Guild Chat: How do you deal with chronically inactive MMO guildies?


Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which I band together with the Massively Overpowered readership to solve the guild-related issues of readers in need. This submission comes in from reader Question, who has recently been having trouble with prospective guild members hogging attention and spots for extended periods of time without actually desiring to become a productive member of the guild. The problem for Question doesn’t lie in the fact that these people delay membership or never join at all, but is more to do with the guild resources that are wasted in training these members for spots they never take up, so he wishes to find a solution to more quickly identify these cases to prevent this waste.

Read on for Question’s full submission and my take on the matter, and don’t forget to leave your thoughts on the eternal-promise types in the comments.

My issue is this : I’ve been running a guild for several years. It’s had it’s fair share of ups and downs, but lately, we have been running into a problem where we accepted some new players who seemed pretty enthusiastic about the game and wanting to join a guild to do raids and stuff, only to discover later on that they were faking everything and had no intention of playing the game at all, or with the rest of the guild.

To give an example, I just removed someone from the guild who had been swearing up and down for over a month that he would start playing regularly on our server “soon” and that he was simply busy with “events on another server”. When he first joined, he seemed pretty normal, talked with everyone, did a few raids with the rest of the guild, etc. After a while, he stopped logging in, but told me on steam that he was busy with some event on another server, and he would be back after it was over.

The impression that I got was that he would be back in about two weeks, but after a month he was still nowhere to be seen, and was no longer replying to any of my messages in game or on steam. Today, he finally admitted that he never had any intention of playing on our serve at all, but refused to explain why he had spent so long crafting an elaborate lie and pretending that he would be playing with the guild. He then cut off all contact with us.

Another guy spent more than three months lying to me that he overdosed on medication, that he was suffering from depression, etc. but he loved the game and would login as soon as he was better. When I pointed out some inconsistencies in the stories he was telling me (like how he was playing Garry’s mod all the time when he was supposedly incredibly ill), he suddenly cut off all contact with me and hasn’t even logged into the game for three months.

Every guild has issues with people going inactive with no explanation, that’s to be expected. But people who waste the guild’s time by crafting elaborate lies to pretend they want to play the game, when they actually have no intention of doing so, is another thing entirely. A guild can easily remove inactives who have not logged in for months…it’s another thing if they are playing the sympathy card to waste your time or to entertain themselves.

Sure, you could remove them from the guild the moment it looks like someone is going to be inactive, but that makes you look like a heartless dictator and there are people who genuinely need to take a break from the game due to real life or other reasons. If you kick them instantly, they likely won’t come back when they are free to play again, they will join another guild instead.

How should a guild identify these time wasters and filter them out as quickly as possible? Nobody wants to waste time explaining class strategies and raid mechanics to someone who is never going to play the game, despite all their protestations to the contrary. At the same time, we don’t want to go overboard and kick people who are simply taking a break due to exams or other genuine issues. It can be difficult to tell if the stories are genuine or not, since we do not know them in real life and cannot actually confirm if they are really ill, busy with work, or something else.

The problem is that genuine cases look a lot like the fake ones

The immediate thing that stands out to me in your submission is your frustration at wasted months over people who you have had to put significant effort into that then turn out to be flaky, and I cannot tell you how many times I have been in the same position and have had this affect guild progression. Having said that, I have to point out that many of the symptoms you describe as markers of the faker — not able to tell the full story without alterations, making promises about commitment that are then never kept, and fixating on low-pressure scenarios outside of the guild instead of approaching the issue — are also signals of a person employing coping mechanisms to manage genuine mental health concerns.

Herein lies the problem: As you rightly point out, it is exceedingly difficult to then filter off those with genuine cause to break away for a period of time from those who are trying to gain access to your training and resources without ever committing to your guild. Many of the behaviours will be the mirrored between the genuine and not-so-genuine camps and treating all members as suspicious is obviously not an option, so what we must do as Guild Leaders is ensure our induction and ranking infrastructure is robust enough to protect from the worst of the drain the few fakers place on our guilds without punishing the majority of those who are genuinely in need of special consideration due to their personal circumstances.

Try reversing your induction order to front-load player effort instead of guild effort

The main thing we can do is allocate a set induction period for new players during which they are expected to log in regularly and engage in general guild activities and trials where relevant before ever being considered for raid training or other high-effort guild time sinks. I have implemented ranking systems to explain this to new players in larger guilds I have ran: All new players, regardless of why I recruited them, enter into an Initiate rank and an officer must sign them out of there and into the relevant successive rank whenever a basic induction period is completed. Should the player not successfully complete the induction, he or she remains at that rank and no further grouping and training options will be made available to them.

Combining this with successive training ranks for specific content types allows for both the justification for not training those who do not show the effort required to make it into those ranks and also provides a visible incentive for members to engage with that induction week and work their way up into training or raiding ranks. You might well recruit members who require no training; in these cases, modify your setup to keep members in the induction rank until they have successfully completed a set amount of raids with you to prove that ability before moving them into the raider rank.

Move players to an inactive rank and apply special rules to them

You might well have already implemented and explained a similar structure to the one above without much success: If this is so, it could be the case that you’re not as clear on how to handle inactive players in your guild, perhaps due to leaving this as a case by case decision you make, and so the system doesn’t have any resolution states that take you as the guild leader out of waiting limbo. Adding and correctly employing an inactive rank with special rules could help save your time and resources in dealing with these cases of people wasting guild time.

I would suggest removing any and all privileges from the active rank, including guild withdrawals, access to training and events, and the ability to hold raiding or other team spots. The goal of the inactive rank is not to have players remain there whenever they come back: You’ll want to decide whether that player can still hold his or her original rank or whether enough time has passed that the player in question would need to sit in the training rank again. Set a benchmark for that and stick to it: Should you set a cutoff for retraining that is, for example, anything more than two months of inactivity, the player who misses the cutoff needs to enter a training rank upon return.

The benefit of such a system means that players who initially impress but then wane off will eat up much less of your time since they will naturally oscillate between the inactive and training ranks unless effort to get back into the game comes from them. Treating everyone in the same way removes the emotive side of these decisions too: Members shouldn’t have to share such personal details with you if they don’t wish to, and likewise you don’t need to ask these things and open up the potential for tall tales to be added by the minority of fakers if the inactive system is applied evenly to all members regardless of absence reasons.

Have an action plan in place for seamlessly replacing inactives to reduce pressure

The last thing to mention in dealing with chronically inactive players and the strain it adds to your guild is that replacements should be added for anyone who is inactive for a set period of time so as not to halt guild progress. What that period of time should be is up to you since you’ll know what impact absences of certain lengths have on progression in your MMO of choice and guild type, but making this public knowledge means that no one expects a slot to be held open for them indefinitely if they provide a convincing enough reason. Such systems encourage those who are so predisposed to tell lies to gain the benefit of that falsehood, which is where you will run into problems with excuses you cannot (and largely should not since players are entitled to a private life away from the game) confirm.

This is most definitely a tough nut to crack, but removing your knowledge of the personal nature of guild absences as a factor in the decision of how to handle inactivity should be the answer you need. It discourages tall tales from the few who choose to exploit people in such a way while also making the members feel safe in taking genuine absences and receiving equal treatment without having to go into personal details or justify themselves. Good luck, and don’t be afraid to write back if this has sparked any implementation questions.

Over to you!

Have you ran into the same issue as Question has? Has anyone ever admitted telling tall tales to get special consideration in your guild, and if so how did you fix your systems to minimise the chance of it happening again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks to Question for this interesting submission. If you have a guild-related issue you’d like to see discussed, email me your submission for consideration.

MOP’s Tina Lauro is on-hand to deal with all of your guild-related questions, queries, and drama in Guild Chat. Whatever your guild issue, she’s sure to have a witty yet sympathetic response. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see dissected, drop Tina a comment or send an email to
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