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The Guild Counsel: Dealing with the downtime

Karen Bryan

Yep, get used to the image above, SOE fans, because it looks like we'll be staring at that for at least a couple more days, and that's the best case scenario. Many who are currently investing time and effort in an SOE MMO are probably making fists of fury at the screen and speed-dialing Customer Service. And with each passing day, the list of payback demands gets longer and longer.

Is there anything a guild leader can do to make things better? Obviously you can't get in there and root out the source of the attack, but there are a few steps you can take to make your life, as well as your guildmates' lives, less painful during this unexpected and lengthy outage. Read on for this week's Guild Counsel's suggestions on how to cope!

Get the word out

As usual, many people play MMOs, but few regularly read message boards. By serving as a relay of important information, you not only can help clear up confusion in your guild but might even save CS a few phone calls. Members will have lots of questions, and while you might not have all the answers, the fact that you're initiating conversation is helpful. There's even a good chance that other members will have information that you might not know.

Use your information hub

Most guilds have forums, but even if you don't, try to keep communication going through some central hub. Whether it's your guild site, a facebook group page, twitter, voice chat, or even an email chain, it really helps to have somewhere for guildmates to communicate during the downtime.

This is especially important for multi-game guilds. Chances are you'll have members who no longer play SOE games and might not have an active subscription but will still need to get important information on how to secure their accounts and protect themselves. Try to use your leadership chain to pass along important information, and make sure to announce it multiple times. It's amazing how many people will miss a message, even when they're online to hear it.

Use the break to your advantage

Believe it or not, this could be a blessing in disguise. A forced pause in gameplay allows you as a guildleader to step back and review the state of your guild. Take advantage of the time offline to analyze your recent progress as well as the viability of your future goals. This could also be a great time for a little "state of the guild" message, since it will keep people thinking about the game and get them eager to return and hit the ground running.

Chalk talk

The time offline can also be used to do some extra brushing up on strategies, class tips, raid mechanics, and all other types of chalk talk. You can use the extra downtime to read up on raid tips, review parse data, watch some of your fraps videos of recent guild raids, or maybe even fire off some emails to members whom you meant to chat with about tweaks to their characters. Everyone will be in the same boat, and being able to focus on self-improvement and guild improvement overall, without the distractions of the game, can be a big benefit.

Paint it as R&R

I've written about this before: The nature of MMOs is terribly conducive to burnout, simply because there's no chance for any downtime or closure. It's something that I'll always feel is a major design flaw in MMOs. So in this case, while the outage isn't exactly great news, it does give the guild a little break and a chance to catch its breath. Many members will feel like the downtime is a punishment, but it can actually be a refreshing break that some might not even realize they need. The more positive a spin you can put on it, the easier it will be for everyone to get through it and return on a high note.

Play together somewhere else

Yep, I'm going to share yet another "back in they day" story. In EverQuest, I remember many a night when the servers would crash and we'd flood our guild site's chat room to kill time and wait things out. Even World of Warcraft had a few outages in the early days. But "back in the day," we didn't have lots of other MMO choices, and of those, none was free-to-play. Not only did we not want to shell out cash to try another MMO, but we were mad as heck at the fact that we weren't getting the full service for our $9.99 a month! We worked hard to get on dial-up and level up our characters! It was an absolute outrage!

Fortunately today, there are many other great MMOs out there, and several are free-to-play. Chances are, by the time you hit the velvet rope, everything will be back online again and you can resume your regularly scheduled MMO. So if you haven't played the field much, consider using the downtime to test out a little Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons and Dragons Online. Maybe switch gears completely and have the guild do the EVE Online trial or try out World of Tanks. There are so many choices, and so many quality MMOs out there, that it's hard to stay inactive that long.

Take up a hobby and share it with the guild

I always joke on raids that when we call for an AFK break, I mean a minute or two -- people are not allowed to break out the crock pots! Well, with this outage, my guildmates finally have the chance to break out those crock pots and slow cook something tasty. In fact, the time away from a game gives people a chance to try their hands at something new. Maybe your main healer will decide to start up knitting. Your top DPSer might plant a Chia Pet. Your tough-as-nails tank might try a few zumba classes. It can actually be a funny bonding experience to see what sorts of hobbies guildmembers choose to start up in the absence of gaming. The wilder the better!

If nothing else, take heart in the fact that years from now, you can say you were there when the lights went out at SOE. And 10 or 15 years from now, if we see a sudden rise in the younger gaming population, we'll know why!

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.

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