Massively Overthinking: The best government for an MMO guild

    
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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.

Then again, I like the king of the hill governance method. Everyone who wants to be in charge meets in PvP every week, and the sole survivor gets to rule for the next seven days with absolute, unchecked power.

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.

Your turn!

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VasDrakken
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VasDrakken

guild almost always have to be run by the people doing the work… my first experience with in game guilds was ashrons’ calls monarchies… they worked as long as the leader was but once they went on vacation, someone would try to take over the already established guild and make it theirs, usually with the intent to take it in a different direction. With those you could always simply switch to someone else in the change of command and the person trying to take over just looked silly. but usually people got bored with the game because life comes first and we were more individuals just hanging out in game.

Then you had later guilds that were run more like companies with an elected leader and that person chose people able to get the job done… you will note some of those guilds are still around. Mostly because one person had the charisma or je ne sais quoi to recruiter people who found friends in the guild. That is want makes a guild work, the friend part. Every guild I have been part of was fine until someone decided the guild’s image was more important than being a group of friends.

So your leadership could be anarchy if you figure out how to make mob rule work… likely all the way up until some one decides they are not special enough then you no longer have a guild but the broken remains of one. I hated being an officer in many guilds because helping other people in the guild was one thing but being expected to be on so often, being expected to burn thought content so you could help other players, being expected to deal with the drama of new players who join a guild because they want the name of being friendly so they can exploit other players, and have the guild blamed when they deleted the character after sending their loot to an alt.
I blame shadowbane for encouraging this behavior… The game was cool except a third of the player base only desire seem to be to farm noobs… those are the people that when they get into your leadership positions it does not mater what form you have unless their is no way to depose the people who founded the guild.

Your guild should simply have one ruler who can not be deposed, and ten officers who agree to start the guild. If there is ever a question, who started the guild they should have smiley faces next to their name or something, so even if they do nothing, then you know who started the guild in case people start buying accounts. I have seem more damage from guilds that did not have a web page with people real images on it so that if someone starts acting really weird you could verify yep that is who it has always been must being going through something weird. real life happens.

I watched a bunch of my friends get laid off at work, lose their accounts because they stopped paying the monthly sub and have their stuff stole to real money traders and the traders got to keep the stuff and get the players accounts banned… I saw a bunch of real money traders in final fantasy go from one guild to the next, trade over leadership kick out the people who payed for everything, and then demolish the houses and sell them for real money. They hit five different guilds where I knew the originally guild masters in person from conventions or just ran into them in real life. Funny thing is it did not happen until the game became popular again. They were all playstation players so might just be the trash talking kids from the xbox games growing up with out proper role models, they grew up with eron being sold out by a ceo of a corporation and taking the money and running to another country… wikipedia writing what ever they feel like as history… I don’t think the structure is as important as making sure the people running the guild are the same people who inspired you to want to be part of that guild.

I’ve got other examples but really it seems that guild should not outlive it guild master. If the group becomes dis-satisfied with the guild master then it really is a different group of people or someone stole the guild master account. A guild is a group of people who have a common purpose. The shared banks and houses those should be an extension of the guild master but then people will still want to steal that account to loot it. Smarter developers than me need to figure out a better system. 
    smarter is applied intelligence to a certain concept. solving that issue clearly would prove they are smarted every one else who has tried to solve the issue.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

Peregrine_Falcon Karl_Hungus 
….

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

paragonlostinspace Karl_Hungus ManastuUtakata 
American politics has replaced the Ringling Brothers Circus as the Greatest Show on Earth… and that’s not a compliment.

BloodEagle
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BloodEagle

BryanCo BloodEagle That is something we have always battled against. We have people that join us in a game and they really love the game and stick with it as possibly their only game. If/When the core of the guild moves to another, newer/shinier, game, I always attempt to find someone who is passionate and plans on staying to run that branch but it sadly has never worked for the long term. Many people are happy being in a guild but most do not want the responsibility of being in charge, which I understand. Because of this looking for a branch leader that will stick around and continue the legacy of your organization is its own hill to climb.

Since I cannot play every MMO all the time, members that are enjoying a game get left behind and lose touch. It is one of those many mistakes I mentioned in my first post and I have never figured a way to solve it….but there is always hope!

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

Peregrine_Falcon Karl_Hungus

Karl_Hungus
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Karl_Hungus

ManastuUtakata Karl_Hungus 
What is government though but the natural evolution of “survival in numbers” going all the way back to the dawn of civilization? Packs begot tribes begot villages and on and on it goes to what we have today, which will eventually lead to one world government of some kind. Guilds are a part of that evolutionary chain too. 
In gaming, guilds are in the early stages of that social development. That’s why for the most part we still see the dictatorial tribe leader set-up. Obviously as a guild, or tribe, increases in size, managing the affairs of the guild starts to become too much for one person so the guild leader then appoints people beneath them to oversee operations on their behalf. We call them guild officers. 
Some gaming guilds have also gotten so big that they’ve migrated to multiple games, creating guilds within their guilds, much like we see states and provinces within countries. These multi-game communities have infrastructures not unlike what we see in modern governing on local and federal levels. 
Where the guild system has traditionally been dictatorial, we’ve seen guilds circumvent that with their own charters making the process much more diplomatic. I’ve seen guilds change guild leaders regularly through an election process. It will be interesting to see how far guilds in Das Tal evolve now that some evolutionary stages will be removed by default. I would go so far as to even make disbanding the guild a diplomatic process so as to remove the fear of the guild leader turning out to be a sociopath who ninjas the guild bank before disbanding and transferring servers while everyone is sleeping.

Adri Cortesia
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Adri Cortesia

I think a leader and several “santas helper” with different duties are great. But this should not end in a dictatorship. Every member should be proactive and try to improve the guild as best as he could. But there has to be one person who is in authority. I don’t like hippie style guilds where everyone can do what he wants. This concept works great for us because we like each other and there is no rivalry.

Valcan321
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Valcan321

rverghes Oh dear god don’t say that. 99% of the people I meet who were “leaders” in the business world are idiots.

I can see it now…

“Yea hey bob! We uh here at the guild leadership have been looking at the data gathered from the dungeons and we have noticed that we are spending a huge amount on gold. So after a lot of discussion and research we have decided that the best way to do this is to cut back on our new membership and to get guys like you bob to take less hits. See easy fix!”

“But…I’m a Tank….that’s my job…?”

“Oh I’m sure. sure but if we are smart we can all get this done. AS A TEAM!”

carsont
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carsont

Benevolent President For Life. That’s me. It’s worked well for my guild over the many years of its existence. I think a guild needs to have a “mission” / “vision” / “promise” or whatever you want to call it that it delivers to its members. The leaders role is to ensure that this promise is delivered and remove barriers (usually people) that impede that vision.
Ours is an adults only (with humor to match) semi-casual raiding guild. That’s about it. Not everyone who is there is a raider, but everyone there is expected to contribute to the atmosphere of the guild (else why be there).
We have run community events, but I don’t know if we’re well known to the community, and we’re certainly not known to devs (why would that matter / we would we care?).
I have “advisors”, but I don’t like the idea of a structured leadership where one member is over another (I hate power tripping and the like, I try to have as flat a structure as possible). The advisors are really people I can just trust to handle logistics when I’m not about, or someone I can bounce ideas off of / discuss difficult topics with before I ultimately make the decision. It’s ultimately my responsibility on how successful (or not) the guild is, so I make the final calls.
It’s worked very well since our inception in BC, and it’s the model we’ll continue until we finally give up the ghost.
As for whether or not a democracy would work – I don’t know. I’ve never thought you could lead by committee (which isn’t necessarily the same thing, I know) – but what I DO know, is giving guilds more in game tools to manage themselves as they see fit is always a good thing :)

TimothyTierless
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TimothyTierless

I had a lot of success in SWG being the GM with a “jedi council” of my best 5-10 advisors. We didn’t vote so much as, over time, logic a decision over another. We did mess up big on one thing, but my hands were tied…imagine, an Imp guild merging with a Reb guild just to have a player city! Disgraceful! I’m still ashamed. Although I think the plan at the time was to convince all of them to go imp, and the ones that didn’t got booted while we politically took control of the town…yeah that sounds about right. Good times.