Hyperspace Beacon: Outside-the-box features to look for in a SWTOR guild (or any MMO guild)

On my server in Star Wars: The Old Republic, there are more guild advertisements than chatter in the general channel on the starter planets and fleet. This can quickly become overwhelming to those who don’t know what to look for. I have actually seen these advertisements turn people away from joining a guild altogether. The SWTOR population has also fluctuated quite a bit, so it’s difficult to find a guild that is active and has been in the game for an extended period of time. In other words, general chat is flooded with advertisements for guilds that aren’t very old. In fact, there are many who advertise needing a person or two to help start a guild.

If you are returning to SWTOR or maybe jumping in for the very first time, you are going to want to find a good guild. It’s possible to play the game without interaction with other people, but you will not really get the full experience until you join up to play the game with like-minded individuals.

My advice on finding a guild will avoid some of the obvious questions: Are they friendly, do they have regular events, and do they fit your playstyle? Instead, I would like to focus on the questions that are a little outside-the-box but are just as important if you want to find a guild that actually makes you want to stay in the game instead of flee it.

Is there a strong second-in-command?

I’ve often been a part of guilds where there is one guy or gal who is the go-to person for everything. There is a common thread even among the officers of some guilds where they feel they have to defer to the guild leader to answer questions or get permission to do something. However, to be an effective leader of a guild, a GM has to be a leader of leaders. If the guild leader does not or cannot impart the vision of the guild onto the officers or at very least a strong second-in-command, then there is no way the other guild members are going to grasp what’s happening either.

Another side effect of a guild not having a strong second is leadership burnout. A guild leader who takes on everything will quickly lose interest because of the overwhelming responsibility of handling other players’ fun. It can even be tough for two people, but if a guild leader doesn’t have at least one person in his or her support system, then there is no way the guild will last very long. And that will quickly become a burden for the leader and everyone else in the guild as well.

Does the guild focus on more than one kind of activity?

I believe that every guild needs to have focus, and hopefully, that focus appeals to your playstyle. I don’t think that I have to tell you that if you are a roleplayer, you should find a roleplay guild, or if you’re a raider, you need to find a guild that does operations. But in many cases, that is what the guild does on “event night,” and if that is all the guild does, then much of the guild will log in on event night – and then not log in again until the next event. So ask them: What do they do between events?

It’s possible that a guild will build on a theme. For instance, if it is a raiding guild, there might be a couple of serious raiding nights and a couple of other nights with different raiding themes. (A fun thing that I’ve seen is when people were required to take a drink every time the group wiped or a member said a certain common word.) Don’t expect guilds to hit all the major activities in an MMORPG, but do expect them to do more than one thing.

Is there an application or interview process?

Some guilds like to do this in game; some like to have a website that is used to filter members. However guilds do it, it doesn’t really matter; what is important is that they have some way to vet their membership. Of course, the vetting process is more important in some guilds over others. Regardless, it’s important that everyone in the guild has an opportunity to make sure that the guild is a good fit for them.

The interview process is a great place to ask questions and to find out if the guild matches your expectations. Perhaps the guild requires that its members participate in one activity or another, or maybe it’s a roleplay guild and requires a character sheet. The interview or application process is the time to find out that information.

Does it use Discord?

Personally, I think it’s important for every guild to have some form of communication outside of the game, and I’d argue that right now, more than forums, more than a website, and more than any other VOIP program, Discord provides the best place for that communication. No, this is not a Discord sponsored article, but I do believe that right now, this service provides a better communication platform than a website or a strict VOIP program like Mumble can. It doesn’t matter whether you use the optional voice service or not; what’s critical is that a guild has a robust, yet accessible, way to communicate with its members when they are not in game. Right now, I can’t think of a better way of doing it than Discord.

What is the activity like?

Lastly, the guild has to be active, but let’s be honest, it’s more than that. There are guilds that have members on almost 24 hours a day, but if they don’t communicate with each other, then is it really active? I mentioned VOIP before: If the guild is inactive in guild chat but is constantly talking in Discord, maybe that’s not a good fit for you if you’re not a VOIP person. Maybe the guild is only active between 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. and you work at 6 a.m. That’s clearly not a good fit for you. Are people active only when the guild leader is active? That’s not necessarily a good sign either. The bottom line is that it’s not important how much the guild is active but rather how it is active and when.

Ultimately, you and the guild need to be a good fit, and any good guild leader will understand that. If the guild leader attempts to guilt you into staying in a guild that is clearly not good for you, then you should definitely leave. A good guild leader will understand that a guild and its members should have a mutually beneficial relationship, and you should find a place that makes you happy as much as they should be happy with you.

If you have any other outside-the-box advice for finding a guild that fits you, I’d like to read it in the comments below. You can also check out our Guild Chat column for more advice on MMORPG guilds from our guild columnist Tina! I will see you next week.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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My first weapon of choice is just logging in, doing “my normal thing” and noticing by osmosis the common guild names I see. Chances are if I notice a guild tag in my peripheral vision often enough, they are one of the guilds I should be thinking to join.

My second weapon of choice is the “/who” command. (or the “who” tab on the social/friends panel.

If am at a state where I’m looking for a raiding guild, I’ll log into the game on days when I might consider raiding, then wait about a hour after I’d consider my ideal raid start time. Then I go to the “WHO” social panel and search “70-70” to see if I can figure out the names of the zones that raids are happening in. Then I’ll do “70-70 {Zone Name}” search to figure out which guilds are raiding right now and make a note of the names. Do that on a few different nights and you get a feel for which guilds are actively raiding (if that’s your thing) and follow up accordingly.

Ofc, not all activities are so easy to figure out using WHO. But I’ve always found it handy for finding raiding guilds, especially large raiding guilds.

The other way I use it is to do search “fleet 60-70” or something like “fleet 70-70 sentinel” or “fleet 70-70 guardian” or something similar. It’s far from perfect. But it’s a semi good way to find “large” guilds. If there are 6 max level sentinels stood on fleet at 6pm, chances are it’s a big guild. Sadly /who was flawed at launch and nobody ever put much effort into improving it. If memory serves, it will only return a maximum list of 100. And it gets really confused if you search for things like “guardian” and there’s someone logged into from a guild with guardian in it’s name. Same issues when searching by planets/zones. And it hates trying to search for guild names with spaces in them.
“60-70” is a way of searching only character level 60 to 70. It can be anything like 11-30, etc.

My third weapon is the /ginvite process. If it’s “whisper someone and get an immediate invite”, chances are that’s not the guild for me. Though there have been exceptions over the years. Though in fairness, this last one says more about me and my goals when playing than it does about the guilds in question.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
The Weeb formerly known as Sray

Great article, Larry. Most of this stuff really ought to just be “well, d’uh” type things, but I think many of us don’t stop and think about it, particularly the strong second in command point.

The best guild I ever had was in DCUO, where the leader was more of an administrator position and the day to day guild was run by five to eight officers who all had full leadership privileges (except disbanding the guild) and who ran guild events constantly (it was almost impossible for someone to log in and not get a “hey, come join us doing this alert/PvP/raid”). The leader was only on about 3 or 4 nights a week, but he was the one who took care of “the paperwork” and was the final voice (if needed) on any of the rare disciplinary/drama issues that arose. It was great having such a distributed leadership network because not only was there almost always a leader around to take care of all but the rarest of issues, and no one person had the full weight of keeping it all together on their shoulders. That guild is still together to this day after having been in the game for almost eight years at this point; it’s still the same leader, and many of the same officers as well: clearly they’re doing something right.