GankStars Esports

Damn it feels good to be a GankStar

Home for the best esports players & community contributors.

 

Exceptional skill

Inspiring sportsmanship

Great personalities

Announcing GankStars Galaxy - A Community of Friends

“Community? Aren’t you an eSports organization?” 

What seems like both a long time ago and just yesterday, GankStars became competitive. Ever since, we have wrangled with trying to balance our competitive and casual sides of the guild. This affected everything - from minimum rank requirements during recruitment, to managing ‘noise’ levels in chat so strategies could be more easily discussed, to only accepting people that somehow directly supported the competitive side. We’ve tried multiple approaches and while few have worked, most have failed. This type of dynamic is also very new to the MOBA space and in some ways with guilds, Vainglory has brought elements of an MMORPG to the game. In the end, we feel that having a casual guild and competitive organization clumped together under one name with no specific unifying purpose is not what we want to have in the long run. So how do we unify?

Well we think the best way is to help build a GankStars Community.

For the longest time we wanted GS to remain small. We weren’t a fully casual guild, so it didn’t make sense to recruit a ton of casual members. But we also didn’t want to hoard competitive talent, so we often limited our recruitment in that area as well. Since late April, we have received over 300 applications to the guild; less than 10% succeeded and it was certainly not easy to say ‘no’ so many times. But the new vision for the GS Community requires manpower to make things happen, so we’re finally looking for an opportunity to say ‘yes’ more often. 

So what is this GankStars Galaxy? 

It’s a community of creators, producers, organizers, makers, movers, and friends united around the goal of content creation that primarily advocates Vainglory as a game and eSport. Many would join this community if they are a fan our competitive teams, yet the greater focus would be to help grow the Vainglory scene by writing guides, making videos, participating in shows, volunteering at events, helping other teams and guilds, and in general being a focused force for the good of all while having a hell of a good time doing it. 

It may sound like a conflict of interest when we say that we want to help all teams and players out there. Yes, we’ll always try to be the best and perform at our highest level, but we won’t be the best all the time, every time. And we absolutely won’t thrive in an environment where supporting each other isn’t a priority. Vainglory isn’t a one-winner-takes-all game. Vainglory is a platform on which many teams and organizations can flourish and where millions of players can have a great time together. And that world, the world where Vainglory is a huge success with many healthy teams and well-educated, well-entertained players, is the world we want to live in. So we want to do our part in creating it.

We’re looking for YouTube pros, entertainers, video editors, media aficionados, artists, organizers, positive influencers, active gamers, and just awesome personalities! 

If any of this sounds like you, please apply! And if there is something else unique that you can bring that’s not listed here, let us know.

Carpe Diem!

GankStars

What Makes a Good Contract and Club? Tips for Players

Vainglory is growing up fast and teams are being approached by various existing entities with offers of buyouts and partnerships. We have been approached by a titan of the industry some time ago, G2 entered the scene by recruiting a team, and R3D joined SK Gaming. I'd wager a few Vainglory teams are in the process of discussing a potential buyout or merger this very moment. 

Being approached by an existing team can be a good thing; it can also be a bad thing. As in any industry, there are companies that treat their contractors well and there are those that don't. Hopefully, this post will help you sort out the good from the bad. You can always reach out to us for confidential non-legal advice as well (you don’t need to disclose who is approaching you).

What’s In a Good Contract?

We think a good contract should have the following player protections. 

Guaranteed Pay

If you’re on a starting roster, you should be paid for your services. It’s great if the contract ties a large percentage of your compensation to performance - that’s only fair. But it’s a red flag if the contract has no guaranteed pay whatsoever, or no way of earning decent pay. Don’t fall for “we’ll pay if you perform” promises; this is business, not politics. 

Reasonable Winnings Split

The percentage the players get will vary from one organization to another, but make sure it’s in your favor. If the organization provides a lot of support - free travel, food, and housing, analysts, coaches, etc. - you can agree to a 50/50 split. But these should be real services, not just promised ones. Otherwise, a 30/70 or 20/80 are more reasonable splits (70-80% going directly to the players). Ours is 15/85. 

Allowing Other Revenue

The company should not take a large percentage, if anything at all, from various additional revenue streams you may have as a player.

Short Duration

As Riot wrote recently, there’s at least one 10 year deal in League of Legends. Yeah. 10 years. That’s insane. While Riot will implement rules to limit contracts to 3 years, Vainglory right now is not as mature as League of Legends and so we recommend 1 year max, or 3 to 6 months if you’re not sure if you’re getting a good deal. 

No “Contract Ceiling”

Make sure your contract explicitly specifies that you as a player will be informed about another organization approaching your organization about you. If you never know who else is interested in you, or how much they’re offering - how will you know your market value? You won’t, and thus you will very likely be underpaid. It’s okay to be paid less if you are in it for other causes; but you should have the right to know when this happens instead of being in the dark.

Good Buyout Options

The whole point of signing a contract is to have a guarantee of services over a period of time. That said, reality is such that things often don’t work out. A good contract should have 3 buyout options:

  • player can pay $$ to get out of contract without penalties. This amount is usually large.
  • player can pay $ to get out of contract but can’t be competitive for a certain period of time. The $ amount is usually low, but the duration of no-competition varies. 
  • company can pay the player $ to get out of contract, and the player is free to continue to compete for other companies. The $ amount in this case is similarly low. 

For reference, we use the same $ amount for both options 2 and 3, so that it’s equally fair for both parties.

Fair Responsibility

You should be able to terminate the contract if the company acts in violation of it. It’s as simple as that. 

Nice to Haves

We have a few extra things that further protect the player but are not necessary for the contract to be solid. For example, GankStars can’t terminate the contract during a competitive event without a good amount of notice. Or, if you were on a starting roster and played at least one game in a competition and then you were benched, you’ll still be guaranteed a (smaller) percentage of the wins. 

Other Red Flags

Are you being pressured to sign? Do you hear a lot of promises but not much in writing? Is the organization being clear as to who they want to sign and who they don't? Watch out for these red flags and anything else that feels fishy. 

What's in a Good Organization?

Transparency

Organizations will probably not disclose their balance sheet or full finances to the players, just like a private business rarely discloses theirs. That said, there should be a lot of transparency in terms of vision, short- and long-term plans, payouts, etc. If you find out that an org keeps their players in complete darkness, that's a warning sign. One simply can't feel like they're a part of the cause if they don't know what's going on - that's the difference between a job and a passion.

Culture Fit

Get references from existing players in the eSports club that's approaching you or you're trying to join. It doesn't matter if the club doesn't have players in your game yet. Hang out with those players, talk about life, ask generic questions about the club, and get a sense of their culture. Is it a culture that inspires you, or one that you feel you'd have to "deal with"?

Also talk to players that have left the club, and try to understand their perspective. The main focus here is not to see who was right or wrong, but to see if the breakup was treated with respect by the organization. Not everything can be written down in a contract; in situations that are gray areas, you'll know that a club that respects its players will make the right decision.

Integrity

Integrity is hard; you often have to pass on the "easy way out" or an instant reward. But integrity inspires, instills trust and confidence, and promotes fair play. This also means that you should expect the club to treat you equally to other players and enforce rules. You want to join a club that can get tough when needed, but only when needed. Otherwise, it can devolve into chaos or lose respect of the community in the long run.

Conclusion

Get guaranteed minimum pay, reasonable prize money split, few to no restrictions on additional sources of revenue, short duration, good buyout options, the right to know when another org is interested in you, and hopefully some nice to haves. Watch out for pressure to sign, a lot of talk but no walk, and the org being unclear about who gets contracted and who doesn’t. Talk to current players inside that org and those that left to get multiple perspectives. Email us at info@gankstars.gg with any questions - it's hard to capture everything in a single article.

If you do contact us, we'll keep the conversation confidential. These kinds of decisions can change one's immediate life-path and are sensitive topics. If something is outside of our expertise, we'll be happy to suggest some authorities to talk to, especially if it's related to legal advice. It benefits everyone, including GankStars, to have a healthy community of competitive players that are just as well-protected as the companies they sign contracts with.

Vainglory In-Game Guild System Explained

Finally, a moment we've all been waiting for - an in-game guild system! Patch 1.9 FTW. So how exactly does the guild system work? PwntByUkrainian sat down with Kraken, the UX director at Super Evil Megacorp, to get some answers.

1. "Thank you, Kraken! Straight to business - we've seen 'club' used as a term before. Are you still debating about it or have you officially settled on 'guild'?"

K: "We've settled on 'guild'."

2. "What is the max guild level right now?"

K: "There isn't one."

3. "Does the guild grow equal amount of max slots per level? If so, how many spaces per level?"

K: "Yes, guilds add 5 extra slots per level until they reaches the max of 50. So at the start, the guild is limited to 20 members. At level 2 the guild can have 25 members. At level 3 - 30. And so on. Max capacity of 50 is achieved at level 7."

4. "Luke. I am your father."

K: "Spoiler."

5. "If only 2 out of 3 people in a group are from the same guild, does the guild still get points after the game? Is it a smaller number of points than if all 3 people were from the same guild (as far as points toward guild level)?"

K: "Not right now. A group has to have all 3 people from the same guild in order for the players and the guild to gain fame."

6. "Do casual games result in the same amount of fame as ranked games?"

K: "Yes. Any match where you go through the matchmaker counts; private matches do not award guild fame."

7. "Will we be able to see guild and team tags at the same time under people's names in Friends List?"

K: "Right now, both in-game and in the lobby, it will show player's guild tag if that player is not on a team; otherwise, it will show player's team tag. In the future, this will continue to be the case in a match; however, we may show both team and guild tags in lobby's Friends List."

Pwnt: "Sweet, your next beer is on me."

8. "How many games before someone can be assigned as a guild officer?"

K: "Officers cannot currently be assigned. The ranks are automatic based on how many games player has played while teamed up with 2 other guildmates."

9. "I see 'Initiate'. What are the names of all ranks?"

K: "Initiate, Member (after 10 games), Veteran (after 30 total games). The creator of the guild is Captain."

10. "Do all ranks have same permissions/priviledges right now?"

K: "Captains and Veterans can invite in invite-only guilds; no other differences exist between ranks right now as far as privileges/permissions."

11. "Do all guild ranks contribute the same amount toward guid level per game played?"

K:  "No. Each player gets certain amount of fame, and the sum of all fame gained is contributed toward the guild level. For games won, Captains get 125 fame per game played with guildmates, Veterans - 100, Members - 75, and Initiates - 10. So Captains and Veterans help raise the guild's level the fastest, on a per-game basis. When the group loses a game, they gain around 70% of these amounts (so 7 fame for Initiate instead of 10, etc.)"

12. "What happens when a Captain leaves?"

K: "In a guild, when the Captain leaves, the most-senior member of the guild becomes Captain. If that person leaves, the next most-senior member becomes Captain, etc. So if you start a guild and Player A joins the guild first, and then Player B joins the guild, and then you leave the guild, Player A will be the new Captain."

NOTE: Captain Neato also said on Twitter that for a team, when the team leader leaves, the player with the next-highest elo rating becomes the new leader.

13. "Do any other game activities increase guild rank? For example, in-houses (all 6 people are from the same guild)."

K: "Nope, only public matches (casual or ranked)."

14. "Majority Skill Tier shows Ask Again Later but we’re all higher than that?"

K: "Not exactly sure, see if it updates after a day. Otherwise could be a bug related to tier compression."

NOTE: It did update for GankStars the next day, so it seems this is not a bug.

15. "Recently Active shows 0/15 and we have 10 people online since hours ago..."

K: "This is based on games played, not just being online."

NOTE: This number also updated for GankStars the next day.

16. "Can we pay ICE to rename a guild, like we can to change our IGNs?"

K: "That's not something we've been talking about adding. We want guild names to be pretty stable. If you want a new name, you'll have to forge a new guild."

17. "Will guilds ever expire? There’s a tag we want, it fits us perfect, and that 'guild' has 1 member in it who hasn’t been active for a month…"

K: "Guilds are permanent for now."

18. "I marked my guild as Invite Only. Oops. How do I change it?"

K: "That's something we'll have to account for down the road, but for now it's a fixed setting."

19. "I’d love for the guild to have collective ICE that each member can apply to withdraw from. For example: leader buys 5000 ICE. A member needs skin. They say 'Pay with Guild Funds' and leader can then approve or decline the request. Would this ever be implemented?"

K: "I think it's a cool idea, not sure if it will fit in our roadmap, but thanks for the idea :)"

20. "Does the guild chat have any sort of history, or can members only see it while they’re online and they can’t see what was posted while they were offline?"

K: "No offline chat history exists as of right now, though I'd very much like to change that."

And there you have it! Thanks to Kraken for his time on a busy day.

Have even more questions? Mejlis answers many gotchas in a forum post here.

 

Where, How, and How Much: Practical Answers to Guild Management

Did you read our previous blog post on starting a guild and thought, “That’s cute, but… where do I actually get a custom e-mail address?” This post is for you. No frills, no philosophy - just straight-up answers.

There may be better services and ways of solving problems - please tell us at info@gankstars.org if you know them so we can share here. We spent many, many hours comparing services & finding solutions for ourselves; it doesn't mean there aren't even better answers. Note that we are not paid or in any way encouraged to mention these specific services. Our only official sponsor at the time of writing is Mobcrush, and they are not mentioned in any special way compared to other streaming services.

Web Site

SquareSpace - we use and recommend them. The cost including the domain name is $10/month or $96/year (20% savings). Easy to use, beautiful layouts, customizable, and with an incredible customer support.

Weebly - heard of them also being great. We didn’t spend much time there, so they could even be better than SquareSpace for you; do check them out. 

WordPress - we know HalcyonHammers are running a highly-customized WordPress site, but you should only pick this option if you’re somewhat technically proficient. 

For VG image backgrounds, check out the work of Justin Murray on his Devian Art page.

E-mail

Want a custom e-mail address such as something@mydomain.com? Pick your web site provider first, and then see if they offer this option as an add-on - SquareSpace does, for example. Gmail is the best e-mail provider in our opinion. You’ll pay $50/year per account, so consider setting up just one account as there are better ways to spend money.

Logo & Animations

We recommend LooseKeys studio (@LooseKeys). Prices vary, but expect $150-300 for a decent logo. Logos are very finicky business so if one designer just doesn’t produce the feel you want, move on to another - a good designer will understand and won’t be offended.

T-Shirt & Hat Sales

T-shirt design and one-off prints are covered below, but for having an online store we recommend Bonafide Clothing

Pros: personal attention, no setup cost, you get a personalized address & store pages, they take merchandise photos, manage orders & inventory, and ship on-demand (no need for bulk purchases). In return, they take 25% of the revenue and their shirts include their (small) logo on the back, just below the collar. You can remove the logo if you pre-pay for shirt inventory, though (100+ shirts at a time). If you want soft shirts - ask for same shirts Mobcrush uses. Base price isn’t punishing and lets you sell great shirts for as low as $19.95. 

Cons: it takes awhile to get up and running, and if you want to do two-sided design (front and back) you have to pre-pay cost of at least 100 shirts (on the plus side, pre-paid shirts don’t have livebnfd logo on the back, so it won’t interfere with your design). 

Hats: They have 5-panel hats where the front area is one panel instead of 2 (no stitching on the front which would interfere with your logo… trust us, we spent a lot of time looking for this). Many customization options for hats are offered. You must pre-pay for 100 hats at least if you’d like to sell hats - you cannot do those on-demand. 

T-Shirt Design

Use whatever designer does good work there. We used Brad Chmielewski (@LooseKeys on Twitter, he is also the host of Shatter the Vain podcast, among other things). He knows his stuff and didn’t murder us despite a lot of micromanagement on our part. Reasonable prices.

Format: preferable format is .ai (Adobe Illustrator), but .psd (Photoshop) should work also. You want to have your canvas in 300 DPI, not just 72 - this ensures no blur once printed. Each printer will ask for a different size of images, but typically it’s 13 inches across, 19 inches down (or something like 4500x5700 pixels). That’s the printable area on the shirt, which is usually the area from seam to seam (with about 1 inch margin - i.e., can’t print closer than 1 inch near a seam such as collar, shoulder, or bottom of shirt). Keep in mind that female tops, sleeveless shirts, etc. can have smaller areas, so the best design is one that leaves a little space on the sides, to allow you to sell more types of shirts.

Front or back: for on-demand orders via Bonafide Clothing, you must do front designs only. Unless you pre-pay for the inventory of 100+ shirts - then you can put design on both front and back of the shirt. Doing front and back with services like CustomInk.com, or doing more than 1 color, will always cost more money.

T-Shirt One-Offs 

If you’re not in a big hurry, you can use an online service such as CustomInk.com or Zazzle.com.

If you want some shirts ASAP, you can do screen printing at your local t-shirt shop - it’s much faster, often the same day, but costs $40/50 per shirt. They may ask for your design in both it’s final colors (try to stick to one or two colors) as well as in black (i.e. the text and logos all black). What happens is they use the black version to capture the outline of the text/images, and then they fill that outline with the color of choice. Once you have your logos and text in both colors, go to the shop. They’ll have only certain colors available, not all of them - so you’ll have to match your color to the closest one available once you’re talking to them in-person. 

Your local shop will want your designs in PNG format at 300DPI resolution and every piece should be in a separate file. For example, for our fist shirt, we sent them 3 generic files: the fist, the mobcrush logo, our motto text for the back. We then sent 3 files that were just Sirius team player names for the back of the shirts.

In San Francisco, we use Bang-On T-Shirts - find a similar place locally.

T-Shirt Quality

Technically, shirts themselves are cheap, very cheap. We’re talking $5-6 for some of the best-quality shirts out there (made in the USA, too). But different vendors will upcharge based on quality. The thicker the shirt, the more durable it is, but also the less soft and comfortable it is. American Apparel Tri-Blend is very soft, for example, but won’t last as long as a 100% cotton shirt. If you want something that’s reasonably soft but will also last - go with a combed or ringspun cotton shirt as opposed to a normal cotton shirt. American Apparel's 50/50 is a great pick - 50% ringspun cotton, 50% polyester. It's very soft, but still feels like it will last. 

Read here for more on shirt quality.

Jersey Printing

Designing a jersey is the easy part; printing is the hard part. Very few places will print jerseys for you if it has graphics all around and on the shoulders. It takes weeks, you have to order in bulk and pre-pay, etc. Don’t do this until you have a team worth putting into jerseys, or until you’re swimming in money. Once you’re ready, though, we recommend you contact Christian Stagg from Dynamic Team SportsIf you find out which printing company the teams in other games are using (League of Legends, DOTA, etc.) - please let us know at info@gankstars.org.

Merchandise Store vs One-off Prints

T-shirt design, unless it's just you logo on it, takes time. It doesn't exactly make your guild better or stronger. Use livebnfd.com if you expect to sell more than a few shirts. Even then, stick to one design unless you're achieving decent popularity and/or have free design services available. 

If most of your customers are your own guild members, consider sticking with one-off prints - just order in bulk more or less to get a discount (say, 15 at a time), then distribute to each member. 

Database & Info Sharing

Write things down! But where? We recommend Evernote - it syncs across any number of devices, so all of your co-leaders and co-organizers can access things. Going to Korea with a team? Make a note with apartment details, emergency info, etc. Signing a contract? Put a copy in Evernote. You can later sub-section and give access to certain notes only to certain people. It stores text, images, PDFs, etc. You can even have a note for common web URLs - VIPL schedule, VGL announcements, media mentions of your team(s), and so on. You can also create a password-protected note where you store logins to various services.

For file storage, use Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. We use such service to store copies of contracts, hi-res images such as logos and merchandise designs, photos of our teams in professional settings, member photos, etc. 

Tip: don’t use your contact e-mail address as your login address. 

Voice Chat

We use Discord App and highly recommend it. It’s still a bit raw, but the quality is superb. Completely free, no ads.

Do not use Skype unless you like being DDOS’ed. If you do use Skype, make sure to go to Settings -> Advanced (or w/e the equivalent is on iOS/Android), and DO check the “Allow direct connections to my contacts only” option. This hides your IP address from non-contacts (yes, your IP address is completely exposed to anyone and everyone otherwise). Make sure you do this for every device where you installed Skype. Finally, do NOT accept contact requests from people unless you’re _sure_ you know who they are and you trust them. We suggest limiting this list to people at SEMC or other officials, and to never ever add players you meet in Vainglory - ask them to chat to you via Discord instead.

Text Chat

Discord app does provide text chat, and if you’re starting from scratch, we recommend you try sticking with Discord for text as well as voice. Us - we're still using Line app for text because that’s where we started. Band app is also good and is used by many in the Vainglory community.  All of these options are free.

If you travel to Korea, download Kakao Talk app - it’s a Line app clone, but something that’s very popular here. 

DDOS Protection

Having problems? Try IPVanish or Hide My Ass. Then, change your external (WAN) IP address - use a search engine to find out how. As soon as you change your external IP, always use one of those IP blocking services from the time your computer(s) boot or as soon as you get on your mobile device.

Social

Twitter is where it’s at. You can have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, or wherever else if you like, but if you want to focus your efforts - stick with Twitter. Make sure to follow @vainglorygame and @vaingloryleague

Do reserve your username on major streaming services as well - Twitch, Mobcrushand Kamcord. We’d even suggest reserving similar names to yours, such as one with an “l” in place of an “i” - this saves you headache when someone comes in posing as you or your guild. 

Player Contracts

If your team participates in something with prize pools exceeding a few hundred bucks, or seems stable enough to last for months, we recommend you solidify your relationship with contracts. Money has been known to ruin friendships - take the unknown out of the equation by having a written agreement. 

We at GankStars are passionate about player-sided contracts and hope this inspires others to do the same. Just like unhappy employees leave companies, unhappy players leave teams. That said, take a cut from the get-go to cover guild expenses - logo & t-shirt designs, merchandise sample printing, travel, etc. Make your contracts short-term at first and change them as the organization grows. 

For example, you may only need to take 10 or 20% of winnings at the start to cover guild expenses. We certainly don’t recommend going above 20% at the start - again, it’s best to have motivated players. But as the org grows, this number will change - travel, analytics, coaching, and promotion cost money. Don’t start off with a 50/50 split just because someday your bottom line may dictate it. Just like when you start own business, you the business owner should be paid last because re-investing into the business and its people pays off.

We also don’t recommend taking control out of players’ hands over their own destiny. Imagine being unable to interview at another company just because you’re employed somewhere already! Short, specific, player-focused contracts make for happy team members. That said, if you’re reading this as a player - understand that your team’s brand is organization’s property, and that the organization/guild needs to have some sort of budget to exist. Any good contract will include brand protections and restrictions on how you as a player can behave on social media, how your image as a player of the guild/team may be used, etc. Both sides need to avoid short-term greed. 

We are not ready to share a template contract at this time, but perhaps we will in the future - if so, a separate blog post will be made.

Corporate

If you’re handling money, it’s best to be incorporated - be it a Limited Liability Company (LLC, recommended) or an S-Corp (Small Corporation). Don’t rush this - having a company is as easy as paying a few hundred bucks to LegalZoom and, by itself, it means nothing. But it also takes some time, so start this a month or more ahead of when you think you’ll be making your first payouts or securing your first sponsor (although you can easily secure a sponsor without an LLC). LegalZoom is great for help, but it does try to sell you a bunch of extra services - you can probably be fine without most or all of them. The final decision is yours.

When you make an LLC in the United States, you must pick the state in which to incorporate it. Each state has different laws regarding LLCs, different protections for customers vs company members, different tax filing requirements, etc. We recommend you incorporate in Nevada. They have very LLC-friendly laws and a lot of adjudication experience in the area of entertainment/gaming. You don’t need to live there to incorporate there. Nevada is the state where GankStars is incorporated as an LLC. 

When incorporating as an LLC, make sure to list your co-leaders as members. Pay attention to the articles of incorporation! Write them in a way that is fair and predicts both good and bad in the future (members leaving, members trying to take over other members’ share, decision-making, decision resolution/tie breakers, leaving shares for future investors, distribution of initial shares, etc.)

Finally, you want LegalZoom to apply for an EIN for you. Employer Identification Number is essential to conducting business in the USA as a company - it’s basically your company’s Social Security Number.

After you have your LLC legalized, use your Articles of Incorporation and EIN to open a business bank account at your bank of choice. After that is done and your team starts having travel needs, you can apply for a credit card if you want, to start accumulating air miles and other rewards. We recommend Chase Sapphire Preferred for that. 

Expenses

Absolutely take the time to write down every guild-related expense _and_ save the receipt. You can do this in Evernote or use an app & service specifically designed for it, such as Expensify. Physical receipts can be destroyed once you have them in electronic form - just make sure to back up the data. Why write down expenses before you're incorporated? You can actually expense purchases made prior to your LLC becoming formed, within a certain time window. Things add up, too, and you always want a sober look at your finances. For example, we just looked at how much one-off shirts cost us and said "whoa, enough with that." 

Side note - be frugal. Spending is easy; saving is what counts. Expenses skyrocket when you grow and you'll always, always wish you had more budget. So - do you really need what you're about to buy? 

Phew! That was a lot. We hope this gives you enough information to get started! Please tweet at us @vggankstars if you’d like something added or just want to say hi. Best of luck out there!

Building a Guild: Lessons Learned

(The summary is at the end.) I was asked this question by quite a few people. It seems fitting to start our Blog with something that inadvertently speaks to the history of the guild. We hope this helps other teams start and solidify faster so we all end up enjoying a more rich Vainglory community. This isn't an exhaustive list, and there is always more than one way of doing anything, but I feel the things listed here are important to almost any foundation. With no further adieu, here's what I learned from my time as a leader of GankStars. 

Find Partner(s)

You want someone as mature as you or better to help you. Ideally, both you and your partner(s) will be mature enough to not take drama personally and to be able to separate being a leader from being a member. If you're not mature enough to do that - don't start a guild, and just join one and learn until you feel you've learned enough. Knowing your weaknesses is a strength.

Why find partner(s)?

- running a guild is just as hard as running any organization, and having someone there for the times you're down or unavailable will significantly speed things up

- everyone makes bad decisions, especially in the spur of the moment, so having a second (or third and fourth) head(s) will help you avoid those decisions

- it forces you to work as a team right away; if you can't work as part of a team and can only bark orders, you will likely fail eventually 

- if all you want is credit or to be "the man," are you really in it for the right reasons? Paint an arrow on your mirror with the words "The Man" above it and save yourself and others a lot of time!

GankStars as we know it today was founded by myself, Sphix, and IraqiZorro. This month, FooJee joined the leadership and competitive teams, so we have four people making decisions. Has it always been sunshine and rainbows with so many people running something? Not even close; humans lead to drama, always, and you and I are no exception. Yet I can name multiple instances where, had it been just me on leadership, the guild would likely wither off and die. Same would be true if I wasn't there - having a different point of view made all the difference. 

Agree on a Uniting Goal

Make sure that you and your partner(s) aren't in it for fame, ego, profit, or other selfish reasons. Selfish reasons are fun for you, but they don't inspire others. You should have a common, genuine goal such as "providing a fun environment for newbies," or "running one of the best teams in the game." If you feel your partners are after self-promotion (shouldn't be hard to spot based on their actions) - talk it out immediately, and move on if you can't resolve it. 

After you have a vision, make a few rules centered around your goal. All of your new members should share that goal and agree to those rules. And I mean all of them. The first person that doesn't will start driving a wedge in your culture, which will eventually lead to a crack and some sort of drama later on.

The more guilds spring up, the harder it will be to attract the players you want. A great goal/vision and a clean set of rules will help you attract them. 

To give you an example, GankStars started with a simple goal: to have a place for friends to play and grow together. At the time Vainglory was very young and that's all there was to it. Eventually we added trying to be the best pro eSports team in Vainglory. We have 4 rules that support that goal:

  1. No assholes or drama queens.
  2. Everyone must be willing to improve and take feedback.
  3. Everyone must have and show great sportsmanship.
  4. New members cannot join if existing members don't approve of them.

Your vision is your destination; your rules are the paved road you stay within to get there.

Focus on People

Web site, logos, Twitter, etc. do matter, but they mean nothing without people. I don't recommend producing bad-quality anything, but consider starting with just a Twitter account. Outside of that, focus on recruiting & keeping great people. 

People lead to drama - accept that fact. It's not wrong or right, it just is. This will test your chops as leader(s). The key is to take yourself out of the situation as an individual and look at it as an unbiasedly as possible. Is the person really mean, or are you/another member in a bad mood and just took something they said badly? That said, don't let anyone in the guild run amok. If your most-skilled player (or most-social one, if that's your guild emphasis) is being a total ass and refuses to apologize - kick them. Better now than later. Don't worry, there are many skilled/social players out there, but they won't want to join you if you have assholes pushing people around. 

Books can be written on drama and people. In general,  always hear out both sides of the story and act on facts alone. Be kind, and give people second chances *if* they ask for it and apologize for the first time. Try not to argue with anyone publicly. Ask them in public to tone something down if things are happening too fast, but use PMs to resolve the situation or only PMs if possible. After the situation is resolved you can ask the person to apologize publicly - it doesn't have to be a long thing, a simple sincere "sorry about that" will do most of the time.

We had our share of drama at GankStars. Rude people were kicked. Sometimes I screwed up and had to post an apology. Sometimes another leader screwed up. We had leaders leave temporarily. We all grew from these experiences, and in the end it was buckets of humility that helped us get through things. Always carry buckets of humility with you (or boxes, if you're Taka).

Guard Your Brand

Your brand isn't just your logo; your brand is literally everything that can be in any way linked to you or your members. Anything and everything that is public in any way ultimately relates to your brand. Think of "brand" as a synonym to "trust" - it takes time to build, and no time to lose. 

Ask your members to be wary of guild brand. If they show affiliation with your guild on Twitter but their profile is offensive - that's direct damage to the guild brand. Don't ask the public to be rational; instead realize that your members' behavior will always reflect on your guild's brand. 

Was your member rude to a random person in in-game chat that one time? Your guild brand just took a hit - cross your fingers screenshots don't get posted. Did you or your co-leader just tweet something arrogant or negative? You just damaged your brand. Think twice before you do things, and ask everyone to pay great attention to how they represent your guild. 

On the plus side, building a good brand by doing small good things pays off big time in the long run. Trust me, you may not have been approached yet by that amazing potential new member you were hoping to recruit, but they know your brand and will reach out if their situation changes if they find your brand to be good. Other guilds won't be afraid to promote you if your brand is positive. On the other hand, promoting a guild with a negative vibe would reflect bad on the guild doing it, so people won't do it. Nobody owes you anything in life - this Earth was here before you, and it will keep spinning just fine without you. So focus on earning trust instead of asking for it.

Brand is a big reason why we have the "great sportsmanship" rule. We don't post screenshots of wins online, for instance, because bragging isn't a good brand. 

Actions > Words

At the start all you have is your word, and that’s fine. But once you lay out your vision and rules, it’s time to shut up and let your actions speak on your behalf. Don’t focus on being popular or recognized - just do what you set out to do well, and the rest will come (assuming you’re not negative/toxic).

This means:

  • Don’t gloat
  • Don’t brag
  • Don’t talk crap about other teams or guilds
  • Don’t make a ton of promises
  • Don’t reveal plans much ahead of time unless you need to raise money or other support
  • Don’t answer insults or let people push your buttons; when you remain on high ground, the trolls only make fools of themselves

This is especially true for your own members. If you promise things, do them. If you have rules, follow them. A fish rots at the head; don’t be the head that rots. Prioritize integrity. That doesn’t mean being unnecessarily strict or controlling - it just means staying true to your word. Guess what, you’re not just building your guild’s brand on the outside - you’re also building a brand on the inside, as well as your own (leader’s) brand. When you lead, the spotlight is on at all times and everything you do is scrutinized - keep that in mind.

Recruiting

I already mentioned that everyone being on the same page about the vision/goal and the rules is important. That may be hard to accomplish if you recruit too fast - you don’t have the time to really check what people are made of. We made that mistake a few times at GankStars and it bit us just about every time.  It’s up to you how slow you recruit, and I wouldn’t artificially slow down recruitment - but make sure you have enough time to feel people out. A few days is a minimum, in my opinion.

If I told you that we decline over 95% of applicants, you’d think it’s because we are more known now or are more focused on being competitive. But the truth is, we’ve always done it, and doing it is what helped us be more successful. It’s hard to find people who fit your vision of the guild, and that’s okay - nothing wrong with knowing what you want. Don’t be afraid to say no. You don’t go out with every single person you meet, right? So say no a whole lot more often than you say yes; it’s a red flag if you don't. Be nice about it, though :)

How did GankStars recruit? We started by posting in Vainglory official forums. After we got our web site, we added an application page there. We’ve also approached people we met in-game if we liked how they carried themselves. Finally, and this is up to you, we have a rule about not poaching - if someone isn’t guildless or doesn’t apply to us first, we don’t go out to recruit them. That just creates bad blood between guilds and you can get by without doing it.

Miscellaneous

We’ll discuss sponsorship, merchandise, internet setup (how to test for good wifi and such) in future posts. Honestly, if you’re starting, you shouldn’t be worried about sponsorship or anything like that. Focus on what matters - your core vision - and the rest will come naturally.

Voice - use Discord app, it’s great and free. We highly recommend not using Skype due to security issues (definitely do _not_ give your Skype username to anyone you don’t know, and do not accept requests unless you’re 100% sure you know the person).

Web site - we use squarespace.com because it’s simple, good enough, and cheap. I hear Weebly is also great. I know some well-known guilds have beautiful sites on WordPress, but I believe that’s a lot more work.

tl;dr

  • find partners
  • come up with a uniting goal/vision, and create rules from that
  • focus on people at first, not small details
  • guard your brand, both external and internal one
  • actions speak louder than words, so speak less and do more
  • recruit slowly
  • be humble, always - can't emphasis this enough

I hope this helps someone!! <3 Now go start the next big thing.

we are supported by