Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 26, 2009
 
Group Dynamics

Larisa from the Pink Pigtail Inn is fascinated by group dynamics in WoW, and compares the management of a guild to what training she had for the management of a group at work. I've been at that sort of management training courses myself, and they *do* teach you useful stuff that can be used for your guild, for example in the field of conflict resolution. Nevertheless I'm asking myself whether World of Warcraft is a good example to study group dynamics, because WoW is seriously lacking in guild purpose and functionality.

If you look at how guilds are managed in WoW, you quickly realize that 90% of the effort goes towards raid organization. Who gets a raid spot? How is loot distributed? Is there a DKP system, and which one? Even guild recruitment is often linked to raids, with guilds only recruiting certain classes they are short of for raiding. Take away raiding, and a guild is reduced to a common chat channel, and maybe the opportunity to find a guild group using that chat. Much later in the game Blizzard added guild bank functionality, but due to the risk of guild bank robberies in most guilds the access is severly limited.

If you log into WoW outside of specified raid times, it is actually quite hard for you to do something "for the guild". Other games, for example A Tale in the Desert, have more opportunities for large collective guild projects, to which everyone can contribute in his own manner. In WoW the only big project is the somewhat nebulous concept of raid progression. And in Wrath of the Lich King that isn't much of a project, because even casual guilds already beat Naxxramas and are just waiting for the next raid dungeon to be patched in. So while there are some challenging management tasks left, like "how do I gear up the maximum number of guild members for Ulduar", there isn't much drive behind them. World of Warcraft guild dynamics suffer, and have always suffered, from the problem that guild progression doesn't really exist, there only exists individual character progression. The only thing a guild gets out of downing a boss is a screenshot on the guild website, the knowledge of how to do, and the loot, goes to individual players. If those individual players stop playing, or quit the guild for another one, guild progress proves to be hollow.

All this causes fundamental differences between what management techniques and group dynamics are good for work environments, and which ones are good for World of Warcraft guild management. The secret of managing people at work is to provide them with the resources and motivation they need to work on their own, without the manager's constant supervision. In World of Warcraft you can get away with much simpler management techniques, of the drill sergeant variety, because there simply is no possibility to let guild members contribute to the general welfare of the guild on their own. The only real guild activity is a raid, and there the guild members are under constant supervision of the manager aka raid leader. Thus guild management is often reduced to the minus 50 DKP variety that even anti-social Gevlon believes in. The third phase of group dynamics, mutual dependency, in which everyone values the other group members, is rarely reached in WoW, because it is a stage which isn't absolutely necessary to succeed.

Strangely it is the hardcore PvP games like Darkfall or EVE that often end up having stronger group dynamics, because people depend much more on their guild. If you talk to people about what attracts them to these games, it is rarely the ability to gank others, but quite often the stronger cohesion of guilds is mentioned. And I do think that it would be possible to create the best of two worlds by making a PvE game with stronger group dynamics, by giving guilds more projects to work on together, and not just together at organized points in time, but also individually. Everquest 2 and Warhammer Online are already experimenting with guild ranks and contributions, but I'd say they aren't quite there yet. If World of Warcraft has one weakness where it could possibly be overcome by a future generation game it is probably this lack of social interaction and long-term group dynamics.
Comments:
People do what they need to do. Currently, they don't need much social interaction. I remember back when I was doing MC, fights really weren't much harder, but I think guilds meant more because it's a lot harder to PUG with 40 people than 10. I suppose that just repeated you.

WoW may never develop a strong group dynamic like in EVE because WoW is for carebears. Such as me. As fun as it sounds to always need (or very often) people supporting me and me supporting them, it is draining. I like being able to solo, without risk. I like not worrying about losing everything. Even on a PvP server, what is the loss from a gank? Not much really. WoW isn't likely to 'force' strong group dynamics because these are the same dynamics that can be so frustrating. The devs or management or someone, are trying to attract and hold carebears. It appears to be working so why would it change?

It would take a new game to change that, perhaps the secretive new Blizzard MMO.
 
The third phase of group dynamics, mutual dependency, in which everyone values the other group members, is rarely reached in WoW, because it is a stage which isn't absolutely necessary to succeed.

Tobold .. we live in different worlds :).

Firstly: If your raid is hold together by selfish people who are just trying to maximise their own benefit (purplebility), find another raid! A raid leader has to motivate people to concentrate, to enchant their equipment, to gem their equipment, to craft equipment, to run heroics to get equipment, to go into battlegrounds to get equipment, to play arena to get equipment and some of them to lead the raid (you don't always want to do this on your own!). In addition, you need to motivate people to look up better ways to play their character at the usual web sites. You need to talk to other raid leaders about ways to improve raid leading, improve the timetable etc etc.

If you talk to people about what attracts them to these games, it is rarely the ability to gank others, but quite often the stronger cohesion of guilds is mentioned.
OMG! .. Is this a surprise for you ?
 
OMG! .. Is this a surprise for you ?

No, I didn't say that. I am just surprised that up to now the ONLY way to get that sort of cohesion is to enable ganking, so that players run for the cover of a guild. I do think that if you designed it well, a game could be both carebear AND have a strong guild cohesion, because there would be projects in the game that players simply couldn't tackle alone.
 
My question was related to your discovery that people are not attracted to these games, because they can gank others.
Actually the possibility of ganking is much more important than the actual ganking (the starting zones excluded).

No serious player of one of those MMOs spends his gametime ganking. It is a possibility that increased RP and the overall atmosphere of the game. And occasionally a few people gank a lot. But the majority of players don't.
 
"And I do think that it would be possible to create the best of two worlds by making a PvE game with stronger group dynamics, by giving guilds more projects to work on together, and not just together at organized points in time, but also individually."

I doubt that very much. There's nothing like fear of getting ganked to really make a guild gel socially. I'm a complete care bear who can't PvP my way out of a wet paper bag but I only like free for all PvP games because the guild bonds are so much stronger. In my last game I was probably in a guild group 90% of the time that I was outside safe spots and I loved every minute of it :) since we really NEEDED each other (since most of us sucked at PvP almost as badly as I did) in a way that can't exist in a PvE game.
 
Well, there ARE things that can help to knit guilds more closely together, like guild websites, forums and arranging meetings in RL. But I think you have a point that the game mechanisms aren't optimized for rewarding group development within the guild.

You're right that it's rare that guilds conciously work to improve in this aspect, to reach a stadium of mutual dependece between the players. Still I think it would be possible to do it. It's a matter of insight, attitude and will. If it was possible it would be interesting if someone did a study, comparing the outcome of two groups approaching a new raid encounter (Ulduar) in two different ways: one pug-like goblin minded, the other one applying the concept of optimizing a group by applying principles of group dynamics. Would they be equally successful?
 
EQ2's guild system is far and away ahead of other games I've seen (LOTRO, FFXI, Guild Wars). When players do repeatable quests or otherwise gain "status" (an alternate currency), their guild gets a portion of that credit to its guild experience bar. As the guild levels up, it gets access to bigger guild halls with better amenities. For example, you can have hired vendors, a banker, an auction house broker, an extra hearth spell to return to the guild hall every 15 minutes, portals from the guild hall to just about every location that players can teleport to, all the crafting stations, etc. As a result, there is a very strong incentive for guild cooperation. My guildies WANT me to use the materials in the guild crafting supply depot (the valuable harvests are the rare ones, like WoW's Lotuses, so all the non-rare spawns get harvested in massive quantities and dumped in a box that I can craft directly out of while in the guild hall) because my crafting progress actually helps the guild.

The only downside is that many longtime players complain that the actual cities are deserted, since there's no reason to leave your guild hall.
 
I ended up viewing guild management a lot of like managing a McDonalds.

You have the core people who almost always show up and you need to keep happy because they make you happy.
You have the casual guys who are great to have but you can't tell when they will be there. Keep happy.
You have the guild hoppers; the guys who you know are just using the guild until their next app gets accepted.
And you have the jerkoffs, who disappear on progression nights, don't spend money on their gear, don't really know how to play their class, and generally half ass it. These are disposable, but you need to keep the flow in and out of the guild stable, because these are the guys who you use to pad the raid out.

It wasn't a very good guild.
 
I think the real question is how can you have a guild progression dynamic that encourages people to stay in the guild, and work toward the progression of the guild, but also doesn't penalise the guild if an individual leaves.

What about guild gear?

For example, the guild has 5 tier-n healing robes, which are bound to the guild, and which the guild masters assign to whomever they see fit. The most an officer could do is deallocate the gear (so a guild officer can't sell all the gear ala the recent BoB scandal), which another officer could simply assign back.

5 healers have decent robes, which override their usual gear for the raid. Perhaps characters could earn currency for the guild to buy better gear, or even earn enhancements which would only apply when *they* wore a particular item of guild armor meaning that more experienced players would get the best gear, which still gives people something to strive for.

Ask not what you can do for your guild, ask instead what your guild can do for you :)
 
If you talk to people about what attracts them to these games, it is rarely the ability to gank others, but quite often the stronger cohesion of guilds is mentioned.

and if you ask sex offenders why they're lingering around the playground after preschool lets out, you'll hear that the laughter of the children, mixed with the fresh spring air, lifts their spirits.

: /
 
Just wanted to say that despite WoW's guild system not providing a real means for guild progression, as say there is in Warhammer, but there are guilds that are very cohesive in WoW. I know you aren't saying they don't exist. But reading this post further reinforced my gratitude of the guild I am in.

The guild community has been around for over 4 years with chapters across different MMOs. Our particular chapter has been around for 3 years and has always been focused on being a family/social community. We have great retention and have steadily grown. But one thing we did do to work together recently that was neat.... our guild members raised the money to pay for a Mechano Hog for our guild leader. Which was wrapped up and a complete surprise to him.

Raising that kind of money might not seem like a lot to many others, but for our group, it's pretty impressive. The money was collected within a week's time, but most of us are fairly casual in the time we spend. It was a really great time (which of course I posted about it as I do with our social guild events!) So, there's hope!

~Syrana
 
EQ2 is "experimenting" with a guild system? I've played for nearly 3 years now and I can't remember a time without guilds having levels, etc. What we're seeing in the game now is expansion of the guild system with the introduction of the guild halls described by Green Armadillo, not experimenting.
 
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