Still, I’m sure that if our Aion guild had been a democracy, or even an oligarchy, we would not have climbed as far as we did. That’s why I think that in the end, the dictatorship is still the best model for guild leadership.