7 Steps to Being an Effective Leader in MMO’s
Casual Massively Multiplayer Online games have become, pardon the pun, massively popular over the last few years, with a strong trend of social gaming spiraling out from Facebook to other gaming sites, such as our own Kongregate.Most of these MMO’s have some type of in-game group – whether they be called “factions,” “guilds,” “teams,” “forces” or what have you. Guilds (which I will use as a placeholder term hereafter) band players together to some purpose, and as a frequent player of these games, one of the things that I’ve noticed consistently across games is the need for competent management of these guilds.
Some of the task of management is specific to each game and impossible to talk about in general, but most of the features of a successful leader are common across games (and life.) With that in mind, here’s a tutorial of sorts, to prepare future leaders with some tips that I wish I, and other leaders I’ve encountered over the years, had known at the time.
1: Figure Out What Needs to be Done
The first thing to consider if one is wanting to become a leader in a given MMO is the function of player organizations. Guilds exist, fundamentally, to organize players, but the reason for that organization varies from game to game; guilds might participate in conflict with one another, or seek control of important in-game objectives, or collectively take on specific “raids” – unusually difficult foes – that can’t be tackled individually.
If your goal is to be a leader in a guild, whether as the actual “leader” or as an officer who carries some responsibilities, keeping the motivation for organizing into guilds in sight will help you determine how you can establish such a role for yourself.
Guilds can exist for lots of reasons, but here are some examples: if guilds conflict with one another, a leader should keep an eye on other guilds that might potentially attack – or be worth attacking – and keep members informed of their capability; if guilds seek to control important objectives, leaders should plan and announce when to attempt to take one; and if guilds mainly do raids, it’s usually the officers who are in charge of starting them and coordinating attacks.
2: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
It can often be easier to join an existing guild and distinguish yourself as an officer, rather than trying to start up your own guild from scratch immediately, especially if you’re joining an already-established MMO. Tips for finding the right guild for you could take up a new topic of their own, but make sure that whatever guild you join has a fairly active set of players. Watch what the leader and officers do for a while; if they do a great job, then you’ll have examples to follow, and if they do a not-so-good job, you’ll have some idea of what not to do.
3: Use Alternate Forms of Communication
One of the most common features across casual MMO’s is that they have terrible in-game chat and social interfaces, if they have them at all. The first thing that I set out to do after becoming a leader in a guild is setting up a forum, whether here on Kongregate or hosted through some third-party site such as phpBB. Guilds will often have some type of announcement space that members will see when they log on, or when they visit the guild tab, and I like to put just one thing in this space: a link to the guild forum.
MMO’s on Kongregate also usually have a bunch of Kong chat rooms that are devoted specifically to each game (“Heroes of Gaia #1,” “Dawn of the Dragons #12,” etc.) Established guilds often pick on of the higher-numbered chat rooms to ask their members to hang out in, so they have a space for casual communication with one another. Especially if there’s no in-game chat feature at all, (for instance, if there’s only a Mail system,) you should try to let people know where they can go to chat with their guild mates in real-time.
4: Draft Form Letters
MMO creators simply can’t create enough content to keep users constantly entertained with new experiences, so one of the hallmarks of the genre is repitition – you should expect to be doing the same sort of job a lot, and one of the most important jobs of a leader is communication. Whether it’s to recruit new members ( “Greetings! Are you looking for an active, casual, supportive and fun guild?” ) or to maintain relations with other guilds ( “Please note that if your encroachments on our territory haven’t ceased by this time tomorrow, when we’ve finished annihilating the last people who tried our patience, you may expect our forces on your doorstep.” ) you will find yourself needing to write the same letters over and over. Make it easy on yourself and prepare a few drafts of common letters; then, when the time comes, fill in the blanks and hit send. Don’t forget to fill in the blanks, though!
5: Stay Positive
In an MMO, the actual powers and privileges of a leader within the game are fairly minimal. It isn’t the job of the leader to be the most powerful or impressive person in the guild. Rather, through good times and bad, it is the job of the leader to raise morale. If things are going well, compliment your members on their good work; if they are going poorly, assume responsibility rather than pointing the finger at someone else, and make sure to talk about how things will improve going forward.
I have on three occasions been in guilds where the leader got into a blaming contest with a few prominent members, and every time, without fail, the guild fell apart within a couple of weeks. Take deep breaths, count to ten, or do whatever else it takes to keep yourself from getting angry at your followers – or else you won’t have followers for much longer!
6: Listen to the Developers
MMO developers, unlike the creators of more common Flash games that are released as completed products, have a unique interest in constantly updating and improving their products. There is always some type of in-game currency that’s purchasable with money, and since this is the primary revenue stream for the developer, they have an incentive to keep putting out new content that players will be interested in buying. As a leader in your guild, you should keep up with the official forums or blog for the game, and make sure to keep your members informed of upcoming content and challenges to prepare for.
7: Teach the Newbies
Within the first few hours of playing a new MMO, you pick up a dozen tips and tricks that make you a much more effective player. Once you’ve been in the game for a few days, or even weeks, those strategies become intuitive, and you start to feel a bit contemptuous towards people who don’t know them. Fight this instinct, though – it’s the responsibility of everyone in the game, but especially of leaders, to educate new players and welcome them into the world; remember that the “MM” in MMO, after all, stands for Massively Multiplayer; the more players join the game’s universe in a meaningful way, the more fun the game will be.
If you have any tips that you think I missed, please let me know so I can add to the tutorial. Feel free to copy out anything you want to use for your own guide! An attribution is appreciated, but not necessary.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.