With pre-launch tools and hype for upcomming MMOs like The Old Republic and The Secret World, developers are trying to rope in players and give them the tools to solidify the new game as a guild's new home. However, there's a few things to keep in mind when preparing for a new game.Most of these are for guild leaders, but also things to consider if you're looking at a guild yourself!
1. Community projects don't usually pay off in terms of recruits.
I've seen this a few times. Someone thinks that making an interactive map, guild search tool, or constantly releasing articles will tranlate into recruitment advantages. Don't get me wrong, they're great, and very much appreciated, but it's a lot of work and usually thankless. I've been on both ends of this, and I can tell you that I've yet to meet anyone who joined a guild and became a long-term member because the guild did good things for the community. People just love to take advantage of free stuff.
How do you balance between the work and rewards? Take advantage of user submissions and upkeep. If you can allow users to make adjustments and simply act as an admin, you'll save yourself a lot of time while also creating a tool that your guild, at the very least, can be proud of. People will recognize your guild name and look at your other qualities a bit more than a random guild, so that even if you're not progress oriented, name familiarity may be enough to get someone to look at what you have to offer that others don't. If you place all the burden on yourself and drop the ball, the failure will stick to your guild more than the success would have added to your fame.
2. Don't go in as a new guild.
New guilds rarely make it, and veteran players know it. Older guilds just have a lot of advantages for long term gamers that can't be grown at the drop of a hat, and with MMOs becoming more popular (and short term), stability means more to veteran MMOers.
The WoW crowd's still learning this though. You may be able to lure some skilled raiders in, but WoW has bred short attention spans and a sense of entitlement in some of the more casual raiders.
TOR's pre-launch tool has been out since, mm, March 2010. About 5 months. In that amount of time you can build a guild in an existing guild with people looking at the new game and actually have some history before you try to recruit. Get pictures of events you host, note how you progress or rank, etc. A short history gives you a little something over the rest of the crowd though. People notice the difference between "we have" and "we will," and the past tense resonates a bit more.
3. Don't auto-recruit people interested in your guild when the game's first announced.
Sadly, some of the first people looking at the game will probably be some of the first who drop by the wayside. They're often too enthusiastic. They're looking for a grail of gaming, and any game that may be it will attract them until specifics come out. Fan boys are also part of it, and their judgement may be clouded. Finally, some folks are just going to forget about the game. Those who are interested, keep in contact with them. Try to play something else with'em. The ones that last at least till launch will do something for ya. The rest aren't great investments. They'll wanna join, they'll jump through hoops, but when push comes to shove, you'll find them missing come launch day.
4. Keep planning to a minimum until you've actually played the game.
Promising to allow members access to guild catapults only works if the game actually has catapults at launch. I've seen new guilds promise bounties to members but launch made it so that the leaders would have to pay this out of their own pockets, which they didn't want to do. Their members got pissed, thrashed the guild's name, and it died shortly after the game's launch. Don't be one of these guilds.
The other thing is that once the game launches, most people are going to be selfish. Even if you work together during the initial push to, say, buy a guild house, know that many newer members (and some veterans!) are going to do their own thing. How you handle that is up to you, but games are for fun, and people are going to put that ahead of the guild in any situation that they don't see themselves benefiting from.
5. Whatever you planned, stick to it as best as you can at launch.
Things are going to go wrong. People will join the wrong server, wrong faction, go to the wrong town, etc. However, if you do whatever you said you did (and have it in writing), you'll go much farther. Even better, the more people it effects, the more you should consider it. For example, if the plan is to go to the "Bloodmist" server on launch day as "Jimmy," but you find out that the name is taken on that server, don't go to a different server! Once people make their first character they won't want to restart most of the time. They'll keep as many materials as they can and power through the start of the game. That's a given. If you switch servers over a name, you're going to lose people, while if you stay on the server as "Jimmi," at least you can still eventually hunt down people who got the server correct! It may take some convincing that it's really you, but that's much easier than switching servers.
I'm sure other folks have some tips, but after over a decade of dealing with this sort of thing, I find that these are some of the simpler things that people still forget during the planning phases. Those who keep these in mind will usually do better in the long run. Though there are exceptions, the vast majority of people who don't understand these tips will find that they don't last long once the gate's opened and the other, more solid gates come barreling in.