In my opinion, it is Blizzard's biggest failure when it comes to WoW: the Gap. The Gap between the last major content patch of an expansion and the next expansion is always far too long. The Gap is always extremely difficult for guilds. The Gap kills momentum and morale. The Gap disintegrates rosters.
Why does it happen every single time? Honestly, I have no idea. The Gap bores and disappoints everyone, but at least we're used to it. We don't like it, but we expect it.
However, if your guild has never faced it before, like the one in the email below, it can cause something of a panic.
I'm not an officer in my guild or anything, I'm just one of the players that's been around since Burning Crusade. It's a long time to have a guild running, but we're running into some issues and I'm not sure how to handle them, so I thought maybe you'd have some advice. Our guild is a progression raiding guild, but we don't work super hard at world firsts or anything like that -- we take our time and clear the content with the goal of clearing it before the next tier and the next expansion comes out. In Burning Crusade, we managed to clear Sunwell just before Wrath launched. In Wrath, we managed to just squeak in a heroic Lich King kill before Cataclysm came out. Sounds good, right? Well ... now we've run into a problem, and it's causing the guild a little strife.
We've cleared heroic Dragon Soul already. We've had it cleared and on farm for well over a month now.
This is the first time ever that we've cleared all current content before the next expansion comes out ... and now we're struggling to keep people around and interested. It wasn't a problem in prior expansions, because we jumped immediately from one xpac to the next. But we're trying to keep raiding alive and interesting, which is hard to do when you've got heroic Dragon Soul on a one-day farm. So we'll have people that show up to raid on Tuesdays and clear Dragon Soul, and then they won't bother showing up for the other nights. My guild leader/raid leader has ... cut our three times a week schedule down to two days a week, but ... all it seems to have done is encourage people to just show up for one night and take the rest of the week off.
So my guild leader is mass recruiting, which solves the problem of filling raids, but it also means we may have a glut of new people when Mists finally rolls out ... Right now, our second day is spent just clearing achievements we didn't get from the prior raid tiers, but that can only hold interest for so long -- eventually, everyone in the guild is going to have all the achievements. What are we supposed to do then? ...
Deathwing's Dead and I'm Bored
Hi, DDAIB. As you can guess, many of us are in the same boat. Mists doesn't even have a release date to let us know when the current Gap will end. As a non-officer, you don't have much control over what your guild does or doesn't do during this time. However, you can talk to your officers about the situation -- and hopefully point them to this column!
I actually wrote a column about this lull during the last Gap between Wrath and Cataclysm. It has some recruiting advice and strategies for managing the lack of content.
Communication is the best solution
Reading over that column again, I think the most important piece of advice that I gave is to communicate with your players. Talk about how this decline in raiding is expected. It's an unfortunate but (apparently) unavoidable part of the expansion cycle. Reassure your members that the guild will carry on no matter what.
Then, find out what your players actually want to do during the Gap. Don't force people to do things. If people want to simply take a break from raiding, then let them. It will help prevent burnout later. Scale back your events to suit the desire of the majority.
At the very least, however, try to offer one optional raid per week. Let the participants vote on what they want to run, whether it's Dragon Soul for gear or older raids for achievements and transmog items. Even if you just bring alts into a Raid Finder run together or tackle some rated Battlegrounds, do something as a guild.
If people are willing to gquit because they just have to raid three nights per week, then so be it. At this point, you're more likely to lose people by forcing them to raid than by forcing them not to raid.
When attendance drops drastically, the temptation is to recruit until you're back to a comfortable raider surplus. However, I think there are some rather large drawbacks here. One, you've already pointed out: You'll have too many raiders once everyone gets back into the groove after the Mists release. Then, who gets slot priority, the trusted raiders who took a break or the fresh new recruits who haven't had a chance to prove their loyalty? It's a conundrum.
The other problem is that some of these new recruits may be less skilled than the people they're replacing or they may simply rub some of your raiders the wrong way. With each new person you bring in, you're giving your raiders another excuse not to participate.
Like most aspects of the Gap, it's a situation where officers simply can't win. No matter what you do, someone will be unhappy about it.
Talk about Mists
A key to your communication strategy should be to keep people looking ahead. Explain your guild's plan for Mists to get people excited about the new expansion. Talk about what classes/specs people want to play. For the members who plan to switch, that may keep them interested by leveling/gearing up alts or learning off specs.
More importantly, it lets your raiders know that just because you may be scaling back on raiding now, that doesn't mean you aren't planning to hit Mists hard once people reach 90. Discuss the new bosses on your forums as they're tested. Better yet, get people into the beta and test them yourself. Do your best to get people excited about all the challenges your guild will face in the next expansion.
Whatever you do, don't let the Gap psych you out. When Mists hits live realms, you'll all forget this disappointing time in WoW's history. Unfortunately, if history is any indicator, so will Blizzard ...
Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.