Tobold's Blog
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Internalizing guild functions

The latest Warhammer Online newsletter contained information about the "living guilds" system of WAR, and that prompted people to rethink guild functionality in MMORPGs. Michael from MMOG Nation has a post on how to improve guilds, and there are lots of other good ideas sloshing around in the blogosphere.

A big problem when discussing guild functions is the success of World of Warcraft. Don't get me wrong, WoW is an excellent game, and by far the best game available out there. But even a great game has its weak points, and in guild functionality WoW is definitely sub-par. For years all a guild was in WoW was a chat channel and a guild tabard, only recently has a guild bank been added. If you look at the competition, other games offer guild ranks, guild housing or even player-run cities, and guild support on the official game website. But because WoW has so many millions of subscribers, many people think that guild functions can't be so terribly important; if WoW can live without them, everybody can. I don't think that is true.

A MMORPG for most players goes through several stages, from initial enthusiasm to final burn-out. And one important stage is the one where you already got bored by the game, but keep on playing because all your friends are in the game. Everquest, where social ties in guilds were strong, is still alive because of this. If every player just stays half a year longer in your game due to strong social ties, the added money you make from that quickly adds up to a huge pile. The population of WoW is less stable, and prone to peaks when new content is added and valleys as soon as people grow bored of the new content, because the social ties in WoW are much weaker. And that is directly connected to the fact that there is so little guild functionality in WoW, and no purpose for a guild beyond raid progress. Add the fact that raid progress is often sped up by leaving a guild instead of sticking with it, and you'll see how relatively little WoW guilds are adding to social cohesion.

The proposals of MMOG Nation go in the direction of in-game guild advertising and recruitment. But that is only the start of a long list of possible features. As far as tools go, I think MMORPGs should support guild forums, so that somebody invited to a guild automatically has forum access based on his rank in the guild, and he can reach the forum by clicking on a link from inside the game. There should be in-game guild event calendars. A list of guild mate tradeskills and recipes. Maybe even a choice of various DKP systems, kept track of by the game itself. And that are just some proposals for better guild tools.

Beyond tools, MMORPGs should also have guild functions that add purpose to a guild. EQ2 and LotRO have guild ranks. In City of Heroes / Villains the guild builds a base that can be attacked by other guilds. AoC and WAR are promising keeps and siege warfare. Star Wars Galaxies has guild halls as the center of player-built cities. In A Tale in the Desert guild can build villages and work together to construct pyramids. The possibilities are endless. The important thing is that there are activities in which every guild member can participate at his own pace, and not just raids that are limited to a group of a common power level and time slot.

WoW proved that a MMORPG can survive with minimal guild functionality. And ATITD shows that a game with great guild functionality can have a minimal number of subscribers if all its other features aren't all that popular. But I stand by my assessment that better guild functionality can prolong the life-cycle of a game. Network effects are well known, and it is obvious that a stronger in-game network enhances the network effects on subscription numbers and game longevity. I really hope the WAR living guilds will be as good as announced, because that could really boost that game.
This is probably the best post i have read since i have followed your blog. I agree completely!

Wow needs more social infrastructure; specifically guilds!

A guild is little more than a group that raids; although, whenever i mention this deficiency on the official forums i am usually laughed at or people say things are fine as is.

Unfortunatly Blizzard seems to have little intentions of developing guild social structure.

The closest thing i can remember as of late is that they mentioned Guild vs Guild battlegrounds.

This kind of disapeared and hasn't been mentioned again since.

I assume it is not really on their priority list :(
I also agree with the first poster in that this is one of the best posts of yours I've read in a while; Keep them coming! As for guild functionality vs. desire to play, I completely agree. There were several times that I kept playing for an extra month or two strictly because of my guild, but I can guarantee that without the community of friends I built in Asheron's Call, I would have likely played only two years instead of four (much more significant than in WoW.)

As for guild functionality, one thing that seems incredibly important is in-game and out-of-game communication. These need to be interconnected. Forums can be useful for sure, but how much MORE useful could it be to actually chat (text or voice) with players in-game? It seems like this would have been attempted by now, but nothing substantial has come of it (I think EvE is working on it, but I don't play it, so...?)There are an endless number of ways to improve guild functionality, but this is the one that I would really like to see (at least for now.)
In Wow guilds are only as good as you make them, yes I agree that guild housing in LOTRO added that extra something. But trying to to and from the guild housing area for me turned out to be a bit of a pain for what gain.

I think that if your guild leaders organise events properly, not just raiding places like Kara every week. As well as doing things like using guild calendar add-ons, guilds make or break thier own social levels.

Also making sure the guild keeps forums going with decent content. I have been in a 20ish strong guild for a while now and the social aspect is great. Although I admit in game access to the forum would be nice.

What about gaining rep between different guilds? wider community stuff like gathering guilds together to raid an alliance town. Knowing that if your guild is raiding and you need help that other guilds are friendly with you might be around to help.

What more do you want, sitting down for a knitting evening with the members of your guild?
The drawback with more guild functionality within the game is that guilds will also get more equal as they conform within the same system.

By giving almost no support to guilds WoW makes sure that on some levels otherwise similar guilds are functionally different. This makes it more "stimulating" to switch guild as you then get to explore a new set of game mechanics which the guild set up to function.

When you do things like support DKP within the magic circle you have one less potential usp for any particular guild to use as identifier.

If you in the far en have incorporated all emergent properties of guilds to the inside of the macig circle you will have guilds that are as dissimilar as different level 70 Prot Warriors in iLevel 141 epics.

Only the people will be different, everything else will be exactly the same, and that will not be a lot of fun.
My former Guild used to arrange Dueling tournaments with a 5g to 10g entry fee. This was pre-BC, when a 10g coin was actually worth the gold it was stamped on ;) There would even be prizes for the top three duelists, sometimes items or a choice of items, or sometimes a share of the pot.

These guys have kept me playing WoW for over three years now, and sometimes I'll log in with no intention of doing anything but sitting in Shattrath and contributing to /Guild chat.

For social players like myself, WoW can sometimes be nothing more than an extravagant, picturesque chat room. This is one thing Blizzard did right. I can be running through a City, mousing over toons, see a familiar name and I'll stop and /wave and spend a few minutes chatting with old friends.

I guess the amount of socializing you do with your Guild (and former Guildies) depends on you, the type of Guild you're in, and the type of players with whom you spend most of your time.
Yes, for an Role Playing Game WoW's guild interface is way below par. I've always wondered why they never included an in-game DKP system, since guild are mostly for raiding in WoW. I also like the idea of guild Rep, maybe even go as far as becoming actually KOS with certain rivals (of course this would not be possible with WoW, but other games with the ability to PK people of the same faction).

Guilds should be one of the most fleshed out part of player interaction. I've played on an RP server for most of my WoW life and just about every guild I was in had a a special location (usually hard to get to) they called the guild hall. Players want this, need it. WoW's guilds are pathetic, they desperately need more options.

Kudos, Tobold. You really hit the nail on the head.
In everquest2 the guild system is almost what they describe there (without the pvp element), where your guild can level and open up different instances for raid content and new guild quests (that offer normal exp as well) for the emerging guilds it's a great incentive to get things done.

I envision WoW taking this on at some point because they always take the best of other games and implement it :P
The closest thing i can remember as of late is that they mentioned Guild vs Guild battlegrounds.

I’ve said for a long time that Blizzard needs to change that “Join as Group” option to Rated Battlegrounds. It makes no sense that we can have a 5v5 arena team for a rated game of Team Deathmatch, but not a 10v10 team for a rated game of Team Capture the Flag in Warsong Gulch. Premades should be encouraged to fight other Premades in rated matches.
Eve added alliances between corporations, and players created a ton of new play dynamics. If you give people tools, they will find ways to use them. In-game guild boards and forums are an easy win. It wouldn't take much to "create" them because all you'd need to do is offer space and a couple templates and let the users customize it themselves. Sounds like a slam dunk.
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