As the leader of a small, casual guild in World of Warcraft, I have found it increasingly difficult to recruit following the introduction of the Dungeon Finder tool, however in past expansions we have always managed to somehow scrape our way through raids, calling on friends and PuGs to fill our numbers each week if necessary, and even experimenting with guild merges between ourselves and other guilds in similar situations. With the release of Cataclysm, however, things seem even more difficult, and seeing so many of the same advertisements scrolling through Trade Chat every day it begs the question: can small guilds even survive any more?
LFGoing, going... Gone!
If you’ve been playing since The Burning Crusade, you will remember a time where there was no such thing as a Dungeon Finder. We found people to complete our dungeons, heroics and raids with via the chat channel named “LookingForGroup” (also, inevitably, Trade), and despite it being largely a hovel for trolls, endeavours to fill groups were usually successful. Doing this meant that we could only attain people from our own servers, of course, and while this did limit the pool we were fishing from somewhat, it enabled us to meet and play with new people from our own server almost every day. Doing this was absolutely invaluable to a guild such as ours, as the heroic or dungeon, whatever we had pugged this person for, served as their test run. If we got along with the person and needed someone of their class (which was usually the case, else we wouldnt be pugging for it), we could extend an invite then and there. Nowadays it is extremely rare to be paired with someone from the same server, and while we often find people that would fit perfectly into our guild they are not prepared to transfer to such a small, casual guild when they can find the same thing on their current server.
Trade chat, Schmade chat
Of course, nothing is forcing us to use the looking for group tool. We could sit and spam Trade chat (and LookingForGroup, as it still exists, barely) for hours looking for the remainder of our group, but who wants to do that? Now that the tool has been introduced and is so easy to use, conveniently whisking us into the dungeon of our choosing, the only people left lurking in Trade with want to run heroics are those whos item levels do not meet the requirements, and while we have no problem running people through, as a guild looking to fill our ranks with able and ready raiders, grooming players is not quite the optimal solution (not to mention we have been burned doing this in the past). So what are we left with?
Guild recruiting the hard way
Guild leaders are currently left with a few options, which I will list here from the most commonly used to some more inventive, out of the box solutions.
1. Post your recruitment message in Trade Chat.
This is the most effective way to get your message out in front of lots of pairs of eyes with minimal time and effort spent. However, it is a market that seems to be dominated by spam-guilds, by which I mean those with hundreds of members and have little scruples over who, or what ends up joining. Advertisements for smaller guilds seem to get largely ignored (at least in my experience) in favour of those who are larger and/or more successful, quickly turning it into a popularity contest. For us small guilds out there, it is hard to compete in such competitions, for even though we are good at what we do it is hard to convince people this through a few lines of text and only a small public presence.
2. Post on your realm’s forums
Another commonly used method, however again seems only to be successful for larger guilds looking for hardcore, dedicated raiders. Many of our members don’t even bother to check the realms forums as they are casual gamers, and the concerns and challenges voiced on the realm forums are usually of little significance. Of course, in addition to appealing to the wrong market you also run the risk of catching the eye of a troll and having your name slandered in little more than the name of “fun”. However, in the interest of covering all of one's bases it's usually a good idea to post an ad here, and bump it fairly regularly.
3. Post on other realm’s forums/the guild recruitment forum
Believe it or not, Blizzard does actually have a guild recruitment forum dedicated to guilds posting ads exactly for that. However from what I’ve seen the largest portion of this forums audience is the guild masters themselves, and not very many looking for a guild. This forum, and indeed other realm’s forums seem to be best for if you’ve decided to have a try at encouraging some server transfers, and while it is possible this is not likely for a smaller guild in the same situation as ours.
4. PuG for your raids, and then recruit the people who came
In the past this has been a successful way to recruit people, and in theory it still is today. The problem is, especially when you are like us and require a tank and a healer most weeks, these spots can be tough to fill. Because of our geographical makeup (some from NZ/Australia, and some from the USA), we raid at 11pm on Friday nights and this does squeeze the market to quite a small slice of the server. If people aren’t out having social lives (yes, some WoW players actually do like to go outside, contrary to popular belief) then by Friday they’ve usually got themselves saved. Also, as we cannot afford to be fussy with our PuGs, most of them are usually already guilded.
5. Use Social Media
Again this may apply more to the server transfer crowd, but hey - I’ll try anything once. Why not reach out on Twitter (check out @guildroll), Facebook, or Tumblr for people? Chances are that if you use these services, you’ll have friends on these sites that are on your server, or know other people/have wives and girlfriends looking for something more casual, etc. Even if you only have a few followers, it’s worth a shot.
6. Post on other like-minded communities
If you are already a member of some WoW or other gaming related communities on other websites such as LiveJournal or forums, you may wish to post an ad for your guild in such groups. Chances are that the other members are of similar mind to you, otherwise you would not have all joined the same community, and you may just find that there are a few people who might be interested in joining up. As most of these sites are likely to be geared more toward discussion rather than advertisements, however, it may pay to check the rules before posting any ads for everyone to see. If you’re unsure, a quick message to the community manager or site administrator wouldn’t go amiss. This is one avenue that has actually proven successful for me, as we have recently come across four new members via one forum, and word of mouth from there.
4.1’s Guild Finder Tool
Now, this article wasn’t meant to be a gripe. There is a potential silver lining to all of this, and that comes in the form of the proposed Guild Finder tool coming with Patch 4.1. From what screenshots I have seen, this appears, sadly, to be dreadfully simple at least from the person looking for a guild’s point of view. Choose your guild playstyle (Casual, Moderate or Hardcore), your availability, role and leave a comment. You can then Browse guilds, and request membership from the list which comes up matching the values you entered in the prior screen.
These screenshots were released in February, and unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to get on the PTR and see if they have been altered somewhat since. A few flaws strike me in the first instance - for example, specific weekdays may have different availability depending on work or school requirements, particularly if the player is a shift worker or in university or college. Also, there does not seem to be any distinction between PvP or PvE guilds, a concern which I have seen voiced on a number of forums about the subject.
I am curious to see what the guild master’s side of this tool looks like, and how much flexibility is offered. For example, is the membership request only sent to the Guild Master or can we nominate another officer to receive them, is there the ability to add our website in somewhere, how can we screen players before sending them an invite? It begs a lot of questions, and it will definitely be something I will spend a lot of time familiarising myself with come the implementation of the patch.
For all its simplicity, however, this tool seems like it could be a very valuable addition to the game - at the very least, a step in the right direction - in an area that is currently difficult to swim in for smaller guilds such as ours and many others out there. Will the tool be enough to keep us afloat, or nothing more than another passive way of advertising the guild? Only time and use will tell. Stay tuned for an update and a review on it’s functionality and effectiveness post-4.1!