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The Guild Counsel: Pre-launch pitfalls

Karen Bryan

There's nothing more enticing than that new car smell of a soon-to-be-released MMO. And it's no surprise that many players make the decision to either bring their guilds over or build a new one from the ground up. It's exciting, but forming a pre-launch guild comes with plenty of potential hazards, and all too often, those months before the game goes live are the best and happiest months of a guild's life.

In this week's Guild Counsel, let's look at some dos and don'ts when it comes to building a pre-launch guild... and hopefully keep the good times rolling long past launch day.

I love this game! Invite me!

One of the biggest dangers in creating a pre-launch guild is not screening applicants properly. The most important thing when managing a guild is that you make sure that everyone in your guild matches your philosophy, schedule, and playstyle. But it's nearly impossible to do that without a live game. What tends to happen is that people come together based on mutual enthusiasm for the game -- a fan club, so to speak. Enthusiasm, however, is not nearly enough to effectively screen applicants. Once the game launches, players begin to branch off and do their own things, causing drama and leading to a fracture of the guild.

If you want a community of fans, start up a site, but don't make any promises of inviting until you're confident you can pinpoint the best matches for your guild when the game goes live.

Recruiting: What to say, what to say

There is an unbelievable number of guilds that put up recruitment posts before a game even launches. There's nothing wrong with getting a jumpstart on things, and in many cases, guilds are coming to a new game already having an established presence in their previous games of choice. But it's hard to form a recruitment post around a pre-launch game because there are too many variables that won't be known until after launch. It's better to keep your post brief and list only what's certain, such as playtimes, time zones, and whether you are casual or more hardcore. Feel free to add a history of other games you've played as a guild, but make sure not to recruit based just on that.

For established guilds, the time before a game launches is a good time to look over your charter, rules, and guild policies. It's probably too early to finalize things, but there might be areas that need tweaking based on the new game you're waiting to play.

Watch your numbers

Guild leaders always have an eye on their rosters. Guilds that grow too large risk falling under the weight of too many personalities, playstyles, and game goals. Guilds that are too small might end up frustrated at not being able to accomplish what they want to in game. But it's impossible to have an accurate feel for your roster numbers during the pre-launch wait. You have no way of knowing whether that rabid fan will lose interest in the game before it even begins. At the same time, don't accept too many potential members because the content might not be that friendly to multi-group parties. Also, your best chance of finding good members is during the first few months of a game, when everyone's just starting out and the pool of candidates is pretty full. It's often best to err on the side of caution and go with a roster that's a bit low, rather than too high.

Guild Wars 2 Charr
What are some things you can do during the wait?

Share information. Everyone's a fan, and gamers have all that offline time to spend digging for game information. This is where a forum is actually important, as it becomes the clearinghouse for news tidbits and details on things like pre-ordering, getting into beta, server choices, etc. Pooling your efforts helps everyone in the guild stay informed, and it helps keep people interested in the game during the wait for launch day.

Twenty-five Rangers and no one to heal

You'll have to address this at some point if your game has specific classes or roles. Who will be your tank? Who's going to heal? Who is the stealthy DPSer? Who prefers to sit back and range attack? Who is your jack-of-all-trades utility class? If everyone's a Jedi, will that hurt you when you're trying to group up or try your hand at endgame? It's worth having these conversations now, before everyone rolls a toon, rather than later on when someone has to reroll and start over.

Play something

If you have a pretty solid core of friends, keep the wheels greased by hanging out in another game to pass the time. It could be a choice from the growing field of free-to-play MMOs. It could be a MOBA (and be sure to check out Not So Massively for coverage and tips on a wide variety of games). Whatever you choose, be sure that everyone knows you're just there for the short term, and have fun with it. Even though the game and its mechanics might be vastly different from your planned home, you'll get some valuable practice working together and learning each other's playstyles and approaches.

The peaks and valleys

I've mentioned this before, but a large part of guild management, even during the pre-launch wait, is managing expectations. In fact, it's probably even more important with pre-launch guilds because you have to manage the high hopes and dreams that players bring with them as the game launches. Whether you're a progression guild or not, keep in mind that those first few weeks will bring a mix of excitement and disappointment, as reality sets in and people decide whether or not to stick with the game for the long haul. Expect attrition, don't let the disappointed players jar you from your plans, and focus on keeping those peaks and valleys leveled out.

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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