The Guild Counsel Finding a guild with offpeak playtimes
One of the things that always makes me grumpy about MMOs is the number of game-imposed barriers to players doing things together. Levels, gear, skill points, group and raid caps, and prerequisites are just a handful of common game designs that make it hard to be social. MMOs are getting a little better at removing those hurdles, but one they can't address is the reality of conflicting playtimes. Everyone has real life responsibilities, and that means we sometimes can't be online when our friends are.

For some players, this is a constant challenge because their work, school, or family responsibilities allow them to log in only during off-peak playtimes. Last week, Massively reader Barachiel1976 brought up this very topic, and it's actually surprisingly common. So in this week's Guild Counsel, let's look at a few options for players who want to be part of a guild but can't play during peak playtimes.

Off-peak obstacle

Here's the post from Barachiel1976, who writes:
Okay, forgive me for going off-topic, but I have a question for the people who follow this column.

I work a late 2nd shift, and as such, can't play in prime time. However, as I've lurked on various forums of the game I play, I've seen a few other people in similar straits. This makes me want to put together an "off-hours" guild of sorts.

This is my last resort. I've tried to find an existing guild, but none seem to exist on any server I'd wish to play on. I've tried joining superbig guilds that have members on at all hours. This gets me a little socialization, but all the "guild activities" are still scheduled prime-time, so I'm left out cold of things like raiding and ranked PvP.

The thing is, I've never tried to run a guild before. Heck, because of this job, I haven't been a reliable guild member myself in over five years. So I find myself looking at what seems like an insurmountable problem. Any advice or resources any of you can aim me at would be a great help.
For those who work late shifts, finding a guild can see like an impossible challenge. It's hard to join a guild and end up saying goodnight to all those about to log off just as you're getting started. And as the reader puts it, even large guilds that advertise players on at all hours still usually miss out on organized activities because the leadership is on for peak hours and has already logged off and wrapped up by the time the late-night crowd logs in. So guild life in a mega-guild for off-peak players is mainly reduced to pleasant chat and the odd group here and there if enough are on and interested.

It's noon somewhere

This favorite phrase of little old ladies trying to justify their morning mimosas could also become the mantra for off-peak players. You might feel left out because you can't join the "prime time" activities, but there's a good chance that there are at least a few guilds out there that are just getting warmed up as those "early birds" head to bed. I've been guilded with several late night players in the past; some were from as far away as Denmark, others were players who were deployed overseas, and some had work schedules that required them to work graveyard shifts part of the time. I ran my events on an East Coast schedule, and while some actually were able to attend, I knew it wasn't ideal for everyone. One member in particular was one of our most reliable healers, and an all-around great person, but even though he loved to raid with us, he could make only one night a week, and that just wasn't enough to scratch his itch.

He began to make friends with members of an Australian guild that raided a few hours after we ended our events, and that guild had a similar approach and atmosphere to ours. But even though he enjoyed raiding with them, he didn't want to leave our guild because he had many friends there and was still a very active participant in our guild despite his schedule. In the end, we worked it out so that he could raid with them and still stay with us. That took some understanding from the other guild, and there were some times when we ran into lockout issues on our raids, but we made the best of it, and overall, everyone ended up for the better.

Today, there are some MMOs that allow for multiple guild tags, which certainly makes the whole issue a little easier for members with unusual schedules. But even if you're in a game where you can carry only one tag, it's still possible to work things out so that you get both the enjoyment of guild bonding and the excitement of the endgame.

The Guild Counsel Finding a guild with offpeak playtimes
There is another

While the reader preferred not to leave for another server, which is understandable, it's worth considering a server that matches your normal playtimes. Not only will it be easier to find a guild with workable times for events, but the world itself will feel more alive too. In fact, if you're not yet ready to make the leap into guild life, you'll have a better chance at finding PUG events or guild events that invite guests so that you can still get a taste of endgame.

Build your own

There are two approaches if you do choose to build your own guild. One is to market your guild as a niche guild, meaning you are addressing a specific type of player on your server (in this case, the off-peak playtime). Niche guilds are actually more and more common, and there are plenty of players who are enthusiastically seeking guilds that are more tailor-made for their needs. Of course, adopting a more unusual guild image means your pool of potential recruits is smaller, making it harder to build up a roster. At the same time, you'll probably have a more patient group of members who are willing to stick it out even if it takes time to get up to speed simply because there aren't many other choices that are as good a fit as your guild. Chances are, members who join will appreciate your willingness to take a risk in forming a very specific guild, and that makes it easier to move forward with charting a course and filling out roles.

The other is to move to a server that matches your schedule and go with a more traditional guild, knowing that your off-peak playtime is the normal peak playtime for the bulk of players on the server. You'll have the luxury of being able to recruit from a larger pool of potential members, so building a roster might take less time. Of course, there's a good chance that you'll have many who are from across the pond or even further, depending on how off-peak your schedule is. Despite the occasional cultural or linguistic challenges, it can be a truly memorable experience. In addition, by choosing a server with your playtimes, not only will you have an easier time building the guild, but the world overall will feel more alive because most are playing when you are.

If you're mulling over whether you have what it takes to run a guild, our checklist might help you decide whether to give it a shot. Be sure to consult our handy guide on helpful tips when building your guild, as well as what players you'll want to recruit and three common traps to avoid. And if you're afraid it will feel too much like a job, check out these tips on making it easier on yourself.

If you're someone who tends to have an unusual schedule, take heart in the fact that there are lots of players who are in the same boat as you, even if it doesn't feel like it. And while it might take a little legwork to find them, it's definitely worth pursuing.

Thanks again to reader Barachiel1976 for the great topic!

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.

This article was originally published on Massively.