Thursday, June 26, 2008
The one-dungeon guild
A reader wrote me with an interesting solution to the guild hopping problem in World of Warcraft. You know, people leaving one guild to join another guild which is one dungeon further in the raid circuit, speeding up their progress, but slowing down the progress of their original guild in the process. As this behavior is widespread and hard to stop, why not turn it into an institution: The one-dungeon guild. You'd have guilds like the Karazhan Dragons or the Knights of Serpentshrine, and all that guild does is organizing raids to the one dungeon they were made for. Once people have all the loot from Karazhan, they quit the Karazhan Dragons and join the Knights of Serpentshrine without guild drama, because now this is what is actually expected of them. Others might opt to stay behind longer because they like Karazhan as a place, or prefer smaller raids, and become the experienced raid leaders in the Karazhan guild.
Spinning that thought further, if a guild is simply a means towards a specific goal, and not a voluntary association of likeminded people, there is really no reason why we need all that complicated manual application, invitation, and vetting process. If third-party website can tell you what raid dungeon you're well-equipped enough to visit, then so should the game itself be. Quitting the Karazhan Dragons and joining the Knights of Serpentshrine could be done with the press of a single button in-game, as long as your equipment score qualified you for Serpentshrine Cavern. Why go through all the bother of lying on your application of how loyal you are going to be to your next guild, if all you want is get ahead in the raid circuit?
There would even need to be only one guild for every dungeon, preferably with in-game tools like raid calendars and easy raid slot distribution. Why have lots of small Karazhan guilds, each failing to get 10 raiders together on bad days, if you could have one big Karazhan guild that organizes a number of raids proportional to the number of people interested?
If now you are thinking of organizational details and the administrative problems this could cause, you fell for my sarcasm. Because I think that in spite of there being a trend towards guilds that are only there to get you to the next raid step, this trend will kill MMORPGs in the long run. If you compare single-player RPGs with MMORPGs, you'll find that the single-player games often offer more features, like a storyline for example. The reason why so many more people are playing MMORPGs than single-player RPGs is that MMORPGs offer you better interaction with other players. There is a well-known phenomenon of people already being bored with the game they are playing, but staying in it (and keeping to pay monthly subscriptions) because of their friends and guild mates. Turning a guild into an impersonal machine with a single purpose diminishes human interaction. If guild hopping is popular, it is a sign that there should be more rewards to guild loyalty, not that guild hopping should be made easier.