Tobold's Blog
Monday, December 14, 2009
Trust and guilds

While a lot of people who either don't play World of Warcraft, or never group are still wondering what all the fuzz is about, others are beginning to realize the profound changes to the social interactions of WoW that the Dungeon Finder brings. Tipa says: "With patch 3.3, WoW has finally managed to get rid of any need for friends to do dungeons.", and resubscribed to WoW. Spinks comments on that: "I don’t see this as a sign that guilds will die out in the game or that people will stop playing with their friends. ... But I do think that the success of the new dungeon tool will make people ask themselves what they want out of a guild. Guilds are not actually gatekeepers to 5 man instance runs in WoW, although it can seem like that if you run solo.", and concludes: "Unshackling the social side of guilds from the group game may be one of the most long sighted advances any MMO of this generation has accomplished.".

As I mentioned before, the underlying issue here is one of trust. Joining a group requires trust, as either the incompetence or malevolence of the other players in that group could potentially ruin the dungeon run for you. It is easier to trust somebody you know, so a guild group has less trust issues than a group with random strangers. Having guild tag <A> or <B> obviously doesn't make a player smarter or nicer. So why would the player with guild tag <A> be considered a bigger asset by other players with guild tag <A>, but considered a menace in a pickup group by somebody with guild tag <B>? It is just trust that makes us consider our guild mates to be better players than strangers. And as a consequence people preferably group with guild mates, and it is harder for unguilded players to access group content.

As spinks so correctly remarks, that over time weakened the social function of guilds. Especially in World of Warcraft people join guilds for the express purpose of getting access to specific content. Thus a number of guilds evolved which weren't social at all, but only acted as gates to group content. One typical consequence of that is that guilds don't recruit people, they recruit avatars. Your chance of getting accepted into a guild depends on your class and gear, not on whether you are a good or nice player. Another consequence is the death of guild loyalty: While changing guilds was considered a major breach of etiquette in the original Everquest, now people hop from one guild to the next, using the previous guild to gear up to the requirements of the next further advanced guild. If guilds are just the necessary means to access group content, especially raid content, then it becomes easier to see your guild mates as tools towards that purpose, and not as friends.

Now the Dungeon Finder will certainly not eliminate the hardcore raiding guild. But on a lesser level, it is now much easier finding a group for 5-man content, and even raids, outside a guild structure. That eliminates the need to join a guild just for the group content access; and it frees you to join a guild of people you actually like, consider to be friends, and like to hang out with in game. So the Dungeon Finder will in the long run have an effect on guilds, and hopefully make them more social, and less purpose-driven.
This post resolved my dissonance about my current guild. Once I read through it a couple of time, I realized a number of things about my position and what I could do. Thank you.
This post,and the social impact of the changes Blizzard has brought with the latest patch are definately significant.

I still think social groups in games such as guilds are vital to most players positive experience, and their sticking with the game.. but the pure greed and loot driven nature of games like WoW just devalued that social experience so much it become meaningless as you laid out.
I love the changes. I have never really enjoyed being in a guild. As a healer people in your guild always think you should drop what your doing, and help them.

It makes the game very annoying when you can't do things when you feel like it, and are always being forced to play by the demands of everyone in your guild.
Perhaps it's just an artifact of being in various raiding guilds for years when I still played WoW, but I didn't see guilds as gatekeepers to instances. Quite the contrary, in fact. Even in my pre-raiding days, PUGs were seen as the primary method of doing instance groups, unless you were looking for a specific quest or a specific piece of gear. If you just wanted your T0 dungeon set, you joined a Strat/Scholo/UBRS class raid. If you needed any other gear, you went for a PUG to LBRS, DM or BRD. But if you wanted to smelt some Dark Iron ore, grab that one piece of missing gear or do a class quest, then you asked the guild. A PUG could not be talked into passing on some loot or taking a detour, a guild group could.

Granted, I pretty much stopped doing instance runs after I started raiding, so the social dynamics must have had changed in my absence.
My experience with guilds is, if you like the culture and the people in the guild, stay.

However, if there is anything about the guild you are unsatisfied with and are unable to change, leave.

I can't see how the new LFG tool will affect the attractiveness of being in a guild, haven't most people been pugging hardcore since the 3.2 badge changes?
And then ... when guilds are no longer purpose driven ... will come the guild ranking system in Cataclysm.
I pugged the two new instances on heroic mode and both runs went fine. It's a nice addition as I only had to wait about 15 minutes. Getting a group together with guildies and getting to the instance will take just as long.

Of course, it's all new these days. How many people will be doing these instances in three months? How many will still do BRD?

And I also see a guild as a vehicle to do end raid content in the form of raids. It seems to be their primary roles and has been like that since Molten Core.
"And then ... when guilds are no longer purpose driven ... will come the guild ranking system in Cataclysm."

Which in turn will lead to people powering up guilds then kicking everyone so they can sell the guild.

Ahhh, playable goblins and guild-selling in the same expansion. What fun!
The thing is, no one really did normal groups anyway. People just soloed up to 80 and then ran raids for gear so I don't think it will change anything. At least now people can actually group as they level up.
more grouping means meeting more people which means more socializing. It'll cause some cracks and changes but the biggest problem wow has socially up till now was the Ivory Towers of people who were unwilling to even try to play with others.

Anything that rewards grouping can only help guilds in the long run. People with bigger social networks will keep guilds growing or at least not shrinking.
Guilds are still vital for raiding. The LF Raid tool now is useless and no one uses it.

Guilds are still vital for achievements. Try pugging Maly 25 or Ulduar achievements, lol!

Guilds are still vital for economies of scale like getting mats, enchants, etc.

Ergo, Guilds are still important.
"...That eliminates the need to join a guild just for the group content access; and it frees you to join a guild of people you actually like, consider to be friends, and like to hang out with in game. ..."

I truly hope it works out that way. It's a nice dream.

I'm a social/guild person in MMORPGs. I quickly became an events directing officer in the first guild I joined ten years ago in EQ. Since then, in many MMORPGs, I've almost always been guild leader, co-guild leader, or high officer in guilds ranging from half a dozen friends to, in WoW, a guild of over 200 people.

The change in late vanilla WoW from people joining guilds for the social aspects to using the guild tag and other members as tools for advancement (mostly because of the raid game change) was one of the reasons I stopped playing MMORPGs. Without that social part the games weren't near as much fun.

Seeing as how much of a social person I am, it may seem odd that I'm looking forward to SW:TOR as my possible re-entry int o MMORPGs because of the NPC companion system. The quote I cited at the top explains much of the reason why (though it's expressed much better than I had in my head). My hope is that it'll decouple character advancement from guild social aspects of the game. Perhaps they'll have something like the Dungeon Finder as well. (Though, frankly, I still think PUGs=hell even when easy to form.)
The new dungeon finder is a nice improvment to WoW because it takes the burden off of 'nice' raid leaders to help their new level 80 members gear up to the latest raid content. Guilds will be able to have less raid-farming nights and can focus on their progression. Hopefully this will allow new level 80 players to 'catch up' quicker and there will be less raid leader burnout.
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