Inactivity in the Ranks: What Should You Do?

Posted: March 27, 2008 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, Guilds

Play in a guild in any MMO for long enough and chances are good that you’ll have to deal with an inactive member at some point.

For many guild leaders, inactivity can be a constant source of aggravation. For a variety of reasons, members just stop logging in, typically with little to no warning. One day, the member is winning the roll on a nice piece of loot and then, many times without so much as a “taking a break for a while” post, the member just stops logging in.

How do you deal with it? What can you do?

I really believe there’s only one real answer: removal.

Now, before you start scrolling down to the comment box, ready to lay a verbal smack down on me for my lack of caring and empathy, I ask that you hear me out.

Realize that I’ve had thousands of members in my guild over the past decade. I’ve tried dealing with inactivity in dozens of different ways. However, I’ve found that the best way to handle inactivity – the way that produces the least amount of potential issues and drama – is to simply remove inactive members from the roster.

This isn’t some secret tactic I utilize in the deepest dark of the night here. I make sure my members are aware that we have an activity policy. If you dont’ log in for at least 30 days, you’re in danger of being removed from our ranks. If you don’t want to be removed, that’s easy enough – just make sure to post on our forums letting us know that you’ll be offline longer than 30 days and you’d prefer not to be removed from the roster in the meantime.

Since we enacted that rule roughly 2-3 years ago, we’ve had very few issues with it. Members are aware of the rule. That means that there is very little drama from members who are removed (even when they return and have to work their way back up the ranks) and there is very little drama from other members in the guild when we remove inactive members.

So why remove inactive members in the first place?

Security

Ever had a member give up an account? Maybe turn it over to a friend or family member? Maybe they *GASP* sold the account?

Imagine logging in one day to find chunks of your guild bank missing and a few members removed from the ranks because you forgot to demote/remove an old officer friend when he/she went inactive. Oops.

Imagine logging in to find out that several of your members want to talk to you about Joe, a member you hadn’t seen in ages, who suddenly logged in and started spamming shout channels with gold farmer sales pitches. How fun will it be to see that spam coming out of the mouth of someone wearing your guild’s tag?

Even if you really like a member of your guild, accept the fact that you don’t know them as well as you think you might. The very fact that you have no idea why they went inactive should be testimony to that fact. If they quit playing the game because it wasn’t fun for them anymore, there’s at least an even chance that they’ve turned over or even sold the account. Sure, “Joe” may have been a great tank for Unrest…but now he could be owned by a 16 year old chain smoking gold farmer who doesn’t even speak the language, much less understand where Unrest is.

…and because you never removed “Joe” from the guild roster, he’s now online and wearing your tag.

Morale

There’s nothing more fun than logging in and seeing a ton of guildmates online. Of course, seeing a ton of guildmates on your roster, but knowing that most of them haven’t logged in for months isn’t quite the same thing.

Many guild leaders make the mistake of believing that removing members will somehow sap morale, that it will sadden all of your current members and hurt more than it helps. That’s just crazy talk.

Members who haven’t logged in for weeks or months aren’t helping your guild. They’re aren’t helping anyone. They may not even be paying for their account any longer. You don’t know. Neither do your members. If you do happen to bring in new members in the meantime, they don’t know who all those people are on the roster. All they do know is how many of them there are, and when they last logged in.

What message are you sending to those newer members? Thanks for joining, look at all the people who aren’t playing anymore?

That’s half-empty leadership right there. It’s pretty hard to accentuate the positive when you’ve got a roster full of negative right there for all to see. I know it’s hard to say good bye, but it’s almost always for the best. Trim the roster down to fighting weight, and concentrate on the members who are logging in…not the ones who aren’t anymore.

Truth in Advertising

As I mentioned above, it’s tough to explain to newer members why you have so many inactive members. It’s even tougher to explain to newer members who joined you because you had such a large roster listed in the first place.

What are those new members likely to do when they find out you don’t have nearly as many actual members as you claimed you did? Well, that’s right, some (if not most) will probably just start looking for a new guild right away (especially if they were looking for a large, active guild to begin with).

How do you think the rest of your members will feel about that? Will they feel better or worse than if you’d just removed the inactive members?

(Per Pantheros:) Class Management

Wondering what classes your guild is light on? Well, if you pull your roster and see eight fighters, chances are you might think you’re set on fighters…till you remember that five of those fighters haven’t actually logged in for 2 months or more.

Trimming the inactive members from your roster makes it easy for you (and everyone else) to take a glance at your roster and figure out what classes you might be interested in recruiting.

Getting Down to Business: Removing Members

Ok, so maybe I’ve convinced you that removing inactive members is the right thing to do. If so, you probably want to know the right way to go about doing so.

If that’s the case, check back for the next part of this series on inactive members.

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Comments
  1. Pantheros says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Kendricke. From a business/network administration standpoint, I try never to leave accounts active after the person is no longer with the company for security reasons, a guild should be run no differently, for reasons you mentioned.

    Of course, there may be some sudden circumstances that will take a player away for a little while, but in all honesty, is it (normally) going to keep someone away from an internet connection for a solid month? I think that is highly doubtful. It would take all of five minutes to go to your guild’s forums and start a thread saying that they would be away for a while, no real further details needed.

    I think one point you may have missed with removing inactive members is knowing who you can count on at a glance at the roster. Not having to actually look when they last logged on. Makes you quicker on your feet and more efficient. You can also see more readily what categories in which you may be a little lacking. (Ok, maybe that was two points.)

  2. Kendricke says:

    Pantheros,

    I’m going to steal your last point there and add it into the article above.

  3. Xeavn says:

    Pantheros has a very good point. It is very useful to have a guild roster that reflects the actually membership of the guild that plays. The older members will have a good feel for who plays and when they play, but newer members will not. What if a new member joins who just resubscribed because they heard how good RoK was and wanted to give it a try. They have a 70 Assassin, and a 70 Templar. What if the guild has two assassins on the roster, neither of which has played in a 6 months, and 2 templars on the roster both of which play every night? The obvious choice would be the guild could really use another assassin, but this isn’t clear from the roster.

    The 2nd point which I think you made pretty well is that removal from the guild doesn’t have to mean permanent banishment, it can be just acknowledgement that you are not currently playing. I think mostly guilds would likely accept a member back, so long as they left in good standing.

  4. Rijacki says:

    One of the things I think is a major improvement in EQ2 vs EQ1 is the various guild “ranks”. I actually wish there were more.

    One rank I’d love to see is “inactive”, sort of a holding spot for before someone is removed that could have the guild interaction if they log in after a short long absence, but one which could be set for zero permissions other than guild chat (including no public guild tag or other guild marking). In my concept, I’d put some one into the “inactive” rank (with a note for for leadership what rank was held before) when they’d been gone a month (anything less is a short absence) and leave them in that rank for another 2 months (past 90 days it’s beyond any concept of short, but less than 90 days could be a short long absence, like what might happen when a RL project takes up all available time).

    No matter, whether a change in rank and/or a complete removal, the character receiving that change should be sent an in-game mail or even a real email (if there is a guild board, there is probably an email address known at least to the board admin) for the reason why and how to return.

    For myself, I play on more than one server and am in more than one guild because of that. On AB, where Rijacki is, my alt was removed from the guild (of which Rijacki is also a member and was noted as the main to that alt). There was no mail message to that character (her box was not full), there was no mail message to Rijacki, there wasn’t a forum private message nor an email, nothing, she just simply wasn’t in the guild when I logged her in when I wanted to check if she had something in her bank. There had been a guild mail saying they were going to be doing a purge, but nothing to the individuals actually purged. Perhaps they felt that was enough. To me, though, it felt all sorts of unwelcoming. Especially when I was motivated to do some moving ahead on Rijacki since Rjack had reached her minimum goal and could go back to “taking turns” a bit. But, it deflated my enthusiasm even for doing stuff on Rijacki because I felt so very solitary and not very welcome. Oh and that guild’s policy is 30 days for alts, 60 days for mains. It was probably only a day or two before I logged in that she was removed (those events are disabled in their events).

  5. Kendricke says:

    You’re getting ahead of me, though. 😉

    Tomorrow I hope to go over some best practices to use when removing inactive members from the ranks.

  6. Loredena says:

    I think a lot depends on the type of guild too. For you, and your guild, no question, removal makes sense. For me, well, I have a small guild, primarily consisting of real-life friends and guildmates from previous games. Some of us have been known to go away for months at a time, and then return (and that includes me!)

    When I joined a guild in LotRO, that was one of the things I checked on, because I knew that just because I have a lifetime membership, doesn’t mean I’m logging in every week, or even every month; but, not logging in doesn’t mean I’m not coming back either, just that right now I’m not in the mood.

  7. Bowin says:

    I do understand where your coming from. For I feel you handled my disapperance the right way.

    Some guildies need a break. I ran into a problem after my summer break my real life took a big toll on me. After I took care of the problem I did returned to The Legion. How do you know I am the real Bowin not some guy whos planing a bank take over. You really dont unless you ask me questions that maybe Bowin and you chatted about. Get to know your guild mates is very good source of security. You dont have to get deep into there lives but just simple stuff. This to me is part of playing a MMO. Meeting people 101. Just like the interview with Ladails other toon. Its very interesting what you can learn from others and simply have fun with that person. Heck sometimes I just send some random tells just to see who is playing that toon. You do find out some cool stuff like they work for Nasa or they live in England ect. Every person has a story to remember them by.

    Kindricke you have ran the guild for a long time and you prolly know better than most of us the pros and cons of Guild Inactivty.

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