I am typing this first leadership interview from a cold hostel in the British Peak District. It's the first time during my holiday that I've managed to get internet access, so that's the reason
it's been so lovely quiet I haven't been able to reply to your comments as much as I'd like. No time to waste, though, I've promised you guild master interviews, so I have to deliver. I hope you enjoy this first one with the leader of PCG Mint Imperials of the Red Eclipse, Bo.
I got to know Bo in SWTOR's days of 8v8 ranked PvP, when he often helped our ranked team out when we were a DPS down. Later, my Imperial raid team, team Nerfherder, joined his guild after a guild trek and we haven't looked back. PCG is a large guild with multiple raid groups battling the harder PvE challenges the game has to offer. I was excited to get a chance to look behind the scenes of such a huge social undertaking.
Guild infoLeader: Bo
Guild: PC Gamer Mint Imperials, nicknamed "PCG"
Server: The Red Eclipse
Real life guild meetings: yes
Trivia: the guild officially started off as the official guild for PC Gamer Magazine.
The interviewCan you tell me something about the guild activities you do?
I guess we've always been a raiding guild. We had up to 6 teams at one point; at the moment we have 4. We arrange 16-mans when the teams group up. We did conquest - I think that's probably the biggest thing people might know us from. We won every single week and we were among two other guilds, I think they were US guilds, that were world first galaxy conquerors, so that was a big thing for us. But mainly the guild is PvE, really. We did 8v8 ranked when that was interesting, but now we don't really PvP anymore. Every year we do a real-life meetup as well.
I'd never have called us a hardcore guild, but at the same time we do try to take it seriously.
The main thing that I wanted from the guild is that everybody has fun and there's no players that exclude others for not being... If you're not having fun playing a video game, what's the point? That's my mantra, really. You have to try and facilitate that, and at certain points and with certain people you can't. Sometimes you have to make sure other people are having fun over one person, which doesn't happen often, but it does happen sometimes.
What in your opinion is the key to keeping a guild alive and active?
Having good people running it with you: the officers that I have and have had. You can't do it all on your own as a guild leader: you gotta have people that you trust that can get on with it themselves. I think our raid teams are our biggest success in that regard. We are a big guild, maybe not at the moment, but we have been a really big guild and you can't manage that many people and keep that many people interested without splitting it down to sort of, what our raid teams were. You got 50 full-time raiders, which is what we had at one point, that keep everyone busy, and when we're not raiding you got all the other stuff going on. That was at the start of 3.0 and then 3.0, obviously, sort of culled interest a lot because of the raids but...
With conquest we had around 190 members, so we had a really strict login policy. For instance, you had to login within 30 days or you got kicked. We had a stir about kicking people's alts that they weren't logging in on. Then with recruiting, we got 10 applications a day. Previously, we would accept nearly every application if they seemed like a nice person and there'd be something for them to do, but we got to a point where we had to look at each application and start declining them because the amount of applications was just ridiculous. Conquest was great, because you had people apply that were very clearly "spies", which I absolutely loved, and you'd get a tip-off from someone else, who was in their guild, saying, "actually, that's so-and-so from this guild and they want to see how many materials you have in the guild bank". I loved all that, and of course we sent alts out as spies in every other guild as well.
But most of those people were not raiding.
Yeah, we had 6 raid teams, which is 48 raiders, and I guess then another 150 people were helping with conquest or social players. Full-time signing up for raids on a schedule isn't for everyone.
It was an interesting time. Now, if I login I know people, or at least have an idea of who they are, but back then I'd login and had no idea who all those people were.
Oh, I didn't know people. I mean, if you're not in a raid team, I probably haven't spent much time with you as a guildie and don't really know who you are, because you probably aren't communed to Team Speak and that's how you got to know people - or at least I do.
Most people know their own raid team best, I guess.
And then you have some people who, if they're active in guild chat but don't commune to Team Speak you're like, "oh, so-and-so is online, I know who they are and what they're going to get up to".
PCG guild picture dated 2012
Suddenly, Bo thinks of another strategy he deploys to keep the guild active.
I don't kick people from the website. I think that they might come back. If they login to the website and want to contribute they can, even if they've left the guild or the game. Which is also the answer to your first question: the website is a huge thing for us. I'm not sure how other guilds do it, but when we invite someone to the guild in the game, they have to have applied on the website and they have to be accepted on the website, otherwise we won't invite them. We've had some people who say "oh, I don't really use websites", then I'm like, "okay you can't join the guild". It's a basic requirement that you have to be able to put an application together and come off not like an idiot, really. The website ties everything together, because we organize everything with the website, the forum's on the website etc. I think we've probably got one of the most active forums.
Bo continues with showing off his website's stats, which I'm sure would make most bloggers drool.
Unique hits since we've launched (February 28th 2012) is 904.000. So that's just the website's hits, then if you look at our forum - this is why we let people sign up on the website - we've had 438.000 views, 1.700 threads, 18.000 posts. 355 posts per month, so I think that's quite an active forum.
You get heavy forum users, like myself and the other officers, but then the amount of posts people make quickly drops off. I'm guilty of this too, I'm not a forum person. I do read it... You read it, yeah. I think that that really helps the community, that you have somewhere to login. We put quite a lot of work in it, too. There's actually a really cool Easter egg on the website. I'm not gonna tell you what it is, but I'll give you a clue.
Okay, open the website on a tab. Now, take a screenshot and leave that tab open for six hours. Then take another screenshot and get back to me. You'll really like it. When you find out what it is, tell me, because very, very very few people know about it, and some people that do know about it have probably forgotten about it. Because you have to leave it open for so long, and then look in the right place - it's so good, I love doing it.
PCG's website. Despite various efforts, I still haven't been able to find the Easter egg.
Looking at how PvE is the core activity of your guild, what will happen when the PvE content is not very good? Because I think that's something that is going on now.
What we do really often is have officer meetings, and recently we had an officer meeting and this was the main topic of conversation: is current content what we'll be doing until new content, because I've seen posts of people saying "what's the point of playing because it doesn't mean anything anymore, with the new stuff coming out in October?" Instantly that comes back to my mantra of are you having fun: yes/no. Yes: well then it doesn't matter. No: well then you should probably take a break until October.
The current raids aren't that much fun for a numbers of reasons. The fact that you have to bring certain classes or that melee isn't as favoured. The bugs that it had. They've worked out a lot of the bugs, but there's still some in there. The really boring commanders. And then, I think in every previous tier you had an understanding that the last boss would be hard, but it was a progression of difficulty. That you get to the last boss and say, right, we can work through this and we will kill this. It might take us a little while, but we will get it. And I think this tier they were just way off the mark, the last two bosses are just way too hard. And if you can't finish it, you feel like you haven't accomplished anything.
Sorry, I'm going to give you long-winded answers to everything. Jokingly: Make me look good. Otherwise you're out of the guild. He laughs. No no, I mean, don't quote me on that!
What to you are important qualities for a guild leader?
You have to be a reasonably good player at the actual game. If you really don't have a clue you can't really help anyone, I think that's a sort of basic understanding. Also, you have to be able to put a lot of time into it and not mind. I probably sacrifice playtime and game time in organizing stuff. So I might not be organizing myself, but I might be making sure a raid team is okay, or such-and-such drama is resolved, or just generally adminning stuff.
How much time does it take?
Right now not so much, because there's not so much going on. It's a really good question, I wouldn't know. At worst? Say, when there were a lot of raid teams? I'd say a third to half of my game time, when it was really busy, would be not really actively playing my characters. I would be in-game, on the forums or on Team Speak talking to someone, but not playing the game.
I recognize this. When I blog, I also spend less time actually playing games.
Yeah, exactly. I find it difficult, because sometimes people say: "you don't seem to be online very much" and then I think, yeah actually, all I did last week is login for raids, but behind-the-scenes I've spoken to the officers, I've talked to a raid leader or two, I've been messaging on Enjin (the website host, red.), speaking to some returning players, some people that were interested in the guild; I've made some changes to the website, put a poll up, done this, done that - but actual in-game playing, no; well, logged in and done 6 to 8 hours of raiding.
A lot of guild leader activity is going on behind the scenes. Does this make it hard for people to see your efforts?
Yeah. We used to have in-game Team Speak meetings that we had anyone who we wanted could join. We'd end up with, you know, 20 people in the Team Speak channel and that used to be quite interesting, but also unwieldy. So now we do most with the officers.
To wrap up; important qualities: be a decent player, spend time playing the actual game, organize things. I think someone at some point actually called us the most light-sided guild for being an Empire guild, because of how we interact. I think it's come from how I want to run things: listen to everyone and behave really well, don't cheat. As a guild leader I get quite a lot of people coming to me when we do get drama "so-and-so said this, so-and-so said that" or "such-and-such isn't performing well in raids, how do I resolve this?" - you have to be able to take all that information and come to a point where you resolve it, even if it's minor. You have to be able to sort it out so that everyone is happy.
This movie was made when Bo took over leadership of PCG.
Are there basic guild rules?
I can't stand cheating, player harassment, any sort of real foul language. No spoilers, no religion, no politics, no cheating. Simple stuff, but whenever I see that it's the first thing I shut people off for. For loot each raid team is free to make up its own loot rules.
What do you find hardest in being GM?
That's a very difficult question, Rav! Bo thinks. The hardest part for me is when a player leaves the guild, for whatever reason. Be that their personal life or a reduced interest in the game. The very hardest part is when that person is a friend. When you have got to know someone for 3+ years, and then they stop playing, that's tough. There's nothing you can do as a GM, the game has to do most of the work, to provide the content. In general though, I don't find being a GM hard: as I've said before, I have very good friends helping me with the guild.
How dependant is the guild on you? If you are away for a few weeks, does guild activity drop?
No, because of the way we setup raid teams. Basically, everything just carries on, as long as nothing needs sorting out. I think the raid team structure really helps that. They carry on without me, because the raid leaders are so good. He laughs. Conrad (my boyfriend and guild leader of Asylum, red.) is probably smiling at the back there now! He's playing Heartstone and seems pretty involved with it. Don't worry, he can't hear. Haha. No, the guild would be fine without me. The raid leaders and the officers do their stuff. I'm probably bigging myself up too much.
How do you deal with guild drama? How do you avoid it?
I think this guild is one of the least drama-filled guilds out there. It's very, very rare that that pops up. And when it does, we talk about it like adults, cause that's what we are, and move on. I very, very rarely have to kick anyone from the guild; very, very rarely does someone ragequit from the guild. We have a very low player turnover. People leave because they're done with the game, not because they're upset with the guild. I think what helps is that we've been playing together, well at least me and the officers, for three years - having met in real life helps. It's not just some bloke on the internet etc.
How many guild meetings have you had?
We've had quite a few guild meetings. We got to London each year, pretty much, We've had 20 people, I think, at max at a meetup? We've done things like bowling, lasertag and then drinking, lots and lots of drinking! I'm not quite sure at other guilds' make up, but I think this guild is quite diverse. I've got stats. I think its about 60% UK and then 40% EU.
A silence. Bo looks back at his guild from a distance.
For me, my best memories are of Ootini (his raid team, red.), but conquest was the biggest guild thing we've ever done.
This interview is part of a series of twin posts on guild leadership by Ravalation and Gamers Decrypted, looking at PvE leadership and PvP leadership respectively.