Monday, October 15, 2007
Game design causes guild behavior
Via Sweet Flag I found an older post I had missed over at Mind Bending Puzzles, which then lead me to a post at Hardcore Casual. What these posts have in common is that they are talking about guilds, and especially Syncaine's post on Hardcore Casual about "the sickness that was WoW raiding" is very revealing. I know exactly what he is talking about. Even if my raid schedule was never 7 nights a week, I did the whole MC / Onyxia / BWL thing too ad nauseam.
Recently an anonymous (!) commenter was taunting me saying how funny it was that a guy who gets over 2,000 readers a day on his blog can't even find enough people to guild / group with. That comment, and many other things you can read in various blogs about guilds are all based on the common misconception that it is the quality of the people that determines how good, powerful, and pleasant to play with a guild is. I disagree with that. While there are certainly jerks and immature people who can ruin guild life (see previous post), a major part of guild behavior is determined by game design. If you read 100 stories about World of Warcraft guild dramas, you will find the same problems appearing over and over again. The same "my casual guild broke up because some people wanted to go raiding", the same "we had a great 40-man raid guild going, but now Karazhan 10-man raids are splitting the guild apart". Or as mbp says: "The fact is that WOW's end game destroys guilds. In particular it destroys friendly casual guilds, the kind of guild I want to play with. I still haven't forgiven WOW for that." If you read guild drama stories of games that work different, like EVE, you'll see a set of completely different storeis. The EVE stories resemble each other, but they don't resemble the WoW stories, because different game design causes different guild behavior. There are certainly a couple of exceptional guilds that manage to break the pull of game design, but the average WoW guild follows a path where even the drama is predictable. It just evolves naturally out of a combination of basic human nature (which is eternal) and game design (which depends on the specific game).
We can only hope that future MMORPGs offer more to guilds than just a chat channel and the lure of phat loot from raiding. It would be great to have a system where cooperation was more beneficial to all involved, where helping newbies would be an advantage also to more experienced players, and where a guild could have common projects that didn't involve everyone being online from 8 pm to 2 am, 5 to 7 nights a week. There isn't much hope for values such a loyalty if the game design is such that guild hopping is the most efficient course of action.