When Guilds Attack! “Guild Sniping” and You.

Posted: June 4, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts, Guilds

As I was chatting with some guildmates in the Butcherblock mountains early Sunday morning (too early, actually), I received a tell from a different guild’s leader asking if I had a moment to speak. I hadn’t actually spoken with this particular guildmaster before, but that was irrelevant.  

You see, when you’re a guildmaster yourself, you get used to receiving tells from other guild’s leaders asking if you have a moment to speak.  Either someone has a complaint about one of your members, or a question about a particular quest or raid encounter, or even just the occasional sharing of general guild frustrations.  There’s not exactly a huge number of guildmasters on each server, so it tends to be a fairly small community.

So, when I received the tell from this particular guildmaster, I immediately responded that of course I had time to talk, and asked him how I could assist him. 

That right there was where the conversation took a new and exciting turn.

At that point, this guildmaster began to attempt to recruit me, pointing out that his guild needed clerics, that gear didn’t really matter, that they’d heard great things about me, and so on. 

What?

I was at once both bemused and incensed.  I couldn’t believe that I was being recruited.  His patter came out quickly and smoothly, and I realized that if it wasn’t macro’d, it was at least rehearsed – as if he’d done this a dozen times.  It wasn’t a conversation, either.  He hit me with a sales pitch about his guild, the targets they were hitting, and how they’d help me get “geared up”.  He ended the spiel with a comment that basically amounted to, I’ll let you be now and you can contact us if interested.  And that was that. 

On a whim, I looked him up on EQ2players and realized I was better outfitted than he was.  So, not only was I being essentially spam marketed, but he hadn’t bothered to so much as look up my profile before sending the first tell.  I realized that, just like platspammers, he was likely pulling up a list of prospective targets and sending out his recruiting message to virtually every level 70 cleric on the server.

In a fit of ettiquette, I responded with my own introduction and thanked him for finally introducing himself.  I let him know that I would be declining his offer and would appreciate it if he’d avoid recruiting my guild’s members in the future (as it was likely a waste of his time, and really just bad form). 

His response floored me.  He states that “It’s only bad form to recruit from guilds hitting the same content”.

Now, I know his guild and he’s not out hitting avatars or clearing Emerald Halls.  Essentially speaking, both of our guilds are in the same general tier as far as weekly targets go.  However, that’s not even the point in my mind at this point, as I’m really just shocked he’s justifying what amounts to cold call headhunting because he essentially considers my guild to be somehow inferior.  In his mind, we’re nothing more than fodder to be farmed when his guild needs a new cleric.

I can think of nothing productive to add to the discussion, so I wish him good day and decide to take a screenshot of the conversation – which I promptly point within my own guild’s forums.  Obviously, my members enjoy a great deal of amusement from the idea that their guildmaster was recruited.  A few other members come forward to say that they received virtually the same tells earlier in the day (confirming my belief that it was spam recruiting).  I deal with good natured ribbing for the rest of the day regarding my prospects, my gear, and the general nature of guild sniping. For us, that’s the end of that.  

At the end of it all, I think it’s a good discussion topic.  Certainly, it comes up often enough on game forums, and usually not in a good way.  Most of the time you see the subject, it’s some heated response to some guild officer shouting in giant red bolded text about so-and-so from such-and-such guild “stealing” his members.  This leads to a nice return volley from members of such-and-such who claim that if the “stolen” member was truly happy where he or she was, they would never have left in the first place.  Overly dramatic hilarity ensues. 

Now, remove all the emotion from the subject and that leaves us with an interesting subject, after all.  I can see points raised on both sides of the issue, and certainly find myself able to both justify or villify the concept with equal ease. 

MMO’s can seem ridiculously large, overwhelming places where individuals can feel lost and outcast.  Having overall communities split into “servers” can greatly alleviate this sense of confusion, by breaking impossibly large playerbase metroplexes into what essentially amounts to suburbs or even neighboorhoods.  Beyond that even, these servers are split again into smaller social networks such as guilds that further divide players into chosen factions – much like neighboorhood bars or local sports leagues. 

These guilds can greatly enhance the gameplay for their memberships.  Many guilds put enormous resources into their individual members, offering experience groups, help with questing, and weekly raiding opportunities. 

If one sees guilds in this way, then it’s almost impossible to imagine soliciting members of other guilds.  To players who feel “guild sniping” is bad ettiquette, there seems to be an almost universal feeling of disgust associated with the process.  Guildmasters who become emotionally attached to their members tend to see such recruiting (even if unsuccessful) as unwelcome meddling. 

To the members of many of these guilds, sniping is seen as an attempt to break up friendships, or even families.  When successful, the feeling of loss is exacerbated by the feeling of betrayal.  Hearing the tales of such sniping after the fact is like listening to the heartbroken ramblings of a jilted lover.  After all, didn’t we spend hours helping him out?  Weren’t we always there for her?  Didn’t he care about us?  Why did she leave us?

There’s a very real emotional cost involved with such “break-ups”, for players on both sides of the process.  There’s some real baggage that can follow such an action, leading often to months or even years of in-game hostility and repurcussions.  Groups may exlude members of the other guild.  Unnecessary words will be spent defending the action against an upset former guild.  Hurtful phrases will be uttered, and yes, friendships are invariably injured or severed. 

On the other side of the coin, couldn’t it be argued that the quality of such members is invariably suspect.  After all, how is a guild strengthened through recruiting tactics often seen as shady or dirty.  Is it worth the hit to a guild’s reputation just to pick up a member that has, by the very process, proven an inherent lack of loyalty?  If a potential applicant has been swayed by promises of gear or raids, what then keeps the member happy with membership in the new guild once gear or raids starts to dry up. 

In other words, is this really a good long term solution for recruiting, or a short term workaround – a finger in the dike, so to speak. 

On the other hand, without a magical tree covered in the budding fruit of unguilded high end raiders, it’s not exactly easy to find new level 70’s ready to jump in and help your guild out 4-6 nights a week.  What, exactly, is a guild leader to do once a guild’s raids start to suffer due to a lack of warm bodies?  It’s not as if this is a first resort for many guild leaders, and often times desperate acts call for similar measures.

Put yourself in such a position for a moment.  Put on the shoes of a raid leader who’s suddenly finding raid forces lacking.  Oh, sure, you remember turning away potential raiders night after night, but it’s been months since the last expansion was released and you’ve got a good half a year or more till the next expansion, and in the meantime you’ve got a guild to keep together.  You’ve hit the forums, and spent time in chat channels looking for potential members, but you’re simply not finding the right applicant. 

What would you do?

Would you avoid speaking to members of other guilds simply because it’s not right?  Is it more right to let your own guild fall apart because you can’t successfully (or at least easily) hit targets your guild used to hit with ease?  How do you keep a guild together when you can’t bring in new high end members?

It’s not as cut and dry as many players would like to think.  The problem comes, I think, from many players avoiding the subject altogether.  Players who hate what they know as “sniping” see the purveyors of such techniques as snake oil salesmen, coming in the night to steal away their “best” members, whereas officers who recruit from other guilds are simply looking for good members to fill their own ranks. 

The bottom line?  It’s going to happen.  Deal with it head on and hope you’re running a good guild yourself.  If you are, then you’ll find that you aren’t really worried when you hear about it happening to your own members.  Open a dialogue within your guild about it, and find out if anyone isn’t really happy within your guild.  If they aren’t, find out if it can be fixed.  If not, and they happen to leave your guild, wish them well and remind the rest of your members that you don’t want to get in the habit of forcing members to stay where they aren’t happy in the first place.

It’s a game, and sometimes that means changing teams.  It’s not life or death, and all of your friends are still just a tell away.  You don’t need guildchat to secure groups, and a guild banner shouldn’t be a political border preventing open discussion. 

Above all, don’t fall into the drama trap.  When it happens – and it’s going to happen – don’t rush to the forums to tap out an angry letter to the server warning them about the evils of so-and-so the guild sniper.  Nothing good will come of it, and a whole lot of good people will say things they really don’t mean before the situation calms down.  Keep your head and refrain from angry posts.  Period.

No one likes to have members recruited out from under them.  It never gets easier to deal with, because as many guildmasters won’t really admit, it feels personal – like a refection upon their leadership skills.  It isn’t personal (well, not always), and even if it is, get over it.  You’ve got the rest of your membership to spend your resources on.  Do what you can to keep what you’ve got, instead of spending all your efforts worrying about what you’ve lost.

Because all you can do is try to build a solid guild that members enjoy belonging to.  Just like any other relationship, once the wandering eyes start, it’s usually best to just cut your losses and maintain your dignity.  No one wins in a mudslinging contest – everyone gets messy once the dirt starts to fly. 

So, chalk it up as inevitable, and crack a few jokes about it within guildchat.  Then, get back to the business of running your guild. 

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Comments
  1. G-unit says:

    Wow, this is stupid. F****** GET THE BEST MEMBERS U CAN, AND ONCE YOUR GUILDS BETTER THEN EVERYONE ELSES, WHOS GONNA F****** LEAVE? GOD DAMN IDIOT

  2. Jaaissa says:

    If your guilds are both raiding the same content, maybe he’d be better off proposing a guild alliance to combine members on some of the raids.

    This is one of the downsides of guilds in my opinion, the exclusionary nature dividing people into “us” and “them”.

  3. Must says:

    That was not only a well written article but it found a true place in my heart bud. Let me say as a guild leader in WOW for over a year i have gone through EVERY single subject you have brought up here. I can say i was always the one who would say “thanks for being here hope to see ya around…if ya need me let me know.” After two guild break downs and one coming up (and if your not a guild leader and your thinking how do you know that believe me i know) I have lost my heart. Its easy to give up on somthing when you have something better right ahead of you, and this is the plight of the GM. So other than me letting you know I value your insight here, I am here to say one thing to anyone reading this. Before you leave you next guild,to all you guild hoppers out there, ask yourself if you can remeber the guild that you had fun being in. I know that id stay where i am untill the very last person leaves because I really,really enjoy being with all of them even as they leave me one by one. While your looking for some one to take you somewhere or do someting for you ill be happily pvp’ing and doing smaller groups with the gamer ive come to know. “Gameing is different for everyone, now I know what it is to me.”

  4. Zealot says:

    Must wrote:
    > “Thanks for being here hope to see ya around…”

    This is exactly the right thing to say to someone leaving your guild. I know there’s a tendency to bad-mouth players that jump ship, but that’s not the way to make your guild stronger. Wish them the best of luck and tell them that they’re welcome back if things don’t work out like they expect. (They usually don’t in my experience.)

    Many players suffer form grass-is-greener syndrome and have a good chance of coming back *if the door is left open*. If they really are happier elsewhere then good on ’em.

  5. […] June 6th, 2007 in General Design Prompted by this post from Kendricke, and a little commentary by Cuppy and Darren in SUWT #2 (another good podcast, […]

  6. Alex says:

    Sometimes you recruit in the best interest of the guild. There are certain situations, in my opinon, that can constitute blanket recruiting. Obviously you know this Kendricke how to build the numbers in a guild, and know there are certain strategies to do it. Every server has that one spam invite guild, or multiple ones, who’s main concern is numbers. Sometimes that mentality works. Hoping to just hit the right people, be able to spend the time to police the guild and make sure your rep is not ruined, etc….

    There’s many strategies for recruiting, and I think his was innovative and he was just trying to do what he could to keep his guild together and grow /shrug

  7. It’s still bad form, any time a guild tries to recruit out from under another guild. The guilds that do this are generally the same guilds that have no reservations about running over your raid so that they can acquire said target before your raid does. A lack of morals or respect in one area often indicates that the same disregard will be present in other aspects of the guild.

    Unfortunately, as you’ve pointed out, it’s impossible to avoid this. The easiest target for this sort of sniping would be the gimme gamer, you know the one. It’s the same one that complains when raid drops don’t equip them or when someone gets a better drop before they do. They’re also the ones that want to know why the guild platinum isn’t being distributed and they want items made for them free of charge – but they’re not willing to do the work to get the parts. Now granted, sniping can hit any member, and any member may be lured away – but those most likely to jump ship are those that lust over greener pastures. Many, many times in years past, gamers have joined a guild simply to be equipped, get keys or flags, or get those shiny new epics that get them in to an uberguild.

    So, there are several ways to avoid the snipers, or at least, minimize their damage.

    The first stage would be to tighten up the recruitment process and try to avoid the gamers that are… for lack of a better term, loot hungry. Many guilds do try to avoid this, by creating a set of rules or codes, but fall short when it comes to actually enforcing them and recruit blindly with little or no probationary period. A watchful officer or even a guild member familiar with a guild’s laws could spot a potential problem right away.

    Another way to avoid this problem, as you’ve mentioned, is to keep an open dialogue with the guild at large and find out how they feel about it. I believe you’ve covered this fairly well.

    Lastly, starting, creating and maintaining a guild with high standards of conduct, regardless of numbers or levels, will help alleviate this problem. The first step would be to watch new members and recruit those that seem to be a better match, but the second step would be to openly advertise the guild’s motivations, codes, goals and laws in such a way as to be appealing to an outsider looking for a guild. When you have members looking for your guild’s model, specifically, they are far less likely to leave, looking for better.

    No membership will ever be 100% happy with any guild. Each player has their own motivations and goals, and it would be a Herculean feat to even try to match them all. Recruiting and keeping those with like minded play and morals, however, will help the guild stay together long term, and will keep the snipers at bay.

  8. kendricke says:

    It’s not about a lack of moral fibre, I think. It’s really a case of necessity dictating needs. If you’re looking for high level, competent players, you can’t help but look to guilds – because most higher level players ARE guilded. Even when you find a non-guilded higher level player, most guild officers I’ve spoken with on the subject immediately are suspicious regarding WHY that person is unguilded in the first place.

    Think in terms of the “real world”. Who are the best employees likely to be? Those who were “between opportunities” or those who are currently working for respected or known companies.

    As a player, you might see guild sniping as immoral. As an employee of a company that you may or may not enjoy working for, would you see it as immoral if a headhunter attempted to recruit you away with promises of better positions, less work, or more pay? Would we see it as immoral if our favorite sports team picked up a new free agent who’s contract was coming due?

    Why then, is there so much emotion related to guild sniping in online games? Why the sense of personal betrayal? I think I touched on it when I mentioned the guild officers’ unspoken fear of such things reflecting poorly upon themselves. Guilds see it as a family being broken up, whereas we might throw a party for a co-worker who’s moving on to “better things”.

    What keeps most of us from feeling similarly when guildmates move on due to targetting recruiting methods?

  9. Azreal says:

    Trying to recruit a guilded player is always considered bad taste, but it’s nothing really to cry about if it happens to you. Like G-Unit blunty posted, ‘if you don’t suck, they won’t leave’.

    I hear many raiders whining about not having a certain class for their raids. Honestly, recruiting to cover your weaknesses is sad in my opinion. Recruiting who you think are skilled players and/or people that will work well with you and your team should be a higher priority. The needed ‘critical’ classes as they say should be taken care of within the guild (powerleveled and made ready etc) with the support of the leadership. If you can’t find what you need, make it happen!! Taking somebody else’s scrubs is’nt going to make your guild any better. You want to create a raid supportive environment free of worry. You want them to seek you out. If nobody replies to recruitment threads etc. then it’s time to make a change in who runs things.

  10. kendricke says:

    Azreal,

    I don’t know if you meant to, but you just helped illustrate the point I raised right before you.

    In your presented view here, if someone’s recruiting from your guild’s ranks, they’re essentially “taking somebody else’s scrubs”. You point out (and honestly, I feel similarly) that it’s all in bad form.

    Why is this so different from corporate headhunting, though? Why is guild sniping immediately seen as bad people doing bad things to get less-than-good recruits anyway…but professional headhunters in the real world are seen as high end recruiters trying to woo top talent away?

    Is there a difference? If so, why?

  11. Azreal says:

    I don’t look down on sniping. I don’t see a difference from corporate headhunting, although I have heard stories about employees talking to headhunters being immediately fired upon management finding out. Whether those are just attempts to scare personnel I don’t know, but some guilds have similiar policies where if you’re caught planning to go to another guild, you get the boot.

    One thing is for sure though, I really don’t see anybody out there that’s planning or building a guild, trying to messure the skill of newer players to decide whether to take them under their wing. Is’nt a farm system like sports teams have a good idea for finding new talent? Good idea – yes, realistic – no. We are all too lazy to use any of the 8-12 hours we play a day to help improve willing potential players. So recruiting ready to raid players from other guilds requires a very small amount of effort, but you’re expecting alot.

  12. Xeavn says:

    I don’t know, I think there are a few differences between reality and the gaming world of MMO’s, although the reference to coporate employment is somewhat accurate, it isn’t completely accurate. In the real world the pool of potiential employees is much larger, and new talented poeple are graduating college every year.

    In the MMO world there is a fairly limited supply of talented, skilled high level players. This supply is further divided by splitting those poeple who are playing accross multiple servers, which further reduces the number of players that can actually be recruited to your guild.

    In reality if your co-worker moves on to a better paying, or different job, chances are that you are still going to get payed, you may have to work harder or work overtime until a new person is hired, but you still get payed.

    In an MMO if a person moves on there is a much better chance that you won’t be able to accomplish that really hard raid until they are replaced. Even worse if that person is a really important class or a main healer or tank it may spell disaster for the raid until a new person is found.

    My last and final comparison is with the class system. You can’t just convert your 70 Wizard into a 70 Warlock if your Warlock leaves to another guild. In reality your janitor with a bit of training, and if he is smart guy could become your IT person. He wouldn’t need to repeat Elementary, Middle and High School as well as College to do so, he would likely need a few classes a bit of training. Even better he could still be a janitor if he didn’t like IT work.

  13. Aneova Kithicor Server says:

    firstly I must applaud this fine article, very well written and thought out, and true to every point. I’m also leader in a guild, and have experienced the “Recruit Tell”. I myself was outraged at the very notion of leaving my guild, as I worked hard to get to the position I am, as well as all the hard work my guildies put in to helping me out when I needed them. The individual who attempted to recruit me didn’t seem to understand the meaning of loyalty or dedication, just concerned about what loot he would be getting, I found this very disturbing. Anyway my point being I’m one who sees guilds more like family units, or long time friends who shouldn’t abandon others at the drop of a hat, just for some new piece of fabled gear.

  14. Langdale says:

    Great article Kendricke! One of those issues where a lot of people have differing views.

    Langdale and my own opinions on it are the same…why not just advertise your guild in a normal way and if someone is unhappy with their current guild maybe they will consider yours. Or get a group of newbies together (classes that the guild needs) and level up together..more guild fun and the end result is having 6 classes you need more of, or lacked before. It is not so hard to level nowadays and a lot of fun can be had on the way.

    thanks again for the article..fantastic stuff.

  15. Usque Mahtar says:

    This is indeed a fine topic, and coming from a background of being a guildleader and working in the headhunting industry I see this as a very thought invoking issue. I see recruiting in an MMO in the way I see things in the real world. Just as there are different types of companies in the business world, there are different types of guilds in Norrath or your other MMO of choice. Large oversized conglomerates with hundreds or more members, those that focus on top tier skillsets, those that take the slow road to enjoy and the small buisiness. There will always be different strategies depending on your guild size.

    I cannot speak for the large scale or lvl 70+ crowd, but I’d imagine similar tactics would be used as in their corporate counterparts. With many aggressive recruiting styles, to look at a guild/company, you are either a customer or source. If you as a company are not willing to ally and assist, then you are a source to recruit out of.

    Coming from a smaller guild and company, Reputation means much more than payouts and you work harder to maintain respect by only recruiting folks that have no current guild tags or by spending time to invest in newer or junior players. As a general rule with my current guild, we do not speak on recruiting terms if the applicant or potential new member has on a guild’s tags or colors. It just isn’t worth the bad blood it has likelyhood of bringing to our smaller guild.

  16. Bhagpuss says:

    “Even when you find a non-guilded higher level player, most guild officers I’ve spoken with on the subject immediately are suspicious regarding WHY that person is unguilded in the first place.”

    As the player of high-level unguilded characters in several MMOs (70th Necro in EQ2, 65th Cleric and SK in EQ when 65 was the cap, currently 46th Disciple in Vanguard, for example), I do receive a few recruiting tells, but not that many.

    I received more recruiting tells with my EQ characters when they were guilded (they became unguilded when I moved them off Ant Bayle after mergers made it unplayably crowded) than when they were free and single.

    I did my share of the guild thing in EQ and DAOC, but for the last three years I have preferred to keep all my high level and/or main characters unguilded, entirely for the flipside of the reasons in Kendricke’s commentary – namely the unbearable drama of guild life.

    I stopped watching TV when I started EQ in 1999. I haven’t watched a soap opera since, and it got really, really wearing watching the amateur-hour production of Dynasty playing out every night in guild after guild.

    My feeling on guilds has always been that they should just be big versions of pick-up groups, with characters moving in and out of them with no more formality than a “thanks for the fun – see you again”. Sadly, most people prefer to see them as a combination of a blue-chip company and The Family, with ludicrously complicated entry requirements and dire consequences for anyone that tries to leave.

    Nowadays I answer all enquiries on whether I want to join a guild with a simple “I prefer to be unguilded thanks”, which seems to work, although I did get interrogated in Vanguard the other day by a Warrior who seemed to think being unguilded was some form of mental illness.

  17. Well, it’s certainly something to muse on, and a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, in most MMOs, the player pool is limited. There aren’t young college graduates out there hoping for a shot at this job… So the comparison isn’t exactly as similar as it might seem.

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