How does a guild shift gears and go from easygoing to endgame? Let's look at a few ways to make it work and avoid the growing pains in the process.
Use caution when recruiting
One of the fastest and easiest ways to make the jump to endgame is to recruit experienced players who are already familiar with it. That's also the fastest way to divide your guild and create neverending drama. What often happens is that the new members bring in a more hardcore philosophy, which means they don't have as much patience for casual members and slow results. Meanwhile, the more casual members resent the new, more hardcore players because those new members have upset the guild atmosphere and have pushed members into a playstyle that they didn't sign up for initially. If you do add in some veterans, make sure they are OK both with doing endgame at a more relaxed pace and with road bumps, especially initially.
Keep it casual
If you founded your guild with a casual philosophy, you can't deviate from that, even if you want to dive into endgame content. You can't start heaping requirements on members; it has to be something they choose to opt into. You also can't shift from a low-key atmosphere to one that's more in-your face and overly aggressive. Having said that, I think you can still ask members to put on their game face and keep a more focused seriousness during guild events. Guilds can keep a casual atmosphere when not running guild events and still transition to a more serious approach when participating in endgame. There's a perception that guilds need to be either casual or hardcore, but in fact it is possible to have a blend of both, even though it might be a little trickier to manage.
Shifting to a more endgame-focused approach is a delicate operation, and a guild leader should do everything she can to make it an inclusive transition. One of the potential problems is figuring out how to schedule events to create flexibility for as many members as possible. If you're a casual guild, chances are that your members won't be too thrilled with a lot of pressure to be online, especially if it conflicts with real-life plans. The guild leader should take into consideration the play times of current members and give plenty of advance notice so that members who want to participate can plan accordingly. I've met many members who play on a fixed schedule and have a set amount of hours each week that they limit themselves to. As a result, the advance notice gave them a chance to plan their online time accordingly and use their budget to participate in events with the guild.
Overplan and oversupply
If you do make the jump, cover your bases as much as possible. If there are consumables that help make endgame content more manageable, by all means, stock up and make sure members have a full supply. If there are good guides that provide information about what to expect, the leader should have a good enough handle on it to be able to communicate it to the rest of the guild. Take advantage of friends in hardcore guilds, who might even be willing to tag along on your first few runs to lend a hand and talk you through it. Mastering the endgame doesn't come overnight, and just as in sports, it takes practice before everyone on the team learns the ropes and learns how to function cohesively as a group. Until things really start clicking, take it slowly and use every tool at your disposal.
Who's with me?
The bottom line is that you need as many members as possible on board with the plan to switch gears and hit endgame. If you built your guild on a casual philosophy, you can't flip things around overnight. It has to be an inclusive process, and it has to be something that the guild as a whole is willing to do. It doesn't mean everyone has to participate, and in fact it's crucial to make attendance voluntary. The facets of your guild that attracted members need to remain in place, and the venture to endgame needs to complement that rather than conflict with it.
Endgame isn't all that
It's hard to dismiss the constant temptation to jump to a more hardcore philosophy that's focused on endgame. After all these years, it's an ingrained part of MMO culture, and it's almost an expectation that if you want to be a successful guild, you need to get into endgame content. Fortunately, I think that attitude is changing, and we're seeing a wider variety of guilds carving out their own unique philosophy on finding fun in an MMO. There are plenty of guilds that are goal-oriented and able to find challenges without needing to invest the large amounts of time often required in mastering the endgame. With a little creativity, a guild leader can find some great objectives for members to attempt and also stick to the casual atmosphere that attracted those members in the first place.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.