In the last rambling, I talked about how I personally got into a position where I am now helping to lead a Free Company. Wanting to create a new home like the home we had in FFXI, the old shell-mates and I set about to rebuild what we had there and make our mark in Eorzea. And through the course of that endeavor the home we have now was created. Now we are an established Free Company, and the community that I have been craving since FFXI has been realized.  I hope many of you feel the same.  We have developed a nucleus, and we have the sort of people in our Free Company that are helpful, kind, welcoming to new players, and love playing this game.

We are now presented with a new challenge. How do we maintain and cultivate our community?  Throughout the summer lull, the decrease of new players coming into the game, and as people get burned out here and there, how do we keep the sense of activity and community alive in our Free Company?  These questions are not easily answered. There are so many different types of players, not just with how hardcore or casual they are, but with other intangible things like, how do they prefer to communicate? How introverted or extroverted are they? What gives them satisfaction from playing this game, and keeps them around for years to come? How much do they role play? What is going on in their personal life?  How do their personalities mesh with the other member’s?   There are so many things to balance that as a leader it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and bringing together all of these factors to create a community that is thriving on it’s friendships can seem a daunting task.  But I think the more you focus on the positives, and make your efforts endeavor to get people together instead of getting people things, the more success you’ll have handling these questions.

A little while ago, we went through what all Free Companies go through, where a small but significant number of people left. This was both a good and a bad thing, in that the large number of people who remained have formed that nucleus of the FC, and our bond has been strengthened.   Unfortunately, in our case, it makes the answer to these questions seem even more challenging.

As a leader I am hyper sensitive to the energy a Free Company seems to possess at any given time. Others might be focused merely on their own progress in this game, but I feel a responsibility to all of you that as long as you want be a part of Eorzea, you can belong to a Free Company that values friendship and gives you the tools to participate in all this game has to offer with friends – not strangers. And there are actually a lot of positives that stem from where we’re at now in our situation.

One thing to realize, is that having a small but significant portion of your Free Company leave is a natural thing to happen to a Free Company.  I really believe all Guilds go through it if not once but several times. When you bring together a bunch of people that have never met before in their life, and ask them to start participating in something that involves teamwork, it is only natural for personalities to start clashing. But it is one thing for a Guild to go through this, and another thing for a Guild to go through this and survive. In a way, I see it as a relationship you might have with someone in real life. Everything is usually great for the first three months or so while you’re in the honeymoon phase, but then inevitably, you have that first fight. And that’s the first real test of your relationship. If you can make it past that, you know you have something real going on. And we have passed that test. Our honeymoon phase is over, we’ve had our first fight, and now what we’re left with is something real. Our friendship has been strengthened, our trust has increased, and we all now possess even more ownership of each of our parts in the community.  So that is the first positive, the bonds of friendship that have formed.

Another positive is the lessons we have learned. Those are mainly from my perspective, although maybe you learned some lessons as well. Since I was the person arbiting the whole situation though, I am able to look back now with 20/20 hindsight, and identify how I would have handled things differently. Because of this, I do believe I have grown as a leader, and while it’s naive to think I won’t make leadership mistakes in the future, I do know to watch out for certain behaviors, and when to nip certain things in the bud before they begin. Also, the trust you all have in the leadership ability that TW and I are supposed to possess is hopefully strengthened now as well.

We can use the core nucleus of our membership as a draw for new players. For one thing, that core is not just a few people, it’s a rather large number of people. And because of that, people can join our FC not having to worry about things falling apart. They can see that we have quality friendships here, and that our friendships are not clique-ish. They know they are joining an FC that has been here awhile, has survived struggle, and created a home. Hopefully that sense of permanence will be a point in our favor as members leave dying FC’s to find another home.

Moving forward, these are the answers I’ve come up with as to how we are to maintain a vibrant, energetic atmosphere in our FC, and how we are to keep our community healthy, even when people get burnt out.

For starters, TW and I will always be recruiting. While we do want to focus on the quality of our friendships rather than the quantity, we do have to always be thinking of bringing new people in. This makes up for the few people that leave, and also brings a new life to the FC. Seeing someone join is always an energy boost, and seeing someone leave is always an energy drain. So thinking on this, if you meet a quality group of people not belonging to an FC, send a nod our way, invite them to check us out and reply to the thread we have on the front page of the Hyperion section of the forums. TW and I do our best to keep that thread on the front page, but the more people that reply to it, the less he and I sound like a couple of broken records.

Another thing we need to concentrate on is hanging on to each other. Appreciate the friendships you have in this FC. Take physical notice of the cool people we have, and be consciously thankful for them. These friendships won’t be around forever, so hang on to them while they are here, and I guarantee that this will add much more depth to your experience in Eorzea.

Take your time. I can’t stress this enough. I totally understand the rush and drive to hit the top, but the more we can stop and smell the roses the more we’ll appreciate the game, and the more excited we’ll be when we actually get to the top. Make family and friends in real life a priority. This might mean not as much play time, but the less seriously we take the game, the longer we’ll be around, and the fights and drama that we might ever have will actually be over things that matter.

Visit the forums. This is going to be said time and time again, but an active forum community does so much to strengthen the community in game! Not only does this help with communication and organization, but those of us at work or absent from the game for whatever reason will still be able to participate in our community. We want our FC members to be able to beat content in this game without needing to use Duty Finder or Party Finder. Forums are really the only way to do that. While it is true members can always ask the FC for help in game, they can’t expect their peers to drop whatever they’re doing to help. Forums allow people to ask for help, plan ahead, and others can set aside time for that player. Forums also help you with setting up statics, asking for advice, sharing strategies, the list is endless. But all of that is only possible if people are actually using them.

Get involved with other aspects of the Free Company outside of the game. Do you draw? Write stories? Have opinions about anything you’d like to share? Contribute to our newsletter! Join our Facebook page, follow us on twitter, create pictures in Photoshop of anything Chaos Theory related, make videos, give feedback on our forums, get involved with some of the more peaceful activities that our Free Company is responsible for such as gardening, crafting, providing supplies for the house, raising chocobos. The more you can immerse yourself into the community versus the grind, the more meaning you’ll get out of your achievements because you’ll have people to share them with.

In closing, this game doesn’t really give many reasons for having a Free Company. True, you can buy houses, and you need a Free Company to raise a chocobo, or have a private room, but as far as any organized gear driven content goes, there’s not much. There’s no sky/sea or dynamis that a whole FC can participate in. At best there’s Syrcus tower, but with Duty Finder and Party Finder being so easy and accessible, most people don’t have the right motivation to wait for an FC run. Plus, there’s still a maximum number of people allowed in these dungeons. What this means to us is that the reason you belong to a Free Company isn’t because you want to get things done. It’s because you don’t want to be alone. You want community, you want people to laugh with, complain to, trust in, learn from. I challenge each of us to do what we can to help build and strengthen this community. In the end, when we’ve reached end game, grinded out all the gear, achieved all we wanted, and the game draws to a close, we might just find ourselves entering other games desiring a home just like the one we had here.

Chaos Theory is a Final Fantasy 14 Free Company on the Hyperion Server. Our mission is to provide a safe, friendly home free of elitism that provides its members a structure in which to participate in all Eorzea has to offer.

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